Politics & Policy

Second-term headlines, &c.

In recent days, I’ve seen a couple of headlines that made me think, “Hmmm: Would we have seen this in Obama’s first term?” I give you Exhibit A: “Obama image machine whirs as press access narrows.” (Article here.) I give you Exhibit B: “Obamacare credits could trigger surprise tax bills.” (Article here.)

Whaddayou think? Am I just being a paranoid right-winger? (Not sure I want to know the answer . . .)

‐They have released Jigme Gyatso, probably because they have tortured him almost to death. They may have wanted him to die at home. Sometimes they do that.

I’m speaking of the Chinese government, of course. Jigme Gyatso is a Tibetan monk whom they have imprisoned and tortured for 17 years. He is an incredibly brave man. Let me quote from a news report:

Initially held at Lhasa’s notorious Drapchi prison, he was among a group of prisoners who were reportedly beaten and tortured following a pro-independence protest in 1998 coinciding with a visit by European Union delegates.

His sentence was then extended by three years in 2004 after he shouted slogans in prison in support of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama . . .

Why do people act in ways that guarantee their imprisonment and torture? An amazing, amazing thing.

‐In my inbox landed this article: “Syria Has a Massive Rape Crisis.” I want to tell you something: Years ago, I did a piece on Darfur, Sudan. I did quite a lot of reading and reporting beforehand. The most difficult thing to confront was the rape — not the mass murder, but the rape: constant, widespread, almost obligatory and routine rape. That is what has stuck with me, from this little study of Sudan I did.

‐In Tuesday’s Impromptus, I had some words on Britain and education. Am going to have some more. Guess how many teachers have been fired for incompetence in the past 40 years? Go ahead, guess.

Eighteen — 18 teachers, in the whole of the U.K., for the past 40 years. To read an article, go here. (I learned about the matter from a Toby Young blogpost, here.)

‐You’ll love this: My hero Michael Gove, the education secretary, is hated by the teachers’ unions because he wants to lift the schools, and thus the nation, out of mediocrity and failure. He actually wants the kids to learn things: math, history, and all that Neanderthal stuff.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has condemned him in fierce terms. Listen to the ATL’s acting deputy general secretary: “For the state to suggest that some knowledge should be privileged over other knowledge is a bit totalitarian in a 21st-century environment.”

The acting deputy general secretary suggested that schools teach young people how to walk. “There’s a lot to learn about how to walk,” he said. “If you were going out for a Sunday-afternoon stroll, you might walk one way. If you’re trying to catch a train, you might walk in another way, and if you are doing a cliff walk, you might walk in another way. If you are carrying a pack, there’s a technique in that. We need a nation of people who understand their bodies and can use their bodies effectively.”

Will there always be an England? Um, no. Definitely not. Goners. Curtains. Lights out, baby. The Western Civ saloon is closed. (Possibly.)

(For an article on the walking bit, go here. For a related Toby Young blogpost, go here.) (Didn’t Monty Python have a famous skit on funny walks?)

‐My colleague Eric Fettmann sent me a bulletin from Gallup — one that has to do with my humble hometown, Ann Arbor, Mich. Listen to this:

Lincoln, Neb., had the highest Well-Being Index score (72.8) in the U.S. across the 189 metropolitan areas that Gallup and Healthways surveyed in 2012. Also in the top 10 are Boulder, Colo.; Provo-Orem, Utah; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Honolulu, Hawaii; Fort Collins-Loveland, Colo.; and Burlington-South Burlington, Vt.

I suspected — with my super-sensitive nose — left-wing bias, given Ann Arbor, Boulder, and Burlington. But Provo? From what I know, even I could get elected there. Should have moved there long ago . . .

(Orrin Hatch moved to Utah long ago. He is a Pittsburgher.)

‐On to Colorado: They have repealed the law against adultery. To read a news story, go here. I’m against symbolic law. I believe that laws, whatever they are, should be enforced. Should be taken seriously. Otherwise, don’t have them. Still: I’m sorry about this.

‐Let’s go back to the U.K.: I loved something I read in a dispatch from Cambridge. Files from the Thatcher era have been released, and at least one of them relates to the prime minister’s visit to China in 1982. The Foreign Office wanted her to lay a wreath at a big Communist monument in Tiananmen Square. She demurred. It was then pointed out to her that other Western leaders had laid a wreath there.

And here’s what I loved: The dispatch quoted a historian saying, “That was always a bad argument with Margaret Thatcher.”

This is part of what made her, and her friend Reagan, great.

‐Care for a name? Moses Blah — a president of Liberia, who has died. You wouldn’t want your name to be “Blah.” But the name “Moses” sort of makes up for it. If you have to be Blah, at least be Moses Blah.

‐Two more names? Time was, I confused the names of two basketball coaches: Jim Boeheim of Syracuse and John Beilein of Michigan. “Boeheim” is pronounced “BAY-hime.” “Beilein” is pronounced “BEE-line.”

And, you know what? They’re coaching against each other Saturday, in the Final Four.

By the way, if Beilein pronounced his name the proper German way, that would be a good name for a journalist. (Byline.) Back to his own pronunciation: You know what his parents did, when they conceived him? They made a Beilein.

Okay, now I should really go, and I’ll see you later. Thanks for your forbearance . . .


To order Jay Nordlinger’s 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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