Police Gearing Up in D.C.

Seattle II?

Spooked by the specter of protesters descending on Washington for demos against the upcoming meetings of the World Bank and the IMF, D.C. police are working to scuttle the demonstrators’ support systems. People hanging posters have been threatened with arrest, and home owners who are allowing protesters to camp on their property have been warned that they are violating zoning regulations. American University, which had been scheduled to host meetings, reportedly canceled them after it was overrun with undercover cops. The university is kicking out nonresidents and instituting a lockdown in its dorms.

The police presence reaches into the suburbs, where the Montgomery County schools system issued an alert about demonstrators. Robert B. Hellmuth of the Montgomery County superintendent’s office sent out this notice: “Detective Thomas Cauffiel asked Mr. Douglas Steel, field security coordinator, to notify school-based staff to be observant for any material referring to the upcoming International Monetary Fund rallies which are scheduled for April 9-17, 2000, in Washington, D.C. Police are concerned that a group named ‘Mobilization for Global Justice’ might attempt to recruit high school students to join in a planned rally. The police reported the following: ‘Splinter groups, possibly associated with this group, took part in the recent demonstration in Seattle that turned violent.’ If you see any materials on your campus which refers to these rallies, please contact the Department of School Safety and Security…”

Peer Review at WTO Panel

Lord Help Us

Bruce Silverglade, a staffer at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, attended a recent soul-searching seminar entitled “After Seattle: Restoring Momentum in the WTO System” at the prestigious Arnold & Porter law firm in Washington, D.C., and brought back this report:

Lord Cecil Parkinson, who served as Margaret Thatcher’s secretary for trade and industry, said nonprofit groups have no right to criticize the WTO because they do not represent the general public and that there should never again be a WTO meeting on U.S soil because there is no guarantee of security. Lord Parkinson also was incensed by President Clinton’s “disgraceful” speech in Seattle, and deplored the demonstrations, which caused the delegates to eat sandwiches instead of getting a decent meal.

Furthermore, his Lordship declared, it is not necessary to balance members of the WTO secretariat with representatives from developing countries just because of the color of their skin. This remark led to a private conversation between Lord Parkinson and the chair of the meeting, after which Lord Parkinson told the group, “Oh, I hope I have not offended anyone.”

Moved by Lord Parkinson’s remarks, American officials jumped into the debate, asking how NGOs might be “delegitimized.” Robert Litan, former associate director of the White House Office on Management and Budget, proposed shunting the protesters into the International Labor Organization, the UN’s moribund labor council in Geneva. Clayton Yeutter, formerly Bush’s secretary of agriculture, cut to the chase with the suggestion that the WTO keep the location of its meeting secret until the last minute. Yeutter sagely noted that the protesters couldn’t care less about the WTO, and instead want TV coverage as a way to raise money for their organizations. Over dessert at a reception, Luiz Felipe Lampreia, the foreign minister of Brazil, proposed that the next session of the group be held on a cruise ship. He then launched into an impassioned defense of child labor, describing how in one region of Brazil, more than 5000 children “help their families earn a little extra money” by hauling bags of coal from a dump yard to a steel mill. The audience gave him a rousing round of applause.

Love Those Local Limits

Dead Souls

Right-wing Republicans argue that life would be better if government were smaller and less intrusive. Consequently, they push for states’ rights and local initiatives. It sounds nice in theory. But what happens in practice? Here are two recent examples of what perversions of local control can lead to:

The first involves rural America. Do-gooders deplore the death of the family farm and the accompanying poverty, when in fact rural areas throughout the nation are prospering because of the growth of prisons, whose populations have nearly doubled since 1990. Between 1980 and 1990, 213 prisons were constructed in rural communities, and while at first local officials balked at having such facilities constructed amid quiet rural settings, today many of these same officials are soliciting prisons.

Prisons can be a real plus in political terms. First, they help “integrate” the lily-white farm towns of rural American, bringing in blacks and Latinos. Second, since the U.S. has all but dropped the goal of rehabilitation, prisons are now set up to warehouse convicts, which spells long-term growth. In terms of the census, prisoners swell the population, and since most of them are poor, they reduce the overall income level, making communities eligible for federal and state economic aid that they otherwise would not receive. In addition, if a prison operates industry, it can attract related business. Best of all, except in Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts, inmates can’t vote.

Of course, one state’s gains in rural prison population are another’s lost prisoners—mostly from urban areas. This worries big-city politicians since losing population in inner-city neighborhoods can lead to loss of seats in Congress. “In New York state, for example, while 89 percent of prisoners are housed in rural areas, three-quarters of the inmate population come from seven neighborhoods in New York City,” write Tracy Huling and Marc Mauer in the Chicago Tribune.

The second example of perverted local control involves the regulation of guns. Although many large industries prefer preemptive federal legislation rather than facing a plethora of state laws, others, such as the insurance industry, would rather be regulated on the state level, where they can influence regulation more easily than in Washington. When it comes to guns, they feel regulation works best at the state level, where it often is, in effect, no regulation.

At least 30 states have neither licensing nor registration for any type of firearms. Massachusetts is the only state that requires licenses and registration for all guns. Only two states have banned private sales of assault weapons. Only a handful restrict sales of assault weapons. Although federal law sets the minimum age for the purchase of a handgun at 18, several states, including New York, have set the age at 16. In Montana, a 14-year-old can buy a pistol. For rifles and shotguns, it’s 16 in New York. In North Carolina, the age is 12.

The Prep School Grid Whiz

Gore’s Kick Start

For those who wonder how a mediocre high school student like Al Gore got into Harvard, John C. Davis, retired assistant headmaster of the vice-president’s old prep school, St. Albans, provided an answer recently. Davis told The Washington Post that “any nice big boy” like Al could get into the Ivy League as long as he excelled in football—and Al was captain of the St. Albans team. However, notes taken by the late Eddie Crane, who covered high school sports for the old Washington Star, recently were unearthed by his friend, Gregory G. Paspatis of Alexandria, Virginia. Reading from Crane’s records of the time, Paspatis told the Times, “Don’t tell me Harvard thought Al Gore could help their football program.” He added, “The St. Albans team… that Gore played on as a senior was 1-7. They were terrible. They only scored 59 points in 8 games while giving up 210 points.”

Stay out of Tyler

In Tyler, Texas, petty theft is usually a misdemeanor carrying a maximum $500 and no jail time. But because Kenneth Dude Payne III, 29, had a record that included 10 convictions for credit card theft, assault, and stealing a bag of Oreo cookies, prosecutors tried him on felony charges when he stole a Snickers bar from a mom-and-pop store. A jury convicted Payne, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Eight years ago, a Tyler jury convicted a man with 17 previous felony convictions for stealing a brisket of beef, and he was sentenced to life in prison.