Rewriting History

A recent Facebook post says:

On June 12, 1987, a defiant Ronald Reagan challenged Premier Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”. He was applauded by both American political parties and earned the respect of most of the world for doing so.

Then the post goes on to discuss The Donald’s recent poor behavior.  When you start off with a falsehood it is hard to pay attention to your point.  To be precise, and to make the comparison relevant to The Donald, it was not a popular speech at the time.  Here is what Wikipedia says about Reagan’s speech:

The speech received “relatively little coverage from the media”, Time magazine claimed 20 years later.[12] John Kornblum, senior US diplomat in Berlin at the time of Reagan’s speech, and US Ambassador to Germany from 1997 to 2001, said “[The speech] wasn’t really elevated to its current status until 1989, after the wall came down.”[9] The muted response in the Western media contrasted with the reaction from the East: East German Politburo member Günter Schabowski considered the speech to be “absurd”,[13] and the Soviet press agency TASS accused Reagan of giving an “openly provocative, war-mongering speech.

How was it received in the US?  CBS news tells us:

“It was not well-received within the foreign policy community or the pundit class,” Brinkley [a history professor at Rice University] said, in an interview with CBS. “Many people called foul.”

Reagan’s speech got mixed responses from his party and negative responses from just about everyone else.  It was provocative.  After it turned out that he was right the speech became remembered differently.

None of this means The Donald is right in his current spats with Putin and much of Europe.  It means that history sometimes shines a different light on old controversies.  Reagan was right but he didn’t have to be.  It also means if you want to make a historical comparison you need to get it right.

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Born Yesterday – The Play

We accompanied the Lady de Gloves to see the opening night of Born Yesterday at American Players Theatre (APT) in Spring Green, Wisconsin.  We encourage you to go to APT any time you have a chance and especially to go “up the hill.”  Up the hill is to the Hill Theatre cut into the top of a hill in the woods.  Some evenings when the lights go out the stars are spectacular.  Other evenings, like ours, it gets amazingly black.  You do have to worry about rain but it is worth the chance.

APT has developed a talented Core Company over the years.  We got to see two of the stars shine despite the clouds: Colleen Madden as Billie Dawn and David Daniel as Harry Brock.  Colleen was wonderful as the ditzy show girl turned into an intellectual with a ditzy touch by a writer at The New Republic.  She gets to wear great styles to stunning effect.  The late forties must have been when The New Republic drifted away from the Progressive cause because the reading list he prepares pays homage to the Founders.  David is the most disgusting cut-throat capitalist you could imagine.  He is ill mannered in speech, manners, and behavior as well as poorly educated and dishonest.  Every moment he is onstage you loath him.  Compared to him The Donald is a model of decorum.

One interesting part of viewing Born Yesterday was the audience.  Spring Green is close to Madison and Madison has a well deserved reputation.  Our first take was that it was a typical bad businessman story was influenced by the audience.  Make no mistake, Harry is one of the most antagonistic antagonists but the play is much more than that.  We think is makes important statements about rights, education, and power.

The first point is that even folks as loathsome as Harry have their rights.  We forget if Billie or the writer is responding to the legality of Harry’s project by saying we’ll change the law.  Here the protagonists have forgotten their principles, specifically rule of law.  Rights are not rationed by niceness.

The second point is about education.  Billie’s education is a classically liberal one with documents from the Founders and classics from writers Charles Dickens.  Billie’s education compares well to most university curriculums today.  We think that important point was missed by the audience.

The third point is about power.  At the end Billie has Harry in her power.  Is she any better than Harry?  We don’t want to resolve that point but as a point of comparison go see Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  Prospero is more magnanimous than Billie.  It doesn’t mean that Billie is bad it just shows her humanity.

It is an excellent play in a great place with wonderful performances.  Go see it.

 

Plagiarism?

We rarely watch TV shows when broadcast so we are always behind schedule but a benefit is that it sometimes shows a commonality that we would otherwise notice.  The two shows in question are Instinct (Owned, episode seven, season one, broadcast on 5/6/18) and NCIS New Orleans (Welcome to the Jungle, episode 18, season four, broadcast 3/27/18).

There are lots of superficial differences between the two episodes but the summaries look like they came from the same plot books.  In both cases the main suspect is black.  It is a man in Instinct and a woman in NCIS: NO.  In both cases the secondary suspect is ethic.  An Eastern European in Instinct and an Argentinian in NCIS:NO.  In both cases there is a white male waiting around to be identified as the perp.

Sidebar: As an additional progressive fantasy in both cases there are women beating up men.  On Instinct it is the star Bojana Novakovic, who’s is listed as an Australian but hails from Serbia.  Check the picture on the link and give your probability that all men in the police force would be unwilling to spar with her because of the beatings they receive.   On NCIS: NO it is the black suspect who we suspect will soon be part of the cast.  The latter was more convincing than the former but there is a reason why fighters have different weight classes.  End Sidebar.

Even though the basics of the story sound the same we don’t think it is plagiarism because it is too widespread.  If you create a Venn Diagram with rich, white, and men the intersection will often give you the perp.  Sometimes you are not sure if the CIA perp was rich.  It would be a fun research project.  All is we need is a bunch of grad assistants to watch crime shows on TV.

Answering Jordan’s Question

The Morning Jolt alerted us that the left was concerned about Kevin Williamson joining The Atlantic.  In fact, Jordan Weissman at Slate has the memo that Jeffery Goldberg, The Atlantic editor sent out about Kevin.  It is a long memo so here is the start of it:

I first came to know Kevin’s work several years ago; he’s incredibly prolific, and, over time, I have probably read a few hundred thousand of his words. I have disagreed with him more than I have agreed with him (an irrelevant metric when you’re the editor; not when you’re a reader), but I recognized the power, contrariness, wit, and smart construction of many of his pieces. I also found him to be ideologically interesting: anti-abortion, pro-gun rights, anti-death penalty (his anti-death penalty writing, of course, shaped my understanding of his most objectionable tweet). I was struck, as many people are, by the quality of his prose. I was also struck by the fact that many people I admire on the Left have expressed admiration for his writing on issues of race and class. Over the past couple of years, I’ve also read carefully his critical coverage of Donald Trump and the people who voted for him.

You can read the rest of it at the bottom of Jordan’s article.  Jordan’s article is Why Would the Atlantic Hire Kevin Williamson?  The subheadline calls him a conservative troll.  Well, that was a short honeymoon!  We think that Kevin would understand because he is not one to take prisoners.  And, of course, Kevin is more libertarian than conservative.

The reasonable answer to Jordan’s question is that they want to have one of the best writers around.  Beyond that, Kevin is, as Jeffery emphasizes, stridently anti-Trump.  We are sure that he will fit in.  It should be fun.

 

The Ultimate Gerrymander

Glen Harland Reynolds discusses state secession at the USA Today. He is talking about splitting states rather than leaving the nation.  Read the whole thing to see some of the current movements.  Glen says:

Splitting a state is hard. West Virginia managed because the existing Virginia legislature was in rebellion against the United States, making it easy for President Lincoln and the Congress to recognize the new rump legislature put together in Wheeling as the “official” legislature of Virginia, and accepting its approval (which the Constitution requires) for forming a new state out of part of the old Virginia. Such circumstances aren’t likely today, let us hope, though if states like Illinois or California went bankrupt, they might agree to a split in exchange for a federal bailout.

Glen left out an example and a related problem that makes splitting a state darn near impossible now.  The example is Maine.  Maine separated from Massachusetts in 1820.  Wikipedia tells us how it happened:

Formal secession and formation of the state of Maine as the 23rd state occurred on March 15, 1820, as part of the Missouri Compromise, which geographically limited the spread of slavery and enabled the admission to statehood of Missouri the following year, keeping a balance between slave and free states.

Glen doesn’t mention it but we think that northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan would make a peachy new state.  New states change the balance of power in the US Senate.  In 1820 it was free versus slave.  Now it is Republican versus Democrat.  All of the proposals to add a new rural state would be welcomed by the GOP but would never be supported by the Dems.  The one possibility the Dems might consider is changing California into six states and of course if the Dems support it then the GOP would be against it.  In every case one of the parties will block it.

This reminds us of innovative ideas from new faculty members, in some cases we were the new ones.  The answers from the senior faculty members were always the same, “We’re not going to die on that hill.”  Sometimes they added one more word to the answer, “Again.”  We think it is still good advice.  There will be no Miconsin.

Hating The Donald

We were wandering around the Internet.  First we went to Tyler Cowen’s Marginal Revolution site. Tyler is a serious economist.  Wikipedia tell us that:

He was ranked #72 among the “Top 100 Global Thinkers” in 2011 by Foreign Policy Magazine “for finding markets in everything.”[4] In a 2011 poll of experts by The Economist, Cowen was included in the top 36 nominations of “which economists were most influential over the past decade.”

He said that Christopher Lebron at the Boston Review had the best review of Black Panther.  We are interested in the movie and want another review.  Armond White has never been very helpful for us.  Armond is too worried about philosophy and has too many reference to movies we haven’t seen.  We want to know if the movie is entertaining.  We thought the Greatest Showman was a really entertaining movie.  We were shocked at how good it was after so many poor movies recently.  Interestingly, the preview from the star and director suggests that they wanted to make an entertaining movie.  Perhaps it is not hard to make an entertaining movie if that is your goal.

Tyler does say the review is via Hollis Robbins but we think he should read it to link to it.  Here is part of the first paragraph of Christopher’s review:

This is a tall order, especially in the time of [The Donald], who insists that blacks live in hell and wishes that (black) sons of bitches would get fired for protesting police violence.

We wonder what somebody would need to say about a political figure to have it be a bad review?  We don’t know much about the Boston Review.  They might think it crucial that they signal their hate of The Donald to their audience.   We are, however, disappointed in Tyler.  He should understand the importance of  rhetoric.

A Great Phrase

Here is Sam Altman discussing how China has become more open than San Francisco.  He starts out:

Earlier this year, I noticed something in China that really surprised me.  I realized I felt more comfortable discussing controversial ideas in Beijing than in San Francisco.  I didn’t feel completely comfortable—this was China, after all—just more comfortable than at home. [Emphasis added]

Sam has put it nicely.  China isn’t free as the bold phrase makes clear but San Francisco is worse.  It is like picking The Donald over Herself.  Then he comes up with the sentence we all hope to write.  We need to set it up with another:

Political correctness (PC) often comes from a good place—I think we should all be willing to make accommodations to treat others well.  But too often it ends up being used as a club for something orthogonal to protecting actual victims.

We don’t find the often in the first sentence convincing and the second sentence shows how PC can be the opposite of accommodations but the second sentence is sublime.  It makes a great point in a pithy manner.

We have been working on a piece about how leftist nasty has infected conservative writers.  We know there are reasonable leftists out there but that the nasty on both sides can drown the analysis.  It is nice to find one like Sam.