National Security & Defense

Host and guest, &c.

Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Angela Merkel

The prime minister of Israel has called on Jews in Europe to make a new home and a new start, in Israel. There are a hundred things to say about this. I’m going to say just one, in this impromptu.

Europe’s leaders responded appropriately to Netanyahu’s call — appropriately negatively. (To read an article, go here.) The way Chancellor Merkel put it was, “We are glad and thankful that there is Jewish life in Germany again. And we would like to continue living well together with the Jews who are in Germany today.”

A fine statement. But did you notice “we” and “the Jews”? This is different from, “We wish a happy life for all of us Germans, including the Jewish ones.” There is still a sense of us-and-them. Perhaps it will always be so.

Anyway, that’s one reading, and I am open to others.

‐Among the tiresome phrases in our society is (the sarcastic) “Your tax dollars at work.” But I thought of it, when reading this article — which begins, “Hormone treatment for gender reassignment has been approved for Chelsea Manning, the former intelligence analyst convicted of espionage for sending classified documents to the WikiLeaks website.”

Time was, we shot traitors. Now we give them new sexes?

‐There are two articles I could not help linking, in my mind. The first is a report from Monessen, Pa. Middle-school students in this town “were given puzzles based on ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ that contained terms including ‘spanking,’ ‘submissive,’ ‘leather cuffs’ and ‘bondage.’” Sure. “Other words on the list were more explicit.” No doubt.

The second article advises that “the University of Michigan has spent over $16,000 at its flagship Ann Arbor campus on a campaign to encourage students to avoid using language that may be offensive.” The offensive language includes “insane,” “retarded,” “gay,” “ghetto,” and “illegal alien.”

Okay, here’s my linkage, here’s my question: The Fifty Shades of Grey words, from Monessen, would be okay in Ann Arbor, right?

The mind boggles. Anyway . . .

‐Some articles are more gratifying than others. I found this article very, very gratifying. It cannot be read for free, but I’d like to sing its praises nonetheless.

The article is by Laurence Silberman, the D.C. Court of Appeals judge. In 2004-05, he served as co-chairman of the Iraq WMD commission — formally, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction.

His article is entitled “The Dangerous Lie that ‘Bush Lied.’” The subhead is, “Some journalists still peddle this canard as if it were fact. This is defamatory and could end up hurting the country.”

Yes, indeed. The lie that Bush lied is already cemented in the national consciousness. It may be impossible to dislodge, because the weight of the culture is in favor of the lie, and against George W. Bush (and the Iraq War).

What do I mean by “the culture”? Well, I sometimes use a shorthand: media-academia-entertainment complex. I’m talking about the powers that be, the powers that educate us, shape us, stamp us.

Whether the lie is dislodgeable or not, it’s good to have Judge Silberman so stirringly on the record. Someone who knows something — who knows facts — is a valuable person. He can also be dangerous, to those favoring lie or myth.

‐You know the word I used to use for “powers that be” or “media-academia-entertainment complex”? “Establishment.” I often said or wrote “establishment” (sometimes with a capital E) as a shorthand. Now, however, that word is routinely used by people on the right who want to knock Republicans they dislike.

I’ve noticed interesting changes in my lifetime. When I was growing up, “establishment” was a term of abuse from the left. Now it’s a term of abuse from the right.

“Chamber of Commerce” was a term of abuse from the left. Now it’s a term of abuse from the right.

“Bush” was an epithet on the left. They spat it with contempt. Now I hear it as an epithet on the right.

Ay, caramba — it can confuse my lil’ southeastern-Michigan mind . . .

‐The current National Review is replete with excellent articles, if I say so myself. (As a senior editor, I really shouldn’t say. But I say nonetheless.)

Charlie Cooke has a piece on free speech. He uses the word “nescience.” I had to look it up — and found that I was an example of it: “lack of knowledge; ignorance.”

Kevin Williamson has a piece called “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being NPR.” It takes up the subject of “sounding white” or “sounding black” on the radio.

This gave me a memory. My grandmother had a friend — a friend of mine as well — who had been a jazz singer in Chicago. One night, a black couple came to one of her shows. Afterward, they approached her and said, “We were surprised to find that you are white. We heard you on the radio and assumed you were black.”

Our friend was never more pleased.

Speaking of friends: Our John Hillen has a tour d’horizon and tour de force titled “Foreign Policy by Map: What geopolitics is, and why we need it.”

My own contribution to the current issue is “The Dynasty Question: Thoughts occasioned by Jeb Bush.” Sons tend to follow fathers into lines of work. (Daughters follow fathers too, and sons and daughters follow mothers.) I take quick tours through music, sports, and other things — especially politics, and especially U.S. politics. It’s amazing how many sons and daughters of politicians we have, running for office and holding office.

When I was a kid, I was struck by this fact: The Big Three composers — Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven — all had fathers who were professional musicians. And this in eras when it was far rarer to be a professional musician than it is today.

Anyway, I could go on (and do in my piece).

‐The headline read, “Louis Jourdan, Frenchman who starred in ‘Gigi,’ dies at 93.” (Article here.) Funny, but I think of him as a Bond villain. (Octopussy.)

‐I met a young man from Britain who attended graduate school here in the United States. When the roll was called — or he saw the roll of students — he was impressed by the sheer variety of names. Names from virtually every origin. Names from virtually every corner of the earth.

I have noticed this too, about my own country. Years ago, I was working at a golf course, and we were preparing for an outing. A friend and I were putting name-cards on the golf carts. He was a big liberal, and I was a big conservative. But I said, “Isn’t it wonderful, this dazzling variety of names? This ethnic stew of names? It’s so American. Doesn’t it say something wonderful about this country?”

As I expected, he allowed it did. (He was an immigrant too, incidentally — from the Home of Golf, Scotland.)

‐Back to the young man from Britain — from England, specifically. He developed an interest in musical theater, and it began with a book: Broadway Babies Say Goodnight, by Mark Steyn. Frankly, Steyn could interest a person in anything, including tiddlywinks, stamp-collecting, and accounting.

‐A man held up a sign in a subway station, denouncing the “greedy rich.” He obviously craved to get the word out. I used to see this a lot — but it’s so old-fashioned now.

These days, people blog or tweet. I wonder if such media are unavailable to the sign-bearing, and possibly wacked-out, man.

‐Out on the street, a sign promoted the betrayal of spouses by spouses. It was an ad, for a website or something. It said, “Are you satisfied?” I thought, “A true sign of our times . . .”

‐Not long ago, I was thinking, “You know, I never see an Asian beggar, here in New York.” It was like I heard a dog not barking. You know where to see Asian beggars? Asia. (Incidentally, I’m talking about East Asia and East Asians.)

Then, just the other night, I saw one: an oldish woman. She startled me. I’m sure there are studies of begging and ethnicities in American cities. I should look them up.

But not now. Gotta run. Sorry to leave on a strange note — but thanks for joining me.


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