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First Concerts

[ 34 ] May 29, 2008 |

Loomis caught Sir Mix-a-Lot in 1988. He seems to think he’s pretty cool for having done so. I, however, spent money to see Ratt at the Roanoke (Va.) Civic Center in mid-October 1985. At the time, their big hit was a song that inspired one of that decade’s creepiest videos:

Bon Jovi opened that night.

As I have occasionally said, if I could travel back in time to kick my own ass, I would gladly do it.

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Fernandomania!

[ 14 ] May 29, 2008 |

I don’t know what’s worse; Fernando “If 1999 ever comes back, he’ll be one of the best third basemen in baseball!” Tatis hitting sixth, or the fact that he seems to have considerably more life in his bat than Delgado (or about 90% of the Mariners’ roster…)

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 3 ] May 28, 2008 |

George H.W. Bush, speaking at a fundraiser for John McCain, 28 May 1992:

I am quietly confident about the election this fall. In sum, I am absolutely convinced as this economy moves back, as we sort out where everybody stands on these highly complex issues, when the country assesses the fact that we are at peace and that our children go to bed at night with less fear of nuclear war — and that is a major accomplishment of which I am very proud to have been a part — and it’s when we get in focus the agenda, see who wants to pass this agenda of hope and opportunity and who wants to stifle it, when we take forward the values that you and I believe in to the American people again this fall on family and faith, I am absolutely convinced we’re going to win this election. We are going to win it.

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The Silly Florida 2000 Analogy

[ 9 ] May 28, 2008 |

Jon Chait makes the first obvious point about Rich Lowry’s silly attempt to claim that there’s some contradiction between Democratic arguments that ballots that indicated the intent of the voter should be counted in Florida 2000 and the position of many Democrats about current dispute over the Democratic nomination: the argument was that Gore was cheated of the presidency because in a fair contest in Florida he would have won the electoral college. Similarly, had 200,000 votes shifted in Ohio in 2004 Kerry would have been entitled to the presidency despite losing the popular vote. These results would (in my view) be good reasons to get rid of the electoral college, but not for changing the rules after the fact. Lowry tries to manufacture a contradiction by attributing Clinton’s attempted ex post facto change in metrics to the Dems in 2000, but that won’t fly.

In addition, however, the analogy is also null because (especially in Michigan) the Clinton campaign wants to count the results of a “primary” that obviously does not offer a meaningful recording of voter intent. To believe that the ballots cast in a multi-candidate election conducted according to agreed-upon rules should be interpreted when possible to count votes that make a voter’s intent clear hardly requires the counting of ballots in an election with one major candidate on the ballot that every candidate and the authoritative decision-maker claimed wouldn’t count. Elections in North Korea don’t suddenly become legitimate even if every ballot for Kim Jong-il is, in fact, counted, and people who wanted to “count all the votes” in Florida in 2000 are not required to include online straw polls in presidential election counts in 2008. And, therefore, Lowry’s argument makes no sense.

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A Rare Victory For Civil Rights Enforcement

[ 6 ] May 28, 2008 |

The Supreme Court yesterday, in 6-3 and 7-2 decisions, interpreted anti-discrimination statutes to include retaliation against employees as “discrimination” even when this was not explicit in the statutory text. The latter case, Crocs West, was a relatively easy case upholding long-standing precedent and the unanimous holdings of circuit courts. Roberts differed in the first case because of the availability of administrative procedures for government (as opposed to private) employees.

Dana and Josh Patashnik point out that Alito and (in one case) Roberts split from Thomas and Scalia in a more liberal direction. In isolation, this could be used as a data point supporting claims that Alito and Roberts are more moderate and unpredictable than Scalia and Thomas, as the more minimalist and less theoretical approach of the newer justices led to voting with the more liberal justices. However, for now I’m certainly sticking with my assumption that Alito is a doctrinaire conservative and the formal differences among the court’s conservative will have little substantive impact. Justices never have entirely consistent voting patterns — even famously similar justice pairs such as Brennan/Marshall and Black/Douglas don’t vote together 100% of the time — but one exception is hardly cause for revision. This is particularly true because the votes of Roberts and Alito in this case weren’t decisive — if Alito and/or Roberts start breaking from Scalia and Thomas when it actually matters then there may be cause for revision. Scalia has actually cast decisive votes with more liberal justices and dissented in arguably more liberal directions that the majority; when Alito starts doing that I’ll entertain claims that he’s less predictably conservative. Until then, let’s remember that last termthe Chief Justice voted for the more conservative result (by most observers’ lights) in 24 out of the 24 cases decided by a 5-4 vote,” and I believe in every one of these was joined by Alito.

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Emergency Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: Shah Dynasty

[ 6 ] May 28, 2008 |

Nepal began to take shape in the second half of the 18th century, as Prithvi Narayan Shah, ninth of the Kings of Gorkha, conquered about a third of the various small kingdoms and principalities that occupied the territory of the modern state. Over the next half century, Prithvi Narayan Shah’s descendants would expand their kingdom, even invading Tibet around 1790. Decisive action by the Qianlong Emperor of China, however, drove Nepalese forces from Tibet and substantially ended Nepal’s northern expansion. To the south, British power in India was steadily increasing, and the 1814 war between the British East India Company and Nepal led to the separation of several territories from the kingdom. Like the inhabitants of many forbidding locales, the people of Nepal acquired a reputation as fearsome warriors; Nepalese mercenaries (or Gurkhas) began serving in the armies of the East India Company in 1817, and in units of the British Army in 1857. Nepal would maintain its autonomy (and a certain shadowy independence) for the rest of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th, until the British recognized its formal independence in 1923.

Although the Shah family has formally possessed the throne for as long as Nepal has existed, the ability of the kings to influence policy was sharply curtailed in the second half of the nineteenth century, as a rival clan came into control of the levers of state. This situation lasted for nearly a century, until turmoil in 1950 led to the exile of King Tribhuvan to India. India, nervous about the Chinese annexation of Tibet, took the opportunity to restore Tribhuvan to the throne, thus creating a friendly state on the new Sino-Indian border. A series of experiments with democracy largely failed, as royal intervention in parliamentary process produced repeated instability. An elected government was finally installed in 1991, but it failed to stabilize the country; massive riots in 1992 shook the state, and in 1996 a Maoist insurgency launched an effort to seize the state.

In 2001 Dipendra, the Crown Prince of Nepal, went a little bit funny in the head. He took it upon himself to conduct a shooting spree in the royal palace, executing eleven members of the royal family, including the King. Dipendra briefly became King before succumbing to self-inflicted wounds. Dipendra was succeeded by his uncle Gyanendra, who suspended Parliament. Maoist pressure led to a reinstatement of the government in 2004, although the King deposed it again in 2005. King Gyanendra’s central success seems to have been to unite Nepal’s factions against the remnants of the Shah family; the Maoists and several other parties formed an interim government and agreed on a platform that included the abolition of the monarchy in late 2007. Today, in the first meeting of Parliament following the election of April 2008, the former (they now refer to themselves as “committed capitalists”) Maoist insurgents officially abolished the monarchy, and gave King Gyanendra fifteen days to evacuate the Royal Palace.

Although the situation remains in flux, a large, popular coalition seems to favor the action against the King. In the short term, prospects for a restoration appear grim. Rumors that King Gyanendra engineered the massacre of 2001 persist, damaging his personal stature. Gyanendra’s eventual disposition remains unclear; he has not yet apparently commented on the legal end of the monarchy, or on his eviction from the Royal Palace. He is, however, reported to be miffed about the elimination of his $3.1 million annual allowance, and the substantial reduction of the royal staff.

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Point Being?

[ 2 ] May 28, 2008 |

Scott Johnson’s book report about the Kennedy-Khrushchev summit offers yet another recitation of the completely uncontroversial point that the 1961 Vienna meetings did not go well for Kennedy. Johnson concludes by noting that Kennedy, humiliated by his Soviet adversary, responded by escalating the US commitment to South Vietnam, where he presumed American power could be rendered “credible” again.

It’s nice, I suppose, to see wingnuts expressing so much retrospective anxiety about the Cold War and, in particular, about the American war in Vietnam. But Kennedy had wood for Southeast Asia long before the Vienna conference, and it takes a dramatic oversimplification to treat the Vienna summit as a truly decisive moment in the evolution of Kennedy’s Vietnam policy. Robert Dallek — who usually gets cited when people make the whole Vienna-caused-the-war argument — should really consider writing an op-ed that puts this particular misuse of An Unfinished Life to rest. Among a lot of other things, this thesis requires that everyone forget that Kennedy’s Vietnam policy was shaped by (a) his own advocacy (especially his involvement with Friends of Vietnam) during the 1950s; (b) his personal preference for covert operations and counter-insurgency (rather than the kinds of commitments that Johnson and Nixon would later make); and (c) the truckloads of shite fed to him by people like Walt Rostow, Mac Bundy, Maxwell Taylor, Paul Harkins, and Edward Lansdale among others.

Of course, had Time magazine’s 2004 Blog of the Year been around in 1961, it’s writers wouldn’t have been engaged in the sort of historical concern-trolling that’s on display in Johnson’s WS piece. Instead, they’d have spent most of the previous decade complaining about the failure of the United States to stand up on behalf of French imperialism (while insulting France for being unable to hold on to its Asian properties); congratulating the Eisenhower administration for creating a fake state in South Vietnam; ridiculing anyone who doubted that Ngo Dinh Diem was indeed the George Washington of his people; and berating the Kennedy administration for not actually committing combat forces to defend its non-communist friends in Southeast Asia. They’d have been insisting that the nation’s reputation was at stake in Vietnam, and they’d have been demanding an American surge — of the kind that only Johnson was willing to provide — that would give the South Vietnamese government the breathing room it needed to convert itself into a viable state.

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How To Be A Hack

[ 20 ] May 28, 2008 |

America’s least beloved circus clown continues to bring the high level of intelletcual rigor he brought to his defenses of Joe Lieberman against actual Democrats to the Clinton campaign. As you would expect, his proposed “compromise” solution — not merely fair to Obama but actually doing him a favor! — to resolving the North Korean less-than-a-straw-poll in Michigan would need to gain considerably more plausibility to rise to the level of being farcical:

Here’s his deal: in Michigan, give Clinton the 73 pledged delegates she would have won if the primary were legal. Then, of the 55 delegates that are pledged to “uncommitted,” “divide the remaining delegates approximately 50-50 between the two of them, 28-27 (giving Clinton the extra delegate since she led in all the latest statewide polls.)”

So she gets the delegates represented by everyone who voted for her when she was the only major candidate on the ballot, and then more than 50% of all the people who voted for anyone but her!

Brezhnev should have thought of this.

OK, but admittedly, any defense of giving Clinton a supermajority of delegates from the Michigan non-primary is going to involve ridiculous arguments, so this is just run-of-the-mill hackery. What makes Davis special is his follow-up post, in which (having done what he can to undermine the legitimacy of the Democratic nominee) he enumerates some allegedly unecessarily inflammatory actions from the Obama campaign. #1 on his list: Obama announcing endorsements in a way designed to…make them politically advantageous! Heavens to betsy, get me the smelling salts!

Now that’s how it’s done.

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When Temperatures Rise…

One of the surest signs of spring in NY is not the return of chirping birds or the blossoming of the cherry trees, but the reappearance of women’s legs on city sidewalks. And with the short skirts and sundresses come the catcalls.

I got my first one of the season today. I vacillate between eye-rolling, bird-flipping and ignoring. Some days, I have to restrain myself from launching mid-stride into a lecture about women in society and why it is that men feel like they have a right to address (or should I say undress) and evaluate women on the street. Usually, though, I stew in fast-walking silence.

I’m not sure if stories like this one should make me speak up more or be more wary to open my mouth: recently, a teenaged Florida woman was shot through a car door after rebuffing the catcalls from a neighboring car when the woman and her friends stopped to get gas. The woman, Mildred Beaubrun, remains in the hospital in a coma and it’s unclear whether, when she wakes up, she’ll ever walk again.

Maybe to most men catcalling is just a game. But to many women, the calculus is, as Racialicious suggests, entirely different.

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Accents…

[ 63 ] May 27, 2008 |

This is kind of interesting. Like Harry, I certainly wouldn’t have chosen Hugh Laurie as having one of the four worst American accents by a British actor on TV. It’s true that he’s just a bit off, but I guess that the fact that the character is more than a bit “off” helps obscure the shortcomings. I do wonder about the methodology; really, why should a British audience be polled on whether British actors can carry off an American accent? Doesn’t the converse (Americans evaluating the accuracy of various British accents) sound absurd? I’m also at a loss as to how we should interpret the inclusion of Ian McShane’s turn as Al Swearingen at number 5.

While on the subject, one British actor who manages some fantastic accent work is Jamie Bamber (Apollo on BSG). This is particularly surprising given the fact that Bamber isn’t, otherwise, much of an actor; whatever his shortcomings, he can certainly nail “late American fratboy” .

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Today We are All Antichrist

[ 41 ] May 27, 2008 |

Jeebus. Those Alterdestinarians get weird e-mail.

A number of years ago, I started working on a project about Christian prophecy writers and the war on terror. I shelved it for a variety of reasons, but the research was a hoot. Among the folks whose work I spent a decent bit of time reading, my favorite was probably Mark Hitchcock, who until last August was blogging the impending apocalypse. In a book called Is America In Bible Prophecy, Hitchcock concludes that the Bible actually has nothing specifically prophetic to say about the United States. He disagrees with prophecy writers who insist that the US is the new Babylon described in Revelation and that, as such, the moral wickedness of the country will eventually be destroyed in a fit of holy wrath. He also argues that other Biblical passages frequently cited by his colleagues — Isaiah 18 or Ezekial 38 — actually have nothing whatsoever to do with the United States.

In other words, Hitchcock insists that the United States is not mentioned in Biblical prophecy for the simple reason that the US will be long gone — reduced to an insignificant world power — by the time Antichrist actually shows up and the End Times commence. He hedges his bets as far as explaining the source of America’s impending (and necessary) collapse, but that’s to be expected; if the fate of the nation isn’t actually foretold in the Bible, he’s under no obligation to explain it in great detail. He suggests that “freedom and technology” might bring the country down, or that perhaps a nuclear attack of some kind might ruin us all. He also notes that the country’s lack of spiritual or moral authority — the gays, the abortions, the cats humping stuffed animals and whatnot — might be the eventual culprit.

In the end, though, Hitchcock surmises that the Rapture itself — what he calls “Great Snatch” — will elevate so many faithful Americans to Heaven that the country, suddenly entrusted to the spiritually incompetent, will be unable to survive for long. Hitchcock envisions a post-Rapture America in which

millions of mortgages would go unpaid, military personnel by the thousands would be permanently AWOL, factory workers will never again show up for work, college tuitions will become overdue, businesses will be left without workers and leaders, the Dow will crash, the NASDAQ will plummet, and the entire economy will be thrown into chaos.

And that’s entirely aside from the geopolitical consequences of the Rapture. As Hitchcock explains, under these circumstances — with the United States incapable of maintaining its commitments in the Middle East — Israel will have no choice but to accept the support of Antichrist. And we all know how painful that will be. But for Hitchcock, its all butter. The faithful will have long since split.

Meantime, aspiring academics will note that the Rapture will probably do nothing to alleviate the constrictions of the job market. In fact, it will probably make it worse; with so many of our students siphoned off into the ether, schools will probably have no choice but to cull their faculty. Tenure lines will evaporate as older professors retire; the adjunct pool will inflate, giving administrators even more incentive to casualize the work force; and non-unionized campuses can kiss tenure goodbye.

The good news is that Antichrist will probably be looking to hire.

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All You Wanted to Know About the Russian Navy

[ 2 ] May 27, 2008 |

…and a bit more at the new Russian Navy Blog. It’s not an official Russian Navy blog, but rather is run by an enthusiast who pays a lot of attention to Russian naval developments and translates Russian naval materials. My favorite feature thus far is “Soviet Submarine Disaster of the Day”, although “Incomplete Russian Capital Ship of the Day” runs a close second.

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