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Archive for November, 2011

You Know You’re Near the Top of the List, Right?

[ 37 ] November 2, 2011 |

Tom Friedman has a column about the folly of open-ended military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.  At least its bottom line, it must be noted, is correct.   Omitted: and recognition of the columnist’s inability to grasp these facts when it actually mattered.


More Bobo

[ 39 ] November 1, 2011 |

I should probably outsource the Bobo blogging to Pierce on an ongoing basis.

…whoops, looks like he needs a few more trips to the Appelbee’s salad bar.

Bomb Beijing! Er… Tehran!

[ 35 ] November 1, 2011 |

Hey now, it’s not as if knowing whether China has nuclear weapons is at all relevant to the practice of American foreign policy:

I do view China as a potential military threat to the United States… we already have superiority in terms of our military capability, and I plan to get away from making cutting our defense a priority and make investing in our military capability a priority, going back to my statement: peace through strength and clarity. So yes they’re a military threat. They’ve indicated that they’re trying to develop nuclear capability and they want to develop more aircraft carriers like we have. So yes, we have to consider them a military threat.

In the interest of balance and of due fairness to Herman Cain, the argument against the Chinese nuclear program is startlingly similar to the case against the Iranian, although I don’t believe that Iran is buidling aircraft carriers…

On a related note, the thought that Avigdor Lieberman was the only remaining obstacle to an Israeli-Iranian war is… alarming.  At times like this, I take some solace in the fact that the world exploding is Good for Rob. If the long nightmare of peace and prosperity that prevailed under Bill Clinton still held, I might not even have job…

Teaching the American Revolution

[ 161 ] November 1, 2011 |

Historiann has a good post on the problems with teaching the American Revolution: the extreme nationalism of the students on the subject

It’s not just that it’s difficult to teach the quintessentially nationalistic course in American history in an era in which a great deal of the historiography is transnational or at least comparative, although that is a challenge for me considering the way I teach the rest of my courses. It’s really the overwhelmingly nationalistic, solipsistic, chest-beating, flag-waving, screaching bald eagle totality of the historiography. In the United States at least, there is no more nationalistic course, and no course that is taught in such a one-sided, pro-American manner. And the students love it! They demand it, in fact, and they revel in the opportunity to indulge in nationalist agitprop in their essays.

I don’t teach this course except for coverage in the survey. And I have certainly found Historiann’s observations to be the case. I really push a 2-sided tale here, one of a modernizing state demanding tax revenues from colonies who keep costing the British money because they like killing Indians and starting wars, of differing views of what representation means, of how the colonies have become transformed societies not quite like the English, etc. But the students don’t want to hear it–they want to know that America overthrew those British tyrants without any complexity involved.

Moreover, I find that this narrative remains surprisingly resistant to revision, even among liberals. The Revolution seems to be the one place where a consensus narrative of American history still stands. We can call Lincoln a racist and can question whether he really wanted to free the slaves, we can reinterpret the American story into one of genocide against Native Americans, we can talk about Americans abroad as a plundering power, but the Founding Fathers (with all the patriarchy that implies) remain untouchable.

I am reminded of this post I wrote in 2007 wondering if the American Revolution was bad for America. Rereading it, I’ll admit it’s a bit overargued at times, but I stand by most of the points, at least as interesting counterfactual talking points. What amused me was that progressives found it as outrageous as conservatives. Plus, one conservative site was pretty awesome about it, noting that not only were liberals fantastizing about losing the current war, but were now fantasizing about losing past wars. Outstanding.

I am very curious about the tenacity of this narrative, which perhaps means most in today’s obsession with legal originalism. Why do we still buy into traditional stories of the American Revolution?

Tim Tebow, Circumciser

[ 52 ] November 1, 2011 |

Dave Zirin’s piece on Tebow’s disastrous performance and his aggressive evangelicalism links to this very disturbing 2008 news story of Tim Tebow going to the Philippines to circumcise young boys

On the recent weeklong trip to the orphanage his father’s ministry runs in Southeast Asia, Tim assisted in the care of more than 250 Filipinos who underwent medical and dental procedures, including circumcision.

Tim’s original task was to preach to the hundreds of people waiting in line before they had their teeth pulled or cysts removed. But as the day progressed, he looked for more active ways to help the three Filipino doctors. By the end of an exhausting day, he was wearing gloves and a mask, wielding surgical scissors, and helping the doctors in the circumcision of boys, finishing off stitches with a snip.:

Um. Whoa. Wow.

I know that some are saying people are going overboard with the Tebow hatred. But he makes it so easy. And really, what are the chances we are seeing the beginning of a very scary political career here? Way too high.

We Have Good News, and…

[ 28 ] November 1, 2011 |

I was joking about how the next massive Caro LBJ book would focus on his vice presidential years.   Apparently, I was prescient, although at least we will get 1964.   And part 4 will now be due next May, so could be worse.

For those of you who haven’t read Caro but are interested, the brutal truth is that the two behemoths (The Power Broker and Master of the Senate) are by far the best.  The second LBJ book — in which Caro seemed particularly committed to seeing LBJ as Moses when substantively they were near-opposites — is pretty bad, and the first is decent but inessential.

…co-bloggers and commenters are making the case that I’m badly underrating The Path to Power, which is absolutely possible; it’s been more than a decade.   I definitely stand by my take on Means of Ascent, though.

Pawlenty’s Premature Exit

[ 72 ] November 1, 2011 |

I think this is correct. In a field that has no logical winner, it seems pretty obvious that the closest thing to an orthodox conservative capable of speaking in complete sentences should have stayed in.  (Both McCain and Kerry, after all, didn’t look like they had much of a chance at various points either.)   In particular, I agree that (unlike with Huckabee, who Republican money hated) an Iowa win would probably have solved Pawlenty’s fundraising issues, and I think had he stayed in he’d be the frontrunner there.    He was a pretty weak candidate, but anybody who could emerge as the alternative to Romney had a shot and with Perry’s implosion he would have been last man standing.   As it turned out, things broke perfectly for him; Perry killed Bachmann’s candidacy while being too inept to displace Mittens.    He just needed to wait.

…to echo what I’ve said in comments, it’s crucial to remember just how bad the rest of the field is. The nomination is a zero-sum game, and the fact that the base refuses to settle for Romney even if that means temporary embraces of vanity candidates means that the opportunity is there.  Pawlenty didn’t have to be good; he needed to be better than Rick Perry.

Also, Popeye’s Is A Million Times Better

[ 82 ] November 1, 2011 |

Chick-Fil-A: worth boycotting for reasons other than the quality of the food.   It’s always nice when expedience and principle can coexist easily…

And Don’t Kid Yourself, Financial Stability Has Nothing to Do With Health or Marital Stability

[ 11 ] November 1, 2011 |

Shorter Bobo: “‘Stagnant social mobility’ and the concentration of wealth within a self-perpetuating plutocracy are completely separate problems.  And people without college degrees would magically become more prosperous if they had sex in ways I considered appropriate.”

…poor Bobo has his argument assessed by people who know what they’re talking about.

Hanford’s Impending Crisis

[ 9 ] November 1, 2011 |

Joshua Frank has a superb story at Alternet (I think it originally appeared in the Seattle Weekly) on the incompetent and dangerous nuclear clean-up procedures at Hanford, in southeastern Washington. In many ways, it’s a story that we’ve heard before in recent years: the government contracts to a major corporation (Bechtel) to conduct major operations, but slashed federal budgets mean a weak regulatory process that allows the corporation to do whatever it wants. In the case of Bechtel and Hanford, this means cutting corners, seeking profit over the long-term safety of nuclear waste, management overrriding employees safety concerns, dismissing inconvenient science that would imperil profits, etc.

While this depressing story is part and parcel of early 21st century America, it’s all the more important here because of the potential for radiation poisoning if this stuff is not dealt with properly.

This is also a object lesson in why outsourcing government operations isn’t a good idea. I worked at Los Alamos for several years, doing historic preservation. But I knew people in various parts of the laboratory structure and the story was more or less the same–you’d have various corporations each seeking a piece of the lucrative environmental monitoring/cleanup/project pie. The incentive for everyone–the companies, employees, laboratory management–was to cut costs wherever possible and that often meant skirting the edge of the law.

Shorter Financial World: “Democracy is Unacceptable”

[ 131 ] November 1, 2011 |

It’s not like this should surprise anyone at this point.

Rich Bay Area New Agers

[ 33 ] November 1, 2011 |

Doing their best to bring smallpox back.

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