Monthly Archive for May, 2005
“Avoiding long-term poverty is not rocket science. First, graduate from high school. Second, get married before you have children, and stay married. Third, work at any kind of job, even one that starts out paying the minimum wage. And, finally, avoid engaging in criminal behavior”. –Walter Williams, professor of economics
It’s because of Americans like this:
Italian restaurant may sue after Clinton fails to honour booking
WHEN the owner of one of Rome’s most fashionable restaurants received a booking from Bill Clinton and his entourage, he was happy to clear the tables and order in his best food and wine.
But Romeo Caraccio was left furious after the former president of the United States and his party failed to show up without bothering to cancel their reservation.
Now the owner of the Michelin-starred Agata e Romeo restaurant is considering claiming compensation for lost takings after the high-profile no-show.
The restaurant, which is popular with visiting celebrities, had been called by one of the former president’s staff requesting a table for 18. The delighted owner cleared away a corner of his dining room and ordered in more than £1,000 worth of extra food and wine for his VIP guest and entourage.
However, an hour after the 1:30pm reservation there was still no sign of Mr Clinton, who was in Rome as part of a week-long visit promoting links between Africa and Europe.
Yesterday, a waiter at the restaurant said: “We had a call from one of his security team making the reservation and then a visit to check out the place.
“It was all confirmed and the boss even ordered in more food and wine – he spent an extra £1,000, but he [Clinton] never turned up.
“The boss was furious as he didn’t even have the decency to cancel. When he called the security guard to find out what was happening he said ‘change of plan’ and just put the phone down.”
Last night, Mr Caraccio said: “The story is true, but I don’t really want to comment any further.
“We were expecting Mr Clinton, but he never arrived and he didn’t even cancel his reservation.”
Last night, a US embassy spokeswoman in Rome confirmed that the booking had been made, but said it was not a matter for the embassy.
“I can confirm that Mr Clinton was due to eat at the restaurant.
“However, he had to pull out and was not able to attend. I don’t know why; he is a private citizen,” the spokesman said.
“We are also aware that the owner is very upset and is looking for compensation, but there is nothing we can do about that.”
Mr Clinton is said to have heard about the restaurant after meeting the Michelin Guide ‘s New York correspondent, Fabio Parasecoli.
Mr Clinton’s visit to Rome was the second in just over a month – he visited the Eternal City in April when he came for Pope John Paul II’s funeral.
At the time, Mr Clinton had promised the city’s mayor, Walter Veltroni, that he would make a return visit and this time he stayed for a week.
He and his entourage took over several rooms and suites at the Hotel De Russie close to the famous Piazza del Popolo.
Besides speaking at several events, Mr Clinton also took in the famous Roma sights such as the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps.
But he was thwarted in his attempts to visit Rome’s most famous sight, the Colosseum, as he arrived just after closing time and, despite pleas from his entourage, officials refused to reopen the site.
“And who knows? If Democrats can’t succeed any longer in legislating through the courts, maybe they’ll even return to trying to win power the old-fashioned way, through elections”. –Wall Street Journal
New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks gives us the new and revised Manifesto:
Karl’s New Manifesto
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: May 29, 2005
I was in the library reading room when suddenly a strange specter of a man appeared above me. He was a ragged fellow with a bushy beard, dressed in the clothes of another century. He clutched news clippings on class in America, and atop the pile was a manifesto in his own hand. He was gone in an instant, but Karl’s manifesto on modern America remained. This is what it said:
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle. Freeman and slave, lord and serf, capitalist and proletariat, in a word oppressor and oppressed, stand in opposition to each other and carry on a constant fight. In the information age, in which knowledge is power and money, the class struggle is fought between the educated elite and the undereducated masses.
The information age elite exercises artful dominion of the means of production, the education system. The median family income of a Harvard student is $150,000. According to the Educational Testing Service, only 3 percent of freshmen at the top 146 colleges come from the poorest quarter of the population. The educated class ostentatiously offers financial aid to poor students who attend these colleges and then rigs the admission criteria to ensure that only a small, co-optable portion of them can get in.
The educated class reaps the benefits of the modern economy – seizing for itself most of the income gains of the past decades – and then ruthlessly exploits its position to ensure the continued dominance of its class.
The educated class has torn away from the family its sentimental veil and reduced it to a mere factory for the production of little meritocrats. Members of the educated elites are more and more likely to marry each other, which the experts call assortative mating, but which is really a ceaseless effort to refortify class solidarity and magnify social isolation. Children are turned into workaholic knowledge workers – trained, tutored, tested and prepped to strengthen class dominance.
The educated elites are the first elites in all of history to work longer hours per year than the exploited masses, so voracious is their greed for second homes. They congregate in exclusive communities walled in by the invisible fence of real estate prices, then congratulate themselves for sending their children to public schools. They parade their enlightened racial attitudes by supporting immigration policies that guarantee inexpensive lawn care. They send their children off to Penn, Wisconsin and Berkeley, bastions of privilege for the children of the professional class, where they are given the social and other skills to extend class hegemony.
The information society is the only society in which false consciousness is at the top. For it is an iron rule of any university that the higher the tuition and more exclusive the admissions, the more loudly the denizens profess their solidarity with the oppressed. The more they objectively serve the right, the more they articulate the views of the left.
Periodically members of this oppressor class hold mock elections. The Yale-educated scion of the Bush family may face the Yale-educated scion of the Winthrop family. They divide into Republicans and Democrats and argue over everything except the source of their power: the intellectual stratification of society achieved through the means of education.
More than the Roman emperors, more than the industrial robber barons, the malefactors of the educated class seek not only to dominate the working class, but to decimate it. For 30 years they have presided over failing schools without fundamentally transforming them. They have imposed a public morality that affords maximum sexual opportunity for themselves and guarantees maximum domestic chaos for those lower down.
In 1960 there were not big structural differences between rich and poor families. In 1960, three-quarters of poor families were headed by married couples. Now only a third are. While the rates of single parenting have barely changed for the educated elite, family structures have disintegrated for the oppressed masses.
Poor children are less likely to live with both biological parents, hence, less likely to graduate from high school, get a job and be in a position to challenge the hegemony of the privileged class. Family inequality produces income inequality from generation to generation.
Undereducated workers of the world, unite! Let the ruling educated class tremble! You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win!
I don’t agree with everything in Karl’s manifesto, because I don’t believe in incessant class struggle, but you have to admit, he makes some good points.
“To venture into the Arab world, as I did recently over four weeks in Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Iraq, is to travel into Bush Country. I was to encounter people from practically all Arab lands, to listen in on a great debate about the possibility of freedom and liberty. I met Lebanese giddy with the Cedar Revolution that liberated their country from the Syrian prison that had seemed an unalterable curse. They were under no illusions about the change that had come their way. They knew that this new history was the gift of an American president who had put the Syrian rulers on notice. The speed with which Syria quit Lebanon was astonishing, a race to the border to forestall an American strike that the regime could not discount. I met Syrians in the know who admitted that the fear of American power, and the example of American forces flushing Saddam Hussein out of his spider hole, now drive Syrian policy. They hang on George Bush’s words in Damascus, I was told: the rulers wondering if Iraq was a crystal ball in which they could glimpse their future”.–Fouad Ajami, Majid Khadduri Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University
An old post from New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks that is worth saving,
More Than Money
By DAVID BROOKS (NYT) 744 words
Published: March 2, 2004
If the polls are to be believed, this could be the last day of John Edwards’s presidential campaign. But before we bid him adieu, it’s time for one last ladling of praise and blame.
Edwards deserves some praise because he is the only major candidate who talks consistently about the poor. The problem is that he talks about poverty in an obsolete way, which suggests he has learned nothing from the past 40 years.
Edwards talks about poverty in economic terms. He vows to bring jobs back to poor areas and restrict trade to protect industries. He suggests that if we could take money from the rich and special interests, there’d be more for the underprivileged.
This kind of talk is descended from Marxist theory, which holds that we live in the thrall of economic conditions. What the poor primarily need is more money, the theory goes.
The core assumption is that economic forces determine culture and shape behavior. As William Julius Wilson wrote in ”The Truly Disadvantaged,” ”If ghetto underclass minorities have limited aspirations, a hedonistic orientation toward life or lack of plans for the future, such outlooks ultimately are the result of restricted opportunities and feelings of resignation originating from bitter personal experiences and a bleak future.”
Conservatives, on the other hand, believe that liberals have it backward. In reality, culture shapes economics. A person’s behavior determines his or her economic destiny. If people live in an environment that fosters industriousness, sobriety, fidelity, punctuality and dependability, they will thrive. But the Great Society welfare system encouraged or enabled bad behavior, and popular culture glamorizes irresponsibility.
We’ve now had a 40-year experiment to determine which side is right, and while both arguments have merit, it’s clear the conservatives have a more accurate view of poverty.
For decades welfare programs funneled money to the disadvantaged, but families dissolved and poverty rates remained stubbornly high. Then the nation switched tack in the mid-1990′s, embracing policies that demanded work. Many liberals made a series of horrifying predictions about what welfare reform would do to the poor. These predictions, based on the paleoliberal understanding of poverty, were extravagantly wrong.
Now many scholars from across the political spectrum agree that money alone will not significantly improve the lives of poor families. ”Not only does behavior matter,” Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution wrote in The Public Interest last year, ”it matters more than it used to. Growing gaps between the rich and poor in recent decades have been exacerbated by a divergence in the behavior of the two groups.” If you graduate from high school, wait until marriage to have kids and work full time (at whatever job), it is almost certain that you will not remain poor.
Sawhill’s research indicates that we could double the amount we spend on welfare programs, and we would not make an important dent in poverty. But if we could somehow give people the inner resources they need to hold onto a job, and bring illegitimacy rates back to 1970 levels, then poverty rates would plummet.
There are as many kinds of poverty as there are poor people. As David K. Shipler writes in his wonderfully observant new book, ”The Working Poor,” it takes emotional dexterity to climb out of poverty, as well as job skills. The poor often have ”less agility to navigate around the pitfalls of a frenetic world driven by technology and competition.”
While conservatives were right about the basic nature of poverty, liberals are right when they point out that simply getting people off welfare and into the world of work is not enough. Welfare reform means more single mothers are working, but they are having a hard time making progress into the middle class. We’re going to need support programs to complete the successes of the 1990′s.
All of this is absent from the world Edwards describes on the campaign trail. It is absent from the populist worldview lately embraced by John Kerry. President Bush’s compassionate conservative agenda, which was based on the idea that conduct matters most, remains unfulfilled.
We are moving toward a consensus on how to address the diverse problems that cause poverty. But when you go out on the campaign trail, you find politicians spreading polarizing disinformation. Edwards is right to talk about poverty, but by resorting to crude, populist rhetoric, he is leading in the wrong direction.
“I think at the end of the day Iraq will succeed and stand on its own two feet and be independent and completely capable. . . The Iraqis have matured over the past several months and they believe that they have to make Iraq for Iraqis. I think that the turning point was the elections on January 30. They were successful beyond my expectations if I can be that honest. . . It meant Iraqis wanted to take the risk for their future, and I think it can only get better from now on” — Jordan’s King Abdullah, writing in the Washington Post.
I have a final coming up on June 8th and I am leaving to Mexico to visit family on June 11th, staying for two weeks and returning on June 26th; because of these two upcoming deadlines I have a lot on my plate. I need to get everything ready at work in anticipation of my two week vacation, and I also need to study for my final.
So from now until my June 11th flight, I will primarily post ‘quote of the day’ and ‘picture of the day’ stuff, and for the two weeks that I am in Mexico, posting will be very low, only when I have time to do so.
However, I do plan to do a lot of updating to my website while on vacation, so, by the end of June, expect a completely revised website with better spam control, better comment history, and possibly a section with pictures of yours truly and whatever else I feel like showing.
Thanks for understanding and I hope to see all of you back on June 27th. Oh yeah, and keep your fingers crossed on June 8th between 8am and 11am, Hispanic Pundit will be taking a very difficult final!!!
“Once you have ever had to go hungry, it is hard to get worked up over the fact that some people can only afford pizza while others can afford caviar. Once you have ever had to walk to work from Harlem to a factory south of the Brooklyn Bridge, the difference between driving a Honda and driving a Lexus seems kind of petty as well”. –Thomas Sowell
As a person who considers Pizza his favorite food, this simple example used to explain basic economics particularly appealed to me.
For me, nothing – nothing – in recent years has confirmed my faith in the wonders of markets and competition more than one humble little sector of our economy: the pizza industry.
I’m a pizza addict. Ten years ago, I would have to part with the best part of twenty bucks to get one large pizza delivered. Suppliers in my area were limited and it sometimes arrived cold. When in Sydney a few years ago – in an area not well serviced by the Pizza men – I shelled out nearly fifty bucks for two delivered pizzas + a drink. Nowdays, I can get two large pizzas – easily enough to feed three people – for less than $15. It arrives quickly, is great quality, and there are a far greater variety of pizzas to choose from.
So in ten years, pizza prices have more than halved, the quality has gone up, the delivery times are quicker, and there’s a greater menu to choose from. And it’s 100% the result of competition. As a couple more suppliers moved into the area, the “coupon wars” began. Maybe a couple of coupons per month would arrive in the mail, offering a few bucks off per pizza. Then other companies started to price-match. Nowdays, my letterbox is flooded with pizza coupons, each subsequent one outmatching the last.
Not only have prices for delivered pizzas more than halved, but “pick-up” pizzas went through a fascinating descent in prices: Dominos would have pick-up pizzas for $7.95 each, then Pizza Haven would offer the same for $6.95, and so on, until we are now being offered a fantastic meal for what seem to be “loss leading” prices: $3.95 for a large pizza. That’s a meal for two people for less than the price of a sandwich at many places. The suppliers seem to figure that you’ll buy drinks or side orders while you’re there, which is where they’ll make their money. At the very least, they’ve given you a $3.95 pick-up sampler of a pizza you’ll pay more to have delivered.
Now that prices for the wonderful pizzas can’t seem to drop much further, I’ve noticed something else: none of the suppliers seem to care if you actually possess the coupon or not. My girlfriend and I are still ordering pizzas from coupons that expired months ago. Nor have any of the delivery boys asked us to produce said little pieces of paper.
You can imagine the sort of horrified reactions these consumer-benefiting, price-dumping practices would evoke from the ACCC, the Australian Democrats and other pro-regulation freaks if pizzas were say, airline tickets, books or petrol. Why, we’d have whinging about “anti-competitive behaviour”, government legislation and all sorts of craziness. Oh, wait a minute….
There is a final point worth noting: while local “fast food” pizza suppliers are offering ridiculously cheap food, it doesn’t seem to have had any detrimental effect on the “gourmet” pizza market in Canberra at all. There are more places than ever where – for a premium – you can have a sit-down meal of a “real” pizza containing the finest ingredients available.
Remarkable isn’t it? If the whinging wisdom from the Australian book industry were applied here, we would be seeing the death of gourmet pizza outlets, and in turn see the fleecing of pizza consumers as the evil “big business” dial-a-pizza suppliers jack up prices and lower quality. Instead, the dial-a-pizza market is prospering with more suppliers, higher-quality products and lower prices, while the “gourmet pizza” sector has succeeded superbly by adapting themselves to a niche not served by the dial-a-pizza chains.
The consumer wins. Big business wins. Small business wins. Amazing what can be achieved when the government keeps its paws off our pizza.
All of this could be broken down even further, to one simple principle:
My entire interest in and understanding of economics exists at a far more basic, everyday level. In my left-leaning early twenties, I started to wonder – for example – if I wanted to go grocery shopping at 4am, why a supermarket shouldn’t be allowed to stay open at 4am to sell them to me. I came to realise that being able to spend my money how and when I want was simple common sense, as I could never get a sensible explanation from anyone as to why it was a good idea to curb my spending with regulations. More importantly, if I were free to spend more of my money how I wanted, then there would be more people who would compete for my dollar, offering me incentives via both price and product to choose their goods over the goods of others.
It is my pet peeve when people equate gay marriage to civil rights. To say that people against homosexual marriage, or homosexuals in general, are modern day racists is to miss a fundamental error of racism and to ignore that difference is to lower the significance of the evils of racism and sexism.
There is a fundamental difference between someone’s sexual behavior, and say someone’s skin color, or nationality, or gender, or stage of development, things that do involve civil rights. And that difference is that homosexuality is defined by ones actions where as true civil right issues are not.
For example, I am Mexican, and no matter what actions I take, even voting Republican , I am still going to be, and always will be Mexican. In other words, there is no action whatsoever that I can do that will change the fact that I am Mexican and there is no action that a non-Mexican can do that will make one a Mexican. The same is true for race, gender, and stage of development.
That cannot be said with homosexuality. Homosexuality is defined by its action, or to say it another way, it is a behavioral attribute. And like all other actions, it can be analyzed, and scrutinized; no action is without analysis.
Maybe with an example, this can be better understood.
I once read, although I can’t verify, that in the past Muslims outlawed writing with your left hand. I think it had something to do with a verse in the Quran that states that your left side is dirty or something (or it could have been false propaganda, either way it is just an example). For one reason or another, they outlawed children from writing with their left hand. In kindergarten, or the equivalent of that, the Muslim teachers were required to force children, whether left handed or right handed, to write with their right hand.
Now, of course we all agree that this is wrong. But would we say this is a civil rights issue? I don’t think we would. Banning someone from writing with his or her left hand, while the ban may be wrong, it is still a ban on an action. On the other hand, how would you go about banning someone from ‘being’ a female? Or ‘being’ a fetus? Or ‘being’ Mexican? Or ‘being’ Black? You can’t, since there is no action associated with either of those classifications. In other words, your gender, your stage of development, your nationality, and your race (no matter what Michael Jackson thinks), are non-behavioral attributes, they are not defined by actions, but writing with your left hand and homosexuality, is. Or to put it another way, the Muslims ban on left-handed people is very different than, say, the Mormon Churches ban on black people in the hierarchy.
To give another example, the Catholic Church teaches that it is a sin to have sex before marriage. All of us may think this is too harsh, that it is undoable; that it is impossible to achieve, shoot, some may even think it is legalistic. But nobody would place that sin on the same level as say, a teaching that says it is a sin to be Black, or a sin to be a male, or to be Mexican. In other words, we all can distinguish between bans on actions, and bans on non-action characteristics. Someone who thinks homosexuality (the actions involved) is wrong is on a very different level than someone who thinks being Black is wrong. So the civil rights comparisons do not fit.
The minute you say homosexuality is a civil rights issue, you have moved from the free-will ethics (free-will is a basic fundamental criteria of ALL ethics, regardless of religion or non-religious views), to the view that actions are no different than non-action traits. This would be a radical departure from previous views on ethics, and frankly, would be a fundamental error. You can say that a ban on an action is good, or that it is bad, or that it is stupid, or that it is superstitious, but the minute you say that it is like a ban on a non-action characteristic (your gender, race and nationality), you have moved to a level that makes ALL ethic discussions moot. One can make ethical judgments on whether writing with your left hand is bad, or whether having sex before marriage is bad, or whether wearing a condom is bad, and whether having sex with someone of the same sex is bad, but it would be absurd in ethics to talk about whether it is bad to ‘be female’, or ‘be Mexican’, or ‘be Black’, ethics presupposes an action involved, an action that comes from, either by allowing or willing, the person.
Arbitrary bans against gender, nationality, or race are very different than bans against homosexuals. One is clearly a civil rights issue, and the other is not.