Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Kucinich Express

Stepping into the Dennis Kucinich rally at the University of New Hampshire on Sunday night, the first thing to hit you is the stench of male body odor. Not the "man, it's hot on the dance floor, I think I'll take my sweater off" kind of odor, but the "I use organic deodorant" kind.

This may sound funny, but my English class is full of these folks! Heck, Tufts is full of these folks.

Via Ben.

Clinton's E-mail

No wonder, Tom Blanton (speaking at Tufts in February) stuck with digging up Reagan and Bush email. Bill Clinton wrote just two emails during his eight years in the White House: a test email, and a note to John Glenn while he was in orbit! So much for your Vice President inventing the Internet. :-)

Via Alex Levy's delicious bookmarks.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Britain’s Vanguard

Today, Tony Blair faces "a make-or-break 24 hours, which could determine whether he leads Labour into the next election." The reason? A report on the government's role in the suicide of Dr. David Kelly and… a university fee hike.

Blair wants universities to be able to charge students up to a maximum of £3,000 annually, up from the current £1,125. The establishment is up in arms against such a regressive proposal. The British National Union of Students (NUS) has launched and is lobbying hard against the hike with the support of liberal Labour MPs.

NUS is upset that the plan “represents a shifting of the financial burden of education onto the individual student” [from middle and lower class taxpayers who might not even get a chance to go to college] (pdf). It also warns of the misery that private higher education represents in other countries while tax-supported education liberates students to pursue their cherished dreams:

Agnes Gautier, France: “In France you don't hear about student debt because students don't have debt. Most students don't have to take out loans from banks because tuition fees are so cheap.”

Willem Glasbergen, Netherlands: "At present, my total debt is £40,000 after 5 years of studying, from which £8,000 will be deducted as a grant if I graduate within 10 years of starting my degree."

Karen Palinski, United States: "Many Americans aged between 26-32 can’t afford to buy a first house and even have to put off having children due to their student loan debts. Let's hope the UK doesn’t get to this point."

NUS, of course, does not mention that many Europeans can't afford to buy a house, period, because of outrageous taxes. This year in the UK, income £30,500 above the “personal allowance” of £4,615 is subject to a rate of 40%! In the US, a little less outrageously, the rate is almost the same for couples jointly making over $300,000.

So, what does NUS propose instead of the new fee schedule? “The abolition of all forms of charging students or graduates for their education.” And, “the introduction of a non-means tested grant that accurately reflects the cost of living.”

If this is its next generation of politicians, Europe’s future looks bleak indeed.

Waffle Powered Kerry

Although his campaign was behind the wonderful "Waffle Powered Howard" website, attacking Howard Dean, John Kerry is a perpetual waffler himself. Great article in the New York Times (of all places), and op-eds by Jeff Jacoby and David Brooks, via Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus.

It's a Dangerous World

Via Tom Palmer, a genuine CNN headline:

Dangerous objects still allowed on planes
Corkscrews, walking canes potentially lethal weapons
Thursday, January 15, 2004

"Michael Boyd, an airline industry analyst with the Boyd Group in Evergreen, Colorado, said nearly anything from shoelaces to hangers could be dangerous."

I already bought "scanner-friendly shoes" to keep TSA folks at bay! Should I now splurge on shoelace-less ones?!

Re: No Gun Rights for DC

Not only has the thirty-year gun control experiment made DC more dangerous for law-abiding citizens, the judge in the recent Seegars v. Ashcroft, et al. decision (my earlier comment on it here) knew it, too, as did the D.C. government attorney defending the gun ban, Daniel Rezneck. From the oral testimony in the case:
[Judge Reggie] Walton: These laws don't stop the bad guys from getting the guns.

Rezneck: No.

Walton: The bad guys are going to get the guns regardless.

Rezneck: I agree with that your honor.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Dubya-Hating Made Easy

The free market fulfills all your Dubya-hating needs:

The George W. Bush Conspiracy Generator: "George W. Bush caused the Cubs to lose to the Marlins in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series so that the Jews, Rush Limbaugh, and Ann Coulter could invade The United Nations."

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Freedom and Faith

From a 1963 WGBH interview with James Baldwin, a powerful premonition for why the War on Poverty would fail:

Baldwin: I remember my father had trouble keeping us alive -- there were nine of us. I was the oldest so I took care of the kids and dealt with Daddy. I understand him much better now. Part of his problem was he couldn't feed his kids, but I was a kid and I didn't know that. He was very religious, very rigid. He kept us together, I must say, and when I look back on it -- that was over 40 years ago that I was born -- when I think back on my growing up and walk that same block today, because it's still there, and think of the kids on that block now, I'm aware that something terrible has happened which is very hard to describe.

I am, in all but technical legal fact, a Southerner. My father was born in the South -- no, my mother was born in the South, and if they had waited two more seconds I might have been born in the South. But that means I was raised by families whose roots were essentially rural --

Clark: Southern rural...

Baldwin: Southern rural, and whose relation to the church was very direct, because it was the only means they had of expressing their pain and their despair. But 20 years later the moral authority which was present in the Negro Northern community when I was growing up has vanished, and people talk about progress, and I look at Harlem which I really know -- I know it like I know my hand -- and it is much worse there today than it was when I was growing up.

Clark: Would you say this is true of the schools too?

Baldwin: It is much worse in the schools.

Citizen King

PBS looks at the uneasy legacy of the post-1965 Martin Luther King in "Citizen King." I agree with Patrick Gavin and Clarence Page; we can't write out of history King calling the Vietnam War "dishonorable and unjust," advocating a "radical redistribution" of economic power in the U.S., and seeing the country "on the wrong side of a world revolution."

This is the King memorialized in San Francisco. Can we finally acknowledge it in polite company that here King, and the rest of the 1960s Left, was dead wrong?

Monday, January 19, 2004

The Lives of the Rich and Famous (Politicians)

Before his rout in Iowa, Dean got a couple of excellent profiles in Wired Magazine and The New Yorker (both from fans). At the same time, liberal nemesis Grover Norquist got profiled (a lot less sympathetically) in the Washington Post and Mother Jones. Mother Jones did not have many kind words to say about Richard Perle or William Luti either (Luti is a Tufts grad and Perle is a father of one). New York Magazine, however, kindly spotlighted several young, cool, Republican Manhattanites.

So, what about John Kerry? Oh, Kerry!

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Fred Barnes on America

Liking the spirit but not the letter of the President's immigration plan, Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard:
The blessings of America are simply too attractive, the life too comfortable. It would defy human nature for [illegal immigrants] to migrate home voluntarily.

What do you know, immigrants to America are just basking in comfort! It is one thing to love the good old U.S.A., my friends. It is another to think that no other place on earth can be loved as much. If Mexico continues with its economic reforms, there is no reason for the immigrants not to return some years down the line, especially if they're leaving parents and relatives there.

The State of the Labor Debate

Speaking of labor and immigration, as Tom Palmer has mentioned in a lecture this summer, it is a rather interesting phenomenon that U.S. unions have embraced a pro-immigration stance in recent years. In fact, they've taken to aggressively promote it along with a host of other lefty issues like foreign policy multilateralism (excluding free trade), and even "smart growth."

In a recent article, The Nation detailed the contribution of publicly funded "labor studies programs" (like CUNY's) to the changing strategy and rhetoric.
The [Institute for Labor and Employment's] creation came on the heels of a change in direction in the old programs. In the mid-1990s a new set of academics and staff took charge in Berkeley and Los Angeles, with a much more dynamic vision of the ILE's relationship with workers and unions. The Labor Center in Los Angeles became an institution in which students, academics and union organizers studied the increasing role of immigrants in the Los Angeles work force. The Center for Labor Research and Education in Berkeley gave a home to labor activists who formed the Labor Immigrant Organizing Network, and then wrote the resolution that changed the position of the AFL-CIO itself on immigration.

As labor faces a continued erosion of power in its traditional constituencies, it is shifting its focus
on the inclusion and expansion of opportunities for ethnic and gender minorities both in terms of membership and leadership positions in unions, on the impact of globalization and its main strategic initiative neoliberalism on working people throughout the world, on the need for renewed and independent political action, and on counterpoising worker democracy and solidarity against what amounts to the class warfare of capitalism.

Like the anti-sweatshop, fair trade, living wage for janitors, and grad student union campaigns at universities have shown, conservatives should be well aware of the changing nature of this debate. Especially so if they want make gains with the Hispanic and the “bobo” vote.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Tackling Immigration

Mark Krikorian weighs in opposing the President's "guest-worker" plan in the January 26, 2004 print issue of the National Review (as well as here and here). I share the sentiment that we should not reward law-breaking and should pay close attention to the stress that immigration puts on local resources. His concern about potential terrorists slipping in is also a valid one. However, he does not address the fact that this is an issue already, not one created by the plan.

Krikorian also trots out the old labor arguments for why immigration is bad for the poor and for productivity.
A tight low-skilled labor market can spur modernization even in the service sector: Automated switches have replaced most telephone operators, continuous-batch washing machines reduce labor demand for hotels, buffet-style restaurants need much less staff that full-service ones. As unlikely as it might seem, many VA hospitals are now using mobile robots to ferry medicines from their pharmacies to various nurse's stations, eliminating the need for a worker to perform that task.

Medicine robots... sure, that makes a lot of economic sense.

Lastly, Krikorian complains about the lack of a "prevailing wage" safeguard in the proposal. Now, this is straight out of Dean. Why in the world the National Review would publish it as a "conservative" position escapes me.

Tamar Jacoby has a much more compelling case for the proposal in The New Republic. I don't think that "earning citizenship," as he suggests, is a viable option though. It looks like it would open the gates to an incredible new wave of immigration, which would hardly be politically palatable these days, although it was certainly true before the closing of the Western frontier. I imagine that some sort of solution for "temporary" workers who would like to stay can be found, similar to procedures already in place for work visa holders.

Falls Church Jihad

It is amazing to imagine that the suburban Washington town where I used to live this summer was a staging ground for a terrorist network. On the other hand, the charges against the conspirators, as detailed in the Washington Post, appear to be rather odd.
Royer was at the center of the government's case against a group of men who played paintball in the Virginia countryside to prepare for jihad training.... The men -- all but one from the Washington suburbs and nine of them U.S. citizens -- were accused of possessing a variety of weapons and practicing military tactics during their paintball games.

They owned guns and played paintball? Boy, it's a rather short list of conservatives who I know who wouldn't fall into these categories by the age of twenty-five.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Only in Washington?

The closer you get to government, the scarier it looks. DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Chief David Clark, as quoted in the Washington Post:
"We have a plan that we're putting together in which people can check on an address and follow it all the way through. That way, they'll feel more comfortable that the government is accountable and action is taking place, even though they might not be able to see it."

Thursday, January 15, 2004

No Gun Rights for DC

For the past week, I've been living in a "gentrifying" neighborhood in inner-DC. Every night, I pass a crack house on the way back from work. I think of the fact that the people charged with enforcing the gun laws are the same ones charged with enforcing the drug laws, shiver a bit, and replay the game plan in case I’m attacked. Carrying a gun seems to me like a pretty smart option.

Now, DC does not only disregard the “right to carry,” it requires that guns be kept at home “unloaded, disassembled or equipped with trigger locks.” Yesterday, the U.S. District Court decided that this does not violate the Second Amendment (see CNN and The Washington Post).

Shockingly, the decision states that “in any event, the Second Amendment does not apply to the District of Columbia,” relying on Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497 (1954), and District of Columbia v. Carter, 409 U.S. 418 (1973), Supreme Court decisions saying that the District is not a state, and that the 14th Amendment did not apply here. I’m sure District residents, workers, and tourists will be thrilled to find out that they are not guaranteed due process and equal protection in the nation’s capital.

I find it rather ironic that the Mayor praised this decision, considering that DC consistently insists that it is like a state, and should be treated as such, including having its own primaries. It is even more ironic that Judge Reggie B. Walton was nominated to his current post in 2001 by President Bush, and prior to that promoted by G.H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Breaking News: “Mad pork disease strikes all members of Congress,” via Nashville City Paper

The Virtue of Capitalism

Looking at the two recent earthquakes in California and Iran, Thomas Sowell brilliantly notes the painfully obvious: If you don’t like capitalism, you have to be willing to accept the alternative.

Wealth enables homes, buildings and other structures to be built to withstand greater stresses. Wealth permits the creation of modern transportation that can quickly carry people to medical facilities. It enables those facilities to be equipped with more advanced medical apparatus and supplies, and amply staffed with highly trained doctors and support staff….

Those who preen themselves on their "compassion" for the poor, and who disdain wealth, are being inconsistent, if not hypocritical. Wealth is the only thing that can prevent poverty. However, if you are not trying to prevent poverty but to exploit it for political purposes, that is another story.

When Lawyers Attack

From Casella v Morris, 820 F2d 362, via Ben Glatstein:

Fuzzy Wuzzy's Family

Morris and his wife together owned 50% of Concepts, an entity incorporated for the purpose of franchising Fuzzy Wuzzy Wizard Wonderland of Food and Fantasy, ("Fuzzy Wuzzy" or "Wonderland") pizza restaurants. Morris and his wife together also owned an undetermined percentage ownership interest in Centers, an entity incorporated in Florida for the purpose of owning and operating the first Fuzzy Wuzzy restaurant, located in Tampa, Florida. The District Court, oddly failing to use the readily available "fuzzy" idea, described the lines between the corporations as "blurry, if they existed at all."