The good old days (for white people)

Loved this Yglesias post about conservatives always wishing things were like they were in the good old days:

This puts me in a mind of House Speaker John Boehner’s explicitly expressed view that the problem with President Obama is was that he and the 111th Congress were “snuffing out the America that I grew up in”.

As I said at the time, on its face it’s difficult to make sense of that. John Boehner was born in 1949. Does he feel nostalgic for the higher marginal tax rates of the America he grew up in? For the much larger labor union share of the workforce? The threat of global nuclear war? It’s difficult for me to evade the conclusion that on an emotional level, conservative nostalgics like Boehner are primarily driven by regret at the loss of social privilege by white men.  [emphasis mine].  In Boehner’s defense, I often hear white male progressives express nostalgia for the lost America of the 1950s and 1960s and think to myself “a black person or a woman wouldn’t put it like that.” But progressive nostalgics do at least have the high-tax, union-dominated economy and egalitarian income distribution as the things they like. But from a non-bigoted conservative point of view, what is there really to miss about the America John Boehner grew up it? The tax rates were high, but at least they didn’t let Jews into the country club?


Why did Japan surrender?

Fascinating piece in the Boston Globe about the work of American-based, Japanese historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa about what really caused Japan to surrender at the end of WWII.  He argues, persuasively enough to convince many a fellow historian, that the key precipitating event was not the atomic bomb, but rather the Soviet decision to invade Japanese-held Manchuria the day after Hiroshima.  For anybody with any interest in WWII, the whole article is quite interesting, but I found the argument that the atomic bomb was not really all that special, to be the most thought-provoking:

How is it possible that the Japanese leadership did not react more strongly to many tens of thousands of its citizens being obliterated?

One answer is that the Japanese leaders were not greatly troubled by civilian causalities. As the Allies loomed, the Japanese people were instructed to sharpen bamboo sticks and prepare to meet the Marines at the beach.

Yet it was more than callousness. The bomb – horrific as it was – was not as special as Americans have always imagined. In early March, several hundred B-29 Super Fortress bombers dropped incendiary bombs on downtown Tokyo. Some argue that more died in the resulting firestorm than at Hiroshima. People were boiled in the canals. The photos of charred Tokyo and charred Hiroshima are indistinguishable.

In fact, more than 60 of Japan’s cities had been substantially destroyed by the time of the Hiroshima attack, according to a 2007 International Security article by Wilson, who is a senior fellow at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. In the three weeks before Hiroshima, Wilson writes, 25 cities were heavily bombed.

To us, then, Hiroshima was unique, and the move to atomic weaponry was a great leap, military and moral. But Hasegawa argues the change was incremental. “Once we had accepted strategic bombing as an acceptable weapon of war, the atomic bomb was a very small step,” he says. To Japan’s leaders, Hiroshima was yet another population center leveled, albeit in a novel way. If they didn’t surrender after Tokyo, they weren’t going to after Hiroshima.

Huntsman in 2016

I’ve been reading for a while that John Huntsman’s only possible rational strategy is to just get his name out there as a sane moderate in 2012 and then hope the party implodes after losing by nominating Bachman, Palin, etc.  Then they’ll be happy to have his moderate sanity in 2016.   Makes as much sense as anything.  For the most part, he’s much too sane to be running in this year’s Repubican primaries.  Romney is too sane, too, but is so desperate to win he’s clearly quite willing to hide his sanity.  Huntsman, apparently not.  In case you missed his famous tweet earlier this week:

To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.

The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg has a nice blog post arguing that after taking the embarrassing step of raising his hand along with the others saying he would reject a revenue increases even if $10 were cut for every $1 increase in revenue, Huntsman was looking to redeem himself with the sanity crowd.  Love this conclusion:

This looks to me as if Huntsman is not just letting go of any remaining pretense of having even an outside chance of getting nominated this time; he’s also not worrying all that much about 2016. Right now, he’s not campaigning for President at all, he’s campaigning to regain his self-respect. You can almost feel his relief. What the hell. He might as well have a little fun.

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