The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Monday, December 30, 2002
The combination of Christmas and - thanks Santa! - a crash of epic proportions (relative to my miniscule technological smarts) means that the blogging operation here is on indefinite hiatus.
A new birth of freedom will have to wait on a sort-out currently beyond my ken (I sense I'll be encountering a succession of computing McClellans before a Grant turns up).
I certainly intend to be back in operation on the earlier scale as soon as normal computing service is restored. When that will be, I can't at present say.
Meanwhile, may I suggest to readers whose patience has already been sorely tested that they use the RSS link at the left of the page in their newsreaders to catch the first despatch of the new series.
Thursday, December 19, 2002
Internet Libel - the English Law Commission steps in......
After the High Court of Australia in Dow Jones v Gutnick laid down the law (for Australia, at least), a preliminary report from the Law Commission considers the prospects for reform of English law in this area.
(It also considers liability of ISPs and publishers of online archives, and liability for contempt of court for publication of past convictions and foreign commentary on current criminal cases.)
Its piece on jurisdictional questions of internet defamation (pp31-44 - all references to Acrobat pages) - covering both the location of the trial and which country's law is to be applied - leaves no doubt as to the complexity of the issues.
Questions such as the adoption of an American-style single publication rule (p38) are simplicity itself compared with the mess that the EU has made with its 'reforms'. Even the British government department concerned says that the terms of the EU E-Commerce Directive don`t make it clear whether or not it supersedes the rules of private international law (p40).
Proposed EU regulations on private international law (Rome II), according to the report, would only make matters more confused, by potentially giving rise to conflicts with the E-Commerce Directive (p43).
The upshot: the Commission says (p43) the area is far too difficult for English law reform to do any good. What is needed is a multinational treaty.
Which is excellent committee-work, I'm sure. I suggested on Saturday some reasons why such a treaty might not be easy to agree - and the Commission's painstaking examination of the EU response to the problems in this area only gives more evidence of the difficulties likely to be faced.
I indicated on Saturday that a cost-benefit analysis might encourage states to accept the single publication rule - interesting to see (p38) naysaying English trial lawyers (in the spirit of John Calhoun and José Bové) are aspiring to the standards of public-spiritedness set by their transatlantic colleagues!
Wednesday, December 18, 2002
Iraq - disinformation from the US, with a little help from its friends....
Can it be possible that anyone old enough to use a keyboard still believes what he reads?
The Office of Strategic Influence (the Orwellian touch gets me every time!) may be back in business.
On Monday, the New York Times is saying
The Defense Department is considering issuing a secret directive to the American military to conduct covert operations aimed at influencing public opinion and policy makers in friendly and neutral countries.
On Tuesday (Surprise, surprise! Not.) the White House (in the form of the highly reliable and respected Ari Fleischer) tells reporters that
they should not presume that the Pentagon's idea had advanced very far and cautioned that President Bush would not approve of anything that involved lying.
The usual Mutt and Jeff, then. We're painfully aware of loose cannons on the Republican deck; but I somehow don't figure Donald Rumsfeld as one of them. Since Administration statements on the war have as much credibility as Saddam's, it's hard to see the new OSI doing much harm. Or much good.
Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, Tony Blair's government is saying it prefers a siege of Baghdad to an assault. And a Blair spokesman says
It could be late next year before anything, if at all, happens.
I reckon Tony's already on the OSI team!
Blogging activity still slow
I'm afraid the customary Mississippi (Lott shout-out. Not.) of material is still closer to a Cripple Creek.
Still just about keeping the blogging home fires burning, though, as witness the piece below. Happy days, I hope, will be here again shortly. Only, of course, to be snuffed out by the Christmas hiatus. It's being so cheerful that keeps me going.....
Tuesday, December 17, 2002
With Lott, you have to do what Dixie says
Look away, that is.
This is one case where not even Arkansans would say Thank God for Mississippi! I had thought that his apology on Friday had been illogical and cringeworthy enough. His interview on BET (Black Entertainment Television) - transcript here - is far, far worse. NC-117, I'd rate it - only Civil War veterans should watch!
The decades-long record of Lott as a fanatic for the Old South has now been brought out - that, for instance, from his seat in the US House he campaigned successfully for the restoration of Jefferson Davis's cititzenship. (I hadn't realised this when I wrote the piece on Davis's Senate desk.)
(As I said over the desk issue, first, Davis was a Democrat; and, second, he was a traitor! Lott's logic is warped, but just understandable: that of non-Confederate colleagues in approving the whitewash is not.)
Now, Lott is cringing on camera. He is the Almighty's little joke: as a belated evening of the score, the performance of every shuffling, mumbling, curved backed, yassuh-ing Negro that ever-so-liberal Hollywood put on the silver screen for white folks' amusement in its Golden Age has been boiled down and served up in the white skin of Trent Lott.
And, of course, it's not merely nauseating. By way of compensation for his lauding of the Dixiecrats, he's swung to the opposite extreme. Worst, he proclaims his support for affirmative action across the board. Now, no one expects politicians to oppose affirmative action - even Lott. That's what the Supreme Court is for (hopefully!). But he's opening up the possibility of legislative action - especially if, in the Grutter and Gratz cases, the Court rules against diversity as a reason for AA.
And he wobbles on his previous intention to resubmit the nomination of Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit.
Having donned the grey uniform for Davis, he seems now to be high-fiving it with Al Sharpton! (Or doing the best an old Mississippi white man can!) The more I learn about his Confederate past, the more I hear Lott veering towards the liberal shore.
At the start, I strongly resisted the tidal wave across the oceans of the blogosphere in favour of him going as Leader. But, knowing what I know now? January 6 seems far, far too far away......
CND court challenge to Blair on the War - 'verdict' is in!
As I predicted, the case has been kicked at the first opportunity.
The opinions are here: although the decision rested on the non-justiciability of the suit (a claim for an advisory declaration that UNSCR 1441 did not authorise military action), the opinions are full, and evidently intended to dot is and cross ts.
I've yet to do more than skim them, but the tone is set by the first sentence in the lead opinion (by Lord Justice Simon Brown) :
This application is nothing if not topical.
He means it's both topical and nothing! The arguments of CND's lawyers are set out with a thoroughness designed to show their hopelessness.
His conclusions are summarised in para 47 of his opinion: he says, in essence, that an English court will not interpret an international instrument except in the context of a dispute relating to domestic law; and even then, not
if to do so would be damaging to the public interest in the field of international relations, national security or defence.
To use a fine old English expression, the opinions are supposed to put the tin lid on the case. And, from my brief examination, I suspect they have succeeded.
The next stage would, I think, would be to ask the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal against the decision. No indication yet whether CND will do so.
Meanwhile, on the CND site, in a press release evidently issued after today's decision, they say
The Government has now blocked further discussion in the English courts.
Did they actually read the opinions? The court challenge itself was an exercise in hope beyond reason - but the press release casts doubt on the organisation's collective sanity!
Normal blogging service - a phase-in
Activity now restarts - as witness the piece below! But some time needed for catching up - apologies to those with emails in: your indulgence is craved, as my myriads of administrative minions get cracking. I wish....
Monday, December 16, 2002
Sunday, December 15, 2002
Political Graveyard site - fount of basic historical political info
For a long time I had this site figured as serving an unheard of American fad of visiting the last resting-place of obscure pols (the equivalent of the British hobby of plane-spotting).
Perhaps it does; but it also allows the essential task of finding out who filled which political office over the last hundred and more years (the information gets sketchier, the further back you go, I suppose).
It's the only place where (so far as I know) you can find who (for instance) represented the Texas 3rd District in the 46th Congress (Olin Wellborn, as it happens).
[And, while we're in the area, the Green Papers site has some useful basic historical listings: the sessions of each Congress, and so forth.]
Saturday, December 14, 2002
Vikings tell Bush where to go on Turkey!
They may have marauded over large tracts of England for a hundred years - but the Northmen are OK by me.
At long last - one EU prime minister has had the balls to hit Bush with the bull point:
If you are so keen on us letting the Turks into the EU, why don't you let Mexico into the United States?
At last, a Dane worthy of his ancestors. The Charlemagne Prize, stat, for Mr Anders Fogh Rasmussen!
Second, substance. It's not too early to consider whether there is any basis on which a worthwhile number of high net usage countries can reach agreement.
The way things are, US-based companies will be net defendants (ie, the value of claims against US persons will tend to exceed those by US persons against foreigners), and the rest net plaintiffs.
The US will start with the position of ensuring that, wherever the case is heard, the applicable law will be that of the place the net publication originated from. And the rest will want to apply the law of the place of residence, or business, or lost reputation of the the plaintiff.
(The only micro reason I can think of to argue the other way is if US settlements would be larger. That would counteract the First Amendment limitations to the validity of claims.)
There are macro reasons at play also. What is the total potential value of libel claims in non-US jurisdictions? Compare that with the (largely intangible) costs of the buggeration factor for countries looking to be on generally friendly terms with the US, not to mention wanting US inward investment (not least in the IT sector).
Perhaps the rest (the EU in particular) will do better to suck it up, and give the US a convention applying the law of the place of publication. Perhaps they'd be willing to do that - in exchange for the Yanks shutting the hell up about Turkey!
Internet libel - is international regulation possible?
The High Court of Australia's alarm call has not gone unheeded. But has not, perhaps, been treated with the seriousness it deserves.
For instance, this Californian take [link via Howard Bashman] airily suggests that international regulation is the way to go.
Top of the head, there are couple of problems.
Firstly, mechanics. There is certainly a structure set up for drawing up treaties to cover just such problems: the Hague Conference on Private International Law, which has been in place since 1955. The page lists 35 conventions agreed since that date, the last in 2000.
Fine. Except that, from an unscientific sample, few of them have many nations signed up - and some, years old, are not even in force yet! The Adoption Convention of November 15 1965, for instance, has three countries that have acceded; and three is enough for it to be in force. The Sale of Goods Convention of December 22 1986 has five - and is yet to come into force.
The best known (and best supported (?) with 73 states acceded) convention is that relating to Child Abduction of October 25 1980 - which has had its problems, to put it mildly.
How far is this a reflection of genuine lack of agreement on the issues covered; and how far a result of technical and diplomatic problems in rendering a fundamentally agreed position into a document that nations are prepared to be bound by?
Cherie Blair - Tony's Nemesis?
George Bush has it easy. His Number One Flake and Walking Disaster Area is at a decent distance, leading (ha!) the Republicans down the road in the Senate.
Tony Blair sleeps with his.
The stereotype of the Northern lass is down to earth, exercising an affectionate but iron grip on her daydreaming, feckless menfolk. A woman in control of herself, the better to control her family. For their own good, of course.
Cherie, so it appears, is out of control. Tony talks to her so little that the fact that she should have become emotionally in hock to a style guru - and financially, too, to the extent of £4,000 a month! - and that the woman's convict boyfriend should have acted as her real estate adviser - has apparently gone right over his head. And none of his advisers have thought to press him on the point.
And the origin of the press attack on her?
....a disastrous dinner party at Downing Street in the summer of 2000. The [Daily] Mail editor was described as "appalled and incensed" when the prime minister's wife breast-fed her new baby Leo in front of him.
The British (especially middle-aged women, surprisingly) are absurdly prudish when a woman uses her breasts for their primary purpose in front of them. But an official dinner party? Who exactly was present, I wonder? And was this a call of nature, or an undergraduate stunt?
Understandable that the right-wing Daily Mail (rightful heirs of Mary Whitehouse) should campaign against Cherie. But the Labour stalwarts, the Daily Mirror?
Piers Morgan, the Mirror editor, recently revealed that Mrs Blair had tried to get him the sack, complaining to his bosses that he was missing a moral compass.
What on God's earth is the wife of the British prime minister doing making cracks like that? (Assuming it's true, of course.....)
Now the stage is set: the one person in his entourage that Blair can't fire looks fatally drawn to idiotic actions he can't cover up. When this story is killed, there'll be another.
The girl can't help it.
[Or will Cherie be his new Clause 4? Will he ditch the bitch? Naa.....]
I suspect (getting back to Thurmond) that getting a decent slice of the Negro vote was in Wallace's mind; the Southern bolt, and the civil rights plank in the 1948 Democratic Platform that caused it, rather put the kibosh on that.
According to the ever-present Samuel Lubell , Wallace won 30 precincts nationwide. Of these, 7 were in Tampa, around Ybor City - the only Southern precincts mentioned. The voters there were Cuban cigar workers, apparently. There's reference to mixed precincts in New York City, including Negro voters; but most of the rest had Jewish-majority electorates.
The electoral vote tally put Thomas Dewey 114 behind (303 to 189). Looking at the state-by-state breakdown of the 1948 presidential election results, a swing of 57 votes is tantalisingly close: in California (25 EVs), Truman's margin over Dewey was 17,685 votes, or 9% of the Wallace vote; in Ohio (also 25 EVs), the margin was 7,107, or 19% of the Wallace vote. (I'm not clear where the other 7 might have come from!)
As far as Wallace's reception in the South goes, I suppose the redneck element would feel particularly validated in going for him by the Communist connection - not to mention the fact that he was an educated Northerner deliberately flouting their racial taboos: I bet he even had temerity to call the Negroes he met Mr and Mrs!
But there's also the question of the native brand of neo-populism - represented in Alabama in 1948 by Governor 'Big Jim' Folsom - with which Wallace's party seems to have little in common except distant ancestry (the progressivism of the 1890s). Perhaps there was some dialogue between the Wallaceites and local left-leaners - the Frank Graham type, perhaps - academics, clergymen......
The Dixiecrat Election and Henry Wallace
Geitner Simmons over at Regions of Mind rightly highlights the role in the 1948 Presidential Election of Henry Wallace (and sends me scurrying to test whether what I think I know about the guy is or ain't so - don't ask!).
This Wallace biography, this piece on Wallace's Progressive Party and this compendium of US left-wing parties and organisations are about the most useful stuff I could find online (not saying much!).
The amazing thing is that Wallace's party was an attempt at the pre-War idea of the Popular Front (of the Communist and non-Communist left) in a country that wasn't sympathetic to the notion at the best of times; and, in 1948, was in the grip of a virulent anti-Communist crackdown! There was no need for a McCarthy to invent Commie influence - the party was openly supporting Wallace.
And Russia and Communism seemed to have the strange effect of making Wallace run off at the mouth - à la Trent Lott: the Madison Square Gardens speech on September 10 (?) 1946, he 'reversed' USG Soviet policy off his own bat, embarrassed Truman and got himself fired; and, at a press conference during his 1948 convention, he was asked  about the resemblance between the CPUSA's platform and his own party's.
I'd say that they have a good platform...He added gratuitously I would say that the Communists are the closest things to the early Christian martyrs.
When he declared his candidacy, at the end of 1947, Truman was not in good shape, and the prospects for a third party on the left were for a respectable showing.
There are a couple of other things.
First, apologising for Jim Crow is one thing; but what are the implications? It's not as if a previously integrated society had voted to segregate. A white man was born into a system that fully complied with the US Constitution - as confirmed by no less a body than the US Supreme Court! - a system that he was conditioned to accept, and could not practically have changed even if he had wanted. And there was no way in which a white man in the Jim Crow South could have lived in his own integrated bubble!
Apology implies an acknowledgement of responsibility for wrongdoing. How far was the average white under Jim Crow responsible for its existence? There were a whole lot of good white people living useful lives in the segregated South; were those lives worthless, tainted by a social system whose basis was not open to change from within?
Seems like a question to come back to.
Second, he states two inconsistent goals: a colour-blind society with equality of opportunity; and strict enforcement of the civil rights laws.
What about affirmative action? There was some suggestion a while back (no idea of the source) that Lott would use the opportunity of his gaffe to pledge to get rid of AA. That is what, I believe, down South is referred to as a druther - a right-wing Aaron Sorkin would script the scene just fine: Lott would gather together a big audience, and a bunch of preachers, and there'd be the usual antiphonal stuff; and Lott would wax about the evil of the law favouring a man for the colour of his skin; and make his big announcement at the end to consternation all round.
Never going to happen. Lott would likely (my top-of-the-head guess!) not get 50, let alone 60 votes in the Senate. And would Bush even sign it?
No, just as with Jim Crow, as I've mentioned before, the institutionalised cowardice on race in the political branches can only be remedied by the judicial.
As of now, the Michigan University cases of Grutter (02-241) and Gratz (02-516) are shown on the docket of the US Supreme Court as unscheduled.
The only worthwhile chance that Lott will get closer to his goal of colour-blindness in the next 12 months is - now, as it was before his monumentally idiotic comments last Thursday week - if the Supremes invalidate diversity as a valid objective for AA.
His most constructive contribution to the process will be to keep his fingers crossed - and his mouth shut.
Does anyone think he can do those two things at the same time.......?
Lott: Friday's apology - but what for?
There is a certain idea of the South - the pre-integration South, ante- and post-bellum - as being etiolated, like a flower pressed in a book, wan, the opposite of effervescent. The effect of the climate; the historic lack of cities, relative to the North; the leadership of society by the planter class and their successors; the distinction at all times to be maintained between the white race and the race of toil....
It's some years since I read W J Cash's 1941 The Mind of the South, but that's a popular stereotype that emerges from the book, as I recall.
False in many ways, it does seem to chime with the latest (and last?) apology (the text here for those not afraid to spoil a good mood) from the luckless Lott. I feel a Stepin Fetchit analogy coming on.....
Optimists amongst his supporters would hope this is his Operation Bodyguard, and that he's got a sucker punch ready once the high-fiving on the other side really gets going. I hope they're not holding their breath.
If he was a horse, you'd say, Shoot him. What does he mean by
Segregation was immoral then and it is wrong now?
Why even talk about segregation as being now? Unless he means de facto segregation by choice of residence (which is scarcely illegal). Or Strom's planning a Dixiecrat comeback.
It's not an isolated case:
I will do everything in my power to ensure that we never go back to that kind of society again.
So who is it that's proposing bringing back Jim Crow? Doesn't he have minders to stop him saying this balls? Stupid question.
Friday, December 13, 2002
Moving on.... The fact that desks are identified with each of their occupants comes as something of a surprise to those used to the images of the scrimmage which is the benches of a full UK House of Commons. The first hint I got was in my filmic vade mecum of US politics, Mr Smith Goes To Washington, where the hapless Jefferson Smith is told by the page (who thinks him every bit as ridiculous as his fellow senators do) that his desk is that of Daniel Webster. (The gag, of course, is that Smith doesn't realise that Trappism in the Chamber was de rigueur for freshman Senators - he'd be sure to take the Webster connection as an encouragement to orate. If he really knew who Webster was.) Strangely, Webster's desk has also had the Davis treatment: it's for the use of the senior Senator from New Hampshire.
The desks are unscrewed (titter ye not!) in order that their arrangement in the Chamber should follow the election returns (I love me some Mr Dooley.....); and senators (like overgrown schoolboys) write their names inside.
According to Thomas, S Res 161 was passed without debate by a voice vote. Where, one wonders, was Carol Mosley-Braun (D-IL) to attack the granting of this honour to the man who led the fight to preserve slavery ? Or Mr Chappaquiddick and his liberal friends? No one even there to demand a roll call of shame, to make those pinning a medal on a traitor go on the record?
Another history lesson from the senior US legislative body.....
Lott and Jeff Davis's desk
On the substantive matter, Lott - in an AP story about five hours old - is saying, through his spokesman, that he's intending to fight for his position as leader. Does he know how to fight? Can he turn the billion ton weight of Democratic hypocrisy on race, judo-style, against his enemies? Do I give a flying one? Don't bother with the postcards...
Much more interesting is the intelligence that, seven years ago, Lott got passed legislation to the effect that the Senate desk of Jefferson Davis should be the permanent seat of the senior Senator from Mississippi (S Res 161, 104th C).
The liminal issue: Lott sits in the Davis seat. Yet, surely, Thad Cochran is the senior Senator from the Magnolia State - dating from his appointment on December 27 1978, to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of James O Eastland (that well-known Democratic friend of the Negro....). Lott only showed up in 1989 (having been elected in the previous general election) .
Or does being elected leader of your party automatically make you senior Senator of your state?
Thursday, December 12, 2002
Shambles: on the Hill, and Iraq's next?
It cannot have escaped anyone's attention that the party of War has decided to preface its overseas campaign with some bloodletting on its own doorstep.
The reactions so far have been predictable, crass, self-indulgent - and useless for the cause of stopping the headlong dash for war which - surely to God? - should be the focus of the saner members of the US political community!
There has been a breathtaking loss of control (not to say, self-control) in the leadership (and I speak loosely!) of the Party which controls all political branches of Federal government. Yet these are the same guys who are planning warfare (in some cases, rolling Armageddon) in the Middle East. They cannot even control their own mouths, yet they expect us to believe they can handle a war with 100 or 200,000 US personnel with their lives on the line!
Headless chickens do not good war leaders make! That's the bull point for those opposing the war right now.
These guys win an election - and then piss it away. And who cares? But, for their next trick, they launch several US divisions against Saddam!
No one dies because of Trent Lott speaking via his nether orifice on Dixiecrat Heaven; but the same bunch of guys that have been managing the Lott business seem in their gut to be gung-ho for war.
Who knows when self-control will desert the Republicans next? And how much real blood will be spilt as a result....
LBJ leadership lesson - too late for Lott to take note.....
If Republican Senators want a reminder of the fact that leadership and Senate are not incompatible, the oft-referred to Caro will have them chewing the carpet in frustration.
There's a great little story - Lott is a Mississippian, for Christ's sake! where are his great little stories? - that Johnson uses to set up his system as Minority (yeah, Minority!) Leader in the winter of 1953 (p495): about a couple of brothers he knew when he was a boy (Trent, are you taking notes?) in the Hill Country; when LBJ invited one of them over for a sleepover (do boys - do Texas boys - have sleepovers?), his mother declined. The boy complained
Mama, why can't I go? Ben, he's already been twowheres, and I ain't never been nowheres!
Johnson wanted to make himself the font of Senate patronage; and to put in place against an expect assault from the China Lobby Republicans (who loathed Eisenhower as much as the Democrats!) some excellent freshmen who, under the seniority system, would likely languish in the Post Office Committee.
So he said, no one would be moved against his will from a committee place. But - he worked methodically, saying to each senator (that he needed), I'll give you the committee you really need; but you have to give me back two of yours.
And he persuaded enough of the senators who had been twowheres to make him a two-for-one offer to install guys like Stuart Symington (D-MO) and Mike Mansfield (D-MT) in the committees where he thought they would do most good.
The nabobs, including Richard Russell (D-GA) of course, had all been squared: Russell's failure in the 1952 primaries (p 463ff) is easily as embarrassing as Lott's today! LBJ was his man for the White House, to build a dyke against the lapping waters of desegregation. And LBJ needed a whole slew of folks to owe him big. Goodbye seniority, hallo the available Southerner.
Why does all this stuff, which happened fifty years ago, make sense in spades - whilst the antics of today's Majority Leader seem as if scripted by a Bulgarian with a serious habit?
Lott - the Sharpton/Racicot meeting
About the performance of the main man, one can only despair. A kid's papier mâché statue left out in the rain overnight could put up a harder and more savvy fight than the Magnolia State's excuse for a junior Senator!
Since the main story is tedious and all over - though not in the sense intended by most of the blogophere! - let me cast a side-light.
Newsday reports that
Sharpton has been invited to meet tomorrow with Republican National Committee chairman Marc Racicot to discuss Lott's comment.
Pausing to inquire just exactly what, apart from ritual humiliation, the GOP can expect to get out of this, let me offer the following, as is, from Drudge:
Letter from RNC Chairman Marc Racicot to Revernd Al Sharpton:
The Newsday report implies that Racicot went crawling for an audience; whereas, according to Racicot's letter, it was Tawana's buddy who craved counsel.
If this letter is on the up and up, why wouldn't Racicot have told Sharpton to swivel? Is this some BW sent from Saddam that acts specifically to destroy the brains of leading Republicans?
Are there any Republicans leading at all?
UPDATE They're all intending to hang separately, by the look of it.
Cherie Blair and the 'Checkers' double whammy
I'm sure you read the comparison here first - and far be it from me to suggest plagiarism on the part of the Guardian.
But we both missed the twist in the story, it seems: Richard Nixon's address to the nation and Cherie's birthday both fell on the same date - September 23. Spooky or what?
And, Guardian, if you're reading, how about a namecheck this time, eh?
Wednesday, December 11, 2002
More perspective on Lott, etc
Geitner Simmons over at Regions of Mind is adding his own much needed historical perspective to the Lott farrago. (And saying flattering things about me, too!) I suspect that, if you can stand my historical stuff, you'll go for his.
Thurmond's Southern Manifesto: Caro fills in some blanks
I hate to skip ahead in a book - but....
Caro's treatment falls within four pages . Key points (wrenched apart from - I fear - necessary context) are these:
GOP risks blowback if Lott dumped for Dixiecrat remark
Excellent point from Arthur Silber:
If the Republicans let Lott go because of his supposedly racist remarks, and it appears that this is the major reason they are cutting him loose -- or, even worse, the sole reason -- they will never hear the end of it. Moreover, every time another Republican makes any comment that can be "misinterpreted" in a racist manner, it will be -- even if such a misinterpretation is clearly unjustified.
Silber suggests there is ample reason apart from the gaffe to get rid of Lott. Fine. The problem that I mentioned before, and again, is that the GOP Senators only chose the damned man as their leader less than a month ago! When all these points were equally compelling.
So, with all those ghastly grinning group photos on file from November 13, they now turn round and say their lead guy was a bum choice?
I suggest in the earlier pieces one or two reasons why this might not be such a spiffy idea.
[Link via You Know Who]
Southern Manifesto - Republican signatories?
Well, I mentioned it...
The Manifesto  was another of Strom Thurmond's contributions to the effort to keep the South solidly Democratic and Jim Crowed out the wazoo. In particular, in response to the decision in Brown v Board of Education.
Famously (or perhaps not), only three senators from the Confederate South  refused to sign: Lyndon Johnson - who got an ex officio free pass, presumably, as Majority Leader, and the Tennessee Democrats Albert Gore, Sr and Estes Kefauver (daytime TV's first big star and Adlai Stevenson's doomed running mate in the same year - raising the suspicion that political ambition may have lain behind Kefauver's not signing. Southerners were, notoriously, not available for the US presidency at the time. Not that LBJ saw it that way.....)
The Senate delegation from West Virginia were not signatories - whether the House delegation supplied the moniker of one Rep Robert Byrd (WV6), I have yet to confirm.
Though, in 1956, the Confederate South was still Solid in the Senate , certain Congressional Districts had seceded by then - the Virginia 6th had sent Republican Richard Poff to the 83rd Congress, and reelected him. And, being unwilling to commit political suicide, he signed the Manifesto, too.
(There could be other Republican Congressmen signatories, but I haven't traced them yet.)
Though a full list of signatories does not seem to exist online, it seems that delegations from the Union slave states, and other states with wholly or partly segregated public schools (such as Kansas, of course) did not sign.
I suspect I'll be returning to this fascinating document by and by.....
Lott - Will Dems really make 2004 the Dixiecrat Election?
All sorts of helpful advice being proferred to the Republican Party right now, in the cause of unseating Trent Lott as Senate Majority Leader.
Including the suggestion from Daniel Drezner that, if they don't, then the Democrats will put Lott's Dixiecrat gaffe front and centre in '04.
Now, I'm no expert - but, top of the head, would the Dems really like to take younger voters down memory lane? And remind them just which was the party of Bilbo and Talmadge, the lynchers' friend, fililbustering against civil rights (Thurmond set the record in 1957 - another Democratic milestone!), almost all of the signatories of the Southern Manifesto - Eisenhower sending in the troops to break up a certain Democratic governor's little party back in Bill Clinton's home state (remember the Norman Rockwell illustration of the little girl walking to school escorted by the soldiers?). You see where I'm going here.....
George Wallace (what party was he again?) said, after being beaten in the 1958 gubernatorial primary
John Patterson outniggered me, and I'm never going to be outniggered again.(Now that doesn't need to have been taped by C-SPAN!). And Democrats are going to try the reverse process 46 years later, are they?
On the whole, when it comes to their record on race, I think the Democrats best trade under the name of Amnesia R Us.....
[Link via Instapundit]
Biased media performance on Lott?
In the red corner, WaPo's Howard Kurtz, who yesterday charged the media generally with indifference to the Dixiecrat affair until Gore put in his two cents on Sunday afternoon. (Alleging, not a cover-up, certainly; but not recognising the story's full news value.)
In the blue corner, NewsMax is comparing and contrasting media performance with Lott/Thurmond and its treatment last year of Robert Byrd's white nigger remark; and finding Lott getting far more coverage for his, epithet-free, contribution at Thurmond's birthday party (last Thursday, December 5).
And, in the NewsMax piece, there is the suggestion of bias (a de-emphasis of the Byrd gaffe in the media last year).
A quick check on the WaPo site suggests that AP didn't pick the Lott story up till Gore spouted - whether all AP stories are held there, I seriously doubt, though.
Certainly, any claim that the story was not in wide circulation by Saturday morning would be untrue: given the paper's own story (dated December 6) was out there (and picked up by one or two other papers in the day or two thereafter).
(There is a possible parallel here with the old Joe McCarthy story - that none of the media drew attention to the disparities in his figures of Commies/security risks/whatever in the State Department in the days following the Wheeling, WV (Byrd country!) speech in Februrary 1950.
Whereas the good old WaPo picked up on the fishiness of the story only a week or so after Wheeling.)
Doug Thompson has something of an interesting turn of phrase of his own: referring to Lott sympathisers who
pointed to another Senator with a big racist skeleton in the woodpile – West Virginia’s Robert Byrd, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan.
My understanding was that metaphorical skeletons were invariably found in cupboards; woodpiles (equally metaphorically) were where one found.....you're clearly way ahead of me.
Not that I'm suggesting that Mr Thompson has niggers on the brain. Because that suggestion would be - a slur.....
Another Lott-basher with an interesting turn of phrase
They just keep coming. And, strangely, the more they beat up on the wild words of Lott, the less controlled their own words become.
Via Instapundit, those of Capitol Hill Blue's Doug Thompson:
When results from the polls in Missouri and Minnesota in last month’s elections gave Republicans control of the Senate once again, a Republican consultant I know threw up his hands in disgust and said “Christ, this means we’ll have Trent Lott as the leader again.”
So, that's the GOP regretting that their party regains control in the US Senate; and partying (drowning their sorrows, that must be) so heavily on election night (November 5/6, for the record) and (presumably) several days thereafter, leaving them with so few brain cells that they choose a Majority Leader whom they think is a washout - on November 13!
As a theory, it ranks with Lott's ideas on a Dixiecrat victory in '48.
Then we get the usual half-remembered high school history lesson; and the amazing intelligence that Strom enjoys a nigger-joke from to time. Thompson quotes a former Senate staffer as saying that
Lott is well known among Republican insiders as a man who enjoys racial slurs.
These insiders would be the same guys who got so rat-arsed in horror of the thought of Lott as Leader that they voted for Lott as Leader? And then
Strom Thurmond is not the only Senator who uses the ‘n-word’ when he’s talking to other white Senators.
Does she mean Lott? Or is that just a slur?
Rest easy Trent, you're in good company according to another former Senate staffer:
.....in Congress....the power structure is still a white-boy network....Deep down, those white boys still don’t like the colored folk.
Their way with words continues on the CBC website, which includes at the top of the homepage the words
Congressional Black Caucus Stands in Solidarity with the American People:presumably they just edged out the Paraguayan and Fijian peoples.....
The best comes from the NAACP (last mentioned in the context of FDR's cold shoulder to antilynching legislation) and its president Kweisi Mfume (aka Frizzell 'Pee Wee' Gray, and erstwhile Maryland Congressman): he calls on Lott
to make way for another member of the Republican Party whose moral compass is pointed toward improving race relations and not dredging up this nation's poor, polarizing performance of the past.
A compass that can dredge - and alliterate too!
Since the whole complaint against Lott is about something he said, you would have thought that those legislators complaining most vociferously would take care with what they said themselves. Or, far, far better, keep a dignified silence. Especially when they're not even in the same House of Congress as Lott's, a proud and prickly institution which would, I suspect, take a measure of offence at the interference of members (and ex-members) of the junior body in its affairs. (In which context, you have to love that crack at Daschle....)
Frankly, Lott, still on his ass, is getting some company. Oh, and I see a pig slowly walking away....
Lott - Congressional Black Caucus to the rescue!
You're in the street, you've leapt for a speeding bus that had already left - oh, half a century earlier - and fallen ignominiously on your ass.
What better distraction to cover your embarrassment than that the circus wagons should roll by, with the clowns putting on a show!
In this case, the Congressional Black Circus - Caucus. Twisting in the wind is apparently not a notion with which they appear to be familiar. The chance of a ten second soundbite is just too tempting.
The tone is set by Rep Elijah Cummings (D-MD), newly elected chairman. Apparently, he's taken Lott's counterfactual as a challenge to come up with an even more moronic statement of his own: a formidable task indeed! Has he succeeded?
These are the kinds of words that tear this nation apart
So he thinks Lott's planning a Civil War re-run? (This time, it's personal...) Or is he (Cummings) calling for a civil war? If not, how exactly are Lott's words to have this epoch-making effect? (I'm not sure that anything even Jefferson Davis (Lott's predecessor as Senator from Mississippi, of course - and a proud Democrat just like Cummings!) ever said tore so much as a county apart!)
The outgoing chairman (or head, according to AP), Rep Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) (no relation, I assume.....) apparently got an apology from Lott when she phoned him. Was she impressed?
We're not finished in this caucus.
Sez Ms Johnson!
Not seeing anything Lott need be shaking in his shoes about so far. And there's another smidgeon of good news.
Maxine Waters (D-CA) takes the opportunity to attack Tom Daschle! (He's not doing much shaking either, I suspect.)
Tuesday, December 10, 2002
Cherie Blair: The Must-See 'Checkers' Speech
Whatever you do, catch the footage of Cherie Blair's speech today.
It comes over as given by a bad Coronation Street actress - emphases on the wrong words, wrong intonation, etc. Deliberately un-media-savvy - I assume.
The key passage is where she says she only covered up to save the privacy of her son, Euan. Using her own son as her 'Checkers'! Shows how completely shameless the Blairs are, if anything ever does. Look with particular care at the point at which her voice breaks (having mentioned her son) - as if on the verge of tears.
At least, back in 1952, Richard Nixon did the Hearts and Flowers bit with a dumb animal - for a family that supposedly prizes keeping the children out of politics, this is sleaze on a scale Neil Hamilton or Jeffrey Archer could scarcely dream of!
Obviously, she had in mind the Princess Diana Martin Bashir interview. But today's performance - from a lawyer of several decades of advocacy experience - well exceeded Diana's in histrionic application. Cherie's impression of a dumb housewife - the 'little woman', rather than the hard-driving career-woman, with a dozen savvy advisers outside her door to keep her right - sets a new standard for cynicism for this government. And that is saying quite a mouthful!
(For the next 24 hours, the report on the speech in today's edition of BBC's Newsnight should be available here.)
Australia goes extraterritorial on WWW libel
The decision of the High Court of Australia (the country's top court) in Dow Jones v Gutnick is all over - mostly in the AP version.
The text of the opinions is here.
Having just read the lead opinion, the point that strikes me is this: the judges are keen to point out that a web publisher will (in Oz, at least) not have to fear a multiplicity of actions based on the same text: a plaintiff will only be able to sue in one jurisdiction. They seem pretty pleased with themselves that that knocks away the substance of Dow's gripe.
Fine, as far as it goes. But it goes nowhere near the distance the judges pretend. They say, if a publisher publishes a piece on a Victoria man, they only need to worry about being sued in Victoria. But Dow publishes thousands of pieces a week - even if any one libelee (X) can sue in only one state ('State A'), Dow has to guess the identity of State A to tailor its piece on X to meet the requirements of State A's libel laws.
The fact that X cannot sue in States B through Z is a comfort, no doubt. But, for every piece, there's a different X and a different State A.
On the basis of the High Court's decision, Dow will have to retain defamation lawyers in every jurisdiction in which subjects of its articles are located, and get its copy checked by the right one!
And this is the enormous concession the Court thinks it's made to publishers!
(Of course, the HCA can only speak for Australia - the multiplicity factor is - well, multiplied - by the fact that each jurisdiction will have its own rules on locating a net-based defamation action. The location rules could well conflict. The scope for worldwide judicial Luddism is immense, it seems....)
Lott - a couple of California gaffes for comparison
Contrasting fortunes: Cruz Bustamante, Lieutenant-Governor of California and (I think) the most senior Hispanic politician in the state, was a speaker at a Black History Month jamboree: reading a list of organisations with Negro in the name, was heard to say nigger instead.
A tidal wave of abuse came his way. The fact that he was a mother-tongue Spanish speaker, made good from humble origins, Democratic poster-boy for the up and coming demographic made no odds. Quite the reverse, I suspect - the slip of the tongue was the pretext for a little payback from the constituency that was losing out in influence in the California Democratic Party.
Bustamente was eventually deemed to have grovelled sufficiently to those who needed to be seen to be appeased - and was re-elected in November with a larger share of the vote than Gray Davis!
Whereas Attorney-General Bill Lockyer's famous prison rape joke had (so far as I'm aware) little discernible political impact at the time. No doubt because the group offended was men in general - lacking the focus and cohesion of a constituency based on, say, race - any anger generated was not politically effective. Even an apology more insulting than the his original statement did not prevent him sailing serenely on - and gettting re-elected in November.
Senate Republican leadership election rules?
I assume that, somewhere online, there is a copy of the rules under which Republican Senators elect their leaders. But, not for want of trying, I've drawn a blank. Any assistance gratefully received....
The question arises out of Lott/Thurmond, of course. Do the rules provide that a certain number (20, say) Senators can force a fresh election of Majority Leader? Do the rules even contemplate the possibility of replacing a Leader who does not resign or die? Is there a safe haven period following an election during which the Leader cannot be challenged? Etc, etc.
Enquiring minds (this one, at least!) want to know.
Lott/Thurmond - the movie connection?
William Wellman's (rather overrated) 1937 Nothing Sacred starts with an absurd scene, in which a Harlem shine has been got up as an oriental potentate, the supposed benefactor of some grandiose scheme, under the aegis of a fine New York newspaper. The guy is unmasked by his wife (Hattie McDaniel, as ever was) - much to the chagrin of the paper's editor.
Who complains later that he cannot go into a restaurant without the band striking up Dixie. Is life imitating art, I wonder.....
Lott apology for Thurmond birthday gaffe
It had to happen:
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.
Which selection of words he thinks he might have used that wouldn't have conveyed that impression, we are left to wonder at!
Of note is the fact that Tom Daschle is making nothing of it, in contrast to the frenzy amongst certain sections of the op-ed community, Mr Shakedown, and Al 'Low Negro Tolerance Level' Gore. Mark Daschle Common up several ticks...
And Gore? - I'm sure there'll be another ambulance along any minute.
UPDATE I'm guilty, it seems, of negligent doubt-benefit-giving to a serving politician (a serious felony in my book!) - Virginia Postrel (Dec 9 post) figures Daschle thus:
As long as Lott's in the leadership, his segregationist ties will periodically embarrass the GOP.
I'll naturally be looking to out-sophisticate this, given time. For the moment, though, it's a fair cop....
Monday, December 09, 2002
Let's say that a martyr steps forward, gets the senators riled up against Lott, who then decides he's had enough. What does that do to the prestige and authority of the office? Will his replacement have more or less clout in managing business? Would he be more or less likely to get passed the radical conservative agenda of Bill Kristol and his fellow anti-Lotters?
And who's the man? Rick Santorum (R-PA) (Kristol's choice) is installed as Conference Chair for the 108th. Perhaps he's champing at the bit to oust Lott, and take over - under the watchful eye of the cabal that brought Lott down: great gig!
And take a slice of life under Lott's replacement: the holder of a diminished office, he has to deal, not only with a Democratic party lifted from its mid-term disappointment by the sight of the GOP Senate party wilfully tearing themselves apart before the 108th opens, but with - I suspect - a number of Republican senators who, for one reason or another, will not be best pleased with the ousting of Lott. He might even count one or two as a friend (though let's not get carried away.....).
The tight votes are likely, I suppose, to be those splitting on partisan lines. And those will give Lott and his friend (s) the chance to spoil GOP managers' fun.
A whole load of grief for the GOP - which they avoid just by showing the cojones to ride out a few days of bad press. Where's the polling evidence, for instance? (You mean the torrent of get Lotters haven't even polled the voters on their crusade?!) I'd hypothesise salience to be equal to the fear of a Canadian invasion. But, then, I'm not the one suggesting this is an issue over which it would be worth the Senate GOP wrong-footing themselves before a single roll call has been taken!
When I see some of the hard political questions being answered by those clamouring for Lott's head, then I'll start to take them seriously. Until then - well, it's certainly quite a show!
Trent Lott Dixiecrat affair a West Wing episode?
Look at what we've got: white-hot moral indignation, a great deal of scurrying about - and nothing making any political sense whatsoever! Aaron Sorkin is scripting this, mark my word.....
Fortunately, the roman fleuve into which the saga is developing is captured in the archives of Instapundit. The volume of material is impressive. Some of the content has wit.
But none of it (that I have seen - E&OE!) seems the least bit grounded in political reality. None, that I could see, addresses the basic point: on November 13, the Senate Republican party confirmed Trent Lott in office as the Majority Leader for the 108th Congress. That's 25 days ago, by my reckoning.
How on God's earth can GOP senators now get rid of the guy for a remark on a piece of 54 year old history at a birthday party ? And not come off as greater chumps than their fantasist leader.....
Is there even a recall mechanism for Majority Leader? (I can't see the guy jumping.) Who is going to take the initiative to bring down the leader he elected less than a month ago? Wouldn't such a guy do lasting harm to his own career?
The Lott farrago and the primacy of vote-counting
As an antidote to the tidal wave of (what seems to me to be) political nonsense, let me just introduce this vital aspect of Senate life - brazenly cribbed from Robert Caro's book on Lyndon Johnson's Senate years (last mentioned here).
As Caro makes clear, a mark of a serious Senate player is the ability (through a combination of judgement and hard work) to count votes :
predicting legislators' votes in advance....is one of the most vital of the political arts.
It's the difference between a time-waster and a guy colleagues will seek out. Only a jerk would sink capital into a bill that hasn't a chance of passing. (Which was what was so deeply unimpressive about the Clinton impeachment.) Except, of course, if it were a bill that was running to lose - like FDR's court-packing bill, for instance.
Of course, not every Senate manager has a Bobby Baker working the Senate cloakrooms (and no doubt we should be grateful for that!). But vote-counting is still the difference (chasm, in many cases) between rhetoric and reality in the upper house.
The sort of reality that has been largely absent in the welter of wild talk about the Trent Lott Dixiecrat affair.
To which I'll return shortly.
Civil Rights Act of 1964 - Senate voting (and the odd Lott connection)
Being somewhat in the groove, serendipity throws up this WaPo piece which lists the 27 Senators (21 Democrats) voting against the bill in the final vote on June 19 1964.
All of the Confederate states' Senators voted against, except Ralph Yarborough (D-TX) (not LBJ's favourite Senator!); the Confederacy had remained Solid, except for John Tower (R-TX). (Strom Thurmond only became a Republican on September 16 1964.) Five other Republicans voted against.
The only nay-saying Senator still in place (I think!) and the only non-Confederate Democrat, was Robert Byrd (D-WV).
Included amongst the Noes is John Stennis (D-MS), whose 1964 election would, by my reckoning, have been the first Senatorial election in Mississippi in which Trent Lott (b1941) would have been old enough to vote. Typically, Stennis was in fact elected unopposed!
Lott would have been old enough to vote for Governor Paul Johnson in 1963 (the terms of MS Governors starting at the beginning of presidential election year). Supposedly, Johnson referred in his campaign to the NAACP (last mentioned here in the context of FDR's prudential attitude to federal antilynching legislation) by the (unoriginal, I suspect) alternative title Niggers Apes Alligators Coons and Possums. (Lott was, I believe, still a Democrat at that stage.)
(Mr Dixiecrat was a student at Ole Miss during the interesting times of the James Meredith affair in 1962. The military police raid on the frat house of Sigma Nu (president: T Lott) caused a flurry of book-plug-related interest a while ago, on account of the weapons they found. Evidently intended for hunting, rather than fighting a race war.)
Second point: I had assumed that the Republican Senate leadership for the 108th Congress would be chosen by the Senators of that Congress. Silly me! In fact, they were elected by the Caucus on November 13 (a Wednesday!).
Given the sudden flow of bile now splurging on Lott (most of it generated well before the history lesson, I suspect), the question arises, why was there no campaign to get rid of Lott before the November 13 meeting?
Even from the arch-anti-Lotter, Bill Kristol, nothing: nothing, at least, that my search on the Standard site turned up since before the elections. (Which, given Kristol's previously expressed contempt for Lott's abilities mght appear a tad strange,)
Besides, having just put the guy in charge (as I understand it, for a term of six years), Senate Republicans would make themselves more ridiculous than Lott (saying something!) if they kicked him out a few weeks later on account of his States Rights boo-boo!
And Lott isn't on his own. I note that Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is making the usual bipartisanship noises, and (what is more) denying the oft-expressed assumption that Congressional majorities would be used to push forward radical conservative policies. Lurching any time soon from that stance to full-on Contract With America warfare would, again, seem a less than credible move.
[In any case, I'd like to see a vote-counting exercise - where are the 60 votes coming from for cloture on, say, Arctic oil exploration?]
Perhaps there's a lost Leader, able (how?) to ram through the neocons' agenda, that Kristol now regrets not having thrust forward before November 13.
Can't see it myself - no doubt, an expert analysis will be forthcoming by and by.....
The Lott unhistory lesson - further thoughts
From being a mere pretext for some research into my favourite period of political history, the Lott Dixiecrat Counterfactual Saga has now taken on an interest all its own.
A couple of points to be getting on with.
First, as history, the notion is not so much absurd as surreal. The usual idea of a counterfactual is, say, What if there had been some half-decent Union Army generalship in the early stages - well, in most of the stages - of the Civil War to save at least one of those lost opportunities to do some serious damage to the Confederate fighting machine. The Civil War equivalent of Lott's Dixiecrat victory is, What if Jefferson Davis had the A-bomb?
One might, in other circumstances, have suggested the influence of large quantities of stimulants. Or a Monty Python-ish sense of humour.
A problem is not having seen a tape of the whole event (there doesn't even seem to be a transcript online) - in order to get the context. My guess is that it is the sort of absurdly hyperbolic compliment one makes to a old man with a long record of service, by way of showing respect. The formal equivalent of the sort of stretcher that oils the wheels of everday life (What a stunning dress! You must have lost ten pounds, etc, etc).
I had thought this was something of an American art - presidents and senators, after all, continue to be called such after losing their office; sports shows are crammed with awe-full bios of Hall of Famers whose slumps and errors are airbrushed. Kind of makes up for the lack of knighthoods and peerages!
Sunday, December 08, 2002
And some legislators took an unexpectedly hard line: for instance, Claude Pepper, victim in 1950 of the hostility to schools desegregation, was strident (he was fighting a tough Senate primary in April 1944!):
The South will allow nothing to impair white supremacy.Not quite in the Bilbo class, but illustrative of the ruling political imperative.
The balance of risk for those seeking registration had shifted during the war: violent retribution would less often be fatal; the Ku Klux Klan was under attack, even in its heartland (the Georgia legislature passed an anti-KKK law in 1951, for instance).
And the old nigger-baiting brought a counter-backlash - Bilbo's unreconstructed (!) primary campaign  in 1946 brought a Senate enquiry down to Jackson, MS . Its report opened eyes, North and South.
The result of Smith: Southern Negro registration rose from 3% of eligibles in 1940 to 20% in 1952. But this (essentially urban) bridgehead could only be extended to the general Negro population in the South with effective action from the political branches of the Federal government. Which (for reasons of political calculation) they refused to take until sufficient political pressure was applied in the 1960s.
The white primary decision - a different light on the civil rights story
I've now had a chance to read the article on Smith v Allwright I mentioned yesterday. It's all good stuff (if in slight need of an editor, perhaps - my regular readers will understand!). But several points come out relevant to the It ain't necessarily so theme raised by the Lott/Thurmond furore:
Both Virginia and Florida had primaries invalidated in the 1930s - with no discernible increase in Negro suffrage! Charles Hamilton Houston of the NAACP inferred that positive legal precedents were worthless if local communities were not prepared to act on them - the time wasn't ripe.
Smith represents a complete U-turn in nine years from the Court on Grovey v Townsend - the explanation may lie less in a change of personnel that in the change in climate brought by World War 2 (with special reference to theories of racial supremacy!). Also, voting rights were easier for whites to accept. They came at #4 in Gunnar Mydal's Rank Order of Discrimination  (education, with other public accommodations, is #3), as being more remote from the ultimate taboo, interracial sex.
Some lower court judges were bold: in Elmore v Rice , Judge J Waties Waring ruled against the South Carolina primary on a broad reading of Smith, and orated:
It is time for South Carolina to rejoin the Union.(On Governor Strom Thurmond's reaction, I have no information!) And the Supreme Court stretched the law to outlaw the Texas Jaybirds' pre-primaries in Terry v Adams .
The executive response was mixed: some Governors - Earl Long, James E Folsom (aka 'Big Jim' Folsom - who fought the Boswell Amendment ) acted to support Negro registration.
The US Justice Department, under both Roosevelt and Truman, dragged its feet, especially in prosecutions of registrars violating Smith. An FDR race relations adviser, Jonathan Daniels, is quoted as saying that action might
translate impotent rumblings against the New Deal into actual revolt at the polls
A guy more perfectly in tune with FDR's (lack of) political ethics could scarcely be found!
What was the Van Nuys Resolution?
On March 19 1936, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote to Walter White, then Executive Secretary of the NAACP, on the subject of lynching (100KB GIF).
(White was notable for his study of the subject, the 1929 Rope and Faggot - being easily able to pass had helped him a good deal in his research.)
The letter was essentially a brush-off - whatever Eleanor's private views, FDR was not wasting political capital on the doomed enterprise of yet another lynching bill. (The whole area of federal law and lynching is worth coming back to.)
But the letter refers to the Van Nuys Resolution - and is the only document so doing referenced online. Evidently, the resolution had something to do with lynching. Any clue as to its precise terms, and the surrounding circumstances would be gratefully received! (Frederick Van Nuys (D-IN) is the Senator namechecked, I assume.)
There were, of course, regular bills introduced in Congress between the wars, and after World War 2: the Costigan-Wagner Bill had been introduced in the Senate on January 3 1935 by Robert Wagner (D-NY) and Edward Costigan (D-CO). I assume the bill was the subject of a filibuster, though - long shot! - looking at notes I made some time ago on filibusters in George H Haynes's 1938 book on the US Senate, there is no reference to a filibuster of the Costigan-Wagner Bill.
There was a further bill in 1938. According to this useful piece, this bill was originated in the House by Joseph Gavagan (D-NY21), and introduced in the Senate by Wagner and Van Nuys. Lubell in his Future of American Politics (page 8) has Harry Truman (D-MO) saying to a colleague
You know I'm against this bill, but if it comes to a vote, I'll have to be for it.
But where the Van Nuys (or any other) Resolution fits in, no source I've found is telling!
The White Primaries Case and the Lost Liberal Era of Strom Thurmond
A follow-up to the centegenarian capers of yesterday.
Gently nosing around the net, I've come across what, at first skim, looks like a rather useful (50 page) article from the 2001 volume of the Florida State University Law Review on the 1944 US Supreme Court decision of Smith v Allwright.
The author (Michael J Klarman) concludes that this case had a far greater impact on the lives of Southern Negroes than the Brown v Board of Education decision. Perhaps, in the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davies, He would say that, wouldn't he? Or perhaps it's another case of the tyranny of the narrative, as discussed a day or two ago.
I've mentioned before the stretchers that have come to be associated with that icon of civil rights, Rosa Parks - if Prof Klarman is right, this is just another case, in the same neck of the historical woods, of It ain't necessarily so. Which was an equal opportunity watchword long before there were buses in Alabama!
Saturday, December 07, 2002
Suppose there is no real feud: perhaps Kristol & Co are worried about Lott's showing a lily-liver about the War? Of course, if invasion happens in the next few weeks, it's too late: the blank cheque Congress gave Bush will tide him over the current fighting season.
But perhaps the anti-Lotters are contemplating an alternative, long game (they're unlikely to have the patience, perhaps, but it's just possible) - is Lott the man to steady the ship throughout the summer whilst waiting for the inspectors and the cool weather? This earlier WaPo piece by Mark Dayton (D-MN) takes Lott's advice of 1998 to go slow on war against Saddam to accuse him of partisanship (Lott was berating Democrats at the time for failing to get behind Bush's Iraq resolution). Perhaps his 1998 position is known to be his actual view on the matter!
More likely, it's domestic concerns underlying the Get Lott movement. My understanding is that the 108th Congress is widely viewed by certain Republicans as a once-in-a-generation chance to unhook the Democratic ratchet (to adapt the Keith Joseph analogy) and legislate a truly conservative agenda: big tax cuts (with synergy with Keynesian management too!), Arctic oil, a slate of antiabortion judges, tort reform, welfare cuts, etc. Kristol evidently doesn't think Lott is up to it. And no doubt he's not alone. (Though how strenuous methods will do any good is beyond me: surely, most truly conservative measures would be fortunate to garner 51, let alone 60 votes.)
But, whatever: evidently Lott's discomfiture is good news for at least one guy looking forward to settling down next January in front of a Senate desk. Yet strangely, the paid media seem intent on presenting the story straight, as if such vulgar incentives did not exist.
And journalists wonder why they're not trusted.....
The Trent Lott Hit Squad - what's up with that?
Earlier on today, I took the Strom Spat as a pretext for wandering the byways of American political history.
But a thought has been gnawing at the back of my mind, sensitised as it is in this time of imminent war: where's the beef? Why have - so I appears from my extremely unscientific online trawl - so many who might be thought to be conservative (or, at least, not reflex anti-conservatives!) have come down on Poor Lil Trent?
Face in the crowd? Bill Kristol. The good old WaPo on his reaction:
A Vivien Leigh, Gone With The Wind, fan-fluttering fit of the vapours, I do declare! The reference to Lincoln (patron of this blog - I would think, if I were as absurdly self-important as Mr Kristol!) self-satirises.
For Lott and Kristol (in the London criminal argot) have previous: start here, with a spat on Lott's reaction to Clinton's Kosovo bomb-a-thon.
And, following the defection of Jim Jeffords, Kristol suggests Lott be challenged as Leader - and mentions a couple of names .
Isolated incidents? Needless to say, I tried to nail this down - but, rank amateur as I am - failed entirely. I'm sure there are plenty with actual knowledge who could substantiate or refute the story. Paid journalists, perhaps, with a guild interest in keeping us civilians in ignorance.
[Kristol is on record as supporting the fog of war: perhaps the Lott affair is all about disconcerting Saddam!]
And, for all the hoopla on human rights in the last couple of years - especially the reforms of August 2 2002 - Turkish sincerity is open to question.
For instance, a story from a Japanese journalist, suggesting that, while the August 2 reforms supposedly lifted the ban on teaching Kurdish, language-schools wishing to offer the service will find insuperable procedural difficulties placed in their way.
Teething problems? Perhaps the current ruling party (the AKP - Justice and Development Party) won't be around long to fix it: the court case to ban it is ongoing, despite its victory in the November elections.
A country that changes its leaders at the ballot box, eh.....
What does it mean? The US has to be seen to be stroking the Turks - most importantly, by the Turks themselves - and rattling the European cage goes down well with a segment of the folks back home. But that's about it - the insiders know the game, and I suspect it won't be helping Kurds get taught their own language any time soon.
Turkey, the US, EU membership and the War - the pantomime continues
A key component of the (apparent) dialogue of the deaf currently being conducted between elements in the political classes of Europe and the US in and around the subject of the Iraq war is the frozen state of Turkey's application to join the EU.
Most recently, Paul Wolfowitz, on his trip last week to get the Turks onside with the War, was kind enough to include a harangue on the subject in a speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.
That he should refer to
....Turkey's democratic character—a country that believes in freedom and that changes its leaders at the ballot box.is proof of his tenuous grasp of the subject (or else - as so often with Turkey since World War 2 - a case of turning a Nelson's eye, for expediency's sake).
After three coups, the Turkish military retain effective control over the country's affairs, through the means of the National Security Council. (A useful - if somewhat pro-military! - history of the essential role of the military in Turkish affairs since the Ottoman Empire of the 16th century here - it mentions a 2001 poll in which the military come out as the most trusted and effective state institution!)
(The most cogent reason, though, why Turkey ought not to become an EU member is the most obvious: as I discussed in an earlier piece, Turkey is not European! Not all the human rights - the liberal's proxy objection of choice - or civilian rule in the world can overcome that liminal objection.)
A Brown to get rid of affirmative action?
All this Dixiecrat talk has reminded me that I haven't noted (it's been all over!) that the US Supreme Court has granted certiorari in both University of Michigan affirmative action cases - Grutter, the Law School case, and Gratz, the undergraduate case (links to materials here).
The key practical point (as I understand it) is whether diversity (as opposed to some kind of notion of compensation for past wrongs) can stand as a rationale for affirmative action.
It's like the schoolboy accused of breaking the window playing ball. First he says he was in the next street at the time; then he says a hard gust of wind blew the ball. The first excuse takes the ground away from the second. If diversity was ever a justification for affirmative action, why wasn't it put forward as the justification upfront?
Whether the skin of the beneficiary is white, black, brown or yellow, it's always seemed to me that legally mandated race preferences are wrong by definition. Last go round, it took court action (and a lot of it) to reverse the various elements of Jim Crow - politicians wouldn't touch it, though most (perhaps even the two-thirds majority in the Senate needed to beat the filibuster) thought it was wrong. They couldn't even pass an anti-lynching bill!
Same goes (I strongly suspect) for affirmative action (at least, in its current form - and 38 years after the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act). No pol will touch it.
Fortunately, when they want to, the current line-up of Supremes don't mind a little bad publicity when defending rights they're really interested in. As in the First Amendment Free Speech Coalition virtual child pornography case.
The timing for the counterfactual is awkward, though: already, when the Clarendon case was filed, in 1950, Southern mobilisation against desegregation had not been slow in coming. And neo-populism was far too frail a plant to stand against the march to the the ramparts to defend the colour line.
Samuel Lubell suggests  that then Chief Justice Fred Vinson would heed the Dred Scott example and decide school segregation on the narrowest grounds possible.
But, already, in the 1950 Senate elections of liberals Claude Pepper  (of Florida) and Frank Graham  (of North Carolina), race in general, and schools desegregation in particular, had resulted in their defeats in primaries. The evidence of the pols and the polls down South were giving no support to Supreme Court justices minded to appease the South with a gradualist approach.
Perhaps, by anticipating the worst (forced integration), the South brought the worst on itself.
It's a hypothesis, at any rate. And - I'd venture to say - one rather closer to the mark than Trent Lott's!
[Story initially from Instapundit]
Strom Thurmond's birthday present - late 1948 returns.....
It's always a pleasure to see the Young Country delve back into its history. (Recall that we in England decided in 1689 that a boring domestic history was better for health and business - excitement was what the Empire was for!)
However, the sentiment that the US would have been better off had the doyen of the US Senate been elected President back in '48 is certainly a somewhat eccentric reading of history - though the shock-horror of the PC mob (for whom the States Rights Party is evidently breaking news) is vastly overdone. (The political point, that such a comment raises the question which of birthday boy and guest speaker is the closer to senility, doesn't interest me much.)
Current politics aside, though, counterfactuals are always fun. I wonder, for instance, whether the process of desegregation might have been less fraught had the Supreme Court continued to take the minimalist stance on separate but equal that had informed its decisions before the Clarendon County, SC (a certain Scandinavian's  home state!) schools case (which turned into Brown v Board of Education of Topeka - why, I wonder, is Topeka so seldom namechecked when the Brown case is mentioned? Do folks these days generally realise that the (Union) Sunflower State was (to an extent) Jim Crowed?)
There was certainly a range of Southern politicians - Orval Faubus, 'Big Jim' Folsom (and one S Thurmond! ) - who, in the immediate post-war period were identified as more concerned with socio-economic issues (in the Populist tradition) than Bilboesque nigger-baiting.
One Southern pundit remarked in 1944 apparently that, in the South
The swing of the post war world will be to the left.
He was probably speaking in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision in Smith v Allwright which that year banned the white primary.
Friday, December 06, 2002
As pernicious as the desire of media organisations to manufacture an easily digested nugget for their busy consumers (perhaps 30 seconds in an Overseas Briefing on the nightly news, two minutes for an in-depth report?) is the insistence on their being a story at all. Of any length or complexity.
Criminal cases - involving immense volumes of evidence - are notoriously susceptible to the narrative framework, with police and prosecutors overlooking or overriding facts that prove inconvenient to it. Perhaps, the more in-depth or investigative a media report is, the more pernicious its resort to story - because the more apparently complete will be the 'evidence' supporting it.
Narrative journalism, it appears, is something of a term of art (and not a complimentary one). The dangers of goosing up work that is crafted into a narrative for easy viewing or reading are all too clear - the piece cites Janet Cooke (Little Jimmy), Stephen Glass (ubitquitous) and Patricia Smith (the Boston Globe fabricatrix that one Norman Sims has the nerve to compare with Finlay Peter Dunne - he mispells the guy Finley! - author of the once well-known Chicago dialect series - that no one surely ever confused with fact? - concerning Archey Road saloon-keeper Mr Dooley).
If blogging serves any socially useful purpose (and I've yet to be convinced!), it's surely to keep pointing at the Emperor's nudity, and the antics of the journos - fatuous, greedy, stupid or downright malicious - who direct our gaze in the opposite direction....
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