Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chew On This While We Solve The Immigration Issue


Years ago I had my own Heating/Air Conditioning/Refrigeration business, a sole proprietorship and pretty much a 2 man, 1 receptionist outfit. A pretty nice kid came in one day with a certificate issued to him by the U.S. Government which claimed they would pick up half his salary if I hired him - all part of a "workfare" vocational training program of some kind. I hired the kid, submitted the proper documents and in due course began to get a little chunk of your tax money (mine too I guess).

Now I played by the rules, although I'm sure the program was probably abused so badly it made John Bobitt look like a marriage counselor. Anyway, down the road a bit the kid got a wild hair, quit and went out to start a business of his own. He failed miserably - which is as much a sad testament to my training skills as it was the kid's own poor judgement - but that's another story.
This story however, ends like this: After the guy quit, I sent in the proper documents to terminate the program. But I still kept receiving the checks. I sent the checks back with helpful notes, but I still kept receiving them. I called and talked with a series of boobs who were apparently marking time until more jobs opened up the Barnum and Bailey Travelling Circus. Want to guess what happened? Well... I should have sent those checks back also, but I'll admit I cashed the last 6 or 10 of them - and to this day it still doesn't bother me. Go ahead and sue me Steve, I dare 'ya.

If there's a moral here, it is that the government's idea was fine - but their execution of it was terrible. Somewhere along the line, some bright bulb realized, "Hey, why not take the money were going to pay out in unemployment compensation anyway and use it to get these poor people hired and trained.". Thus was born the miracle of "workfare". Get it? Its the miracle that happens when you take the "wel" out of "welfare" and replace it with "work", which makes everybody in government feel better.

Want more? Thanks for asking. Some years later I worked as the rental manager at a business which rented a ton of trucks to a government run Comprehensive Employment Training Program (CETA for short). Pal, I hit them with the Standard Rate. Why? Heck Steve, they were the Government, and why should anyone in govenment think to ask for a volume discount? I mean, where's the motivation? LSS ( which is short for "Long Story Short" - an abbreviation we bloggers use to save valuable electrons) - what the program did was haul a bunch of high school age kids around to pick up soda cans and beer bottles from the roadside. Steve, now that's what I call comprehensive employment training. We pay them to pick up Seven-Up cans, they use the money to buy video games - and everybody's happy.

Now if you think this all gave me a case of the ass for government run programs, you're getting warm. I've dealt with a lot of bureaucrats in my day, and for the most part I've found them to be reasonably intelligent, hard working individuals. For every bad apple, I've met 5 guys whose dedication really took the bitter taste of the bad ones out of my mouth. Your ratio may be a little lower, I 'dunno. But the point is, you can take a whole roomful of good guys and not make something smart out of something stupid. Only Jim Bakker could do that and I think he's still in jail.

So here we go. As a general rule, you can't make anything more useful by subsidizing it. People will buy subsidized wind or solar power right up until the second the subsidies run out, and not a second more. Yeah sure, some people - good people mind you - are going to buy sustainable wild salmon and recycled plastics - but they're not the people we're worried about. What we're really worried about is the average Joe who goes out looking for cheapest version of anything no matter what it costs to the planet. Guys like you and me, to be honest. The utility that sells solar power at 15 cents a killowatt won't last 5 minutes against the utility that sells coal generated power at 10 cents a killowatt - and features an overhead shot of a strip mine on every invoice to boot. Love it or hate it, that's the rules we play by. And rather than sobbing over it, we ought to be figuring out how to make these rules work for us, and the planet for a change.

On the issue of alternative energy, I'm going to spend some time thinking about how we can get from point A to point B. You're welcome to do the same. I doubt if we'll come up with anything politically palatable - we never do here at LRA&H. But at least when gas hits $12.50 a gallon we'll be able to say I-told-'ya-so.



Immigration Reform (After Securing the Border)

Ready to switch gears (again)?

Ok, Chris. You said we have a fence (we both know we don't). But, I'm going to start from the position that EVERYONE (especially the feds) is on-board with *really* making border security a top-priority-no-excuses issue. That means enforcing existing laws, building and patrolling the border (armed and ready to repel!) building and fixing fences, walls, digging a moat - whatever it takes. Now, out here in the Real World and away from political agendas, that is going to be a MUCH bigger deal than it appears, because a lot of emotions are involved. But regardless... “We've got a fence. What do we do now?”

OK, here's my first stab at it... Take a deep breath. In... Out... In... Out... Go to the Happy Place until you're ready... ;)

2. Take direct aim at the source motivations behind illegal immigration.

First, I'll admit it's not really the fault of worker. They're chasing hopes and dreams and a chance at a better life. I understand that. (For now, I'm going to skip over and dodge the political aspect of encouraging illegals as a vote-buying scheme, but it *is* a real problem.)

As much as it pains me to say it, the problem is with private business. They are explicitly taking advantage of the wink-wink-nod-nod 'enforcement' policies of the government for commercial advantage. Now, those policies are going to change, but that will take time. In the meantime: make it painful for a business to employ illegals. The job market will dry up, which means the game changes. So -

2a. Make it Real Easy for existing illegals to leave the county immediately without legal proceedings.

Be prepared to step up and follow the rules or hit the road. You don't have to stay. You don't have to go. But be ready... The times, they are a-changin'

2b. Announce tomorrow morning that we are going to actively and aggressively enforce the current law for all employers.

Start by tell the IRS the first thing they look for in an audit is for 'employees' that are not legal. That includes taking a hard and careful look at government funded organizations as well. I remember reading how our wonderfully two-faced government insisted that businesses involved in the Katrina recovery make sure they pay all of their illegal workers. Sheesh!

Let's make sure we know there are two groups potentially at fault here: private business *and* government. There are people in the business community knowingly hiring people who are not legally here, and you can tell because they do not pay taxes. That is a clear violation of the law. If you got somebody who is not collecting social security tax, and they are not collecting income tax, they *know* the person they hired is illegal. That business - specifically the owner - should get hammered. I'm talking significant fines, say $10K per person, combined with mandatory jail time, say: 3 months per person, 1 year minimum. The idea is to Make It Painful. BTW - if you employ illegals as part of meeting a government-funded contract obligation, fines and jail time are doubled. Cha-Ching!

HOLD ON! There are a bunch of businesses saying, “Look, they brought me paperwork. Here's my copies. Looks good me. It's not my job to validate it. I even collected the taxes and sent 'em in. Don't blame me.” Fair enough.

If the government cannot run an identity system accurate enough to detect, in real time, that a person is illegal, and you are withholding taxes and doing everything in good faith, the burden is on the government, not on the employer. But, if you know they are illegal and you are not following the law, the burden is on you. That is an easy dividing line for the short run, and that would, overnight, start to transform the entire issue. This leads directly to...

2c. The U.S. Government must immediately sponsor development of a tamper-proof Identification system for non-citizens allowed into the country.

Non-Citizens need ID cards to prove they are here by consent and within the law. At a minimum, we need a quick easy-to-use reference/validation system to confirm legality, via an ID card, is genuine. The technology is available, just do it.

BTW - Checking for an ID-card or otherwise asking for proof of one's citizenship status is a reasonable follow-up request in *any* investigation and especially for hiring, applications for admission to public institutions (e.g., colleges), etc. You don't have to “go looking” for illegals on every street corner, but if someone is stopped for a legitimate reason (or fills out an application), It's OK to ASK. Get Real - It is NOT that big an imposition. If I'm stopped for a traffic violation, I have to show my driver's license don't I? Yes, there should be provisions to prevent abuse of what constitutes 'reasonable', but those instances will be few and should be dealt with harshly. The possibility of misuse is not justification to avoid addressing the problem.

2d. Implement a functional temporary visa program (or a “Guest Worker Visa”, whatever). This really needs to be a separate issue, but I'm including it with #2 because it depends on the ID-card system.

I accept reality. We need a large number of temporary workers. Lots of good reasons. You need the number of people who are being hired, and who are going to be hired for economic expansion because, otherwise, you create a new black market in human trafficking. So how do you regulate and make legal the process of being allowed to work in the United States: how do you track it, and how do you start it?

When a business hires someone, how do they look people who graduate from American colleges and universities? You start with a bias that says we’d like to make absolutely sure, first of all, that if we are going to have X number of people who will get a work visa, it only makes sense that the smartest, best-educated people get the first shot. We don't do that today. Don't make it overly difficult or needlessly complex, but build a priority list, for heaven's sake! If you're just a whatever-I-can-find immigrant, at least give preference to someone who has an existing U.S. citizen as a sponsor. But fill those we-need-the-best-and-brightest slots first while allowing the doors to be open to anyone.

Further, a Worker Visa Program can only work, *IF* it is designed around Contract Law. The applicant must sign a contract to obey the law (all of them) and pay appropriate taxes. You have to supply a biometric for identification purposes: retinal, DNA, whatever. The country you come from has to turn over records every month on who their convicted felons are so we can verify you are not a convicted criminal. The Worker Visa has a limited term (minimum 2 years, maximum 10), and when it expires you LEAVE. Otherwise, get busy on becoming a citizen while you're here on that visa (more to come on this). But feel free to simply re-apply as a Guest Worker if you wish; just go home and get back in line...

And - under contract law - if you violate the terms of the agreement while you're here, back you go. No return for at least a year. Do it again, and you're out for 5 years. Third strike and you're out, permanently. I'm not talking about minor traffic violations, this is about serious and felony level crimes. C'mon, man: be real.

Here's the real kicker - I want to outsource the entire program to Visa, Mastercard, or American Express under a defined, annually renewable and funded contract. They already understand how to run a program like this and there is ZERO reason to believe the federal government could do it half as cheap or effectively. And we don't another bureaucracy anyway.

Within two or three years at most, you could have a system where when somebody showed up, if they did not have absolute proof of being an American citizen, they had an ID card. The card could be quickly and easily verified 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The burden is on the government to make sure the card was accurate, and its not that hard to design cards that are very hard to counterfeit, especially if you include retinal scans or other biometrics. And you'll get a correct answer in only a minute, probably seconds. Do it.

3. Effectively living and working in America requires knowledge of the English Language. We must insist on a consistent standard for communication which applies to citizens and non-citizens alike. That means making English the official language of government and insisting new immigrants or 'Guest Workers' know, understand and can use the English language.

No special privileges. Our signs are in English. Our LAWS are written in English. The vast majority of American citizens speak English as their primary language. I don't care how many languages you speak, but a functional knowledge of English is required. You cannot expect to become a fully-functional participant of this country WITHOUT understanding the language. Deal with it.

4. Path to Citizenship - We must insist on patriotic assimilation for new immigrants by requiring they have a basic (e.g., 1960's 8-grade level) understanding of American history and its founding principles.

Just wanting a paycheck is not good enough. The American people are very much in favor of having people come to America to become Americans.

I like what Theodore Roosevelt said in 1907, “In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against such men because of creed or birthplace origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American and nothing but an American. There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American but something else also is not an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag. And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is the loyalty of the American people.”

Short form: Get rid of the hyphens. Celebrate your ancestral heritage all you want, just do it privately. By immigrating to this country, you have chosen to *BECOME* an American: DO IT. Otherwise, you're just visiting. Have a nice day and travel safely on your way back home.

Whew - I'm trying to wrap up this post, but one nasty topic is left....

We are going to be serious about controlling the border. Serious about getting the Rules of the Game straightened out. Building a Worker Visa Program that is real. Developing a system with functional background checks. And - most important - we are totally committed to making the whole thing enforceable at federal, state, local and private levels from Day One.

Having done all that, you are finally in the position to address dealing with the folks already here illegally. My proposal is painful, but I see no way around it.

Go Home.

You go home and you get the new card at home. You *only* get the card when you go home; no way to get a card while you stay here. If necessary, we'll help you get there. (Which should count against you if you try to come back, though.)... SORRY. Consider it a fresh start. Everybody deserves a chance to start over and do it Right. So - We *insist* that you start your experience of Life in America by obeying the law. We are a country based on the Rule of Law. EVERYBODY has a duty to obey the law. Start by accepting this founding principle of what America stands for and what this means: NO EXCEPTIONS.

“Well, how can you ask them to do that?” Those who say it is too great a burden to require somebody (who is here illegally) to actually go home and start over typically say doing that is imposing an unfair fine on those who can't pay: the amount of money required to go home. Hogwash. If I steal a loaf of bread because I'm hungry and have no money, it doesn't excuse the fact that I *STOLE* to do it. An individual's current economic condition is No Excuse for Breaking the Law. Period.

Besides, in relative terms, it is actually very cheap to go home. Consider: We are talking about people who managed to enter the US illegally, so we *know* they are able to travel. We are not uprooting somebody who was born in Kansas City and never left town and is frightened of waking up in Guatemala. We are saying, “You can go home legally. We are going to give you an express line right through TSA. You need to get a cheap airplane or you can take a bus. There are lots of options: grab five of your friends headed in the same direction and pile in a car. Start walking. Please travel safely. See you when you get back.” Yeah, there are details and some difficult situations - but they are the exception, not the rule (and no reason to avoid the issue).

Here's the key point - People should not expect that it is acceptable to participate in the benefits of life in the United States by breaking the law. Establishing some kind of phony con game to reward (and that's what it is) those who have obviously broken the law is flat-out WRONG. This country is based on the Rule of Law and its core principle is that the Law applies to EVERYONE. Deal with it.

Now, I’m not suggesting we run around looking for reasons to expel anyone. I don't think that is a sustainable policy. In some respects it's anti-human, and I see little to be accomplished by getting into fights where you say, “We are going to pick up somebody in the middle of mowing a yard or loading a truck and try to deport them.” But I also don't see how blindly condoning willful law-breaking, regardless of the emotional reason or sob-story behind it, can ultimately lead to a lawful outcome. It strikes me as in the long run as unwise and inappropriate.

Remember: My key point is this: Dealing with those who are already here illegally is NOT issue #1. We're dealing with human beings, not locusts. We *must* fix the environment (e.g., the fence, economic incentives to break the law) and fix the process (e.g., id cards, guest worker visa, path to citizenship) *BEFORE* tackling what to do about the swarm that made it in the door which shouldn't have been open in the first place. I believe if you have a simple & effective program which provides an effective mechanism to enable those who desire to come, work and live in this country to do so honestly - and operating within the law - you are not going to have those kinds of problems in large numbers.

There. It's a start. Is it complete? No. Are there a lot of details remaining? Sure. At least I got started... I just want to try and reach an agreement on building the foundation for the house, and making sure its solid, before we worry about interior paint colors.

- Steve

Ain't Logic Grand?


Read the line before that.

When your car stops running and sounds like a cement mixer, who would you rather rely on for advice, a master mechanic or a pastry chef? When your air conditioner stops cooling, who do you want to fix it, an HVAC tech or a hair dresser? And when, heaven forbid, you wake up with an awful pain in your chest, who do you call, a doctor or a masseuse?

Now I have nothing but respect for the pastry chef, the hair dresser and the masseuse. But for the same reason I wouldn't visit a service station for brioche aux sucre, I don't rely on political hacks to judge the state of climate science for me.

And when you are counting noses, a lot depends on whose noses you are counting. CERN built the Large Hadron Collider at a cost of around 9 billion dollars on the advice of experts in a science not one man in a thousand understands. Yet the Europeans rose to the challenge and built it. At the same time, the Superconducting Super Collider, an American instrument which would have tripled the power of the LHC, wastes away less than half completed and overcome by weeds in a field in Texas.

Since when did it become de riguer for Americans to throw up their hands and turn away from a challenge because it is simply too large and complicated? That "the feeble actions of mankind" are not equal to "another misguided attempt to wrest away control of things which are clearly beyond our ability to manage..."?

What utter humbug that is! Steve, throughout our history as a nation, we are the people who have taught the rest of the world that no challenge is so daunting that we should not roll up our sleeves and get down to the dreadful business of overcoming it. Have we become too jealous of our own temporary comfort to undertake the risks required to solve the problems the future presents us with? Maybe we are just too tired, and would rather some other nation solve them for us.

And as for this conspiracy of yours, thus far 3 bipartisan boards of review have now examined the hacked CRU mails and interviewed the relevant witnesses and experts. All three panels have concluded that while Phil Jones, his associates and staff may have been guilty of relatively minor lapses in judgement, no serious wrong doing occurred and the science they have been pursuing is sound. You should have no trouble locating their reports online. Now if they had called for the same criminal indictments you did, I assume you would conclude their investigation was fair and balanced. But since they have not, I'll leave it to you to claim it was a cover-up.

Steve, that's the problem with conspiracy theories - especially bad ones. By their rules, no outcome of any investigation disproves the allegation. If the investigation agrees with the conclusions of the theorist, it must be accurate. But if it disagrees, why then, it must be a cover-up. This is the kind of thinking which takes us right through the looking glass and into Wonderland - where nothing is as it seems and everyone is out to get us.

I've said it before and it bears repeating. This country runs on fossil fuels, which have provided us all with a standard of living most people in the rest of the world can only dream of. You could even say with absolute conviction that 99.9% of our marvelous technological advances would not have been possible if someone, somewhere, had not burnt a few tons of coal or barrels of oil. Neither do I have anything but admiration for the skilled men and women who have combed the world over for new deposits of this diminishing resource. Instead of begrudging them their millions in profits, we ought to be thanking them. I mean, who really cares how much they made so long as they continued to provide us with an abundance of cheap energy? (a mia culpa: yes, I own stock in energy companies)

Now is not the time to demonize this vital industry. Why not consider it to be the necessary source of innovation and investment which will be required for us to get on to the next generation of clean energy? Steve, there are enormous potential rewards possible here those companies willing to accept the challenge and move forward. I don't see why government and private enterprise cannot act as responsible partners in this endeavor. Sooner or later, one way or another, the easy way or the hard way, its going to happen.

Its already happening overseas.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Prozac visions

From wikipedia:

"Appeal to authority is a fallacy of defective induction, where it is argued that a statement is correct because the statement is made by a person or source that is commonly regarded as authoritative. The most general structure of this argument is:

1. Source A says that p is true.
2. Source A is authoritative.
3. Therefore, p is true.

This is a fallacy because the truth or falsity of the claim is not necessarily related to the personal qualities of the claimant, and because the premises can be true, and the conclusion false (an authoritative claim can turn out to be false).

On the other hand, arguments from authority are an important part of informal logic. Since we cannot have expert knowledge of many subjects, we often rely on the judgments of those who do. There is no fallacy involved in simply arguing that the assertion made by an authority is true. The fallacy only arises when it is claimed or implied that the authority is infallible in principle and can hence be exempted from criticism."

Read that last line again - Short form:
Counting noses does not establish a particular belief as FACT.

Compare the level and quantity of research between AGW claims and when 'cold fusion' was claimed by Pons and Flieschmann. Thousands of researchers tried to DUPLICATE the results and failed, which discredited the theory. That's the way things are supposed to work. IMHO, that's not happening with AGW.

Whenever AGW has been challenged - and there *ARE* legitimate scientific questions that have been raised - using an appeal to authority as ultimate vindication is both absurd and irresponsible. It only takes ONE discrepancy to bring the basis of a theory into question. More than enough legitimate questions have been raised about AGW. (Ex: the missing "hotspot", assumptions about cloud effects, accuracy of temperature readings, solar cycle impact, etc.)

Again - I'm not challenging the concept of climate change: things get hotter and colder from time to time - established historical records PROVE that. There is NOT proof the results from man-made actions (i.e., producing CO2) are the TRIGGER (or 'tipping point') for the entire process. There are far more indications that OTHER processes have a much greater impact on the system as a whole. And those processes are COMPLETELY outside human control.

Does that mean we shouldn't pursue alternative energy? Of course not. Do we need to immediately turn the world economy upside-down to effectively pursue energy alternatives? NO.

All I'm saying is let's get the politics out of the way and let Science do its job. That means when you theorize, it *must* followed by test, test, test to DISPROVE (not confirm). And that means you test the validity of data you're using, too. When we *know* enough about Real causes and effects, we can figure out what to do. Then try it, measure the results, adjust, test again, etc. When we can accurately measure the results to insure we achieve the desired outcome - THEN we'll be able to develop a plan of action. If needed.

Let me say that I agree 100% with your statement that AMERICAN ingenuity has the capability to solve many problems. We've been pretty good at it. But let's tackle the problem (CO2) *after* we prove it exists.

As for going after energy alternatives - we're already working on that, and we need to work harder. Not because of some misguided desire to prove we puny humans can affect (control) the environment... Not to support the self-serving objectives of political power brokers... But because access to cheap, plentiful energy is the only proven economic engine which can raise the standard of living (and long-term survival) for our species.

- Steve

Hand Me The Prozac


With all due respect, this fantasy world of yours is growing more preposterous by the day.

It literally baffles me how a rational man with virtually unlimited access to information can persist in believing these bizarre distortions of fact promoted by a fringe group of unqualified amateurs, shallow pundits and political hacks. You need to wake up and smell the methane, my friend.

Just about every major university in this country (and many more internationally) involved in research on climate change has a web site with copious information on the state of the science, not to mention bios of the scientists involved, usually with helpful links to papers and reports on the research they are undertaking. In a single afternoon you can sort through the work of hundreds of well qualified scientists. This is not to mention the information available to you at the NOAA, NASA, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and The National Science Foundation.

Yet, with all this marvelous information available at your fingertips, you unquestioningly rely on shoddily researched and poorly documented tracts by the likes of Anthony Watts, Steve McIntyre and JoAnne Nova - none of whom have a degree in atmospheric science. As H.L. Menken once wrote, it is as if a man, confronted by a banquet, should turn his back and stay his hunger by catching and eating flies.

And what supports this behavior? A vast, ever widening conspiracy which involves nearly every qualified climate scientist on Earth. In your world, they're all just a pack of unprincipled opportunists - who would say anything to keep their jobs and paychecks. I reject that idea utterly.

The real casualty here in this pointless debate is the public's loss of faith in their institutions of science and the scientists who have dedicated their lives to understanding the world around us. This is something we cannot afford, especially now. For years, this country has been at the forefront of scientific research. But the rest of he world has already caught up with us. In the years to come, we're going to be facing important challenges and will need a healthy and vigorous scientific establishment to overcome them. But this isn't going to happen so long as the public has been conditioned to distrust, even despise scientists merely for saying things they don't want to hear.

A few posts back I wrote about the "BEE" episode, where a group in Colorado petitioned the local school board to offer an "anti-global warming" course. The course was prepared by one Lene Johansen, who, it turned out, has no college degree of any kind - who in fact, was a college drop-out - from a school of journalism no less. Are you seriously arguing that this is the kind of person you want teaching our kids about science? Have you lost your marbles? To me, this pretty much encapsulates the direction this whole anti-science debate is taking us. The moment we begin to promote scientific dilettantes to positions of authority is the moment we have lost our way, and from now on can just sit on the sidelines and watch as the rest of the world passes us by.

This year, China will become the world leader in the manufacture of wind power equipment, and I doubt if they like Al Gore in China any better than you do. All across the world, in places as diverse and dissimilar as Spain and Japan, countries are making substantial investments in the next generation of clean power technology. But here we sit - denying the consensus conclusions of qualified scientists in favor of the opinions of unqualified hacks - and unable to take even the first, relatively painless steps to lessen our reliance on a diminishing resource which pollutes the planet.

Steve, I'm old enough to remember the day when American solutions to technical challenges were considered to be synonymous with boldness and innovation. Have we become so timid and feeble as a nation that we will listen to anyone, no matter how bumptious or naive, who tells us we can continue to do things as we always have and the problems of the future will solve themselves?


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Real World problems with AGW (in a Nutshell)

Here's a few issues to be concerned about as far as AGW goes... which have little or nothing to do with the science behind the theory.

1. The public at large really doesn't care. They have other things they are MUCH more worried about. If you had a straight Yes/No poll among the public to “do anything and everything to reduce CO2 levels even though it may cost jobs and drive prices up”, there's not much question about what the answer would be. Whether they believe in the AGW theory or not: they understand unemployment and things that directly impact their pocketbook TODAY. The political establishment has spent decades teaching folks to only worry about today and let tomorrow take care of itself; don't expect all that training to be cast aside over what maya happen in 100 years, if ever.

2. Many - especially in the 'educated' classes - believe 'science' has settled the matter. (It hasn't.) Many think there is a 'consensus', and the consensus can't be wrong. (It can.) It is clear the integrity of the research process has been severely compromised by individuals with personal agendas, e.g., Jones, Mann, et. al. Sweeping that fact under the rug will not make things Right, or make the problems go away, and it doesn't prove anyone's scientific opinion, either. Too many have a vested interest in saying or doing ANYTHING to be considered 'correct' - which means the Pursuit of Knowledge and Truth is an intentional casualty in this conflict.

3. There is a LOT of political power at stake. Any option that places power and control over people in the hands of government bureaucrats is going to get a lot of attention by those (self-serving) bureaucrats. Nature of the beast. Cap and trade and similar political vehicles are not dead and their objective is NOT to 'solve a climate problem', but to acquire political economic power and control. Period.

4. There are BILLIONS at stake in this "scientific" controversy. But it's not about science any more. The stakes are too high. Grants, careers and reputations are on the line. And its blindingly obvious that enormous fortunes - personal and corporate - are within reach. Somewhere in the middle are the (very large) "non-profit corporations" that pay very large salaries to their executives and staff. The $Golden Rule$ is still functioning.

5. The once-separate entities of “Scientific Inquiry” and “Political Policy”, at least on this issue, have become hopelessly intertwined. It will be difficult - if not impossible - to separate them. A Gordian solution is needed, but that's the last thing anyone seems to want. A truly independent and dispassionate observer can and should ask serious questions about (a) the conduct of researchers attached to AGW research and the peer-review process, (b) whether or not appropriate steps are being taken to improve the quality, accuracy and availability of Real World observations to researchers of all stripes, (c) determining if researchers are systematically trying to obtain accurate data with repeatable results to clarify the known uncertainties in the theory, (d) whether or not there exists *any* organized and DISINTERESTED mechanism to help guide and direct research into all aspects of the AGW theory. (Unfortunately, the answer to all those questions is: NO.)

**sigh** How “Science” gets out of this mess is not clear. What is known is that it won't be easy. It's been proven allowing Politics to be the driving force will only make the problem worse. (Politics doesn't care about Science, unless it supports political goals and agendas.) Trusting the folks with the most to gain - on either side - doesn't seem like the way to go, but what better option is there? Ouch.

...A cynical comment - I went to elementary school in the 1960's. In the fourth/fifth grade, I was taught the Vikings named Nova Scotia "Vinland" for predominately ecological and climate-based reasons. That single fact, by itself, casts significant doubt about the CO2 cause/effect climate cycles which are critical to the AGW theory, i.e., it's been warm before and people burning fossil fuels had little to do with it. But, then, schools don't teach that particular point about the Viking migrations anymore... Funny how those facts which get in the way of particular agendas seem to fade into the background when they become “inconvenient”, isn't it?

Sorry. No quick solutions and no easy answers here...

The over-whelming desire to Do Something (anything!) is born in the (mistaken) belief that the feeble actions of mankind are the predominate moving force driving the universe. Such must be so, otherwise our importance in the Grand Scheme of things is much smaller than we would like it to be... and what our egos demand. It's become less a matter of understanding the world and universe around us (with a proper dose of awe and wonder at its inherent beauty), as much as it is yet-another misguided attempt to wrest away control of things which are clearly beyond our ability to manage.

As for our continuing attempts to influence (e.g., control) planetary climate... we know so little with certainty that Doing something may prove to be worse than doing nothing at all.

- Steve

Friday, July 16, 2010

Go Pirates!


If you want to understand American politics, go to a baseball game.

This year, the Pittsburgh Pirates are going nowhere fast. At the All Star break they were 18 games out of first place in the National League Central, with virtually no hope of contending for a play-off spot or even getting to .500.

Which is worse than last year. Last year Pittsburgh finished the season 28 games out of first place in their division, and with a record of 62 wins and 99 losses, the second to the worst team in all of baseball. This year they're well on pace to be the worst.

But attendance is up. This time last year Pittsburgh was averaging around 18,500 per home game. This year the average is a little over 20,000. Which is kind of weird, considering that if you attend any Pirate ball game, the odds are 2 to 1 you are going to see them lose.

How much is it going to cost you to see the Pirates lose? Glad you asked. Well, say you're a family man with a wife and two kids. Now you can get in the park for as little as 9 bucks for a seat in the outfield bleachers. But its going to cost you more like 24 bucks for a decent view of the game. So you get your tickets, go to the game, pay for parking, buy everyone some popcorn and a coke (OK, you can have a beer, Steve) and a couple of souvenirs. By the time you get home your tab could easily come to over $150.00. Something like 40 bucks each.

Which is crazy, especially when you consider that last year, with the Pirates at dead last in their division, almost 17,000 people paid that kind of money to watch the meaningless final game at home. Yeah, the Reds beat 'em 6 to nothing.

Why? Harry Caray, probably one of the greatest baseball announcers ever, was fond of saying: "Ahhh, 'ya can't beat fun at the old ball park...". Which is to say lots of people just really like the game and getting out of the house for a few hours. But for my money that's only half the equation. The other half is that when they adopt a team, true sports fans stick with it no matter what.

I grew up a Cubs fan, during a time when the Cubs were such consistent losers that being a die hard Cubs fan entered the national psyche through songs, plays and stories, and became the virtual definition of perseverance. So I guess I can understand why a Pirate fan would drag his wife and kids out and pay 150 bucks to see the Pirates lose. What he's doing is teaching them the ethics and honor of being a true fan.

People brought up like this don't give up on the team - not ever. And by the same token, they have a natural, ingrained contempt for the fair weather fan. You know who I'm talking about. Every time some team in any sport makes a run at a national championship, their jerseys, hats and bumper stickers seem to sprout up like mushrooms. And you think, "What a jerk. Last year he didn't even know who Alabama was. This year he's wearing 200 dollars worth of team apparel - not to mention the "Roll Tide" license plate on everything he owns - including his riding mower.".

Years ago the Dallas Cowboys billed themselves as "America's Team", which went over like a lead balloon. They were clean, wholesome, played fair, almost always won and had the best looking cheerleaders. But really, this just made America mad. We don't like being told who our team ought to be. We'll pick our own teams, thank you. And we don't care if they play dirty, lose all the time and have cheerleaders that make Rosie O'Donnell look like Eva Longoria.

The Pittsburgh Pirate roster consists of 40 men, many of whom make more in one season than most of their fans will earn in a lifetime. Next year, a few of them might become free agents, and move on to the highest bidder. But while they're Pirates, while they're wearing the Pirate uniform, they are the hero's fighting it out on a field, not just for their success, but ours too. In a larger sense, our investment of loyalty in them defines their role in our lives - which is our struggle in life itself, played out by proxy among 18 men on a ball field.

As Americans, we live in a country of astounding wealth, both natural and man made. Steve, when I flush the toilet I've used and disposed of clean water, the likes of which over half the rest of the world has to walk for miles and then wait in line to obtain. I probably throw away enough food to feed an entire family living in the Third World. If I'm hot, I turn the thermostat down - even though I may be the only person in the house. I don't worry if my home is "close to" anywhere... I've got a car which brings everything close to me. Despite all this, I don't consider myself a wealthy man.

Sure, poverty really does exist in this country. But when measured against the rest of the world, poverty for us is like a mild heat rash compared to polio. More people starve to death in the Third World than go without a couple of meals here in America.

I believe it is this embarrassment of riches which has allowed us over the years to treat politics like one big baseball game. If we are really honest about it, we have been acting more like sports fans than conscientious citizens - and that, I fear, includes you and me Steve.

For most, our political leaders have become mere proxies for us in our own struggles to succeed in life. We want them to be right and to win for the same reasons we want the Pirates to beat the Reds. Yeah, sure, we say we measure them by the potency of their ideas, their honesty or character - but in the end, all that really matters is the "R" or the "D".

And we stick with our team no matter what. Their guy commits some act of idiocy or hypocrisy and we are filled with revulsion. Our guy does the same thing and we hardly notice. In the back of our minds we think, "Sure, he's a jerk - but at least he's a Democrat...". He's on our team. He may be a complete moron and a self serving, ideological robot to boot, but when it comes time to vote, he votes for our side.

We've had the luxury of treating politics like sports so far because with so much wealth to go around, its been next to impossible for government to really screw things up. However I fear that era is rapidly coming to a close. Now is the time we need to start electing men and women to positions of leadership based on intelligence, character and honesty. We need people who can change their minds, people with the ability to grow and learn from their mistakes. Above all, we need people with the most precious talent of all - that is, the courage to tell the American public the truth instead of what it wants to hear.

Steve, we're not going to get those people any time soon. We're not going to get them because Failure, the mightiest teacher of all, has yet to drag the American public through the inevitable consequences of its thoughtlessness. I believe America emerged from the last great depression a stronger nation, which collectively rolled up its sleeves and got down to the business of restoring prosperity the hard way, with backbone, hard work and little tolerance for fools. Well maybe that lesson has been lost in these modern times, and we're just going to have to learn it all over again.

One thing I'm certain of though is this: When we hit the wall, you're going to think it was the liberals who got us there and I'm going to think it was the conservatives.

And you know what? We'll both be wrong.



Thursday, July 15, 2010

Inflation and the Fall of the Roman Empire

An *incredibly* good article on economics - with a focus on the impact (short-term and long-term) of government decree - can be found here.

It opens with an interesting observation:

"...the wonder was not that the Roman Empire had fallen, but rather that it had lasted so long...."

For the purposes of this blog, application of the article to modern times is left as an exercise for the student. No doubt, different people will see different lessons to be learned, but I think the key point is in the last paragraph:

"...In other words, the Roman state was the enemy; the barbarians were the liberators..."

A most fascinating read. Enjoy.

- Steve

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What Happened While I Was Gone?


Reading your comment on my last post, I sort of feel like the guy who had to go during a meeting, but then suddenly realized a lot of really important stuff must have went on while he was in the john. I mean, what did I miss?

You say securing the borders is the ultimate, numero uno, tippity top priority - and I've already conceded that. What do you want me to do, write it across the sky in letters of fire? By all means, lets do. Lets build a wall a mile high and a hundred feet thick, with moats, guard dogs, high powered rifles and loud speakers blaring BeeGee recordings 24/7.

You say a fence is the cornerstone of immigration reform. Okee ka-dokee, sign me up! I've already said it won't work, but maybe there are some fence guys out there who are a lot better than the guys who have been failing at this for the last 4,000 years. You know, the Great Wall guys, the Hadrian's Wall guys, the Maginot Line guys - those guys. But pay attention here. Try to get a mental picture of me cupping my hands around my mouth and yelling, "I don't disagree with the principle that nations have a right to secure borders".

I don't disagree with the principle that nations have a right to secure borders. There, I said it twice - along with the two other times I said it in my previous posts, that makes four. Wanna' go for five?

Picture a world in which we are beyond the question of the fence. In this world, we move on to the next step. Like this:

A: We have a fence.
B: What do we do now?

I'm giving you A. So stop complaining and get on with B. For starters, you can tell me why "CIRA was a crock". And please, don't tell me you've already unpacked that issue. You haven't. And besides, by your own rules, you claim we shouldn't be talking about the next step until we agree on the first. Have you been breaking your own rules?


Saturday, July 10, 2010

More on Immigration


Back to business...

I read a revealing article a couple of days ago in the NYT: " Illegal Workers Swept From Jobs in "Silent Raids" ".

To summarize:

In contrast to the Bush administration, which favored raids by several agents on targeted businesses to round up illegals, the Obama administration is pursuing a policy of "silent raids", where one or two agents audit payrolls and levy fines based on the hiring of illegals. Practices under Bush usually resulted in deportations - under Obama they result in the firing of all illegals working at a given business.

Typically, Republicans have been critical of this new practice, since the end result hasn't produced nearly as many deportations. But that's just politics. According to the article:

"Employers say the audits reach more companies than the work-site roundups of the administration of President George W. Bush. The audits force businesses to fire every suspected illegal immigrant on the payroll— not just those who happened to be on duty at the time of a raid — and make it much harder to hire other unauthorized workers as replacements. Auditing is “a far more effective enforcement tool,” said Mike Gempler, executive director of the Washington Growers League, which includes many worried fruit growers."

Now my point here is not to argue the relative effectiveness of one strategy over the other, but to take a look at what happens in the aftermath of a silent raid. Sorry for the long excerpts, but they are instructive:

"In April, Michel Malecot, the chef of a popular bakery in San Diego, was indicted on 12 criminal counts of harboring illegal immigrants. The government is seeking to seize his bakery. He has pleaded not guilty. In Maryland, the owner of two restaurants, George Anagnostou, pleaded guilty last month to criminal charges of harboring at least 24 illegal immigrants. He agreed to forfeit more than $734,000.

But the firings at Gebbers Farms shocked this village of orchard laborers (population 2,100) by the Columbia River among sere brown foothills in eastern Washington. Six months after the firings, the silence still prevails, with both the company and the illegal immigrants reluctant to discuss them...

"The Gebbers packing house is the center of this company town, amid more than 5,000 acres of well-tended orchards, where the lingua franca is Spanish. Officials said public school enrollment is more than 90 percent Hispanic.

"Throughout last year, ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) auditors examined forms known as I-9’s, which all new hires in the country must fill out. ICE then advised Gebbers Farms of Social Security and immigration numbers that did not check out with federal databases.

Just before Christmas, managers summoned the workers in groups. In often emotional exchanges, managers immediately fired those without valid documents...

"Many workers lived in houses they rented from the company; they were given three months to move out. In Brewster, truck payments stopped, televisions were returned, mobile homes were sold, mortgages defaulted.

Many immigrants purchased new false documents and went looking for jobs in more distant orchards, former Gebbers Farms workers said. But the word is out among growers in the region to avoid hiring immigrants from the company because ICE knows they are unauthorized...

"After the firings, Gebbers Farms advertised hundreds of jobs for orchard workers. But there were few takers in the state.

“Show me one American —just one — climbing a picker’s ladder,” said MarĂ­a Cervantes, 33, a former Gebbers Farms worker from Mexico who gave her name because she was recently approved as a legal immigrant...

"After completing a federally mandated local labor search, Gebbers Farms applied to the federal guest worker program to import about 1,200 legal temporary workers — most from Mexico. The guest workers, who can stay for up to six months, also included about 300 from Jamaica. (my emphasis)

“They are bringing people from outside,” Ms. Cervantes said, perplexed. “What will happen to those of us who are already here?”

Now let's break this down. ICE raids Gebber Farms, Gebber Farms fires illegals, advertises 1200 job openings, can't find Americans to fill them, and finally has to go to Mexico and Jamaica to bring in "guest workers".

Now this would almost be comical if the results in human terms weren't so tragic. At Gebber Farms at least, the government effectively freed up 1200 of the kind of jobs illegals are always accused of stealing from Americans - but as it turns out, Americans don't want them! So now Gebber Farms is back to square one. Well, maybe not even that - call it square minus one - since even menial jobs like this require some experience - and Gebber is going to have to deal with lower production rates - year after year - as each new batch of guest workers is brought up to speed.

And this makes you think: what exactly is the kind of job an illegal will assume that a typical American will not?

Pay attention here Steve. I'm not going to turn this into some morality piece which contrasts hard working illegals against snobish, pampered citizens. But on the other hand, I do think simple economics is at the core of the issue of illegal immigration. You can talk all you want about building fences, but until you understand and address the economics, you aren't going to ever come up with an effective solution. Let's start with your's...

Let's say that by some amazing miracle, tomorrow we build a bullet proof fence at the border (we both know which one). Then, by some other miracle, 15 million or so illegals voluntarily turn themselves in - to be sent back to their home countries and "the back of the line" of those waiting to immigrate legally. Here's how that conversation goes:

Agent: Great news Joe, we fixed immigration!

Joe: Oh yeah? Tell me more...

Agent: Well, all you have to do now is turn yourself in and we send you back to Mexico.

Joe: Er, how is that different?

Agent: Well Joe they've got a line down there now and you can get in it buddy.

Joe: Sounds great. Say, let me get back with you on that. I've got a cake in the oven...

So now we have our fence and all the illegals have been cleared out. What then? Well if Gebber Farms is any indication, and I believe it is, all those job openings which magically appear are going to go unfilled. And not just because these jobs are defined by hard work and low pay, but because many more like them are seasonal and temporary, with virtually no benefits or opportunity for advancement - in other words, the little cracks and crannies of any job market.

So who wins? Certainly not the guys who lost their jobs at Gebber, or for that matter, Gebber Farms itself. Neither did the American public, which despite record unemployment, can't seem to bring itself to climb a ladder and pick apples.

So to solve the problem - once again, the economic problem, we're going to have to invite 15 million foreign nationals back into the country as "guest workers". That solution by the way has been tried before, and it didn't work.

I come from farming country back in Indiana, where one of the major cash crops has always been tomatoes. Growing up, I can remember picking season, and all the thousands of Mexican "pickers" who came through year after year. You can still drive through some parts of Grant County and see many of the compounds of little 15 or 20 foot square shacks which housed them. Anyway, these picker crews were operated by companies in Mexico who contracted with big farms and followed the harvest across the country, busing workers North and South. Not surprisingly, the labor companies got the biggest share of the money, and life for a picker was incredibly hard. They lived in sub standard housing, sometimes without running water or even electricity. They worked incredibly long hours - sun up til sun down - with few or no breaks. Time after time, year after year, I can remember driving by the fields and seeing them out in the sun, usually with their poor kids playing (or more commonly, picking) at their sides. I guess we became a little desensitized to it - but in retrospect, it really looked no different than cotton fields must have looked like back before the Civil War.

Now I don't think this country has the moral insensitivity to return to that kind of arrangement. So, to maintain the viability of a guest worker program, laws would have to be passed which would ensure clean living conditions, minimum wages and benefits, and access to rudimentary health care. You think I'm kidding? Think it through, Steve. Are you, a relatively staunch conservative, willing to advocate a guest worker program which results in fifteen million foreign laborers being treated as little more than slaves? And even if you are, through some outrageous convolution of morality, how long do you think it would be before such a system would buttress American industry with a more or less permanent class of slaves?

But once again, if you pass the necessary wage, hour and benefit laws regarding a guest worker program, all you are really doing is raising the price of labor - and handicapping it with several obvious disadvantages. Companies like Gebber Farms would probably wind up paying more for less. Less that is, than before the ICE auditors came in and cleaned out the illegals. Let's wrap this up.

Here's a better plan - one by the way which probably has no more chance of getting enacted in today's poisonous political climate than any other rational plan.

Let's say the ICE auditors go to Gebber Farms and identify 1200 illegals on the payroll. Then, instead of being forced to fire them, Gebber is allowed to enroll these people in the sort of path to citizenship envisioned by CIRA. In return for being allowed to become citizens, these people agree to background checks, the economic reality of paying fines (actually, fees) to support the program, back taxes (if any are owed), and a defined probation period during which they pay into funds like Social Security and FICA with graduated vesting.

I think this kind of plan would work. Furthermore, I think Gebber farms and their employees would be all for it. Gebber Farms gets to keep what had become an effective work force and the (now former) illegals get to raise their families in the peaceful pursuit of the American Dream - just like the rest of us.

Oh and by the way, who loses? Certainly not the 1200 non-existent Americans who didn't want the jobs in the first place. Not the local businesses which benefited from sales to a more or less permanent community. And finally, not you or me, who in the long run are going to pay less for apples - if they come from Gebber Farms that is.

Now you can talk about legal principles all you want. But this to me is the issue where the concept of what works and what doesn't is where the real action is. Go - build your fence. And when you're done, come back here and start working on the real problem.




Friday, July 9, 2010

Pork ala Christophe


I assure you I'm raring to go on this illegal immigration thing. By coincidence, I received a robo- call from some Republican running for a minor post in Paulding County, and by George, the whole call from start to finish was about what this dude was planning to do about - well, you guessed it - illegal immigration: the "Crisis du Jour" which has Republicans wetting their pants hither and yon. Now I won't deny illegal immigration is a problem - but why all of a sudden are Republicans running around with their heads on fire over it? I'll tell you why - but later. Right now I have something far more important to talk about. I call it,

Pork, ala Christophe
Now its a well known fact that ever since some caveman accidentally left a hunk of mastodon steak out in the sun for a few days, men have loved jerky. Beef jerky, buffalo jerky, heck, any-meat-that-can-be-dried-out-and-eaten jerky. As a matter of fact, when they see any creature that walks, crawls, swims, soars, slithers, limps, creeps, squirms, paddles or wades - in, on or above the Earth - most men think of how they can turn it into jerky.
That said, have you seen the price of jerky lately? Steve, its the most expensive thing in the grocery store! We could all dine on Kumamoto at Le Bernadin in New York City for less. WalMart sells a dinky bag of floor sweepings for around 4 bucks each - I think they're made of rubber. The really good stuff sells for 8 or 9 dollars for a two mouth-full bag.
But thanks to a fantastic new discovery from the kitchens of Chef Christophe (me), our troubles are over! "Pork ala Christophe" is the same thing to store bought jerky as methadone is to heroin... only better. Pay attention now.
First, go to the store and buy some really nice pork loin (currently selling at around 2 bucks a pound), and have it cut up into one inch steaks. Then go back home and cut the steaks up into 1/8" strips - like little pieces of bacon:

As you can see, Chef Christoph is also preparing "Flat Iron Steak ala Christophe". Anyway, once you get your strips cut up - douse them in chili powder, like this:

Mmmmm..., doesn't that look scrumpdilyishous! Now, get your frying pan out and fill 'er up with canola oil. Then toss these little strips of heavenly goodness into the oil!

Let 'em cook down a ways. Buddy, you can't screw this up. The pork strip's gooses are cooked pretty much from the time they hit the oil anyway (or is that "geese's are cooked?), so just pop a top on a Bud Lite and by the time you're half way through they will probably be done. Then, let them drain on a convenient paper towel:

The last step is kind of optional. I put my Pork (strips) ala Christophe up in the fridge for a few hours - this sort of dries them out a little and makes them tastier. But if you've had enough beers while you are making them you probably will have eaten the whole day's production by the time you get to the fridge step anyway. So don't worry.

Steve, if you love jerky - and I know you do - these guys taste way better. Make some buddy, and in no time you will find yourself strolling into WalMart and telling them to stick their four dollar bags of dried guano where the air is always yucky and the sun never shines.
You can thank me later...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


You may want to lie down after I say this...

Illegal immigration is at best a modest problem which has been cynically re-manufactured into a national crisis by extremists on the right wing fringe, with fabricated statistics, xenophobic rhetoric and contemptible lies.

A path to a perfectly rational, practical, humane solution to this modest problem is easily within reach. But we aren't going to take that path as a nation because at the end of the day, the extremists aren't really looking for solutions. And most Republicans in Congress, terrified of losing their jobs to candidates on the far right, are going along with this whole, pathetic charade.

There. Take a couple of ibuprofen, lie down for a few minutes and maybe the room will stop spinning.

In a June 26th interview, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer pretty much summed up the course of the right wing hysteria:

"Well, we all know that the majority of the people that are coming to Arizona and trespassing are now becoming drug mules," Brewer said. "They're coming across our borders in huge numbers. The drug cartels have taken control of the immigration.

"So they are criminals. They're breaking the law when they are trespassing and they're criminals when they pack the marijuana and the drugs on their backs." (my emphasis)

Listen Steve, every nation has a right to secure borders and reasonable laws governing citizenship and immigration. But, once and for all, we're not being overrun by a horde of illegals who are just coming here to sell drugs, steal our jobs and rape our women. So long as we have people in positions of leadership poisoning the well with that kind of inflammatory rhetoric - rational solutions are virtually impossible.

Now what is happening, and has been happening since I was a kid, is that we are experiencing a steady stream of illegals, largely from Central America, and nearly all of whom are just coming here to work hard and build a better life for themselves. Unlike Americans, they aren't covered by the same workplace rules we take for granted. If they get injured on the job, or get sick and can't work, tuff noogies. If they get assaulted or are victims of theft, they can't report it. Studies have shown they pay far more in taxes than the value of services they will ever get back.

Furthermore, the border between the United States and Mexico really is safer than it has been in years. From the Dallas News:

"The top four big cities in America with the lowest rates of violent crime are all in border states: Austin, El Paso, Phoenix and San Diego , according to a new FBI report. And a U.S. Customs and Border Protection report shows that Border Patrol agents face far less danger than street cops in most U.S. cities.

The Customs and Border Protection study, obtained with a Freedom of Information Act request, shows that 3 percent of Border Patrol agents and officers were assaulted last year, mostly when assailants threw rocks at them.

That compares with 11 percent of police officers and sheriff's deputies assaulted during the same period, usually with guns or knives.

In addition, violent attacks against agents declined in 2009 along most of the U.S-Mexican border for the first time in seven years."

In this context, the context that is of the real world, "amnesty" is a whole lot less frightening a term. I believe I've said before here on this very blog that one of the better pieces of legislation to reach Congress during the Bush Administration was The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006. As you know, it proposed amnesty for the roughly 12 to 20 million illegals residing in this country, as well as a tough but fair path to to citizenship. Among its co-sponsors were Republican heavy weights Hagel, McCain, Graham and Brownback. It passed in the Senate but not the House, and since then the 22 Republican Senators who voted for it have been repeatedly hung out to dry in hundreds of viral e-mails.

From a 2007 NYT article:

"Polls show that most Americans would let illegal immigrants get right with the law and become Americans, too, if they have clean records, learn English and pay back taxes and fines. Weighed against keeping the shadowy status quo or deporting 12 million people, a citizenship path strikes them as a proper blend of justice and common sense. Last year’s stalled Senate bill took this approach, and it will surely be central to any new legislation.

But the idea sticks in the craws of the members of a vocal, mostly Republican faction that wants every door to opportunity for illegal immigrants shut and locked, except the one marked “guest workers.” Those they would keep because they don’t mind having an underclass of docile, ill-paid foreigners who do America’s dirtiest jobs and then go home." (again, my emphasis)

Steve, frankly, the American Way Of Life (if it ever really existed) of quiet, tree lined streets, sidewalks, and every house owned by a Ward and June Cleaver, is gone for good and there is no way we'll ever get it back. Hispanics aren't like you and me. First of all they're, well, Hispanic. They speak Spanish and most of the new arrivals among them come from radically different backgrounds than yours and mine. So what? They want a piece of the American Dream just like you and me. I say let them have a crack at it.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Do we really have an immigration policy?

(Just to have post returning to political thoughts...)

I've opined in this blog on the immigration issue previously. I admit it is an exceptionally complex issue. There are No easy answers. It is so very easy to spout off generalities and platitudes (guilty as charged!).

That said, I could not help but notice that our Southern border is now MORE secure than any time in the last 20 or so years. I know this true because the President said so, and he wouldn't lie (would he?). He certainly *must* have access to the relevant data that would support such a claim... But, I also note that there exist particular sections of the Arizona border where U.S. government actually warns American citizens they are not safe and should avoid these areas. Worse, there was there was a recent gang war shoot-out, killing many people, not far from that so-called "safe and secure southern border" the President was talking about... Hmmm. Does the left hand know what the Right hand knows?

In the midst of all this, the remedy, according to the President, is amnesty - although he uses different labels for that process; apparently believing if we change the tag, we change what it is: pure foolishness, yet again. *sigh* I'm not sure why we should worry about amnesty, since the border itself is becoming increasingly safer and safer, but I digress.

The President goes further and says the reason our immigration policy is "broken" (its not working?) is because of... Republican opposition. It seems the current Democratic majorities in both houses are "not quite large enough". Therefore, according to the President, it is the duty of the Republicans to reach across the aisle and cooperate (translation: do it OUR way) on comprehensive immigration reform (whatever that is). I suppose that since the borders are already safe and secure, this should all be reasonable and very easy --- if it weren't for those petty, childish, disgruntled and nasty, (racist?) Republicans.

Meanwhile, back here in the Real World (called by some the United States), poll after poll shows that about 70% of the population WANT border fences, and they want them NOW. Given that there is also considerable concern over "jobs" and "stimulating the economy", you would think that someone, somewhere - i.e., The President - would remove their blinders long enough to realize a potential win-win is staring them in the face...

Building an effective and *really* secure fenced border would be a good stimulus project. It has all the necessary ingredients: it's a legitimate function/task for government, it employs lots of people, it's expensive, and it's something just about everyone actually wants...

Just what is the (reasonable and rational) argument that says building a fence is a BAD IDEA? And, yes, there are other sticky and difficult immigration tasks to be addressed - what to do about those already here, how open should the borders be, etc. But do we *have* to develop a complete and comprehensive plan everyone will agree to before doing ANYTHING?

It looks like the simple idea of going ahead and building a fence not only isn't on the table, I don't think anyone is even thinking about it. Why?

- Steve

Thursday, July 1, 2010

LRA&H Official Movie List

Our list as of 7-1-2010:
>Steve Green (SG) Chris Rhetts (CR) Ted Roman (TeR) Tim Roman (TiR)
> First Update - Adding Jacob Gaither (JG) and April Finnegan (AF), 7/1:
>Second Update - Adding Christine Gaither (CG) 7/3:
>Third Update - Adding Rocio Becerra (RB)  and Jane Mitchell (RB) 7/4:
>Fourth Update - JG added 3 films 7/4:


Its A Mad Mad Mad Mad World CR/TeR/TiR
The Great Race CR
What's Up Doc? CR
The Court Jester SG
Duck Soup SG
Young Frankenstein SG/RB
The Naked Gun TeR
Ghostbusters TeR
Planes, Trains and Automobiles TiR
I Love You to Death TiR
Monty Python and the Holy Grail JG/AF/RB
Airplane JG
Blazing Saddles JG
The Awful Truth AF
Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House  AF
Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood CG
Forest Gump CG
Enchanted CG
The Court Jester RB
Old Dogs RB
The Party RB
Hook JM
Nothing to Lose JM
First Wives Club JM
Legally Blond JM
Raising Arizona JM
Big Business JM


Full Metal Jacket CR/TiR/JG
Saving Private Ryan CR/TeR/TiR
Black Hawk Down CR/RB
Patton SG
Tora, Tora, Tora SG
Stalag 17 SG
Battleground TeR
The Longest Day TeR/TiR
Heartbreak Ridge JG
Platoon JG
Empire of the Sun AF/RB
Schindler's List AF
To End All Wars AF
Pearl Harbor CG
Inglorious Basterds CG
Cold Mountain CG
The Great Escape RB
The Manchurian Candidate RB


Unforgiven CR/TeR/TiR/JG
Dances With Wolves CR/TiR
The Wild Bunch CR
Silverado SG/TiR/JG
The Magnificent Seven SG
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon SG
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly TeR
Maverick TeR
Big Jake JG
The Searchers AF
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid AF/JM
Young Guns AF
Australia CG
Legends of the Fall CG/RB
Gran Torino CG
Tombstone RB
Brokeback Mountain RB
Paint Your Wagon JM
True Grit JM
Cat Ballou JM


The Godfather CR /SG/TeR/TiR
The Godfather II CR/TeR/TiR
Goodfellas CR/TiR
The Maltese Falcon SG
Thin Man, The SG
Casino TeR/TiR
The Usual Suspects JG
Rashomon JG
Primal Fear JG
Laura AF
Suspicion AF
Rebecca AF
Devil's Advocate CG
A Time to Kill CG
Shawshank Redemption CG
Scarface RB
Sherlock Holmes RB
Death on the Nile RB
The Thomas Crown Affair RB
Entrapment RB


Alexander Nevsky CR
Dr. Zhivago CR
Braveheart CR/SG/TeR/TiR/JG
Missiles of October SG
Apollo 13 SG/TeR/JG/RB
Glory TeR
Passion of Christ TiR/JM
The Right Stuff TiR
Gone With the Wind JG/AF
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex AF
The Three Musketeers AF
Gone With the Wind CG
From Hell CG
Calamity Jane CG
Amistad RB
The Diary of Anne Frank RB
Shindler's List JM

Science Fiction:

Star Wars CR/SG/RB
Star Wars (original trilogy) TeR/TiR
Alien CR/JG
Jurassic Park CR
Forbidden Planet SG
Metropolis SG
The Matrix I TeR/RB
Close Encounters of the Third Kind TeR/TiR/RB
District 9 TiR
Aliens JG
Predator JG
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) AF
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi AF
The Fly AF
The 9th Gate CG
eXistenz CG
Flight of the Navigator CG
Minority Report RB
Back to the Future series JM


Casablanca - (1942) CR/SG
Sin City CR
Pulp Fiction CR
Citizen Kane SG
North by Northwest SG
Schindler's List TeR/TiR
Amadeus TeR/TiR
Escape From New York TeR
12 Angry Men TiR
Secondhand Lions JG/CG
Legends of the Fall JG
Cinderella Man JG
Dragonwyck AF
To Kill a Mockingbird AF/CG
Signs AF
Black Snake Moan CG
Jaws RB
The Manchurian Candidate RB
The Da Vinci Code RB
The Green Mile RB
The Others RB


The Exorcist CR/TeR/TiR
The Thing (1982) CR/TeR
The Shining CR/TiR
Alien SG/TeR
Frankenstein SG
Psycho SG
Blair Witch Project TiR
Hellraiser JG/CG
Nightmare on Elm Street JG/RB
Friday the 13th JG
House on Haunted Hill (1959) AF
Last Man on Earth AF
The Innocents AF
The Sixth Sense CG/RB
28 Days Later CG


The Wizard of Oz CR/SG/TeR/TiR/CG/RB
The Return of the King CR/SG
Lord of the Rings (series) TeR/TiR/AF/JM
Time Bandits CR
Harvey SG
Its a Wonderful Life TeR/TiR
Big Fish JG
Pirates of the Caribbean (series) JG/CG/RB/JM
Harry Potter (series) JG
Underworld AF
Horror of Dracula (1958) AF
Big Fish CG
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe JM
Prince Caspian JM
Willow JM
Princess Bride JM

Full Length Animated:

Fantasia -1940 CR/SG/JM
The Little Mermaid CR/TiR/JM
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within CR
The Incredibles SG/TiR
Dumbo SG
The Lion King TeR/JM
The Triplets of Belleville TeR
Team America: World Police JG
The Road to El Dorado JG
The Spongebob Squarepants Movie AF
How to Train Your Dragon AF
Ratatouille CG/RB
Nightmare Before Christmas CG/RB
Fantasia 2000 JM
Mulan JM
Snow White JM
Sleeping Beauty JM
Beauty and the Beast JM
Sword in the Stone JM
Robin Hood (Disney) JM
Prince of Egypt JM
Tarzan (Disney) JM

Romance (ick!):

Frankie and Johnnie CR
As Good As It Gets CR
Shakespere In Love CR
Gone With The Wind SG
Shenandoah SG
Old Yeller SG
When Harry Met Sally TeR/TiR
Titanic TeR
By Big Fat Greek Wedding TeR/TiR
Roman Holiday TiR
The Notebook JG/CG/RB
What Dreams May Come JG/CG
The Last of the Mohicans JG
Pride and Prejudice AF
It Happened One Night AF
The Bishop's Wife AF
Hope Floats CG/RB
For Love of the Game RB
Pride and Prejudice RB

Romantic Comedy:

Pretty Woman RB
Leap Year RB
Something's Gotta Give RB
It's Complicated RB
When Harry Met Sally RB
You've Got Mail RB/JM
Fools Rush In JM
Sleepless in Seattle JM
Big JM
Cactus Flower JM
The Proposal JM
New in Town JM
Overboard JM

Fun for the whole family:

Big CR
Its A Wonderful Life CR
Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation CR
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad SG
Mary Poppins SG/TeR/TiR
Raiders of the Lost Ark SG
The Love Bug TeR
Babe TeR/TiR
The Muppet Movie TiR
Goonies JG
Monsters Inc JG/JM
Willow JG
Harry Potter Series AF/CG/RB
Nacho Libre AF
Muppets in Space AF
Back to the Future Series CG/RB
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang CG
Indiana Jones Series RB
Pollyanna JM
Toy Story series JM
Alice In Wonderland (2010) JM
Finding Nemo JM
Heidi (w/Shirley Temple) JM


Singing in the Rain SG/TeR/TiR/JG/AF/CG/RB
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers SG/TeR/TiR/CG
Paint Your Wagon SG
Cabaret CR
Grease TeR/TiR/RB
Little Shop of Horrors JG
Tommy JG
GI Blues AF
Help! AF
Mary Poppins CG/RB/JM
The Sound of Music RB/JM
Moulin Rouge RB
Chicago RB
Mama Mia RB
My Fair Lady JM
Anna and the King JM


Flight of the Phoenix SG
King Kong (1939) SG
The Time Machine (G.Pal version) SG
Raiders of the Lost Ark TeR/TiR/JG
Pirates of the Caribbean (Black Pearl) TeR
The Dark Knight TeR
Back To The Future TiR
Star Trek Movie Series TiR
Rambo JG
Rocky JG
Zombieland AF
The Princess Bride AF
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade  AF/JM
Kill Bill Series CG
Lord of War CG
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow CG
Mr and Mrs Smith RB
Gone in 60 Seconds RB
16 Blocks RB
Behind Enemy Lines RB
Enemy of the State RB
Willow JM
The Incredibles JM
The Rock JM

Foreign Films (Catagory added 7/3):

Memoirs of a Geisha CG/RB
Rashomon CG
House of Flying Daggers CG
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon RB
Pan's Labyrinth RB
Like Water for Chocolate RB
Talk to Her RB
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown RB
Brotherhood of the Wolf JG
Danny the Dog (Unleashed in the USA) JG
Zatoichi: The Blind Samurai JG