Politics & Policy

A Wonderful Spirit, &C.

All of us were hit hard by the death of Steven Vincent, the journalist who was killed in Basra. I imagine you’ve read a lot about him in the last day or so. I can hardly add anything.

But I wanted to be sure you saw an interview he did with FrontPageMag.com, at the end of last year: here. He is especially strong on words, and their meaning: “Words matter. Words convey moral clarity”–or lack of it. They certainly do. Why don’t our media describe the insurgents as “paramilitary death squads”? That would be highly accurate, and would have an effect on world opinion.

Steven Vincent had clarity and heart and decency, and he wished for others–for Iraqis–the freedoms that he enjoyed himself. He understood exactly the killers who wound up getting him. He was someone who saw evil in the face, and wasn’t afraid to describe it as it was. As it is.

What a difference such first-rate men make! Most of us just sit around, occasionally typing opinions. There are lots and lots of non-Iraqis now in Iraq working to make that country a better place. And the world a better place. And there are such servants in all other corners as well.

We mourn the loss of Steven Vincent. A nasty, sickening blow. But what a wonderful spirit to have had with us.

‐Appeasement is a bad word, and always has been–or at least since Neville Chamberlain stood under that umbrella. But would you like to see a different use of that word? In Albania–in its wild north–there is the problem of blood feuds, with families gunning for families, year in, year out. An organization is working to stop this: and it’s called the National Committee for Appeasement.


‐There is a group called Alarm Will Sound, and the New York Times hailed it as “the future of classical music.”

That reminded me of one of my favorite Reagan stories: The governor’s limo is surrounded by a chanting student mob, on one of the California campuses. They’re shouting, “We are the future, we are the future!” The Gipper reaches for a notepad, writes something on it, and holds it to the window: “I’ll sell my bonds.”

‐On my way home through Central Park the other evening, I saw a softball game, featuring a team from Reuters. (They all had T-shirts.) I wondered: Since they’re not allowed to call terrorists terrorists–am I allowed to call them softball players?

‐Speaking of Reuters, I quote from a lead of theirs (this is the story): “A team of artists will convert the dilapidated former parliament building of East Germany into a large white mountain next week in a public installation that could be the building’s swansong.”

Communist parliament buildings into large white mountains. A nice fate. May it happen in Cuba, North Korea, China, and wherever else necessary.

And may I offer a joke for the future? What do former Communist countries and New Hampshire have in common? White mountains. (Okay, not a very good joke.)

‐A reader says, “You have to see this page,” at the New York Times. “I find it especially peculiar that photographs of Trotsky and Lenin are side by side with a Fall of the Berlin Wall photograph. They charge $195 for Trotsky’s photo–I take it that the American proletariat has gotten a bit wealthier since 1917. Both Lenin and Trotsky are so heroic-looking, they are practically religious icons. This disgusts me beyond words. They also sell pictures of Mao, Guevara, and Castro–but no pictures of Hitler.”

Our reader has a Russian last name. No wonder he’s disgusted. The rest of us are just–incredibly weary and resigned.

(P.S. You ever see the Castro photo in the Metropolitan Museum of Art? So purty. No pictures of his prisoners, of course.)

‐Did you see this news item, y’all? “A Tibetan beauty queen has withdrawn from an international pageant in Malaysia after the Chinese embassy insisted that she compete as ‘Miss Tibet-China.’ Tashi Yangchen, 24, who is studying for an MBA in London, was crowned Miss Tibet at a contest in Dharamsala, seat of the Tibetan government in exile in India, last year.”

Ah, Tashi Yangchen–our heroine. (And a looker, too. After all, she’s Miss Tibet.)

‐A reader writes to let me know “just how low a formerly great editorial page has sunk.” He’s referring to the Detroit News, in my home state. Here’s what the News said about Ward Connerly’s Civil Rights Initiative, which demands that all citizens be treated equally, regardless of skin color: “It’s not a civil rights measure, far from it. It’s a despicable piece of work aimed at blocking legal efforts to bring equality to the state’s campuses. It ought to be soundly defeated.”

Despicable is the word–for what has happened to that newspaper. Now we’re down to . . . what? Four conservative newspapers in the country? In this big, “diverse,” continental country, stretching from sea to shining sea? What a weird country, medialy.

‐A bright spot in the media is John Leo. Do you read his column, in U.S. News & World Report? I recommend it–every one of them is a winner: astute, direct, gutsy. Leo strikes me as an old-fashioned liberal, who is appalled by what the Left has become, and is now deemed a conservative, if not a right-winger. Here he is on Blaming America (Falsely).

‐Might you consider this another bright spot in the media? (Just kidding.) For my New York Sun review today, of a Mostly Mozart Festival concert (featuring Emanuel Ax, piano, and Emma Bell, soprano, as soloists), please go here.

‐A reader was quite moved by this report from the Deseret Morning News, in Utah:

During the naturalization ceremony, U.S. District Judge David Sam turned the microphone over to some of the new citizens.

One woman from Kampuchea (Cambodia) broke into tears as she said she came here alone nine years ago, but now she has a family. “I love the United States,” she said.

“I’m so happy,” said a man from Vietnam.

A native of Costa Rica said he grew up on a coffee plantation and had told his mother he’d come to the United States. He first came here for school.

“This is a very special day in my life . . . ,” he said. “This is the country of opportunity.”

Comments our reader, “With all of the America bashing going on around the world, there are still some who ‘get it.’” Yes, a great many.

‐Check out this slice of America–as a reader reports:

Mr. Nordlinger,

I was in a small town in Wisconsin, and took my five-year-old boy for a walk down a block. We came across three houses, all in a row.

First house: peace sign in window, wind chimes, two large signs: “Don’t Be Afraid of Waging Peace” and “Support Our Troops, Bring Them Home.” They also displayed the Iraq fatal-casualty list.

Second house: on the lawn: “I Support Our President” and “He Didn’t Lie, Saddam Did!” In the window: “Win the War” (WWII antique sign).

Third house: one solitary sign: “Both my neighbors are nice people and should talk to each other again.”

Incidentally, all three houses had an American flag properly displayed and real yellow ribbons on the porch doors.

‐Another reader says,

Mr. Nordlinger,

Which would you say is the lamer state motto? Maryland’s or Michigan’s? Maryland’s is “Fatti maschi, parole femmine,” or “Manly deeds, womanly words.” Michigan’s is “Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam, circumspice,” or “If you seek a beautiful peninsula, look around you.”

Hey, hey, hey: I’ve always loved my state motto: We commonly translate it, “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.” In fact, it’s one of my favorite things about the state.

Maryland is another home state of mine, sort of. Their slogan–I’ll give you that.

(I should note that this reader gives us a site for all the state mottos: here.)

‐I’ll print just one Che letter, out of 10 million:


I had to bring this to your attention. I was cleaning house the other night and had A&E on, and that ridiculous Growing Up Gotti show came on. Well, the Gotti boys went camping with Uncle Pete, and can you believe that he was wearing a Che T-shirt? [Yes.] Okay, fine . . . I figured he thought it was just cool-looking. Well, that was until he actually started comparing their camping trip with Che’s travels. Unfortunately, I started to gag and had to shut it off, but maybe someone TiVo’d the program and can give you more info.

No, thanks–I’ve heard enough.

‐Okay, sports fans, we’re going to close with some milkshakes. I know we did milkshakes last summer, pretty thoroughly. But we’re doing just a smidge more–and no more.

A reader says,


I was intrigued by your milkshake story, and wondered if you knew how to properly order “the spillover in the silver canister,” as you put it. [The reader is referring to Monday’s Impromptus, here.] Next time you order a homemade milkshake, ask for the “dividend,” in addition to your order. That is the proper term for the spillover. Now they know you have couth, and they don’t toss the “spillage,” as they normally would.

Glad to have the tip. Couth! Me!

Another tip: “If you ever happen to be in Apgar, Mont., you must try a huckleberry shake. Pure ambrosia.”

Another: “If you ever get to southwest Idaho, go to the Frosty Palace in Homedale. Best chocolate shakes ever–particularly if the mature ladies (as opposed to the teenagers) are working the counter.”


Dear Mr. Nordlinger:

If your travels ever get you in the vicinity of Palm Springs, Calif., you must make the trek to Mecca, Calif., on the northern end of the Coachella Valley’s Salton Sea, where some of the best dates in the world are grown. (They have Medjool dates the size of a baseball, and so good.) There is a very well-visited roadside stand (with a large statue of a turban-wearing “Abdul the Medjool,” I kid you not) where they make date shakes that are absolutely sublime. I believe that every true milkshake aficionado has a duty, once in his life, to make the pilgrimage to Mecca to try one of these milkshakes.

Oh, my goodness. I think I’m getting the shakes (no pun intended–really.)

‐I meant to go on a tirade about “social justice”–a horrifying shibboleth that E. J. Dionne used in a column recently, and that Thomas Sowell happened to excoriate in a column of his own–but I’ve already done shakes, and I’m sort of out of time. May not see you for a while. If you’re in Salzburg, for the festival, come by the symposia of the American Friends (which I will moderate), and say hi.

Catch you.


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