Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?
James Chen: Asian-American writer, film director, journalist, entrepreneur, athlete, political activist, environmental activist and renaissance man
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Monday, May 30, 2005
The Death Spiral of the New York Times
Showing bad timing as well as bad judgment, the New York Times displays its usual lack of class by publishing an anti-military editorial proclaiming "The Death Spiral of the Volunteer Army" on this Memorial Day weekend.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld likes to talk about transforming America's military. But the main transformation he may leave behind is a catastrophic falloff in recruitment for the country's vital ground fighting forces: the Army and the Marine Corps. The recruitment chain that has given the United States highly qualified, highly skilled and highly motivated ground forces for the three decades since the government abandoned the draft has started to break down.Notice that the editorial fails to mention that the economy is chugging right along and unemployment is down. Just this past week, the US Commerce Department revised first quarter 2005 GDP growth upward to 3.5 percent. What this means is the job growth is strong and people are choosing to work in the civilian sector. When this happens, fewer people are going to join the military, of course. But don't expect the Times to mention any good news in the context of military recruiting.
This is astonishing, even allowing for the administration's failure to prepare Americans honestly for how long and difficult the occupation of Iraq would be. There are over 60 million American men and women between 18 and 35, the age group sought by Army recruiters. Getting the 80,000 or so new volunteers the Army needs to enlist each year ought not to be such a daunting challenge. There are obvious attractions to joining the world's most powerful, prestigious and best-equipped ground fighting forces, and in so doing qualifying for valuable benefits like college tuition aid.
On the other hand, the New York Times appears to be experiencing its own Death Spiral as advertising sales slump and circulation collapses. With costs rising and benefits for retirees looming larger, it seems to me that the Times has the same kinds of problems as the Army and Marine Corps they have just maligned. Recently, the Times announced that nearly 200 jobs would be cut, amounting to 1.5% of its workforce. In addition, they have an ethics problem they have not addressed, an image problem that is getting worse, a management team with it's head up its ass and an elite ownership out of touch with the workers and the readers.
In yet another display of arrogance, the Times thinks it can boost its revenue by charging its readers $50 a year to view the editorial crap from the likes of Friedman, Kristof and Krugman. Which means that I will soon be turning my attention to the editorial rants coming from the free sections of the paper known as Page One.
A Day at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
We spent Saturday at the amusement park in Santa Cruz. The place was packed, and we only went on a few rides. It also didn't help that Russell was very clingy and refused to go on any rides without me. Most of the kiddie rides would probably fall apart if I got on them, so we ended up spending only a couple of hours there before heading back to Alameda. This park is geared mainly towards teenagers. We should be back in around ten years or so.
A terrified Russell and his father on the Flying Dragon
Jenny and the Punkster take their turn on the Flying Dragon at Santa Cruz
Friday, May 27, 2005
Shall we send them to your house, Mr Friedman?
Shut it down. Just shut it down. I am talking about the biased, anti-American screed known as the New York Times. Just shut it down and then plow it under. It has become worse than an embarrassment. I am convinced that more Americans are dying and will die if we keep the New York Times open than if we shut it down. So, please, Mr. Sulzberger, just shut it down.
As proof of this assertion, you only need to view the demented drivel emanating from mind of NY Times Op-Ed columnist Thomas Friedman.
Guantánamo Bay is becoming the anti-Statue of Liberty. If we have a case to be made against any of the 500 or so inmates still in Guantánamo, then it is high time we put them on trial, convict as many possible (which will not be easy because of bungled interrogations) and then simply let the rest go home or to a third country. Sure, a few may come back to haunt us. But at least they won't be able to take advantage of Guantánamo as an engine of recruitment to enlist thousands more. I would rather have a few more bad guys roaming the world than a whole new generation.Friedman is terribly worried about how the foreign press depicts the United States in its War on Terror, and in particular the treatment of terrorist suspects housed at the Guantánamo Bay facility in Cuba. Never mind that Newsweek's claims of Koran-flushing and desecration has been retacted by the magazine, or that the detainee who claimed that U.S. personnel there had flushed a Koran in a toilet recanted his original allegation when questioned this month by military investigators.
Prisoner claims of abuse at the hands of Americans are nothing new, Mr. Friedman. In TR Fehrenbach's Korean War book "This Kind of War", the author describes how North Korean and Chinese POWs were told by their leaders to make accusations of torture to Red Cross officials against their American captors. In fact, they were so badly "mistreated" by the Americans that nearly one quarter of 100,000 Communist POWs declined to return home to North Korea and China.
Captured Al-Qaeda manuals appear to take a page from their Communist counterparts, albeit with an Islamic twist. According to the manual, terrorist trainees were coached to makes claims of torture and mistreatment. From the Telegraph (UK):
The men's claim that they were tortured at Guantanamo should also be set in the context of the al-Qa'eda training manual discovered during a raid in Manchester a couple of years ago. Lesson 18 of that manual, whose authenticity has not been questioned, emphatically states, under the heading "Prison and Detention Centres", that, when arrested, members of al-Qa'eda "must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by state security investigators. [They must] complain to the court of mistreatment while in prison". That is not, of course, proof that the Britons were not tortured in Guantanamo. But it ought to encourage some doubts about uncritically accepting that they were – which seems to be the attitude adopted by most of the media.So there you have it, the Western media and Thomas Friedman taking accusations of torture from terror suspects at face value, and ignoring Pentagon claims of humane treatment. Ultimately, shutting down Guantánamo Bay would have no effect on prisoner claims of abuse or the propensity of the Western press to write stories that put the United States military in a negative light. Heck, these terrorists--most of whom just happened to be caught wandering around in Afghanistan, Northern Pakistan and Iraq at the wrong time--would be complaining about "mental torture" even if we put them up in the Bellagio for the next decade or so, and the Friedmans of the world would no doubt plead their cases ad infinitum.
Finally, just what are we supposed to do with these enemy combatants who are captured fighting US troops on foreign battlefields, Mr. Friedman? Keep them on Guantánamo Bay until the War on Terror is over, or bring them to the USA, where the liberal court system will turn them loose, and then they can go on resuming their merry ways of death and destruction. Let's hear it straight from Mr. Friedman:
Shut it down. Just shut it down. I am talking about the war-on-terrorism P.O.W. camp at Guantánamo Bay. Just shut it down and then plow it under. It has become worse than an embarrassment. I am convinced that more Americans are dying and will die if we keep the Gitmo prison open than if we shut it down. So, please, Mr. President, just shut it down.How about a deal, Mr. Friedman? You shut down the New York Times, and we'll shut down the camp at Guantánamo Bay. We'll even throw in Abu Ghraib if you stop publishing your sister paper, the Boston Globe. That sounds like an even trade.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Russell and Punky Updates
The weather in Alameda has become warm enough to the point where we are ready to begin diaper training for Russell. The weather is important because toilet-training toddlers are usually allowed to walk around the house in their underwear sans diapers. This makes it easier on the parents, who have to place them on the toilet bowl each and every hour. It also gets the child used to walking around without a diaper. Russell, who turns 3 years old next month, has already sat atop the toilet bowl on numerous occasions, but has not done anything of note yet. Jenny and I are hopeful that this process will be relatively quick and painless. I will be especially happy when we succeed because Russell's diaper habit costs me over a dollar a day.
Punky has now reached the point where he can move around the room whenever and whereever he pleases. Having two boys capable of locomotion is especially tiring. When I get home, I have to now keep one eye on Punky at all times. Since he has a low center of gravity when crawling, I have to stoop down low whenever I pick him up. Then if Russell sees me picking up Punky, he gets jealous and motions for me to pick him up too. Both Russell and Punky are big for their age, so the overall affect has been a bad back and sore arms (especially on the weekends).
Monday, May 23, 2005
Learning to Crawl
The exciting news for the weekend is that nine-month old Punky can crawl virtually anywhere around the house, and clap his hands on cue. The clapping happens most often when he is watching Baby Einstein videos, while the crawling more or less happens whenever Punky is awake. This has already gotten him into trouble on numerous occasions around the house, as he has a tendency to crawl into the tightest spaces possible. Like beneath a rocking chair or into a TV cabinet. Last night, he crawled off our bed and landed on the floor with a loud thump I could hear downstairs. It turned out to be nothing serious, but he really scared me when I heard him fall.
Although we three boys in the house had the sniffles, we still made it to the Oakland Zoo on Saturday and to the Walnut Creek shopping district on Sunday. On Saturday, we spent the afternoon not at the zoo itself, but at the kiddie amusement park attached to the zoo. Russell really enjoyed riding on the train and merry-go-round, as usual, and he actually went onto a couple of rides by himself (airplane and car rides). Unfortunately, Jenny took Russell onto a fairly serious roller coaster at the park--one that frightened Russell so much that he soaked his diaper. It took a bribe of some ice cream to calm him down. Check out the pictures below.
Russell has lately expressed some behavior indicative of jealously towards the attention his brother Punky is receiving. So I took it unto myself to spend more time playing with Russell and opening some of the gifts we have in storage for him. The overall effect on Russell has been positive. He is spending more time playing with his new toys and less time in front of the TV. Of course, it also means that I am usually found doting on both boys whenever we are all together. While it sounds easy, simultaneously playing with a 3-year-old boy and a 9-month old baby is physically exhausting after a few hours. The "new" toys that Russell really enjoys as of late are:
1) Play-Doh Fun Bucket
2) Little People Lil' Kingdom Castle
3) Plain Old Tops - Check out the picture at the bottom of this post.
On his first rollercoaster ride, Russell holds onto his mother for dear life
Punky enjoys the attention
Russell takes the car out for a spin
Brewster goes along for the ride
Russell checks out the spinning top
Friday, May 20, 2005
Recovering at Home
Once again I am sick and trying to recover at home. This time, Punky caught a cold and gave it to me. We need to get better because this weekend we're going to the Oakland Zoo. It seems that whenever it rains here, someone gets sick. Hopefully, the summer will bring milder and drier weather. Blogging will be light until I get better.
UPDATE (11:55PM) - I didn't get as much sleep today as I had hoped. Since I was home, Jenny decided to use me as a babysitter and leave me with Punky while she went out and got her legs waxed and a massage to boot. Punky slept well in the morning, but that meant that he was up most of the afternoon. Not good, because I was hacking most of the time I was up with him, and I might have passed on some germs to the Punkster. Now Punky is coughing as he is trying to sleep.
Luckily, Russell seems unaffected by this latest outbreak. Today, he seemed happy to see the pictures of our trip to the park last week, which you may view here. He grabbed the photo of him standing in front of the train along with another of himself onboard the train, and held on to them for a few hours. We'll be going to another amusement park this weekend (assuming that we're not too sick) and I'll post some more photos along with a review of the Oakland Zoo.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Riddle Me This!
I was sad to hear that the incomparable Frank Gorshin, a.k.a. "The Riddler", died this week from lung cancer and emphysema. Batman was a favorite program of mine while I was growing up, and the Riddler was one of my heroes.
In honor of Frank Gorshin, I leave you with a riddle from the series: "What has yellow skin and writes?" Answer in the comments section.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Bush Was Right
President George W. Bush on February 26, 2003 in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute
There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were wrong. Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken. The nation of Iraq -- with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people -- is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom.The Domino Theory, set into motion by the Iraqi elections of January 2005:
The world has a clear interest in the spread of democratic values, because stable and free nations do not breed the ideologies of murder. They encourage the peaceful pursuit of a better life. And there are hopeful signs of a desire for freedom in the Middle East. [snip] A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region.
It is presumptuous and insulting to suggest that a whole region of the world -- or the one-fifth of humanity that is Muslim -- is somehow untouched by the most basic aspirations of life. Human cultures can be vastly different. Yet the human heart desires the same good things, everywhere on Earth. In our desire to be safe from brutal and bullying oppression, human beings are the same. In our desire to care for our children and give them a better life, we are the same. For these fundamental reasons, freedom and democracy will always and everywhere have greater appeal than the slogans of hatred and the tactics of terror.
Success in Iraq could also begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace, and set in motion progress towards a truly democratic Palestinian state. The passing of Saddam Hussein's regime will deprive terrorist networks of a wealthy patron that pays for terrorist training, and offers rewards to families of suicide bombers. And other regimes will be given a clear warning that support for terror will not be tolerated.
Syria Heralds Reforms, But Many Have Doubts; Party Weighs Gradual Moves Toward Democracy (Washington Post)
Kuwait Approves Women's Political Rights (USA Today)
New Lebanese Government Schedules Elections (Reuters)
Note these are headlines from just the past month!
It's becoming clearer that President Bush's vision of a free and democratic Middle East--dismissed by the liberal elite as pie-in-the-sky myopia--is in the process of becoming reality. Like Reagan, Bush doesn't care about getting credit for these transformative events, but wishes only that Americans are safer than they once were. Look for the liberal revisionists to first deny this is all happening, and then (once it becomes obvious), state that they were for it all along, and that it would have happened anyway without Bush. Yeah, right.
Kristof's Anti-Bush Crusade
NY Times Op-Ed writer Nick Kristof can't write a column without bashing President George W. Bush. Unless of course, he is busy saving Cambodian prostitutes by buying their freedom. What a nice guy he is, saving non-White prostitutes like a White Knight on his steed. What an asshole.
Anyway, Kristof's latest anti-Bush diatribe takes place in the context of an Op-Ed piece on Chinese supreme leader Hu Jintao, where after some careful analysis and fact-finding, he comes to the conclusion that Hu is...a dictator! Um, make that an authoritarian. And a Communist!
Mr. Hu appears to be an intuitive authoritarian who believes in augmenting the tools of repression, not easing them. [snip] His economic instincts run to central planning, but he is also pragmatic.Absolutely brilliant! Of course, Hu's worst crimes are those pertaining to the abuse of brave reporters and heroic journalist-types. Nevermind the thousands of political prisoners murdered by the Chinese Communist regime, or the slave labor camps that produce death and products for export.
But as far as dictators go, Hu isn't so bad. Rather, Kristof thinks he just lacks vision. And why not throw a jab at Bush, while you are at it:
In any case, while Mr. Hu is a big disappointment in his political vision, he is turning out to be more solid in other areas, like foreign policy. Mr. Hu has done a good job managing foreign relations with other countries, aside from Japan and Sudan, and he has engaged North Korea more meaningfully on the nuclear issue than his predecessors did. Mr. Hu has at least managed to work out a coherent policy toward North Korea, which the Bush administration has yet to do.China's policy is clear to anyone who understands the nature of the Chinese Communist regime: Continue to prop-up the North Korean dictatorship as to maximize the pain to the US, while pretending to act in good faith towards disarmament. That's Kristof's "coherent" policy.
From the NY Times, we go to the Christian Science Monitor, which is a vastly underrated newspaper. People like Kristof are probably repulsed by the "Christian" moniker in its name, so it probably goes unread by the likes of the mainstream media. But leave it to the CSM to refute Kristof's claim to the Bush administration's lack of a North Korean policy.
Both [Iran and North Korea] were caught covering up their nuclear programs in recent years, breaking international agreements. That makes the prospect of a negotiated deal all the more difficult to achieve, let alone enforce.And that, Kristof, is how Bush plans to deal with North Korea (with apologies to Elmo's World). And by the way, at least one of Kristof's two freed prostitutes resumed her old ways after the reporter went back home in Business Class.
And that's why the Bush administration has relied on nations with more economic leverage - China in the case of North Korea, and Britain, Germany, and France in the case of Iran - to take the lead in persuading the two recalcitrants to back down.
US impatience over these situations, which is driven by its post-9/11 fear of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists, has yet to be transformed into preemptive military action - although the US Navy is on the ready to inspect ships leaving North Korea that might be exporting nuclear materials.
Yet military action seems out of the question, for any number of reasons. It also seems unlikely that each nation's leaders will be persuaded to give up their strong nationalist urges to achieve nuclear capability.
The best choices for the US and others seem to be in making good on economic threats or simply accepting that Iran, North Korea, and many of their neighbors will go nuclear.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
A Very Busy Weekend
No one in the house was sick this weekend, so we took advantage of the situation by heading out to the kiddie amusement park in San Leandro. Russell and Punky clearly enjoyed riding on the choo-choo train, taking a spin the the merry-go-round, and viewing the petting zoo. The weather was beautiful, and it felt great to get out of the house. For lunch, we went to KFC.
Russell enjoying a ride on the choo-choo train
Jenny enjoys the view from the train while Punky awaits the tunnel
I spent both Saturday and Sunday mornings working on the garden for the first time in a month. Mostly weeding, but I also started growing sunflowers, basil and Chinese cabbage. Below, you can see the large zucchini plants in the foreground, strawberries on the left, tomato plants at the top, and a row of green onions on the right. Some overgrown asparagus plants are in the wooden box on the left. Those black hoses are part of my garden's drip irrigation system.
The victory garden
Jenny was busy cooking this weekend, first for our friends Allen and Alina (and their three daughters) on Saturday, and then for us on Sunday. Our guests had roast chicken for dinner, which is one of Jenny's favorite dishes. Then she baked us a blue cheese souffle for dinner the next night. A bit too rich for me, but it certainly looked good and smelled great.
Jenny's Blue Cheese Souffle - The "Sui-ffle"
Life is pretty good these days.
Friday, May 13, 2005
Where Have You Gone, White Engineering Students?
Thomas Friedman's latest Op-Ed column in the NY Times caught my eye because first of all, the title is a mirror-image of my blog "Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMiaggio" which I have been writing since 2002. Mr. Friedman usually writes about politics and international affairs, but in this column he laments the decline of American technological prowess and educational standards, subjects that are near and dear to my heart. The notion of our nation being unable to compete in the world economy frightens him:
For so many years, America's economy was so dominant on the world stage, so out front in so many key areas, that we fell into the habit of thinking we were competing largely against ourselves. If we fell behind in one area or another - whether it was math and science skills, broadband capacity or wireless infrastructure - we took the view that: "Oh well, we'll fix that problem when we get to it. After all, we're just competing against ourselves."Citing our poor performance at an international programming competition, and anecdotal evidence at Harvard--where he taught a class--and Indiana University, Friedman does his best impression of Coach Dean Smith to exhort Americans to work together in order to improve our global standing. He offers no insight as to why we have become educationally complacent, and thus less competitive in the marketplace.
In recent years, though, with the flattening of the global playing field, it should be apparent that we are not just competing against ourselves. The opening of China, India and Russia means that young people in these countries can increasingly plug and play - connect, collaborate and compete - more easily and cheaply than ever before. And they are. We, alas, are still coasting along as if we have all the time in the world.
America today reminds me of our last Olympic basketball team - that lackadaisical group that brought home the bronze medal. We think that all we need to do is show up and everyone else will fold - because, after all, we're just competing with ourselves.The problem with Friedman and liberals like him is that they have failed to set foot in a real classroom at any level. What they haven't cared to notice is that in college campuses across America, white students are increasingly choosing not to study engineering, mathematics or the sciences. Don't believe me? Just take a look at the student profile at any of the top American engineering college. At MIT and Caltech, nearly one-third (30.8% and 31.1% respectively) of the students are Asian. The numbers are the same or even higher at Cornell (my alma mater), Berkeley, Illinois and other highly-ranked engineering schools. My Cornell college classmate Brett noted that he recently peeked into an undergraduate electrical engineering classroom at Cornell and saw that at least two-thirds of the students were Asian. So if anything, Asians are even more over-represented in the more difficult engineering majors.
And we think we don't need to get focused and play together like a team, with Democrats and Republicans actually working together. Well, on the basketball court - and in a flat world, where everyone now has access to all the same coaching techniques, training methods and scouting reports - a more focused, motivated team always beats a collection of more talented but complacent individuals.
Still don't believe me? Then check out USA Today's 2005 All-USA High School Academic Team. Out of twenty students profiled in yesterday's edition of USA Today, ten are Asian-American. Dig a little further down to the Second-Team All-Americans, and fourteen out of twenty are Asian-American. One can easily see that a disproportionate number of the Asian-American students plan to study technical subjects. Given that fewer than 5% of Americans are of Asian descent, the numbers are staggering. What Friedman really needs to ask is this question: Where have all the white students gone?
Of course, liberals believe the solution to this "problem" is Affirmative Action. As the number of Asian students at the top college campuses threatens to grow even larger, school administrators seek to limit their numbers in the interests of "diversity". The official explanation is that the schools are attempting to remedy past discrimination against black and Hispanics by setting aside a fixed number of class spaces for them. Historian Victor Davis Hansen disagrees, writing:
The country is also no longer white and black, but brown, yellow, black, white, and mixed. When a liberal UC Berkeley chancellor remonstrates about "diversity" and "multiculturalism," lamenting that his merit-based entrance requirements have sadly resulted in too few "Hispanics" and "African-Americans" (he ignores that whites at Berkeley also enroll in numbers less than their percentages in the state population), what he really means — but won't say — is that there are apparently too many Asians, about 45 percent enrolled in Berkeley versus about 12 percent in the state population.Imposing quotas on our very best students is not a smart thing to do, especially with the competition we are facing against China, India, Korea, etc. And so the net effect of limiting the number of spots for Asian-Americans at the top schools--most with origins from the very countries that Friedman cites as our competition--is a lowering of overall standards. Perhaps this dumbing-down of the student body, and ripple-effect that it has on the college curriculum, grading-system and the pool of applicants, is what Friedman has already noticed.
What will he do? Praise a hard-working minority that overcame historic prejudice against them? Hardly. We suspect instead the typical liberal solution is on the horizon: some clever, but secretive administrative fix that contravenes Proposition 209, and then denies that compensatory action is aimed against the Asians it is aimed at.
Earlier this week, a special report on the Indiana University High School Survey of Student Engagement, which covered 90,000 high school students in 26 states, was published. The study noted that 18 percent of college-track seniors did not take a math course in their last year in high school - and that "more than a fifth (22 percent) of first-year college students require remediation in math." Just 56 percent of the students surveyed said they put a great deal of effort into schoolwork; only 43 percent said they worked harder than they had expected. Even though 55 percent said they studied no more than three hours a week, 65 percent of those students reported getting mostly A's and B's.I've witnessed firsthand the tendency for native-born Americans, and not just those whose ancestors were from Europe, to branch out into less technical fields like law and business once their families have become more established in the US. However, the biggest factor in the decline in the number of students studying science and engineering is obvious to anyone who has stepped onto a college campus other than Harvard, whose few engineering students actually take classes at nearby MIT. With white American students steering clear of engineering and the sciences, the nation's top science & engineering programs and even corporations must look elsewhere for talent to fill their ranks without sacrificing quality.
"Students are getting A's and B's, but without studying much," Martha McCarthy, the Indiana University professor who headed the study, told me. "Our fear," she added, "is that when you talk to employers out there, they say they are not getting the skills they need," in part because "the colleges are not getting students with the skills they need." Ms. McCarthy said one of the main reasons Indiana did this study is to better inform high school educators about what is going on in their own schools so they can find remedies. All of these shortcomings developed over time, Ms. McCarthy said, but "we as a nation became complacent about them."
Mr. Friedman's hand-wringing over the demise of American competitiveness is admirable, but affirmative action programs that liberals like Friedman support do nothing but hurt efforts to restore our standing in the global marketplace. Once upon a time, America was dominant in the world because it was much more of a meritocracy than its rivals. Why can't we allow that to happen again in today's America?
Back to the Future Part II
Jenny came back yesterday from the fortune teller very excited about the kids' future. Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to disclose the details of what he said to Jenny. That's because she believes that telling outsiders about the future will alter the space-time continuum itself. Simply put, what he told her won't come true if we tell others about it. I think that's what happened in the Back to the Future movies.
I can tell you that the fortune teller knew about Russell's condition, and that sold Jenny on this man's predictive powers. He also described the boys as having very different talents and occupational directions in their lives. Overall, Jenny was satisfied because the boys will end up being happy. And that's what really matters. So don't go calling me to ask what's going to happen to the Fabulous Brewster Boys, OK?
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Thomas Sowell is an economist at Stanford University's Hoover Insitute, so you know he's one of the very best in his field. What makes Sowell's work so good is the ease with which he is able to describe economic principles and their applications in the real world. In his latest column, Sowell very clearly defines the objectives of the liberal elite, as voiced by the New York Times.
In an editorial masquarading as news, reporter Steven Greenhouse wonders aloud if Wal-Mart's average wage of $9.68/hour is high enough, especially since this figure places its workers' pay below the federally-defined poverty-line ($19,157) for a family of four. He cites several current and former Wal-Mart employees who decry Wal-Mart's failure to provide a "living" wage.
With most of Wal-Mart's workers earning less than $19,000 a year, a number of community groups and lawmakers have recently teamed up with labor unions in mounting an intensive campaign aimed at prodding Wal-Mart into paying its 1.3 million employees higher wages.Sowell points out the obvious:
A new group of Wal-Mart critics ran a full-page advertisement on April 20 contending that the company's low pay had forced tens of thousands of its workers to resort to food stamps and Medicaid, costing taxpayers billions of dollars. On April 26, as part of a campaign called "Love Mom, Not Wal-Mart," five members of Congress joined women's advocates and labor leaders to assail the company for not paying its female employees more.
"Wal-Mart should pay people at a minimum enough to go above the U.S. poverty line," said Andrew Grossman, executive director of Wal-Mart Watch, the coalition of community, environmental and labor groups running the series of ads criticizing Wal-Mart. "A company this big and this wealthy has the ability to pay higher wages."
Of course they can pay more. The New York Times could pay its own employees more. We could all pay more for whatever we buy or rent. Don't tell me you couldn't have paid a dime more for this newspaper. But why should any of us pay more than we have to?Sowell then goes on the attack against Greenhouse's obsession with Wal-Mart providing a "living wage" for its employees, and then gets to the heart of the liberals' socialist obsession:
The fashionable notion of "a living wage" is a wage that will support a family of four. And, sure enough, The New York Times finds a Wal-Mart employee who complains that he is not making "a living wage."Surprisingly, Sowell fails to follow-up on reporter Greenhouse's flawed praise of General Motors and Ford as employers:
How is he living, if he is not making a living wage?
Should people be paid according to what they "need" instead of according to what their work is worth? Should they decide how big a family they want and then put the cost of paying to support that family on somebody else?
If their work is not worth enough to pay for what they want, is it up to others to make up the difference, rather than up to them to upgrade their skills in order to earn what they want?
Are they supposed to be subsidized by Wal-Mart's customers through higher prices or subsidized by Wal-Mart's stockholders through lower earnings? After all, much of the stock in even a rich company is often owned by pension funds belonging to teachers, policemen and others who are far from rich.
Why should other people have to retire on less money, in order that Wal-Mart employees can be paid what The New York Times wants them paid, instead of what their labor is worth in the marketplace? After all, they wouldn't be working for Wal-Mart if someone else valued their labor more.
Wal-Mart critics often note that corporations like Ford and G.M. led a race to the top, providing high wages and generous benefits that other companies emulated. They ask why Wal-Mart, with some $10 billion in profit on about $288 billion in revenue last year, cannot act similarly.In a remarkable case of bad timing, both General Motors and Ford recently had their credit rating downgraded by rating agency Standard & Poors to "junk" status. Unprofitable GM and barely profitable Ford cited high labor costs and overly generous employee health benefits as factors in their struggle to avoid bankrupcy. So much for that...
"Henry Ford made sure he paid his workers enough so that they could afford to buy his cars," said William McDonough, executive vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union. "Wal-Mart is doing the polar opposite of Henry Ford. Wal-Mart brags about how its low prices help poor Americans, but its low wages are helping increase the number of Americans in poverty."
The plain-vanilla economics of the real world seems to be beyond the comprehension of "The Paper of Record" and its staff. It never ceases to amaze me how liberals somehow believe that human behavior is completely monolithic or uniform. Or, rather, there is nothing such as individuality or personal choice in humans. It apparently never occurs to the elitists at the Times that some people are just lazy while others are highly motivated and ambitious. Thus, it must be incomprehensible to them why some people succeed and are highly compensated for taking risks, while others remain at the bottom.
Sowell draws a similar conclusion:
It would be devastating to the egos of the intelligentsia to realize, much less admit, that businesses have done more to reduce poverty than all the intellectuals put together. Ultimately it is only wealth that can reduce poverty and most of the intelligentsia have no interest whatever in finding out what actions and policies increase the national wealth.Whenever I need a laugh, I usually look to the New York Times to review their Page One socialist agenda. When I want to learn someone useful, I'll read Thomas Sowell's work.
They certainly don't feel any "obligation" to learn economics, out of a sense of "social responsibility," much less because of any "social contract" requiring them to know what they are talking about before spouting off with self-righteous rhetoric.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Back to the Future
Seeing a fortune teller is a common practice among traditional Chinese, and Jenny is no exception. Since I have known her, she has consulted fortune tellers on everything from our relationship to naming our children. Luckily for me, her fortune teller told her at the start of our relationship that we were compatitible with one another and that I would be well off financially. In other words, I was marriage material. Score one for the fortune teller.
As soon as we were married, Jenny was asking questions of her fortune teller on the ideal time to have children. For Jenny--born in the Year of the Monkey--the Year of the Horse (2002) and the Monkey (2004)--were considered ideal for children. I'm happy to say that we were able to carry that out to fruition.
Tomorrow, she meets the local fortune teller to divine the kids' future. Hopefully, he will throw out a generic, optimistic "fortune-cookie" prediction. I'll let you know what he says.
Sunday, May 08, 2005
John Edwards' Two Americas
If you ever happen to hear former Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards' give his "Two Americas" speech on the stump, try asking him which America he lives in. It's probably not the same one as the rest of us.
This weekend's Washington Post Real estate section notes that the Edwards' Washington D.C. (Georgetown) home is on sale for a mere $6.5 million.
The Edwardses put their detached yellow brick Georgetown home on P Street on the market last week for $6.5 million. The Federal-style four-story house, built in 1830, is listed with real estate brokerage Washington Fine Properties, although there's no sign out front.During his malpractice lawyering heyday, Edwards amassed much of his $150 million fortune by suing obstetricians for causing cerebral palsy in newborns through failure to monitor "fetal distress" during delivery. Recent medical studies have shown that the vast majority of cerebral palsy cases originate prior to delivery, and that Edwards' medical reasoning was faulty. From the Washington Times:
After the Edwardses bought the house, which has seven bedrooms, six full baths and two half-baths, they renovated it to suit their family's needs, Elizabeth Edwards said. The couple lived in the home with their two young children, Emma Claire, 7, and Jack, 4. Their oldest daughter, Cate, who recently graduated from Princeton University and now works as an editorial assistant at Vanity Fair magazine, visited on holidays and school vacations .
"We pretty much gutted it," said Elizabeth Edwards, "but we wanted to keep the character of the house, since so many people knew it. But it needed to be more family-friendly for us."
Edwards said the couple changed the ground-floor layout, connecting the renovated kitchen to a family room, put in central air conditioning, enclosed a porch, added a study upstairs, rewired the house for computer use, added a room in the carriage house above the garage, replaced part of the flooring with heart pine from an old mill in South Carolina, and redid several bathrooms. They added almost 2,000 square feet to the house, then painted the exterior "buttermilk yellow with sage-green" shutters, she said.
Edwards said the couple will move to their white clapboard family home in Raleigh while they build a house on a 100-acre parcel of land in Chapel Hill. After the new house is done sometime next year, the Edwardses plan to sell their Raleigh house, which they custom built in the early 1980s. They will retain their family beach house on the North Carolina coast near Wilmington, she said.
Linking complications during childbirth to cerebral palsy became a specialty for Mr. Edwards. In the courtroom, he was known to dramatize the events at birth by speaking to jurors as if he were the unborn baby, begging for help, begging to be let out of the womb.No longer suing physicians for a living, Edwards is now back in North Carolina, heading up the University of North Carolina’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, where he is no doubt working on his "Three Americas" speech which includes the vast American Middle Class that he conveniently forgot during the 2004 campaign.
"He was very good at it," said Dr. John Schmitt, an obstetrician and gynecologist who used to practice in Mr. Edwards' hometown of Raleigh. "But the science behind a lot of his arguments was flawed."
In 2003, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published a joint study that cast serious doubt on whether events at childbirth cause cerebral palsy. The "vast majority" of cerebral palsy cases originate long before childbirth, according to the study.
"Now, he would have a much harder time proving a lot of his cases," said Dr. Schmitt, who now practices at the University of Virginia Health System.
What I Am Reading This Weekend
Coastal Living is absolutely the best magazine out in the marketplace today. It's not pretentious at all. The magazine preaches a simple, down-to-earth lifestyle that's in tune with my family. I take home one of the copies at my gym whenever I can find it.
Friday, May 06, 2005
I once read of a American woman who upon suffering from a stroke, began speaking with a strong British accent--a condition known as Foreign Accent Syndrome. Upon Googling this term, I've found numerous cases of this phenomenon occuring around the world.
My father now tells me that since his operation last month to remove the cancerous tumor in his lung, he has no desire to eat Chinese food but instead craves American food, and fast food in particular. Recently, he has developed a craving for Kentucky Fried Chicken, pizza and Arby's Roast Beef sandwiches. This leaves my mother in the lurch because not only does my mother not eat fast food, she has to drive my father around to satisfy his fast food itch.
Although he knows fast food is not particularly healthy, my father is not concerned about the high fat and salt consumption. He's just happy that he's around to enjoy these foods. If this turns out to be the most significant side effect of his cancer surgery, than God must have a wicked sense of humor.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
What I Read to Russell Tonight
I've been reading Russell at least three bedtime stories every night. Lately, we've been in the habit of putting on his Baby Einstein videos whenever we get lazy or just don't feel like playing with him in the evenings. I hope to break this habit by reading even more stories to him when I feel better.
A great book by a noted Asian-American children's book author
UPDATE - Roseanne Thong is an American author who lives in Hong Kong and has a Malaysian-Chinese husband
Russell is obsessed with yellow ducks, and this book as well
Another classic Golden Book featuring farm animals
Monday, May 02, 2005
Blogging is very difficult when you are ill. Can't think straight, always tired and home life is always on the verge of chaos. My current situation is no exception.
Today, I missed work and stayed in bed most of the day. I did get the chest x-ray just in case. Will try to catch up with things in the next day or two. There are many positive things going on at home, and I wanted everyone to know that things aren't so bad after all.