Culture

Say it ain’t so, Kyrie, &c.

Kyrie Irving (Photo: David Banks/USA Today Sports/via Reuters)
An ex–Flat Earther, a Kurdish-Iraqi politician, a rally in Alabama, an Alaskan plane, a great professor, an historic front page, and more

Kyrie Irving is a basketball star, late of the Cleveland Cavaliers, now with the Boston Celtics. He made a splash early this year when he said that he believed the earth is flat — not round (or spherical, should we say?). Then he stuck to that belief.

Now he has recanted, however, saying he was just kidding. That’s like a politician, right? They campaign in bold colors, but, once they’re in office, they turn pastel. They get squishy. They enter the swamp, thinking it a jacuzzi.

Irving is a FEINO! (Flat Earther in Name Only.)

‐Kurdish independence is in the air. It has been in the air for a long time, true, but it seems to be coming to a head. I’ve thought of Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi politician. The Kurdish-Iraqi politician. He was Iraq’s foreign minister from 2003 till 2014. Then he was deputy prime minister, then finance minister. I interviewed him in 2005. For that interview, go here.

One of my questions was, “Did you ever think you would be foreign minister of Iraq?” His answer, I have been thinking about. This is what he said, those twelve years ago:

I thought only recently that we could do it — actually, it was in 2000. I played a major role in influencing Kurdish policy, in getting it to change direction. The question was, Which is better for us? To have a very small, limited Kurdish agenda, which cares only for our areas, our needs, or to embrace an Iraqi national policy? … We said to the Kurdish leadership, “We must look beyond ourselves to the bigger picture.”

This was not a risk-free project, but leaders have to make calculations.

After September 11th, we won the argument, within the Kurdish leadership. We said, “This is feasible, this is doable [a united and democratic Iraq].” By then, the Kurdish region had flourished, had stabilized. … We wanted to look beyond our mountains, to Baghdad, instead of claiming this part or that part, this territory or that territory. We said, “Let’s go for the big prize. Let’s play a role in a new, whole Iraq.”

That whole interview is fascinating, frankly — not because of me, of course, but because of Zebari.

‐Yesterday, an Associated Press report began, “President Donald Trump is up and tweeting …” That could be the lead most mornings, right? Especially as Fox & Friends unfolds.

‐Campaigning for Judge Roy Moore in Alabama, Steve Bannon declared Donald Trump “the greatest public speaker since William Jennings Bryan.” From the Cross of Gold to the Toilet Seat of Gold …

‐Also campaigning for Judge Moore was Nigel Farage, of course — who declared Bannon “the greatest political thinker and activist in the Western world today.” Well, I suppose Vlad’s ruled out, in that he’s not quite Western. But Orbán, Assange, the Le Pens? Sheriff Joe? Did Farage really mean to slight all of them?

‐More seriously, I wish to highlight a report from the AP:

It is no secret that the bulk of Ivanka Trump’s merchandise comes from China. But just which Chinese companies manufacture and export her handbags, shoes and clothes is more secret than ever …

In the months since she took her White House role, public information about the companies importing Ivanka Trump goods to the U.S. has become harder to find. Information that once routinely appeared in private trade tracking data has vanished, leaving the identities of companies involved in 90 percent of shipments unknown. Even less is known about her manufacturers. Trump’s brand, which is still owned by the first daughter and presidential adviser, declined to disclose the information.

The deepening secrecy means it’s unclear who Ivanka Trump’s company is doing business with in China, even as she and her husband, Jared Kushner, have emerged as important conduits for top Chinese officials in Washington.

To read the rest, go here.

This stinks to high heaven. And if it were a Democratic administration, rather than a Republican one, Republicans would be screaming bloody murder. Rightly.

‐RFE/RL — i.e., Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty — noted something interesting: Putin has become “the longest-serving Russian leader since Josef Stalin.” I don’t like the word “serving,” but I understand.

Seventeen years, Putin has ruled. May it not be 17 more. Or seven. Or any.

‐The other day at an Oslo Freedom Forum, Vladimir Kara-Murza was saying something interesting. (He is the Russian democracy leader who was twice poisoned — near fatally — and twice survived.) At great risk to themselves, Russian democrats are running for office, or trying to, in these mainly rigged elections. Why are they doing it? Why are they risking their freedom, or more?

For practice, said Kara-Murza.

He mentioned a pianist in Soviet times, Rudolf Kehrer, who spent 13 years in internal exile. He made a pretend keyboard out of a plank of wood, so that his fingers wouldn’t forget.

That’s what Russian democrats are doing, said Kara-Murza: practicing for the real thing.

‐From the deadly important to the silly: You know that expression — seen on Twitter, and probably elsewhere — “First World problems”? Well, file this story under “Alaska Problems”:

Claire Richardson remembers taking off in an airplane uniquely configured for Alaska when a horrible smell seeped into the passenger area.

The captain soon came on the speaker to apologize for the odor, which was coming from 70 skittish baby reindeer headed for Texas.

Ay.

‐We’ve been talking a lot about patriotism and nationalism, “America First” and “globalism.” These are important debates. On the right, the phrase “citizen of the world” is in very bad odor, and for some good reasons. And yet there are enlightened uses, I think.

Recently, I came across a statement from Francis Bacon, the Elizabethan philosopher, etc.: “If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them.”

Yes, why not?

‐I have a friend who had a great professor in college — I mean, a really great professor: Werner Jaeger, the Harvard classicist (German-born, of course). My friend has Jaeger’s three-volume work Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture. Jaeger inscribed one of the volumes, in Greek.

I asked my friend, “What does it say?” He said, “Something like, ‘May you be who you really are.’”

‐Years ago, I saw something hilarious. It was at a golf course in Austria, on the range. A little girl, about four years old, was warming up. She was stretching, as she had been taught to do, or as she had seen adults do. You never saw a rubberier little body. She was a pretzel, times four. Never has a being had less need to stretch. Never. I grin at the memory of it.

The other week, I was at a different range, and a young woman was stretching. She, too, had barely a need to stretch. I, of course, wouldn’t stretch if my life depended on it.

This thought occurred to me: Those without need to stretch, do it — because it’s easy, maybe even enjoyable. Those who do need to do it, maybe don’t — because it’s hard and unenjoyable. People do what’s easy, right? And resist doing what’s hard?

Anyway, nothing profound — nothing at the Werner Jaeger level — but just a thought …

‐I was reading an obit of Lotfi Zadeh, a famed computer scientist and electrical engineer. A colleague of his said, “He always took criticism as a compliment. It meant that people were considering what he had to say.”

May we all rise to such an understanding (when it’s applicable)!

‐In Tulsa, a friend of mine was in an eatery. There was an old front page — a newspaper front page — on the wall. He snapped some pictures of it. I would share them with you, but, frankly, I don’t know how. There are no teenagers, or kindergarteners, around.

The newspaper is the Tulsa Daily World. The headline is “NAZIS QUIT.” Big ol’ letters. Fantastic. On the extreme upper left of the page is “Oklahoma’s Greatest Newspaper” — a boast, and possibly true. On the extreme upper right is a slogan: “Reliability, Character, Enterprise.”

So wonderful. Thanks for joining me, y’all, and see you.

 

    READ MORE:

    Without Fear or Favor

    Conservatism vs. Crudity

    Further Musings of Jay Nordlinger

A word from the National Review Store: To get Digging In: Further Collected Writings of Jay Nordlinger, go here.

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