Monday, November 29, 2004

Someone's Watching 

Historical and Modern Perspective

The Discovery Times Channel will be airing a documentary on private and governmental surveillance in America. It's set to aire on December 18th.

Click here to read more.

Educate yourself.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Fallacy Of Bush's Immigration Proposal 

This Guy's A Conservative, Right?

With his recent trip to South America concluded, the president is once again trying to appease the American Hispanic community and Latin America in general. He's trotted out his proposal to give amnesty to current illegal aliens as well as allow "guest passes" or some other such nonsense to workers that will take jobs, "Americans are unwilling to take".

This proposal is so wrong on so many fronts, this rant may take a while. Buckle up, it's gonna get bumpy.

Let's start with some common ground - some assumptions and declarations.

The first declaration is that the wages paid for a given job are a result of two things: The skill/education (the "qualifications") needed to perform the job, and the number of qualified people that want the job. When few qualified people want a job, the wage goes up. When many qualified people want the job, the wage goes down. Supply and demand. Simple economics.

The second declaration is that new, legal immigrants generally start off at or near the bottom of the economic scale, and work in jobs with low skill or educational requirements. This has always been the make-up of immigrants that have entered the US, and will probably continue. People coming here are usually doing it for "The American Dream" of hard work turning into an honest living. The first generation of immigrants has always lived hand-to-mouth, but successive generations have prospered from the sacrifices of their elders. Think the Irish/Italians of the 1880's, the Vietnamese of the 1970's or the Mexicans of the 1980's through today.

The last declaration is illegal immigration is caused by US companies hiring illegal aliens. If there were no jobs given, the aliens would have no reason to illegally enter our country.

If we can have agreement on these three points, I'll show you how the president's plan is not only disastrous for most American's, it is actually devastating towards those individuals that follow our laws and immigrate legally. I'll also provide a way - albeit a very controversial way - to stop illegal immigration in a matter of a few short months - maybe a year.

The crux of the president's plan is that US companies would have to certify that there were no US citizens that were willing to take a job. They could then hire "guest workers" - folks given a 3-year visa to work in the US - to fill the positions. This is a recipe for disaster.

Why do you think there was no one willing to take the position? It's because it does not pay what American's feel the position is worth. Supply and demand. By allowing guest workers to take these low-qualification jobs for below-market wages, you are destroying the basic economic model by which our country has prospered for over 200 years.

The companies wail that if they pay higher wages, prices will skyrocket. Bull shit. One of the favorites has to do with farm products - items historically picked by illegal aliens. "If we have to pay decent wages, you'll be paying $25 for a head of lettuce." Double bull shit.

Let's look at this more closely. Let's say a head of iceberg lettuce costs a dollar a head. Lettuce pickers are paid the greater of the minimum wage OR a per-piece-picked scale. For simple math, let's say the minimum wage is $6/hour (it's higher is some states, lower in others). On a full-time basis (2080 hours per year), that equates to $12,480 per year. I know I wouldn't do that back-breaking work for that kind of money.

Let's also say that a picker can pick 100 heads of lettuce in an hour. That equates to one head every 40 seconds. Trust me when I say, they do it much quicker than that, but this is just to make the math easy.

So, this tells us that the cost of wages for a head of lettuce is a maximum of $0.06 each.

What would happen if we doubled the wage? The head of lettuce would now cost $1.06 and the worker would be making nearly $25,000 per year. That's a decent wage in many parts of the country. Let's add another multiple. The lettuce would now cost $1.12, and the wage would be over $37,000 per year. That's college diploma wages. If we added one more multiple, the lettuce would cost $1.18 and the wage would be just under $50,000 per year. For picking lettuce.

How difficult do you think it would be to get untrained, uneducated people to work for those kinds of wages? Not very hard at all. They would have riots with the number of people trying to get these jobs. Those legal immigrants would have a wage they and their families could easily live on. Maybe that "American Dream" wouldn't have to skip the first generation.

Everyone would win. The company would have a loyal, hardworking workforce. Their increased costs could easily be passed along to the final consumer with absolutely no decline in their sales (no one is going to stop buying lettuce because it costs $0.18 per head more). A huge segment of our society would be lifted out of poverty almost immediately.

This model can be applied to many other segments of our economy. Hotel/motel workers, for one. In an earlier rant, I described how illegal immigrants were under-cutting the negotiating ability of hotel workers - typically low-payed immigrants - in San Francisco. Look at almost any industry that has a high percentage of newly minted legal immigrants workers, and I can show you how illegal immigration is seriously hurting their ability to make an honest, livable wage.

Now, I promised a solution to this mess. And I said it would be controversial, and it is. First, another declaration. There has to be the agreement that illegal aliens are breaking the law. It seems pretty straight forward - international law, as well as our own country's laws give us the right to set the standards by which people may cross our borders. We have set those standards, and every illegal alien is breaking those laws by coming to our country without our express permission.

I propose placing a monetary bounty on each and every illegal alien. The bounty will be paid for by the employers of the illegals. I propose a $10,000 per illegal bounty. Half of the money would go to the individual responsible for identifying the illegal, and the other half would go to the Feds to administer the program and deport the aliens.

To ensure you didn't have a bunch of yahoos running around the country, shooting up businesses and illegally detaining aliens, I would propose that a large number of individuals with legal, law enforcement or bounty-hunter experience, be "deputized" to act as the persons actually detaining the illegals. They would be paid from the half of the funds earmarked for the government. The "informant" would receive the other half of the bounty. Most importantly, it punishes the root cause of this problem - US companies that illegally hire these people.

I know this seems crude and inhumane. It took me quite a while to get my mind around this concept, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

Our country is over-run with illegals - some 12 million are estimated to be here. They are hurting our economy and citizenry financially as I've described above. They are a drain on the social services throughout the country - how many hospitals are closing in your area because they are unable to make ends meet due to all of the "freebies" they must service? Lastly, they're criminals and need to be treated as such. If there were any other single criminal population in the country, we would be arming citizens to hunt them down. I don't want to get there, but it is bound to happen if we don't stop this - right now.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Big Brother..... In Spades 

Missed The Prediction

A while back, I wrote about how our government was proposing to use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in US passports. I discussed in detail how this was the wrong technology for the job, and how this technology could be used against citizens by our Nanny government or by terrorist organizations.

UPDATE 11/22/04 - It seems this story has some "legs" as the Associated Press is now running a story on the potential problems of RFID tags in passports. This is a BAD idea, folks.

It looks as though some school districts are making the job - and the accompanying indoctrination - easier for Nanny. Where are the Civil Libertarians when you need them?

Before I go any further, you need to understand my perspective on things. My basic, underlying belief is that Americans have no greater gift than personal freedom. The entire basis of our society is grounded on that premise. Personal liberty + Personal responsibility = Personal opportunity. When individuals succeed, our society as a whole succeeds. More government (Nanny) equals bad government. When individuals begin relying on Nanny for their basic needs - and Nanny provides them - we as a society suffer. Because we're taken care of, there is no need for the drive and innovation that built this country. Think, "Former Soviet Union" if you need a recent example of this model in action.

I was reading this article, and my jaw dropped. It seems as though there are a number of school districts which have employed RFID name tags for their students. The students pass their badges over a reader as they enter the school bus or when they walk through kiosks on campus.

One parent summarized her feelings:
When the district unanimously approved the $180,000 system, neither teachers nor parents objected, said the president of the board. Rather, parents appear to be applauding. "I'm sure we're being overprotective, but you hear about all this violence," said Elisa Temple-Harvey, 34, the parent of a fourth grader. "I'm not saying this will curtail it, or stop it, but at least I know she made it to campus."
This mother rightly acknowleges that the system will do nothing to prevent violence against her child, yet she's fine with the process. At least she knows her child made it to school. Hauling her BonBon bloated ass off of the couch and taking her child to school would serve the same purpose. But let Nanny take care of it - it's so much easier.

Look at the mind-set we're developing for our children. We're raising helpless, Nanny-dependent kids that are unable to fend for themselves.
Christopher [a 9 year old, 4th grader] said it was important that students wore badges so they did not get lost. Asked what might cause someone to get lost, he said, "If they're in second grade they might not know which street is their home."
Once again, having an RFID badge will do nothing to prevent a kid from becoming lost. But our willingness to allow Nanny to "tag and bag" us is being drilled into kids at the earliest ages. They'll be push-overs when they become adults.

One supposed purpose is to help fight against kidnapping. How in God's name could an ID badge prevent a kidnapping? It couldn't. Period. Aside from limited tracking range, a kidnapper would simply need to throw away the card. The only way to prevent that would be to embed the chip in the child. "That will NEVER happen!" Really?
But, they said, they do see broader possibilities, such as implanting RFID tags under the skin of children to avoid problems with lost or forgotten tags.
Little Johnny doesn't have the ability to use his own mind, so we'll just electronically "brand" him so he doesn't stray from the herd.

Answer me this: If someone is sick enough to kidnap a child, how much of a stretch would it be for them to carve up a kid looking for the RFID tag? Not much of a stretch at all.

If you haven't read, "1984", do so. People never thought it could happen. Americans would not let it happen. When the year 1984 rolled around, there was a nearly audible sigh of relief that we hadn't succumbed to the predictions.

Today, there are regularly articles on surveillance being used by Nanny - 2,000 cameras alone in Chicago. RFID tags. USA Patriot Act allowing wiretaps without court orders.

1984 is a reality, baby. It just took an extra 20 years.


Sticks And Stones 

Character Builder???

I had mentioned in an earlier post that my oldest son plays football for his high school. They had their last game of the regular season this past Friday against their arch rival. We were up 21-0 at half time, and the coaches managed - again - to lose the game, 21-24. I won't go into the details of what has happened in previous games, but suffice it to say, most of us in the stands were not overly surprised by the final score.

But that's not the reason for my post. If we had won the game, we were guaranteed to make the playoffs. Luckily, the team below us also lost, so our boys were going to the regional playoffs - only the second time in the school's short history (and this is after a 0-10 record from last year).

The team was having a practice on Monday when it happened. My son (the center) was pass-blocking and his non-snapping hand got crushed between two helmets. No broken skin, but his hand was bunched up kind of funny. X-rays on Tuesday confirmed that the hand was indeed broken - and the doctor would not sign off on letting him play with a soft cast and tape. The bone in his index finger was broken clean-through - not just a fracture. Because of the danger of permanently injuring his hand, the doc (rightly so, IMO) will not let him play.

My son is crushed. It's like deja vu all over again. Last season, he broke the head off of his femur (thigh bone) in a freak accident during the first game of the season. This year, he helps lead his team to the playoffs, and now he can't participate in the final reward.

As with last year, he'll be healed up to play rugby in January (where he has never been injured....), but it is still painful to see him going through this.

On the bright side, his team is made up of mostly juniors and sophomores. They're only losing 3 starting seniors, so next season should be even better. If we can keep him in one piece!


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Long Lost Buddy 

Da Godfather Returns

It had started out as a pretty crappy day. We were trying to recover from a major firewall outage from the day before, and things were just starting to return to normal, if there is such a thing in the tech field.

Then the phone rings.

"Hello, is this The Other Mike S?"

A part of my brain is jolted. I know this voice, but it's way, way in back of my brain. Next to the discarded gray cells that were useful before I started my last batch of homebrew.

"Yeah. Who's this?"

"Is this THE The Other Mike S?"

Schlabam! I see the name, face, mannerisms, smart-assisms - the whole nine yards come screaming back.


Joe has been a buddy of mine since 1978. I was a sophomore and he was a freshman at SF State. We played football together, and were roommates for away games. We did some crazy shit together. Took over the dorms for the infamous, "Hawaiian Heat-On" party. I was in his first wedding. He moved in with my wife and me after the lying, cheating bitch dumped him. I was best man in his second wedding. He is the Godfather of my first son. We were tight.

And then we lost touch. It's been over 5 years since I've even talked to him. His old phone number didn't work. He's a cop like my middle brother, so I'd hear about him now and again. We had an Oktoberfest party a couple of months back, and I asked my brother if he had heard from Joe in a while. Nope, nothing for over a year. Damn.

"What the hell have you been up to, Joe?" And the unbelievable story begins.

He was working with the Sex Crimes detail. He had to arrest this guy, and the "gentleman" didn't want to come along. A fight ensured. At one point, the guy gets Joe in a headlock. Joe gets out of it, kicks the crap out of the guy (I have never seen a better street fighter in my life), and hauls him away. The next day, his neck is bothering him. He goes to the doctor where he finds out that 3 of the disks in his neck have been ruptured and he'll need surgery. Holy shit.

But it gets better.

After he's been wheeled into the operating room, the anesthesiologist gives him a shot. As he feels himself slipping into unconsciousness, a doctor comes up to him and says, "Hi Joe. Remember me?"

He does indeed. Three weeks earlier, he had been investigating allegations about a doctor and his nurse sexually abusing patients while they were knocked out. This doctor. Oh fuck.

His next memory is of a doctor - a different doctor - up on his chest doing chest compressions. Joe had flat-lined shortly after the anesthesia took hold. They said he had actually been scared to death.

He's fine now, pretty much. Had 3 vertebrae fused in his neck. Has a temporary plate in there holding things together.

He fills out his retirement papers on Wednesday. Sounds like he'll do OK financially. He and his wife - and their new 3-month old daughter (dirty old man) - will be coming by this weekend to do some catching up, eat some BBQ and drink a lot of beer.

The get-together be a tough act to follow, but it will be cool having my buddy back.


Wednesday, November 03, 2004

WTF Were We Thinking? 

No, Not That

Well, not entirely. I am still surprised and saddened by yesterday's Presidential election. I will say, though, that I will live by the decision without a single bitch. GW easily won the popular vote - IMO the only true indicator of winning an election - so I tip my hat to him and his supporters.

That being said, my fellow Californians have our collective head so far up our collective ass that I'm still shaking with disgust.

You'll all remember - even you non-Californians - we had an election a little over a year ago in which we elected Ahhhnold as our new governor. One of the key issues - no THE key issue - was our budget deficit. Fifteen billion dollars, give or take a few hundred million.

So, how did we respond with this election? We voted to dig ourselves in even deeper. Here's a recap of what THOSE OTHER PINHEADS voted for yesterday:

On the good side.....

Prop 60A - This mandates that when we sell surplus state property, that the proceeds first be used to pay down the bonds we voted for in the last election that helped to keep us solvent. Clearly, we had this mind-boggling debt on our minds. We showed we had some hope for fiscal redemption.

Prop 72 - Went down in defeat. This would have required all business to pay up to 95% of the healthcare premiums for their employees. This would have been an utter disaster. Only narrowly defeated, 50.9% to 49.1%. We MUST change this sense of entitlement. It discourages personal excellence. The only logical result - as we saw with the collapse of the Soviet Union - is that EVERYONE becomes mediocre and there are no businesses to pay the tab.

On the bad side....

Prop 61 - This one passed by a huge margin. It is to issue $750 million in bonds to upgrade a number of Children's Hospitals. OK, I'm the big, bad fiscal conservative that eats babies for breakfast. With tax and tip, this will cost us $1.5 billion. In one fell swoop, we added 10% to our shortfall. What pisses me off, is all you have to do is show some crippled kid with big doe eyes and you're sure to pass. Stupid bastards.

Prop 63 - Passed by 7 percentage points. It will levy new taxes on "the most wealthy Californians" - those making over $1 million a year, with a new 1% tax to pay for Mental Health services. Question to pinheads: Why do you think it is incumbent upon the wealthy to pay for your services? The only partially redeeming point with this is that it's a tax (pay as you go) and not a bond that we'll be saddled with forever. Oh, did I mention that the state mental health department is being investigated for fraudulent practices by the US DOJ? Do you think that maybe we should clean house FIRST before dumping good money after bad. Just a thought.

Prop 71 - Passed by a wide margin. It will fund stem cell research. A laudable goal, and one that I support. The only problem is, we don't have the money to fund this. Besides, this should be a national effort, not a state one. This will issue $3 billion in new bonds, and cost us $6 billion when all is said and done. That'd be another 40% to our debt.

Great thinking, you asswipes. Your kids will thank you when you're dead and they're still paying off this debt.


Monday, November 01, 2004

The Porch Rocker 

Every neighborhood has one. The old man or lady that's not "quite all there". The old lady that peers from between her drawn curtains, watching the kids on the block doing stuff kids do. And silently cursing them. Nowadays, it's more likely to be a homeless person screaming at a tree or a wall in the city park.

When I was a kid, it was The Porch Rocker.

He was this grizzled old guy that sat on his front porch in a rocking chair. The porch faced the sidewalk in front of his house, and was between my home and the bus stop for school. Every day when we'd come home, he'd scream at every kid that walked by. Mostly bible scripture about the evils of sin, and alcohol and lust. I was all of 10 years old.

My parents would warn us not to taunt the old guy - to just keep our heads down and hurry past his home. Of course, we'd mess with him every chance we got. We were kids, and he was the neighborhood kook. It was a symbiotic relationship. We got some laughs and he had a reason to get up each day.

As I grew older, I realized that what we had done was not right, and the old guy was probably just lonely. I don't remember ever seeing a Mrs. Porch Rocker.

It was one of those life lessons similar to not kicking cats, picking on smaller kids or messing with the kids that rode the "little yellow bus" to school. It wasn't cool to pick on the disadvantaged or unstable.

Steve is becoming The Porch Rocker. He used to have one of the funniest and most thoughtful blogs on the Internet. He is a very bright guy with a great wit. He wrote a book that had recipes that are guaranteed to stop your heart. The commentary on each page is just hilarious.

Sometime in early 2004, his political posts began drifting. They were much more acerbic and biting. He wrote a post in early July that was over the top. In it, he accused Planned Parenthood of having a goal of black genocide. Really.

I wrote a blog entry because Steve had started the practice of deleting or editing replies to his post that weren't in line with his way of thinking. He apparently thought it was cute, but it really spoke to his total disregard for what others thought. Steve's way was the only way of thinking.

In my blog entry, I noted that I would no longer be posting to his site. He was losing it, and I no longer would participate in his collapse. I dropped by now and again to see what he was writing, but I wouldn't comment on any of the entries. He was just too far gone into "Steve's World" to try and discuss his postings. He continued to tilt at windmills.

And now this.

Today being the day before the general election, I knew there would be a ton of posts. With the recent polls showing a virtual dead-heat, and many predicting a Kerry win, I knew that the more extreme sites would be having fits. I decided to drop by and visit Steve.

Oh. My. God.

He has this post on the bin Laden tape that was released this past week. In it, somehow, he comes to the conclusion that,"Clearly--undeniably--bin Laden is threatening states that vote for Bush."

Huh? Here's the excerpt of the tape he uses as his support:
Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or Al-Qa'ida. Your security is in your own hands, and any U.S. state that does not toy with our security automatically guarantees its own security.
The sentence clearly does not say, "Vote for Bush and die". It very specifically says that it doesn't matter if it's Bush or Kerry (or Al-Qa'ida). Obviously, no US state can unilaterally send troops to the middle east. Both Bush and Kerry have said they'll send as many troops as is necessary to get the job done. A vote for either man will result in the same end. But Steve sees it as an endorsement of Kerry by bin Laden.

So what does the passage mean? I don't know. Maybe it means if governors withhold National Guard troops from serving in Iraq, their state will be spared. It's all a guess. What I do know is that it doesn't even approach saying that voting for Bush will get your state attacked.

Now here's the clincher.

Later in the post, Steve says,
Liberals, doesn't it disturb you that so many terrorists and despots support John Kerry? Doesn't that give you a tiny twinge of doubt? Can you really hate George Bush so much that you don't mind rewarding terrorists, as long as it means ousting Bush from the White House? Can't you stand with us just ONCE in defense of your country? Is patriotism really that painful for you? (emphasis mine)
I know Red Staters will show their grit by spitting in bin Laden's face tomorrow. But Blue Staters will cower. Let's face it. New Yorkers and Californians and folks from Illinois simply do not have the backbone to stand up to this murderer. Faced with violence, they will hand over their lunch money every time.
So, anyone that votes for Kerry is a capitulating, unpatriotic coward that has been swayed by a video tape. This country sure has a bunch of pussies, doesn't it Steve? About half the country, in fact. Oh, and I thought it was the right-wingers that didn't give a damn what the rest of the world thought of us. We aren't to take the opinion of any other entity when making our decisions. Why this sudden interest in what "terrorists and despots" think?

Sometimes you need to confront others, even when they may be handicapped or unstable. My dad once yelled at The Porch Rocker after a particularly vitriolic rant, and told him to shut the hell up and go inside.

You need to shut the hell up, Steve.


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