Nicholas D. Kristof (I've tended to call him "Nick" through the years) has made and implemented a momentous, course of civilization-altering decision effective 1/1/2014 (HT Twitchy): "If you look closely at my Times byline ... I’ve knocked out my middle initial for the new year."
Why oh why would Nick want to do that? "I think in the Internet age, the middle initial conveys a formality that is a bit of a barrier to our audience. It feels a bit ostentatious." I've got a clue for you, Nick, old buddy old pal: Your columns are much more than "a bit" ostentatious and pretentious. Unfortunately, the disappearance of your middle initial is not likely to change that. If ever anyone exemplified navel-gazing, knee-jerk, double-standard liberalism, it would be you. Accordingly, I suggest that you begin to use a more appropriate middle initial than the one you just dropped. My suggestion follows the jump.
That would be "U" for "useful idiot":
In 2005, in reviewing the ground-breaking book "Mao: The Untold Story" by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Kristof, while acknowledging that it is "a magisterial work," chose to take nit-picking umbrage at the author's estimate — over 70 million — of the total number of people killed during Chairman Mao Zedong's (aka Mao Tse-Tung's) reign.
Besides, Kristof the Useful Idiot explained, Mao really wasn't that bad of a guy, and China couldn't have been brought into the 20th century any other way (bolds are mine throughout this post):
Finally, there is Mao’s place in history. I agree that Mao was a catastrophic ruler in many, many respects, and this book captures that side better than anything ever written. But Mao’s legacy is not all bad. Land reform in China, like the land reform in Japan and Taiwan, helped lay the groundwork for prosperity today. The emancipation of women and end of child marriages moved China from one of the worst places in the world to be a girl to one where women have more equality than in, say, Japan or Korea. Indeed, Mao’s entire assault on the old economic and social structure made it easier for China to emerge as the world’s new economic dragon.
Perhaps the best comparison is with Qinshihuang, the first Qin emperor, who 2,200 years ago unified China, built much of the Great Wall, standardized weights and measures and created a common currency and legal system – but burned books and buried scholars alive. The Qin emperor was as savage and at times as insane as Mao – but his success in integrating and strengthening China laid the groundwork for the next dynasty, the Han, one of the golden eras of Chinese civilization. In the same way, I think, Mao’s ruthlessness was a catastrophe at the time, brilliantly captured in this extraordinary book – and yet there’s more to the story: Mao also helped lay the groundwork for the rebirth and rise of China after five centuries of slumber.
The tens of millions of "missing girls" due to China's one-child policy, which has led to a disproportionate number females killed in utero (estimates were in the 30 million to 50 million range in 2010), would beg to disagree.
Additionally, as I noted when Kristof's crummy review appeared:
(Mao told) the Soviets before the “Great Leap Forward” that “half of China may well have to die.” We should at least be relieved that the person who may be the “greatest” mass murderer in history fell far short of that.
So I'm sorry, Nick. You may choose to drop the middle initial in your byline to make yourself feel good about being a man of the people, or something (one tweeter described him as "a poster child for narcissism").
But when I'm discussing your work, I'm going to give you the middle initial "U" — until you unconditionally acknowledge Mao's monstrosity.
The guess here is that I'll still be using "U" as Nick's middle initial when it comes time to write his obituary.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.