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April 2004 Archives

April 1, 2004

The Daisy Age

I'm no Kerry fan, but this criticism is just stupid. "Ha-ha-Bush-is-a-chimp" stupid. Having just returned from a few days at the slopes, I can attest that people wear otherwise silly things while skiing and boarding. OK, I was in Quebec, but still, people wear otherwise silly things while skiing and boarding in Vermont, too. OK, that's Vermont, but still. I'm sure normal skiiers dress that way in Idaho as well. Criticizing the guy for wearing a perfectly respectable ski vest and a perfectly inoffensive daisy just makes the rest of us who want to criticize him for real reasons look bad.

I can't support his decision to board instead of ski, however.

April 4, 2004


Glenn Reynolds notes an article in the NY Times about anti-Bush messages creeping into prime-time entertainment television shows. But the prime example in the article is perhaps not as anti-Bush as it might first appear:

But the season finale of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on HBO arguably best conveyed the growing sentiment. On that episode, the main character, played by the comedian Larry David, backed out of a dalliance sanctioned by his wife after noticing that his prospective paramour had lovingly displayed a picture of Mr. Bush on her dresser.

That paramour is Broadway star Cady Huffman, playing "herself". I haven't yet seen the episode (I have it taped), so I don't quite know the context of the above example, but I've watched the show enough to know that its main message always seems to be "whatever Larry David does, a normal person would do the opposite". My wife and I are somewhat distressed whenever we find ourselves agreeing with his character.

And context or no context, Larry David's character is simply objectively wrong here. If you've ever seen Cady Huffman play Ulla in "The Producers", you'll know what I mean - given my wife's permission, I'd sleep with Cady even if she had Saddam Hussein's picture on the nightstand. (Maybe not if Saddam Hussein himself were on the nightstand, but it'd be close.)

Be that as it may, if the point of the episode is that being a Republican means that Larry David won't have sex with you, then Curb Your Enthusiasm is possibly the most pro-Republican show on television outside of Hannity and Colmes.

UPDATE: Having just seen the episode, I still maintain that it was a poor example to illustrate the article's point. In backing out of the dalliance, Larry David's character (as he so often does) comes across as kind of a jerk. In fact, in the very next scene, Larry's manager Jeff (often the voice of reason) berates him with the best line in the episode: "How could you be so stupid? I'd f*** her if she was wearing a Bush mask!" (Later, a clearly angry - but still hot - Cady elbows him painfully in the ribs on stage.)

Larry David may be a flaming liberal, but at least he has a sense of humor about it.

April 5, 2004

When political correctnesses collide

Ha. Title IX mandates that schools spend money on sports via the quota system; they must spend as much on women as on men, regardless of the relative interest levels of women and men. (That's a slight oversimplification of the law, but it essentially captures the way the law is enforced.) This has led to the slashing of many men's sports teams in an attempt to achieve parity in spending. Now the University of Maryland has found a loophole in the rules:

Early this season, Maryland became the first university in the nation to grant its cheerleading squad status as a varsity sport. It is a distinction that helps Maryland comply with the federal gender-equity law known as Title IX.

You can tell from reading the story that women's sports advocates are itching to complain that this is a cheap stunt to increase Title IX compliance without actually creating women's sports:

"Maryland had other existing alternatives with demonstrated student interest," Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women's Sports Foundation, said. "To try and manufacture a sport and put a round peg in a square hole is disingenuous. I am not demeaning cheerleading skills, but is it a bona fide athletic opportunity for women or a convenient one for the athletic department?"
Mary Jo Kane, a professor of sports sociology and a director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota, called Maryland's decision "a Title IX end-around."

"If this was an all-male cheerleading team, would they make a decision to prioritize cheerleading over a traditional sport like men's hockey?" Kane said. "Advocates of Title IX have every right to be suspicious of this. We've had to fight and claw for every women's tennis or golf scholarship, but now all of a sudden there's been a conversion and people think cheerleading is the answer? Come on now."

But they can't really bash the decision, because women's sports advocates have been complaining for years that cheerleading is a legitimate athletic institution and that it doesn't get the respect it deserves only because it's a women's sport.

What's a feminist to do?

Give An Inch...

Let's see how Spain's new policy of appeasement is working out for them:

MADRID, Spain - An Islamic group that claims responsibility for the Madrid bombings says it will turn Spain "into an inferno" unless the country halts its support for the United States and withdraws its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The threat came in a letter faxed to the Spanish daily newspaper ABC over the weekend, the paper said Monday. ABC said the letter was handwritten in Arabic and signed "Abu Dujana Al Afgani, Ansar Group, al-Qaida in Europe." [...]

The letter gave Spain until Sunday, April 4, to fulfill its demands of ending support for the United States and withdrawing troops from both countries.

"If these demands are not met, we will declare war on you and ... convert your country into an inferno and your blood will flow like rivers," the letter said.

Oh, dear. Not good. Who would have thought?

April 6, 2004

Have another good one

Happy Passover

April 8, 2004

Doing his part for the economy

Let nobody say that John Ashcroft isn't trying to help George Bush get re-elected; in addition to helping to direct the domestic side of the war on terror, our Attorney General is creating fun and stimulating new jobs to help with the national employment figures:

Lam Nguyen's job is to sit for hours in a chilly, quiet room devoid of any color but gray and look at pornography. This job, which Nguyen does earnestly from 9 to 5, surrounded by a half-dozen other "computer forensic specialists" like him, has become the focal point of the Justice Department's operation to rid the world of porn.

In this field office in Washington, 32 prosecutors, investigators and a handful of FBI agents are spending millions of dollars to bring anti-obscenity cases to courthouses across the country for the first time in 10 years. Nothing is off limits, they warn, even soft-core cable programs such as HBO's long-running Real Sex or the adult movies widely offered in guestrooms of major hotel chains.

"Honey, how was your day at work?"

It's crap like this that gives war-on-terror-supporting libertarians agita when we think of the November elections. We have the choice between religious wackos and un-deregulatory anti-free traders. Yuck. But what's particularly disturbing about this story is this: even if you think the first amendment shouldn't and doesn't apply to this sort of material, what the heck kind of use of national resources is this? Is there really nothing more threatening to national security than pictures of naked people that forty or fifty law enforcement types couldn't be spending their time on?

Damned if you do...

Later today, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is going to testify before the 9/11 commission; while she's using the time as an opportunity to spin the Bush administration as the greatest since the universe was created, Democratic critics will take her testimony as an opportunity to point out all the things that the administration didn't do which in hindsight would have clearly stopped 9/11 if only people had listened. But while people complain about what the government didn't do, though, you can be sure they won't be mentioning this story: ACLU Files Suit Over 'No-Fly' List, describing a lawsuit just filed by the ACLU against the Transportation Security Administration. The no-fly list, of course, is the government's list of suspicious names to be screened closely before being allowed to board airplanes.

Now, I have no doubt -- based on the story, based on other anecdotes I've heard, and based on general knowledge of how government doesn't work -- that the list contains inaccuracies, is probably inefficiently maintained, and could generally be improved. But does that create an issue of constitutional rights, as the ACLU claims?

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, seeks a court order to force the TSA to change the system so fewer innocent passengers are wrongly accused.
Does the ACLU have any helpful suggestions, though, or are they just saying, "Do a better job?" And if the current system is a violation of constitutional rights, doesn't that mean that the system must be shut down entirely unless they can do a better job?

In any case, the complaints hardly seem to rise to the level of constitutional violations. What harm? Well, there's Air Force sergeant Michelle Green, who

...said she was humiliated in front of her supervisors on a work trip when airline agents told her she could not get a boarding pass because she was on the no-fly list. "No innocent American should have to go through such a humiliating experience," she said in a statement.
And college junior Alexandra Hay:
The airline ticket agent told her she was on the no-fly list, delayed her boarding and would not tell her why she was on the list.
And Reverend John Shaw, who
...said he had trouble receiving his boarding pass and was treated with suspicion by airline personnel on vacation trips with his wife.
And of course ACLU attorney David Fathi:
At the airport in Milwaukee last summer, David C. Fathi said, he was led by at least three armed county sheriff's deputies who questioned him about his identity. On another occasion, he said, an officer threatened to detain him because his name appeared on the list. "I have pretty thick skin," said Fathi, an ACLU attorney who likened the experience to being made to feel guilty until proven innocent. "It's humiliating and it's frightening" to have the experience regularly, he said.
So we have some personal embarrassment, being "treated with suspicion," questioning, and "delayed boarding." Wow. And the ACLU wants to shut this down because it's a violation of constitutional rights? Because someone was embarrassed? Or had to jam her luggage into the overhead compartment?

By the way, Fathi "likened the experience to being made to feel guilty until proven innocent." Uh, as opposed to what? Innocent until proven guilty? Is the ACLU suggesting that the only people to be singled out at airports for increased attention -- and remember, that's all this is -- are those who have actually been convicted of terrorism?

The real point here, though, isn't that the ACLU is wrong on this issue. Rather, the point is this: if the ACLU is throwing up roadblocks to heightened scrutiny, at airports, even after 9/11, what kind of fight would they have put up before 9/11? (And just to be fair and balanced, is there any chance the airlines would have gone for this before 9/11? The last thing they needed/wanted was the added expense and hassle of such a program.) Was there any prayer that the Bush administration could have tightened security to a level adequate to have prevented 9/11? Of course not. So keep that in mind when everyone acts as if Rice was a big screwup because 9/11 happened on her watch.

Old politicians never die...

...they just stand around yelling, "Hey, look at me!!!!" until someone pays attention to them.

Imagine you called up Ariel Sharon and said, "Hamas is going to blow up a bus in the future, unless we increase security and resolve this whole Middle East mess." Now imagine that Hamas did blow up a bus, and Israelis wanted to know why the Israeli government didn't prevent it. Would you expect that your deep insight would make you the star witness in an investigation of that question? Or would you realize that your vague contribution wasn't really very helpful?

Well, if you're former U.S. Senator Gary Hart, the answer to that question would be the former. It seems that Hart chaired a commission a couple of years ago -- the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, aka the Hart-Rudman Commission (famous mostly, or only, for coining the term "Homeland Security"), and he's itching for people to notice he's still around:

Now that the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States -- the so-called 9/11 commission -- is moving toward completion of its deliberations and preparation of its final report, I am increasingly asked what information our earlier commission, the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, has provided the 9/11 commission and why that information has not been made public. When told that the 9/11 commission has not asked for any public testimony from us, most people are incredulous. If the 9/11 commission is really trying to find out what was known and when it was known, they ask, why would your national security commission's warnings and recommendations not be of direct relevance and urgent interest? Didn't you publicly and privately warn the new Bush administration of your concerns about terrorism? Didn't you specifically recommend a new national homeland security agency? Why wouldn't all this be of central importance to the work of the 9/11 commission? The simple answer to all these questions is: I don't know why we have not been asked to testify.

Since the U.S. Commission on National Security officially ceased to exist as of the summer of 2001, I cannot speak for the other 13 commissioners. But I have been waiting for many months to hear from the 9/11 commission, fully expecting a request for public testimony from members of our earlier commission, and have heard nothing.

That does sound like a reasonable question... at least until you read the Hart-Rudman commission's report, which can be located, in several parts, here. Shorter version, for those of you too lazy to read it: the future is challenging, terrorism will be one threat among several, we should work with other countries, and if we just reorganize the government bureaucracy which runs the intelligence community to make it work better, we can solve all the problems we'll face.

If you're wondering whether there's some earthshattering revelation I'm omitting, just read Hart's own words from his Salon article:

Though we had no ability to forecast specific times, places and methods for such attacks, we were united in our certainty that they were bound to occur. In our first report we said: "America will become increasingly vulnerable to hostile attack on our homeland [and] Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers." In our final report we urged the new Bush administration to create a national homeland security agency to prevent terrorist attacks.
So unless there's something I'm missing -- a classified version of his commission's report containing specific intelligence, for instance -- I can't begin to see why anybody would care what Hart had to say. Unless one is thrilled by phrases like "creating an interagency task force" and one loves helpful advice such as "It is likely that the legislation that is finally passed by Congress will differ somewhat from the Administration's proposals. If the differences are significant and apt to be deleterious, then it may be appropriate to advise the President to veto it." (Yes, this is what passes for wisdom inside the beltway.)

April 14, 2004

"Wrong in a way that is characteristically Krugman"

I do a fair bit of Krugman-bashing, as do many other blogosphere pundits. But lest one think this is all based on dislike for Krugman's liberal ideology, try this quote, from the liberal American Prospect's 1996 piece on Krugman:

A fine example of how Krugman's intuitive solidarity with fellow economists leads him to get the story backwards concerns the Clinton health plan. For Krugman, it is a travesty that non-economist industrial policy advocates such as Reich and Magaziner landed key policy positions in the Clinton administration. Thus predisposed to dislike Magaziner, Krugman recounts this anecdote:
If you had asked most people in the field to list the leading experts on the economics of health care, almost all of them would have mentioned Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution, an economist with solid liberal credentials and a strong backer of Clinton during the election. But when the Clinton administration formed its health care task force, a huge effort involving more than five hundred people, Aaron was not involved. Why? The answer appeared to involve a kind of guilt by association. The task force was headed by Ira Magaziner, a business consultant by profession but a strategic trader by inclination. . . . Now, in the great confrontation over industrial policy in 1983 and 1984, economists from Brookings had been highly critical of strategic traders in general and Magaziner in particular. It was not too surprising that Magaziner would exclude a Brookings economist from his deliberations, or even that he would, as appeared to have been the case, have excluded virtually anyone with prior background in health care economics.
Note that this little anecdote, rendered in complex subjunctives, is all inference and surmise, as opposed to reporting. (We journalists may not be too great at running regressions, but we do try to find out what actually took place.) In fact, the Clinton task force did include several health economists, including Professor David Cutler of Harvard. More to the point, Henry Aaron did participate in health policy discussions, both during the campaign and the transition, and made clear his preference for controlling health costs directly via a cap on hospital revenues, rather than with the "managed competition" approach of the Clinton group. Ironically, the Clinton task force was partial to a more "marketlike" approach, which built heavily on the work of the noted health economist Alain Enthoven. Aaron also recalls the notable chilling effect of his December 1992 New York Times op-ed piece, describing as "fantasy" the Clintons' claim that cost savings from managed competition would be enough to buy coverage for the uninsured. So the Clinton group and Aaron could not get together because the Clinton model was too much like textbook economics to suit Aaron, while Aaron, despite the Brookings connection, was proposing a form of direct price regulation. Krugman's little story is not just wrong, but wrong in a way that is characteristically Krugman. The only guilt by association is Krugman's own premise-reported as fact-that Magaziner would naturally "exclude a Brookings economist."
Emphasis added. Doesn't the highlighted portion capture so perfectly what is wrong with, and infuriating about, Krugman as a columnist? Rather than find out the facts in any given situation, he simply invents scenarios that fit his worldview, and reports them as if they were established truth. "The answer appeared to involve a kind of guilt by association." And said scenarios are often, well, silly -- as the above example illustrates. Extremely reminiscent of the most recent Krugman invention of a conspiracy wherein the Bush administration somehow pressured CNN into falsely admitting error to cover up White House shenanigans. (And then following up by blaming CNN because Krugman didn't believe its own admission of error.) Obviously a columnist is not a reporter, and isn't necessarily expected to do extensive original reporting before commenting on an issue. But he's not supposed to make stuff up, either.

It's uh, well, uh, like, uh, maybe, uh...

Andrew Sullivan, for some incomprehensible reason, liked George Bush's press conference. I can't imagine why. Because, while I'm generally supportive of the administration's stance with respect to Iraq, I found this performance to be embarrassingly bad. I don't want to make the mistake of confusing articulateness with intelligence, but that took articulateness to new lows. Although I do have to say that after reading the transcript, it's not nearly as bad as having to sit through it live. Still, statements like these...

Finally, the attitude of the Iraqis toward the American people -- it's an interesting question. They're really pleased we got rid of Saddam Hussein, and you can understand why. This guy was a torturer, a killer, a maimer. There's mass graves.

I mean, he was a horrible individual that really shocked the country in many ways, shocked it into a kind of a fear of making decisions toward liberty. That's what we've seen recently. Some citizens are fearful of stepping up.

And they were happy -- they're not happy they're occupied. I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied either. They do want us there to help with security.

...make me cringe with shame. "I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied either"?! Are we discussing an airplane bathroom? And "I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it." and "Look, nobody likes to see dead people on their television screens. I don't." hardly inspired much confidence, either. Why can't we have someone who sounds a little more like, say, Tony Blair to stand up for these views?

As long as I'm criticizing, I ought to note that I thought Bush got more comfortable and less awkward as the press conference continued, and I thought that this was particularly effective:

Maybe I can best put it this way, why I feel so strongly about this historic moment. I was having dinner with Prime Minister Koizumi, and we were talking about North Korea, about how we can work together to deal with the threat. The North Korea leader is a threat.

And here are two friends, now, discussing what strategy to employ to prevent him from further developing and deploying a nuclear weapon. And it dawned on me that, had we blown the peace in World War II, that perhaps this conversation would not have been taking place.

It also dawned on me then that when we get it right in Iraq, at some point in time an American president will be sitting down with a duly elected Iraqi leader, talking about how to bring security to what has been a troubled part of the world.

The legacy that our troops are going to leave behind is a legacy of lasting importance, as far as I'm concerned. It's a legacy that really is based upon our deep belief that people want to be free and that free societies are peaceful societies.

Some of the debate really centers around the fact that people don't believe Iraq can be free; that if you're Muslim, or perhaps brown-skinned, you can't be self-governing or free. I'd strongly disagree with that.

I reject that. Because I believe that freedom is the deepest need of every human soul, and if given a chance, the Iraqi people will be not only self-governing, but a stable and free society.

Unfortunately, the media was far too interested in trying to get Bush to apologize for 9/11 to notice. He did finally place the blame appropriately with Osama Bin Laden, but it took him several tries of meandering non-responses before he did so.

You know, I'm not saying I could do a better job at a press conference -- but, then, I'm not the president, and I don't have a staff of dozens of people to assist me in preparing, either. Sheesh. Hasn't he ever heard of rehearsing?

East Germany threatens to tear down the Berlin Wall

Here's one of those headlines that sound like Onion parodies: Arafat Says U.S. Backing of Sharon Could End Peace Plan. So let me get this straight: Arafat won't negotiate with Israel if he doesn't get his way? Uh, how exactly could we tell the difference? Isn't that about like Saddam Hussein threatening not to cooperate with U.N. inspectors if the U.S. doesn't leave Iraq immediately? That horse has already been stolen from the barn, killed, beaten, and then chopped up for dog food. Kinda late for Arafat to be threatening to lock the barn now.

April 20, 2004

Clinton's Quagmire?

Jordanians killing Americans - in Kosovo?

[Lynn] Williams and Kim Bigley, 47, of Paducah, Ky., were shot and killed Saturday by a Jordanian UN police officer. Investigators still don't know what led to the shooting.

I hope they find out.

Sauce for the goose?

So does anybody think there will be a media feeding frenzy over this presidential candidate's coverup of his mlitary past:

The day after John F. Kerry said he would make all of his military records available for inspection at his campaign headquarters, a spokesman said the senator would not release any new documents, leaving undisclosed many of Kerry's evaluations by his Navy commanding officers, some medical records, and possibly other material.

Kerry, in an interview Sunday on NBC's "Meet The Press," was asked whether he would follow President Bush's example and release all of his military records. "I have," Kerry said. "I've shown them -- they're available for you to come and look at." He added that "people can come and see them at headquarters."

But when a reporter showed up yesterday morning to review the documents, the campaign staff declined, saying all requests must go through the press spokesman, Michael Meehan. Late yesterday, Meehan said the only records available would be those already released to this newspaper.

I seem to recall headlines and press conferences and the media generally acting like sharks sensing blood when they covered a similar story vis-a-vis George Bush. It's still early, and that could still happen -- but right now, it seems pretty quiet.

Oh, and what's with this?

Asked whether Kerry would release his evaluations, as Clark did during the primaries, Meehan responded: "We don't have Wesley Clark's evaluations." Asked directly whether Kerry would release all of his own evaluations, Meehan repeated that the campaign would release only the records already made available.
I can't tell whether this was an attempt to be funny -- it failed -- or an attempt at evasion -- it failed.

[Update: Mickey Kaus speculates that this is just a bait-and-switch by Kerry, that when the full records come out they'll make him look good. Nah. Kerry ain't that smart.]

April 23, 2004


Presented without comment, as the story speaks for itself:

WASHINGTON -- Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan after walking away from a multimillion-dollar NFL contract to join the Army Rangers, U.S. officials said Friday.
He was 27.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said a formal announcement was expected later in the day. Spokesmen at the Pentagon and U.S. Army declined comment.
Tillman was killed in direct action during a firefight in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, Pentagon sources told ABCNEWS.

A Pentagon source said that Tillman was killed when his Rangers patrol was attacked by small arms fire and mortars during a coordinated ambush.

Condolences to his family.

I suppose it's sad that he'll get more publicity than the other 700+ who have given their lives in this war, but I suppose it's inevitable, even though he made it clear that he wasn't interested in publicity or special treatment.

April 24, 2004

Ballplayer: manager should stop calling plays

When politicians say dumb things, sometimes it's hard to tell whether they're dumb, or whether they realize the statements are dumb but think we're so stupid that we won't notice how dumb they are. Case in point: New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, showing he doesn't quite grasp the concept of religion:

Gov. James E. McGreevey said he is a "devout Catholic" and will continue to practice his faith, but church leaders are wrong to tell him and other politicians not to support abortion rights.

Church opinions like the one issued Friday by the Vatican force American Catholics to chose between obeying their religion and practicing politics, McGreevey said.

"I do not accept that false choice," he told reporters.

Many children have trouble with making choices, also. They think they can watch television and go to the movies. Get a new CD and get the new video game. Support abortion and belong to a religion which opposes abortion. Have their cake, and eat it, too.

Whether McGreevey "accepts" the choice or not, it exists. Church leaders, of course, cannot force McGreevey or other American Catholics to obey them. They have no police power. What they do have is the power to decide what makes a good Catholic, and to deny that label to those who don't live up to the appropriate standards. I may not agree with the Church on the substance of many of its views. I may not agree with some of the rules of my own religion. But I don't pretend that I can pick and choose which ones I feel like adhering to and still claim to be observant.

There may be some religions -- Unitarians, for instance -- where there really aren't any rules. If McGreevey wants to become one of those, he can do what he wants. But he can't claim to be Catholic -- a hierarchical religion -- and then ignore the dictates of the hierarchy. Church leaders are not "wrong" to tell him what to do; that's their job.

And from the "world's smallest violin" segment of the story:

A recent speech by Bishop John M. Smith, head of the Diocese of Trenton, said McGreevey's politics indicate he "is not a devout Catholic."

"When he refers to himself as a devout Catholic and supports legislation and programs that are contrary to the teachings of the Holy Father and the bishops, he is not a devout Catholic," Smith said. "He cannot compromise what it means to be a Catholic. I speak, as your bishop, for the devout Catholics of the Diocese of Trenton. Jim McGreevey does not."

McGreevey on Friday said those remarks hurt him and his family.

Awww. Poor baby.

Maybe they meant the seventh Commandment?

The New York Times editorializes against new naturalization tests for applicants for American citizenship. They're afraid, apparently, that the tests will be too difficult, which would be "unfair" to candidates. In a typical example of Timesian liberalism, the problem isn't with unqualified applicants, but with having standards and expecting people to live up with them:

While the bureau plans to design a new curriculum for the community-based organizations and agencies that help immigrants prepare for the test, the government will provide no money to make that process less onerous. That's unfortunate. There is already a tremendous shortage of English classes for foreign speakers, and the demand will certainly increase. Immigrants and their advocates are right to be concerned. A study published by the Urban Institute says that some 8 million people in the country are eligible to apply for citizenship now, 2.7 million in California alone. A chief reason they do not apply is difficulty with English.
In other words, it's not the responsibility of immigrants to learn what they need to in order to become citizens. It's not the responsibility of "their advocates" to teach them what they need in order to become citizens. It's the responsibility of "the government" -- meaning taxpayers, of course -- to make immigrants qualify for citizenship.

(Keep in mind, incidentally, that as a general rule, one has to have lived as a permanent resident in the US for at least five years before applying for citizenship. If someone can't be bothered to learn English in five years, who needs him?)

In a bizarre example of irony, the Times adds:

One typical question asks which amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to vote. Many natural-born Americans would be stumped on that one (it's the Seventh), but more than 90 percent of the applicants pass the current exam.
For those of you who, like the New York Times editors, failed social studies, the seventh amendment says,
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Ain't nothin' about voting in there, as you can see. Can we revoke the citizenship of the Times' editors?

(Hat tip: TW)

April 25, 2004

Victims of war, victims of bad choices

One of the longstanding liberal/conservative debates in the United States is in regard to the phenomenon of poverty. Liberals believe that the problems of the poor are primarily a result of circumstance, while conservatives believe that they're the result of poor choices. An article in the New York Times on Saturday, while intended (I think) to be a sob story about the harsh world actually illustrates the latter. They presented stories of two veterans; the first was Pat Tillman, killed in combat in Afghanistan, and the second is a woman who returned from Iraq and who is now homeless, with a child, in New York. I'm not sure why the Times decided to put these two stories together, but put that question aside and focus on the second story. It is a sad story when anybody is homeless, and even sadder when a veteran is. But once you get past that natural sympathetic reaction, the story becomes slightly less heart-rending.

Why homeless with a child? Well, she's unemployed (having left the military), and when she originally entered the military, she was stationed in Germany, where something happened:

A relationship with another soldier ended after she became pregnant, and in early 2003 she flew to the California home of some friends from the military - the Bronx was not an option, she says - to give birth in March of that year. A few weeks later, she did the hardest thing she has ever had to do: she left Shylah with her California friends and returned to Germany to complete her service.
Notice something -- or someone -- missing from the story? The article later discusses her $250 in unemployment benefits, but nowhere in the piece is any child support mentioned. Perhaps that's because nowhere in the piece is the child's father mentioned.

And why homeless? Well, when she got home from the military, she stayed with her mother. Briefly:

Her Army career now over, Ms. Goodwin returned to California to pick up Shylah, who looked "amazingly different," and headed to the Bronx, where her mother, two sisters and a 4-year-old nephew were now living in the two-bedroom apartment in the Patterson housing project. "We were good for a week," she said of her relationship with her mother. "But after that. . . ."
Anywhere else she could go? Yes:
Ms. Goodwin and her daughter moved in with a good friend's mother, and she began planning her next step in life, one that would provide more than the $250 a week she was receiving in unemployment benefits. But a heated argument abruptly ended the living arrangement, and late on April 6 - a little more than two months after being honorably discharged as a private, second class - a war veteran and her small child hit the darkened streets.
So, let's recap: she gets pregnant out of wedlock, has apparently no contact with the father, and whenever people let her stay with them, she gets into fights with them and gets kicked out. Oh, and from later in the story: she refuses to go back to her mother's apartment.

And now she's not doing well? Gee, what a shock. Like I said, a sad story. But more of a lesson about how not to live your life than a tale of society letting someone down.

April 28, 2004

Even The Fabric Of Life!!!

I enjoyed the revival of Stephen Sondheim's Assassins, and apparently I have George Bush to thank. That is, if I am to believe the rantings of a seriously unhinged Village Voice theater critic. He sets up the question: "So why, given what a problematic work Assassins is, has it now found the approbation it didn't get in 1991?", then spews:

What's changed that now helps validate Assassins isn't art but our national political climate. The grievance-nursing mentality of psychopaths who shoot presidents now belongs to the party that runs the country; the assassins have, so to speak, moved into the White House. Only today's unforgiving bullies, far from the have-nots and failures who make up Assassins' character list, are the haves, the people who've benefited most from the opportunities America offered, and are now busily hauling the economic ladder up behind them to keep others down. They've shaped this world, yet they're as angry and unhappy about it as any ranting Byck or ulcerated Zangara; their misguided solution is to stand behind a fraudulent president and take aim directly at the body politic, wounding in the process even the fabric of life itself. Today the Republican Party is nothing but a worthless collection of Dylan Klebolds, and some good therapist should take them in hand before it's too late for the rest of us here at Columbine High. Their temporary dominance clarifies both Assassins' current success and its perturbing hollowness: The real convocation of America-killers will not be at a shooting gallery, but this coming August when the GOP meets in Madison Square Garden.

Wow. I suppose I should have expected some sort of reference to current politics in a review of a show about people who have tried to kill U.S. Presidents, but that was breathtaking. If there were a Pulitzer Prize in Overblown and Baseless Invective in Otherwise Non-Political Journalism, that'd have to win at least an Honorable Mention.

(I'd find it funnier if I didn't have the sinking feeling that probably many thousands of my neighbors here in NYC read the review and thought "Right on! Stick it to those damn grievance-nursing, fabric-of-life-wounding Republicans!" Sometimes I hate living here.)

About April 2004

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