Politics & Policy

Help where it’s wanted, &c.

As you may have read, Israel has played a big role in relieving Haiti, following the hugely destructive earthquake. Unfortunately, the Israelis have a lot of experience in digging people out of rubble, etc. They are a people who have faced bombings over and over. At the end of 2003, there was a major earthquake in Bam, Iran. (Yeah, I know: “Bam,” an earthquake.) The Israelis were alacritous: They wanted to send rescue workers immediately. There was no time to waste, and Israel was very close, physically, to Iran. But Iran refused this aid and expertise. The government preferred that people die rather than suffer the ignominy of being rescued by Jews. This episode was a further indication of the psychosis prevalent in the Middle East. Fortunately, Haiti, for all of its sufferings, does not suffer from that.

I noticed an interesting piece by Marty Peretz of The New Republic — noticed it because it was cited in Commentary’s Contentions. Peretz wrote,

I’ve just read the transcript of the president’s remarks about Haiti, the ones he made on January 15. He noted that, in addition to assistance from the United States, significant aid had also come from “Brazil, Mexico, Canada, France, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic, among others.” Am I missing another country that truly weighed in with truly consequential assistance? Ah, yes. There it is. Right there “among others.” Yes, the country to which I refer is “among others,” that one.

The fact is that, next to our country, Israel sent the largest contingent of trained rescue workers, doctors, and other medical personnel. The Israeli field hospital was the only one on the ground that could perform real surgery, which it did literally hundreds of times, while delivering — as of last week — at least 16 babies, including one premature infant and three caesarians. . . .

It’s not that Israeli participation in the Haiti horror was being kept secret. I myself saw it reported several times on television . . .

So didn’t Obama notice? For God’s sake, everybody noticed the deep Israeli involvement.

(For the full piece, go here.) In any case, it is rather remarkable that Israel, a tiny country very far away from Haiti, and with serious — indeed, existential — problems of its own, should find the time and resources to help this afflicted people in the Caribbean. Will the world credit Israel for it?

That question was merely rhetorical.

‐A reader wrote me with a story out of Tyler, Texas: here. In short, five churches in the area have been burned, in rapid succession. Actually, now there are six: as we see here. This has not made national news, as far as I’m aware. There is no racial angle. (Remember when church burnings were just about the biggest story in America?) Our reader says, “Seriously, have you ever heard of this many church burnings in a month? How is this not getting national coverage?”

It’s a fair question, I think. We have a big country, and there is a lot going on, from sea to shining sea (as Bill Buckley liked to say). Still, it’s a fair question.

‐I thought a line from an Associated Press report was just a little — a little right-leaning, dare I say? Maybe sneakily conservative? Anyway, I smiled at the line. See what you think:

Oregon has set aside its history of shooting down tax increases on statewide ballots, with voters endorsing higher taxes on businesses and the rich amid a brutal economic slump.

Democrats in the Oregon Legislature made it as easy as they could for the voters to raise taxes on somebody else, and the electorate responded Tuesday by approving Measures 66 and 67.

“Democrats in the Oregon Legislature made it as easy as they could for the voters to raise taxes on somebody else” — love it (not the action, the phrasing). (For the full report, go here.)

This story is sort of interesting. It’s about an Arab member of the Israeli legislature and his visit to Auschwitz. It got me to thinking about Jewish members of Arab legislatures, and . . .

Oh, wait . . .

‐Have you received your current issue — your current issue of National Review? I have a piece called “Two Inconvenient Canadians.” Who are they? They’re Stephen McIntyre, a business consultant and maverick intellectual, and Ross McKitrick, an economist and professor. And why are they inconvenient? Well, they’re inconvenient to some — they are inconvenient to the “global-warming red-hots,” as I call them in this piece. The crowd over at the CRU, and associated with them.

The CRU, let me remind you, is the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Britain. They are the characters in “Climategate,” the eye-opening scandal that broke in November. They are also the ones who feed the IPCC all that golden information on which we have come to rely. The IPCC, you remember, is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.N.’s global-warming arm. The IPCC won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, with Al Gore.

But why are the two M’s — McIntyre and McKitrick — inconvenient? Because their work has called the hockey stick into serious question.

Okay, remember the hockey stick: the hockey-stick graph. This was the killer graphic used in the IPCC’s 2001 report — the report we used to think of as especially flawed, until the 2007 one was exposed. The killer graph, and graphic, purported to show the global temperature from the year 1000 to the year 2000. Until about 1900, the line was relatively flat; then it shot sharply upward. The graph looked like a hockey stick. And it went all around the world, becoming an icon of global warming. On its basis, we were supposed to reorder our economies and our very way of living.

Anyway, I tell the story of the M’s in this piece, or at least some of the story. And I would like to give you a little extra here. As you know, those who don’t buy the Gore/IPCC line on global warming — who are the least skeptical or critical — are called “deniers.” This is perhaps the most obnoxious ploy of the global-warming people: to link their critics to Holocaust deniers.

I asked the two M’s about this “denier” charge. McKitrick answered coolly. He said, “Anyone who’s arguing any kind of complex issue affirms some things and denies other things, so you could use the term about anyone in the debate, if you focus only on the things he disputes rather than the things he argues for.”

And McIntyre’s response? Tinged with a wonderful indignation: “At some level, you should be able to criticize Michael Mann’s principal-components calculations without being called a ‘denier.’”

Michael Mann is the leader of the team that brought the world the “hockey stick.” More about him in a moment.

I also asked McKitrick this question: Why are so many people eager for the news to be bad? That is, why are they so committed to global warming — to disastrous global warming as a reality — and unwilling to consider evidence and arguments that the earth might be okay? McKitrick cited two reasons. They are obvious, but he stated them with satisfying clarity and straightforwardness. First, he said, environmentalists may be very keen to set back capitalism and enterprise. They once had air pollution as their issue. But capitalist societies proved brilliant at combating air pollution, and continued to grow. Now the opponents of capitalism have the vehicle of global warming.

And the second reason? Many businesses stand to make big money out of global warming — out of a cap-and-trade scheme, in particular. There is cartelization to be had out of global warming.

Back to Michael Mann. My colleague Kevin Williamson alerted me to this item in the Wall Street Journal: which relates that Professor Mann has received more than $2.4 million in “stimulus” money. I think that’s a lot. Hard to be sure these days.

Finally, if you’re not up to speed on the latest “gate” involving global warming — “Himalaya-gate” — try this article from the Times of London. From the sound of it, the nature of the IPCC is Keystone Kops — ideological Keystone Kops. More and more, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize is looking like one of the biggest boners the committee in Oslo has ever pulled.

‐Some days ago, I said something about records in sports, and I said that Lou Gehrig’s consecutive-game record was supposed to be the most unbreakable. Then Cal Ripken Jr. broke it — and the consensus switched to DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.

A reader from River Falls, Wis., sent me a note. I’m not competent to verify it — but I publish it, because it has the ring of authority, and is charming to read (I find):

Jay,

The most unbreakable Major League Baseball record is consecutive no-hitters (2), currently held by Johnny Vander Meer. At a rate of 1 no-hitter per 1,505.5 games, the odds of 3 straight by a pitcher are 3,412,261,291.375 to 1!

Also, the record for triple plays in one game is 2 (Twins vs. Bosox, 7/17/90). The odds of a three-triple-play game are 918,330,048 to 1, by my back-of-the-envelope calculations.

Surely the breaking of either of these records is less likely than the besting of Ripken’s endurance streak.

Our reader adds a P.S.: “One time, my wife asked me what guys think about late at night when they can’t sleep. I was embarrassed to tell her I think about baseball stats.”

Oh, there are worse things to think about, am I right?

‐This is quirky, friends, but it may be of interest to you: There is a website called House of Love. And, each week, they ask someone 11 Questions (always the same). And, this week, I am their person, their questionee: here.

‐Don’t know if you need more commentary on last night’s State of the Union address — but I did some quick scribbles on our Corner, here.

‐Care for a language item? At the top of this lil’ column you’re reading, I cite that piece by Marty Peretz. And it includes the line: “Yes, I think that the labors of the Israelis were edited out of Obama’s speech, either by his speechwriters (who have made dissing Israel their forté) or by his own oh-so-delicate but dishonest censoring mechanism.”

Did you check out those italics and that accent mark? Very odd. The writer, or his editor, apparently wants the word “forte,” meaning “strength” or “expertise,” pronounced “fortay,” like the musical marking meaning loud. I have addressed this issue a couple of times in this column. Once more unto the breach (Shakespeare said “unto,” but you can say “into,” if you want):

“Forte,” meaning “strength,” “expertise,” or “strong suit,” is pronounced “fort.” It comes from French, not Italian. Do you remember the old Groucho joke? Tallulah Bankhead says, “Singing isn’t really your forte.” Groucho responds, “I wish Knox were my forte.” Wouldn’t make sense pronouncing the word the Italian way — as we do in music. (And if you double your “f,” what do you get? “Fortissimo,” right. And if you triple it? “Fortississimo,” correct.)

Increasingly, this battle is being lost, I think. People are saying “fortay,” for the strong-suit kind of “forte.” They are saying “air,” instead of “er,” for “err.” What can you do? Some people are so committed to “fortay,” they are even writing “forté.” Blech! Gross!

‐This final item is kind of a language item, too. In Tuesday’s Impromptus, I wrote about Rep. Marion Berry (D., Ark.), who is set to retire from Congress. I said I talked to him once and found his accent superb. I quickly added, “(Not that Arkansans and some others would have noticed any accent.)” A reader writes,

Dear Mr. Nordlinger:

What you said about Congressman Berry reminds me of the bulletin we received recently from the Orange County (N.C.) sheriff’s office, warning citizens to be on the lookout for a burglar going door-to-door to see whether people were at home. She was described as a “dark-complected white woman with a strong northern accent.” As non-southern transplants, as so many are in this Duke-UNC-Research Triangle area, we were amused until we suddenly realized that, indeed, for the locals, we were the ones with an accent! 

Thanks, guys, and see you soon.

 

#JAYBOOK#

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