Sunday, April 30, 2006

Blogging about blogging and blogging about ethics

Maybe because I'm a fairly quiet blogger (OK, an awfully quiet blogger) I tend to be bored by conversations about blogging. (Not everyone shares that problem.) It sometimes gives me an outlet when I want to say something and I think it's too good to stay inside my head, but I don't think the invention of the blog marked the beginning of a New World Order.

But I am a little curious about two items that I have not seen juxtaposed.

First, over at the Volokh Conspiracy, it appears that the identity of Juan Non-Volokh will soon become public. The most informed (in the sense of, most researched) comments indicate that it is This Guy. One fact raised against that conclusion is that That Guy blogs elsewhere under his own name. So why, the argument goes, make a reasoned decision to blog anonymously in one place but not in another? There are counterarguments (ad infinitum) but I am not actually interested here in sorting through it all in a (colossally uninformed) attempt to identify Juan Non-Volokh. Rather, let us assume that it is him, and he is a (recently tenured?) law professor blogging publicly in one place and pseudonymously in another. Hold that thought.

Second, an LA Times reporter has gotten in trouble (i.e., suspended and re-assigned) because he was blogging publicly in one place and pseudonymously in another.

I don't want to blog unethically*, so I am curious to know what to think of this juxtaposition. Three possibilities present themselves as most likely: Juan Non-Volokh did something deceptive; or the LA Times incorrectly determined that its reporter had done something deceptive; or the LA Times reporter had taken some actions that JNOV had not taken (or failed to take some action that JNOV had taken, although that seems less likely). I believe I have posted comments on other blogs under my real name, so I want to know if I have done something wrong. Any thoughts?

*I use the word "unethically" with great misgivings, although it squares with most contemporary usage. I use it in the way in which lawyers speak of "legal ethics," which really aren't ethics at all, but are certain rules designed to serve as efficient means to certain (possibly incommensurable) ends: making sure you don't screw your client over; making sure your client doesn't think he's being screwed over; maintaining certain lay opinions about lawyers and the practice of law; etc. I leave for another day a full discussion of why this isn't ethics, as classically understood. Suffice it to say that Aristotle's three books (the Nicomachean and Eudemian Ethics and the Magna Moralia) propose no such rules. They engage in a more interesting and more intellectually honest study of the well-lived life (if such a thing should be possible).


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Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Star-Mangled Banner

Even the casual reader of TPS knows we tend to wrangle a lot over the issue of illegal immigration. Perhaps the only consensus one could gather from our debates is that we are all over the map when it comes to finding a workable solution, or whether a solution is even necessary. I am hoping, however, that a consensus can be reached on this latest phase of illegal alien-induced madness: Nuestro Himno, the so-called Spanish version of our National Anthem.

There are so many things wrong with this endeavor that I don't even know where to begin. Perhaps the most natural starting point is to ask why there is even a need for a Spanish-language translation of The Star-Spangled Banner. Whether legal or illegal, there are far too many people living in the United States who do not speak English, in large part because there has been virtually no emphasis on assimilation over the last thirty years. (That is not to say that some Hispanics not born in the United States have not assimilated or attempted to do so, but of the millions who were not born in the United States, the statistics -- were there any -- would be striking.) The net result is functional illiteracy.

This equation becomes substantially more lopsided when you realize that the supermajority of non-English-speaking Hispanics in the United States today are illegal aliens -- in other words, individuals who broke our laws by entering the United States and continue to break our laws merely by being here. Depending on who you believe (or trust), there are anywhere from 10 million to 25 million illegal aliens in the United States at present, with the largest segments coming from Mexico and Central America. It therefore follows that the vast majority of these illegals speak Spanish and only Spanish.

In a sane world, illegal aliens' functional illiteracy would be a tool with which the leaders of this nation would essentially drive the illegals back from whence they came. Since, however, (a) our world is insane and (b) we have no true leaders, the response over the last thirty years has been one of capitulation. Federal, state, and local governments have printed signs and forms in foreign languages. Whereas the pressure to comprehend and communicate in American English was once the dynamo of assimilation, the above capitulative surrender has essentially guaranteed both a near-total lack of assimilation and a continued influx of the unassimilating.

But back to the song. In light of the above, Nuestro Himno would be bad enough if it was just a straight-up, verbatim translation of The Star-Spangled Banner. It would just be part of the tragic progression away from America's one language and unified populace, one sad chapter amidst other recent ones. What makes Nuestro Himno all the more enraging to me as an American and amateur historian is that it is not the same song at all. It is a pseudo-marxist rewrite of one of the most noteworthy and powerful songs in American history.

Given the decline of America's educational system over the last few decades, I am not going to assume that people know the significance of The Star-Spangled Banner's actual lyrics. You can take my (and Wikipedia's) word for the following: (a) it was written by Francis Scott Key (1779-1843); (b) it was originally written as a poem during the War of 1812, America's first major war as a unified nation; (c) its literal account of the large American flag that survived the Brits' bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor in 1814 was intended to symbolize the strength of the recent union of states and the hope of a fledgling nation; and (d) after more than a century of recognition as America's unofficial national anthem, it was formally made so by Congress in 1931. Its actual lyrics (and accompanying music in MIDI format -- don't worry, it can be paused) can be found here. (You should know at least the first stanza. If you don't, you should be ashamed of yourself. The other stanzas are lesser known, but no less potent, or important.)

Nuestro Himno cannot even be seriously called a variation on a theme. It is, in plainest terms, an entirely separate song that has neither connection to the original song nor any relevance whatsoever to American history. It is a revisionist pile of slop.

Its nauseating lyrics, courtesy of New York's Daily News, are as follows:

Verse 1

The day is breaking, do you see it? In the light of the dawn?
What we so acclaimed at nightfall?
Its stars, its stripes, flew yesterday
In the fierce battle in a sign of victory,
The glow of battle, in step with liberty
At night they said: "It's being defended!"


Chorus

Oh say!
The voice of your starry beauty
is still unfolding
Over the land of the free
The sacred flag.


Verse 2

Its stars, its stripes,
Freedom, we are equal
We are brothers, in our anthem.
In the fierce combat in a sign of victory
The glow of battle, in step with liberty
My people keep fighting
It's time to break the chains
At night they said: "It's being defended!"
Oh say!
Your starry beauty is still unfolding.


Ugh.

The only positive I can see coming from Nuestro Himno, and the attention it is now receiving, is that Americans are becoming more and more infuriated over the arrogant strutting of the illegal alien community and its strident supporters in the United States -- which, with any luck, might actually lead to a firmer policy against illegal immigration, and a backlash agains the brain-dead politicians who embrace illegal immigration as an eventual electoral boon. (Even a (recently) politically tone-deaf George W. Bush was forced to acknowledged the absurdity of the song and call for non-English-speaking peoples to learn English -- a call that has absolutely no value whatsoever in light of the president's complete and total abdication on the illegal immigration issue.)


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Friday, April 28, 2006

What could be more a more durable tribute than a tree?

I confess to being a "tree-hugger"...

Not the "chain myself to a tree so that loggers can't earn a living" kind; (no one but my wife need suffer that vision) but the "aren't they beautiful and wouldn't it be great if my big, bald head were shielded from the sun's rays" kind. So imagine my dismay when I walked through Logan park in Philadelphia and discovered that all of the trees were removed... twig, trunk, and root.

Logan park and fountain is one of the most photographed and beloved spots in the city. I asked my wife to marry me there and have often sat beside the fountain under hundred-year old trees. It was a beautiful spot.

Now, it is a circle of grass with a few flowers and a fountain in the middle. Come August, it will be too hot to sit on the new benches.

This is part of our illustrious mayor's "beautification project." (May a pox fall on him and his administration.)

So, why do I bring this up?

Because of a delicious irony attached to the experience.

The trees are gone, but the plaque that explains their planting remains...

It reads:

"1914 1918, Tribute Trees, The trees along this parkway have been planted as a tribute of honor and gratitude to the men who served their country in the Great War."


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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Regis Hits Drudge

As a rule, I avoid citing articles posted on the Drudge Report because it is way too easy and – well, that is pretty much what everybody in the mainstream media does. I am, however, making an exception today because Drudge links to, of all things, my high school’s homepage.

My very own Regis High School was lucky enough to obtain an interview with U.S. Attorney Peter Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois who is currently leading the special investigation into the alleged leak of Valerie Plame’s alleged covert status. (The article has actually been posted on the school’s homepage for some time, according to my sources inside.) Putting aside my opinion that I think Fitzgerald’s investigation borders on wild goose chase in light of the language of the criminal provisions being applied, I still think it is cool that Fitzgerald, who is himself a Regis alum (I am not certain as to year, although I think he graduated in 1978), took a little time out of his no doubt busy schedule to donate a little time to his alma mater. If his experience at Regis was anything like mine, he owes the school a lot.

I am waiting for Drudge to link to the high school homepage of Mary McCarthy, the woman who leaked legitimately sensitive information about this nation’s efforts to capture and kill terrorists. I would love to know what her classmates thought of her.

UPDATE #1 (Wednesday, April 26, 12:45 p.m.): The article about Fitzgerald appears to be gone from Regis' homepage. I contacted the Regis Advancement Office to find out why. They are working on it and will get back to me. My suspicion is Regis’ humble little homepage was not prepared for the thousand-hit-an-hour deluge resulting from being posted on Drudge and they removed it to avoid any further damage. I can, however, vouch for the fact that it was posted.

UPDATE #2 (Friday, April 28, 2006, 9:12 a.m.): The article is no longer linked on Drudge, but it can be found here. Also, the fact that a high school paper has obtained an interview (perhaps the only interview) with Patrick Fitzgerald has attracted national notice. The Washington Post has a story about it. (I was told the New York Times had a similar story about the interview, but I could not find it.)


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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Dad to daughter: "you don't remember nothing."

On the morning of February 11, 2004, Faheem Thomas-Childs, was passing through the schoolyard gate, at T.M. Peirce Elementary School in Philadelphia, when he was shot in the head. The crossing-guard at the corner was shot in the foot and dozens of children and parents ran for cover as four thugs traded gunfire in front of the busy school entrance. He was dead before he could be loaded into an ambulance.

At least 50 rounds filled the air, fired from the guns of Kareem Johnson, Kennell Spady, Cassius Broaster, and Jerome Broaster. None of the shooters were hit and, despite dozens of witnesses, only 8 persons were willing to testify. All eight of them recanted their testimony before or at the trial.

In a non-jury trial, Common Pleas Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan convicted Kareem Johnson and Kennell Spady of first-degree murder, rejecting the self-defense argument. (By their own statements, they went to the school that morning because they knew that the Broaster brothers would be dropping their children off. They were armed to the teeth.)

On Monday, April 24, 2006, the father of one of the witnesses, Devonzo Lawson, was charged with “solicitation to commit perjury” and “witness intimidation” for instructing his 18 year old daughter, Taniesha Wiggins, to recant her testimony in the Thomas-Childs case. Ms. Wiggins was one of the parents present at the school the morning that young Thomas-Childs was slaughtered. She correctly identified Johnson and Spady as the shooters and gave a detailed account of the scene to the investigators.

In court, Devonzo Lawson told her “you don’t remember nothing.” As she walked to the witness stand, he stopped her and told her to “[s]ay what I told you to say… [t]hat you don’t remember nothing.” In essence, “don’t be a snitch.” Or, more generously, “don’t get yourself or your family killed by being a hero.”

USA Today offers up, as a spokesman for the “Don’t Snitch” campaign that is sweeping the nation, Rayco Saunders, an ex drug dealer turned pro boxer, who wears a “stop snitching” shirt to “protest paid police informants.” (www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-03-28-stop-snitching_x.htm?POE=NEWISVA)

In an interview at the gym where he trains, he outlined a stop-snitching creed:

• Don't snitch on others just to save yourself. "Stop snitching is for those guys out there ... selling more drugs than Noriega, and their only out is to tell on somebody. ... If a (criminal) wants to be a Good Samaritan, OK. But send (him) to jail. Don't give him immunity to do what he wants on the street."

• Stop Snitching doesn't mean stop talking to police. "It's always misconstrued by the public, or the powers that be, that we're trying to intimidate the regular people or the law-abiding citizens. That's not what it's about. ... If that is your only outlet, to call the police, that's what you do."

• But witnesses have no obligation to help police. "Do your job — you're the police. ... I've been wronged by the system. Do you think I would help the system? ... Do cops snitch on other cops?"

• The authorities can't protect witnesses. "What's happening to the innocent witness? They get dead or ... terrorized for life."

• Sometimes you must right wrongs yourself. "I'm a man, and I can handle my own situations like a man. ... I've done dirt. I'll admit that. So I can't run to the police."

Noble sentiments to be sure. Don’t be a tool of the government only to lesson your own penalties, but don’t be afraid to do the right thing if you’re a regular person. But, how is this being interpreted on the streets of Philadelphia?

Michael Harmon of Philadelphia writes “When the police or a government agency can protect not only the person snitching but their family too, for long periods, then I can promote ‘step up, speak up,’ but until then it would be suicide to snitch.” (www.philadelphiaweekly.com/view.php?ID=11846)

The numbers support his view:

Of the 380 murders in Philadelphia in 2005, a 9, an 11, a 13, and a 15 year old child was gunned down. Another five 16 year-olds were murdered and 7 seventeen year old boys. In 2006, we already have a 14 year old and two 15 year old children in their graves and the “long, hot summer” hasn’t even begun.

I am inclined to think that Mr. Lawson loves his daughter and was telling her to remain silent so that she wouldn’t be a target. Perhaps he though that, while tragic, Faheem Thomas-Childs, is dead and no amount of justice will bring him back or justify the loss. Maybe the consequences of fingering the murderers were present in his mind and he thought “why add another shooting or arson to the list of consequences of this senseless murder?” Surely Mr. Lawson is aware that associates of the shooters are out there and that they are as ruthless and irrational as they come. Can we blame him for advising his daughter to “not get involved?”

I was trying to think of what I would do. I can’t.

I like to think I would stand up for myself, my family, my community, Justice. I like to imagine that I would buy a gun and guard my daughter too and from every event… that I would proudly sit in the courtroom and stare down any thug who gave her a dirty look as she fingered the murderers. Only… I’m not so sure that the knowledge, that I couldn’t protect her and that she could be killed at the drop of a hat, would fail to work its horrible spell on my resolve.

In the end, as Rayco Saunders must surely know, “don’t snitch” is a warning. It is tantamount to saying to all of those around you “I am a thug. If I perceive that you told anyone about my evil deeds or if you stand up to me, I will kill you. And, if I cannot kill you myself, others, unknown to you, will do it for me.”

How do we deal with this? What would you do?


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Tierney on FDA's medical marijuana "finding"

Following on our discussion of this the other day, John Tierney (whom I'm typically not that enamored with) has an interesting take on the issue in today's NYT:

April 25, 2006

Op-Ed Columnist

Potheads and Sudafed

By JOHN TIERNEY

Police officers in the 1960's were fond of bumper stickers reading: "The next time you get mugged, call a hippie." Doctors today could use a variation: "The next time you're in pain, call a narc."

Washington's latest prescription for patients in pain is the statement issued last week by the Food and Drug Administration on the supposed evils of medical marijuana. The F.D.A. is being lambasted, rightly, by scientists for ignoring some evidence that marijuana can help severely ill patients. But it's the kind of statement given by a hostage trying to please his captors, who in this case are a coalition of Republican narcs on Capitol Hill, in the White House and at the Drug Enforcement Administration.

They've been engaged in a long-running war to get the F.D.A. to abandon some of its quaint principles, like the notion that it's not fair to deny a useful drug to patients just because a few criminals might abuse it. The agency has also dared to suggest that there should be a division of labor when it comes to drugs: scientists and doctors should figure out which ones work for patients, and narcotics agents should catch people who break drug laws.

The drug cops want everyone to share their mission. They think that doctors and pharmacists should catch patients who abuse painkillers — and that if the doctors or pharmacists aren't good enough detectives, they should go to jail for their naïveté.

This month, pharmacists across the country are being forced to lock up another menace to society: cold medicine. Allergy and cold remedies containing pseudoephedrine, a chemical that can illegally be used to make meth, must now be locked behind the counter under a provision in the new Patriot Act.

Don't ask what meth has to do with the war on terror. Not even the most ardent drug warriors have been able to establish an Osama-Sudafed link.

The F.D.A. opposed these restrictions for pharmacies because they'll drive up health care costs and effectively prevent medicine from reaching huge numbers of people (Americans suffer a billion colds per year). These costs are undeniable, but it's unclear that there are any net benefits.

In states that previously enacted their own restrictions, the police report that meth users simply switched from making their own to buying imported drugs that were stronger — and more expensive, so meth users commit more crimes to pay for their habit.

The Sudafed law gives you a preview of what's in store if Representative Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, succeeds in giving the D.E.A. a role in deciding which new drugs get approved. So far, despite a temporary success last year, he hasn't been able to impose this policy, but the F.D.A.'s biggest fear is that Congress will let the drug police veto new medications. In that case, who would ever develop a better painkiller? The benefits to patients would never outweigh the potential inconvenience to the police.

Officially, the D.E.A. says it wants patients to get the best medicine. But look at what it's done to scientists trying to study medical marijuana. They've gotten approval for their experiments from the F.D.A., but they can't get the high-quality marijuana they need because the D.E.A. won't allow it to be grown. The F.D.A. actually wants to know if the drug works, but the D.E.A. is following the just-say-know-nothing strategy: as long as researchers can't study marijuana, they can't come up with evidence that it's effective.

And as long as there's no conclusive evidence that medical marijuana works, the D.E.A. and its allies on Capitol Hill can go on blindly fighting it. Representative Mark Souder, the Indiana Republican who's the most rabid drug warrior in Congress, has been pressuring the F.D.A. to crack down on medical marijuana. Last week the agency finally relented: in return for not having to start busting anyone, it issued a statement stressing the potential dangers and lack of extensive clinical trials establishing medical marijuana's effectiveness.

The statement was denounced as a victory of politics over science, but it's hard to see what political good it does the Republican Party.

Locking up crack and meth dealers is popular, but voters take a different view of cancer patients who swear by marijuana. Medical marijuana has been approved in referendums in four states that went red in 2004: Nevada, Montana, Colorado and Alaska. For G.O.P. voters fed up with their party's current big-government philosophy, the latest medical treatment from Washington's narcs is one more reason to stay home this November.


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Monday, April 24, 2006

A Sudden Love of Generals

The past few weeks saw what can loosely be described as a semi-orchestrated smear job of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The embattled SecDef has been the vocal target of a handful (and, it should be noted, only a handful) of retired generals who played a role in the planning and execution of the Iraq War. The media have seized upon this criticism and drawn two unsupported conclusions from their self-created frenzy: one, that the generals’ criticisms of Rumsfeld as a poor manager and strategic planner are self-evidently true; and second, that these self-evident truths obviously necessitate his resignation from the position of Defense Secretary.

There are, however, some truly interesting features of not only the criticism being leveled by the generals against Rumsfeld, but also of the coverage of that same criticism.

The coverage of the so-called generals’ revolt neglects to mention that there are thousands of generals who are retired from active military service – which must mean that there must be at least dozens of whom who are now retired but were actively involved in the planning and execution of the Iraq War.

The curiosity here is that the coverage utterly and totally fails to disclose the overwhelming majority of generals who have not joined the chorus of criticism against Rumsfeld, and completely soft-shoes when it comes to generals like Eric Shinseki, who keep whatever ill feelings they might harbor toward the administration to themselves. (Please note that I am not making an MSM-like leap in saying that all generals are in total agreement with Rumsfeld’s planning and execution of the war. I am merely saying that it is irresponsible to say that six retired generals out of a pool of thousands constitute a consensus about Rumsfeld’s alleged inability to make strategic decisions.)

What has also gotten precious little coverage is that some of the military hierarchy’s dislike of Rumsfeld has little to do with Rumsfeld’s civilian guidance of the war and more to do with Rumsfeld’s initiation of policy changes within the military. Indeed, this is a dispute that predates September 11th, and the accompanying tectonic shifts in foreign and military policy, and goes back to Rumsfeld’s very first days in the Pentagon.

Recall that Rumsfeld was tasked by the Bush administration with the seemingly daunting task of reshaping the military, with the ultimate goal being to streamline it, boost its efficiency, and remove its clunky over-reliance on heavy equipment in favor of a new-century equilibrium between manpower, vehicles, and technology.

Not surprisingly, generals have been resistant to such changes for good and bad reasons, and some have undoubtedly made their resistance known to Rumsfeld and the administration since January 20, 2001. In that context, it should therefore come as no surprise that the handful of whiny generals seeking to scuttle Rumsfeld’s leadership of the Department of Defense would choose this moment (i.e., in the wake of the vesting of their respective federal pensions) to launch their criticisms.

Finally, the coverage of this borderline-non-story is notable for its omissions as well as its content. Absent from the telling of this story is all of the media’s usual “Seven Days in May” style mistrust of the military and the military-industrial complex; on display in its place is an apparent unquestioning embrace of military leadership and its positions – just so long as that leadership and its positions remain critical of President Bush, Rumsfeld, and the rest of his evil administration. For the sake of convenience, the media have all but forgotten the reasoning behind – and their preference for – civilian control of the military.

Perhaps the only thing that has received accurate coverage during this phony story is the fact that Rumsfeld is going nowhere because he still has President Bush’s support. Good for Rummy.


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Friday, April 21, 2006

F.ound D.umb A.gain

Once again, the United Church of the Food and Drug Administration demonstrated that it is nothing but a conduit for a conservative ideological agenda, when it said Thursday that "no sound scientific studies" supported the medical use of marijuana, contradicting a 1999 review by a panel of highly regarded scientists. Look, I'm not even commenting on the underlying issue--to legalize marijuana medicinally or otherwise, but rather that the FDA mission has been completely corrupted. Against Plan B, medical marijuana, fine...but don't try to get a bunch of politically appointed puppets, err...scientists, to stand up and argue that the the world isn't round. Legislation and/or even enforcement policy are the proper and legal means by which to effect this agenda, and neither are the province of the FDA...

Some choice exerpts from this morning's NYT article are illustrative:

"Unfortunately, this is yet another example of the F.D.A. making pronouncements that seem to be driven more by ideology than by science," said Dr. Jerry Avorn, a medical professor at Harvard Medical School.

The federal government "loves to ignore our report," said Dr. Benson, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. "They would rather it never happened."

Dr. Daniele Piomelli, a professor of pharmacology at the University of California, Irvine, said he had "never met a scientist who would say that marijuana is either dangerous or useless."


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Monday, April 17, 2006

United 93

In what is guaranteed to draw both praise and criticism, United 93 -- the movie about the harrowing moments aboard United Flight 93 between its hijacking and its tragic end in Shanksville, Pennsylvania -- is about to make its cinematic debut at the TriBeCa Film Festival here in New York in the coming weeks. I have heard little about the movie, other than Rush Limbaugh's glowing praise for the near-final product, and I look forward to seeing it as soon as I can. It goes without saying that some of what will be seen on the big screen will be artistic license, since we do not know everything that transpired on that flight, but depending on how they do it, such license probably won't bother me.

What does bother me is the rating this movie has received from the clowns at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). You know who these morons are -- they are the people who control the ratings systems for each and every motion picture released in the United States. They are the idiots who have decided that it is acceptable to give movies with full frontal nudity, simulated sex scenes, senseless violence, and scenes depicting detailed drug use PG and PG-13 ratings. These same self-righteous sentinels of stupidity have seen fit to give United 93 an R rating.

My instinctive response? Horseshit. I suppose we have been too long enveloped in the backwash of political correctness to appreciate that there is, in the rating of this movie, an attempt to conceal history and fact from the American people. There is no reason this movie should have an R rating -- none whatsoever.

To give this movie anything higher than a PG-13 rating suggests to me that the MPAA is letting its leftist leanings, rather than their alleged objective criteria for evaluating movies, shine through. (Please, do not take my word for it. Go read the language of the various ratings and tell me where you would place this movie.) It suggests to me that they are trying to prevent huge swaths of the American people from getting a glimpse at the horror that the passengers on United Flight 93 must have experienced on September 11th. It suggests that they are uncomfortable that most Americans might remember that radical Muslim terrorists, and radical Muslim terrorists alone, are responsible for the carnage that took place. It suggests that they have no intention of releasing their stranglehold on their re-casting of the truth of that day, whether that means keeping real footage of the burning Twin Towers off the nightly news or stifling cinematic interpretations of that day's jarring events.

I can already see the wishy-washy counter-commentary to this post (I name no names to protect the innocent, and the guilty): they will point out that some of the scenes probably do contain at least some violence, which would justify an R rating. That even if there are no specifically violent scenes (which I am sure there are), the overall subject matter might be too mature for younger viewers. That rating a movie is an inherently subjective and extremely difficult undertaking. That to show Muslims breaking bones and slitting throats might be construed as insensitivity toward the Arab Street (which remains unpaved).

Again, horseshit. World War II-era Americans were not insulated from the bombing of Pearl Harbor, nor were they isolated from Hollywood's dramatic re-interpretations of those events. Americans were smart enough to view and understand Hollywood's portrayal of such events through the correcting prism of history and reality. So too, in this time and in this place, are Americans capable of making those same adjustments. What is different between America circa 1945 and America circa 2005 is that, whereas Americans from the former period sought to see the word as it really was, Americans from the latter period, or at least those who control our images, will do everything in their power to prevent the rest of us from seeing the world as it really is.

Liberal suppression of the harshness of reality is a damn shame, but it can be circumvented through resilience and creativity. If I had kids, I would be taking them to see this movie, perhaps more than once, and then I would tell them to use their minds to form their own judgments about the world around them. I wholeheartedly encourage people out there who are parents now to do the same. I also encourage the kids out there, who may be reading this, to buy a ticket for some PG movie at the local cineplex and sneak into the theater playing United 93. Go see the history the liberals at the MPAA don't want you to see.


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Capitalist Pigs at the NYT...

Guess it may not have been such a bad idea (bastards!) afterall...

Times Web Revenue Reaches $62M
by Wendy Davis

The New York Times Co.'s Web-related businesses accounted for $62.2 million in first quarter revenue--7.5 percent of total--the company said Thursday.

Read the whole story on the MediaPostPublications.com website.


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Friday, April 14, 2006

Immigration Policy, Mouldfan Style

Okay, I guess since I promised, I have to provide an answer to GipperClone’s question. I’ll do that and then use my author’s prerogative to comment on some of the aspects of the previous answers. Needless to say I am far from an expert on this subject, so I’m bound to make some mistakes and assumptions. That said, I’m fully prepared for the criticism and my fellow bloggers know I have a thick skin (and huge ego) so I can take it.

In short, I think there are four things that need to be to address the problem of illegal immigration. First, we need to amend/alter the existing legal immigration system. This needs to be done in two ways, not only to allow more people to legally enter the United States on an annual basis, but also to make it simpler and cheaper to do so. Changes in the legal process hopefully will encourage those persons who might be willing to enter the US illegally to do so properly and officially. Second, we need government intervention into the low-skilled labor market to raise wages and hopefully discourage the employment practices that have lead to the rising demand for cheap illegal workers and increase demand for American citizens to do the so-called jobs that previously they have been “unwilling” to do. Third, we need tough employer sanction laws. So tough that they destroy any incentive for a business, small or corporate, to hire anyone without conducting a through background check to ensure proper citizenship status. Finally, we need to dedicate government resources, both state and federal, towards both border enforcement and internal enforcement. I’m not sure there needs to be wholesale changes to the existing laws, but the money and “boots on the ground” need to be there, because right now they are not. Click Read more for the long version.

Allow me to elaborate a bit on why I think these are some of the solutions (or at least the first ones I would attempt). The first one seems to me to be obvious, yet it seems to be rarely discussed. Our current legal immigration system is a nightmare. Regardless of where you are from or for what purpose you seek to enter the United States, one of the recurring complaints is that the process is slow, inefficient, expensive, and overall discouraging to immigrants. If we are to believe everything our politicians say, we know that they are supposedly all “pro-immigrant,” but are by and large opposed to “illegal immigration.” Hence, it makes sense to reform the legal process to encourage more people to immigrate legally. Given the influx of people entering the US illegally, it seems rationale to conclude that there is a need and demand for these people and one way to reduce demand is to provide a viable alternative solution so that they will cease breaking the law. Dramatic increases in the number of legal avenues for immigration as well as simplifying and streamlining the process will I think take a big bite out of the demand to cross the boarder illegally. For example, more student visas and more flexibility in work visas (i.e., allowing people to go to school while on work visas and vice versa) will aid in preventing “overstays” and other problems that have increased the number of people here illegally. I don’t know what the exact numbers should look like, but I think you get the overall point; more, faster and better legal immigration policies and practices will lead to less illegal immigration and allow us to achieve some of the security protections that we all agree need to be in place.

Second, we need to substantially reform the low-skilled labor market. This was the idea that I was driving at in my original post on the subject. If I’m right about a “black market” for labor than as I tried to make clear, I’m not sure that eliminating the illegal immigrants is going to raise wages substantially enough to encourage more Americans to do certain jobs. As I maintained, I don’t believe the “jobs American’s won’t do” line, but I am sure willing to bet that citizens won’t do many jobs at sub-living wages. Raising the minimum wage, preventing labor cost pass though, and providing state subsidized benefits (i.e., similar to what Massachusetts adopted last week) are all suggestions that we ought to seriously consider and adopt for those in the low-skilled labor market. If we correct the underlying flaws in the market, we might see a reduction in demand of illegal workers and an increase in the number of American workers able to get jobs.

Third, we need to enact employer sanctions with teeth. Here is about the only proposal of GC’s that I happen to agree with. We need to destroy the incentive to hire illegal workers. This proposal is not going to be politically popular by any means, and it needs to include the ability of governments to confiscate businesses that violate the law. There are, of course, legal problems with this that would need to be addressed, such as due process and takings issues, but once those are dealt with; there is no reason why a person should be able to operate a lawful business establishment while violating the law. We don’t let restaurants violate heath codes, we impose licenses and certification standards on professionals like lawyers and doctors, therefore, I agree with those who say it’s not too much to ask that businesses take the time and bear the expense of ensuring that their employees are legally entitled to be in the US. Of course there are administrative costs associated with enforcement, but the question doesn’t require me to address how we pay of any of this. Nonetheless, fines and confiscation of business assets will help as DOJ or DHS should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their enforcement proceedings much like they currently do in drug and RICO prosecutions.

Finally, we need more overall enforcement resources, both at the boarders and internally. This is fairly self explanatory and needs no further elaboration.

I realize that I really haven’t answered the question about what to do with the existing illegal immigrants that are here now. My instincts are to allow those that are not criminals to stay, but require them to be checked. We don’t necessarily have to make them citizens, but we can’t make them criminals and I don’t believe we can really deport them all (even under GC’s theory of “attrition deportation”) for any number of reasons. Last but not least I want to address the “Great Wall of the United States” idea, which I happen to think is one of the dumbest ideas out there. I know people will cite the Israeli fence as an example of this idea having some success, but I think the jury is still out on that projects long term viability. GV points out many of the reasons why a “wall” is not a good idea, the most obvious being the cost of construction and maintenance alone is almost prohibitive. Moreover, it’s a big target for sabotage and vandalism, each of which would only increase the costs of keeping it there and working. No fence, no wall, more guards, better technology, that’s the way to go, leave the wall building to the Chinese as it has worked so well for them.

There you have it, let the games begin.


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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Open Challenge

GC posed the following question regarding immigration policy:

If you had the power to make the changes you wanted, what would you do? (For the sake of the question, you may assume you have dictatorial control in order to affect the changes desired.)
It's an excellent question that I thought I would give everyone the opportunity to answer. As for me, I'm thinking it through and will try to post a comprehensive response soon.


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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Ola, Speaker Pelosi

Speaker of the House Denny Hastert (Panderer - IL) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Laughably incompetent buffoon who makes me pine for the days Trent Lott ran the Senate - TN) held a joint press conference where thay said nothing while also guaranteeing that the Republicans go down to defeat this November.

First, let's check out this stirring statement:
America is a nation with borders and borders matter. We are a nation of citizens and citizenship matters. We are also a nation of laws and laws matter. We have an important immigrant heritage and honoring that heritage matters.
Daniel Webster and John Calhoun had nothing on these two. Though I do believe Kodos was a good role model for them:
Abortions for all! Booo.

Abortions for none! Booooo.

Abortions for some, miniature American flags for everyone else. Hurray!
But seriously, Frist is right, and I'd like to add to the list.

We are a nation with air, and air matters. We are a nation with lots of Starbucks and Starbucks matters. We are a nation with words, and words matter. We are a nation with books, and books matter. We are a nation with feet, and feet matter. We are a nation with a nation, and nations matter.

Sorry, let's get back to the press conference. You see, it's not the GOP's fault that a tough border security bill hasn't passed. Oh no! It's big bad Harry Reid.
“While we are disappointed with the House Democrat’s lack of compassion and the continued efforts by Senator Reid to block action on immigration legislation so that Congress can proceed to conference, it remains our intent to produce a strong border security bill that will not make unlawful presence in the United States a felony.
Wow. Frist and Hastert have managed to make Harry Freaking Reid look postively statesmanlike by comparison. Do they have any idea how pissed off they've just made the base of their party? Do they have any clue whatsoever that this is a slam dunk issue which the Republicans could easily take advantage of?

But the White House will surely make things right? Right?

Weep. Wrong. The White House has e-mailed this column by Ruben Navarrette in the San Diego Union-Tribune pinning the blame on . . . everyone who doesn't reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Who killed immigration reform? The autopsy shows it was Senate Democrats.

It's tempting to put a pox on both parties. But it wouldn't be fair. Republicans were tireless in search of comprehensive, and bipartisan, reform. Sen. John McCain of Arizona joined with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., to draft the guest-worker legislation, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter made that legislation central to what his committee sent to the full Senate. Sens. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Sam Brownback of Kansas were vocal in their support. Sens. Mel Martinez of Florida and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska offered a helpful compromise. And Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist showed leadership by reaching out to the other side.

Too bad you can't say the same for Democratic leader Harry Reid, who was the villain in this drama.
Umm, Mr. Navarrette, it's "tempting to put a pox on both parties" because both parties deserve the blame. Democrats are pandering to illegals in the hopes that this will one day become a solid Democratic voting bloc. Republicans are just trying to do the same. In the meantime, both parties have ignored the overwhelming majority of Americans who want to see greater enforcement, and a significant curtailment of illegal entry into this country. And while I'm normally opposed to Democratic obstructionism, for once they're right because we've somehow manage to concoct legislation that would make matters worse than they already are.

And since the White House Communications department sent this out to us happy bloggers, I can only assume they support this Pilate-esque passing of the buck.

What a disgrace.


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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

More on Immigration Economics

Not that I need validation for my opinions (my ego is pretty big already), but it is nevertheless good to see that at least one very smart, well-regarded individual, Eugene Volokh has similar thoughts to mine regarding the “jobs American’s won’t do” argument.  Hopefully this dispels and of the “conservative” v. “liberal” portions of this line of thinking as Eugene can hardly be considered “liberal” by any political definition of the word.  


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Monday, April 10, 2006

Defender of (his) faith

Today hundreds of thousands of lawbreakers undocumented workers will be holding a massive rally in DC. Unfortunately I have work to do, so I can't attend. But have no fear. Theodore Cardinal McCarrick will be there to offer a blessing.

Ah, Cardinal McCarrick. When it comes to pro-choice, "Catholic" politicians he is Helen Keller. But he's sure to make his voice heard when it comes to defending people illegally crossing our borders.

Thank you, Cardinal. It's good to know the Archdiocese is in such capable hands.


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Saturday, April 08, 2006

"Blocking Tactics"

Mr. President,

Perhaps you need a civics lesson.

You see, the Framers of our Constitution didn't trust the House to legislate in a deliberative manner. To solve this problem, they instituted the Senate.

The idea was that elected officials, less beholden to local interest and with longer terms of office, would be in a position to put the breaks on reactionary legislation. The senate is SUPPOSED to take its time, to become informed about the issues, to consider the consequences of legislation that is written in a political hothouse.

Deliberation is not a "blocking tactic" and dissent is not disloyal. Get your nose out of it. You are the chief executive, not the chief legislator.

Oh, and Mr. Kennedy, shut your fat trap.

Who are YOU to say "[p]olitics got ahead of policy" on anything? You are the nation's biggest senatorial whore. More importantly, that you left a woman to die, while stumbling back to your house in a drunken stupor, destroyed any inherent right to challenge others to behave honorably.

Finally, Mr. Reid, I know you have to pretend that the Dems are a bunch of noble, hardworking, just-tryin-to-do-your-job kind of blokes, but who are you kidding in saying that the Republicans have "put partisan politics ahead of border security and immigration reform." None of you is willing to do what is right if it might cost your party, so stop pretending that Dems are faithful to their duties in the face of a political storm.

Now... y'all get back to work.


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Friday, April 07, 2006

McKinney and Personal Security

When I was a kid, Wilson Goode was mayor of Philadelphia. He is infamous for his role in the Osage Avenue fire and MOVE incidents of the 1980s. He was also known for surrounding himself with security everywhere he went- his “entourage.”

He had the obligatory city cops and aids, but he also had at least five or six private security consultants with him at all times. In 1987, my high-school class was muscled out of the way when going through the Broad Street entrance to City Hall by this entourage. While I was just a punk kid with a clip-on tie, the size and demeanor of his security is a lasting impression of Philadelphia politics from my childhood.

Which brings me to Cynthia McKinney (D- GA).



I had no idea what the security arrangements for U.S. Representatives are or how necessary they are… so I did some checking.

On a normal basis, “regular” Representatives are not provided with security.

But, is it “normal” for Representatives to employ private security? I called six Representative’s offices (3 urban/Dem. and 3 suburban/GOP). One office said that the information was “classified.” None of the other five Representatives employ private security.

But, do Representatives NEED security? Four of the five offices that would talk to me about security acknowledged that being an elected official carries with it a definite loss of privacy. However, none felt that security was ordinarily necessary.

So, why does Rep. McKinney feel the need for an uncommon level of security?

Maybe the answer lies in the District that she represents. Her website describes her District thus:

“The District is majority Women (51% overall!). The District's ethnic diversity includes groups from all around the Asian Pacific Rim, from Central and South America as well as a growing African population. The 2000 U.S. Census Bureau figures list the population of the Fourth District at 744,717. The district, on average, has enjoyed an 8% growth rate. The median household income is $36,523 and the median family income is $42,177. While many persons in the district are doing well economically, 10.7% of the district's population live below the federal poverty line and 7.6% of all district families live in poverty.”

Review of www.phillyneighborhoods.org suggests that Rep. Chaka Fattah’s District (D- PA) is similar in demographics and economics to Rep. McKinney’s. (His website does not include similar information to that available on Rep. McKinney’s website. Instead, it includes links to schools, social organizations, events, and the like.) He does not employ private security.

(For the record, I am not suggesting that this limited review is dispositive, I am simply offering it as a comparison. It could be that Rep. McKinney’s District has a higher incidence of threats against public officials and such. But, on its surface, the perceived need for private security seems to be disconnected from legitimate security concerns.)

It is not an earth-shattering idea to suggest that a public official’s “need” for security is based, almost entirely, upon perception. That perception may be based upon experience (Wilson Goode’s experience as a political activist in the 1960s and during the Frank Rizzo era for example) or upon information not available to the general public. However, I am suspicious of people who feel the need to erect barriers, where others in similar situations see no such need. In “regular” life such persons are labeled as “paranoid.”

This is not a quality to be admired, even if it does reflect the subject’s particular experience. In a public official, this quality can be downright dangerous.

Public officials, particularly in executive positions, have a tremendous capacity to misuse govt. resources. In legislators, there is a serious danger that one’s paranoia will lead to “extreme” reactions. On the one side we have Nixon and Wilson Goode. On the other we have Ted Kennedy and McKinney- Executives whose actions are informed by experience received through a defectively paranoid lens -Legislators whose marshalling of public opinion is tainted with a narrow, bigoted perspective.

At the end of the day, what is wrong with McKinney is that she perceives the world to be stacked against her and hers. Everyone who disagrees is an enemy. I worry about such officials- sometimes they strike out at their protectors with their cell-phone and, sometimes, they drop “incendiary devices” on rooftops.


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Thursday, April 06, 2006

My day at Washington College

Yesterday I got to play the part of a real blogger, and I appeared on a panel about political blogging at Washington College located on the Eastern shore of Maryland. The other panelists were Matt Stoller of MyDD, Steve Clemons of The Washington Note, and Robert A. (not P as in Princeton Professor) George of Ragged Thots. It was a really good discussion, and for once I managed to get through a public speaking engagement without stumbling too badly. There were probbaly 30-40 people in the audience, not bad for a small liberal arts college.

My little spiel dealt primarily with why and how I got into blogging, and my (our) attempts to build a readership. (Read more) I had a bit of a unique perspective as a blogger who writes for smaller blogs (around 100 hits a day for Political Spectrum, 40 for the Cranky Conservative) and also a blog that at the height of the Harriet Miers kerfuffle had approximately 90,000 readers a day.

I detailed my work at Confirm Them and how it was rewarding to feel that my opinions were a) being read, and b) making a difference politically. I do feel that Harriet Miers would be a sitting Supreme Court justice at this moment were it not for the blogs, for talk radio, and for all forms of non-traditional communication. But I also noted I was a small cog in that machine - everyone else there is really an inside player with a lot more information. I'm more like Archie Bunker with a PhD.

Then I got into a discussion about TPS and trying to get the blog more well read. I'm not much for self-promotion, and none of the rest of the folks really have the time or desire to be active promoters. For all of us blogging is more of a hobby than a profession, though I'm probably the one more active in the "blogosphere." Really, trying to get well known in the blogopshere is like landing a job in DC - it's not so much what you know as much as who you know. In terms of the blogosphere it's about connections - getting links from outside blogs and building up a reputation. Unfortunately I don't usually actively seek to get blog links from other bloggers, though I do think bloggers will oblige you more often than not. The only time I ever e-mailed another blogger asking for a link was when I wrote my tribute post to Mike Piazza. Mett Cerrone at MetsBlog obliged my request, and within two hours we had three hundred page views, triple our usual daily amount.

But getting one link is not enough. You really have to build up the blog's reputation. Belmont Club benefitted from repeated links from Instapundit. But we all click on the linked articles on the blogs we read, and how many of us go back to those blogs again? Sometimes we notice that the linked blog has content that we want to check, and they become a regular reading habit. I've discovered all the blogs I currently read only through other blog referrals. But usually I'll click once and that is the last time I see that blog.

Ultimately, a successful blog needs to find a niche. Confirm Them was successful because it concentrated on a single issue. It became the place to go in the blogosphere for judicial appointment news.

But it really just comes down to effort. I love politics, but quite frankly I've grown a little tired of politics, and that adversely affects my writing. It also dampens my desire to be super active. So of course in the midst of this quasi political depression, what do I do? I create another blog. But this blog is a result of a sort of political fatigue. I needed a place where I can vent about other crap and concentrate a little bit less on the political side of things.

The other bloggers discussed the power of blogs and their ability to really effect change. Steve Clemons boasted of his part in squashing Bolten's nomination. But I wouldn't say there was a lot of blog triumphalism. We all noted that we have to police ourselves and make sure the content we present maintains our collective credibility. There is still a presumption out there that there really are no checks in the blogosphere, but that's not really the case. Jayson Blair and Memo Gate are just but a couple of examples of the MSM's own lack of accountability. Good bloggers provide plenty of links to back up their arguments. But there are always going to be individual cases that paint the blogosphere in a bad light, and there will be somewhat of a bias against blogs in the near future- or at least that's what I believe.

Overall it was a nice event. It was cool to meet some more distinguished bloggers than yours truly. Once again we proved that you can put people from different sides of the political spectrum in the same room together and they won't kill each other. I definitely recommend checking out their blogs because there's pretty much something there for everyone.


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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Blog Panel

If anyone is in the area of Washington College in eastern Maryland tonight, I'll be appearing on panel on the "Political Blogosphere." The event begins at 7:30 in the Norman Jeames Theater. The other panelists will be Steven Clemons of the Washington Note, Matt Stoller of MyDD, and Robert George of Ragged Thots (also a writer for NRO).


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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?

The following should be read with the caveat that I am not a native of New Orleans. I am not even a native of The American South. But I was fortunate to clerk for a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Because of the way that my judge used his law clerks, I spent about 10 weeks of my year-long clerkship living in New Orleans. My experience of New Orleans was not that of a native. I spent every night in one of its finest hotels (I say, its finest hotel). I ate every night at one of its many fine restaurants. It was a very enjoyable experience, spent with co-clerks with whom I became close friends. The pleasure I received does not make me an expert, and it did not bestow on me the well-rounded experience of a native. All I can claim is that my time spent there meant that, when Katrina hit, I experienced a great sadness and a great frustration on behalf of a city like no other.

This past weekend my judge held a reunion of law clerks. Major reunions are coordinated with a week when the judge will be in New Orleans for a sitting anyway. I had a wonderful time at the reunion, seeing former clerks I knew and meeting former clerks I had never met. This is my report about the state of New Orleans. New Orleans threatens to be our Vesuvius.

Many people have returned. And everyone who has returned is aware of the rapidly-approaching beginning to the 2006 hurricane season.

In at least a couple ways, things are back to normal. Which is to say, any tourist will find himself asking the same two questions he asked himself in pre-Katrina New Orleans: (1) Am I in danger? (2) What is that smell?

But beyond that, things are not normal. On the cab ride in from the airport to the CBD, you can't escape an eery feeling of emptiness. Even with abundant traffic, things seem strange, and only more so because you know that you have come to N.O. to have a good time when it doesn't yet seem right. (And then you justify it in your head by arguing that this is one way you, i.e., I, have to help restore the city.) There are an inordinately large number of cars -- broken down and taken apart -- on the roadway. These are far more than could have broken down in the past 24-48 hours. But it seems that they are not exactly remnants of Katrina, either. Because those remants -- hundreds of them -- are seen stored underneath overpasses. The city has nothing else to with them.

Approaching the city from the airport, the closest large building on the skyline is the Superdome. (Amazingly, it boasts a large banner about reopening in September 2006. I am incredulous.) The city has re-directed exit and entrance ramps to keep cars away from the Superdome as they enter the downtown area. As your eyes pass the Superdome, they see that many of the large office buildings downtown still have windows blown out. Some of these are covered with plywood; some are not. Some have clearly been abandoned. The 15-20 story tall hotel standing next to the Superdome has been entirely abandoned, with no effort made to keep out the elements. I did not see any security around the Superdome to keep people out. Perhaps Katrina was enough so that even squatters will not go there any more. Also apparently abandoned next to the Superdome are the LSU Medical Center buildings. (Louisiana faces a severe shortage of doctors, not just in the present, but in the future as well. Many doctors are still not back, and those who are there are pressed into emergency care. Extrapolating from the past, the only doctors who will practice in La. in the future are those who train there. And we are now approaching the second year in which the only two medical schools in La. -- Tulane and LSU -- are impeded.)

At the hotel, I recognize the head bellman from my pre-Katrine stays. He seems to be experiencing a great strain. (So I tip him $2.) He explained that most hotel services had been restored, although room service was not yet up to 24 hour service as it had been; he expressed hope that when they could get the help, it would all be back to normal. This was very modest of him, because he did not mention his own plight. I later heard that the staff of 30+ bellmen was operating with less than 10.

After arriving at my fancy-schmancy hotel, I quickly went down to meet some friends at a cafe on Jackson Square. The Quarter, as is well known, is among the highest points in the city and did not receive much (or any) flood damage. (But you pass plenty of closed buildings on the way to the Square, from the Virgin Megastore to a local microbrewery.) The Quarter has also long been a congregation point for the rough edges of society. Combining my observation of Jackson Square and later observations of Canal Street, it seems clear that the older homeless people, and the younger African American males who look like they are loitering and up to no good, have returned (if they left at all). There seem to be many more of them, in fact, then there had been previously. It is at least possible -- as some suggested -- that the homeless/gang-bangers are at the same pre-Hurricane levels, but there are not as many tourists in which to dissolve them. In any event, walking through major thoroughfares one begins to wonder -- in the broad light of day -- whether one is about to be mugged. (See question 1, supra.)

The great counter to this is that I have never seen as many N.O. cops in my life as a I saw this past weekend. The force is almost at pre-Katrina levels (1400 out of 1600), while the population and the geographic area requiring patrol is much less than it had been. As a result, greater police concentration. I have no idea how they are paying the cops' salaries.

Speaking of the cops, the cheapy tourist places to buy tchotchkes on Canal are stacked mile-high with tee shirts about Katrina. The two most popular seem to be a shirt that says "N.O.P.D." but instead of referring to the N.O. police department, it explains that it stands for "Not our problem, dude." Also popular is: "Forget Milk. Got Chocolate?"

So after drinking in the cafe on Jackson Square for several hours, I returned to my hotel to prepare for dinner. (I am 99.9% sure I saw a partner from my law firm walking around the Square, but was in no mood to make nice.) On the cab ride to the restaurant, we pass an empty Walmart with several armed security guards standing in front. ("It was flooded," the cabbie explained.) Clancy's, a fabulous restaurant uptown, is going and going strong. It was packed to the gills. The oysters with brie appetizer is as good as ever. My entree, La. drum, was not as good, however, as some other dishes I have eaten at Clancy's. Maybe I was just mad that it was Friday and I couldn't get the filet.

Post-Clancy's, we went by Harrah's, which was packed. (Co-clerk Nora couldn't find a seat at a cheap table.) And from there we quickly went to the piano bar at Pat O's. (I asked the cabbie about the crowds, and he complained that it was impossible to make any money. I take that with a grain of salt, because I believe all cabbies have the same complaint. Nevertheless, he did express hopes to make it through Jazz Fest, to see if that turned things around.) There is a big new picture up in the piano bar of the older black man who used to play the thimbles. It says he died in 2005. I overheard someone say his death was storm-related, but I have no confirmation of that.

(UPDATE: I didn't read the Pat O's website carefully enough. Yes, the man was a Katrina victim.)

Pat O's is in full strength, as are the hurricanes. We left shortly before the music stopped (4 a.m.) and went to Cafe du Monde for beignets and cafe au lait. Thence to bed. Is Cafe du Monde open all night, or did we catch it right as it opened?

The next day saw a need for alka-seltzer and lots of lying down. It also saw a need for a Ferdi (a po' boy) from Mother's. The lines seem to be a little shorter at Mother's. But the service is as rude as ever. (And, no, not in a charming way.) Some poor fellow named Steve asked about the location of his po' boy. The woman behind the counter began her long list of complaints against the customer: "FIRST of all, Steve...."

More lying down was required after lunch.
Then a trip to the courthouse for a gathering. I learned that the imminent moving of the clerk's office to a different building is not Katrina-related. It is part of a pre-Katrina, long-term reorganization of the court's facilities to be a better use of space.

Walking around in the daylight revealed an interesting fact. Apparently all the curbs have washed out. There is a lot of sand around, and I suspect that is from receding flood waters. And there is trash everywhere in the street. I suspect that has accumulated post-flood water. But although there are asphalt roads and concrete sidewalks, there is no curb between them. The road just sort of turns into a sidewalk at the edges. Also gone are all the bus stops. There are some mailboxes (attached to movable concrete slabs). There are also some fire hydrants (strangely, with about 2 extra feet of pipe, so that they are much higher off the ground than usual). But the streets and sidewalks are basically a disaster area.

After the happy hour gathering, another blessed hour of lying down. (I had forgotten what eating and drinking in N.O. can be like.) Thence to quite possibly the most famous N.O. restaurant of them all: Galatoire's. Cocktail hour, then the Grande Goute (crabmeat salad and shrimp). And then the eating and drinking began. Turtle soup, trout amandine (not for me, I finally got a filet), custard and chicory. We had about 75-80 people, so there were multiple waiters. But the woman running the show was a waitress I recognized, one of the judge's favorites from pre-Katrina. (For all my meals there, I have never yet figured out how to read what makes a good Galatoire's waiter and what makes a bad one. I think that female waiters are prized because the men are seen as full of themselves, but I am not sure about that.) She fed updates on the LSU score to our table, until -- after hearing "losing badly" -- we didn't want to hear any more.

An interesting side note about lawyers. On the spot, 35 former clerks delivered impromptu amusing and informative 90-120 second spiels about clerking for the judge. It either shows that lawyers learn to think on their feet, or that lawyers like to hear themselves talk.

Drinking followed dinner, but all back at the hotel, so there is really no story there. Next morning up early (where is that alka seltzer?) to the airport.

So here's my take. I had read statistics showing that middle class families were moving back at faster/higher rates than the drug lords and derelicts. But that is not what I saw. I saw lots of drug lords and derelicts. I did not see crowds of tourists around them. In fairness, middle class families do not live in the CBD and do not live on Canal Street or Bourbon Street. So they could be there, but I wouldn't see them. What is there makes one reach two contradictory conclusions. One, "This ain't right." Two, "Enough has returned to remind anyone who has ever experienced it of all the things that make this city unlike any other." Which is to say, this is a city worth having around for a couple hundred more years.


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McKinney

Representative Cynthia McKinney (Lunatic - GA) recently got in a spot of trouble for assaulting a Capitol Police Officer. She had allegedly hit the officer with her cell phone after he attempted to stop her and get her identification. Naturally McKinney took full responsibility for her actions and apologized.

Oh. Wait. For a second there I was confusing her with an actual human being. No, instead she chose to - surprise surprise, play the race card.
“Let me be clear, this whole incident was instigated by the inappropriate touching and stopping of me – a female, black, progressive congresswoman,” she said. “I am certain that after a full review of the facts, I will be exonerated.”
Yes, Cynthia, the officer must have said to himself, "There goes that black, female, progressive Congresswoman. I'm going to go touch her inappropriately because, well, I just don't like them black, female, progressive Congresswomen."

Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that you refused to wear your identification lapel pin, and the officer in question simply didn't recognize you. Now, I know it must be a brutal blow to your ego to think that there's someone out there that does not recognize you, Cynthia McKinney - black, female, progressive Congresswoman - after all, somone who could forget the face of someone as clearly insane as you?
“We know there were numerous warnings of the events to come on September 11... Those engaged in unusual stock trades immediately before September 11 knew enough to make millions of dollars from United and American airlines, certain insurance and brokerage firms' stocks. What did the Administration know, and when did it know it about the events of September 11? Who else knew and why did they not warn the innocent people of New York who were needlessly murdered?”
Well, at least she's a fit represenative for the district representing my alma mater.


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And the hammer falls...


The hypocrite's crime is that he bears false witness against himself. What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under the cover of all other vices except this one. Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.

~Hannah Arendt, On Revolution, 1963



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The Jobs Americans Won’t Do (Under the Conditions Offered)

As usual GipperClone’s last post got me to thinking, what is this immigration or “illegal” immigration debate really all about. Despite all the rhetoric, it’s not really about race, class, or even law enforcement. Moreover, it’s not about immigration policy or national security or even national sovereignty, all things that it probably should be about. No, it’s all about economics, labor economics to be precise; the rest is just verbal candy for the fundraisers and the elections. Click Read More to see the rest.

Now what do I mean? Well it’s simple, at the end of the day this debate is going to be decided by labor and business interests, which as usual are pretty much on opposite sides of the fence. To complicate the problem, the politics seem to be reversed. Labor, who generally favors liberal or democratic candidates, is by and large opposed to the undocumented immigrant population mostly based on the argument that they are driving down wages and taking unskilled labor jobs from Americans. (I like the word “undocumented” more than “illegal” because I think given the current law it’s more accurate. Illegal carries the connotation of criminal, although one can do something illegal without violating a criminal law, but that’s often a technical distinction lost on the non-lawyer populace, and right now, under current law, these people are, by and large, not criminals, though they are in violation of the law. Most immigration offenses, including unlawful presence, assuming no other charges or complaints are civil violations.) This of course is the same argument that many conservatives have been making for quite a while. Businesses, on the other hand, which are generally pro-conservative or more accurately pro-Republican, are generally in favor of open immigration policies, or at least policies of non-enforcement, because they mean lower labor costs, which in turn mean higher profits and happier shareholders. But you all knew that already. So that brings me to the question GC asked; what is meant by the phrase “undocumented immigrants do the jobs that Americans won’t do?”

In my post title I added a parenthetical phrase to that question, because I think it helps to understand what I think most people are saying when they make the statement in question. The phrase “under the conditions offered” is implicit to the argument that only immigrants will pick strawberries, clean houses, mow lawns, serve as maids in hotels, or be busboys in restaurants (this list could go on and on, but I think I’ve represented many of the jobs typically associated with undocumented immigrant workers). So that leaves me to explain what the conditions offered are. Though many of you already know the answer; the conditions offered in many of these jobs are not good. These jobs are underpaid (generally minimum wage ($5.15/hr by federal law, though it may be more depending on the state) or less), include no benefits, or hope for achieving benefits, have generally poor hours, long shifts, and many are not regular permanent assignments, but rather require the workers to migrate or at a minimum travel long distances between jobs. So given these facts it helps to restate the question. The question is not will no Americans pick strawberries, because I think the answer is that of course Americans will pick strawberries. Rather the better, more accurate, question is will Americans pick strawberries for $4 an hour with no benefits of any kind and under poor working conditions? Answer; by and large, no they will not (and of course we shouldn’t expect immigrants, documented or not, to work under some of the conditions offered either, but that’s another issue).

Many labor and other economists (much smarter than I) will take this exact line of argument and say that the reason that this situation exists is because the undocumented immigrants are overflowing the unskilled labor market. This large influx of workers increases supply and drives down the wages. That is certainly a reasonable and sensible position, but I don’t think it’s entirely correct. Rather, I think that what we are seeing in the undocumented immigrant labor market is the pure free market at work, outside the realm of even the most minimal of government intervention. In other words, the undocumented immigrant labor market is essentially a black market for labor, and as such, it operation, in my opinion, is less than desirable. Look at it this way; why are the wages low? They are only low by “American” standards, not the immigrant’s standards. $4/hr is a fortune for someone from a third world country where often wages rest below a dollar an hour. Why are the conditions so bad? Again they are only “bad” from an “American” point-of-view. Relative to the conditions in their native lands, even the worst working conditions here are often the equivalent of “Club Med” to immigrants from the third world. Businesses and workers know this reality and they have adjusted their labor market expectations accordingly to take full advantage of the situation. Undocumented workers can be paid less for the same (and often better) work, with no regulation or enforcement. I’m not advocating that this be done; I’m merely pointing out that such activity is rationale from the purely economic prospective of both employers and employees.

The even more disappointing reality is that the undocumented immigrant labor market is probably a very accurate picture of what the labor market would look like absent government intervention. One of the primary arguments against raising the minimum wage is that it is a government imposed market distortion. In other words, minimum wage laws do not allow employers and employees to operate under a free market wage system created by their mutual supply and demand needs, but rather imposes a artificial wage equilibrium. The reality is that strawberry picking is probably only worth $4.00 per hour because any more would likely require the price per pound of strawberries to increase to a point where many, not all, consumers would opt for another product. The same is likely true with the other markets previously mentioned. Should the cost of labor rise, there are really only two outcomes; either businesses will assume the cost increases, which eat into their profits, or they will pass the costs on to the consumers, which by definition will make the goods that we buy more expensive. Many economists have argued that even if the pass through occurs it will be minimal and not likely large enough to impact consumer preferences, but those are merely educated guesses, and my own opinion is that many of these people are dramatically underestimating the total cost savings that these businesses are getting from the undocumented immigrant labor market. In other words, it’s not just cost per hour of labor that is cheaper, but a whole host of other “costs” that are not paid (taxes being just one of them) that will have to be passed on to the consumer, because few, only the largest, of these businesses are even capable of absorbing these costs and remaining in business. Bottom line, this is one of the cases that I have argued that government intervention in the market is a good thing and generates net positive outcomes. The labor market, especially the unskilled labor market is one that is rife with abuses that even extend beyond the undocumented immigrant sector. Minimum wages are but only one solution to the problem. Nevertheless, politically they have proven to be the only possible solution, and even then the policy has not kept up with the needed changes.

Note that I’ve tried very hard to avoid normative statements about what is “good” or “bad” when it comes to immigrants or immigration policy. I’ve made suggestions regarding the minimum wage and labor market intervention, but those things benefit citizens as well as immigrants. I’m skeptical of whatever Congress comes up with on immigration as I’m not sure what the solutions are. All I do know is that the economics must be dealt with or else nothing we or anyone else does is going to have snowballs chance of succeeding. Those that are already here, legally or not, have to be dealt with as mass deportation is not really a legitimate option. That said, the labor market also has to be dealt with or else we will forever find ourselves in the same situation we’re in now. It’s not that there are jobs that American’s won’t do; it’s that there are conditions under which American’s won’t do certain jobs. Fix the conditions and I believe you can improve the labor market and slowly eliminate the need for the large number of undocumented immigrants.


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Monday, April 03, 2006

Egalitarian Words of Wisdom from Mayor Mike

I expect Mayor Michael Bloomberg's inane brand of social liberalism to shine through every now and then and obscure his true fiscally conservative accomplishments, but Mayor Mike really stuck his foot in his mouth on Friday when he said that golf course grounds would suffer if immigration laws were enforced.

Says United Press International:
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says golf fairways would suffer if illegal immigrants were returned to their native country.

"You and I are beneficiaries of these [illegal immigrant] jobs," Bloomberg told his WABC-AM radio co-host, John Gambling. "You and I both play golf; who takes care of the greens and the fairways in your golf course?"

Okay, horrific. Bloomberg's above sentiment bothers me for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the mayor of New York has zero objection to the presence of (probably) tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of illegal aliens in his city, all of whom cost his city (read: me, as a taxpayer) millions of dollars each year in crime prevention, welfare checks, medical expenses, and other basic services that are part and parcel of city life.

No, what bothers me more is the racism inherent in the comment -- and I take solace in knowing that it is liberals who generally harbor such racism, as usual.

The dunderhead bloc in this illegal immigration debate (just so we are clear: this is not a debate about immigration generally, which most of us favor on some level; this is a debate about illegal immigration, the deleterious effects of which have been well documented) insists on saying, in true mindless soundbyte fashion, that "illegal immigrants will do the work that Americans won't do." Honestly, I have no idea what that means. Not only do such comments reveal a frightfully poor grasp of economics, but they also show a shaded perspective of race, class, and the perception that the two are inextricably intertwined.

I'll be even blunter: I think most people who favor illegal immigration are people who have not worked very much for a living (read: the limousine liberal and mercedes moderate elements of society). They couldn't possibly understand that people possessed of a work ethic, who need to work to make their lives and their families' lives better, will do so no matter what the work. Having been catered to all their lives, they have no concept of (gasp!) taking a job that you might not enjoy so you can pay the bills. They have no inkling that people take jobs in the real world for reasons other than touchy-feely self-worth and self-satisfaction.

More ominous, I fear, is the implication that Americans expect some non-white underclass to do their dirty work. I am sure, for instance, that Ted Kennedy would not feel comfortable having some white teenager clean his pool in Hyannisport; better to have Jorge from Tiajuana do it. I mean, Jorge is a hard worker -- we all know that Americans don't work hard. Better to have a brown man who makes pennies a day keep the lower pool on the compound grounds thoroughly chlorinated.

This illegal immigration debate is off kilter for so many reasons, but probably the most problematic one is that their is a huge segment of bleeding-heart America that finds compassion in racism and classism. I find that deeply disturbing.

By the way, Mayor Bloomberg, I would prefer our immigration laws be enforced, if it's all the same to you. Maybe that's because I don't golf.


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