Sunday, March 26, 2006
Notes on Immigration
What a bunch of vindictive whiners now posting on message boards, sounding off in chat rooms, and producing blogs on the immigration issue! By accident of birth and for no other reason, they reap the benefits of the blood shed by others. And because of this, they believe they have a divine right to take it upon themselves to castigate and punish others from other countries who have not been so lucky but who yearn for only an opportunity to work, not to steal, not to commit crimes, not to spunge off the state, but to work. How can we know this? By the sheer numbers of such people who endure conditions to work that many of our lucky countrymen and women would call inhuman and inhumane if they worked under those conditions. So how do the would-be punishers offer to solve the problems created in part by the invitation on the Statue of Liberty? That's STATUE OF LIBERTY. L-I-B-E- R-T-Y ! By punishing those who do not wish to starve while waiting for their potential punishers and their own governments to decide if they can cross a border that is man made, not divinely created for a select few. Probably, those intoxicated on bile would like to remove those words on the Statue. If anyone needs punishment, it is the whiners who want to punish others for being human and wanting what we have and being willing to work for it. Can we change other countries? No. Can we change our own country and our own people in order to show a little bit of charity and a whole lot of compassion and even a little intellect to do what is morally right? Maybe. It depends on whether the words on the Statue of Liberty are taken by us to mean what they say. With a better attitude and a willingness to truly address this problem without the bile, we can do it. Otherwise, the problem will fester and get worse and all of us will be worse off because of it.
It is folly to affect piety in this matter by proclaiming that immigration is OK as long as it is legal. The fact is that immigrants that came to work here and are still here without the legal papers number in the millions. Piety WILL NOT SOLVE this problem.
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" - Emma Lazarus
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Speech Is Free Speech
(as long as it is in English)
There is a Washington Post report posted on MSNBC which carries the story of a Kansas City high school student being suspended for having a conversation with another student in Spanish. The school board rescinded the suspension, but it appears that the boy's family is going to sue. I hope they do and I hope they win and I further hope that some punishment will be meted out to both the teacher and the principal who reported the student and who suspended the student respectively.
There is something profoundly wrong when people are told which language they must use in private conversations. There is nothing in the Constitution which protects speech, but only when it is in English.
Language flows like a current in the ocean beneath the surface. You can't see it, but you can feel it. It cannot be stopped by laws, regardless of intention. Trying to stop a language is about the same as asking spies not to encode their secret messages before transmission. You will have the same success at both. It is understandable that a society should encourage its children and immigrants to speak the most prevalent language for many good reasons, but no good purpose can be served by trying to prevent the use of lesser-used languages.
I have often wondered about those people who only speak one language if the real reason for their opposition to others and others' speech stems from a feeling of inferiority. The easy way, for them, to contend with a language that they do not know and sometimes a culture that they do not understand is to make an effort to ban one or the other or both. Seems to me that attempting to stop conversations in all but a single given language is just one step of many in attempting to stop the transmission of ideas from one person to another or from one sociey to another. These efforts need to be stopped in their tracks. Successful lawsuits are a good first start in this unnecessary battle of the languages.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Thanks for What? A Thanksgiving Observation.
With cell phones we can call anyone anytime from anywhere. But we can also be called by anyone anytime from anywhere. You can argue that we can always turn the damned things off when too many creditors insist on calling at inopportune times to collect overdue payments, but then we run the chance of missing out on that job offer that will double our pay. GPS lets us be located anywhere on earth, but who wants to be located all the time everywhere? RFID devices make life easier for inventory managers but when embedded in official items such as drivers’ licenses or under one’s skin for security purposes, we can potentially be tracked through every doorway we enter or exit. The ubiquitous card readers at gas pumps are certainly convenient, but those records not only can be used for billing us quickly and efficiently, they can be used to track us as we travel anywhere. Credit checks can now be done in 30 seconds or less. Remember that house payment that was late three years ago when you went on vacation and didn’t get back in time to mail it in on time? That might also pop up in 30 seconds or less. Caller ID not only lets you see who is calling before you answer the phone, who you call can also see that you are calling them. Google will almost certainly find you on the Internet if you have a trail of any kind in any medium. Video cameras rest on almost every roof, overlooking almost every parking lot. They focus in on every subway system; they record every visitor to an ATM and every walk you take through every aisle in every store. You are being watched as carefully as the “bad guys.” Background checks are run on every airline reservation system. Cable television systems monitor and can record every program we watch. Banks and retail stores can tell anyone who has authorization (and even some who don't) what we purchased and where. Grocery stores keep records on what we buy to eat when we use their "discount" plastic cards. Hotels and motels won't let us sleep in their beds without "proper" identification. Toll booths photograph our license tags as we drive through just in case we don't pay. Radar can record our speed on the highway and transmit the info to a waiting patrol car a mile away. Satellites can provide close-ups of our roofs. Sporting events’ guards search us as we enter the stadiums and arenas and in addition to not letting us in with a nasty weapon, won't let us take in our own soft drinks. Insurance companies can keep detail historical records of everyone's love life, illnesses and injuries.
Americans historically have been afraid of being constantly monitored and have usually imagined the close monitoring of citizens to be primarily the actions of despots. Interestingly, democracies can rival the despotic states in monitoring their citizens and frequently outdo them as most of them have more money to spend on monitoring devices. This fear should make Americans aware that it is a very short step from being monitored to being controlled, but that recognition hasn’t appeared to materialize yet with the population at large.
Are we freer now than we have been in the past? Do all of these monitoring and recording systems make us freer? Do we have the FREEDOM to do what we want, where we want, anytime we want, as long as it is legal and without the government and the neighbors being the wiser? Can we echo Martin Luther King’s "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, (we're) free at last!" Free to be monitored? Thanks for that? No thanks.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Seeing is not believing.
Every time you look up at a clear sky in the dark of night, you are seeing the universe as it never was. The light from all of those stars left at different times in the past. Two stars that may appear to be side by side may in fact no longer exist as both may have already exploded and dispersed into space. Star A may have come into being a billion years ago, may be 20 million light years away and exploded 10 million years ago. We just haven't gotten the light from the explosion yet. It is also possible that Star B came into being 1 million years ago, is 3,000 light years away and exploded 1,000 years ago. We also would not have gotten the light from that explosion to know about it either. So those two stars in this example did not exist at the same time, yet our eyes not only suggest to us that they did, our eyes also tell us that they appear to be side by side. In the example it never happened that Star A and Star B existed at the same time, yet we plot our star maps as if those stars are really there where we see them. And so it is with all stars and other luminous bodies. We see the universe as it never was every time we look out at the sky on a clear night. It is impossible to see the universe as it is or ever was.
You may ask, "So what?"
To offer a tease, the "So What?" will be answered in subsequent blog posts by yours truly.