Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Strike is Done!

Tourists visiting NYC in the near-future weeks let out a sigh of relief along with the producers and stagehands of Broadway last night as negotiations came to a conclusion, Campbell Robertson of the New York Times reports (November 29, 2007). Again, the red curtains will be drawn, the music will start up, and the show will go on. But was the near-month of striking worth the estimated $40 million dollar loss to Broadway and the wage loss to the stagehands?

A brief glance at the strike situation would suggest that the strike would not have continued for so long if both the stagehands and the Broadway league did not consider the monetary loss worth their hope of striking victory, but the a closer look at the strike may suggest otherwise. The strike, "the first in the union’s 121-year history, darkened 31 theaters, shuttering 27 shows and one Duran Duran concert" and yet only "350 of the 2,200 active members of the union participated in the walkout." The 350 members who participated in the walkout obviously considered the strike worth their efforts, which the voiced clearly, but what about the 1,850 who did not walk out? Though the stagehands initially unanimously voted for a union strike, they could not have predicted a strike that would continue for a long 19 days. For those who would have wanted to return sooner, they could not without running the risk of being "black-listed" and possibly removed from the union, leaving them without work. They were left without much of a choice, no active voice, and no pay.

As for the Broadway league (which consists of owners and producers), they took many steps to accommodate the union's request in order to end the strike. The league held three marathon negotiation sessions in which it continued to agree to more and more of the union's requests. As Robertson reported, the "officials on the union negotiating committee seemed happy with the terms of the five-year contract" and as well they should be. The union walked away from the negotiations with yearly wage raises "well above the 3.5 percent that the league had been offering."

Unions were created during a time in history where the "little guy's" voice could not be heard and many unjust actions were being taken towards workers by a vast majority of employers. The unions were for the masses, a place where everyone had a voice. Today, most employers see the benefit of having happy workers who are content with how they are being treated, and unions are not nearly as necessary as they used to be. And unfortunately, they sometimes hurt the "little guy" who would like to go back to work without being black-listed. While the masses are rejoicing now that the negotiations have ended, the already-quieted voice of the individual is being drowned out, a price that wasn't worth the cost of the strike.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Murders Afraid of Capital Punishment?

As if there wasn't enough to debate, Adam Liptak from the New York Times reports that "for the first time in a generation, the question of whether the death penalty deters murders has captured the attention of scholars in law and economics, setting off an intense new debate about one of the central justifications for capital punishment" (November 18, 2007). More than a dozen studies were conducted in a number of jurisdictions, comparing the homicide rates over a period of time. On the surface it appears that when execution rates rise, homicide rates lower. This seems to make complete sense; people have the idea of execution as a punishment fresh in their minds and therefore are in greater fear of consequences. Lawyers and economists, however, seem to disagree on the issue, not necessarily that people respond to incentives, but on the analyzation of the research.

The economists' view is based on the logic of incentives. Liptak explains the economists' point of view as such: "To many economists, then, it follows inexorably that there will be fewer murders as the likelihood of execution rises." Because the numbers in the research do reveal that homicide rates dropped when execution rates rose, the economists' stand by their point. But the lawyers' point of view is that there are too many other factors that have not been equated into analyzing the research done in jurisdictions where capital punishment applies. These factors give the lawyers reason to not believe that capital punishment deters people from homicide.

Regardless of where a lawyer or economist stands on the issue of research, what is most surprising is the lack of reliance on personal values and morals in deciding whether or not the death penalty should be used. Instead of worrying about what they believe to be the best moral actions, the economists and lawyers researching and debating this issue are basing their stances on what the research is revealing. Joanna M. Shepherd, a professor at Emory with a doctorate in economics states, “I am definitely against the death penalty on lots of different grounds, but I do believe that people respond to incentives.”

The debate between all kinds of people--lawyers, economists, students, parents, everyone--should not be "what does the research show," but rather "what does my faith/soul/values tell me is right". While this does lead to a difference in opinion, the majority opinion will rule and people can choose to accept it or leave it. American laws cannot decide the right actions to take simply because of research; cutting off a man's hand because he stole would obviously make other afraid to steal, but America does not practice this kind of punishment because it was decided to be immoral. Of course, capital punishment deters people from murdering others, but that does not mean it is right.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

2,000 Lawyers Can't Be Wrong

Protests have erupted in Pakistan, consisting of thousands of angry men and women, New York Times columnists Jane Perlez and David Rhode report (November 5, 2007). But these protesters are not from any particular party faction, nor are they the average Joe and Jane citizen. They are not trying to put someone into office or create chaos for chaos's purpose. No, these protesters are the highly-educated, well trained lawyers of Pakistan who have taken to the streets in outrage to Pakistan's President, General Pervez Musharraf, and his actions imposing emergency rule.

While some presidents would consider turning a listening ear to a massive protest by the educated of the country, General Musharraf instead reacted with a police round-up and arrest of the protesting lawyers. Those of the lawyers who were of high-acclaim were generally not jailed but put on house arrest.

There is an obvious difference of opinion between the lawyers and the President of Pakistan, but who in this situation can claim the majority interest at heart? Is General Musharraf's actions of emergency rule due to selfish motives or wise judgement? Do the lawyers have good enough reasons to protest? In order to genuinely asses the situation, "emergency rule" must first be defined.

As the articles explains, emergency rule is not martial law:

"The main points of General Musharraf’s emergency order were the suspension of the Constitution, the dissolution of the Supreme Court and the four provincial High Courts, and the silencing of privately owned television news channels."

Apparently, Musharraf thought emergency rule would be easy for the democratic-seeking citizens (lawyers greatly included) to swallow. Or perhaps he just could care less. Although Musharraf has not fully declared martial law (he has not shut down Parliament), he has taken away the freedom of speech and the right to a trustworthy judicial system from the people. It is not only not surprising but only seems correct that the lawyers of Pakistan took to the streets. Their rights have been completely stripped from them as well as their judges dismissed. Their Supreme Court has been abolished. Their livelihood is at stake if they don't follow Musharraf's dictatorial laws. And Musharraf doesn't care about their well-being nor does it seem that he cares about the well-being of the majority of Pakistan.

There is something to be said about a mob's mindset in that it is often a temporary, dramatized grouping of passion that is often in the wrong, but in this situation the mob is correct and the individual is wrong. The mob is fighting for the very rights that they are naturally endowed with and should be given under a democratic government (which no longer seems democratic). As the now-fired Supreme Court Justice said in response to Musharraf's emergency rule done under his apparent idea of democracy:

“The United States is a democratic government, and democratic governments should work for democratic values across the globe,” Mr. Bhagwandas said. “Pakistan is no exception.”

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Hillary: The Scary Candidate

In this time of America's growth as a nation, America needs a president who has good moral character. America needs a president who isn't worried about pleasing every citizen but focuses on what is best for the nation as a whole. America needs a president who is honest about where they stand on issues and who won't change with the opinionated tide of the people. What America does not need is a politician, and in Tuesday night's Democratic party debate Hillary Clinton confirmed what many people feared: Hillary is the most frightening politician.

The debate, reported by Marc Santora in the New York Times, took an unfortunate turn for Hillary when the democratic candidates were asked to state their views on granting illegal immigrants licenses (November 1, 2007). As Santora reports, Hillary "at first seemed to defend it, then suggested she was against it, until finally, pressed for a direct answer, she accused the moderator, Tim Russert, of playing 'gotcha.'" Her opponents, Barack Obama and John Edwards, however, did not seem to find the question difficult to answer and were quick with displaying their support of the issue. So why was it so hard for Hillary to say where her loyalty lay? As Santora explains, Hillary is trying to appease two opposing sides: the democrats and the union workers. Giving Hillary the benefit of the doubt, it must only be on this issue that her loyalty is so divided, right? Many of her opponents seem to think otherwise.

Obama stated after the debate that Hillary "left us wondering where she stood on every single hard question from Iran to Social Security to drivers’ licenses for undocumented workers.”

Edwards claimed Hillary said “two different things in the course of about two minutes.”

Rudolph W Giuliani, her possible Republican opponent, commented that “I know there are some politicians like Hillary. , They say different things to different people. They use different accents in different parts of the country. I’m used to that about her now. I had never seen it happen all in one place, in one minute.”

Granted, her opponents are not the most likely to be praising her debate performance, but when given the chance to clarify her stance, Santora reports, "the wording of the statement was murkier than what many of her opponents have said in either supporting or opposing Mr. Spitzer’s initiatives."

To make things worse, Hillary resorted to mocking Obama's political theme of "the politics of hope."

Hillary is obviously trying to climb out of the hole she has deeply dug herself into, and at the current moment for the Democrats, the presidential nomination is anyone's ticket, so why focus on Hillary's blunders and terrible political tactics? Why not focus on the good qualities of each candidate? Unfortunately, it is the bad characteristics that citizens of America need to recognize in the possible future presidents. Each candidate has a number of good qualities, but it is the bad qualities that will make the biggest difference. As of now, it is Hillary's bad qualities which would make her the worst candidate for President. She could not take a stand on a very controversial, which could greatly hurt America if she was ever put into office. America is in a time of change, and if she has a president who cannot decide which way to go, her growth will be stunted. Also, when backed into a corner, Hillary lashes out rather than taking responsibility. As seen in past presidents who acted in a similar way (one ironically being her husband), it doesn't end well for the president nor for the nation.

There is still a long way to go before the election, but right now things aren't looking good for Hillary's character. Proving recently that she is truly a politician, she will probably find a way to snap back into the public's favor, but as a nation it would be to America's benefit if she did not. Personally, I don't find it a coincidence that this debate occurred a day before Halloween. For all of our sake, I hope Hillary's actions were just a way to scare us because of the holiday rather than her actions being a good future prediction of how she will handle controversial issue that America has to face.