Politics & Policy

Strange bedfellows, &c.

John Conyers and Justin Amash

Yesterday, I was reading about an anti-NSA bill in the U.S. House — a bill to quash the program of the National Security Agency that has caused controversy in recent weeks. The bill’s co-sponsors were two Michigan politicians. One of them is a young libertarian, Justin Amash, and the other is an old lefty, John Conyers.

I was tempted to call Conyers an “old Red,” but some people are squeamish about that. I don’t think Conyers would mind, frankly.

Anyway, this pairing is a sign of our strange political times.

So is the composition of the Edward Snowden Fan Club. The club includes leftists, of course, but it also includes right-leaners of my acquaintance. Does Julian Assange, who seems to be Snowden’s guide, have fans on the right? Probably, but not that I have noticed, actually.

‐In a recent column, I quoted Norman Tebbit, on the NSA matter. He mentioned one liberty: “not being blown up by a terrorist.” He speaks with some experience.

He was in the hotel when those Northern Irish lovelies tried to blow up Mrs. Thatcher. They killed five others, and injured more than 30. One of them was Tebbit; worse injured was his wife, who was left paralyzed. When Tebbit — Norman Tebbit (later Lord Tebbit) — was taken to the hospital, he was asked whether he was allergic to anything. Yes, he said: “Bombs.”

I swear, the guy is one of my favorite people.

#ad#‐The headline read, “UN chief says over 100,000 people killed in Syria.” (Article here.) I had a memory — of how shocked I was when the death toll reached 10,000. Or maybe merely neared it, I don’t know. Syria is not that big a country.

‐So, the Greek Nazis are singing the “Horst Wessel Song.” (You can read about it here.) They are singing a Greek version, apparently. Still, can’t they come up with their own songs? With new or genuinely Greek material?

What, are they going to copy the uniforms too, or the mustache?

‐I got a kick out of the Hezbollah chief, Nasrallah. The European Union has placed Hezbollah’s “military wing” on a terror list. Because the rest of Hezbollah, of course, is entirely peaceable.

Anyway, Nasrallah is fairly forgiving of the Europeans. He looks on them more with pity than with indignation. According to this dispatch, he said, “I did not feel for one moment that this was a sovereign European decision, but rather one that was dictated to them. Europe was not convinced, but has capitulated.” To whom or to what? To “American and Israeli wishes.”


‐Did you see this? “Financial news publisher Forbes says it’s apologizing to Ireland’s president for inaccurately describing him as gay in an online article.”

Why is Forbes apologizing, actually? Are they a bunch of bigots? Are they saying something’s wrong with being gay? I mean, they don’t fall all over themselves if they have described someone who’s from Kansas City, Kansas, as being from Kansas City, Missouri. Right?

Does Justice Kennedy know about this outrageous display of homophobia?

I’ll tell you something else about the Forbes article. It said that the Irish prez was an “acknowledged homosexual.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the word “homosexual” declared verboten a few months ago, by the New York Times or someone?

Forbes may have some more apologizing to do.

‐In Germany, they’re teaching the young’uns that climate change is caused by man — not by mankind, not by people in general, but by men, as opposed to women. Read about it here. Men like to drive cars and eat steaks; women eat fruits and vegetables and walk, or something. So, men are causing the planet to fry.

“You’ve got to be carefully taught,” wrote Oscar Hammerstein.

‐“U.S. Border Patrol Deporting Illegal Alien with 37 Criminal Convictions in USA.” That was the headline over this article. I’m thinking, “Just 37 convictions? Deportation is a little hasty, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we let it get above 50? What kind of monsters have we become? Is this still America? Are we not a welcoming nation, a nation of immigrants?”

A little sarcasm goes a long way, I know (and I’m way over my quota for today).

#page#‐This article began, “About 47 million Americans received food stamps last year, but only a relative few are required to work or look for a job as a condition of receiving the aid.” Republicans are trying to increase work requirements.

Those who are receiving food stamps: Don’t you think they would welcome such requirements, or don’t you think many of them would? I would say so.

‐AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play, has a gull problem: Sea gulls swarm the park, causing all kinds of problems. This has officials “stumped,” as this article says. I wish to single out a line from the article — the closing line.

A Giant official says, “It’s an issue we are taking seriously. But it’s delicate. You don’t want to get to the point where you do anything that looks inhumane.”

I loved that word “looks” — “looks inhumane.” Whether it is or not: How does it look?

‐Stay in the world of sports (if that is the world we’ve been in): A reader sent me a great name — Lourawls Nairn. He is a young basketball standout. Let me quote an article:

Lourawls Nairn Jr. may have the most interesting name in the country, but its origin is actually quite mundane: Sunrise Christian Academy’s point guard . . . was simply named after his father.

His grandparents named Lourawls Sr. after — you guessed it — Lou Rawls, a soul and R&B singer back in the ’60s and ’70s.

#ad#‐Staying with names, I was thinking about Ken Minogue, the great political scientist of the London School of Economics. He died a few weeks ago — a big loss to everyone who knew him. I was talking to him once about the name “Minogue.” He said, “Everyone knew how to pronounce it once Kylie came along.”

(Kylie Minogue is a star of stage, screen, and whatnot.)

‐More on names, sort of? Yesterday, Matt Drudge had a banner headline that referred to Huma Abedin, the longsuffering wife of former representative, and current New York mayoral candidate, Anthony Weiner: “Humaliation.”

I might have gone with “Oh, the Huma-nity!” But probably fewer and fewer people know about this phrase, which was once part of everyday speech. (“Oh, the humanity” — an announcer said it when witnessing the Hindenburg disaster.)

‐More Weiner? One of his infamous texts said, “do me a solid. can you hard delete all our chat here.” I realize that the phrase “Do me a solid” is pretty old. But I believe I first heard it not very long ago, from my young colleague Katrina Trinko — “Trinks,” more familiarly. She is from California. And I believe the phrase in question originated among the beach bums there. It means “Do me a favor,” I understand.

I’m a real Samuel Johnson, aren’t I? (“Aren’t I?” is one of those weirdnesses we simply accept, I think. It would be yet weirder to say “Amn’t I?”)

‐Was looking at a concert program. It said the father of one of the performers was a “renowned composer.” I thought of my usual point: If the guy really is renowned, there’s no need for the word “renowned.” We see “renowned” only when the guy isn’t — renowned, that is.

“The renowned composer W. A. Mozart”?

‐On Tuesday, I had a blogpost in which I talked about Mark Helprin. “Once,” I wrote,

he told me about going into the office of a well-known editor and seeing a bunch of kitsch — risible, Middle American kitsch. It was the editor’s way of mocking those tastes. And Mark, being Mark, let him have it: “This is how you get your yuks, putting down people less fortunate than you, in their natural endowments and life opportunities.” (I have paraphrased. I’m sure Mark gave it to him better than that.)

Well, I can tell you some more. Mark said to the guy — this is a close paraphrase — “You are a famous and influential arbiter of taste. So what you’re doing here is the equivalent of a track coach’s putting up pictures of paraplegics so that his champion runners can mock them.”


Thanks so much for joining me today, friends. I’m going to be running around for the next month or so. Not sure of the regularity of Impromptus. But I’ll be writing to you soon, which, as a friend of mine says, is not so much a promise as a warning.

See you.

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