Monday, June 30, 2014

Painful realization: Too many immigrants

Here is yet another painful realization. We have too few jobs and too many immigrants taking them. This is painful to say because I love immigrants and identify with them. My immigrant grandfather inspires me, and I'll never be half the man he was. I love the cultural diversity that immigrants bring, especially the differences from American norms. It's good to see how other people do it.

So it is with visceral pain that I acknowledge that the level of immigration, particularly illegal immigration, needs to be curtailed. We need to tighten up the borders, but more than that we need to crack down on businesses that employ illegal immigrants (and legal immigrants with special visas). This is going to be painful, especially to immigrants who have built better lives for themselves. They had very American hopes to work and prosper, and it's going to end for some even though they are good people. Yes, this will hurt good people. Make no mistake about it. However, good people are also being hurt by the lack of jobs, so it's not as though no one benefits.

I won't give a detailed proposal because I don't know the numbers well enough and, heck, any detailed proposal from an amateur wouldn't get a second look. However, I think we should have a certain number of guest workers. We definitely need immigrant workers for agriculture if we want abundance on our grocery shelves. We should also allow some of the 12 million illegal workers in the US stay to prevent a humanitarian disaster that would occur from throwing so many out of work all at once.

Many people don't want to face this. We hope everything will work out OK. Maybe we'll have amnesty for those hard workers who have been in the country for so long, or maybe we'll keep the status quo, which is better for the immigrants than returning to their home countries.

However, some groups support amnesty or the status quo for reasons baser than love for immigrants. Business owners like cheap, reliable labor. Democrats look forward to more Dem-leaning voters. Too bad. What they want isn't for the overall good of the country, so it shouldn't matter.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Short: Tea Party Babies

Some Tea Partyers are the biggest whiners. They say some horrid things about their opponents, like they're ruining the country, or they plan to reduce Americans to slaves of the government, and such. But they whine like two-year-olds if you put up a fight or show that they have some faults.

Here's what was said about a Tea Partyer who allegedly helped someone sneak into a nursing home and take unauthorized pictures of Senator Cochran's old, crippled, demented wife:
"It was an attack on a good man that is well respected... It’s shocking to those in the state who knew the demeanor and quiet dedication of the real Mark Mayfield. He ... didn’t deserve that kind of treatment."
This "great Christian man" killed himself rather than face the criminal charges. And it sure wasn't his fault! This time, personal responsibility has nothing to do with it!


Somewhat related: The Tea Party in Mississippi is extremely (always extreme with the TP) angry about Cochran's successful appeal to black Democrats to vote for him in the primary. Opinions are mixed about whether the GOP establishment and the Tea Party can make peace after Cochran's win.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Last outpost of crazy: Annoying birthers

I just wasted time refuting another birther who says the long form Obama birth certificate is a forgery. To prevent the effort from being a total waste, I'm saving the links to the expert information. This investigator printed out a copy of the birth certificate (so a piece of paper with ink on it), scanned it, looked at the resulting PDF using Adobe Illustrator, and found layers! You can get layers from a regular scanned document.

This investigator looks very closely at the various bits in Adobe, and does a great job explaining why some text is on one layer while other text is on a different layer. It's due to optimization of the image in order to compress the size of the file. Some text is flat black, other is gray scale. Thank God a program makes the decision and it doesn't require human oversight. Otherwise, the decisions would drive us crazy (just like a birther).


Update 1/7/18. I'm still having arguments with annoying birthers. One today claimed that the phone call with Obama's elderly step-grandmother was believable evidence that Obama was born in Kenya. No, not at all. A long distance phone call to an elderly woman with a translator involved and a carnival atmosphere, with others immediately correcting her statement (via translator). No followup clarifying what she said. That is so incredibly weak. Here's a report.

Update 1/11/18. In researching info to refute the latest annoying birther (who was so uninformed that he didn't know of the long form certificate), I found this interesting compendium of birther lore. Sure there are some of the common debunked objections. There's also a comparison of Obama's birth certificate versus the birth certificates of twin girls born a day later at the same hospital. But the real gem is located further down the document, where it's revealed that DARPA and the CIA have time travel abilities, and contact presidents in advance of their election.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Tea Party is local, not national

Cantor's loss showed something that I already knew: the Tea Party isn't a national organization or closely-aligned or competing national groups. Most Tea Party groups are local networks.

This runs counter to a talking point that some Dems/liberals/progressives use. They claim that the Tea Party is astroturf--drummed up by political professionals whose salaries are paid by the Koch brothers and the like.

In Cantor's case, he was up against well-organized county Tea Party groups, as reported here. They turned out their voters--Cantor didn't. (I haven't verified this by checking this primary vs. typical primary and general election numbers, but it would be possible, if I was willing to commit to the effort.)

So the national Tea Party groups are probably a sham. Unless they have huge lists of voters, and can mobilize large numbers of those voters, they can't do anything but make a lot of noise. Nationally that's what they've done. It's been noise--not a coherent plan or coherent policy goals.

What has always been true is that the strength of the Tea Party is on based local conservative networks, so the real difference is at the local level. Does the Tea Party group have a large local network that they can turn out on primary and election day? Can the local Tea Party group decide on one candidate to support, or is their support split? Finally, how cohesive and influential are the Tea Party members? If it's all blather, it probably doesn't matter. However, if the Tea Party opinion makers are logical and influential enough, they probably can make a difference, like they did in Cantor's former district.


Extra. Local reporting about the Brat/Cantor race showing that the locals were organized enough to defeat Cantor's choice for local convention chair prior to the primary. It should have been a wake-up call.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Last outpost of crazy: I wish this was an outlier

I have to document this for posterity. The top US news story on Google is the sexy mug shot of a felon (convicted at least once already). He's just been arrested with three other gang members on weapons charges, but that doesn't matter because he's dreamy. His picture (mug shots are public records, I guess) isn't the only thing being passed around. There are websites trying to raise money for him, including one run by his mother.

I am so hoping that this fad lasts one week at most. If it's more, that is just further proof that the internet is evil.


Update 6/29/14. Good news. This fad faded in less than a week. 

To reparate or not to reparate

Ta-Nehisi Coates had a long article on reparations back in May. It caused a lot of buzz and consternation, but only for a short time, and mostly among liberals/progressives or whatever the correct term is now.

At first I thought that it's crazy--there is no effing way the US is going to pay reparations to our black population. We aren't exactly flush with cash right now. To raise taxes on someone or everyone to pay reparations isn't going to fly.

That's absolutely true. There won't be any reparations paid anytime in the foreseeable future, or probably ever. However, it did drum up a lot of conversation. And people didn't just talk about slavery and Jim Crow--they talked about redlining and segregated housing, two issues that are a lot closer in time than slavery or Jim Crow. It got people thinking about how poorly civil rights were protected as recently as the 60's and 70's and maybe even more recently. That's a good reminder and a good history lesson. It got people asking whether we still have too much segregation--definitely a worthwhile conversation.

So I may not want to pay reparations, but I sure know that there is much to atone for. Are we really to the point that we've done all the changing we need to? Are we in a colorblind era where people are judged only on the content of their character? Not yet.

It's good to get a reminder so that we keep moving forward and don't slip back.


Extras. Critique by another black columnist--this view isn't productive, so let's stick with what is more likely to be. Conor Freidersdorf's column with a block of good comments including this scathing insight:
"Coates' socialist instincts prevents him from examining the issue of legal plunder without more legal plunder."
Noah Millman's thoughtful response includes this:
"You make the case that your people has been brutalized and stolen from and raped and murdered with impunity. That case motivates the determination to rise up and prove your collective manhood by throwing the foreigner out of power. Depending on the circumstances, that might mean expelling an occupier, ... or carving one’s own state out from larger structure..." 
This is the closest to my thinking. The best reparation is creating a country that is fair and the way you want it to be--not a payoff from the government.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Candidates Implode--Two in one day!

No, I'm not even talking about Rick Perry or Chris Christie.

This time it's Scott Walker (for campaign finance shenanigans) and Brian Schweitzer (for gay and whore slurs against members of Congress). Schweitzer's verbal gaffes were bad enough that they could have been perpetrated by Rick Perry, but not this time.

This is good. I'm happy when the stupider ones eliminate themselves. Actually, these problems may not rise to a strike-out for these candidates, but they're getting closer.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Short: A Batch of Hillary stories

There was a fun batch of Hillary Clinton stories yesterday--certainly the first of hundreds of stories we'll have to endure between now and when Hillary is no longer a candidate and/or president.

What's funny is that some of the non-conservative press are going after her. It's not news that some progressives loathe her, but I didn't expect to see hit pieces on sites like the Daily Beast. Now I'll expect it.

So what are the Hillary stories? Hillary laughed while talking with a reporter about one of her law cases involving a rape of a 12-year-old girl. That clearly disqualifies her for high office ... some people mistakenly hope.

What else? The Bible is one of the most influential books in her life. She's now carefully immunized herself from the gotcha accusation that she didn't mention the Bible. No points for candor, but what can you expect?

CNN gave her a sloppy wet-kiss of a profile. I could add others, but this is a good round-up for one day. If it doesn't get a lot worse, we'll be calling her President Clinton before you know it. In fact, I'm ready to put it on my prediction list (barring health issues).


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Don't care about Cantor

Eric Cantor lost his primary to a Tea Party challenger, and the political world is behaving like it was a massive earthquake.

Not me. I'm shaking my head and rolling my eyes. Didn't we all know that the Tea Party was gunning to pick off as many establishment GOPers as possible? The establishment knew it too, so they ran as hard as they could. Now that the Tea Party managed to pick off one guy in the GOP leadership, what does that tell us?

The lesson is one that the GOP had already learned--you have to run hard if you've got a Tea Party challenger. Cantor didn't, and he proved the conventional wisdom. But we already knew it!

I don't know if the Tea Party is crowing over this victory and the few others they've had. However, it's not even close to the sweep that the Tea Party threatened last year. So this defeat of Cantor doesn't change the dynamic at all. We still have a lot of establishment Republicans in office, and we still have the Tea Party chafing and bragging about what they're gonna do. Yawn.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

How to Lose a Country in 3 Years

We, the U.S., left Iraq is reasonably good shape. There was a workable agreement between the central government and the Kurds. There was also the demonstration project (the surge) that showed how to work with the Sunni minority.

All that was lost on a clueless leader.

If you're a GOP partisan, you think the clueless leader is Obama. But I disagree. I think the clueless leader was Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. He pursued policies that shut out the Sunni population as though there would be no repercussions. That was foolish because the Sunnis had already shown a preference for rebellion over submission. 

Now the Iraqi army is deserting its positions without even engaging incoming Sunni forces. They are just running away. al-Maliki wants to declare a state of emergency, but can't get a quorum in the legislative branch to show up. Well, that's what happens when you build your plan on wishful thinking.

I don't know if a different US president could have helped prevent these losses in Iraq. My best guess is that the Iraqi leaders were stubborn in their views that they could do exactly what they wanted, and needn't share power (and spoils), nor make other compromises for the sake of unity. Any other US president also would have failed in negotiating a Status-of-forces agreement and failed to maintain US influence and US-tested moderating policies. 

So I don't think Obama is losing Iraq. Nor it is Bush's fault (for a change). Instead I think it's the short-sightedness of leaders in Iraq. Sometimes, there's no saving people from themselves. Actually, most of the time, you can't save people from themselves. Yet we try because sometimes it works. If only we knew when it was hopeless, or, more importantly, when it's worth the effort, expense, and lives. 


Extra. Recently I was pointed to this column in National Review. It talks about the likely results of the Status-of-Forces agreement of 2008, worked out between Bush and the Iraqis. So much of what has occurred was predicted then, without any idea of what Obama would fuck up do as president. It was predictable based on the Iraqis, the Iranians, and the habits of Islamist fighters. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Short: Moderates aren't just roadkill

One commenter told me a few years ago that I'd have to pick a side. He used a metaphor of a hapless person trying to walk the center line of a street. People in the middle don't get anywhere, and are very likely to be run over by the travelers on either side of the road.

Well, this is partially true. I get attacked by both right and left out on the comment threads. (I also dish out to both sides, so it's fair that I get incoming too.) However, I've got lots of company on that center line. From this Atlantic article:
"Moderates wrestle with, and often reject, what they see as the false either/or ideological choices that define modern politics..."
The article is full of compliments for moderates, which isn't surprising because it seems to be mostly a PR piece from a moderate lobby group within the Democratic Party. How long will it be until this group is roadkill?


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Republican clown car in Mississippi

I've been reading about the GOP primary in Mississippi for senate for several weeks. Supposedly it's the nastiest race in the entire country. I think it's most inept, like the Keystone Cops.

First, we have an old Senate hand, the 76-year-old Thad Cochran. He's GOP establishment, I suppose, so the Tea Partiers want to pick him off and install one of their own. I don't know anything about Cochran's record or whether he's still a political force. He's certainly not one of the big names in the Senate. The biggest news story I read about him was that he doesn't know much about the Tea Party. That strikes me as strange, especially since he's in the politics business. Maybe he's getting a little out of touch or senile, or maybe there's some other explanation (like he focuses on other more important issues).

His opponent, Chris McDaniel, 41, wants to be another Tea Party superstar like Ted Cruz. (My opinion of Ted Cruz is that he's all flash and no serious thought, so we definitely don't need another of that kind.) Unfortunately for McDaniel, a rabid Tea Party supporter filmed Cochran's senile wife in her nursing home, which is not only in bad taste but also against the law. The supporter and several others have been arrested and charged.

It probably should have been easy to defeat Cochran... unless you ended up looking more unsavory than him. That's what this supporter managed to do. It was emblematic of the Tea Party's desire to unseat all RINOs by any means possible, and it showed how they'll cross the line without a second thought. In the primary, the Tea Party challenger didn't win an outright majority and now has to compete in a runoff with Cochran (probably, not definitely). This looked like it should have been a win for the Tea Party, and that supporter blew it. What an amazing self-inflicted wound.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Short: The skinny on VA problems

Good introductory article on problems with the Veterans Administration (VA), including why it's not going to get better. Excellent comments starting here.

The article talks about the bureaucracy at the VA and also about the intense meddling of veterans' groups. It sounds as though the VA is a fiefdom of veterans' groups, where they dole out jobs and favors. Ugh.

I know very little about the VA or any large bureaucracy--governmental or private. I've always been a first-line worker, never a department manager, and usually worked in small organizations. I have no feel for what happens in a big bureaucracy or for why they grow so large. I'm still a happy hunter-gatherer of sorts, living out my life unaware of the huge states around me. Lucky me... maybe.