Politics & Policy

‘Supreme leader’ as movie critic, &c.

When American Sniper came out, some people on the left didn’t like it very much — including Michael Moore. You know who another critic is? Ali Khamenei, the “supreme leader” of Iran. You can read about his criticisms here.

He has not seen the movie himself. But he has heard about it from others. And he says that the movie “encourages a Christian or non-Muslim youngster to harass and offend the Muslims.”

You know who has harassed, offended, tortured, and killed more Muslims than the worst Muslim-hater could ever dream of? Ali Khamenei and his evil dictatorship.

‐I don’t think anyone, on either side of the issue, could have failed to be impressed by the language of Judge Andrew Hanen, who has delayed President Obama’s executive amnesty. He wants a coalition of 26 states to have more time to pursue a lawsuit. (For a news article, go here.)

An amnesty would be “virtually irreversible,” he said. “The genie would be impossible to put back into the bottle.”

Sounds true.

‐I have been reading about the latest farce of a ceasefire between the Kremlin and Ukraine. It put me in mind of a quip — a great and painful quip, from last summer. The comment concerned the Middle East, in particular, but it can apply anywhere. Let me reprint a blogpost I wrote.

Bernard Lewis, as you know, is one of the great scholars of our time. The dean of Middle East history. He is two years shy of his hundredth birthday. In addition to being a sage, he is a wit. On Friday, he uttered four words that pretty much sum up where we are — how civilization stands against barbarism: “We cease, they fire.”

‐Last spring, I did a report from Nebraska, concerning the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline. One thing I heard from pipeline supporters was, “The critics talk about safety. But the transport of oil by pipeline is much safer than the transport of oil by rail.”

I thought of this when reading this dramatic story out of Mount Carbon (what a name), W.V.: “Fires burned for hours Tuesday after a train carrying 109 tankers of crude oil derailed in a snowstorm alongside a West Virginia creek, sending fireballs into the sky and threatening the nearby water supply.”

‐As you know, Islamic State people killed Coptic Christians from Egypt in a mass beheading. The Egyptian president, Sisi, launched retaliatory airstrikes. (For a news story, go here.)

He referred to the beheadings as “a monstrous terrorist crime.” And he said, “We will not allow them to cut off the heads of our children.”

Good. May he defend innocent people against these savages with everything he’s got.

‐It can be sickening to read about the Democratic party and Cuba. The Obama administration is engaged in negotiations with the Castro dictatorship to establish full diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana. The chief negotiator on the American side is Roberta Jacobson and on the Cuban side Josefina Vidal.

A Democratic senator, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, said, “Frankly, I’m optimistic because the negotiators are two women and we know how to get things done.”

Isn’t that cute? One woman is the representative of a great liberal democracy. The other is the representative of a totalitarian dictatorship. But it’s just a chick issue, you see?

I’m afraid that, when it comes to Cuba, the Democratic party in general has no moral sense whatsoever.

‐But there are exceptions, thank heaven. My heart sank when I saw the headline “Pelosi leads House Democrats visiting Cuba.” But my heart rose a bit when I saw that one of the Democrats was Eliot Engel, of New York. He knows all about Cuba. He has the Castros’ number. And he told me once that his fellow Democrats have “a blind spot on Cuba.”

For an article on Pelosi et al., go here. For an article that includes McCaskill and her comment, go here.

‐You will recall that, when Obama announced his deal with the Castros, there was a sweetener for the democratic side: the release of 53 political prisoners.

Last Sunday, the regime arrested more than 65 Cubans, as you can read here. Their crime was to try to attend mass at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Charity. Some of them had been among the 53 released.

I’m sure that Obama, Roberta Jacobson, Claire McCaskill, and the others are on top of it — and deeply, deeply concerned.

‐After writing about the American Left and Cuba, I don’t have much of an appetite to go on. But let me try to turn to lighter matters …

I’m not much of a collector. What I mean is, I have never desired to collect things. But I was amazed to read about William Scheide, who died a few months ago at 100. He collected rare books and manuscripts — and that collection has been valued at about $300 million. Scheide left it all to his alma mater, Princeton.

He owned, among other items, “the first six printed editions of the Bible, an original printing of the Declaration of Independence and Beethoven’s autographed music sketchbook.”

Whoa. Even I, I think, could get into that kind of collecting …

‐The composer Marvin David Levy has died, and I enjoyed reading something in an obit. Levy once said that, when he was young, he was “seduced by several influences, including my desire to impress people.” At Columbia University, “I was studying in the cradle of atonality, writing scores full of cross-rhythms and scoring so complicated that my manuscripts looked like Jackson Pollock paintings.”

I can just see it.

‐Last week, I published a letter from a reader who grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich. He was responding to something I had written about my dear old lefty hometown (the same Ann Arbor). He said that, in high school, he and his classmates were assigned “such classics as Steal This Book, by Abbie Hoffman, and DO IT!, by Jerry Rubin.”

A friend of mine writes,


I was a bookseller in Berkeley in the Sixties. The local bookstores refused to carry Hoffman’s book. If someone had stolen a copy, the store would have been obligated to pay the publisher, just as though the copy had been purchased. And the publisher would then have been obligated to pay the author.

Only the lowly bookseller would have been robbed, not the big-time publisher, and not the highly paid celebrity author.


‐In a column earlier this month, I wrote about a common human tendency: We blame our team when that team loses, whether in sports or politics. We sometimes forget that another team was on the field.

A reader writes, “General Pickett made your point about the ‘other team’ when asked, years after the fact, why his charge at Gettysburg had failed. He offered, ‘I always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.’”

‐In a series of three podcasts, over at Ricochet, Mona Charen and I fielded questions from readers (from listeners, I should say). One of them went something like this: “What room is your favorite, where art is concerned?” I, for one, stretched this question out of recognition, probably. I think I mentioned the Accademia in Florence, the Bargello, the Sistine Chapel, Westminster Abbey, the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress …

A reader writes, “The most beautiful building in the world is my mom’s house. I’d include a picture, but I think you know what I mean.”

I do! Do I ever!


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