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December 2002 Archives

December 2, 2002

Wen Ho Lee

CBS News reports that the Los Alamos National Laboratory has been suffering from "widespread theft and fraud," totalling millions of dollars and including a forklift, hundreds of computers, some from the top secret X Division, a cryogenic refrigerator, oscilloscopes. Sad and surprizing stuff, especially considering this news comes from such a respected institution as Los Alamos.

Puzzling, though... CBS doesn't make an obvious connection. Los Alamos is where Wen Ho Lee worked. Well, where he worked before his nine months of solitary confinement, before his public flaying, before he was taken out to the woodshed.

In light of this CBS news report detailing the daily operations of Los Alamos, it's time for another apology to Mr. Lee. Not that there was any before, but can there remain any doubt that the reason Lee was persecuted was because he was Asian-American?

December 7, 2002

The New York Times

Andrew Sullivan and a lot of others in the blogsphere are making a lot of hay on the New York Times' decision not to run two sports columns. Sullivan, citing, Jack Shafer, says that the Times should hire an ombudsman. Sullivan indignantly writes that "The Times has got to stop acting like the Vatican and open itself up to scrutiny and debate."

I don't see why. Even if we accept Sullivan's analogy, acting like the Vatican isn't the same as being like the Vatican. The Times is not a religious institution -- it's a newspaper. If Sullivan does not approve of it, he should either stop reading it or make his complaints known. Demanding institutional changes because of its ideological choices isn't, well, it isn't the American way. Judging from all the bandwidth that has been used to criticize the Times over its nixing of the two columns, it sure seems that the Times is subject to "scrutiny and debate." That's not what Sullivan wants, however. He wants this debate over the Times' editorial decisions (or his debate over the Times' editorial decisions) to be on the pages of the Times, itself.


I had planned not to write anything about the 100th birthday of Strom Thurmond because my parents once told me that if you can't say something nice about someone, you shouldn't say anything at all.

But then, from a link on Brad Delong's blog, I read James Edwards Jr.'s National Review column on the event.

The money section reads: "And Strom Thurmond has done more for blacks in South Carolina than he has received credit for. He opposed the liberal civil-rights movement because it sought to force radical change. He opposed not its goals, but its tactics. It forsook the legislative route of state legislatures and ordered, measured, consensual change for the heavy, centralized hand of the federal government and the courts. Its legacy includes judicial activism, an undermined federalism and a weakened Constitution."

I realize that, in some circles (including that of the National Review), that the word "liberal" is synonymous with "bad," however, I've never before heard the civil-rights movement called "the liberal civil-rights movement." If this is indeed true, I would hope that everybody in America will run and embrace being called "liberal."

And, a movement that tried to "force radical change" instead of taking an "ordered" and "measured" approach is wrong? What, prey tell Mr. Edwards, was the alternative? By 1963, slavery had been over for 100 years. Should this measured approach... something "consensual" (which I assume means that Bull Connor and Ross Barnett would also sign on to)... have taken another 100 years? Should the promise and rights granted to all Americans be precluded from millions of Americans living at the time with the assurance that they would be guaranteed to the great-grandchildren of these citizens? Would this have been a good thing? Depriving million of Americans of their consitutional rights? That would have been ordered and measured. I wonder whether this is just Edwards writing or the National Review's editorial policy?

Let's remember what Thurmond said when he was running for President: "I want to tell you, ladies and gentleman, that there's not enough troops in the army to force the southern people to break down segregation and admit the Nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches."

If that's "ordered" and "measured" and opposing it is "liberal," well, to be frank, I've never been more proud to be a liberal.

For an opposing view on why the "liberal" civil-rights movement took the "heavy" and "centtralized" tactics it did, it may be worthwhile for Edwards to go to this link and read it. A highlight:

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant 'Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you no forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

Edwards, of course, still doesn't understand this impatience. He longs for ordered and measured.

December 9, 2002

Oh, that silly liberal media is at it again

Will Vehrs says that there's a lot of "piling on" criticizing Trent Lott's comments. (Instapundit links and comments on Vehrs' piece, here.)

Where, however, is this "piling on" actually happening? In the blogshere, sure. Not, however, in the mainstream media, though. Just by reading the papers, watching Sunday morning pundit shows, and the evening news, it would seem like Lott didn't make the statement at all. Vehr says this "piling on" is "I see this as a little partisan 'payback' for the Wellstone Memorial debacle." I think this is just a bit of overkill. Just a bit.

December 10, 2002

Garbage in, garbage out

Great article by Joshua Kurlantzick in The New Republic arguing that the Chinese economic boom is a myth, and that the real conditions of the economy are very different than those reported in the media. The article focuses on the implications for American businesses and American foreign policy if the hype turns out to be false, but the part that caught my eye was the explanation:

How could Rawski's numbers differ so much from Beijing's? The primary explanation is that China's national economic statistics, which are compiled from provincial data, have no safeguards against political meddling. When the central government declares its growth targets early in a year-- in 1998, for example, Beijing announced that 8 percent annual growth was "a political responsibility"--provincial officials simply make up numbers to substantiate them. "China's statistics are based on a Soviet-type system where each town and province reports figures, rather than having a national organization do the reports, and many local officials I have met feel intense pressure to meet targets," says Joe Studwell, editor of the China Economic Quarterly. In 2001 alone, according to the government's own State Statistical Bureau, there were over 60,000 reported falsifications of provincial data.

Other prominent economists share Rawski's doubts about China's reported growth rates. Leading Chinese economist and writer He Qinglian told me that, in 2000 and 2001, she traveled around southern China, stopping into provincial officials' offices. When she asked them for their provincial GDP statistics and their methodologies, many were unable to provide either; when they did provide them, the numbers almost never added up.

In private, and when speaking to certain domestic reporters, even China's leaders admit the fix is in. When Rawski and other leading economists chat with official statisticians in Beijing, they often hear that no one in the government believes recent GDP numbers.

It's good news if that's true in Beijing, but many people outside the Chinese government swallow these sorts of numbers credulously.

This points out a larger problem: people tend to believe statistics, no matter how flimsily those statistics are supported, if the statistics coincide with their world view. I was watching Phil Donahue yesterday -- yes, one of the four or five people who did -- in yet another of his endless series of programs attempting to prove how supporting Saddam Hussein is the moral thing to do, and one of his guests trotted out the old sanctions-killing-billions-of-Iraqi-babies canard. Phil Donahue echoed his approval, pointing out that these were U.N. numbers, so they had to be believed. Now, Matt Welch has already thoroughly debunked this statistic, but that's not the point. The point is the total willingness of the speaker, the host, and the audience to believe these numbers, just because some organization published them, with no investigation of how the numbers were calculated. In my own experience, I can't count the number of defenders of Fidel Castro I've run into who cite his great successes with literacy, infant mortality, and universal health care as "proof" of the superiority of socialism to the American system. I always wonder exactly how these people become so convinced of these numbers. Saddam Hussein claims a 100% re-election rate, and nobody takes him seriously. But Fidel Castro claims a 99% literacy rate, and people proclaim him a genius. So now people are doing the same with China.

I'll drink to that

In an article attempting to lightheartedly portray the prevalence of alcohol in Iraq, the New York Times slips in these comments about how things have changed:

After his defeat in the Persian Gulf war in 1991, he was an isolated figure, no longer credible as a pretender to the leadership of the Arab world. His 1996 "iman" campaign — the word means faith in Arabic — was one response. He began showing up more regularly at mosques and suffusing his speeches with Koranic references, and in the late 1990's he ordered the construction of two new Baghdad mosques that are to be the biggest in the Islamic world, one to be named after himself.

Deviations from Islamic social norms also caught his eye. According to Western human rights reports, one result of the faith campaign that has gained increasing momentum in the last year has involved the arrest and summary execution of prostitutes, some of them by sword.

The 1996 ban on drinking in public places was another result. Iraqis say its most obvious effect, apart from the closure of bars and pubs, has been the proliferation of speakeasies and a sharp rise in drinking at home.

Hmm. Remember all the anti-war types who insist that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda couldn't possibly have any dealings because Hussein is secular and Al Qaeda is religious?

Like a kid in a candy store

You're walking along the street. Suddenly, a bag filled with hundred dollar bills falls from the sky at your feet. Whoopee! Paul Krugman is acting as if he's that lottery winner right now. For a couple of years, he has been bashing Republicans as evil liars who are out to destroy the country. Now, thanks to Trent Lott's idiocy, Krugman gets to call all Republicans racist. He's been chomping at the bit for years to claim that opposition to excessive government was the equivalent of joining the KKK, and Trent Lott handed him his own head on a silver platter.

And even so, Krugman couldn't resist overreaching in a desperate attempt to smear all Republicans:

Indeed, this year efforts to suppress nonwhite votes were remarkably blatant. There were those leaflets distributed in black areas of Maryland, telling people they couldn't vote unless they paid back rent; there was the fuss over alleged ballot fraud in South Dakota, clearly aimed at suppressing Native American votes. Topping it off was last Saturday's election in Louisiana, in which the Republican Party hired black youths to hold signs urging their neighbors not to vote for Mary Landrieu.
Say what? Accusing people who commit fraud of fraud is "an effort to suppress nonwhite votes?" Asking people not to vote for one's opponent is "an effort to suppress nonwhite votes?" Next Krugman will complain that Republicans have to all stop buying campaign ads, because these ads are insidious attempts to get people to vote against the Democrats.

Anyway, even if Krugman thinks the media isn't playing up the Trent Lott story enough, that will probably change tomorrow, now that Al Gore has weighed in. He thinks the Senate needs to censure Trent Lott for his racist statement. (Incidentally, I didn't hear Gore suggesting that the Congress censure David Bonior, Jim McDermott, or Mike Thompson for their pro-Saddam Hussein comments in Baghdad. Which is worse: supporting a murderous dictator, or supporting a guy for segregationist views when he himself abandoned those views decades ago?)

I don't know whether Trent Lott is a racist. But if he's not, he's a jackass who's doing a damn good job of faking it. And if he is, well, that speaks for itself. Apologizing isn't enough; he has singlehandedly driven a stake through the "compassionate" side of "compassionate conservatism." I don't know that he needs to leave the Senate, but I don't think the Republican party can afford to keep him in a leadership role anymore. Sorry, Trent, but as Ari Fleischer tried to warn you last year, "Americans need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is."

Yes, this apology isn't enough

Here is the complete text of Trent Lott's apology: "A poor choice of words conveyed to some the impression that I embraced the discarded policies of the past. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement.''

Interesting choice of a word, using "discarded." President Clinton's heath care proposal was discarded. It was debated and was not implemented. It is no longer discussed. The policies of the past which Lott embraced the other day were not just "discarded" -- they were repudiated. It's a shame that Lott still does not realize this. Segregation and racial supremacy aren't, as some people believe about President Clinton's health care proposal and dozens of other policy suggestions which fail, a good idea which fell by the way side. They are the antithesis of everything American.

Lott made a mistake. We all make mistakes. He needs to apologize again, remembering Franklin Roosevelt's words at his fourth inaugural address: "We may make mistakes -- but they must never be mistakes which result from faintness of heart or abandonment of moral principle." These words are true when dealing with post-war Europe, Mississippi, or Iraq. We must remember moral principles. What was wrong in 1948 is still wrong in 2002. It was not simply discarded.

December 11, 2002

Family Feud

Today's New York Times fronts a story about a $15 billion family fortune, family strife, and a lawsuit by one of the family's youngest members to get what she believe to be her fair share. That 11 cousins are planning to collect $1.4 billion each, it's safe to say this share is quite substantial.

The battle is over the Pritzker fortune. I'd heard the name before -- the Pritzkers control, among other things, the Hyatt Hotel chain. However, I do not know much about the legal battles other than what I read in today's article. It's their business, and I can't say that I care that much.

What really caught my eye though, is the identity of the young cousin who filed suit. The Times identifies her as Liesel Pritzker, although I believe her birth name is Liesel A. Pritzker-Bagley. Her stage name is Liesel Matthews, and she was just brilliant in "A Little Princess." It's a remarkable movie, and as an 11 year old actress, Matthews made Sara Crewe come alive with all the kindness and magic that the extraordinarily demanding role required. Her performance of Sara's speech to Miss Minchin ("I am a Princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they live in rags. Even if they aren't pretty, or young, or smart, they're still princesses. All of us! Didn't your father ever tell you that? Didn't he?") more indignant and yet still genuine than most actors three times her age can manage.

I later saw Matthews playing as Harrison Ford's daughter in Air Force One. It was a smaller role, but there, too, she excelled.

I hope that no matter how this legal battle works out and after she gets whatever money is coming to her (and I have a feeling that even if she loses, she'll still win), that she returns to acting. She has a gift, and it would be remarkable to see it on the big screen again.

And, if you haven't yet seen "A Little Princess," you must. You can buy it here or here.

December 12, 2002

Didn't see that one coming

Exhibit A in Why Trent Lott Needs To Go: Bob Herbert's column in today's New York Times. It's entirely predictable, entirely dangerous, and very simple: Republicans are all racist. Trent Lott proves it.

But Mr. Lott is not the only culprit here. The Republican Party has become a haven for white racist attitudes and anti-black policies. The party of Lincoln is now a safe house for bigotry. It's the party of the Southern strategies and the Willie Horton campaigns and Bob Jones University and the relentless and unconscionable efforts to disenfranchise black voters. For those who now think the Democratic Party is not racist enough, the answer is the G.O.P. And there are precious few voices anywhere in the G.O.P. willing to step up and say that this is wrong.


There are calls now for the ouster of Trent Lott as the Senate Republican leader. I say let him stay. He's a direct descendant of the Dixiecrats and a first-rate example of what much of his party has become.

Keep him in plain sight. His presence is instructive. As long as we keep in mind that it isn't only him.

Okay, I misspoke earlier. Republicans aren't all racist. Just most of them. "Much" of the Republican party wants to return to segregated schools, in Bob Herbert's mind.

And why should those of us who aren't Republicans care? Because Herbert also says this:

Much of the current success of the Republican Party was built on the deliberate exploitation of very similar sentiments. One of the things I remember about Mr. Reagan's 1980 presidential run was that his first major appearance in the general election campaign was in Philadelphia, Miss., which just happened to be the place where three civil rights workers — Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney — were murdered in 1964.

During that appearance, Mr. Reagan told his audience, "I believe in states' rights."

Enough said.

Yes, enough said. As long as people like Trent Lott are spewing their idiocies, perfectly legitimate principles such as federalism will be tarred with the racism brush, either by demagogues like Al Gore or by people like Bob Herbert who are too dumb to know better. Republicans are never going to win over black voters on issues like affirmative action, but there is common ground -- school vouchers, the elimination of the death tax -- on which they could work. But not as long as Trent Lott is one of the major faces of the Republican party. It's not like he's some sort of genius; if he were, he wouldn't be in this mess. He's replaceable. And Republicans need to replace him, yesterday.

December 13, 2002

Two out of three ain't bad

Just heard on the news: Henry Kissinger has just resigned as head of the independent commission set up to investigate 9/11. Earlier today, Cardinal Law resigned his post as archbishop of the Boston Archdiocese, and the Pope accepted his resignation. And in a few minutes, Trent Lott is scheduled to hold a press conference over his outrageous comments, but CNN is reporting that he won't step down.

(Actually, I don't necessarily have an opinion on the Kissinger resignation yet, but I couldn't resist the headline.)

Swing and a miss

I just watched Trent Lott's press conference, and my reaction is: pretty lame. It would have been an acceptable speech by Lott, had it been given the day this story broke. As a first apology, it might have seemed sincere. But now? Come on. He's learning as he gets older? What's that? He's sixty years old.

It was extremely reminiscent of Bob Torricelli's farewell speech, minus the farewell. When you're admitting you screwed up, and are begging for forgiveness, it's not the appropriate time to demand credit for good things you've done in the past. "I'm sorry I forgot our anniversary, honey. For the fifth year in a row. But, you know, I've worked hard to make sure I take out the trash every week and clean out the gutters."

And he's still "apologizing to those who got that impression," and apologizing for his "word choice," instead of admitting that he actually said something wrong. Now, I don't expect him to say, "I'm racist," whether he is or isn't. But couldn't he acknowledge that the words themselves were? He started off strong, condemning segregation, but then he acted as if he were just a poor, misunderstood individual.

What I find amusing is that Tom Daschle, Paul Simon (the former senator, not the singer), and James Jeffords, liberals, have come out in support of Lott. It seems that the Old Boy's Club is stronger than any ideology. Most Republican/conservative commentators that I've read, particularly online, including but not limited to James Taranto, Andrew Sullivan, Jonah Goldberg, Charles Krauthammer, David Frum, and Bill Kristol, have come out against Lott, but his buddies are standing by him.

December 15, 2002

Lotts more to come

The New York Times is reporting that Republicans are going to put on the full court press to support Trent Lott this weekend. They're going to send people out on the Sunday morning talk shows -- including supposed "maverick" John McCain -- to explain to us how Lott's really a wonderful guy, and how he was just funning us when he expressed his longing for segregation.

Still, Senate Republicans, in a conference call put together by Mr. Lott's supporters after Mr. Lott's news conference on Friday night, had decided to began a campaign on his behalf.

Several Senate officials said that was intended as much to help Mr. Lott as to protect Republicans from political damage.

The senators, in their meeting, discussed arguments that Mr. Lott's allies would use in their appearance on the Sunday morning talk shows to defend the senator and his party. According to participants, Mr. Lott's surrogates would say they accept Mr. Lott's apology and believe that he sincerely changed his ways over the years.

You mean, from 1980, when he wished a segregationist had been elected, to 2002, when he wished a segregationist had been elected? Joshua Micah Marshall, as everyone knows, has been all over this story, compiling a list of the dozens of red flags throughout Lott's career. Go look at the dates of the various little "incidents," and please pinpoint for me exactly when he "changed his ways."
They also intended to portray Republicans as a moderates who embraced civil rights.
Yes. Embrace civil rights. And white supremacists. It's a big tent, you know.

And the really bad news?

At the same time, Republicans said they would be planning to expedite consideration next year of legislation that Republicans said was intended to rebut the perception of the party as hostile to civil rights.
So Republicans won't do something that might actually show they repudiate Lott's views, by repudiating Trent Lott as leader. Instead, they'll either (a) push some watered-down policy proposals that will convince absolutely nobody of anything, or (b) they'll repudiate their own principles (HAHAHA) to push some big government, high-spending/affirmative action program. Which, of course, still won't convince anybody of anything.

I just don't get it. It's not like Trent Lott has actually accomplished much in his tenure as majority leader, or for that matter in the rest of his career. What exactly is the incentive to keep him on here? I know nobody wants to be seen bowing to pressure, but in this case, the pressure is coming from conservatives as much as, if not more than, from liberals. I'm sure Lott has built up some political capital over the years, but come on. Or is this just Republican stubbornness over the fact that the Democrats never abandoned Bill Clinton? Or is the blackmail theory true? Whatever the explanation, the Republican party is making a huge mistake here. They must see this. The only question is how gutless they really are.

Zero is the lonelest number

The blogsphere is becoming the Lottsphere, and I'm not going to buck the trend.

The Washington Post reports today that Trent Lott has approached Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell asking them to issue statements support him but they have refused.

Juxtapose this against the saccharine statements of support coming from Lott's fellow Senators. You can read one of them, from one of my two senators, Arlen Specter, here.

For a second, close your eyes and imagine how different this scandal would be right now if fifteen members of the United States Senate were African American. Or ten members. Or five members. Or, for that matter, even one member. Yeah, it would be much different, wouldn't it?

Trent Lott must feel right at home in the Senate, but that does not mean that the other 99 are required to be hospitable.

You can't be serious

If the Bush advisors quoted in David Frum's National Review article are to be believed, one of the major reasons President Bush is so concerned about the Lott debacle is that "Bush sees himself as the first Republican president in a generation to campaign explictly for black votes – a campaign compromised by Lott’s indiscretion." (Instapundit uncritically cites this, too.)

One has to wonder if this is simply spin on the advisor's part or lazy journalism by Frum or both.

If one recalls the 2000 Presidential election, the African American vote broke down like this: Gore 90%, Bush 9%, Nader 1%. To put this into perspective, a higher percentage self-described conservatives voted for Gore than black people voted for Bush.

Lott has not compromised President Bush's campaign for black votes. He wasn't getting it, anyway. The point is that Lott has compromised white votes. When this is finally realized, Lott will be gone.

Yet another apology

While watching "All the President's Men," I learned the term "non-denial denial." I think, with all of Trent Lott's apologies, we've now seen the emergence of the non-apology apology.

I've lost track on how many apologies there have been; the most recent one comes from the new issue of Time magazine (cover dated December 23, 2002) where Lott says: "I've said things and done things on race-related issues that weren't intended to be hurtful but that I now realize were hurtful."

Did he actually ever believe that segregation wasn't intended to be hurtful? He must have always known that it was intended to be hurtful to some people. If not, he seems to have grown up in the wrong century. Or was it just what he said about and did concerning segregation that wasn't intended to be hurtful? And, I wonder when "now" actually was. This week? When he's 60? After over a decade of being in the Senate?

There is a difference between digging oneself out of a hole and digging deeper into it. Lott needs to realize this.

December 16, 2002

A pet peeve

The American Film Insititute just released its list for the ten best movies of 2002. I realize these sorts of lists are a dime-a-dozen, but, jimminycricket, there are still two and a half weeks left in 2002.

I say this because four of the movies on the list, The Antwone Fisher Story, Chicago, Gangs of New York, and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers haven't opened yet. Antwone Fisher, Gangs of New York, and the Two Towers open this week and Chicago doesn't actually open nationally until 2003 (it has a limited release scheduled for next week so it'll be eligible for the 2003 Academy Awards). I fully realize that the AFI is full of big-wigs who get invited to premieres, sneak previews, and get prints couriered to their homes, so they, no doubt, have seen these movies. But how are we supposed to evaluate their list when there is no way we could have seen forty percent of it? If it's not for us, why publically release it?

Couldn't they have waited until the first week of January to issue this list?

Hey, I'm just asking

One of the major points of evidence for Trent Lott supporters in proving he didn't mean what he said at Strom Thurmond's birthday party is that, as Dick Morris wrote today, "[Lott] took the lead in doubling funding for historically black colleges in Mississippi."

These historically black colleges were founded because of or in response to segregation. I'm just posing a question, not answering it, but wouldn't it make sense that a pro-segregationist Senator would be supporting these schools? Among other things, I could imagine such a Senator believing increasing funding to historically black colleges would keep African Americans away from Ole Miss.

Another note: Dick Morris also uses this to prove that Lott is a good guy: "There is not a racist bone in his body. That's why one third of Mississippi blacks vote for him, year after year." I hate to break it to Mr. Morris, but, in elections, one-third isn't all that many. Prey tell, why do the other *two-thirds* of Mississippi blacks vote against him, year after year?

What they were against

The Smoking Gun has put up a copy of the States Rights Democratic Party (a.k.a. the "Dixiecrats") platform. It's also linked by Instapundit and Jim Henley.

Perhaps as important as what the Dixiecrats were for is what they were against. Remember, they formed their party in response to the 1948 Democratic Convention (which took place in Philadelphia's Convention Hall, just a few blocks from my office), and it was the implementation and attempted implementation of the convention proposals which Lott was refering to when he spoke about "all these problems over these years."

Linked is the text of Hubert H. Humphrey's historic speech at the 1948 Convention. It's one of the main reasons Thurmond left the party and those who wistfully long for days gone-by still, apparently, deplore it.

Bellesiles Redux

Glenn Reynolds has just posted another fine piece on the Michael Bellesiles scandal. In it he cites the the Volokh Conspiracy and poses the following question: "whether there could be a Bellesiles in the legal-scholarship world." He answers yes and no. My question is, how did it happen in the history-scholarship world and could it happen again.

The "Report of the Investigative Committee in the matter of Professor Michael Bellesiles," found that Bellesiles' major sins were his trangressions of the American Historical Associaion's Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct, specifially those dealing with professional historical scholarship. He fell short on the AHA's rule that "Historians must not misrepresent evidence or the sources of evidence," and most of all, he fell short dealing with this paragraph:

Because historians must have access to sources--archival and other--to produce reliable history, they have a professional obligation to preserve sources and advocate free, open, equal, and nondiscriminatory access to them, and to avoid actions that might prejudice future access. Historians recognize the appropriateness of some national security and corporate and personal privacy claims but must challenge unnecessary restrictions. They must protect research collections and other historic resources and make those under their control available to other scholars as soon as possible.

Like scientists, empirical historians (I'm freely and quite blithely using this term) create their own data. Scientists do this through experiements. Historians do this through archival and other research. To check the validity of a scientist's findings, one can recreate the experiment (if it was a reliable experiement, of course). To check a historian, one must be able to access the archives and recreate the data. Scholarly progress cannot happen if this is not possible.

It must, however, be remembered when this paragraph was added to the AHA Statement of Standards -- after the David Abraham scandal of the mid-1980s. It is the memory of this case, I've gotta assume, why so many historians initally defended Bellesiles. They remembered the injustices done to Abraham (he was driven out of the history profession -- he landed on his feet, though. He went to law school here at Penn and is now on the faculty of the University of Miami law school) and attempted, in perhaps a knee-jerk reaction, to keep it from happening again.

If another scandal hits, one has to assume that, since we're always fighting the last war, historians will remember the Bellesiles scandal and will be, at first, hesitant to offer their support. Will another scandal hit the history profession? Sure it will. We should remember Lawrence Stone, Dodge Professor of History at Princeton, "When you work in the archives, you’re far from home, you’re bored, you’re in a hurry, you’re scribbling like crazy. You’re bound to make mistakes. I don’t believe any scholar in the Western world has impeccable footnotes. Archival research is a special case of the general messiness of life." The real question (more applicable to Abraham than to Bellesiles who seems to have made way too many) is how dedicated vested interests are in revealing and ascribing motives to your mistakes.

Lott Quote of the Day

On BET tonight, after Ed Gordon asked questions about his statement and his hideous voting record, Trent Lott actually said: "My actions don't reflect my voting record."

He wanted us to believe that he had grown since his segregationist upbringing. Gordon played along, asking about recent votes. These did not reflect any change. So Lott said, and I'm going to repeat it, "My actions don't reflect my voting record."

So, don't judge him on what he used to believe and, presumably (and I left the interview so presuming), still does. Don't judge him on what he's done as a legislator. Judge him on his worthiness as the Senate Majority Leader on his "actions" -- his non-legislative actions, and not on his past beliefs (past, of course, meaning everything before Strom Thurmond's birthday party ended) and if you do, you'll agree that he's a good egg.

The clock is now ticking on Lott's career as Majority Leader, there is no doubt about that (and he's also probably quashed any hopes of re-election, too), but it's not to late for him to be penitent.

Is Univision next?

Unfortunately, I was eating at 8 PM. Then I decided to watch Trent Lott on BET. I need to clean up the floor, now; I couldn't keep dinner down. The two lowlights I remember:

  • "I am for affirmative action, and I practice it. I hired black people for my staff." The only thing he left out was "Some of my best friends are black people."
  • "My actions don't reflect my voting record." Huh? If anybody knows what that means, please let me know. It's either a repudiation of his voting record, or it's simply incoherent.

I think that about sums it up. Reading body language is always tricky, but I've seen burn victims who looked more comfortable than Lott did tonight. His explanations don't pass the laugh test. He didn't know who Martin Luther King Jr. was? He announced his retroactive support for Strom Thurmond's presidential campaign because Thurmond stood for anti-communism? As opposed to the pro-Soviet Harry Truman?

The questions about Charles Pickering showed the real problem with Lott remaining in power, though. Bill Clinton had no shame, and apparently neither does Trent Lott. But Bill Clinton was term limited, and his sins were personal, not ideological, so they couldn't seriously taint his agenda. Nobody was going to think that support for public health care, or taxes, was an endorsement of adultery. But with Lott, it's different. Everything and everyone he supports is going to be tainted with racism from now on. If he's majority leader, every bit of the Republican agenda, regardless of how active he is in promoting it, will be seen as racist by some. I've seen some conservatives saying that Lott should be removed as majority leader, but because he's not a good conservative rather than because of these comments. That's wrong. He should be removed for these comments. The fact is, we don't know whether Trent Lott is racist -- and the mere fact that we need to debate it is the problem.

And the mere fact that Lott won't step down is evidence of his lack of concern for the Republican party, and thus a reason to remove him.

December 17, 2002

Andrew Sullivan on the Democratic Party

Andrew Sullivan offers this gem on what he calls "the Democratic strategy on race": The Dems take black votes for granted, which is bad for them and worse for blacks; they too easily acquiesce to the biggest race-baiters in the business; they treat blacks too often as a group rather than as individuals."

I don't understand. If Democrats took black votes for granted, wouldn't they be ignoring blacks instead of acquiescing "to the biggest race-baiters in the business?" If Democrats were acquiescing "to the biggest race-baiters in the business," isn't this a sign that the Democrats take the black vote quite seriously and attempts to placate it?

Or, maybe Sullivan has hypnotized himself into believing in a litany of perported Democratic Party sins and types them without really thinking about what he's actually saying. (And, sadly, Sullivan is far from alone in this.)

Maybe he should join the Council of Concerned Citizens

No wonder Canada took so long to put Hezbollah on their list of terrorist groups. One of my readers alerts me to this story (and now I see that Damien Penny links to it also), in which a "respected Saskatchewan Indian leader" praises Hitler.

In comments one local Jewish leader described as unfortunate, David Ahenakew, a senator with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN), a former chief of the organization and a former chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), said the Nazi leader was trying to clean up the world during the war.

"The Jews damn near owned all of Germany prior to the war," Ahenakew said in an interview.

"That's how Hitler came in. He was going to make damn sure that the Jews didn't take over Germany or Europe.

"That's why he fried six million of those guys, you know. Jews would have owned the goddamned world. And look what they're doing. They're killing people in Arab countries."

I wonder if he'd apply the same logic to the treatment of Indians in the Americas. Were they a "disease" to be gotten "rid of?" Somehow I suspect he might not. Of course, in Canada, such speech might well constitute a crime (i.e., hate speech) -- thank god for the first amendment, since I hate lots of people -- but that's somewhat beside the point. Let's see whether he gets the Trent Lott treatment, or whether only speech against the right kind of minorities receives condemnation.

December 18, 2002


I've been waiting a year, and The Lord of the Rings : The Two Towers opens today. I'll be going Saturday.

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Clearly, the Bush economic plan isn't working for ordinary folk:

Nicholas E. Calio, the White House liaison to Congress, announced today that he was leaving his $145,000-a-year position, for a job he did not disclose.

Whatever the new post, it is certain to come with a higher salary than his current government pay. Mr. Calio, who has a daughter in college, a son on the way to college, another daughter in private school and a wife who does not work outside the home, said he needed to make more money.

"I can't pay my bills," he said. "It comes down to the two F's: family and finances."

What's this world coming to when a man can't make even $150,000 a year in government? How can he expect to raise a family on that kind of money?

Some dogs bite men.

Some companies will provide information about their customers to law enforcement agencies, even without a court order. Some companies won't. This startling news, coming from that magic news source -- a new study -- is made slightly more banal when one reads the caveat that, "The survey questions do not give a sense of what information might be shared or under what circumstances." So, in other words, the survey makes no distinction between a bank giving out personal account information for a guy arrested for littering, or a credit card company revealing a mailing address of a suspected terrorist.

The article does make one good point:

But growing concerns about government encroachments on privacy and civil liberties have not taken into account the degree to which people hand over information willingly, said Mark Rasch, a former federal prosecutor who now works for Solutionary, a computer security company.

"We've been so worried about giving them extra power and authority without worrying about what they can do with no extra power and no extra authority, just by asking," Mr. Rasch said.

When one has ideological blinders on, one can get so worked up about a particular issue -- the expansion of law enforcement authority, in this case -- that one misses the forest for the trees.

Here's an interesting aside, unrelated to the substantive point:

Nearly a quarter of the corporate security officers in a survey to be released today said they would supply information about customers to law enforcement officials and government agencies without a court order.
...and later...
Legal experts were divided on the implications of the survey. "
The survey hasn't been officially released yet, but we have a New York Times story on it, and quotes from several people about its "implications." Shouldn't a reporter wait until people actually read a survey before asking them about it? Or is this just another example of what CalPundit described last week: the formulaic approach to journalism, in which the reporter determines the topic of the story and then calls the usual suspects from the Rolodex, regardless of whether they have anything specific to contribute?

Modern day Solomon

When we're children, we all learn the story of the two women who come to King Solomon both claiming to be its mother. Solomon, we're told, orders the baby cut in half, because of this order, the true mother is revealed. The story can be found in the first book of Kings:

Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him.
And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house.
And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house.
And this woman's child died in the night; because she overlaid it.
And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom.
And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear.
And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king.
Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living.
And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king.
And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.
Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.
And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment.

For more than a year now, two men, Alex Popov and Patrick Hayashi, have been in court arguing over the ownership of a baseball -- the baseball Barry Bonds hit for his 73rd homerun last year. They both claim the ball to be theirs.

Today, Judge Kevin McCarthy issued his ruling on the ball's true ownership. And, it's a ruling worthy of Solomon. The ball is to be sold and the money split between the two.

Of course, I've been wrong before

Andrew Sullivan proclaimed that Lott was done as soon as Don Nickles called for a leadership vote. I wasn't quite as convinced. But now I am. Another Republican senator has publicly come out against him, this time explicitly.

"It's time for a change," said Chafee, a moderate Republican from Rhode Island. "I think the biggest problem has been that his apologies haven't connected," he told WPRO-AM radio.
Yes, Lincoln Chaffee is a liberal Republican who may not -- almost certainly doesn't -- reflect the sentiment of the core of the Republican party. But that actually works in his favor, I think; with a near evenly divided Senate, the party can't afford to alienate Chaffee, who may be one Klan rally away from switching to the Democratic Party.

And as further evidence, Colin Powell came out and, while giving the obligatory I-don't-think-he's-a-racist, said, "I deplored the sentiments behind the statement. There was nothing about the 1948 election or the Dixiecrat agenda that should have been acceptable in any way, to any American, at that time or any American now." Does Powell say these things if the White House is standing by Lott? I don't think so. But the real kicker is Jeb Bush:

But his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said Lott's since recanted endorsement of South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist presidential campaign was "damaging" Republicans.

"It doesn't help to have this swirling controversy that Sen. Lott, in spite of his enormous political skills, doesn't seem to be able to handle well," Gov. Bush told The Miami Herald. "Something's going to have to change. This can't be the topic of conversation over the next week."

No way does Jeb inject himself into this controversy without his brother's permission and approval.

Lott's toast. The only question is how selfish he is, and how much damage he's willing to do to the party before admitting it.

Well, that's one way to put it

Now that Mickey Kaus has just linked it, I'm sure Timothy P. Carney's recent article on the National Review site is going to get a lot of readers.

Near the end of the piece, Carney writes about Trent Lott, "If [James] Carville wins — if the bar for branding someone a racist is lowered to a single careless comment, an unreflective childhood in the south, and a belief in states' [sic] rights — that puts every Republican politician or nominee in a little more danger." It all sounds okay at first, but let's think about what Carney actually wrote.

A single careless comment? Lott said it more than once.

An unreflective childhood in the south? An explaination, perhaps. It's not an excuse, though. Lots of people who have grown up in the South don't share Lott's vision (there are millions, of course, but easy ones to point to are Alabama's Howell Raines and Arkansas' Bill Clinton). And, Carney must believe in Henry Hyde's defintion of childhood, for Lott has volunteered that even at 42 years old, he did not really know who Martin Luther King Jr. was.

A belief in states rights? Well, that's one way to sugar coat it. What Lott and Thurmond were exposing wasn't the states rights of today's federalism. It was an ideology of interposition, nullification, and segregation.

Perhaps if people like Carney can successfully spin this episode for Trent Lott, Lott may be able to stay as Senate Majority Leader. If that's the case, I'd put my money on the Democratic nominee in 2004.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy

David Duke has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion. He could be sentenced to up to 15 months in prison and $10,000 in fines. (No, this isn't part of the Trent Lott theme of the week. Except maybe karmically.)

December 19, 2002

The empire strikes back?

I'm sick of Trent Lott, but like a horrible traffic accident you can't avoid looking at, I seem to keep talking about him. I said that Lott was probably gone, and I think he is, but I did see this story earlier today in the New York Times about a conservative backlash to the Lott controversy. Now, you can't trust the New York Times to report accurately on conservatives, but if we assume they're accurate for once, some conservatives are still circling the wagons around Lott.

"I think he's been treated badly by the White House, I think he's been treated badly by his colleagues, for what was certainly, in my opinion, not a hanging offense," said Robert Novak, the television host and syndicated columnist.

"The Democrats wouldn't have kept it alive if conservatives had said let's not keep it alive," Mr. Novak said. "The conservatives all piled on, and when the president in his speech last Thursday said what he did, that opened the door wider."

Novak, though, is one of the only people -- Pat Buchanan is the other one I've heard -- who doesn't think that Lott said anything wrong in the first place. He didn't think any apology was required because it was a joke. He's so into partisan politics, though, that he can't even understand why conservatives are criticizing Lott. Let me rephrase: he's so into partisan politics that he doesn't even try to understand why conservatives are criticizing Lott. But that's understandable; Novak is into partisan politics as a spectator sport. His interest is ratings, not governing. For conservatives who actually care about the principles, who aren't just trying to raise money or put on a good show on television, the problem is Lott, not whether Democrats "win" a round.

My favorite quote in the article, though, is from South Carolina political operative Richard Quinn:

"Part of the Democrats' agenda," Mr. Quinn said, "is to confuse conservatism with racism."
Richard Quinn, of course, is the founder of Southern Partisan magazine, the one that tries to pretend that the Confederacy was about something other than slavery. Richard Quinn, as much as any liberal, has tried to confuse conservatism with racism. The only difference is that the liberal tries to confuse the two in order to discredit conservatism, while Quinn tries to confuse the two in order to legitimize racism.

We're a full-service blog

From my referral log: Yahoo! Search Results for busty arabs. Yep, you'll find them here.

Civics class should be required in high school

In response to a protest outside the INS offices in Los Angeles, INS spokesman Francisco Arcaute yesterday said that "The only time the INS detains anyone is if they have violated INS law."

I never realized before that the INS had its own laws. I thought that the United States had laws which various agencies, like the INS, implemented and enforced.

Like predicting the Emmy winners by looking at UPN's schedule

Everyone links to this column, by political analyst John Ellis, who has begun handicapping the new, post-Gore Democratic presidential field for 2004. He suggests that South Carolina will be pivotal, winnowing the field of candidates down to two, and that those two are likely to be Dick Gephardt and John Kerry, with Joe Lieberman probably dropping out at that point. (He doesn't even mention John Edwards, which is interesting in itself.) And he's completely dismissive of Howard Dean and Wesley Clark.

But what he fails to address -- what so many analysts fail to address -- is the history of presidential elections. I fully recognize that John Ellis knows many more insiders than I do. If he tells us what these people are saying and thinking and planning, I'll buy it. But I can read history as well as anybody, and what I read is this: members of Congress don't win. Oh, sometimes they get nominated, though even that's pretty rare. But they don't get elected. Isn't that an important piece of information?

Since 1900, there have been 26 presidential elections. Unless I've missed someone, exactly two of those were won by someone coming directly from Congress. The most recent one was John Kennedy in 1960, forty years ago. (The other was Warren Harding, in 1920.) Indeed, if you expand the field to look at the losers of these elections, you only add three more: Barry Goldwater in 1964, George McGovern in 1972, and Bob Dole in 1996. (I only consider the major party nominees, for simplicity's sake.) So out of 52 election slots, we see just 5 sitting senators, of whom only two won.

Now, there's nothing deterministic about these statistics; there's no scientific law which prevents congressmen from becoming president. But doesn't the fact that nobody has been elected to the presidency from the House of Representatives since James Garfield in 1880 suggest something about Dick Gephardt's chances? (Indeed, barring an error on my part, I believe that was the last time a congressman even won his party's nomination.) Doesn't the fact that four decades have passed since a senator got elected tell us that John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and John Edwards might not be in as strong a position as people think?

Yes, I concede that it seems pretty absurd right now to suggest that Howard Dean could actually win the nomination, much less the presidency. But on the other hand, who would have guessed in 1990 that Bill Clinton would have been nominated? Did Mike Dukakis really look like the strongest Democratic candidate in 1986? Of course not. But governors are far more likely to be nominated, and win election, than senators are. So why is this factor always ignored? If I had to guess, I'd say that most pundits live in Washington and get their information from Washington sources. And who do Washington sources know? Washington politicians. I doubt they spend much time in Little Rock, or Montpelier, or Albany. So they're not really in a position to assess the governors' strengths and weaknesses, and the governors don't have people dropping their names every day around journalists and pundits. Maybe that's too simplistic -- but regardless, I'm not going to bet the mortgage money against Howard Dean.

Leave it to Ann Coulter

I normally wouldn't write anything about Ann Coulter, because, geez, what's the point. However, this recent statement of hers takes the cake and, in a nutshell, tells you everything you'd ever want to know about her.... about the Trent Lott controversy, she is quoted today as saying: "I don't remember liberals being this indignant about the 9/11 terrorist attacks."

Quote of the Day

"Yes, I've got monkeys in my pants."

"...until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream"

President Clinton is right on the money about the Trent Lott affair: "How do they think they got a majority in the South anyway? I think what they are really upset about is that he made public their strategy." Read John Marshall's excellent take on Clinton's statement here. This is exactly why Lott's comment has gotten so much attention.

The Democratic party has not seriously countered this strategy before. Whenever engagement has been attempted, Democrats would be accused of Robert Shapiro's infamous phrase "playing the race card." They'd be told, why are you talking about race? Don't you want a color-blind society? Isn't America about equality, after all? They'd be told, point blank, "you're playing the race card." They'd be (quite incredibly) told that discrimination is part of history so what are you talking about? They'd be accused of playing "identity politics." They'd be inundated with quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. (well, actually, just one quote. You know, the "content of their character" one. As if King's extraordinarily detailed and complex thoughts and dreams could be summarized by only one sentence.) As a whole, and quite sadly, Democrats would go quiet in the face of this barrage, and the Republican Southern Strategy continued unchecked.

But now, Lott has made it possible to have an active engagement concerning this strategy. A Republican started the discussion, so the accusations go towards him; it wasn't started by Democrats, so the accusations aren't going towards them. Of course, the Republican party has to deny that what they've been doing is what they've been doing. This is one reason so many on the right have been so vocal in their criticizing Lott. If the Democrats have the courage, they should pursue this opening long after Lott is gone.

And, before I'm accused of "playing the race card," (whatever that's supposed to mean) let's remember Marshall's words: "One needn't think that the Republican party itself is racist. I don't. (In any case, that's too big a word, too general a question.) What the Republican party does have is a history -- not by accident, but by design -- of playing to and benefiting from the votes of racist and crypto-racist constituencies in certain parts of the country -- particularly, though not exclusively, in the South. They built the Republican party in the South on the foundation of racial resentment and civil rights rejectionism. Since then they've built a whole house on top of it. But the foundation's still there." That's exactly right, and let's talk about it.

Bonus: Where is the quote in the subject line from?

Previous jobs of Presidents

After reading David's post, and trying to see if I could do it from memory, I went through every election of the 20th century to see what the previous jobs of the Presidential nominees were. I think I have them all correct.

2000 Gore (VP) Bush (Gov)
1996 Clinton (Pres) Dole (Senator) Perot (Businessman)
1992 Clinton (Gov) Bush (Pres) Perot (Businessman)
1988 Dukakis (Gov) Bush (VP)
1984 Mondale (ex-VP) Reagan (Pres)
1980 Carter (Pres) Reagan (ex-Gov)
1976 Carter (Gov) Ford (Pres)
1972 McGovern (Senator) Nixon (Pres)
1968 Humphry (VP) Nixon (ex-VP)
1964 Johnson (Pres) Goldwater (Senator)
1960 Kennedy (Senator) Nixon (VP)
1956 Stevenson (ex-Gov?) Eisenhower (Pres)
1952 Stevenson (Gov) Eisenhower (University President)
1948 Truman (Pres) Dewey (Gov)
1944 Roosevelt (Pres) Dewey (Gov)
1940 Roosevelt (Pres) Wilkie (lawyer)
1936 Roosevelt (Pres) Landon (Gov)
1932 Roosevelt (Gov) Hoover (Pres)
1928 Smith (Gov) Hoover (ex-Cabinet official)
1924 Davis (ex-Ambassador) Coolidge (Pres) Lafollette (Senator)
1920 Cox (Governor) Harding (Senator) Debs (Prisoner)
1916 Hughes (Judge) Wilson (President)
1912 Wilson (Gov) Taft (President) Roosevelt (ex-Pres)
1908 Bryan (ex-Congressman) Taft (Cabinet official)
1904 Parker (Judge) Roosevelt (President)
1900 Bryan (ex-Congressman) McKinley (President)

What strikes me much more than the relative lack of sitting Congressmen and Senators on this list is the amount of Presidents, and Vice-Presidents. 1952, fifty years ago, was the last time there was an election without a President or Vice-President, and before that 1928. Because these executive officers have been taking up so many of the slots, it’s no surprise that there have been so few people from other jobs. (2004, of course, will be no exception, in that President Bush will be running). And, with these people taking so many slots, the remaining probably comprise too small a sample to make any solid judgements.

That being said, one thing is noticable. After World War II, we saw lots of war heroes. Eisenhower, of course. Both Kennedy and Nixon. Johnson was a decorated Navy vet. McGovern was a bomber pilot. Carter was a Naval officer. Bush, the father, was a fighter pilot. Dole was a veteran of the invasion of Europe. After Clinton and Bush, the son, and the years that have passed since VE and VJ days, that dynamic is gone. It's anybody's game.

To me, the Democratic nomination is open. I mean, how many people in America knew who Jimmy Carter was in 1974 or Bill Clinton was in 1990? That’s why we have campaigns… so the people can get to know the candidates.

That being said, then why is the political media spending so much time focusing on Kerry, Edwards, Liberman, Gephardt, and Daschle? Because it’s easy and the Washington media is lazy. Those five all live in Washington. The political media lives in Washington.

When the campaign starts and everybody has to go to Iowa and New Hampshire, they’ll start covering more people. And different people. The next Carter or Clinton, perhaps.

December 20, 2002

What's going on in California

Glenn Reynolds may be correct -- he probably is -- that the recent immigrant related arrests in California have been legal. That doesn't make them right.

Reynolds makes three major points:

(1) "This is hardly the Japanese-American internment revisited." Well, it is and it isn't.

These Middle Easterners are being treated like they are for no other reason than where they're from. That's how it's like Japanese-American internment. It wouldn't be surprizing to read something about these Middle Easterners in California that sounds something like: "we cannot reject as unfounded the judgment of the military authorities and of Congress that there were disloyal members of that population, whose number and strength could not be precisely and quickly ascertained. We cannot say that the war- making branches of the Government did not have ground for believing that in a critical hour such persons could not readily be isolated and separately dealt with, and constituted a menace to the national defense and safety, which demanded that prompt and adequate measures be taken to guard against it." That's from 1943, however, not 2002... Kiyoshi Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81 at page 99. (Aside: We all gotta remember, the Supreme Court repeatedly ruled that what was happening to Japanese-Americans was constitutional.)

We can all agree, from the President to Glenn Reynolds to me, that the vast majority, if not all, of the people being asked to register do not in any way pose a threat to this country. But they're all -- every male visa holder over 16 from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria -- being forced to register. Instead of singling out a group of people (like was done to the Japanese-American community and to this community), there is an easy way around this. Make every male visa holder in the United States register with the INS. If you're from India, Ireland, Germany, Korea, China, or Iraq. It doesn't matter. Make the man working at a greengrocer in Queens, the man working at an interstate motel in Knoxville, the man on a fellowship at Cal Tech. It doesn't matter. Instead of just some, let's treat all immigrants like foreigners. Hardly the American way, but it would be fair.

(2) "These guys are all charged with being in violation of some immigration rule or another." This rationale is a cop-out. What about all the non-Iraqi/Libyian/Sudanese/Syrians who committed the same crimes? They're not being arrested. Are their crimes any less serious? Unless you believe that only Iraqi/Libyian/Sudanese/Syrians overstay their visas.

(3) "Inviting people to show up voluntarily for fingerprinting and then arresting a bunch of them seems to me to be a strategy that only works once. If the Feds knew that, then do they have some unstated reason for cracking down on illegal immigrants from Middle Eastern countries in these places and at this time? Possibly. This may be yet another small sign of coming war, and a preemption effort aimed at catching terrorist sleepers." Yeah, the terrorist sleepers are going to turn themselves in. That part isn't the reason. Reynolds equivocates at the end: "The other possibility, of course, is that the Feds are idiots, and that's one never to be discounted, especially where the INS is concerned." Another possibility is that they know exactly what they're doing and it has nothing to do with sleeper cells.

Is there a doctor in the (White) House?

It looks like Bill Frist is going to take Lott on. Frist, of course, is a pediatric surgeon.

Moving down Pennsylvania Avenue, I offer a trivia question: to my knowledge, there has never been a medical doctor President, however, there has been one that attended medical school and dropped out before completing his training. Can you name him?

Apples and not-apples

With all due respect to my colleague Partha, the assertion that "These Middle Easterners are being treated like they are for no other reason than where they're from. That's how it's like Japanese-American internment" is completely wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. Had what happened today actually been what happened sixty years ago, the internment of Japanese would have been reasonable. There is nothing wrong with interning enemy aliens during a war. It happened with Japanese, with Italians, and with Germans. What made the World War II internments of Japanese problematic, what made their situation different than Germans and Italians, was that the Nisei and Sansei were interned, as well as the Issei. The relevant orders applied to "all persons of Japanese ancestry, both alien and non-alien."

That's not a semantic difference; that's a real, significant difference. A citizen of a foreign country during wartime should expect to be singled out. Discrimination on the basis of citizenship -- i.e. "where they're from" -- is rational and reasonable (although this particular policy may or may not be). But the World War II internments were not based on "where they're from," but on ancestry. The World War II internments were done by people who insisted on viewing internees as "Japanese-Americans" instead of as "Americans."

That's not what's happening now. Only foreigners, non-citizens, on temporary visas are being required to register. And only those who broke the law, such as by overstaying their visas, are being detained. It's unclear to me how this is "unfair" or "not the American way."

[Update: I see that Eugene Volokh had a similar take on this brouhaha, and on the distinction between this and Japanese internment.]

Guns don't kill people, houses kill people

In the Wizard of Oz, a house came out of nowhere and killed the Wicked Witch of the East. Apparently, truth is stranger than fiction, because houses in Israel are now killing people all over the place. See, the "underlying cause" of all the deaths in Israel, according to terrorist spokespersonPalestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, is Israeli settlements. One might think the cause of violence is people who commit violence. But those wacky Palestinians know better.

There are currently two opportunities to save prospects for a two-state solution. First, the quartet must make a full and internationally monitored settlement freeze the top priority. Without such a freeze, ongoing settlement construction will only provoke more hostility and undermine any attempts to stop violence.
Get that? First Israel should stop building those evil killing machine-houses. Then we can have attempts to stop violence. No guarantees on whether those "attempts" will succeed, of course, as we can see...
Second, elections next month give Israelis the opportunity to send a message to Palestinians. By electing a leadership committed to evacuating settlements rather than building them, to ending the occupation rather than intensifying it, Israelis can undermine the Palestinian extremists and help bring an end to the horrors of the past two years.
So it's up to the Israelis to pacify -- to "undermine" -- Palestinian extremists. (Note that he doesn't bother to talk about Palestinian elections, presumably because he knows how silly that concept is.) He doesn't suggest that Palestinians "undermine" Israeli extremists by ceasing to blow up buses and supermarkets and the like. Israel apparently has to handle all sides of the peace "process," while Palestinians can just sit around twiddling their thumbs.

Why stop there?

Glenn Reynolds writes that "I think the Republicans should demonstrate that they're taking the country beyond the legacy of segregation by passing the "End to Racism and Segregation Act of 2003," which would provide that neither the federal government, nor the states, nor any entity receiving federal funds may take race into account in any manner in the making of hiring, firing, promotion, or benefits decisions."

Why just hiring, firing, promotion and benefits decisions? If we're really going to go "beyond the legacy of segregation," how about not taking "race into account" when it pertains to current voting laws and current housing regulations? If we're going to be a color-blind society, why doesn't Reynolds advocate that the Republican Party pass a law that repeals every piece of post-1960 Civil Rights legislation?

If Reynolds is any guide, it looks like nothing has been learned from the Lott affair. It's a shame.

Bye Bye

So Trent Lott is stepping down as majority leader. Finally. There are beached whales that make more graceful exits than Lott did, but he's out.

And why is this important? Charles Krauthammer explained it brilliantly this morning, while pointing out why so many conservatives were so eager to see him go. Some, certainly, simply felt that he was an inauthentic conservative who was hurting the party. Krauthammer agrees with these arguments, but then clarifies:

These arguments are fine. They are also inadequate. Even if none of these claims were true -- even if Lott were not a clumsy and ineffective leader, even if this did not affect Republican chances for winning future elections -- Lott would have to go. It is not a matter of politics. It is a matter of principle.

The principle is colorblindness, the bedrock idea enshrined in the 1964 Civil Rights Act that guides the thinking of the third strain of conservatism, neoconservatism. Neocons have been the most passionate about the Lott affair and the most disturbed by its meaning.

Why? Because many neoconservatives are former liberals. They supported civil rights when it meant equality between the races, and they turned against the civil rights establishment when it began insisting that some races should be more equal than others. Neoconservatives oppose affirmative action on grounds of colorblindness and in defense of the original vision of the civil rights movement: judging people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

Having thus staked their ground for decades on colorblindness and a reverence for the civil rights movement as originally defined, neoconservatives were particularly appalled by Lott's endorsement of its antithesis, Thurmond segregationism. Not to denounce it -- on grounds not of politics but of principle -- would be to lose all moral standing on matters of race. Lott has subsequently provided even more evidence of his moral unfitness for leadership. In desperation to save himself, the clueless Lott has now groveled his way to supporting affirmative action. Two weeks ago he was pining for 1948 segregation; now, on Black Entertainment Television, he embraces 2002 racial preferences -- without even a pit stop at 1964 colorblindness! It's an amazing trajectory, and a disgraceful one. It can only happen to a man without a principled bone in his body on the issue of race.

In his multiple confessions, Lott has practically pledged himself to enacting the modern liberal agenda of racial preferences. It is an ironic recapitulation of what happened in the late '60s. Out of shame and atonement for the racist past, liberals abandoned racial blindness and became apologists for racial preferences. Lott's newfound shame and atonement are as phony as it gets, but the result is the same: He, too, has ricocheted from one kind of racialism to another. Except that he did it in one week.

A man who has no use -- let alone no feel -- for colorblindness has no business being a leader of the conservative party. True, if Lott is ousted, he might resign from the Senate and allow his seat to go Democratic, thus jeopardizing Republican control of the Senate and undoing the great Republican electoral triumph of 2002.

So be it. There is a principle at stake here. Better to lose the Senate than to lose your soul. New elections come around every two years. Souls are scarcer.

You can say that again.

Case in point

Krauthammer's point about the moral high ground, and Lott's decision to not only abandon that ground, but tear down all the trees and strip mine it bare is illustrated perfectly by this Op/Ed in the LA Times. All Republicans are racist, because they don't support "civil rights" -- as defined by the left to mean "racially biased laws":

Nickles at times has even exceeded Lott in his zeal to torpedo civil rights protections.

Lott and Nickles opposed the creation of a federal holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. and voted to abolish affirmative action in federal hiring.

But on the King holiday, Nickles went further and insultingly suggested that the holiday should be an unpaid holiday, celebrated on a Sunday.

Though Lott has publicly recanted his opposition to the King holiday and affirmative action, Nickles has not.

But Nickles is not the only top Republican -- and possible successor to Lott if he steps down as majority leader -- to wallow near the bottom on the Senate civil rights scorecard.

Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist and Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell opposed expanded hate-crime protections, greater funding for minority-owned businesses, efforts to end job discrimination by sexual orientation and affirmative action in federal hiring.

For far too long, conservatives let liberals define what constituted civil rights. Mandatory discrimination, racial preferences, quotas, special treatment. Opposition to those was branded as not merely wrong, but "racist." And as long as people like Trent Lott are given positions of authority, conservatives can't credibly argue otherwise. That's why Lott needed to be demoted.

Brass tacks

Let's get down to brass tacks. There are one of two possibilites:

1. The United States has completely overcome its history of discrimination and is currently a completely egalitarian meritocratic society.

2. The United States hasn't and there are still areas in this country where discrimination can be found.

If you believe in #1, then what David calls "mandatory discrimination, racial preferences, quotas, special treatment" are not only bad policy, they are morally abhorant. If you believe in #2, then concrete action must be taken so #1 can be achieved.

Does anyone reading this really believe that #1 has been achieved?

Wonder why?

Glenn Reynolds, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Pseudo Psalms, and many others are having a gas pointing out that the political party of the Solid South -- the political party that established and defended Jim Crow -- was the Democratic Party. Attention must be, of course, drawn away from what Trent Lott's comments revealed.

What they are saying is true enough. But it's no longer true about the Democratic Party.

Have they ever thought about why, during the Civil Rights movement, so many, including Trent Lott and Strom Thurmond, even Ronald Reagan for that matter, switched their party identifications from the Democratic Party to the Republican?

December 21, 2002

WWTD: What Would Trent Do?

Given all the talk of segregation lately, an interesting story: the California Supreme Court (which regulates judicial conduct in the state) is deciding whether to forbid judges from joining the Boy Scouts, because of the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policies. This poses a clash of principles. On the one hand, the Boy Scouts have the constitutional right to discriminate. (I should clarify that: if there were a constitutional right to discriminate, then many civil rights laws, such as ones that bar job discrimination, would be unconstitutional. The Boy Scouts' right falls under the First Amendment right of expressive association. That is, if you're associating with other people for the purpose of making a political statement, then your association is protected. The government cannot force the KKK to admit blacks, because that would destroy the entire purpose of the KKK. The reason job discrimination isn't protected in the same way is because employment is considered economic, not a political statement. You're not hiring a janitor to send the message that only people of a certain race can use Windex; you're hiring a janitor to keep your building clean.)

So if the Boy Scouts have a constitutional right to exclude gays, if they're just expressing their views, shouldn't judges have that same right? Well, if we were talking about bankers, or actors, or doctors, or athletes, the answer would be an unqualified yes. If we were talking about politicians, the same -- at least until the voters had their say. But judges are different. A judge, by virtue of his position, is limited in his acceptable behavior by a Code of Judicial Ethics. He must avoid not only impropriety, but the appearance of impropriety, and must not act in a way that casts "reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially." So we circumscribe the ways in which a judge can conduct himself. For obvious reasons, a black party or attorney might not feel he could get a fair hearing before a white supremacist judge. But does the same apply to the Boy Scouts and gays? The Scouts do claim to stand, in part, for the message that homosexuality is unclean. But that's a minor part of their message, and I assume most members of the Scouts don't spend a lot of time pondering the issue. Should a judge not be allowed to be associated with an organization that's primarily about camping (I guess)? How closely do a judge's associations need to be scrutinized?

[Full disclosure: I spent a couple of years in the Cub Scouts. Other than the Pinewood Derby races, I didn't think much of it.]

Dog bites man: The New York Times criticizes Republicans

Here's a shocker: the New York Times approves of Trent Lott's demotion, but still isn't satisfied with the Republican Party. To the Times, Republicans are still tainted by racial politics from 30 years ago, and are guilty of "talk[ing] nobly about civil rights in the North while playing to racial division in the South to lure white voters from the Democratic Party." There's some truth to that -- but what exactly does the Times expect? George W. Bush ran as a "compassionate conservative" and "a uniter, not a divider" in his campaign, and for his troubles was accused of supporting the murder of James Byrd, and received a grand total of 10% of the black vote, nationwide.

Who exactly is creating the "racial division" for the Republicans to "play to"? The Republicans who endorse racially neutral policies, or the NAACP/Democrats, who demand race-based preferences in schools and jobs and government benefits? Where was the New York Times when the NAACP accused Bush of endorsing lynching? When can we expect the editorial from the Times denouncing the NAACP and the Democratic Party for "talking nobly about civil rights in white communities while playing to racial division in black communities?"

(In case you were wondering, by the way, the Times disapproves of Lott's presumptive heir apparent, Bill Frist:

Mr. Frist's supporters include many moderate Republicans. His voting record, however, is reliably conservative, and he rarely deviates from the party line. For instance, despite his enthusiasm for advanced medical technologies, he has sided with Mr. Bush in opposing cloning of human tissues for therapeutic purposes, which is anathema to the anti-abortion forces. From Mr. Bush's point of view, Senator Frist is trouble-free.
Which of course means that from the New York Times' point of view, he might as well be Saddam Hussein. He's "reliably conservative?" Kiss of death.)

All about race?

The left, from Howell Raines' New York Times to Bill Clinton, has argued that the modern Republican Party wins elections by playing to race because the modern Republican Party has racism at its core, starting with the civil rights movement. The standard Republican rebuttal is to point out that the segregationist south was primarily Democratic. The people filibustering the Civil Rights Act were Democrats. The people standing in schoolhouse doors were Democrats. The people passing Jim Crow laws and turning firehoses on voting rights marchers were Democrats. And this is completely true.

But as Partha points out (though erroneously including Ronald Reagan), that's not an entirely satisfactory answer:

Have they ever thought about why, during the Civil Rights movement, so many, including Trent Lott and Strom Thurmond, even Ronald Reagan for that matter, switched their party identifications from the Democratic Party to the Republican?
It's true that some of the former Dixiecrats switched parties -- though many (e.g. Robert Byrd and Fritz Hollings) did not -- during the civil rights era. But the argument that this proves the racism of the G.O.P. is overly simplistic. It would be foolish to deny that race played a role in their decisions to switch parties. But if that were the sole reason, if there were that many single-issue voters on the issue of race, then Trent Lott would have gotten his wish and Strom Thurmond would have been elected president. Or his spiritual successor, George Wallace. Needless to say, neither one was.

There's another answer. The pattern of switching can also be explained by the understanding that the switchers felt that the national Democratic Party had ceased to represent the views of these switchers on most key issues, from crime to foreign policy. Segregation was the last issue tying these people to the Democratic party. Once the national Democratic Party abandoned them on race, cutting this last tie, they saw no reason to remain in the party. In other words, in the complete absence of civil rights as an issue, the likelihood is that these politicians would also have joined the Republican Party, and in fact would have done so sooner. There's no way to prove this hypothetical, of course, but it does explain why non-Dixiecrats like Ronald Reagan were also switching parties at the time. And it fits the pattern of Nixon's success: Nixon was winning in much of the country, not just the South. In short, Dixiecrats were becoming Republicans for the same reason that so many other people were, not because the Republican Party ideology was based on racism.

December 24, 2002

Four out of five dentists surveyed...

I've criticized the New York Times before, many times, for their use of the "news analysis" label to editorialize in the news section. But they have one standard tactic which may be even worse: their "We won't do any polling because it might get in the way of the story we want to write" polling story. If you wanted to know what black Americans felt about L'Affaire Lott, wouldn't you commission a survey to find out? Well, certainly that's one theory. Or, you could ask nine black people what they thought. And then conclude, from this perfectly representative sample, that a group of people have "mixed feelings" about a subject.

In interviews in a dozen cities and towns across the country this last-minute-shopping weekend, black Americans eagerly welcomed the chance to talk about the furor surrounding Mr. Lott's comment on Dec. 5 that the nation would have been better off if Strom Thurmond had been elected president in 1948 when Mr. Thurmond was an adamant segregationist. But their responses to Mr. Lott's removal ranged widely, from a newfound approval of President Bush to a renewed hostility toward him and all Republicans.
Which is news to whom, exactly? Is anybody other than Howell Raines surprised to find out that even people of the same skin color can have more than one opinion about something? Isn't this sort of story more worthy of USA Today than the New York Times?

December 25, 2002

Know thine enemy

The New York Times carried a story today of an Al Qaeda suspect who managed to slip through the collective fingers of German law enforcement. A Polish immigrant to Germany who had converted to Islam, he was potentially involved with the bombing of a synagogue in Tunisia earlier this year:

Prosecutors overseeing the investigation say that under German law, the evidence tying Mr. Ganczarski to the bombing and his own confession of recent contact with Qaeda leaders were insufficient to keep him under constant surveillance or to prevent him from traveling. They say those limitations are the consequence of a Constitution devised to prevent the reoccurrence of the country's totalitarian past.

The case has caused concern among officials in France and Tunisia involved in an investigation into the Djerba bombing and illustrates the complexities of fighting a global network like Al Qaeda.

Last week, the Tunisian justice minister complained openly about Mr. Ganczarski's departure. "Investigations into the attack on Djerba have moved forward very well, and I hope that the flight from Germany of an accomplice of the suspected perpetrator of the attack will not hamper inquiries," the minister, Bechir Tekkari, told Agence France-Presse.

In a recent interview a high-ranking French official, who insisted on anonymity, expressed frustration that Mr. Ganczarski had not been detained. Under French law, the official said, "he would have been."

Well, everyone seems to be upset at the Germans for letting the (alleged) terrorist get away, and perhaps they're right to be. But perhaps there's another place to which the anger should be directed. After all, it's not as if he stowed away on a freighter bound for South America.
A German man under investigation for links to top figures of Al Qaeda slipped out of the country last month, withdrawing his four children from school, terminating his lease and obtaining visas for Saudi Arabia without attracting any attention from the police, according to German officials.
How long are we going to keep up the pretense that the Saudis are our allies?

Will wonders never cease?

I've criticized the New York Times' Nicholas Kristoff before, but such a sensible article appeared under his byline yesterday that you have to wonder if he has an identical twin. He praises the Bush administration on an environmental matter, namely the use of snowmobiles in national parks:

So President Bush's compromise very sensibly will ban two-stroke machines in Yellowstone but will permit four-stroke snowmobiles, confined to the same roads that cars use in the summer. In the meantime, environmental groups are still trying to evict snowmobiles from Yellowstone by going to the courts.
Not only does he question the fundamental truth of the New York Times -- that George Bush can do no right -- but he also contradicts a fundamental truth of the environmental movement: that humanity is evil.
Some environmentalists have forgotten, I think, that our aim should be not just to preserve nature for its own sake but to give Americans a chance to enjoy the outdoors. It's fine to emphasize preserving roadless areas and fighting development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, both of which are good causes, but 99 percent of Americans will never benefit from those fights except in a psychic way.

And as for Yellowstone, the moose and bison should share it each winter with humans — even humans on snowmobiles.

I don't agree with Kristoff on the ANWR -- indeed, it's hard to square that portion of his column with the rest -- but his philosophical observation is dead on. The original idea behind conservation was to preserve wilderness so that people could enjoy it; it was only later that environmental fundamentalists decided that wilderness was good only if people didn't enjoy it. Areas of undeveloped land are desirable because they make the lives of people more pleasant; they're not good merely because people aren't there.

Merry Christmas

Or Happy Kwanzaa, or whatever the heck it is you celebrate. On second thought, none of you got me anything for Chanukah. (Well, almost none of you.) So I don't really care what kind of holiday you have. Just don't expect a card from me.

December 28, 2002

And make sure you wash behind your ears, also

I've blogged on this topic before, but it came up again in the New York Times the other day: activists who are ungrateful spoiled brats. New York City, of course, is one of the most generous welfare jurisdictions around, but some groups aren't satisfied. It's not enough to offer extensive benefits; the city must force them down the throats of residents:

The November numbers come as hunger-relief advocates have intensely criticized the city for mishandling the program. They have complained that with unemployment rates at 8 percent, the highest in four years, the number of those receiving food stamps has risen by less than 5 percent over the course of the year. Currently, 800,000 New Yorkers with incomes low enough to qualify for food stamps do not receive them, according to a report released last week by the Community Food Resources Center.

Hunger-relief advocates and their allies argue that lack of outreach by the city is behind the shortfall. In New York State, only 50 percent of those eligible for the program receive food stamps, according to the most recent reports by the United States Department of Agriculture, which administers the program on a national level. Nationally, the level of participation is 59 percent.

See? The problem is "outreach." Not only are the poor not responsible for feeding themselves, but they're not even responsible for putting out the minimal effort needed to take money from taxpayers to feed themselves. The ultimate nanny state: the government is responsible even for making sure people take advantage of the help offered to them.

I only missed by six numbers

I usually agree with James Taranto, but he had a ridiculous overreaction to this week's lottery hype in Friday's OpinionJournal. With regard to the news coverage of the man whose tickets I wish I had, he writes:

All this media attention to lottery winners serves only to glorify gambling. And the lottery is a bigger rip-off than any other form of legalized gambling. Innumeracy.com ran an experiment to see what would happened if it made 10,000 random selections and entered them in each of 479 drawings in the British lottery. Result: An "investment" of £4,790,000 returned just £1,375,082, which means that each £10,000 "invested" would have cost the player £7,129.

A lottery, Innumeracy.com notes, is "a tax on the poor and the stupid." The next time some liberal journalist complains about "tax cuts for the rich," consider how his colleagues in the media help enable the government to soak the poor.

To be fair to Taranto, this isn't an uncommon sentiment, though it usually comes from those on the left side of the political spectrum. As if. Do these commentators really believe that most people who gamble think they're going to get rich by doing it? Saying that the lottery is a "tax on the stupid" because it provides a negative return on investment -- I think it awfully strange that Taranto felt the need to provide a link to an "experiment" which proved this, as if basic probability isn't sufficient -- simply demonstrates that Taranto doesn't understand the appeal of the lottery. People don't argue that a movie ticket is a "tax on the stupid" simply because the purchaser ends up with $8.50 less than he started with, do they? Of course not. He's purchasing a couple of hours of entertainment, not an investment vehicle. And, despite what Taranto thinks, that's what lottery players are purchasing. They're purchasing the excitement of anticipating a possible win, of figuring out what they'd do with the money if they won, of mutually commiserating their friends and coworkers the next day when none of them win. And there's nothing wrong with that.

December 29, 2002

Axis of evil wannabe

We may be focusing on Iraq and North Korea, currently, but the New York Times provides a reminder that there are other evildoers in the world:

Vietnam announced this week the latest in a long string of prison terms as part of a crackdown on the mostly Christian hill tribe minorities known as Montagnards.

The longest sentence, 10 years, was given to Y Thuon Nie, 30, a church leader and land-rights advocate who led an attempt to flee into neighboring Cambodia on Christmas a year ago. Seven other men were given eight-year sentences.

A court in Daklak Province in the Central Highlands found the men guilty of "organizing illegal migration to Cambodia" and "undermining state and Communist Party policy," according to the official Vietnam News Agency.

The crackdown began in early 2001 after thousands of Montagnards converged on provincial and district government offices in some of the most widespread protests in Vietnam in recent years.

They were protesting restrictions on their evangelical Protestant churches and government-sponsored encroachments on their land by migrants from the lowlands.

Serious question: has there ever been a non-communist government which felt the need to punish its subjects for trying to leave the country?

Therapy as foreign policy

Terrorists murder 40 people in Grozny. The response of the Independent? It "underlines the need for a settlement in Chechnya." Say what? How does the Independent conclude that an attack underlines the need to surrender? Well, they start with the obligatory denunciation:

The loss of civilian lives through terrorism cannot be justified:
...and then proceed to do just that. (Wait for it. Wait.... wait.... yes! Here it is: the BUT!)
but yesterday's assault on the civilian government does highlight the despair of the Chechen people, who believe they are fighting for self-determination and who have no other outlet than violence to air their grievances. That same despair prompted the appalling hostage-taking in Moscow in October, which resulted in the deaths of 41 attackers, and of 129 hostages.
Is there anything that better illustrates the moral bankruptcy of the left than an argument like this? It "highlights the despair" of Chechens. The left is simply incapable of ever thinking that the weaker side in a fight could be wrong, let alone evil. So, in short, the worse that someone behaves, the more it proves that he's a victim.

December 30, 2002

So that's his excuse

The Nation reported a few months ago that various pro-Palestinian activists were being harassed electronically, often by people sending out phony emails designed to look like they came from these activists.

Even celebrated MIT linguistics professor Noam Chomsky, outspoken critic of Israeli policies toward Palestine, has been hit. "There is an awful lot of stuff going out in my name that's totally insane and that I haven't written," the professor complained.
Some straight lines are just too easy.

It depends on what the meaning of "is" is

The New York Times thinks that New York City needs to provide more food stamps. That's par for the course; it's hard to imagine the Times having any other opinion. But in the midst of making its argument, the Times supplies this stunner:

In Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's zeal for welfare reform, food stamps equaled dependency and big government entitlement that should be eliminated. In fact, food stamps are not welfare, not even charity, but a nutrition program that helps the poor buy food.
On some issues, one can understand where the other side is coming from, even if one disagrees. But I cannot even begin to fathom the mindset that suggests that food stamps aren't welfare. The Times seems to be suggesting that if the program is founded on good intentions, it isn't welfare. I guess. Any other ideas as to what they could mean?

December 31, 2002


Happy New Year, everybody! Well, unless you're Saddam Hussein. Who, come to think of it, probably doesn't read my blog.

About December 2002

This page contains all entries posted to Jumping To Conclusions in December 2002. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2002 is the previous archive.

January 2003 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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