January 31, 2002

Economic Indicators on the Rise

The most recent economic numbers point to a likely economic recovery begininng in the final quarter of last year, despite the impact of the terrorist attacks of September 11. The chart shows the economy retraction lasted only a single quarter - what may be the mildest recession we've ever had.

Senator Daschle, if the Bush tax cuts "made the recession worse," then why are we recovering just as the tax cuts start to kick in?

Posted by wasylik at 10:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Trusted Traveler Card

The Department of Transportation has proposed a so-called "trusted traveler card" which would allow holders to by-pass much of the security procedures at airports. The proposed card is an offshoot of the ID currently under development for transporation workers, and would include biometric data for identification of the holder.

Although the details haven't been fleshed out yet, it seems that in order to obtain such a card, one would have to submit to an FBI background check; details of that investigation coud be shared with other law enforcement agencies. I have concerns over the degree to which a "trusted traveler" would be exempt from security requirements, and how reliable the "trust" designation would be. Would a trusted traveler go through the metal detectors? Have their bags x-rayed? If not, then what level of "trust" must be proven before the card is issued? The greater the level of trust given, and the more security measures waived, the harder the card will be to get, and the less useful it will be overall.

It's not a great leap to suppose that the card's proponents want it distributed widely, and law enforcement agencies would have a great interest in collecting information about as many travelers as possible. So the "trust" threshold would have to be fairly low - maybe excluding only violent felons and foreign nationals. A cardholder, then, would go through security checks similar to those before September 11, while a non-cardholder might be subject to interrogation, in-depth physical inspection, or other intensive security measures.

The more wide-spread the card becomes, the more likely it will become - much like the driver's license - the de facto ID card for most purposes, and eventually a national ID card.

Privacy advocates and security advocates should both watch this story closely - the devil will be in the details.

Posted by wasylik at 10:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 30, 2002

Fraternity Life

Patrick Ruffini's "analysis" of fraternity life suffers from the same intellectual weakness as the racist practices he decries. Noting that the University of Alabama has a famously segregated Greek system, he then extrapolates that all "frats are wrong," using reasoning like this:

Conservative contrarians on campus have long gone to prodigious lengths to criticize minority self-segregation. And they’re right. Now, it’s time to stand up and condemn white self-segregation, and indeed all self-segregation based on qualities other than individual merit (that’s why I’m queasy about all fraternities who sort people out based on accidents of birth). Granted, the number of minorities clamoring to join overwhelmingly white fraternities and sororities isn’t large. But if we’re really upset about minority self-segregation, shouldn’t we allow minorities who actually want to be a part of the establishment in?

Well, leaving all the freedom of association arguments aside, I suspect Patrick has no idea what he's talking about on a campus-by-campus basis. The University of Alabama's Greek system is famous nationwide not just for its segregation, but also for its domination of campus politics such that it has earned the moniker "The Machine" in national media. Their system is unique and the problems there cannot be fairly attributed to Greek organizations nationwide. Instead of accusing all "frats" of harboring white segregationists, Patrick would do well to look a lot deeper.

For over ten years, I've been a volunteer for my fraternity, working with chapters all over the country. I've seen chapters from the Midwest to the South to the Mid-Atlantic, not just of my own organization, but of many others as well. I have seen first hand that many of these so-called "white" groups actively recruit new members of a variety of races - not to fill quotas, but to fulfill their own ideals - and run up against many obstacles. Some minority students are afraid to join mainstream organizations due to heavy peer pressure from their ethnic groups; many have preconceptions and misconceptions that are difficult to combat; many prefer the existing groups that exist to support ethnic community; others find the history of the mainstream Greeks too daunting.

Most of the fraternity and sorority world outside the University of Alabama has progressed beyond the 1950's - some groups further than others, and a handful not at all. Patrick apparently never joined a fraternity, so he probably does not realize that "minorities who want to be part of the establishment" can find plenty of opportunity in most Greek systems.

Posted by wasylik at 08:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Freakish Serendipity

Recycled LinkFrom Anil: Sappy or not, this is a cool picture because of the freakish serendipity required to capture it so close to Valentine's Day. Someone call the AP!

Posted by wasylik at 08:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

2002 State of the Union

There's not much I can add to the coverage of last night's State of the Union Address that hasn't already been said. One thing I'll say is that the President's message was well-received by a 90% supermajority of Americans. Public approval of a SOTU address hasn't been hard to come by in recent years, but you'd never know how well Bush did just by reading headlines today.

What's even more impressive is that the poll numbers Bush racked up last night ("91% said the policies being proposed by Bush would move the country in the right direction; just 7% said the wrong direction.") surpass those of Clinton's last few efforts ("Eighty-six percent of Americans who watched Mr. Clinton's speech Thursday approved of the proposals offered, while only 14 percent disapproved," in 2000).

Even though there are several factors involved - different audiences, different background circumstances - for Bush to even match Clinton in public approval of policy positions ought to say a lot. Policy positions! Again, you won't see THAT in the headlines, either.

Posted by wasylik at 08:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 29, 2002

Time to Move to Mac?

Soon I'm going to have to buy a new computer for my office. I may want to re-read this and this before I do.

Posted by wasylik at 11:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Prisoner of War or Unlawful Combatant?

Via Q: Columbia law professor Michael Dorf has written an excellent article on prisoners of war vs. unlawful combatants and why the difference matters for the Al-Quaeda and Taliban currently being held in Gitmo.

Posted by wasylik at 07:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2002

Profiles in Terrorism

From LGF: This week's terrorist suicide bomber turned out to be a woman. Now that we've discovered that our enemies are sometimes white (as in Suleyman al-Lindh, formerly known as Johnny Walker Lindh) and sometimes female, can we finally dispense with the notion that focusing our attention on young swarthy men makes us more secure?

The terrorists have proven they know how to exploit the weak points of our defenses. If they need to find someone who looks like a Midwestern grandmother to do the dirty work, they'll find one.

Posted by wasylik at 03:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Google Catalog Search

Looking for something in particular that you've seen in some catalog, somewhere, just before you threw it out? Look for it at the Google Catalog Search.

Posted by wasylik at 02:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 27, 2002

Guns Save Lives

Recycled LinkInstaPundit pointed me to a John Lott column, with yet another example of how guns can save lives and how the press covers it up.

Posted by wasylik at 02:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Not Dead Yet

Hello out there.

No, I'm not dead... I've just been resting intensely. First, we did some traveling - to Utah and Hawaii for a week each, and then the next two weekends in New York and Florida respectively. On top of that, the firm is really starting to take off, so my workdays have not lent me much time for leisure.

I didn't plan to take a month off from the blog, but there you have it. Once I realized my unplanned hiatus would run longer than expected, I felt it only fair to at least give y'all a new design. So once again, there you have it. Direct all comments about broken margins, misplaced boxes, and 4th generation browser errors to the usual place.

Links of interest to me while I was silent:
» WPA Posters from Dollarshort.org
» The Fly Bottle, not to be confused with the Phat Can (check out Jan 19th's entry, The Left in a Nutshell)
» Pineapple wine from Maui
» The Post discovers that terrorists will use racial profiling against us
» Liberals discover that the administration's role in the EnRon scandal is that they did nothing
» Oliver Willis documents that the administration's role EnRon scandal is... nothing
» the Redskins hired Steve Spurrier and the Gators filled the void with Ron Zook

What an odd new year it's been so far.

Posted by wasylik at 01:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack