Friday, June 15, 2007

Twelve Million Invisible People

This one is going to set off the rabid rowdies, I know already, but I have to put this in print.

I am a Republican, have been since I was 8 years old and I couldn’t understand why more taxes were supposed to be a good thing for regular folks. I am also a Conservative. I believe in the rights and power of the individual, in limited and accountable government, in strong support of the Constitution as it was actually written, and in promoting and expanding American-style to as many places as possible, because no other system works half as well or promises half as much. I am also a fundamentalist Christian, and I believe we are all accountable for those things put into our power to help or hurt fellow human beings. It is not fear of hell which moves me, half so much as fear that I might act of a hellish character.

All this brings me to the present problems of Border Security and Immigration Reform. And make no mistake, they are separate issues, both important but still definitely separate. One mistake I think both Democrats and Republicans have made in all this brouhaha, is the notion that so many disparate acts should be rolled together in one fix-all bill which in actual fact does none of what it promises. Make no mistake - I do not like the present bill before the Congress, because while a measure of bipartisanship is nice to see, getting together to push out legislation which will confuse and hinder millions of honest people while allowing some dishonest types to play the system for their own advantage is simply a very bad idea. What should be done, is that Congress should lay down the present bill and try again with several bills which each address their own specific function. Of course, that shows the politically distasteful possibility of Democrats publicly supporting a bill which secures our borders, or Republicans openly voting for a bill which requires businesses to be accountable in their hiring practices. For now, I will address only the question of Immigration Reform, for the simple reasons that the most important issue, Securing the Border, seems so obvious that I cannot imagine a serious argument against it. In fact, the only arguments I have read or heard, have been contrived rhetoric which attacks individuals – often falsely – for not doing enough or not doing it fast enough. So I leave that useless bickerfest to those who find it to their taste. Other issues are, to my mind, less important and less of the moment than reforming our Immigration laws and policies, so that is why I focus there.

Back in 1998, my wife’s mother was planning to come from Hong Kong to the United States to visit her daughter and me, but there was a problem with the State Department. You see, once mainland China began talking about Hong Kong’s “reunification” with the mainland in the same way Michael Corleone talked about Fredo’s place in the family, a lot of Hong Kongese started wondering if they might be wise to consider leaving for better climes. To that end, Mikki’s mother came to the United States and began the long process towards residency, the almost-legendary Green Card. She filled out all the forms, paid the fees, and complied with all the requirements, some of which made little sense. But she missed one of the required visits back to the United States, and Mikki explained to me that the INS refused to reconsider her position, at one point stating that the old lady would be arrested if she tried to enter the United States. Widows over sixty years old, of course, are well-known to be the most nefarious class of villain.

So I made an appointment to go talk to an INS officer at the Houston office. It was a hot summer day when I arrived, and I saw about three hundred people standing in a long line in the sun outside the building, a long line that wrapped around the building and into the parking lot. Most of the people in that line were Hispanic, though there were also a lot of Asians and some Africans. Since I had made an appointment, I wanted to make sure the line was for everyone entering the INS building, so I walked around to the entrance and saw a couple staffers smoking outside. One of them saw my white skin and business suit and waved me over. I thought he was confusing me for an employee, so I tried to explain what I wanted, but the guy didn’t care. He waved me into the lobby where the line ran up to a window where a couple clerks were handling the long line. I was directed to an ‘Information’ window where another clerk issued me a Visitor pass and directed me to the elevator. I noticed then, that the building had a large waiting room, with enough seats for more than a hundred people. I asked why the people in the first part of the line couldn’t just wait there, where it was air-conditioned, and the clerk told me it just wasn’t done. I said nothing more, but went up to my appointment, where a polite young man assured me that the INS had no intentions of arresting little old widows and grandmothers, and after a bit more paperwork I had her visit approved. As I left the building and saw all the people still waiting in line, I couldn’t help but wonder how much my appearance as a successful – and white – American had smoothed the wheels of bureaucracy. Certainly I had accomplished more in an hour than my wife’s mother had been able to see in a couple months’ of work, and she was neither lazy nor stupid. I was glad for the result, but uneasy at the apparent double-standard at the INS. Considering that event was years before 9/11, I don’t think it has gotten better for those people who try to follow all the Byzantine rules of the government.

And it is with that impression in mind, that I turn my eyes to the millions of people here illegally in the United States. I am hardly unaware or unconcerned about the effects of illegal migration, on just about every level, so I will start with the negatives of the present situation. Twelve (or more) million people who do not pay for their children’s education, for police and fire protection, for taxes, or for medical care, will severely impact any infrastructure you can name. And it is a plain fact that the number of violent criminals in the United States who came into the country illegally has been rising, and continues to do so at a fast pace. Further, the network of coyotes who traffic in border crossings is ready-made to smuggle in enemies of the United States, and whatever materials or weapons they wish to use. An answer is long overdue.

However, many of those who demand draconian actions are not realistically examining the condition. As my title suggests, they seem to not see the sort of people who are the focus of this issue. Yes, there are terrorists to protect against, but as yet I have not heard of a major Latino group which desires to murder American civilians or overthrow the United States government. Granted, movements like the Reconquista and racist groups like La Raza are problematic, but if we call them ‘terrorists’, we not only start to blur the difference between vulgar but nonviolent activists, and people who bomb schools and cut heads off as part of their ideology, but we would also be forced to declare many leading Democrats to be ‘terrorists’. The rhetoric is too similar to ignore the shared meme. Also, most Latinos are neither violent nor opposed to nominal American community practices. The Latin culture is often family-centered, loyal to Christian morals and standards, and as a whole compatible with standard Western values and beliefs.

At this point, I have to stop and acknowledge that yes, I am speaking of the illegals as basically Latino, though there are other races and cultures involved, because statistically most of the illegals are from Mexico, and from Central and South America. I also agree that I am stereotyping to some degree, but I think that in the general sense, my descriptions are accurate. I do not mean to suggest that we should not worry about millions of uneducated and unskilled foreigners in our country, who do not speak the language and do not try to assimilate into the American cultural fabric. Yet I have read enough history and heard enough from first-generation immigrants, to know that every group which comes to America in large numbers tends to be unskilled and uneducated, because the one who do have skills and knowledge are able to do well without coming to America. The United States has always taken the apparent dregs of the world. The Irish, the Polish, the African, and the Asians were all in their turn described as “too many”, “unskilled”, “uneducated and uneducatable", and they lived in cultural islands and ghettoes away from the majority for a generation. Ever hear of Little Italy? Little Warsaw? Little Vietnam? Such communities are everywhere, and they are not new. I have noticed that it is usually the second generation, the children, who start to assimilate and become part of the nation and in so doing add their contribution and shape the nation’s future. One reason my own father made a point of getting a Masters degree in Mathematics, was because growing up he got angry at hearing how bad the Irish were at Education, and that higher-order studies were impossible for a “mick”. I don’t mean to imply anything about the people who find the current illegals undesirable as a class of person, except that what is happening now has happened before. It is something which can be corrected, but only with time and only by understanding the Historical context of Immigration to America.

The reason, more than anything else, that illegals enter the United States, is a better life. No, that does not make it all right to ignore the law, but it does mean that illegal entry into the United States will continue to be a crisis until the root causes which spur illegal migration are addressed in substance:

[] The Mexican Economy and Infrastructure
[] The U.S. Immigration Bureaucracy
[] Assimilation Strategy
[] Law Enforcement Strategy

Each of those is a sub-topic worthy of its own discussion, so I will leave them stated simply for the moment. For here and for now, it is important to understand that to address this problem in any fashion which will lead to a durable and practical solution, we must choose a party which is best minded to address the matter rationally, we must support the leadership of that party and work to craft corrections and enforce functional law. We must clear out inefficient and unethical practices in the government’s offices, and we must create avenues of communication which help foreign nationals understand that compliance with the law is in their best long-term interest, and that of their children. New proposed legislation must be designed with those principles in place to guard against repeating error or creating obstacles for people who have already complied with the law, and it should encourage people to begin to comply if they have not done so already. The forces of law enforcement must be encouraged to work cooperatively to advance the cases of law-abiding immigrants and protect the rights of all persons involved, to the degree that their conduct warrants such attention, and to communicate a simple, clear message regarding rewards for compliance and punishment for defiance, for businesses as well as individuals.

We cannot simply act as if twelve to twenty million people are invisible.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

So Waddaya Want?

OK, from the start I admit that I am not the best candidate to play peacemaker, but the matter is too important to ignore. Conservatives, various flavors of Republicans, and more than a few flame-throwers just out to stir up the fighting have been going after each other on and off again for more than a year now. There have been manifestos demanding surrender by the majority to a rabid few, there have been some folks so offended that they say this is the end of the Conservative Movement, there have been good-faith efforts by some very fine people to try to mend fences,
there have been gentle reminders that some folks have gone very angry without checking the facts, and some have pointed out deliberate attempts to lie about what certain officials have actually said on an issue.

A depressingly large number of Conservatives have, once again, taken up the ridiculous chant that losing is winning if it rids the Movement of ‘impure’ members. That Republicans who survived losing seats would decide to become more Conservative (I warned last year that the opposite would happen. When they lose seats, the GOP starts thinking the public wants more Liberals, and they start acting that way. I also warned the readers long ago, that the My-Way-Or-Else Conservatives were the greatest threat to the Republican majority in Congress, and that the Democrats would be happy to accept Napoleon’s advice, ‘do not interrupt your enemy when he is making a great mistake’.)

So, here we are. Republicans are the minority party, the public does not trust anyone in office because pretty much all the character attacks left marks, some of the best-qualified people are staying out or leaving the work because of how anyone gets treated, who seriously tries to tackle the hard jobs, and the tone of debate on issues has gotten so foul that no discussion ever lasts even an hour before personal attacks begin.

You did that. Yes, you. So did I. The cast is made up of folks who either caused the fights and derailed the discussion, or they stood by and let it happen. Yes, that’s a generality, there are some few people of honor who tried their best to stop the implosion, but they were ridiculed or ignored. Enough people were hell-bent on taking the Conservative Movement over the cliff, that we are now flying headlong towards the rocks. My question here, is what we do now.

Don’t bother with the issues here. As I said, the Republicans are in the minority of Congress, and even Republicans would rather heckle the President than help him get work done, so it’s not as if we are in charge of the legislation train. And Conservatives? Shoot, a bunch of them are going around pointing fingers at the others and saying they can’t call themselves Conservatives unless they troop along with the mob, and “purge” Conservatism of anyone they deem unworthy. There’s a phrase for that: Malignant Narcissism. It makes Conservatives a flea on the back of a very small dog in a very big dog pound. It’s going to be a while until Conservatives have the clout to get D.C. to take them seriously, and I hope we can all agree that is not a healthy thing.

The question here, really, is what everyone wants. To some degree, I think we feel the need to vent, to let loose some frustration and to find someone who will listen to us. I could point fingers (and you know how much I am tempted), but really the only thing we can do now is start to survey the damage and figure out how to rebuild. But even before that, we’re going to have to get the screamers to give it a rest, so we can find out what options are even possible.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Sopranos? Get Real!

The hit series on HBO ran out its string last night, and this morning a lot of folks are talking about the ending, which is doubtless how everyone with the show wanted things to go. Me, I never watched the “Sopranos”, largely because I did not feel the need to shell out money to a cable company for something of such variable quality and annoying scheduling. But even if it had been on my set, I don’t know that I would have watched. OK, part of that is because I am in school again, and spent most of yesterday doing Cost Analysis and Quant homework (and a couple hours trying to treat a rash on my dog and to find out what was causing it). But another part is because movies and shows about the Mob are getting further and further away from the reality. While “wise guys” and the Mafia are still around, especially on the East Coast, they are a small minority of Organized Crime in America, and they are losing ground. The vanguard of Organized Crime is both more savvy and dangerous than the old guard ever could claim.

There are six types of Organized Crime groups generally operating in the United States or targeting Americans:

[] Race-based groups (like the Bloods and the Crips, the Yakuza, or Aryan groups)
[] Nationality-based groups (like the Yardies from Jamaica, or the Mexican Syndicate)
[] Professional Crime Organizations (like various Triad groups, the Moran family, or the Russian Bratva)
[] Religious organizations (like the Michigan ‘Militia’, Al Qaeda, or Lebaron’s “family”)
[] Street Gangs (small local operations)
[] Political Crime Organizations (like the Earth Liberation Front and ALF)

These organizations participate in a combination of five key types of activity:

[] Vice (prostitution, pornography, gambling)
[] Fraud (credit card, internet, real estate)
[] Drugs (distribution routes and bulk manufacture)
[] Robbery (especially small businesses)
[] Contract Violence (against rival groups, for causes, assassinations, or against threats like witnesses)

The key difference between the old-guard Mafia and modern Organized Crime, is that the new guard has learned to much better conceal its actions, to act unseen by normal people. That does not mean that OC groups have given up violent methods, however. Consider these real-life events and the possible TV show or movie plots which could be made from them:

** A gang sets a bomb off under a van belonging to a bombmaker for a rival gang.

** Hurricane Katrina sends hundreds of gang members out of their home turf as refugees in another major city, where they get into turf wars with established street gangs when they try to carve out new territory.

** Home invasion gangs target ethnic business owners with families, especially young children, who are kidnapped and held while the parents are compelled to collect a ransom. The families are dissuaded from going to the police by a suspicion of an authority alien to them, as well as reminders from the gang that while the police will do their reports and leave, the gang can come back at any time.

** Control of illegal aliens being considered a valuable commodity, gangs will hijack delivery of illegal immigrants in bloody raids.

** Women from Asia are coerced to serve as sex slaves for years, in order to “pay” for their trip to America. Such women are often sold as “wives” in black-market transactions.

** Merchandise stolen from luggage at airports is fenced through local retailers, along with many bootlegged products, such as fake designer clothing and electronics.

And that’s just what has gone on in Houston in the past ten years. You think Tony Soprano was ruthless? Next to these guys, he’s a pansy, and a fictitious one at that.

MLP Round 041

Game Scores:

T Roosevelt at McKinley, 37-33 McKinley
Garfield at Washington, 36-30 Washington
Fillmore at GW Bush, 36-31 GW Bush
Lincoln at Clinton, 33-23 Lincoln
Ford at F Roosevelt, 33-31 FDR
Reagan at Polk, 37-32 Reagan
Jefferson at Cleveland, 34-31 Jefferson
Truman at Taft, 33-32 Taft
Kennedy at JQ Adams, 29-27 JFK
Madison at J Adams, 30-24 J Adams
Taylor at Hoover, 28-23 Taylor
GH Bush at Jackson, 28-25 Jackson
Monroe at Tyler, 30-29 Tyler
Grant at Eisenhower, 30-25 Ike
Nixon at Van Buren, 23-21 Van Buren
Hayes at Coolidge, 31-22 Hayes
Carter at Arthur, 26-21 Arthur
W Harrison at B Harrison, 27-22 W Harrison
A Johnson at Harding, 27-22 Harding
Buchanan at Wilson, 26-25 Buchanan
L Johnson at Pierce, 23-18 LBJ

After playing each of the other Presidents once, one President has one loss, another two have 2 losses, another four have 6 wins, and another two each have 2 wins.

The new Rankings are as follows:

After Forty-One Rounds

.1. McKinley (40-1) beats TR
.2. Washington (39-2) beats Garfield
.3. GW Bush (39-2) beats Fillmore
.4. Lincoln (40-3) beats Clinton
.5. Reagan (35-6) beats Polk
.6. Ford (36-5) loses to FDR
.7. Teddy Roosevelt (34-7) loses to McKinley
.8. Jefferson (32-9) beats Cleveland
.9. Polk (32-9) loses to Reagan
.10. FDR (29-12) beats Ford

.11. JFK (29-12) beats JQA
.12. Truman (29-12) loses to Taft
.13. Fillmore (29-12) loses to GW Bush
.14. J Adams (27-14) beats Madison
.15. Cleveland (27-14) loses to Jefferson
.16. Taylor (26-15) beats Hoover
.17. Taft (25-16) beats Truman
.18. Jackson (23-18) beats GH Bush
.19. Eisenhower (23-18) beats Grant
.20. Monroe (23-18) loses to Tyler

.21. Tyler (19-22) beats Monroe
.22. Nixon (20-21) loses to Van Buren
.23. Garfield (20-21) loses to Washington
.24. Hayes (18-23) beats Coolidge
.25. JQ Adams (18-23) loses to JFK
.26. Arthur (16-25) beats Carter
.27. W Harrison (15-26) beats B Harrison
.28. GH Bush (15-26) loses to Jackson
.29. Harding (12-29) beats A Johnson
.30. Madison (11-30) loses to J Adams

.31. Wilson (11-30) loses to Buchanan
.32. Clinton (10-31) loses to Lincoln
.33. Grant (10-31) loses to Ike
.34. Carter (10-31) loses to Arthur
.35. Van Buren (7-34) beats Nixon
.36. Buchanan (6-35) beats Wilson
.37. LBJ (6-35) beats Pierce
.38. Coolidge (7-34) loses to Hayes
.39. Hoover (6-35) loses to Taylor
.40. B Harrison (6-35) loses to W Harrison
.41. A Johnson (2-39) loses to Harding
.42. Pierce (2-39) loses to LBJ

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Gang Warily, Drummond

That handsome shield you see at the top is the ancestral coat of arms for the family Drummond. Normally, I would not pay all that much attention to heraldry, as it is as dead a matter for most people as studying Latin, or expecting Al Gore to actually cite his sources for the outrageous claims he makes. But I have discovered a bit about my family’s beginnings, which seems strangely familiar to me.

The first known Drummond appears to be a fellow named Maurice, the commander of the vessel which saved Edgar the Atheling and his sisters from the usurper Harold. Maurice, it seems, was the son of George, and a grandson of Andrew, the king of Hungary. The passage was difficult and it seems Maurice was pursued fro a while by Harold’s men. When the passengers were brought safely to Scotland, it is said that for his gallantry in the mission, Maurice was given the name Drum-onde, which in Gaelic means a high wave, and his coat of arms features three wavy bars to symbolize the sunset waves of the North Sea. Fanciful perhaps, but interesting to me.

It is also interesting to note that Sir Malcolm de Drummond was attached firmly to the cause of Robert the Bruce, and at Bannockburn it was Malcolm who devised the way to unseat the feared English cavalry – by spreading caltrops before the horses. Explaining his plan to Robert before the battle, Drummond warned the men who would fight near him to “gang warily” – that is, to watch their step since he would have caltrops all over the place. That’s how that motto got onto the family seal.

The Drummonds made a name for themselves as stout defenders of Scotland’s freedom from England. They were also strong supporters of the Jacobites, and found themselves in many battles because of it. Reading through the family legends from ancient times, and recalling stories my father passed along from our recent years, I was struck by how often my family has been loyal to causes, well beyond the point where men more frail in their convictions would flee. I was also well aware that my family gets into scraps far more often than ordinary folk do, and well beyond the number which prudence would commend. With that in mind, it seems to me no surprise at all to find that I am no deserter from President Bush, simply because turning coats has gained fashion among Republicans, nor that my words should – often – cause a protest and controversy.

I am my father’s son. And near as I can tell, that has been our tradition for going on eight centuries, at the least.

MLP Round 040

Game Scores:

McKinley at Reagan, 35-31 McKinley
GW Bush at Taylor, 37-30 GW Bush
Eisenhower at Lincoln, 37-28 Lincoln
Polk at Ford, 35-32 Ford
Washington at Grant, 34-25 Washington
B Harrison at T Roosevelt, 33-23 TR
Tyler at Jefferson, 34-28 Jefferson
Wilson at Fillmore, 31-21 Fillmore
F Roosevelt at Madison, 30-25 FDR
Van Buren at Kennedy, 32-26 JFK
A Johnson at Truman, 32-22 Truman
Cleveland at L Johnson, 32-21 Cleveland
Harding at J Adams, 30-26 J Adams
Jackson at Monroe, 32-30 Jackson
Taft at Garfield, 30-29 Taft
Pierce at Nixon, 30-21 Nixon
Arthur at GH Bush, 29-28 Arthur
JQ Adams at Carter, 32-26 JQA
Clinton at Hayes, 28-23 Hayes
Hoover at W Harrison, 27-25 Hoover
Coolidge at Buchanan, 25-19 Coolidge

One President has one loss, another two have 2 losses, another two have 5 wins, and another two each have 2 wins.

The new Rankings are as follows:

After Forty Rounds

.1. McKinley (39-1) beats Carter, Madison, Ford, Reagan
.2. Washington (38-2) beats Buchanan, Hoover, Lincoln, Grant
.3. GW Bush (38-2) beats Reagan, TR, W Harr, Taylor
.4. Lincoln (39-3) beats Garfield, Grant, Ike, loses to Washington
.5. Ford (36-4) beats Hoover, B Harr, Polk, loses to McKinley
.6. Teddy Roosevelt (34-6) beats Wilson, Hoov, B Harr loses to GWB
.7. Reagan (34-6) beats Hoover, B Harr, loses to GW Bush, McKinley
.8. Polk (32-8) beats GH Bush, Carter, Madison, loses to Ford
.9. Jefferson (31-9) beats J Adams, Arthur, Jackson, Tyler
.10. Truman (29-11) beats Pierce, Van Buren, JQA, A Johnson

.11. Fillmore (29-11) beats Ike, Clinton, Coolidge, Wilson
.12. FDR (28-12) beats Monroe, GH Bush, Carter, Madison
.13. JFK (28-12) beats Tyler, Pierce, Van Buren, loses to Cleveland
.14. Cleveland (27-13) beats Harding, JFK, Nixon, LBJ
.15. J Adams (26-14) beats GH Bush, Harding, loses to Jeff, Monroe
.16. Taft (24-16) beats Van Buren, JQA, A Johnson, Garfield
.17. Taylor (25-15) beats Clinton, Coolidge, Wilson, loses to GW Bush
.18. Jackson (22-18) beats Nixon, LBJ, Monroe, loses to Jefferson
.19. Monroe (23-17) beats J Adams, Arthur, loses to FDR, Jackson
.20. Eisenhower (22-18) beats Buch, Hayes, loses to Fillmore, Lincoln

.21. Nixon (20-20) beats Tyler, Pierce, loses to Jackson, Cleveland
.22. Garfield (20-20) beats A Johnson, Grant, loses to Lincoln, Taft
.23. JQ Adams (18-22) beats A John, Carter, loses to Taft, Truman
.24. Tyler (18-22) beats LBJ, loses to JFK, Nixon, Jefferson
.25. Hayes (17-23) beats Grant, Clinton, loses to Washington, Ike
.26. Arthur (15-25) beats LBJ, GH Bush, loses to Jefferson, Monroe
.27. GH Bush (15-25) loses to Polk, FDR, J Adams, Arthur
.28. W Harrison (14-26) beats Cool, Wilson, loses to GWB, Hoover
.29. Harding (11-29) beats Pierce, Van B, loses to Cleve, J Adams
.30. Madison (11-29) beats B Harr, loses to McKinley, Polk, FDR

.31. Wilson (11-29) loses to TR, W Harr, Taylor, Fillmore
.32. Clinton (10-30) beats Buchanan, loses to Taylor, Fillmore, Hayes
.33. Grant (10-30) loses to Hayes, Lincoln, Garfield, Washington
.34. Carter (10-30) loses to McKinley, Polk, FDR, JQA
.35. Coolidge (7-33) beats Buch, loses to W Harr, Taylor, Fillmore
.36. Hoover (6-34) beats W Harr, loses to Ford, Reagan, TR
.37. Van Buren (6-34) loses to Taft, Truman, Harding, JFK
.38. B Harrison (6-34) loses to Madison, Ford, Reagan, TR
.39. LBJ (5-35) loses to Arthur, Jackson, Tyler, Cleveland
.40. Buchanan (5-35) loses to Washington, Ike, Clinton, Coolidge
.41. A Johnson (2-38) loses to JQA, Garfield, Taft, Truman
.42. Pierce (2-38) loses to Truman, Harding, JFK, Nixon