Alexander Nguyen

Alexander Nguyen, a former Prospect writing fellow, is a student at Yale Law
School.

Recent Articles

Our Ford

Last September AT&T approached the financially struggling First Christian Church in Alexandria, Virginia, with this bargain: In return for letting the company erect a 130-foot-tall cross doubling as a cellular phone tower, the congregation would receive $18,000 annually. Residents were split: Was the money--in the words of the Reverend Tim Mabbott, who supported the idea--a "blessing from God" or simply a Faustian kickback? Cell phones have limited range--one to eight miles, typically--so calls must be placed near a tower. This is fine if a call is made from a nearby office, but not if it's from a cab moving out of range. In this latter case, another cell phone tower must pick up the signal the way a runner takes a baton from his team-mate. Cell phone towers are often hidden in pre-existing structures--trees, water towers, even church steeples-- but this time, lacking other options, the company wanted to build a stealth site from scratch. In a fit of corporate diplomacy, AT&T...

No Fanfare for Learnfare

This school year, Governor George Pataki of New York expanded Learnfare--a program making family-assistance grants contingent upon children's attendance at school--to include all elementary schools in the state. After three unexcused absences, students on welfare must seek counseling. After four unexcused absences, their families lose $60 in monthly assistance, which they can earn back with perfect attendance the following quarter. During the program's two-year pilot run, 329 families had their grants reduced, and only 16 families were able to recover their losses. Learnfare, according to Pataki, rests on the premise that "[a] good education is a key building block in any child's future and is absolutely necessary to break what for too many families has become a generational dependency on public assistance." And by targeting the very young in grades one through six, it hopes to "help them move out of the welfare culture," according to Jack Madden, spokesperson for the state's...

The Souls of White Folk

W hen the U.S. Census Bureau asked residents to count off for the new millennium, sharp-eyed individuals noticed a slight oddity in the form's race question: While Asians or Pacific Islanders could pick from among nine boxes (Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Native Hawaiian, Guamanian, or Chamorro and Samoan), Caucasians had only one box (white). The bureau, theoretically, could have offered a similar menu for whites by including boxes for the Irish, Italians, Polish, and Germans among us. But it did not, and the choice is telling because it implies that if you're white, you're white--what more is there to say? A lot, as it turns out. In recent years, as the president and media leaders such as The New York Times have sought to advance a national conversation about race, a new academic field has sprung up that is devoted to understanding whiteness. By studying white identity-- its history,...

The e-GOP

As the high-tech sector has grown as an industry, its bankroll of financial contributions to politicians has swollen as well (over $3.8 million so far this year). So it's no surprise that presidential candidates are now flocking to Silicon Valley, or that firms like AOL and eBay are forming their own political action committees to dole out cash. What is surprising is how much of that new high-tech money is going to Republicans. Historically, Silicon Valley has been reliably Democratic territory. In 1992, for example, Microsoft gave Republicans only 21 percent of its campaign contributions. By the 1998 election cycle, however, the GOP share of Microsoft contributions had grown to 66 percent—and so far in 1999, Republicans have captured 54 percent of total computer industry contributions. Microsoft has also donated $331,000 in soft money in 1999, almost all of it to Republicans. "There's the perception that Silicon Valley is Clinton-Gore country," says Holly Bailey, researcher at the...

Rising Tide?

"They almost have a nostalgic quality about them, sort of like the bell bottoms stuck in the back of the closet," writes Jeffrey M. Berry of today's quixotic and starry-eyed liberals. "But liberalism is not dead. Indeed, it's thriving." In The New Liberalism: The Rising Power of Citizen Groups, Berry marshals copious evidence that over the past four decades, liberal citizen groups have outperformed conservative groups and business lobbies in almost every regard—commanding more positive media attention, winning more legislative victories, and indeed lasting longer as organizations. It is an interesting finding but true about just one narrowly defined band of liberalism. Berry admits that traditional liberalism, the kind primarily concerned with economic equality, is in decline. What he discusses is a new type of liberalism—he calls it post materialism—which addresses the environment, consumer protection, civil rights, and other nonmaterial quality-of-life issues. Postmaterial groups...

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