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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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"Political strategy masquerading as a psychological crisis."

[ 4 ] January 19, 2008 |

Blustain and Friedman on “men’s post-abortion syndrome.” You can all but read the “moderate” Kennedy opinion now: “Although we have no reliable data to measure this phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable based on a few random anecdotes collected in amicus briefs to restore coverture to its proper place in American law, just like Sam always wanted.”

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What Bobby Fischer Meant to Me

[ 0 ] January 19, 2008 |

By the time I started playing, Bobby Fischer was long gone from the American chess scene. We know today that he was still around, giving the occasional interview or lesson, but before the internet it was remarkably difficult to track such appearances, and it seemed to almost everyone that he had simply vanished from the face of the earth. Of course, just because he was gone didn’t mean that he was gone; his ghost hovered over the game of chess, both for the public-at-large and for the serious player. For the public, he was the only recognizable American chess player, and his life lent an aura of the bizarre to what really wasn’t all that bizarre of a game. For the serious player Fischer was a bit more difficult, because the absence of the greatest player meant that the rest of what was going on in American chess felt like kind of a sideshow. People wondered what would happen when He returned, and what it would mean for chess if He never returned, and about what He meant for the game, and so forth and so on.

I started playing chess “seriously” in the 10th grade. I played for the Oregon City High School chess team, but also in various tournaments around Portland and in a couple of the local chess clubs. The questions about Fischer had, in an important sense, played themselves out by 1990. The larger world of chess was represented by the 1990 Karpov-Kasparov match, which had its own post-Cold War overtones. While I cheered for Kasparov, I felt that my style of play more closely matched Karpov, to the extent that it makes sense to think about similarities between the game of a grandmaster and a D level player. Fischer was always around, though. A few times each year we’d have a conversation about Fischer during chess practice, wondering where he was, what he was doing, and whether or not he could beat Kasparov. I believed that he could; Kasparov had come to prominence in the absence of the best player that the world had ever seen, and thus his success was suspect. All of the American champions, too, seemed to be playing for runner up, second to the ghost of Fischer. In any case, I had enough talent and patience to rise to low class C, which made me by far the best player in my high school and in the top ten of state high school players. If I had committed myself to chess I might eventually have gotten to class A, just below Expert but far short of Master, but it was enough simply to be the best at OCHS and to be competitive on a state level.

What chess did for me was help to achieve a certain level of notoriety, to set me apart from the common nerd, and to get my name in the announcements now and again. None of these are particularly laudable goals, but they meant a lot at age 16. To this goal, Fischer was a better model than either Karpov or Kasparov. Karpov and Kasparov have very different personalities (and political outlooks) from one another, but are both notable for being, in their own ways, quite normal. They both belie the notion that there’s a connection between the chess and the crazy; this belief appears, largely but not entirely because of Fischer, to be particularly American. But of course, to the nerd seeking notoriety, Karpov and Kasparov were entirely useless. If I could have been normal and cool and good at chess I would have been, but this was simply not to be. Fischer was a much more compelling role model for a young man who made the terrible mistake of putting chess at the front of his social resume. Now, this isn’t to say that I threatened to drop out, or started doing poorly in classes, or started dressing like Fischer, but I did learn as much about his life as I could (remember again that this was pre-internet), became familiar with the “where is he now?” debates, and developed a capability for holding forth on the question of whether he could beat Kasparov. I also took a certain pleasure in noting that Bobby and I shared initials.

Of course, high school ends and no one wants to start school at a big state university with “chess nerd” as his primary identity. But then Fischer came back, a month before classes were supposed to start, and I felt I owed him something. Fall 1992 was my first semester at the University of Oregon, and the second class on my first day was Political Science 225: Political Ideologies. While the listed professor was George Zaninovich, it was actually taught by a graduate student named Joshua Gold. It appears that he now works at Salt Lake Community College; if you have a chance, take a course from him. It was reasonably demanding for a freshman/sophomore course, as in addition to the Ball and Dagger Political Ideologies Gold also assigned Berger and Luckmann’s The Social Construction of Reality, and Carol Pateman’s Participation and Democratic Theory. The course ended with a novel assignment; produce your own internally coherent political ideology. I wrote a paper called “Chess as Ideology”; it was written as a Trotsky-esque recapitulation of a revolution led by Bobby Fischer that overthrew the government of New Zealand and established a society based on chess. The ideology wasn’t terribly attractive, as it could best be described as internally oriented fascism with a substantial dose of Indian caste system. That made some sense, though, as it was becoming clear by that point that Bobby hadn’t come back quite right. As I mentioned the internet was in its infancy, so news of Fischer’s behavior during the 1980s and even during the 1992 match with Spassky was pretty limited, but it still seemed that he was more than a little off.

After that I left chess behind. I watched a couple films that featured Fischer, including the remarkably powerful Fresh, and the awfully bad Searching for Bobby Fischer, and vaguely followed his career, but as the chess connection waned I came to evaluate him on his merits as a celebrity. I didn’t take any joy in his difficulties, but didn’t feel that they were particularly undeserved. What bothered me most, I suppose, was his contempt for Garry Kasparov. Kasparov may have been a product of the same Soviet chess system that Fischer legitimately deplored, but he is now and was then both an admirable figure and a fantastic chess player. To attack Kasparov, it seemed to me, both denigrated the game and foreclosed the possibilities that it had produced. Kasparov, in short, was an amazing former world chess champion, while Fischer was a waste of oxygen.

On the whole “crazy” thing, I really don’t know what to think about Fischer’s mental state. It has become clear enough that whatever issues he had after the return were simply amplifications of issues that had been present before 1972, and not behavior qualitatively different. While on one hand I kind of want to believe that he was suffering from some kind of mental illness, I’m also wary of diagnosing mental illness from political belief. It’s possible that he was just a pretty awful human being, in the way that lots of people are awful human beings, although perhaps in a way that was enhanced by his particular celebrity and experience.

So, I feel like I should mourn Bobby Fischer, but I’m not sure how. Unlike Chris, I can’t mourn the Fischer of 1972, because I never experienced that. Fischer to me was a ghost, but an important and meaningful ghost. I can’t excuse the late Fischer in favor of the young, because all the bad that was present in the late was also there in the young. I can mourn the ghost, but I feel kind of bad about that because it seems to celebrate Fischer’s death (his return to “ghost” status) more than remember it. And so I find myself in a bit of a quandry regarding Bobby.

Still, I can say that there are very few to whom I can more sincerely say “Rest in Peace,” than Bobby Fischer.

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But Al Gore Said He Invented The Internet!

[ 11 ] January 19, 2008 |

As one of the old-timers who prefer to read the Times in the dead tree edition, I almost spit out my coffee when I saw that Maverick McStraighttalk had claimed that[e]very time in history we have raised taxes it has cut revenues. [my emphasis]” Jon Chait points out the obvious facts that 1)you have to go all the way back to the previous administration to find a straightforward refutation of this baldfaced lie, and 2)the Times is grossly irresponsible to have let that lie stand without correction. If someone doesn’t even know about the shrinking deficits/surplus following the tax increase in the 1990s, it’s outrageous that they’re reporting about politics for a major newspaper, and if they knew it was erroneous and let it stand it’s even worse.

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