Thursday, September 20, 2018

Meditations on Karl Popper

Meditations on Karl Popper
Michael A. Cramer, Ph.D.
September 20, 2017.

In a typical FaceBook fight with Robert Esteves, in which we were discussing whether or not it was appropriate to for the New Yorker magazine, to disinvite Steve Bannon from it’s ideas conference this fall, we naturally got into a discussion of Popper’s Paradox of Tollerence. This led me to go back and read Popper in detail. I’d read excerpts, but mostly those centering around the paradox itself. What I discovered shocked me, so I decided I’d have to write it up. Below is a discussion of Popper’s work. All references are to the following edition:

Popper, K. The open society and its enemies, Volume 1: The spell of Plato. London. Geroge Routledge & Sons, 1945. Reprinted 1947.  

The principle is introduced in note 6 to chapter 5, in a discussion of the principles of humanitarian and equalitarian rule in which Popper declares the first principle to be, “Tolerance towards all who are not intolerant and who do not propagate intolerance.” (205) This clearly implies that we should not tolerate the intolerant. The full description of the paradox comes in a discussion of three paradoxes, the other two being the paradox of freedom (too much freedom can lead to the loss of freedom) and the paradox of democracy (the demos could elect a tyrant). The full description of the paradox of tolerance reads as follows:

Less well known is the paradox of tolerance : Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies ; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right even to suppress them, for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument ; they may forbid their followers to listen to anything as deceptive as rational argument, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, exactly as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping ; or as we should consider incitement to the revival of the slave trade. (226)

“The movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law” is the clearest statement of the principle in this note. If incitements to intolerance and persecutions are criminal, then in Popper’s formulation the very existence of New-Nazi groups, or the KKK, should be illegal, and they should have no public forum. This is the bases for laws in Europe banning NAZI symbols and hate speech, which go far beyond those we have in the U.S. Popper died in 1994, so he had time to comment on the ACLU’s arguments in Skokie. I wonder what he would say. (an internet search is useless since, by some odd coincidence, Popper’s American publisher is headquartered in Skokie).
The paragraph to which the note refers is this one:
Apart from these empirical arguments against the general theory of sovereignty, there is also a kind of logical argument which can be used to show the inconsistency of any of the particular forms of the theory of sovereignty ; more precisely, the logical argument can be given different but analogous forms to combat the theory that the wisest should rule, or else the theories that the ruler should be the best, or the law, or the majority, etc. One particular form of this logical argument that is directed against a too naive version of liberalism, of democracy, and of the principle that the majority should rule, is somewhat similar to the well-known ' paradox of freedom '. It has been used first, and with success, by Plato. In his criticism of democracy, and in his story of the rise of the tyrant, Plato raises implicitly the following question : What if it is the will of the people that they should not rule, but a tyrant instead ? The free man, Plato suggests, may exercise his absolute freedom, first by defying the laws and ultimately by defying freedom itself, and by clamouring for a tyrant 4 . This is not just a far-fetched possibility ; it has happened a number of times ; and every time it happens, it puts those democrats who adopt the principle of majority rule or a similar form of the principle of sovereignty as the ultimate basis of their political creed in a hopeless intellectual position. On the one hand, their principle induces them to oppose any but the majority rule, and therefore the new tyranny ; on the other hand, the same principle induces them to accept any decision of the majority, and thus the rule of the new tyrant. The inconsistency of their theory must, of course, paralyse their actions.5 We democrats who demand the institutional control of the rulers by the public, including the right of dismissing the government by majority vote, must therefore base these demands upon better grounds than a self-contradictory theory of sovereignty. (And, indeed, it is not difficult to formulate a consistent theory of democratic control.)” (108-9) (note 5 simply states that further remarks are to be found in Chapter 19).

This is a fascinating statement, since it brings us full circle to President Trump. He has made no attempt to hide is authoritarian tendencies and desires—his love of strong leaders, his attacks on a free press and the judiciary, his suggestion that the rule of law is inconvenient, his suggestion that maybe one day the US will have a president for life—the list is well known and seemingly endless. He is a textbook tyrant and, like others, he was elected by the people in the paradox Plato identified and Popper discusses here. He notes that Plato was responding to a real crisis—the rise of an open society and the anxiety that created. He notes that superstition and fear, time and again, will lead people to seek out an irrational, closed society because it feels safer, they will long to return to an idealized time of greatness. This was Plato’s goal with the republic. However, as Popper points out, Plato’s fear of tyranny (whether of the masses or the dictator) leads him to another form of tyranny. Popper’s solution is not to flee from the open society but to embrace it. Knowing full well that all forms of sovereignty are fallible, Popper throws in with Democracy as by far the best.

The lesson which we thus should learn from Plato is the exact opposite of what he tries to teach us. It is a lesson which must not be forgotten. Excellent as Plato's sociological diagnosis was, his own development of it proves that the therapy he recommended is worse than the evil he tried to combat. Arresting political change is not the remedy ; it cannot bring happiness. We can never return to the alleged innocence and beauty of the closed society. (176)

But there is another way that Delving into Popper has revealed something about the Trump administration. I had known from reading excerpts of Popper that Volume I of The open society and its enemies was primarily a refutation of Plato’s Republic, which Popper considers to be the first major text advocating totalitarianism. Popper’s work is well known to be an attack on both left-wing totalitarianism (Socialism) and right-wing totalitarianism (Fascism). (if you, erroneously, consider them to be the same thing it doesn’t matter in this case—Popper’s work repudiates totalitarianism, not just its various forms). However, what I never realized until reading further, was that it is also a full-throated repudiation of Thucydides. He sees Thucydides and Plato as having worked in concert to undermine Athenian democracy. Popper writes:
Much evidence of this development can be found in Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, or rather, of the two great wars of 431-421 and 419-403 B.C., between Athenian democracy and the arrested oligarchic tribalism of Sparta. When reading Thucydides we must never forget that his heart was not with Athens, his native city. Although he apparently did not belong to the extreme wing of the Athenian oligarchic clubs who conspired throughout the war with the enemy, he was certainly a member of the oligarchic party, and a friend neither of the Athenian people, the demos, who had exiled him, nor of its imperialist policy. (155)

Like Plato, Thucydides saw democracy as the thing that had led to Athens’ defeat in the Peloponnesian War. The history of the Peloponnesian war and the fall of Athens.” He writes “is still often told, under the influence of Thucydides' authority, in such a way that the defeat of Athens appears as the ultimate proof of the dangerous weaknesses of the democratic system.” (168). This is of course, a travesty in Popper’s eyes. He believes that, by clinging to Plato’s Republic and Thucydides' history, modern thinkers and philosophers, whether inadvertently or intentionally, re-inscribe the what Popper calls the “closed society”—tribal, tyrannical, oligarchic, totalitarian, whether ruled by a Plutocracy, a Dictator, or the educated elite.
This chapter of Popper’s book jolted me, because it reminded me of an article I’d read in Politico in 2017, titled “Why the White House is reading Greek history: The Trump team is obsessing over Thucydides, author of a seminal tract on war.”  (available from ) In it the author, Michael Crowley, writes about how several people within the Trump administration, particularly Matis and (at the time) Bannon and McMasters, were keen students of Thucydides, and looked at the U.S. relationship with China through the prism of the Peloponnesian war.
Thucydides is especially beloved by the two most influential figures on Trump’s foreign policy team. National security adviser H.R. McMaster has called Thucydides’ work an “essential” military text, taught it to students and quoted from it in speeches and op-eds. Defense Secretary James Mattis is also fluent in Thucydides’ work: “If you say to him, ‘OK, how about the Melian Dialogue?’ he could tell you exactly what it is,” Allison says—referring to one particularly famous passage. When former Defense Secretary William Cohen introduced him at his confirmation hearing, Cohen said Mattis was likely the only person present “who can hear the words ‘Thucydides Trap’ and not have to go to Wikipedia to find out what it means.”

The article goes on to note
…another Peloponnesian War aficionado can be found in the office of chief strategist Steve Bannon. A history buff fascinated with grand conflict, Bannon once even used “Sparta”—one of the most militarized societies history has known—as a computer password. (“He talked a lot about Sparta,” his former Hollywood writing partner, Julia Jones, told The Daily Beast. An unnamed former colleague recalled for the New Yorker Bannon’s “long diatribes” about the Peloponnesian War.)

This I found to be incredible. The article made clear that the architects of Trump’s foreign policy themselves embraced the very logic that Popper so eloquently disputes. The Politico article makes clear that, not only Bannon, but the Trump team in general embrace the closed society of Sparta over the open society of Athens. They buy into the myth Popper identifies—that efete, humanistic, democratic Athens was no match for the authoritarian, austere and war-like Sparta; that the open society should be abandoned for the closed one. We’ve seen it in Bannon’s writings, and heard it in Trump’s speeches, and we’ve heard it’s rebuttal among democrat’s and foreign leaders, but I did not expect to find it distilled to its essence in discussions of a 2,500 year old war between Athens and Sparta. It turns out that, in addition to being an argument in favor of an open society, Popper’s book is also an explicit condemnation of Trumpism.

Monday, June 19, 2017


In 1992, Pat Buchanan declared war on me and mine. I watched the convention, saw his speech, and I laughed. There was no culture war. Living in the Bay Area at the time, working to get single payer on the ballot, marching in pro LGBTQ rallies, I did not see what we were doing as a war. We wanted equality, not dominion. We wanted a seat at the table, money for AIDS research, healthcare, clean water and air. We honestly did not care how Christians lived their lives so long as they did not tell us how to live ours, nor try to silence us. But Pat Buchanan declared this a culture war for the very soul of America. It didn't start with him: really, it started with Reagan's first run as governor, but it was Buchanan who turned it into the culture wars. 

This may not be true, it is certainly not the whole story. I had to listen to Limbaugh back in the 80s, when he was the local drive time host in my home town--and he had replaced Morton Downey Jr.. in 1981 a group of Christians came and tried to shut down the gaming club at my high school because we played D&D. So you get an idea of what Sacramento was like back then. But Buchanan's speech is the moment for me when everything turned, because from that moment forward I have felt under constant attack from the right. I have been vilified and pilloried--not usually me specifically, except on Facebook--as a liberal, an urbanite, an actor, a college professor, a Californian, a New Yorker, etc. Because I come from and love a very conservative family, I try very hard to keep my rhetoric under control when I get angry at what I feel are wave after wave of attacks on me, my values, my world. 

And I know a lot of conservatives that feel exactly as I do. 

A friend on Facebook, a mostly conservative friend, posted an article from the Wall Street Journal in which Peggy Noonan states that the rhetoric around President Trump must be toned down, and she ascribes it to liberals who have been "broken" by the president.

I can get behind a lot of Noonan's sentiment but not her words. She says Donald Trump "broke" us. Yes, it's true. He did. From our perspective, he showed us that America is evil. It is bent on, not only our destruction, but the destruction of everything that is good in the world. We could believe Reagan and even Bush 45, but not Trump. How anyone could support that monster? Trump is more than a ranting missogynistic bully. I avoided referring to Trump as a fascist for many months--until he was in office and started governing as a fascist. I criticized people for calling him a fascist because it was too like the ignorant idiots who called Obama a socialist when he was nothing of the sort. But Trump was always something of the sort. He ran a classic fascist campaign--scapegoating foreigners, bullying opposition, promoting belligerent nationalism, wedding the governmental to the corporate, vulgar, populist, encouraging violence at his rallies, mocking the disabled, attacking the press, attacking the courts, promoting authoritarianism, saying only he could fix our problems, demanding worship and loyalty, demeaning the weak, and trying to lead by fiat--and millions of our fellow Americans voted for him. They are so angry, and angry at us, that they relish our misery and pray for our deaths. Search the Internet and you will find people gleefully anticipating the time when all the gun owning real Americans start gunning down us liberal pussies. Trump egged those people on. He is their champion. And he's proven to be everything progressives feared. It's not really Trump that has driven us crazy: it's that he won dispite losing by 2 million votes, and that apparently 40% of people still approve of this vulgar fascist monster. 

And Noonan wants people to stop saying that. Most of this article lays the blame, in a back handed passive aggressive way, on well meaning journalists and entertainers who have lost their minds and their dignity because they've been broken by Trump. She dismissively says that it's not enough to say Trump did it first. But it wasn't Trump. It's been going on for, well, forever. Noonan wants us all to calm down and turn down the rhetoric, and we probably should: but I can't help seeing her plea as yet another hollow protestation. She wants us to treat Mr. Trump as normal. But he's not, and any attempt to normalize this president is not only dangerous but a victory for the fascists. We haven't had a president like him ever. The closest is Jackson--Trump's apparent favorite--who trashed the White House, ignored the Supreme Court, and committed genocide. We can't treat Trump as normal. Any attempt to silence the protest against Mr. Trump is just an attempt to apologize for fascism. 

Clearly a lot of people were broken by the election of a liberal (although barely) black urbanite as President.  Where was Peggy when Obama was lynched in effigy? Or when Ted Nugent said he want Obama and Hilary to suck on the barrel of his AR-15? Hell, where was she when Limbaugh called Hilary a femenazi back in the 90s? 

Methinks the lady doth protest too much. 

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Evil and Art

The resurfaced Woody Allen accusations (terrible if true yet never proven) and the debate over the Golden globes, got me to thinking about Michael Jackson, Picasso, Marlowe, and evil in art. To the artist and to the  connoisseur, art transcends everything else. The actions of an artist outside of his or her art don't matter. In fact, because all great artists are also mad, they are expected to be a little bit or even a great bit evil. Woody Allen may be the greatest artist ever in my chosen field of art. I have loved him and his work for my whole life. Although aware of the fact that he is quite probably an evil bastard, if he keeps making movies like "Midnight in Paris" and "Blue Jasmine," well, ... I don't know. Joyce Haven once said "I don't know much about art, but I do know this: God lives in museums." I find God in the films of great directors, including Woody Allen. And I don't want him to stop. And I want to say from time to time he is great and deserves to be recognized as such. But it is perfectly reasonable for some people to think he should be dragged into the street and beaten within an inch of his life. Or the very least, spend the rest of his life in jail if what is said about him is true. Falstaff deserved what he got in the end. He deserved more. He was wicked through and through. And that is also Shakespeare's greatest tragedy, because like Hal, we loved him. Although not an artist, except perhaps in mirth, Falstaff is the same as Woody Allen and Phil Spector: how can I not love them for what they gave the world? And truly what else about them matters? I am well aware that most people (sane people?) Will be reviled by what I am saying. It also puts an interesting spin on the first commandment.

With all this confusion in mind, I leave you with this:

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Der Wienerschnitzel....

So here is the thing. There are a bunch of people running for Mayor of New York City. I can't name them all. But I can name a few of them and I have a few things to say.

Anthony Wiener took pictures of his junk and sent it to girls over the internet. Sexting is not a crime. My mom says that she wouldn't support Wiener because he does not have the good moral character that she expects of an elected official. Like that's a requirement? On the other hand, when he was in congress, Wiener was a hero to a lot of middle class New Yorkers. His speeches on the floor of congress defending health care reform and fighting for tax reform that favors workers over the rich marked him as a champion. Then he had the good sense to marry a Muslim who happened to be Hillary Clinton's top aid. You want to know why Wiener was doing well? It's not just his name, it's the fact the he is the true populist in the race.

Christine Quinn is just a clone of Bloomberg. There is nothing to separate her from the current mayor, which is the best reason I can think of not to vote for someone.

The only candidate I have met is Bill DeBlasio. Bill DeBlasio screwed us over--by us I mean residents of 81 Ocean Parkway. He promised to fight with us to get concessions from a developer who was building a condo next door to us. Then he turned around and helped the developer get everything he wanted. He earns points for marrying a radical black separatist lesbian, but he also wants to ban carriage horses from Central Park. That alone is enough reason not to vote for anybody. But he has screwed me personally.

The other guys? I don't really care. I like Wiener (and you can make all the jokes you like). :)

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Monday, March 25, 2013

I guess they listened

Apparently the outcry over removal of the Pied Piper was so great that the Palace reconsidered.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

You have to pay the piper....

Today my friend Shannon McSmith sent me a link that told me that my San Francisco is dying.

For years drinking in the United States--for the serious drinker, the sophisticated drinker, the drinker who knows that drinking is not only good booze and good company but a good setting, a dark and smoky room where the walls are oak, the ties are silk, and the fate of the world is being decided in a corner by two bankers and an oil magnate--has been bracketed by two bars, one in New York City and one in San Francisco (the only two cities in America that have ever really mattered). They are the kinds of places where the Kennedys would go to drink with Sinatra, or where corporate execs would wine and dine presidents, or where lonely artists would go once in a while to soak up the atmosphere of what life among the top dogs during the Mad Men days. 

While shouts should go out tot he Oak Room and the 21 Club in New York City (I have dined in the cellar dining room at the 21 Club, where they have private stock with presidents' names on the bottles), and to the Top of the Mark in San Francisco, the real bars that matter most, the most beautiful drinking establishments in the world, are King Cole's at the St. Regis in New York City and Maxfield's Pied Piper at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, and it's because of Maxfield Parrish. On opposite ends of Interstate 80, these two bars allowed you to drink in the presence of true artistic greatness, a sublime experience which can be duplicated few places on earth. 

In 1906 John Jacob Astor IV commissioned Parrish to paint the Old King Cole mural for the bar at the Knickerbocker Hotel (with Astor himself portrayed as the old King). It was moved to the St. Regis in the 30s. In 1909 Parrish painted The Pied Piper of Hamlin for the Palace in San Francisco.  I now live in New York, but when I lived in San Francisco, Maxfield's was one of my treasured spots. I didn't go there often--I couldn't afford even a beer in that place most days--but on special days I would, just to sit at the bar and drink a good whiskey and stare up at the mural. If you've never seen a Parish mural up close, they are amazing sights. Parish is one of my favorite American illustrators. His work has a magical, dream like quality to it. It is extremely romantic. Ecstasy and Daybreak may be the two most beautiful paintings of the 20th Century. But the Pied Piper has always been my favorite Parrish. It is huge. The colors are almost three dimensional. The way his checkered cape flows through the painting it almost jumps out at you. The first time I saw it in person, my jaw dropped to the floor. 

Today Shannon, who was my girlfriend during some of those years and loved San Francisco and Maxfield's as much as I did, sent me this link. The Palace has removed the mural and is selling it at at Christie's American Art sale in May.  It will probably be on view for five days in May, so I will make an effort to go see it then. It might be the last time I get to. 

It raises the old question about ownership and art. Some people are naturally upset about a cultural treasure being removed from San Francisco. Other's lament the passing of an era when great art graced the walls of hotel bars. Most people really could not care less. To whom does such a treasure belong? The hotel that legally owns it or the community that cherishes it? The answer, of course, is the hotel, but some people think that in itself is wrong, that art should not be privately owned, that it belongs to the people. 

The value of the Parrish is estimated at about 4 million dollars (I think that is low, and that it will fetch a much higher price at auction). When the St. Regis had Old King Cole restored in 2007 it cost them $100,000. Insurance on a $4,000,000 painting has got to be huge. Can we blame the owners of a business for deciding that putting $4,000,000 in their pocket is better than the ongoing costs of owning, in a public place, an icon of 20th Century art? No, I can't. It upsets me that it is going away--I'm furious--but I can't really complain. It's a business decision. I worry about who will buy the painting. The obvious hope is for the DeYoung museum, so that it would remain in San Francisco. It won't be another bar. Bars don't invest in that kind of art anymore. It could be a bar in Vegas, I suppose. I could totally see Steve Wynn or Sheldon Adelson buying it and putting it up in a casino in Vegas. Of course the fear is that it would be bought by one of them and end up in a casino in Macao. But the biggest fear is that it ends up in some private collection somewhere, and we never see it again. That would make me terribly sad. 

Regardless, my San Francisco, which was the San Francisco not only of the Jefferson Airplane and the Greatful Dead, but of Dashiel Hammet and Armistaud Maupin, of the Hearsts, the Spreckles, and Joe DiMagio as well, is losing one more piece of itself. Both Oscar Wilde and Tony Kushner compared San Francisco to heaven. Heaven is losing one of its most beautiful sights. 

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Vulgarity and Popularity at the Oscars

With Seth MacFarlane hosting it was not hard to get my students to watch the Oscars this past weekend. They are all Family Guy fans, or seem to be, and find his brand of humor hilarious. For the record, so do I. They were pretty much unanimous: the Oscars were fun this year because he was great.

The critics, meanwhile, went apoplectic. He was offensive, vulgar, sexist anti-semetic, and downright mean, and he did not belong anywhere near such a serious and dignified event as the Oscars.

Therein lies the problem. Because while all of these things might be true, the Oscars drew a 42 rating on Sunday, and was up huge in the 18-49 demo--those people who have been deserting the Oscars in droves recently. That it was down almost ten percent among people over 50 is irrelevant as far as advertisers are concerned, and it is advertisers who run this show. If the Oscars want to appeal to a younger demographic they need to do two things: nominate films, and then hire hosts, that appeal to that age group. With MacFarlane they certainly did the latter, and a strong year for movies with good box didn't hurt: but the critics still complained that he was vulgar.

They have a point, of course. MacFarlane sang a song about actresses showing off their boobs, and another one called "here's to the losers." He quipped that for Rihana and Chris Brown, the ultra-violent "Django Unchained" was a date movie; suggested that it would be 16 years before 9 year old  Quevenzhané Wallis would be "too old for Clooney"; and when discussing Daniel Day Lewis said "the only actor who ever really got inside of Lincoln's head was John Wilkes Booth." When the joke fell flat he responded "What, 150 years and it's still too soon?" That is the essence of MacFarlane's humor. It is gutsy, referential, in your face non-sequitors that throw people off. Nothing is sacred in his world, and the Academy knew that when they hired him. MacFarlane knew it too. In one of the best bits of meta-theatrical reflexivity I've seen in a long time, MacFarlane opened the show with a skit in which Captain Kirk comes back from the future to stop MacFarlane from ruining the Oscars, showing his headlines that say things like "Seth MacFarlane Worst Oscar Host Ever." It was brilliant. MacFarlane got out in front of his critics by acknowledging what they were going to say ahead of time and letting them know that it was not a mistake and he didn't care. It was a bit worthy of Andy Kaufman (can you imagine Those Oscars?). MacFarlane was everything his critics accused him of being. 

But what do we want in an Oscar telecast. Do we want something dignified that nobody under 50 will watch? Do we want more of Billy Crystal in black face? Yes, the James Franco experiment was a terrible disaster, but MacFarlane was a success. As a great (and vulgar) Oscar-winning mind once said, it doesn't matter because "I've got a big, fat, big-titted hit!" 

Do we care? Perhaps it is just another example of the long and steady decline of civilization that started somewhere around the summer of love, if the malcontents are to be believed. Maybe young men between 18 and 49 are just neanderthals who like beer and girls gone wild and tasteless jokes about dead presidents, and do we care if they watch the Oscars (I know many would just as soon see the Oscars ended all together). Who cares in the end if the Oscars become modernized?

In fact this broadcast was one of the most traditional Oscar broadcasts in years. With the musical comedy team from Storyline Entertainment, Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, running the show, this telecast was a call back the days when musicals ruled the film world. The theme of the broadcast was "the music of the movies," and it showed in many ways. In addition to the "boob" song, the opening included a huge song and dance number that saw Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron doing a ballroom number (Tatum even donned spats for his dance) to "The Way You Look Tonight," Daniel Radcliffe, MacFarlane, and Joseph Gordon Levitt doing a soft shoe to "High Hopes," and a big chorus finale to a filked version of "Be Our Guest." They concentrated on music in the "In Memorium" section, finishing with Babs singing "The Way We Were" in tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, and the Bond Tribute ended with what was probably the best Oscar moment ever, Dame Shirley Bassey singing "Goldfinger." (yes, the numbers from Chicago and Dream Girls were way too much). This was not Leterman turning the broadcast into a three hour edition of Late Night. Bob Hope could have done most of this stuff (although MacFarlane is a better dancer). In the end, I usually find my students are right about these things, and if they liked MacFarlane that means it was probably a good thing. 

I did like the whole Music of the Movies theme, but I'm really looking forward to the Chase Scene Oscars...