National Security & Defense

‘A civilizational gap,’ &c.

Of late, the Egyptian leader, Sisi, has been saying some astonishing things. Here he is to interviewers from Der Spiegel, for instance: “I am not ashamed to admit that there is a civilizational gap between us and you.” He went on to say, “The police and people in Germany are civilized and have a sense of responsibility. German police are equipped with the latest capabilities and get the best training. And in your country, protesters would not use weapons in the middle of the demonstrations to target police.”

Is he making excuses for Egyptian police brutality? Maybe. He may be telling the truth at the same time. He has been more interesting to follow than I would have guessed. We should keep doing it.

(For a news story on his latest comments, go here.)

‐This is a headline to get your attention: “Boehner challenges Senate Democrats to ‘get off their ass.’”

The speaker of the House was talking to reporters, about a bill concerning the Department of Homeland Security. He said, fully, “The House has done its job. Why don’t you go ask the Senate Democrats when they’re going to get off their ass and do something other than to vote no?”

A spokesman for Harry Reid, the chief Senate Democrat, said that “cursing is not going to resolve” anything.

Say what you will about John Boehner, he is not an NPR- or PBS-style politician. He’s more like a barkeep’s son, serving in politics. Which is nice.

(For a news story, go here.)

‐I saw a headline saying, “Palestinians call for boycott of Israeli goods.” (Article here.) I thought, “Who do they think they are, U.S. college students?”

‐Another headline read, “Driver’s licenses for immigrants spur debate in New Mexico.” This debate has been going on for a long time. To read the article under the headline, go here.

It’s from the Associated Press, and it has a bias: toward the granting of licenses to illegal aliens. Did you notice the wording of the headline? “Driver’s licenses for immigrants …” The debate, actually, is over licenses for illegals.

The hero of the story is a man named Alejandro Altamirano, who fears losing his driver’s license. The story begins and ends with him. (That’s how a report makes a person the hero of a story: by beginning and ending with him. We’ve all done it.) The reader never learns whether the man is illegal or legal. We simply know that he has “called New Mexico home for a dozen years.”

New Mexico has a law that allows illegals to obtain driver’s licenses. From what I know, this law is dangerously abused. Illegals from all over the country connive to get New Mexico licenses. Often, these people are involved in serious crimes.

The state’s Republican governor, Susana Martinez, has been trying to repeal the law. She says that the issue is a public-safety issue above all. The reason she thinks that is that she served as a prosecutor for many years.

About this issue, she knows chapter and verse, believe me. It would be hard to out-argue her.

I have interviewed her twice, and both times we discussed this matter of licenses for illegals. Allow me to quote from my first piece (published in February 2012). The issue of driver’s licenses appears at the end of the excerpt.

[Martinez] says she has discovered, all over the state, that when she talks sincerely to people — not using such words as “Democrat,” “Republican,” “liberal,” and “conservative” — they tend to nod in agreement. They are more conservative than they may realize. She has seen this phenomenon in her own family. For instance, she got a cousin’s husband to see it her way on driver’s licenses for illegals. He said to her, “You sold me on the one issue I thought I could never be sold on.”

Maybe an AP reporter could be sold as well?

‐I did not read the article, but here is the headline: “Report: Sudanese forces rape 221 women, girls in mass attack.”

Back in 2005, I wrote a fairly long piece about Sudan. Let me quote something, then move on:

Bestialities in the south included bombings, razings, concentration camps (called “peace villages”), and rape after rape after rape. That may be what is hardest about inquiring into Sudan: the constant rape, that great and ancient weapon of terror.

‐Get a load of this: “Gitmo prison closure hampered by freed detainee’s turn to IS” — meaning the Islamic State, of course. (Article here.)

Say you’re a guy trying to close down Gitmo. And the releasees keep rejoining the fight, to murder innocents. Don’t you hate that? How they hamper the closing of Gitmo? So frustrating.

‐Daniel Hannan is the writer who doubles as a British member of the European Parliament. Not long ago, I was binge-reading him, which is pleasurable, and enlightening. To visit his website, go here.

He has an article called “Why Israel rankles Europeans so much.” He puts his finger on statehood. Nationhood. “The EU’s ruling ideology is supra-nationalism. Its founders detested the national principle, which they regarded as one step away from fascism and war.”

Israel, for its part,

represents the most vivid vindication of the national principle that humanity has witnessed. A people who were stateless for 2,000 years never lost their aspiration to nationhood: “Next year in Jerusalem.” Then, extraordinarily — providentially, even — they fulfilled it. To a Briton or an American, it’s a heartening story. But it strikes at the Euro-integrationist’s entire worldview.

This is very well said, of course — and true. But one question nags at me: The Euros are all hot for Palestinian statehood, aren’t they? They love to speak of, and dream of, and agitate for, the Palestinian nation. Or is that just an expression of anti-Israel hostility?

Another Hannan article is headed “In defense of consumerism.” The author writes,

When I was born in 1971, millions of people in Western countries had no televisions, no indoor plumbing, yet the intellectuals of their day were arguing that they had plenty. Go back a generation further and, even in the United States, plenty of rural homes were not hooked up to the electricity grid, and it took a day simply to do the washing, and another to do the ironing. Go back to the nineteenth century and you are in a world of constant exhaustion, illness and dirt. Yet Victorian moralists breezily asserted that people had never had it so good, and that society had lost its sense of what really mattered.

I have a memory from my childhood. Cars were just starting to get air conditioning: luxury cars, expensive cars. And some people were aghast when they saw, in the heat of summer, cars go by with their windows rolled up. Who needed to ride around in comfort-cooled cars? What a wimp — a privileged, spoiled brat — our country had become.

Speaking for myself: Papa like his air conditioning (and other creature comforts).

Also, there is a story I like to tell about V. S. Naipaul. I learned it from his close friend (and our close friend) David Pryce-Jones. Naipaul was speaking at a conference in India, not long after he won the Nobel prize for literature. In the Q&A, someone stood up and said, “Sir Vidia, India has always been the home of the spirit. And now materialism is encroaching on us. This is destroying India, as the home of the spirit. What should we do about this materialism?”

Naipaul answered approximately as follows: “I’m rather tolerant of materialism. The poor need it.” Then he held up a bottle of water that had been placed near him. “You see this bottle? The water in it is clean, pure, and good. Twenty years ago, we didn’t have this. This is a mark of progress.”

I love that line, “The poor need it.”

You always learn things from Hannan, as I did in this column, headed “France’s mistake shows taxing wealth doesn’t work.” He writes,

Not since the expulsion of France’s Protestants in 1685 has there been such an exodus of entrepreneurs to the Anglosphere; and this wave, like that one, has been a transfusion of talent, leaving the English-speaking world more energetic and France more anemic.

And no one — no one — is better on the morality of capitalism than Daniel Hannan. He, Michael Novak, George Gilder, Adam Smith (!): They are virtually in a league of their own. This column, “Making the moral case for markets,” is one to clip, if we still clipped.

What do we do, place in computer files? Cut and paste links? But links sometimes expire, right? Should we print out and file as we did of old?

James Levine has described himself as a “teaching conductor.” He cannot conduct — he cannot rehearse and lead an orchestra — without teaching along the way. He must teach as he goes, to succeed. Daniel Hannan is a teaching politician.

‐I didn’t read this article, but I saw the headline: “Bake sales are out, healthier school fundraisers are in.” My objection is to extremism. No one should eat nothing but cupcakes, brownies, and cookies. But cupcakes, brownies, and cookies are part of life — part of a diet, same as vegetables and rice.

You know? Why do we have to be so extreme? Why can’t we have bake sales and salads and everything else that is good in life? And all in balance?

Dammit. Do you know what I mean?

‐Speaking of food, there’s a place near our offices called Sticky’s Finger Joint. The sign outside says, “Perhaps the Greatest Chicken Finger You Have Ever Had.” I love the humility of that “perhaps.” So rare in advertising! I’m going to go in, maybe this very day.

‐Some outstanding lines in the current Dominique Strauss-Kahn trial are collected in this report. I will cite two.

DSK was asked (something like), “Why didn’t you suspect that the women with whom you spontaneously had sex in a restaurant basement were prostitutes?” He answered, “What can I say? It’s nothing to be proud of, but there have been ten times that I’ve found myself in a situation where a woman threw herself at me.”

Only ten times? Is that the thing not to be proud of?

And here is DSK’s lawyer: “I dare you to distinguish between a prostitute and a naked socialite.”

Yes, I’ve never been much good at that myself.

‐I leave you with a music review, of the violinist Janine Jansen in recital (with the pianist Itamar Golan). The review is headed “A great recital.” It was.

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