Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Those cheating Hoyas

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Methinks somebody’s been up to some shenanigans over at Wikepedia. Notice anything wrong about the third paragraph in their entry on Georgetown University?

Georgetown University is a private, Jesuit university located in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. Bishop John Carroll founded the school in 1789, though its roots extend back to 1634.[6] While the school struggled financially in its early years, Georgetown expanded into a branched university after the U.S. Civil War under the leadership of university president Patrick Francis Healy. Georgetown is both the oldest Roman Catholic and oldest Jesuit university in the United States. Its religious heritage is defining for Georgetown’s identity, but has at times been controversial.

Georgetown’s three urban campuses feature traditional collegiate architecture and layout, but prize their green spaces and environmental commitment. The main campus is known for Healy Hall, designated a National Historic Landmark. Academically, Georgetown is divided into four undergraduate schools and four graduate schools, with nationally recognized programs and faculty in international relations, law, medicine, and business.

The student body is noted for its plagiarism and political activism, as well as its sizable international contingent.[7] Campus groups include the nation’s oldest student dramatic society and the largest student corporation, The Corp. Georgetown’s most notable alumni, such as former U.S. President Bill Clinton, served in various levels of government in the United States and abroad. The Georgetown athletics teams are nicknamed “the Hoyas,” made famous by their men’s basketball team, which leads the Big East Conference with seven tournament championships.

Update: Wikipedia, for what it’s worth, has changed “plagiarism” to “pluralism”. Sabotage or an innocent typo? Hard to say.

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December 2, 2007 at 12:56 am

Examining the exurbs

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Matt Yglesias gets into a discussion on the geographical composition of the foreclosure crisis in his analysis of the situation with Blue Dog Democrats, and their alleged caving in to financial interests intent on sticking it to beleagured mortgage payers:

My look at the data thus far has been very cursory, but my preliminary conclusion would be that the hardest-hit areas are the high-growth fringes of vibrant metro areas. In Virginia, for example, Arlington County right next door to DC has a higher foreclosure rate than South Dakota. It’s lower, however, than the rate in Fairfax County — the further-out part of suburban Virginia. Fairfax’s foreclosure rate, in turn, is lower than the rates in Loudon County and Prince William County — the dread exurbs. The ring of counties around those two counties — rural areas — see the rate dropping again.

One of the thread commenters mentions his skepticism that higher gas prices are adding much fuel to the fire for hard-pressed exurban home owners, opining that such people stand to “save” a couple of hundred thousand bucks by choosing to live far out from the city center (a “savings” that, according to his logic, apparently far outweighs the recent spike in gasoline prices).

I’m not so sure about this line of reasoning. It seems to me plenty of folks in exurban  areas really are facing major financial stresses these days, and higher prices at the gas station don’t help matters. In the first place, is the whole concept of buying in the exurbs really a question of “saving” $200k? That makes it sound like the average exurbanite has the option of buying a $500k house close to the city but instead opts to “save” a couple of a hundred thousand by tolerating a sixty mile commute.

I think the reality is that, in most exurbs, many of the people who have settled there have done so because that’s all they can afford. This is in contrast to city centers and close-in suburbs, which are often populated either by wealthier folks or people, who, for whatever reason, (too poor, or else young urban hipsters who haven’t started families yet) have no burning need (or ability) to be homeowners. In other words, exurbs are peopled by folks who very often are strapped for cash. Just the kind of people who got into an exotic mortgage a couple of years ago — and bought at the height of the market. There’s a heavy preponderance of residents with children, as well, and kids, as we all know, aren’t exactly cheap.

Anyway, it doesn’t surprise me that foreclosures are higher in the exurbs than either in more central location or in truly rural areas. The exurbs are where the American dream — in all its glorious excess — thrives in good times, and crashes and burns when the time comes to pay the piper.

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November 8, 2007 at 11:08 pm

Our long national nightmare is finally over

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Thank God. What a serious buzz killer this has been.

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September 17, 2007 at 8:36 pm

When I die…

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…I really really really hope the Good Lord allows me to come back as Tom Brady.

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September 3, 2007 at 8:49 pm

Survival of the fattest

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“British School Kids Shun Healthy Foods” thunders this AP headline picked up by The NY Times:

Please sir, we don’t want any more! Naked Chef Jamie Oliver’s push for healthier foods to replace greasy french fries, chicken nuggets and turkey twizzlers on British school menus is in a twist. Apparently, the students aren’t anxious to try it. The celebrity chef has led a nationwide campaign to improve the quality of food served in schools, demanding more money for meals and a ban on junk food. His TV series ”Jamie’s School Dinners” exposed how cafeteria menus relied on prepared foods like chicken nuggets or the turkey twizzler — a corkscrew of mainly reconstituted turkey scraps and preservatives. Such meals, usually served with piles of fatty french fries, could cost as little as 66 cents. Spurred to action, the government set up the School Food Trust in 2005 to help schools improve the quality of their food. Sample menus for the new program included vegetarian quiche, lentil burgers and mushroom tagliatelle. But more than 424,000 students opted out of their school meal plans in the first two years of the program, according to government figures obtained by the opposition Liberal Democrats and released Monday.

You mean to tell me that a government’s efforts to get a group of people to eat healthily is being trumped by homo sapien’s five million year evolutionary history — you know, the one that favored the survival of those who love to eat fatty, carb-laden, calorie-rich foods to better ward off the next episode of famine?

I’m shocked, I tell you, simply shocked!

Written by Jasper

September 3, 2007 at 3:19 pm

The ever littler big three

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Matt Zeitlin goes on a rant about the awfulness of Detroit’s products:

American cars, for the most part, are an inferior product.  They also have the potential to destroy the world.  At the low end, their Japanese (and ever Korean) competitors are cheaper, better designed, more fuel efficient and have better technology.  While the Ford Focus is one of the better low end American efforts, it is only popular overseas and is still beaten out by a comparable Civic at home.  Comparable Ford and Chevy’s to Corey Spaley’s favorite, the Honda Accord simply can’t compete with it’s higher gas mileage and superior design.  When American companies try to make more expensive, performence cars — like the Mustang GT, they are inefficient, overpowered brutes.  The GT has a lame 65 hp/liter, which pales in comparison to similarly powered Japanese cars, which manage to get around 100 hp/liter (Subaru WRX STI and Mitsu Evo).  Though the GT has an aluminum engine block, American companies have been late to using anything besides heavy cast iron in engine blocks.  Not to mention the poor gas mileage, 15/23 highway city.

Okay, Zeitlin, I’ll see your rant and raise you one: nobody ’round these parts under the age of 50 seems to even consider buying American (save in the USV category). I actually kinda like the new high end caddies, but not much else.

I’ve long been of the opinion that plain old marketing and branding bears a lot of the blame for Detroit’s decline. Look at one pretty successful Japanese automaker, Honda. They’ve got, like, four or five principal models that account for the bulk of their sales. Compare that to General Motors, which has, like, 30 or 40 to choose from. I mean, hello!?! Can you say “dillution of brand”? Has it really occurred to nobody in Detroit that a strategy that made sense in 1957 doesn’t work anymore? They’ve literally had decades to study their own decline and formulate strategies to reverse it. If I were dictator of GM I’d rename the company “Chevrolet”, I’d get rid of most of their divisions, and I’d cull the models down to a number comparable to what Toyota or Honda have to offer.

Modern, busy consumers simply can’t wrap their very harried brains around the dozens of possible models that GM can sell them. Thing is, it’s a total waste anyway, because anybody with an IQ over 70 can plainly see that the “Pontiac” and “Buick” and “Chevrolet” (or Pymouth, Dodge and Chrysler, etc) versions are pretty much the same product. Their lack of respect for the intelligence of the car buying public is simply astonishing. If ever there existed a firm that deserved to go out of business (and doesn’t deserve a dime of public money should the need arise) it’s General Motors, closely followed by Ford and Chrysler.

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August 28, 2007 at 5:48 pm

Michael Vick’s biggest fan

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The following thought occurred to me this morning: don’t you think David Stern is probably elated about the Michael Vick scandal? It’s definitely long past time for the once (but no longer) effective NBA impresario to lose his job, but the amount of media energy focused on his league’s travails is looking mighty skimpy at present.

Written by Jasper

August 28, 2007 at 8:21 am

Posted in Culture, Media, Sports

Britain’s murder spike

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Iain Dale discusses Britain’s recent increase in gang-related, US-style gun homicide:

All the evidence points to the lack of a male role model being a key part in a child’s descent into dark places. That’s not criticising single mothers, it is just a statement of fact. Chances are that a child with two parents will emerge into adulthood as a more rounded individual that if it doesn’t have two parents. This is especially true in inner city areas. This cannot be turned around within a few years, but if we do not do something in our education system to explain the benefits of duo-parenthood then if the current trend continues I fear not only for the future of our inner cities but wider areas too. As someone who in the past has aspired to hold political office, I don’t mind admitting that issues like this leave me reeling. I admire those who are thinking about the answers because I suspect very few of us can point to individual measures which we could take immediately to make a difference. Should we be adopting zero tolerance policies in inner cities, or would that push the crimes out into the suburbs? Should we seek to understand less and punish more, or would that entrench criminality for life? Whatever we do, we must learn from other countries. It’s clear that parts of our major cities are experiencing the kind of violent crime which used to afflict many major US cities. We need to learn from from them how they have tackled it and reduced it. New York is not the only example to look at. But we need to do it quickly.

It seems to me the sociological “causes of crime” approach is overly ambitious. Provide people with a good economy and solid education system by all means, but there’s not a whole lot that government can do besides that. All this talk of lack of role models and the bad influence of gangsta culture leaves me underwhelmed. While no doubt these things do add to an atmosphere that encourages violent crime, what exactly can government do about them?

Last time I looked Britain’s murder rate was still only 1/8th or so of America’s, so the British must be doing something right. As a Yank, I’d frankly be tickled pink if the USA had to deal with Britain’s (much smaller) violence “problem.” I mean no disrespect to the victims or families impacted by the recent violence, of course. But by world standards the United Kingdom is still a remarkably peaceful place.

What government can do, of course, is provide swift, efficient justice and effective policing targeting those who commit violent crimes, and those who would seek to profit from violent crime through the black market sale of firearms.

A big part of “effective and swift justice” means putting violent offenders in prison, where they no longer represent a threat to the general public. Imprisoning large numbers of people should make everyone a bit squeamish. And America’s record in this respect is frankly a national scandal (America imprisons a shockingly high percentage of its population). What I don’t think is right is to put huge numbers of non-violent offenders in jail. But I don’t see an alternative to putting away the violent ones. And without a doubt, such a strategy has played an important role in helping the US reduce the incidence of violent crime. It’s not pretty. And it sure isn’t cheap. But building prisons and confining violent criminals inside them has to play a role in any civilization’s quest to protect itself from its most violent elements.

Finally, though there’s not much that can be done about knives (we all have to cut our meat and vegetables, after all), I suspect Britain could redouble its efforts to remain a relatively firearms-free country. Again, this isn’t cheap, and will mean hiring more police specifically charged with the task of going after the illegal guns trade. But making it once again difficult to obtain an illegal gun in Britain will surely go a long way toward reducing the level of murder and mayhem on British streets. As I have argued on numerous occasions (and regrettably to little effect) to pro-gun Americans, being forced to rely on knives and fists turns many a would-be murder into a survivable assault.

UPDATE: I don’t know where I picked up that “Britain’s murder rate is 1/8th of America’s” stat. Well, actually I do, but the blog in questions shall remain nameless. Anyway, I don’t have a link at the moment, but I think recent statistics show America’s murder rate is “merely” triple that of the United Kingdom, not eight times.

Written by Jasper

August 26, 2007 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Crime, Culture, Policy

Deep thoughts

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Those environmentally-friendly light bulbs are cool, I guess, and they’ll save us all money in the long run. But I’ve noticed sometimes they simply don’t fit your average lamp. Which means I’ll have to continue to buy the old fashioned variety light bulb. Ain’t no way I’m getting read of all my light fixtures just to save a planet.

Written by Jasper

August 23, 2007 at 9:01 pm

In support of open borders

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I know I’m spitting in the wind here, but, can we all please dispense with the term “open borders?” It’s really one of my pet peeves. Who of us doesn’t want to be able to leave the country for a Caribbean vacation? Who of us doesn’t want a nice family from Ontario to be able to drive down to New York to see the sights? Who of us doesn’t want goods and services to be able to flow back and forth across our frontiers? Don’t these things require that our borders be open? Would y’all prefer the borders to be closed as Stalinist Russia?

Now, I realize a lot of people use the term to refer to an insecure border, but all I’m asking for is a little precision in language. Because the thing is, absolutely NOBODY wants the fucking border to be insecure. I strongly suspect even the most whackily post-modern, leftist, downtown Manhattan dwelling, moonbat crazy America hating intellectual doesn’t want, say, an al-Qaeda operative smuggling in a nuclear weapon that might well vaporize his very own apartment building in Tribeca. I repeat: exactly nobody wants insecure borders.

What there is a debate about is how to go about best securing the border and what role, if any, immigration policy plays in this process. There’s also what should be the utterly unrelated debate about immigration itself (how much, what kind, etc.), and how to go about stopping or reducing the illegal variety.

Strangely, the further 9/11/01 recedes into the past, the less we seem to worry about the national security aspects of border control, and the more we seem to worry about, er, overcrowded Northern Virginia boarding houses. Funny, that.

Stopping a nuclear terrorist ought to generate a lot more national heat and fury (and absorb a lot more intellectual and financial resources) than stopping construction workers and dishwashers. This, perhaps more than anything else, is why I’ve come to loathe the new restrictionists: their quest for a chimerical cultural and racial purity is endangering the country, and I resent the hell out of them because of it.

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June 1, 2007 at 11:51 pm

Who knew?

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I getta get out more.

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May 25, 2007 at 6:49 am

Posted in Culture

America’s non-savers

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Over at Ezra’s place there’s a discussion of why people save so little these days. As for myself, I suspect 90% of the gap in savings between the 30-year old of today and the 30-year old of 1950 can be explained by:

a) Social Security: Although it was around in 1950 (if memory serves me right the first recipient received her first check in 1940), its effects hadn’t yet permeated the culture, and depending on it was a new phenomenon. Traditionally, if you did’t have, say, three or four years income put away in savings by the time you approached retirement age, you were really risking penury. Not that Social Security alone can give most people today a comfortable retirement, of course, but it is a huge help, especially if your house is paid off (and you’re covered by Medicare).

b) Medicare: for the same reason as “a” but maybe even more so.

c) Medicaid: for the same reason as “a” and “b” but definitely even more so.

d) Unemployment insurance: I wouldn’t want to live on it for very long, but its existence sure makes the proverbial rainy day fund seem like much less of a necessity.

e) Health insurance: it’s a lot more common than in the America of sixty years ago, even with recent slippage. And that slippage is unlikely to prompt people to save, because for most people, self-insuring is a completely unrealistic option: your only hope is to pray you don’t get sick, and hope emergency care in your area is competent.

f) Aggressive mortgage lending: there’s simply not much need to save aggressively for a down payment these days when you can buy a home for 5% down or less. If you can’t afford a home in your area with even today’s easy mortgage financing, then you probably need to move to a different area (and millions of Americans do just that).

g) Student loans and government subsidization of post-secondary education: sure, in real terms, elite schools (and even not-so-elite schools) are more expensive than ever before, but the student loan lending industry is also bigger than ever before. Parents simply aren’t really required (not if they don’t mind their progeny taking on lots of debt) to save for their kids’ education if they don’t want to or cannot afford to do so. A client of mine recently revealed that his student debt (including dental school and post-grad studies at a very prestigious Ivy League institution) totaled in the neighborhood of $500,000.

Yup, there’s a reason we don’t save any more. The major life events once upon a time we needed to save for are now taken care of by borrowing, or by the government.

Written by Jasper

April 4, 2007 at 8:54 pm

Posted in Culture, Economics, Policy

Film review: Fahrenheit 9/11

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Well, I finally had the good sense to sign up for Netflix. It’s. The. Best. Thing. Ever. My queue tops out at about seventy films as of right now. Make that seventy DVDs, for a good number of my requests are from the world of television (I just finished season II of HBO’s incomparable The Wire, for instance, and eagerly await season III this week).

Anyway, this afternoon I caught a movie I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time, Fahrenheit 9/11. Now, I don’t see eye to eye with Michael Moore on every single issue, but even when I disagree with him, I’ve generally found the director to be a talented storyteller and compelling polemicist. Bowling for Columbine, for instance, was a film I genuinely liked. Moore still had an air of “underdog” about him — and it was therefore easy to sympathize with his narrative, and the case he was trying to make.

Unfortunately, Fahrenheit 9/11 is a different sort of film altogether. For starters, the humor that has helped make Moore’s criticisms so biting in the past is used less frequently, and often comes across as heavy-handed. Indeed, the entire film is pervaded by a sense of “heaviness”; Moore’s doesn’t utilize the light, delicate, and richly humorous touch he’s employed in the past. Rather, his technique is to pound the viewer into submission with a relentless barrage of accusations and insinuations targeting the Bush administration. While few would argue against the proposition that said administration deserves plenty of criticism, ninety minutes of this fare doesn’t exactly lend itself to something called entertainment. Not unless, of course, it’s handled very deftly. But Michael Moore doesn’t display much of the deftness or artistry he has in the past.

One of the biggest problems with the film is the director’s frequent, but less than compelling use of his own narrator’s voice as the prime engine moving along the “story.” But this is highly problematic, because an hour and a half of hearing Moore’s voice-over accompanying news footage of this or that Bush outrage simply doesn’t provide the same level of effectiveness or entertainment available in previous Moore efforts, where we were treated to the often hillarious, moving, and searingly effective spectacle of the overweight, slightly disheveled “everyman” giving the high and mighty their comeuppance as he relentlessly stocks them with his camera and microphone.

In Fahrenheit, there’s precious little of this “stocking” (indeed we seldom see Moore at all), and far too much of his voice droning on and on and on as he comments on montages pulled from the news. As a film making technique, it’s simply doesn’t provide the same effectiveness or entertainment value as viewing Moore’s dogged attempts to stick his microphone in the faces of the ethically and morally challenged empty suits he has targeted in the past. Indeed, Moore finally does treat us to one such scene in Fahrenheit as he attempts — to hilarious effect — to sandbag various members of Congress while eliciting their opinions about the desirability of urging their own children to sign up for duty in Iraq. It’s a very funny, highly effective scene. But alas, we’re treated to very little of this highly entertaining vintage Michael Moore.

Another flaw with Fahrenheit is its simple lack of cohesiveness. There’s lots of insinuating and not-so-subtle accusing going on, but we’re left wondering just exactly what is the central point Moore is trying to make. Is he claiming that Bush stole the 2000 election? Or that Bush was behind the September 11th attacks? Is he claiming that Bush is incompetent? Does he contend that US troops are war criminals? The unfocused accusations and insinuations, in other words, sprawl so broadly and touch upon so many different topics, they frankly lose their bite and their sharpness. Mr. Moore could truly have used the services of a competent script editor, and perhaps even an accomplished and skilled assistant director.

Regrettably, the finished product packs neither as strong a punch as Bush critics would want, nor provides the general viewing public with much in the way of entertainment value. Thus, this flabby, unfocused, and poorly edited film doesn’t really work that well even as a fiery polemic against the presidency of George W. Bush. And as a feature film designed to entertain, it fares even worse. I was disappointed by Fahrenheit 9/11.

Written by Jasper

April 1, 2007 at 7:39 pm

Posted in Culture, Iraq, Politics, Reviews

In which Jasper hyperventilates about school vouchers

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Megan McArdle, in the midst of a series of posts about education reforms, goes off on her fellow libertarians:

I can’t say I’m thrilled to find that there is a statistically significant minority of my ideological quasi-brethren lining up to tell me that it’s a terrible idea to try and help poor kids with the school system. For one thing, my interlocutors say, the driving factor in the quality of a school is the quality (for which, read Socio-Economic Status) of its kids. And for another, it’s immoral to take money from people to educate someone else’s children…I’m sorry if my nom de blog fooled you, but I’m not that sort of libertarian. Children are a perennial problem for libertarians, but what it boils down to is this: children (and to my mind, the severely disabled), have positive rights. They have a right to be fed, educated, clothed, sheltered, and given medical care on someone else’s dime. And if their parents abdicate this responsibility, then it passes onto the community, including the state, even if none of us asked said parent to reproduce. So arguing that educating poor children is immoral . . . well, I hardly know what to say, except remind me not to get into a lifeboat with you.

You go, girl!

Commenter “Norm” on the thread opines thusly:

Liberals, of which I am one, desperately want to improve poorly performing schools. We just don’t think these schemes will work. It’s not that we hate markets, it’s that we have seen markets approaches fail time and time again at solving this very sort of problem.

Hey Norm, what about that “scheme” called American post secondary education? Unlike K-12, college level schooling in the US is not characterized by uniformity, centralization, lack of choice, geography-based assignment, etc. Rather, post K-12 in the US is characterized by diversity, specialization, choice, and, most importantly, competition. Universities compete fiercely with each other, and customers are free to vote with their feet. Indeed, post-secondary schools in the US are allowed to go out of business, and many do so each year. They do not, like elementary and high schools, possess a guaranteed pool of customers that insures their survival as long as babies continue to be born in their “territories.”

Moreover, American post-secondary education — in contrast to American K-12 — not only stacks up well against international competition, but is inarguably the world’s finest university system by any measurement. That’s right, the American education sector characterized by a widespread requirement to compete for customers is the world leader. The American education sector that is characterized by an utter lack of necessity to compete for customers is a world lagger. Funny, that.

Written by Jasper

March 21, 2007 at 8:44 am

Posted in Blogs, Culture, Economics, Policy

In which Jasper supports the internment of the Japanese

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Just a bit more on the topic of immigration from the Islamic world. My case for limits on Muslim immigration was characterized thusly by one commenter on the Yglesias thread:

But your argument is the kind of thinking that led to the internment of the Japanese during World War II, one of the great shames of our national history.

Sigh.

No, I think my argument is the “kind of thinking” that made us cautious with, say, allowing dedicated Communists to immigrate during the cold war. In other words, totalitarian Islam is a robust, dangerous ideological opponent of the United States. Pretending this is not the case frankly patronizes our enemies. I don’t know as I’d go so far as to characterize the movement like many other do as an existential threat to America. But that’s at least in part because Muslims are much smaller in number here than they are in, say, France or Holland or Israel.

Call me crazy, but I’d just as soon not have our filmmakers slaughtered in the streets, or suicide bombers boarding our buses. Heck, I’m even opposed to the phenomenon of cabdrivers refusing to serve purchasers of fine Napa wines. Again, when the Ummah finally goes through the Enlightenment, we can talk about opening the floodgates.

And yes, I know not all Muslims are radical opponents of the Western way of life. But some of them — and from what I’ve seen it’s an uncomfortably large percentage — most assuredly are. Again, without having a mind reading machine that can carefully screen the innermost thoughts and sentiments of would-be immigrants, it seems to me that a prudent policy would entail — wherever practicable — carefully limiting (but not eliminating) immigration from countries that are associated with robust Islamist movements.

But as for Latin Americans or Asians, on the other hand, I say let ’em come.

Written by Jasper

March 17, 2007 at 10:41 am

Posted in Culture, Policy, Terrorism

Bill Richardson says yes to cannabis

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Good for Bill Richardson:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says he plans to sign a medical marijuana bill despite the controversy surrounding it. “Is it risky? So what if it is risky. It’s the right thing to do,” the Democratic presidential candidate told the Albuquerque Journal. “Sure I’ll catch national grief over this. But I don’t tailor my style, or what I stand for, to primary states.” The bill, which cleared the New Mexico Legislature Wednesday, would allow state residents suffering from certain debilitating medical problems to be state-certified for medical marijuana use to ease their symptoms, the newspaper said. Supporters say the measure would affect a relatively small number of people. “What we are talking about is 160 people in deep pain, and it only affects them,” Richardson said.

Written by Jasper

March 17, 2007 at 9:05 am

Newt and adultery

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It’s pretty impossible for Newt to dodge the hypocrisy charge, for obvious reasons. Still, I heard a bit of his interview, and I must say his position is not completely without merit. He basically makes the case that as a central figure in the US government in the 1990s, he had no choice but to support the investigation (and eventual impeachment on grounds of perjury) of the president.

In short, Newt’s actions may have been despicable toward his wife, but they weren’t illegal. Perjury, after all, is a felony (many would argue that President Clinton’s lies didn’t actually meet the US legal definition of perjury, but, at the very least, his falsehoods under oath surely warranted looking into). Indeed, when you think about it, Newt would have been derelict in his duties as a public official had he allowed his own worries about charges of hypocrisy to influence his official conduct.

Written by Jasper

March 10, 2007 at 10:05 pm

Leaving well enough alone

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Michael Gove gives voice to thoughts quite similar to those I’ve often had:

The ability to leave well alone is probably the least admired, but most required, virtue of our time. Just as we’d be well advised to leave the essential of evening dress well alone, instead of pointlessly elaborating, so there is a host of other areas of British life that would be far better if only inertia were allowed to rule.

From pizzas (why do we need cheese-filled crusts? Since the first pineapple appeared on the innocent margherita it’s been all downhill) to the liturgy (the more elaboration, over time, the fewer in the congregation); from mobile telephones (if I want to watch streaming video footage I’ll go to the cinema, thank you) to razors (what was wrong with just one blade?), we’d all be better off if people had simply left well alone.

I’ve never been able to see why resting on one’s laurels was such a bad thing. Invent a decent idea, or product, then sit back to enjoy the benefits, would be my advice to anyone. Try to elaborate on the breakthrough and it will lead only to frustration. Or scorn.

From the atomic bomb (quite enough megatons really, all things considered) to the cappuccino (what was Mr Starbucks doing when he thought coffee could be improved by the creation of the eggnog latte?), the original really was the best.

What was wrong with just one blade indeed.

Written by Jasper

February 15, 2007 at 9:14 pm

Posted in Culture, Miscellania