National Review / Digital
The Week

(Roman Genn)


Latin American caudillos, from Allende to Zelaya, have a long history of intimidating opposition journalists, and are not about to stop now. In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega is up to the same old tricks: Last month a reporter for El Nuevo Diario, a national newspaper, had to flee to the United States because of government persecution. Silvia Gonzalez became a target of the government by reporting on the mysterious death of a former contra commander who had begun to foment opposition to Ortega’s ruling Sandinistas. Demonstrating the precarious position of Nicaragua’s free press, the incident recalls the brutal treatment in the 1980s of La Prensa, a newspaper that offered the only honest portrayal of the Sandinistas’ thuggishness, leading National Review to call it “recommended reading for the radical chic.” Human-rights groups have widely condemned the treatment that led to last week’s incident — American liberals have finally acknowledged the plight of the Nicaraguan opposition and its journalists, but they’re no safer than before.

In a pretty little instance of life imitating art — in this case the art of our own Rob Long — we learn that 16-year-old Kim Han-sol of North Korea, grandson of Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, has a Facebook page. The profile picture shows this teenage twig on the Kim family tree with bleached blonde hair, ear jewelry, and a pendant that looks very much like a crucifix. Fave movie? The 2003 British rom-com Love Actually. Political preference? Democracy. Another Facebook picture shows young Kim sharply dressed and with a pretty young woman on his arm. Caption: “I’m going to miss you so much,” to which the lady replied, using a Korean term of intimate endearment: “I love you too, yeobo.” Alas, none of this is from North Korea. Young Kim lives in China with his dad, Kim Jong-nam, estranged eldest son of Kim Jong-il. The cause of the estrangement is believed to have been dad’s opinions in favor of liberalization, leading to his being passed over for the succession in favor of his younger half-brother (cue Rob Long). Father and son are carefully protected by the Chinese, who seem to have something in mind for them.

South Sudan has chosen English as its official language. This newest African nation, which is mainly black and Christian, attained independence from the Arab-Islamist government in Khartoum only in July. Poor beyond our imagining, lacking any sophisticated institutions, riddled with tribal conflicts and guerrilla remnants, South Sudan is badly in need of unifying influences. Its choice of national language marks a decisive turn toward the West and away from the Islamosphere. Actually getting their citizens up to speed with English will be a challenge: The education system is rudimentary, and 85 percent of the people are illiterate. Still, a clear declaration that English is to be the national language seems like a good start. Poor she may be, but in at least one respect South Sudan is now ahead of the U.S.A.

In 2009 Andrew Bolt, a columnist for Australia’s Herald Sun, published a pair of articles about people who look white but claim Aboriginal ancestry to qualify for the numerous prizes, set-asides, and educational or occupational quotas that are restricted to that group. Bolt’s columns were critical of racial-classification policies but respectful toward the individuals involved. Yet Aboriginal activists sued him anyway under Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act. Now an Aussie court has ruled for the plaintiffs, finding it “reasonably likely that fair-skinned Aboriginal people (or some of them) were offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated” by Bolt’s words. While the articles were quite mild in tone, in a truly free society, even an openly racist rant would not be subject to censorship; if “identity” is so important, then so too must be unfettered discussion of it. Yet wherever spoils are ladled out by race instead of merit, and subjective feelings are the basis for legal penalties, absurdities of this sort will be inevitable, as grievance mongers do everything they can to keep alive the animosity on which they thrive.

In other news Down Under, a group of Sydney mechanics attached a 1.4-liter, 106-hp Suzuki GSX motorcycle engine to a leather two-seat sofa (some guys will do anything to avoid getting up for another beer) and revved it up to 101 mph, breaking the old record of 92 mph for motorized home furnishings — and without spilling the cup of coffee or bowl of fruit resting on the attached table. This technology has many potential benefits: It’s more comfortable than a car for backseat canoodling, and by tearing noisily down the highway on an analyst’s couch, the busy modern professional can combine Freudian therapy with subliminal phallic substitution while rushing to his next appointment. Best of all, if you’re short a couple of bucks for gas, you can just pull some change from between the cushions. Perhaps it’s time to start up a new NASCAR: the National Association for Sofa and Couch Auto Racing.

October 31, 2011    |     Volume LXIII, No. 20

  • Bobby Jindal is leading Louisiana’s revival.
  • Celebrating a remarkable Supreme Court tenure.
Books, Arts & Manners
  • Tracy Lee Simmons reviews James Madison, by Richard Brookhiser.
  • William Tucker reviews The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World, by Daniel Yergin.
  • Michael Novak reviews The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan, by Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C.
  • Eli Lehrer reviews The Collapse of American Criminal Justice, by William J. Stuntz.
  • Ross Douthat reviews The Ides of March.
  • John Derbyshire laments the passing of ‘supererogate’ — and more.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
The Bent Pin  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .