Wednesday, August 03, 2005

About Camel's Noses...
A measure is being mulled over in the New Jersey State legislature that would ban cigarette smoking in your private vehicle. If it wasn't bad enough that the Gestapo (State Troopers) in this country already can peek into you car to see if you'e wearing a seatbelt (for which you can be fined) or ask to search your vehicle at a traffic stop (just in case your passenger - grandma) is smuggling marijuana, now they have the ability to peek in to fine you for engaging in a legal activity.

There's a certain State Representative McKeon (party affiliation unknown) who has recently lost his father to emphysema. Naturally, he feels badly about it, and let's face it, it is a tragedy whenever someone dies (unless they're an Arab). In his grief and his desire to ensure that this "never happens again" Mr. McKeon has introduced his latest legislative gem.

Not being able to frame his argument in terms of the health or well-being of society (heck, 40 years of Sugeon General's warnings and medical research haven't stopped people from smoking) then the next best thing is make an argument about "public safety".

According to Mr. McKeon and his supporters, smoking while driving contributes to what are known as "driver distraction accidents". These are accidents caused when a driver is doing somehting other than paying attention to the road or traffic. This category of accidents runs the gamut from "driver was dialing cell phone" to "driver turned around to smack his kids" to "driver was receiving oral sex at the time of the crash". Lighting up, dropping your cigarette in your lap, fumbling for the ashtray, etc, might distract you enough to cause an accident.

However, research by the insurance industry has shown that smoking-related distractions account for less than 1% of all "driver distraction accidents". More people get involved in accidents changing CD's or fumbling with the radio than they do smoking.

In the end, the "driver distraction" argument will go nowhere as people already see this legislation for what it really is: government sticking it's camel's nose under every tent flap that it can. The same people who buy the 1% of all distraction accidents arguments are also the same people who want to hand out needles to heroin addicts or legalize prostitution. They say they're all for "solving a problem" when all they're really doing is attempting to extend their reach into previously off-limits places. There is no "smoking-related distraction" problem --- there's only nasty smokers who need to be stopped, even if that means we reach into the few sanctuaries they have left. Regardless of the fact that the activity they're engaged in is perfectly legal and has been forever. To these people, the cigarette is more of a danger than Islamonazis with access to anthrax.

Complete hogwash. Just more transparent and self-serving-I'm-the-avenging-angel-Mommy-and-Daddy-of-society claptrap. Mr. McKeon and his hangers on shouldn't be surprised when their camel gets his nose cut off. In fact, maybe I'll smoke Camels from now on.
Conservatives and Implosions...
Well, it was bound to happen sometime. I guess now is as good a time as ever. Conservatives (or those that like to call themselves that) in this country have a nasty habit of shooting themselves in the foot. Typically, it happens in the second term of a republican regime (unless you're GHW Bush, in which case, you somehow manage to implode before you have a second term), and it usually begins with one lone voice and builds into a deafening crescendo.

Such is the case for GW Bush and a few conservatives on a plethora of issues: John Bolton is too nasty to be U.N. Ambassador according to George Voinovich, who's supposed to be a republican. Terrorists captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, or arrested in American cities, should be given all the protections of the Geneva Conventions, depsite the fact that they do not belong to any Army or fight for anything resembling a nation, according to John McCain. Ann Coulter, the columnist and my dream, has been turning various shades of red over the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court.

Four years ago, with a republican congress firmly entrenched, Bolton and Roberts would have sailed through confirmation. Four years ago, when we were still smarting from the attacks of September 11th, no raghead on the planet would have escaped having his testicles trapped in a vise at Gitmo, and not a single American (those that count, anyway) would have objected one iota.

However, we're in the second term of a republican president and the implosion must, naturally, begin, as spring follows winter.

I'll go out on a limb here and say it's because conservatives are every bit as extreme as the liberals we so abhor on any given day. One of the things we never seem to understand (and the left fails to see this as well) is that because we have ultimate political power in the sense that we control all three branches of government (for now), it does not stand to reason that we have the ability to impose our views with impunity. We might have valid points to make, heck, we might even be right, but that doesn't mean there won't be opposition to what we do.

Paraphrasing Orwell, if Liberals or Conservatives ever actually did everything they said they would, they would have a revolt on their hands.

So we don't know where John Roberts would stand on abortion. The man hasn't spoken and already conservatives are angry that because we didn't get a fire and brimstone denunciation about it, he must be another Justice Souter (a sheep in Republican's clothing). The other side, of course, because the judge hasn't spoken, consider him a blank slate and they have the opportunity to slander him as much as they can. The Judge, in the meantime, simply says he will not answer any hypothetical questions concerning cases and causes that might one day appear before him in the Supreme Court.

The United Nations is a den of theives which is in dire need of a street-smart cop, a role which John Bolton fills quite well. However, after listening to a bunch of people who were motivated by personal animus, and selectively snipping a line or three from Bolton's memos, Senator Voinovich comes to the copnclusion that the man is not "very nice". "Very Nice", in this case, is the Kerry-esque quality of being able to kiss Kofi Annan's backside rather than kick it.

Why does this seem to happen to us all the time? We have the country in the palm of our hand right now: a congressional majority that's likely to grow soon, a lock on the White House and a soon-to-be packed (legally) Supreme Court. Why all the backpedalling, backstabbing and backsliding now?

One reason is that the Religious Right is beginning to believe the press. Normally, the RR wouldn't give the press the time of day, but print a bunch of stories that "Evangelical Christians" put GW Bush in the White House, and they begin to believe they're OWED something. Like stopping abortion right fucking now, Mr. President. Which is why Robert's ideas in this area are so highly sought after, and why the lack of candor gets these folks scared. They'd rather dump Roberts now than experience the heartache of another Souter or Sandra Day O'Connor --- someone who talks the game, but never really plays it.

They fail to realize the political enviornment in which GW and the party have to operate. Democrats (for good or ill) still exist in large numbers. They will oppose some of the more Nazi-like edicts of the religious right just as, conversely, we would resist the Stalin-like edicts of the Loopy Left. When it comes to certain issues in this country, and abortion is certainly one of them, the issue will not be decided until the culture decides it. Right now, the culture is beginning to perceptibly turn towards the pro-life position. Perhaps within 20 or 30 years, that will be the dominant position, and Roe v. Wade will go the way of the dinosaurs. But until that happens, abortion is here to stay, regardless of who's in the White House, the Congress or sitting on the Supreme Court. Roe V. Wade would have probably been thrown out of the court in the first place, unless the culture had not only wanted it, but verily demanded it.

The second part of the implosion equation has to do with prospective successors to the throne lining up and beginning to take positions they normally wouldn't. So, John McCain can suddenly stand up for relaxing some of the more stringent interrogation techniques being used at Gitmo. He can then hide behind the fact that he was tortured for six years by the Vietnamese to silence his critics. Bill Frist can suddenly 180 on stem cell research, and hide behind his M.D. It's merely posturing, but it has the effect of encouraging the other side to begin thinking there are cracks starting to form. It also gives the other side ammunition to use against us.

The final factor in the implosion is the fear that if conservatives go too far, that one day when they are on the receiving end, they'll have it stuck to them even harder. This was evident in the debates over the "nuclear option" a few months ago (and wasn't it a strange coincidence that McCain was the big concilliator there, too?). True enough, there is something to be said for "being kind to the people you met on the way up, because you'll meet them again on the way down", but some of this is bordering on spineless.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

CAFTA and What it Means...
President Bush signed the legislation that will create the Central American Free Trade Zone, or as I will call it, NAFTA Jr.

The principles behind such free trade agreements is fundamentally sound, provided that all parties are willing to play on a level playing field. Of course, American politicians should have figured out a long time ago that it will only be Americans who actually attempt to play fair. By that, I mean American citizens, not the corporate CEO's and definitely not the governments of the signatory countries.

Granted, the "other" side is not really in a position, very often, to return the favor. One only needs to look at the 11 million or so Mexicans who cross our border every year, despite NAFTA. If NAFTA was such a nifty idea, Mexicans would stay home. That was one of the ideas behind it's passage in the first place. Improve Mexico's economy, the theory went, and Mexicans would stay home.

In the end it didn't work. Primarily because even with an improved economy, the opportunities to be had in the United States (even at minimum wage) still outweighed the improvements in Mexico.

Now we can expect the floodgates to open even further as NAFTA Jr. is implemented in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Belize, etc, etc, etc.

The probelm is that even after you raise the standard of living of the typical third-worlder by astronomical amounts, they still cannot afford to live. Their economies are so far below the radar that merely pumping them up several hundered percent means they still can't afford the very products they produce or that we wish them to buy.

In the meantime, American manufacturers (the few that are left) will continue to take advantage of cheap skilled labor in Central America, which forces the unskilled labor north. Eventually, that unskilled labor, after the odysee that's involved in sneaking into the U.S., manages to make to more of a living than the relatives back home. Which sorta defeats the purpose of NAFTA Jr. in the first place.

You know, I've stood behind G.W. on a lot of things, but this one sticks in my craw.

We're creating a permanent underclass in this country (a second one, I mean, the blacks arrived there a long time ago) that's going to remain unassimilated, will not be encouraged to become assimilated, and which, in the end, will become a powerful voting bloc (i.e. "special interest group") that will realize it's potential to draw political bribery. Exactly what Alexis D'Tocqueville warned us against over 100 years ago (pretty prescient for a Frog, wasn't he?).

I have no problem with immigration into the country, since my own ancestors were immigrants. But we have to stop this nonsense that we're doing our bit to improve the hemisphere economically by implementing systems and treaties which do nothing but encourage unfettered illegal immigration. We're shooting ourselves in the foot.

It's a win-win situation for the countries of Central America: they get American investment, get special treatment vis-a-vis tarriffs for their goods and services, and then get to dump their undesirables on us, since they will be leaving in droves looking for jobs sweeping floors and busing tables. The undesriables then send American dollars back to their relatives, which gets deposited in foreign banks and scooped up by foreign governments.

Don't think so? Chew on this for a second: after petroleum, the largest contribution to the Mexican economy is cash remittances made by illegal aliens in the United States to their fellows back home. To the tune of $17 billion dollars, last I heard. That's more than tourism brings in.
In the meantime, the last reliable figure I had concerning what illegal immigration costs us, started with $25 billion, just for emergency medical care for illegals.

Sounds like a wonderful way to improve the American economy, doesn't it?
Can we shoot 'em, Please? I have an idea on how to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the country. It will be nasty, but it would be a solution, and it comes in several parts. See if you agree:

Part 1 - Give everyone who is presently illegally in the country 180 days to settle their affairs and then get them the hell out. Exceptions are to be made for the following class of person(s):

- Those with relatives serving in the U.S. Military- Those in hospitals receiving care for life-threatening diseases or conditions. When treatment is completed, they can leave.- Those with legitimate visas, although they will be required to periodically check in with the nearest local police station or government agency, until the visa expires, then they may leave.- Those currently in the process of qualifying for citizenship.

After 180 days, any police officer or government official may ask for valid immigration papers or proof of any of the conditions stated above. If these are not forthcoming, violators will either be shot on the spot, or arrested and sent to a open-air, fenced in facility in the Mojave desert, sans food, water, medical care or legal representation.

Part 2 - The United States government should inform what passes for a government in Mexico that it will consider the NEXT Mexican to cross the border after a certain date to be the spearhead of an invasion, which will be repulsed with military force, and probably won't be stopped until US forces overrun the Mexican oilfields.

Part 3 - Anyone attempting to enter the country on a hijacked freighter (like the 500 or so Haitians this week), airliner, bus, automobile, train, mule, horse or donkey will be considered pirates and sentenced to the death penalty.

Part 4 - anyone who comes ashore on a rickety raft, innertube, or other floating contrivance and leaves said contrivance on the shore, will be charged with littering, sentenced to 4,000 hours of community service cleaning public restrooms, and then executed and/or sent to the fenced-in, open-air facility in the Mojave desert, etc, etc.

Part 5 - The United States government should announce to all countries applicable that if unchecked immigration continues, we will consider it an act of economic warfare and act accordingly with embargoes, higher tariffs and blockades of ports, border crossings, etc.

Part 6 - Political asylum may no longer be granted unless by Presidential decree or order, on a case by case basis. Those waiting to be granted asylum can wait in whatever shithole it is they came from originally.

Part 7 - A policy should be put in place reviving the institution of "indentured servants" for only the most talented/promising illegals. Those that posses skills or talents will be sold at auction at the fenced-in, open-air facility mentioned above. They will be paid minimum wage, without benefits, until such time as their debt to their employer is paid, plus an equal amount to the United States government. After these debts are paid, the servant may leave or be executed, his/her choice.

Part 8 - the US /Mexican border shall be mined, and patrolled by armed Marines with vicious dogs. Desert waterholes not in use by local farmers will be poisoned to prevent their use. The US Airforce will fly overwatch over the border region with orders to shoot or drop munitions on anyone within a 1000 yard "free fire zone" along the border.

Part 9 - The privledge of citizenship shall no longer be granted to children born in the United States to non-US nationals. The same for welfare benefits.

Part 10 - English will be decreed the chief lingua franca of the United States, and an English proficiency exam will be included in the requirements for obtaining citizenship. No federal money will be spent on bi-lingual education, the government will no longer spend money to print forms and publications in languages other than English. Licenses to operate television or radio stations in a language other than English will be revoked, and no new ones will be issued. Foreign language newspapers will be banned.

Part 11 - No hospital, medical clinic, private physician or medical professional shall render medical care to someone who cannot prove US citizenship, unless said person is unconscious, in labor, a child, or in immediate danger of death. No physician or medical professional or hospital/clinic may be sued for refusing treatment to one who cannot prove citizenship.

Part 12 - The United States government shall require proof of vaccination against the following diseases, prior to allowing entry into the country:

Tuberculosis, measles, rubella, smallpox, anthrax, mumps, tetanus and the heartbreak of psoriasis. Anyone without such documentation will confined to the fenced-in, open-air facility, etc, etc, until such proof can be obtained.

I don't consider any of this unnecessarily harsh. It's what a government is supposed to when it takes it responsibility to protect it's borders seriously. As for the fenced-in, open-air facility, we used to have one on Ellis Island. Remember that place?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Onward, Christian Soldiers...
Read a blurb this weekend about there being more Christians in China than communists (sorry, no link available). If true, this is good news, since Christian nations more frequently espouse individual rights and freedoms and tend to advance morals that restrain the worst excesses of society (although I'd wish it would happen more frequently).

Of course, taking that statement at face value does, in fact, have it's downside: Mussolini's Italy, Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany were, of course Christian nations. However, these were nations in which the open practice of religious faith was often suppressed, brutally. Religion and conventional Christian morality never got to operate under those regimes.

So, if there are more Christians than Pinkos in China, what exactly does it mean?

Beats me, but, I am of the belief that there's something inherently forward-looking and hopeful about Christianity that causes it's adherants to work like sled dogs to improve their societies. The concepts of equal rights, brotherhood, charity and social justice all have their roots in the deep soil of Christianity.