Politics & Policy

America’s mayor, &c.

San Diego mayor Bob Filner

Every now and then, I’ll quote something in this column and say, “A perfectly representative statement of our age.” Well, have another one.

It comes from San Diego mayor Bob Filner, described by the Associated Press as “a feisty liberal” (here). One of the feisty things he does, apparently, is hit on women. Or harass them. Or something. These matters are under dispute.

What is not disputable is this: In a save-my-career speech to voters, he said,

I am . . . humbled to admit that I need help. I have begun to work with professionals to make changes in my behavior and approach. In addition, my staff and I will participate in sexual harassment training provided by the city. . . .

If my behavior doesn’t change, I cannot succeed in leading our city.

This is worrisome news — because we all know that there’s no one else who could possibly be mayor of San Diego. The city — the world, the universe — must have Bob Filner, feisty liberal.

‐The headline said, “Immigration mired, early Term II wins elude Obama.” (It appeared over this article.) And it really hit me: We are barely into O’s second term. We’ve got three and a half years to go.

How ya doin’? Holding up all right?

#ad#‐This article is headed “Texas abortion providers fear major shutdowns.” Its hero is an abortion doctor named Howard Novick. He says, “I have saved some women’s lives. They are so grateful we’re here for them and nonjudgmental.”

In the abortion world, I guess, nonjudgmentalism is celebrated. But when it comes to environmental policy and a million other things — judgmentalism is where it’s at. I trust you know what I mean, so I can move on to . . .

‐. . . more abortion. A photo in the above-linked article — which is an AP dispatch — shows pro-choice protesters. One of them is holding a sign that says, “Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries.” I thought, “Is that still around?” It’s a real golden oldie.

Another vintage slogan — indeed, a bumper sticker — is “Keep Your Laws Off My Body.” That was pretty big in my hometown, Ann Arbor (as was the rosaries thing). At some point in my life, I thought, “You know, another body — much smaller — may be involved.”

‐A little more abortion? Just one more item: I was faintly amused by this article. The Missouri legislature passed a restriction — quite minor, it seems to me — on abortion. The state’s governor is a Democrat named Nixon: Jay Nixon. And, as the article tells us, he announced that he had “decided not to veto the new abortion measure but also wouldn’t sign it — a strategy he employed with other abortion restrictions passed in 2010 and 2011 that were also allowed to passively become law.”

I was thinking, “Is that a little like Obama in the Illinois legislature, voting ‘present’?”

‐We now learn that Israel attacked Russian-supplied missiles in Syria on July 5. (Try this article.) Of course, the Israelis also took care of Assad’s nuclear facility, back in 2007. They took care of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear facility in 1981.

And how about Iran? (Speaking of things Russian-supplied.) Will that job be left to the Israelis too? With every passing month, I think, “If the Israelis don’t do it — no one will.”

‐A bunch of congressmen have some lead in their pencil — good. “A bipartisan group of lawmakers is demanding answers from the Pentagon over a contract to buy helicopters for the Afghan security forces from a state-run Russian arms exporter that is a top weapons supplier to the Syrian government.” (Article here.)

These guys — our congressmen — say it is “unconscionable” for U.S. taxpayers to buy from a company supplying Assad.

What I want to know is: Don’t good old Amurricans make choppers no mo’? Or did we ever? I think we’ve been out of the television business for some time . . . (I mean the manufacture of TV sets. I think we continue to make TV shows.)

I should say that the Pentagon may have good and honorable reason to buy choppers from this Russian company, for the Afghans. I just don’t know it.

‐Speaking of Afghanistan: Obama is dithering over whether we’ll keep a residual force there. I like something that a Tennessee Republican, Senator Bob Corker, said about this: “I think the administration has got to quit looking at its navel and make a decision on what the force structure is going to be in Afghanistan.” (Article here.)

#page#‐As I noted in a column on Thursday, Eliot Spitzer is running for office again in New York. He used to be governor. A very big deal. He was going to be the first Jewish president, possibly. And then — a “sex scandal.” What a weak phrase. He was patronizing hookers. (I don’t mean he was talking down to them. I mean, he was paying for their services.)

Spitzer is running for an itty-bitty office, relatively speaking: comptroller of New York — not of the state, of the city. Yesterday, I saw him on the street: 68th and Columbus. I have a feeling he was coming from ABC News. As I’ve said before in this column, he’s an impressive-looking dude, in person. Hang on, let me look that up.

Okay, here it is: a column of November 17, 2009. I wrote,

I won’t give you a concert review, but I’ll give you a little social news, out of Carnegie Hall: Covered a Berlin Philharmonic concert the other night — and in the audience was Dr. Ruth Westheimer, looking tiny and spry, as usual. Sitting nearby were former New York governor Eliot Spitzer and his wife. Spitzer looks younger and handsomer in person; his wife, Silda, is an absolute knockout.

Okay, back to yesterday: Spitzer looked at me warily — maybe with a bit of alarm. I’m sure he’s gotten some bad remarks. I passed him without saying anything. Behind me, I heard someone call out to him, “Good luck.” He said, “Thanks.”

That’s all I have to report. Not much, huh?

‐You may like this even less: My Detroit Pistons have acquired Josh Smith from the Atlanta Hawks. His nickname is “J-Smoove” — “smoove” for “smooth.” Which took me back . . .

Back in my golf days — Detroit area — we’d sometimes say, “I’m goin’ smoove it.” When I said this, I often did not: smooth it. Much talk, little execution. Now and then I was “Jay-Smoove” (if I may). But not often enough to merit the nickname.

More like Jay-Rough.

Anyway, I hope Smith helps us.

#ad#‐Speaking of Detroit teams: It’s amazing that Miguel Cabrera’s stats are so good. If I’ve read the papers correctly, he’s the first player in history to have 90 RBIs and 30 home runs before the All-Star break. Incidentally, I’m referring to tomorrow’s All-Star game as “the Tiger game.”

Why are those stats amazing? Well, for one thing, the guy barely gets a chance to hit. I mean, they walk him all the time. Imagine if he had a full complement of at-bats!

‐A little language? For a long time, people have made a big deal out of the differences between British English and American English. Too big a deal, probably. Regardless — irregardless! — there are differences, some of them interesting.

The other day, I was reading an article in a London paper, and the writer said, “So is it down to parents to set boundaries for their children in a fundamentally unsafe digital world?” We would say “up to”: “up to parents to set boundaries.”

Down and up. That’s kind of interesting.

‐This is related to language: In my Thursday Impromptus, I mentioned a famous American animal, whom I called “Smokey the Bear.” I think I got more mail on that subject than I’ve gotten on any subject in ages. People wanted me to say “Smokey Bear.”

Which I know was his official name (to the extent he had one). (I guess his name was “Smokey,” plain and simple.) But I grew up saying, and hearing, “Smokey the Bear.” In fact, I saw Smokey, when visiting D.C. relatives. (No, they didn’t live in the zoo. They lived in the city.)

“Smokey the Bear” is ingrained in my thinking, and tongue. Don’t think I can (or want to) ungrain it.

‐Let’s close with a reader letter — which relates to another item in my Thursday column. I was complaining about restaurant decorum. In a hot, muggy dining room, I took off my jacket. The waiter told me to put it back on. Which made me hotter.

Our reader says,

Do you know this old joke? A man is eating in a prominent New York City restaurant. He takes off his jacket. The waiter rushes over to tell him to put it back on. The man says, “But the Queen of England gave me permission to take off my jacket.” Understandably skeptical, the waiter denies that this could be so.

“It’s true, it’s true,” says the man. “I was at a state dinner in Buckingham Palace, and took off my jacket. The Queen rushed over and said, ‘You can do that in New York, but you can’t do it here!’”

Catch you soon.

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