Thursday, November 29, 2012

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Garry Shandling, 63.

Meanwhile, some good stuff:

1. Dan Larison on Ronald Reagan and "winning" the Cold War. Yup. Reagan deserves the same credit that everyone from Ike through Carter deserve -- for keeping to the basic policy Truman established. Not that they all did it well, whether the blots were major or minor, but they all wound up sticking with a winning framework. I do think Reagan deserves credit for accepting victory when it came, and George H.W. Bush deserves quite a bit of credit for that and for managing victory well. Beyond that, however, what Larison says.

2. John Norris is very good on what hurt the early Clinton administration -- but it wasn't just in foreign policy (and see also Larison).

3. And as much as I like Alyssa Rosenberg, and I think this is a terrific post...I think she gets David Lynch horribly wrong.

16 comments:

  1. Re: that Larison piece on Reagan, I wonder if one of the reasons that the GOP has attacked Obama with such ruthlessness is that they recognized in '09 that circumstance, personality and historic trends suggest that Obama could be/will be cast as an important President in the same way that Reagan has been cast. They seem so focused on rhetoric and mythology... maybe they worry that Obama as a mythological figure will dwarf Reagan as a mythological figure? In any case, considering the fact that since Reagan the far-right hasn't had any national political success and the GOP as a whole has been steadily losing support, they probably don't need to worry about Obama as much as they need to worry about their leaders' ability to build a winning political coalition.

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  2. It's Garry Shandling, with two R's.

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    1. Ugh. Fixed.

      Greatest sitcoms of the 1990s: NewsRadio, The Larry Sanders Show, Seinfeld, The Simpsons...I'm pretty sure those take four of the top five spots in any decent list, no?

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    2. I can't think of anything better than those four. "Friends" was very popular, but not nearly on that level in terms of quality, I don't think.

      Between "The Ben Stiller Show" and "Mr. Show," the 1990s was also a banner time for the sketch show, the sitcom's stepsister.

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    3. I wouldn't put Friends in my own top twenty for the decade...maybe not in my top 50. Could be just me. Let's see...I'll start the bidding with Blossom, Moesha, and Clarissa. Then failed NBC Must See shows: Herman's Head, The Single Guy, Ned and Stacy. All better than Friends! Married with Children in its declining years...maybe even Roseanne in its declining years.

      I should probably stop now and get back to work.

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    4. Okay, one more comment, and yes, I realize no one is interested, but: I've only watched bits of both, but did Two Broke Girls steal its premise, more or less, from 1990s sitcom Fired Up? Fired Up, plus add some lame hipster jokes and casual racism, and there you go.

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    5. "Herman's Head" and "Ned and StacEy" were failed Fox shows! NBC couldn't have gotten Yeardley Smith to be in a sitcom.

      I would put "The Drew Carey Show" and "Will and Grace" both ahead of "Friends" as well. "Drew Carey" had its faults, but it captured that working-class milieu really well, as well as "Roseanne" did.

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    6. Argghh! I obviously *haven't* been spending enough time thinking about 1990s sitcoms. Awful.

      I pretty much never watched The Drew Carey Show, and ran screaming from Will and Grace after giving it a brief try.

      But for another better-than-Friends subcategory: anything with Wendy Mallick, which would include Dream On and Just Shoot Me, but I see she was also in something called Good Company that only survived for six weeks, and I'm guessing I would have liked it more -- it had Terry Kiser in it, so no matter how bad it was I could have just had fun imagining how much better it would have been if his character was dead. Assuming he wasn't, that is.

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    7. I know it went into the 2000's, but I really enjoyed Frasier. I'd put it in my top 5. Not sure when Home Improvement started, but even though it wasn't that good, it was certainly better than Friends.

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    8. I was starting to worry when the conversation had been going on for so long without mentioning Frasier!

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    9. Friends is interesting in that it was a vehicle for six attractive, youthy stars who should have done something with that springboard, but alas.

      Come to think of it, that might not be an original thought, maybe that was taken from an internal NBC memo on the topic of trying to salvage the latest failing Matthew Perry vehicle.

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  3. One of the huge things that most Americans miss all the time when talking about the Cold War is that economic woes were the cause both of the political crisis that led to Gorbachev's rise in the 1980's and the end of the Soviet Union as much of anything else. Khrushchev is largely remembered in the West for his denunciation of Stalin and Cold War brinksmanship but he also came to power as a economic reformer as much as anything else. He tried to make the Soviet economy more rational and get rid some of the worst excesses of the centrally planned system. He failed and was drive from power. Brezhnev largely ignored economics and under his leadership the Soviet Union became increasingly corrupt and dysfunctional in it's domestic affairs and began to enter and economic tailspin in the 70's that it never really escaped from.

    Ironically this was largely unseen in the West both because we knew so little about life in the Soviet Union and because of the actions of a lot of Cold War Hawks, guys like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, who used their powerful positions in the national security apparatus to consistently, and sometimes massively, overestimate Soviet economic and military power.

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    1. I have to disagree a bit on Khrushchev. He was a reformer, but his reforms didn't necessarily make a lot of sense, and he was constantly reorganizing things. For instance, dismantling centralized economic ministries and replacing them with regional economic entities in what was still a centralized planned economy caused considerable disruption and undermined coordination. The Brezhnev team's criticism of "hare-brained schemes" wasn't entirely without foundation. But if there was one person responsible for destroying the Soviet Union, it was Gorbachev. He seemed to think you could simply stop giving orders from the top and a centralized planned economy would simply become a capitalist market on its own; instead it became a centralized economy that didn't work anymore, even compared to the low standards of the past. He then opened up foreign trade without adjusting the domestic economy. Insiders quickly discovered that they could use their connections to get a government loan, buy up a million dollars worth of oil at fixed domestic prices, and sell it abroad at world prices that were 200 to 300 times as much. That created a lot of oligarchs, but it didn't do much to boost the standard of living. Then he allowed state factory managers to set up their own private enterprises on the side, lease their state assets to themselves, transfer all the profitable output to their private companies, and then demand subsidies to keep their state enterprises afloat. (And since prices were still fixed, profitability didn't adjust to changes in need or demand.) The list could go on. Then, once the economy had sunk to depression levels, he decided to hold free elections without so much as permitting the formation of parties first. You can see why he's not held in particularly high esteem in Russia.

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  4. Oh yes all very true, Khrushchev was by no means successful and I'd say lots of things Khrushchev did seemed to be driven by bluster with little thinking through. Like putting nuclear weapons in Cuba and then when the US responses have no clue what to do to get yourself out of massive crisis you've created. Nuclear war was adverted, so that's a win for Khrushchev, but still he spent most of the crisis sitting behind his desk in the Kremlin not doing anything. The point I was trying to make was economic realities in the 70's and 80's were more important for what happened in 91' than a State of the Union speech where you call the USSR a "evil empire" or giving billions of dollars to fund a civil war in El Salvador.

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    1. Yes, indeed. I didn't mean to disagree with that.

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  5. I'm curious what you mean by "accepting victory". Do you mean that he moved toward detente? I'm not as expert on this part of history as you, but wasn't this just a return to a policy Nixon established, and which had stayed in place until Reagan himself abandoned it?

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