Impromptus

Fatal accidents, &c.

Juan Carlos, then the Spanish king, attends the opening ceremony of the new Spanish Square in Mostar, March 29, 2012. The square commemorates the 21 Spanish U.N. peacekeepers who died in Bosnia. (Srdjan Zivulovic / Reuters)
On Alec Baldwin, King Juan Carlos, Communist China, the Houston Astros, the most beautiful big city in America, and more

By now, you’ve heard this news. (The headline of the article I’ve linked to is “Alec Baldwin Was Told Gun in Fatal Shooting on Set Was Safe, Officials Say.”) I thought of King Juan Carlos — who, when he was a teenager, accidentally shot and killed his younger brother, Alfonso. This must be a terrible burden to bear. Can you imagine?

When I mentioned this on Twitter, a lady responded,

A classmate in grade school was accidentally shot by his brother, and left a quadriplegic. I can’t imagine having to bear that sort of burden for the rest of my life.

Another lady wrote,

I grew up with a boy down the street who accidentally shot and killed his brother when they were just little kids. No one ever got over it. Not their family, not our neighborhood. We who were kids are now in our 70s, and for the boy who shot the gun, he is still stuck in time.

• J.D. Vance wrote,

Dear @jack let Trump back on. We need Alec Baldwin tweets.

Vance, as you know, is a Republican Senate candidate in Ohio, and he is competing with Josh Mandel in a race to the bottom: Who is the more outlandish populist? Quién es más MAGA? (This is a nod to the old Saturday Night Live skit: Quién es más macho?)

They are competing against each other in a boob-off. A recent Mandel contribution is this.

To be continued . . .

• “Conservatism has become a victim of identity theft by populism,” wrote Jonah Goldberg in a recent column. On Twitter, I said that this column — being a typical Goldberg column — contained “much wisdom and verve.”

A tweeter responded, “Populism’s a movement against people who use words like ‘verve.’” That’s the spirit.

• Of great interest is this report by Andrew Higgins in the New York Times: “Czechs Defeat a Populist, Offering a Road Map for Toppling Strongmen.” Here is a sample:

Like Mr. Putin, Europe’s populist leaders claim to be defending traditional Christian values against decadent liberals, but unlike Mr. Putin, they have to hold real elections.

Higgins also writes about a village mayor, who was

distressed by the prime minister’s anti-immigration tirades, especially because a family from Vietnam runs the village’s only food store.

“I and everyone else in the village are so glad they are here,” the mayor said. “Nobody else would ever run that shop.”

• Turn now to Major League Baseball: The Houston Astros are heading to the World Series. Question: How long should a person hold the Astros’ cheating of a few years ago against them? Were they sufficiently repentant? Abashed? Did they pay a sufficient penalty?

My Detroit Tigers hired the Astros’ manager a year ago. This made some of us uncomfortable. But there’s a school that says, “He’s paid his dues” (in the form of a one-year suspension). “Get over it and move on.”

To be continued . . .

• Earlier this month, I spoke of the Premier League, which is rare for me. I know nothing about soccer (and soccer knows nothing about me). Soccer and I are aliens to each other. We don’t understand each other. My fault, I’m sure.

Anyway, my issue was serious: The Saudi state, essentially, was buying the Newcastle team. I said,

Dictatorships and their representatives love to buy up entities in free countries and swan around in those countries. I think a brighter line — a much brighter line — should be drawn between democracies and dictatorships. I wish the good people of Newcastle would tell the Saudi state to shove it. Let them have bone saws, not sports teams in the Free World.

Here is some more-recent news:

Jared Kushner, former White House adviser and son-in-law of former US president Donald Trump, is reportedly in talks to receive upwards of $2bn from Saudi Arabia for his private equity firm, according to the journalism studio Project Brazen.

(Article here.)

Yes, I am for a brighter line, a much brighter line. Money can be made in other ways. Decent people ought to leave Saudi Arabia’s rulers to their dungeons, lashes, and bone saws.

When I mentioned this on Twitter, someone replied, in effect, “You’re just anti-Trump. How about business dealings with China? Huh? Huh?” I get this a lot, and have written about the phenomenon before (as in this column).

I have been anti-PRC since Hector had pups. I have written against this government, this dictatorship, my whole career. I think I won my first award for writings on China, democracy, and human rights in 1999.

The Right is now in an anti-China mood. Good. The coronavirus — the “Chinese virus” or “kung flu,” as Donald Trump calls it — has a lot to do with it. But for a long time, the prevailing sentiment was, “It’s a good thing to get along with China, not a bad thing.” Remember that? Many critics told me I was a warmongering neocon: “If you’re so concerned about China, why don’t you strap on a gun and go over there and fight, huh?”

When you mentioned the Uyghurs, they’d snicker at the word. They thought it sounded funny. And now they want to lecture you.

As I wrote in the above-linked column, “Look, if people are in an anti-China, or an anti-CCP, or an anti-Communist, mood right now, great. But they may be a little late to the party (or Party).”

• I also get — when criticizing Trump’s bromance with Kim Jong-un, for example — “You never said anything about Obama and Cuba.” First of all, Obama was a veritable John Foster Dulles vis-à-vis Cuba in comparison with Trump vis-à-vis North Korea and several other dictatorships. (For my piece on this subject, go here.) But second: I never said anything about Obama and Cuba like Dean Martin never had a drink.

For some — for many — 2016 or so was Year Zero.

• Of course, not all of the Right is in an anti-China mood. A group of rightists is soft on the CCP, because the Party represents order, or something, against the decadent liberal West. My young colleague Isaac Schorr coined a term: “Chicons.” (Get it? “Chicoms” are Chinese Communists, and “Chicons” are pro-China conservatives.) It’s a wonderful coinage. My hesitation about it is that it grants the term “conservatives” to these people. They are not conservative, according to the traditional American understanding. (According to other understandings, you bet.) Traditionally, American conservatives want to conserve the American founding, with its Declaration and Constitution.

Which are obnoxious in the minds of many who regard themselves as “real conservatives.”

• Did you see this news? “A Chinese propaganda film about the defeat of the US Army is set to become the country’s highest-grossing film ever.” Chinese nationalism is roaring — it is killing the Uyghurs, breaking the bones of the Tibetans, threatening Taiwan, threatening the world — and we had better listen.

• Kudos to Max Boot for this column, in which he writes,

Sally Rooney doesn’t want her new novel published in Israel, but her bestseller “Normal People” was published in China by a publishing house with close links to the tyrannical Communist regime. That bespeaks an inexcusable double standard.

Yup.

• My friend Enes Kanter is standing strong. He is an NBA player, a center for the Boston Celtics. I first met him in 2018, when I podcasted with him. He is a Turk, who campaigns for freedom, democracy, and human rights in his country. But guess what? He wants freedom, democracy, and human rights for all countries — and says so. In recent days, he has been on a tear against the Chinese regime, including via his shoes. Go here.

• All right, I will lighten up, from here on out. What is the most beautiful big city in America? (I know that “big” is subject to debate.) Recently, Riccardo Muti, the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, called Chicago the most beautiful big city in America. I would put it No. 2, behind San Francisco. (You have to overlook the fact, for the moment, that San Francisco is a sty, owing to bad government. Think of the city in proper condition.) No. 3? Boston, maybe. I love that old town.

What say you? If you have a strong opinion — or even a weak one — let me know at jnordlinger@nationalreview.com.

• I get into a cab. The cabbie says, “What time’s your flight?” I say, “Nine o’clock. Should be okay.” The cabbie — an old-school New Yorker — says, “I should be six feet and good-looking. But life’s a” (rhymes with “rich”).

• A perpetual complaint from me: The weather outside is lovely — warm with a cool breeze. Yet you can’t open your hotel-room windows — so must use the AC, even when it’s, like, 70. Frustrating.

• Men will understand what I mean (trust me): You know you’re in a classy hotel when the toilet seat stays up, rather than flopping down, perilously.

• Bernard Haitink, the Dutch conductor, has passed away. I heard and reviewed him many times. My fondest memory — well, let me quote something I wrote in 2014:

I remember one Bruckner Eighth in particular. This was with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra at the Salzburg Easter Festival in 2003. (Google is an indispensable aid here.) The performance was great, and Haitink knew it, too. As he walked off the stage, he pumped his arms. This surprised and tickled me: I always figured him for a stolid Dutchman.

• A little language? In an obit of Haitink, we have some words about his parents. “Neither were musicians.” That is a common formula. One should really write, and say, “Neither was a musician.”

• In a different obit, we read, “Both of her parents were active in the Catholic worker movement and were close friends with its founder, Dorothy Day, who Sister Rice remembered visiting her family’s home in Morningside Heights.”

No, no, no: whom!

• All right, a third obit: “Ms. Dixon cited racism and colorism in the recording industry as possible reasons that Ms. Martin’s solo career did not take off. Had she been lighter-skinned, Ms. Dixon said, her career might have gained more traction.” I confess that “colorism” is new to me, although I, of course, understand, and colorism is as old as the hills (like racism).

(In India, I once looked at the personal pages — a whole section of a newspaper. Women in need of husbands, men in need of wives. Just about every woman was described as “fair.”)

• A little music? For a review of Turandot, at the Metropolitan Opera, go here. For a “New York chronicle” — also dealing with the Met — go here.

• I was struck by Grady Judd, the sheriff of Polk County, Fla. (For an article, go here.) His area has seen a surge of homicides. Judd said, “So, just chill out. You know, drink a 7-Up. Eat a moon pie. Quit murdering people.”

Hear, hear.

If you would like to receive Impromptus by e-mail — links to new columns — write to jnordlinger@nationalreview.com.

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