A Reagan flashback, &c.

(Library of Congress)


Reading Charles Moore the other day, I thought of Reagan. Come to think of it, I read Moore a lot, and think of Reagan a lot. Anyway, here is how Moore concluded a column:

We [i.e., the British people] have too much debt. We pay too-high taxes. We build too few houses. We are losing old jobs and costs prevent us creating new ones. We are having a bad time, and we want the people who rule us to lead us out of that, and think of little else. It is simple, but not easy.

Reagan was accused all the time of being “simplistic.” He was also called a “simpleton.” On the stump, Reagan would occasionally say, “There are simple answers. They’re just not easy ones.” He would insist on the distinction — or is it a difference? — between simple and easy.

In the Moore paragraph, you might have noticed a distinction (!) between the way the Brits talk and the way we Americans talk. They say, e.g., “costs prevent us creating new ones.” We would say, “prevent us from creating new ones.”

James Delingpole drew my attention to a term I had never seen. He did so in a blogpost late last month. “They’re calling it Global Weirding now,” he said. Apparently, “global warming” became problematic when the globe — well, stopped warming. I knew they had switched to “climate change.” I had not known about “global weirding.”

I remember the time when Al Gore began a speech, “We’ve been having some pretty weird weather lately, huh?” I thought that was one of the cheapest and most demagogic things I had ever heard.

Here’s a memory involving the term “climate change”: President Obama, speaking to students in Turkey, blasted his immediate predecessor by saying, “George Bush didn’t believe in climate change. I do believe in climate change. I think it’s important.”

(A) Obviously, Bush “believes in” climate change, because everyone acknowledges that climate changes. The debate is over a theory of man-made global warming, and what governmental policies should be. (B) It’s a pretty classy American president who trashes his predecessor on foreign soil, isn’t it? And to students!

Googling around, I found a February 2010 column by Thomas L. Friedman. The title: “Global Weirding Is Here.” The author counsels, “Avoid the term ‘global warming.’ I prefer the term ‘global weirding,’ because that is what actually happens as global temperatures rise and the climate changes. The weather gets weird.”

Uh-huh. That same month, February 2010, I wrote a column about the uses and abuses of the weather in the global-warming debate. In a subsequent blogpost, I published a letter from a reader:

Dear Jay,

You’ve reminded me of a dear old history professor friend of mine. Whenever someone made a comment about how unusually warm or unusually cold or unusually dry or whatever the weather was, he would tell the story of a farmer friend of his who once said to him, “John, I’ve been farming for 30 years. Only one of them was normal.”

I commented, “Perfect. The most scientific thing I’ve heard, about the climate, in months.”

So, Omar Sharif Jr. has come out gay and Jewish. What could possibly be more endearing to Egyptian society? I wish Naguib Mahfouz were around to weave this into a novel or short story . . .

I think I have my favorite sentence of 2012 so far. It comes from Paul Johnson, reviewing a book called Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II, by Keith Lowe. I’ll print the sentence before as well:

“Lowe has much to say about revenge killings, though the evidence tends to be anecdotal rather than comprehensive. The trouble, of course, is that you cannot order people to kill Germans for six years, then suddenly tell them it is illegal.”

Last month, I had an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, about the 1947 Nobel Peace Prize. It was given to two Quaker relief organizations: the Friends Service Council in London and the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia. (The op-ed arose from my new history of the peace prize.)

I received several interesting notes on this subject, from Philadelphia-area Quakers, and would like to excerpt two here. The first comes from a gentleman in Swarthmore:

The tension between us pacifists and those who are moved to take up arms in support of what they see to be a great good or against what they see to be a great evil is never-ending. (I believe a distant, direct ancestor of mine may have been “read out of” his New Jersey Friends Meeting when he joined the Continental Army in 1775.) To us, it seems that every war, and the manner of its ending, has within it the seeds of the next war.

And the second letter, from a lady in Medford, N.J.:

I was in Oslo in 1947. I was attending the Oslo College of Industrial Design. I was fortunate to be invited to the Nobel ceremony. Henry Cadbury [leader of the committee in Philadelphia] saw my mother before he left for Oslo, and carried a gift for me.

My uncle, a Lutheran pastor in Norway, was curious about who the Quakers were, and when the AFSC was awarded the prize, his estimation went way up!

Henry was invited to stay with Norwegian Quakers, instead of a cold hotel. At one of the receptions held in this home, Henry was very glad to see me and speak English. In the living room was a larger-than-life painting, by a famous painter, of a man with outstretched arms and fully naked. I recall Henry staring at the painting — don’t know what he was thinking!?

Anyway, it was a very impressive ceremony, what with the King and the Royal Family.

A quick word about Ozzie Guillén’s words about Fidel Castro. Guillén is the manager of the Miami Marlins baseball team. He said, “I love Fidel Castro . . . I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [so-and-so] is still there.”

True. And, you know? Castro has wanted to kill a lot of people too — mainly Cuban democrats and human-rights activists, some of the best and bravest people we have ever known. Curiously, they are not “still there.”

As a rule, when Castro wants you killed — you get killed.