“The Crown” Unfairly Portrays “Thatcher-Era Britain as a Right-Wing Dystopia”

(p. A12) Through four vivid seasons of “The Crown,” Mr. Morgan has never denied taking artistic license with the saga of the royals, playing out their private joys and sorrows against the pageant of 20th-century British history.

Yet “The Crown” is now colliding with the people who wrote the first draft of that history.

That has spun up a tempest in the British news media, even among those who ordinarily profess not to care much about the monarchy. Newspapers and television programs have been full of starchy commentary about how “The Crown” distorts history in its account of the turbulent decade in which Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer and Mrs. Thatcher wrought a free-market revolution in British society.

The objections range from the personal (the queen’s brittle, coldhearted treatment of her emotionally fragile daughter-in-law, which the critics claim is unfair) to the political (the show’s portrait of Thatcher-era Britain as a right-wing dystopia, in the grip of a zealous leader who dares to lecture her sovereign during their weekly audiences). Historians say that is utterly inconceivable.

“There has been such a reaction because Peter Morgan is now writing about events many of us lived through and some of us were at the center of,” said Mr. Neil, who edited The Sunday Times from 1983 to 1994.

Mr. Neil, who went on to be a broadcaster and publisher, is no reflexive defender of the royal family. Suspicious of Britain’s class system, he said he had sympathies for the republican movement in the 1980s. But he grew to admire how the queen modernized the monarchy after the upheaval of those years, and has been critical of renegade royals, like Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan.

For the full story, see:

Mark Landler. “‘Nonsense’: Witnesses to the Actual Events of ‘The Crown’ Have Some Criticisms.” The New York Times (Friday, November 27, 2020): A12.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. 27, 2020, and has the title “‘The Crown’ Stokes an Uproar Over Fact vs. Entertainment.”)

Tariffs Create Incentive to Drink Higher Alcohol Wine

(p. A1) Washington put 25% tariffs on wine from France, Spain, Germany and the U.K. in October 2019 in retaliation for subsidies they made to European aircraft man-(p. A9)ufacturer Airbus SE, arguing they hurt Boeing Co. But it applied only to wine with alcohol content of 14% or less.

What followed was a textbook lesson in tariff economics. Before, America imported about $150 million a year in European wine that exceeded 14% alcohol, Commerce Department data show. In the 12 months since the tariff took effect, that rose to $434 million.

For the full story, see:

Josh Zumbrun. “America Taxed Your Favorite Bordeaux? Try One With More Alcohol.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Nov 20, 2020): A1 & A9.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date November 19, 2020, and has the title “The Tale Behind StubHub’s Sale: How Eric Baker Bought Back the Ticket Seller.”)

Federal Sugar Quotas Increase Demand for Corn Syrup, Increasing Suffering from Gout

Corn syrup is a substitute for sugar. Federal sugar import quotas increase the price of sugar. As a result, the demand for corn syrup increases. The result, as affirmed in the article quoted below, is an increase in Americans suffering from gout.

(p. 32) As the British and American historians Roy Porter and George Sebastian Rousseau write in “Gout: The Patrician Malady” (1998), the disease, cast by some as “a quasi-deity born of the union of Bacchus and Venus,” appeared to reach epidemic proportions in 18th-century England as more people attained affluence.

. . .

The disease has not been banished to the past, nor is it any longer the exclusive insignia of rich white men (if it ever really was). From the 1960s to the 1990s, the number of sufferers more than doubled in the United States, and that’s continued to rise.

. . .

According to data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), as of 2016, around 9.2 million American adults, 5.9 million men and 3.3 million women, were living with the disease, making up 3.9 percent of the adult population, and another 32.5 million (14.6 percent) exhibited hyperuricemia, elevated levels of uric acid, putting them at risk.

. . .

Some scientists point (p. 34) to the dramatic rise in rates of obesity — from 13.4 percent of adults in 1980 to 42.4 percent in 2017-18, again per the NHANES — since excess weight depresses kidney efficiency, and to the likely not unrelated introduction, in 1967, of high-fructose corn syrup, which can cause the body to produce higher levels of uric acid, and its wholesale embrace in the early 1980s by the American food industry and then the world.

. . .

(p. 35) The disease remains mysterious in its onset. Beyond genetic factors, high-fructose corn syrup poses a greater danger than a lobe of foie gras, cutting across class lines.

For the full story, see:

Ligaya Mishan. “The Disease of Kings.” The New York Times Style Magazine (Sunday, November 15, 2020): 32 & 34-35.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. 14, 2020, and has the title “Once the Disease of Gluttonous Aristocrats, Gout Is Now Tormenting the Masses.”)

Grandma Wong Waves a Union Jack as “a Symbol of the Rights Protected by the British Government”

(p. A11) HONG KONG — When protests swept Hong Kong last year, Alexandra Wong, better known as “Grandma Wong,” always seemed to be there. Day after day, she stood out among the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators as a small woman with short gray hair waving a large British flag.

Then, during a few tumultuous days in August [2020] when the police fired tear gas in a subway station and protesters shut down the city’s airport, Ms. Wong, 64, suddenly vanished.

. . .

Ms. Wong said she had been detained while crossing the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen on Aug. 14, and spent 15 days in administrative detention without being told of her crimes. Investigators grilled her about the protests, the British flag and whether she used violence, she said. They showed her photos of protesters and asked her if she knew them.

. . .

She was eventually released on a form of bail that prevented her from leaving Shenzhen.

. . .

Before she was released, she said, she was forced to say on video that she had not been abused while in custody, that she would not talk to the news media about her experience and that she would never protest again.

Last month, one full year after the initial bail period began, she was given the necessary paperwork allowing her to leave Shenzhen and return to Hong Kong.

. . .

For Ms. Wong, protesting now comes with greater risks. Waving a Union Jack — in her mind a symbol of the rights protected by the British government, not an endorsement of colonialism — has become “very dangerous,” she said. But detention has only strengthened her resolve for democracy.

Despite the pledges she made under duress, she continues to protest, and recently took the subway for an hour to the northeast corner of Hong Kong Island, where a trial is scheduled to begin for six young demonstrators charged with illegal assembly.

She walked to the courthouse carrying a handwritten sign: “Save HK Youths.”

For the full story, see:

Austin Ramzy. “After Vanishing in August, ‘Grandma Wong’ Returns to Hong Kong Protests.” The New York Times (Wednesday, November 11, 2020): A11.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. 12, 2020, and has the title “Hong Kong Protest Icon Mysteriously Vanished. Then She Returned, Unbowed.”)


Young Doctor “Taken Aback” by Deaths Under Nationalized Medicine

(p. 26) Westaby’s book will be a balm to the hearts of curmudgeons everywhere. Sidestepping the contemporary hand-wringing about the lack of empathy in medicine, Westaby, a British surgeon, positions empathy as a threat to the surgical career: “Heart surgery,” he writes, “needs to be an impersonal, technical exercise.”

. . .

The deaths that truly madden him are those that could have been prevented by available technologies not then funded by the British National Health Service (N.H.S.), his employer.

. . .

As a young doctor who imagines nationalized medicine as a way toward comprehensive care for all my patients, I was taken aback.

For the full review, see:

Rachel Pearson. “SHORTLIST; Medical Memoirs.” The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, July 2, 2017): 26.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date June 27, 2017, and has the title “SHORTLIST; Four Timely Memoirs from the Halls of Medicine.”)

The book under review is:

Westaby, Stephen. Open Heart: A Cardiac Surgeon’s Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Table. New York: Basic Books, 2017.

For 12-Year-Old, 10 Hours a Day in Mine “Really Meant Freedom for Me”

(p. A15) For Jack Lawson, “ten hours a day in the dark prison below really meant freedom for me.” At age 12, this Northern England boy began full-time work down the local mine. His life underwent a transformation; there would be “no more drudgery at home.” Jack’s wages lifted him head and shoulders above his younger siblings and separated him in fundamental ways from the world of women. He received better food, clothing and considerably more social standing and respect within the family. He had become a breadwinner.

Rooted in firsthand accounts of life in the Victorian era, Emma Griffin’s “Bread Winner” is a compelling re-evaluation of the Victorian economy. Ms. Griffin, a professor at the University of East Anglia, investigates the personal relationships and family dynamics of around 700 working-class households from the 19th century, charting the challenges people faced and the choices they made. Their lives are revealed as unique personal voyages caught within broader currents.

“I didn’t mind going out to work,” wrote a woman named Bessie Wallis. “It was just that girls were so very inferior to boys. They were the breadwinners and they came first. They could always get work in one of the mines, starting off as a pony boy then working themselves up to rope-runners and trammers for the actual coal-hewers. Girls were nobodies. They could only go into domestic service.”

Putting the domestic back into the economy, Ms. Griffin addresses a longstanding imbalance in our understanding of Victorian life. By investigating how money and resources moved around the working-class family, she makes huge strides toward answering the disconcerting question of why an increasingly affluent country continued to fail to feed its children. There was, her account makes clear, a disappointingly long lag between the development of an industrialized lifestyle in Britain and the spread of its benefits throughout the population.

For the full review, see:

Ruth Goodman. “BOOKSHELF; Livings And Wages.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, June 8, 2020): A15.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date June 7, 2020, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Bread Winner’ Review: Livings and Wages.”)

The book reviewed above, is:

Griffin, Emma. Bread Winner: An Intimate History of the Victorian Economy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020.

“Climate Change Has Been Good for Us”

(p. A1) SLINDE, Norway—Perched on a steep slope overlooking the country’s largest fiord, tidy rows of vines spread on the frosted ground underneath towering pine trees.

On the 61st parallel—the latitude of Anchorage, Alaska— Bjorn Bergum’s vineyard is set to become the world’s northernmost commercial wine estate, a testimony to how global warming is disrupting century-old landscapes, traditions and oenological preconceptions.

“There is no doubt,” Mr. Bergum says. “Climate change has been good for us.”

. . .

(p. A9) “First we take Scandinavia, then the world,” says Erik Lindås, head of Norway’s nascent winegrowers association. “It’s motivating to work when people think you can’t make it. People laughed at English wine 15 years ago but they are not laughing anymore.”

Denmark and Sweden are commercially producing wines that have won international awards, while Britain and Belgium are experiencing a viticultural renaissance. Vintners in Germany, which has a proud winemaking tradition in the south, are exploring new terroirs farther north.

. . .

The northerners have a replique to southern arguments about boreal vineyards’ lack of tradition: During the so-called Medieval Climate Optimum, a warm spell from the ninth century to the 13th, winemaking thrived as far up as northern England and the Baltics.

Professor Hans R. Schultz, who studies climate change’s effects on viticulture at Germany’s Geisenheim University, says global warming is pulling the winemaking economy northward. In Germany’s terroirs, which used to lose entire harvests to cold spells, every vintage since 1987 was better than the previous, he says.

For the full story, see:

Bojan Pancevski. “New Wines Invade From Viking Terroir.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, October 30, 2019): A1 & A9.

(Note: ellipses added; italics in original.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 29, 2019, and has the title “Chateau Viking: Climate Change Makes Northern Wine a Reality.”)

At 70, James Dyson Embarks on Audacious Electric Car Project

(p. B5) James Dyson, best known for innovative vacuum cleaners, said recently that he was preparing to introduce a new electric car and had 400 people working on the project.

. . .

But breaking into the car business is far more complex than it might appear at first glance. A new carmaker must design the vehicle and figure out how to manufacture it — and that is only the beginning. Success requires a number of to-dos: effective marketing, a dealer network and, perhaps, arranging buyer financing.

“There is a huge list,” said Peter Wells, a professor at Cardiff Business School in Wales. “That has been one of the reasons why the barriers to entry in the automotive industry have been relatively high.”

Still, Mr. Wells said that the car industry is “at a very important pivot point in its history now, where a combination of factors are radically altering what is possible.” And Mr. Dyson, 70, . . . , could be in a position to take advantage.

. . .

Mr. Dyson has proved himself a dogged inventor, designing high-end vacuum cleaners and other products like hair dryers. His technological savvy gives him a chance of scoring a hit in the much more complex and costly global car industry, analysts said. In 2015, he bought Sakti3, an American start-up that is working with solid state batteries. Mr. Dyson said he could be on track to commercializing a so-called solid state battery, which analysts say might be more powerful and safer than the lithium ion devices now used in electric cars and cellphones. He said both the start-up and his own team were working on the project. Continue reading “At 70, James Dyson Embarks on Audacious Electric Car Project”

A White Male Tired of Being “Blamed for Everything That’s Wrong in the World”

(p. A11)  You were angry when the head of BBC comedies recently said if they were doing Monty Python now it wouldn’t be “six white Oxbridge blokes.”

I wasn’t particularly angry, I just played angry. The idea is that we’re already excluded because the world has changed. I said, I’m tired of being, as a white male, blamed for everything that’s wrong in the world. So now I want you to call me Loretta. I’m a black lesbian in transition.   . . .

Could you get an irreverent film like “Life of Brian” made today?

I don’t know, but you have to try. I’m always pushing to see what we can get away with, to make people think rather than just reacting. That’s what Python was about, and we seem to be respected as the great old men of comedy. But to do what we were doing—now, yes, it would be a fight.

For the full interview, see:

Caryn James, interviewer.  “Terry Gilliam Yearns for the Old Days.”  The Wall Street Journal  (Tuesday, April 16, 2019): A11.

(Note:  ellipsis added; bold in original print version.)
(Note:  the online version of the interview has the date April 15, 2019, and has the title “Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam Wishes Comedy Hadn’t Changed.”  The bolded questions are asked by Caryn James.)

Government Fiscal Stimulus Does Not Speed Job Growth

DebtAndEmploymentGrowthGraph2019-02-17.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A17) . . . is there evidence that stimulus was behind America’s recovery–or, for that matter, the recoveries in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Britain and Ireland? And is there evidence that the absence of stimulus–a tight rein on public spending known as “fiscal austerity”–is to blame for the lack of a full recovery in Portugal, Italy, France and Spain?
A simple test occurred to me: The stimulus story suggests that, in the years after they hit bottom, the countries that adopted relatively large fiscal deficits–measured by the average increase in public debt from 2011-17 as a percentage of gross domestic product–would have a relatively speedy recovery to show for it. Did they?
As the accompanying chart shows, the evidence does not support the stimulus story. Big deficits did not speed up recoveries. In fact, the relationship is negative, suggesting fiscal profligacy led to contraction and fiscal responsibility would have been better.

For the full commentary, see:
Phelps, Edmund. “The Fantasy of Fiscal Stimulus; It turns out Keynesian policies are correlated with slower, not faster, economic growth.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018): A17.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Oct. 29, 2018.)