Moderate Politics from an Extreme Personality

Location: New York City, New York, United States

To know nothing of what happened before you were born is to remain ever a child. -Cicero ************ Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. -Barry Goldwater

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Ivory Billed Woodpecker?

I know this is a bit late, but I cannot help but post it. As some of my friends know, cryptozoology is a hobby of mine. One of the things that fascinate me the most are rare animals. It would be great if a captive breeding program can be developed for the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. Who knows, maybe the Dodo can even be found in the Maldives, or Megalania in the Australian outback? Hey, I can dream can't I? In the mean time I am going to revel in this discovery.

The Simpsons and the Law

As a huge fan of The Simpsons and a future law talking guy (that's Simpsonese for lawyer) I ran into this article online. Click on the above link for Larry Wertheim's article on legal themes in The Simpsons, good stuff for all the other future law talking guys out there, including NYU bloggers: Mike, Shaun, Jill and Jon. Anyone I am missing?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Some good articles from Salon

Laura Miller writes a very interesting article about how the Cold War and the nuclear age affected American culture. Gretchen Cook talks about the right wanting to get rid of birth control. I think she is exaggerating the problem a teeny bit, although I am going to develop on that issue later. For now let me just say that if mainstream conservatives and Republicans really were planning on getting rid of birth control, I would be pissed, and I'd vote for the Democrats. Why not the Libertarians you say? Because, it's a two party system, what I am going to do vote for a third party? hahahahahaha. As Kang and Kodos pointed out, I am not going to throw away my vote. I'd rather build a laser to aim at a planet I've never even heard of. Damn, that was a good episode. I will leave you with this:

Bob Dole (Kang): Abortions for all
Crowd: Booooooooooooooooooooo
Bob Dole (Kang): Okay then, No abortions for anybody
Crowd: Booooooooooooooooooooo
Bob Dole (Kang): Alright, Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others
Crowd: Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

One last thing, you know what I think is funny? Articles in the New York Times that go: Although crime has gone down since....the number of prisoners has gone up. WELL DUH!!!!!!!

Monday, April 25, 2005

A Few Last Thoughts on Affirmative Action

Well apparently Mike Phillips has decided to declare a conclusion to the affirmative action debate among us NYU bloggers. Like hell!!! Not before I get in a few more thoughts on the subject ;) hehe.

1. It has been pointed out more than once that affirmative action benefits white women more than any other group. Yet the debate in the public sphere is mostly framed around the racial aspect of AA. Why is that the case? Could it be due to the fact that cynical and bigoted politicians like to use the racial aspect of the issue to take advantage of a racism and prejudice still very much present in society? Now, let me be clear that I am not calling all opponents of AA bigots. That would be am inaccurate and cheap generalization. What I am saying is that the focus of the AA debate on race is itself a reflection of societal prejudice that is still vey much present, and hence and indication of the need to keep it in place. Although frankly, reforming it would not be a bad idea.

2. The cost of AA is relatively low compared to the benefit. Think of it this way, if a person from X group gets a spot at a college/company, nine people from group Y are affected. Now, without AA, let's say someone from group Y gets the spot. Now the person from group X does not get the spot, but neither do the other 8 people in group Y. When people talk about losing something due to AA, it does not necessarily mean that they would have gotten if AA did not exist. The cost of AA is spread out among the majority group, not concentrated upon individuals of the majority group.

3. I do not know how many times I need to say this, Asian Americans benefit from affirmative action. Believe me, I would know ;). Asians do not get affirmative action consideration in academia and are hence hurt by it. It is just that Asians do get affirmative action considerations in other areas of society. For example, my father works in a company called Crystal Window and Door Systems. The firm was founded by an immigrant from Taiwan, and has become very successful. Part of this success resulted from government AA policies like contract set asides and tax incentives for doing business with minority and female owned firms. Furthermore, Asian Americans are helped by affirmative action in the legal field (you heard that right), although unfortunately not so much in law school admissions :(, hehe ;). Believe it or not, Asians are actually underrepresented among lawyers. Here are the ABA stats to prove it. So am I against affirmative action in academia? No, because being for AA when it benefits you and against it when it does not, is cheap.

4. Incidentally, Crystal has been a boon to the lower income Asian neighborhoods it is located around, providing jobs to residents and charitable contributions to various community organizations. Which I feel is another benefit from affirmative action; It helps disadvantaged groups build wealth.

Well that is it for now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A new Pope has been elected

Well a new pope has been elected, and I know this post is a bit late. Still I must acknowledge it. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is the new pope Benedict XVI. Here is a statement from the Catholic University of America, where I will be attending law school in the fall. I am a Protestant so I really do not have a strong opinion on the pick. I do know that he is rather doctrinally conservative. I also know that some accuse him of being a Nazi, for his Hitler youth membership. I feel that charge is very unfair.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Kerrey for Mayor?

Former Governor and Senator from Nebraska and current President of New School University Bob Kerrey, is thinking of entering the Democratic mayoral primary. Now Mr. Kerrey is actually one of my favorite Democrats, he would have been a much better presidential candidate than that other Kerry, for darn sure. Check out his article in the WSJ on Social Security. That being said, he was a public official in another state, and while that does not technically disqualify him from running for mayor, I just do not like the idea of a public official having high office in two different states. Even Hillary Clinton was never actually elected to anything before she carpetbagged her way into a Senate seat. I mean is New York so lacking in political talent that we have to import the rejected and retired politicians from other states in the Union?......Er never mind, I think I just answered my own question. Oh and as for the SS debate, here are some key points: order to convert these bonds into cash, the U.S. Treasury will use the cash from individual and corporate income taxes. While some income taxes are currently used to pay Social Security benefits, the dollar amounts do not pose a serious budgetary challenge. In eight years that will change. Coupled with the cost of Medicare and Medicaid, the annual benefit demands of Social Security will put real pressure on Congress to cut spending on defense and nondefense appropriations.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Happy Tax Day

Well it's April 15th. Got my tax return in nice and early because I also had to do my FAFSA. Hooray.

Daniel Gross writes in Slate about getting rid of the mortgage interest deduction and makes a compelling case for it.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

WSN articles on the AA bake sale

By way of Mike Phillips the two WSN editorials from Jill Filipovic and Jon Cirpriani, here and here.

Well I am going to quote and critique some of the specific things written in both articles. I know that is a cheap way of blogging, but I just woke up from a three hour nap and writing an original essay is not on top of my to do list right now. So Jon, Jill please forgive me for scamming off your articles, which I am sure you both worked very hard on.

Here are some highlights from both articles:

"I've got to hand it to the College Republicans: They have truly mastered the art of being purposefully offensive and incendiary, and then playing the victim when the expected reaction occurs. Last Thursday's "Affirmative Action Bake Sale" wasn't an innocent display intended to simply start conversation about an issue. It was specifically designed to start controversy - such bake sales have been held at universities around the country, and are almost always met with conflict and protest."

I do not know how using the prices of a bake sale as a metaphor for the costs of affirmative action is so offensive and incendiary. It was a funny and unique way to make a point (or at least it was at UCLA before every CR group in the nation started doing it). But the fact that this method is being used by every conservative campus group in the nation demonstrates its effectiveness at promoting discussion (sometimes of the heated variety).

"If the College Republicans want to talk about economic inequality, I would invite them to host an "earnings bake sale" - perhaps they can figure out a way to sell cookies that represents the fact that white men make significantly more than any other racial group, regardless of education level. My suggestion: Hold a bake sale where the cookies are sold for the same price, but pay your white male workers $1 an hour, black male workers 80 cents, white women 75 cents, black women 65 cents, Hispanic men 63 cents and Hispanic women 54 cents. That would pretty accurately mirror the race and gender wage gap, as calculated by the National Committee on Pay Equity."

Or you can just hold the same bake sale and equate it with purchasing power. The proponents of affirmative action can hold their own bake sale if they want, no one is preventing them. Or if not a bake sale, then come up with another way of addressing the above statistic. I mean another bake sale would not be so original, but instead of hurling abuses and assaulting individuals against affirmative action, come up with an equally clever idea to address your points. Don't just cede the debate to the other side.

"If they actually wanted to hold an informed discussion on affirmative action, there are dozens of event formats they could have chosen: a teach-in, a debate, a panel presentation, or even a film screening. I doubt they would have been picketed."

Those are good things but one wants to draw attention to the issue and bring new people into the debate. A bake sale gets people thinking, more cerebral formats just interest those people already aware of the issue.

"As an added insult, the College Republicans donated the proceeds of the bake sale to the anti-choice Life Legal Defense Foundation."

Okay, this I did not understand. Particularly since I know that NYU College Republicans is not a uniformly pro-life club. I think the American Civil Rights Institute would have been a much better source for donations.

As for Jon.

"Another sound bite we hear from supporters of racial preferences is that the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action are white women. But this claim, if true, is not a very good defense of affirmative action at all."

Not so Jon. Check out this website and its long list of cases involving hostile work environments and sexism/sexual harassment in large Wall Street firms. Incidentally if you look at the sales and recruiting literature from these same firms, they act like they are a color blind and gender blind utopia. I know it is hard to feel Allison Schiefflin's pain considering that she was making close to a million a year, but the fact is she was being mistreated and looked down upon by her collegues, just because she is a woman. I think that is wrong.

"But what the pro-preference argument really boils down to is the condescending liberal belief that some groups have historically been mistreated by society, so gosh darn it, members of those groups just can't be expected to perform at the same level whites (or Asians) can, and they need special assistance."

I don't think it is condescending at all to acknowledge present mistreatment and discrimination. I think it is more offensive to deny it exists. That type of stuff has not gone away and still matters in the lives of American minorities and women. Furthermore, contrary to popular myth Asians do suffer job discrimination and benefit from affirmative action, just not in the academic world (which incidentally is much more meritocratic than the rest of society, mostly because criteria for success is much less subjective).

"Wow, imagine that. Now if only we can get them as indignant about equal access to higher education as they are about equal access to desserts."

Problem is, blacks and hispanics do not have "equal access" to higher education. Many of them come from run down schools in the poorest areas in the nation. For them, even if they have the talent to go to college, they may lack the economic resources, and I am not speaking of tuition but also things like travel costs, not to mention the necessity to earn wages for their family. This is why I feel affirmative action is needed in the undergraduate level. Maybe not like the UMichigan point system (which I feel is wrong), but I do feel race and economic considerations should be taken into account. I also feel that students from disadvantaged backgrounds of all races should be given these considerations. I agree with Rick Sander though, that AA does more harm than good on the graduate school level.

Last thing, I understand that the debate over affirmative action in college campuses centers primarily on college admissions. Afterall, it is a process many only recently have gone through and some of us have gone through again (grad school admissions). That being said the focus of life is not college and most people could care less where you went for undergrad. Affirmative Action is not primarily about getting into Harvard. It is about being denied a promotion because you don't "fit the look or culture" of someone who is considered management material. It is about differences of opportunity in the social networks one is in. Basically, it is about the real world, and the real world is very different from a college campus.

Oh and Mikey when is your commentary on the issue coming?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The "Assets" of the SS "Trust Fund"

When people say that the SS "Trust Fund" is backed up by the full faith and credit of the US government, what does that mean? Well Senator Corzine has an answer (from the Murdock article above):

Senator Jon Corzine (D., N.J.) called the president's remarks misleading. In a conference call with journalists, Corzine said: "U.S. Treasury securities have the ability to be paid under any circumstances based on the ability of the government to print money."

You see boys and girls, this is why the liberals claim SS will never go bankrupt. Technically they are right, the US government can print as much money as it wants and pay off our obligations this way. Or the US government could jack up taxes, cut spending on other programs etc. So when the "Trust Fund" runs out, then we can dip into the general budget. Why not? SS surpluses have gone into the general budget, why can't deficits be made up from it. Of course increasing taxes hurts the economy, printing money causes inflation, and well...this might suprise people but I do think some government social programs are necessary and should not be cut to fund SS.

Time to means test benefits and introduce regulated private investment accounts. The current system just does not work.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Mihi Ahn in Salon

Well it is about time an article like this appeared. I used to be somewhat a fan of Gwen back in her No Doubt days but that is so over. The harajuku girls are an example of why popular culture in the US has no respect for Asians and Asian Americans as, well as people. Asian culture is a product, something to be experienced like some sort of wine or a brand of clothes. It is a trend. Kung-Fu movies, anime, exotic food, Feng Shui, accupuncture, ancient Chinese secrets etc. Meanwhile Asian and Asian American people are silent, emotionless, inscrutable, submissive semi humans, or really funny steppenfecchit like sub humans (William Hung, hello). Whether it is Kill Bill or Ginseng, any real unstereotypical comprehension of Asian culture is severely lacking. So is any appreciation of Asians as people or Asian Americans as........well as AMERICANS. In the popular mind, their is no difference between the two. Which brings me to the issue that Ms Ahn, only briefly alluded to and hinted at: RACISM. That's right, racism, bigotry, stereotyping, exclusion, whatever you want to call it, it sucks. Speaking of which Mihi, why did you not mention racism specifically? The word racism was not even in the article, it was hinted at instead, I mean we don't want to pepetuate the stereotype of Asians as too reserved and polite. How many Asian AMERICANS have been asked where they were from, and when they say oh I'm from New York or San Francisco, people respond with "No where are you really from? China? Japan?" etc. How many Asian AMERICANS have had ignorant white liberals (usually artsy types) tell them how much they like Asian food or where in Asia to visit etc. As if the culture and people are just one in the mind of non Asians (Gee this will really suck if we go to war with China, can you say concentration camp boys and girls? I knew you could).

As for the Harajuku girls, gee where do I begin. Number one, they are not allowed to speak English in the prescence of Gwen. They are all fluent, or so I am told. I wonder if they are all even Japanese. Furthermore, Gwen considers them figments of her imagination. This type of dehumanization is incredibly insulting. But I guess I should not expect a spoiled girl from Orange County to be too concerned with the demeaning perceptions and stereotypes she creates, oh well. I find Gwen's speaking voice very grating fyi. As for the girls, I cannot believe they agreed to play such a demeaning role. I wonder how much they were paid for it.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Myth of the SS trust fund

From the Foundation for Economic Freedom.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Gladiator's War

This is a alternate history tale I came across while surfing the net and browsing The story takes places during the later years of the Roman Republic, specifically during the revolt of Spartacus. The year before the first consulship of Pompey and Crassus. As we all know from history, and the movies, Crassus crushed the revolt and was awarded an ovation for his efforts. Pompey came back from Spain, victorious against Sertorius and mopped up a few stragglers. But history takes a different turn in this story. Any fan of Roman history will appreciate this short story from Lois Tilton.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

From Slate: Spitzer, Buffet and Blodget

Slate Magazine has run a series of good articles in recent days. First, according to Daniel Gross, New York's crusading and corporate crime fighting AG (and likely next governor) Elliot Spitzer is at it again. This time he is taking on the reinsurance industry and Warren Buffet is involved. According to Gross, Buffet himself is not really under investigation and is just being called in as a witness. Reinsurance? What's that you say? Well when insurance companies collect premiums, some of that money is invested in securities, some of it is used to pay benefits, and lastly some of it is paid to reinsurance companies like Swiss Re or Buffet's own General Re. This enables insurance companies to spread out the risk of their policies to other firms and if a major disaster happens, the company will not tank by paying out benefits. Apparently, AIG is accused of massaging earnings by writing down a deal as an risk reduction when it really wasn't, the details are fuzzy. General Re is accused of collaborating in or willfully ignoring this bad accounting.
Speaking of corporate crime, former Merrill Lynch con I mean equity analyst Henry Blodget has been busy writing for Slate ever since he defrauded millions of investors. His recent review of the book Conspiracy of Fools is very insightful. I guess if you really want to know about white collar crime and fraud, get an expert's opinion. Hey he is better at writing about that than he is in writing about the city of my birth, which he has been doing quite a bit of lately.