Back to previous post: Fired up!

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Online live video streams

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

January 20, 2009

Not “the first president with a foreign father”
Posted by Patrick at 08:47 AM * 96 comments

In an overview of Barack Obama’s life, the Washington Post gets a little carried away with the firsts:

The first president to enter the White House with a literate and introspective memoir behind him, Obama is his own book of firsts. He is the first president with a foreign father.
Hardly. Andrew Jackson was the son of two Irish immigrants. James Buchanan and Chester Alan Arthur both had Irish fathers. In addition, Thomas Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson had English mothers, and Herbert Hoover’s mother was born in Canada.

As you can see, even with Obama, we have yet to have a President with a foreign-born parent who wasn’t a British subject, since those Irish, English, and Canadian presidential parents were all born subjects of the Crown, and so was Barack Obama, Sr. of Nayang’oma Kogela, Nyanza Province, Kenya.

It’s striking that the false assertion that Obama will be “the first President with a foreign father” has been uncorrected on the Washington Post’s web site since Sunday, and I haven’t seen anyone else make note of it.

He is the first president to grow up in Hawaii, the 50th state. He is the first president whose parents earned doctoral degrees. He is the first president who once could speak the Indonesian language. He is the first president who was president of the Harvard Law Review. He is the first president who was a hapa, as they are called in Hawaii, with parents of different races. He is the first president who has a sister from Asia and a sister from Africa and a wife from the black working-class South Side of Chicago. And he is the first African American president, yet one with no slaves but a few slaveholders in his ancestry.
All that is true, to the best of my knowledge.
Comments on Not "the first president with a foreign father":
#1 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 09:22 AM:

What Obama is not, as you note, is the first president to be the child of a foreign-born father. To borrow the Japanese term, he is not the first Nisei president.

What I believe he is, however, and this is probably in their clumsy way what the writers mean, is the first president whose foreign-born father did not settle permanently in the U.S.

I don't know about citizenship. Andrew Jackson's parents probably never even had to worry about it.

#2 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 09:32 AM:

Did Barack Obama's father have a PhD? I vaguely had the impression he'd left school at some point and returned home without finishing. But I'm probably just getting confused....

#3 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 09:42 AM:

A good question. The highest educational attainment mentioned on Barack Obama, Sr.'s Wikipedia page is an MA.

#4 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 09:46 AM:

In fact, as far as I can tell through further searching, Barack Obama, Sr. didn't in fact earn a doctorate.

#5 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 10:03 AM:

Presumably, all the presidents you list had two US citizens, born or naturalised, for parents (except for the ones who were born before independence, of course). Obama's the only president born since independence who wasn't born to two US citizens.

It is also very unlikely that Barack Obama has no slaves in his ancestry - I would bet that he has slave and slaveholder ancestors on both his father's and his mother's side. More or less all of us do, one way or another.

#6 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 10:19 AM:

And he is the first African American president, yet one with no slaves but a few slaveholders in his ancestry.

They seem a little surprised at the idea of an African Amercian without slaves in his ancestry.  "African-American" so often refers to descendants of slaves – of people brought forcibly from Africa as slaves a century or two ago – that one may forget that there are many African-Americans today who are descended from free African people who came to the US voluntarily.

#7 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 10:26 AM:

Another question: is George W Bush the first US president never to have lost an election? Reagan lost the Republican primary twice. Clinton lost a House election in the seventies. Carter, Bush I and Ford, of course, were one-term presidents; Nixon lost the general election in 1960; Johnson lost a senate run in 1941... but no electorate ever looked at George W Bush and said "sorry, we'd rather have the other guy".

#8 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 10:37 AM:

"Presumably, all the presidents you list had two US citizens, born or naturalised, for parents (except for the ones who were born before independence, of course)."

Actually, if I recall correctly, Chester Alan Arthur's Irish father didn't become a naturalized American until well after Arthur's birth.

Interestingly, Arthur was also the subject of persistent dead-ender claims that he wasn't actually born an American.

#9 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 10:38 AM:

Ajay, 7: No. JFK seems to have won all of the elections he ran in (three House, two Senate, and the 1960 presidential).

#10 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 10:41 AM:

I've only heard "hapa" in reference to people who are partly asian, not to people of mixed parentage generally. But it may be that it's been somewhat claimed by that group, and it actually has a broader meaning. Maybe Wikipedia can tell me.

John Stanning @#6: The news organizations are bending over backwards to work slavery into the narrative at every opportunity...anything else seems to confuse them.

#11 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 10:41 AM:

#7: I believe George W. unsuccessfully ran for Congress in the 1990s.

#12 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 10:41 AM:

Ignore #7; I stopped looking too early. Both JFK and Eisenhower never lost an election - though Eisenhower was a bit of a special case, since he only ever ran in two. It's still rather worrying that W never found an opponent who could beat him.

#13 ::: David Stever ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 10:43 AM:

I knew there was a good to come of all that genealogy I've been doing since I dropped out of fandom. Our daughter has not been too proud of being a relation of the current President (As I write this), but we're both proud of being a relation of Barack's. Welcome to the New America, even if the media doesn't always get the fact right, or own up to not getting it right, either.

#14 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 10:45 AM:

"is George W Bush the first US president never to have lost an election?"

Well, no. For starters, the generals: George Washington, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. I'm pretty sure there are others.

Second, George W. Bush doesn't belong on the list; he ran for Congress in 1978 and was soundly trounced by incumbent Kent Hance.

Obama has never lost a general election, but he was crushed in the primary when he tried to run for Congress in 2000 against incumbent (and still incumbent) Rep. Bobby Rush.

#15 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 10:48 AM:

Just seen Dr Strangelove, I mean Cheney, being pushed down to his limo in a wheelchair...

#16 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 10:49 AM:

My fellow photons, it is clearly time for me to admit that I don't know what I'm talking about.

#17 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 11:24 AM:

PNH @14, Kent Hance ran on a platform of calling Bush an elitist because of his Harvard and Yale degrees. Some cynics claim that Bush has pretended to be an idiot ever since to prevent that from ever happening to him again.

#18 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 11:52 AM:

Raphael @ #17

#1 I thought the cynics were the ones saying he wasn't pretending ...

#2 OTOH, I wonder if that's why Bush seems more comfortable(?)(eager, virulent, frequent? Not sure of the best descriptor.) in his use of the terms elite and elitist as a lump-sum pejorative than most.
I may be wrong, but particularly listening in the past six months or so, I've heard him knock down so many ideas with a non-chalant, "Well some of the elite might think so, but" And he often comes across as utterly venomless, too, which, I think, makes it worse.

#19 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 12:22 PM:

Ajay @ #5: In what sense? I can't tell if you're talking about the fact that cultures all around the world have at some point or other practiced slavery, or if you're talking specifically about the United States.

#20 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 12:26 PM:

19: the former... slavery's one of those things like religion and marriage that seems to exist in some form or other in pretty well every culture.

#21 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 12:31 PM:

Ah, okay. I thought that was probably what you meant. I know my Viking ancestors had it, frex, so yes in my case at least, most likely.

#22 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 01:31 PM:

Raphael, #17: And he's done it so well that it came to pass. Like the old joke about the prisoner who pretended madness in order to be released, and who eventually was... to an insanity ward.

#23 ::: y ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 02:30 PM:

It actually appears that Obama can still speak Indonesian, at least at a rudimentary level.

#24 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 03:06 PM:

Mary Dell @ 10: My Hawai╩┐ian dictionary says hapa just means "1. portion, fragment, part; to be a portion" and "2. of mixed blood, a person of mixed blood." And gives hapa haole for a person of mixed white (and Hawaiian, presumedly) ancestry.

So it seems not, or at least not originally. I just have a dictionary,* I don't have any familiarity with usage in either language.

--
* New Pocket Hawaiian Dictionary University of Hawaii Press, 1972.

#25 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 03:18 PM:

Mary @10, Ralph @24 - I've only ever heard "hapa" used for half-Asian, half-white babies as well, both by Hawaiians and Californians. It's not used a perjorative in any way. I'm not sure if the "half-white" matters, but there's definitely the clear meaning that a half-Asian baby is hapa.

(And yes, on a meta level I realize how silly it is to talk about half this and half that as though "white" means much beyond an artifical construct based on melanin levels.)

#26 ::: Arthur D. ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 03:22 PM:

Thanks for looking this up Patrick. I had been very idly wondering who the last President with a foreign-born parent was, and now I know.

#27 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 03:36 PM:

#7: I suppose Patrick answered this with #14, but I thought that someone should really point out that, in addition to everything else, Bush actually lost the 2000 election.

He's not, even, the only President to take office after loosing an election -- several have done that, too. (J. Q. Adams, Hayes.)

#28 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 03:59 PM:

Stephen Frug #27: How many presidents have taken office after tightening elections?

#29 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 04:11 PM:

From my observations of usage in Hawaii, hapa is used to mean "half" or "part" of any two distinct racial groups, so half-Polynesian/half-Asian, or half-Polynesian/half-"white", or half-Asian/half-"white".... (Neither Asians nor Polynesians would consider Asian and Polynesian to be racially similar.) Or to cite some not improbable combinations here, it could equally mean part-Hawaiian/part-Chinese/part-German/part-Filipino, or half-midwestern-American/half-Yap (like one of my son's classmates), or half-Mexican/half-Cambodian (like my former next-door neighbors), you name it. Obama could certainly be considered hapa. Whatever combinations, and whatever you call it, it makes for some stunningly beautiful children in Hawaii.

Mary, mythago - as to the usage you've noticed, perhaps you simply know more mixed-Asian families than mixed-Polynesian?

#30 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 04:17 PM:

Clifton, I think I've seen Barack called hapa in several Advertiser and S-B articles. Your observations track with mine: the usage is flexible.

#31 ::: JANE YOLEN ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 04:19 PM:

About slave owners. . .unless you expect us to track back to Biblical times, it would be hard to point to Jewish shetetl folk from the Ukraine like my father's family, or Latvia like my mother's, to find any slave owners.

#32 ::: Fox ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 04:49 PM:

He is the first president who once could speak the Indonesian language.

Whether or not he can still speak the language in question I do not know, but the sentence would be more true if it read "could speak an Indonesian language".

#33 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 04:52 PM:

Jane Yolen @ 31

Slaves, however, oh yes (all 4 grandparents from Ukraine, a couple of great-uncles who got shanghaied (enslaved) into WW1). People of Sephardic background might have been more likely to have slave owners in their family trees. Moorish slaves were not unheard of in Andalusia after the Reconquest.

Not that it matters, except as yet more evidence that humans have the capacity to be either angel or devil, god or monster, as they see fit.

#34 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 05:52 PM:

Clifton Royston #29: I've mostly encountered the term in online discussions, since I read some Asian-adoptee blogs. I do have a couple of friends who are half-Korean, but they call themselves Korean, as far as I know. I don't know either of them well enough to ask them much about it. There's a photo book called "Half Asian, 100% Hapa" that came out not too long ago that stirred up some blog discussion about the term (and about the book, since it plays into the "exotic" thing somewhat). I think I first heard the term in the course of those discussions.

#35 ::: DBratman ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 07:32 PM:

The presidents who had (so far as I recall) served in no elected office prior to the presidency include three generals (Taylor, Grant, and Eisenhower) and three whose political experience was appointive (Arthur [prior to becoming VP], Taft, and Hoover).

Other presidents who were elected primarily for having been generals - Washington, Jackson, WH Harrison - had had political careers also, and the latter two had been losing candidates for president before being winning ones.

#36 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 07:53 PM:

The generals may not have found political opponents who could beat them, but they all certainly encountered military opponents who beat them. Washington famously lost more battles than he won.

#37 ::: Dichroic ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 08:08 PM:

Re "no slaves in his ancestry": OK, no American slaves. At least none in the official pedigree. But was there slavery within Kenya?

#38 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 08:12 PM:

Obama is the first president since JFK to be elected directly from the senate. That makes him part of a (dubiously) elect group: Harding is the only other example, though Garfield was elected directly from the house.

#39 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 08:30 PM:

My partner found an online comment somewhere to the effect that Obama had set a record for the fewest uses of the pronoun "I" in an inaugural speech. But he doesn't recall where he saw it, and my Google-fu isn't strong enough to come up with a link.

#40 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 08:57 PM:

Considering that (ABC told me that) Teddy Roosevelt used no I's in his speech, I don't think that's accurate.

But ABC might be wrong.

#41 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 09:05 PM:

kate @ #40 "But ABC might be wrong"

Like that ever happens!

(end snark; ever since Peter Jennings died that network's news operation has been on my bad list)

#42 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 09:10 PM:

Stephen @27: Can we please drop that canard now? Bush won the 2000 election. It is incontestable that he was elected, in exactly the same way that it is incontestable that he was president from January 2001 to January 2005.

He may not have won the popular vote -- but the popular vote is not the election, and wishing does not make it so. He may have won the Florida electoral vote by a court case, and by questionable vote-counting (what the answers to those questions might be is not a matter that I address), but he did in clear and verifiable point of fact win it.

Whether he won it fairly, whether he should have won it given the votes cast, whether the rules needed to be changed so that the result would have been different -- all those are different questions from whether he did.

And that -- and this should not be forgotten -- is one of the strengths of the American system (and many others): Even with all of the nonsense that went on that year, we did not have even a single day in which it was not clear and agreed upon by virtually the entire populace who was actually the president.

#43 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 09:34 PM:

Brooks Moses: Blow me. He was an usurper. He, and his criminal allies, broke the system.

I will never forget that.

#44 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 09:44 PM:

Patrick @43: I didn't claim he won it fair and square. I simply think there's a key difference between "didn't win the election" and "won the election through underhanded means by breaking the system".

But, then, I've got rather a pet peeve against people who make their points by exaggerating them slightly until they're obviously counterfactual if taken literally. Especially when they're arguing points I would otherwise agree with -- I'd rather not have sensible things I agree with disguised in what looks like wingnuttery to anyone who isn't already in agreement with them.

#45 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2009, 10:26 PM:

I was going to object to the phrase "British subject" since citizens of Commonwealth countries with Elizabeth II as head of state are not necessarily considered British subjects (I learned from repeated explanation by James Nicoll that the head of state of Canada is not the Queen of the UK, it's the Queen of Canada who just happens to be the same person as the Queen of the UK).

However, it appears that this situation is relatively recent and Barack Obama Sr. arguably was a British subject.

#46 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 01:09 AM:

Brooks Moses @ 44

At what point does winning by gaming the system cease to be "winning" and become "cheating"? And can you really "win" if you cheat? I contend that in the case of the 2000 election, the Republicans were beyond that point, so it's perfectly reasonable to call it cheating, and that the answer to the second question is "no", so you can't call it "winning".

#47 ::: m.k. ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 01:32 AM:

Usage of 'hapa' these days seems to be mostly for Asian-Caucasian, and my understanding is that the term used to be more flexible. I see the change in usage as being a reflection of societal constructs of race. The 'one-drop rule,' now going out of fashion, would hold that Obama is Black. The current social construct of 'Native Hawaiian' involves blood quantum, which some Native groups regard as a measurement of 'how close to/far from White are you' and are trying to reclaim traditional definitions of tribal/ethnic affiliation.

You can't be White without being 'pure' - and you can't be Asian without being 'pure,' and so the usage of 'hapa' or 'mixed' increases. There is less shaming involved nowadays with being mixed, but people's self-identification is often still at odds with society's identification - arguably African-Americans, Native Americans, and Native Hawaiians are more likely to be admixtures but are rarely identified as such. Tiger Woods, for example, is often referred to as Black, despite being half Asian, possibly because of the legacy of the 'one-drop rule.'

Personally I roll my eyes at the "mixed = beautiful" stereotype. I know it's meant to be complimentary but I interpret it as "exotic but not too exotic." Mulattas and octoroons, let's not forget, have had a history of being lauded for combining White standards of beauty with Black sexual prowess. It's really not much of a compliment.

#48 ::: Adam Villani ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 01:40 AM:

the head of state of Canada is not the Queen of the UK, it's the Queen of Canada who just happens to be the same person as the Queen of the UK

True. This is from the Statute of Westminster 1931.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statute_of_Westminster_1931

However, it appears that this situation is relatively recent and Barack Obama Sr. arguably was a British subject.

Barack Obama Sr. was born in 1936, which post-dated the S.O.W. 1931, but Kenya at the time was not an independent Dominion but a Crown Colony. Thus he was a British subject.

If I read Wikipedia correctly, Kenya was in the Commonwealth only briefly, from independence in 1963 to when Jomo Kenyatta became President the next year.

#49 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 02:18 AM:

Fix #32:  It seems that Obama speaks the Malay-based mixture called Bahasa Indonesia, which it's reasonable to call the Indonesian language, since almost everyone speaks it more or less.  Whether Obama speaks or understands one of the many regional languages isn't recorded that I've seen.  Javanese would be likely since he lived in Jakarta, or possibly some Sundanese because his father was from Bandung.

#50 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 02:21 AM:

I never seem to get away without at least one typo, invisible on preview but immediately obvious on postview.  I meant Fox, of course.  Sorry,

#51 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 05:44 AM:

Kenya is a member of the Commonwealth. British nationality is an entirely different matter, defined by UK law.

Here we go.
Wikipedia: British nationality law

English law and Scots law have always distinguished between the Monarch's subjects and aliens. Until 1914 British nationality law was uncodified. The British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914 codified existing common law and statute, with a few minor changes.

With the development of the modern Commonwealth of Nations in the 20th century, the single Imperial status of British subject was increasingly inadequate to deal with the realities of a Commonwealth with independent member states. In 1948, the Commonwealth Heads of Government agreed that each member would adopt a national citizenship, but that the existing status of British subject would continue to be a common status held by all Commonwealth citizens.

The British Nationality Act 1948 established the status of Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC), the national citizenship of the United Kingdom and those places that were still British colonies on 1 January 1949, when the 1948 Act came into force. However, until the early 1960s there was little difference, if any, in United Kingdom law between the rights of CUKCs and other British subjects, all of whom had the right at any time to enter and live in the United Kingdom.

Between 1962 and 1971, as a result of fears about increasing immigration by Commonwealth citizens from Asia and Africa, the United Kingdom gradually tightened controls on immigration by British subjects from other parts of the Commonwealth. The Immigration Act 1971 introduced the concept of patriality, by which only British subjects with sufficiently strong links to the British Islands (i.e. the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) had right of abode, the right to live and work in the United Kingdom and Islands.

Although there have been several amendments to the 1971 Act in the intervening years, the principal British nationality law today is the British Nationality Act 1981, which established the current system of multiple categories of British nationality, viz. British citizens, British Overseas Territories citizens, British Overseas citizens, British Nationals (Overseas), British subjects and British protected persons. Only British citizenship includes the automatic right of abode in the United Kingdom.

The 1981 Act also ceased to recognise Commonwealth citizens as British subjects. There remain only two categories of people who are still British subjects: some people (formerly known as British subjects without citizenship) who originally acquired British nationality through a connection with former British India, and also a number of people connected with the Republic of Ireland before 1949 who have made a declaration to retain British nationality. Those British subjects connected with former British India lose British nationality if they acquire any other.

#52 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 08:50 AM:

Adam Villani #48: Kenya is still in the Commonwealth, since the Commonwealth, as an association of independent states,* contains republics and has done so since 1950 when India became a republic and chose to maintain association with the Commonwealth.

There is a symbolic office of Head of the Commonwealth, held by the monarch of the Commonwealth realms, by the bye.


* One of which, Mozambique, was never under British rule.

#53 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 09:32 AM:

Bruce #46:

Would you hold the same position if Gore had won in 2000 by gaming the counting rules, or by the Democratic majority on the Florida Supreme Court? How do you feel about the enormous advantages Obama got in this election because of the campaign finance laws?[1]

I've noticed this odd correlation: The further left a person's broad political views, the more likely they seem to be to believe that W's 2000 election win was illegitimate. Now, the left/right distinction does not seem to have much to say, in general, about detailed recount rules to be used with punchcard ballots. To the extent that the left/right distinction tells you anything about someone's comfort with deciding political issues in the Supreme Court, or having the US Supreme Court override a state court on state election laws, I don't see folks on the left generally leaning toward keeping state issues at the state level, or against deciding important political issues in the Supreme Court. The best model I can come up with here is that peoples' feelings on W's legitimacy in the 2000 election are determined partly by how much they disagree with his positions, or disagreed with them as of November 2000.

[1] Given whose name was on the set of laws that most screwed the Republicans this time around, the irony is truly delicious here. And I'm not complaining about the result, though having one of the two parties limited by law in its spending while the other isn't seems like an incredibly bad idea.

#54 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 10:28 AM:

albatross

Would you hold the same position if Gore had won in 2000 by gaming the counting rules, or by the Democratic majority on the Florida Supreme Court? How do you feel about the enormous advantages Obama got in this election because of the campaign finance laws?[1]

Yes and yes. Campaign finance is a somewhat different beast in my estimation; I'm not at all happy with the system we've got; spending more than half a billion dollars in a presidential election for campaigning offends my sense of proportion if nothing else. But it's not the same order of gaming as messing with the vote counting.

I'm not a great fan of the Dems, either. The systematic (or is that chaotic?) gerrymandering of Congressional districts over the last few decades has been one of their favorite tactics, and I'm strongly opposed to that sort of tinkering.

As for the issues of state vs. federal control of things, I don't necessarily always lean towards the federal (or the state as against the local). One of the ways in which school systems have been trashed in Oregon, and other states IMO, is that the states took away a lot of local control, and the fed took away state control, usually with a consequent redirecting of money as well. I think the higher levels should have a regulatory function, to make sure that the lower levels aren't shorting geographical (e.g., city vs. rural), ethnic (e.g, black vs. white), or economic (e.g., inner city poor vs. gentrifying rich) groups, and to make sure that there's not too much waste in duplication of resources by different districts. But the lower levels usually know better how to apply the money to local conditions and can better manage the dynamics of local growth vs. school resources, etc.

The whole issue of local vs. global control in this county got badly conflated with the issue of "state's rights" in the late 20th century, when that phrase was really a code for "keep the brown people in their place." That caused the whole discourse to be badly warped; we need to change the language we use about the subject so we're talking about the right things when we talk about states vs. fed.

#55 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 11:54 AM:

albatross

I've noticed this odd correlation: The further left a person's broad political views, the more likely they seem to be to believe that W's 2000 election win was illegitimate.

Is that really an odd correlation?  Naturally, the further right a person's broad political views, the more likely it is that they'll believe (oor assert, anyway) that W's 2000 election win was legitimate.  Simple politics, isn't it?

#56 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 12:17 PM:

Checking at Bartleby.com's transcripts of the inaugural addresses, TR indeed didn't use "I" at all, and Lincoln's 2nd used it once. Obama used it three times, so no records here.

#57 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 12:37 PM:

MK @#47: Personally I roll my eyes at the "mixed = beautiful" stereotype.

I always associated that with "hybrid vigor", but there's also the issue that gorgeous people (of any heritage) are conspicuous, and that's surely a confounding factor.

My Indian/Jewish cousins (that is, my uncle is from India) are indeed quite beautiful -- but then, that whole side of my family runs to beautiful women! (When I'm out with Mom, people regularly mistake her for my wife or girlfriend, and have done since I was in my late 20's.)

#58 ::: y ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 01:19 PM:

John #49: Furthermore, Bahasa Indonesia is the official language of Indonesia, and the words "Bahasa Indonesia" mean "the language of Indonesia", so "the Indonesian language" would be a fair translation, although I believe it is more commonly called simply "Indonesian" in English. Indonesia, of course, is a famously polyglot country; Ethnologue lists 737 living languages for it, and there is quite a lot of mutual influence and transfer between them, so anyone there is likely to know something of more than one.

#59 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 01:39 PM:

Small snark about Obama's inaugural speech getting a very early fact wrong -- only 43 people have taken the oath of office for the Presidency, not 44. That pesky Grover Cleveland always throws people off. Musta done it deliberately.

#60 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 01:43 PM:

The biological fatehr of my nephew Theo was born in Sierra Leone, but his biological mother was born in the Bay Area. Theo just turned 2 years old, and he'll grow up not thinking there's anything he can't reach for. (Besides, he learned at an early age to negotiate stairs, of which his home has many, and he's quite the drummer - he even broke a window using it as a drum.)

#61 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 01:56 PM:

albatross, #53: Hmmm. I certainly would have been less upset about the outcome if Gore had won, but I would still be very unhappy if he'd done so by gaming the system the way Bush did. The belief in a fair vote is one of the things that keeps America going IMO; it's robust enough to stand up to local aberrations like Daley's Chicago, but if the country as a whole ever loses trust in the election process, I think we're toast. To quote Diane Duane, "Beginnings must be clean to be of value." If Gore had won by using shady tactics, everything about the rest of his term in office would have been tainted... just as Bush's was.

C. Wingate, #56: Thanks for the fact-checking. I didn't know you could find the texts of all the inaugural speeches online, though it doesn't surprise me -- there aren't that many of them.

#62 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 02:27 PM:

albatross @ 53... There is a big flaw in asking what if Gore had won in 2000 by gaming the counting rules. It assumes that he is the kind of person who'd be capable of that. Didn't he take his duties as Vice-President so seriously that he presided in Congress against his own interest during the recount fiasco?

#63 ::: ADM ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 04:26 PM:

He won, he's in office, and he's now got a hell of a job in front of him. It's not so much where he comes from, as where he's taking us, that I care about.

#64 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 04:35 PM:

Tom Whitmore @59, I never really got why they count him twice. His back and forth with Harrison didn't lead to him getting cloned, after all.

#65 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 05:13 PM:

#64
Non-consecutive terms, so he counts as two presidents in the list. (Trivia: Grover was his middle name. His first name actually was Stephen.)

#66 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 05:31 PM:

I know- it's just that I don't quite see why that's a good reason.

#67 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2009, 07:20 PM:

Brooks @ #42: I agree that Bush's 2000 election was incontestable: there's no one to appeal a Supreme Court ruling to.

#68 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2009, 02:49 AM:

You sure that Barack Obama, Sr. didn't have a PhD? If so, that's interesting. In Dreams from My Father, lots of people in Kenya seemed to call him "Dr. Obama", and that seems to be what he called himself. Always possible there was some misunderstanding, of course.

#69 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2009, 05:04 AM:

64: I never really got why they count him twice. His back and forth with Harrison didn't lead to him getting cloned, after all.

Heraclitean politics. You can never have the same man in the White House twice, because it's not the same White House and he's not the same man.

(Or: first one was classic Grover Cleveland; second one was the rebooted Ultimate Grover Cleveland.)

#70 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2009, 05:52 AM:

ajay: Your parenthesis made me laugh.

#71 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2009, 08:53 AM:

ajay @ 69... I'm looking forward to delToro's movie, which will have Taft as the Blob, and Coolidge as Black Bolt.

#72 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2009, 09:32 AM:

71: it's not due for release until 2011, unfortunately, but I'm looking forward to Robert Downey Junior as the recently dried-out Ulysses S. Grant.

#73 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2009, 10:26 AM:

The Sam Grant backstory is, you see, that he was captured by Confederate irregulars during the Wilderness campaign, and escaped on a fifteen-foot-high mechanical firebreathing iron horse that he built himself; unfortunately, he had to pretend to be a hopeless alcoholic in order to get enough fine Kentucky whiskey to fuel the horse, and, well, the pretence became a reality.

#74 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2009, 11:08 AM:

ajay @ 73... What? No giant mechanical spider built by Johnny Reb?

#75 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2009, 11:53 AM:

I don't think so... you're thinking of the "William Gladstone: Liberal Avenger" arc where he fights the Mecha-Khedive.

(Incidentally, I know there was massive amounts of squee over it, but having Ultimate Gladstone played by Samuel L Jackson? Not cool.)

#76 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2009, 01:07 PM:

ajay @ 75... Is there a scene where General Gordon dukes it out with the Mahdi, and both of them are wearing giant battle armor? Speaking of which, I found a link to some steampunk animation on Kaja Foglio's site: A Gentlemen's Duel. The lady's blimps are ridiculous, but everything else is awesome, including Fifi.

#77 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2009, 01:10 PM:

Is there a scene where General Gordon dukes it out with the Mahdi, and both of them are wearing giant battle armor?

Serge, how could there not be such a scene?

#78 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2009, 01:55 PM:

Matt Austern #68:

In some places, "Doctor" is not reserved for persons with a doctoral degree. Take Italy, for example, where it seems any female with a university degree gets called "dottoressa". Something like that sort of title inflation may be going on here.

#79 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2009, 12:32 AM:

Serge @ 76: That was hilarious!

#80 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2009, 02:26 PM:

ajay #75: You're right, Samuel L. Jackson would have been far better as Ultimate Dizzy.

#81 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2009, 02:54 PM:

Summer Storms @ 79... Glad you enjoyed it. It reminded me of the manic quality of old Wiley Coyote cartoons and of Pixar's first films.

#82 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2009, 03:26 PM:

Serge @ 76, that was awesome. I'm stll chuckling.

#83 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2009, 03:54 PM:

Steve C @ 82... "How about some French toast?!"

#84 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2009, 04:48 PM:

Serge, that was wonderful. I have to wonder if the animators/writers got their inspiration from Bush's Iraq policy; the result in the film seems vaguely familiar.

#85 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2009, 04:56 PM:

Linkmeister @ 84... Would Bush be Fifi, the poodle who looks so martial and noble in his dragoon helmet?

#86 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2009, 05:22 PM:

Serge @ #85,Maybe. I was thinking of the poor maiden.

#87 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2009, 06:14 PM:

Linkmeister@86

Watch the end carefully. The maiden wasn't dead or even hurt, she had simply decided that her servant was more attractive than either of the two "gentlemen" and was nearby acting on this decision.

#88 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2009, 06:24 PM:

Michael I @ #87, really? I saw feet extruding from the rubble and thought for sure it was she. I'll take another look.

#89 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2009, 08:53 PM:

Linkmeister @ 88 -- It's hard to be sure about the details, but it may be that Fifi is being unladylike with a very tall boot, not a leg. Fifi then follows a trail of discarded clothing to the shrubbery.

That flash animation is rather small and blurry. I'm curious about how good the real animated short is.

#90 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2009, 11:20 PM:

I know I've seen a much higher-resolution version of that somewhere else; I can't recall if it was in the theater, on a DVD, or a high-quality computer video. It *might* have been on the bill with Steamboy when I saw that at the Hawaii International Film Festival in 2004, or maybe I'm kidding myself because of the steampunk association. Anyway, in the full-size version it is very clear that the lady has found where she'd like to dispose her honor.

#91 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2009, 08:01 AM:

Blur Studios.

It has apparently been released as a bonus on a DVD collection of Oscar-nominated short movies--the 2006 year.

#92 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2009, 10:11 AM:

Dave Bell @ 91... Here is Blur Studio's demo reel. Their version of Galactus of Doctor Doom is really... wow.

#93 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2009, 12:08 AM:

Joel Polowin: That flash animation is rather small and blurry. I'm curious about how good the real animated short is.

Look at the teaser for the film over at the Blur site, or the version that's been for sale for awhile at the iTunes store. Crystal clear.

#94 ::: Jeff ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2009, 01:13 AM:

You knew the future was going to be weird as long ago as 1974, when we acquired a President named Ford who, even though he had been a Congressman from Michigan, had nothing to do with the automobile company.

#95 ::: murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2011, 01:00 PM:

In 1978, Bush ran for the House of Representatives from Texas's 19th congressional district. His opponent, Kent Hance, portrayed him as being out of touch with rural Texans; Bush lost the election by 6,000 votes (6%) of the 103,000 votes cast.[53] (from Wikipedia)

#96 ::: Naomi Parkhurst sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2011, 06:23 PM:

a plain URL having nothing to do with the conversation.

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="http://www.url.com">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.















(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.