Wednesday, June 20, 2007

On a lighter note...

...I challenge you to watch this less than twenty times in a row.

More Immigration Bullshit

This should warm the heart of the law-and-order, "deport the criminals" crowd: the INS is threatening to deport Yaderlin Hiraldo, wife of Army Spec. Alex Jimenez--missing in Iraq since May 12th. Turns out Spec. Jimenez had applied for a green card for his wife, but she had to go and illegally enter the country anyway without waiting in the Dominican Republic for our crack immigration clerks to process her application.

Lawbreaker. Criminal.

Rest assured, the loyal, process-oriented government bureaucrats at the INS are on her case and have initiated deportation proceedings. Only a sympathetic judge is delaying her deportation. Meanwhile, her husband, if even alive, is probably enduring hell on earth in the hands of Islamic radicals on behalf of the country that considers his wife a criminal for not waiting in the INS' absurdly inefficient and psychotically long visa line.

I acknowledge that the immigration issue is complicated and difficult to balance, but I call total Bullshit on the current crop of sensationalistic panderers that refer to illegal aliens as "criminals" simply because they sidestep our ridiculous immigration process because they want to live a better life or just join the people they love.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Immigration Bullshit

I have a confession to make: we rent to an illegal alien. She is college educated, has a full time job, has brothers and sisters who all have immigration visas, but she is not permitted to work in the United States. She lives in constant fear of discovery and deportation.

Some would say she should be deported, because others are waiting their turn in line. Here's the rub: she's been waiting in line for ten years.

Ten. Years.

For some, all they need to know about the issue of illegal immigration is that it's ILLEGAL. They broke the law... send 'em back and build a bigger fence.

For me, I learned a critical life lesson about illegal immigration when, during my financial catastrophe after 9/11, I ended up cleaning grocery stores at night so that I could have some money coming in while I looked for work during the day. I ended up taking the job from an illegal immigrant who lost his job when the INS stung the cleaning service.

There I was, a father and husband taking a (frankly, humiliating) job because my family was relying on me to provide. The only difference between me and the Mexican whose job I took was that I, by accident of birth, was in a country that had more opportunity and laws on the books that gave me preferential treatment.

If the accident of fate was that I was born in Mexico, I can promise you that if I had the guts you can bet your ass I would jump the border if it meant a better life for my family. So I can understand why they come, and it's hard for me to blame them.

But that's not the point of this post, which is to call Bullshit on a key argument of the anti-immigrationists. There effectively is no line for your average Central American to stand in. As Jeff Jacoby points out in an excellent essay in The Boston Globe:
Illegal immigrants don't steal across the Mexican border because they lack the patience to wait their turn in line. They do it because there is no line for them to wait in.

The great majority of immigrants who enter the United States lawfully qualify for visas because of family ties: They are lucky enough to be related to a US citizen. For them, there is indeed a line -- the waiting time for a family-based visa can take upward of 10 years. A smaller number of legal immigrants are granted visas because they have advanced degrees or specialized skills and a job is waiting for them.

For most illegal immigrants, a legal option simply doesn't exist. Under current law, a young Mexican or Salvadoran who wants to improve his life by moving to America and working hard at a useful job generally has just two options: (a) Enter illegally, or (b) stay out forever. Several hundred thousand a year choose option (a).

And so would I. There are men who read this blog who I know would be so committed to their families that they would do the same.

While the immigration issue is admittedly complex, we could do without the nonsense that illegal immigrants are just impatient line-jumpers. They are human beings who are trying to find a better life for themselves and have few other options than to disobey our immigration laws. At least give them that.

What brought the Soviet Union down? Money.

While this post has nothing to do with religion, it does touch on my most recent post vis-a-vis how our perceptions can differ from reality (in other words, how we can bullshit ourselves) so I don't mind sharing it with you.

Like many, I've had a closely-held belief that Reagan (and by extension the United States) "won" the Cold War because our military buildup of the 1980s overwhelmed the USSR in quantity and technological quality, literally bankrupting the Soviets in their attempt to keep pace.

Turns out that's not what happened: grain and oil prices did them in. I'll spare you the in-depth analysis--feel free to follow the link--but the short of it is that due to the inherent inefficiencies in their command and control economy, the Soviet's inability to produce critical grain shipments domestically meant that they had to import huge quantities of grain to feed themselves and their communist client states. That grain required hard currency in exchange, and their primary source of hard currency was oil exports. When oil prices plummeted in the mid-1980s, their hard currency reserves dried up. They ultimately became a beggar nation. The instrument of their final collapse was a simple letter from the national bank telling the Politburo that they had run out of money.

This case study served as a reminder to me that while ideology can drive foreign affairs, even ideology requires money to survive. Money may not literally make the world spin on its axis, but it certainly does constrain--if not motivate--world politics.

So in my search to make sure my beliefs line up with reality, I find myself having to surrender a rather cherished notion of how the Cold War was "won." In fact, it ended up being lost for all intents and purposes by an empty bank account drained dry by a double whammy of ineffective agricultural policy and an overdependence on oil exports. Would high oil prices have persisted, we could have been talking about how Clinton won the Cold War, and been just as wrong about it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Preface to Bullshit

I’ve talked before about how I was trying to reign in my cussing. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it just isn’t required to make a point. It’s like a really hot pepper: in the right dish, and on occasion, and in very small amounts, it’s just the right additive. But you wouldn’t put pepper in your breakfast cereal, or your sport drink, or most everything else you’d eat.

Anyway, I’m still working at it, to mixed results, but it helps to remind myself that for most cuss words, there’s a cleaner substitute that works just as well. “Eff it,” “freaking,” “crap,” “who gives a flip,” “dork,” you get the picture. But when you want to call Bullshit on something, nothing works like “Bullshit!”

Interestingly enough, Wikipedia (and you all know how I love Wikipedia) actually has an entry for Bullshit. Turns out that the earliest reference in the Oxford English Dictionary has for Bullshit is a poem by T.S. Elliot entitled The Triumph of Bullshit. Just a little etymology for you.

When I named my blog One for Truth, I meant to lead myself by staking out an aspiration for my life. To speak truthfully and directly. To respect the truth enough to not expect that I already had it figured out cold. And above all, to neither bullshit nor be swayed by bullshit.

One of the great things about calling Bullshit is that everyone knows what Bullshit is, though they may not they recognize it when it’s in their face. That’s why a commitment to calling Bullshit is just as important as speaking the truth. You’re only half committed to truth if you aren’t willing to call Bullshit when you smell it.

Bullshit is a dangerous and constant companion on the human journey. Every avenue of human affairs is rife with bullshit. Politics, religion, advocacy, business, social networks… you almost can’t put your foot down without landing in bullshit. And we pay a pretty high price in all realms of life for spreading and swallowing that bullshit.

So I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, driven primarily by reflections on how I’ve been bullshitting myself in so many ways. I’ve been meaning to break this down, to blog about it, to podcast about it, but the more I reflect on it the bigger it gets. So I figured I’d just get started with this post and flesh the thoughts out over time.