Politics & Policy

One tough broad, &c.

My heart leapt when I read this story, and I hope it’s true. It seems impossible. But I’m choosing to believe it’s true.

Let’s begin: “An Iranian cleric said he was beaten by a woman in the northern province of Semnan after giving her a warning for being ‘badly covered,’ the state-run Mehr news agency reported.”

Interesting that it was in the Iranian press. Let’s have some more:

“Hojatoleslam Ali Beheshti said he encountered the woman in the street while on his way to the mosque in the town of Shahmirzad, and asked her to cover herself up, to which she replied ‘you, cover your eyes,’ according to Mehr. The cleric repeated his warning, which he said prompted her to insult and push him.”

Holy-moly, let’s keep going: “‘I fell on my back on the floor [ground?],’ Beheshti said in the report. ‘I don’t know what happened after that, all I could feel was the kicks of this woman who was insulting me and attacking me.’”

And get a load of this: “Beheshti said he was hospitalized for three days.”

That is one tough broad, living in an Islamofascist state. Can you picture it? “Cover up!” says the cleric. “No, you cover your eyes!” says the woman. He warns her again. Then she beats the tar out of him.

I hope it’s true. It was on the Internet. How can it not be true?

‐I spied a headline — “Assailants throw grenade into Paris kosher store” — and had a memory. (To read the story under the just-quoted headline, go here.)

It was in the early ’80s. I was just learning about things, getting a feel for the world (in its wideness). There was at least one big bombing in Paris — on the Rue des Rosiers, I think, in the Marais district. Where the Jews lived. (I don’t think they do anymore.) The French police seemed — I don’t know: kind of lackadaisical. I hope I’m not doing an injustice to the police. I’m going from memory here.

And Menachem Begin, in Jerusalem, said something like the following: “If the French state can’t protect those Jews, I will” — meaning in Paris itself, not if they moved to Israel.

This was just bravado, certainly. Still, I was kind of impressed with it. (We were all supposed to hate Begin. We were all taught that. He was a terrorist and a Hitler and all the rest of it. I learned to unhate him. I loved him.)

‐I think I’ve mentioned before in this space that I’m of two minds about this “stolen valor” business. On one hand, it’s wrong to lie about military medals. On the other, it’s wrong to lie period. Protected speech and all that.

I think I’ve mentioned another matter in this space too: When I was a youngster, following Congress, and politics generally, I was fascinated by votes that were like 416 to 3, 428 to 4, 419 to 1 — stuff like that. I wanted to know who the lone dissenters were, and why they had dissented. News articles rarely told you that.

On checking, I would often find that the little group consisted of a couple of black radicals — Ron Dellums, say — and maybe one or two white leftists, probably from the Northeast, and then Ron Paul.

Say there had been some resolution condemning terror against Israel. Dellums and the like would be voting against it because they supported terror against Israel. Paul would be voting against it because he didn’t think Congress should be passing any such resolutions.

Anyway, I was reading this article about the just-passed Stolen Valor Act. The vote was 410 to 3. So I just had to know about the three. I checked here: George Miller (leftist from California); Justin Amash (Republican from Michigan — never heard of, not being quite the student of Congress I once was); and Ron Paul.


‐Vladimir Putin has now kicked the U.S. Agency for International Development out of Russia. He is pressing the reset button, so to speak. He could not have liked USAID’s assistance to democracy groups.

And I can’t imagine his ousting of our agency will be unpopular — national pride is a powerful thing. I’ve told this story in Impromptus before: At a Davos meeting, Michael Dell, of Dell Computers, asked Putin what he and others could do to help Russian students get online.

Putin said (I paraphrase), “We don’t need any help. We are a strong country. Invalids need help, children need help, developing countries need help. Our computer experts are as good as anybody’s . . .”

The Russian journalists sitting around me whooped with pleasure. Yes, national pride can be a powerful thing. (I had to learn that later in life. Because I really never saw it in Americans — rather the opposite.)

‐Staying with Russia, did you see this story about the Orthodox deacon who resigned in protest against his church on the “Pussy Riot” matter? A fascinating story, from several angles — the human, the political, the religious, the psychological. The cultural.

That’s enough, I guess. Anyway, worth reading, when you have the time.

‐Now and then, I write about the intrusion of politics into places where it doesn’t belong — concert halls, for example. A reader tells me he was reading Playback, the magazine of ASCAP, of which he’s a member. “A board member used a full page to editorialize against fracking.”

Hey, my view is, we’re lucky it wasn’t two pages. (Fracking, incidentally — and, in particular, the marriage of fracking with horizontal drilling — is one of the greatest gifts to mankind in recent years. But you can’t expect anyone in the arts to recognize that, because you somehow have to check your brain at the door when you enter the arts.)

‐I’m sorry, but doesn’t “the marriage of fracking with horizontal drilling” sound dirty?

‐This is dicey: Landing on my desk was a book by a soldier. Above his name, on the cover, it said “Medal of Honor Recipient.” I thought, “No real Medal of Honor recipient would want to be identified as a Medal of Honor recipient. Probably a publisher’s decision, for the sake of sales.”

‐A little language? Was in an Indian restaurant, and, partway through my meal, a waiter came by and said, “You are making out?” I enjoyed that.

‐A little more language? For the past many years, I’ve heard people say “discomfit” when they really mean “discomfort.” I think they regard “discomfit” as sophisticated or something. To discomfit means to confuse or deject or disconcert; alternatively, to thwart or to foil. To discomfort means to make uncomfortable, which is what people usually mean, I think, when they say “discomfit.”

‐A little music? I just read, somewhere, that Wagner was “Hitler’s favorite composer.” The comment was made in relation to an anti-Obama ad, showing the president as unfriendly to Israel. The music accompanying the ad was from The Ring.

Well, do you know what Hitler’s favorite piece of music was, probably his favorite work of art? The Merry Widow. He saw it over and over, nearly obsessively. It gave him great pleasure, as it has given millions of others.

In my “Salzburg Journal” last month, I mentioned a friend of mine, Peggy Weber-McDowell. She has a list of the most charming people she has ever met in her life. One was Richard Strauss. Another was Franz Lehár (composer of The Merry Widow).

‐As we’re on the subject of Germany, sort of: This blogpost by Daniel Hannan is about Germany and its relationship to Europe. It put me in mind of Willy Brandt’s Nobel lecture. I discuss this in my history of the peace prize. Part of Brandt’s lecture was a meditation on Germanness — what it means to be German.

Very interesting. This is 1971, remember. And here’s what Brandt has to say: “I say here [in Oslo, where the prize is given] 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.”

‐Let me repeat a couple of things I said in the Corner over the weekend — things of a housekeeping-ish nature.

I’m doing a Ricochet podcast, recurring, with the divine Mona Charen — find the latest episode here.

And Rocky Mountain PBS is airing a show called The Human Parade, with Jay Nordlinger (I blush to say). It is an interview series. The guests are diverse, and they are splendid conversationalists, every one of them — just about the best I ever heard.

They are Jeb Bush (should I identify him?), Renée Fleming (should I identify the world’s most famous soprano?), Ignat Solzhenitsyn (pianist and conductor, and son of the great man), Ed Koch (ex-mayor of New York, and the epitome of New Yorkness), Bernard Lewis (Middle East scholar, sage), and Mark Helprin (novelist, political analyst, defense-policy specialist, and all-around stud).

Rocky Mountain is showing these episodes Sundays at 2.

‐In a July issue of the Christian Science Monitor, I read an Olympic preview. It featured a number of athletes who had to overcome some particularly adverse circumstances. Each story was quite interesting. You can find them here.

One was about an American judo artist named Kayla Harrison. She had a coach, whom she had known since she was eight. Trusted family friend, mentor — all that. When she was 13, he began to abuse her, sexually. This went on for three years. She longed to die.

But after this hell was over — she testified at the coach’s trial — she continued with judo.

Couple of weeks ago, I did some Googling around to find out how the Olympians who had been featured in the Monitor had fared. I was not much of an Olympics-watcher this year. Kayla Harrison won the gold medal. And she is engaged to a fellow judoka.

Hers must be just about the happiest story I know at the moment.

Hope you had a good weekend! And will have a good week.

To order Jay Nordlinger’s new book, Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.


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