Friday, December 13, 2002

This is why I'm so uncomfortable with all the Lott bashing on the right. It leads to:
But this discussion shouldn't really be about Mr. Lott. It should be about how a man who sounds like Mr. Lott came to be leader of the Senate.

If Lott is such a bete noir, how did he get where he is? Of course, the same question applies to other Senators from the South with racist histories. The only one I've seen who points out that Lott isn't as bad as everyone else would have us believe is Mark Levin.

Lott himself is too dense to realize that he's a goner as far as Majority Leader goes. The only explanation for all of this is that a lot of conservatives have disliked him for a long time and see this as their chance to dump him. Or maybe the "Big Tent" of the Republicans just isn't as big as the Democrats'.

Here are some good examples of one of my pet peeves, and, I suspect, one of yours.

Mark Levin makes the case against selective moral outrage over Lott's remark, and does a good job of documenting how unfair the coverage has been. It doesn't excuse Lott, but it does show that we're treating him far more critically than we have former KKK members who are Democrats in the Senate today. They have a far worse history of racism than Lott, but nobody is demanding their scalps. Lott should resign because this episode is harming his party and his president, but let's not ignore the fact that Republicans are being harder on him than the Democrats have been on Robert Byrd, who was President Pro Tem of the Senate, Fritz Hollings and Zell Miller.

Instapundit and Virginia Postrel have finally heard about Norman Borlaug, I read Easterbrook's article several years ago and was incensed at his treatment by the environmentalists and their lackeys in Congress.

Borlaug has remained active, but his accomplishments deserve far more publicity and credit than they get from the liberal media. I hope this rediscovery of him and his work will spread.

I talked to my son last night. He hadn't heard about the Lott event, and I had to fill him in on the Dixiecrats and segregation. It made me realize how much of what I consider current events are history to younger generations. As I told him about the beatings and dogs and firehoses and murders that happened in the 1960's, I was reminded what a horror Jim Crow was. Lott may have been referring to federalism and states' rights principles, but what he said was a veiled reference to segregation and denial of rights to American citizens.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

David Frum reports that Democrats are trying to extort concessions out of the Republicans to grant absolution for Trent Lott's sins. I'm not sure how raising minimum wages is supposed to help people whose problem is high unemployment, or how making them more dependent on government will help them, for that matter.

The oral argument of another case dealing with whether the courts should limit punitive damages, contains this gem of liberal reasoning:
Several justices asked Mr. [Professor Laurence] Tribe whether State Farm could face similar suits in other states with big punitive damage awards. Mr. Tribe said that while plaintiffs in other states could also seek big judgments against State Farm, the company had already been punished for its conduct in Utah and "under some double jeopardylike doctrine" should not have to face a second big punitive damage award for the same conduct there.

"What's your authority for that?" Justice John Paul Stevens asked.

Mr. Tribe shrugged. "I just made it up," he said, and both men laughed.

Clarence Thomas speaks up against cross burning. I've thought for some time that we are overplaying the First Amendment. I don't think it is reasonable to say that burning a cross is protected as free speech, nor is burning the American flag, allowing Neo-nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois, or shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater. Speech is also behavior, and when it is calculated to threaten others and poses a severe risk of public disorder, with nothing good to justify it, I think the speaker should be accountable.

The freedom of speech clause was intended to prevent stifling of political dissent, and promote open debate. But I fail to see where either of those aims are served by telling people that they have to be civil in their protests and debates. Protesters are after publicity and will deliberately find outrageous ways to dramatize their points in order to get it, even to the point of breaking the law and getting arrested. Fine. But if they use methods that create public nuisances or breach the peace, they should be subject to the same laws as anyone else.

Civl disobedience is not a constitutional doctrine. It involves breaking an unjust law AND living with the consequences. That's what Martin Luther King did. And we all saw films on TV of peaceful demonstrators being attacked by police dogs, beaten by thugs in police uniforms and knocked down by firehoses. Those images and the hate and violence they portrayed brought about changes in the law, not the fact that the protesters spend some time in jail. If the cops had rounded these people up peacefully, I don't know if the Civil Rights movement would have been nearly as successful as it was.

I think that unjust laws will fall without giving every hatemonger and crackpot a public platform for his own nuttiness. It's like spam. We made the internet open and free and now we have spam, which most people want to ban by law. If spammers have something legitimate to say, let them break the law and suffer the punishment to dramatize their point. That should separate them from those who just want to pester people.

Methinks the party doth protest too much. As I listen to the universal condemnation for Trent Lott, the impression is that Republicans are so scared of being thought racists, that they're making themselves look kind of silly. Where were the calls for Senator Byrd to resign, or any of the Democrats who've made similar gaffes? Or the race baiting charges against Republicans, like the ad in the last campaign paid for by the NAACP which implied that George Bush was somehow complicit in the gruesome murder of James Byrd, Jr.

I can't defend Lott's statement. It's implications are too obvious to be explained away. I guess it just rankles that we should be so quick to jump on the bandwagon of condemning a man for political thoughtcrime. It smacks of a guilty conscience, but I don't think the Republican Party is guilty of racism or anything like it. But in light of the accusations which stream out of Democrats and groups representing African Americans, it has to nip this in the bud. It shouldn't have to, but when you're reaching out to blacks, you can't convince them that you aren't racist when one of you high officials says something like Lott did.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Lott is toast. Just reading the links on Instapundit and Best of the Web, makes it clear that this is a feeding frenzy. The blood is in the water. It appears that Lott has played too close to the edge of the line between conservative and right wing white supremacist for too long, and hasn't been called to account. He has a safe Senate seat, just like Robert Byrd, and so his party hasn't been too careful about examining his pedigree. Now he's turned radioactive and Republicans are terrified that he'll ruin their victory.

At this point, the best thing he could do would be to resign and go back to just being a reliable vote. I hate to see a person condemned for a thoughtless remark, but the evidence is coming in now that this wasn't just a slip of the tongue, but more a glimpse behind the mask and the hairspray.

I wonder what it would be like to grow up in the South during his lifetime. I think it would be pretty hard to learn to hate your parents and their generation, or to continute to love and respect them, but never let on in public.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

More thoughts on the Lott event:

After listening to this all day on the radio, and reading the reactions of lots of non-leftists, I think we are as much in thrall to political correctness as ever. I keep trying to tell myself that Lott should be thrown to the wolves, but I keep thinking why? Because he said something offensive? That's basically what it boils down to.

I'm not denying that there is racism in this country, just as there is sin in all of us. I think that some residue of it still remains in all white southerners and in the rest of us to a lesser degree. And I do mean the rest of us, including blacks, aborigines, asian, latinos, etc. But we're not going to get rid of it by hammering each other over it.

Politicians are not like you and me. They have to weigh their words according to who is listening. But it gets harder the longer they live. Robert Bird in revery told Tony Snow that there were white "niggers." I've heard that before, as a justification for the past and for continuing to use the word in spite of the temper of the times. I considered it then, as I do now, to be a vestige of growing up in the South before the 1960's. That South is gone, though it still remains in the memories of all who lived it. I think we should let it be gone.
It is no longer anything to be afraid of. It will die forever as its veterans die. We should let it.

An interesting essay by Roger Scruton about the difference between conservatism and liberalism:

It is a tautology to say that a conservative is a person who wants to conserve things; the question is what things? To this I think we can give a simple one-word answer, namely: us. At the heart of every conservative endeavor is the effort to conserve a historically given community. In any conflict the conservative is the one who sides with "us" against "them"--not knowing, but trusting. He is the one who looks for the good in the institutions, customs and habits that he has inherited. He is the one who seeks to defend and perpetuate an instinctive sense of loyalty, and who is therefore suspicious of experiments and innovations that put loyalty at risk.

So defined, conservatism is less a philosophy than a temperament; but it is, I believe, a temperament that emerges naturally from the experience of society, and which is indeed necessary if societies are to endure. The conservative strives to diminish social entropy. The second law of thermodynamics implies that, in the long run, all conservatism must fail. But the same is true of life itself, and conservatism might equally be defined as the social organism's will to live.

This awareness of society's needs as well as one's own is what I find lacking in libertarian positions. Usually, conservatism and libertarianism overlap, since what Americans should want to conserve is freedom and individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution. However, individual rights and freedoms can only exist to the degree that the society itself is preserved. This calls for a balance between rights and duties. When we emphasize rights over duty and responsibility, we threaten the roots of those rights.

Of course, we differ in what we consider necessary to maintain a healthy society and even in how we define the term. My view, and I think, the view of most conservatives is that the traditional family is the source of good citizens and the place where values can be taught without interference from the state, and should be supported and fostered by society. I also believe that private charity is the appropriate way to deal with poverty, because government welfare programs create welfare rights, which are inimical to the ideal of citizenship, independence. Individuals who are independent, educated and aware of public issues make proper citizens. I fear that we have lost much of that ideal, and that the current welfare state will ultimately destroy rather than enhance freedom.

Monday, December 09, 2002

If I were Mohammed, I wouldn't marry one of these dogs.

I read a fascinating article in Discover Magazine this morning discussing hormesis, the documented phenomenon of small doses of otherwise harmful chemicals or radiation producing positive effects. This has real implications for EPA standards, and will undoubtedly be denounced by environmentalists everywhere.

There's more here.

David Frum agrees with me, sort of. I guess it's obligatory to roundly denounce any suggestion that segregation was a good thing. I thought that was self-evident and settled, and didn't need some kind of loyalty oath.

I think that a case can be made that the Civil Rights movement has had some unfortunate results: polarization, an obsession with minority status, political correctness, affirmative action and the ability to intimidate with the mention of bigotry and racism. It has also resulted in many African Americans becoming racists and hating America. And it has given us Jess Jackson, Al Sharpton and Cornell West.

Does this mean I would go back to the days of Jim Crow? No. I think that the hate and resentment of defeated white southerners poured out on black citizens for 100 years after the Civil War was a shame to all citizens of the U. S., Northerners included. And no, I don't think we'd be better off if Strom Thrumond had been elected president.

Trent Lott voted for Thurmond. He made arguments supporting segregation. Some small part of that feeling remains in his memory, and some of it slipped out, just as Robert Bird's gaffe in an interview with Tony Snow. Then there's Bill Clinton whose protean memory allowed him to remember that as a boy he had wondered why blacks were treated so badly. Thus he became our first black president. I suspect that Lott and Bird are more honest, in their senior moments, but I'm sure as I can be that they aren't about to advocate returning to those times.

It's an old fight that was decided a long time ago. Why start it again?

Sunday, December 08, 2002

I guess I can say this, because nobody else reads this blog anyway.

I really couldn't care less about what Trent Lott said at Strom Thurmond's farewell. If he'd waved a Confederate flag and whistled Dixie, so what? Does anybody really think that Lott is going to push to roll back all the civil rights laws and amend the Constitution to repeal the 14th Amendment?

But the blogosphere is all het up about it and calling for Lott's head. This from a bunch of Libertarians! Save your indignation for something serious, guys. I don't have a brief for Lott. I don't like him any more than I like Orrin Hatch, who I think is an embarrassment to Utah a lot of the time.

I don't like a lot of things that African Americans spout about "whitie" either, but I think that we're all better off when such dumb things are ignored by polite society.
I'm just tired of American being on the lookout for more things to argue about. As far as I'm concerned all this huffing over Lott is indicative of nothing better to blog about. It's a meta-issue. It's making a man an offender for a word. Fuggeddaboutit.