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Saturday, December 21, 2002
Nepotism, Thy Home Is Nome...
Tony AdragnaOK, 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.
Will VehrsTony, 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 AdragnaYou 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 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 AdragnaNotwithstanding 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.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 VehrsLack 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.
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 AdragnaThe 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."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 VehrsOne 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 AdragnaWill, 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.[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?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.''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 AdragnaHey 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?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 AdragnaWill, 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...