Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Glories Of Deregulation

You would think that the all the industrial disasters would make it clear to America that trusting private industry to police themselves is not a good idea.  We've had a financial meltdown on Wall Street that nearly destroyed the entire economy, a coal mining disaster that left 28 men dead in West Virgina, a cave-in in Kentucky that killed two more, and now an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11, injured 17, and is going to destroy much of the coastal ecosystems of Louisiana.

How many more explosions, cave-ins, fires, or frauds do we need to go through to catch on that human beings are fallible?  Greed makes us forget about long-term issues like safety and security over short-term gains.  It is inherent in our structure, and expecting a profit-making entity to police itself properly and reliably is crazy.  An external arbiter with no vested interest is needed to keep everyone honest.  That is the role of the government regulator.

Reaganomics was wrong on so many levels it makes my head hurt.  I was screaming about how it was foolishness  and its proponents were being deliberately dishonest back in 1980.  I take no pleasure in being able to say "I told you so."  Another unfortunate aspect of human nature is that we will selectively listen only to those things that we want to hear.  Reagan promised that deregulation and cutting taxes would lead to financial paradise.  The slightest bit of analysis showed it to be complete nonsense, but everyone wanted to believe it was true, and willingly bought the lie.

The most frustrating part is that too many people still haven't figured out it was all a big lie, and still support this idiocy.  Even if we do get it straightened out, once we're all gone there will me more demagogues to sell this snake oil to the public again.  Human nature is not about to change any time soon.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The TAMI Show

Just saw this last night - "The Greatest Concert Video No One Ever Saw."

Filmed in 1964, the ownership of the video rights apparently bounced around for decades without anyone exercising them.  It's just come out on DVD this year, and holy cow, what a show.  A must see for anyone who remembers or is even curious about the music of the time.  James Brown, particularly, really tears the place up.

Fun bits of trivia:  actress Terri Garr was a go-go dancer in the show.  She's wearing the shirt with a big target design on front and back.  I spotted her right away, but only as a face I recognized.  I had to do some research to figure out it was her.  Singer/choreographer Toni Basil ("Hey Mickey") was also a go-go dancer - I'm not sure which one was her, but the brunette in the bikini is a pretty close match.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sports Roundup

Although I have lived in Tennessee for nearly 25 years, I was raised in Michigan and still retain my childhood professional sports allegiances with Detroit.  On that note:

The Lions:  Cliff Avril says, “Ndamukong Suh looks like a beast.”  After the emergence of Matt Stafford last year followed by the drafting of Suh this year, being a Lions fan may be something other than depressing for the next few years.  Given that it's the Lions, though, "not depressing" will probably mean as many as four wins a year.  Whoopee!

The Red Wings:  Very exciting Game 7 last night against the Coyotes.  They really meant business and tore up the second period something fierce.  Here's to more Stanley Cup success in the near future.  Detroit needs something to cheer them up, and the Red Wings can do that very nicely this year.

The Tigers:  Started out 6-1, are now 11-10.  Sigh.  Looks like a long summer of mediocrity.  I don't see them in the post-season.

The Pistons:  I haven't followed pro basketball in 35 years, so I have no idea what they're up to.

And as I am an alumnus of the University of Michigan, I have a deep abiding love for them, as well:  Denard Robinson is coming on fast at quarterback.  Tate's going to have his hands full keeping the starting spot.  Everything I'm seeing so far looks like a vast improvement from last year, so if the defense is good enough, Rodriguez will keep his job.  That's good, as I like the guy and think he's a great coach.  Sometimes things fall apart despite talent and good intentions, though, so I hope things are on an upslope from here.

That's enough for now.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tennessee's State Motto

"Thank God For Mississippi Arizona Oklahoma"


I love it.  The World Championships are being broadcast on the web via numerous sources, and I have become addicted to it.  I played a lot of pool with my Dad as a kid, and Snooker is absolutely the highest form pool-related gaming I have ever seen.  I don't need to prattle on about it, as if anyone reads this they either know about it, or don't - and this is no place to try to explain it.

Anyway, I know I would be really bad at it, but it's an awesome game.  Just thought I would let anyone who stumbles across this know.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Immigration Reform, Part The Last

OK, I want to draw this series of posts to a close and move on to other things.  My basic premise, said in too many words and with far too much bloviation, is that the majority of opponents to sensible, realistic immigration reform maintain their opposition for essentially the same reasons that Southerners opposed desegregation 50 years ago.  They wish to maintain a static, caste-based society with a permanent semi-slave underclass.

Surprisingly, I'm not alone in this.  I found this column over at HuffPo today, where Robert Creamer is comparing Arizona in 2010 to Alabama in 1963.  He recognizes that this is going to go down like the civil rights struggles of the past.  I fear this is going to get very ugly before it's over, but will simultaneously serve to put the troglodytes back into their caves for another couple generations.

Anyway, I've been dancing around this topic for the better part of a week, and I guess I should close with what I think is a reasonable approach to immigration reform, from my perspective as a pragmatic bleeding-heart liberal.  I'm not much of a policy wonk on this at the moment, so it's a good thing no one reads this - I'm going to let myself look quite silly and naive.

First of all, we have to acknowledge the illegal immigrants that are here, and recognize that they're not going anywhere.  The only thing we can really do with them is get them out of the darkness and provide them with amnesty and a reasonable path to citizenship.  The people who migrated here legally pitch a fit over this, and legitimately so, but there is no completely fair solution to anything here, and the greater good seems to be in moving the currently illegal to legal status.

Second, we need to change our border policies.  There are millions of people seeking to get into this country, and few that are allowed in legally.  Thus, we have so many crossing in illegally.  Since it is obvious we cannot stop them, let's go the other way and remove nearly all limits to immigration, and make entering the country legally a simple task.  No one is going to take a risk on a sprint through the Arizona desert at night if they can help it.

However, we do have a right to know who is entering our country, and keep certain people (known criminals, or with highly communicable diseases, for example) out.  Thus I would propose a registration system at border crossings, where people can apply to enter, and within a week can be approved to cross.  Those who are coming to find a job will have a chance to do so without fear or significant cost.  Work visas could be initially granted on a 6-month basis, with a continual rollover allowed for reasonable lax reasons.  Non-citizens would have access to limited social services, but not be eligible for unemployment benefits, social security, medicare, or welfare.  If they're here to find a job and can't find one, they should head on back home, unless they have friends and relatives who will support them. 

Application for citizenship ought to be contingent on a credible work record, though.  I do have a problem with someone coming here, laying around sponging off relatives for five years, then becoming a citizen and living off welfare.  I don't think that's actually a very common problem, but I wouldn't have an issue with a work history requirement for someone who arrived via the lax immigration quotas.  Someone who is deported for criminal offenses would go on the list of "persona non grata", and not be allowed back in.

Coupled with this would be stringent enforcement of laws against employers hiring undocumented workers.  Once the amnesty is available and the borders are opened up, there is no reason whatever to employ someone who has entered the country illegally, except to exploit them.  No hiring of illegal immigrants, plus relatively easy legal border crossing, would dry up the market for these near-slave laborers in a hurry.

I'm sure there are plenty of problems with this basic scenario, as I am not conversant enough in the details of immigration policy to know what I'm overlooking.  It is something of a "free market" approach to immigration - if people think living here without social benefits is better than living in their home country, then come on down.  We just want to know who you are and where you're hanging out.  Get a job, pay your taxes, behave yourself, and you're welcome to join the party as a citizen.

And with that, I will leave this subject for a while.  It's been good to get all this out of my head, as it's made room for other stuff.  I'm glad I have no readers, as this whole series will be long buried in archives before anyone discovers this place.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Immigration Reform, Part The Third

OK.  So in the last two posts I developed the notion that there is a fraction of the population that wants social stasis, out of fear of backsliding from their own current position.  Prior to desegregation, these people liked the idea of blacks occupying the bottom rung of the social ladder, because it made a backstop for them and gave them a level of comfort about how fall they might fall.  While there was and continues to be plenty of overt racism due to nothing more than pigmentation, a fair amount of institutional racism is more about preventing social mobility, than specifically discriminating against a class of people.

Anyway, one of the results of the Civil Rights struggle was that these people have spent 40 years or more trying to reconstitute their caste-based social safety net via economics.  It's not anywhere near as efficient as the Jim Crow laws were in keeping people in their place, however.  They've been looking for a new bottom class to focus on, where laws already exist to help keep them at the bottom of the barrel.

These people are the illegal immigrants. They have become the new bottom social class, semi-slaves due to their status. They are exactly what the neo-feudalists need.

Looking at the illegal immigration problem from their standpoint changes the whole debate.  These people aren't interested in "solving" the problem.  They want it perpetuated forever.  Their solution is to relegate the illegals to a permanent lower class, and keep them from ever having a chance to become legal or move upward in society.

They propose "send them back where they came from" as a solution.  Why?  Because it will never happen.  Demanding that the illegals voluntarily return to their home country and reapply for legal status is deliberate obfuscation.  12 million people are not going to voluntarily go anywhere.  Somehow I don't think the notion of police moving in and rounding up people by the millions, sorting out the illegals, and shipping them off somewhere isn't going to happen, either.  When pressed about the impracticality of their solution, their response is inevitably, "Well, it's what they ought to do!" and refuse to engage on the reality.

Their attempts to fortify the border in Texas and elsewhere have nothing to do with actually controlling the border.  It's again simply not practical to attempt to close a border that long through that much wild territory.  It may make it harder to cross, but it will not stop it and they know it.  Fortifying the border is instead more akin to a "spite fence" - a fence a homeowner builds to show a neighbor how much he is disliked.  The border-sealing schemes are all about showing the illegals how much they are hated, so that they will "stay in their place" and not get uppity.

Consequently, the neo-feudalists will fight tooth and nail to prevent any sort of real solution to illegal immigration.  Their goal is the subjugation and humiliation of illegals, to keep them in the bottom social caste.  They do not want the status quo to change.  This is fundamental to understanding the fight to come over illegal immigration.  It is a fight between those who want to treat illegal immigrants as human beings, and those who want to keep them as indentured servants.

The coming fight over immigration reform is going to look suspiciously similar to the civil rights battles of half a century ago.  The motives of each side are quite similar to the protagonists of that battle, and the arguments both sides will use will end up being quite similar as well.  In other words, it's going to get very ugly - and doing the right thing is going to be outrageously difficult. 

I hope Obama and the Congressional Democrats have the stomach for a primal fight, one that's going to go down to the gutter in a hurry.  It will be a defining moment for the country if they can pull it off.