Jun 29, 2007

Questions: What's Next for Immigration Reform? Why Do Human Beings Come to the US when all we Need is a Low-Cost, No-rights Labor Force?

Are we running out of space? Or, do the natives feel threatened?

I've followed closely the Senate's attempts to pass a comprehensive immigration reform, that ultimately failed by a procedural vote, mainly opposed by Republicans. I admit I was conflicted about that bill. It had major flaws--and, I think that's why it didn't get the support from several Democrats who voted against it. I will not rehash the whole immigration debate today. [here's an earlier post of mine] This are some of my latest observations.

The bill was too big, and the managers tried to accommodate too many diverse interests and, more importantly, they tried to get the support of certain Senators by giving them more an more, amendment upon amendment, making the bill more cumbersome, just worse. Many Senators, much of the GOP, are nativists--not in favor of reform, of any immigration. Let me correct this. I mean, any immigration that gives rights to the workers. Exploitation is fine, because it keeps wages low and snuffs workers' demands. The previous congressional was proud for passing legislation to give immigration & labor laws exemptions to US businesses in the Marianna Islands (US territory), so they could keep their imported workers (mostly Asians) in slave-like conditions and keep putting "Made in the USA" labels on their products.

It showed that president Bush has lost one of the most important powers a US president has: the power to convince. Like the Wall Street Journal noted, the GOP is going to be the political loser out of this. The more this issue remains hot--and I assume it will, even simply from a strategic point of view--Republicans who opposed this latest bill will suffer if they come from a state with large immigrant population. In a tight Congress, Dems are expected to have electoral gains from this issue.

Further, if the Dems manage to pass piecemeal
legislation [before a comprehensive one a couple years from now] favoring immigrants already in the country, there's a potential for solidifying the Latino group in the Dem column for a couple generations. This is extremely significant. In 2006, they broke 70-30 for the Dems, an increase over 2000, and the trend can continue upwards in 2008.

Comprehensive immigration reform won't happen before the next Congress & president take office, in 2009. But, smaller steps may be possible, before the next election. A practical approach would be to start with a tiered approach. Start with those who've been
here the longest and have established roots in their community--not a date as it was proposed, but years continuously in the US. The proposed date, Dec. 2006 (anyone who had been in the country by then, even by 1 day), was a point of contention. It gave ammunition to those voices who oppose any reform. But, the majority of Americans--especially the ones who've closely known immigrants--are in favor for giving citizenship to their neighbors who've built a life here. The latter are already citizens, consumers, part of the culture--they're just lack an official document saying so.

The next step could be giving preference to those sectors of the economy that need workers. A skill-based immigration policy makes sense, and it's supported by much of our industry. The level of education could be another factor. There are several ways to tackle this problem of a seriously defective law/policy, but we have to approach it with honesty and with realism.

Jun 21, 2007

Bush Vetoes Science, Again. [A Crude Lesson in Human Sexuality & Reproduction Courtesy of Ignorance]

You may be excused if you didn't know any better, but today?... Applied ignorance is deadly!

I believe in order to make sure the sun rises, we have to open a human chest cavity and extract the heart; we have to do this every day, on some days multiple times! That's my belief. And, you have to respect that, because it's my religious belief! *

Now, if I convince enough people to go along with this, we'll ensure that stupid claims can claim human lives and worsen the lives of those left behind! Isn't what president Bush is actually doing with his latest veto of the stem cell funding bill?

This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others," said Bush after he vetoed the Congressional bill passed with big bi-partisan support. Yet, our Congress still has many more scientifically-illiterate people to sustain Bush's veto. Don't you see the connection between the people and those we elect? Many Republican presidential candidates openly say they don't believe in evolution--one of our strongest scientific theories we've got! These politicians appeal to their base, or, in other words, they reflect the public sentiment of their base!

Why do these people believe that a collection of a few cells constitutes human life? Well, they don't know, but it's their religious belief! Even though 2/3 of Americans favor stem cell research, this president is putting ideology (read: religion, or, how to keep the loons' support of his shrinking base) above science.

What's science? Well, in short, it's the collective body of empirical evidence, research & inquiry, the ability to amend, the theories that have given us answers about many marvels of the universe, etc.. Oh, science has also made possible the doubling of human life expectancy in the last 100 years! Not bad, heh? If a few people have no idea--nor do they care to know--how the human body works, should they be in charge of giving us moral imperatives on how to conduct science?

When, for example, was it that a fertilized human ovum became a human being? Is sperm too? Both sexes expel these naturally. Who was the headmaster of religious interpretation that decreed stem cells are humans beings? Is it written in any ancient holy book? Or, is it because the "authorities" tell us that they have a direct connection to a supreme being and, thus, divine knowledge?

At first it might sound unrelated, but this fits nicely with a religious view towards sex, whereas sex should be only for procreation and under strict rules in order to satisfy the deity... and, to a lesser extend male dominance. That's why
we condemn AIDS but condoms even more! That's why we (the US) allow the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the advanced world, because sex ed and birth control are deemed worse! That's why we allow for a system that puts obstacles to women's reproductive choices, forcing unwanted pregnancies, but promptly abandon the newborns and their mothers. Er, I meant, we do build more jails to institutionalize those who come from broken households and enter a life of crime. That's not so smart I reckon.

"These boys and girls are not spare parts," he said of the children in the audience. "They remind us of what is lost when embryos are destroyed in the name of research. They remind us that we all begin our lives as a small collection of cells." Bush, 43rd president of the USA

I wonder how the world would've been today if papa George Bush had destroyed a human life, some 62 years ago, by masturbating?... Or, that the elder Barbara Bush had her fertilized egg gone down the tubes soon after, as it naturally happens to many women... We'll never know. If we were to follow Bush's credo, those women who try in-vitro fertilization--whereas many eggs are fertilized in the process--are potential criminals, if they are not implanted with all the eggs. This incredible claim is even more absurd if you consider that Bush won't support scientific research that harvests those unused stem cells (taken from unused fertilized eggs) to try to cure dreadful diseases, like Alzheimer's....

Yes, it's true, the combination of sperm & ovum have the potential or turning into a human being--most don't however. Keep in mind that even if a bunch of cells do turn into a person, there are no guarantees that this born individual will indeed exercise his/her mind instead of preferring dogma & ignorance over enlightenment!

Please, don't tell me that elections don' have consequences and that all politicians are the same....

Editor's note: Sketch by XKCD [click on it to make it larger]

* An Aztec practice. Fortunately, as the current (and by dogma, infallible) Pope said, Christianity "purified the indigenous people."

Jun 17, 2007

Badges? We Don't Need No Stinking Budges! (or, how to shred the constitution)

It's only an amendment, and, at that, fourth in order...

Long time ago, someone* famous said once that those who are willing to sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither. Our country is what we make of it. Since I'm not running for any public office, I can commit a "sin" by saying that, for this horrific mess we're in, Bush & Co are not the only ones to blame! Bush was re-elected by an absent-minded electorate. A public that allowed to be deceived and manipulated by its government, and support a bad war of choice. The information about the war was available, but most Americans didn't bother to look. In a democratic country, it was amazing to see such a propaganda coup (with the complicity of the media), when 70% or more of the public bought the lies about the necessity of war in Iraq. Usually, not even authoritarian regimes can pull off such a feat.

We are who we are, because we have a particular form of government that allows for diversity and tolerance of competing points of view. It's good that we have access to all sorts of information, that we can have the option of making up our own minds.
We find it advantageous to have a cosmopolitan society--and, traditionally, such societies have produced more & better arts, science, literature, economies, and happier people! We should not forget this. In a utilitarian sense, this approach of cosmopolitanism makes for a nicer society where people are free to pursue their own dreams & aspirations; it's where persons can be individuals and try to fulfill their own potential.

But, in order to be an individual you have to have personal freedom... you know, that stuff in the Bill of Rights. In other words, we create a society that does not have a Big Brother! We are the products of our own mind and of our environment! If the environment allows a person more freedom to think, read, associate, make decisions, etc., without being constantly watched or in fear, then this condition produces a certain kind of person--a person who is not afraid to blaze new trails, not afraid to grapple with concepts and re-examine old ideas, and to participate in the affairs of the commonwealth as his civic duty.

In the hysteria of the days post 9-11, few were willing to think clearly, challenge
the claims of Bush & Co. Our own Congress ["own" in relatively terms since that Republican-controlled Congress was a do-nothing congress; the Dems helped too, don't get me wrong] swiftly passed the PATRIOT ACT, almost overnight, without debate and without our representatives reading it! I'm not kidding. They didn't read it. They still don't know what's in it, as we recently found out that it gave the President the authority to fire US Attorneys without the advisement & consent of the Senate!

When Congress established the FISA court and amended the provisions to make it easier or our government to spy on people, it still required the gov. to obtain a warrant up to 72 hours after it had started the surveillance. Out of thousands of requests, literally only a handful of them have been denied by the court, so it's almost automatic that the government can get such a warrant. It makes you wonder why BushCo didn't bother to get warrants... which is an illegal under our constitution! [Fourth Amendment]

Much like PBS and NPR, even if relatively few people watch what's on, it's extremely important to create a public record! Same with getting warrants, because we can go back and examine, investigate, and correct past wrongs. B
ut only if we know that a wrong was committed. Now, we find out that the FBI has broken the law more than a 1,000 time while spying on Americans! A couple days ago in an encouraging decision, a judge ordered the FBI to turn over thousands PATRIOT ACT abuse documents. Congress should keep the pressure on. Even if this obtuse president kicks and screams, Congress should investigate and use its subpoena power. Oh, no, I didn't forget the obligations we citizens have to keep an eye on our government... and, reward & punish them via the ballot box, and, in the court of public opinion.

In a related matter, some authorities want to curtail the abilities of terrorists by
limiting their access to common lab equipment, and (do you remember this?) those chemistry sets sold off the rack so youngsters can be introduced to science. In Texas, for example, you have to register a three-neck beakers, but you don't have to register your handgun! [more on this story]

In a few days, the nation will celebrate the 4th of July in pomp & circumstance, and with fire & brim in the sky and in oration... I hope we do more than fire up the barbie, bake in the sun, sit in traffic, hit the stores for sales, and trample on thousand of products festooned with the American flag....

*Ben Franklin

Jun 3, 2007

The Democrats Debate: What, no Show of Hands Regarding (Dis)Belief in Evolution?!!

I watched most of the Democratic presidential debate and, unless I missed it, there was no show of hands regarding belief in evolution and the scientific method. Sure, there are differences among the candidates, but the way I look at politics is this. I have my own values, priorities, and vision for America, so whomever comes within reasonable proximity gets my support & my vote.

I also accept the scientific method, in that I try to learn as much as possible about a credible candidate and then draw my conclusions. Not the other way around. Who does the latter? Sadly, too many people, who pick a team, an ideology, a party, anything that feels good, and then stick with it often despite the available evidence. Anyway, I believe it's healthy to be skeptical and keep an open mind.
Here are some of my observations. Unless Al Gore decides to get into the race, it's between HR Clinton, Obama and Edwards. The rest of the field aren't going anywhere based on what they've shown us this far. Some 60 % of Democratic voters express satisfaction about the choices they have this, whereas 60% of Repubs don't!

The top three Dems look more and more presidential, and, if it's not happening already, soon they all will be polling ahead of their GOP counterparts. Of course, [I can't emphasize this enough], it is very early in the process, yet, it's worthwhile to pay attention to trends, and to events that will influence the actual voting 6-7 months from today.

The Iraq war features prominently in the debates and with the exception of Ron Paul (a very long shot in the GOP contest) all the Republicans want our troops to stay in Iraq--some, like Sen. McCain, for the next 50 years! The Dems, to various degrees, want to bring the troops back, though not everyone is very clear on how they'll do that. It will most likely be a Dem as the next US president who'll have the task of disengaging our country from the mess-o-potamia. Iraq is not Korea, nor post-WW2 Japan & Germany. We're not accomplishing anything by sticking around [even in the most expensive embassy complex in the world] while being attacked by all sides in Iraq.

The opportunity to bring stability in that country and hopefully to the greater region has passed. The incompetent regime we ourselves put in the White House failed to understand that a war is often judged not by what happens in the battlefield but by how the peace is handled. From the moment the US failed to establish a monopoly of violence in Iraq, the game was lost. This conflict has produced a couple winners: Iran, and the terrorists! The terrorists found a laboratory to hone their skills and promote their hateful propaganda while killing Americans. [see them here]

Health care is another issue the Dems seem to be willing to tackle. I'm in favor of a single-payer, universal health care system--like extending Medicare to all--because I can't accept if you don't have money you deserve to suffer and die in a very wealthy country. Again, it's a matter of priorities, so we should ask ourselves what constitutes a right and a privilege. In which category should health care & education be put?

I appreciate reason, and I see more reasonable discussions in the Democratic camp this year. Nowhere I see a show of hands whether evolution is a fact! As if the law of gravity doesn't exist if some people don't believe in it! Or, that we should round up all those millions of people who've been working in the US [and providing valuable services at low wages thus benefiting American business and individuals] without proper work documents and expel them!

Politics is relevant. Compare and contrast. It's about choices among candidates who either provide leadership [those who have the courage to do so] or simply express the public sentiment. I'm a progressive political animal but I also understand that I'm not in the majority when it comes to many issues. Therefore, I've learned to accept a progressive movement on an important issue instead of a stasis. My political choices reflect this thinking.