Friday, 7 March 2003

Major Sundquist scandal brewing

Bill Hobbs has a post over at the Political State Report on an investigation into the contract between Tennessee and the Internet service provider that provides high-speed Internet access to 97% of Tennessee public schools, apparently part of a broader probe of the Sundquist administration's no-bid contracts with politically-connected companies. The Memphis Commercial Appeal has has a similar report.

Muller gets response from Coble

Eric Muller apparently received a phone call from Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) this morning to discuss Rep. Coble's rather questionable remarks on Japanese internment.

While Muller comes away fairly impressed with Coble as a person, he still has some concerns:

It was also clear to me, though, that Mr. Coble does not yet appreciate that he was mistaken when he said that Japanese Americans were placed in camps for their own protection. He explained during our discussion that he'd heard from people, including Japanese Americans alive at the time of Pearl Harbor, who reported to him that Japanese Americans felt unsafe on the streets. From this information he's received, he concludes (and I jotted these words down) that "in some instances, Japanese Americans were beneficiaries of the internment." "There were some," he reiterated, "who became beneficiaries by being in the camps."

In some ways, this strikes me much as the Trent Lott Syndrome; it's not so much that Coble said something offensive, it's that he doesn't understand why what he said was offensive.

Even accepting Coble's premises — if the government's policy been justified as “protective custody” and a large percentage of Japanese Americans approved of it as protective custody — throwing the rest of them in camps hardly seems reasonable, fair, or just. And bearing in mind the historical record — that Japanese Americans had their property stolen, that internment had nothing to do with protecting them, and that they were arbitrarily imprisoned — his views seem remarkably callous and misinformed.

Then again, I'm not sure Coble's behavior is on the order of Lott's. But it does call for some repudiation; perhaps the House can do a bulk censure of him, Jim McDermott, and Marcy Kaptur to clear up the past few months' books, at least.

Link via Eugene Volokh.

Franco-Prussian Freeloaders

David Adesnik is pissed off at the New York Times. And, frankly, I'd be too, if my nation was just described as part of a “motley ad hoc coalition.” If I were Howell Raines, I'd steer clear of Poland for the next, um, rest of my life. Then again, if I were Howell Raines I'd have a lot more problems than the Poles to deal with.

The ongoing lack of Clue™ of the “let inspections work” crowd, and their enablers at the Times, is simply mindboggling. Here's the Franco-Prussian solution to the Iraq crisis, in a nutshell:

  1. Continue inspections.

  2. Continue sanctions.

That's it. Never mind that the Franco-Prussian alliance has been trying for the past five years to evade and dismantle the sanctions regime. Never mind that for inspections to continue to “work,” in the limp sense that they do so, someone has to have 250,000 troops poised to invade Iraq indefinitely — and I don't see the freaking French or Germans volunteering to do that. So, the sum of Franco-Prussian foreign policy is to impose their idea of how to deal with Iraq by using the money and soldiers of Great Britain and the United States, which might be a good deal for Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder, but is a thorougly rotten one for Tony Blair and George Bush, not to mention U.S. and U.K. taxpayers.

The entire point of collective security is for countries to work together to contain threats to the international system — not for some countries to freeload off the efforts of others while having the gall to tell the countries actually doing the work how they should do it.

Meanwhile, Eugene Volokh has some words for those who think Iraq and North Korea are interchangeable.

Matthew Yglesias comments on a proposal by Michael Walzer, which would have been a good idea a few months ago — and which would largely have obviated the need for the above rant. However, given France's withdrawal from enforcement of the “no-fly zones” in the late 1990s and their diplomatic efforts to undercut the sanctions regime, I'm not sure how Bush and Blair would have sold Chirac on the plan. If Chirac had gone along with a similar plan, though, France's credibility on Iraq would be much less questionable.

Stupid human (shield) tricks

You can tell you're a complete idiot when even the freaking Iraqi government won't put up with your dumb ass anymore:

[Senior Iraqi official Abdul-Razzaq al-Hashimi] said the five who had been told to leave had set themselves up as representatives of the group and had been "holding unnecessary meetings, wasting time, knocking on doors at midnight...(and) asking stupid questions".

Meanwhile, Salam Pax isn't any happier with them than he was before:

"Basically, they said we are not going to feed you any longer," said John Ross, an American who has been active in radical causes since he tore up his draft card in 1964.

Excuse while I wipe the tears from my eyes. Outoutout. He could have at least say something more in line with his “radical cause”. This is a bit insulting actually for some reason I feel offended. FEED YOU? Why does the Iraqi government have to friggin’ feed you, you have volunteered to “help” in country which can’t feed its own population properly (well it could if it spent a bit less on itself and on people like you).

Meanwhile, the numb-nuts who transported many of the idiots to Baghdad has run into some trouble of his own, in that lovely vacation spot known as Beirut:

Two red double decker buses and a white London taxi that ferried anti-war activists to Baghdad to serve as "human shields" are stranded in Beirut with their owner short of the $5,500 it costs to ship them home.

The buses and taxi, dusty after a six-week overland journey that began at London's Tower Bridge, were plastered with signs saying "No to a war on Iraq" and "No to war, Yes to peace".

Apparently it hasn't occurred to this maroon that he could sell the buses and taxi in the Middle East, and buy replacements when he gets back to Britain. With “friends” like this, Saddam and the gang don't need enemies.

Supremes uphold California's three strikes law

One of the pleasures of the Blogosphere is Howard Bashman's “How Appealing,” a weblog that discusses issues relating to appelate courts. His summary of today's four U.S. Supreme Court decisions is a classic; here's a sample:

Gary Ewing had been convicted of ten previous criminal offenses before he committed the crime that gave rise to yesterday's decision in Ewing v. California, No. 01-6978 (U.S. Mar. 5, 2003). Had each of those offenses counted as a strike, in baseball he would have had more than three outs and his side would have been retired. But four of those offenses did count as "serious" or "violent" felonies, subjecting Ewing to a twenty-five years to life sentence for his next felony conviction.

Perhaps aware of that fact, and undoubtedly growing tired of the life of crime, Ewing apparently decided to try his luck as a professional golfer. Successful golfers earn lots of money and don't have to resort to petty thievery just to stay afloat. Ewing's plan, however, had a minor hitch that revealed itself when he was apprehended while attempting to limp away from a golf pro shop with three golf clubs stuffed down his pant leg. As they say in the biz, "Strike Three."

And where else would you find out about both the use of kitty litter in the railroad industry and the mysterious properties of crystal formation in the same day?

Bush on the radio

Glenn Reynolds has a roundup of reaction to the press conference; I listened to it on the radio (well, technically the XM Radio simulcast of Fox News Channel, so it was TV without the pictures), and I think it came off about as well as a Bush speech ever seems to, which is to say that the ideas were solid and the tone was right (as in the State of the Union), but W will never go down in history as a great public speaker.

Then again, I'm not sure that many politicians these days are. Clinton was a decent public speaker (at least by comparison to the Bushes, Ross Perot, and Bob Dole), and Reagan of course was a master; on the other side of the pond, Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher have it, but John Major decidedly didn't. And, for all the talk of congressional oratory, most of the representatives and senators I hear these days can't talk their ways out of paper bags, although I recently had a chance to hear John Spratt (D-S.C.) in person, and he did a fairly good job. Clearly being a good speaker is not a requirement for political success — although sometimes it can help.

I do wonder at some level who the speech was really aimed at. Several of the comments at Glenn's suggest that it was primarily for foreign consumption, while some of the commentary I heard on FNC suggested it was more pointedly aimed at the U.N. My gut feeling is that the place it will have the most effect is in Britain: the nuance won't get lost in translation, so there's a limited opportunity for spin, particularly if it doesn't get sound-bited to death.

I'm not sure that in the end it much matters, though; Blix will give a report that everyone can take something away from, some sort of resolution will be presented in the form of an ultimatum which will probably pass, and there will either be an internal putsch or a war. In six weeks, Chirac and Putin will be scrambling to make sure they are on good terms with a new Iraqi government, while Schröder will be preoccupied with domestic concerns, namely trying desperately to keep the Greens in government.