Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Seven Pound Anchor Babies

Our President is certainly redefining government and questioning the old traditions. The latest was his proposal to end birthright citizenship, which has been on the books since Reconstruction after the Civil War. The 14th amendment expanded the constitutional definition of citizenship to include all persons born on US soil and subject to federal jurisdiction. Free White Men, freed slaves, and children of immigrants were now citizens; Native Americans later gained right to citizenship
at a time when Eastern Europeans and Asians were generally excluded from immigrantion.

Congress rejects the idea: Birth tourism is a healthy industry, flourishing in places like California, Florida, and New York. Anchor babies are welcome, as long as their mothers are from families of means. Furthermore, birth certificate tend to be issued without asking the parents’ nationalities. I believe that anti-discrimination laws discourage hospital staff from asking excess questions. In the DC area, children of diplomats do obtain regular birth certificates, and thus can claim citizenship. Asides from one article, I have not heard any concern about diplomats taking more than their fair share.

Other issues: Ending birthright citizenship admits a certain defeat on law-and-order issues. Not long ago, a Mexican national, unlawfully present in the Texas, was executed for murder over the objection of the Mexican government. Would conservative really want to declare that children of illegal immigrant parents are not subject to US law, but entitled to reprieve at foreign consulates of Mexico and Ireland? Because even under the most zealous government, maternity wards won’t be booking outbound airfare for newborns. Mass deportation is unlikely. Some scholars look to early 20th century court precedent (conservative judicial activism- see previous blog post). But that was a different era, and not representative of a world where airplanes connect any two cities in less than 24 hours; of visa-free access and lower trade tariffs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

What Makes it a Trophy Building?

Like how up-marketed luxury apartments replaced comfortable dwellings, everybody advertises their office space as Class A today. No strict definition exists, but Class A denotes new or newly-renovated, spacious lobbies, the works. Owners, who own both upscale and modest office space, are allowed to have Class B space for rent. With it, they get to upsell the business owner’s pride: after all, a fancy office announces that you’ve made your corner-office fantasies come true.
Engineering and service firms, and credit unions, led by practical people, settle into Class B space such as aging suburban office parks. Intellectually honest leaders know that free snacks are more valuable to the employees than the goldfish pond in a Class A lobby.

Class C for “creative”. Not techie creatives, but artists and struggling non-profits. It is the low-rent and cramped spaces above downtown stores; or obsolete, like how 40 Wall Street and the Singer Buildings in New York were perceived. The Singer Building was demolished in 1968, and Donald Trump claimed to have bought 40 Wall Street for $1 million in the 1990’s.  

Above all this is the Trophy office. Not long ago, “Trophy” offices meant monumental architecture. The Sears Tower in Chicago, the Empire State Building in New York are two examples. Today, grade inflation creates a lot more Trophies. In downtown DC, an office building, designed in any other shape than a space-maximizing cube, is a Trophy Building with eye appeal. Several include the replacement Washington Post buildings, with windows reminiscent of newsprint leaves fluttering through the automated printing press; and City Center- it has a pedestrian alley and balconies.   

Another Trophy project in DC is a squat five-story building just north of the White House. During renovation, the owners downgraded from a marble siding to red limestone. How does it deserve the distinction of a Trophy? You see, Corporate America captured the AFL-CIO building, jackhammering to pieces any marble engraving that reeked of “solidarity” and “brotherhood”. The interior was gutted down to bare concrete: no Union Label stuck on a door or refrigerator would survive the purge. A building once owned, in practical terms, by representatives of working men and women, has now been cleansed and reoriented towards the full service of capitalism. Now that’s a Trophy.