Posts Tagged ‘policy’
My column is up at the Press-Citizen. Here it is:
Let’s be honest.
The state law that prohibits alcohol for 18-year-olds is stupid.
The federal law that promotes such a policy is not only stupid, but an obscene abuse of federal power.
These laws really do not require sophisticated criticism. The only thing that is difficult to understand about the laws is how they have managed to remain in existence for so long.
Iowa City policy that bars 18-year-olds from establishments that serve alcohol are really just doubling down on a stupid policy.
The prohibition of alcohol for those younger than 21 already creates a rich market in false identification and identity theft. But that market is promoted principally among those who want to exercise the right to purchase alcohol directly. People who want to exercise those rights through the acts of others have little incentive to obtain a false identity.
Current Iowa City policy raises the bar. Now those who merely want to share a social environment with people who are in a drinking establishment must obtain false identification. This sort of identity fraud is bad in itself, but it also creates wider channels for a wide variety of identity fraud-related scams and crimes.
That is a fairly unique problem promoted by the 21-only policy, but the shift in alcohol consumption caused by this policy is troubling on many levels. Of course, some may argue that total consumption goes down because of the policy, but that seems rather unlikely given that most high school students can fairly readily obtain alcohol. College students have many more options.
Bars have incentives to protect their customers that house and apartment dwellers do not have. Bars enrich the nightlife of Iowa City in a way that house parties do not. Bars do not have readily available areas where men can easily rape women; houses do. Bars can be openly patrolled by police without a warrant; houses cannot. Commercial districts are better suited than residential neighborhoods to the heavy traffic and noise that goes with drunken revelry. Where do we want people to drink?
However, none of this addresses the core problem. That is, 18-year-olds suddenly free of parental constraint, 21 year-olds experiencing nominal “freedom,” and a variety of others indulge irresponsibly in their alcohol consumption and cause many problems.
Whether they drink at bars or houses, this core problem remains.
A better solution requires that we, as citizens, as a city, and as a state petition our elected federal representatives to repeal the insane federal laws that promote a 21-year-old drinking age. The best solution, in the long run, might even be to abolish the drinking age entirely or reduce it to, perhaps, 14.
Let’s imagine a 14-year-old drinking age. The first opportunity for a person to drink legally would happen when they are under their parents’ care, without the financial means to buy much alcohol, unable to drive, and generally incapable of creating an environment conducive to irresponsible drinking. The novelty of drinking openly once a person arrived at college would be substantially reduced. The aggressive binge drinking that is the rite of many 21-year-olds would be non-existent.
More personally and locally, I suspect Curtis Fry would not have gotten obscenely drunk on his 21st birthday. He would not have brutally beaten my friend, Patrick McEwen, to death at Patrick’s apartment on South Van Buren Street.
Fry’s parents seem like good people. Had Fry been able to legally drink as a 14 year-old, they would have raised him in a way that prevented him from killing someone.
He would not be in prison today.
For me, imagining an alternate reality where a young man is not a killer and an old man is not brutally killed is compelling enough.
Iowa may be the Achilles’ heel in the fabled power of the Israel lobby. Unfortunately, Jews are losing the state.
Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses give it disproportionate political attention. Any serious presidential candidate must make multiple visits to the state to be viable. The lack of a significant Jewish presence in Iowa presents a problem for Jews in this country.
Most importantly, anti-Israel activists seek legitimacy for their efforts to delegitimize Israel. This legitimacy-seeking activity provoked candidate Barack Obama to say during the 2008 presidential campaign, “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.” One of the leading anti-Israel activists in Iowa set the trap with a question and Obama stepped into it. The Des Moines Register dutifully reported the story without important context that would have undermined the anti-Israel framing.
Read the rest of Losing Iowa at The NY Jewish Week.
I had the chance to talk to Jan Mickelson on 1040 WHO yesterday and lecture him on gay rights. My call begins at 58:40. You can listen to it at this link.
My column on the Park 51 project (the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”) is in today’s Iowa City Press-Citizen. Here is the opening:
The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” is not planned for anywhere on the 16-acre World Trade Center site in Manhattan. It is in the Financial District, but it is at least two blocks from WTC 7 — the nearest part of the massive WTC site.
At the time of his presidency, I was not a fan of Bill Clinton. But, times have changed and my mind has changed along with it. It is my reflection on Clinton’s tenure that have forced me to reconsider how I label myself. I am comfortable with the term “liberal” largely because of what it meant then, even as talk radio was flushing it down the toilet.
Here’s Matt Welch over at Reason:
[A]s the Bush-Obama era of bailout economics and Keynesian rehabilitation settles into something like cruising speed, perhaps the most fantastic fact to swallow will be that once upon a time the United States had a president who restrained government spending, balanced the budget, argued forcefully for the benefits of free trade, and declared that “the era of big government is over.” And he was a Democrat.
The whole piece is worth reading.
My column in today’s Iowa City Press-Citizen:
City needs narrower option
SEPTEMBER 19, 2009
The police officer pulled up to the curb and asked, “What are you kids up to?”
Most of my friends had made a bee-line to the nearest apartment building. Sure, it was three o’clock in the morning, and none of us was older than 15, but we were just a bunch of restless nerds.
This was the first time I had been to Coralville. A bunch of friends I had met at nerd camp (what else do you call taking advanced classes at a university over the summer?) decided that we should get together. The majority lived near Iowa City, so a friend and I had bugged our parents until they caved and agreed to shuttle us from Des Moines for a weekend.
“We were just bored and decided to take a walk,” I told the officer, slightly annoyed that my friends thought we had a reason to run.
“You know I could take you to the police station and have your parents pick you up, don’t you?”
Apparently, Coralville had a curfew at the time. I had no idea. I was incredulous.
“Well, I am from Urbandale and he’s from West Des Moines,” I said, pointing to my friend who had traveled with me. “I am not even sure that they would pick up the phone, and it is a two-hour drive from here.”
Of course, if he had wanted to detain us at the police station, he would need to call for backup to make room for us all. The police at the station would need to deal with babysitting us for, probably, several hours. Corralling this nerd herd was going to be more trouble than it was worth.
“OK, well go back to the home where you are staying and don’t let me catch you out again tonight.”
The nerd herd complied.
The police officer had little interest in enforcing the curfew law. Arguably, such a law does not exist to be enforced, but exists merely as a pretext for investigation into other criminal acts. Indeed, if such a law were rigorously enforced, it would unnecessarily consume the time of the police and justice system.
And this pretext is precisely why Iowa City is considering a juvenile curfew law. One area of town has had a recent problem with juvenile hooliganism. There is not a general problem with nocturnal youths. There is a problem with a relatively small group of youths in a single neighborhood. The problem is likely a temporary one.
This law may solve the immediate problem. But it will undoubtedly reach further than intended. Will the Iowa City Council be quick to repeal the law when general lawfulness is restored? It seems doubtful. The law will likely remain on the books until it is finally enforced against a few “good” kids, whose parents raise hell until the law is repealed. Until then, the law will undoubtedly invite profiling of suspects and haphazard harassment of juveniles and younger-looking college students. It will result in unequal application of the law and greater suspicion of police motives.
If the council wants to attack a narrow problem, it should create a narrow solution. To start, it could change the proposed curfew by setting a date for it to sunset.
A better solution might be to delegate limited authority to the mayor and chief of police to declare a temporary neighborhood-specific curfew based on a finding of fact that it was experiencing an acute crime problem. Such a declaration could become effective only upon notification of the council at its next meeting, at which time the council could intervene and nullify the declaration if necessary. Unless the declaration was renewed, it could expire automatically in three months or earlier by revocation.
The council should find a narrower solution. It cannot intend for the currently proposed law to be broadly enforced. One would hope that it does not intend that the law be enforced erratically.
[This is my column in today's Iowa City Press-Citizen. It can also be found at http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20090726/OPINION01/907260303/1019]
The situation in Iran in recent weeks has offered both much hope and much fear. Indeed, Iran seems to be on the brink of something not unlike the pivotal events of 1979. Those events triumphantly ended the monarchy in Iran … only to usher in a fascist theocracy.
Fortunately, two books have been released this year that illustrate both the hope and the fear. Both books are by accomplished journalists who have deep roots in Iran and mastery of the Persian language.
‘Honeymoon in Tehran’
Azadeh Moaveni’s “Honeymoon in Tehran” describes her experiences as a journalist in Tehran as she falls in love, marries and has a child with an Iranian man. Because her life is intertwined with the liberal modern culture that dominates northern Tehran, her story breathes rich life into the people we have seen in the news standing up so defiantly to the fascist regime that controls their country.
Moaveni shows that many people in Iran, across a variety of social categories, are not mere “moderates,” as that term is so euphemistically used to describe people in repressive countries who have merely suppressed the urge to murder. The people of Iran are largely liberals of the type we identify with in this country. They do not merely tolerate diversity and treat others politely; they embrace diversity and seek out cultural experiences beyond what the regime allows.
In spite of this hope, Moaveni also describes the creeping fascism that penetrates more severely after the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. After a time of living in constant fear of arrest, she is compelled to leave Iran so that she can raise her child out from under the thumb of the fascist regime.
‘The Persian Night’
Amir Taheri’s “The Persian Night” more starkly shows the darkness and fear cast by the regime. He goes into great detail describing the repressive organs of the regime. He describes the morality patrols — known in Persian as Gasht-e Ershad — that oppress women who dress too colorfully, allow their hair to show, or converse with men.
Taheri tells about various horrors visited upon Iranians by the Baseej militia and the Revolutionary Guard. He examines how the regime exports its fascist ideology through the various arms of Hizballah that operate worldwide.
Most importantly, Taheri describes the regime’s insane pursuit of nuclear weapons and its lack of concern for the welfare of the Iranian people.
Perhaps the most troubling parts of both books are those that display the disregard the regime has for human life. From AhmadinNejad to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenehi, the regime’s leaders have expressed the sincere belief that the noblest act one can do for the regime is to die. These men justify the most evil acts with a messianic belief of divine rescue. During Iran’s war with Iraq, the regime most vividly displayed its ideology of death when it sent many thousands of young children to die, running across minefields.
When a fascist regime like this instigates foreign wars and pursues nuclear weapons, it poses a threat unlike any the world has faced. The Soviet Union and the United States were saved from nuclear annihilation because each side loved their children and wanted to see them live. What is the world to do when those controlling the nukes want to see their children die?
As we are forced to deal with this question more imminently in the coming months, Moaveni and Taheri explain that the world must make every effort to show solidarity with the people of Iran.
A small example of how America does this is the president’s Nowruz message to the Persian people. Nowruz is the celebration of Persian New Year that pre-dates the arrival of Islam in Iran. Even as the Iranian people have embraced Islam, Nowruz has remained a major holiday celebrated widely by the Iranian people. Because of its narrow theocratic ideology, the regime has tried to suppress Nowruz and has only failed because of the popular observance of it. When the U.S. president addresses the Iranian people on Nowruz, he sends a strong message that we stand with them against their oppressors.
As the Iranian people pursue regime change through boycotts, strikes, and other disturbances, we must continue to stand with them. Their actions provide an opportunity for us to pressure the regime through targeted policies and diplomacy that can reinforce the Iranian people’s efforts. With an intelligent strategy, we might provide the needed momentum to help the Iranian people change the fascist regime that oppresses them and threatens the world.
Anyone who has been through Israeli airport security knows that American screening is a joke. My first time back, I was detained for a few hours because I was carrying some of my wife’s research materials in my luggage – and none of that time was spent just sitting around. Israelis rely on multiple identity verifications, multiple human-to-human interactions, extensive bag searches, and almost universal chemical swab testing of baggage. Each time I went through, the process had minor differences, but it was always thorough. If you fly Israel’s El Al airline, the security is tighter still.
There is no privacy in flying from Israel, but the intrusion seems balanced by a genuine concern and effort to ensure security.
I have even had experiences with Chilean airport security that were better balanced than my American experiences. Once when going through security there, a screener pulled me aside and simply said, “show me the knife.” I wasn’t sure what he was talking about and so I completely dumped out my carry on. At the bottom of one of the pockets was a nail clipper with a small folding knife. It was what he was looking for, but once he saw it was not dangerous, the screener gave it back to me and sent me on my way.
Nowhere more than this country have I felt that airport security is tailored for maximum intrusion and minimum security. If you want to read some really great examples of this disturbing truth, read Jeffrey Goldberg’s ‘The Things He Carried’ in The Atlantic.
Fortunately, the courts seem to be rolling back the incentives for unnecessarily intrusive searches. This example, among others, was in today’s Wall Street Journal:
A federal judge in June threw out seizure of three fake passports from a traveler, saying that TSA screeners violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. Congress authorizes TSA to search travelers for weapons and explosives; beyond that, the agency is overstepping its bounds, U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley said.
Of course, this only helps at the point where a court gets involved. If a search is merely inconvenient and intrusive, but leads to no criminal charge, it is hard to see what remedy is available. Sue for nominal damages? Maybe a class action for lost airfare due to delays that cause missed flights? We can hope …
Sri Lanka provides a solid example of how to most effectively deal with terrorists. After decades of facing some of the most brutal terror tactics, Sri Lanka adopted tactics sufficient to quell the terrorists. Robert Kaplan at The Atlantic gives us the lessons:
The insurgents are using human shields? No problem. Just keep killing the innocent bystanders until you get to the fighters themselves.
Bad media coverage is hurting morale and giving succor to the enemy? Just kill the journalists.
The international community disapproves of your methods and cuts off military aid because of the human rights violations you’ve committed? Again, no problem. Get aid from China.
The international system created largely by western nations has produced these lessons. While democrats and liberty-minded people would rightly feel shame at learning these lessons, most nations have no problem adopting such Machiavellian approaches. Indeed, failing to adopt such amoral policies attracts terror and other vicious methods for obtaining political goals. We need to rethink the system that encourages terrorism and offers only such fascist responses as effective tools to combat it.
I have no doubt that Israel will not permit Iran to obtain a nuclear bomb. Israelis across the political spectrum perceive an Iranian nuke as an intolerable existential threat and are willing to tolerate almost anything (particularly any diplomatic consequences or military consequences from Iran’s proxies) more than such a threat.
What has interested me most is whether other nations, specifically Saudi Arabia, the United States, or France might preempt the need for such an attack by carrying out an attack of their own. After all, Iran attempted to destroy Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor in Osirak before Israel finished the job.
And, today, we get pretty solid news of at least some coordination between Israel and Saudi Arabia from The Times:
The Israeli press has already carried unconfirmed reports that high-ranking officials, including Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, held meetings with Saudi colleagues. The reports were denied by Saudi officials.
“The Saudis have tacitly agreed to the Israeli air force flying through their airspace on a mission which is supposed to be in the common interests of both Israel and Saudi Arabia,” a diplomatic source said last week.
It is still my hope that such eventualities do not come to pass. Iran has every right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to peaceful nuclear energy. But, it must submit to safeguards to prevent nuclear weapons development. Those safe guards are not in place, the IAEA has been kicked out of Iran, and the nuclear fuel enrichment in Iran goes well beyond peaceful uses.
We need the Green Revolution to restore sanity to the government of Iran and constrain the nuclear pursuit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. If they do not succeed, I have little hope that Supreme Leader Khamenehi and the insane Mahdi-obsessed public face of the regime, Mahmoud Ahmadi-nejad, will submit to a peaceful resolution.