Regions of Mind

Self-assured but self-questioning.

History,
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foreign policy,
politics, life.


Geitner Simmons is an editorial writer with the Omaha World-Herald.
This weblog expresses his personal views only.
He is also
a Midwesterner,
a Southerner,
a husband, a father, a son. And always
a student.



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Monday, December 9
 
Since Friday

The three posts today are all on the same theme: looking at the social prejudices of historical figures. Those posts all flow from a long analysis posted here on Sunday about Trent Lott and the Dixiecrat matter. Other topics since Friday: the debate over conservative domination of the press; South Florida; and a Good Samaritan.

Topics in the pipeline: French economic policy; judging the "racism" of previous generations; morality and foreign policy; a tangent relating to German history in the mid-20th century; a U.N.-related matter; and some leftover Confederate battle flag aspects.



 
Racial prejudice in the 1940s

The Lincoln Plawg’s set of posts on the Dixiecrat issue, linked by InstaPundit, vividly provides historical context about how many politicians of the 1940s (FDR, Harry Truman, Claude Pepper, among others) were hardly fervent champions of civil rights in some instances. John Smith ably explains at Plawg that by today’s standards, the parameters for accepted discourse in the 1940s, even in the North, often allowed remarkably harsh statements about minorities and often channeled the policy conversation into narrow limits.

In 1943, for instance, researchers at Fisk University decided to launch a new journal titled A Monthly Summary of Events and Trends in Race Relations. The academicians had been prompted to start the journal by a major urban race riot that year -- not in a Deep South city but in Detroit.

The journal later reported that for a 10-month period in 1943, 242 “major incidents involving Negro-white conflict” had occurred in 47 cities. Forty-six percent of the incidents were in the South, 42 percent in the North and 12 percent in the West.

One issue of the journal referred to what it called “interminority conflicts involving, particularly, Negroes and Poles and Irish Catholics in such Northern cities as Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago and Buffalo.”

In his 1998 book “Whiteness of a Different Color,” Matthew Frye Jacobson wrote in regard to the journal:

From 1943 until the end of 1948, the staff of Race Relations monitored and reported myriad crises, outbreaks, protests, court battles, hostilities and alliances among the races nationwide. ...

Increasingly, Race Relations also covered acts of white resistance. It reported a case of arson in Redwood City, California, that destroyed the home of a black veteran in a white neighborhood, and the more tragic case of a Fantana, California, family who were engulfed in the flames of a similar, racially motivated arson. It included a strike of white schoolchildren in Gary, Indiana, who refused to attend school with blacks, and the massive “sick leaves” mysteriously taken by white restaurant and hotel workers in Cincinnati during the NAACP convention there. And it included an escalating battle over housing in Chicago -- a “restrictive covenant war.”

In his posts, John Smith notes that Alabama Gov. “Big Jim” Folsom, among several Southern political leaders, wasn’t regarded as a race-baiter. That follows from everything I’ve read about him -- not that he was progressive on civil rights, either. When the Dixiecrats held their convention in Birmingham, Ala., in July 1948, Folsom, as a Democratic governor, tried to straddle the fence. He made a brief, pro forma appearance at the convention but otherwise made no effort to tie his political fate with that of Thurmond & Co. In contrast, Mississippi’s governor was Thurmond’s Dixiecrat running mate.



 
Anti-semitism in that era

In discussing social prejudices in the 1940s, it is relevant to note how anti-Semitism was expressed openly in this country during that time, even in Congress. I talked about that point in a post in October, describing a Terry Gross interview with historian Michael Beschloss:

FDR would be stunned, Beschloss said, if he could come back today and hear that he is now criticized for failing to bomb the concentration camps. At the time, Roosevelt expressed no interest in discussing the plight of Jewish internees. FDR indicated that to focus on the concentration camps, which he had heard of early in the war, would have allowed anti-Semites to accuse the administration of fighting a war for Jewish interests rather than American ones. Anti-Semitism was quite potent and unabashed in some quarters of American society at the time, Beschloss said. Some members of the U.S. Senate delivered remarkably hostile remarks about Jews while speaking on the Senate floor, he said. ...

Even after the war had ended and the full horrors of the concentration camps were revealed, Harry Truman continued to make cutting remarks against Jews in his private written comments. Ironic, of course, given that his administration took the bold step of recognizing Israel at its creation.

Truman, to his credit, desegregated the nation’s armed forces and established a national civil rights commission intended to push the nation toward progress in regard to race relations. At the same time, however, John Smith at The Lincoln Plawg cites a quote by Truman, from his Senate days in the late 1930s, in which he said he didn’t personally support a federal anti-lynching although he would feel politically obligated to vote for it.


 
TR, too

One last note regarding prejudice and historical figures:

William Kristol, to his credit, unhesitatingly criticized Lott’s remarks concerning the Dixiecrat issue. "It's ludicrous,” Kristol said in the Washington Post. “He should remember it's the party of Lincoln.”

In light of that statement, it’s a bit ironic that Kristol’s magazine, The Weekly Standard, goes to such lengths to heap praise on Theodore Roosevelt. TR, after all, didn’t hesitate to express contempt toward non-whites.

The new edition of Cato Policy Report, for example, has an essay that is ferociously hostile to Roosevelt. (It’s over the top, really -- a modern, industrial society is going to need government regulation, and it’s no sin that TR recognized that fact. Of course, he did move steadily to the political left so that by the time of his 1912 presidential campaign, his views had veered into outright radicalism.)

The Cato essay includes several atrocious Roosevelt quotes on the topic of race. To cite only one example: “A perfectly stupid race can never rise to a very high place; the Negro, for instance, has been kept down as much by lack of intellectual development as by anything else.”

Roosevelt, the essay notes, called on white Americans to be “good breeders” to prevent “race suicide.” TR, in line with many elite intellectuals of the day, routinely employed racially chauvinistic language, praising whites as innately superior over other races. The essay quotes historian Diane Paul, who wrote that Roosevelt “probably did more than any other individual to bring the views of academic race theorists to ordinary Americans.”

Such a discussion raises the point about how far one should go in judging past generations by current moral standards. I intend to address that in a post later this week.




Sunday, December 8
 
Double-speak catches up with Trent Lott

W.J. Cash observed in “The Mind of the South” that old-time Southern traditionalists had a “tendency toward unreality.” Their mental “world-construction,” he argued, was “mainly a product of fantasy.” Cash’s point would seem to apply to Trent Lott’s egregious public praise for the Dixiecrat movement of 1948.

Lott’s statement, wistfully delivered at a Thurmond birthday party and captured on C-SPAN, straightforwardly commended the Dixiecrat movement:

I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.

Perhaps Lott felt obligated by some diehard sense of state pride, given that Thurmond’s Dixiecrat running mate in 1948 was a Mississippian -- Fielding Wright, the state’s governor. Perhaps Lott was trying to be polite and in the process forgot to apply the circumspection that politicians normally feel obligated to use when referring back to the checkered political career of Thurmond, a one-time arch-segregationist.

Most likely, though, Lott was tripped up by the long tradition, among certain Southerners in certain eras, of using double-talk, obfuscation and cynicism in excusing certain things: Describing slavery, at the time, as paternalism. Or lynching, in the 1890s, as justice. Apologists rationalized the disenfranchisement of blacks as essential to social order. They touted underfunded blacks-only public schools, with a straight face, as “equal” to those for whites. They justified opposition to federal anti-lynching legislation as an innocuous safeguarding of constitutional principles.

And they held up Thurmond’s segregationist presidential campaign in 1948 as a mere defense of states’ rights.

Lott's praise for the Dixiecrat movement certainly moves the Republican Senate leader's post a long way from the days of Everett Dirksen, who encouraged his party in 1964 to vote for Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Act -- a sterling moment in congressional history. (And a sterling moment for the Supreme Court would come two years later, when its South Carolina vs. Katzenbach decision rejected the states’-rights argument and at long last revivified the federal powers, first enunciated in the Civil War amendments, to enforce the civil rights of all Americans.)

Other birthday pronouncements for Thurmond sidestepped, out of politeness, the unpleasant parts of his career in public life. Lott’s ill-considered statements serve a useful purpose, though, by drawing attention to what the Dixiecrat movement was actually about. (Kudos to blogger Atrios, in particular, for pointing out the naked racism of that crusade.)

The Dixiecrat movement began to come together in 1948 when segregationist-minded dissidents walked out of the Democratic national convention in Philadelphia. A leader of the walkout was “Bull” Connor, the Birmingham, Ala., police commissioner whose fascistic tactics in attacking civil rights demonstrators would shock the nation in the 1960s.

Birmingham, in fact, was the site of the Dixiecrat’s convention, held in July 1948. A scattering of delegates attended from several non-Southern states, including Pennsylvania, Illinois and California.

Thurmond, as the movement's presidential nominee, easily adopted the time-honored double-speak of Southern white supremacy. As described by John Egerton in his book “Speak Now Against the Day,” Thurmond’s strategy

was, first, to raise the specter of a black invasion of the South’s lily-white temples of segregation -- churches, schools, theaters, swimming pools, bedrooms -- and then, denying racial motivation, to “defend as a matter of principle” what he described as a federal assault on states’ rights.

In his acceptance speech, Thurmond, who was governor of South Carolina at the time, repeated his crowd-pleasing line that there were “not enough troops in the army” to force desegregation down the throats of the white South. To reporters, he would say over and over again that he wasn’t preoccupied with white supremacy -- what really worried him were the dangers of “police state tactics ... a federal gestapo ... ”

Meanwhile, [vice presidential nominee] Fielding Wright, a true believer in white supremacy, would be free to carry heavier weapons, and to fire them at will.

The night that Thurmond’s nomination was approved by the convention, a group of revelers in Birmingham produced a stuffed dummy, labeled it Harry Truman, put a noose around its neck and conducted a mock lynching. Someone attached a scrawled message to its coat: “TRUMAN KILLED BY CIVIL-RIGHT.”

Thurmond’s pretense that Dixiecratism was devoid of racist sentiment was hard to square with the South Carolinian’s own stated racism. The national press noted, for instance, an incident involving Thurmond and William H. Hastie, appointed by Truman as governor of the Virgin Islands.

Thurmond invited Hastie for a visit to the Governor’s Mansion in Columbia, and Hastie responded appreciatively, extending an invitation for Thurmond to visit the Virgin Islands.

But when Thurmond learned that Hastie was black, matters abruptly soured.

“I would not have written him if I knew he was a Negro,” Thurmond thundered. “Of course, it would have been ridiculous to invite him.”

How refreshing: No double-talk, just the ugly truth.



 
South Florida

An online bulletin board included a discussion Friday night on the subject, “Florida vs. New York,” meaning which was the most desirable place to live. A lot of the comments focused on the nature of South Florida. I can’t vouch for one writer’s claims, but I found them interesting:

Miami was a ghost town when the Cubans arrived in the 60's. ... the kids went to school in english and a natural bi-lingualness developed. (There was a similar but smaller movement in Union City and West New York, two towns in northeast NJ). Most immigrated Cubans knew or learned english.

Since SoFla it is a bi-lingual area, it caters to many spanish-speaking tourists as Los Angeles does. It attract new immigrants, because they can at least get by while learning english. These people work at all the hotels everyone visits in Miami. They all want to learn english and most do.

English is still the prevalent language and public school is completely in english besides elective spanish class. People who do not speak english only get dead-end jobs. You have to learn english.

There is no dissolution of the English language in SoFla, simply there are many bi-lingual people. ...

There are many, many english only speakers who live and work in South Florida.

Another writer offered a dissent:

Sadly this is no longer true. The immigrants in the 1960s wanted to learn English. The Mariel immigrants just don't care.


By the way: The second writer made this meteorological observation:

The other problem with Miami (especially in the western suburbs) is that almost every day severe thunderstorms develop over the Everglades and stay around for hours making it very unsafe to go from work-car, car-shopping, car-house, work-bus, bus-shopping, bus-house, etc. Compared to northern storms, lightning usually fills the sky just about constantly giving no safe time to quick scoot outside.




Saturday, December 7
 
Samaritan

I don't claim that this anecdote proves anything cosmic about people as far as class or race. But it's a true story, and it happened early this afternoon.

I went to a mall here in central Omaha to pick up a Christmas present. The parking lots, not surprisingly, were packed. I had park far away. When I finally got to the crosswalk, I waited and waited for cars to let me cross. (Maybe I should have tried to assert the pedestrian right-of-way, but I wasn't eager to step out in front of cars that were showing no indication of slowing down.)

Finally, a car stopped to let me cross. The vehicle was a scruffy old car with three middle-aged black people in it. I gave a wave of thanks, which was reciprocated by the driver. I couldn't help noticing that the Good Samaritan's car was quite a contrast to the parade of shiny SUVs and minivans that had failed to let me cross.



Friday, December 6
 
Service in the Senate

Strom Thurmond isn't the only U.S. senator from South Carolina to enjoy an extraordinary longevity in Congress. In 1944, Sen. Ellison "Cotton Ed" Smith of South Carolina died after serving in the U.S. Senate since 1909. At the time of his death, he had served longer in that body that any prior member.

Here are the top dozen members for longevity in the Senate, with length of service for current members as of last January:


1) Strom Thurmond (R-SC), 46 years, 5 months.

2) Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), 43 years.

3) Carl T. Hayden (D-AZ), 41 years, 9 months.

4) John C. Stennis (D-MS), 41 years, 2 months.

5) Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), 39 years, 2 months.

6) Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI), 38 years.

7) Richard B. Russell (D-GA), 38 years.

8) Russell B. Long (D-LA), 38 years.

9) Francis E. Warren (R-WY), 37 years.

10) James O. Eastland (D-MS), 36 years, 3 months.

11) Warren Magnuson (D-WA), 36 years.

12) Claiborne Pell (D-RI), 36 years.


A list of the top 20 is here.

One of my most vivid memories from living in Washington, D.C., in the early '80s was the morning I was walking north along the street that runs in front of the Supreme Court building, on my way to one of the congressional office buildings. I happened to look down to see an elderly, fragile man in a suit being pushed in a wheelchair, coming in my direction. My eyes met his, and, in that fleeting moment, the old fellow gave off a sense of deep weariness and eroding physical strength. It was John Stennis.

There's a twist, though: My impression wasn't entirely correct. Stennis retained enough strength to win re-election in 1982. He served out that full term, retiring in 1989. He died in 1995. That was more than a decade since I'd seen him on that sidewalk in downtown D.C.






 
Racial friendliness, or closet racism?

Check out this unusual site, please, and see if you can decide what it is:

  • A site that is what it appears: a site run by sunny white folks to poke fun at nervousness about cross-racial interaction.

  • A site conceived by blacks to poke fun at white attitudes.

  • A site conceived by blacks out of self-hate.

  • A site that, while cheery on the surface, is actually motivated by white racism (as claimed by some of the letters to the site.)

  • A site that, regardless of who conceived it, unwisely promotes black stereotypes.

  • A site cleverly intended as a Rorschach test on racial attitudes.

  • A site that merely wants to have fun.

  • My view is that it's intended as lighthearted satire. But can we really be sure?

    Update: Here's another weird one to check out.



     
    Neighborly neighbors

    It was widely reported this week that the Pew survey of global opinion indicated deep strains of opposition abroad to the Bush administration’s foreign policy. The poll results from Canada weren’t as bad, though they did indicate that Canadians retain a wariness about U.S. influence in their country. From a Globe and Mail article:

  • Most Canadians, 72 per cent, have a favourable attitude toward the United States, with 24 percent saying their opinion is very favourable and 48 per cent saying it's somewhat favourable. Only 27 percent have an unfavourable opinion.

  • Sixty-eight per cent of Canadians support the U.S.-led war on terrorism, while 27 per cent oppose it.

  • The influence of the United States in the world is less favourably regarded. More than two-thirds of Canadians, 68 per cent, say American policies increase the gap between rich and poor. Only 37 percent say it's good that American ideas are spreading to Canada, with 54 percent saying it's a bad thing. However, 77 per cent like American music, movies and television.



  •  
    'Bowling for Columbine'

    I don't know if it's been mentioned at other sites, but the blog world's least favorite current movie, Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," has won the best documentary award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. The National Board of Review is made up of teachers, writers, actors and movie production workers.



     
    The flag

    If you fly an American flag, it should be at half-staff on Saturday, to salute those who died at Pearl Harbor, according to a presidential proclamation. Our household added a flag pole and flag several months ago. It's become a nice part of our lives.



     
    Democracy and Islam: the Bush view

    Richard N. Haass, director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff (who headed Middle East policymaking in the first Bush White House) gave a speech this week titled “Towards Greater Democracy in the Muslim World.” He framed things in a good news/bad news format. Some of what he told the Council on Foreign Relations:

    In Morocco this past September, citizens voted in the freest, fairest, and most transparent elections in the country s history, creating a diverse new parliament.

    In October, Bahrainis cast votes for the first time in thirty years to elect a parliament. It was also the first time women ran for national office. Just last week, Oman’s Sultan Qaboos announced that he is extending the vote for the Consultative Shura Council to all his country s adult citizens. Earlier this year, Qatar announced a new constitution in anticipation of upcoming parliamentary elections. Yemen now boasts not only a multiparty system and an elected parliament but also directly elected municipal officials and, since 1999, a directly elected president. ...

    Elsewhere, we see many elements of democracy in Muslim-majority states like Malaysia and Indonesia. We hear inspiring Muslim voices advocating pluralism and democracy, from Mohamed Talbi in Tunisia to Nurcholish Madjid, half a world away in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country. These are just a few examples of the democratic ferment taking place elsewhere in the Muslim world, from Albania to Djibouti, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone. These debates are nowhere close to being resolved ... But that should not obscure how much progress is being made.


    Forty percent of Muslims live as minorities in countries such as India, France and South Africa, Haass noted.

    The bad news Haass described is pretty familiar in the blog world. He wasn’t sparing in describing the democracy gap in the Arab-Muslim world:

    ... despite these encouraging signs, we must recognize that there is, in fact, a freedom deficit in many parts of the Muslim world, and in the Arab world in particular.

    Adrian Karatnycky, Freedom House s president, documents in that organization’s 2001-2002 Survey of Freedom, "a dramatic gap between the levels of freedom and democracy in the Islamic countries particularly in their Arabic core and in the rest of the world."

    The democracy gap between the Muslim world and the rest of the world is huge. Only one out of four countries with Muslim majorities have democratically elected governments.

    Moreover, the gap between Muslim countries and the rest of the world is widening. Over the past twenty years, democracy and freedom expanded in countries in Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia. In contrast, the Muslim world is still struggling. Indeed, by Freedom House’s standards, the number of "free" countries around the world increased by nearly three dozen over the past twenty years, but not one of them was a Muslim majority state.




     
    Defer to the politicians, eh

    John Rosenberg, at his blog Discriminations, has fun tweaking the Washington Post (here and here), saying the paper’s argument on affirmative action -- well, I’m cite his own phrasing:

    In an editorial today asking the Supremes to avoid "a heavy-handed imposition by judges" and "to leave Michigan's program alone," the Washington Post urged the Court to defer to "the political arena" to deal with the propriety of racial preferences.

    There was an odd sense of deja vu about this editorial, sounding as it did so much like the advice the Richmond and Montgomery papers gave the Court as it considered Brown v. Board of Education.

    John also mischievously takes the text of the Southern Manifesto (a 1956 statement of principle against federally mandated school desegregation signed by a large group of Southern members of Congress) and substitutes "racial preferences" or "diversity" for "segregation" or related terms.

    By the way: One of the signers of the manifesto was a then-Democratic senator named Strom Thurmond. Among the others: Sam Ervin and J. William Fulbright.

    I was a bit surprised to see that another signer was Sen. W. Kerr Scott, a populist-minded farmer who had outwitted Democratic Party barons in North Carolina to win that state’s gubernatorial election in 1948. In 1949, Scott stunned political observers by naming liberal Frank Porter Graham (president of the University of North Carolina, who had served on Harry Truman’s civil rights commission) to fill a U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of the incumbent.

    Graham was an enormously dedicated and decent-minded public servant, although his views often tended toward dreamy idealism. He was ousted in the 1950 Democratic primary, in which the topic of race relations was a key factor. He later served as a U.N. mediator between India and Pakistan in regard to Kashmir. After he had left service with the U.N., Graham said he was sure the problem could have been resolved had the two sides only agreed to carry out his plan for reconciliation. He found it hard to believe that sweet reason would be so forcefully rebuffed.



     
    Stonewalling in Russia

    My friend Fred Ray said it well when he sent me the URL for a most unusual site the other day. “Okay,” Fred wrote, “now I have seen it all.”

    Here is what he’s talking about: a Web site saluting Stonewall Jackson -- based in Russia.

    The site is in English and by all appearances offers a serious-minded examination of some of the general’s campaigns.

    And don’t forget the guestbook, with notes from France, England and the American South (or, as one Alabama sorehead churlishly put it in his message, “an occupied, conquered nation formerly known as the Confederate States of America.”)

    And what language is that one message in -- Greek?



    Thursday, December 5
     
    A lesson from ‘Albion’s Seed’

    Jim Bennett, UPI foreign policy columnist, sent me some thoughtful observations in response to the mentioning of “redneck” (by me) and of “hillbilly” and “Toby” (by blogger Chris Scott). Jim writes:

    A very interesting thread.

    It should also be remembered that "rednecks", in the narrower sense of lowland Southern whites, and "hillbillies", again in the narrower sense of Appalachian/Ozark populations of primarily Scots-Irish (or to use Fischer's more accurate term, "British Borderers"), have often been on opposite sides of the fence. The interesting and impressive maps and discussions in Fischer's “Albion's Seed,” Kevin Phillips' “The Cousins' Wars,” and Freehling's “The South vs. The South” all demonstrate that the highland areas have often taken the opposite stand from the lowland South on political issues, including secession in 1861.

    It's also wrong to equate the Scots-Irish population with Southerners per se; that population group extends well into Pennsylvania and even into parts of New York State. Western Pennsylvania, where I grew up, has a very strong Scots-Irish component in the countryside. When I went to Belfast a lot of the family names on signs, etc. were very familiar from my childhood.

    Of course, one thing that unites hillbillies and rednecks is having urbanites from the Northeast look down on them. They see eye-to-eye on rejecting that.

    Just as people viewing the world “from the comfort of suburban Tennessee” no doubt bridle at Euro-snobbery directed at them.



     
    Agents of destruction

    I read Bill Clinton’s speech to the Democratic Leadership Council from the other day to see what language he had used in urging his party, rightly, to pay more attention to national security issues.

    An odd phrase in the speech leaped out at me: “destruction machine.”

    Clinton used it to characterize the conservative activists, commentators, politicians and reporters who, by his description, gang up relentlessly on Democratic leaders. It’s an updated version of Hillary Clinton’s reference to a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” From his speech:

    We cannot wilt in the face of higher negative ratings for our leaders. They have a destruction machine, we don't. Somebody has got to lead the Democrats in the House, in the Senate and in running for president, and the rest of us have got to stand up for them and stand with them when they're subject to these attacks.

    Republicans, Clinton said, “have an increasingly right-wing and bellicose conservative press,” while “we (Democrats) have an increasingly docile establishment press, to be fair, partly because of the enormous trauma of September 11th and its aftermath.”

    I’m not one for fanatical, Limbaugh-like deconstructions of every little turn of phrase used by Democrats, but Clinton did say that Democrats have the establishment media, meaning, as I interpret it, that Democrats generally have them on their side. I suppose it could be said he meant that Democrats “have” the establishment press as the last hope for objective reporting. But the parallel construction in the sentence indicated he meant the GOP has one media faction on its side and the Democratic Party has another on its.



     
    Another move by Schroeder

    Some may carp that I'm only piling on as far as the blog world's Germanophobic rhetoric, but it should be pointed out that Schroeder's government is announcing significant defense cuts this week. The Times of London sums them up as "big cuts in spending on key arms projects."

    German criticism of U.S. military muscle and "unilateralism" is hard to take when German officials are unapologetically shortchanging their own country's military capabilities. The same goes for German complaints about the yawning gap between their country's military capability and that of the United States.

    As the Times article points out, the German government's decision directly undercuts a recent pledge by NATO officials to reduce that technology gap.



     
    Strom Thurmond and Pitchfork Ben Tillman

    Wyeth Ruthven describes a 1909 episode from Thurmond's childhood involving the old-time South Carolina Senator Ben Tillman. Wyeth also links to a post of mine about Tillman -- many thanks.

    By the way: Sorry for the lull in blogging here. Couldn't be helped. Much is in the pipeline, though.




    Wednesday, December 4
     
    Mayberry Machiavelli

    Former White House aide John DiIulio has apologized for his comments in Esquire in which he blasted the Bush administration, which he said is being run by political opportunists he derided as “Mayberry Machiavellis.” Andrew Sullivan posted some thoughts on the matter Tuesday.

    I grew up about a three hours’ drive southwest of the North Carolina town that served as the inspiration for Mayberry. A good friend of mine (who grew up about four hours to the southwest of the Ur-Mayberry) sent me a wonderful e-mail this week, inspired by DiIulio’s colorful phrase:

    Mayberry Machiavelli!!

    What a delicious title. I wish that such an episode had been made. Who would have been the Machiavelli -- Barney? Goober? Maybe Howard Sprague?

    Floyd: Ohhh, I hadn't thought of that, Andy.

    Andy: Yeah, I know, Floyd. It kind of threw me for a loop, too.

    Floyd: He's a real Machiavelli, isn't he?

    Andy: Well, I don't know if I'd --

    Floyd: A real Machiavelli, Andy. And right here in Mayberry.

    Barney: Aw, cut it out, Floyd. I didn't hear him sing a note!

    Andy: What?

    Barney: You know. The opera singer. I heard him on the radio once in Mount Pilot. (sings) "Sa-an-ta-a Lu-u chee- ee- a!"

    Andy: I don't think that's who he's talking about, Barney.

    Floyd (musing): Mayberry Machiavelli! It has kind of a ring to it, doesn't
    it, Andy.

    I suppose I could try to explain to Andrew Sullivan who Floyd and Barney are, but I'd probably only confuse him.

    Update: In regard to the DiIulio matter itself, Esquire is disputing claims in DiIulio's apology by releasing a long letter he sent to interviewer Ron Suskind in October.




     
    Cousins to 'redneck'

    One of several e-mail acquaintances I’ve been especially pleased to make since starting this blog has been Chris Scott, a grad student in public history in South Carolina. Chris, who blogs at The Insecure Egotist in between exams, was spurred by my posts about “rednecks” to note two related terms from Southern cultural history: “hillbilly” and “Toby”:

    In my research on Snuffy Jenkins, a Carolina banjo player and "hillbilly" musician, I've found that the term "Hillbilly" created ambivalent reactions. Some hated it, but others thought that it was just fine, a perfect moniker/nickname for themselves. These people embraced the rural aspects of their native southern culture in direct opposition to perceived threats from the Northern cities.

    Encroaching national phenonomenon threatened their regional distinctiveness. As a result, some took what was otherwise a threat and embraced it as the embodiment of what was laudable and superior in their culture to the dominant trends. Although we are seventy-to-eighty years removed from this specific phenomenon, I imagine certain amounts of this same argument still resonate across the South, or any regionally distinctive population for that matter, and also for those who use the term “redneck” in a nonbelligerent manner.

    In another historical parallel, a popular figure in early twentieth century entertainment was the Toby, a red-headed, freckle faced traveling show character that hated sin, loved mother, home, and heaven, and was natively bright, if uneducated. He was so loved by rural audiences that a whole sub-genre of Toby theatre grew out of the traveling show medium.

    To these rural audiences, he represented their culture in caricature in response to the same encroaching threats to their regional culture. And by regional culture I do not simply mean the Confederate flag or racism, but a particular brand of religiousness, a folk heritage, and an economic way of life that the industrial revolution was swiftly changing (after a relatively stable, and long, period of time when the south was predominantly agricultural).

    Good stuff.

    Anyone interested in further exploring such aspects of Southern culture will find a terrific resource here, affiliated with my undergraduate alma mater.



    Tuesday, December 3
     
    Chris Patten vs. Richard Perle

    The two made clear their differing perspectives in a transcript at FrontPage magazine.com. (The transcript is of a symposium discussion in Prague from October. The Trilateral Commission sponsored the event.)

    Patten fervently made the case for multilateralism. And he bluntly criticized neoconservatives and U.S. “unilateralism.”

    Perle’s point-by-point rebuttal of claims by Patten makes for a good read. After Patten said that Europeans are striving to be an ally but also to serve as a “counterweight” to American power, Perle responded that such an approach hardly seemed evidence of a European desire to be an ally of the United States.

    Among Perle’s other comments:

    Chris Patten said “We must work through the United Nations.” I'm very troubled at the idea that the United Nations is the solely legitimizing institution when it comes to the use of force.

    Why the United Nations? Is the United Nations better able to confirm legitimacy than, say, a coalition of liberal democracies? Does the addition of members of the UN, like China for example, or Syria, add legitimacy to what otherwise might be the collective policy of countries that share our values? I don't think so. It is a dangerous trend to consider that the United Nations, a weak institution at best, an institution that includes a very large number of nasty regimes, is somehow better able to confirm legitimacy than institutions like the European Union or NATO.

    Chris puts a great deal of stock in containment and the rule-book. To be sure, there are situations in which containment is an entirely appropriate policy. And we all wish there was a rule-book that was adhered to by everyone. But there are those who break the rules, we know that, and containment is not always effective. ...

    And by the way, it might be worth some time looking back at the history and results of the Arms Control agreements of the Cold War. We now know that the Soviet Union had 50,000 nuclear weapons, 20,000 more than we ever knew. They hid far more weapons than were ever subject to limitation in the course of those negotiations. ...

    When we talk about unilateralism, let's remember German unilateralism. How else should one interpret Chancellor Schroeder's position that not only would Germany not participate, but even if the United Nations conducted an operation against Iraq, Germany wouldn't participate in that? Is that not unilateralism? What about French unilateralism?

    There's plenty of unilateralism in the world. No one much likes it and it's a tragedy if the United States, in defending itself and in defending the common values of all of us, is driven to acting alone, or nearly alone.

    Perle also made a useful distinction between multilateralism and "globalism." The latter he characterized pejoratively, saying it was the agenda of the Clinton administration and remains the guiding star strategically for the pro-ICC, pro-Kyoto band of diplomats and activists.



     
    ‘Our relationships with them are fundamentally changing ... ’

    Peter Ross Range, editor of Blueprint (the magazine of the Democratic Leadership Council) recently returned from a trip to Germany. In an article in the new edition of the magazine, he describes a growing gap between Germans and Americans in regard to foreign policy:

    ... most Europeans, still don't get the post-9/11 world. They did not experience the transformative moment that so profoundly changed America. And, absent an attack on their own soil, they're not likely to share America's fundamentally altered notion of national security any time soon.

    Most Europeans, and Germans in particular, still see the world through a pre-9/11 lens. ...

    Americans perceive themselves to be at war. Germans see the war as something that may still come, and they want to avoid it at almost any cost. "To us, war means Dresden," one Greens Party politician told me. (He was born long after the firebombing of Dresden.) In Germany, that trumps any further discussion. ...

    It's important to remember that Germans, like most Europeans, have no worldwide foreign policy. They have some global aspirations, such as permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council, but they have no global vision. Instead, they have interests, they have relationships, and they have a strong notion of process — of how nations should ideally relate to one another (mainly through international institutions). But they have little developed sense of power and its uses ...

    One way to know that Germans still don't get 9/11 is that they often couch their opposition to firm action in Iraq in terms that are more anti-Bush than anti-American. During a long string of conversations in Berlin at election time, my interlocutors always veered quickly from Iraq into a string of Bush administration decisions that they hate: rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, U.S. withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, last year's new steel tariffs. ...

    But what does any of this have to do with going to war against Saddam Hussein? The answer is nothing. Yet the Germans seem unable to distinguish between objectionable environmental and trade policies and desirable security policies. They bundle them all together, and seem to give them equal weight. ...

    In Berlin, I often asked Germans how they would feel about Iraq if the president were named Clinton or Gore, and had supported Kyoto and the ICC, but still had the same Iraq policy as Bush. Almost all said: "Oh, that would be different." They've confused the messenger with the message; their problem is Bush, when it should be Saddam Hussein.

    Despite their preoccupation with Bush, it is nonetheless true that there's latent anti-Americanism in the German body politic. Its most explicit form is the reflexive rejection by the left of certain American values, economic realities, and lifestyle preferences — which they derisively label "American conditions," now a negative political code word in Germany. ...

    Such misperceptions are driving a wedge between the United States and its friends in Europe. Our relationships with them are fundamentally shifting, and will probably never be quite the same again.

    His description seems right on the mark. European naivete and prejudices continue to present huge complications for a realistic U.S. diplomacy.

    Over the long term, though, the United States is going to need allies. The current America-as-hegemon environment isn’t likely to last; even the seemingly intractable Cold War conflict eventually evaporated. In coming decades, other centers of power will arise in the world. Sure, the United States is likely to remain the dominant power, and thankfully so. But over time it would hardly be a surprise if we saw slippage in our ability to convince or coerce other governments. And we could well face problems in exercising our sovereignty to use military force, given the way some NGOs and diplomats are working to reshape international law.

    Range's article ends by saying it might take an attack of catastrophic terrorism on European soil before the Germans and other Continentals awaken to the geopolitical reality. Unfortunately, he's probably right about that too. And even then, many would probably find a way to put the blame on U.S. foreign policy.

    Update: Porphyrogenitus ably pulls together observations on the Euro-American loggerheads topic, at Ranting Screeds.



     
    Canada and the R-word

    When I asked the other day whether Canada has rednecks, Canadian blogger Colby Cosh rolled his eyes at the very question. In a post he titled “Sheesh, did he really ask that?” he wrote:

    Boy,
    this is a disconcerting question, even coming from an American. Any Canadian can tell you immediately what province Canada’s rednecks are in. The word may actually be more common in this country than it is in the U.S.; there is at least some kind of cultural stigma attached to hatred of the American South, but very little, in Canada, attached to hatred of the blue-eyed sheiks.

    Of course, this use of the word "redneck" is really slightly inappropriate, since it's their affluence Albertans are resented for, not their poverty. Here's an entire two-part radio documentary on Canada's rednecks.


    I got the link to the radio documentary to work once. But in subsequent checks I found that the CBC kept redirecting me to another URL.

    Cosh also links to an article that talks about the promotional use of the term “redneck” in Alberta:

    ... the Globe and Mail [in July 1994] ran on its front page the bemused headline "Albertans proud to stick out their red necks." Since then, countless Alberta businesses have flocked to pitch products to a ready-made niche market. A Calgary stockbroker recorded "The Red Neck Song" in 1995, perhaps while wearing Edmonton-made Redneck Jeans. An Edmonton air traffic controller opened two Rednecks Haircut Emporiums for guys who "hate the smell of hairspray and perm solution." The Regency Hotel in Edmonton opened up a red-meat-laden Redneck Buffet. Now comes what may be the best marketing fit of all: redneck beer. ...

    In 1999, Canadian commentator Judy Rebick used the term “redneck” as an epithet to insult Preston Manning, then-leader of the Progressive Conservatives. In an essay titled “The real Preston stood up,” Rebick wrote: “The United Alternative is dead. Long live bigotry and intolerance, Preston Manning seemed to be saying in his very long response to the Throne Speech. The real Preston Manning finally stood up. ... Manning demonstrated what the Progressive Conservative leadership has always known. Underneath that civil reserve lies a good old-fashioned Alberta redneck. As has been widely reported, Manning returned to what the media is calling "core Reform values." Anti-immigration, anti-Charter of Rights and Freedoms, anti-gay and lesbian families, and, most surprising, a call for ‘defining the rights of the unborn.’ ”

    A Calgary resident responded to her column this way:

    Preston Manning knows how to read us "redneck" (out here many of us treat that as the compliment I'm sure it is) Westerners. ...

    As far as Western intolerance is concerned, Central and Eastern Canada are going to have to get used to the fact that the fastest growing, most politically active and financially strong area of Canada will no longer tolerate things as they are. We created a party that became the official opposition within 10 years. We will not rest until it is in power.

    Another Calgary resident was pointed in rebuking Rebick’s use of “redneck”:

    ... Second, shame on you, especially as you are sooo tolerant and have been granted a national medium for your thoughts, for perpetuating a myth and a stereotype regarding the political beliefs of Albertans. It is an extremely cheap and lazy way to discount any ideas, good or bad, which come out of the mouth of someone that happens to live in my province.


    Rebick eventually felt compelled to try to mend fences. In a message addressed to her readers, she wrote:

    Obviously some people in Alberta were offended by my calling Preston Manning an Alberta redneck.

    I did not intend to suggest that everyone in Alberta is a redneck. If someone called me a Toronto pinko, I wouldn't think that they meant that everyone in Toronto is a pinko.

    I know lots of progressive people in Alberta, where I have spent a lot of time over the years. I also know that a number of people in Alberta wear the title "redneck' with pride. I even saw bumper stickers all over the University of Calgary saying "redneck and proud of it."

    We've got our share of rednecks in Ontario too. It's not an issue of what province they come from. It's the politics I object to.

    When I first expressed puzzlement last week at the use of “redneck” in the Canadian context, I had no idea about the term’s familiar use north of the border. It feels good to have my ignorance reduced, even if by only a smidgen, given its overall magnitude.

    By the way: Readers here in the Midlands might be interested in the results from Google searches for “Nebraska rednecks” and “Iowa rednecks.”

    And: In a post below, I note that a good friend is chiding me for being too flippant in using the term “redneck,” given its frequent use as a slur against blue-collar Southerners. He has a point. I’ve been casual in using the term here and loosened up even further after reading the Colby Cosh post.



    Monday, December 2
     
    Genetics, monsters and patent law

    I linked the other day to an article about how anti-technology radical Jeremy Rifkin and biologist Stuart Newman are hoping to block human cloning by trying to get a patent for a “chimera,” a part-animal/part-human monstrosity. Roger Sweeny did some digging and e-mailed me additional info for which I'm grateful. Roger writes:

    The patent that Rifkin and Newman filed for was not for a chimera itself but for 3 techniques that might be able to be used to form a chimera. Actually, I think the application is for these 3 techniques when they are used to form a human chimera (which, however, they have not been used for). There is undoubtedly some technical patent law here. A patent can be granted only for something that is "new, useful, and non-obvious." Existing things can be combined in "new, useful, and non-obvious ways" and still be patentable, but just what the standards are is something I don't know. I gather from some of the things I read that these are all existing techniques, and the Patent and Trademark Office said they did not meet the standards of novelty.

    The patent application was rejected in 1999. What's going on now must be part of the appeals process.

    Another reason given for rejecting the patent was that it would involve patenting humans, and the PTO has a policy against that.

    “Regarding whether you can patent something you haven't actually done yet,” Roger writes, “the answer seems to be ‘maybe.’ ” From a link Roger provided to a June 1998 article in AgBiotechNet:

    In many countries, for example the UK and Germany, the creation of chimaeric embryos containing human cells is already banned. In countries where it is not expressly prohibited, a combination of scientific difficulties and ethical reluctance has constrained researchers from conducting such research. Rifkin and Newman have exploited the fact that, in the United States, where no such law exists, a patent application need not be based on an actual experiment, but can be based merely on the description of a hypothetical experiment, provided the patent office can be persuaded of its credibility.

    According to Pat Coyne, one of Washington-based lawyers that filed the patent, there is no need to have actually carried out the experiment, providing the idea meets the standard criteria for patentability. ... If the patent application is rejected by the US Patent and Trademark Office, Rifkin and Stewart are committed to take their claim through the full legal appeals process, including if necessary to the Supreme Court, in order to generate a detailed debate on the extent to which human life is patentable. Rejection by the court would also have important implications for any other patent application on techniques in the same field. ...

    Charles Van Horn, a Washington attorney who until 1988 directed the patent office's biotechnology examining group, said unusual applications like Newman's are traditionally held to a high standard of proof of feasibility. So Newman may not get very far without actually making some human chimaeras. ... The process of dealing with initial comments from the US Patent Office, and if necessary contesting legal decisions through various stages, is likely to take several years. During this time, as a patent applicant, Rifkin will have the legal standing to comment on similar applications made by others. Given this prospect, many in the biotechnology industry are viewing the application and the publicity campaign it is intended to stimulate as frivolous and irritating at best, and potentially disruptive at worst.

    Roger also pointed out a detailed examination of the issue in Policy Review as well as a recent essay on the subject by Charles Colson.

    Thanks much, Roger.



     
    School days

    Thirteen female teachers from Afghanistan just left the Omaha area after visiting schools and other sites here for five weeks. A chart in the Omaha World-Herald, where I work, compared some of the conditions between schools here and schools in Afghanistan. None of the information will be surprising, but I wanted to mention it anyway:

  • Classrooms:

    Nebraska: Climate-controlled with desks for teachers and students.
    Afghanistan: Some classes meet in tents or buildings without roofs; teachers lack desks, tables, chairs.

  • Technology:

    Nebraska: Computers in classrooms and many students’ homes. Video networks link rural classrooms to teachers in foreign languages and other specialty classes.
    Afghanistan: Few computers in country.

  • Teacher pay:

    Nebraska: Average salary, $36,236.
    Afghanistan: In rural provinces, some teachers have worked up to six months without pay.

  • Class size:

    Nebraska: Statewide student-teacher ratio: 13.7.
    Afghanistan: Classes commonly have more than 60 students.

  • Lunch:

    Nebraska: Schools serves lunch and sometimes breakfast, subsidized for poor students.
    Afghanistan: Schools don’t serve lunch.




  •  
    An insulting term

    A good friend, and a dedicated student of Southern history and culture, sent me an e-mail today:

    Personally, I think that the word "redneck" is offensive because it is an insult hurled at people because of their social class, educational level, etc etc. in a way that would be absolutely forbidden if it were directed at any other class of people in America. The fact that some people like to refer to themselves as such doesn't change my argument one iota. Some black people call themselves you know what.

    I would encourage you to ban the word from your conversation and thought. None of the people you refer to by this term had the advantages that you enjoyed growing up. Can you honestly say you would have turned out better in their shoes? I once read a very nice essay on the subject saying that poor white people were the only group in America that it was socially permissible to hate. I looked for it on the Internet but couldn't find it. So I wrote this instead, and sorry it sounds so preachy.


    As I told my friend in my response, I am well aware that the word is often used hurtfully and with precisely the type of condescension he described. So, on the one hand, it can be insensitive to casually toss about a term like "redneck" at a blog (especially at a site like this that carps about slurs against people because of the region they hail from). On the other hand, the "redneck" posts at this site began on a legitimate point. A Canadian professor attempted to slur foreign policy "realists" by saying they were displaying "red neckism." There was nothing untoward in my exploring that, not least since, in my ignorance, I'd never heard the topic mentioned before in the Canadian context.

    By the way: I discovered over the weekend that the use of "redneck" as a slur during political debate sparked an outcry in Canada several years back. I intend to post on that late tonight.



     
    Refining the meaning of 'whigger'

    A well-written e-mail I quoted below, about the ubiquity of rednecks across U.S. regions, mentioned the word "whiggers" (a term I'd never heard before), saying it was equivalent to "white trash." Archie Waugh e-mailed me today saying that whiggers are not white trash, however, but instead are "white, usually middle-class, youths who emulate black 'gangsta' types. "

    Other points made by Archie Waugh:

    Ever see the Quentin Tarentino movie "True Romance"? Gary Oldman played the scariest "whigger" ever in that one. On a more humorous note, check out this webpage, a very clever spoof of the whigger phenomenon.


    Great stuff. This is exactly why I started a blog site.

    Not only have I been ignorant about "whiggers"; I have also been ignorant about Canadian rednecks. I got some interesting info on that topic over the weekend but my schedule was so scrambled I had no time to post on it or hardly anything else. I intend to post the Canadian redneck info tonight.




     
    More on talk radio

    From an e-mail today sounding a different reaction in regard to the talk radio debate:

    I have to say that in regard to talk radio, I feel like I'm in Wonderland. I don't think Daschle's comments regarding Rush Limbaugh were politically astute, but he hardly went out on a limb in making them.

    Where I take issue with Limbaugh is in his assertions that "liberals" have no greater agenda other than the accumulation of power and the control of people's lives. The few times I have listened to him he has said words to the effect --
    these people don't think like you and I do. His commentary is laced with insinuations that "liberals" have little or no love of their nations and its traditions; that they mock common American values; that they are, in fact, engaged in an insidious plot to undermine American freedoms.

    Now the nature of politics is that we disagree on policies and lawmaking, but I find it distasteful to encourage people to view those with whom they might disagree as evil
    people.

    I have had the opportunity to meet with a fair number of politicians and, whether they be liberal or conservative, by and large I have found they base their actions on what they believe is in the best interests of their constituencies, as they see it. (I will leave aside the influence of lobbyists in creating special interest legislation, since both sides are guilt of this).

    The saving grace is that like so many others before him, Limbaugh, too, will fade away. And, of course, there will someone else to take his place.




    Saturday, November 30
     
    Loathing Kissinger

    I can understand why the selection of Henry Kissinger to head the 9/11 investigative commission has come under some vehement criticism, especially from the political left. What’s curious to me, though, is that I well remember Kissinger’s appointment by Ronald Reagan in 1983 to head a bipartisan commission on Central American policy, and the response to Kissinger’s selection then wasn’t anywhere nearly as outraged as the blasts sounded against him this week.

    In ’83, Reagan’s aides acknowledged upfront that the president had tapped Kissinger because he was the best-known foreign policy figure in the nation and it was felt that his name would lend the desired gravitas to the commission’s findings (which, as it turned out, endorsed the administration’s policy, even, after sharp internal debate, to the point of endorsing Reagan’s contra policy).

    It seems likely that the Bush administration picked Kissinger for the new commission for a similar reason.

    Kissinger is like the CIA in a curious respect: Both draw heated fire from both the foreign-policy left and the foreign-policy right. That was especially the case during the Cold War years. When the Reagan administration announced in ’83 that Kissinger would be heading the Central America commission, I can well remember the distaste and consternation sounded by Jesse Helms, who was heavily involved in policy in the region. The North Carolinian had long expressed deep distress over Kissinger’s policy of detente with the Soviets and thawing relations with the Chinese.

    The passion with which various commentators denounced Kissinger this week reminded me of the sharp, even embittered, criticisms leveled at Richard Nixon by old-time liberals at the time of his death. I’m not at all minimizing the affronts to the Constitution done by Nixon and his henchmen as far as Watergate. My point, rather, is how some people seem to retain -- indeed, seem determined to hold onto -- a burning anger against a particular public figure (Alger Hiss, Joe McCarthy, Nixon, Kissinger) long after they have passed from positions of power in Washington.

    Sure, anger over public policies can be warranted. But the sort of long-term personal loathing displayed toward Kissinger and the others can hardly be healthy. It's beyond me why some people don't understand that they can stay true to their political values without surrendering to bitterness.



    Wednesday, November 27
     
    Yes, Canada has rednecks; so do California and Minnesota and ...

    I asked in a post this week, "Does Canada have rednecks?" I received a marvelous response from Kevin Trainor, of Minneapolis. He writes:

    Having been back and forth across America a number of times in my life, I can wholeheartedly agree that there are rednecks everywhere, in both the pejorative and merely descriptive senses of the word. (By way of clarification, let me say that I have always understood "redneck" in the way Lewis Grizzard defines the term in "My Daddy Was A Pistol, And I'm A Son Of A Gun" and not in the way Jeff Foxworthy abuses the term in his "comedy". The proper term for the folks Foxworthy pokes fun at are "white trash", or as some urban blacks say, "whiggers".)

    You can find rednecks all over the place in farm country, and as that ignorant Boston woman mentioned in the WaPo piece implied, in the military as well. I have met plenty of rednecks in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and the Dakotas, to say nothing of the rest of the Grain Belt states stretching east to Ohio, and have also met them in California and Texas, though down there they tend to speak Spanish and prefer menudo and tamales to chicken-fried steak with gravy. I don't find it at all remarkable that there would be rednecks in Canada -- my grandfather on my daddy's side came from a family of potato farmers in Prince Edward Island, and I figure you can't get much more redneck than that.

    I guess it all depends on how tightly you want to define the term. If all you require is that someone do manual labor, love country music and drive an American truck in preference to a Volvo, then sure, you can find rednecks in all manner of places you wouldn't have expected them. On the other hand, you could add enough ethnic and regional qualifiers in so as to exclude anyone except white boys from the Old South. I hold with the former, and even though I'm an accountant who drives a Kia Sportage I think my upbringing and values qualify me as a redneck.

    You can take the boy out of the South, but you can't get the South out of the man.

    Well-conceived and well-said.



     
    Jeremy Rifkin’s chimera

    Jeremy Rifkin, the old New Leftist who has been preaching radical Luddite views for years now, is pursuing a plan to try to short-circuit the medical use of human cloning. His strategy: file a patent for a genetically engineered half-human, half-animal creation.

    An article in Legal Affairs magazine, tells how Rifkin has teamed up with biologist Stuart Newman to propose the creation of a “chimera”:

    Five years ago, he submitted a patent application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a chimera, a creature that would be made by melding human and animal embryos. Concoctions included the huMouse, a mixture of man and mouse; the humanzee, a cross between a human and chimpanzee; and blends of human with pig and human with baboon.

    The chimeras' real purpose, however, is their shock value. If the notion of human-ape half-breeds rising from the laboratory makes your stomach churn and your mind reel, then the monsters are serving their creator's subversive goals. ... It took a few years for all the pieces to come together; in December 1997, Newman and Rifkin jointly submitted their application to the patent office.

    Neither man has any intention of actually making a chimera. Instead, by applying for a patent the pair hopes to prevent anyone else from making one. If the patent office says that human-animals like these blends can't be patented, the decision will block other similar applications. If the chimera application succeeds, then anyone who wants to make one will have to apply to Newman and Rifkin for a license for the 20-year life of the patent. "If we lose, everyone else has to lose," Rifkin says. "If we win, we lock it up."

    Sounds a little too pat to me.



     
    Blue-state blues; Lindsey’s wisdom; taxing the poor; African entrepreneurs

    It’s the night before a holiday and my time is limited. Here are some short takes on various topics:

  • Lott of hot air: Last night I noted Trent Lott’s slap at blue-state America. Matthew Yglesias says he’s tired of all the bashing of blue-state America and praise for the “heartland.” Hey, perfectly understandable reaction, although as my post also mentioned, the South comes in for more than its share of condescension from critics. And folks in the heartland took a drubbing from Paul Krugman (named the other day by Editor & Publisher as its columnist of the year) in a column he did a few months ago. On the lighter side, my friend and inspiration Madeleine Begun Kane has composed some lyrics that are less than flattering to Mississippian Lott.

  • A trustworthy voice: What a good feeling it was this week to read a short wire story about Bush’s tariff proposal and, not long afterward, see that Brink Lindsey had posted a fine analysis of the initiative at his blog. (Plus, Thomas Friedman's latest column quotes from Brink's recent NRO series on the "barbarian" threat.)

  • Rich and poor: Kevin Drum of CalPundit rallies around E.J. Dionne’s call to stand up to the WSJ’s complaints about the level of taxation on low-income people.

  • Hope for Africa: Austin Bay isn’t only an expert on military affairs. He also has direct experience in economic development issues in Africa, from where he recently returned. His latest column examines the positive potential for African entrepreneurs at the small-scale level. (“I spent two weeks in Kenya and Uganda examining several micro-development and aid programs,” Austin writes. “Micro-development attracted me a decade ago as a means of slipping capital into developing nations beneath what I dubbed 'the corruption horizon.' ")




  •  
    Brits display the flag

    I’m just about out of time tonight, so I’ll have to wait till later in the week to write about additional aspects of the Confederate battle flag.

    I will pass along a great flag-related anecdote that an old North Carolina friend e-mailed me on Tuesday:

    Do you remember the Clash, an English punk band? "Rock the casbah" was their biggest US hit. Anyway, they had a very left-wing slant to their music, going on about 3rd world rights and American imperialism and the rest, and liked to call themselves rebels in that sense. They came to the US for a tour in 1982 or so and I saw them in Atlanta. They had these huge Confederate flags draped
    over their amps, one on each side of the stage.

    My theories (no particular order):

    1. They were naive Brits. Rebels? Sure, we're rebels. Put up the flags!

    2. In your face: We dare you to make an issue out of it. (The Sex Pistols used Nazi imagery like this, for shock value alone, to scare the bourgeoisie.)

    3. They were snookered. All these good old boys were going tee hee hee as they put up the flags. ("THIS'll get them in trouble with their trendy New York friends!")

    I like theory 3 the best although number 1 is probably it. I was a big fan at the time and wanted so to tell 'em that they had it all wrong. Looking back, I only smile -- at them -- and me.



     
    Rules are OK, but remember the example of Charles Mingus

    Posts by Eugene Volokh (here and here) have spurred useful discussion at his site about writing style. I’ll toss in a few observations of my own on the subject.

    A distinction can be made between writing that is straightforward and to the point and writing has a sense of style, of elevation of technique. Either one of those can serve the purpose of communicating one’s ideas effectively. The latter, however, adds a vital element of playfulness that, in my view, should be the goal of an ambitious writer.

    If the goal is the more practical one of (merely) eliminating poorly conceived writing, I would recommend a first principle given me by a mentor and close friend: Clear writing is possible only from clear thinking.

    So, to straighten out a poor writing style requires first straightening out one’s thinking -- strengthening the way one makes connections of logic, for example, or the way one explains the context of a question. Unless that fundamental step is taken, all a writer’s studying of rules of grammar or copying of stylistic flourishes may accomplish little.

    I generally shy away from recommending that effective writing, let alone eloquent writing, must follow certain rules of style. The jazz bassist Charles Mingus was once praised by a reviewer in Down Beat magazine, for example, for his genius in knowing when to play the wrong note. A skilled writer, similarly, will develop a sense about when it is appropriate to ignore certain stylistic “rules” in crafting individual sentences.

    That said, I’ll mention some ideas that may be helpful to some people:

  • Be mindful that the most important parts of a sentence are its beginning and ending. So, if you want to emphasize a certain point or word, don’t sandwich it in the middle of the sentence where it will lose its power.

  • A related point: Beginning a sentence with a dependant clause generally isn’t a way to attract a reader’s attention. My point isn’t that such a usage should be avoided altogether. But it should be used sparingly and only when helpful in conveying the point.

  • Hunt for ways to split long, complex sentences into two separate sentences.

  • Active verbs are generally more effective than passive verbs. I don’t flinch from using the passive voice, however, if it allows me to put just the right word at the end of the sentence, to give it the desired whip crack. (Same thing with dependant clauses: If you need to start your sentence with one to serve a larger purpose, have no regrets about it.)

  • Look at your paragraph and see if most, if not all, of the sentences start with “the.” If so, the paragraph has a good chance of being dull as hell.

  • Imagine that you absolutely have to trim your post or essay by 10 percent. Such pruning almost invariably will lead a writer to find more concise, and often more effective, ways of phrasing things.

  • Strive to develop a sense of cadence. Look for ways to vary the length of sentences over the course of a paragraph or set of paragraphs. An essay that features one long, complicated sentence after another will tend to lack the power of a composition that includes a few short sentences, or ones with an unusual structure, punctuating the rhythm of the language.

  • Once a writer gains a minimal level of competence, my main recommendation is simply to work on developing one’s voice, using whatever style one feels most comfortable with -- provided that that style amplifies, rather than muddles, one's message.



    Tuesday, November 26
     
    Does Canada have rednecks?

    I saw two cheap shots against Southerners today.

    First (as was pointed out by an e-mail correspondent of mine), Glenn Reynolds this morning quoted a Washington Post article by the father of a Marine describing the disapproval from other New England parents toward his son’s decision to go into the Marines:

    John's enlisting was unexpected, so deeply unsettling. I did not relish the prospect of answering the question "So where is John going to college?" from the parents who were itching to tell me all about how their son or daughter was going to Harvard. At the private high school John attended, no other students were going into the military.

    "But aren't the Marines terribly Southern?" asked one perplexed mother while standing next to me at the brunch following graduation. "What a waste, he was such a good student," said another parent.

    “Terribly Southern” -- what is she trying to say? That the Southern mindset is reflexively uncouth, crude, backward, racist?

    Sure, the U.S. military subculture reflects values of a certain Southern traditionalism, such as “honor,” duty and bare-fisted machismo. But do you really think that’s all the woman was referring to?

    Then, this afternoon, I got a message from a diplomatic history listserv in which a Canadian slathered on the condescension in talking about neoconservatives. After defining what he claimed were the core principles of neoconservatives, he wrote:

    These can also be seen as attitudes, because they are not in fact the visible product of scholarly or scientific study, and only marginally of ratiocination. They are more akin to "gut feelings". ...

    The problem is not just what some might call "red neckism," (or more properly simple ignorance) the problem is also with the desperation which such attitudes are likely to produce. When foreign policy becomes more the product of attitudes, or emotions, and less that of rational calculation there then arises an absolutely central question: what limits and what restraints will those driven by "gut feelings" accept? Do they accept constitutional or legal restraints? Do they respect world opinion? I am afraid the answers are absolutely clear. ...

    First, it’s ironic to see a left-wing professor accusing people on the right of the very same sin Rush Limbaugh and countless bloggers claim is fundamental to liberals: that they let their hearts control their minds.

    Second, it’s interesting to hear a Canadian use the word “redneck.” Through what cultural filtering, I wonder, does a Canadian come to know the term “redneck”?

    I once heard a co-worker who had lived in various places around the United States say that every American region has its rednecks, in a broad cultural sense. I’m not well-traveled enough to make a judgment on that claim, but I’ve long found it fascinating. Here in Nebraska, the killers of Teena Brandon, whose murder was depicted in the movie “Boys Don’t Cry,” came from a gritty blue-collar subculture that could qualify as a prairie variant of redneckism.

    By the way: To be fair, I also heard a conservative Republican take a cheap shot at the blue states this week. From a Washington Post article Tuesday:

    Senate Majority Leader-elect Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said most of the country is hungry for policies that discourage abortions and encourage churches and other groups to help families.

    "The only places where these ideas are considered bad are on the two coasts," Lott said in an interview last week. "Where the meat is in the sandwich, the rest of America, these are pretty mainstream ideas."

    Lott is talking as if the “two coasts” are relatively insignificant demographically and politically -- as if the areas along the Atlantic and Pacific had been magically reduced in population to 17th century levels. It's legitimate to criticize the left-leaning blue-state mentality on honest policy grounds. But it's silly to act as if opposition from "only" the two coasts can be blithely dismissed as of little consequence.



    Monday, November 25
     
    The colors

    This week I’m posting a series of items about the Confederate battle flag, given that The New Republic has an article this week about the role that public agitation over the flag played in this year’s gubernatorial contest in Georgia. I’m looking at various historical aspects of the flag; the lead-off post is here. My personal view is that displays of the flag on public property should be banned -- the flag is too divisive a symbol, irredeemably tainted by its association with white racism.

    That doesn’t mean, however, that study of the “Rebel flag,” and of the symbolic power of flags in general, is without value. As I noted in the lead-off post, for time in the 1950s, the Confederate battle flag was flown in many non-Southern states as an innocuous commercialized emblem, devoid of racist connotations.

    In 1995, I put together a newspaper project on the Confederate battle flag. To provide context about the importance of the flag in the military subculture for everyday Confederate soldiers, I interviewed Mickey Black, a North Carolinian with an intense devotion to studying American history across all periods. Black, who is a student of Civil War banners, ably explained how the Confederate battle flag fit into the military cultural context of its day.

    “In the middle of a battle you couldn’t hear,” Black said. “You could hear a drum. You could hear a fife. You probably couldn’t hear a man yell a command. But you could see the colors.”

    He continued: "When you put a thousand men shoulder to shoulder in private ranks, you have to be able to tell where you are. The point of reference has to be something -- the flag. If the flag advanced, so did you. Day in and day out, you’d go where the flag was."

    Each day commenced by lining up soldiers and parading the flag -- “the colors” -- before them. Each day ended with a repeat of the ritual.

    The battle flag, Black said, “was the first thing they saw in the morning, and the last thing they saw at night. ... To soldiers, it was as revered as much as the cause they fought for.”

    During the chaos and clamor of battle, few goals were more critical than maintaining control of the colors, and few were more exhilarating than capturing those of the enemy. The soldiers who were selected to hold the flag, the color guard, received a high honor -- and braved great danger.

    On the first day of Gettysburg, Black noted, the 26th North Carolina Regiment locked in combat with the 24th Michigan Regiment. Before the fighting ended, the regimental colors for the North Carolinians had fallen 14 times. Each time, a Confederate stepped forward to pick up the banner and raise it aloft.

    My father’s paternal grandfather was a private in Company E of the North Carolina 57th Regiment. In battle, I’ve read, Company E stood closest to the regimental colors.

    The Confederate battle flag was known officially as the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) battle flag. Over the course of the war, it became the battle standard for most Confederate units.

    John Coski, a historian with the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, has written, “Someone gazing down the line of a Confederate army during any battle of the war was likely to see a variety of battle flag patterns and national flags employed as battle flags, but all drowned in a sea of ANVs.”

    Later this week: Confederate graves in Nebraska. Comments from Shelby Foote on Southerness. And the power of flag symbolism in countries around the globe.



     
    Symbol of backwardness, or a symbol of pride

    A consistently thoughtful e-mail correspondent of mine, responding to my Monday posts on the Confederate battle flag, noting the huge generational difference within his family as far as attitudes toward the flag:

    My father, a Southerner born in 1921, considered the flag to be virtually co-equal with the national flag. I remember him commenting that there ought to be a law against defacing a Confederate flag. My son, also a Southerner but born in 1985, has never known a time when the Confederate flag did not represent atavistic attitudes. This past summer we visited Gettysburg and, while walking around the Virginia monument noticed several dozen small Confederate battle flags stuck in the ground at its base. My son saw them and then commented, "Looks like a bunch of rednecks came by and put flags here." His was not a political statement; he had just never seen that flag in any other context.

    When I put together a set of articles about the Confederate battle flag in 1995 for a North Carolina newspaper, I solicited reader comments to include in the project. Almost all the responses were generally favorable to the flag. This comment was one of the few critical ones, and also one of the most vivid:

    I see the Confederate flag flying as antagonistic to minorities. We have one flag, and that’s the American flag. In the South, in my hometown, when I see the Confederate flag flying, I feel a little bit afraid, afraid of the reaction which its purposes cause.

    Most of the reader comments were couched in terms of “Heritage, not hate,” a phrase frequently used by Southern Civil War antiquarians who attempt to distinguish between the flag’s symbolic connection to regional identity and its appropriation by racists as an emblem of white supremacy. Among those letters:

  • The Rebel flag simply means to me that I’m a Southerner, and it shows respect for my ancestors who served the South during the war, and that’s all it means.

  • I am embarrassed by the flying of the Confederate battle flag for the purpose of flaunting racist beliefs. ... Despite these negatives, all of the flags of the Confederate states hold a place in my heart as well as for those who can appreciate the valor and courage Southern troops displayed in their fight for independence. While slave use in the South should be considered one of the darkest hours of our country’s brief history, it should not tarnish the valiant efforts of the men who fought overwhelming odds in hellish conditions, whom this flag represents.

  • This flag represents Southern heritage, not hate or slavery. ... This flag today represents more than a symbol. It represents a people who were defeated by numerical superiority but were never defeated in spirit.

  • ... many members of my family fought for the independence of our beloved Southland ... none of them were slaveowners. One of them fought and was wounded and captured at Gettysburg. Three of them were in the Fifth North Carolina Cavalry, with one being captured and dying in the terrible Yankee prison at Point Lookout, Maryland. ... When I see the flag or hear “Dixie,” I am reminded of the pride and love I have for North Carolina and the South, where my family has been since this was a British colony. I am reminded that the South is a place, while North is just a direction out of the South.




  •  
    Pretty cushy job

    Dahlia Lithwick, Slate’s catty Supreme Court reporter, claims that service on the nation’s high court isn’t so stressful:

    Consider, also, that these people do not exactly work coal miner's hours. The justices of the high court listen to arguments for 12 hours a month, six months a year-the functional equivalent of three days down a coal mine. The rest of their time is devoted to deciding which meager 80 cases they'll hear all year, how they'll vote, and writing opinions -- for which a good deal of the research and drafting is done by law clerks who never sleep or eat. In sum, a Supreme Court justiceship is a dream job for anyone over the age of 80 or under the age of 7. ... Almost five years ago, my colleague David Plotz assessed the chief justice and tried to answer the speculation raging back then as to whether a Rehnquist retirement was imminent. His conclusion: Why would he possibly want to retire? "Every year he has less work to do. He's made sure of that. The efficient justice arrives at the court around 9 and leaves by 3 -- what other job in Washington has such sweet hours?"

    The current court term involves such a bland set of cases, Lithwick argues, that it’s doubtful Rehnquist would retire this year. He would prefer to go out on a note of triumph, she says.



     
    Intellectual cross-pollination

    Robert Samuelson writes an op-ed column about the German economy. I write a post about it. Jim Bennett, a columnist for UPI, e-mails me some thoughts in response. I post them. Jim refines them and turns them into his column for this week.

    This blogosphere thing can be quite interesting.



     
    Since Friday

    For those who haven’t seen the site since Friday, there is a ton of new stuff. Today I kick off a set of posts on the Confederate flag; the posts on that topic will continue for several days.

    Among other topics addressed here over the weekend: tax cuts, asbestos litigation, two recent books I highly recommend, and Michael Jackson’s “children.”



     
    The surprising Confederate flag

    During the U.S. assault on Okinawa in the spring of 1945, American forces struggled for 30 days to dislodge the Japanese from Shuri Castle, a centuries-old stronghold on the island. When the castle finally fell in May, a U.S. Marines regiment rushed forward to mark the victory -- by raising the blazing red banner of the Confederate battle flag.

    The flag incident received considerable attention. The Marine captain in charge was later reprimanded. Not that the episode was unique during the war. During World War II, Southern communities sometimes sent Rebel flags to soldiers overseas.

    In 1948, Congress authorized National Guard units whose ancestor units had fought for the Confederacy to fly the Confederate flag above their regimental colors. Displays of the Confederate flag were also reported during the Korean War.

    In short, the Confederate battle flag -- the familiar, 13-starred blue cross on a red field -- has made appearances in several surprising venues -- on foreign battlefields, in European countries as a symbol of secession or just of rebellion in general, even for a time in the 1950s in many non-Southern states as part of a “flag fad” in which the banner was displayed as an innocuous commercialized emblem.

    I mention this historical side note in light of a new article in The New Republic about how the Confederate flag flap contributed to the defeat of the incumbent Democratic governor in Georgia. As I said in a post below, the Confederate battle flag, in my view, is now far too divisive a symbol to warrant inclusion in a state flag.

    The familiar “Rebel flag” I’m talking about here is officially known as the Army of Northern Virginia (AVN) battle flag. It was never the national flag of the Confederacy, nor was it called the “Stars and Bars.” The Confederacy had three national flags over the course of its existence. The first was jettisoned because it resembled the Stars and Stripes in several ways. The second was junked because it included such a large white field it gave the impression it was a flag of surrender. The third, adopted in March 1865 (only a few weeks before Lee’s surrender), featured the AVN flag symbol on a white field with a vertical red bar.

    The Confederate battle flag became associated with white supremacy during the civil rights battles of the 1950s and ’60s. As noted by a well-curated and critically praised exhibit at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond in the mid-1990s, “the flag was waved in the face of blacks at almost every major incident of the civil rights struggle.”

    One of the photos at the exhibit showed Martin Luther King Jr. at a civil rights protest in Selma, Ala., in February 1965. Standing beside him was a deputy sheriff with a Confederate flag emblem on his helmet.

    That historical exhibit was fittingly titled “Embattled Emblem.” After reading a review of the exhibit by historian Edward Ayers of the University of Virginia in 1995, I drove to Richmond to put together a newspaper project on the flag. (I was then working at a North Carolina newspaper.)

    Curiously, the flag was not always associated with such repulsive connotations. Consider this observation from the New York Times Magazine in October 1951:

    Everywhere along the Atlantic seaboard, from New York to Miami and westward into the Mississippi watershed, pert little [Confederate] banners flap in the breeze -- from car antennae, souvenir stands, bicycles or in the hands of youngster, teen-agers and grown-ups. ...

    Why do cars of Northern states which defeated the Confederacy display it? And why is it being carried by Shriners in New York jamborees, at Atlantic City beauty contests or on planes in Detroit air races?


    Interest in the Confederate battle flag as a pop culture symbol began in 1947 in connection with a college football game. Fans of the University of Virginia football team had displayed the flag in large numbers during a home game against Harvard in which UVA triumphed by a score of 47-0. The next month, when the Virginia squad traveled north for a game against Penn, the ubiquitous appearance of the flag among the visiting UVA fans piqued the curiosity of the national press, and the flag fad soon took on a life of its own.

    The flag fad died out in the late 50s, as the intensity of Southern resistance to desegregation was making itself clear. Curiously, the fad had arisen despite the fact that the Dixiecrats had displayed the Confederate flag prominently in 1948 in nominating Strom Thurmond on a state’s rights/segregationist platform.

    The embrace of the Confederate symbol during the '50s flag fad was in marked contrast to the experience in 1997, when New York Gov. George Pataki, at the urging of two black state legislators, had the Georgia state flag removed from the State Capitol because it incorporated the Confederate battle flag. The flags of the states, including Georgia, that had been the 13 original colonies had been displayed in a Capitol corridor since the late 1970s.

    As for European interest in the flag, John Coski, the curator who oversaw the “Embattled Emblem” exhibit, explained it to me this way: “There’s the chic. It’s the popularity of things American as much as it is the Confederacy. It’s seen abroad as essentially American.”

    Irredentism is a part of life in much of the world, Coski added, so it’s understandable that people in parts of Europe and other areas affected by separatist movements would take an interest in the experience of the Confederacy as well as its symbols.

    The American Civil War, he said, was the kind of event “that nations of any age, in all eras, have gone through or are presently going through. Wars over secession and disputes over what is a nation are a continuing part of history.”

    A few years later after I interviewed Coski, the 135th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg was marked, in 1998. The Civil War re-enactors who participated in the event included more than just Americans. Some of the re-enactors had flown over from Europe -- from France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden.

    By the way: In looking through my files on things Southern, I came across a lot of noteworthy items about the Confederate flag -- items, such as the info above, that stand apart from the familiar debate in recent years over the display of the flag on public property. I plan to portion the items out over the course of this week. I’ll mention two more nuggets in the posts that immediately follow, then save the rest for later.