December 31, 2003
Layoffs and the minimum wage
Nathan Newman writes about Dean's $7 minimum wage proposal and similar proposals from other candidates without a specific number. I don't doubt this idea has traction for the campaign, but wouldn't it make more sense to increase the EITC and change the payroll tax schedule to begin at a higher level? Getting rid of the payroll tax for minimum wage employees should increase their wages about 12%, and increasing the EITC could get you to any level of income you want beyond that. The thing about a higher minimum wage is it means some low wage workers will get fired, because there will be less money available for labor costs. This is not something we want to deal with right now.
I was excited to see that Gephardt supports an international minimum wage. Yes, it would have some of the same consequences in other countries that Dean's proposal would have here, but the difference is that many other countries don't have the kind of institutions in place to collect income taxes, much less distribute a tax credit - so there aren't a lot of other policy options available. Also, conditions for the working poor are much worse in places like India than they are here! Scaling the wage according to the circumstances of a particular country would allow local workers to benefit without significant trade disruption, and the whole thing could be accompanied by minimum international labor standards.
December 30, 2003
Political consulting on the cheap
Ezra Klein's analysis of how the Democratic primary will shape up sounds about right. I was thrilled to hear that Wes Clark managed to raise so much money this quarter - now if he can just get organized, maybe he can take one of these early states and give Dean a real fight. Of course, I'm not exactly holding my breath... but I definitely think it's way too early to be thinking of Dean as the presumptive candidate. This is a man who can self destruct at any time, and the expectations are so high at this point that any early loss might be devastating.
Ripped from the headlines
If you watch Law & Order, this is pretty amusing.
December 29, 2003
A forked tongue
The LATimes has a fun article about Spanglish (Latino Pundit has it too, if you're too stubborn to register), muchos ejemplos and journalistic speculation about what it all means.
The most basic part of Spanglish is "code-switching," in which someone inserts or substitutes words from one language into another. For instance, Spanglish might sound like "Vamos a la store para comprar milk." Translation: "Let's go to the store to buy milk."
A more complicated form of Spanglish involves making up words — essentially switching languages within a word itself. It can happen when a word or phrase is translated literally, like perro caliente for "hot dog." In other instances, Spanglish is created when an English word is Hispanicized, such as troca or troque for "truck." Speakers might also add the -ear suffix to an English word to make it an improper Spanish verb: parquear, for "to park," for example.
Not very groundbreaking from a linguistic standpoint, since it's just your basic vocabulary swapping, but it would seem to indicate a vibrant, relatively educated, and maybe even easygoing community (the bit about multiculturalism vs cultural ambiguity was apt). The concern that mixing languages somehow disadvantages children is overblown - it's not like Spanglish is being taught in schools, and surely having some control of both languages puts you somwehere close to bilingual...
Outta my way
I can't help but be excited about this new fast lane law, although if they enforce it like they do the speed limit then it won't be much help on the Eisenhower. Also, where does the legally protected fast lane go when some of the exits are on the left? And what about slower drivers who are still exceeding the speed limit - are they eligible to be ticketed, or do I have to just drive them off the road?
December 26, 2003
Here's an interesting article about the economics of gift giving. The premise - that you're unlikely to value your gift at whatever price was paid for it, since you know your preferences better than anyone else - isn't completely convincing to me. What about the utility from just receiving the gift, nevermind what it actually is?
December 14, 2003
Sing it high/sing it low
Saddam Hussein is captured, great news for the people of Iraq. It will be interesting now to see whether the guerilla resistance dries up - my early prediction is that it will for the most part, possibly after a short burst of more violence. Obviously the capture of Saddam won't deter foreign terrorists or Iraqi nationalists, but I haven't heard any real evidence of the former, and I don't see the latter as willing to die to blow up the UN or the Red Cross.
For my part, I'm a little anxious because of the huge amount of political capital Bush will get out of this capture. This is the kind of moment when we should be stepping back to look at the whole panorama of the so called war on terror - no doubt Bush will call this a great victory when he speaks in a little while - but even if this helps with the insurgency, the job is far from over in Iraq, and a successful democracy far from certain. Meanwhile, what of the situation in Afghanistan, and where is the man who masterminded the attacks way back in 2001? The invasion of Iraq and what Tom Brokaw this morning called "one of the biggest manhunts in history" have certainly distracted us from that.
By the way, what is the military's obsession with media presentation these days? They dolled up Uday and Qusay to the point where they hardly looked human, and today when they got Saddam their first move was to shave him back to his old look. I guess maybe it's standard practice to shave prisoners when they come in (I've heard as much about prisoners at Guantanamo), but they took great care to leave him his evil Saddam mustache. I have to wonder, had he come in clean shaven, would there have been a mustache on hand to paste to his face? I'm not sure the American people, or the Iraqis, would be smart enough to recognize him otherwise...
December 13, 2003
Sorry again for not positing faithfully, my whole routine has more or less disintegrated with the end of classes, but maybe I can get things rolling again here in a sec. I have a number of other things on my mind at the moment, I need to seriously start looking for a job, and I'm also starting to dedicate myself more seriously to another opera. Plus there's this latest bizarre development in my job with Cybele Raver's lab (I'm not sure I've even mentioned that I work for her here) that's eaten a large chunk of my week.
I've just updated the blogroll with several sites I've been meaning to add for a while. The one I just discovered that precipitated the mass add is by one of my friends from high school who's been going by the name stallio! for a number of years. Back in the mid 90s he had a geocities page where he posted a weekly sermon on, well, just about anything - for me that was a first experience with anything even approximating a blog, and it encouraged me to experiment with creating my own site, a source of endless pleasure and fascination for me (or not really endless, since I ended up deleting the whole thing one afternoon when it struck me as an exercize in gross egomania). But anyway, I'm glad to see he's writing regularly again, he's always challenged me, and of course it's a good way to stay up on what's going on in his life (it seems to be more a personal site than a political one, but he does have his moments).
December 10, 2003
It's interesting that Al Gore still wields so much power among Democrats, and even beyond. Obviously his position is unique, but I think he gained a level of respectability first by conceding the election, and then especially by deciding not to seek the presidency again (ie reelection). Specifically, he seems to be above politics - so when he endorses someone, it's seen as genuine, and not some attempt to set himself up to run in 2008. And yet this was a largely political endorsement - Gore and Dean have very different views on a lot of issues, and Dean's main attraction for Gore seems to have been that he's going to win. Once again, Gore is playing essentially a conciliatory role - it will be interesting to see where that takes him.
I can't believe they're rationalizing limiting the Iraq reconstruction contracts to those who supported the war in terms of security interests. Does the Bush admin really consider France, Germany, and Russia security threats? What I can't figure out is whether it's really about vengeance or big business... either would be contemptible, but I suspect the biggest part of the American public sympathizes with Bush the Avenger.
December 9, 2003
All my academic obligations have been fulfilled, so maybe I can focus some of my energies on blogging again. This next month figures to be pretty low-key for me, I'm going to be getting my act together on the job front and working on a couple of creative projects.
A couple things I didn't get to post on last week: a fascinating article about vitriolic American literary critic Dale Peck and negative reviews more generally; and apropos of BigOldGeek's interpretation of The Lord of the Rings, this long look (pre-Peter Jackson) at whether the book should be considered a masterpiece of 20th century literature.