Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Wasting timeTen Points -- for no other reason that I cannot fall asleep at this ungodly early hour, but I need to force myself into it.
First of all, I would like to defend the "name" of this Blog. It has valence (buzz) on so many levels: (1) it is a slight variation, obviously, on the word "historiography", (2) it, in some ways, is creating a historiography of Chris' and Michael's political views (though they seem to be rather static...), and (3) someone very clever and sleep-deprived that I like very much came up with the name.
Second of all, I would like to pledge allegiance to my country...
Third of all, I passed my UCLA History Department French Competency Exam (UHDFCE). Which means someone needs to send me to France to see if this is worth a damn.
Fourth of all, I was watching on cspan a lecture Stephen Breyer was giving the Paris Bar Association about international law. For a good while, he spoke in French, and I understood the gist of it. I win the prize.
Fifth of all, for those of you who are interested in the whole Malkin thing, after Breyer spoke, Judge Wallace Tashima of the US Court of Appeals (9th circuit) discusses internment. What makes him so powerful (though I must say he does not have the presence of a remarkable speaker) is the fact that he was interned when he was about 10. I think for a while you'll be able to access the video here: http://www.c-span.org/homepage.asp?Cat=Series&Code=AC
Sixth of all, I presented my research paper prospectus (on cold fusion and Julian Schwinger) to my research seminar today, and we spent 90 minutes -- you got that right -- on it. I got a lot of good advise/leads, but I can't tell if the overall tone was "way to go! you have something!" or "we're just humoring you but you're crazy!" I get enough of the latter from my friends.
Seventh of all, LA is getting quite chilly. If this is chilly, mind you, my composition has grown quite weak. The thought of going home (East) for the holidays scares me.
Eighth of all, grading student essays is so time-consuming. It's sometimes hard to find the good.
Ninth of all, recently my roommate (in the astronomy department at UCLA) got sent to Hawaii for the weekend by her advisor. I need to ask myself, as you all do too, are we in the wrong field?
Lastly: Vor 4 Tagen habe ich "Finding Neverland" gespielt. C'etait bien, je pense. Soon I'll be completely cultured. Just have to read some Kant and pretend to read Hegel.
greg robinson totally has my numberThis post, it turns out, is "puerile."
And, really, who could argue?
almost sovietIn a beautiful piece of historical scholarship twenty years ago, the economic historian Naomi Lamoreaux (go, team) argued that historians have overestimated the market dominance of giant industrial conglomerates in the age of the robber barons. Big mergers, Lamoreaux argued, frequently produced unwieldy and inefficient companies that were ripe targets for new competition. Conglomerates formed around old factories and the last generation of technology; new competitors could start fresh, keep costs low, and offer strong challenges on price and quality. Monopolies had their time, but then were generally challenged in the marketplace and pushed aside.
The analogy certainly isn't exact, but all kinds of interesting journalism this holiday season suggests that Wal-Mart is in trouble. Target is competing with brand differentiation and clever marketing; Sears and K-Mart have merged, and will apparently compete on price and quality. The point is that other stores can and will compete, and an apparently stagnant management climate at Wal-Mart has helped to make that possible. The Slate story I've linked to above includes an enjoyable quote about Wal-Mart from James Cramer: "The stores are dowdy. The aisles are ugly. There's nothing exciting or different or even colorful at Wal-Mart. It feels almost Soviet in its selection and presentation." That kind of description doesn't exactly make Wal-Mart sound like a scary and unstoppable economic force.
In short -- and I don't pretend that this is the complete picture -- it seems to me that at least some of the political handwringing in the last few years over the evil, downtown-killing, soul-deadening, employee-abusing Wal-Mart monster has granted that corporation a lot more market power and cultural power than it ever really had. Every corporation has weak spots; no player in the marketplace is untouchable. Economic power tends to come in a package with economic vulnerability.
There are some interesting implications, and it'll be fun to see what develops over the next five years. Will Target, Sears, and K-Mart compete with Wal-Mart for quality employees? Can Wal-Mart be pushed by market forces to improve employee benefits?
It seems to me that the emerging narrative here serves as an argument for marketplace solutions to marketplace problems. Again, I doubt that this is the whole picture, but it does seem to me that it's more effective to compete against corporate giants than it is to legislate against them.
Sunday, November 28, 2004
this must be heavenIf anyone is planning on buying Eric Muller a gift this Chrismakuh...
A Conservative Empire? An American Empire?(Part 1. Edmund Burke)
What does it take to make and control an empire? This is a curious and complex question, and one I think we obviously ought to be concerned with in today's world. We might decide based on thinking about this that an empire is simply not worth the trouble. What surprises me about what seems to be the current state of discussion about empire in the public realm, is how little discussion their appears to be about this question. I'd like to contrast what I take to be the lack of concern about the question of empire with previous thinkers, conservative and liberal alike.
Edmund Burke's "Conciliation With America" was a speech he delivered before parliament in 1775. In it Burke argued that imperialism requires a soft touch. He found in the situation with America the need to capitulate for the longterm benefits of the Colonies.
Why does England have colonies? Why does England care about America? Burke's answer is simple; colonies are kept for money. Commerce drives the empire. Demonstrating the importance of commerce lead Burke to begin his discussion of America by noting the massive volume of it's trade. He produced records indicating the massive extent of commerce with Britain's various colonies, and concluded by gesturing to the sheer massiveness of the enterprise:
So far, Sir, as to the importance of the object in the view of
its commerce, as concerned in the exports of England. If I were to
detail the imports, I could shew how many enjoyments they procure,
which deceive the burthen of life; how many material which
invigorate the springs of national industry, and extend and animate
every part of our foreign and domestick commerce.
The profitability of the American Colonies demanded a response to the growing rebellion there.But what form should such a response take? Burke's suspicion of simply crushing the rebellion stemmed from his view of the empire. If the empire exists to enrich England, constant warfare will accomplish the opposite:
...[T]he use of force alone is but temporary. It may
subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of
subduing again: and a nation is not governed which is perpetually
to be conquered.
Consequently Burke proposed a policy of "removing the ground of the difference..." Military might could only accomplish so much for Burke. It could not secure a healthy empire on its own, a common interest in empire was required for that.
Burke, the iconic figure of conservatism, is enormously suspicious of the efficacy of naked power. Power must always wear the mask of common interest to be effective. Otherwise an empire becomes unmanageable.
And notice what the intellectual consequence of such a position is. Rebellion (the current state of affairs) indicates a revealed preference against the current state of the empire. Any large scale rebellion, regardless of what the colonial power makes of its justification, indicates some kind of error in ruling. To rule by force itself is indicative of error.
From Burke's perspective the first thing that America ought to consider in Iraq then is what the nature of this common interest is to be.Crushing rebellion is useless if the causes of rebellion aren't addressed. And it matters not what we make of their motives, the fact of rebellion in Iraq itself indicates a need for a serious questioning of the best ways to go about the colonial enterprise itself.
Oddly Burke's perspective itself appears to be wholly absent from public concern over Iraq. Bush has constantly discussed the war in terms of the march of democracy, and seems unconcerned that the supposed democrats in Iraq don't seem to want democracy all that much. Kerry campaigned on "winning" a war fought over a "mistake." But winning the war in Iraq is no longer about winning battles. It's about winning over the Iraqi people.
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Air Travell in the New MillenniumThe line at LAX was truly an amazing thing. It went from terminal one to the end of terminal two.I arrived two hours ahead of time, and I needed to be pulled out of line and rushed through in order to make my flight.
My flight was then delayed for about fifty minutes.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
out for tofurkeyI probably won't be posting much for the next few days. I'll be on the road with Ann, headed for Thanksgiving with the 'rents.
In my absence, Michael will explain in detail why he's having such a shitty week (which I suspect has something to do with some undergraduates), and Sam will post apocalyptic and vaguely threatening screeds that he will encrypt using a complicated system based on a combination of Latvian, sign language, and fractals.
Or maybe not.
Eat soy and be happy, people of earth.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Out With the Bad in With the GoodBoy this hasn't been the best week in the world for me. Sheesh. But sometimes it's good to have a big purge of being negative.
Anyhow, I promise more substantive content soon.
where art thou, romeo?Saw Hotel Rwanda over the weekend, and have been meaning to say something about it here. But I haven't been able to work up the energy. Short answer: if you care about, or are at all interested in, the events of the Rwandan genocide, don't bother.
As a single quick hint of the quality of the movie, there's no character in the thing by the name of Romeo Dallaire. A colonel in a UN beret runs around with a Canadian flag sewed to his shirtsleeve, but he doesn't do any of the things that Dallaire did to try to get a response from the UN. When European troops land to evacuate their citizens, Dallaire explains to Paul Rusesabagina why they aren't staying to intervene in the killing: "You're not even a nigger. You're just an African." (And then he twirls his mustache and runs away to tie the girl to the train tracks.)
The MGM website for the movie is similarly a remarkable document. The genocide is referred to here as a "tragedy," like an airplane accident or something, and we're invited to visit the message board for the movie -- where we can "Discuss with others and voice your opinion." (In my opinion, genocide is, like not good, I guess. We should think about not having anymore of those, because it is not right.)
Wish they'd left this one alone.
And then there's the director's statement, which you can find by clicking through from the link above to the film's website (there's no apparent way to link straight to it). Fingernails on a chalkboard:
DIRECTOR’S STATEMENTWell, shit. I know my first reaction to the Rwandan genocide was to think that it would make a riveting political thriller about the triumph of good over evil. Pretty exciting stuff! And the romance is terrific!
Three years ago Keir Peirson and I sat around a table with Paul Rusesabagina and listened as he told us his story. As he spoke, I did my best to hide two conflicting emotions: excitement and fear. Excitement because it was a perfect story to be told on film – a riveting political thriller, a deeply moving romance, and, most of all, a universal story of the triumph of a good man over evil. But fear was my predominant emotion. Fear of failure.
This was a story that had to be told, a story that would take cinema-goers around the world inside an event that, to all our great shame, we knew nothing about. But more than that, it would allow audiences to join in the love, the loss, the fear and the courage of a man who could have been any of us – if we ever could find that courage. I knew if we got this story right and got it made, it would have audiences from Peoria to Pretoria cheering for a real African hero who fought to save lives in a hell we would not dare to invent.
It was a very scary challenge for all of us involved with Hotel Rwanda, but that same challenge seemed to invigorate everyone who worked on the film, from our great cast and crew to the extras who rose at dawn in Johannesburg’s townships of Alexandra and Tembisi to join us in telling this enormous story. I’m proud of everyone who worked on this film and honored to have had the chance to tell the story of Paul, Tatiana, their family, and the people of Rwanda. I only hope to have done his heroic deeds justice.
The Sudanese genocide should lead to some huge excitement in Hollywood. Romance galore! Thrills and chills! He came to murder her whole village -- but love got in the way!
Are there special prescription glasses that allow these folks to see the world this way?
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Two Frightening StoriesNormally I think people get way too hung up on the whole "common facts college students don't know” business but I'll share two horrifying tales:
1) In a class on colonial history one of the exam questions is to label Philadelphia, New York, and Boston on a map. The map already has 3 dots on it corresponding to those cities, and has the lines of the future states drawn in. A number of students fail this exercise.
2) In a class on Western History the lecturer opens up a map of Italy. Nearly 400 undergraduates are asked "what are these countries over here east of Italy?" There is nothing but dead silence, and some mild looks of fear. I turn to the TA next to me with a look of horror on my face. Despite the US role in international conflicts in the region, nobody has any idea where Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Albania are. Nobody even says “the Balkans” or “former Yugoslavia.”
once an eagleRecollections of Restoration Weekend, now available at FrontPage Magazine. Many gems scattered throughout the text, but here's my very favorite:
Another panel that morning discussed steps needed to defend our homeland during the war on terrorism. It featured, among others, Senator Jeff Sessions (R.-Alabama) and Michelle Malkin, author of In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror.
A United States senator, side-by-side in collegial discussion with the author of a book that defends the mass incarceration of U.S. citizens and calls on government to assign wholesale suspicion by category of identity. Warms the heart.
the house burned down, sure, but at least we still have plenty of waterJohn Kerry's presidential campaign has -- has, present tense, currently possesses -- $45 million in the bank.
What the hell? Could they not think of anything to spend it on?
fuel efficiency must be penalizedJoan Borucki, recently nominated by the governor to head the California DMV, proposes that every car in the state be equipped with a GPS device, so the state can levy a tax based on the amount of driving you do (and the time of day when you do it).
The problem, you see, is that cars are becoming more fuel efficient, and it's depriving the state of gas tax money.
I agree wholeheartedly, and I propose that we go a lot farther. These bastards who walk to work? Let's seize their bank accounts. Ride a bike to school? Well, that's mighty anti-social of you, especially in Los Angeles. Hand over your wallet.
Fortunately, we still have plenty of good people who are willing to step up and do their part. Thank god for socially responsible people.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
mister famous guyOur own beloved Michael Benson engages in an exchange with Eugene Volokh, and doesn't tell anyone about it.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
come on darknessThe great thing about having a really horrible cold is that you get to drink NyQuil.
Fine CinemaRarely do movies combine all the elements of artistic inspiration into one perfect mixture of sheer genius. One such masterpiece is Ice Cream Man finally released on dvd. A movie more fitting of the title "great" may never have been made.
1: It may be worth noting that I take my definition of great from a fine young friend of mine from college. His definition of great was the following:
When a movie is so far from mediocre that it can no longer be described as either bad or good.
dispatches from the (edge of the) right coastDavid Horowitz promises to post a series of reports over the next couple of weeks on the just-completed Restoration Weekend in lovely Boca Raton, Florida. The big guns of a certain kind of conservatism were scheduled to be on hand at the event, including Victor Davis "Mexifornia" Hanson, Michelle "In Defense of Internment" Malkin, and Ben "Look Out For the Brown People" Tillman* -- a sort of council of conservative citizens, if you will. Fans will want to check in regularly to follow the hilarity.
Monday, November 15, 2004
Anatomy of Decisions Part The SecondIn an earlier post I suggested that the Bush administration might suffer from a poor organization of the decision making process. Specifically, I was concerned that agreement, unity and domestic political strength were being emphasized over vigorous debate and an engagement with the full body of evidence.
Some of my friends had suggested to me in conversation that Powell might disprove my tentative hypothesis. After all, he appears to have been willing to step up to the neo-cons and create dissent (in a very quiet and dignified way). Perhaps the Bush administration was better than I feared.
So much for that theory.
Is anyone out there reading this move in the same way I am?
Saturday, November 13, 2004
Friday, November 12, 2004
FlyingI'm flying to SF this weekend. For the first time I used Southwest's online check in method. It worked great (well so far, I haven't gone to the airport yet). I was able to print my ticket on my printer, and now I do not have to wait in line (well at least at one line).
Thursday, November 11, 2004
okay, this could be a problemI hate grading undergraduate essays.
I mean, I hate grading undergraduate essays. Hate, hate, hate.
Which is a little like a medical student saying that, hey, it's all great, except for the part with the patients.
redrumHow shitty can people be? Pretty goddamn shitty.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
emphasizing the neo in neo-colonialismThe comment thread in this post brings me to a question I've been meaning to raise, although I'm sure this is the ten-millionth time someone has made the very same point in the last year or two: in the classroom and in historical scholarship, do historians of the United States underplay the 1890s? During that decade, the United States intervened in revolutions in Haiti, Nicaragua, and Brazil, and in a border dispute between Venezuela and Great Britain (over the boundary of British Guiana). American business interests overthrew the queen in Hawaii, and petitioned the U.S. for annexation. Grover Cleveland, bless his flinty soul, turned up his nose at the request; he declined to confer legitimacy on a government that had taken power by questionable means (and with the not-quite-official support of the U.S. government, natch).
Through all of the above, U.S. policymakers began the construction of a new battleship fleet that could go out into the far seas and destroy other navies; this was a hugely significant shift from a navy built and indoctrinated for coastal defense. America was growing toward its later role as a dominant world power, and vigorously asserting its place in the world. And then came the War of 1898, and the transition to overseas empire in Guam, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines; Hawaii got taken up in the deal.
Throughout the decade -- and here, at long last, we get to the point -- the U.S. couched its actions in the language of freedom and democracy, but also in the language of national self-interest and national rights; Richard Olney declared the U.S. "practically sovereign on this continent," but popular depictions of U.S. actions often used both a stark moral language about inhuman enemies, and a remarkably familiar message of uplift. This period centered on precisely that effort to define the boundaries between self-interested acts and altruism in global intervention.
How useful is this history in understanding the story Americans tell themselves about what their nation is doing overseas? The president has used the language of Cold War foreign policy, implicitly asserting the lesson of Munich by saying that he refuses (or, now, that he refused) to "appease" a dictator in Iraq. Are the 1890s the rejoinder? Should we all be frantically catching up on The New Empire so we can read the newspaper correctly? And why do so many Americans not know how often the U.S. military has been asked to use force overseas?* Why do we not debate and discuss this history of military intervention more often?
(*Not an anti-military point, by the way. I've served in the military myself, and was proud to have done so.)
with an enemy like this....Alberto Gonzalez must be a great pick for Justice. Sure, some smart and reliable people see him differently, but ask yourself this: If he's that bad, why does Michelle Malkin hate him so much?
That's almost the best endorsement an attorney general nominee can get, in my book.
Affirmative ActionRick Sander is currently running a series on affirmative action over at Volokh. Sander, who has a history of working on things like housing desegregation in Los Angeles, argues that what he considers to be the best data available on affirmative action in law schools seems to indicate that it does more harm than good. Sander claims that by admitting students who are not as prepared as their peers, law schools unwittingly increase the drop out rates of targeted minorities.
Sander has not completed his argument, but my guess is that at the end I will not find his evidence quite sufficient to establish his claims. Based on what I’ve read so far, however, his evidence and argument are provocative and interesting, and I’d like to point our reader (actually we might have two now) to it.
First off, I think the way my fellow travelers can hyperventilate about arguments like this is problematic in itself. Certainly if we agree (as I think we should) that a history of racism in the country has created structural inequalities that we have a moral responsibility to redress, we should be very interested in new evidence about what the best ways to do that are. Agree or disagree, sacrificing Sander on the altar of orthodoxy is a poor way to respond.
Indeed the argument Sander makes isn’t that different than the one Randall Robinson makes in The Debt. Robinson argues that the debate over affirmative action draws too much attention to a policy that actually won’t do that much to redress the inequalities in America. Affirmative action can help people like Robinson, immensely talented individuals with the drive and motivation to overcome all obstacles if given half a chance. It won’t do much for the vast majority of people who lack Robinson’s amazing abilities. A more far reaching initiative is required to fix that.
Somehow this tends to get lost in the fury over affirmative action. The very real gaps in test scores that affirmative action is supposed to make up for aren’t “racial” characteristics. They are the consequences of vastly unequal access to resources of all kinds, especially education at every level in our society. Until we address these gaps, the underlying problems will continue to exist.
highly irregularI would love to be a fly on this wall.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Don't Look Directly at the SunsI ain’t just jumping on the bandwagon. I really did think this from the start of the year; the Suns could be the team to beat in the Pacific conference this season.
Remember, the Suns almost beat San Antonio two years ago in the playoffs. Since then their young talent has matured. They have an enormously athletic team, with quick players at every position. Shawn Marion lead the league in steals during a substantial part of last year’s season as a forward. That is very unusual.
And now they have Steve Nash. Sure, they paid too much money for him. Sure, he is creaky and might fall apart in a few years. But this year, Nash is supposedly faster than ever. What’s more he is a point guard who can dish the ball and get everyone involved in a big way. He is a deep threat, and will force teams to guard the perimeter. He was the heart and sole of the Mavericks, now he will do the same for the Suns.
When paired with a point guard like that, I expect Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire’s numbers to go up this year. Consequently I ranked them all higher than last years numbers would seem to indicate on my fantasy team. If Marion and Stoudemaire both stay around 20 pts per game, Phoenix should have one of the best offensive attacks in the league. And unlike Dallas (the Dallas of old at least) they should also have an aggressive, athletic defense.
Finally their competition in the Pacific isn’t what it used to be. Shaq is gone. My beloved Kings are fighting each other, and have lost their first three games. Kobe running a team with no coach to balance him will probably end in flaming wreckage. The Pacific is ripe for the plucking.
Phoenix does lack a true center. But then so do a number of teams, many of whom are expected to do quite well this year. I don’t think the Suns will get a championship this year, but I think they have a good chance at winning the Pacific and getting past their first playoff opponent. That would be quite an improvement for them.
apparently we're a cancerAs others have noted, Mike Thompson wants to clean up America with a constitutional amendment tossing Kerry-voting states out of the union:
The 12 states that must go: California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland, and Delaware. Only the remaining 38 states would retain the name, "United States of America." The 12 expelled mobs could call themselves the "Dirty Dozen," or individually keep their identity and go their separate ways, probably straight to Hell.The expulsion would produce a "Bush USA":
BUSH USA is predominantly white; devoutly Christian (mostly Protestant); openly, vigorously heterosexual; an open land of single-family homes and ranches; economically sound (except for a few farms), but not drunk with cyberworld business development, and mainly English-speaking, with a predilection for respectfully uttering "yes, ma'am" and "yes, sir."So, yeah. As a taxpayer in California, I think it's a great idea.
cool beansAnn and I just registered as domestic partners with the City of West Hollywood, and I can report that the City of West Hollywood is now my favorite city government on the planet. City staffers came out and threw confetti when they presented us with the certificate.
This, and the fact that the Sheriff's Department responds to 911 calls in about 90 seconds (firsthand knowledge!) makes me want to settle down and stay. Love this city. Love my Cherkis.
i am a broken recordIf you're at all interested in U.S. foreign affairs, particularly w/r/t the use of military force and the implications of same, take some time today to read Phil Carter's Intel Dump.
Playing with ImagesSome people over at the University of Michigan have developed some more interesting ways to visualize the last election than the standard sea of red. The patterns I find interesting are still present (ie more than just urban/rural). They give us more shades of detail, and overlay populations onto the map. It's quite curious visually. Hopefully I'll manage to find the time to blog on this soon.
why i don't ever want to be president (aside from having to wear a tie)In an op-ed essay in the Monday Los Angeles Times, two critics (from, I grant, the American Enterprise Institute) charge the Bush administration with a serious moral failure. Writing about events in the Sudan, Thomas Donnelly and Vance Serchuk charge that the administration has "attempted to outsource responsibility for stopping a genocide to the U.N. and ill-equipped regional allies."
As I read it, the essay stops just slightly short of calling openly for unilateral action, but nevertheless calls for the U.S. to send troops. "It's time to recognize that U.S. intervention in Sudan is no longer just a matter of our moral values but of our strategic interests," Donnelly and Serchuk argue.
This is the six-trillionth time a human being has invoked the language of being "damned if you do, damned if you don't," but it's still plenty valid as an observation. The Bush administration -- and the Clinton administration before it, and so on down the line -- are wrong for taking unilateral action, and wrong for failing to take unilateral action. We have no settled foreign policy principles, and so hold our presidents to be wrong at every turn. Did they zig? Well, the bastards obviously should have zagged. Dig they zag? Wellllll, then...
This is why every presidential challenger confidently knows, and repeats often, that he would have done it better. And this is why I tend to doubt that they really would have.
Friday, November 05, 2004
Opposite DayMarc Cooper in the LA Weekly is deeply critical of Kerry’s campaign. While I agree with a few of his points, I can’t help but think that his major substantive criticism, that the democrats lose because they are too far right, relates little more than how out of touch he is. Let’s take on of his least cogent moments of analysis:
In locating the roots of this defeat, you are free to dig as deeply or as superficially as you care to. We could start this particular narrative, I suppose, in 1993, when a newly elected Bill Clinton gambled all of his political capital to bully and ultimately divide his own party, forcing passage of the pet project of Bush 41—the job-shredding NAFTA…Or perhaps you’d prefer to begin…when the same Democratic president signed the Republican abolition of federal welfare…or Maybe in ’98, when Democrats reassured America that all presidents lie, and why pick on [Clinton]?
That’s right folks, Arkansas support for Bush is a message loud and clear “please send us a candidate to Kerry’s left!” Never mind the substantive disagreement I have over Nafta with Cooper, his analysis is so far outside of reality one wonders how it even got printed (well this is the LA Weekly). It includes hyperbole (did you know Clinton killed welfare, it no longer exists!) and strange leaps of logic (by not supporting the impeachment of Clinton, Democrats made the American people think lying was ok). But most importantly, only a writer for the LA Weekly who never spends much time outside the blue states could possibly believe that the bible belt is voting for Bush because they are just waiting for a good ol’ leftist to come rolling into town. People, Bush’s strategy was to label Kerry as the most liberal senator in the country. He did that for a reason.
And obviously, the first place the Democrats should look for a source of their troubles is a presidential candidate who won by three times Bush’s margin and actually managed to carry some states in the South. The source of all the Democrats troubles is the only president they’ve managed to get elected to two terms in office since FDR. Why learn from Clinton’s overwhelming success? It’s more fun to pretend his success was really a failure because he wasn’t as far outside the mainstream as Marc Cooper.
Cooper continues by making some inroads into analyzing most recent history and a Democratic lack of backbone. But his conclusions still don’t lead anywhere all that interesting. Would Democrats have really benefited from opposing what was at the time an immensely popular war? I’m skeptical to say the least.
Cooper I think is representative of the left’s problem at the moment. The issues he is talking about, Iraq, welfare, and NAFTA just don’t appeal to enough voters. They don’t. Maybe you think they should (heck with the exception of NAFTA I think they should), but it’s quite clear they aren’t working.
That leaves two options. First you can try to change people’s minds through rhetoric, and a comprehensive grassroots movement. That’s a difficult task but it can be done. The religious right appears to be quite good at it.
Second, you can switch issues to things people care about. Kerry failed miserably with health care, but if a sensible reform could be produced in clear and simple language that might work. Additionally some of the personal freedoms that the religious right is none to happy to endorse might appeal if framed correctly, a shift from moral values to a respect for privacy.
Ultimately I don’t have the answers, and if I did the Democrats would pay me big bucks to fix their party. But I’m pretty sure the problem isn’t Bill Clinton. He may be the only image the Democrats have left which still has broad appeal.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
red countiesThis is a breathtaking perspective on the election, and a must-see.
Mistakes Always Come BackSeveral months ago I sent out an e-mail to my friends. I sent it out in response to a number messages I had received from people I knew who were working very hard for same sex marriage. In that e-mail I made two arguments. First I explained that I feel very strongly that same sex marriage should be legal, and my distaste for the opposition to same sex marriage borders on outrage. Second, I argued that the campaign for same section marriage was a very very bad idea because it would create backlash and play directly into the hands of the conservative strategy. My friends generally disagreed with me, and let me know that the left must constantly continue to charge forward and not be cowed by the right’s agenda.
Volokh very smartly postulates that a same sex marriage ban (politicized by the media frenzy over a few dozen weddings in San Francisco) may have made the difference in getting out the conservative vote in Ohio. In other words it may have been the single issue that put Bush in the Whitehouse by turning out the entire religious right, even those who feel betrayed by the Bush administration.
Even if this isn’t true, it certainly helped. And now several more states (by overwhelming majorities) have specifically banned same sex marriage. In my mind this is a giant step backwards for gays and lesbians.
In this world if we are unwilling to make compromises, to toil to build a workable model that energizes voters, the left will continue to lose ground as it has basically throughout my entire lifetime. The red states are not going to go away. We have to learn how to win in them. Defeats can be victories in the long run if we learn from them. Let’s try to take something away form this one.
1: For some reason liberals have a hard time believing that there are people to Bush’s right. Believe me, they exist. The religious right has not managed to ban abortion. They didn’t manage to ban gay marriage at the federal level. In fact they made very little progress at all. They hope Bush will help them, but they needed to be energized to actually bother to go vote (just as leftists need to be energized to vote for Democrats). I think gay marriage helped them do this. It didn’t change peoples minds, it changed their willingness to drive to the polls.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Exit Polls6 pm exit polls courtesy of KOS:
PA 53 46
FL 51 49
NC 48 52
OH 51 49
MO 46 54
AK 47 53
MI 51 47
NM 50 49
LA 43 56
CO 48 51
AZ 45 55
MN 54 44
WI 52 47
IA 49 49
eye protection requiredWow.
another kind of prisoner's dilemmaThe Senate race in South Fucking Dakota was apparently the most expensive in the nation:
Daschle and Thune had spent $26.3 million, more than $50 apiece for each of the state's 502,000 registered voters, as of mid-October. That does not include the millions of dollars being spent by outside groups, most of them opposed to Daschle.Once the final figures have come in, and the spending of outside groups is tallied, let's stop for a moment and try to imagine how much money has been spent in this stupid campaign: seventy-five dollars per voter? A hundred?
How amazingly wasteful and pointless. I've been hanging up on recorded telephone messages all week (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss wanted me to vote for or against something that her automated message never got a chance to tell me about), and vigorously ignoring ads on television, on radio, and in print. And I suspect that folks in South Dakota have been doing the same.
Only more so, obviously.
Politicans should just ritually burn great piles of cash, and save the rest of us the aggravation.
painlessI just voted -- with no lines, no observers or "challengers" in evidence (in a predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhood near MacArthur Park that is supposedly known for the ready availability of fake citizenship documents), and no waiting.
Of course, I live in a Kerry-safe state that the Bush campaign hasn't bothered to contest, so this could very well be an unusual experience, today. Still, after reading online news all morning about long lines, allegations of voter intimidation, and generally screwed-up polling places, it was good to just go and vote without problems.
FeelingI voted this morning. My dad told me it was my civic duty, my charge as an American. It was strange to hear him say that -- my family is about as apolitical as a family can be. Or more accurately, underneath our skins, we may be political, but we never speak of it.
My alarm went off at 7:10am, but I woke up a bit earlier. I got ready -- showered even (yes, gasp!) -- and walked with my roommate to the Mahood Adult Educational Center (or something like that) and waited only 20 minutes. Luckily my roommate was there to talk to. Voting was easy -- and then the best part of the day: A STICKER. (Realize that I've only been awake 2 and a bit hours.)
My mother called right after I voted, to make sure I voted.
The excitement and tension has electrified everything around me. My tinted glasses are wonderful. I am wearing Red, White, and Blue, and I have a feeling that Kerry will win.
facts are very biasedA Kerry pollster has a piece in the D.C. political newspaper The Hill this morning. He predicts a comfortable Bush win. Other blogs have already noted the prediction, but I haven't yet seen anyone comment on an amusing formulation in the piece that speaks to the political mentality of the day:
First, we simply do not defeat an incumbent president in wartime. After wars surely, but never in their midst. Republicans have been spinning this fact for months, and they are correct.Republicans have been correctly making this factually valid observation for months, which means that they "have been spinning this." When the other side says something demonstrably true, remember: if it serves their interests -- well, then, the bastards are spinning.
For an example of actual spinning, read the Kerry pollster's piece all the way through, from the beginning. And then note what happens in the last paragraph.
hm -- the washington post"Ealons complained that there were not enough voting machines, particularly at the downtown library, where many young African American voters lived. "These are people used to getting their MTV and Big Macs in five minutes," Ealons said." -- an article in the Washington Post
Yes, black people (these people), MTV, and Big Macs.
the suspense is totally killing meI love that New York Times policy prohibits op-ed columnists from endorsing presidential candidates, or indicating which candidate they intend to vote for. It's just so difficult and frustrating to figure out how Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd are going to vote, yeah?
Monday, November 01, 2004
poor innocent usA German newspaper has asked Queen Elizabeth to apologize for the British bombing of German cities during WWII. My favorite part, as described by the Guardian:
The paper ran photographs of German corpses laid out on Dresden streets and asked the question: "What have the British got against Germans?"(This may be an online version of the same story, minus the photograph referenced above. It's all I could find on the German newspaper's website.)
Somewhere, Ernst Nolte is smiling.
In the Mind of InsanityI've read surprising little analysis of Osama bin Laden's particular brand of dangerous bufoon. But this quote could be telling of Osama really believes it:
"We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah," bin Laden said in the transcript.
He said the mujahedeen fighters did the same thing to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, "using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers."
"We, alongside the mujahedeen, bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat," bin Laden said.
If Osama actually thinks he "bled Russia" to the point where it went "bankrupt" he might have invented a mythic hero in himself that could explain his arrogance. If Russia had actually decided that Afghanistan was worth a total commitment of resources there would be no Osama today. If Osama really believes he faced the full force of Soviet might he is entirely mistaken.
Why are you Here V. 2.0So my big idea failed today in class. The class actually went pretty well generally, but my stratagem went nowhere. Plato's analogy of the cave likens learning to finally seeing light instead of shadow. Education, Plato argues, can lead man out of the cave and into the world of true knowledge.
I reminded them that they basically indicated that they had no reason to go to college the last time I asked. This time I asked them what they thought of the cave analogy as a good reason or bad reason to waste their youth in a classroom.
Answer: Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.
ground control to major tomA certain chronic hyperventilator links to a piece of English journalism that will go down in history as one of the most (pant pant pant) breathless (pant pant pant) bits of nonsense (pant pant pant) ever written (pant pant pant) about a lame-ass election:
GLADIATORS OF AMERICA PREPARE FOR THEIR FATEPolling! Milwaukee! Stirring!
The high priests of polling ordained that George Bush and John Kerry should both hold final rallies next to each other under the cliffs of downtown Milwaukee yesterday – Hector and Achilles finally meeting beneath the walls of Troy...
I know that I can't look at Bush and Kerry without thinking of The Iliad, for sure. Can Walter Mondale play Priam?