Dispatches > Quick Takes

QuickTakes

Issue: "Bureaucratic burial," June 29, 2002

We don't carry red tape

Home Depot provided free lumber to help the Pentagon rebuild after the 9/11 attacks, but if Uncle Sam had tried to buy the goods, he would have been told, "Thanks, but no thanks." The home-improvement retailer won't do business with the federal government because company officials don't want to have to comply with paperwork-intensive "federal contractor" rules on equal employment, affirmative action, and discrimination. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch found this scandalous, and carried a news story and a scathing editorial implying the firm just wants the freedom to discriminate. A company spokesman told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "It's not a matter of not wanting to [do business with government]; we just aren't set up to. Being a federal contractor would create a considerable amount of paperwork for each store, and we just aren't equipped for those transactions."

Gone fishing

Although 45 of President Bush's judicial nominees await confirmation, the Senate Judiciary Committee plans only two hearings this summer. One nominee who has broken through the logjam-D. Brooks Smith, a U.S. district judge the president wants to elevate to a federal appeals-court post-faces a new line of attack if and when his nomination reaches the Senate floor. The National Organization for Women is trying to make an issue of Judge Smith's membership until 1999 in the Spruce Creek Rod and Gun Club, which excludes female members. NOW's Pennsylvania chapter howls that his membership violated the Code of Judicial Conduct. It doesn't, of course, because the club is purely social, but the charge may be the focus of Senate opponents. Conservative court watchers at the Free Congress Foundation are bracing to battle NOW's call for a Senate filibuster to block Judge Smith.

Batching it

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Beijing has a big problem: not enough women. Thanks to population control, as many as 40 million Chinese men may be unable to marry and start families. This may jeopardize the government's plan to staple a free economy onto a totalitarian state. Why? USA Today reporter Paul Wiseman noted: "Researchers say growing numbers of lonely men in migrant shantytowns and isolated farm villages will pose a threat to social order and could force the Chinese government to tighten its grip on society or even seek military conflicts abroad to keep the restless bachelors occupied."

Can't get a mind out of the gutter

Sex doesn't sell, after all. It makes people forget commercials. That's the conclusion of a study by researchers at Iowa State University. "If the research is replicated and confirmed, it could mean the popular notion that more sex in shows equals more watchers and, in turn, a wider response to advertisements, is fundamentally flawed," writes The Washington Post's Shankar Vedantam. Violence has the same effect. "The simplest explanation is that people who watch a sexual program are thinking about sex instead of about the ads," psychologist Brad Bushman told the Post.

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