WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks. This is the second of two wrap-ups for October 21.
National Center for Public Policy Research
(NCPPR is a communications and research foundation dedicated to providing free market solutions to today's public policy problems, based on the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility. NCPPR was founded to provide the conservative movement with a versatile and energetic organization capable of responding quickly and decisively to late-breaking issues, based on thorough research.)
WASHINGTON -- Back to Normal After Sept. 11?
by Kimberley Jane Wilson
It's been over a year since the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 and life is not back to what once passed for normal. Maybe it never will be. Maybe it shouldn't be. Maybe normal is what got us into this mess in the first place.
Some talk about making Sept. 11 a national holiday, but I don't think we should because Americans don't like being reminded of their failures. It's simply not in our national identity. Americans love winners, hate losers and that's all there is to it. And, make no mistake, Sept. 11 was a failure.
Thousands of ordinary people minding their own business were suddenly crushed, scalded, incinerated and vaporized. For those who jumped from the burning World Trade Center, they were splattered across the New York City sidewalk like rotten fruit. If that's not a failure, I don't know what is. Everything that was supposed to protect us either failed or wasn't even in position to try.
Although the politicians, pundits and the grief counselors will argue differently, the United States was the big loser on Sept. 11. Abroad, Palestinians danced for joy in the streets and Egyptians clapped and cheered in restaurants. The afternoon of Sept. 11, in Washington -- just miles from the burning Pentagon -- I encountered a delighted young clerk celebrating at a gas station convenience store. He was momentarily oblivious to me and the two other American customers. Judging by his accent, clothes and the textbooks near the cash register, I assume he was a North African-born college student.
Call these examples aberrations, but the folks on the Arab "street" know very well who won on Sept. 11, 2001.
Something, of course, will replace the World Trade Center. The new design will most certainly be a smaller group of unimpressive-looking buildings surrounding a park. Many uncomfortably admit that an exact replica of the original towers would be too tempting of a target for terrorists and that no one would be willing to work in them. They may have a point. In the face of endless talk about not letting the terrorists win by making us change our ways, however, it's obvious that the terrorists have done just that.
Have you flown lately? I'm sick of reading about wheelchair-bound, half-blind 94-year-old grandmothers being strip-searched. The sight of two-year-olds being patted down and made to take off their shoes would be comic if it weren't so embarrassing. Several women I know have complained that airport security drones found way too much enjoyment in searching them and the lingerie in their luggage. Women are complaining they have been fondled and groped by our new crack airport security inspectors. Other friends of mine wearily speak about the naked rudeness of arrogant airport employees.
Has this indignity done any good? Probably not. Reporters from the New York Daily News recently boarded planes with forbidden objects such as box cutters and knives in their luggage to test the new airport security measures. All of the reporters and their luggage made it through. Doesn't that make you feel safe and warm?
The truth is that, in the year since Sept. 11, America really hasn't gotten serious about being at war. Most people seem to just want to forget what happened. Perhaps some believe deep in their hearts that our country and its worldwide image suffered a terrible loss on that day.
Perhaps our behavior comes from newfound knowledge that America is no longer a safe haven from the insanity of the rest of the world. This may be too much to for many to contemplate. We hold memorial services, talk about life going on and fleeing to the arms of fantasy. Did you notice Hollywood had one of its best years ever? We flocked to the movies, watched "American Idol," longed for the return of "The Sopranos" (I know I did) and adults actually had animated discussions about the singer Ashanti. We seemed obsessed with anything but dealing with the reality of our situation.
Are we going to go to war on Iraq? Are we ever going to pull ourselves out of the slimy embrace of the Saudis? Who knows? But hey, you can probably still see "Star Wars" at the theater and the new seasons of "Buffy" and "Soul Food" episodes are starting to air, so everything's gotten back to normal, a'right?
(Kimberley Jane Wilson is a member of the African-American leadership network Project 21's National Advisory Board and a conservative writer living in Virginia.)
WASHINGTON -- Don't Complain, Seize the Opportunity
by Casey J. Lartigue Jr.
In the 1998 book "Someone Else's House," Tamar Jacoby discusses a 1968 takeover of schools by black activists in a New York City ghetto. A 13-year-old youngster named Al Sharpton, who lived in nearby East Flatbush, was mesmerized by the boycott: "What I learned from Ocean Hill-Brownsville was that confrontation works. I saw it with my own eyes at the impressionable age of thirteen or fourteen, and it changed the way I looked at the world."
That view of the world, where "confrontation works" and is used as a first resort, is what drives old school black activists such as Dick Gregory, Joe Madison, Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson. However, there's one thing that works better than confrontation: satisfying your fellow citizens through mutually beneficial exchange -- "Here's what I'll do for you, if you do this for me."
I mention this because of a Washington Post editorial by William Raspberry about lawsuits against pizza companies that refused to deliver pizzas in bad neighborhoods. A couple of black men, including one who said he was "humiliated" about having to pick up the pizza directly from a driver afraid to leave his truck, sued.
The drivers and their employers insisted safety was the issue. Others charged that it was proof of racism and racial profiling. Glenn Davis, a former city commissioner in Tarpon Springs, Florida, said: "It's racism plain and simple."
Raspberry notes that a 62-year-old pizza delivery driver had been severely beaten and robbed during a delivery to Union Academy and that Domino's was paying a $250,000 worker's compensation settlement in the case.
Raspberry then notes that instead of confrontation, some youngsters found a solution:
"(F)ive Norfolk teenagers had a brainstorm. Instead of complaining about racism, or suing or leading demonstrations, they took the problem as an opportunity. At first, they set themselves up as middlemen, picking up the pizzas from Pizza Hut and bringing them back to the neighborhoods. Later, they got a $4,000 loan from the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority and worked out a deal to purchase pizzas wholesale from Pizza Hut and retail them to their neighbors.
They named their business Pizza-Ria! and adopted as their slogan: 'It's fresh! It's good! It's from the 'hood!' The youngsters haven't been robbed, and the folks at the housing authority say teen crime is down, at least in part as result of Pizza-Ria!"
Nice story, but one question Raspberry didn't discuss. Why in the world did the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority give those youngsters a loan? According to the NRHA Web site: "Created in response to acute overcrowding and substandard housing conditions, NRHA was chartered as an independent political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1940, to build and manage safe, decent and affordable housing for the City of Norfolk."
NRHA should have its charter revoked. NRHA has redesigned its mission so that it even includes giving loans to kids delivering pizzas. Delivering pizzas is part of a for-profit enterprise. Or, at least, part of an attempt at being for-profit. We still don't know if Pizza-Ria! will be a profitable business in the long run. It could, as pizza companies may choose to start contracting companies like Pizza-Ria!, instead of paying for pizza deliverers who don't want to deliver everywhere.
Or it could be that pizza deliverers will get the message and start delivering everywhere, cutting out Pizza-Ria! But either way, the government shouldn't be getting involved in choosing winners and losers in the market. It wouldn't be surprising to learn in a year or two that NRHA is providing loans for pizza deliverers laid off because of competition from Pizza-Ria!
Commercial banks and similar institutions (or individuals) should be providing the loans to young entrepreneurs like the Pizza-Ria! businessmen. That is how things should work in the real world -- and before bureaucrats started interfering in commerce and everyday exchange, that's how things did work. Thus, the next obvious business to open is a privately run loan service for pizza entrepreneurs -- and that could lead to other businesses: pizza box manufacturers, pizza shop uniforms, more delivery guys and gals ... and the opportunities go on and on.
Nevertheless, Raspberry's story is a good example of how competition helps low-income people more than confrontation. Pizza deliverers who balked at delivering to bad neighborhoods are now facing competition from people who will. The customers angry that Dominos won't deliver to their door now have an alternative.
This country would be a much better place if a young Al Sharpton had learned the lesson those youngsters in Norfolk have learned: capitalism, not confrontation, works.
(Casey J. Lartigue Jr. is an education analyst at the Cato Institute)