December Diary
Battle royal over Bush’s PEPFAR program; George VI and other stutterers; the fashion in jeans and crinolines; and more.


John Derbyshire

Derb-Wehner punch-up    My month started off on a combative note, Peter Wehner and I trading insults over George W. Bush’s PEPFAR program to subsidize AIDS drugs for sub-Saharan Africans. If you missed it, here are:

December 1: Bush’s World AIDS Day op-ed in the Washington Post.

Same day: My reaction to it here on NRO.

The article I was referring to: “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The Unintended Consequences of Washington’s HIV/AIDS Programs” by Princeton N. Lyman and Stephen B. Wittels in the July/August 2010 issue of Foreign Affairs.

December 2: National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez chiding me gently.

Same day: Me responding to Kathryn.

December 3: Peter Wehner’s attack on my December 1 remarks about the Bush op-ed.

December 6: My response to Wehner’s attack.

Same day: Kathryn trying to keep it nice. Lotsa luck there, K-Lo.

December 8: Wehner’s counter to my response.

Some friends urged me to respond to Wehner’s last. I didn’t, because I thought enough had been said on both sides for readers to make up their minds for themselves as to who had the better of the argument.

Definition of “enough”? Well, let’s see: Those links give you 768 words from George W. Bush, 3,721 from Lyman & Wittels, 227 from Kathryn, 2,797 from me, and 2,773 from Wehner. The total is over 10,000 words — longer than Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Does anyone really need more?

In any case, I got my disputational training in my high-school debating club, and I default to the standard structure thereof: Red makes its case, Blue makes the counter-case, Red answers Blue, Blue answers Red, audience questions, closing summaries from Red and Blue, audience votes. I have neither the patience nor the inclination for interminable who-gets-the-last-word nitpick-a-thons, and can’t believe many readers have, either. There is certainly enough material in those 10,000-plus words to let you judge for yourself whether, for example, my description of the Lyman-Wittels paper or Wehner’s is closer to the paper itself.

Other readers — and, vide supra, my colleague Kathryn — regretted the rancorous tone of the discussion. I don’t really see their point. I am of the same kidney as the late Auberon Waugh, who defined opinion journalism as being among “the vituperative arts.” I enjoy the sensation of my boot connecting with the other bloke’s groin. Perhaps it’s an English thing. If you prefer the genteel murmured sonorities of a David Brooks or a Jonathan Chait, I’m not for you. Neither, clearly, is Peter Wehner.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell the Pathans
     Ah, the Pathans! (Nowadays “Pashtuns” or “Pushtuns.”) In the days of British India and skirmishes on the Northwest Frontier, these stern mountain men were famous for two things: utter deadly fearlessness in battle, and a certain regrettable romantic tendency.

That latter tendency adds some spin to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I refer you to the excellent mil-int blogger “In from the Cold” for the grisly details.

Fashion stasis
     My daughter, who turns 18 on January 5, gets a fashion magazine titled Nylon. I’ve never read the thing. It’s all clothes, fashions, hair, styles, glamour, and other such stuff — a zone of the human parade in which my interest is, and always has been, at absolute zero.

She leaves Nylon lying around, though, so I got a look at the cover of the December/January issue. It features movie actress Mila Kunis in a modelish pose. “Good grief,” I thought, “it’s Jean Shrimpton.”

For those of you who weren’t present, Jean Shrimpton was the supermodel of the early 1960s. She brought in the bony, pouty look that has been with us ever since. (Yes, I know, Brigitte Bardot was pouty before Shrimpton. Bony, however, she wasn’t.) With only slight changes, you could put that Mila Kunis picture on the cover of a 1963 fashion magazine, take it back in a time machine, and people would think it was the Shrimp.



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