- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Betrayer betrayed

“To celebrate the Soviet victory in World War II is also to celebrate its victor, Josef Stalin. But 60 years after the fact, questions remain about Stalin’s role in that victory. … Why did he seem to still trust Adolf Hitler in June 1941, when his spies were informing him of imminent invasion? …

“Stalin was planning a pre-emptive strike against Germany, but thought he had at least a year’s time because he could not bring himself to believe that Hitler would attack the Soviet Union before Britain had fallen. ‘Hitler and his generals are not so foolish as to start a two-front war,’ he said. ‘The Germans broke their neck on this in World War I. Hitler would never risk such a thing.’

“Stalin’s reasoning was intelligent, rooted in history and completely wrong. Perhaps he did not realize the extent of Hitler’s madness, or perhaps his need for time blinded him to contrary evidence. How could Hitler betray him before he had the chance to betray Hitler?”

—Richard Lourie, writing on “Wishing the War Away,” Friday in the Moscow Times

Stage left

“I’ve seen, read and heard about enough contemporary American and British plays to know that the political point of view of most of their authors is well to the left of center. … Of the 200-odd new plays I’ve seen in my two years as a working critic, not one could be described as embodying a specifically right-wing political perspective, nor do I know any New York-based playwrights or actors who are openly conservative. …

“All art, political or not, must make everything more beautiful in order to fulfill its most essential function, that of seizing and holding the viewer’s attention. Any political artist who aspires to be more than a cheerleader for the converted must first learn this lesson, and learn it well. A boring work of art cannot convince anyone of anything, not even that we should believe what it tells us about the world in which we live. And nothing is more boring — or less believable — than a story with only one side.”

—Terry Teachout is a drama critic, writing on “When Theater Becomes Propaganda” in the spring issue of In Character

Laws for dummies

“We are again in the midst of Click It or Ticket season, the time of year when law enforcement focuses extra-hard on forcing us to buckle up. …

“Most of us have seen enough dummy smashing to be convinced that seat belts save lives. But what about seat belt laws? Do they save lives? …

“Click It supporters say tougher seat belt laws will help make highways even safer, but the nationwide trend toward safer streets has continued with or without them. Take New Hampshire, the only state without an adult seat belt law. … Drivers there actually enjoy the nation’s fourth-safest roads. …

“[T]he central folly of seat belt laws [is that they] don’t protect safe drivers from dangerous drivers; they protect careless people from themselves. Beltlessness does not cause accidents and … one driver’s decision to go beltless does not make anyone else less safe. Most importantly, running down seatbelt scofflaws keeps officers away from more important public safety duties.”

—Ted Balaker, writing on “Buckle Boondoggle,” Friday in Reason Online at www.reason.com

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