Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The illegal immigration debate.

This is a very, very tough issue for me...

I start with the postulate that the only legitimate function of government is to promote the welfare of its citizens.  This is something at which they typically fail, but in my view it's the only thing they ought to be doing.

(image from photobucket.com)

If this is the case, then our immigration policy should be clear.  We should only admit those immigrants likely to enhance the general prosperity of our economy.  That would seem to consist of workers currently being admitted as temporary workers under H1 visas.  If we can get them to stay, we should.  They tend to be highly paid, and by definition they have skill sets for which there's constant demand, even in this economy.  The argument has been made that this has the effect of depressing wages in the nursing and tech industries.  By and large, I'm willing to allow that, as providing a more generalized benefit to the country than the cost it exacts from a subgroup of the nation's citizens.  I think the health of the whole country suffers when there's a nursing shortage.

 (image from eduinreview.com)

This logic does not apply to H2 visas, nor does it apply to illegal immigrants.  The effect of increasing the labor supply in the fields of agriculture or construction or hospitality will again be to depress the average wage in those fields.  But this increased productivity benefits a far more narrow segment of the citizenry than is the case with nurses or programmers.  Meanwhile, the number of people whose wages are impacted is much larger in the case of low-skill, low wage jobs.  Instead of the costs being born by a small segment of the middle class, the costs are born by the working and lower classes.  And the difference between $8 and $12 per hour is MUCH greater than the difference between $20 and $30 per hour.

It is constantly claimed that "Americans don't want these jobs."  That is demonstrably untrue.  Americans don't want those jobs at that particular rate of pay.  If you pay a busboy $12 an hour, you'll have a line of American applicants stretching into your dining room.  If you can't afford to pay a living wage to your employees, you need to raise your prices.  And, I want to see your books, because you're doing something wrong.

On the other hand...
it's awfully hard for me to justify telling Mexicans that they can't look for work in parts of our country that we stole from them, in an unjustifiable war of aggression aimed at creating more slave states.

Monday, June 21, 2010

There's no justice...

My son and I are re-watching HBO's Carnivale.  The show originally ran for two season's, between 2003 and 2005.

I loved it at the time, and seeing it again reminds me of it's brilliance.  Some things I loved at the time (Hill Street Blues, Babylon 5) don't hold up well.  I don't know if I've changed or the times have changed.  I do know that Highlander is now unwatchable.  I can't believe that Christopher Lambert is dating Sophie Marceau.  In fact, I see it as evidence of some sort of nefarious conspiracy...

(image from la-star.com)

Carnivale however, holds up brilliantly.  It may be the most terrifying thing I've ever watched, and I'm including Twin Peaks in my list of comparisons.  Of course, Twin Peaks was on broadcast...

(image from John Kenneth Muir, on wordpress,com)

and we're not talking clumsy, bludgeoning, slasher flick terrifying.  We're talking quiet, disorienting, creepy terrifying.  The slasher flick, unless very well done, either bores me or merely grosses me out.  Carnivale combines the grinding, hopeless despair of the Dust Bowl with the savagery of ignorant poverty.  It throws in the voyeuristic creepiness of physical deformity, and contrasts it with the mundane details of the daily life of the exhibits in a freak show.  It adds the menace of a supernatural struggle between good and evil which only rarely manifests itself openly, but is at the same time ubiquitous.  Carnivale's opening credits scare the living hell out of me, and they're simply clips of news footage from the era.

  (images from btvision.com, starpulse.com & ign.com)

It was too good to last, of course.  HBO canceled it after two seasonsJust like Deadwood.  Just like Rome.  The difference is that I know how Deadwood ended; it's a matter of verifiable historical fact.  And I, Claudius is essentially the sequel to Rome, despite having been filmed 30 years earlier.  But I will never, ever know how Carnivale ends.  I think television interruptus  is even more frustrating than the other kind...

it never goes away.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Media Goofiness...

It's been awfully frustrating to watch the criticism of President Obama's reaction to the oil spill.  Right-wing talk radio has been pushing the "Obama's Katrina" meme for 6 weeks now, but I really don't resent that any more than I do any of their other stupidity.  Jim Quinn for example, is a birther and a conspiracy fantasist so nutty that he was one of those claiming that GM franchises were being closed because they were owned by Republican campaign contributors.  His co-host was warning us that the health-care bill was evidence that the Rapture was imminent, back when the debate was at its height.  So they needed a new schtick to distract their listeners from the fact that Jesus didn't return and prevent passage of the bill they were promising would be defeated.

(image from catholic-resources.org)

Limbaugh and Beck both took a run at blaming Obama for the spill, but have been less persistent on the topic.  Beck is using every available second of his show to flog "his" new novel (apparently he used a ghost-writer, or co-author or something) and so has less time.  Limbaugh pushed it harder for at least a couple of days, but seems to have dropped it recently. He may have started up again, without my knowing it.  (I can only take so much of these guys).

(image from wordpress.com)

Less forgivable is money-honey Maria BartiromoThis morning, I aspirated coffee as this shameless Wall Street apologist asserted that the Gulf oil spill was the fault of the governmentAsked if BP bore any of the responsibility, she replied "If the government can't prevent this, then why am I paying taxes?"

Such a question calls for so many replies it's hard to get them out in any coherent fashion, but here's my best shot....

in the first place, you DON'T pay your taxes.  You shelter income, you employ people who's only function in life is to minimize your tax obligation, and those employees deliberately obfuscate, mislead and misinterpret the law so as to minimize the taxes you pay.  This country has given you everything you have, and you repay it by ripping it off of every penny you dare.  You're a rotten citizen.  And whiney.

In the second place, you and your ilk WROTE the laws which which prevented government from adequately regulating your rapacious buddies.  You CANNOT advocate reduced government regulation and then bitch about the inadequacy of regulation.  Okay, I guess you can do that, but doing so makes it absolutely clear that you have no intellectual credibility, and that every word that leaves your mouth is nothing more than the dishonest squirming of a crook whose crimes have led to catastrophe.  You're a lousy American.

(image from clipartof.com)

I feel better now...

it's been instructive to watch those critics of Obama's handling of the spill who aren't being paid to lie and slander.  When cornered with the question, "What is it you think he should do that he's not doing?", they're reduced to faulting Obama's "lack of emotion", or "failure to lead".  And then, they call him unpresidential for using a variation of the term "kick ass".  (NPR on 6/9)

They've got short memories.  We HAD a president who placed a premium on  image over substance.  He was prone to saying macho emotional bullshit like "Bring it on!" and "Lock and load!"  He was also the single worst president since James Buchanan.   I didn't vote for Obama because I wanted him to play the role of president in a melodrama.  I voted for him because he advocated sensible public policies which are likely to serve the country's long term interests.  

What kind of childish expectations does Chris Matthews have of our President?  Does he want to sieze BP's assets?  Why is he so obsessed with Obama phoning Tony Hayward?  What would that accomplish?  Would it clean off one additional pelican?  Would it result in a faster payment of damages by BP?

 (image from aug.edu)

There ARE things the administration could be doing better.  I'd like the National Guard to be issued orders that they are not to prevent journalists from photographing damage. (I suspect Bobby Jindal's behind their orders to hinder journalists)  I'd like to see the Feds repair all that boom lying uselessly on the beach, and then bill BP for the costs.

But the idea that this catastrophe is ANYTHING other than the inevitable result of the obsequious pandering to big oil advocated by the "drill baby drill" crowd is nothing more than a politically motivated attempt to create a false equivalency between the current president and the hapless, clueless amateur who preceded him.  The "liberal" media needs to quit buying their bullshit.