King Kong, Le Bron

Le Bron James is the first black man to appear on the cover of Vogue Magazine.

A black talk show host was complaining about the cover, saying that Vogue was making him look like "King Kong." I saw the cover last week, it didn't even occur to me that Le Bron was being pictured as a monkey or sexual demon.

I will just point out that Gisele Bundchen looks rather happy to be in Mandingo's arms.

Clinton: Rev. Wright ‘Would Not Have Been My Pastor’

I'm sure she would have left the church in a hail of gunfire...


Kwame charged with perjury

Kwame Kilpatrick, during happier times. He was charged with perjury earlier today. I'd love to hear a sermon by Rev. Wright about the case.


Rush Limbaugh gets the "Wilder Effect" wrong

Rush Limbaugh:
That's known as the Bradley Effect or the Wilder Effect. In the case of Doug Wilder running for the governorship in Virginia, Tom Bradley running for governor of California, in pre-election polls they had huge leads, and going into Election Day it was assumed (both candidates were black) both were going to win. They both lost by sizable percentages. The pollsters decided, "We've been lied to here. People didn't want us to think that they were racist so they told us they were going to vote for Bradley or Wilder when they really had no intention of it." So it's interesting how many people are actually answering questions about Obama that way.

* The reality is that Bradley barely lost while Wilder barely won.

The Pound Cake Law

"People with their hat on backwards, pants down around the crack. Isn’t that a sign of something or are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up? Isn’t it a sign of something when she’s got her dress all the way up to the crack -- and got all kinds of needles and things going through her body. What part of Africa did this come from?"
--Bill Cosby, May 17, 2004 "Pound Cake" speech

* * *

According to the March 14 edition of the Palm Beach Post: On Tuesday, voters in Riviera Beach overwhelmingly approved a new law that would make it a crime to wear pants that show skin or underwear.

The first offense carries a $150 fine or community service. A second infraction carries a $300 fine or more community service.

There's also a crackdown in Kansas.

* * *

* Question: Is this only a problem in public schools? This sounds like another argument for school uniforms.

* It has been pointed out before that the baggy pants style comes from prison (prisoners not allowed to wear belts often walked around with their pants falling off their butts). That is a funny twist on the story, but irrelevant. The origin of a fashion (or policy) is irrelevant to whether or not it is good.

* Will the next crackdown be on girls with their thongs sticking out of their clothing?


Some of Rev. Wright's supporters

From the March 19 demonstration against the Iraq War at San Francisco’s Civic Center Park [posted by Green Little Footballs]


Obama's passport file

Keith Olberman seems to be the first to report on Maura Hardy's connection to someone in the state department looking at Obama's passport file. Long-term state department official first appointed by Reagan, Clinton ambassador, etc.

Unrelated Blast from the Past file: Feds Investigate Dems' Obtaining Steele's Credit Report

Bob Barr--Libertarian candidate?

Bob Barr may run for president, as a Libertarian. I wasn't even aware that Libertarians were going to run someone in 2008. And it won't take long to forget that Barr did run as a Libertarian...

By the way, it was great to see the photo of Bob Barr doing something I have rarely seen him do in public--smile.


Jeremiah Wright was Clinton White House guest

The Barack Obama campaign has clearly been damaged by his long-term relationship with Pastor Jeremiah Wright.

The Hillary Clinton campaign has been remarkably quiet about Barack Obama's troubles.

As the old political strategy goes: remain quiet while your enemy is committing suicide.

Here's a photo of Rev. Wright at a Clinton White House function, posted by The Politico. A photo may say 1000 words--and that's even more words than the Clinton campaign apparently has uttered about Obama and Wright.

Linked by African American Political Pundit,


Quote of the Day, 1883

"I cannot see how any honest colored man, who has brains enough to put two ideas together, can allow himself, under the notion of independence, to give aid and comfort to the Democratic Party in Ohio or elsewhere."
--Frederick Douglass, quoted in McFeeley's Frederick Douglass, p. 316.


Double Dog Daring Dellinger

Heller has been heard by the Supreme Court, now the justices will read and re-read briefs, and conference, and supposedly give us some kind of decision in June.  To reiterate my prediction:  Ban overturned, reasonable restrictions allowed, probably "rational" scrutiny of any laws, and no major effect nationally.

That said, and setting aside my concerns about the court's treatment of Miller, as something for another day, I was interested in this bit:

In addition to the handgun ban, Washington also has a trigger lock requirement for other guns that raised some concerns Tuesday.

"When you hear somebody crawling in your bedroom window, you can run to your gun, unlock it, load it and then fire?" Justice Antonin Scalia said.

Roberts, who has two young children, suggested at one point that trigger locks might be reasonable.

"There is always a risk that the children will get up and grab the firearm and use it for some purpose other than what the Second Amendment was designed to protect," he said.

On the other hand, he, too, wondered about the practical effect of removing a lock in an emergency. "So then you turn on the lamp, you pick up your reading glasses," Roberts said to laughter.

Dellinger said he opened the lock in three seconds, although he conceded that was in daylight.

Three whole seconds.  Interesting.  

So - here's my double dog dare for Walter The Gunslinger:

He gets a revolver loaded with Simunitions , equipped with a standard trigger lock.  I get to have a foam
bat covered with chalk.  I will toss, say, a thousand dollars into a pot.  I will start the scenario, as Justice Scalia stated, a decent distance away from Walter The Gunslinger, in a darkened room, with him lying down as though in bed.  My mission will be to strike him with the chalk-covered club, and we will deduct 100 dollars from the pot for each hit I make on him.  The scenario ends when he gets the trigger lock unlocked and shoots me with the paintball, and he gets the
remainder of the pot.

The catch is this - for every strike past 10, Walter The Gunslinger needs to pay me a hundred dollars, just to be fair, up to the time he unlocks the gun and shoots me.

I figure I'll pay off my student loans, my house, my car, and have enough left over to start a decent business before I run out of chalk on the foam.

C'mon, Walter, put your money where your mouth is.   I triple dog dare ya!  After all, it's just money for you - for some poor gunowner, three seconds might well be his life.

J. Underhill



Glad I'm Not A Democrat

The reason I'm glad I'm not a Democrat is simple - by the rules of the game established by their very own Liberal selves, if I don't vote for Obama, I'm a racist.  If I don't vote for Clinton, I'm a sexist.  Given that large numbers of Democrats have voted for one or the other, that can only mean that the Ds are either racist or sexist or both.  

I would say that the only solution that the Ds have to this conundrum is to find and run people like Shirley

Looking over this morning's posts, I would also note in passing that I'm envious of Casey's ability to use the word "Negro" without flinching.  I'm a product of my times, I guess, and even have difficulty suggesting people get ahold of one of the more interesting social studies out there, this book.

J. Underhill

From Magic Negro to Malcolm X

Not to say this is worth celebrating, but tomorrow will be the one year anniversary of David Ehrenstein writing a piece in the Los Angeles Times calling Barack Obama a "Magic Negro." That is, a black person who makes white people feel good.

Rush Limbaugh thought it was ridiculous. His team quickly came up with a hilarious parody, which you can download here for free (scroll to the bottom, hit "free," on the second page, "scroll down to the password, wait for the timer to expire, type in the password, then download).

Fast forward to a year later--Barack Obama is now Barack X. Is anyone questioning if he is black? Now the concern is that he will wear a Dashiki and give the Black Power salute at his inauguration. With his approval ratings in freefall because of the controversy over pastor Wright, Obama will give a major address on race. Perhaps he should try to convince folks that he really is a Magic Negro.


Under The Helicopter, Basket In Hand

It's good to be close to those on top.  Your mistakes get pushed off onto others, you get important notices before The Little Guy, and rules, by and large, do not apply to you.  Banks are concerned about
their bottom lines - what business isn't? - but have no problem getting the goods from both ends, not only a handout from the Feds, but there appears to be no trickle down to their customers from the taxpayer's...I mean, the Federal government's...generosity.

It looks like it may really be helicopter drop to get the economy moving again.  I may have to reconsider my libertarian tendencies long enough to get out a basket and see what falls in.

Or not.

Manufactured cases

My former Cato Institute colleague Bob Levy is profiled by the Associated Press for his role in the challenge to the DC gun ban.

One great thing about Levy is that he tells it like it is.

As the article quotes: And Levy freely admits the case is manufactured, not one that bubbled up by chance from the district's steady flow of criminal cases involving guns. He wanted presentable plaintiffs to make a case for gun rights, not criminals.

"We didn't want crack heads and bank robbers to be poster boys for the Second Amendment," he said.

Is there a problem with this case being manufactured? I heard a talking head on the radio complaining a while ago that this case wasn't from real DC residents, that it was from outsiders.

What's wrong with that? There may be some times that it takes an outsider to challenge an injustice or bad law. Did DC residents claim that Martin Luther King Jr. was an outsider who should have minded his own business?

And about the case being "manufactured." After Rosa Parks died, Jared Taylor wrote a piece telling the "real" Rosa Parks story. I loved the response from Jane Galt: "I mean, are you out of your mind? She could have had a marching band behind her and a faithful band of followers calling out encouragement, and what she did would still be a monument to human courage in the face of discrimination."

Plessy v. Ferguson was a test case. Rosa Parks was chosen instead of a pregnant teen (Claudette Colvin). With Brown v. Board, the clients and test states were carefully chosen. They didn't want, to steal a line from Bob Levy, criminals as plaintiffs.



Was Obama voting "present" in church, too?

1) A few months ago I suggested to an Obama supporter that I thought Obama was keeping Rev Jeremiah Wright around to fend off charges that Obama isn't black enough. After all, how could you question the blackness of a man going to the church with a pastor like Wright? In a year, Obama has gone from being "black in an unusual way" to Malcolm X.

2) The Clintons have engaged in some race baiting, but not even in their dreams would they have tied Obama to a firebrand like Rev. Wright. It would not have seemed believable that a Harvard Law graduate would be attending church of such a fool for two decades. Well, I guess Harvard Law grad Eliot Spitzer makes anything about Harvard Law School believable now...

3) Apparently it is a strategic tactic in the Illinois state senate for politicians to vote "present." Perhaps Obama was just voting "present" in church when Rev. Wright was going off.

4) The Clintons survived sex scandals, Whitewater, etc. That Obama's minister is a nut should not derail his presidency.


"self-hating blacks"

Harry Alford of the National Black Chamber of Commerce: "While there are some great Black Republicans such as General Collin Powell and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele they are vastly outnumbered by the celebrated self-hating Blacks like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, and Shelby Steele. Good solid thinking progressive capitalists (with the general philosophy of the Republican Party) who happen to be Black find themselves isolated and on the defense."

Booker T defeats WEB, again

The big "debate" a century ago among black Americans was whether blacks should focus more on economics or politics. To simplify things, it was Booker T saying that blacks needed to focus more on economic development whereas W.E.B. Dubois focused on political activism.

We can clearly put Mr. Blackonomics James Clingman on Booker T's side.

I read an enlightening e-mail by Kenneth Price that discussed the current political situation and how Black people are so emotionally invested in the upcoming presidential election. One point centered on the fact that other groups in this country are not wringing their hands about who will be president; they are not losing sleep over the next election and, in many cases, they couldn’t care less who wins. Of course, those groups to which the piece referred were busy taking care of their businesses and aggregating their resources among themselves. I know, I know; they have not been through what we have been through.

* * *

Politically, we are still on the outside looking in, at this point hoping to elect a Black president. Trent says, “Not even the election of a true Black president will solve the economic problems of Black America unless we have an agenda where the state of the Black economy is at the center of that agenda.”

Question for Anti-Illegal Immigration Activists

Radley Balko asks a great question of anti-illegal immigration activists: "If you’re adamant that you only oppose illegal immigration, then do you also support vastly expanding the number of legal visas the federal government grants to low-wage, low-skill workers (which at the moment is an exceedingly small number)?"

I've been asking anti-illegal immigration people that same question.

Booker Rising recently highlighted one of my quotes on immigration.

"As people often point out to me, I'm almost always in the minority when the issue is illegal immigration. 1) I oppose punishing private employers for hiring illegals. 2) I support taking laws against such hiring practices off the books. 3) I don't oppose laws preventing the various levels of governments from hiring illegals. 4) If the various levels of government are serious about punishing illegals, then they should prevent them from receiving government services or benefits. 5) It isn't the government's job to protect you against competition for jobs, products, spouses, etc. 6) There is no right to have a community of a certain demographic makeup. If you want your neighborhood or community to stay predominately black or predominately white, then buy up the property around you. Perhaps you need racial covenants on the houses near your home? 7) Of course, there need to be safety and health checks. To steal a line I heard from a friend: You're welcome, but don't forget to sign the guest book.

We can't count on closing the border as a way to keep competition out. There was a time that people said, 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do.' But now, we must consider, 'Rome has come to you.' Wherever you are, people are trying to sell stuff to you, buy stuff from you if you have something worth selling, trying to hire you if you have skills they want, or competing with you. If you're going to run a race, you can't train based on potential competitors being kept away from the starting or finishing line. We can't be sure what wave of people or technology is coming along, and should stop acting as if we have people in government smart enough to figure out which people should be let into the country."



Quote of the day

From a Steve Chapman column on legalizing prostitution:

"What one New Orleans mayor said applies to a segment of every human society: 'You can make prostitution illegal in Louisiana, but you can't make it unpopular.'"


On The Character Of Characters

What Casey hits on in the post below, regarding "character" and Rush's blatant misunderstanding of same, highlights the problems of people who are not terribly literate or educated (regardless of their claims) attempting to interpret 200 year old language.

I discovered this in elementary school, looking at older documents that were full of "ye" and stange looking "f" letters. Turned out that the "y" in "ye" is actually shorthand for "th," while the funny "f" is actually the equivalent of the German S-zet - a double "s."

What Adams or Madison or Hamilton (whenever Rush finally gets it right) describes in the Federalist #69 is not the "character" of the executive, but rather what today we would call "characteristics of the office of president." There is, by the way, excellent reading in there for those few still interested in comparing the current administration's actions with what Hamilton - a serious strong government type - thought the executive was allowed.

A similar problem occurs when people try to interpret the Second Amendment (A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.") and the superfluous militia clause. A "well regulated" militia does not mean one with many rules. The word "regulated" at that time meant organized and precise. The common metaphor used in regard to the Second Amendment, "A well educated Population, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and read Books, shall not be infringed." makes the point perfectly.

Finally, in regard to Casey's question about the applicability of the Federalist Papers to the Constitution, they constitute what would be known in legal circles as "legislative history." It would enable honest litigants to reach an understanding of what the original intent of the Founders was in establishing this Repbublic.

Character of the President

A couple of days ago in a conversation about Eliot Spitzer and morality in politics, Rush Limbaugh said the following:

Our last caller wanted to know -- he's a Republican, but he doesn't like this morality in politics, it's not in the Constitution. Actually, it is in the Federalist Papers in the section in which the criteria for the president was being written and debated about, the number one aspect in the Federalist Papers, I think it was John Adams in this case -- I think it was John Adams writing number-one, most important thing in the executive was character.

Federalist #69, written by Alexander Hamilton, outlined the duties and responsibilities of the president.

Limbaugh then had a change of heart about the author:

It was James Madison. Actually, he wrote one-third of the Federalist Papers, the forerunner of the Constitution. He also was the principal author of the Constitution. It was James Madison in the Federalist Papers who laid out the requirements for the executive, number one being character.

Madison may have written about the character of the president. But a moment later, Limbaugh changed his mind again:

All right, I just sent this up to Koko. We're going to link to it at RushLimbaugh.com. Eighty-five Federalist Papers, number 69, written by Alexander Hamilton, The Character of the Executive. I want you to read it when we update the website this afternoon, this evening, to reflect the contents of today's program, because it was said earlier here today that, "I don't see the word 'morality' in my Constitution." The Federalist Papers informed the Constitution, same Founding Fathers that wrote the Constitution participated with the Federalist Papers. They were forerunners of the Constitution, and so it's not accurate to say that morality is not part of the Constitution.

On the third try, Limbaugh correctly identifies the author of Federalist Paper no. 69: Alexander Hamilton.

But I notice that Limbaugh did not quote from the document about the president's morality or character. I read through it but I didn't see anything about the president's character, either.

The Federalist Papers definitely formed much of the foundation of the Constitution. But is it correct to say that something written in the Federalist Papers is part of the Constitution?


Guest Host Introduction

Greetings, gentle readers.

The kind and generous owner of this blog, Casey Lartigue, after noticing that I had been frequently posting in the comments section of late, has graciously offered to allow me to toil occasionally here in the fields of his wisdom. This demonstrates either that high intelligence and copious education do not always yield smart decisions, or else that Casey's getting lazier in his old age and simply wants to shift the burdens of his work onto others. Having known him for nigh on a decade and a half now, it may be that the correct answer is "both of the above."

Casey and I met while we were both working in Korea.   Well, he was working and I was pretending to work.   We were generous posters on the expatriate list serve there, Kexpat (motto:  "Welcome to Kexpat.  Now unsubscribe."), a rather hobbesian place where only the strongest and meanest survived.  Needless to say, Casey flourished there and it was only through his guidance and protection that a delicate hothouse flower like myself was able to navigate the reefs and shoals of the list.

We were also prolific writers for The Korea Times, editorials and letters both. Because I was only pretending to work, there was ample time for me to stuff the KT's mailbox with letters, to the point where the editor, Mr. Kim, asked me to begin submitting letters with different noms de plume, so as to allow him to publish more of them.  Hobbits are about the best fictional critters ever invented (natural anarchists, they are!) and my affinity for them is well known.  It is well established that hobbits travelling incognito would use the surname "Underhill," and thus was born what was to become Casey's favorite nemesis, "John Underhill."

Although there were any number of John Incidents, two in particular stand out.  

The first was a letter sent in September of 1996.  This was the first letter in which John put a shot across Casey's bows.  Though I had described my letter, in a side note to the editor, as a "stab-in-the-back," Casey felt it needed a neologism for best effect, and so today we have the word "frontstabber."

Better still, however is a letter Casey sent in to the paper in February of defending John...fully knowing that he (John, not Casey) was simply a figment of my imagination.

I also seem to recall citing one of John's letters on Kexpat, which drew a fascinating response from Casey regarding the issues of "citing myself."

Anyway...these touching historical comments are made by way of introduction and to say that Casey has long known what my aberrant personality is like when he invited me to guest host for him.  Or help shoulder the burden.  Or pay back 400+ years of bad karma.  Hard to say.  I expect to have fun lending a hand here and who knows - maybe he'll even let me stay around for awhile.

In the meantime....Welcome to the Casey Lartigue Show!.   You know the rest.  

J. Underhill


Cartoon--a Democrat working for a Republican

Washington Post, Tom Toles

"Take that boy down"

Here's a promo running on XM 169 and 1450 WOL for Al Sharpton's radio show.

Guest Ralph Nader is quoted as saying that a Clinton aide said about Barack Obama, "...and a source close to the Clintons said 'they're gonna take that boy down,' the Clintons, taking Obama down."

You can download the short clip here.

Has Nader said this anywhere else? Or only to a black audience?



Bad time for Democrats

A few weeks ago people were wondering what John McCain would do to keep himself in the spotlight.

He hasn't done a very good job of that so far.

But in the meantime, in just the last week...

Geraldine Ferraro has stepped down from her position with the Clinton team--and with people charging that she is a racist.

A member of the Obama team stepped down after calling H Clinton a "monster."

The Democrat contenders have been trading charges.

A Democrat governor has resigned in disgrace after getting caught in a sex scandal.

Democrats are trading charges over what to do about delegates in Florida and Michigan.

With H Clinton refusing to concede for the good of the party, things should be even more exciting over the next couple of months.


Spitzer's down. Next up? Kwame

Kwame Kilpatrick, the mayor of Detroit who is in his own hilarious sex scandal, was probably hoping that Spitzer would hold on.


Dershowitz on victimless crimes

I have conflicting feelings watching Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz discuss Eliot Spitzer's troubles. On the one hand, I'm yelling, "you idiot!" But then just as quickly, "damn, that's a good point."

What I've liked about Dershowitz for quite some time is his attack on victimless crimes and outdated laws. Of course, when someone says "victimless" crime, busybodies will find someone--a wife, girlfriend--who has bruised feelings and call that person a victim. If that doesn't work, then "society" is said to be threatened. My understanding is that "victimless crime" is meant in a legal sense--adultery is a civil, not legal, wrong.

In his 1992 book Contrary to Popular Opinion, Dershowitz attacks victimless crimes and outdated laws, concluding one column: "The righteous hypocrite vote in this country has always been stronger than the vice vote."


Geraldine Ferraro on Obama

Geraldine Ferraro may be correct when she says: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

--As it has been noted, Obama was a lightly experienced politician when he was selected to give a prime-time address at the 2004 Democratic convention. It may be true that a white man would not have been given that opportunity so quickly. And?

--Many people have various reasons for getting selected or highlighted for opportunities. Hillary because of her last name, Obama because of his race, Ferraro because of her gender, McCain for his military service, others because of where they went to college or who they know. Obama shouldn't apologize for the decisions that others made to highlight him. Obama may have been highlighted because of his race, but what he is doing with it is still extraordinary.

--It may have just been that Ferraro was shooting off her mouth. But I also suspect that it was just the latest attempt by a Clintonian to divide voters along racial lines. Here's an "if" for Ferraro--if a Republican had made such a comment, she would be accused of Jesse Helms type race baiting.


One more comment: Did Ferraro complain in 2004 about Obama getting a chance to deliver his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention?



According to various news reports...

Eliot Spitzer

--1590 SAT score
--Princeton University graduate
--Perfect score on the LSAT
--Harvard Law School graduate
--Editor of the Harvard Law Review
--married to a Harvard Law School graduate
--former Attorney General of New York
--(still) Governor of New York
--Most well-known moralizing and hypocritical John of 2008

But I hope he doesn't resign.

* It is good to have known hypocrites in office. It is hard to see a known hypocrite as a political savior.
* He engaged in a victimless crime. As delicious as it would be to have governor Spitzer get the treatment that attorney general Spitzer gave to people, this shouldn't be national news and he shouldn't be under pressure to resign.
* This is probably bad news for the Clintons. People tired of the "old politics" and scandals of the Clintons will get a good reminder of what they are trying to get away from.



"Immoral Leverage"

Immoral Leverage
by Casey J. Lartigue Jr.
March 10, 1998
The Korea Times

When Kim Hak-Sun stepped forward in August 1991 to acknowledge publicly that she had been a "comfort woman" for the Japanese army during World War II, it seemed that it was the beginning of the end of the contentious issue. After all, how could the Japanese government continue to deny that thousands of young women were used as sex slaves for its military when the former comfort women, led by Kim, were stepping forward to tell their painful stories?

Instead of resolving the dispute, Kim's emergence marked the start of a new phase of the bitter battle. The Japanese government, which had previously denied the "comfort girls" were forced into sexual labor, immediately denied official government complicity. After Japanese history professor Yoshimi Yoshiaki published government documents in 1992 refuting that claim, the Japanese government at last confessed government involvement. While several different Japanese prime ministers have personally apologized, Japan insists that the Japanese-South Korea Basic Treaty of 1965 settled all previous disputes. Instead, it launched a fund, Asian Peace and Friendship Fund for Women, known as the Asian Women's Fund (AWF) to raise  donations for the women.

The AWF was rejected by many Koreans as a "fraudulent play by the Japanese government to shirk its responsibilities for the war crimes." The Korean government and the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery (Chongdaehyop) have undercut AWF at every turn. After AWF gave seven former comfort women each a total of two million yen (about $17,000) in January 1997, the Korean government and Chongdaehyop howled. When AWF resumed its activities last year, promising a similar large payment to seven more comfort women, the Korean government denied AWF representative Usuki Keiko re-entry to South Korea.

Ironically, Usuki has been publicizing the comfort woman issue for more than 15 years. She first came to Korea in 1982 to do research about the comfort women, almost a decade before the South Korean  government showed any interest in the topic. She published Contemporary Comfort Woman in 1992 and was the leading figure in the Association for Clarifying Japan's Post-War Responsibility. The Korean  government and Chongdaehyop have slapped an ally who fought for the issue long before it became politically fashionable here.

While demonizing the Japanese government and AWF, the Korean government has offered the comfort women minimal aid. In 1994, the Korean government began to offer the former comfort women a monthly stipend of 500,000 won per month. The Korean Foreign Ministry recently announced it will start giving the former comfort women an additional unspecified amount of state money to help the women secure "moral leverage" for future negotiations with the Japanese government. In political doublespeak, securing "moral leverage" means "we need to do something because the other side is making us look like unprincipled pinheads." The Korean government will lack that "moral leverage" until Korean citizens voluntarily reach into their own pockets and start contributing to a fund to help the comfort women.

It is highly unlikely, however, that Koreans will dig very deep into their pockets. By making "nonnegotiable" demands for "official apologies" and "state-level compensation" directly from the Japanese government, Chongdaehyop has unwittingly undermined its own ability to aid the comfort women privately. They've offered cheap talk and angry slogans while the Japanese group has given money. Chongdaehyop, founded in 1990, admitted last year that it had raised "small" amounts of money for the former comfort women. That shouldn't be surprising. By focusing on embarrassing the Japanese politically (as the government seeks "moral leverage"), they've convinced many Koreans that the Japanese are solely responsible for aiding the elderly women.

The local women's groups openly advertise their moral bankruptcy every Wednesday when they haul the elderly comfort women out to protest in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. The comfort women have become little more than mascots paraded out to energize the home team at a sporting event. While Chongdaehyop has obtained statements of support from the United Nations Rights Commission (1993), the International Commission of Jurists (1994), the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, and 1995's 4th United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing, most of the remaining 157 former comfort women are reportedly living in abject poverty. Eight of them, who have no relatives and no means of livelihood reside in the government-provided "House Sharing" located in suburban Seoul.

Besides working with the AWF, Chongdaehyop could work with Japanese scholars and historians who first documented the Japanese government's role in abusing the comfort women. They could then start working with the nine Japanese female lawmakers who in 1996 demanded that Japan offer reparations to the former comfort women. Most of the revelations concerning the comfort women have been uncovered by Japanese and Korean individuals who did not wait for government action (which can be, to put it politely, "slow"). The Korean government did not publicly mention the comfort women issue until 1990, long after books and articles had been published in Japan in the 1970s and in Korea in the 1980s. Koreans should put their politics aside and try to help the elderly women first.

It has been almost seven years since Kim Hak-sun stepped forward. Little has changed from Chongdaehyop's original 1990 demands in an open letter to then-prime minister Kaifu Toshiki, which included: the Japanese must apologize, rewrite Japanese history books, offer state-level compensation.

During that time, many Korean comfort women have died, waiting for the Japanese government's response. Even Kim Hak-sun's death last December 16 was not enough to cause the Korean government or civic groups to rethink their strategy. Her funeral procession was routed so that it would pass by the Japanese embassy. Even her death was used to score cheap political points against the Japanese. Kim Hak-sun was a fiery protestor, so she may have preferred it that way.

Somehow, it isn't surprising considering that Chongdaehyop has alienated potential allies in Japan; has worked tirelessly to obtain meaningless statements of support from international bodies; and unwittingly convinced Korean citizens that they don't need to help the former comfort women until the Japanese have done so. Chongdaehyop and the Korean government should drop the moral political games and focus on how they can help the comfort women while they're still alive.


Column on The Root

I've got a column on The Root.

It addresses Bruce Bartlett's suggestion that Republicans should support reparations for slavery.


The GOP's Next (Black) Idea?

Trading slavery reparations for affirmative action.

The GOP's Next (Black) Idea?

Concerned that Republicans haven't tried hard enough to reach out to black voters, Bruce Bartlett, a former advisor to President Ronald Reagan and treasury official under President George H. W. Bush, suggests a shocker: Republicans should come out in favor of reparations for slavery.

Republicans for reparations? Bartlett makes the suggestion in Wrong on Race, an expose on the "hidden" racist history of the Democratic Party. Bartlett skewers former Democratic presidents such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson for bigotry and cowardice on the issue of race and assails a number of Democratic senators, representatives and governors for their do-or-die defense of slavery and Jim Crow.

Skipping ahead to today, Bartlett writes that black voters are taken for granted by Democrats and have been written off by Republicans. He argues that blacks would benefit from having the two parties compete for their votes.

But Republicans for reparations?

The recommendation has already met resistance—from black commentators. Columnist and blogger La Shawn Barber has dismissed the suggestion as "race pandering" for votes. Manhattan Institute scholar John McWhorter has said that blacks are likely to react "indignantly" to Bartlett's "bribe" (reparations would be offered in exchange for ending affirmative action). Robert A. George of the New York Post calls Bartlett's idea "woefully naïve."

To some extent, they are all correct. Bartlett's offer of a deal—blacks giving up affirmative action in exchange for reparations—smacks of political opportunism. But Bartlett, the former party insider, insists that Republicans must try something different. Republican outreach, search for common ground on issues, highlighting the historical accomplishments of the Party of Lincoln and the Radical Republicans, and other tactics have yet to yield results. President Bush barely broke single digits among black voters in 2004.

Bartlett argues that the "anti-immigrant wing of the Republican Party has become dominant, thus further pushing Hispanics into the Democratic Party." Republicans are going to have to find new voters somewhere—and Bartlett says that is overlooked and ignored black voters.

Reparations for slavery may be a good political strategy for Republicans. It may even be a good time to remind black Americans that it was Republicans who first proposed reparations for freed slaves. But are reparations for slavery a good idea for blacks? Juan Williams argues persuasively in his book Enough that reparations for slavery are a "mirage" and "self-indulgent waste of time" that diverts attention from pressing issues of today. TV host Tony Brown has called reparations a "fad."

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson asks in his book Scam, "Instead of reparations, how about a free ticket to Africa?" Slavery, which was legal at the time, happened so long ago that it makes no sense to compensate blacks for injustices committed several generations ago. As a practical matter it will be too difficult to determine who really "deserves" reparations (will we be back at the "one-drop" rule to determine who is "really" black?). Then, there is a problem with expecting people alive today to pay for sins committed by people more than 140 years ago.

While I oppose widespread reparations for slavery, I have heard two different arguments for forms of reparations that are, at least, intriguing. One variation comes from Jonathan Rauch who has argued that blacks deserve reparations—but not for slavery. The actual victims of Jim Crow would be given reparations. Rauch writes that a black person who was forced to attend an all-black school during Jim Crow could make the case that government policy had harmed his chances in life.

That has the potential to get messy, as people then must go through the steps of documenting which schools they attended 5 or 6 decades ago and how they were harmed. Plus, the actual perps—as Bartlett might point out, Democratic officials—are either too old or feeble to be punished today.

A second idea that gets around that problem was championed by Alan Keyes a few years ago when he was running against Barack Obama for the senate. Keyes recommended that black Americans should be allowed to live tax-free for a generation or two "in order to encourage business ownership, create jobs and support the development of strong economic foundations for working families." I see a few problems with that, too.

One, President Bush's latest budget proposal is more than $3 trillion. To support it, the government will need more, not fewer, taxpayers. Secondly, black Americans -- who are more likely to be supportive of tax-and-spend Democrats -- would have even less of a reason to oppose proposals for increased government spending if they aren't paying taxes.

I've been saying for years that I cash any and all checks with my name on them, but that I could never bring myself to go down to a Federal Reparations Office to pick up a slavery reparations check. But being able to live tax-free, as suggested by Keyes? If you want to call it reparations, that's fine with me. Instead of getting a gift as a result of what happened to my ancestors, I could at least argue that the government was just letting me keep more of the money I had earned with my own labor.

By proposing reparations, Bartlett is harking back to a proud time in Republican history and a shameful time for the Democratic Party. After all, it was Republicans who, in 1867, put forth legislation putting aside forty acres of land for black Americans--legislation that was opposed by the Democratic Party. More than 140 years and several generations later, it may be that the Republican Party missed its chance to give reparations to blacks.

Casey Lartigue is a former policy analyst with Cato's Center for Educational Freedom