Impromptus

The latest Windsor babe, &c.

Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, attend a Commonwealth Day youth event at Canada House in London, March 11, 2019. (Chris Jackson / Pool via Reuters)
On royal offspring, economic health, Israel, North Korea, a new emperor, and more

Why does someone like me, born in Ypsilanti, Mich., care about newborns from the British royal family? I don’t know. “Care” is not quite the right word. I am interested, true. I like Britain. I like QE2. I was mad for Lady Diana, as we all were.

I remember when William and Harry — offspring of Diana and Charles — were born. And now Harry has had one, with his Meghan. This new little fellow is an American, sort of, isn’t he?

Listen, I like the fact that babies are being born, period. Much of the world seems to have stopped this practice, or drastically curbed it. Think of Italy, once a byword for large families. Now there is hardly anyone to gather ’round the table. Mark Steyn has often called himself a “demography bore,” and I don’t mean to bore you …

I just wanted to say: Kind of cool, about this little Windsor …

• Get a headline from last Friday: “Unemployment hits 49-year low as US employers step up hiring.” (Article here.) Now let me quote an item from an Impromptus column last November, please:

There is very good economic news — especially where job growth is concerned. Whenever there is good economic news, the party out of power (i.e., not in the White House) grits its teeth. I have seen it all my life. But honestly: We must all be grateful for economic health, because economic health alleviates a host of ills.

Rejoice …

Yes. The numbers just out are just numbers, of course — and statistics can be misleading. They can also fail to tell the whole story. But numbers aren’t nothing. They can represent real things.

“Bloodless,” people say of data, and there is often truth in it. But data can also stand for flesh and blood.

America is sometimes painted as a hellscape, by Left and Right — a place where no one can get a fair shake. But America is a pretty good place in which to exist. You don’t have to be Betsy Ross or Norman Rockwell to appreciate that.

• It was refreshing to see this article, courtesy of FEE, the Foundation for Economic Education. The headline is “College Student: My Generation Is Blind to the Prosperity Around Us.” Well, you can cause others to see, so to speak.

• Did you see this bit of news? “Advancing his anti-abortion agenda, President Donald Trump moved Thursday to protect health care workers who object to procedures like abortion on moral or religious grounds.” (Article here.) Conscience rights — an important issue, an important cause. Trump people say, “You would never get this sort of thing out of a Democratic administration.” That is true.

• Speaking of Democrats: A lot of them are running for president this cycle. Some 20 of them. (I wish there were more on the Republican, or conservative, side.) I’ve noticed that a lot of people are hooting about this: So many! Ha ha! What a joke! Really? There were 17 on the Republican side last time. (I wish there had been more on the Democratic side.) So what?

Look, this is a big country, a continental country, “from sea to shining sea,” as Bill Buckley liked to say. Some 320 million people live here. There are just two major parties, just two major presidential nominations. Why shouldn’t there be 20, 30, 40 candidates for those nominations (and others)? Choice, you know.

As a rule, choice is good in a marketplace, whether that marketplace is commercial or political. I will repeat: I wish I, as a conservative, had more choices, candidate-wise.

• Once more, Israel has suffered murderous attacks and fought back. This has been going on for many years. A lot of people don’t like it — the fighting-back part. Thinking about this, David Pryce-Jones likes to quote an old French song: “Cet animal est très méchant: Quand on l’attaque, il se défend.” (“This is a nasty animal: When you attack it, it defends itself.”)

• The Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Israel. Why? Nothing — virtually nothing — international gets hosted in Israel. Well, an Israeli singer, Netta, won the contest last year. This is how the rules work.

A bunch of British celebrities have urged the boycott of the contest. More specifically, they don’t want the BBC to cover it. Still other celebrities have launched a counter-boycott — and these celebrities constitute a roll of honor, for me. On it is Stephen Fry, the comedian-actor-writer.

To read a news story about all this, go here.

I will always have respect for Elton John, who, years ago, was urged — more like commanded — to boycott Israel and went anyway, saying, I’ll do what I please, thank you very much.

• Trump’s tenderness toward Kim Jong-un is apparently unending. Here is a presidential tweet:

Anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!

Remember what North Korea is: a Communist state, a gulag state, a murderous state, a starved and pulverized state, the worst place on earth for human beings to live. No American president should say of the North Korean dictator — whichever Kim it is — “I am with him.”

A lot of people wonder why some of us are so distressed when Trump speaks tenderly of Kim (“We fell in love”). Why don’t we cut Trump some slack, because the guy’s just trying to bring World Peace? Frankly, the more you know about North Korea, the more distressed and sickened you are. When you sit down with North Korean defectors and escapees, and listen to their testimony — you’re shocked.

Foreign policy and diplomacy often require some nose-holding. But Trump has gone miles and miles beyond that. If any other president spoke of Kim Jong-un the way Trump does, the Right would be howling at the top of its lungs, with me the howlingest of all.

• On a Sunday-morning talk show, Jonathan Karl of ABC News said to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “There were reports out of the region that, after the Hanoi summit, several of the people that you were negotiating with — that were part of that negotiating team in Hanoi — were executed. Do we believe those reports are accurate?”

Pompeo answered, “Jonathan, I don’t have anything to add to that for you this morning.”

Karl said, “But there seems to have been some kind of a shakeup of his team over there.”

Pompeo answered, “It does appear that the next time we have serious conversations that my counterpart will be someone else, but we don’t know that for sure. Just as President Trump gets to decide who his negotiators will be, Chairman Kim will get to make his own decisions about who we ask to have these conversations.”

To my nose, that smells a little like moral equivalence (as we used to say in Cold War days). And the secretary was too glib.

• President Trump likes to talk about “getting along” — not with Angela Merkel or Justin Trudeau or Democrats, but with others. Here’s a sample, from a Friday tweet: “Had a long and very good conversation with President Putin of Russia. As I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

Getting along can indeed be a very good thing — for war avoidance, for example. But getting along can also be a way of ignoring gross wrongs and standing for nothing. You can get along with Jack the Ripper just fine, as long as you don’t object to his ripping …

(By the way, Trump is not seeking to get along with Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan strongman — which is good.)

• Shall we check in on our friends the Saudis? They recently executed 37 people — beheading most of them, according to reports, and crucifying at least one. What were the charges? The usual: “terrorism.” Most of the 37 were from the Shiite minority. Three of the 37 had been arrested when they were minors.

I hope to remember — at least for a moment or two — the name “Mujtabaa al-Sweikat.” He was arrested when he was 17. He was at the airport, preparing to leave for Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo (one of my hometowns, in a way). Maybe we will be able to learn more about his life, short as it was, one day.

Most of the 37 confessed under torture — you and I would too, probably. Then they repudiated their confessions in court. I’m sure we need the Saudi regime as an ally, or I suppose we do. But they’re often nothing more than Stalinists in flowing white robes.

• Things look a little better in Japan — a lot better. They have a new emperor, Naruhito, who is admired by one and all, Japanese and foreigner alike. At least, no bad word has ever been reported about him, that I can find.

He’s 59, the first Japanese emperor to be born after World War II. He has experience of the world. At 14, he was sent to live with an Australian family for a while. He likes music, baseball, and mountain climbing, among other pastimes. He studied at Oxford, where he researched and wrote about the river Thames. (That’s going local.)

Here is maybe my favorite biographical fact about Naruhito: He proposed to the girl he loved three times before she accepted. That’s persistence. That’s amore, as Dean Martin sang.

I mentioned in a previous Impromptus that Naruhito plays the viola. I have since learned that he switched from the violin. He decided he would rather blend in than lead.

But he will have to lead now, however ceremoniously. The new era in Japan is known as Reiwa, which may be interpreted to mean “beautiful harmony.” Let it be so. In a world of disappointments, post-war Japan is tremendously gratifying.

• Shall we have a little language, before we scoot? I don’t mean to pick on Prince Harry, the new dad, but a friend of mine sent me a comment by him. For a long time, I’ve talked about “I” and “me.” People no longer know how to use these words. So, unsure, they fall back on the reflexive “myself” (using it inappropriately).

Papa Harry said, “I’m very excited to announce that Meghan and myself had a baby boy early this morning, a very healthy boy.” Cripe, Harry! (Not his fault, really: This is an Anglosphere-wide plague.)

• A little music? Here’s a review of Dialogues des Carmélites, the Poulenc masterpiece, at the Metropolitan Opera. And here’s a “New York Chronicle,” bringing up a slew of performers, composers, and issues.

• Anything else, before I stop bothering you (for now)? I did a podcast — a sportscast — with Sally Jenkins, Vivek Dave, and David French. You’ll love ’em.

Okay, out. Bye, and thanks.

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