Saturday, December 25, 2004

They Should call it the Dollarman Project

It seems LB and I have some areas of agreement, although I look at this entirely in economic terms.
According to the U.S.DOL nearly 1 million people make up the full time farm workforce in the U.S., of these 60% are foreign born. If their average wage is $6/hour what would it take to replace these workers with native born American's? A $12 an hour rate would double the labor costs and labor accounts for about 20% of food prices. You can do your own math (or guess) on how many billions we would pay for running immigrants out of just 1 sector of the economy. The garment industry is another that has relied almost exclusively on immigrant labor since the 1880's. Starting with Jewish immigrants, the industry then employed Italians at the start of the 20th century (my grandmother worked in a NYC "sweatshop" for decades). As unskilled European immigration dried up Puerto Rican's and blacks took these jobs followed by Asian’s. These days’ new arrivals from Latin America now handle this awful work. This is replacement not displacement.

The anti-immigration argument seems to be geared towards Mexicans/Latin Americans. LB and I have another agreement here, the U.S. is a great place to live, and that’s why the U.S. also imports higher skilled labor from India and the E.U. You would think the anti-immigration lobby would be railing against skilled immigrants taking high tech jobs not the low skilled farm and garment industry. Taking the EU as a whole they supply 150-200 thousand immigrants a year, mostly educated entrepreneurs. A significant part of the U.S. high tech industry has come from brain draining European countries.

I decided to look into what some anti-immigration groups had to say and found the following at FAIR’s website. Currently there are an estimated 9 to 11 million illegals in the U.S., double the 1994 level. FAIR research suggests that "between 40 and 50 percent of wage-loss among low-skilled Americans is due to the immigration of low-skilled workers. An estimated 1,880,000 American workers are displaced from their jobs every year by immigration; the cost for providing welfare and assistance to these Americans is over $15 billion a year." Illegal aliens have cost billions of taxpayer-funded dollars for medical services. Dozens of hospitals in Texas, New Mexico Arizona, and California, have been forced to close or face bankruptcy because of federally-mandated programs requiring free emergency room services to illegal aliens. Taxpayers pay half-a-billion dollars per year incarcerating illegal alien criminals. The National Academy of Sciences found that the net fiscal drain on American taxpayers is between $166 and $226 a year per native household. Even studies claiming some modest overall gain for the economy from immigration ($1 to $10 billion a year) have found that it is outweighed by the fiscal cost ($15 to $20 billion a year) to native taxpayers."

I am one who believes in the economic benefits of cheap labor to the overall economy but would accept a "slowdown", maybe a 5+ year moratorium on immigration of unskilled labor in order to help assimilate the ones we have now and allow time for the U.S. decide its future policy. The labor shortage will raise their wages and increase costs for the rest of us, I realize this and am willing to pay. The opponents of immigration need to make their arguments for the public to accept higher prices for goods and services.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Minuteman Project

I heard this operation being discussed on the radio in Raleigh today. Actually, I think this isn't such a terrible idea - if they can create enough critical mass to draw attention to shortcomings of the U.S. Border Patrol, good for them.

I have two concerns:

1. A vigilante element - if the goal is attention, that shouldn't happen. The organizers wil invite the news, filmmakers, etc., and this will be a documented activity. Of course, the folks at Abu Ghirab thought it was great idea to photograph their activities...

2. The root causes aren't addressed.

This is like people arguing about who should provide social welfare programs - isn't the better question, why do we need social welfare programs?

Once upon a time there was a town that was built just beyond the bend of a large river. One day some of the children from the town were playing beside the river when they noticed three bodies floating in the water. They ran for help and the townsfolk quickly pulled the bodies out of the river.

One body was dead so they buried it. One was alive, but quite ill, so they put that person into the hospital. The third turned out to be a healthy child, who then they placed with a family who cared for it and who took it to school.

From that day on, every day a number of bodies came floating down the river and, every day, the good people of the town would pull them out and tend to them – taking the sick to hospitals, placing the children with families, and burying those who were dead.

This went on for years; each day brought its quota of bodies, and the townsfolk not only came to expect a number of bodies each day but also worked at developing more elaborate systems for picking them out of the river and tending to them. Some of the townsfolk became quite generous in tending to these bodies and a few extraordinary ones even gave up their jobs so that they could tend to this concern full-time. And the town itself felt a certain healthy pride in its generosity.

However, during all these years and despite all that generosity and effort, nobody thought to go up the river, beyond the bend that hid from their sight what was above them, and find out why, daily, those bodies came floating down the river.

Why do people risk their lives coming here? Yes, America is a pretty great place to be, but if you want to curb illegal immigration, you have to stop the incentives.

Of course, you'd have to pay more for produce, because who's going to pick it? Who will clean Wal-Mart? (Does anyone clean Wal-Mart now? Why are they all so dirty?) Who will build houses in and around Raleigh? Who will clean houses in Chapel Hill?

That's the dirty little secret - we like illegal immigrants, as long as they don't use the public schools, or public health care systems...they make things cheap for us, and we get to exploit them.

If you want to stop illigal immigration, you have to stop the incentives for coming here. Big companies, small businesses, and individuals that employ illegal aliens should face stiff fines, enough to outweigh the cost savings - and maybe even jail time.

Of course, no conservative will ever punish businesses, and no liberal will advocate policies to curb illegal immigration. Folks like the Minuteman Project are just wasting their time.

At least someone's honest about it...

Found this article via PowerLine. They were talking about the distain Democrats show suburban Americans, but I thought this was telling:

"Instead of cutting spending, the strategists of the Republican right have opted under Bush to cut taxes. By salami tactics, including a series of tax cuts for the rich and the increasing exemption of savings and capital gains from taxation, the right is moving towards its unannounced goal: the conversion of the US into a utopia for capitalists, in which regressive payroll and consumption taxes (including a possible national sales tax) replace the progressive income tax system. By means of deficit spending, the Republicans hope to defer the need to raise revenues until their regressive tax system is locked into place.

For now, the majority of Americans are not concerned about the future prospect of higher, more regressive taxes. And a majority appear to doubt that voting for Democrats will put more money in their pockets. Many of those who argue that voters do not understand their own economic interests contrast Republican policies with utopian social democratic or populist alternatives. But the actual alternatives are the Clinton-Gore-Kerry Democrats, who offer mostly symbolic micro-proposals - a tiny refundable tax credit here, a small increase in funding for a programme there."

Is it that Americans aren't concerned, or that they just don't see it coming?

A little break from my ranting

Wannstedt is new Pitt football coach

I'm pretty excited about this. I think Dave Wannstedt is exactly the kind of big-name coach the University of Pittsburgh needs right now. He's cut from the same cloth as Bill Cowher, and that intensity could really help the Panthers stay competitive. I hope he does a great job, because I think this will be his last professional stop. I'd love to see a coach come and stay for a long time, win lots of games, and help restore tradition to Pitt football - who better than a former player?

Why I'm a Christophobic Catholic

A little over 3 years ago, Ann Coulter wrote:
"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity"

Granted, this was written on the day after Sept. 11th, and her anger is understandable, but unfortunately, this attitude is all too common even today.

First of all, the new term "Islamofascists" or "Islamoterrorists" is all the rage. These people are trying to achieve political or economic outcomes, and they are using Islam as the vehicle of the message. Religion, nationalism, ethnic identity - all have been used as the vehicle to rationalize activity. No one calls Eric Rudolph a "Christoterrorist".

The problem I have with current Christian trends in this country is when when people talk about being a "Christian nation", it links our political activities ("nation") to religious identity ("Christian"). While we are seeking different outcomes, this is no different than radical Arabs linking their political/terrorist activity to Islam.

The second problem I have with current Christian trends - what's a Christian? I belong to the largest single religious denomination in the United States - the Roman Catholic Church. As more Hispanic immigrants come into this country, this will continue to be the largest religious order in the US and only get larger. Does this mean we get to set the tone for social conduct in the US, as the largest group of Christians?

Too bad Mormons, alcohol is A-OK for Catholics. Dancing is fine too, so tough luck Baptists. Evolution is perfectly valid, so screw you Fundamentalists...

The point is, if we're a "Christian" nation, who's interpretation of Christianity sets the model for social behavior? Many groups wouldn't want it to be the Catholics, even though they are the majority. To them, we're idolators, and until Vatican II, any Protestant was considered heretical. The National Cathedral in Washington, the national house of worship, is Episcopalian, a denomination that does not unilaterally reject homosexuality.

This is why we can't be a Christian nation - there isn't agreement on what it means to be a Christian. It's easy enough to say, "we all believe in Christ", but once you start talking about using religious beliefs as the foundation for civil action, it's not as clear. I certainly don't need the "seperated brethen" telling me how I should be living my life.

My other problem with current Christian trends was exemplified by this dialogue:

“What political philosopher or thinker do you identify with and why?”

George W. Bush: “Christ, because he changed my heart.”

First of all, Christ isn't a political philosopher. Painting Jesus as a political thinker denigrates his message. Even if you don't believe in him, he was a social philosopher - he only described a model for individual behavior, not institutional behavior. I guess that one could assume that institutions of man should follow indidividual precepts for conduct, but I think Father Maestri says it best:

Does the lordship of Jesus have consequences in the practical/political realm of everyday life? Of course. But these consequences do NOT flow from a detailed blueprint for how to order society. Jesus does not offer a social program, economic theory or political ideology. Jesus proclaims the truth that sets all peoples free – the Gospel.

The kingdom and the Gospel transcend all earthly programs, ideologies and structures. All earthly social orders and cultures exist under the judgment of the kingdom. It is a most dangerous form of idolatry which proclaims a total oneness between the socio-political order and the kingdom.

The prophetic voice must be raised which challenges this too cozy union between a particular social order and the Gospel. All earthly socio-cultural arrangements fall short of God’s kingdom of justice, freedom, truth and peace

We can't produce an equivalent of God's kingdom in our own institutions, so no political institution can be "ordained", and as I said before, social order isn't the focus of the Gospel, individual action is.

From a Baptist perspective:

Now, the truth of Bush's statement-- both concerning whether he really meant it and whether the "political philosophy" of Jesus will work in a democracy-- can be put to the test.
If Bush really believes the "political philosophy" of Jesus, then he will seek to implement the Lord's teachings: "Seek first the kingdom of God ..." "The first shall be last and the last first." "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." "Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me."

Christian philosophy, as a model for society, exists in contrast to the free-market system we have in place now.

Acts 2:43-47
Everyone felt a deep sense of awe, while many miracles and signs took place through the apostles. All the believers shared everything in common; they sold their possessions and goods and divided the proceeds among the fellowship according to individual need. Day after day they met by common consent in the Temple; they broke bread together in their homes, sharing meals with simple joy. They praised God continually and all the people respected them. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were finding salvation.

Acts 4:32-35
Among the large number who had become believers there was complete agreement of heart and soul. Not one of them claimed any of his possessions as his own but everything was common property. The apostles continued to give their witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great force, and a wonderful spirit of generosity pervaded the whole fellowship. Indeed, there was not a single person in need among them. For those who owned land or property would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and place them at the apostles' feet. They would distribute to each one according to his need.

Equitable redistributive economics! Do you really want such a thing in our "Christian" nation?

Plus for those who believe in this war, even as a matter of self-defense against terrorism.

Matthew 26:51-52
Then they came up and laid hands upon Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword."

The point is this - the President, and all his "Christian" supporters, talk a good game, but they don't really mean it. Because it's false, I fear them, because they will misappropriate religious for their own political purpose.

Assault on Christmas is Bogus

I'm getting pretty tired of hearing about the "assault on Christmas" from Right-Wing fundamentalists.

Let's start with the idea of the U.S. as a "Christian Nation". I'm not going to get into a debate about history and people like James Madison. I'm going right to today's figures.

According to the Statistical Abstract of the U.S., Table #67, only 47.4% of the U.S. population identifies themself as a Christian. The majority of this country is not Christian.

Then there's all this nonsense about Target and the Salvation Army. I think the Salvation Army is a wonderful organization, but Target is a business and if they want to enforce a non-solictation policy in front of their stores, it's their right to do so. Is this an attack on Christmas or Christianity - no, they're not letting any charity - Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindi, Buddist or secular solicit contributions on their property. If they only enforced their policy on "Christian" charities, then it could be argued that it's an attack on Christianity, and by a leap of logic, Christmas, but that's not the case.

I'm listening to the radio this morning, and all these fundies in Raleigh are talking about how people should boycott Target and how the Target Corp. is controlled by foreign interests. Target is a Minnesota-based company, and as much as I hate big-box retailers, boycotting these stores only hurts the front-line labour. If successful, do you honestly believe the CEO would have to absorb the losses from a decline in sales? Not likely. The result from the lost sales of a boycott - some cashier is ot of a job. Maybe they can take advantage of the fine work performed by the Salvation Army.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Belmont Club - Even Creepier

"Enemy mortar teams lying in wait to attack doctors are one aspect of a coin which features the blind eye of some media and 'progressive' institutions on the other. Mark Glaser observed that:

For way too long, it has been the mainstream media (MSM) that's played God with the American public, telling everyone what's news and what's not, what to play up and what to downplay. But 2004 was the year the power started shifting, that the Little People, if you will, started to tell the gods of media what the public really wanted.

They can start by looking at the mass casualty station in Mosul and then glancing down at their hands."

This is probably the most disgusting trend I've seen lately - blaming the media for attacks in Iraq. If you want to argue that there isn't enough balance between the good and bad reporting out of Iraq, that's a topic for debate. As for the media actually contributing to the violence in're way off-base.

Social Security crisis? What crisis?

I've been saying this for years:

"Consider tax increases on higher income earners. In the next five to 10 years, he suggested,raise the cap on income subject to Social Security tax. For 2005, it's the first $90,000 of wages.

'Payroll tax no longer captures as much income of wage earners as it did 20 years ago,' Weisbrot said, noting that today 85 percent of payroll is subject to Social Security tax versus 90 percent in 1982.
That's because more of national income goes to earners making more than the income cap for Social Security. Raising that cap 'gets you a long way' toward taking care of the shortfall, he said. "

Raise taxes to pay for a government program!?! That's just crazy talk.
Assuming a shortfall crisis, how is privatization going to cover those costs?
This "private fund" nonsense only increases non-funded government liability.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Mayor Murphy won't run for re-election

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy announced today he will not seek a fourth term in next year's election.

'This was a personal decision. I'm 60 years old and there are lots of things I want to do with my life,' Murphy said at a news conference this morning, with wife Mona by his side"

Could this possibly have anything to do with it?

But it turns out that Pittsburgh -- the mighty forge that supplied steel for America's skyscrapers and warships -- is resting on a shaky financial foundation.

The city is nearly broke.

Hoping to stave off bankruptcy, Mayor Tom Murphy recently asked the state of Pennsylvania to designate Pittsburgh a "distressed" city and appoint an overseer to draw up a recovery plan. A public hearing on the request is set for today.

The future plans for Mayor Quimby...I mean Murphy:

The mayor said he would serve out the remaining year on his term. He did not have another job lined up but said he would like to stay in public service, possibly returning to the Peace Corps, in which he and Mona served in the early 1970s in Paraguay.

Being out of the country, he may be able to evade prosecution for malfeasance. I suspect he can wreck a third-world economy, just as he wrecked Pittsburgh, of course, I imagine justice may not be so tempered in other parts of the world.

Wow, these guys are creepy

I haven't posted in while, decompressing with school being over and everything, but this really irked me.

I found this posting courtesy of the crackpot Instapundit, talking about the execution of the Iraqi election workers and the photos taken by the AP.

The author writes:
...the photos taken by the Associated Press are unlikely to reflect badly on the electoral worker's killers. Press reports highlight the confidence and boldness of the insurgents. "Both of the victims shown in the sequence wore traditional Arab headscarfs. In contrast, the attackers were bareheaded and apparently unafraid to show their faces", suggesting that 'collaborators' must conceal their faces while the Ba'athists stride with impunity through the light of day.

It's not the job of the AP to "reflect badly on electoral worker's killers".

The first comment to this post states:

Without the assistance of the News media, hese thugs would be no threat to the political process and certainly would not have as much support...
The Imperial News Media's political engineering is every bit as big a threat to freedom as the terrorists.

Is this a joke? Does this message actually advocate not reporting on insurgent activities?

I am so sick of these's like FOX News this morning, reporting about last-minute holiday shopping while everyone else was talking about Mosul. If you close your eyes, it doesn't mean it didn't happen.

IT HAPPENED Unfortunately, at least 22 people died. It's not bias - it's reality - and jackasses that blame the insurgency on the media need to get that.

The United States lost most Civil War battles to the CSA in the first 2 years of the war. The Japanese forced the US to surrender in the Phillipines. This didn't happen because of media bias - guess what, the U.S. military gets beat sometimes too.

The election worker execution, Mosul - these demonstrate there are areas of Iraq that we don't have under control. Does it mean the war is a failure? No. Does it mean the war is a qualified success? No.

It means...(refer to above)
there are areas of Iraq that we don't have under control

No wonder conservatives get knocked for not living in the "reality-based" world.