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.

Monday, 30 December 2002

Monday Night Short Cuts

OxBlog's David Adesnik writes on Josh Marshall's supposition of a resurgance in anti-Americanism as a campaign tactic; his thoughts aren't far off mine.

Meanwhile, Tacitus has some interesting thoughts on Charles Rangel's newfound enthusiasm for the military and Kos' attack on Confederacy nostalgia (and, by extension, Southerners). And Eugene Volokh notes that U.S. citizens are seeking refugee status in Canada at the rate of about seven every fortnight (not sure what the reverse figure is; having broadcasts of “Delgrassi High” inflicted on you may be considered torture under some U.N. conventions). Good stuff worth reading, even if I don't have a lot of time to comment on it.

Daniel Drezner weighs in on Josh Marshall's “is there a larger meaning to anti-Americanism?” thoughts.

In The Year 2000 (+3)

Xtina's new single, Scott Ritter's new career, and Vengeance Wednesday: all these and more are among Tim Blair's predictions of 2003: more include a miltary alliance between Belgium, Monaco, and Switzerland (the “Lexus of Evil”), a late discovery by Hans Blix of numerous weapons in Iraq (mostly American ones), and Robert Fisk's new assignment by The Independent — as a restaurant critic (perhaps he could get some pointers from Frederic Koeppel).

Sunday, 29 December 2002

Quality work from the CA

Sometimes I wonder if the Memphis Commercial Appeal actually is capable of reporting local highway news. Why? Well, for example, the CA neglected to mention at all that TDOT awarded a $23 million contract to Hill Brothers Construction for the extension of TN 385 between U.S. 72 and TN 57 (Poplar Ave.) in Collierville, as well as a $16 million resurfacing contract on I-40 east of I-240. Not to mention another TN 385 project let in October: $18.9 million for construction between I-40 and U.S. 64, awarded to Dement Construction. The CA reports on meetings of the Shelby Farms board on the Walnut Grove/Kirby-Whitten project but doesn't mention at all TDOT's public hearings on the proposal.

I can only assume the CA simply doesn't pay attention to this stuff (granted, TDOT doesn't seem to post press releases on highway project contracting, although they have Internet-accessible public hearing and contract pages); what little road material that does appear is written by environmental reporter Tom Charlier (who described I-69 in a lead paragraph as a swathe of “development and destruction,” hardly neutral language) or a poor slob on the neighborhood beat (who's just happy he's not covering the bridge club's latest sojourn).

Anti-Americanism as campaign tactic (updated)

The latest from Josh Marshall suggests that running for election elsewhere on an anti-American platform is good politics:

But add these and other election results up and you start to see that hostile reactions to America's newly strident and confrontational stance in the world are becoming an important force in world politics and an important force in the domestic politics of many of our allies.

Think of it this way: when was the last time one of our friends -- or someone friendly, rather than unfriendly, to our current policies -- won an election in a major country around the world?

I think Marshall over-sells his thesis: Schröder and Roh talked up anti-American themes in their campaigns, but fully expected that the U.S. would forget about that ugliness after the election, an assessment that at least Schröder is finding wrong. As for Lula in Brazil, Marshall would probably find, as The Economist reports, that he too is kissing up to the gringos post-election. More to the point, none of these successes should be surprising — the left outside the United States has historically defined itself in terms of its opposition to American foreign policy adventurism.

Marshall may forget that history due to the relative quiet spell during the Clinton administration (where U.S. foreign policy was largely quasi-multilateral, with a smattering of wagging the dog when it was politically convenient), but it was certainly alive and well during the Reagan and Bush 41 years: the British Labour Party was basically a wholly-owned subsidiary of the CND until Tony Blair led it out of the electoral wilderness, and the German SPD (Schröder's party) was largely on the same page for much of the same time while Germany's CDU/CSU and FDP governed, leaving the SPD free to pursue wacky unilateralist views (in their case, unilateral nuclear disarmament) with the Militant Tendency wing of Labour.

Of course, if these three leaders were actually serious about their anti-Americanism — if they actually wanted the United States to withdraw from Germany (à la De Gaulle) or South Korea, or withhold financial support from South Korea or Brazil — then Marshall probably ought to worry; but, if that were the case, the costs to those states would be far higher than the costs incurred by the United States. In such a scenario, Germany would have to provide for its own defense out of its already stretched budget and probably precipitate a continental arms race in the process, South Korea would cease to exist as a viable nation-state, and Brazil's economy would stop functioning within a day; none of these events would have much direct effect on the U.S. besides reducing the supply of mobile phones from Samsung. Regardless, anti-Americanism is trendy on the Euroleft, and in the left in general, so unless real American allies like Tony Blair and John Howard start running on anti-American platforms, the pattern here isn't all that discernable.

InstaPundit has a roundup of discussion on the resurgence of anti-American rhetoric from the left; JB Armstrong has an interesting take as well.

Correct use of scare quotes

India's The Hindu reports that ‘China's “new legislature” will “elect the country's President and Vice-President” in March 2003.’ Strangely enough, Reuters reports the news with a straight face, with nary a scare quote in sight, although they do note (in the fifth paragraph):

The personnel changes have been decided by the omnipotent Communist Party and parliament is a mere rubber-stamp body.

The AP's version of events even further muddles the story, meekly suggesting that “[t]he meeting is expected to follow up on leadership choices made at last month's national congress of the ruling Communist Party.”

Shelby County Schools to steer clear of Memphis' tentacles

The lead in Sunday's Commercial Appeal reports that the Shelby County School Board is seriously considering building schools where they won't be annexed into the City of Memphis (and taken over by the city's independent school board). Wayne Risher writes:

Shelby County school officials, feeling burned by Memphis's recent annexation of newly opened Cordova schools, said they'll actively avoid building new schools in the city's far-reaching annexation reserve areas.

County schools Supt. Bobby G. Webb said he won't recommend new schools in the reserve areas without agreements spelling out how the schools would be funded and controlled once annexation occurs.

Rather than put new schools closest to populations to be served, the county would scout locations that stand the best chance of remaining under the county board's jurisdiction: those within suburban municipalities or within their annexation reserve areas.

Such a policy ultimately could influence the metro area's growth patterns, since new county schools have been a key factor in where residential development occurs.

The final paragraph quoted is perhaps the most interesting. Memphis' growth problems have largely been driven by what I'd call “annexation leapfrogging”; every time Memphis proposes annexing an area, growth there immediately stops and development leapfrogs further away. The prime reason: the city's higher tax rate, which makes new developments less affordable for the new homeowners that they usually target. While Memphis officials and developers attempt to work around this misfeature, apparently by hoodwinking new homeowners into thinking they aren't going to be annexed until they've signed the dotted line, that's hardly a sensible plan. The intent of Public Chapter 1101 was to better tie provision of services to annexation, but that promise has yet to be met in the Memphis area. Ironically, it has worked best in the suburban municipalities, where residents of existing subdivisions generally support annexation (primarily because there is no shift in school responsibility) and annexations have largely kept up with urban development; neither is the case with Memphis.

Ultimately the only solution likely to work for Memphis is to tie annexation directly and irrevocably to development within its urban growth boundary; i.e. to require all subdivisions to be annexed by the city before urban services can be provided. Not only would it reduce the leapfrog effect, it would also place development at the eastern fringe on a more equal footing to "infill" development in the long-annexed but mostly empty Southwest Memphis and Frayser-Raleigh areas.

Wacky Conspiracy Theories of Right and Left

Much of Saturday's blogospheric comments have revolved around relatively goofy topics (the impending end of 2002 and the pre-war doldrums have created a bloggage vacuum, it seems). Among them: the wacky thimerosal smoking gun search, postmarks on Christmas cards, Pencilgate, and the messages on Jamie Zawinski's DNA Lounge ATM.

However, John Rosenberg does have some interesting posts, including his part in a blogospheric discussion on affirmative action, and some of Glenn Reynolds' blogging intrigued me enough to find his discussion of U.S. v. Lopez, probably the most important Supreme Court decision in the past decade. (Lopez overturned the bizarre “anything that might be construed as having some vague connection to interstate commerce can be regulated by Congress” interpretation of the Commerce Clause [Art. 1, Sect. 8, Para. 3] that had slowly been constructed since the 1930s.)

Title sorta-cribbed from here.

Saturday, 28 December 2002

Eli to Nebraska: “How do you like me now?”

Despite the bizarre speculation around David Cutcliffe (would you hire the master of the prevent offense? — apparently Kentucky would, if you believe the rumors) and not-so-bizarre speculation concerning Eli Manning, the Ole Miss Rebels defeated once-mighty Nebraska 27–23 in a game they weren't expected by anyone to win.

Again, I don't see Manning going to the NFL this year, not with the risk of being picked by the Bengals, the QB overload in the draft (Palmer, Leftwich, Ragone, Wallace, Kingsbury, and probably Grossman), and the possibility of having a real running game in 2003.

Rich Brooks is apparently the Kentucky hire, beating out Grambling State coach Doug Williams; the latter's cause might have been hurt by anti-SEC comments he made two months ago, singling out the five Deep South programs. Frankly, if Cutcliffe had gone to Kentucky, I'd have expected an African-American hire at Ole Miss (most likely Charlie Strong, late of South Carolina): the basketball program has had success with black coaches, and it would fit with Robert Khayat's emphasis on racial reconciliation. Strong would have also been a good football choice; a defense-minded head coach would be an asset to the program.

Friday, 27 December 2002

Like Father, Like Son

ESPN.com reports on Uday Hussein's role as Iraq's Olympic Committee chairman; apparently, among his motivational techniques for the country's athletes are imprisonment, torture, and executions.

Does Patty Murray have legs?

The Professor discusses why (or why not) the mainstream media are whitewashing the Patty Murray/Osamagate incident. Cal Thomas devoted a segment of The O'Reilly Factor on Boxing Day to Murray's comments, so it is floating around a bit out there.

I think she deserves a good roasting by the media, but I'm not sure it's on the order of Trent Lott; it'd be different if she'd apprenticed with Abu Nidal and was on tape in 1978 demonstrating against the Shah. Fundamentally, though, she's wrong: the Islamic world doesn't want our charity, even if their leaders (particularly the Egyptians and the House of Saud) find it useful.

Wednesday, 25 December 2002

Cultural Divide

Genuine headline: MILF blamed for Maguindanao bombing. My immediate thought: since when have Sela Ward and Lauren Graham been terrorists?

MILF in this case actually stands for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a guerrilla group in the Philippines that is believed to have ties to al-Qaeda.

I-69 done in Texas by 2013?

The Harlingen (Tex.) Valley Morning Star reports on local highway funding increases, focusing on the potential for funding for Interstate 69 in Texas. Notable quote:

Also in January, Valley leaders hope President Bush includes a request for $6.6 billion for the I-69 project in his budget proposals. If Congress says yes, experts believe the Texas section of I-69 could be built within 10 years.

Bush is believed to be an I-69 supporter; his inclusion of the route in FHWA's new expedited environmental review program suggests that I-69 will be included in the TEA-21 reauthorization. Due to the slow start Texas has gotten on the environmental review process and complications due to grafting I-69 onto the Trans Texas Corridor concept, 2013 seems awfully optimistic, but barring lawsuits a substantial portion of the national route seems likely to be done or under construction by then.

Yes, Virginia, I am a hack

Virginia Postrel requests that I (and other bloggers and journalists) “promise never to write the words, "Yes, Virginia," unless they are actually addressing someone with my name.”

Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa. But in fairness to me, that was over 100 posts ago. And I still think the usage was at least mildly amusing, if horribly clichéd. So I resolve to stop forthwith. And you can take that to the bank.

Incidentally, readers should also take the opportunity to help Virginia pick a jacket photo for her upcoming book Look and Feel; I'm partial to 2, 5, and 6, but I don't have a clear favorite.

I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas

Happy holidays from blog.lordsutch.com, on remote location via frequently-disconnecting dialup from butt-numbingly-cold Memphis, Tennessee, once home of my “opinionated” MemphisWatch website, before I moved to warmer climes (i.e. Oxford); MemphisWatch may have been a blog before anyone really knew what a blog was, including me.

Among my Christmas presents: a blogroll entry from Bill Hobbs. When I get around to coding the blogroll part of LSblog, I'll be sure to recpirocate.

Scare quote courtesy of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, who devoted a whole column inch to my site in 1998 or so. I still have the archives laying around at home, so I'll put them up over the weekend.

Tuesday, 24 December 2002

The Economist on African infrastructure

The Economist can always be counted on for a few fascinating articles, even when it arrives in your mailbox a week after it's been published (the downside of living in the boonies). One of the Christmas edition's gems: this article on a 5-day Guinness delivery in Cameroon (subscription required) — one that in Western Europe or North America would have taken six hours on a bad day. Among the stats: 47 roadblocks, a U-turn due to a washed-out bridge, three flooded-out sections of road, and a largely unpaved route. Their conclusion:

But there is no substitute for building and maintaining better infrastructure. In some areas, such as telecoms, private firms will do the work if allowed to. Thanks to private investment, mobile telephones have spread throughout Africa with the pace and annoying chirrups of a swarm of locusts. In Cameroon, Guinness now finds it much easier to contact employees than it did a couple of years ago, although the firm also frets that mobile telephones are gobbling up scarce disposable income that might otherwise be spent on beer.

The private sector does not, however, spontaneously provide roads, because the beneficiaries cannot easily be charged. Tolls can meet some of the cost of maintaining highways, but it is hard to squeeze money out of peasants on feeder roads.

The World Bank estimates that at least $18 billion needs to be pumped each year into African infrastructure if the continent is to attain the sort of growth that might lift large numbers of people out of poverty. Investment currently runs at less than a third of this. In the current economic downturn, private companies in the West are in no mood to rush into risky investment, least of all in Africa. The gap can only be filled, the Bank reckons, by governments and foreign donors.

In short, the governments of poor countries ought to pay more attention to their roads. A good first step in Cameroon would be to lift those road-blocks and put the police to work repairing potholes.

Eminent Domain Abuse

Nick Gillespie at Hit & Run notes the latest attempt to abuse eminent domain for private gain, this time in the Cincinnati 'burbs. Not only is the practice blatantly unconstitutional, it's also bad public policy: delegitimating a tool intended to ensure property owners are fairly compensated when their land is unavoidably taken. The local politicos deserve the reaming they'll surely get from the Institute for Justice on this one.

Sunday, 22 December 2002

Gerald Nicely to head TDOT

Bill Hobbs also passes on word that Gerald Nicely, the former head of Nashville's Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency, is Phil Bredesen's choice to head the Tennessee Department of Transportation (also reported by the AP); he plans to promote a needs-based program for new roads and concentrate on rural highways as an economic development tool.

If he can continue to push forward major needed projects like the Knoxville Outer Beltway (I-475), the south leg of TN 840, the Collierville-Arlington Parkway and Interstate 69 in West Tennessee with better attention to the environment and public relations than his predecessor, his appointment will be welcome. If, however, his appointment leads to diversion of transportation user fees (such as the gasoline and diesel fuel taxes) from highway maintenance and construction to general government purposes, Tennessee's taxpayers will be poorly served.

Tennessee Tax Reform

Bill Hobbs has an interesting op-ed on reforming Tennessee's tax system in today's Memphis Commercial Appeal; it's worth a read. Most of the objection to the Sundquist income tax was that it would potentially open the floodgates for profligate spending by the legislature; Bill's plan would help allay those fears.

His plan's probably worth implementing in Mississippi, too, which already suffers from a byzantine income tax (with bizarre effects at the low end) and relatively high sales tax.

Saturday, 21 December 2002

LottWatch Day 15: Retiring the Lottroversy

As Trent Lott's days as majority leader draw to a close, Memphis Commercial Appeal Jackson correspondent Reed Branson looks at the potential reprecussions of his demotion on his home state; it's likely to be a boon for GOP candidates in Mississippi's 2003 elections.

On a practical level, perhaps the immediate effects will be in the realm of transportation: plans for a third Mississippi River crossing near Memphis and Interstate 69 that might have originally favored Mississippi will probably now favor Tennessee, assuming Bill Frist secures the majority leader slot. However, senior senator Thad Cochran is still slated to head the Agriculture Committee and Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Tupelo) has increased his seniority in the House Appropriations Committee, so the long-term prospects for Mississippi are somewhat less diminished than one might think, particularly if Lott receives a “soft landing” in a favorable Senate committee like Appropriations or Transportation.

Friday, 20 December 2002

Another idiot senator

This time, it's Democrat Patty Murray of Washington. I haven't seen a display of moral relativism like this since I was taught the positive contributions of Adolph Hitler in 7th grade. Murray deserves to be nibbled to death by cats.

Ronald Reagan and the Neshoba County Fair

Over the past few weeks, a lot of people have been making a big deal out of Ronald Reagan's appearance in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1980; they suggest that somehow choosing Philadelphia, in and of itself, illustrates Reagan trolling for racist votes; Radley Balko, for example, discusses this argument.

Philadelphia does have its own ugly racial history; it was the site of the killings of three northern civil rights workers in 1964, famously dramatized in the film Mississippi Burning.

But there is another explanation for Reagan's appearance. Philadelphia, Mississippi is also the site of the Neshoba County Fair, established in 1889. According to their history page, the tradition of political candidates speaking at the fair dates back to 1896. And, lo and behold, Ronald Reagan spoke at the fair in 1980 to kick off his post-convention campaign. An appearance at the fair, in and of itself, does not suggest a racial motive; former Massachussetts Governor Mike Dukakis spoke at the fair during his 1988 presidential campaign, for example, and most candidates for major statewide or regional office from both parties participate in the fair.

Of course, what you do at the fair also makes a difference. And in 1980, there can be no question that a “states' rights” strategy was in play, with South Carolina's Strom Thurmond on hand as well as then-representative Trent Lott. To a roaring crowd, Reagan emphatically declared his support for states' rights, and in front of that same crowd Trent Lott first publicly said that Strom Thurmond ought to have been elected president in 1948.

On balance, the question has to be: what did Reagan say, not where did he say it. Ultimately his words, and not his location, should indict him.

LottWatch Day 14: Dénouement

Due to the downtime, let me be the last to say good riddance to Trent Lott as majority leader. However, if you think this story is over, it isn't:

  • The media will attempt to portray most Republican legislators as racist due to low NAACP voting scores, even though the scores include numerous votes that are, at best, tangentially related to civil rights.

  • Democrats are attempting to tar Bill Frist with allegations that he was nebulously involved in an effort to suppress black turnout in Louisiana.

  • Some civil rights groups are seeing this as an opportunity to advance their agenda; how much will the GOP cave? Or will they make a principled argument against the traditionalist civil rights pantheon?

  • If the censure measure against Trent Lott proceeds regardless, expect a concerted effort to add the names of current and past national figures to the list, probably starting from George Washington through Woodrow Wilson up to Cynthia McKinney.

Some people with particularly interesting thoughts: Daniel Drezner, Virginia Postrel, Glenn Reynolds, and Radley Balko (on Arlen “Often-Wrong” Specter).

Tacitus also has some thoughts on distancing the GOP from the neo-Confederates; if they did that, I might actually be inclined to start voting Republican.

Downtime today

There apparently was a power outage this morning that took down the system that blog.lordsutch.com is hosted on. While it was down, I took the opportunity to replace the motherboard and CPU (upgraded from a P-III 450 to an Athlon 750) and upgrade the system memory (from 512 MB to 784 MB), since I had the spare parts laying around the house gathering dust anyway.

No comment

I pass this link along without any comment whatsoever, except to say that I do not recommend attempting this at home (or at least without my personal supervision).

LottWatch Day 14: Ok, now he's toast

In what has to be the world's most slow-motion political coup (with the possible exception of the current Chávez situation in Venezuela, which may be over by the time I'm a grandfather), the most recent developments are Bill Frist throwing his hat into the ring (sorta, kinda) and the continuing evaporation of public support for Trent Lott among his Senate colleagues. Daniel Drezner predicts the final stroke will be when a Lott ally, probably Mitch McConnell, puts his own hat in the ring; Daniel also reports the results of a poll of Republican National Committee members, in which only 20% of the respondents backed Lott.

He also discusses Ken Layne's post on the role of the White House in the situation; Daniel argues that there's a separation-of-powers issue at work here. As others have noted in recent days, the last time a president overtly forced a leadership change in the Senate, it backfired on both Roosevelt and his majority leader.

Daniel's also picked up my term “Lottroversy”; hopefully we can get that on one of the Sunday shows...

Reason Online writes on the Dixiecrat who made it to the White House. You'll never read Congressional Government the same way again.

Obligatory Twin Towers Post

Just got back from seeing The Twin Towers with friends. Jacob T. Levy has a comparison between the novel and the film, and Glenn Reynolds comments as well. I enjoyed the film for the most part, especially since my recollection of the book is so dim that it's entirely possible I never read it. It's a bit like Shakespeare though; you already know the ending (even without having read the book), so ultimately the execution is key. Now I have to dig out my Fellowship of the Ring DVD.

Thursday, 19 December 2002

LottWatch Day 13: Trent as Pariah

NRO Online features a “professional Republican operative”'s thoughts on Lott (no word on whether or not this is Karl Rove, the hard left's bogeyman to compare with Sid Blumenthal, on deep background):

If Trent remains, what does the world look like come January 7th? More pointedly, do you envision a time when the President can again appear in the same room with the Senate majority leader? (I can't.) Can you then justify electing a leader who subsequently becomes for the president his party's own Yasser Arafat, with whom he will never meet nor shake hands? Will you put the President in that horrible position? Forget about the passing of a conservative agenda — can the party or the conservative movement themselves hold together and withstand that strain?

I have to say I'd shed few tears for the demise of the current party system, but surely this is an exaggeration — or is it?

Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Hate Crime Hoax Redux

(Via Glenn Reynolds) Michelle Malkin talks about the Ole Miss hate crime hoax. I briefly noted it earlier in a sea of Lott postings. (A Daily Mississippian report is here.) To summarize: a number of African-American students had racist graffiti drawn on their dorm room doors during the "Open Doors" celebration of James Meredith's integration of the University of Mississippi; after an investigation, the perpetrators turned out to be African-American friends of the victims, rather than racists.

I somewhat disagree with Malkin's premise, though; hoaxes or pranks usually don't earn the perpetrator the punishment that genuine crimes do, unless death or injury results, whether the events are racially charged or not. However, the students involved ought to be punished and the university community ought to seriously consider how different this offense is to the blackface incident at Ole Miss last year that resulted in a one-year ban for Alpha Tao Omega. (The ATO incident largely revolved around a single photograph from a Halloween party; no black students were directly threatened, so in some ways the recent hoax is more egregious.)

For what it's worth, the Daily Mississippian editorial board is calling for the students involved to be expelled, the maximum punishment that's still on the table.

I'm not convinced that expulsion is appropriate for a first offense, no matter the races of the perpetrators, but that's my opinion (my authority on such matters is nonexistent). However, if the university is serious about Zero Tolerance (not a policy I'm fond of, but precedent suggests it), I think in light of the ATO punishment, for an arguably similar offense, the students involved ought to be thrown out, at least for a year. The students also ought to apologize publicly and the university community deserves to know their identities, regardless of any other penalties.

Patrick Carver comments. So does Radley Balko.

From the “ignorance is a virtue” department

A letter writer in today's Memphis Commercial Appeal:

But for the fact that the holier-than-thou finger-pointers have made an issue of it, most people would never have known that Thurmond ran for president on a ticket that included segregation in its platform.

I'm not sure if this is an indictment of our education system or just of the letter writer's general intelligence; either way, it's profoundly disturbing.

Memo to the GOP

Fellow Mississippian Conrad, commenting on Shelby Steele's piece in today's Wall Street Journal, who notes Trent Lott's refusal to fully repudiate his role in past racism and segregation:

To review the evidence, Lott has consorted with racists, spoken to and praised racist organizations, written in racist publications, voted against nearly every significant piece civil rights legislation to come before him, opposed the integration of his university and fraternity, campaigned for segregationist candidates, publicly wished for the election of a segregationist president, and he comes from a family of bigots. He refused to call segregation and racism inherently evil until he found himself trussed up like a pig, the spit up his ass and the apple in his mouth.

Would those who have written that they do not believe Lott is actually a racist, please explain why not? What crucial piece of evidence is missing? Do we need to catch him on camera calling Colin Powell “boy” or find a black man hanging from a tree limb in his back yard?

This is the man at least a dozen of your senators are on record supporting. Trent Lott will be an issue every day he's still Senate majority leader. For your party's sake, make his days short.

Why Libertarians Don't Vote Republican

Chip Taylor writes on Trent Lott, the GOP and libertarians:

[S]everal Republicans in several different forums have recently accused Libertarians of standing in the way of freedom and liberty by our refusal to vote for Republican candidates -- by our refusal to be Republicans. They say that we are selfish, that we are too stubborn, that we want to have things strictly our way, that we won't compromise in order to move forward the parts of their agenda that we do agree with. (I'm leaving aside, for the sake of argument, the fact that they seldom advance the parts of their agenda that we agree with.)

Now comes Trent Lott, who as one of their leaders, you would expect to show great committment to their agenda. But for him, the agenda takes a back seat when faced with a choice between doing what's good for his party and preserving his own personal power and priveleges. So I ask, Why should I, as a Libertarian, show more committment to the GOP and their agenda than Trent Lott?

The answer, of course, is that Republicans (and Democrats) don't have principles, so you shouldn't expect Trent Lott to uphold them. (This is also why the “liberal” and “conservative” labels are not congruent to “Democrat” and “Republican”.) In essence, parties translate voters' preferences into policy by providing an effective organization for coalitions of politicians to form. “Principles” are convenient ways to facilitate this organization, but they aren't the sine qua non of political parties. (Hence why the Libertarians' “party of principle” statement is at once both refreshing and impractical: political parties, by their very nature, must compromise to be effective.)

To clarify: the GOP and Democrats articulate principles, but they take a back seat to electoral considerations.

Chafee: Lott must go; Lott: I'm not going (updated)

The other shoe has dropped: Lincoln Chafee, widely regarded as the GOP senator most likely to defect (er, become an “independent” like Democrat-in-all-but-name Jim Jeffords), is calling for Lott to go. Meanwhile, Our Man Trent says he's not going to quit the Senate regardless.

JB Armstrong suggests that Chafee's position helps Lott (in comments); I'm not so sure:

Good news for Lott? I'm not so sure... a lot of Republicans would prefer a 51-48-1 Senate without Lott as the leader to a 50-48-2 Senate with Lott nominally in charge depending on the good graces of Snow, McCain et al. and the continued functioning of Dick Cheney's pacemaker. (If Cheney has to be replaced in a 50-48-2 Senate, needing 51 votes to be replaced, you could end up with a John Adams/Thomas Jefferson situation.)

Plus, Chafee's basically saying "it's me or him." Any other moderate can now join Chafee and say "it's the majority or him." I still see Lott as screwed.

Fred Barnes and Charles Krauthammer, speaking on Fox News (on Special Report with Brit Hume), still think Lott is history.

Tuesday, 17 December 2002

Weird LA Times Poll Results

Eugene Volokh comments on some weird results he's finding in perusing some Los Angeles Times poll data.

Contemporary social scientists would argue that a lot of what Eugene is seeing is due to a problem that political scientist/sociologist Philip Converse first identified around three decades ago, something he called “non-attitudes”. His basic point is that responses to survey questions often don't reflect respondents' true attitudes about things; if they don't have a real attitude, often they just make something up on the fly to stand in for it. Others have argued that “public opinion” is merely constructed; there is no such thing as public opinion until you start asking questions.

Political scientist John Zaller (who I've mentioned before in this category, and is probably the leading authority in public opinion research today) doesn't necessarily agree that there are non-attitudes; rather, people in responding to survey questions sample from their relevant “considerations” (or underlying attitudes) based in large part on question wording.

Getting to Eugene's quandry: the concept of "weapons of mass destruction" may activate particular considerations in women that it doesn't in men — women may have a more visceral reaction to the possibility of Saddam nuking innocent civilians than men do, for example. The second question uses "George W. Bush" as part of its wording; since women are less supportive of Bush than men, the gender disparity may be due to the “Bush considerations” being more heavily weighed here. One need not believe that “many voters' views are ill-formed” (which I think would be Converse's argument) to accept these results as valid.

LottWatch Day 12: “Stop” piling on

Coded message or sincere statement? I blockquote, you decide (with Reuters-style scare quotes)!

In an interview last night, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said Lott can weather the storm if White House aides, conservative commentators and GOP lawmakers quit piling on. "I have a sense there are a lot of senators who could go either way on this matter, ultimately," Specter said.

You heard it here first: If you don't want Trent Lott to step down as Senate majority leader, stop talking about it! Now! Before he has to quit or something! You have your marching orders. Go forth and stop talking about the race-baiter/cretin who is the GOP leader in the Senate. Do it for The Children™; without Sen. Lott's upstanding moral leadership, where would they be?

Another suggestion: a few more nauseating apologies can't hurt Trent's cause.

And, for the love of pete, ignore Glenn Reynolds!

BET founder to own Charlotte NBA franchise

Robert Johnson isn't going to Washington (some apparently have speculated he might be up for the Lott Senate seat if Our Man Trent were to resign) — he's going to Charlotte to invest in the new Charlotte NBA franchise as majority owner. There's some speculation that North Carolina native Michael Jordan might be involved in the franchise as well.

Hartford Courant on bloggers and Lott

Kevin Canfield in today's Hartford Courant has a pretty good article on weblogs and the Lottroversy, including quotes from Josh Mitchell, Atrios, Jennifer Gray, and yours truly.

LottWatch Day 11 (Quote of the Day)

Douglas Brinkley, director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans, on Trent Lott:

The apologies need to stop. They're starting to make people nauseous.

A close second: Mississippi SCLC executive secretary Stephanie Parker-Weaver:

He's been whistling Dixie for far too long, playing to the bigots and fascists of this state. Well, we say this to you, Trent — it's time to pay the piper. The civil-rights community is the dues collector, and your bill has come due.

LottWatch Day 11 (Morning Edition)

The early perusal of Tuesday's news uncovers Reed Branson, the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Jackson corresponent, writing on the role of reconstructed segregationists in Mid-South politics. Washington reporter James Brosnan adds little to national reports of Lott's appearance on BET and the slo-mo coup against him.

Branson also writes on the less-than-warm reception Mississippi Governor-lite Amy Tuck received upon her recent defection to the GOP.

Monday, 16 December 2002

Lott: GOP leader or sellout?

The picture of Trent Lott that's emerging this week isn't all that flattering. If I were a Republican — and I'm not, thank goodness — I'd be begging the GOP to get rid of the guy. Why? Well, read this gem:

Lott picked up support yesterday from an unlikely source. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), an African American and leader of the 1960s civil rights movement, said after talking with the senator: "I believe his apology is sincere and I accept his apology. . . . Senator Lott has committed to come back in January and work with Democrats and Republicans to implement an agenda that benefits all Americans of every race, ethnicity, gender and income."

In yesterday's BET interview, Lott said he has been "changed" by his recent experience and will pursue legislation to "make amends." "The important thing is to recognize the hurt than I've caused . . . and actually do something about it," he said.

That's right, boys and girls: it's not just pork for Mississippi any more; everyone's going to get some. Free prescriptions for seniors? Try free prescriptions for everyone. Say “adios” to any pretense of social security reform, even though that would actually help African-Americans more that it would hurt. Free trade: no. Free money from Washington (er, I mean, taxpayers): yes.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I also like Jim Henley's take: “I've made it pretty clear over the past year that I have little use for the Republican Party. But if Trent Lott hangs on, Republicans won't even have any use for it themselves.” Gene Healy's comments are also worth a read: “I get the distinct feeling he’s going to demonstrate his spiritual growth by lightening my paycheck.”

Daniel Drezner translates parts of the Lott interview into English. Meanwhile, Rand Simberg has a dispatch that hasn't quite hit the wires (although I'd expect to see it in a Chinese newspaper soon).

Radley Balko makes much the same point in his FoxNews.com column.

Who would Musgrove appoint?

If Trent Lott does make good on his supposed threat to quit the Senate if he's forced out, who would Ronnie Musgrove appoint in his place?

The pickings are pretty slim, at least in terms of nationally-recognizable names:

  • Mike Espy, the former congressman from the Delta (and ex-Ag Secretary under Clinton) would be a possibility; however, his past legal troubles might be problematic. But appointing an African-American would be a good way to shoot the bird at Trent Lott and his pals.

  • U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-2nd): Unlike Mike Espy, however, he's a bit of a lightweight. But he's African-American, which means at least he'd probably not defect to the Republicans when he got to the Senate, and the special election for his House seat would probably be won handily by the Democrats.

  • U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows, who's out of a job come January, might be a sensible choice. He's reasonably popular, but lost a race against fellow incumbent Chip Pickering by a wider-than-expected margin. If I had to say anyone, I'd pick Shows.

  • U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor (D-4th): Taylor is a hardcore conserative Democrat (one of four to vote for Clinton's impeachment); he's probably been courted by the GOP to switch for years, and the chance to do so in the Senate might be tempting. Plus, appointing Taylor would open the House seat up; it's unclear if a Democrat could keep the seat.

  • State attorney general Mike Moore: Best known for his tobacco lawsuit (and subsequent enrichment of college roommate Dickie Scruggs), Moore is believed to have ambitions for higher office, and has won statewide elections in the past as a Democrat. Relatively unlikely to jump ship. Probably #2 behind Shows.

  • Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat: Sort of a dark horse candidate. Probably a Democrat, but nobody's really all that sure. Being a part of a legendary Ole Miss football team (and the Redskins) gives him the benefit of the Jack Kemp factor.

  • Finally, my out-of-left-field suggestion: Morgan Freeman. Believed to be fairly conservative, but still has the “cool factor” of wearing an earring (something none of these other candidates share).

I don't know that any of these names are on the “short list”, or even if it's time for a short list.

It's also possible a deal could be made: Lott promises not to run for governor against Musgrove if Musgrove appoints a Republican in his place. And the perfect Republican for the job: everyone's favorite district court judge, Chip Pickering's dad, none other than the widely-vilified-outside-the-state Charles Pickering. Now that, my friends, would be good politics.

Jonah Goldberg notes that Mississippi Code Section 25-15-855 requires a special election to replace any departing U.S. Senator; a Musgrove appointee would have to face the voters either in early 2003 (if Lott resigns by the end of 2002) or November 2003 (if Lott resigns in January). That strongly indicates in favor of appointing a Democrat who could win a special election from a standing start, again favoring either Shows or Moore (and perhaps favoring Moore to a greater extent; Shows isn't as well-known state-wide).

Ed Gordon 1, Trent Lott 0

BET Tonight host Ed Gordon asked most of the tough questions, but I'm not all that sure he got straight answers out of Trent Lott. It seems to me he's still in that hard place: not contrite or sincere enough for the national audience, but still making comments distancing himself from the Council of Conservative Citizens that are going to earn him more rebukes from his erstwhile friends back home. (I'm sure my boss, Robert Khayat, enjoyed getting dragged into the discussion, too.)

Now he's being savaged by Rep. Gregory Meeks from the Congressional Black Caucus.

And by Robert George and Julianne Malveaux. (I'm behind live TV on TiVo.)

Incidentally, Trent only addressed one of the six points that he didn't address last time (repudiating the Council of Conservative Citizens), and he only did that by generally saying he'd review his other associations.

Glenn Reynolds points us to Phil Bowermaster's full list of Trent Lott supporters. Now compare it to Funditry's list of, um, shall we say, “non-fans”. Sucks to be you, Trent!

One problem a Thurmond presidency might have avoided

From the bizarre juxtaposition department: It's 6:58 p.m. Central, and Trent Lott is following an Eminem rap video (with an Elvis impersonator) on BET. I think it's safe to say any white guy adopting African-American culture in 1948 would have had a late-night visit from the white sheet brigade.

Reforming Britain's second chamber (updated)

One of the world's oldest legislative bodies — the British House of Lords — is on a slow, but sure course to extinction. Its importance has been diminishing for centuries; the importance of the Commons was greatly increased by the 1689 Bill of Rights, and the 1911 Parliament Act stripped the Lords of most of their powers. In 1999, the House of Lords Act removed the voting rights of all hereditary peers (excluding 92 who retain their voting rights until the reform is complete).

Since 1999, the effort to reform the Lords has stalled. Some have speculated that current Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair likes the Lords the way it is — emasculated and without any democratic legitimacy. Its current composition is most similar among democracies to that of the Canadian Senate: dominated by the “life peers” who are appointed by the prime minister of the day with the assent of the monarch.

In the past week, the Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform issued its First Report. The report recommends a chamber of 600 members serving 12-year terms, most likely with some proportion of the membership appointed and the remainder elected (there are also options for a fully-elected and fully-appointed chamber). The report does not envision giving any additional powers to the chamber; it would still be limited to delaying “money bills” no longer than one month and other legislation (except that extending the duration of a government more than five years) no more than one year.

The lack of additional powers for a more representative upper chamber is troubling; the reason the Lords lost most of its powers in the first place is due to its lack of democratic legitimacy. If the upper chamber is to be more legtimate, it ought to have powers commensurate with that legitimacy. At the very least, the reformed upper chamber ought to have power to indefinitely block any legislation that amends the “constitution” — whatever that may be. More importantly, it ought to have oversight powers over the executive, similar to the investigative powers of the U.S. Congress over the bureaucracy and presidency.

As to the upper chamber's composition, I believe a smaller, fully-elected chamber is appropriate. The Commons functions with over 600 members mainly because (a) the Commons largely functions as an electoral college for the executive and a ratifier for its decisions and (b) the business of the Commons is largely orchestrated by the government of the day. The upper chamber would neither choose the prime minister nor would it largely operate in the interests of the prime minister. An upper chamber of 160–240 members seems appropriate.

The chamber should also be fully elected. Assuming a twelve-year term, my recommendation would be to elect a quarter of the membership every three years via party list proportional representation (as Britain already uses for “top-up” seats in the Welsh and Scottish parliaments and for elections to the European Parliament). Vacancies arising through death or resignation could be filled by appointment by the prime minister, or by nomination of the departed member's party.

An upper chamber reformed in this way would be an effective bulwark against overreach by the government of the day while still retaining the prerogatives of the Commons as the primary legislative chamber.

Iain Murray has also discussed Lords reform in his blog.

Maybe Trent had this in mind...

James Haney writes (via Virginia Postrel):

WHY MY MOM THINKS AMERICA WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER WITH STROM THURMOND AS PRESIDENT: He would have been a disaster as President and would have thoroughly discredited the segregationist cause. He would have been a one-termer, and the very first thing his successor would have done would be to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1953 (as opposed to 1964).

I wonder what would have happened if Trent Lott had made this argument.

That would be the most politically astute thing Lott had ever said, so I doubt anyone would have bought it.

James' take on Ari Fleischer today is also worth a read.

LottWatch Day 10 Roundup (updated)

Not a lot of real news today; the Clarion-Ledger editorializes on the Pickering nomination, noting:

Last March, the then-Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee split along party lines 10-9 in rejecting Pickering's nomination, unfairly painting Pickering as part and product of Mississippi's troubled racial past.

The hearing was a hatchet job, reviving old Mississippi stereotypes that had nothing to do with the competent, fair, veteran jurist that is Pickering or his qualifications. The race issue was just a cover to kill the nomination.

Slandering Mississippi is easy when you have the world's most famous living Mississippian (with the possible exceptions of Morgan Freeman and Faith Hill) making a complete ass of himself.

Meanwhile, the unofficial capital of the Delta weighs in, in the person of Washington correspondent James W. Brosnan:

Lott has been a dutiful public servant and an artful leader in the House and Senate. Some conservatives here don't like him because he has pragmatically cut deals with Democrats when necessary. After Sept. 11, 2001, Lott's maneuvering led to the federalizing of airport screening and the creation of the Homeland Security Department.

But Lott also has gotten away with wearing two faces, one for the press, politicians and the public, and one for the few remaining bigots in Mississippi.

People should not have to carry the baggage of the beliefs they held in college for their entire lives, but the choices we make do matter.

Brosnan also contrasts the political careers of incoming Tennessee senator Lamar Alexander and Our Man Trent.

Finally, you have to wonder what planet Mississippi black Republican Clinton LeSueur is from:

What's happening to Senate Republican leader Trent Lott is one more example of how the Democratic Party has used black people. Every time Democrats become desperate, they incite African-Americans, and we in the black community foolishly rush to their aid.

That doesn't really explain all those white people both inside and outside the state who found Lott's remarks equally objectionable, but why let the facts get in the way of a good paranoid rant...

The AP and CNN are reporting that the GOP caucus in the Senate will meet in January to discuss the leadership situation.

Sunday, 15 December 2002


Nickles calls for new leadership vote. Notable quote:

Senior White House officials say Bush will not defend Lott from a challenge.

Meanwhile, the Clarion-Ledger provides empirical evidence of the Mississippi Persecution Complex.

The Professor draws some interesting parallels between Lott and Michael Bellesiles, the ex-Emory historian who apparently falsified data when writing Arming America.

LottWatch Day 9

A few articles you should read, in lieu of me thinking at 3 a.m.:

Joe Atkins, a University of Mississippi journalism professor, writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about Lott's “complex” history.

David M. Halbfinger in the New York Times chronicles Lott's history as a segregationist.

The Washington Post on race and Republicans in the South and reaction from Pascagoula to Lott's remarks. A particular quote of interest, from the latter article:

A few whites interviewed here acknowledged that racism is still rampant — though more subtle — in the Gulf Coast region and elsewhere in Mississippi. But the whites who said so had moved here from elsewhere.

My take on where this is going: W is giving Our Man Trent through the BET appearance on Monday. If, as seems likely, BET is as thorough a disaster as his Friday speech, W will call Bill Frist and tell him to take Lott off life support; if not, Lott probably stays until he can “step down to pursue other interests”: most likely, a 2003 run for Mississippi governor, which he'd win easily due to the martyr factor.

On a more humorous note: Dan Polsby (quoted by Eugene Volokh) suggests that Federalist 10 was written with Trent Lott in mind. I knew there was a reason I liked Madison...

Hopefully I'll have time to write my thoughts on how Britain should reform/replace the House of Lords later today.

Mea Sorta Culpa

As I'm sure you know by now, Trent Lott made yet another attempt at an apology on Friday. Glenn Reynolds' reaction — “Pathetic” — pretty much mirrors mine; the word I used when I turned to my mother while we were watching it on CNN, partway through the Q&A, was “trainwreck”. Or as Bill Schneider put it, “he just doesn't get it”. Karl Rove probably shot out a few TVs Elvis-style in disgust.

Maybe the apology was adequate for the home folks (who basically didn't think he did anything wrong in the first place) and the old grandees of the Senate (who've probably said worse in the privacy of their offices, if not on C-SPAN). I probably wouldn't have focused so much on the pork I'd brought to Mississippi or enumerating all six of my black friends if I were in his shoes, but maybe that's just me.

Let's review what he didn't do:

  • He failed to apologize for:

    • His past express advocacy of segregation.

    • Saying Strom Thurmond should have been elected president in 1948.

    • Supporting Bob Jones University's racist policies.

    • Embarrassing the state of Mississippi and its citizens.

  • He failed to distance himself at all from the Council of Conservative Citizens and other racist groups in the state.

  • He continues to allege that bringing Nissan to the state will primarily benefit African Americans. While the town of Canton, the home of the Nissan plant Lott helped attract to the state, is predominantly black, the county it is located in is 60.3% white, and workers will be drawn from a multi-county area with similar demographics. And, as I noted in an email to Virginia Postrel, assembling the land needed (and unneeded but nice to sell later for a mark-up) for the plant was done by seizing the land of black landowners through eminent domain — hardly something Lott should be proud of.

While Apology 4.0 may have been sufficient to keep his job for now (barring additional disclosures — as I noted earlier, the man is a walking PR problem), it simply fails to measure up by any reasonable standard. Ditch the guy. Now. Before he sells out the GOP to save his skin.

At least Lott's friends at the Council of Conservative Citizens are sticking up for him.

I disagree with Philippe DeCroy somewhat; part of the point about Lott is that he is a racist, or at the very least appeals directly and explicitly to racists. The Republicans' fundamental problem with Lott is that he's not very good at covering his tracks. Mississippi's fundamental problem is that nobody in the white establishment seems to care.

Happy Birthday To Me

If I were my cousin, I'd be singing myself happy birthday. That's something she really enjoys doing, pretty much any day of the year.

(Technically, my birthday was yesterday... hence the lack of blogging.)

Friday, 13 December 2002

Now fight over the credit

I won't even dignify this debate with links... bottom line, in my opinion, all the bloggers involved deserve credit for keeping this one alive when every single "mainstream" media outlet in America except the Washington Post was ignoring it and nobody on the Sunday shows thought it was a big deal (and the WaPo would have buried the story too if it hadn't gotten mainstreamed after the weekend). Special kudos to Josh Marshall for his exemplary research. And, like it or not, the Professor did make sure it crossed over outside the liberal wing of the Blogosphere. (For what it's worth, Virginia Postrel is the one who got me most interested in the issue, but that's neither here nor there.) Beyond that, feel free to childishly bicker...

Oh, it just gets better and better (updated)

It's a bad sign when your own spin turns out to be bogus:

There are conflicting versions of Lott's role [in the Meredith crisis], especially during events in late September 1962, when white rioting resulted in two deaths, many injuries and 150 arrests.

A 1997 Charlotte Observer article said: "On Sunday night, Meredith came to campus. A mob, including many nonstudents, bombarded marshals with bricks and bottles. Student leaders -- including Trent Lott, now U.S. Senate majority leader -- tried to discourage violence, but a riot broke out."

According to a 1997 Time magazine account of events that day, "a small band of white students publicly called for peaceful integration of the campus, but Lott was not among them. Nor was he among the rioters. He concentrated on keeping his frat brothers away from the violence, and he succeeded."


Jan Humber Robertson, who was editor of the student newspaper in 1962 and now teaches journalism at the University of Mississippi, said: "As far as I know, [Lott] was not one of the student leaders who tried to prevent any violence or who spoke out in favor of integration."

The bigger question I have: why is Marty Wiseman at Mississippi State carrying Trent's water? He's been quoted in multiple pieces this week, saying virtually the same thing after every revelation:

Marty Wiseman, director of Mississippi State University's Stennis Institute, said that criticism goes too far. "He waxes nostalgic from time to time without meaning anything racial," Wiseman said of Lott. "The fact that he was trying to make a 100-year-old man feel good on his birthday is probably all he meant to do. If you're looking for a deeper meaning, I would say that's it."

Why do I get the odd feeling Edsall's going to find some nice large federal block grants to Stennis in the next few days?

National Review and The Economist heap more dirt on Lott's political grave.

Incidentally, I vehemently disagree with Paul Krugman's take, even if it's, um, shall we say “heavily informed” by some of my posts. I certainly don't think the president is pulling a Lott here; rather, Bush can't publically push Lott out the airlock without giving the Senate GOP a chance to do it themselves first.

CNN is reporting that Lott will give a press conference in his hometown of Pascagoula, Miss., at 5:30 pm Eastern/4:30 pm Central. (I'm probably not going to be online to report on it, but I'm sure you'll see it on CNN.)

Eric Stringfellow's column in today's Clarion-Ledger is a must read.

Jonathan Karl reports on CNN that Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer refused to answer reporters' questions about whether or not Bush accepted Lott's apology as genuine. The man is toast.

Condemned to repeat it (blah, blah) (updated)

Time's Karen Tumulty reports that Our Man Trent “helped lead a successful battle to prevent his college fraternity from admitting blacks to any of its chapters”. Quoth Tumulty on the early 1960s incident:

Sigma Nu's executive secretary Richard Fletcher, a legendary figure in the fraternity, pleaded with the Sigma Nus to find some common ground between those who wanted to integrate and those who didn't, [former CNN president Tom] Johnson says. But the southerners were unbending about permitting no exceptions to the all-white policy. With their chapters threatening a walkout, the fraternity voted overwhelmingly to remain all-white.

(Emphasis mine.) Now, let's flash back to 1948. From Houghton-Mifflin's “Reader's Companion to American History”:

In 1948, the Democratic National Convention was splintered by debate over controversial new civil rights planks that had been proposed for addition to the party platform. Adoption of the planks, urged by a group led by Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, was resisted by delegates from southern states. In the middle, trying to hold together the New Deal coalition he had inherited from Franklin D. Roosevelt, was President Harry S. Truman. As a compromise, he was prepared to settle for the adoption of only those planks that had been in the 1944 platform. But Truman's own civil rights initiatives, including the formation of the Committee on Civil Rights and the Fair Employment Practices Commission, had advanced the civil rights debate to a new level, and he could not turn the clock back. The planks were adopted, prompting thirty-five southern Democrats to walk out. They formed the States' Rights party, which came to be popularly known as the Dixiecrats.

And people say that Trent Lott doesn't remember his history.

Mark Levin writes:

Trent Lott has said his reference to Strom Thurmond's 1948 campaign was not to endorse his segregationist views, but his positions on such issues as the military, limited government, etc. Mr. Thurmond actually did hold, and articulate, positions that were dissimilar to those of Harry Truman on a variety of issues having nothing to do with race, including national defense and limited government. Yet [James Taranto] and others persist in putting words in Mr. Lott's mouth.

Can anyone actually articulate what those “dissimilar” positions were, other than the obvious ones on limited government (i.e. limited enforcement of the 14th Amendment)? The letter-writers to the Clarion-Ledger below seem more to be projecting their own Buchananite fantasies onto the Dixiecrat campaign than working from knowledge of all these other issue stances.

James Taranto is kind enough to find the Dixiecrat platform's planks on economics and national defense; as expected, the Buchananite fantasies are just that — fantasies.

Commercial Appeal: Lott should go; Clarion-Ledger: Maybe not

The Memphis Commercial Appeal is calling for Trent Lott to resign his position as majority leader.

Plenty of other papers nationwide have done so as well, including the Pascagoula Mississippi Press; however, the CA has wide circulation in northern Mississippi, including GOP stronghold DeSoto County.

Meanwhile, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger stops short of calling for Lott's resignation in this morning's edition:

Lott should not resign; he should change. He should understand that racial sensitivity is a daily practice, not just a political strategy or something to counter embarrassing misspoken words.

Unfortunately, Lott has had forty years to change, and he hasn't.

Meanwhile, those readers who don't believe in the Mississippi persecution complex need look no further than the paper's letters section:

Lott was merely complimenting the former leader of the Dixiecrats, state rights political entity, that believed that the best and the most honorable solution to the long-term problems of segregation/integration could be best solved in an aura of natural political and educational evolution under state law as our U.S. Constitution intended.

I'm glad I wasn't drinking anything when I read that whopper, written by a resident of Philadelphia, no less. Here's another one:

And why couldn't Lott have been talking about Thurmond's foreign or economic policy? Why immediately assume he was glorifying Thurmond's racist past?

Thurmond's foreign or economic policy? What foreign or economic policy? Maybe this one. Yeah, I'd be praising that one to the stars too.

At least Ramsey hits the nail on the head. Oh, by the way, Our Man Lott refused to be interviewed by the Clarion-Ledger. It's not like he might actually owe his constituents an explanation or anything...

I'll take “Things that aren't going to happen” for $300, Alex

Memphis Commercial Appeal Washington correspondent James W. Brosnan reports:

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said [of Lott], "I think he has to have a full-blown press conference with an opening description of his absolute outright hostility to discrimination in any form."

If you believe that is going to happen, I have a bridge in Lake Havasu City I'd like to sell you. Meanwhile, how can you tell you're trying to interview a GOP moderate?

Sen.-elect Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who campaigned aggressively for black votes in the November election, was unavailable to comment on Lott for the third day in a row.

Lott's Superbowl moment approaches. “You've just been called on the carpet by the leader of the free world. What are you going to do now?” “I'm going to Dixie World!”

In all seriousness, this is Trent Lott we're talking about. If a bunch of two-bit beat reporters and rag-tag bloggers can dig up this much dirt on the guy, just wait until Woodward gets on the case. If he's still majority leader next Friday, they'll have dug up videotape of him lighting a cross at a Klan rally or affidavits from a few dozen people detailing how often he's used the “n-word” to describe Condi Rice and Clarence Thomas. Does anyone honestly think the man can stand up to another week of hounding, much less two or more years?

JB Armstrong has a good overview of where the situation is; the “the Dems are bigots too” spin isn't flying. Andrew Sullivan keeps the drum beating, with a nice recap of what we know — and mostly already knew — about Our Man Trent:

He fought integration of his college fraternity; he has hobnobbed with white supremacists; he submitted an amicus brief defending Bob Jones University's right to prohibit inter-racial dating; he has twice regretted the fact that Strom Thurmond didn't win the 1948 presidential election on an explicitly segregationist platform; he voted against the Voting Rights Act extension in 1982; in 1983 he voted against the Martin Luther King Jr holiday; last year, he cast the only vote against the confirmation of Judge Roger Gregory, the first black judge ever seated on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In these last three instances, even Strom Thurmond voted the other way. I don't know. What do you think?

Thursday, 12 December 2002

Progress in the Land of Lott

Not all the news on race in Mississippi this week was bad. It turns out that an apparent racist incident at the University of Mississippi this fall was actually an ill-considered prank played on some friends by three African-American freshmen. While the incident didn't get much play outside the state, it did embarrass the university during the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of James Meredith's admission to Ole Miss.

Mississippi Politics and the CofCC

Rather than rag directly on Our Man Lott (I'll leave that to the Professor, Tacitus, and Daniel Drezner, among others), I thought I'd discuss Trent's cheering section over at the Council of Conservative Citizens.

The CofCC is a constant feature of Mississippi politics; its members played a prominent role in the FreeMississippi group's efforts in opposition to changing the Mississippi flag in 2001, and the group has landed some local officials in hot water for accepting awards from the group. Former governor Kirk Fordice, the only Republican governor of the state since Reconstruction, was proud of his ties to the group. In 1999, according to Thomas Edsall in the Washington Post (April 9, 1999, page A3), the CofCC claimed 34 of its members served in the Mississippi legislature. The group is strongly tied to the whites-only academy system that perpetuates segregation and underinvestment in public education in the state. (The group has also been tied to politicians of both parties throughout the South, including former representative Bob Barr and attorney general John Ashcroft.)

The truth is, cultivating ties on the sly to the CofCC is good politics in Mississippi. That was true for Kirk Fordice, it's true for Trent Lott, and it's true for a lot of other politicians who've been more careful in covering their tracks (or had less press interest in digging up the dirt). Saying the right things in the right way to the supremacist fringe — being a “wink wink, nudge nudge” racist — will help one get to Washington or Jackson, and hopefully not raise too much attention elsewhere. Even if Lott isn't a true believer in the CofCC's mission, it's good politics to convey the impression that he is.

Maybe Trent Lott's defenders outside the South don't understand that reality. Maybe Sean Hannity genuinely believes that Lott doesn't know what Strom Thurmond actually stood for in 1948. But Trent Lott does know. And whether or not Lott believes that America would have been better off had Thurmond been elected president, I'm sure it was an effective campaign line when he undoubtably used it in front of the CofCC in the past.

I've separated the Lott articles into a separate category, since “Politics” was getting overloaded.

And here's the smoking gun... Josh Marshall has done some additional Lott archaeology of his own, including finding this gem with more on Lott's CofCC ties.

Daniel Drezner notes that even Charles Barkley thinks Lott should resign. You can tell your political career is going to hell in a handbasket if it's being trashed on The NBA on TNT. But at least Trent's still got Sean Hannity on his side...

Editor & Publisher gives a roundup of editorial response around Mississippi; Lott leads Friday's Washington Post.

Fellow Mississippian Conrad at the Gweilo Diaries makes basically the same point:

I've known Trent Lott's ilk my entire life. He knows that the old-time racism of Bilbo and Barnett, with which he grew up, is no longer unacceptable. He'll put on a public mask because that's what's now required. He may even convince himself that he's tolerant. But no one is perfect, and every now and then the mask slips and we get a glimpse of the ugliness behind it. You'll never hear Lott say the word "nigger" in public . . . but he thinks it, of that you can be certain.

Now this is journalism

Well, it's taken the Clarion-Ledger six days, but they've finally stepped up to the plate on Trent Lott. Meanwhile, many Mississippians rally around the pork. (Both articles via Greg Wythe.) The Memphis Commercial Appeal has compiled its own list of embarrassments for Lott; meanwhile, their “Mississippi reaction piece” is an even better indication of the parallel universe Mississippi's politicos live in:

Even as the nation's talk shows and Washington's power set debate Sen. Trent Lott's motives and manner, the storm over the Senate Republican leader's remarks is drawing little more than shrugs back home.

W has publically rebuked Lott, according to the Professor. I've already given my advice for his fellow GOP senators elsewhere:

Let's face it: Lott is the Republicans' Fredo Corleone. Let him chair Appropriations or some other porkfest committee and find someone else to speak for the party.

I just listened to about two minutes of Hannity on the radio in the car (that was about all I could stand before feeling the irresistable urge to rip my SkyFi receiver off the dash and chuck it through my car windshield). Why on earth is he carrying water for Lott? Does Trent have nude photos of him and Colmes or something?

Wednesday, 11 December 2002

And now, he just looks stupid (updated)

(Via Greg Wythe, who also pays me a kind compliment:) Joshua Micah Marshall has some choice excerpts from Larry King's interview with Trent Lott this evening; rather than blockquote the whole thing, just go read it.

You know, I can't really think of what Dewey stood for in 1948 either. But I do actually know his name. Dear Lord. Forget throwing him out of the GOP leadership — can we rescind his bachelor's degree?

Daniel Drezner weighs in with some advice for Karl Rove; he figures W has 24 hours to either get out in front or start taking collateral damage. And, to be fair to Lott, Marshall does cherry-pick his excerpts a bit. “VodkaPundit” Stephen Green writes:

What I want to know is, where is the rest of the Republican Senate Majority on Lott? I’m not too worried yet about the President not speaking to this issue – it's still largely a Senate matter, and politically unwise for Bush to step in (yet). But where is the Republicans' Harold Ford, willing to stand up to idiocy and challenge its leadership role? Where is the modern Barry Goldwater to tell Lott quietly that it’s time to step down? Lott isn't just hanging his own self out to dry, he could take fellow Republicans with him in two years.

Of course, the Democrats' Harold Ford will probably spend the next two years as a Capitol elevator attendant for his impudence in challenging the party elite. Having principles can bite you in the ass sometimes...

Grenada +10 = Venezuela?

(Finally, something other than Trent Lott!)

Glenn Reynolds passes on an interesting tidbit on Hugo Chávez possibly importing Cuban troops to support his regime. Also see El Sur for coverage of the evolving situation in Venezuela.

On the one hand, Chávez was popularly elected, and that ought to count for something before we play Teddy Roosevelt. On the other, so was old Slobodan Milosevic.

Lott on Hannity: The reviews are rolling in

If I'd known Trent was going to be on Hannity today, I'd have run out to my car to listen on XM (sorry, cheap plug). But, word is, I didn't miss much; quoth Michele of A Small Victory:

One of the things I scribbled as Lott talked was "some of my best friends are black," which a whole paragraph worth of Trott's words amounted to. I was really pissed when I got home, checked my blogroll, and saw that Stephen had come out of a short retirement and said the exact same thing.

Arthur Silber writes:

Moreover -- and this is the most important element, to me -- it appears that Lott thinks that the only way he can redeem himself is by accepting virtually all of the Democrats' positions: increased spending for education, increased spending for "economic opportunity," which means God only knows how much more federal money for innumerable programs (which we know don't work in the first place), etc. In other words, the only way the Republicans can get this incident behind them, while leaving Lott in place, is to accede to most, if not all, of the Democrats' proposals. Only in that way will the Republicans be able to show their "good will."

Mike Alissi of Hit & Run:

After a strong apology, he said his statement praising Strom Thurmond's presidential candidacy was "an error of the head not the heart" — and he credited Jesse Jackson for having once used that phrase.

Hmm. It doesn't rhyme, though. Besides, what in the hiz-ell does that phrase actually mean in this context? “My heart is with the Dixiecrats but I shouldn't have been dumb enough to say it out loud”? At this rate, Lott will be apologizing for apologies.

FoxNews.com reports the story with quotes from both sides of the aisle. Perhaps more amusingly, Tom Daschle seems to be trying to out-clarify Lott, with his third statement in three days. More of my Lott thoughts at TiVoCommunity.com.

Bennie Thompson on Lott

The Professor finds Bennie Thompson taking leave of his senses.

Thompson is basically a joke of a politician, and not even close to a worthy successor to Mike Espy (which is saying something). If he didn't have a majority-minority district, he'd be unelectable; he only won 55–45 in his last election, in a district that is about 65% black.

This will probably be my last on Lott for today; I have a nasty server problem to debug here at work.

I lied; Greg Wythe notes Mississippi's tepid response to the Lott situation. And Arthur Silber thinks Thompson wasn't so much being dense as reading Trent Lott's mind; if that's not an indictment of Lott's intellect, I don't know what is. (Latter link via Daniel Drezner.)

Mississippians, persecution complexes, and Trent Lott

Today was haircut day for me; I trekked down to Parks Barber Shop, just off the Oxford Square, for my bimonthly trim. Business wasn't all that brisk, but there was already someone in the chair (and Larry was the only one working this morning), so I took a seat and started reading my copy of this week's Economist. Not unsurprisingly, Larry and his patron started talking about the Lott situation; Larry stuck up for good old Trent, saying that “he hadn't said anything racist” and that he was probably right, that we would have been better off had Thurmond won, while the patron pointed out that even if Trent had gotten a bit carried away at the celebration (and nothing more), he'd still made Mississippi look bad.

Far be it from me to extrapolate too much from idle conversation in a barber shop. But there are certainly lots of people down here who'd agree with Larry's sentiment; that Trent Lott didn't say anything “racist”. And, on the surface, if you'd beamed down from Neptune, without any knowledge of what Strom Thurmond stood for in 1948, I suppose that's plausible, even if a bit disingenuous. But unless you're ignorant of the context, it's hard to read Lott's comments as anything but an endorsement of White Rule Forever.

But there is a larger issue here, one that will remain long after the Lottroversy is over: a lot of white Mississippians view the world through a prism of persecution, and believe they'll never get a fair shake from the Yankee victors, no matter what they do. “We got rid of segregation, let blacks vote, abolished the Sovereignty Commission,” they say, “but still those outsiders are on us about the flag, Confederate statues, and what we call our football teams. Appease 'em on that, and who knows what will be next.” In short, it's us against them. And Trent Lott was immersed in that culture from day one of his life, which is why he won't quit (I can imagine him now: “You'll have to pry the Senate calendar out of my cold, dead fingers.”); if he did, it'd be yet another surrender to the Yankees and their damned political correctness. Bottom line: if the Republicans want to get rid of Trent, they're gonna have to do it the ugly way.

That isn't to say there isn't some kernel of truth buried in that view of persecution; my experience with a lot of Northerners suggests that Mississippi is still viewed as nothing short of Deliverance writ large with a healthy dollop of Sling Blade on the side, where uppity blacks are still lynched on a daily basis in the Oxford Square and an interracial couple should expect to be stoned to death by mobs of anti-miscegenationists. The reality of modern Mississippi is that whites and blacks get along pretty well, for the most part, whether promoting economic development in the Delta or getting the business of the state done in Jackson. In some ways, that makes Lott's comments hurt worse, because most Mississippians, if they sat down and actually thought about it, would agree that our state is much better off now than it was during the days of Jim Crow.

Maybe if Trent Lott was from Ohio or Nebraska, instead of Mississippi, he might have gotten an easier ride, absent those stereotypes. Not that he would have deserved one.

Incidentally, this is probably the same reason Bill Clinton refused to quit during l'affaire Lewinsky; the white Southerner persecution complex isn't exclusive to Mississippians.

More Lott items on the front page.

LottWatch Day 5 (updated)

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports on the latest developments, including quotes from the state NAACP; their cartoonist sums up the situation fairly nicely. The paper's editorial makes no attempt to defend Lott, but doesn't really call on him to do anything either. Columnist Sid Salter, meanwhile, thinks it's just Democrats that have it out for Lott; obviously, he doesn't get out on the Blogosphere much.

Meanwhile, the Memphis Commercial Appeal carries this James Brosnan piece that notes liberal and conservative outrage at Lott's remarks; it includes this quote from Rep. Harold Ford, Jr.:

It would be easy to dismiss this if this was the first occasion for the senator to be associated with sort of anti-American rhetoric or organizations, but unfortunately it's part of a pattern.

And the Professor finds that Lott said pretty much the same thing 22 years ago at a Reagan campaign rally.

Oliver Willis gives us a devestating preview of Campaign 2004. It's a shame running such an ad would be illegal under McCain-Feingold. Meanwhile, Howard Kurtz catches up the dead tree media consumers on what the Blogosphere is up to.

Tuesday, 10 December 2002

Maybe he was just speaking his mind... (updated)

Glenn Reynolds has dug up this gem of an article on Our Man Lott; Doug Thompson saves the best for last:

And some who know Trent Lott say his praise of Thurmond may not have been a slip of the tongue. The Mississippi Republican, they say, may still share some of Thurmond's racist bias.

Shirley Wharburton, a former Senate staffer, says Lott is well known among Republican insiders as a man who enjoys racial slurs.

“I've heard him make disparaging remarks about black athletes and talk about how they are taking over professional sports,” she said. “Strom Thurmond is not the only Senator who uses the ‘n-word’ when he's talking to other white Senators.”

Certainly back in 1994, when I spent a few months in the Hart Senate Office Building opening Connie Mack's mail (among other tasks as a young, impressionable intern), there were more than a few staffers with, shall we say, unreconstructed racial attitudes; however, I can't speak on the behavior of their bosses.

Ari Fleischer's comments today hardly read as a ringing endorsement from the President; however, if Lott wants to make a real apology, he might start from here:

I just think, from the President's point of view, all Americans should take great pride in the fact that we are changed society since 1948; tremendous strides and changes and improvements have been made in the way we treat fellow Americans in the terms of race and equality. And the President looks at the history of our nation as one that — we were a nation that needed to change. The changes that were brought by the civil rights community were healthy, constructive changes that have made us a stronger and a richer and a better society. And I speak for the President.

Making your opponents' argument for them

From today's Clarion-Ledger:

Two former Jefferson County jurors say 60 Minutes owes them more than $6 billion after airing a program that called the county a haven for "jackpot justice."

Nah, Mississippi doesn't need tort reform...

Hit & Run has also picked this one up.

Tacitus on race and the major parties

Tacitus has written a good essay on the role of race in both the Republicans and the Democrats. Choice quote:

Of course some Republicans and some conservatives are racists. From the moment that Barry Goldwater -- a Jew without a racist bone in his body -- decided to stand on principle for the ideal of free association, the racists of the South knew they had a socially acceptable and morally justifiable cover for their loathesome proclivities. And so the "Southern strategy" was born, and so the old Confederacy was won for the Republican Party. (And so, in sick counterpoise, was the Democratic Party made the natural home for the nonwhite racists of America.) Is this a badge of shame -- the original sin of the modern Republican movement?

Black Caucus arrives fashionably late

The Congressional Black Caucus isn't satisfied with Lott's apology. It doesn't sound like they're too happy with Tom Daschle, either:

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, said Daschle "moved too quickly to explain Mr. Lott."

"It is not enough to simply defend or to explain these kind of statements, and then at election time talk about why black Americans should turn out in large numbers," she said.

And suddenly it dawns on Waters why it was such a bad idea for the African-American elite to put all their eggs in the Democratic basket...

Jeff Taylor, of Reason's new “Hit & Run” blog, thinks we should expect Concorde service to Daschleland in exchange for the Democrat's tepid support. Meanwhile, Joe Conason is unimpressed with Daschle too.

Lott Apology (sorta-kinda; updated)

Now that the media has actually picked up the story, Lott has apologized:

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.

I'm a bit behind on the story, but the Professor and Virginia have good round-ups.

Finally, some Mississippians are on the case: Jackson Clarion-Ledger columnist Eric Stringfellow calls for an apology, while their report is basically a warmed-over version of the AP's. The Memphis Commercial Appeal carries a slightly longer story by James Brosnan that notes Lott has done little to distance himself from the Council of Conservative Citizens and refused to sign on to the campaign for changing the state flag in 2001. And “Ole Miss Conservative” Patrick Carver weighs in, too.

Monday, 9 December 2002

Firefly's “War Stories”

What can I say? This show keeps getting better. Characters get fleshed out more, bad guys get fragged, and we get to see Kaylee on TV.

Discussion, as always, at the TiVo Community Forum.

Let's play “Parse the Paragraph” (updated)

Here goes: my first Fisking. The quote is from Trent Lott, in case you've been under a rock all weekend.

I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him.

That, at least, is true.

We're proud of it.

Who's “we”? I sure ain't. “We were proud of it” (past tense) might be an accurate statement, but unless I didn't get a memo, the present tense version sure isn't.

And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.

Which exact problems are those? The Dixiecrats were basically southern populists who never met a big government program they didn't like (at least when it mostly benefited whites), not Goldwater conservatives, so Lott can't be referring to the expansion of government power, something Truman had relatively little to do with anyway. The 1949–53 period is hardly known for anything except the Korean War, and I don't think Lott believes U.S. involvement in that conflict was a mistake. In short, unless Thurmond would have had a conversion experience on par with Earl Warren's (supporter of rounding up Japanese-Americans becomes big fan of civil rights) while in the White House, it's hard to imagine what “problems” might have been avoided.

NewsMax has the gall to think that Lott doesn't deserve what little roasting he's getting from the media on this. Not that Robert Byrd doesn't deserve flak either. At least fellow Mississippian Miscellaneous Heathen is with me:

I'm ashamed of our past, ashamed that my fellow Mississippians voted this way in 1948, and I'm ashamed of Lott for continuing to make us look like unreconstructed hicks.

He also refers to Lott as a “plastic-haired weasel” — now that, my friends, is a word picture.

Matt Drudge is reporting that Al Sharpton has joined Jesse Jackson in protesting Lott's comments. Talk about the periphery of American politics... No word yet from Louis Farrakhan and Sister Souljah.

Rebels headed to the Independence Bowl

It's official: Ole Miss faces Nebraska in its umpteenth trip to the Independence Bowl. Rebels win by 10 (Nebraska has no pass defense, and Ole Miss can put 8 or 9 in the box against Nebraska's rushing attack since they have no pass offense either).

“Flooding the Zone” on Lott (updated)

The Professor is keeping track of everyone who wants Trent tossed out an airlock; go read it. Virginia has some more comments from the Blogosphere and her readers, too. Radley Balko lobbies for Bill Frist to replace Lott, who's apparently “too Mississippi” to lead the Senate (not that that ever hurt the incomparable James Eastland).

The only major political figure to call on Lott to resign so far: the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. Yes, the man who's spent most of the last 20 years devaluing his own legacy as a crusader for civil rights. Lott's defense:

Through a spokesman Sunday, Lott said, “My comments were not an endorsement of (Thurmond's) positions of over 50 years ago, but of the man and his life.”

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Meanwhile, here's a telling statistic: the web's automated news index, Google News, can only find 9 articles that report Trent Lott's comments, of 401 that report his presence at the party. Not a peep in Mississippi's “newspaper of record,” the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, or the Memphis Commercial Appeal, always one to jump on any bandwagon to insult their neighbor to the south.

Via Instapundit: Silent Running disagrees with the rush to judgement. They forget that Lott has been caught with his proverbial pants down before.

Also see this column in that bastion of the Bicoastal Media Elite, the Fredricksburg (Va.) Free Lance-Star.

Sunday, 8 December 2002

Late night updates

Virginia Postrel joins the Trent Lott career change supporters. Speaking of the illustrious former male cheerleader, Mark Kleiman notes that Howell Raines over at the NYT is AWOL; apparently he's too busy hectoring Tiger Woods about Augusta to pursue a real news story. (Mark's Ole Miss reference is a cheap shot. Then again, so is my cheerleader reference...)

Oh, in case it isn't clear what I think: Lott should go. Yesterday.

Landrieu wins in Louisiana by 40,000, probably a wider margin than expected; however, the 5th district race is basically a dead heat (Alexander is ahead by 518 votes, with 50.15 percent of the vote).

Virginia also lets us know she never really was a brunette; it must have been the lighting in the old photo. For those who've clicked through, there's more coverage on the front page.

Saturday, 7 December 2002

The Trent Lott Enemies List widens; Landrieu/Terrell close

Daniel Drezner calls on Lott to resign as Senate Majority Leader. Look for a lot of other Republicans to join him in the next few days; his office's complete lack of any non-laughable response, however, either screams that they've already seen the handwriting on the wall or they are completely oblivious. Having taught more than a few conservative ideologues in my time at Ole Miss, I fear the reality may be the latter. Let's see if the media actually runs with this one; Joshua Micah Marshall isn't optimistic.

Meanwhile, in a somewhat unrelated story, Landrieu leads Terrell by less than 15,000 votes with about 3/4 of precincts reporting.

Phoenix 0.5 + Xft build

It looks like everyone's favorite lightweight browser has hit the 0.5 release; get it here (a lightly tested Linux build with Xft for all your antialiasing needs; for Windows, grab a build from here). Don't forget to visit the official and unofficial sites to pick up your favorite extensions and themes (still using Qute here).

Better as a brunette

Still, Virginia Postrel's new photos demonstrate why she has to make any red-blooded male's "Top Ten Reasons To Be A Libertarian"; her book The Future and Its Enemies should also appear on that list. Meanwhile, the InstaWife isn't exactly chopped liver.

BTW, I'm with Glenn; the middle photo is the best of the three.

Trent Lott: Kloset Klansman? (updated)

And Republicans wonder why African Americans don't vote for them... (More at Instapundit, OxBlog, The Daily Kos, and Tacitus; this ballot will definitely find its way into my next American politics course.)

If it's any consolation for the rest of the world (and, in retrospect, I can't see how this would console anyone), being a race-baiting imbecile isn't solely a Lottian trait, just one apparently inherent to politicos in my adoptive state.

Meanwhile, the current top story on ClarionLedger.com is titled Miss. embraces history (but unrelated); now that, Alanis, is irony.

Friday, 6 December 2002

Running Linux IV: The Voyage Home

My two complimentary copies of Running Linux, 4th ed., showed up today. Since I wrote a few pages of it (and did a technical review on the rest), I can't give an unbiased review.

I did note a few whoppers (a couple of my notes didn't make it in: most notably, bzImage isn't compressed using bzip2), and I think enscript gets discussed twice for some odd reason, but overall I think it brings Running Linux into the 21st century while retaining the spirit of Matt's original; there's something in here for all but the most seasoned Linux veteran, and it's still the first book you should buy before installing Linux, no matter what the flavor. (I remember being excited when Linux Installation and Getting Started, the predecessor of RL, came out, which will give you some idea of how long I've been a Linux afficianado.)

Incidentally, the material I wrote is in one of the two free chapters (Chapter 7; PDF pages 25–32 — real pages 196–203) available at O'Reilly's website.

IJ wins again

The Institute for Justice just won an appeal of its Tennessee casket monopoly case. More coverage from the Volokhs.

The only downside is that the Sixth Circuit didn't take up the Privileges or Immunities clause argument that I.J. made. The Slaughter-House decision is one of the last vestiges of stupid interpretations of the 14th Amendment, from the same brain trusts who gave us Plessy v. Ferguson; at least Plessy got the boot it deserved.

Jack or Kyle? You decide...

A recent thread in the TiVo Community Forum brought back this blast from the past... all I can say is, I'm glad I'm not losing my hair (yet!).

Texas A&M Hires Franchione

Well, it's over for Coach Fran in Tuscaloosa. Apparently the motivation is the Crimson Tide's NCAA problem going from bad to worse; it's hard to imagine any penalty forthcoming from Indianapolis short of the so-called Death Penalty, especially after the infractions committee specifically pointed out that the only reason the Tide avoided it before was for being fully cooperative.

Shutting down the Tide isn't good for either them or the SEC in general. It might be a good thing for college football in the long term, though, as an instructive example. On the other hand, it might push a lot of I-A schools to abandon amateurism completely and withdraw from the NCAA. One thing's for sure: it's going to be a long nine months in Tuscaloosa.

Wednesday, 4 December 2002

Compare the photos

Look at Page 2. Then compare Exhibit B. I'm flattered that a congressman thinks I'm a good photographer, even if the caption is completely wrong (the photo is from El Dorado, nowhere near I-49). ;-)

George W. Bush: Babylon 5 fan?

(Via Bjørn Stærk and the TiVo Community Forum) At least, that's what Karl Rove told Bruce Boxleitner, according to J. Michael Straczynski (jms). Either (a) Karl is lying, (b) George is really thinking of "Blake's 7" or 8 Mile, or (c) George is a lot smarter, or at least a lot more discerning, than most of us thought.

Oh, did I mention that Babylon 5 rules?

Tuesday, 3 December 2002

Updated to Apache 2.0.43; PostgreSQL 7.3

I updated the site this evening to the latest PostgreSQL and Apache releases. Hopefully there are no remaining bugs.

The next project will be to convert the blog over to use mod_python; it is currently a standard CGI.

Sunday, 1 December 2002

Journalism and bias

Philippe DeCroy of the Volokh Conspiracy talks a bit about the editorial effects of the Harold Raines regime on the New York Times. Not being a regular NYT reader these days (I did read it for about a year in college, but decided it wasn't worth spending the money on later in life), I can't vouch for Philippe's impression of a decided turn toward the paper's wearing its liberalism on its sleeve; Philippe argues this has caused him(?) to lose confidence in the paper's reporting.

The "problem" of media bias has been widely studied in political science and communications studies. At least in the modern U.S., most media bias has been seen primarily in terms of the framing and agenda-setting powers of the media: deciding how issues are to be presented and what issues should be discussed. Perhaps the most thorough work on this has been John Zaller's The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion and his work on the impacts of the media on public opinion (most notably, "The Myth of Massive Media Impact Revived"). One of Zaller's arguments is that people gain political knowledge due to the information that they are exposed to; this information can be either factual (as we traditionally view "information") or biased in some way. For people to make "good" or well-informed political decisions, they have to be exposed to multiple sources of information, and they have to be able to sort out that information. Other studies have shown that so-called "negative advertising" is a very good source of this information in political campaigns, because unlike most "positive" advertising, it talks about issues and other things that are politically relevant. Despite the ravings of the campaign finance reform crowd, who want strict limits on political advertising, negative TV campaigns tell us much more about candidates than anything else.

Similarly, the media provide information. The best way to learn (i.e. get information) about something is to find lots of reports of the same event from different perspectives; Google News is a near-perfect implementation of this capability, although you'll probably find that most of the reports are based on one "unbiased" AP report, which limits one's ability to integrate: to take the event viewed from various perspectives, process them through the observers' biases, and come up with what actually happened. Somewhere between The New York Times's version of events and that presented in The Washington Times is the truth; if you're open-minded enough to read both, their individual biases don't matter so much as your ability to recognize those biases and include them in how you evaluate what happened.

Helping the Chinese censor the Internet

(Via Instapundit) IMAO writes on U.S. technology companies helping China censor the Internet, arguing that U.S. companies have a moral obligation not to help China.

I'm a bit torn on this issue, because it's largely a question of the exact role companies have in censorship. If they're buying "off-the-shelf" software to do it (and there's plenty out there, including free programs like SquidGuard that are included in Debian, I'm not sure about corporate complicity; after all, there are plenty of responsible uses for the software. For example, we use filtering software to keep students from surfing to random sites during physics labs. On the other hand, if you're giving them a custom-built system that keeps the Chinese away from CNN and the Voice of America, I'd have some problems with that.