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Saturday, December 21, 2002

Nepotism, Thy Home Is Nome...

Tony Adragna
OK, first, I just picked Nome because it rhymes. Frank Mukowski residence is actually Fairbanks, and the younger Murkowski represents a district in Anchorage. Nome is represented by two Democrats — one in the state senate, and the other in the lower house.

Just didn't want any of our frozen friends sending me nastygrams, so I thought I'd better get that outta the way...

I'm conflicted on this appointment. On the one hand, it clearly smells of nepotism. But, it's not like there's much of a pool to draw on — only 117 thousand registered Republicans in Alaska, and he had to find out of those someone who is not only qualified but also shares his values & vision...

Lott-a inspiration Fritz is at it again, Will, looking at a "decision" from a perspective that makes one sit up and say "hmmm". This time, he's offering that Trent Lott's decision to step down may have been divinely inspired.

Not meaning to make kight of human suffering, and not suggesting that God punished Mississippi for Lott's inequities — neither is Fritz doing either — but there is a Biblical parallel that Frits links to. It's the type of parallel that has been drawn between the wrath of God and the failings of other political figures & cultural movements.

Just an interesting little ort...

What's worse than "dialogue"? Hoping that everything blows over 'til it all blows up again, that's what.

QP Saturday

Will Vehrs
Tony, have the Bush Administration and Republicans gone to the well once too often on this "announce it on Friday to bury it in the news cycle" technique? Seems like we've had big news every Friday for the last three or four weeks, with yesterday's Lott resignation as the big kahuna. Do the media have to change their work schedule to combat this abuse?

The other great technique for burying a story was also utilized yesterday: Senator and Governor-elect Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, appointed his daughter, Lisa Murkowski, to his Senate seat, knowing that the Lott story would suck all the oxygen from this brazen nepotism. Our old Crystal Ball friend, probably relieved to give good quote on something besides Lott, was on the story:

"She could be perfectly well-qualified," said University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato. "But she is the daughter of the governor. It just looks like he's reserving two-thirds of the key positions in Alaska for his personal family," he said.

Perhaps because Murkowski appointed his daughter, instead of a son, I don't think there will be an inordinate amount of criticism over this move. Of course, my political sensitivity meter is on the fritz, having utterly failed me when I predicted Lott would survive.

Tony, I don't know what Cass Ballenger was thinking and his remarks are truly bizarre in the context of Lott's problems. However, here's a man who takes us up on a "dialogue about race." He confesses some feelings that make us uncomfortable, but he's being honest. Perhaps if he continued talking through it with a trained counselor, he'd recognize that he's just erroneously placing a racial filter over something. He probably has "segregationist feelings" about numerous whack job colleagues, white or African-American. His "segregationist feelings" aren't racial, they're ideological.

That's it for me analyzing the psychology of politicos.

Friday, December 20, 2002

"I wanna hear people say what they really think, and in words that convey how they truly feel."

Tony Adragna
You know, Will, while I defended Byrd's sentiment, there's definitely something wrong with the way he thinks about the issue — contexted in his KKK past, and using the verbiage familiar to that context. Indeed, everything about the man is of an era long gone, and it shows everytime he opens his mouth in committee or on the floor. Try as he might, Byrd simply can't escape the fact that he's an anachronism.

Now, I didn't expect folk to start "put[ting] all the cards on the table" so quickly, but so it has begun
CHARLOTTE, N.C.(AP) - Responding to Sen. Trent Lott's recent comments, Rep. Cass Ballenger told a newspaper he has had "segregationist feelings" himself after conflicts with a black colleague.

Ballenger, a North Carolina Republican, said former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., so provoked him that "I must I admit I had segregationist feelings." "If I had to listen to her, I probably would have developed a little bit of a segregationist feeling," Ballenger told The Charlotte Observer in Friday's editions. "But I think everybody can look at my life and what I've done and say that's not true.

"I mean, she was such a bitch," he said.
Ballenger explains
"I talk too much," Ballenger told the radio station. "In that specific case, I was trying to say that almost anybody can develop an animosity to individuals. In this particular case, I picked on Cynthia McKinney because she was what I consider less than patriotic to the United States."
Well, I certainly understand his animosity toward McKinney. But why does [actually, I meant ro say "would"] the animosity toward an individual evoke in Ballenger "segregationist feelings"?

Of course, McKinney was pushing his buttons, and that too is part of the problem. How do I, though, tell McKinney that she's gone beyond the pale when Ballenger is so eager to prove her point?

Lott-a Reason to be Happy!

Tony Adragna
Notwithstanding any cynical rationale for Democrats to prefer that Lott maintain his leadership position, this Democrats is glad he decided to step down. Indeed, the cynical rationale is just as apt to backfire, so removing the tempting opportunity is what the Democratic leadership should have focused on for pragmatic reasons at least.

I would hope that Democrats object on principle, too. We can have valid political debate on the best policy to lead this nation toward Dr. King's Dream. But we can't get there so long as folks keep pulling cards, rather than playing with a full deck. The partisan politiking on this issue — evidenced in vitriol from both sides of the aisle — I find distasteful.

Es & Os Fellow squid Bill Herbert — the COINTELPRO Tool hisself — sent a very funny story that I thought I'd share
Three Navy First Class's and three Navy Officers were traveling by train to a conference. At the station, the three Officers each bought tickets and watched as the three First Class's bought only a single ticket. "How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?" asked an Officer. "Watch and you'll see" answered the First Class.

They all boarded the train. The Officers took their respective seats but all three First Class's crammed into a restroom and closed the door behind them. Shortly after the train departed, the conductor came around collecting tickets. He knocked on the restroom door and said, "Ticket, please." The door opened just a crack and a single arm emerged with a ticket in hand. The conductor took it and moved on. The Officers saw this and agreed it was quite a clever idea.

So after the conference, the Officers decided to copy the First Class's (as they always do) on the return trip and save some money (being clever with money, and all that). When they got to the station, they bought a single ticket for the return trip. To their astonishment, the First Class's didn't buy a ticket at all. "How are you going to travel without a ticket?" asked one perplexed Officer. "Watch and you'll see" answered one of the First Class's.

When they boarded the train, the three Officers crammed into a restroom and the three First Class's crammed into another one nearby. The train departed. Immediately afterward (before the conductor made his rounds), one of the First Class's left his restroom and walked over to the restroom where the Officers were hiding. He knocked on the door and said, "Ticket, please."
I did find it necessary to note to Bill that "a Chief woulda just finagled his way onto the top of the space-a list at the MAC terminal, to hell with the train..."

Also found at Bill's blog, a link to the DoD's Twelve Days of Christmas.

My offer is still on the table! I'd rather Gov. Warner, Will, than "Betting Bobby"...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Lack of Vigor Defense Tony, I apologize for not responding vigorously to your defense of the old Romanesque orator, Senator Robert Byrd, D-WV. I agree with your analysis that Byrd's bizarre comment could not be equated with Lott's remarks, but whenever someone's words become part and parcel of a scandal, partisans run to Lexis and try to dredge up something that might tar the accusers,or at least throw up some obstufactory dust. On and on it goes, in a tiresome replay of every other Washington scandal.

Whenever someone mentions that this country needs a "dialogue on race," I just sigh. It would quickly turn into something similar to our current Lott dialogue. No wonder no one's been able to make it happen.

BTW, Tony, your comparison of the church to family and the scandal to the typical dysfunctional family seems on the mark to me.

Wonders Never Cease Josh Marshall actually mentions another blogger, even if it is just to trash him.

Hat Trick Foiled Like a no-hitter in progress, no one dared mention that last night yours truly was pursuing an all but unprecedented three Caption Contest wins in a row (well, I had tied two weeks in a row, but let's not get technical). Of course, after a drum roll, Judge Dodd Roy Bean revealed that some ancient, obscure and singularly unfunny milk reference had captured his fancy and the prize. The streak is over.

Others have said that I was robbed, that justice was not done, and that irrational whimsy prevailed in the contest, but I have not made that charge.

Virginia Corner

They're Still Out There No new developments to report in the case of the Ferry Four, reported yesterday.

Budget Day Virginia Governor Mark Warner, after a frenzied two weeks of previews and photo ops, is unveiling his budget as I write. With budget day approaching, Warner seemed to pull back from his castor oil approach:

Gov. Mark R. Warner assured anxious Virginians Thursday that the days of belt-tightening are nearing an end.

``I think we've bottomed out,'' Warner said on a Richmond radio show, discussing budget recommendations he is scheduled to deliver to the General Assembly today to patch a $2 billion shortfall

I hope there was spirited debate among the Governor and his advisors over conveying that message. Continuing to portray the budget as fiscal Armagedden unless his reform agenda is adopted would have been my recommendation. Maybe revenue figures are looking up, but highlighting an uptick at this point can only give comfort to those who would resist his challenge to the status quo.

Yesterday Governor Warner unveiled his workforce development plans. This is a below the general interest radar issue, but it is has importance to the business community and the educational establishment:

Warner proposed legislative and administrative changes to establish a coordinated work-force-development system in Virginia. Among other things, the reforms would improve worker access to training closely linked to actual job opportunities. They also would help employers locate the workers they need.

This wasn't the bold reform governor who proposed consolidating all the state's technology resources into a super agency. This was a cautious reformer, seeking to appoint a "high level coordinator" for workforce development. This coordinator's first assignment is to prepare a feasibility study of consolidating the crazy quilt of workforce programs into one umbrella agency.

As much as this issue has been studied and the problems identifed, I'm surprised that a definitive plan to bring order out of chaos wasn't recommended. Maybe the special interests that be need more stroking.

There was an intriguing proposal to address a problem that plagues certain areas of Virginia: the low high school graduation rate.

One of the measures would be the creation of a Middle College program by the Virginia Community College System. One of the two Middle Colleges, designed for young adults who did not graduate from high school, would be at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond.

Students would be able to obtain a high school degree or equivalent to help them land a better job or prepare for further education.

The other program would be operated by Southside Community College in Keysville

Certainly, attending "Middle College" sounds more impressive than "getting a GED." Most GED programs are run by local school systems, however, and I'm not sure if the Community Colleges have expertise in GED type education. I know they have expertise in remedial work for high school graduates so they can handle college course work. Maybe this is an admission that local school systems have irrevocably failed high school drop-outs. It's worth a try, but paradoxically it might increase high school drop-out rates if students figure they can always get into "Middle College" when things get tough.

Other proposals, such as preparing an annual workforce demand plan, reducing the size of the gargantuan Virginia Workforce Council, and improving accountability of local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) are sensible suggestions. WIBs, in particular, need to have a fire lit under them.

So far, from my limited vantage point, I've seen flashes of a single-minded Reform Governor and flashes of an Accommodating Governor. I like the Reform Governor persona better and I think keeping the pressure on for reform is the only way Warner can battle his critics and leave a positive, lasting legacy. But maybe he senses that there is only so much reform a genteel Virginia political culture will absorb and he has to pick his spots.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Trawling for Terrorists

Tony Adragna
The story you give us today, Will, is in sharp contrast to another story today 'bout a "storm" in American Samoa
The center of this tropical storm is a "security alert" issued in August by the Samoan attorney general, Fiti Sunia, that barred entry into the territory to anyone "of Middle Eastern descent," and ordered Samoan officials and airlines to "take special note" of visitors with "Middle Eastern surnames and features."

The territory of 62,000 gets relatively few visitors from anywhere, let alone the Middle East, so the measure gained little attention at first.

But then came a lawsuit filed in American Samoan High Court by Michael Homsany, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native and Samoan resident whose grandfather emigrated from the Middle East. Homsany called the order unconstitutional and un-American, and feared he would not be allowed to return home after a trip to Hawaii for a medical procedure.
I don't want to include your state troopers in this criticism, as they appear to be taking seriously that these folks on the ferry did act suspiciously. But, I've repeatedly harped on other instances of law enforcement failures at dealing with folks where there was very much reasonable suspicion. Having thusly failed, there now are large nets being cast, and lots of innocents [of connections to terrorism, anyway] being hauled in.

I didn't used to be a cynic, Will. In fact, I once argued with one of the "black helicopter" type that government ought be given benefit of the doubt. Now I gotta question everything...

The Laity as "shareholders"? Wadda irony! Andrew Bushell, writing for Slate, tells us "How the Church Went Wrong - The real problem with Cardinal Law." Basically, he argues that the Catholic Church could use some lessons from business schools
Can the church make significant institutional changes? Yes. Bishops should begin thinking of the church as business and not family. They should acknowledge that a parental approach of tough love and therapy for misbehaving priests does not work. They should recognize the laity as shareholders. And shareholders love transparency. At the highest level, in Rome, bishops and cardinals already consult with each other regularly. The Vatican has made a point of cherry-picking the best managers for itself, and its initiatives tend to be put together well. The pope makes personal decisions alone only on rare occasion; he has an information network perhaps better than that of the president of the United States. Now the church should take this further: Problems should be openly discussed, and the church's hierarchy made more responsive. The church should set up a mini-MBA course for bishops or at least a series of management seminars. Whatever happens, it's clear that the bishops' alternative—being three priest transfers ahead of a problem—does not work.
I responded to Bushell's points on "transparency" & being "responsive" to the laity. To wit: Vatican II already responded to that need, yet there is resistance to the slippery slope leading toward democratization of the church.

On "family v. business", I think Bushell is fundamentally wrong. The Church is, and should be, more like a family than a corporate entity. Tough love is what's called for, and the Church rightly struggles to bring the sinner to salvation and back into the family. The "salvific mission" is, after all, the primary mission.

Really, the problem we've seen with sexually abusive priests has not to do with "tough love", but the absence thereof. What the Church did was act like some dysfunctional family that tried covering up its problems. Just because someone is a family member doesn't mean that you excuse them the consequences of their actions, especially when those actions are crimes. What's worst is that the Church didn't do what it did out of compassion for the sinner in fulfillment of the salvific mission. Rather, it seems that we've got old fashioned scandal avoidance.

Addendum in re Byrd: I'm very disappointed that I didn't get a vigorous response to my quasi-defense [what else to expect from a quasi-pundit] of Sen. Byrd. I posted a slighty different version in the fray, and got only two responses [one positive, one negative]. I think this country has to have a frank discussion about race, as opposed to the overly sensitive "dialogues" that we've had in the past. I wanna hear people say what they really think, and in words that convey how they truly feel. Let's put all the cards on the table, instead of pulling them outta the hip pocket whenever the political atmosphere is most opportune.

Terrorism in a Small Town?

Will Vehrs
One of my favorite outings in Virginia is a drive to Williamsburg via the "back roads" just so I can take the Jamestown-Scotland ferry that launches not far from the small county seat of Surry. From the ferry, one can see the Dominion Virginia Power's Surry nuclear power plant.

Yesterday, however, Richmond's local NBC affiliate, Channel 12, reported that my bucolic journey might be central to a possible terrorist plot. The Smithfield Times was all over this hot local story:

Virginia State Trooper Mike Scott received a call from the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry at 11:20 a.m. on Sunday that four white individuals were seen traveling in a brown Ford Explorer on the ferry. The group, made up of two women and two men, divided up once the ferry was under way.

The two men paced the length of the boat but would not answer questions about their activity when the crew asked what they were doing, according to a report filed by the Surry County Sheriff's Office.

The two female passengers were asking questions about the responsibilities of the captain if the ferry were hijacked and if he had keys to the control room. They also asked for the depth of the water at the entry point of the canals for the power plant and the manpower for security at the plant.

Also included in the incident report from the Surry Sheriff's Office is the statement that one of the two men supposedly was seen on the ferry in the past few weeks taking pictures of an emergency evacuation route for the power station and the surrounding areas

Channel 12 interviewed local residents who expressed concern that they hadn't been advised of this possible "threat." Governor Warner was caught off-guard at a press conference when he was asked about the incident.

Police have the license plate number of the Ford Explorer and are seeking to question the occupants. It could be a misunderstanding--a travelling group playing Tom Clancy scenarios for kicks--or something more serious. I suppose it should be troubling that the Governor, three days after the fact, wasn't aware of the incident, but that's the fault of State Police and the Virginia Security Director, former Lt. Gov. John Hager (R). A swift kick in the pants from the Governor will wake those folks up.

What's more important is that the Surry Nuclear Plant incorporates this new potential threat into its security plans, if it has not already done so. Hijacking a slow moving, large ferry and diverting it toward the plant for some sort of attack, however bizarre or far-fetched that might seem, is a possible terrorist plot. We have already seen terrorists try things we couldn't imagine; we can't afford a failure of imagination in preparing for contingencies.

If the people in the Ford Explorer turn out to be innocents, they may have done Virginia and Homeland Security a huge favor.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Byrd's Bumbling Blatherings

Tony Adragna
Will, you know I'm certainly no fan of Robert Byrd, who spends way too much time defending the Senate's prerogatives. As a Democrat, I'd like to see Sen Byrd go. But, do I want to see him go for the same reason that I'd like to see Sen. Lott gone? Not hardly, because I think there's no "moral equivalence" between Byrd's "white nigger" usage and Lott's support — whether explicit or unintentionally implied — of Sen. Thurmond's '48 platform.

What is Byrd guilty of? Let's review. On Friday, March 2, 2001, FOX News Sunday host Tony Snow conducted an interview with Sen. Byrd, which interview aired that Sunday, March 4. Now the transcript
SNOW: Let me throw a couple of names out at you and a couple of issues and just get quick reactions.

Jesse Jackson?

BYRD: Well, I've never been an enthusiastic admirer of Jesse Jackson. He made a bad mistake. We all make mistakes. I made a mistake when I was a young man. It's always been an albatross around my neck, in joining the Ku Klux Klan. We all make mistakes. We can strive to overcome them. That's his situation. What he and his God work out between themselves, that's their business.
[Rev. Jackson was in a spot of trouble at the time for marital infidelity & resultant out of wedlock child fathering, made worse by using funds from Rainbow/Push to pay the woman off.]

Snow throws out a few more names, then gets to
SNOW: Race relations?

BYRD: They are much, much better than they've ever been in my lifetime. I think we--this is my personal opinion. I think we talk about race too much. I think those problems are largely behind us. I think we can all profit by our mistakes. I think we've reached a new plateau, and I think it's going to keep going upward, that understanding and race relations.

I just think we talk so much about it that we help to create somewhat of an illusion. I think we try to have good will. My old mom told me, ``Robert, you can't go to heaven if you hate anybody.'' We practice that. There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time; I'm going to use that word.

We just need to work together to make our country a better country, and I'd just as soon quit talking about it so much.
Tape ends after a couple more questions then we get
SNOW: Now, after our conversation Friday, I went back to visit with Senator Byrd, and he said, ``There is a term I used in our discussion of race relations that people may misconstrue.''

And his office has put out the following statement regarding that. It is, quote, ``I apologize for the characterization I used on this program. The phrase dates back to my boyhood and has no place in today's society. As for my language, I had no intention of casting aspersions on anyone of another race. In my atempt to articulate strongly held feelings, I may have offended people that I intended to offend. Unfortunately, there are people in every race who would rather attackothers simply because of ill-conceived, false stereotypes based on skin color. People who do this are obstacles to positive race relations and become the stereotypes that they despise. But by working together and continually improving the understanding between the races, we can overcome these narrow-minded people and the obstacles that they represent.''
A truly poor choice of words, since the sentiment Byrd was expressing was meant as a repudiation of ignorant racists, and he didn't try to feign that he was being unfairly misconstrued [misconstrued, yes, but not "unfairly"]. Rather, he apologized and acknowledged that "[t]he phrase [...] has no place in today's society" notwithstanding that he stands by the sentiment he intended.

Lott's sentiment was at its fairest reading implied approbation of segregationist policies.

Should Byrd eat some crow over his words? Yes! But to equate the two offenses strikes me as disingenuous...

Iranian Students In Tune With Polish Politicians

Tony Adragna
Hey Will, Anne Applebaum's latest column picks up on Jackson Diehl's topic from Monday. She tells of an exchange between a student & a politician, and the discussion seems not out of the ordinary
[...] except that the questioner was an Iranian student and the politician was Polish. On the face of it, Poland and Iran would seem to be two countries with remarkably little in common, separated as they are by geography, history, religion and aesthetics. At this particular moment, however, strikes and protests continue to roll across the major cities, universities, even oil fields of Iran. Secret policemen arrest, isolate and interrogate pro-reform student activists. All of this is described by a plethora of opposition newspapers and Web sites produced inside and outside the country. Iran, in other words, is beginning to look a lot like Poland in the 1980s, when student protests, worker strikes and underground media helped create the conditions that led to the collapse of communism -- and some Iranians know it. Iranian questions about Eastern Europe are not, in other words, purely theoretical.
You know, I've pooh poohed the notion that Mr. Reagan "won the war" — the way I see it, it's the people of Eastern Europe who won the war, by facing down their oppressors and reclaiming their liberty. But, we did contribute to their win, and in a way more significant than standing armies against the Warsaw Pact. Our contribution is exemplified by Mr. Reagan's "tear down this wall" line. I'm talking 'bout the things we did to give support — both material & moral — to the forces of democratic change within those failed states.

I want to know why we're not doing more to support the Iranian students. Anne responds
Caution, distance and the inability of anyone in Washington to focus on more than one Middle Eastern dictatorship at a time provide most of the explanation. When asked, officials also talk about the history of perceived American meddling in Iran: It seems they don't want to contaminate the genuine democratic revolution by tarring it with the imprimatur of the Great Satan....
All cop outs, and Anne explains how they are. But, she concludes with something that piqued my interest
It's also hard to see why we should wait. There is no love lost between the United States and the Iranian clerics. The "reformers" within the regime have failed, just as the advocates of "communism with a human face" failed in the past. Iran, according to the administration's own statements, supports terrorism and is on course to produce nuclear weapons. If Iranian students are beginning to seek Polish advice, what have we got to lose?
I previously suggested a rationale for waiting. It's not a rationale that I like, especially since if it's true we are indeed bargaining with evil and the Iranian people get left hanging for awhile. But, you know, my hero did have this thing about not being practically opposed to, on a mission to invade hell, making a pact with the devil...

Tuesday, December 17, 2002
Update 12/18 :For the record, see the exchange betweem Gwen Ifill and Ward Connerly
GWEN IFILL: Ward Connerly, we just heard Emma Coleman. Coleman talk about the broadening the acceptability of different points of view. You have actually championed in your career broadening the acceptability of different points of view within the African-American community particularly on affirmative action. We just heard Trent Lott say last night -- we heard it earlier -- that he is now for affirmative action. What is your reaction to that?

WARD CONNERLY: Affirmative action, Gwen, is a very nuanced issue. And I don't know whether Senator Lott was referring to the kind of affirmative action that I would support, which is aggressive action to ferret out discrimination, make sure that job descriptions are relevant to the task that we want people to perform or whether he was referring to a form of preferences, if you will, that I think Ed Gordon was referring to. So I don't know whether Senator Lott was being a little bit cute or whether he just didn't understand the nuances or what.

GWEN IFILL: One second on that.

WARD CONNERLY: Again it was unsatisfactory.

GWEN IFILL: The follow up question I believe from Ed Gordon was do you support affirmative action across the board. To that he said yes. Do you think there's room for an interpretation of what he meant?

WARD CONNERLY: Candidly I don't. I think that he switched positions. That's my interpretation. It's very important, however, that no matter how much we abhor the inference that we... that one could reasonably gain from what Senator Lott originally said following Strom Thurmond's birthday party, that it's not his actual words that we object to. It's the inference that we draw -- a reasonable inference.

But we have to be very careful apart from the issue of race that we not judge people on the basis of what we think they intended. All of us have said things that lend themselves to misinterpretation or interpretation that we may not have intended. So it's important from a civil liberties standpoint that we be very careful here.
I should have noted last night that Connerly thinks Lott "switched positions", and that's the way I read it, too.

Lott's Unfortunate Words on BET

Tony Adragna
Will, I suggested below that there's something wrong with Sen. Lott's 360°[oops! I meant 180°] on Affirmative Action last night. Watching The NewsHour tonight I heard Ward Connerly hit on the problem.

Look, Lott had a perfect opportunity to defend on principle that the manner in which we currently apply Affirmative Action is fundamentally wrong. He could have offered to move an agenda leading to realization of Dr. King's "Dream" — a truly color blind society where race is neither a disqualifier, nor gets a body preferential treatment. Instead, Lott caved to supporting the current rubric.

Or, did he? Maybe not. Connerly noted that this is actually a nuanced topic, and what one person means by AA isn't the same thing somebody else means. Lott may have meant not racial preferences & set asides. I'd like to think that Connerly is correct.

But, Gordon asked Lott the question vis a vis Lott's voting record on the current paradigm, so it's reasonable to assume that Lott answered the question in that same context. That assumption may be wrong, and I hope it is — if not, then Lott isn't just stupid, he's cravenly stupid.

That assumption being wrong doesn't make things better for Lott, though. It leaves him having to explain another bad choice of words that don't mean what they imply.

As I said the other day, Lott has lost all credibility on this issue. Now he's just digging his hole deeper.

A great Big BOHICA To the Iranian Student Movement...
... And I Wonder Why the CIA Doesn't Like Chalabi

Tony Adragna
Two stories I meant to mention the other day, but didn't get around to.

Jackson Diehl wrote yesterday 'bout the "Casey Kasem or Freedom?"
The protest movement, now five weeks old, rolls on, spreading from students to workers and from Tehran to other cities. Some see parallels to the popular movements that overthrew the Communist regimes of Europe in 1989 -- with a big dose of help from U.S.-sponsored Radio Free Europe. In this case, however, the tottering dictatorship has gotten a big break: Two weeks ago, Radio Freedom abruptly disappeared from the air. Iranians were no longer able to hear firsthand reports of the protests or the nightly think tanks about their country's future. Instead, after two weeks of virtual silence, the broadcasts are being replaced this week with tunes from Jennifer Lopez, Whitney Houston and other soft-rockers.

How did the mullahs pull off this well-timed lobotomy? They didn't: The U.S. government, in the form of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, did it. In an act that mixes Hollywood arrogance with astounding ignorance of Iranian reality, the board has silenced the most effective opposition radio station in Iran at a time of unprecedented ferment. In its place, at three times the expense, the United States now will supply Iran's revolutionary students with a diet of pop music -- on the theory that this better advances U.S. interests.
How do I feel about this development? See the title of the post below!

And I wonder if what explains the illogical extension has anything to do with gaining the Mullahs' support in going after Iraq.

And speaking of Iraq, did you catch Chalabi on The NewsHour last night?
LOWELL BERGMAN: You know, the U.S. Government tacitly supported the government of Saddam during the 1980s.

AHMAD CHALABI: There is no tacit about it. The United States provided Saddam with intelligence of a military nature, about Iranian troops' position in the war, and there was an effort to look the other way or sometimes to assist Saddam in acquiring any kind of weapon he wanted.
A little bit on Bergman notes to Chalabi — as if Chalabi didn't already know — that "The CIA, they're obviously not happy with you." Chalabi responds
AHMAD CHALABI: I'm not happy with them.
What a piece of work is Chalabi!


Tony Adragna
adjective 1. Not to be believed: an incredible blunder; a weapon of incredible power.

2. So remarkable as to elicit disbelief.

Syns:1. impossible, inconceivable, preposterous, unbelievable, unimaginable, unthinkable. —Idioms beyond belief, contrary to all reason.

Yes, Will, I actually had to put my hands on Roget's before I could tell what I thought of Sen. Lott's performance last night on BET.

Lott now supports Affirmative Action "across the board"? Does that mean that he now supports set-asides and racial preferencing in areas where minorities have historicaly been proportionaly under-represented in relation to their numbers in the workforce? Is he now behind considering race as a factor in college admissions? That's the meaning of Lott's words, and it's astounding that he would make such a representation.

What about voting rights? Does Sen. Lott no longer consider the Voting Rights Act "punative"? Maybe if he'd connect the dots between the "immoral" leadership of which he admitted and the repression of blacks in the old South, then he'd get the point behind why those Acts are punative.

On another item, I am extremely incredulous
I'm not sure we in America — certainly not white America, in the South — fully understood who this man was and the impact he was having on the fabric of society
The most elegant response I can think of is: Horseshit! Ed Gordon called him on that, suggesting that Senator Lott surely must have known the importance of Martin Luther King, Jr. when in '89 Lott voted against a national holiday in honor of King. I'll go back even further and assert that Trent Lott must have known as early as the '60s what King was to the civil rights movement, and what impact that movement was having on our society. Indeed, the whole of "white America", including the South, understood Dr. King's legacy.

The truth is that Trent Lott's southern partisans simply refused to honor that legacy.

Me & George Will have something in common — we both like WSC. Dealing with how Lott's apologies cast light upon the problem, Will includes this nugget
Lott is a legislative mechanic with negligible ideological ballast. He also is (as Churchill said of John Foster Dulles) a bull who carries his china shop around with him.
Anytime is a good time to cite Churchill!

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
We Should Be Flattered Tony, I think we've really made it, now that a blog exists seemingly just to trash Instapundit and ... us.

Kean and Hamilton I'm satisfied with these two "second-tier" notables. Now, get to work. (sorry about the earlier misspelling--duh)

Lott of Fall-Out Is this happening elsewhere? Here in Virginia, we have opportunists demanding that our state congressional delegation hammer Trent Lott, just so that their comments can be derided as inadequate. Meanwhile, on a more serious note, Senator John Warner, R-Va, an influential voice of moderation, has backed off a little from his call for immediate action on Lott. He's willing to wait until January 6th.

In the statement yesterday, Warner hinted at his displeasure.

"We have the integrity of the institution which we serve, the United States Senate, to preserve," the statement said. "This forthcoming conference will, I am certain, chart a responsible course

Virginia's other Senator has weighed in:

Virginia's junior senator, George Allen (R), said he supports the decision to meet Jan. 6 to "decide how we best bring closure to the national uproar."

Allen did not say whether he thought Lott should step aside. Last week, Allen came to Lott's defense, calling him a "decent, honorable man." Today's statement was more critical.

"President Bush was right when he said that Senator Lott's remarks were offensive and that they do not reflect the spirit of our country. I could not agree more," Allen said. "I abhor discrimination. . . . Senator Lott must understand that his comment was offensive to many Americans, particularly those who have been personally touched by the viciousness of segregation

Shameless Plug My Virginia Pundit Watch column for the week is up on Bacon's Rebellion. Pundits in the Tidewater area have humorous, if bitter, commentaries on Virginia's budget crisis.

Libertarian Manifesto A. Barton Hinkle, the always entertaining Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist, opposes new Virginia seat belt laws proposed by Governor Warner and quotes Denis Leary from the movie "Demolition Man." Leary's comments, issued from the underground of a futuristic society, are a pretty good explanation of what libertarians are all about:

"I'm the enemy, because I like to think. I like to read. I'm into freedom of speech and freedom of choice. I'm the kind of guy who likes to sit in a greasy spoon and wonder, gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbeque ribs with a side order of gravy fries? I want high cholesterol. I wanna eat bacon, and butter, and buckets of cheese. I wanna smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in the non-smoking section. I wanna run through the streets naked with green jello all over my body reading Playboy magazine. Why? Because I might suddenly feel the need to - okay, pal? I've seen the future. Know what it is? It's a 47-year-old virgin sitting around in his beige pajamas drinking a banana-broccoli shake singing "I'm an Oscar Mayer weiner."

Libertarianism suddenly seems more attractive to me ....

Monday, December 16, 2002

Lott's Locutions,
Gore's Going,
Taxing Terrapin Territory.
& I Ain't Had Any Ass In Awhile...

Tony Adragna
I don't know whether you've seen this, Will, but Mike Daley forwarded a link to a blog entry by Philippe DeCroy of The Volokh Conspiracy. He's certainly correct about the cumulative effect of acting stupid and that being enough reason to commit a political defenestration. I'll go a step further, however, and assert that there's a cumulative effect to repeatedly acting stupid on a particular issue: You lose all credibility when speaking to that issue. That's where Trent Lott finds himself right now vis a vis issues of race, and I don't see how he recovers.

I'm not at all surprised! In fact, I'm very relieved that Mr. Gore has decided as he has.

Why am I not surprised? Because Al hinted at his intentions when he addressed the question "why would you go through the trouble of producing an economic plan if you aren't going to run?" That he had a good answer — wanting to be involved in issues irrespective of being an active politician — suggested to me that he had given serious consideration to not running.

Now, if we could get rid of Thomas "The Dealer" Daschle — the leader who Lott has been "too willing to cut deals with" — then maybe we can actually get somewhere. This is a story of "bipartisanship" that takes the easy way out of real debate on vision, and gets at compromise through bending over on principle. I think we need a bit of good 'ol fashioned partisan politicking the likes of which forces folks to take a clear position on something and lets voters see exactly where they stand.

'Course, I'm not knocking bipartisanship where there's a common vision & plan to get there. But, "bipartisanship" as an expression of "magnanimity" is really just about deal cutting and wanting to look good...

Maryland's Democratic establishment, exemplified by one William Donald Schaefer, is telling Governor-elect Ehrlich that his plan won't work. He's going to have to raise taxes, or layoff some state employees, or both — either way it'll be breaking with campaign promises.

I've ever been skeptical of this plan to raise revenue through slots...

I'm a pain in the ass? Apparently, I am! I take not offense at that characterization, 'cause I intend it to be true. If I'm not stiring a pot, then what the hell use am I?

But, I can understand why I "chap" Guy Cabot's ass — I claim to be a liberal, while his daddy keeps making Guy write that Shouting is a "conservative blog".

Superstar Addendum: Who would I pick to sit beside Lee Hamilton? I woulda picked Warren Rudman, but I guess Thomas Kean will do.

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
We Won't Have Al Gore to Kick Around Anymore? I'm as stunned as anybody by Al Gore's announcement that he will not run for president in 2004. I'm surprised more by the timing than the decision itself. After his extensive media tour and repeated assertions that he would announce early next year, making his decision public last night was jarring. He took Trent Lott off the top of the front page, no mean feat.

Al Gore has never been one of my favorites, but he is a man of ideas and a patriot. More than most politicians, he struggles and tacitly acknowledges the conflict between the private and the public, the right thing and the expedient thing. The Democratic field for 2004 is diminished by his withdrawal. A primary debate with Al Gore on the stage gives much more credibility to Democratic aspirants than a debate without him.

TNR has suggested that Gore might replace Terry McAuliffe as the head of the DNC, changing the tone of that organization tremendously. The former Vice-President would be formidable in that role.

I can't help but think that Gore hasn't given up his quest for the presidency. Despite his demurral, he would still be viable in 2008, especially if he had labored in the vineyards effectively. And if no Democratic candidate for 2004 lights a fire across the party, Gore would be on the sidelines, tanned, rested and ready.

Who Needs Superstars? David Brooks made a point on Friday night's News Hour that I heartily join. Speaking of the Mitchell and Kissinger resignations, he asked, in essence, who needs these superstars? We all know they don't really do the work; they're just there to lend a patina of gravitas. Why not put someone in there who will work, who will dedicate himself/herself to the job? There are thousands and thousands of capable people across this country who could do this job and do it well if the President introduced them as a member of the panel. We might even get some new "wise men, wise women" out of the deal.

Eventually, we're going to run out of grizzled veterans of the Nixon/Ford administrations.

Virginia Corner Today's corner might better be called the "Michigan-Virginia Corner." Michigan's Governor-elect, Jennifer Granholm, appeared on Capital Gang with Al Hunt. Granholm, currently Michigan's Attorney General, faces the same challenges that Virginia Governor Mark Warner assumed when he took office almost one month ago. I was struck by the tone of Granholm's answers--she was remarkably direct and combative:

HUNT: General Granholm, you won the governorship decisively, and you're going to assume office in a few weeks, but you're going to confront a $1.8 billion deficit. The rainy fund is depleted. Are you going to have to defer your campaign promises to reduce class size in elementary schools and increase access to health care?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D), MICHIGAN GOVERNOR-ELECT: Yes, I will. In fact, I'm going to have to go to the people and say not only are we going to have to put a pause on some of these campaign promises, but we're going to have to cut programs that you may all find very valuable.

This is going to be a government that's about needs and not wants. All bells and whistles are off. And in fact, we may have to cut some departments out of the state entirely.

HUNT: Do you have any idea which ones they would be?

GRANHOLM: Yes. I'm going to collapse some departments together. I'm going to create a new department out of two departments. I'm going to -- there's going to be two departments that don't even exist any more, the department of environmental quality will be collapsed into the department of natural resources, and the department of career development will be collapsed into another one.

HUNT: You've been very lukewarm to any tax increases, yet given the dire fiscal situation of your state, should the entire burden be borne by those receiving services?

GRANHOLM: Well, you know what we need to do is, we need to get our federal -- our states, in fact, all the governors need to work on Washington. You know, the states are where the rubber meets the road. This is where services are provided. Yet Washington has not yet come up with any relief on Medicaid.

Well, clearly, we need to have a safety net, but we want it to be a government that is lean but not mean. We -- Medicaid across these states is broken. It needs fixing, and it needs some help from Washington.

So the governors need to band together, to have a strategy in Washington to see some relief at the state level.

HUNT: Do you rule out flatly, then, any tax increases?

GRANHOLM: Yes, I don't want to increase taxes. This is -- this state should be a competitive state. When you increase taxes, obviously the burden on businesses and on individuals becomes too high for the state to be competitive. But to seek additional revenue, we need to go to Washington.

I'm not in tune with Michigan state politics, but I'll be interested to see how this plays there and how her experience will compare to Warner's. Granholm has the advantage of having seen Warner's struggles. It's interesting that she is jettisoning her campaign promises so soon after being elected. She probably doesn't know a lot more now about Michigan's finances than she knew in October, but, like a good politician, she knew that tough like talk like she gave out to Hunt probably wasn't particularly voter-friendly. It's still not possible to campaign on castor oil, even if it might be the right thing to do.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Whole Lott of Punditwatch

Will Vehrs
The weekend shows were almost all Lott, all the time, and Punditwatch has extracted a small sample of the sturm and drang. You can also find Punditwatch on Jewish World Review.

Things look very, very grim for Trent Lott, unless he can dazzle the world on BET tomorrow night--assuming he lasts that long.