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Defending Clinton Through JFK Worship

[ 9 ] November 19, 2007 |

Responding to Sean Wilentz’s attempt to analogize Obama and Clinton to Stevenson and JFK, respectively, in 1960 I think Matt has the correct response:

Meanwhile, the reality of the Kennedy Administration — as opposed to the Myth of Camelot — is precisely what makes people leery of Clinton. A 50%+1 win followed by a domestic agenda that goes nowhere in congress and a drift toward foreign policy disaster driven in part by a unshakeable fear of looking soft on defense.

Having said that, I don’t really think the analogy holds water either way. I suspect Clinton in office would be better on domestic policy than JFK (although on foreign policy, the JFK analogy is all too accurate.) Of course, JFK would be infinitely preferable to any GOP nominee of 2008, so if the ther end of the analogy held up this would still favor Clinton, but I also don’t think that Obama is really comparable to Stevenson in terms of political skills, and Matt is right that Stevenson could certainly have won in conditions as structurally favorable to the Democrats as 2008 is likely to be anyway.

This also reminds me that with all due respect to Wilentz, who has done a lot of terrific work, he has a very strange JFK fetish — see here. There are any number of (to put it charitably) tendentious claims to be found — such as his implication that JFK could have overcome the many obvious problems facing the Democrats in 1968, such as civil rights legislation (which Wilentz problematically assumes that JFK could have gotten passed quickly) destroying much of the traditional Democratic coalition, rising crime rates and urban violence etc. — with his boyish charm, but I think this is the best example:

There’s no question that Johnson was able to carry forward Kennedy’s domestic agenda because of the 37 House seats gained by the Democrats in the 1964 elections, a landslide that produced a working majority for progressive legislation for the first time in a quarter century. But Kennedy was a more popular figure than Johnson. Had Kennedy lived to run against Barry Goldwater, the Democrats probably would have picked up 50 more liberal legislators.

What Wilentz leaves out here is that one reason the Dems were able to pick up so many Congressional seats in 1964 is the halo effect created by JFK’s assisination, something that seems rather unlikely to have accrued to a non-assassinated JFK. Nor can a presidential candidate get much more popular than 61% of the popular vote; can Wilentz seriously believe that JFK would have had longer coattails? None of this makes me much more comfortable about JFK analogies made by Clinton’s supporters….

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LGM Wisdom of the Day

[ 0 ] November 19, 2007 |

The Patriots are, uh… pretty good.

You heard it here first.

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My Uterus. A UPS Box. What’s the difference?

[ 0 ] November 19, 2007 |

Well, to the forced pregnancy brigade, there is no difference: my uterus is nothing but a glorified storage container, holding something until it reaches its destination (birth). Now there’s proof:

Here’s a transcript, via Trailer Park Feminist:

SCENE: a box factory

NARRATOR: If you thought there was a small chance that a baby was hidden in a box, wouldn’t you treat the box as if it held a baby, just in case?

SCENE: an ultrasound image

NARRATOR: So even if you think there’s just a small chance that an unborn child is a baby, shouldn’t you treat it as if it were, just in case? Something to think about.

So, remember kids: a uterus — or, perhaps better, a woman — is only as good as its contents. And if it’s empty…well, you know.

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Saletan Strikes!

[ 261 ] November 18, 2007 |

The one thing that’s fairly clear is that William Saletan doesn’t understand the most compelling extant critiques of linking ethnicity with IQ. I’m unsure of two things, however. First, is Saletan intentionally or accidentally obtuse? Second, if Saletan is accidentally obtuse, are the causes genetic or environmental?

Saletan only briefly allows for the possibility that IQ is not an extraordinarily compelling proxy for intelligence, since it may only measure the “fit” of a group with contemporary social norms (norms that, incidentally, are created by the dominant social group). He suggests that this may be true, but that evolution is still on his side; Europeans and Asians and Africans have all been separated for 40000+ years, and thus it’s possible that they had time to evolve separately with different capabilities associated with their specific environments. That’s fine as far as it goes, but what Saletan doesn’t seem to understand is that, up until about 200 years ago, the vast vast vast vast vast vast vast vast majority of people in Africa, Asia, South America, North America, and Europe lived in essentially similar economic conditions. The creation of vast agrarian empires in Europe and the Far East didn’t transform the basic economic conditions set by the agricultural revolution, a revolution which happened, in different ways, all around the world. Thus, explaining that white descendants of impoverished subsistence farmers are smarter than black descendants of impoverished subsistence farmers because of evolution is rather less than compelling. The idea that IQ is a bad proxy for intelligence and should be jettisoned, however, is extraordinarily compelling.

Then, of course, there’s the issue of “race”. As anyone paying attention knows, the social categories of race in the United States especially have only the most tenuous relationship with any kind of genetic origin. People with white parents are white, with black parents are black, and with both white and black parents are… black. This, to say the least, is not a compelling scientific distinction. Moreover, acknowledge that recent African immigrants to the United States actually score better than African-Americans on these kinds of tests, and you’ve got some serious problems for the genetic theory.

Back to Saletan. Here’s the real issue; he writes a column called Human Nature, and as such has his antennae tuned to all of the latest crackpottery from evolutionary biologistspsychologists. I would strongly advise him to occasionally read his Slate colleagues on this topic. The contributing difficulty is that Saletan cannot view the world with anything other than centrist blinders; once he figured out that pro-lifers really aren’t pro-life, and that the folks at the Discovery Institute really don’t care about scientific discoveries, he had to come up with a parallel problem on the left. The most convenient is what he describes as “liberal creationism”, or the idea that African-Americans aren’t inherently stupid.

Keep up the good work, Bill.

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The Horror

[ 11 ] November 18, 2007 |

The heart sags at the idea of dealing with yet another case of MoDo using her longing for 19th century gender relations to create asinine, content-free negative scripts about the Democratic candidates. That features an African-American man being “whipped” by a white woman. Fortunately, it’s been taken care of by Steve:

Is any of this true? I don’t know, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that it is. What Dowd is saying is that if a woman tries to psych out her opponents, that makes her a “dominatrix.”

Men can psych out other men all they want, as anyone who’s ever paid any attention to sports knows perfectly well. But a woman? If she competes like a man, she’s using a whip. Girls have to be nice all the time, you see.


Dowd is appalling — and she will be no matter who the Democratic nominee is. (She loathes all three front-runners.)

Right now, if I were a Democratic operative and a genie said I could choose one media figure to be struck dumb for the next year, my choices being Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Maureen Dowd, I’d pick Dowd in a heartbeat. She’s going to have more of a negative impact on the Democrats in ’08 than anyone else. Her take on the Democrats is a highly contagious toxin.

He also discusses the double standards of her discussions of Strong Saint Rudy and Uppity Bitch Hillary. And also there’s Molly:

In MoDo’s world, where strong women must be balanced out by weak men, the idea of a mutually strong relationship is unthinkable (which may be why Hill and Bill confuse her so much). I can see a similar dynamic with Michelle, who strikes me as less bitchy than funny and self-deprecating, realistic rather than idealistic about the person who shares her life, far from the doe-eyed adoration expected of your Jeris and Judis of the world.

I don’t know what else to say.

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[ 0 ] November 18, 2007 |

Oregon really does look like this.

I’m not sure Farley would have signed off on my gig here if he’d known I’d never been to Oregon before, say, last night. The entire state — best I can tell from my time in the Portland airport and the nearby Embassy Suites — appears to be in the midst of a staggering depression, the source of which remains a mystery.

I’m on my way to Norman Rockwell country for the week. If any of our readers happen to be at the Portland Airport, I’ll be at gate B2 for the next 30 minutes. I have alcohol.

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Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: Joeson Dynasty

[ 13 ] November 17, 2007 |

In the second half of the 14th the rulership of northeast Asia was in a state of flux. The Mongols ruled China as the Yuan Dynasty until 1371, when they were replaced by the Mings and chased back to Mongolia. This had the effect of seriously weakening the rule of the Korean royal house, which had survived under the occupation of the Mongols. The son of a minor Mongol official of Korean descent, Yi Seong-gye rose to prominence as a general in the disorder that accompanied the disintegration of Mongol power. After fighting off Mongol remnants and major expeditions by Japanese pirates, Yi Seong-gye turned his interest inward, and deposed the 500 year old Goryeo dynasty. In 1392 he established a new dynasty, claiming connection with the Joeson, an ancient, near-legendary Korean family. He took the name King Taejo, but remains a controversial figure because of his close association with the Ming.

Twenty-six kings of the Joeson dynasty would rule Korea over the next 504 years. Korea under the Joeson successfully turned away a pair of Japanese invasions in the late 16th century, and a Manchu invasion in 1627. During the former, the Koreans employed turtle ships, cannon-armed covered warships resistant to small arms fire. A second Manchu invasion in 1636 (shortly before the Qing Dynasty assumed power in China) reduced Korea to tributary status, where it would remain for roughly 250 years. The Joeson failed, however, to modernize in the 19th century at the same rate as the Japanese. A French punitive expedition in 1866 occupied some Korean territory, and two American raids killed many Koreans. The central threat remained the Japanese, however; Japanese victory in the 1894 Sino-Japanese War made Korea the field of a contest for influence between Russia and Japan. The Japanese assassinated the wife of King Gojong in 1895 after she sought Russian assistance.

In 1897, increasing pressure from the Japanese forced King Gojong to declare formal independence from China and establish the Empire of Korea. Gojong and his circle had bitterly resisted this move, since it amounted to a recognition that Japan would dominate Korean affairs for the foreseeable future. The Russo-Japanese War of 1905 further consolidated Japanese power, and led to a series of unequal treaties between Korea and Japan that left the former a virtual protectorate of the latter. Emperor Gojong protested these moves by sending representatives to the Hague Peace Convention of 1907, but these representatives were prohibited from speaking. The Japanese then quickly moved to force Gojong out; he abdicated to his fourth son, who became Emperor Sunjong. Sunjong’s reign was brief, as in 1910 the Japanese moved to end the fiction of Korean independence and enact a formal annexation.

Emperor Gojong died in 1919, and Emperor Sunjong in 1926. Sunjong was succeeded as head of the dynasty by his brother Euimin, who assumed the title Grand Prince. Euimin had a long career in the Japanese Army, serving in several capacities in World War II. After the war, Euimin sought to return to Korea, but this was blocked by Syngman Rhee. Some consideration was given in the United States to supporting a return of the Korean monarchy, but such efforts came to nothing. Euimin returned to South Korea in 1963, and died in 1970. Euimin was succeded by his son Gu, who died in 2005. The claim to the monarchy has since fallen into dispute, with claimants including Princess Haewon, the 88 year old niece of Emperor Sunjong, Prince Won, the 45 year old cousin and adopted son of Prince Gu (currently employed as the manager of Hyundai Home Shopping), and Prince Seok, a 66 year old cousin of Gu (currently employed as a history professor). The evidence seems to lean most heavily towards of the claim of Prince Won, but prospects for a return to the throne are grim in any case. Although the monarchy has some supporters in Korea, the taint of collaboration with the Japanese remains on the family. As far as I can tell there are no major monarchist parties in the South, and the Kim family remains in secure control of the north. Even allowing for the possibility of reunification, the return of the Joeson Dynasty (now known as the Yi family) to the throne is unlikely.

Trivia: The heir to which throne has called for UN interference in his home country in order to re-establish the constitution and hold free elections?

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Some Thoughts on Dennis Dixon

[ 24 ] November 17, 2007 |

I know I swore that it would never be spoken of again, but the report that Dixon played knowing he had a torn ACL demands comment. My first thought is that Bellotti and the training staff shouldn’t have allowed him to play; players are always going to want to play through an injury, and it’s a coach’s responsibility to protect his players.

Then again, a torn ACL was probably going to require surgery anyway, whether or not Dixon had aggravated it in the Arizona game. Thus, Dixon’s future prospects were going to take a hit whether or not he had been allowed to play. Given the stakes for Dixon (winning the Heisman is a pretty big deal, both personally and financially) and for the Ducks (Bellotti must have understood the hit that the Ducks national championship hopes would take in Dixon’s absence), allowing him to play is a defensible decision.

The situation doesn’t look quite as bleak now as it did on Thursday night; the Ducks still have a pretty solid chance of beating UCLA and OSU and going to the Rose Bowl against either Michigan or Ohio State. Brady Leaf isn’t as bad as he looked Thursday, and hopefully it will be possible to make some adjustments between now and next Saturday. The Ducks defense on Thursday looked worse than it actually was; they ended up giving up only 20 points on the road (one touchdown was an interception return, and another a punt return), and only 3 in the second half. A Rose Bowl season is disappointing given what might have been, but it’s nothing to sneeze at.

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We’re Losing Ground…

[ 0 ] November 17, 2007 |

Farley is now the 849th most common surname in America, down 23 from 1990. The Lemieux’s have apparently suffered some sort of holocaust in the last seventeen years, as they’ve dropped from 2876 to 4456; breed, Scott, breed! Watkins carries the banner for LGM at 222 (down 48 since 1990), and Bean clocks in at 713 (down 133). Noon, I’m sad to say, doesn’t appear in the top 5000.

We’re facing a demographic crisis, people.

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Talkin’ Turkey

[ 0 ] November 17, 2007 |

I bought a turkey yesterday. A kosher organic 14.25 pounder. It felt more like 40 pounds.

It’s going to be the first turkey I ever cook. I’ve prepared Thanksgiving dinner once before, but then I prepared all the side dishes and someone else took care of the main event. I’m planning on using this recipe, which seems easy enough.

But still. It’s a serious bird and, frankly, the bird is intimidating.

So, anyone with indispensable turkey roast advice — something I absolutely must know before getting to work on this thing on Thursday morning — please enlighten me.

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Uncle Ted

[ 0 ] November 16, 2007 |

Shorter Practically verbatim Ted Stevens:

That’s a nice newspaper you have there. Be a shame if something happened to it.

Crikey. Stevens appears to believe that he can cut off federal funding for the Anchorage Daily News.

What’s truly pathetic about all of this is that Stevens is eventually going to be indicted and, I suspect, convicted on corruption charges; he’s also going to run for re-election and win by his usual staggering margin next fall. The state Democratic party doesn’t see much point in actually running a candidate against Stevens, so we’ll probably be stuck with another low-frequency freak show, much as we had in 2002:

Both Democrats running for the right to face Ted Stevens in November’s general election say the state’s senior U.S. senator is out to get them.

In his campaign material, Frank Vondersaar of Homer calls himself “a political prisoner of Stevens and his criminal co-conspirators” since 1986. Theresa Nangle Obermeyer of Anchorage also calls herself a “political prisoner” and claims Stevens “jailed me for 29 days” in 1996, the first time she ran against the Republican U.S. senator. . . .

Vondersaar, a lawyer and engineer, said he worked in nuclear weapons intelligence for the U.S. Air Force from 1972 to 1985. After deciding he was under surveillance by the Department of Defense, he said he wrote Stevens asking for help. Vondersaar said he was sent to a psychiatric ward for six months, discharged and kept under surveillance.

Vondersaar, who lost to Obermeyer in the 1996 U.S. Senate Democratic primary, said since moving to Alaska, “they have me in a bubble.” And he claimed Stevens is part of the “they.”

“I don’t know how closely he was involved in the original conspiracy, but the conspiracy continues,” Vondersaar said from a Homer radio station where he arranged to use the phone for an interview because he has no home phone.

Obermeyer, an educator, real estate broker and frequent candidate who served one term on the Anchorage School Board, has claimed for years that Stevens repeatedly blocked her husband Tom’s attempts to enter the Alaska Bar. She also alleged Stevens’ entry to the bar was improper.

She was charged with disorderly conduct in 1995 after an altercation with a secretary in a federal building in Anchorage. She was placed on probation but served time, including some at an out-of-state federal prison, for violating probation. She also was arrested in 1998 after allegedly disrupting an Anchorage School Board meeting.

“I … have been jailed and targeted for many years for telling the truth. I have weathered a total of 14 fabricated court charges. Alaska Bench and Bar have spent millions to attempt to silence my husband and me,” she wrote in an e-mail message answering campaign questions.

Of course six years later, none of this sounds quite as implausible as it used to.

As it happened, Vondersaar won the primary and received about 10% of the vote, putting him solidly in second place. With an additional six years to mull over his plight, Vondersaar is apparently running again.

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Things that are Very Bad

[ 15 ] November 16, 2007 |

Securing your nuclear weapons with the equivalent of a bicycle lock is pretty high on the list. I know that Scott Sagan has taught us that accidents are inevitable, no matter how good our procedures are, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

I’m also a bit dismayed to learn that Royal Navy boomer commanders can still launch their missiles without signal from headquarters. Again, let’s at least try to pretend that we’re safeguarding the most dangerous weapons humanity has ever conceived of…

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