Dispatches > The Buzz

QuickTakes

Issue: "Daniel of the year 2001," Dec. 22, 2001

CAPITALISM, WHAT A CONCEPT: Social Security hurts the poor, admits liberal William Raspberry. The Washington Post columnist said he listened to ex-Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Federal Reserve economist Jagadeesh Gokhale, and then drew some unexpected conclusions: Poorer people have lower life expectancies, therefore they stand to collect less in retirement anyway. Also, when money is invested it creates real wealth that can be passed to heirs, as opposed to monthly income that goes away upon death. Raspberry agrees that the Social Security system actually discourages the poor from saving. Why, Raspberry asks, "shouldn't low-income workers be given the opportunity to use some portion of their Social Security contributions for wealth accumulation?" YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK: A vast pro-gay-rights movement has sprung up on high-school campuses, ostensibly to fight discrimination and harassment, according to a laudatory article in Teacher magazine. It praised "more than 1,000 Gay-Straight Alliances" which have sprung up "to create safe and welcoming schools for all students." The article described various activities intended to promote the gay agenda. In Massachusetts, education money paid for a traveling gay art show. An upstate New York high school sent "50 students and adults for a two-hour candlelight vigil in front of the Capitol to show their support for a school-related pro-tolerance bill." A Boulder, Colo., school staged a same-sex "kiss-in" after a lesbian photo was kept out of the yearbook. LOGICAL CONCLUSIONS: Don't feel sorry for John Walker. He only followed the postmodernism of his peers to its extreme, argues Shelby Steele in a Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined "Radical Sheik." The Taliban warrior's parents named him after John Lennon, allowed him to cut his religious teeth on Malcolm X, and gave him a relativist upbringing. Young Walker traveled from the fads of "shallow California" to the dangerous deserts of Afghanistan. Like 1960s radicals, he absorbed strong doses of liberal guilt, and learned to view victims as "emblems of authentic and incorruptible humanity.… As such, they take on a shaman-like superiority, as if victimization in itself bestows knowledge, humanity and truth. And they carry an authority that it is a defamation to question." Thus understood, it makes perfect sense that a California boy like Walker would wind up with the Taliban. "In radical Islam he found both the victim's authority and the hatred of America that had been held out to him as marks of authenticity," Steele concluded. "He liked what he found. And when he turned on his country to be secure in his new faith, he followed a logic that was a part of his country's culture." THE WAL-MART WAY: London's The Economist analyzed the world's biggest retailer and described an amazing mix of logistics, technology, and middle American frugality: "In less than four decades, Wal-Mart has come to account for … 7-8 percent of total consumer spending (excluding cars and durable goods)," the magazine reported. Employees receive stock purchase plans and are ordered to keep company expenses to a minimum. Suppliers "are treated as part of the family, once they have proved their worth" and are reminded that Wal-Mart buyers will not accept bribes. Now the company is expanding rapidly worldwide, even though its image is routinely trashed at home. "In America, its giant stores are symbols of 'big retail,' blamed for the destruction of entire communities.… Unpopularity is hard for Wal-Mart executives to understand.… After all, everyday low prices have been good for consumers." The Economist concluded that Wal-Mart has made its share of mistakes (particularly overseas) but will be a potent power for a long time to come. YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE: "A disabled life is not worth living." This is the new zeitgeist in France, reports Christian Science Monitor contributor Nanette van der Laan. Children with Down syndrome are considered to have the right not to be born. A court ruling says doctors who fail to abort them can now be sued. "In their Nov. 28 ruling, three judges said that a doctor had negligently failed to warn an expectant mother that prenatal scans showed that her baby had the symptoms of Down syndrome," she wrote. "The baby, who was only identified as Lionel, was born in 1995. His mother argued that she would have aborted if she had been given a correct prenatal diagnosis." Since the mother didn't have the option, the doctor is now completely responsible for the cost of Lionel's care. Even though most French consider themselves Catholic, Ms. van der Laan said abortion is legal and widely supported. Late-term abortion is legal for Down syndrome and other conditions.

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