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Does that make Fred Thompson "our potential Grover Cleveland?"

[ 25 ] January 21, 2008 |

Kristol is trying to persuade the conservative howler monkeys in the GOP coalition to stop flinging offal at their hilariously unsatisfying presidential candidates. Dismissing the Reagan nostalgia that he helped to animate in the 1990s, Kristol suggests conservatives might be pleasantly surprised one day:

So the conservative commentariat should take a deep breath, be a bit less judgmental about these individuals–and realize that there is not likely to be a second Reagan. They could also learn from liberalism’s history. Liberalism was the most successful American political movement of the first two-thirds of the 20th century. Its three iconic presidents were Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and John Kennedy. All advanced the liberal cause while in office. None was a standard-bearer for liberalism before becoming president–though each was inclined in a more or less progressive direction. What it means to be a serious, successful, and mature political movement is to take men like these–one might say to take advantage of men like these–in order to advance one’s principles and cause.

So conservatives might think of John McCain as our potential TR, Mike Huckabee as our potential FDR, and Mitt Romney as our potential JFK.

Except that TR — who by my admittedly unfriendly accounting could never stand as an “iconic” liberal president — was nevertheless loathed by his party masters because he actually took positions contrary to theirs, which is more than we can offer on McCain’s behalf. (I will concede that McCain, unlike Roosevelt, participated in an actual war.) But Roosevelt’s variety of progressivism was pretty well asphyxiated by his own party once he left office to shoot things in Africa, and the Republicans reverted to fiscal sensibilities that would go on to serve the nation so well in the 1920s.

As for the Huckabee and Romney analogies, they are to laugh. Both FDR and JFK were swept into office at the moment their parties either enjoyed (in Kennedy’s case) or acquired (in FDR’s case) massive congressional majorities, something that a Republican presidential victory in 2008 — however unlikely that may be — isn’t going to bring along with it.

With solid historical insights like these, you’d think Kristol would have been offered a slot at the New York Times or something.

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Random Notes

[ 46 ] January 21, 2008 |
  • Great ending to the Packers/Giants game, and this is especially true since Tynes would have been as unjustified a goat as Norwood. The first miss is a very difficult kick under these circumstances, and Coughlin’s bush league behavior after the miss may have been overcompensating for a strategic blunder in not playing for 4 downs there. The last-second miss he had no chance on; that was just a busted snap. Anyway, this is yet another lesson in the silliness of dividing players between “clutch” and “non-clutch.”
  • I was also happy because of the egregious home cooking down the stretch, and not just the phantom holding call. Aikman’s discussion of the missed offside call on the KGB sack was the most impenetrable reasoning in American discourse since Bush v. Gore was issued.
  • I’m also reminded that I’ve never understood why people think that the coin toss before overtime is so unfair; the thing is, it’s a disadvantage that can be overcome by, you know, making a stop, or for that matter by winning in regulation. Certainly, the NFL system is vastly better than the ridiculous quasi-football they play in college overtimes.
  • As has been noted once or twice, Norv Turner is inept, and as everyone has pointed out punting from NE territory in the 4th quarter should be a firing offense. And then there’s Rivers. Alas, like last week I was listening on the radio while working, but according to Trumpy (and confirmed by a couple commenters) Rivers couldn’t put weight on his foot and hence couldn’t throw properly; what he was doing in the game I have no idea. A team that puts in that kind of effort against a historic offense deserves a better shot to win.
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Remember Kids, Correlation does Not Equal Causation

[ 42 ] January 21, 2008 |

It’s a simple rule of middle school math: correlation does not equal causation. So why is it that when it comes to pregnancy, reporters, doctors and researchers let this simple dictum go right out of their heads?

Exhibit A: a new study released this weekend shows that there may be a correlation between caffeine intake and miscarriage. And the NY Times springs into action, immediately posting an article that leads with the breathlessness that makes pregnant women–and other people–nuts. In the article, the study’s lead author follows up her results with recommendations that pregnant women give up caffeine completely for 3-4 months because, as she puts it, “stopping caffeine doesn’t really have any downside.” Well, she hasn’t seen me before my coffee in the morning, but that’s another story.

So, the perfect pregnancy panic continues. The March of Dimes has already changed its caffeine recommendations for pregnant women, based solely on this study, the results of which are–at best–suggestive of some sort of correlation between coffee intake and miscarriage. At worst, it’s a study with flawed methodology (women were interviewed about their caffeine intake only once and the majority after they miscarried. What’s more, even if there is an actual correlation, I can imagine myriad other causes besides caffeine that could cause miscarriage. Perhaps women who drink more coffee during pregnancy are also less well-rested, have higher stress jobs or lives, or face other factors in their daily lives that lead them to drink multiple coffees a day. Maybe they’re law students.

Thankfully, there is one voice of reason in the panic over perfect pregnancy. Dr. Carolyn Westhoff, a professor at Columbia Medical School and the director of their family planning clinic rides to the rescue:

“[Dr. Westhoff] said that most miscarriages resulted from chromosomal abnormalities, and that there was no evidence that caffeine could cause those problems.

‘Just interviewing women, over half of whom had already had their miscarriage, does not strike me as the best way to get at the real scientific question here,’ she said. ‘But it is an excellent way to scare women.’

She said that smoking, chlamydial infections and increasing maternal age were stronger risk factors for miscarriage, and ones that women could do something about.

‘Moderation in all things is still an excellent rule,’ Dr. Westhoff said. ‘I think we tend to go overboard on saying expose your body to zero anything when pregnant. The human race wouldn’t have succeeded if the early pregnancy was so vulnerable to a little bit of anything. We’re more robust than that.’

Finally, someone is cutting through the BS and reminding us all that maybe, just maybe, we’ve become a little insane about the demands we place on pregnant women — perfect pregnancies, perfect births, perfect babies.

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Championship Sunday Open Thread

[ 375 ] January 20, 2008 |

San Diego at New England: Probably one week too late, if I was in Vegas I would follow Paul Campos’s advice and take the points. It’s hard to beat a good team by two TDs in the playoffs, and that’s especially true when the underdog has a better defense in cold weather. Still, that doesn’t mean that I think there’s the slightest chance Brady/Belichick could actually lose at home to Gimpy Rivers/Volek/Turner, especially given the injuries the Bolts have.

Giants at The Frozen Tundra Etc. I’ve been wrong about the Giants twice in the playoffs, which bodes well for those hoping to avoid a two-week Favre media wankfest which will make the media’s treatment of McCain look like its treatment of Gore. And the Pack’s huge win last week probably has to be discounted a little by the fact that the Seahawks defense stopped competing about 7 minutes into the first quarter. Still, I think the clock is going to strike midnight for the Giants. It was great to watch their duct-taped secondary hustle against the Cowboys, but it should also be remembered that they left a lot of guys open on passing downs, which was mitigated by Romo overthrowing Owens and Patrick “enjoy the popcorn!” Crayton (perhaps affected by Jessica Simpson’s incredible power to affect football games) repeatedly dropping balls and giving up on routes. I don’t think the Packers are going to leave Webster, Pope et al. unexploited. And I’ll concede that I was wrong about Eli going into the playoffs if you concede that last week was a lot more Trent Dilfer than Joe Montana.

A final note: ice bowls are cool. Super Bowls always in temperate climes and/or indoors are Teh Suck.

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Seven Down

[ 8 ] January 20, 2008 |

On this date in 2001, George Walker Bush formally ascended to the office of President of the United States. In that day’s inaugural address, speechwriter Michael Gerson — addressing the nation via the new president — announced that

America remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom. We will defend our allies and our interests. We will show purpose without arrogance. We will meet aggression and bad faith with resolve and strength. And to all nations, we will speak for the values that gave our nation birth.

Toward the conclusion of the address, Gerson added that President Bush would “live and lead by these principles: to advance my convictions with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to speak for greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility and try to live it as well.”

“In all these ways,” Bush continued, “I will bring the values of our history to the care of our times.”

A mere 352 years earlier, Charles I of England — an insufferable, arrogant prick whose rule was a ceaseless national catastrophe — was hauled before a special Parliamentary court. There, he faced charges of developing “a wicked design to erect and uphold in himself an unlimited and tyrannical power” and “to overthrow the Rights and Liberties of the People[.]” The indictment continued:

All which wicked designs, wars, and evil practices of him, the said Charles Stuart, have been, and are carried on for the advancement and upholding of a personal interest of will, power, and pretended prerogative to himself and his family, against the public interest, common right, liberty, justice, and peace of the people of this nation, by and from whom he was entrusted as aforesaid.

By all which it appeareth that the said Charles Stuart hath been, and is the occasioner, author, and continuer of the said unnatural, cruel and bloody wars; and therein guilty of all the treasons, murders, rapines, burnings, spoils, desolations, damages and mischiefs to this nation, acted and committed in the said wars, or occasioned thereby.

The week-long trial did not go well for the king.

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Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: House Banyarwanda

[ 6 ] January 20, 2008 |

The Kingdom of Rwanda emerged in the 14th and 15th centuries in the great lakes region of Africa. The territory that would become the modern state of Rwanda included both farmers and herders, the latter possibly having migrated to the area after the former. Delving into the nature of the Kingdom of Rwanda would take far more space that I have available; in short, the state privileged an ethno-socioeconomic minority called the Tutsi over the majority Hutu. The Tutsi were, more or less, herders while the Hutu were, more or less, farmers. The monarchy was predominantly a Tutsi institution, as was the bulk of the nobility, although the existence of some Hutu nobility and significant evidence of permeability between the two groups puts the lie to any clear cut ethnic division. The Kingdom steadily expanded both its territory and its administrative capacity into the mid-19th century, when it became the object of colonial competition. While the royal family itself traces its lineage to the eleventh century, modern historians appear to prefer a later dynastic origin, and the lack of written records makes any investigation beyond the sixteenth century difficult.

In 1890, Germany declared its possession of the Kingdom of Rwanda, among other territories. By 1894, actual Germans began entering the territory, and an administrative system was set up before the turn of the century. The German footprint in this area (as opposed to some other parts of Africa) was relatively light, however. In 1916 Belgian forces entered the Kingdom and displaced the Germans, although King Yuhi IV had thrown in his lot with German forces. The Belgians were granted control over Rwanda and Burundi after the end of World War I. Although the Belgian footprint was, like the German, initially light, the Belgians nevertheless steadily increased their control through the 1920s and 1930s. In particular, the Belgians wanted a simple and understandable cognitive map of Rwandan ethnicity, and thus shifted the Hutu-Tutsi distinction from one that had involved ethnicity and class to a solely ethnic definition. This would later have disastrous consequences, although not so much for the Belgians.

Yuhi IV was king of Rwanda for most of the German period and for the early Belgian period. He leveraged German support to increase the power of the monarchy over other social groups in Rwanda. This worked well enough for awhile, but the Belgians took a greater interest in administration and pushed Yuhi out in 1931. Yuhi was replaced by his son Mutara III, and the monarchy fell into political impotence. Kigeli V succeeded to the throne on the death of his brother in 1959, and reigned over the return of Rwandan independence. A Hutu led coup in 1961, while the King was visiting Kinshasa, overthrew the King and ended the monarchy.

Since his overthrow, King Kigeli V has lived in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and the United States. He has remained an active commentator on Rwandan politics, and has spoken out on many occasions since the 1994 genocide on the need for Rwandan unity. Kigeli continues to actively seek a return to the throne. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda met with the King, and invited him to return to Rwanda as a private citizen, but Kigeli has said that he will only return as a constitutional monarch. Kagame said that he would take the issue under advisement. Prospects for a return to the throne appear grim. Although Tutsi forces now control Rwanda, the monarchy evokes colonial and pre-colonial unpleasantness.

Trivia: In addition to one of the two current claimants, four of the final sixteen monarchs of which dynasty were women?

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Quotes of the Day

[ 0 ] January 20, 2008 |


I don’t know who on this planet has the stature to go face-to-face with Bill Clinton and look him in the eye and tell him he behaved in a discreditable fashion. His wife? His buddy Vernon Jordan? Whoever it is, someone had better stop him. He campaigned against a fellow Democrat no differently than if Obama had been Newt Gingrich. The Clinton campaign may conclude that, numerically and on balance, Bill helped. But, trust me, to the thousands of committed progressives who supported him when he really needed it, who went to the mat for him at his moment of (largely self-inflicted) crisis but who now happen to be supporting someone other than his wife, he’s done himself a tremendous amount of damage.


The political realities in the 1990s were much different than the political realities today, and there’s much, much less chance that people like Mike Tomasky will countenance the Ricky Ray Rectoring, welfare-reforming, Obama-smearing [and DOMA signing, habeas corpus-gutting, etc. --ed.] side of Bill Clinton now, when such behavior isn’t really construable as an unfortunate side-effect of the historical moment.

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And The There Were Four

[ 17 ] January 20, 2008 |

I mostly concur with Rob’s analysis of the Democratic race; I wouldn’t say it’s over but Clinton has to be considered a heavy favorite. With the GOP, I guess it depends what the definiton of “wide open” is, but that’s not the adjective I’d use. Obviously, it’s a two-man race — if Huckabee can’t win there he has no chance, Thompson’s campaign was stillborn, and Rudy9 Giuliani11′s campaign is a historic farce with 4 fewer delegates than Ron Paul and 1 more than Duncan Hunter. And while it’s not close to over I think at this point McCain probably to be considered the favorite. Certainly, I violently disagree with the claim that Romney wins however S.C. comes out. A Huckabee win and he would have been in pretty good shape. But to beat McCain straight up, you have to think that the majority of Thompson and Giuliani votes would go to Romney, and that doesn’t seem like a good bet. And while I’ve said this before, while I have little doubt that the GOP establishment would thwart McCain if it had a plain-vanilla Southern conservative to work with, this is irrelevant to the current race. (And some GOP elites have to be smart enough to understand that McCain 1)has a more conservative record than Romney and 2)would have a far better chance in the general.) There’s also a serious proof-is-in-the-pudding issue; if the Republican Establishment was determined to (and had the power to) stop McCain it’s not clear why they didn’t just do it in South Carolina.

As everyone who reads this site knows, Clinton/McCain is my least favorite matchup among the viable ones, but I’ll have to learn to live with it.

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The Way Forward

[ 0 ] January 20, 2008 |

While the Republican nomination still seems very much up for grabs, it’s kind of hard for me to see at this point how Obama pulls it out against Clinton. Even if Obama wins South Carolina (as it looks like he probably will), Clinton seems to be leading in most of the important Super Tuesday states, and it’s apparent that a) her support isn’t melting, and b) Edwards people aren’t going to Obama in substantially greater numbers than they’re supporting Hillary. If there’s a scenario pointing the other direction, I’d be interested to hear it.

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Real sorry about your idiotic monument…

[ 36 ] January 19, 2008 |

Though I’d never publicly endorse vandalism, I see no reason to shed tears over last November’s defacement of the Confederate memorial that sits at the Alabama capitol grounds in Montgomery. On the anniversary of Nat Turner’s 1831 execution, three white teens evidently jumped the iron gates surrounding the monument, painted the hands and faces of the statues black, and sprayed “N.T. 11 11 31″ across the base. Charges were filed about a month later, and now it seems the kids are quite properly going to be charges as juveniles. (Photos are via this guy.)

This limestone and wrought iron tribute to chattel slavery was actually built during the 1880s and 1890s with nearly $50,000 of state money. After a century had passed and the statues had fallen into some disrepair, the state ponied up what I’m sure was an equally grotesque sum to restore this artifact of the Jim Crow era. Any decent society would certainly have had the entire project yanked from the ground and dumped into the Gulf of Mexico, where it might have served some useful purpose as scaffolding for coral. But Alabama being Alabama, the site is apparently a really important draw for shitheads, and so the restoration earned the moral and financial endorsement of the state.

To wit:

The restored monument was rededicated on April 26, 2004, Confederate Memorial Day. Following speeches by Governor Bob Riley; Janice Hawkins, Chairwoman of the Alabama Historical Commission and Jefferson Davis’ great, great grandson, Bertram Hayes-Davis, the re-enacting band played “Dixie,” and the audience whooped a happy Rebel yell – a favorable response to the restoration work at the Confederate Memorial.

It stands to reason, then, that November’s privately funded, midnight renovations were not going to sit well with said shitheads, who among other things immediately described the vandalism as a “hate crime” — until they learned along with everyone else that the vandals were white, at which point their brains must have melted a little. Ever since the arrests, neo-Confederates have been yowling for the kids to be charged as adults. The local head of the Ancestors of Unfreedom Fighters Sons of Confederate Veterans is, of course, hopping mad that his wish won’t be granted.

Leonard Wilson said the prosecutors are being too tolerant.

Wilson is state commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, whose historical group offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the identity of those who vandalized the statue.

He believes the three white youths — they cannot be identified since they are juveniles — should be tried as adults.

“Since these men are all 17 years old, they are responsible enough to be subjected to facing adult charges,” he said, “and it’s in the greater interest of the community to do so because this act caused great emotional harm to thousands of Alabama citizens.

Hmmm. Did they spend a few restless evenings wondering if the servants were going to romp, Nat Turner style, throughout the countryside, burning barns and shooting whites as they slept? Did the vandalism remind them that their sacred ancestors had — you know — actually lost the Civil War? What was this “emotional harm” of which Leonard Wilson speaks, and are there any legal means to prolong it?

(Via Civil War Memory)

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Seems Like an Older Crowd…

[ 4 ] January 19, 2008 |

According to CNN (as of right now), 44% of the Republican caucus-goers are in the 60+ age category. I know that caucuses tend to attract an older crew, but this seems like quite a lot…

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My Liberal Diet

[ 3 ] January 19, 2008 |

According to Rep. John Boehner, my tastes are liberal. And he doesn’t have to take it.

Boehner has been complaining of late about the changes the Democrats have made to the Congressional Cafeteria since retaking the majority in the mid-term elections.

“I like real food,” proclaimed Republican leader John Boehner when asked about the new menu by a producer for another cable news outfit. “Food that I can pronounce the name of.”

Boehner is now forced to wrap his lips around such phrases as “broccoli rabe and shaved persimmon,” “balsamic glazed butternut squash,” and “calico pinto beans”…all on this afternoon’s menu, along with the downright patriotic “American Regional Yankee Pot Roast,” which, even Boehner would have to admit, kind of rolls right off the tongue. On Fridays, there is a real sushi bar tended by a bona fide Japanese sushi chef. Gone are such grade-school cafeteria specialties as Salisbury steak and fried chicken, slathered in gravy and served with a side of chips.

I have two questions for Boehner: first, which of these words can’t he pronounce? And second, does he really think rubbery roast is better? Wonder what Huckabee would say about the changes.

I also think it’s worth noting, as Chris Bowers did, that it seems the Republicans are so insecure these days that they can’t even handle lunchroom pluralism, nevermind pluralism of the political variety. It’s as if even a whiff of change gives Congressional Republicans heartburn (though one would think it’d be that old Salisbury steak).

(via Amanda)

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