couple of brief words on the Middle East. Its always instructive to look at Tom Friedmans column, and his last one refers to Ariel Sharons war on Yasir Arafat. Its hard to believe that, at this point, this language can still be used, but it is.
Certain American commentators continue to insist on looking at the Arab-Israeli conflict as little more than a far-right-wingers personal vendetta against the legitimate Palestinian leader. These are the people who see the Israeli government as fundamentally illegitimate when Likud is elected, and decent and democratic only when Labor is in power. (Funny, but the same is sort of true here with the American government.) It bears repeating that Israel, unlike its many enemies, is a democracy. Blame (or credit) the people, as much as their elected PM.
These commentators also forget or forget to mention that the Israeli people are solidly behind their government now. I feel bad for Friedman et al., but this is not Ariel Sharons war on Yasir Arafat. That sort of Peace Now talk is pretty much dead in Israel. This is a war of self-defense waged by all Israel against the enemies seeking to destroy it. It would be nice if the Bush administration realized it, too. American liberals think that respectable Israelis look on Sharon as respectable Frenchmen look on Le Pen, or as respectable Americans look on Pat Robertson. Wrong. Backing for Sharons actions which are the least the country can do is across the board.
Friedman also refers to unquestioning Congressional support for Israel. I wonder if Friedman and his like have ever considered that congressmen, and other Americans, have questioned, have thought, have analyzed, have reasoned: and decided that Israels cause is just and that its enemies cause is unjust. Thats what I did. I did it all by my lonesome, without any help from the bad old Jewish lobby. And Im sure that thats what Tom DeLay to pick only one congressman did too.
You think a bunch of rich, biased, heavy-handed Jews are pressuring him in his district down in Texas? Dont be ridiculous. How many Jews are there in DeLays district? Two? His support of Israel, as far as I can tell, is principled, based on an understanding of history, of the present, and of the future based not least on a moral understanding of the goings-on there. And the same, sports fans, is true of me. Put another way, my support of ice cream is not unquestioning: Ive eaten a lot of it, Ive seen its rivals (e.g., Brussels sprouts), and I like it.
It seems that its so necessary to point out the elementary, we barely have time to get to advanced work.
(Sorry about the ice-cream analogy, folks: When I think of something good, just, and true, my mind simply wanders there. Im afraid my spoon does, too.)
A great many things are amusing, and outrageous, about Israels seizure of hundreds of thousands of telling documents in the Palestinian Authority but one of them is this: that, as the New York Times reported, Palestinian officials say the documents are forgeries, fabricated by Israel to influence international public opinion.
Theyre beauties, those Arab officials: They peddle real forgeries, real fabrications The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Nazis Handbook on the Jewish Question (1935), various blood-libel recipes and then they accuse Israel of doing what they, in fact, do. They accuse Israel of terrorism, when its they who commit it; they accuse Israel of genocide and holocaust when its they who laud it, when its been done, and encourage it, when it hasnt; they accuse Israel of Nazism Arafat did this recently when its they who lustily support it. (As Ive said before, an Arab commentator is apt to deny the Holocaust in one breath, claiming it is all a big Jewish lie, meant to gain world sympathy, and then, in the next breath, hail it, or criticize it for not having gone far enough.)
One lesson I learned from Bernard Lewis and David Pryce-Jones is that Arab governments and elites and people frequently suppose that democrats and other liberals are doing what they themselves would do, given the same circumstances. Wed fabricate documents why wouldnt they?
People who know Washington, D.C., know that Politics and Prose is a perfect little leftist bookstore, up on Connecticut Avenue. It is pretty much like every bookstore in my hometown, Ann Arbor, Mich. (Ann Arbor, by the way, is the birthplace of Borders Books.) (I once worked in a bookshop called The Little Professor. The manager there refused to put out right-of-center magazines. A friend of mine nicknamed the place The Little Suppressor.) Anyway, these are the bookstores clerked by overweening and intolerant leftists, and the stench of ideology pervades the air.
The far-leftist and professional democracy-hater Noam Chomsky has penned a tract on 9/11, blaming it all on Bush, America, etc. It is a brisk seller, particularly on college campuses. Heres a snippet from the Times piece on the subject: People are coming in every day, asking, What can I read that can give me some understanding of whats happening? said Virginia Harabin, the floor manager at the Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington. This is the one I recommend.
Perfect. In fact, a perfect description of my hometown, education, etc., might be Chomskyite.
(Recall that Chomskys idea of a good government is the Khmer Rouge seriously.)
(Remember the Times subhead, when the Khmer Rouge took power? For Most a Better Life. Between 2 and 3 million were murdered.)
Oh, hang on, Im not done with this item thought I was. I was in Milwaukee over the weekend splendid town and chatted with the guy driving the shuttle van. He is a perfect left-liberal type, although more polite. He was explaining that there was a hot, controversial new play in town, based, in fact, on Chomskys tract he was quite enthusiastic about it. I didnt say anything negative to him; I just nodded no percentage, Ive discovered, in doing anything else.
The driver also put in a plug for light rail, every left-liberals pet. Problem today, of course, is that everyones gotta own his own car. He said this in the same tone with which you and I might say, Problem is, too many people are thoughtless.
Why do Chomsky loving, light-rail loving, and car hating go together? Ah, thats a philosophic question, and were movin on, in this breezy lil column.
I was tickled to see Francis X. Cliness piece on Sen. Byrd in the New York Times. The piece detailed the awful naming mania in West Virginia a mania, or compulsion, to name things lots of things after the longtime senior senator from that state. Byrd appropriates federal dollars to West Virginia, and West Virginians, in turn, plunk his name on all the things they build with the federal dollars. They plunk not only his name, but that of his wife. Ive been writing about West Virginia for years my kinfolk-in-law are West Virginians and its a fascinating state in many ways and I once did a short piece remarking on this Byrd naming mania, and musing that I was surprised not to see something named after the family dog.
There are a million Robert C. Byrd highways, or stretches of highway, a Robert C. Byrd telescope, Robert C. Byrd libraries, Robert C. Byrd courthouses, Robert C. Byrd outhouses, Robert C. Byrd everythings.
It seems to me that a simple sense of shame should prevent the senator from allowing this. I mean, how can he live with it? The appearance of ego? The Kim Il Sungness? The grossness of it all? Isnt he embarrassed?
No, not at all. They call him West Virginian of the Century (thatd be the 20th hes working on the 21st). But remember, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller got their names on things because they worked, invented, earned, employed, uplifted society, and made piles, huge chunks of which they devoted to charity, including parks, universities, and concert halls. Byrd gets his name on things by being a pol and taking other peoples money to build things with.
A big, elementary difference, probably worth noting.
An observation from the airport (any airport, in America): You cant escape CNN. No matter where you try to sit, you cant not hear CNN, loudly. You can sit so that you cant see any of the monitors, but you cant sit so that you cant hear the network. The speakers are everywhere. I wish someone would offer a No CNN Quiet Zone or something. OReilly has his No Spin Zone. Wont someone give me, in some airport, a No CNN Zone? Or must I hear Judy Woodruffs spin on politics the same way the North Koreans hear Dear Leader recordings?
Speaking of Judy Woodruff: Al Hunt had in his column the other day on the horror of abstinence programs (that is, programs that encourage kids not to engage in sex) that old phrase fundamentally flawed. (The Bush abstinence-only plan is fundamentally flawed.) That reminded me that I never, ever want to write the phrase fundamentally flawed, or its sibling, fatally flawed.
No, cliché-free writing is just about impossible to achieve. But we can avoid the more egregious ones. The other day, in something in a draft I had written in stark contrast to. Now, thats not the worst cliché: but, from shame (that which Sen. Byrd does without), I changed it to vivid contrast, which is perhaps a little bit better.
But fundamentally flawed, I solemnly swear not to write nor grievous error. (Do we ever use grievous in any other way? Do we ever use arrant except with pedantry? Weird, how certain adjectives attach themselves to certain nouns, as though they could have no other mate.)
I thought the editors of the Wall Street Journal had a marvelous point the other day: In the effort to drive Indian nicknames from the land no more Central Michigan University Chippewas, for example what are we going to do about Apache helicopters and Jeep Cherokees?
And will the Apaches and Cherokees have any say?
At Eastern Michigan University, in the town of my birth, Ypsilanti, they removed the nickname Huron. All the correct people thought that the EMU Hurons was racist, but not the Hurons that is, Huron Indians themselves who were appalled that the university would give them the boot, after generations.
Of course, this is the same school that, in the 80s, fired Gary Player from designing its golf course from the simple fact that he is South African never mind that he was always staunchly anti-apartheid.
Only a baddun would make fun of something in an obituary, but let me: In the New York Times obit of Livingston Biddle Jr., the late patrician and onetime chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, we read the sentence, His poor eyesight kept him out of the military, and he became an ambulance driver for the American Field Service.
Is that a tiny bit curious? Cant join the military because of poor eyesight, so you become a driver? Of ambulances?
This column, to its shame ah, a theme, which is always nice has been known to mention Sir Mix-a-Lot (dont ask). In this connection, Id like to report that, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, they have a show, or seminar, or something entitled Baby Got Back: The Exploitation of African Women.
Last, a quick word about Fridays big Carterpalooza. (One reader dubbed this Death by Carter. Another said it should have been called a Carter-rama, which seemed to him more 70s-ish.) The Carterfest the Cartercopia, or whatever it was seems to have struck a nerve, with red-blooded Americans pouring out their Carter emotions, opinions, insights, memories, and other things.
I would like to cite, for the moment, only one letter. Id said that the ex-presidents initials, J.C., were not accidental, in the apparent view of his most fervent admirers.
Wrote a reader, A closer look reveals an important distinction between the Carters initials and those of the Son of God. Carters full initials are J.E.C. (E for Earl, of course), while, as everyone knows, the Messiahs initials are J.H.C., as in Jesus H. Christ.
Why didnt I think of that?!