Tuesday, 31 December 2002

North Korea

Just for the record: I don't have any answers. I don't think Josh Marshall makes a compelling case that Bush 43 screwed the pooch, but I don't know that Bush 43 is 100% right either.

What I will say is that I think it's way to early to start assigning blame; North Korea is clearly taking advantage of the South Korean interregnum, world preoccupation with Iraq, and a general need for Kim Jong Il to be the center of attention at any party. Maybe the PRK feels disrespected by the Bush administation, but that doesn't excuse the six years of broken promises during the Clinton era. If anything, the sabre rattling this time has been less intense (a preemptive strike on PRK nuclear facilities isn't on the table in 2002, but it certainly was in 1994, perhaps due to Clinton's fascination with Blip Warz as a foreign policy tool). Unlike Marshall, I'm pretty sure Bush isn't bluffing and the U.S. and South Korea can successfully resist an invasion by the North.

I just realized that the above is basically a bunch of unrelated sentences strung together, rather than a paragraph. Sue me.

LottWatch Day, uh, who's counting anymore?

When you've just been fired from your job as Mr. GOP, what do you do? Well, if you're Trent Lott, you come to a rally in your hometown with 3,000 of your closest, mostly white friends (I'm experiencing ugly déjà vu of Bill Clinton's Rose Garden “I've Been Impeached” Party in 1998), where seldom is heard a discouraging word. For example, try these paragraphs on for size, courtesy of Clarion-Ledger reporter Jerry Mitchell:

Through this ordeal, Lott said, he's found opportunity. "There are some things I can do out there now that maybe I couldn't do before," he said.

While he failed to specify what he meant, he did talk about making improvements in education, national defense and homeland security.

Hasn't that been the problem all along — failing to specify what he meant?

Mitchell seems to go out of his way to talk to all “several dozen” blacks in attendence, generating quotes from at least two, possibly three of them (unfortunately for this dissection of the event, the AP Stylebook now frowns on referring to quoted parties by race, so you have to read between the lines).

"They should not vote for anybody to have a special day," whether King, Lincoln or Washington, [Huey Pierce, of Bogalusa, La.,] said. "We should have a Presidents Day or a Heroes Day, just like we have a Veterans Day. It's not any one individual."

I fully agree; henceforth, nearby Jefferson Davis County will be renamed Traitors County, to not honor any one individual.

Lynn Rouse, former chairman of the Jackson County Republican Party, blamed Lott's fall on a national media frenzy.

If claims of Lott supporting segregation were true, he said, wouldn't there be evidence of such segregation in Jackson County?

Why, Lynn, I'm glad you asked. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Gini Index of African-American residential segregation for the Biloxi-Gulfport-Pascagoula MSA was 0.659 (on a scale where 1=segregated and 0=desegregated). While certainly lower than that of Chicago (0.922) or Detroit (0.940), or even Jackson (0.769), it is hardly the least segregated community in the country, being eclipsed by such paragons of equality as Topeka (0.608, site of Brown v. Board of Education), Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill (0.600), and Charleston, S.C. (0.577), among others. Other indices suggest that the Gulf Coast region is as segregated as communities of similar size in the South; there is clear and ample evidence that Jackson County is, in fact, still segregated by any plausible definition of the term. Not to mention the rally itself, which seems to have been, charitably, around 95–98 percent white.

Of course, Lynn is probably referring to de jure segregation; however, since that pesky Brown v. Board of Education decision found that to be inconsistent with the 14th Amendment, you won't find de jure segregation anywhere in the United States (with the usual caveats for all the state-sponsored resegregation that seems to be in vogue these days, largely in secondary and tertiary education).

Meanwhile, adjacent Harrison County still has a problem with another legacy of the Confederacy, in which a sizable minority (42%) of locals voted to remove a public display of the Confederate Battle Flag.

It's safe to say, though, that the Gulf Coast's favorite son seems to reflect the views of his neighbors — or at least, his white ones.

The Draft as a Preventer of War

Charles Rangel thinks reinstituting the draft would be a peachy idea; today, Glenn Reynolds briefly mentions the Rangel op-ed and links to commentary by John Stryker; Tacitus (as mentioned earlier) has a different take.

I don't see how any reading of the 13th Amendment can be squared with a military draft. The draft is, by definition, involuntary servitude, and the only differences between it and slavery are (a) you get paid and (b) the government's the slaveowner, neither of which meet the exception for punishment for a crime. (I suppose the government could constitutionally draft felons, but I don't think criminals would make very good soldiers, “Dirty Dozen” films notwithstanding.)

Aside from that, though, there are more practical issues. Draftees in general don't make very good soldiers (all other things being equal), except in situations where the draft is a response to a clear and present danger to one's own country (the Israeli draft is probably the only current one that fits this definition; the World War II drafts in Britain, her colonies, and America fit as well).

In the absence of a clear and present danger that draftees care about, drafts tend to have pernicious effects; citizens flee to foreign states and burn draft cards in protest, for example. Peacetime drafts, more often than not, paper over deficiencies in militaries by giving the impression of a “large, capable standing army” when much of that army is just going through the motions for a year or two before finding something productive to do; at best, it's a way to keep unskilled youth occupied rather than unemployed, while at worst it creates the illusion to domestic politicians of having an effective military that, in fact, is largely useless. (Ask the Russians, whose draft-dominated forces were routed in Afghanistan and can't even control their own territory in Chechnya.)

Rangel's argument for a draft, though, largely centers on its effects on domestic politics; leaders will be reluctant to order the armed forces into war, his theory goes, since (some of) their children will be on the front lines. Assuming that this is not Vietnam Redux (where it is clear that the children of the elite weren't spending a lot of time in the Mekong Delta or the Hanoi Hilton), the implication is that self-interest will stop some number of politicians from waging war that they would be willing to wage with someone else's children. I'm not convinced that this is the case at all; it might actually lead to a more gung ho attitude among some members (“little Johnny might make colonel if he gets some combat sorties”), for example.

I can see an argument for a citizenry more informed about the military — in my first year as an undergraduate, I had to take two basic ROTC courses, and I did have the experience of being an Air Force Brat for the first 15 years of my life — but a draft isn't the way to do it.

The Dating Debate

The pseuononymous Bitter contributes a female perspective (in multiple parts) to Radley Balko's dating advice in response to some other dating advice that meandered toward him on the Blogosphere (this isn't the Bible, I'm not going to give a geneology of the meme). Then again, I'm not sure if I want dating advice from someone who plans on having a Season Pass to “Joe Millionaire.”

I really have nothing to contribute to either debate, except to say (a) “The Bachelor” is only watchable among other people so you can make fun of the participants, as Justin and Michelle can attest, and (b) spending much of an entire evening ranting half-drunk on Killian's Irish Red about a former colleague of mutual acquaintance to a table full of women doesn't seem to work all that well.