Preparing a piece for the next National Review, I reacquainted myself with the case of the Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor. These are the people whom the Qaddafi regime accused of infecting Libyan children with AIDS. This was a lie, of course.
They tortured these people beyond human description. Rape, dogs, electricity — more than an ordinary human mind can imagine. One woman, in her desperation, tried to kill herself by chewing the veins in her wrist. She had no other recourse.
Speaking of torture: This article will tell you what the Syrian regime is doing, to men, boys, and others. Genital mutilation seems a particular specialty and delight.
Syria is an emergency. The overthrow of that dictatorship is an imperative — an urgent requirement — of this day.
I hear some people saying, “If the new Libyans in power are so great, how come they’re not returning Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, to Britain?” First, it remains to be seen what Libyans will hold power, and what their character is.
Second, I’m reminded of some taunts I received shortly after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. People would write me and say, “Your beloved Iraqis are not recognizing Israel. Ha ha ha!”
The only rational answer is: You should not expect a new government to commit suicide off the bat. (Would that be a suicide squeeze?) We must be adult. And those who style themselves “realist” have a special responsibility to look at the world realistically.
This was a weirdish headline, and story: “Ultimate Frisbee lands in North Korea.”
Here is another story: “A Congolese prison official says that two Norwegians who have been condemned to death were caught attempting to escape via a tunnel they had dug on the prison grounds.” What got my attention — besides that — was that another prisoner caught them and reported them.
What in the world did that prisoner have against the Norwegians?
Let’s have a little language. It is a curious fact that British people say “try and” instead of “try to”: “I’m going to try and make your party, but I may have to watch the kids instead.” They all do this: including the most literate and erudite. (I know this as an editor, of many sparkling Brits.)
I was reading a Q&A with the novelist Howard Jacobson in the Financial Times. Asked, “How physically fit are you?” he answered, in part, “I try and walk.”
As I said, curious.
You know what’s an absolute scourge, a menace? “Advocate for” — I mean the verb “advocate,” followed by “for.” It used to be you were an advocate of democracy. As such an advocate, you advocated democracy. But this “for” has crept in like crabgrass.
I was reading an article yesterday about a new Obama economic adviser: who “has advocated for hiring tax credits for businesses and increased government spending on infrastructure . . .”
Ay, caramba! What ugliness and grotesquerie! When did this happen? Can this “for” be killed, or is it too late? (I know the answer to that one: In matters of language, it’s pretty much always too late.)
Often, you don’t learn of someone wonderful until he dies. I was that way with George C. Devol, whose obituary in the Financial Times I wanted to share with you. I find I can no longer get it, on the Web. So I’ll link to the obit in the New York Times, which I haven’t read. The one in the FT was a total delight.
Devol was the inventor of the robotic arm, and the “father of robotics.” He seems to have been a merry, genial type, smart as hell, of course, with many wise things to say about America, industry, and life. He was a benefactor of millions — whether they (we) know it or not.
One of the things about growing up, for me, and leaving Ann Arbor and that mindset behind was the realization that benefactors of mankind are not necessarily non-profit types. Barry Commoner is not the only model of man. Do you know what I mean?
Here is a point I have made before: When people want to praise Bill Gates, they tend to talk about all the money he has spent on charity, through his foundation. Almost never do they say, “Think of the invaluable software that he made available to the entire world, for cheap!”
I don’t know why this point is “right-wing,” but, so help me, it is.
Let’s end with a name. A reader writes,
Hi, Mr. Nordlinger,
May I direct your attention to Mr. Josh Earnest, who is the White House deputy press secretary? This is a perfect name for a person in that job. He can be earnest, or he can josh, as the situation requires.
Sweet, and nicely observed.
But may I say goodbye with a viciously partisan point? An old friend of mine used to say, “I be so happy when the Celtics lose, I don’t know what to do.” In that spirit: I’ll be so happy if Obama loses next year . . .