Dispatches > The Buzz


Issue: "Balancing act," Sept. 8, 2001

YOU'RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE: Elizabeth Dole is getting into the race to replace Sen. Jesse Helms. Last week, she switched her voter registration from Kansas to North Carolina and announced she would move in with her 100-year-old mother, Mary Hanford, in her hometown of Salisbury. Her husband, former Sen. Bob Dole, said he was "almost prepared" to say his wife would be a candidate soon. Political columnist Robert Novak reported that Sen. Helms is "fond" of Mrs. Dole, but "he is unlikely to make a formal endorsement for the Republican nomination." Republicans in Washington said private polls, including one taken for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, showed the breadth of Mrs. Dole's appeal in North Carolina and predicted that other potential GOP candidates would avoid challenging her. The first poll taken by the Charlotte Observer found 64 percent viewed Mrs. Dole favorably, compared to only 8 percent who were unfavorable. Democrats are pushing former Gov. Jim Hunt to run, who last ran for the Senate in 1984 in a losing effort against Sen. Helms. Mr. Novak reports the ex-governor is "under intense pressure to run … as the only Democrat who now looks capable of defeating Dole. Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe is urging Hunt, and former President Bill Clinton may also be brought in to help." AFFIRMATIVE REACTION: Dealing a blow to some proponents of affirmative action, a federal appeals court last week ruled unconstitutional a University of Georgia admissions policy that gives some students an edge solely because of their race. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the university's policy, which awarded race-based points to borderline students, violated the Constitution's equal-protection clause. The liberal Atlanta Journal and Constitution, surprisingly, applauded the court for striking down the university's "naked racial preference" policy: "The preference given to minority applicants in the university's system is hardly disguised or even subtle. After about 90 percent of an incoming freshman class is selected on merit, the remainder are put through a supplementary process that automatically awards half a point, out of 8.15, to every non-white person in the pool. This means some of them make the cutoff for admission, while white applicants who are otherwise identically qualified are rejected." The paper concluded with the hope that the state would appeal-but only to bring the matter before the Supreme Court, "where the country could get the kind of final resolution it needs to this contentious issue." BURNING MAN IS TOAST: In the late 1990s, a West Coast arts festival called Burning Man was the Mardi Gras of counterculture, combining old hippies and dot-com whiz kids. Thousands of people crammed into SUVs, pickups, and motor homes and headed for the northern Nevada desert for a celebration that climaxed in a giant bonfire ("Burned out," WORLD Sept. 18, 1999). This year, with the economy in a slump, many don't have much to cheer over. The San Francisco area, which is the center of the Burning Man craze, faces a ridiculously high cost of living even in the midst of a high-tech meltdown. So it's no wonder that Burning Man promoters expected a drop in attendance this year's weeklong festival held in on the Black Rock Desert, which is 120 miles north of Reno. The San Francisco Chronicle noted that some young people who had lobbied their bosses for time off in previous years now have other priorities. This year's festivalgoers were warned against bringing illegal substances, as Bureau of Land Management officials said drug laws would be enforced. More than 125 celebrants were cited or arrested last year, many on drug-related charges. OPPRESSING THE POOR: The multi-state Powerball jackpot hit $294.8 million in August, with ticket buyers standing in line to grab the third-biggest lottery prize in U.S. history. The mania was a big waste, noted Motley Fool columnist Bill Mann. He argued that lotteries are both bad investing and bad government: "The states, almost all of which have covenants in their constitution saying they will protect the people's well-being are providing a vehicle for its constituents to torch their savings. By running gambling games emphasizing quick riches, our officials implicitly discourage people from learning how to properly manage their own money." Mr. Mann cited a 1999 study by Duke University researchers led by economist Charles T. Clotfelter. The study "found some startling facts about lottery players nationwide. For households where at least one lottery ticket was bought, those who held less than a high-school diploma averaged $700 per year in ticket spending; those with college diplomas, $178. Households where income was under $10,000 per year averaged $597 in lottery purchases; those with over $100,000 averaged $289."

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