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Timing Is Everything


Jonah: Perhaps the New Republic should label President Bush “The 9/10 President” more often–given the spectacular success in Pakistan today, just two days after TNR’s new issue is out.


Borat, Now and Forever


Web Briefing: July 11, 2014



Some people, at least, knew how to remember the Stalin years. Writing in 1957, the poetess Anna Akhmatova recalled an encounter from the time she was trying to visit her son, who had been jailed by the secret police:

“In the fearful years of the…terror I spent seventeen months in prison queues in Leningrad. One day someone ‘identified’ me. Besides me, in the queue, there was a woman with blue lips. She had, of course, never heard of me; but she suddenly came out of that trance so common to us all and whispered in my ear (everybody spoke in whispers there): “Can you describe this?” And I said: “Yes I can.” And then something like the shadow of a smile crossed what had once been her face.”

And describe it, Akhmatova did:

“In those years only the dead smiled,

Glad to be at rest:

And Leningrad city swayed like

A needless appendix to its prisons.

It was then that the railway-yards

Were asylums of the mad:

Short were the locomotives’

Farewell songs.

Stars of death stood

Above us, and innocent Russia

Writhed under bloodstained boots, and

Under the tires of Black Marias”

From Requiem (1957)


Called to Account?


Edvard Radzinsky’s Stalin has a good account of Stalin’s last days. This short passage caught my attention today:

“After February 17 no visitors to Stalin’s office are recorded. In fact he never returned to Moscow after that date. Someone has drawn a red line in the margins of the register as though closing the account.”

Except, of course, that this is an account that can never be closed.

A Big Deal


The capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is fantastic news. But somehow I suspect that the Democrats will continue to claim that the war on al Quaeda is being neglected. Considering the fact there hasn’t been a single successful attack on US soil since 9/11 while there have been numerous arrests of terrorist cells, I’ve never understood this argument. But that can wait ’til Monday. This great news.

Fifty Years On


This weekend’s Financial Times features a number of articles to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Stalin’s death (the old tyrant died on March, 5th 1953). There’s a lot that’s worth reading, but the highlights include an interview with Robert Conquest, the greatest western historian of Soviet terror. Amongst the stories he tells is the response of French communists when Stalin lowered the age for the death penalty for children to 12:

“It was acceptable, they claimed, “because in Russia, they said, people mature so much quicker.”"

Blok Block Blocked


Contrary to some of the bad press it has received recently, Belgium is, in its melancholy and rain-sodden way, a strangely alluring country (listen to Jacques Brel’s Le Plat Pays if you doubt me), but the ways of the appalling Belgian establishment make it all too appropriate that the country should be the epicenter of the EU, a body that is increasingly intolerant of dissent.

Here’s a story from the London Guardian on Belgium’s attempts to deal with the challenge posed by the Vlaams Blok, a Flemish nationalist party on the far right. The Blok is very far from being a likeable organization, to put it mildly, but the way to deal with such parties is through debate, argument and the ballot box. That’s how democracy works.

Not all Belgians agree, apparently. Some of them tried another tack – they took the Blok to court.

And now it’s backfired. Idiots.



This looks like good news.

Doomsday Recipe


Another reader seems to think that one way that Aage could get round his legal difficulties is to prepare ‘special’ pizzas just for French and Germans. They could, he suggests, be topped with “all the weird crap they eat over there”.

Well, maybe, but let’s face it – a lot of that “weird crap” (the reader’s list includes liverwurst, sauerkraut and snails) is quite delicious. If Aage really wants to discourage French and German customers, why not offer them something American. Doctor Pepper should do the trick.

Of course, that will scare off the Brits, the Vilnius Ten and everyone else too.

Aage’s Pizza


A number of people have written to ask where Aage can be found. Well, there are some e-mail contact details here



Have you seen HBO’s “Da Ali G. Show”? Oh, man, you gotta! “Ali G.” is the creation of a British comedian named Sacha Baron Cohen. Ali G. is a Cockney “wigger,” a hip-hop white gangsta clod who has his own interview show. In the taped episodes now running, Ali G. gets interviews with serious figures like Boutros-Boutros Ghali, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, ex-Atty Gen. Dick Thornburgh, et al. He straight-facedly asks them outrageously stupid questions (e.g., he asks ex-CIA director James Woolsey to return to the grassy knoll in Dallas to explain who really shot J.R.). What’s so great is that these poor interview subjects don’t realize they’re being put on, and answer his questions with respect. It’s a great send-up of what’s happened to political journalism since Bill Clinton went on MTV and answered some yo-yo’s question about his underwear.

Cohen has two other characters: Bruno, an outrageously gay Austrian fashion reporter; and Borat, a comically naive, sex-mad TV reporter from Kazakhstan, who travels the U.S. exposing himself, so to speak, to American culture. This show is ribald comic genius. Click here and here for videoclips and other info. New half-hour episodes come on every Friday night (Saturday morning) at 12:30 a.m. EDT, but they repeat throughout the week (see the schedule here).

Thin Skins


Rod: You want thin-skin stories? I got thin-skin stories. Friday I had a
jokey exchange with Andrew in The Corner, concerning my train wreck of an
adolescence. I had mentioned that I spent a lot of time constructing
mathematical model out of card, but that this period of my life was a social
failure. Andrew suggested the two things might be connected. I replied by
observing that “very, very few attractive young women are interested in the
59 stellations of the icosahedron.” Not an hour passed before this popped
up in my Inbox:

Mr. Derbyshire: The perpetuation of the stereotype that attractive women
cannot also be smart is irresponsible, no matter how well-intended. While I
understand that you are poking fun at yourself, try to leave us out of your
self-effacing humor. … I’m trying to impress upon you the need to
recognize that your comments, when coupled with Kathy’s Barbie note (a real
sore point when I was in college), are setting the wrong tone in the Corner
today. Sorry to knee-jerk on you on this one, but it’s tough enough to
fight this preconception without its mention in such a public forum.

Now, this reader is polite, well-intentioned, and obviously a thoroughly
civilized person. She makes a friendly remark about my forthcoming book. I
therefore hate myself for what I am about to say–not just for the lost book
sale, but for reasons to do with ordinary human sympathy–but I’m going to
say it anyway: Lady, GET YOURSELF A LIFE!

(And if this lady really _is_ interested in the stellations of the
icosahedron, I’d also like to ask her: WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I NEEDED YOU?)

“The Horrors of Peace”


Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard has a terrific piece out based on a visit and interviews with Iraqi exiles in the United States, who talk in detail about the ghoulish misery the tyrant of Baghdad has inflicted upon his people. Buried deep in the story is an anecdote about how during the Gulf War, when the first Bush administration was busy betraying the same Iraqis it had successfully urged to rise up against Saddam, Paul Wolfowitz personally intervened with Dick Cheney, then the Secretary of Defense, to save 30,000 Iraqi patriots set for massacre by Saddam.

Man Bites Dog


I nearly spilled my coffee this morning when I saw that Dr. Ted Green of Harvard, the medical anthropologist who has been trying for years to alert the scientists and others fighting AIDS as to the success the Ugandans have had by promoting abstinence and fidelity, has published this heretical common sense on the op-ed page of today’s New York Times. NRODT subscribers will remember Dr. Green as a prime source for my recent story on AIDS in Africa. He’s one of the good guys, and it means something that the Times, the voice of the liberal establishment, is taking his views seriously now.

Publius Fellowships


The Claremont Institute is seeking applicants for three-week-long Publius Fellowships. The program “is dedicated to preserving the tradition of American political writing of which Publius was the noblest exemplar. It aims to foster constructive commentary on the important issues of our time, informed and moderated by an understanding of the philosophic and historical roots of American democracy.” I know from personal experience that they don’t let ordinary riffraff into the program–my own application was rejected about a decade ago. So check it out, and good luck!

How to Write


One of my best teachers at the University of Michigan was a guy named John Rubadeau, who taught a class on argumentative writing. On my way to becoming a professional writer, I’ve had a few turning-point experiences–and taking his class as a sophomore was one of them. Here’s his short article on how to write interesting essays. Click on the link if only to see the picture of a man with a beard bigger than his own head. Also, don’t forgot to look at his footnotes.



A reader points out that I mistakenly and inadvertanly mischaracterized Scott Ritter’s position on the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Ritter’s position is not that they never existed, but that they are no longer there and that, therefor, there’s no evidence of them still being there. I’ll flesh that out in a future column, but I just wanted to be on record.

Senator Miguel Estrada (R., Ny)


Too Cold to Go Outside....I Gotta Idea!


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