Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Waiting for historical perspective

It's funny the way creating history works. Once it is established, it can be accepted as conventional wisdom--so much so that people will act as if they knew things all along that in fact they didn't. Charles de Gaulle advanced the myth that all of France but the Vichy Regime had resisted the Nazi Occupation. For awhile, this became the conventional wisdom.

Most people today still think of Nixon as a bad president, mainly because he greatly abused executive power. Back when Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were exposing the connections between the Watergate burglary and the White House, however, many people defended Nixon.

It is frustrating that the French couldn't be resistors at the time, or that Americans once liked Nixon enough to give him an overwhelming electoral victory in 1972. Yet it happens. How does it happen? It happens for the same reason that Bush is still president today: because people cannot see the big picture and the media will not report it. Bush and his administration have consistenly abused their power. They have brought the country into an irresponsible war based on a farce. They have greatly increased the deficit. They have worked to increase the profits of already wealthy people. Most of these things would justify impeachment, all of them would justify being resoundingly voted out of office.

Their abuses of power have been worse than Nixon's, their corporate welfare has been worse than Warren G. Harding's, their war has not yet been as deathly as Vietnam, but it too is based on misrepresentation of the facts. Ulysses Grant let political cronies get too much influence when he was president, but at least he was well-intentioned. George W. Bush does the same thing without being well-intentioned.

Richard Reeves said at the end of last year:
I have talked with three significant historians in the past few months who would not say it in public, but who are saying privately that Bush will be remembered as the worst of the presidents. There are some numbers. The History News Network at George Mason University has just polled historians informally on the Bush record. Four hundred and fifteen, about a third of those contacted, answered -- maybe they were all crazed liberals -- making the project as unofficial as it was interesting. These were the results: 338 said they believed Bush was failing, while 77 said he was succeeding. Fifty said they thought he was the worst president ever. Worse than Buchanan. This is what those historians said -- and it should be noted that some of the criticism about deficit spending and misuse of the military came from self-identified conservatives -- about the Bush record.

It does not matter now what the historical evaluation of Bush will be, of course. We should worry more about what he is doing in the present. Still, if somehow all of the pundits who kiss his butt and all of the journalists who avoid investigating his administation and all of the politicians who are too afraid to stand up to him could take a time machine to the future and see that Bush may be seen as Harding times Buchanan squared--maybe they would do something now.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Well said

This is well said, though I couldn't tell you how I found it except that Google was involved. I like how the author implies that there is a new Silent Majority of people who are troubled by this administration and all of its transgressions but are discouraged from airing our grievances by the mainstream media and the Washington politicians:

The offenses of George Bush and his regime against the American public and its political traditions are myriad and profound. The Bushistas lie repeatedly and without scruple, making claims that can readily be proven to be false. They accelerate the transfer of national wealth from those who produce that wealth to those who own and control the wealth. They dismantle social services and educational institutions, despoil the natural environment, and openly dismiss and defy scientific fact and expertise. They ruthlessly violate the mandates of our national charter – the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They wage aggressive war against nations that are no threat to us and they overthrow sovereign and democratic governments – all this in violation of international law.

Even so, at this moment, among a bare majority of us, these grievances are held privately, and are publicly regarded as “unfashionable,” in the face of the corporate media’s celebration of “our warrior President.” Meanwhile, the legal, professional, intellectual and scientific elites, though well aware of enormity of the transgressions of the Bush Administration, are strangely and inexcusably silent.

This is an unstable and unnatural condition of the body politic, subject to explosive change
.

I'm famous--not

My letter to the Daily generated more of a response than I expected. Here's the letter from someone in NU Students for Life, printed in the Daily Northwestern:

In response to Elaine Meyer's Monday letter, perhaps she should actually attend a meeting of Students for Life before condemning the organization.

The group is pro-life in every sense of the word, including in terms of the death penalty. And although individual members may differ on their political orientation, we all agree that every person, no matter their circumstances, is valuable and deserves to exist.

Give us a break, we can't address every violation against humanity at every minute of the day, although we are trying our best.

Oh, and by the way, an abortion is never medically necessary to save a mother's life (you can find out more on this topic at Feminists for Life's Web site). The only reason so many people believe otherwise is because incompetent doctors don’t take the time to find other, pro-life alternatives for women and their unborn children.

— Christina Paschyn,

Medill junior


I don't think I need to go to an NUSF meeting to know that Paschyn is wrong about abortion being "never medically necessary" and I'm not sure that Feminist's for Life is the most scientifically reputable website, but these folks tend to have an animosity towards science.

Here's an article in Northwestern's alternative newspaper, the Chronicle, which concedes that I may have a point, entitled "Students for Life Should Change their Name":

Weinberg senior Elaine Meyer's recent letter to The Daily Northwestern may base itself on a clich├ęd liberal thinking error, but she does have a point. The letter argues that Northwestern Students for Life should change its name because an anti-abortion stance is incompatible with a pro-death penalty one.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Democratic Party's cognitive dissonance regarding the media

About a month and a half ago, I went to an event where Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer was appearing to promote her recently released novel, A Time to Run. Boxer opened the event by talking about her novel and its influences and then opened the floor to questions, either about her book or about politics in general. Most of the questions to the Senator--including mine--focused on the latter. Paraphrased, my question was this: "Why do you think the media was so quick to assign scandal to Bill Clinton when he was president, even though all alleged wrongdoing regarding Whitewater were proven false, where the much more serious charges against Bush have not galvanized the media to assign scandal to him and his administration (or even vaulably investigate it)?" Boxer's response surprised me greatly: she was thoroughly stupified by the suggestion that the media had some sort of reporting bias in favor of Bush. She pointed out that recent reports of Republican wrongdoing were coming out in the mainstream media. However, she didn't seem to understand the point that where impeachment was immediately brought up when it was revealed that Clinton may have had an affair with Monica Lewinsky, no comparable level of outrage accompanied any of the much more grave revelations about the Bush administration--secret meetings with oil execs to construct White House energy policy, lying about going into Iraq, no-bid contracts by Halliburton, leaking of the identity of a CIA Agent etc. The current illegal wiretapping revelation is of course another serious offense.

Boxer's stupification at my suggestion was not my imagination. In a great article today, Salon's Peter Daou analyzes the Democratic Party's true problem the mainstream media:
THE TRIANGLE: Matthews, Moore, Murtha, and the Media: What's the common thread running through the past half-decade of Bush's presidency? What's the nexus between the Swift-boating of Kerry, the Swift-boating of Murtha, and the guilt-by-association between Democrats and terrorists? Why has a seemingly endless string of administration scandals faded into oblivion? Why do Democrats keep losing elections? It's this: the traditional media, the trusted media, the "neutral" media, have become the chief delivery mechanism of potent anti-Democratic and pro-Bush storylines. And the Democratic establishment appears to be either ignorant of this political quandary or unwilling to fight it.

There's a critical distinction to be made here: individual reporters may lean left, isolated news stories may be slanted against the administration. What I'm describing is the wholesale peddling by the "neutral" press of deep-seated narratives, memes, and soundbites: simple, targeted talking points that paint a picture of reality for the American public that favors the right and tarnishes the left.

...It’s simple: if your core values and beliefs and positions, no matter how reasonable, how mainstream, how correct, how ethical, are filtered to the public through the lens of a media that has inoculated the public against your message, and if the media is the public’s primary source of information, then NOTHING you say is going to break through and change that dynamic. Which explains, in large measure, the Dems’ sorry electoral failures. [bold words indicate my emphasis]

I beg you to read the whole thing. It's an important article.

Canadian election results a good thing

I'm of course not a fan of the newly elected Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, but I think the important thing to take away from the results of Canada's recent elections is that, in our neighbor to the north--democracy still works. When government officials do corrupt things like award contracts because they have gotten kickbacks, they should get voted out of office. Such activities should provoke a lack of voter confidence. Republicans in America will predictably herald the elections in Canada--which did not bring in a Conservative majority in parliament--as a victory for their side, as National Review columnist Doug Gamble does here:
Still, although the Conservative margin of victory was not as big as pre-election polls had suggested, it was a momentous comeback for a party once on the endangered-species list.

And Gamble suggests that this is a sign of good things to come for Canada's conservatives:
It's too soon to say it's "morning in Canada," but with the Liberals gone for now and the Conservatives bringing a fresh-faced approach to Ottawa, including an energetic team and a desire to have the country defined by its achievements rather than its long-held resentment of achievers, it might be a few minutes past noon.

Hopefully, this scenario will play out here in America, where day after day it is becoming increasingly evident from a mass of indictments and returned political contributions that Republican Washington is the ultimate "pay for play" environment, where rich, powerful corporate interests are treated as the most important--and sometimes the only--constituents. Anyone who finds in the results of the recent Canadian election a just retribution for political corruption should vigorously support the same kind of electoral retribution against the Republican establishment in Washington.

Big Brother--the government, not the TV show

It's hard to actually conceive of what its like to have our basic civil liberties infringed here in America, because most of us have been living lives of relative freedom. Even if the news media is not bringing up the question of impeachment with the Bush administration's illegal surveillance yet, it is important that we all realize what a fundamental invasion of civil liberties this executive has engaged in. As this New York Times article suggests, even stupid internet searches could be fair game, part of the Justice Department's effort to "fight porn":

Kathryn Hanson, a former telecommunications engineer who lives in Oakland, Calif., was looking at BBC News online last week when she came across an item about a British politician who had resigned over a reported affair with a "rent boy."

It was the first time Ms. Hanson had seen the term, so, in search of a definition, she typed it into Google. As Ms. Hanson scrolled through the results, she saw that several of the sites were available only to people over 18. She suddenly had a frightening thought. Would Google have to inform the government that she was looking for a rent boy - a young male prostitute?

Ms. Hanson, 45, immediately told her boyfriend what she had done. "I told him I'd Googled 'rent boy,' just in case I got whisked off to some Navy prison in the dead of night," she said.

Ms. Hanson's reaction arose from last week's reports that as part of its effort to uphold an online pornography law, the Justice Department had asked a federal judge to compel Google to turn over records on millions of its users' search queries. Google is resisting the request, but three of its competitors - Yahoo, MSN and America Online - have turned over similar information.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Letter to the editor

Since I don't have anything new to write at the moment, I offer you a letter to the editor I wrote that was printed in my school newspaper today:

Asahel Church and the rest of the so-called Northwestern Students for Life are currently living under a supreme misnomer. No need to fear though, for this can be rectified. There are many groups in the area with whom NSFL can team up with to protest the Iraq war, and war in general.

While they’re at it, because the death penalty is still on the books, NSFL should demand it be outlawed. Working to strengthen gun control laws also would prevent needless violent deaths, and because they are concerned with infant life, how about NSFL fight to ensure that states offset President George W. Bush and the Republican Congress’ recent budget cuts that fatally prevent low-income children from access to medically necessary healthcare services? NSFL might even want to fight for a woman’s right to an abortion if her own life is threatened by childbirth, often a reason women choose to get abortions. The possibilities are endless.

However, if being consistently pro-life is too hard, NSFL can always change their name to “Northwestern Students Against the Choice to get an Abortion.”


And if you're interested, here is a link to the article which I was responding to. Basically, what bothered me especially about this particular potrayal of an anti-abortion activist--as is what usually bothers me about that movement--is the sanctimonious nature of what they are trying to do.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Why make the liberal blogosphere the enemy?

There have been some strangely self-pitying or self-defensive actions recently on the part of those who feel that they are being "attacked" by the "liberal blogosphere." I'll give an example:

A few days ago, the Washington Post's ombudsman, a woman named Deborah Howell, declared that she would "not respond" to critics who had pointed out that she had incorrectly stated that Jack Abramoff donated money to Democrats, and the Washington Post, in a very disconcerting move, shut down their website's comment board. In fact, Abramoff had done no such thing, and he had not even directed (a vague word) money to Democrats as Editor of the Washington Post James Brady said. (Basically, it seems that the Washington Post must want the scandal of Jack Abramoff's illegal and decadent donations to Republicans to be a bipartisan scandal. But it isn't. Remember Enron? Remember how people were trying to say that donations were made to both parties? Who was playing golf with Ken Lay, though? Which administration secretely invited oil execs into their energy policy meetings? Clearly, the scandal is, in the case of Enron, the energy policy meetings, and Abramoff, that Republicans are making policy for rich, corporate interests. As someone said this past week, the Abramoff scandal is just a tip of the iceberg of the very successful Republican drive to own K Street).

So anyway, James Brady, the Post editor, did an interview with the nationally syndicated right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt. Hewitt of course has his own opinions about people who politically disagree with him, and in typical right-wing fashion tries to find an "epicenter" of the "effort" to point out Howell's mistakes and get a correction from the Washington Post. (Brady points to the Daily Kos, even though, as Armando at Daily Kos explains, their website didn't feature the Deborah Howell story until once the comment board at the Post had been shut down). What Hugh Hewitt and James Brady cannot comprehend is the idea of normal American citizens taking an interest in media reporting and logging on to blogs--also run by normal American citizens--who are discussing the same thing. The right-wing, so driven by an astroturf, top-down mentality cannot conceive that ordinary citizens would independently take an interest in issues of media reporting, etc, and come together to vent about it on blogs. This is democracy, guys. Some of us still believe in it. So used to his party's brownshirt tactics, Hugh Hewitt is too busy making enemies of the so-called "liberal blogosphere" to even understand what it is.

What I don't understand is why James Brady feels he must give a self-pitying interview with Hugh Hewitt merely because many people spoke up on his website and asked for a correction. He talks about "name calling," but he is merely lobbing a vague accusation so long as he hasn't engaged with the actual critiques from the people making comments. The Washington Post has been called names my members of the right-wing for years, and I haven't seen any hand-wringing over that. So some people take an interest in the accuracy of how an important story is reported, and suddenly these people are the enemy? Isn't an ombudsman supposed to be the liason between a newspapers' readers and its reporters? Isn't a newspaper supposed to correct inaccurate reporting? It seems that by pointing fingers at the liberal blogosphere, James Brady and Deborah Howell are exempting themselves of their journalistic duty.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

"American democracy is in grave danger"

In looking for Gore's most recent speech, here's another great one from 2005:

I came here today because I believe that American democracy is in grave danger. It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse . I know that I am not the only one who feels that something has gone basically and badly wrong in the way America's fabled "marketplace of ideas" now functions.

How many of you, I wonder, have heard a friend or a family member in the last few years remark that it's almost as if America has entered "an alternate universe"?

...It is not that we no longer share ideas with one another about public matters; of course we do. But the "Public Forum" in which our Founders searched for general agreement and applied the Rule of Reason has been grossly distorted and "restructured" beyond all recognition.

And here is my point: it is the destruction of that marketplace of ideas that accounts for the "strangeness" that now continually haunts our efforts to reason together about the choices we must make as a nation.

...Consider the rules by which our present "public forum" now operates, and how different they are from the forum our Founders knew. Instead of the easy and free access individuals had to participate in the national conversation by means of the printed word, the world of television makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation today.

Inexpensive metal printing presses were almost everywhere in America. They were easily accessible and operated by printers eager to typeset essays, pamphlets, books or flyers.

Television stations and networks, by contrast, are almost completely inaccessible to individual citizens and almost always uninterested in ideas contributed by individual citizens.

Al Gore's great speech

Al Gore's recent speech, which of course was not covered by the mainstream media did generate a lot of interest in the blogosphere. In looking up his most recent speech, I found a prescient speech that he gave back in August of 2003. Here are some relevant passages.

That last point is worth highlighting. Robust debate in a democracy will almost always involve occasional rhetorical excesses and leaps of faith, and we're all used to that. I've even been guilty of it myself on occasion. But there is a big difference between that and a systematic effort to manipulate facts in service to a totalistic ideology that is felt to be more important than the mandates of basic honesty.

Unfortunately, I think it is no longer possible to avoid the conclusion that what the country is dealing with in the Bush Presidency is the latter. That is really the nub of the problem -- the common source for most of the false impressions that have been frustrating the normal and healthy workings of our democracy.

...In each case, the President seems to have been pursuing policies chosen in advance of the facts -- policies designed to benefit friends and supporters -- and has used tactics that deprived the American people of any opportunity to effectively subject his arguments to the kind of informed scrutiny that is essential in our system of checks and balances.

The administration has developed a highly effective propaganda machine to imbed in the public mind mythologies that grow out of the one central doctrine that all of the special interests agree on, which -- in its purest form -- is that government is very bad and should be done away with as much as possible -- except the parts of it that redirect money through big contracts to industries that have won their way into the inner circle.

...Maybe one reason that false impressions have a played a bigger role than they should is that both Congress and the news media have been less vigilant and exacting than they should have been in the way they have tried to hold the Administration accountable.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What the Democrats should do about Alito

Hopefully the Democrats will filibuster Alito, at the very least because he--like John Roberts--was either evasive or displayed questionable honesty throughout his confirmation hearing. The fact that he didn't come off as a crazed man shouldn't mean he gets an automatic confirmation. Still, it seems that is the moderate Republicans' standard of confirmation. These moderate Republicans--a dying breed, yes--but still enough that their votes would make a difference in Alito's confirmation, are ostensibly pro-choice, among other things. In confirming Alito, they are voting for someone who will almost certainly overturn Roe v. Wade, and therefore aren't really pro-choice. Thus, they should be challenged. The Democratic party should let all so-called moderate Republican know that if they vote to confirm Alito, they will receive a tough challenge to their seat in the next senate elections. Essentially, they are misrepresenting their views to their constituents and therefore deserve to be challenged.

A little enlightenment on the media

One great thing about being in a class where the professor was once part of a presidential administration is that every so often, an interesting person who he knows makes an appearance in class. Today, author Richard Reeves, who has written books on American presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and his most recent President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination came to my Rhetoric of the American Presidency class to talk. I've actually read his books President Kennedy: Profile of Power and President Nixon: Alone in the White House which are great for all of the primary documents which Reeves has access too, including tapes, diaries, etc.

After he spoke, we got to ask him some questions, and I asked him what he thought about the media coverage of presidents and whether it was fair to say Kennedy and Reagan received good coverage and Nixon and Clinton bad coverage. His answer was very interesting. He said that for one, back when the media was covering Kennedy and Nixon in the late 1950s and early 1960s, most reporters were not part of a professional class of people who had received masters from the likes of Northwestern's Medill School or Syracuse. Back then in fact, they shared the economic views of other members of the working class--pretty different than today's media composition. Kennedy was appealing because of his good looks, good nature, new liberalism (though he wasn't as liberal as people think) and also his war hero status. When Reagan came along, the media--now a professional class--seemed to know less than they thought they did, portraying him as a genial but somewhat clueless old man who took a snooze next to Pope John Paul II, though Reagan was much savvier than that. So that's my slipshod summary of Reeves's comments about the media, but needless to say, his book on Reagan looks interesting.

Did people used to try to be intellecutals?

Today a thought that has often popped into my mind reentered. This thought will come off as shameless elitism written down, but I have to say it one way or another: how do so many apparently unimpressive people get into selective universities? Or at least my selective university? I'm not saying this because I think I'm brilliant but rather because I'm surprised people don't have more interesting interests. Like academics for instance. I'm not saying that life revolves around schoolwork, or that I expect everyone to be as much of a nerd as I am, but when you that someone's favorite book is The Notebook or chick lit--favorite book, mind you. I guess I do not understand the conformist tendencies of my generation to the point where I expect that people at good universities would rise above the banal

Friday, January 13, 2006

Hopefully Pat Robertson is just getting old...

I don't know if the media has been paying more attention to him lately, or if Pat Robertson has always said things as ridiculous as his most recent pronouncement that Ariel Sharon's stroke is divine retribution for his leaving the Gaza Strip (and I don't know what would be worse.. Just for fun, though, let's go over Pat Robertson's list of divine retributions of 2005 again:

  • A double whammy of divine retribution when Hurricane Katrina's fetus-shape meterology imaging strikes the week of the Gay Pride Parade
  • Call for the assassination of Venezuelan President and socialist Hugo Chavez
  • Prediction that a natural disaster will befall the small town of Dover, Pennsylvania for the town's voting out a school board of creationist-in school-backers
So, Pat Robertson, you better be senile because otherwise you have no excuse!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Lawless Administration

Sidney Blumenthal has an article from a few weeks ago that ties together with great acuity and thoroughness the Bush Administration's willful ignorance of intelligence showing Iraq had no WMDs, their political persecution of whistleblowers, and a little-noted practice by the administration of issuing statements upon signing a bill which "expressed his own version of their content...which legally establishes the foundation of their meaning, by executive diktat."

Blumenthal further touches on the Administration's lethargy in getting to the bottom of the Plame leaker and its implied support for whomever ruined Plame's career in ironic contrast to their pursuance of the so-called leaker of the warantless spying executed by Bush. Blumenthal makes clear though that this person was a whistleblower in the same vein as Wilson. As he says:
In the Plame case, the administration officials who spun her name to conservative columnist Robert Novak and others intended to punish and intimidate former ambassador Joseph Wilson for having revealed that a central element of the administration case for the Iraq war was bogus. In the NSA case, Bush is also attempting to crush whistle-blowers.

That there are an increasing amount of whistleblowers with increasingly substantiated claims affirms the fears that this administration has conducted a war built on lies and infringed on Constitutional rights rather than persisting to defend them. Blumenthal's article is a good read.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Idle Wealth

This quarter I'm taking a class about Richard Nixon, studying in particular the rhetoric of his presidency. Already, this course has imparted a complex impression of Nixon. One of the most interesting things about him, for me, is that he grew up without privilege and throughout his life he positioned himself against those who were born to wealthy families, with elite educations, smooth social skills, and good looks. Although my political views would have probably conformed to his opponent in the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy, I would have found Nixon to have the more appealing personal life. It was Nixon, after all, who worked tirelessly to attain a good education and a distinguished career in the face of many setbacks.

Ironically, Nixon belonged to a party that today is effectively preventing the social mobility that Nixon enjoyed. Most recently, financial aid to college students has been cut by 14.3 billion dollars, which amounts to a $5,800 increase (from added interest payments and grant reductions) for the average college student on financial aid.

That is but one example of the way in which our country's once-great promise of social mobility is being torn apart. Among some groups in our society, there is a sense that the richest person is the most entitled to succeed. Often though, the sons and daughters who have been acquainted all of their lives with wealth and luxury are the ones with the worst performance at school, the so-called playboys who find their purpose in life is to drink and be merry as if trying their damndest to prove the accuracy of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Our current president is a perfect example of one who was raised to expect wealth and distinction without working towards it.

The expression that suggests that everything is politics is anethema to some, but it is true. In this case, the luxurious decadence of the heir(ess) that is glorified by the media is becoming solidified and multiplied via public policy and our economy's pay structure. During the mid 1900s, America enjoyed the largest middle class in maybe any nation's history, with a resurgence in the 1990s. Now, due to a certain dysfunction of values and bad public policy, our country is increasingly ensuring that the rich, popular, idiot that you knew in high school--a person of idle wealth--will succeed over the person who has worked hard.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Congress's Obstinacy to Minimum Wage Increase Circumvented by States

The New York Times has an article today about how states are jumping in to fill the void of federal action on raising the national minimum wage. 1997 was the last time Congress approved and the President signed a law which increased the minimum wage from $4.75 to $5.15. Why have 9 years gone by without another increase to at the very least account for inflation?
...efforts in Congress to increase the amount have been stymied largely by Republican lawmakers and business groups who argued that a higher minimum wage would drive away jobs.

Certainly the cost-of-living in some states is higher than others, which is why it makes sense for the more expensive states especially to raise the minimum wage. Still, even for those states with a lower cost-of-living and therefore a better argument against raising the minimum wage (and this even varies within the state), according to the Times article, the current minimum wage "falls far short of the income needed to place a family at the federal poverty level." Public opinion polls are also strongly in favor of an increase.

Naturally, conservative opinion is fiercely against it though. The view holds:
Business groups and conservative economists have argued that the minimum wage is an unwarranted government intrusion into the employer-employee relationship and a distortion of the marketplace for labor. An increase in the minimum wage, they say, drives up labor costs across the board and freezes unskilled and first-time workers out of the job market.

The article further points out:
About three-fifths of all workers paid at or below the federal minimum wage worked in bars and restaurants, and many received tips to supplement their basic wages.

But even so, it's not as if those who work in most bars and restaurants make a killing. (I tend to be against the whole tipping thing and in favor of the European-style where tip and tax is already added into the cost of items because it is more convenient and less arbitrary).

Also, the suggestion that the minimum wage increases causes job loss is a mere conjecture:
Advocates of an increase in the minimum wage said that inflation had so eroded the value of the minimum wage in the last nine years that it was worth less today in real terms than at any time since 1955. They also cited studies that found that raising the minimum wage did not cause job loss, as opponents argue. According to these studies, employers can absorb the higher labor costs through efficiencies, less employee turnover and higher productivity.

As an aside, there are many less tangible benefits to employers in having a higher minimum wage, and an employer who is solely focused on cutting costs to make a profit is probably doing himself or herself a disservice.

Furthermore, there are people who are making far less than even the minimum, something that could be remedied with state or federal wage mandates (though probably not wholly ameliorated).
Tim Burga, legislative director for the Ohio A.F.L.-C.I.O., said that 92,000 workers in the state made less than the federal minimum wage, some as little as $2 an hour.

Maybe the best argument against a minimum wage increase is that many minimum wage jobs are held by high school or college students who are still legal dependents. However, many of them are working to supplement their family's earnings or their own education. Claims that job growth will be squelched with an increase have been countered by facts like this:
...despite having one of the highest minimum wages in the country at $7.25 an hour, Oregon had had twice the rate of job growth as the rest of the country.

Finally, the minimum wage is an issue--though economic in nature--that says something about our country and its values. Shouldn't it be a tenet in this country of abundance to ensure that someone who works a job can afford to live a decent life?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Best Posts of 2005

It's a little late, but here is my roundup of my most worthwhile posts of last year. This may seem a little vain, but I have an ulterior motive here: I read that it is more reader-friendly to link to past posts because it gives new readers a taste of what your blog is about. So here is my self-conscious effort to be an appealing blogger:

1. "The Many Contradictions of Glamour Magazine" (January 22, 2005)
Glamour is on the one hand a magazine that encourages female independence from men, healthy eating and exercising rather than dieting, and unique, non-trendy fashion; while on the other hand it prints articles that inherently provoke self-consciousness about relationships (can you imagine Maxim being as focused on how men can please women as Glamour is on how women can please men), preoccupation with one's weight through exercise and eating articles, and, yes, trends.

2. "Triplets of Belleville as a Metaphor for Franco-American Relations?" (March 27, 2005)
...the uninvited development in the French countryside where main character Madame Souza and her biker son live, the enormous skyscrapers of Belleville and the gargantuan stomachs of its citizens as metaphors of the excesses of America, and the symbolism of French bikers being held in captivity and forced to "entertain" American business and mob men. Is this film a critique of an uninvited American influence on France?

3. "Atypical Music Tastes" (May 1, 2005)
Though I confess to being one who tends to be the last to know about new "Indie" groups, and I'm certainly not the Indie expert (I tend to like Indie bands once they become popular, if then) I think in an effort to search for the latest and greatest music, people my age miss out on a great American tradition of good music from the 1960s-70s.

4. "Why the New York Times is just as bad as others, A Supreme Court article" (June 27, 2005)
Vaunting a man who signed on to one of the most problematic majority opinions, Bush v. Gore, as impartial and above the political fray is pretty irresponsible.

6. "If Roe v. Wade is overturned, everyone should worry, not just pro-choice supporters" (July 20, 2005)
Lately it has become almost in vogue to disparage Roe v. Wade as a legal opinion. Its main holding though, the "right to privacy" is sound, and if Roe is overturned on those grounds (which I think it would have to be), then all of us, and not just those of us concerned with women's reproductive rights, should fear.

7. "The Big 'D-Word'" (September 9, 2005)
D-E-B-T, debt is a huge problem for many Americans, and members of my generation are being catapulted into it in a way that may entrap us for many years to come.
8.Civic Engagement: Do Republican 'hard times' and our best effort make Democratic victories anymore obtainable?" (November 21, 2005)
According to scholars Paul Pierson and Jacob Hacker, Democrats have an uphill battle to become the national majority party, even when, as now, there is broad discontent towards the Republican party on the part of the general populace.


9.
"Riots in France" (November 7, 2005)
In most parts of the city of Paris however, according to a New York Times correspondent, there is no sign that looting and arson are occurring. This disconnect illustrates the general disconnect between the city of Paris and many of its suburbs.

10.
"Special Interview with Bill Bloom" (December 14, 2005)
Q. Is it interesting to you that the use of izzle has just taken off?
Right, that completely blows my mind that 25-years later, it's kind of become mainstream pop because everybody's using it.