The Corner


Freedom Struggles

Berta Valle, wife of the Nicaraguan political prisoner Félix Maradiaga, speaking at the Oslo Freedom Forum in Miami, October 2021 (Courtesy of the Oslo Freedom Forum)

Impromptus today is a grab-bag, as usual, but it begins with a dark, dark subject: Nicaragua. Ortega has just staged another election — a non-election, more accurately. The dictatorship marches on, crushing faces with its boots. Ortega jailed seven of the potential opposition candidates. These include Félix Maradiaga, about whom I wrote in 2019, and with whom I podcasted, too. His wife, Berta Valle, a prominent journalist, made an appeal for him and the other prisoners at the Oslo Freedom Forum this year. She is a marvelous woman, and Félix: heroic.

Years ago — in a piece for us, in fact — Norman Podhoretz referred to “evil” as “the strongest of all epithets.” Yes. I don’t use it lightly, ever. But I have used it with regard to the Nicaraguan dictatorship and its methods in my column today.

What else? Cuban dissidence (the great Raúl Rivero Castañeda passed away a few days ago). The American Right. Rita Hayworth. Language conundrums. And more. At the end of my column, there is a photo I took of an orange McLaren. It’s on my Christmas list. It’d be very thoughtful of you.

A reader writes, “You wouldn’t have struck me as an orange car kind of guy, Jay. People are full of surprises.” You know, orange is maybe my favorite color, gun-to-head. But one really shouldn’t have a favorite color. It’s like having a favorite note, of the twelve on the musical scale. You need them all.

Last month, I wrote a piece about Masih Alinejad, the Iranian-American journalist and activist (whom Tehran has targeted for kidnapping). In a blogpost, I said that I had ordered her book — her autobiography — and couldn’t put it down. I had no time to read it that week. But I started on page 1 and couldn’t help it. I simply could not put the book down.

A reader from Vancouver, Wash., writes,

. . . I immediately bought The Wind in My Hair: My Fight for Freedom in Modern Iran. It was totally awesome. I didn’t read it all in one sitting, but I had trouble putting it down. Her experience, focus, and unrelenting effort in behalf of women in Iran is pretty good stuff.

In my flying days in the Air Force, I flew into Tehran a couple of times but was fortunate not to stay there. It was during the time of the Shah, but it was not a place where we wanted to crew-rest. Just flying over the city was a bit depressing, and I can only imagine how much worse it has become in the last 40-plus years.

If you see or talk to Masih again, please let her know that she has an octogenarian fan out on the Left Coast.

Will do.

In a post on Monday, I spoke of Oldsmobiles and songs — songs about them, or involving them. Readers contributed more — such as this, whose lyrics go, “I’ll drive you ’round this little town in our great big Oldsmobile / Even when they say that I’m too old to get behind the wheel.” And a reader named Mel wanted me to see another Mel — Mel Tormé, in this old TV commercial.

Wonderful stuff. Thank you to one and all. Again, for today’s Impromptus go here.


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