Politics & Policy

An interesting quiet, &c.

For many years, I heard that the Patriot Act was the worst thing in the world — a subversion of our rights, an assault on the Constitution, the end of democracy. But now, the act is extended by four years — and signed with a presidential autopen — and, basically, I don’t hear boo.

Isn’t that strange? Could it be that people — the loudest ones — didn’t like George W. Bush, rather than the Patriot Act?

Hang on, how long has Guantanamo been closed? I don’t hear about that much anymore. And where are all the anti-war protests concerning Iraq and Afghanistan? Where?

Well, if a liberal Democratic president was what it took for liberal Democrats to play ball . . .

‐I remember being at a dinner party on the Upper East Side in about 2005. My hostess said that Bush was taking away our rights. I said, “What do you mean?” She said, matter-of-factly, “Patriot Act” — as though nothing more needed to be said.

Maybe I should check in with her . . .

‐You know, I think this autopen was more controversial than the Patriot Act itself. Kind of an interesting turn.

‐In the conservative view, there are things the federal government should spend money on, and things it should not spend money on. In the liberal view, is there anything the government should not spend money on? Border enforcement, maybe?

Anyway, what applies to the federal government applies to governments at lower levels, too. A government has certain responsibilities; and other things are — gravy, or waste. Bill Buckley once muttered that people in Washington liked to spend money on “free false teeth or whatever.” What they should have been spending money on was — say, a big ol’ missile-defense program.

Okay, all this is leading up to something — namely this: “The Supreme Court ordered California on Monday to release tens of thousands of its prisoners to relieve overcrowding, saying that ‘needless suffering and death’ had resulted from putting too many inmates into facilities that cannot hold them in decent conditions.”

Maybe I’m simpleminded — and I know many readers will agree! — but it seems to me that the answer to prison overcrowding is not to release prisoners — unless they should be released anyway — but to build more prisons. I mean, government spends money on a million things that are dubious for government to spend money on. But one thing tax dollars ought to go to is prisons, right? Talk about a legitimate expenditure.

And, if the prisons are too crowded, spend a little less on free false teeth or whatever and build more frickin’ prisons.

That’s the simpleminded view (for which you can come to this space anytime).

‐When I expressed this view to my colleagues the other day, they said, “But California could not possibly afford the prison guards!”

‐A little news out of Margate, England: “A Christian doctor . . . has been threatened with an official warning from his professional body for discussing Jesus with a patient . . .” The article continues, “Richard Scott, a doctor for 28 years, is under investigation by the General Medical Council (GMC) and faces disciplinary action after he suggested to a 24-year-old man that he might find solace in Christianity.”

What do you think the GMC should do with this heretic doctor? Burn him?

‐Reminds me of a favorite old song: “Everywhere I go, everywhere I go, my chillen, everywhere I go, somebody talkin’ ’bout Jesus.”

‐Here’s a news flash: “The U.N. nuclear agency says that a Syrian target bombed four years ago by Israel was very likely a nearly finished, covertly built nuclear reactor.”

You don’t say! Johnny on the Spot is the IAEA, winner of the 2005 Nobel peace prize. (Co-winner with its then-director general, the awful Mohamed ElBaradei, I should say.) You can’t put anything past the IAEA — except the Iranian nuclear program, and, before that, Saddam’s. “It’s correct to say that the IAEA was fooled by the Iraqis,” admitted Hans Blix.

The IAEA boasts of being “the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog”; a few years ago, somebody nicknamed it “the U.N.’s nuclear watch-puppy.” It wags its tail when Ahmadinejad pats it on the head.

You think if Syria had polished off Tel Aviv with a nuke, the IAEA would have weighed in with a report saying that Damascus might, someday, unless we were really vigilant, go nuclear?

Israel did the world a favor when it destroyed Saddam’s facility in 1981. Israel did the world another favor when it destroyed the Syrian facility in 2007. But don’t nobody thank Israel.

Who will rid the world of the mullahs’ program? Anybody? Must it fall on Israel’s slim, bookish shoulders again?

‐Speaking of Israel, I learned this from Tom Gross: “West Dunbartonshire Council in Scotland has sparked outrage after it ordered that its libraries ban ‘any new volumes by Israeli authors, printed or published in the Jewish state.’” This follows “an earlier decision by the local authority to boycott Israeli goods and produce . . .”

Scotland the Brave, they used to say (and sing, and play).

Hang on, they’re just banning the books, not burning them? Better than burning the people, actually . . .

‐More news from Israel, which I again learned from Tom — and this bit of news has given me a new hero, Ian Paice, drummer for Deep Purple — who “said that performers who had canceled their concerts in Israel due to politics are ‘real wimps’. He made the statement at a news conference ahead of two scheduled concerts in Israel.”

They’re either wimps or fiends — mere wimps if they’re simply followers, bandwagoneers; fiends if they actually know what they’re doing.

‐News from the United States — the kind of report that lets us know what our values are, what our priorities are, where we stand as a society: “Porn performers in California would be required to use condoms in sex scenes if draft rules from state workplace safety officials advance out of the proposal phase.”

It would take a James Q. Wilson, I think — Jimmy Q. — to do justice to this one. (Incidentally, probably 15 years ago, I thought of doing a little novelty book for us righties to be titled “What Does the ‘Q’ Stand For? And Other Conservative Trivia.”)

(Answer: Quinn.)

‐What’s the most famous and important bird in American conservative history? Four years ago, JJM — John J. Miller — wrote a piece on this singular, spectacular specimen: here.

‐What does the “J.” stand for? Dunno.

‐Several years ago, Donald Rumsfeld told me that he had acquired a wood carving, I believe, of that great and critical bird: the prothonotary warbler. If that doesn’t burnish conservative credentials, I don’t know what does.

‐I thought this was a specially fun headline, over an article about a movie and its success: “‘Hangover’ hurls up huge numbers with $86.5M debut.”

‐Here in Impromptus, I once wrote that, the morning after an NR gathering chez moi, the place looked like a scene from The Hangover (the first movie, to which the sequel is now here). A reader wrote, “Next time, I want to party with you, dude.”

Quite flattering, I must say.

‐A beautiful name — beautiful and unusual? Here is a note from a reader: “I have probably mentioned this to you before [I don’t think so], but I had an ancestor in the Massachusetts Bay Colony named Experience Bliss. She married into the Chaffee family.”

‐Wanna hear a joke? I learned it from Rick Brookhiser. It came up because of a startling news item: The Nazis tried to teach dogs to talk. (Read about it here.) Rick said, “Maybe they should have concentrated harder on the atom bomb, saving the talking dogs for after the war.” But that wasn’t the joke — it was this:

Guy walks into a bar with his dog. He announces that it is a talking dog. Bartender rolls his eyes.

The man says to his dog, “What do you call the top of a house?”

Ruff! says the dog (sounds like “roof,” of course).

“Okay, what do you call the deeper grass on a golf course?”


“And who is the greatest baseball player of all time?”

Ruff! (near enough to “Ruth”).

The bartender has had enough. “Get outta here!” he says. Out on the sidewalk, the dog looks up at his master and says, “Do you think I should have said DiMaggio?”




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