Politics & Policy

A problem like Pelosi, &c.

I realize I’m a partisan, and getting worse, I’m afraid. I’ve long wanted to be a nice, above-the-fray neutralist. But life has not allowed that.

Anyway, I’m going to make a point about the Democratic party. Nancy Pelosi said the following about Republicans: “They don’t just want to make cuts. They want to destroy. They want to destroy food safety, clean air, clean water, the Department of Education. They want to destroy your rights.”

I want to ask you: How do you do business with someone like that? How do you do business with a party like that? “They want to destroy”? (I’ll grant that we think the Department of Education a total boondoggle.) “They want to destroy your rights”?

I’m reminded of why I revolted against the Democratic party long ago: They all talked like this. They all regarded their opponents as monstrous or subhuman. And I knew it was bunk.

One more thing: Nancy Pelosi is not some street-corner lunatic. She’s not yet another columnist, or “commenter,” at the Huffington Post. She is the leader of the Democratic party in the House! If that’s not representative — what is?

‐For several years, I’ve written about the incredible courage it takes to be an Iraqi official: to risk kidnapping or murder; to see your loved ones at risk of the same. I’ll meet these Iraqis at international conferences, or in Iraq itself, and think, “Would I have the same guts?” And the answer is not reassuring.

I had similar thoughts when reading the news out of Afghanistan:

A suicide bomber hiding explosives in his turban assassinated the mayor of Kandahar on Wednesday . . .

Mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi, 65, was the third powerbroker from southern Afghanistan to be killed in just over two weeks . . .

(Full story here.) Someone has to step forward to build a country. It’s amazing that there are people willing to do it. Are they all power-mad? Some, surely. But all, no. Some are just decent and brave.

‐I put this in the category of “We Can’t Say We Weren’t Warned”: “Iran’s stepped-up arming of Shiite militiamen in southern Iraq who are targeting American troops may be designed to trigger a ‘Beirut-like moment’ of mass U.S. casualties, the Obama administration’s nominee to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress on Tuesday.” (Full story here.)

Buckle your chin straps, as we used to say in football. But that, of course, is too light a comment for what we’re facing here . . .

‐You’ve read about McDonald’s, I’m sure. If you haven’t, let me give a snippet of the news, and then make a comment (possibly snippy):

An apple a day may keep the doctor away. But when you put it in a Happy Meal, it might help keep regulators at bay too. McDonald’s on Tuesday said that it would add apple slices and reduce the portion of French fries in its children’s meal boxes beginning this fall, effectively taking away consumers’ current choice between either having apples with caramel dip or fries as a Happy Meal side.

The move by McDonald’s, which has become a leader in moving from just burgers and fries to more nutritious fare like oatmeal and salads, comes as fast food chains face intense scrutiny from health officials and others who blame the industry for childhood obesity and other health-related problems.

(Full story here.) It’s a development like this that gets my libertarian juices flowing — that makes me want to put on my feathers and warpaint and go party (by which I mean, tea-party). What the hell business is it of government bureaucrats (I know we’re not supposed to use that word) what McDonald’s chooses to sell, and what its customers choose to buy, or not buy? I mean, is this America?

I’m in that kind of mood, chillen . . .

‐I found this news article rather fascinating. It begins, “Tyler Thompson is an unlikely star in the world of Chinese opera.” How unlikely? He is a “black teenager from Oakland.”

Reading the article, I was reminded of a formidable young woman I met recently. Her name is Ying Ma, and she is from Oakland. She is originally from Guangzhou. She has written a memoir, Chinese Girl in the Ghetto, which waits at my bedside to be read. The great Mona Charen has written a column about her and her book: here.

Again, I haven’t read the book, but I’ve met the author, and Mona has read the book, and I know it’s damn good.

‐A reader sent me one of the most depressing things I’ve read in a long time — or at least in, oh, the last three days. It’s from Harvard Magazine. And it’s about Cuba, that incubator and generator of myths. The article is called “In Cuba with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra.” And here is the snippet the reader sent me:

American classical music is plagued by a lack of racial diversity.

Oops, hang on, let’s stop right there. What the writer has said is untrue. I’m in a position to assure you of that, because my work (as a music critic) puts me in American concert halls and opera houses most nights, or many nights. Anyway, let me start over, with the snippet:

American classical music is plagued by a lack of racial diversity. [Still gagging.] The Cuban choruses, however, seemed to reflect accurately the racial make-up of their country, with singers who were black, white, brown, and everything in between. It was refreshing to see that classical music didn’t predict the racial composition of the musicians as much as it did in our country. One of my friends on the trip wondered if there is less racism in Cuba, because communism places everyone on more or less equal economic ground. It is a bold claim: is economic equality a necessary prerequisite for full racial equality?

Etc., etc. You’ve heard this kind of thing for decades. I got an earful of it on the Harvard campus. But the testimony of Cuban survivors cured me of many illusions.

Speaking of such testimony, I talked with Dr. Oscar Biscet last April. He is one of the leaders of the Cuban democratic resistance. When I spoke to him, he had just been released from twelve years in prison. We discussed some of the Communists’ fondest myths, some of the illusions they peddle: including the one about racial harmony.

“Completely false,” said Biscet. He could barely contain his disgust. He was referring to the race myth, but the same applies to the health-care myth, the literacy myth, etc. Biscet is black, by the way. He continued, “We know that the Cuban dictatorship is anti-American, anti-Semitic, and anti-black.” And if you want to know what the dictatorship thinks of black Cubans, “you need only go to Cuban prisons.”

For my piece on, and with, Biscet, go here. For an earlier piece on the race myth, go here. It’s called “In Castro’s Corner: A story of black and red.” A story that will continue well-nigh unto forever.

‐Feel like some music? In Wednesday’s Impromptus, I linked to a piece in City Arts, which included comments on the Lincoln Center Festival, which featured ballets of Shchedrin — Rodion Shchedrin, the Russian composer, born in 1932. In the July 18 National Review, I had a piece on Shchedrin himself. To see it, go here.

One quick comment, because I know you have a weekend to get to. In my piece, I remark that Shchedrin is one of the top composers of today. That’s not necessarily saying a great deal, because we are not in a golden age of composition — more like tin — but Shchedrin is a fine, fine composer regardless. And his wife is no less than one of the greatest ballerinas in the history of man: Maya Plisetskaya.

Are they the most talented couple on the planet? You could argue that. But then, as I say in my piece, we have Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf to consider.

‐Feel like some language? I was talking to a friend of mine — a literary genius (really) — about pronunciation. We were saying how, if you say “short-lived,” “forte” (as in expertise), “err,” and other words correctly, you will be corrected, incorrectly. He said,

“I have been accosted many a time by fishmongers with boning knives because I used to say ‘fillet’ with a ‘t,’ stressing the first syllable. They would then say ‘fillay,’ and I would say, ‘Okay, lay me gay my money out of my wallay, and then I’ll hit myself over the head with a mallay,’ which occasioned the bad blood. If you like, we can go to the fish counter together and get attacked.”

Sounds fun.

‐Okay, this is a little weird (like the above wasn’t?). I was clipping some tags off some new pillows the other day. And they said “Made in Pakistan.” I remembered spy novels, of yore. Spies were sure to clip the tags off their clothing, because they would not want enemies to discover where they were really from. That wouldn’t work these days; that wouldn’t apply — because of globalization. Anyone’s clothes can be from anywhere.

I told you it was kind of a weird thought.




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