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Amway Relation Correction


Something French That’s Good


In honor of Bastille Day, who doesn’t love this fine gentleman…?


Bill Keller, a Really Liberal Feller


For anyone who has any doubt that new NYTimes boss Bill Keller is a passionate liberal, do chek out the Timeswatch link K-Lo posted earlier, and see these quotes from his recent columns.

The Howard Kurtzes of the world should be asking: Was this a tactical mistake by the Times, to pass over Keller last time, but give him a column to display all his opinions with the sharpest partisan invective, so that when he finally takes over the top job, everyone questions his capacity for fairness?

Web Briefing: July 25, 2014

Clarence Page’s Vietnamization


My colleague Geoff Dickens relates a “highlight” from the Chris Matthews show this weekend:

Matthews: “Clarence, what struck me, a couple of events this week. Horrible events. We graduate seven police over there, Iraqi police, guys all dressed up in their uniforms ready to go out and work and keep the streets safe, shot right, blown up right there in the middle of their graduation ceremony. A G.I. goes into a university campus to get a Coke somewhere, shot like this. [Points finger to his head] Just melts into the crowd. What is your make, what is your take on this?”

Page: “And the, and the week before that, another G.I. shot while buying a DVD. Well, it sounds like deja vu all over again, but I don’t want to…”

Matthews: “Where, from where?”

Page: “Well, Vietnam. You know it’s, you don’t know where the front is. It’s a police action and that means you’re constantly under fire. The big problem here is that, that we’ve made American uniforms the target now for the antipathy of various factions. As long as we are perceived as being very, essentially alone, although it is something of a coalition. But we’re not really working with a number of other countries or with Arab countries there as well. Then, then we’re gonna be the targets, bearing the burden of, of most of this struggle and it’s hard.”




That’s enough of this aimless blogging. Serious matters await. My son has
just challenged me to a game of Stratego, and we Derbs do not refuse a

Iron Duke’s Best Letter


A reader has trumped my Iron Duke letter with the following, which may be
not only Wellington’s best, but one of the best letters ever written.
Commandants of military academies please note: if you are not teaching this
to the cadets, you darn well should be.

Allied Headquarters, 1812


Whilst marching to Portugal to a position which commands the approach to
Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying
with your requests which have been sent by H.M. ship from London to Lisbon
and then by dispatch rider to our headquarters.

We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all
manner of sundry items for which His Majesty’s Government holds me
accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit, and spleen of
every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two
regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.

Unfortunately the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for
in one infantry battalion’s petty cash and there has been a hideous
confusion as to the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry
regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain. This reprehensive carelessness
may be related to the pressure of circumstance since we are at war with
France, a fact which maycome as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in

This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my
instructions from His Majesty’s Government, so that I may better understand
why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce
it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue
either one with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both.

1. To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of
the accountant and copy boys in London or, perchance,

2. To see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.

Your most obedient servant,




Re: Philistines Phooey


Having wandered into this zone, I may as well answer the 3 or 4 NRODT
readers who e-mailed to ask me what my favorite opera aria is. This is one
of those questions I’d answer differently at a different time, or in a
different mood: but the other day I heard a recording of the young
Pavarotti singing “A te o cara” from Bellini’s opera I puritani, and
haven’t been able to get it out of my head since. I know, bel canto isn’t
everybody’s cup of cappuchino, but it does it for me. Warning: This aria
contains a sensational high note–put away your glassware somewhere safely
out of range. A lot of singers shy at that note–I saw Gregory Kunde, a
fine Bellinian, do just that at a Carnegie Hall concert performance 5-6 yrs
ago. Others attack it but are defeated: Justin Lavender (imagine going
through life with a name like that!) on the otherwise wonderful
Nightingale CD set, for example–though Edita Gruberova’s “Son vergin
vezzosa” is more than sufficient compensation. Pavarotti makes it sound
effortless. Say what you like, he is a truly great singer.

Re: Defending The French


Jonah, I wrote an NRO piece earlier
this year defending what I found defensible about the French. In honor of
Bastille Day, here it is again. I woke up this
morning and gave a Quatorze Juillet thought to John Zmirak, known to
many NYC conservatives, who once got into the New York Times for organizing
a requiem mass on Bastille Day for the executed King of France.

Too Soon to Be Defeatist


Lee Bockhorn has a very thoughtful piece out today on gay marriage. I think Lee is right that this is a battle that must be fought, and that it is far too early to be defeatist. I also agree with Lee that all the traditional conservative points about marriage can and should be invoked in this debate. I would add, however, that it is not necessary to believe that marriage ought to return to what it was in the fifties in order to oppose same-sex marriage. As I said a bit earlier today, even with all of the changes in marriage since the sixties (some for ill, some for good, some for both), gay marriage challenges elements of marriage that still enjoy a rough consensus by the public–monogamy and the connection between marriage and child rearing. Gay marriage does not simply ratify what marriage has already become. Gay marriage undercuts even those pillars of our current reformed version of marriage that are still surprisingly strong. That is why I think a coalition of social conservatives and social moderates against gay marriage can be built–but only if we have the kind of battle that forces a real debate.

Re: Conservatism’s Proud Philistines


Nick says, of Terry Teachout: “A lot of conservatives give lip service to
the importance of the arts, but don’t know Howell Raines from Picasso (wait
a minute, maybe Howell Raines doesn’t know Howell Raines from Picasso).
Either way, for cultural trogs (like me), Teachout is a godsend.” Let me
tell you, Nick, from long experience, that there is a proud philistine
faction among conservatives, certainly among NRO readers. Any time I blog
about my encounters with high art (encounters of which, be it noted, high
art generally gets the better) I get emails from readers telling me that
this stuff is for the fairies (you can take that any way you like) and that
a robust commercial republic of free citizens doesn’t need poetry, classical
music, or any of that sissy stuff–just guns, liquor, attitude and a banjo.
(I think that’s what they’re saying.) Obviously I don’t agree with this
myself, but it’s a point of view, and if you blog on NRO you better be ready
for it. It’s not entirely wrong-headed, either. Robert Conquest notes
somewhere that Tsar Nicholas of Russia went to the opera while Disraeli went
to the races; then he asks rhetorically: “Which country was better

Newscaster’s Worst Nightmare


I think I have cooked up a news item that would cause the average network
news anchor’s head to explode trying to get the pronunciations right: “A
consortium of entrepreneurs, led by Joey Buttafuoco and his new wife Regina,
will attempt to launch a space probe toward Uranus from a base in Niger…”

A Book I Simply Must Read


Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore. Just been reading Simon’s account of his researches for the book on “Arts & Letters Daily.” Utterly gripping.

Re: News About Nothing--a Botanical Response


From a reader: “[T]he North American Violets (Viola appalachiensis) I am
familiar with have very shallow roots (typical of most forest plants).
However, your question led me to find a website listing ALL the NA violets. I had no idea there were so many! So some may be long-rooted, as may be
their English cousins.”

More On The Iron Duke


This is from memory–can’t find it on the web and can’t be bothered to go to
the attic & search for it. The Duke was punctilious about answering mail
from officers under his command… but not always very helpful. One young
subaltern wrote to him in desperation, explaining that he had got a
respectable girl pregnant, and was under heavy pressure from both his own
family and hers to marry her, which he did not want to do. The Duke’s
reply, in its entirety, was something like: “Sir, You have got into a pretty
pickle, and must extricate yourself as best you can. Yrs.

Supernatural Assistance


Two different readers have now suggested that the video clip of me singing the Riemann Hypothesis
song has some strange hypnotic power. Sample (from a reader in Canada):
“Derb, I don’t know if it’s your haunting delivery … or if it’s the clever
composition of the lyrics, but I CANNOT GET THAT SONG OUT OF MY MIND!! For
the last three days all I have heard, playing over and over again in my
head, is ‘…and-their-DEN-sity’s-one-O-ver-two-pi-log-TEE.’ I only watched
the clip twice! Could this be some sort of subliminal psychological
programming to get viewers to buy your book? … Must go to bookstore …
must go to bookstore…”

OK, I confess: I had supernatural assistance in making the clip. To be
exact, I prepped for the shoot by channeling Berhard Riemann for an hour beforehand. Thanks, Bernie.

The Iron Duke


On catching sight of his bride on their wedding day (if I recall the story correctly, he had been abroad for some time and hadn’t seen her for years), he is said to have commented to a friend, “she’s grown ugly, by Jove.” The marriage was not a success.

Post-Raines Times


Bill Keller will be named executive editor today.

Re: Title Ix


The long version of what Jonah just said is here on NRO.

Title Ix


Lots of readers have inquired what my wife and I think about the Bush Administration’s surrender on Title IX. For the record, my lovely bride is back working at the Justice Department — though she’s physically working from home most of the time. Still, that precludes her from commenting publicly on the the White House’s complete and total sell-out on Title IX (my characterization, not hers). But since I’ve read her book, Tilting the Playing Field , I can certainly say that the decision is a major disappointment. It shows two things: First, it shows that feminist groups and a pliant media have successfully defined this debate to deny reality entirely. Any change in Title IX whatsoever, we were told, would “turn back the clock” and result in girls’ soccer games being cancelled everywhere. This was all a huge lie. Title IX is
not responsible for the vast, vast majority of the gains its boosters claim and it is responsible for a large amount of almost entirely needless damage on college campuses.

The second thing it shows is that this administration is in full campaign mode. Because it was afraid of being mau-maued on even modest changes to Title IX, they decided to simply surrender entirely. It’s a shame. It may not be as big a deal as surrendering on Medicare or affirmative action, but it’s all part of the same pattern.


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