Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Minnesota DFL and Iran’s Guardian Council: “There was no fraud”

One has to wonder if the United States, Minnesota especially, has the moral authority to question the validity of Iran’s recent election.

Al Franken ballots turned-up in the trunk of one official’s car; a few DFL-leaning precincts reported more votes than there were voters; and, in one case, a Franken-favoring election night result was used over the Coleman-favoring recount total.

Franken supporters say the accusations are unfounded allegations. Ahmadinejad’s supporters are saying the same thing.

$65 Billion? Bernie “made-off” with much less

It is the nature of a Ponzi scheme that some people profit. Their testimonials, after all, are what attract the necessary new investors to perpetuate the scheme. Though his earliest investors lost their principal, they accrued significantly higher than legitimate returns for some time. That is to say, Madoff did not pocket every dollar entrusted to him. Many of his investors took home vast amounts, too, and it ought not be callous to say that those who lost their principal might have fared better had they invested in reasonable, lower-interest insured investments rather than chasing a higher yield.

Gordon Gekko said, “Greed is good.” P. T. Barnum said something, too, something about one being born every minute.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Professors behaving badly

The facts are not in dispute. A neighbor observed two men forcing their way into a home. The police arrived and ordered one of the suspects -- the one who claimed to be homeowner and Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. -- to show i.d. Gates (initially) refused and grew belligerent. The situation quickly escalated and resulted in his arrest during which Gates ranted something like “you don’t know who you’re messing with.” But it was, in fact, Gates who didn’t know who he was messing with. Sgt. James Crowley, the arresting officer, is one of the most highly regarded men in the field of racial profiling and if anyone was likely to tread carefully, it was this officer.

Gates, and others with little sense of what the police deal with every day on our behalf, said the police overreacted. President Obama, admitting he did not know all of the facts, nonetheless chimed-in saying the police acted “stupidly” and insinuated they were racist.

In short, Gates created a situation that less highlighted the plight of African Americans than it did shine a spotlight on the quagmire police wade through every day.

Obama has already backed-off his initial comments and Gates will likely soften his criticism, perhaps blaming his incendiary comments and actions on jet lag. (He’s already admitted the neighbor did the right thing in calling the police.) But he’ll need to do more. Police are not doormats; a professor who commands respect ought not to have a problem giving it. “Your mama,” is not just an inappropriate response in a contentious situation, it is a devolution into precisely the stereotype he is employed to instruct that African Americans are above. Gates’ actions are a setback for the civil rights cause.