Politics & Policy

Letting it all hang out, &c.

Like you, maybe, I have mixed feelings about these journalistic “sting operations” — in which people assume false identities, catching other people in the act of being themselves. But what these operations uncover is marvelous. The targets speak very, very frankly. And, the more frankness, the better.

Have you read about NPR? For an Associated Press report, go here. An NPR executive denounced the Tea Party to two people he believed to be with a Muslim organization. He said, “They believe in sort of white, middle America, gun-toting — it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”

Not just racist, mind you: “racist, racist.” If the Tea Party continues to grow in numbers and influence, will it be racist, racist, racist?

In my Tuesday column, I wrote a little about the new book that reports President Obama telling people that the Tea Party is racist. Telling people privately, that is. I say, out with it: You’re going to make these charges, make them publicly, and let’s discuss them.

I think the notion that the Tea Party is racist is bonkers. I have not noticed the Tea Party going easy on Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and other liberal palefaces. I have certainly noticed black participants in this movement. (Including a new congressman, Allen West.)

The anti-Tea Party crowd, of course, would like to airbrush the black participants out. (White them out?) Sorry, they exist — confidently and gloriously.

In vino veritas, goes the old expression. I propose a new expression: In “undercover videos,” veritas. And what’s the name of James O’Keefe’s website? “Project Veritas.” O’Keefe is the sting impresario who stung NPR, and, before them, ACORN. Another way to put that is — he shed light on them.

We might debate the ethics of stinging. But do you know more about ACORN and NPR than you once did? Or, have you had your suspicions confirmed? How about Planned Parenthood, whom “Live Action” stung?

Most of the time, or much of the time, I like it when people let it all hang out — even when the hanging out is ugly.

‐I feel sure of one thing: If O’Keefe et al. were on the left, not on the right, dedicated to embarrassing and exposing conservatives, they would be hailed as heroes of investigation, transparency, and truth. They would have won every award under the sun by now.

‐Once, years ago, a member of a news organization sent an e-mail denouncing me. Sent it to me, I mean. He had meant to send it to a colleague. I was sort of glad — sad, but glad. And the guy did some fast and pathetic dancing.

‐The below is from an item by Philip Klein at the AmSpecBlog:

An undercover video of a departing National Public Radio fundraising executive shows him nodding in agreement as men posing as representatives of a Muslim Brotherhood front group rip Jewish control of the media.

Eventually, the President of the NPR Foundation and VP for development, Ron Schiller, chimes in, saying that Zionist influence doesn’t exist at NPR, but “it’s there in those who own newspapers, obviously.”

Uh-huh. Here is one question (out of a hundred possible): What do people mean by “Zionist influence”? I’ve asked this over and over. Do they mean “Jewish influence”? But Jews disagree widely. Are they talking about Dennis Prager or Abbie Hoffman? (Okay, I realize Abbie’s dead — but not in spirit.) Or, by “Zionist influence,” do they mean the influence of people who support the right of Israel to exist? Who support the concept of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East?

Such a puzzlement.

‐When I was growing up, anti-Semitism was largely a phenomenon and disease of the Right — or at least I was told it was. In my adult life, it has been bigger, far bigger, on the left. So strange. (But not really: because Israel is seen as part of the West, and of Judeo-Christian civilization, and that is a kind of conservatism, and that is what must be opposed, in order to make way for the bright new day of . . . what? Sharia?)

‐I wonder if some of you feel as I do: I feel slightly ashamed at how little America is doing for the Libyans — people who are fighting and dying for their freedom (against a vicious dictatorship that, just in its spare time, has killed hundreds of Americans). I felt the same sensation when we did nothing for the Iranians, as they were trying to rise up in the summer of 2009: shame.

Is it “left-wing” to be ashamed of your country? Well, then, color me left-wing (for a change).

‐Syria’s dictator, Bashar Assad, is going through a spell of softness. He has released Haitham al-Maleh, an 80-year-old who has diabetes and other health problems. An AP report said, “Al-Maleh and 12 other political prisoners had begun a hunger strike this week to demand their release and the lifting of emergency laws . . .” Also, “It was not the first time al-Maleh had been jailed. He was imprisoned from 1980 to 1986 after demanding constitutional reforms.”

It’s amazing — flabbergasting, really — what people are willing to sacrifice for the sake of freedom.

‐But we all know — because our wise “realists” tell us so — that the Arabs don’t give a rip about freedom. Just like the Asians didn’t, just like the Latin Americans didn’t . . .

‐Do you know the name of Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina? Of course you don’t. How could you? He is a Cuban prisoner of conscience, near death on a hunger strike. If he had been a hunger-striking prisoner in apartheid South Africa, he would have been on the cover of every magazine in the Western world. But no one — trust me, no one — cares about Cuba.

Except to the extent we want to make a little money, go sip our mojitos, indulge in underage prostitution . . .

‐I’m glad to know about Marisol Valles Garcia, a fantastically brave young woman, age 20. She agreed to be the police chief in her Mexican town — one of those towns “plagued by drug violence,” as they say. The previous police chief was murdered, of course. Having escaped death thus far, Valles Garcia is now in America, seeking asylum.

To read a little about her, go here. It’s amazing what privileged lives we have, really — despite all our problems here in America.

‐One of our problems is the New York Times. In a column, Howard Kurtz quoted Bill Keller, the executive editor of the Times. Keller said, “The question of whether Times reporters can write fairly about Fox [News] is answered by the fact they do it, over and over. Tim Arango, Dave Carr, and Brian Stelter have set the standard for fair, tough, incisive coverage of Fox, its business, and its on-air personalities.”

Okay. But I’d like to ask a question: Does the Times “set the standard for fair, tough, incisive coverage of” CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, and so on?

‐I got an e-mail with an unusual heading: “Mephistopheles, Marx, and you.” Pray tell. My correspondent asked, “What do you, Mephistopheles, and Groucho Marx have in common? You all pronounce forte correctly.”

He means forte as in expertise or strong suit — which is pronounced “fort.” Forte the musical direction, as in loud, is pronounced all’italiana: “for-tay.” At least once in this column, I have cited a Groucho Marx joke: Margaret Dumont (or someone) says, “Singing isn’t really your forte.” He answers, “I wish Knox were my forte,” nyuk nyuk.

Anyway, our reader wrote, “I’m fond of the Groucho line, but I have something more devilish for you. I picked up Goethe’s Faust and began reading it last week. I have the translation by Walter Arndt. On page 9 of my copy, in the section titled ‘Prologue in Heaven,’ there is a quote from Mephistopheles” — who says,

Since once again, o Lord, I find you deigning

To walk amongst us, asking how we do,

And in the past you thought me entertaining,

You see me too here with your retinue.

Fine speeches are, beg pardon, not my forte,

Though all this round may mock me; but I know,

My rhetoric, you’d laugh it out of court,

Had you not cast off laughter long ago.

Forte rhymes with court. But there will come a day — as the traditional pronunciation is lost, engulfed — when no one will understand what the translator was doing there. “How can you rhyme for-tay with court?” They won’t understand Groucho, either. Kind of a pity.

‐Have you ever been so excited by a teacher — by listening to him, by being in his classroom — that you could hardly pay attention? I was talking to a friend of mine who went to Harvard College in the 1950s, I believe. His Greek-history professor was the renowned Werner Jaeger. My friend said, “I was so excited, he was such a great teacher, I could hardly concentrate on what he was saying. It was just so great to be there. And we found excuses to visit him during office hours — just to be in his presence.”

Everyone should have a professor like that — maybe two. I wish I could have sat in on Jaeger. My friend added that the professor did not actually visit Greece, his lifelong subject — his forte, if you will — until quite late in his life. People didn’t jet about so much then.

‐I was in Carnegie Hall Sunday afternoon, covering a voice recital (Joyce DiDonato). I encountered a distinguished fellow critic. He is on the left, of course, as almost all arts-world people are. He told me he was sending pizzas to the union demonstrators in the Wisconsin capitol. I said, “How nice. Can you tell them to throw the boxes away? Why can’t they clean up after themselves?”

There was more, but — this column has been irritable enough.

‐Speaking of music — of music criticism — care for a piece in City Arts? This one addresses a concert by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Paavo Järvi, with Janine Jansen, violin soloist; a rendering of Mahler’s Third Symphony by Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra; and a concert of the Minnesota Orchestra, conducted by Osmo Vänskä, with Lisa Batiashvili, another violin soloist.

‐Speaking of music (but not criticism): Found myself up in Yonkers the other day. Happened on Gene Krupa Street — or was it Drive? In any case, the street sign is decorated by a little drum, with sticks. Kind of neat. Unexpected.

‐A young Washington conservative sent me a thank-you note — not by e-mail. He wrote, “I don’t believe a thank-you really counts unless it has been done by a fountain pen on proper stationery.”

You often hear the question, “What is a conservative?” That, ladies and gentlemen, is a conservative.

Um, will be “on travel,” as they used to say in an office I once worked in. This column will probably not appear for a while. Too bad there’s nothing else to read on the Internet, huh? Anyway — thanks and see you.



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