Daily Archives: 24 June 2005

Lind on Regional Divisions in the Cold War

The pattern of northern isolationism and southern interventionism continued into the Cold War. Ohio’s [Republican] senator Robert A. Taft voted against both the Marshall Plan and NATO. The legacy of Greater New England isolationism explains the curious fact that William Langer, a progressive Republican senator from North Dakota, opposed the censure of Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy–and the fact that McCarthy was admired by Robert La Follette‘s son Philip. Although McCarthy’s demagogy is usually attributed to his Irish Catholic background, his hatred and suspicion of U.S. national security agencies resonated with many left-of-center progressive isolationists in Wisconsin and surrounding states. Indeed, it is no accident that the same region produced both Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy, determined to expose alleged communist subversion of American national security agencies in the 1950s, and Idaho senator Frank Church, determined to expose the immorality of the CIA in the 1970s. Both McCarthy and Church must be placed in the context of two centuries of Greater New England opposition to standing armies and the national security state. Nor is it an accident that it was the Wisconsinian McCarthy’s attack on the Virginia-bred General George Marshall and the largely southern U.S. Army that finally led to his downfall at the hands of the southern-dominated U.S. Congress.

The regional continuities in American foreign policy during the Cold War are clear in spite of the political realignment of 1964-94, in which the two parties exchanged their constituencies. As the right-wing Goldwater movement, based in the South and the West, became more powerful in the GOP, growing numbers of progressive and liberal Republicans from New England and Yankee states such as Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, the Dakotas, and Oregon joined the Democratic party. At the same time, blacks deserted the party of Lincoln and joined their traditional northern Protestant and Jewish white allies in the Democratic coalition….

In taking over the Democratic party, left-liberals and radical activists–many of whom came from progressive Republican or Marxist backgrounds–delegitimated the older elements in the party by demonizing them. America’s soldiers, far more likely to be southerners than northerners, were “baby-killers” and “Nazis”; northeastern police, far more likely to be Irish-American, Polish-American, or Italian-American Catholics than Yankee or German- or Scandinavian-American Protestants, Jews, or blacks, were denounced as “pigs” and “fascists.” Pro-Cold War labor leaders, disproproportionately Irish Catholic, were “labor fascists.” In the 1960s and 1970s the institutions in which the northern Protestant/Jewish left-liberal alliance was overrepresented–the press, universities, and the federal courts–were identified by the media and Hollywood with liberty and justice, while the institutions that the southern white/northern Catholic New Deal Democrats dominated–the urban political machines, the U.S. military, the police, the U.S. Congress, and the state legislatures–were vilified as tyrannical and corrupt. The battles within the Democratic party during the Vietnam era were only superficially about ideology. They were really about regional subculture, ethnicity, and race.

SOURCE: Vietnam, the Necessary War: A Reinterpretation of America’s Most Disastrous Military Conflict, by Michael Lind (Simon & Schuster, 1999), pp. 116-118

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The Effect and Scent of Durian

The Cambodia Weblog Santepheap reports on the sights and smells of the local durian capital.

On the subject of smells, Kampot is home to the finest durian plantations in the whole of Cambodia and is therefore the perfect place to sample the fruit of Durio zibenthinus.

Durian does tend to polarize opinion. The white and creamy goo that surrounds the tree seeds inside this rugger ball sized plant is much beloved of locals who consider the flavor to be indescribably good and who appreciate the fruit’s acclaimed aphrodisiac qualities; ‘As the durians fall down, the sarongs fly up,’ the local saying goes.

The author Anthony Burgess had a wholly different take on durian however, ‘It’s like eating a magnificent raspberry blancmange in a foul public toilet,’ he is reputed to have said.

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Scandal and the Plummeting Popularity of Sumo

Japundit‘s Ampontan reports on the plummeting popularity of sumo, some of it tied to the scandals surrounding what was once the most popular family in sumo: the Waka (Cain) and Taka (Abel) Hanada brothers.

It’s as if Americans were to give up eating hot dogs and apple pie and stop having picnics on the 4th of July: public interest in sumo is sharply waning in Japan. This week a television network reported on a comparison of two public opinion polls, the first taken 10 years ago and the second taken this year. The pollsters asked a sampling of the Japanese public to name their favorite sport. Ten years ago, more than 60% of the respondents answered sumo. This year, the percentage of people giving the same answer had fallen to the teens….

A third factor contributing to the lack of interest in sumo among Japanese [besides weak local economies and the lack of Japanese in the top ranks] is the disappearance of the so-called Waka-Taka boom. This refers to the immense popularity of two brothers, Wakanohana … and Takanohana …, who rose to the rank of yokozuna in the 90s. They were the sons of another popular wrestler, Futagoyama, who died about three weeks ago. Both were very successful in the ring, especially the younger Takanohana, but they stopped competing some time ago. Wakanohana tried his hand at American football and then Japanese television, but bellyflopped twice. Takanohana took over his father’s training stable for developing new wrestlers. The brothers had been out of the public eye until recently.

Philip Brasor of the Japan Times has more about the scandal.

It’s not clear if the media’s previous restraint was due to tact or ignorance, but once the funeral was over it was every reporter for himself. The surviving sons, whose real names are Masaru and Koji Hanada, openly admitted that they are, in fact, not speaking to each other and haven’t for years. During the pair’s dominant period in the 90s, when they were the stars of their father’s almost invincible stable, the press loved to portray the Hanadas as the ideal Japanese family, though one could hardly call them examples. Rich, imperious, and completely removed from the everyday lives of most Japanese, the Hanada clan was about as average a family as Michael Jackson’s.

The media’s sudden and overwhelming obsession with the story is thus self-generating, since it was the media who placed the Hanadas on a pedestal from which their fall was much farther than it should have been. However, the real reason the saga has had huge coverage in the tabloid press is that none of the principals are acting the way they were portrayed 10 years ago.

Yet another aspect in which the 1990s were the Decade of Illusion.

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Slavery Conviction in Samoa

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin of 23 June 2005 reports on the sentencing of a man convicted of enslaving Vietnamese and Chinese workers in Samoa.

An American Samoa factory owner convicted of what federal prosecutors call the biggest “modern-day slavery” case in U.S. history was sentenced yesterday to 40 years in prison.

In February 2003 after a four-month trial, a jury here found Kil Soo Lee, 52, guilty of 14 counts, including conspiracy, involuntary servitude, extortion and money laundering. The case involved 300 Vietnamese and Chinese immigrant workers, the largest number of victims of involuntary servitude, prosecutors said.

U.S. District Judge Susan Mollway said the 40 years, which reflected consecutive terms well above the guideline range, was appropriate given the physical, psychological and financial harm the workers endured and continue to suffer to this day. Lee was facing a range of 30 years to life.

She also noted Lee showed “greed, arrogance and contempt for American law” for disregarding an order by the U.S. Department of Labor that he run a legal workplace and pay the workers back wages.

Lee recruited Chinese and Vietnamese workers, ranging from their early 20s to their 40s, to work in his factory producing garments for major U.S. retailers. The workers incurred large debts to pay export labor companies up to $5,000 each to work at Daewoosa Samoa Ltd. in Pago Pago from March 1999 to November 2000.

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