Impromptus

Miss Swift enters the fray, &c.

Taylor Swift arrives at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, May 20, 2018. (Reuters / Steve Marcus / File Photo)
On politics, China, ‘disruption,’ Mickey Lolich, and more

A headline last week from the Associated Press: “Taylor Swift breaks political silence, backs Tennessee Dems.” Fine, if that’s what she really wants to do. Political advocacy is a precious right. But I hope she wasn’t forced into it.

Taylor Swift had been taking heat for remaining aloof from politics. She had insisted on singing and songwriting and whatnot.

Me, I’ve spent my life in politics, or around it. I’ve been absolutely soaked in politics. That was a choice (whether wise or un-). But the political wars aren’t for everyone. Freedom from politics is one of the blessings of liberal democracy. No one should be bullied into politics — including pop stars.

I hate the mob, more than almost anything.

By the way, I have a friend who belonged to a temple, a congregation. The congregants suspected that the rabbi was a political conservative — because he never talked about politics. Annoyingly, he talked about stuff like the Bible, religion, and God.

• A few days ago, I read that voting had already begun in Arizona. I thought, “Cripe, I haven’t even bought my pumpkin yet.” (Still haven’t.) This early-voting stuff is problematic. I know a lady who voted early in a Republican presidential primary in 2016. This was in Florida. By the time the real election day rolled around, her candidate had dropped out.

• Did you see this article out of Bristol, Tennessee? “Man run over by lawn mower while trying to kill son with chainsaw.” A phrase occurs to me: “American carnage.”

• When I write about the Chinese Communist Party — i.e., the Chinese state — I often note its brazenness. Its sheer brazenness. Here is a party that could imprison a Nobel peace laureate, Liu Xiaobo. Why? Because the whole world is eager to appease it, or profit off it, regardless.

The CCP has now imprisoned — or disappeared — the president of Interpol, Meng Hongwei. In addition to being the president of Interpol, he was a high-up Chinese official: vice minister of public security.

Interpol is based in France (Lyons). Meng flew back to China for a visit and then went missing. His wife received a message from his phone, just an emoji: a knife. The Chinese regime is now saying that Meng is being charged with bribery.

Is he guilty? Who knows? The guiltiest party in China is the Communist party, which has ruled in a one-party dictatorship since 1949.

• I thought this story was a bit odd. Headline: “President Trump cites China’s respect for his ‘very, very large brain.’” Geezum. Anyway, read away, if you like.

• Lately, I’ve taken my hat off to the Dutch — the Dutch government. Because they are laying bare the Kremlin’s machinations. They don’t care who knows. In fact, they want everyone to know. And the more openness the better, I say.

Russian agents tried to hack the OPCW — the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons — in The Hague. In Malaysia, they spied on the team investigating the downing of the civilian airliner over Ukraine in 2014. They hacked the World Anti-Doping Agency. They planned to hack the laboratory in Switzerland where deadly nerve agents, employed by the Kremlin, are examined.

And the Dutch busted them on all this. You can read more about it from Anne Applebaum, here. Good. More of the same, please . . .

• There is a video concerning the Brexit debate, poking fun at one side of it: the Remain side. How do Remainers treat Leavers? The video has gone viral, and for good reason. It’s funny, yes, but people — including many Remainers? — know there is truth in it, too. Which is why it’s funny.

Have a look.

• The word “disruption” is in the air. Has been for a few years now. Stephen Harper, the former prime minister of Canada, has published a book called “Right Here, Right Now: Politics and Leadership in the Age of Disruption.” I did a podcast with Harper last week. (Go here.) Our first subject was disruption.

Some people regard disruption as a good, plain and simple. But it depends on what you’re disrupting and how, right? Here in America, you wouldn’t want to disrupt the Constitution (I wouldn’t think). Or the rule of law. How about our alliances and trade agreements?

Say what you will about disruption, it is not very conservative. It may be necessary — it may be cause for celebration — but it is not conservative, as conservatism has long been understood. Conservatism, as you know, involves stability, gradualism, and all that good Burkean stuff.

Anyway, I do not mean to make this column Poli Sci 101 . . .

• On October 7, I jotted a little tweet, as is my wont. You would not have thought this tweet terribly explosive. The point it made has been made many, many times by many, many people. My tweet went like this:

“From a conservative who has been disgusted by the Trumpified GOP: ‘I didn’t think I could drag myself to the polls. But after the Left’s performance in the Kavanaugh affair, I would crawl across broken glass.’ I believe this sentiment is common.”

Do you know that this tweet has been “liked” 39,000 times? And retweeted 10,000 times? And replied to 6,200 times?

About those replies: Many are stark-raving nuts. The Left is really mad. (See an article at Raw Story: “Conservative blasted . . .”) (That conservative would be me.) A lot of people on the right were mad, too. Why? Because of the first part of my tweet: “From a conservative who has been disgusted by the Trumpified GOP . . .”

I replied to just one of the replies. A lady had said, “How much did you pay this unnamed source to say it?” I couldn’t help answering, “Oh, the usual: 75 bucks plus a National Review tote bag.” I added, “Ladies and gentlemen, is the WHOLE world crazy, or just a significant portion of it?”

I’ll have you know that several people wrote asking how they could get an NR tote bag. (Not sure we have any. I was just thinking of the old PBS drives.)

The social media can lead you to believe that the world is almost uniformly nasty. Let’s hope that this is a gross distortion. Whatever it is, let me tell you about something else:

Last month, I was in Miami and did a podcast with Jeb Bush. (He was marvelous, by the way — listen here.) I tweeted out this podcast, saying, “Whatever your politics, you will be interested to hear him.” And the response from Left and Right was . . . pretty bad.

Consider the Right, first. A lot of people said, “Low energy!” in imitation of Donald Trump. This was Trump’s gibe against Jeb Bush in 2016, you recall. I actually alluded to it in our podcast together. Bush just rolled his eyes and said, “Whatever.”

Many, many people delivered some taunting version of “Please clap.” During the campaign, Bush made an impassioned statement about American leadership — and then, in a charming touch of self-mockery, said, “Please clap.” (This was also in mockery of the pretensions of campaigning.) Ever since, the malicious and dim have used this against him.

Many people said, “Yeb!” This was in mockery of what they regard as Bush’s excessive affection for Spanish-speakers. Many said “Irrelevant,” “RINO,” and “Open borders” — the whole repertoire.

And the Left? They, too, said “Irrelevant.” Also “Complicit.” Some said, “Stole the Florida election for his brother.” Many, many said, “Another privileged white male.” Over and over again, “white” and “male,” “white” and “male” . . .

Okay, okay. “I hear America singing,” said Walt Whitman — and often that singing stinks. If you consult the social media, and other media, you can get the impression that the whole world is a tribal cesspool. Let us hope, again, that this is a distortion.

• I think I mentioned singing. Montserrat Caballé, the great Spanish soprano, passed away earlier this month. I heard her, in the flesh, just once, when she was well beyond her prime. (See my report in this “chronicle.”) In her prime, Caballé was particularly renowned for her high pianos, or pianissimos. These are very difficult to pull off, requiring supreme technical control. Check her out at the end of this brief duet from Puccini’s Bohème, recorded with a young Domingo in 1973. The note is a C, and Montse floats it purely — seemingly without effort — and can hold it for as long as she wants.

This is very, very rare, as was Caballé in general. The stories about her are rife! I might tell a few later . . .

• Give you a quick one about Jonas Kaufmann, the starry German tenor. He was in Carnegie Hall recently for a concert (German operetta, à la Richard Tauber). A few nights later, he was at the Metropolitan Opera, not on the stage but in the audience, to see La fanciulla del West (another Puccini opera). As he was walking up the aisle for the first intermission, he was whistling a Fanciulla tune. Not too shabby.

• “What Does It Mean for Art to Be ‘Relevant’?” That is the heading over an interview I did with the Smithsonian. Some important issues, I think, and my usual bluntness.

• I was looking at the Wikipedia entry for Max Graf, an Austrian music critic who lived from 1873 to 1958. Allow me to quote: “Graf’s book Composer and Critic is noted for its amicable style, with M. A. Schubart of the New York Times stating, ‘Dr. Graf has written a charming, comprehensive, intelligent treatise on music criticism, drawing generously on his own large supply of knowledge and experience. . . . The only major issue on which I cannot reach agreement with Dr. Graf is his manner. He is much too polite. No subject in the world deserves more rudeness than music criticism.’”

[Smiley-face emoji]

• Enough music? Turn to baseball. This is the 50th anniversary of the Detroit Tigers’ win in the World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals. Winning three games in that series, and earning MVP honors, was Mickey Lolich. His picture was on my bedroom door. (So was Beethoven’s. Those were the two posters I had on my door.) For the Detroit Free Press, Bill Dow has written a marvelous piece on Mickey, which taught me a lot I did not know. Like this:

. . . it was hard to imagine Lolich, the Tigers’ No. 2 starter, becoming the hero of the World Series. He had pitched poorly and was relegated to the bullpen in early August by Tigers manager Mayo Smith.

Do you know that Lolich hit a home run in the series? It was the only one of his career.

“I thought I flew out and didn’t even watch the ball,” says Lolich. “Whenever I made an out, I stepped over first base so I wouldn’t injure myself. Our first-base coach, Wally Moses, yelled, ‘Get back and touch the bag, you hit it out!’

“I couldn’t believe it.”

This obit, from the New York Times, is a stunner.

Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, who escaped a Nazi labor camp in Lithuania as a boy and later rose through the ranks of the United States Army, eventually leading its forces in Berlin at the end of the Cold War, died on Sept. 27 in Pinehurst, N.C. He was 83.

Every step along the way is head-spinning. But, you know? Lives like this are common. I have heard about them all my life. Have met some of the people, too. Pretty soon, the Holocaust survivors — the World War II survivors — will all be gone.

• New York City held its annual Columbus Day Parade. I rubbed my eyes to see one group, one band: the Falun Gong. Yes.

• I was in Washington, and caught Lincoln just before the sun went down. But the sun really never sets on that great man, does it?

• A scene like this makes me think, America is too big — too big in heart and mind — to fail. (Isn’t it?)

• This was in New York on a bright, sunny October day. Seemed kind of Christmassy to me . . .

• This was a patch of the Hudson River, about to say goodnight. “Pretty in pink,” is the phrase that comes to mind.

• Last week, I had an Impromptus that ended with a joke — a golf joke, told to me by an old friend of mine. A reader reciprocated with a joke of his own. Here goes:

The people in Dubai don’t watch The Flintstones. But the people in Abu Dhabi do.

Thanks so much for joining me, dear friends, and check you later.

Most Popular

Film & TV

Netflix Debuts Its Obama Manifesto

This week’s widespread media blitz heralding Netflix’s broadcast of its first Obama-endorsed presentation, American Factory, was more than synchronicity. It felt as though U.S. publicists and journalists collectively exhaled their relief at finally regaining the bully pulpit. Reviews of American Factory, a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Capital versus Tucker Carlson

Advertisers do not advertise on Tucker Carlson’s show to endorse the views of Tucker Carlson. They advertise on his show for the same reason they advertise elsewhere: a captive audience — in Tucker’s case, the second-largest one in cable news — might spare thirty seconds of attention that will, they hope, ... Read More
Natural Law

Are Your Sexual Preferences Transphobic?

Last year, a study exploring “transgender exclusion from the world of dating” was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Of nearly 1,000 participants, the overwhelming majority, 87.5 percent, irrespective of their sexual preference, said they would not consider dating a trans person, ... Read More