In southern Manhattan, the “Occupy” crowd tried to squat on private property, and were arrested. One of the occupier-squatters was quoted as saying, “We’re just trying to say that this country has gone in the wrong direction, and we need spaces that we can control and we can decide our future in, and that’s what this is about.”
Haven’t Communists talked like this, more or less, for generations? Is that too McCarthyite for you? Or just true?
‐I read a headline: “Occupy Boston Storms Israeli Consulate.” I thought, “It always comes down to the Jews, doesn’t it? So many grievances, so many extreme movements. It doesn’t take them very long before they get around to the Jews . . .”
Semi-frightening (and sometimes you need to drop the “semi-.”)
‐There were reports of a TB outbreak at Occupy Atlanta. A reader wrote me, “Brings new meaning to the idea of a consumption tax, doesn’t it?”
I know, I know: A classy column, one that repeats jokes about disease . . .
‐In the current issue of CityArts, I have a review of the new production of Gounod’s Faust at the Metropolitan Opera. The final paragraph reads as follows:
Just before the curtain rose following an intermission, a man in the audience started shouting, “Occupy Wall Street! Occupy Wall Street!” Some of the patrons cheered him on, saying, “Yeah, yeah!” Others booed. After a while, the man was shushed or evicted. He was more polite than the anti-Israel shouters in London: They shout at the Jerusalem Quartet or the Israel Philharmonic as the music is playing. This fellow did his shouting before the music began.
‐In recent weeks and months, there has been much talk about the question of Germany, and its place in Europe. The question of Germanness — what it is, what it isn’t; what it should be, what it shouldn’t be — is of course a very old and critical one.
I wish to quote some lines from Willy Brandt’s Nobel lecture, delivered in 1971:
I say here what I say in Germany: A good German cannot be a nationalist. A good German knows that he cannot refuse a European calling. Through Europe, Germany returns to itself and to the constructive forces of its history. Our Europe, born of the experience of suffering and failure, is the imperative mission of reason.
‐Egypt is a mess, and an alarming one. I was moved by something I read in a news article: “Egypt’s new interim prime minister broke into tears in front of journalists on Sunday as he spoke about the state of the country’s economy, saying it was ‘worse than anyone imagines.’”
That’s something, an Egyptian prime minister breaking down in public, for that reason. This goes way beyond Ed Muskie, or Pat Schroeder, or John Boehner . . .
‐Huang Jinqiu, a Chinese writer and dissident, has been released after eight years in prison. So, how did it go for him? This report gives us a whiff of it:
According to reliable sources, Huang, while in prison, was transferred to the Liyang Psychiatric Hospital in Changzhou because he appealed his sentence and refused to kneel on one knee while speaking with prison authorities. After being returned to prison, he was placed in the strict supervision block, where he was subjected to torture and physical and verbal abuse, including beating, being shocked with an electric baton on his legs and mouth, having his toes crushed, and solitary confinement. During this period, he was forced to run 150 laps a day on gravel, and, when he could not run anymore, was dragged through gravel, which tore through his clothes.
The abuses and torture resulted in torn cartilage in both of his knees and torn ligaments in his legs. He developed traumatic arthritis and inflammation of the joints. At his worst moment, he was unable to stand to walk and lost some of his ability to care for himself. The prison hospital refused him treatment.
Just another of millions of cases in the country President Clinton used to call our “strategic partner.”
#page#‐I had a thought when reading this headline: “Jewish cemetery in Kosovo capital desecrated.” The thought was, “All my life, I’ve read of the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. It is what you might call a leitmotif of the news. Will it be this way till the end of time?”
‐At a party the other week, I met an art scholar who had discovered a painting by Leonardo — that’s a hell of a discovery.
#ad#I got to complaining to him about a development in our culture: the routine reference to Leonardo as “da Vinci.” Yes, agreed the scholar, it is mainly the fault of that weird and bestselling novel, The Da Vinci Code. Referring to Leonardo as “da Vinci,” he said, is like referring to Rembrandt as “van Rijn.” Who does that? And who refers to Michelangelo as “Buonarroti”?
“Da Vinci” is here to stay, I’m afraid. Even some of my National Review colleagues regard my insistence on “Leonardo” as either antique or snobbish.
I know a losing cause when I smell one. Still . . .
‐Would you refer to William of Orange as “of Orange”?
‐I once had a co-worker who would often say to you, “News? Views?” I thought of this the other day when talking to Bernard Lewis, the Middle East scholar. He spoke of a contemporary of his who worked in the Foreign Office (Britain). They would occasionally meet for lunch to exchange “news and views,” he said. “He would supply the news, and I would supply the views.”
I loved that.
‐A ballplayer named Yoenis Cespedes has defected from Cuba. An article at ESPN.com quoted Rene Gayo, “director of Latin American scouting for the Pittsburgh Pirates.” The question arose, Will Cespedes be able to adjust to America and meet the challenges of this new environment?
Gayo said, “This guy is used to playing baseball with Fidel Castro behind the backstop. That’s comparable to having the devil on horseback watching you. So I don’t think he’s going to be scared of some Americans.”
‐Last month, a CNN reporter, Dan Lothian, had a question for President Obama: Are the Republicans “uninformed, out of touch, or irresponsible?” Smilingly, Obama said, “That’s a multiple-choice question, isn’t it?”
When I come across something like this, I don’t want to hear another word about the bias of Fox News for the rest of my life. Do you know what I mean?
On the bright side, Obama, in his answer to Lothian, used the term “War on Terrorism.” Earlier in his administration, it was “overseas contingency operations.”
He’s not running for reelection, is he?
(My thanks to a reader for alerting me to this exchange.)
‐A friend of mine writes,
No kidding, I got this auto-reply at work: “FYI, I will be out of the office (travelling to Florida to be with family for the religious holiday) from Wed. Dec. 21 through Mon. Dec. 26. Happy Holidays to all.”
Is this what it has come to?
‐The other morning, early, I saw Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, walking maybe the tiniest dog I have ever seen walked — leash and all. That night, I saw Jackie Mason (not walking a dog).
Two legends in one day. Made me kind of smile. (I seem to see Jackie a lot. He looks curmudgeonly, glowering, and funny all at the same time.)
‐A reader sent me this article, which has a paragraph that begins, “Sean Trende, a RealClearPolitics numbers analyst . . .”
Sometimes a name and a job just match, you know?