Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Panda ministry

This guy does more good for mankind than most ministers I know.

Friday, December 24, 2010

My take on the Christmas story

A year ago I made the following comment during this discussion on the origins of Christmas, and I still hold to it: "That touches on something I’ve long thought about the Christmas story, but have never seen any other commentary on- that what the manger scene really demonstrates is what heartless bastards the people of Bethlehem were. Seriously. I’ve seen travelers at a bus station pool their money to buy a crying girl a bus ticket home- but in the Christmas story, we have a teenage girl hours away from giving birth, and nobody will give her as much as a spot on the floor inside where it’s warm. No room at the Inn? What decent Innkeeper's wife wouldn’t have told her husband to sleep on the floor and given Mary the bed? In fact, some women I’ve known, had they been that Innkeeper’s wife, would have told her husband and Joseph both to go sleep with the other animals, and she’d call them if and when they were needed.

To me, the lesson of “Be nice to everyone, because you don’t know their role in the universe” and “As you do to the least of them” is an important one for children to learn- and here is the perfect illustration, and no one is using it."

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

At last, a "How To" video we really needed

Most "How To" videos on the internet are of use only to obscure hobbyists, like "How to build a linear accelerator out of Lego's"; you never see anything you really need, like how to find a 'possum's chakras...

Friday, December 17, 2010

WikiLeaks: Cuba banned Sicko for depicting 'mythical' healthcare system

One of the confidential US embassy cables revealed by WikiLeaks reports that Cuba banned Michael Moore's 2007 documentary, Sicko: "...the memo reveals that when the film was shown to a group of Cuban doctors, some became so "disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that they left the room".

Castro's government apparently went on to ban the film because, the leaked cable claims, it "knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them."

Read more at The Guardian.

UPDATE: Michael Moore response, and my comment, via it's all one thing

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Our schizophrenic reaction to tears

Speaker elect John Boehner cried once again in last Sunday's 60 Minutes interview, and is once again being ridiculed for it- the women of The View being particularly nasty about it, worse even than outgoing Speaker Pelosi was previously. I find the different reactions to tears by public figures, especially politicians, puzzling.

Pat Schroeder was roundly criticized for a few seconds of tears during her announcement that she would not be a candidate for President. At the time, many said that the criticism was a double standard- that men like Ronald Reagan were allowed to tear up, but women weren't. But try telling that to Ed Muskie, whose career was destroyed by "melting snowflakes". It has been suggested that the difference is that a Reagan or a McCain has enough macho bona fides that it wasn't a sign of weakness, but I've noticed that even those who ridiculed G. W. Bush's military career didn't make fun of him tearing up at a number of emotional events.

I'm also confused by the fact that women are so much nastier about it than men are. From Muskie to Boehner, you have to do a lot of Googling to find any man as nasty about public tears as the many very public comments from women. Ask Pat Schroder: "She's still catching flak about it today, mostly from women. "Oh, my gosh, I got a devastating e-mail about it from a woman writer just a couple of days ago," Schroeder said in an interview. "I want to say, 'Wait a minute, we are talking 20 years ago.' It's like I ruined their lives, 20 years ago, with three seconds of catching my breath." To paraphrase Scrooge, there is nothing on which women are so hard as coldness; and there is nothing they condemn with such severity as the expression of emotion.

I guess I'd be in trouble if I ever became famous. I've cried during discussions, I've cried at movies, plays- hell, I've even cried at a Star Trek episode. Good thing for me I don't give a good Goddamn what the women of The View think.

Friday, December 10, 2010

On extending unemployment

My favorite talk show host, Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, ran a little experiment, inspired by things callers said while debating the extension of unemployment benefits. Abdul tried his hand at job hunting, and managed to land an offer in just four working days, which he says is proof that there's plenty of jobs if you're willing to work look for them, and that if you're unemployed long term, that you're just not doing it right- he's going to have people on his show to give tips on resumes and interviewing.

I believe that his experience proved only that in this instance, a good looking young man with a related degree and related experience was able to get an entry-level job offer. Here is what I commented to his blog:

You said about your job hunting experiment that "This was about proving a point. The point was that there is work out there if you are willing to work to look for it." But your experience in finding a job was no more "proof" than the experience of friends and family who haven't found a job is proof- the plural of "anecdote" is not "data".

So what would be data? We can't use the announcements of new jobs created, because those announcements rarely state "On the other hand, 5,000 old jobs disappeared." We can't use unemployment statistics, because they're always changing the criteria on those- it's amazing how many circumstances can result in one not having any work, income, or benefits and still not be counted as "unemployed" for the sake of official statistics. (A more cynical person might suspect that politicians were fiddling the figures) But if we don't know how many people are unemployed, we DO know how many are employed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps running totals on how many are employed- and these are unambiguous numbers; even a one-employee Mom & Pop shop must report that employee to the government. What do these numbers show?

In 2007, just before this recession began, there were 115,380,000 people employed in the private sector. As of September of this year, the most recent count, there were 108,068,000 employed. That's 7,312,000 fewer people employed. I don't care how willing to look one is, if there are 7 million fewer jobs extant today than three years ago, somebody is going to be unemployed. You think it's unfair to use the 2007 high point? There are 618,000 fewer people working today than there were in 1999, eleven years ago!

And who is it most likely to be unemployed? In 2007, there were 13,879,000 manufacturing jobs; today there are 11,672,000. In 2007, there were 7,630,000 construction jobs; today there are 5,672,000. Those two categories alone total more than 4 million jobs lost. And this is admittedly anecdotal, but in my experience the older employees, 45-60 years old, are the hardest hit. Would you care to estimate the chances a 55 year old construction worker has of getting that call-center job you got an offer for?

Let's suppose he did- we'll assume that when he was laid off two years ago, he went back to school, finished his degree, then went to an employment consultant to learn the new power words and gimmicks used in modern resumes and interviews, and he got the job. That doesn't mean that one more person is employed, it merely means that he took the job away from a 22 year old recent college grad who is now yet another over-educated waiter... and he took the job from an 18 year old high school grad- unemployment, like water, runs downhill. Which is why the under-25 crowd has, depending on city and demographics, a 40-70% unemployment rate. But it is far, far more likely that a younger, degreed person got that call center job, and the 55 year old is still unemployed.

No matter what kind of tips you and your guests are going to give us on snappy resumes and interview banter, if there are 7 million fewer jobs than there are workers, there will be 7 million unemployed people. And unless we can manage continual churning, such that each of those 7 million gains and loses a new job every two years in perfect balance, somebody is going to need those extended unemployment benefits until the economy recovers.

And lastly, the term is not "Unemployment Charity", it's "Unemployment INSURANCE". What is insurance supposed to do? Restore or rectify the situation- however long that takes. Putting a time limit on unemployment insurance when there are simply fewer jobs than there are people, and therefore no genuine solution, is like health insurance putting a time limit on insulin- if you've been a diabetic for 99 weeks, maybe the problem is you!


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Giving thanks

After the opening words and hymn, the Minister called for Joys and Concerns.

A lady stood and walked to the podium. She said, "Two months ago, my husband, Tom, had a terrible bicycle wreck and his scrotum was completely crushed. The pain was excruciating and the doctors didn't know if they could help him." You could hear a muffled gasp from the men in the congregation as they imagined the pain that poor Tom must have experienced.

"Tom was unable to hold me or the children," she went on, "and every move caused him terrible pain.

We prayed as the doctors performed a delicate operation, and it turned out they were able to piece together the crushed remnants of Tom's scrotum, and wrap wire around it to hold it in place." Again, the men in the congregation were unnerved and squirmed uncomfortably as they imagined the horrible surgery performed on Tom.

"Now," she announced in a quavering voice, "Thank the Lord, Tom is out of the hospital and the doctors say that with time, his scrotum should recover completely." All the men sighed with relief.

The Minister rose and tentatively asked if anyone else had something to say.

A man stood up and walked slowly to the podium. He said, "I'm Tom." The entire congregation held its breath.

"I just want to tell my wife that the word is sternum."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Unitarian Universalism as the standard to measure a religion by- plus lampshades, coyotes, and more.

Time to clear out the file of blogpost ideas I've been too busy to do justice to...
A new trend in newspaper and magazine stories about NeoPaganism I've noticed- UUism always enters the discussion. As an example of alternative theologies? No. As in this article, as an example of how small a recognized religion can be, and how quickly a mainstream religion can be overtaken by a growing new faith.

Can a lampshade be haunted? read this before answering.

All around the country, people are wanting public displays of the Ten Commandments. I wouldn't mind if they included a display of The Commandments of Coyote.

I wrote before about the fears that most of the jobs lost in the last three years will never come back, as we are moving from a jobless recovery to a jobless economy. One of the technologies I described as costing us jobs now, and more in the future, is the 3-D printer, and I included a video of Jay Leno 'printing' spare parts for his collector cars. In the short time since that post, the state of the art has progressed to the point that you can 'print' the entire car!

I have never been a fan of modern art, feeling that most of it was weak even as a linoleum design, and wondered how the artists ever made a living. Turns out they had a patron. An eccentric millionaire? No- the CIA!

According to the Daily Mail, it's normal for people to be naked, bound and blindfolded!

A Madison, WI, UU minister, Jane Esbensen, was the subject of a human interest story in the WI Isthmus. They had evidently never run across a minister who said "People who do not believe in God are actually kinder, gentler people," before. I find it reassuring- I had kind of stopped searching out the local UU church in every town I travel to, for fear of not finding it welcoming. But I don't have to worry about Madison, what with her being kinder and gentler than I am.

And lastly, a video of a cat having a bad day at work...

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Did you see it or hear it?

There's a similar effect in politics. When you watch a politician speak on TV or in person, the speaker makes sense; but when you watch it play out in real life, it turns out to be bollocks.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dedicated to the politicians amongst us

I thought of the chorus of this song when I heard about Senate Candidate Christine O'Donnell's old interview tapes being played during the campaign, but in fact every politician should remember it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Another perspective

A number of blogs and editorials have commented the last few days about the thwarted burning of a Quran in Texas. This entry from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA is typical. I made the following comment to a similar post on Will Shetterly's blog: I've been thinking about this for a while. I was applauding like everyone else yesterday when I saw the video, but this morning I woke up with a nagging thought. Another way of describing this incident is that we showed up in large numbers and physically intervened to prevent a man's constitutional freedom of expression, intimidating him into leaving the park. Mild, as shows of force go, but is this really a slope we want be slipping on?

The reason I decided to post about it myself is the last line from the UUCVA post: "Thought I would share the story that all the YA's in my community are excited about right now." In other words, they are excited about the use of force and intimidation to counter protests. Yes, as I said above, it's a mild show of force- but in that very counter-protest some were carrying signs saying "Where they have burned books they will end in burning human beings". Shouldn't we be warning those YA's that a slope is slippery from both sides?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

I'm shocked- SHOCKED!

The Dove World Outreach Center- the church where Dr. Terry Jones will burn a couple hundred Korans Saturday- admires another small, notorious church. They have even done joint protests together. Can you guess which one? I knew you could- click here to see pictures of the joint Dove World Outreach Center/Westboro Baptist Church protests from their own website.

Hat tip to The Liberty Pundits

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Living your faith

Faith is not just a declaration of the attributes of your God, if that is what your faith is based on, but a system of behaviors devoted to something greater than yourself. Living your faith is not just attending services regularly or mouthing words, but behaving in accordance with its precepts. This is true whether your faith lies in God, Gods, or simply the greater good of mankind.

Zack Nash lives his faith. Zack, a 14 year old freshman at Waterford Union High School, is an amateur golfer of considerable promise. On Aug. 11, he won the boys 13-14 age division at the Milwaukee County Parks Tour Invitational, a tournament for accomplished juniors run by the Wisconsin PGA Section. While talking to his mentor, the club professional, afterwards, he discovered he had violated a rule- he had been carrying one too many clubs. He hadn't used the extra club, but that wasn't the point; the rules said 14 clubs, and there were 15 in his bag. Had he discovered this during play, he could have taken a four stroke penalty and still finished second- but he hadn't; and that meant that he had signed a fraudulent scorecard at the tournament.

There was only one thing to do: he returned the medal and disqualified himself. It would have been easy to rationalize keeping it- it's a picayune rule, and he had gained no advantage from breaking it. But to Zack, you either play by the rules, or you don't. He plays by the rules.

I have no idea what Zack's faith is, whether he believes in God, or Man, or Golf. But his beliefs are devoted to something greater than himself, and he lives them. It's my belief that the world is a better place thereby. The full story is at The Journal Sentinel Online

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Who does America really hate?

It sometimes happens that a number of seemingly unrelated blog posts, conversations, and forum threads start to form a pattern. The blogosphere has been abuzz lately with the discussion about the Cordoba Initiative mosque/no-it's-a-community-center, with half of them bemoaning America's raging Islamophobia. Then today in Greta Christina's blog, I saw Atheist Meme of the Day: Atheists Experience Discrimination. But then, I've often told Atheist friends- who laughingly agreed- "You think you've got it bad? We Pagans catch flak from Christians and Atheists alike!" But wait a minute, Christians say, what about the secular progressive war on Christians? It seems we all have a persecution complex- but who does America really hate?

I didn't bother Googleing for polls on the subject; for various reasons polls on this sort of thing are notoriously unreliable. But it was Greta's post that gave me an inspiration- some of what she described are hate crimes, and we keep statistics on that. My reasoning was thus: if everybody hated each religion equally, and given that nutjobs are distributed more or less evenly, then people would become victims of hate crimes in approximate proportion to the demographic numbers of their religions. I reasoned that the skew of the numbers between the demographics and the percentages of hate crime victims would give us a hint of how people really feel. It wasn't hard to find both hate crime statistics and demographics by religion for the same year, 2008, and the results are fascinating.

Let's start with the opposite end of the spectrum to test methodology: who does America love? Protestant Christians make up 50.9% of the population, but only 3.6% of the victims of religious bias based crimes; clearly, America loves Protestants, victimizing them at only 1/14th their demographic percentage. America loves Catholics, too, although not as much; they make up 25.1% of the populace and 5.1% of the victims, for a 1/5th rate. And what about Atheists, the inspiration for this exercise? Turns out America kinda likes them; Atheists and Agnostics are 1.6% of the populace, but only 0.8% of the victims, half of what you might expect.
What about Muslims? Muslims make up 0.6% of the populace- but 7.5% of the hate crime victims. That's 12.5 times their demographic share. That makes a Muslim 62.5 times more likely to be a hate crime victim than a Catholic, and a whopping 175 times more likely than a Protestant. That's terrible- but it's not the worst. There's another religion that, judging by the hate crimes Americans commit, is hated far, far more than Islam- can you guess what that is? Go ahead, guess; I'll wait.
Jews comprise 1.2% of the population in the US... and 66.1% of the religious bias based hate crimes victims. A Jew in America is 4.5 times more likely to become a hate crime victim than is a Muslim. And judging by the categories of the crimes, not only do more Americans hate Jews than Muslims, but the hatred runs deeper. In the 2008 numbers for religious bias crimes, we find simple assault matching the demographic; there are twice as many Jews as Muslims, and they suffered twice as many simple assaults: 30 attacks on Muslims, 58 on Jews. But aggravated assault- a much more serious attack- tells a different tale: 5 anti-Islamic attacks, 25 anti-Jewish. And vandalism is even more striking: 30 assaults on Muslims, 742 against Jews. And that's 7 years after 9/11.

I tried to think of a witty summation, but couldn't, so here's the credits instead: religious demographics from, hate crime statistics from the FBI

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Enough about the Ground Zero mosque already

President Obama is absolutely correct; the Cordoba Initiative has every Constitutional right to build their mosque and community center there. Just as the Westboro Baptist Church has every Constitutional right to wave signs saying "Thank God for IEDs" at soldier's funerals, just as the American Nazi Party had every Constitutional right to march through the Jewish community of Skokie, Illinois, where many Holocaust survivors lived. If Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf wants to demonstrate the wisdom, sensitivity and human compassion of Rev. Fred Phelps and NSPA Chairman Frank Collin, we have no legal or Constitutional standing to prevent him from doing so.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The best of Jane Austen

High school would have been more enjoyable had this work been recommended rather than "Sense and Sensibility".

Friday, July 23, 2010

A love that dare not squeak its name

And people say that crocs aren't sexy...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Argentina legalizes gay marriage

Associated Press story, via Yahoo News- Argentina legalizes gay marriage in historic vote "BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Argentina became the first Latin American nation to legalize gay marriage Thursday, granting same-sex couples all the legal rights, responsibilities and protections that marriage brings to heterosexuals."

Funny, isn't it? It's been more than twenty years since a Muslim nation, Pakistan, elected a woman Prime Minister; we have yet to manage even a Vice-President. Now a Catholic nation, one that mentions God by name in their constitution, has legalized Gay Marriage while we, supposedly a secular state, haven't even revoked "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" yet. Do you suppose that the American Catholic and Mormon churches are more powerful than the Roman Catholic church in Latin America, or are their gay rights advocates more persuasive than ours?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Of polar bears and computers

Sorry my posting has been erratic lately; things should calm down around here soon. In the meantime, here's some useful tidbits I've found... Want to boycott the oil companies? Consider riding a polar bear to work Got some solid nerd cred? It's better to pretend you don't know anything about computers

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Life imitates blogging

A couple years back, in a blog post titled I am frequently asked how I can always be so optimistic, I reported on an experiment by Reader's Digest in which they dropped ten wallets loaded with ID and money in a number of cities to see what people would do. Most were returned, with the money- some cities, ten out of ten were returned.

Well, our DRE here at All Souls Indianapolis just confirmed the test- in spades. She just returned from a sabbatical spent in Europe; here is a Facebook entry: Nancy Renner Clear Stranger mailed my billfold that was stolen in Europe...without asking for thanks or reimbursement....What a wonderful surprise to get in the mail! She continues in a comment, The cash was gone, of course, but it was stolen in mid-March and was returned with everything else intact...and this after a couple of days of feeling loved and welcomed back by many...It's even healing my "flu"...It can be a wonderful world!

Yes, it can. We should all remember, whenever you read some horrible news story and start to believe that people aren't worth saving, that the reason it was news is that there are 6,000,000,000 people who aren't like that!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Oil spill help refused and other news

"Three days after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch government offered to help.
It was willing to provide ships outfitted with oil-skimming booms, and it proposed a plan for building sand barriers to protect sensitive marshlands.
The response from the Obama administration and BP, which are coordinating the cleanup: “The embassy got a nice letter from the administration that said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,'” said Geert Visser, consul general for the Netherlands in Houston."
Read more here A related story, closer to home: "John Lapoint of Packgen in Auburn, Maine, says he’s got plenty of floating oil containment boom and can make lots more on short notice. There’s just one problem: no one will buy it from him.
He’s already had a representative from BP visit his factory and inspect his product. The governor of Maine, John Baldacci, visited the facility and made a video plea to no one in particular to close the deal. Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins wrote a letter on May 21 to the secretary of the Interior, the administrator of NOAA, and the commandant of the Coast Guard to alert them to the existence of Packgen, their supply of boom, and their demonstrated capacity to make more. I have no idea if those are the correct persons and agencies to notify about the manufacturing capacity and the availability of boom. One wonders if the senators know."
Read Miles of Oil Containment Boom Sit in Warehouse, Waiting for BP or U.S. to Use

Astroturfing for Elena: the DNC wants you to call talk shows.

Reuters once again alters photographs used in coverage of Israel.

"Does Studying Economics Make You More Republican?", asks the NY Times "Most notably, the study found that the more economics classes a person took, the more likely he or she was to be a member of the Republican Party and to donate money to a political candidate or a cause." The Wall Street Journal answers the question: "Who is better informed about the policy choices facing the country—liberals, conservatives or libertarians? According to a Zogby International survey that I write about in the May issue of Econ Journal Watch, the answer is unequivocal: The left flunks Econ 101.", says Daniel Klein.

In twelve states, it's illegal to video police brutality.

A pair of studies with relevance to the marriage equality debate: Study finds teens raised by lesbians are well-adjusted, and a study showing- amongst other things- that a child raised by two gays is better off than a child raised by a single straight parent.

And, some levity to lighten the Friday

Whatever happened to the Karate Kid?

Warning: language

Saturday, June 05, 2010

"I've got something to tell you"

UU parents- would you be understanding if these were your kids?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

If I had told you ten years ago

That the Clinton marriage would outlast the Gores', would you have laughed?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pictures from the spill

A picture is worth a thousand words... in this case, unprintable words. Have a look

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Don't pin your hopes on lawsuits, redux

Back in March, I posted Obamacare opponents, don't pin your hopes on lawsuits, listing reasons why not to expect the Healthcare reform to be overturned in court. Now I think the same must be said to opponents of the Arizona Immigration law.

I was prompted to reexamine my assumption that SB 1070 was unconstitutional by something President Obama said in the joint press conference with President Calderon- he said that he was instructing the Justice Department to "...look very closely at the language of this law to see whether it comports both with our core values and existing legal standards as well as the fact that the federal government is ultimately the one charged with immigration policy." Did you notice what is different about that from what other members of the administration like Eric Holder, Janet Napolitano, and Michael Posner and P.J. Crowley of the State Department said? President Obama didn't say it was unconstitutional. Given that all the others mentioned admitted that they have not read the law, and the President sounded like he had, I began to wonder if the President was using more circumspect language because he wasn't so sure it would be overturned.

That caused me to do a search for a legal opinion of the law that was written by someone not involved in the suites against it, and I found I may indeed have been wrong in my assumption that it is unconstitutional. Here is an article from The Jurist: Arizona's Immigration Law: Constitutional, But...
JURIST Guest Columnist William G. Ross of Cumberland School of Law, Samford University, says Arizona's controversial new immigration law appears to be constitutional, at least on its face, but the state must be scrupulously careful to avoid even the appearance of any kind of discrimination against Hispanics...."
From the The Washington Times: "WINN: Arizona law will triumph in court
Constitutional challenges have little support in case law... John Winn teaches business and constitutional law at Shenandoah University in Virginia. He served in the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps from 1985 through 2005, including five years on West Point's law faculty."
From The North County Times (a San Diego newspaper): "REGION: Three USD professors say Arizona law is constitutional Arizona's controversial new immigration law probably would withstand legal challenges on constitutional grounds, according to a panel of three University of San Diego law professors."

If you're as surprised as I was, here's the short form of the argument: the federal preemptive power only matters if the state law is in conflict with the federal law; states make laws identical to federal laws all the time, and the courts uphold them. Reading that, I remembered a USA Today story from yesterday about a court decision in banking law: "In a partial victory for banks, the Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed an amendment that would largely prevent states from writing new laws to protect consumers from questionable financial products even if no federal law exists. However, the measure preserves states' authority to enforce federal rules." (my emphasis) Does the Arizona law agree with federal law? Well, reading the law, I saw that every section uses the federal statutes for definitions and procedures. In fact, in fifteen pages of actual text, federal law is referenced eighteen times! There are other points discussed, but you're better off reading the professors than my interpretation of them. The net is that there's an excellent chance the law will be upheld in the courts. And they didn't say it that way, but it seems a near certainty that it will be upheld with whatever minor changes the courts might demand.

If upheld, it is another certainty in this climate that other states will in fact pass such laws- and not just the seven states already considering it; here in Indiana there are at least two state senators waiting only for the court results to introduce similar legislation, and I'm sure many other states are doing the same.

This suggests to me that going to Arizona and protesting will have more impact than boycotting. On one hand, winning the hearts and minds of voters seems the only way to stop the promulgation of the law if it is constitutional. On the other hand, if that many states do pass the law, we might wind up boycotting so many venues that the only place left to hold a GA is Oaxaca. Assuming we have our papers in order, of course.

Monday, May 17, 2010

You may think you know where Waldo is

But do you really know where he's at? And did it ever occur to you that he's really kind of... creepy? Me, neither, until I heard it read by Werner Herzog.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pew, another poll

Another poll about the Arizona ID law, this time a national one from The Pew Research Center, and recent, conducted from May 6-9. Plus, on page two, it explains methodology, which is a help in considering these things.

"Fully 73% say they approve of requiring people to produce documents verifying their legal status if police ask for them. Two-thirds (67%) approve of allowing police to detain anyone who cannot verify their legal status, while 62% approve of allowing police to question people they think may be in the country illegally.

After being asked about the law’s provisions, 59% say that considering everything, they approve of Arizona’s new illegal immigration law while 32% disapprove."

This suggest a course of action to me. The boycott resolution that will be voted on at GA next month calls for an amount of money to be raised equal to the penalties we must pay for the Standing On The Side Of Love campaign. I propose that if the resolution fails, that provision be submitted separately, with the money to be used to place a series of articles in major publications delineating the Constitutional issues involved. Appealing to emotions clearly isn't working; perhaps appealing to the general reverence for the Constitution will. This course of action has the following advantages:

That is the argument that will appeal most to conservatives, Republicans, and those over 50- the groups that currently most strongly support 1070. Splitting off the more libertarian minded conservatives will erode support for 1070 more than any amount of protests would.

We may be able to partner with a legal organization such as the ACLU, or another church to split costs. There will probably be famous name lawyers who will submit such articles at reduced cost or even pro bono, as it's an educational effort.

An educational program like that can be used for other social justice issues in the future; some of the partnerships we might form putting this together may become long term.

It would be a great thing to have our name attached to. We are proud of being the church where reason and religion meet; what better way to show it?

Softball- or political hardball?

Wall Street Journal has been catching flak for publishing a picture of SCOTUS nominee Elena Kagan playing softball: Was it code language (code image?) calling her a lesbian? Yes, says Cathy Renna, a former spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamatio- "It clearly is an allusion to her being gay. It's just too easy a punch line." No, says Journal spokeswoman Ashley Huston- "If you turn the photo upside down, reverse the pixilation and simultaneously listen to Abbey Road backwards, while reading Roland Barthes, you will indeed find a very subtle hidden message."

I'll admit to being not qualified to judge. In the first place, I seem to be a bit tone deaf to code language- for example, I didn't get that complimenting a fellow senator for being very articulate was racist code language. My first thought seeing that picture was, "Cool- a Justice who's regular folks, playing softball and drinking beer, (One follows the other, right?), not another martini-sipping relic of earlier times, no more headlines like Supreme Court clueless about pagers, texting and e-mails..." I took it as a play on "stepping up to the plate"; "switch hitter" didn't occur to me. To tell the truth, I still don't quite get a relationship between softball and lesbianism; I've played softball with women that I had very good reason to believe were heterosexual.

My second thought was code language or not, what difference does it make? I was remembering an exchange many years ago with a friend who did not yet understand the difference between a libertarian conservative and the religious right. I had been admiring a K. D. Lang tune, and was asked, "Does it bother you that she's a lesbian?" I said, "Well, it's not like she was going to f*** me, anyway- who cares?" This isn't the 1940's- we have out of the closet elected officials nowadays; does it matter to anyone other than the obituary writer who will someday write, "She is survived by..."?

Is she gay? Or has she just not found a guy she wanted to marry? I don't know, and I don't care. And you know what? I don't think the general public cares, either. The public is often underestimated. I'm remembering a ABC TV segment where actors were sent into a sports bar in New Jersey- a gay couple, and a provocateur couple to make homophobic comments. Much to the surprise of ABC, the regular patrons of the sports bar challenged the nasty comments the provocateurs were making, and demanded that they leave.

I have a novel idea- instead of asking her why she isn't married, how about asking her about her opinions on the extensions of the commerce clause, or her criteria for eminent domain?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A new poll on Arizona

My attention was drawn in the UUA Facebook debate on boycotting Phoenix for 2012 to a new poll. The new poll says that support for the new law within Arizona is lower than reported by Rasmussen previously; 52% support overall, 56% of registered voters.

But more importantly, this article gives details the Rasmussen article did not- the actual question asked, and a demographic breakdown. Here is the question: "Next, a new Arizona law may soon go into effect regarding one’s U.S. citizenship status and right to be in the U.S.. The new law would require police officers in Arizona to question anyone about their immigration status if an officer suspects the person may be in the country illegally, including anyone who looks or sounds foreign. Those found to be here illegally could be jailed up to six months and fined $2,500. Do you favor or oppose the governor signing such a law if it is sent to her by the legislature?” Some might say the question is just a tad biased, as the words "including anyone who looks or sounds foreign" not only do not appear in the law, but are explicitly forbidden as the sole determining factors- but leave that aside for the moment. Here are the demographic breakdowns:

-------------------------------Favor --Oppose --Unsure
Overall ----------------------52 %-- 39 % --------9 %
Republicans ---------------76 % --15 % --------9 %
Caucasian ------------------65%---28 % --------7 %
Age 55+ --------------------62 % --31 % --------7 %
Independents -------------60 %---30 % ------10 %
Men -------------------------56 % --40 % --------4 %
All registered voters -----56 % --34 % ------10 %
Age 35 to 54 --------------53 % --41 % --------6 %
Women ---------------------49 % --38 % ------13 %
Age under 35 --------------45 % -43 % ------12 %
Democrats -----------------30 % --58 % ------12 %
Non-Hispanic minorities 29 % --63 % --------8 %
Hispanics -------------------21 % --69 % ------10 %

Note those last two lines- even with what might be called a leading question, more than one in four Non-Hispanic minorities supports the law, and more than one in five Hispanics. That suggests to me an answer to who is right- the Governor of Arizona, who says "In 2009, Phoenix had 316 kidnapping cases, turning the city into the nation's kidnapping capital. Almost all of the people kidnapped were illegal immigrants or linked to the drug trade.", or her critics who say that crime is going down in Arizona. If those crimes are not happening, why would 21% of Arizona Hispanics support the law, with another 10% not sure?

That is not a good argument for an unconstitutional law, but is sure is a good argument for securing the border.

The Fourth Law of Thermodynamics

Not even the Jaws of Life can hold open a bag you're trying to get something awkward into; not even duct tape can hold closed a bag into which something horrible and messy has been put.

Discovered by Sir Isaac Newton on trash day as he heard the cart approaching.

Monday, May 10, 2010

"some of the craziest claims can quickly claim traction,"

Said President Obama at Hampton University, Virginia, Sunday. One such claim he made himself- "With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, -- none of which I know how to work --..." That wasn't the impression I got a couple years ago:

But I'll give him the benefit of the doubt; perhaps he plays his games on his Blackberry; after all, "...information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation,"

The new woman's movement

Is the Tea Party, according to Wall Street Journal "Forget "angry white men." In the male-dominated world of conservative politics, the tea party stands out as a movement of energized and organized women. In particular, moms... In fact, a recent Quinnipiac poll of voters found a majority of tea party supporters—55%—are women. To put that in perspective, only 48% of women voted for George W. Bush in 2004. And just two years ago, President Obama won 56% of the female vote."

Why? Michael Graham, author of "That's No Angry Mob—That's My MOM!" (Regnery, 2010), says, "Many women gave the most obvious answer: "If we waited around for you men to do it, it would never get done.", and provides some quotes to illustrate: "When I asked Christen Varley, the Boston tea party leader, she said it's because moms tend to be "the CEO's of our households. We do the shopping, bill paying, budgeting, etc. We know less money means less freedom. Maybe if the president and Congress did the grocery shopping, they'd know why we're mad."... "Motherhood itself has become a political act," says Ms. Loesch. (co-founder of the St. Louis tea party) "And the tea parties are an extension of our need as moms to protect the future for our children."... The tea party idea "just clicked in the minds of conservative women," she (Keli Carender the Seattle-area mother of the tea party movement.) says. "Most women I know are thinking 'I'm taking care of my family and the government's taking care of it's business—right?' Then they see what the government is really doing and they saw 'Whoa, whoa! I guess I've gotta take care of their mess, too.'"

It's only fitting that this story was published on Mothers Day; mothers usually have to be the ones to take care of childish messes... here's hoping that we, as a nation, stop behaving childishly so the mothers of the nation won't have to clean it up in the future.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Student gets a week's detention for possession

No, not pot, not crack, not PCP or LSD; the hard stuff- Jolly Rancher. No, that's not some modern teen slang we grownups don't get; it's the rectangular, intensely flavored hard candy. In the latest example of public school's get tough zero intelligence (excuse me, I meant tolerance) policies, a Texas girl gets a week detention for possession of a single piece of candy.

I do agree with the mother's take on the important lesson her daughter should learn from this; indeed, from my experience in public schools, I'm surprised it's taken her 'til third grade to learn it.

P.S. It occurs to me that her having only a single piece may be a clue to why she got the harsh treatment; they were probably trying to make her squeal on Mr. Big, the supplier.

Friday, May 07, 2010

What is a soul?

That is the first question thrown out by the new UU Salon. "Does it exist before we are born? Does it disappear when we die? It is unchangeable, or capable of growing/shrinking/strengthening? Can you lose your soul, or gain one?" Here is my take, though I'll take the points slightly out of order.

To answer the question, "What is a soul", I need to ask a different question first. Who’s in control of your life? No, I’m not asking if you have an overbearing parent, spouse, or boss, or whether you’ve committed your life to Jesus or to Satan. What I’m asking is, when you speak, who’s talking? If your answer is, "I'm in control of my life," we need to look a little closer.

Do you prefer Ginger or Maryanne? (Or Bob or Steve?) Why? Any healthy body would satisfy instinctive/biological needs. What is your favorite color? Blue? Why? Some have told me it was the color of their favorite flower, but... so what? Why do you like that flower? What is your dream job? What job would you hate to be stuck in? Why? What rational process did you use to choose any of those answers? Odds are, if you keep asking why, your ultimate answer will be, “I don’t know- I just like them.” If you did come up with reasons, I’ll guarantee those reasons won’t bear close examination. All of them will boil down to "I just like that one."

The being who made those decisions- all the important decisions of your life- is the real you, a soul. All those things we think of as "me"- our rational minds, our proud intellects, our conscious selves- are tools the soul uses to manipulate its environment, no different in essence from our hands. The conscious mind does not control our wants, our dreams, our identity- that is why, for example, one cannot decide to be straight or gay. The soul is the "you" who has the answers to all those questions. That soul is who the Divine speaks to.

Some people I've tried to explain this view to have thought that I was saying that the soul is just the instinctive, hard wired, "lizard brain" level of ourselves- but it much more complicated than that. As I mentioned above, there is no biological imperative to preferring Ginger over Maryanne. There is no biological explanation for preferring a red car to a blue one, or the scent of lilac over roses, dogs over cats, rum over (shudder) bourbon, etc.

Does the soul grow? Yes. Although the conscious mind, what we normally call our "self", does not control our behavior, it does influence it. It's a symbiotic relationship; the soul depends upon the mind for its perceptions, its understanding of the world. We are composite creatures, in this respect; we live in two worlds- that which we can see, and the virtual world in our minds. The lowest animals live only in the world they sense around them; higher animals add memory of where they've been, a virtual expansion of their senses. Still higher forms add speculative imagery; they extrapolate what they can expect to find in new but familiar territory. By the time you get to higher mammals, their virtual world is detailed enough to predict cause and effect- anyone who's been around dogs and cats can see them sometimes obviously performing thought experiments, trying to figure a situation out.

But the human virtual world is so complete that we can mistake it for reality. It has been demonstrated that false memories can be implanted by another, or accidentally developed by one's self. Perceptions can be altered deliberately. Take the classic "Is it a vase, or two faces" optical illusion- with practice, one can train one's self to always see it one way, so much so that it now takes an effort of will to see the other. This is how the mind can influence the soul, by changing the perceptions the soul uses to make decisions. I was panicked by a false perception, and countered it with another, in this incident.

It's not just one-time events that perceptions control, but entire lives. People troubled by a conflict between their sexual identity and the instinct to fit in- a powerful instinct; while we were still evolving, it meant life or death- has driven some to deprogrammers, trying to change who they really were. But a change in perceptions- first, that most people don't actually care what one does behind closed doors, and that perhaps it's those who object that are not normal, in that they lack basic human empathy- can help resolve the conflict. Changing one's perceptions of those who disagree with you from enemies or fools to fellow travelers who've had different experiences and perspectives brightens one's spirits and makes one a more persuasive debater in the bargain. Things like this are growth of the soul.

But the opposite can also occur- a bleak outlook can make one ill, physically and emotionally. As I wrote here, "Is life "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.", or is this "the best of all possible worlds", with any hardships being just a foible in a thing of beauty, like getting a flat tire on a Lexus? Both are equally true, for by believing them, you make them so."

"Does it exist before we are born? Does it disappear when we die? These questions beg the question, "Does the soul exist independent of the body?" I don't know that this can be resolved, as the conscious mind that considers such questions is utterly dependent upon the physical shell. How can one have memories from before one had the capacity to form conscious memories? As to surviving after death, one can make a case; we are no more our brains than the word processing program I'm using is the computer- we are software, not hardware, and it's possible that the energy patterns are recorded somehow. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about it. "One reality at a time," is my motto; the Divinity I perceive is not petty or small; if I make myself worthy of this existence, I need not fear the next.

To me, undue concern over an unknowable future in an unknown reality is an abuse of religion. I believe that the proper role of religion is to address the needs of the soul in the here and now... helping one make sense of life's daily absurdities, sharing pain and joy, understanding how to live and how to die.

Passed at the UUA Board Special Meeting May 6, 2010

Business resolution for the 2010 GA:

Whereas the state of Arizona has recently enacted a law—SB 1070--that runs counter to our first principle, affirming the worth and dignity of every person,

Whereas the Association stands in solidarity with allies using a widespread economic boycott of Arizona as leverage for Love against this hateful legislation;

Be it resolved: we will not meet in a state of fear.

Accordingly, the Assembly hereby:

• Directs the UUA General Assembly Planning Committee to recommend to the Board of Trustees an alternate location for General Assembly 2012 at a location outside the state of Arizona;

• Pledges to generate from Member Congregations the amount sufficient to cancel arrangements in Phoenix for GA 2012;

• Pledges further to generate an equal or greater amount to fund ongoing efforts to Stand on the Side of Love in Arizona.

• Pledge to renew and redouble our efforts to become a multicultural, anti racist Association; to live as a people standing faithfully in opposition to systematic racism in our congregations, local communities, and in our own lives.

This was passed at a special online meeting* of the board that as many observers as the technology would allow were invited to participate in- a procedure I applaud and appreciate. The discussion was wide ranging, with many points brought up that are worth all our consideration. I have names attached to some of these, but as I wasn't able to capture actual quotes, it wouldn't be fair for me to put words in their mouths by attributing my faulty memory to them.

Cancelling will cost about $615,000 in penalties; shortfalls would have to come out of programs. (That's why fundraising is mentioned in the motion) It may also cost us in the future, as the convention business community is actually pretty small and tight-knit; cancelling may mean other cities might require advance money and more penalty clauses.

The deadline for making a decision is somewhat uncertain. As I understood the procedure, we have "dibs" on the dates in 2012, but not an absolute commitment; if another convention inquires about using the facilities, we will then be given a few days to make a decision. Since there's no way of predicting when or whether someone else will ask, the deadline for the decision is not at this moment firm. (If this is incorrect, someone in the know please correct me)

It was pointed out that going to Phoenix may put some of our own members at risk, and that they may not attend for that reason. A potential boycott of our own GA by our own members was also brought up as a risk of keeping GA in AZ.

The question of our selection policy was brought up, including the risk of our moving the 2012 GA to another city that would be unacceptable to some for different reasons.

There was discussion of whether it might be better to go and protest, that if our intent was to do something rather than make a statement, that might be more effective. Inquires about groups putting together public witnessing were made.

One question I have concerns the 2011 GA in Charlotte. In the most recent "Standing On the Side of Love" email, we were warned about seven other states that were contemplating passing their own 1070- and North Carolina was one of them. If this happens, would we be able to boycott, or would there not be enough time to change plans?

I wish I were able to attend GA next month; this may be an historic debate.

*If we can put together a virtual meeting at a moment's notice, how come the Global Warming conferences always have to be physical meetings at places like Helsinki, with all the burning of jet fuel that involves? Just asking.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Credit cards come through

for you, and I bet you've never even tried them- read about the concierge service!

UUA Board to meet over moving the Phoenix GA

From UUA Email: "The UUA Board of Trustees will hold an online Board Meeting on Thursday, May 6, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern Time to determine how and when adecision will be made to affirm or change the location of GeneralAssembly 2012, currently scheduled to be held in Phoenix, Arizona. UUAModerator Gini Courter called this Special Board Meeting following thepassage of Arizona Senate Bill 1070. This meeting is open to observers;"
I have registered to attend, and will blog about it- live blog if possible. More tonight if live blogging; otherwise tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Why do I do it?

Why do I defend the supporters, if not always the organizers, of things like the Tea Parties or the Arizona immigration law from charges of racism, sexism, homophobia, or all the other "isms" that get thrown around in UU blogs? Why did I speak up before the Presidential election against UU bloggers who said candidate Obama's poll numbers proved how racist America is?*

To begin with, it's simply not true. Tens- depending on the issue, hundreds- of millions of Americans are not "ists" who base all their decisions on "isms". That's a problem with calling our position on everything "Standing On The Side Of Love"- sometimes we come to really believe that those not standing with us are all haters. It seems to me that some UUs, despite all our vaunted reason, understanding, and tolerance are simply incapable of believing that anyone could genuinely care for people and still come to a different position than ours.

Secondly, it's counterproductive on many, many levels. To begin with, when you call someone an "ist" of any kind, you've just written them off in your mind. After all, "isms" are irrational, and irrational people cannot be convinced by rational argument. If you've been doing this, I give you the words of Benjamin Franklin from 1776: "These men, no matter how much we may disagree with them, they are not ribbon clerks to be ordered about - they are proud, accomplished men, the cream of their colonies. And whether you like them or not, they and the people they represent will be part of this new nation that YOU hope to create. Now, either learn how to live with them, or pack up and go home! In any case, stop acting like a Boston fishwife."

And, of course, they will write you off as well. You just deeply insulted them; they can here the contempt in your voice. They know that you, too, are incapable of being moved by their arguments, so why should they bother to enter a dialogue with you? For example, last night Mayor Bloomberg of New York speculated on the nature of the terrorist who planted the car bomb in Times Square: "Home-grown, maybe a mentally deranged person or somebody with a political agenda that doesn't like the health care bill or something." How do you think NY attendees of Tea Parties and Town Hall meetings who opposed the Healthcare reform bill felt, knowing that's how he sees them? What do you think the odds are that they'll ever listen to another word he says on the subject?

And, of course, if you assume irrational motivations for all your opposition, you won't even try to understand their actual motivations, their real fears. And since you don't understand what they really want, you'll miss all opportunities to find a genuine compromise, or an outside of the box answer. If, for example, you're convinced that all those against the "living wage" proposal are just a capitalist pigs operating on the "I got mine, Jack!" principle, you'll miss opportunities to get their cooperation on other assistance programs that don't trigger their fears of economic backlash.

And lastly, it's just plain unseemly. We're religious bloggers. We're supposed to be the good guys. If we can't discuss an issue without demonizing the opposition, who can? If UU bloggers- including ministers and religious professionals- cannot write with compassion, cannot display any faith in their fellow man, what does that tell the world about UU itself?
*To this day, I cannot understand how polling better before the election than any other candidate of his party since Roosevelt, and getting the highest first-term landslide in a century is evidence of racism. OK, technically, LBJ got a higher vote, but I don't think that counts as he was a sitting president, even though not elected.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Sign of Spring

Although this video is from NC, it sure reminds me of Spring and Summer in Indiana. (Caution- audio protion NSFW)

Ginj and I could have shot this video ourselves a few years ago, if we'd had the technology on us...

Saturday, May 01, 2010

CUUmbaya commits blasphemy- again

I committed blasphemy once before, and managed to dodge the lightning. That experience gives me the courage to confess to this one, even though it is a deeper, and to many, more offensive blasphemy.

Today is a serious religious ritual for the devotees of Equus like my beloved- The Kentucky Derby. I was never a horse person before meeting Ginger; I have since learned that the animal hierarchy goes cats, people, horses. For that, and other family tradition reasons, the Kentucky Derby is a ritual at our house, one I've come to enjoy very much. I love the food- last year we had burgoo; this year hot browns. I love examining and selecting horse for the family betting. I love the hats and outfits. (I almost picked the winner on the basis of the jockey's silks looking like the Star Trek logo.) I love almost everything about the Derby.

There's just one dark cloud in this glorious sky: the Mint Julep. I cannot abide Bourbon. To finish a Julep would require from me a greater control of the gag reflex than that demonstrated by Linda Lovelace. So throughout the festivities I consumed Martinis. Wait, I tell a lie- some of them were Gibsons. I confess it! When the trumpet sounded "To The Post", I saluted with a Martini!

I'm sure most UUs will forgive me; we're good with blasphemy. But I'm not a fool- I'll give it a month or two before entering a Kentucky congregation.

One last word about the Arizona immigration law

Read this NY Times editorial by Kris W. Kobach. It addresses most of the points being discussed in this and many other blogs.

Friday, April 30, 2010

US Senator favors deporting all undocumented aliens

Even the gainfully employed with families. No, wait, that's a former senator. I bet he thinks the issue is more complicated now.

Notes on polls

In my previous post, I noted that as 70% of voters in Arizona supported the new immigrant check law, but only 58% of the population was Non-Hispanic White, it was difficult to attribute the results to White racism. It was suggested in comments that possibly the pollsters didn't have a representative sample; perhaps those polled were 85% White. I didn't think it likely; Rasmussen is a respected firm- but I decided I'd check their raw data. I ran into a glitch: the raw data is available, but you have to buy a membership to get it.

Unwilling to spend the money, I looked around and found this very in-depth and fascinating poll from The Pew Hispanic Center It's a couple years old, but in a way, that's better- it's recent enough for the border troubles to be relevant, but not so recent as to be affected by the current political uproar over Arizona.

Some interesting points: "About a quarter of Hispanic adults are unauthorized immigrants, most of them arriving as part of a heavy wave of immigration that began gathering force in the 1970s." That's an astonishing figure right off the bat. Hispanics settled a great deal of what is now the United States; they were the majority non-indigenous peoples in the west and the south, from Florida to California, in the early years of US history. If today a quarter of Hispanic adults are not native born, then illegal immigration, especially in the last couple decades, must have been far greater than most of us in the northern half of the country realized.

That figure also puts an interesting perspective on many of the numbers that follow. For example, on immigration enforcement issues, the report says, "Latinos themselves also have differences on these issues, especially between the foreign born and native born. On all three questions, foreign-born Hispanics are more opposed to the stepped-up enforcement policies than are native-born Hispanics. The breakdown is as follows: 83% of the foreign born do not support active involvement by local police in immigration enforcement, compared with 74% of the native born; 84% of foreign-born Latinos disapprove of workplace raids, compared with 63% of native-born Latinos; and 66% of the foreign born disapprove of states checking immigration status before issuing driver’s licenses, compared with 39% of the native born." Let's break that down a little further: if 74% of the native born do not support active involvement by local police in immigration enforcement, and only 75% of the total are native born, then only 55% of the possible Hispanic voters are opposed.

As these are national numbers, and a couple years old, they would not reflect any new problems occurring in Arizona today. If we took the normal 45% White support for local enforcement with an estimated 40% of possible Hispanic voters, times the local Arizona demographic skew, that's 48% of the possible voters in Arizona who might have been expected to support the new enforcement law in normal times- throw in a crime wave that largely victimizes Hispanics, and it starts to look like Rasmussen's numbers aren't so unbelievable.

Another interesting point is about the perceptions of discrimination. "Asked to choose among four possible causes of discrimination against Hispanics, nearly half (46%) of all respondents say language is the biggest cause; 22% say immigration status; 16% say income and education; and 11% say skin color." I find that interesting because the Hispanic community seems to have a higher opinion of their fellow humanity than UUs do. I'm unaware of any polls on the subject, but my perception is that a clear majority of UUs believes that skin color is the biggest single issue in the minds of White Americans.

Yet another fascinating point is the Hispanic view on the quality of life here. "About seven-in-ten Hispanics describe their quality of life as excellent (26%) or good (45%). Also, 78% of respondents say they are very or somewhat confident that Latino children growing up now in the U.S. will have better jobs and make more money than they themselves have." Again, that seems more upbeat than my perception of UUs, many of whom seem to believe the country is going to Hell in a hand basket, or at least it would if Hell existed.

There's a lot more, too, about the Hispanic views on the right number of immigrants, language, etc- it's a fascinating read, I recommend it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Behind the Arizona law and illegal immigration

Let me begin by saying that I believe the new law in Arizona requiring police to check documents is unconstitutional on the grounds of usurping federal authority. But what caused the Arizona legislature to pass it, the governor to sign it, and 70% of the citizens of Arizona to support it?

Judging by what I read from UU bloggers, that's a ridiculous question- it's racism, pure and simple; no need to look for any other reason. OK, let's address that head on. According to a Rasmussen poll taken April 21st, "...70% of likely voters in Arizona approve of the legislation, while just 23% oppose it." But according to the US Census Bureau, Arizona doesn't have that many white people- "White persons not Hispanic, percent, 2008 58.4%." Huh. Ok, let's throw African Americans into the mix- (Yes, I know only white people can be racist, but I'm trying to get to the numbers here) "Black persons, percent, 2008 (a) 4.2%." Hmm... that still leaves us way short of 70%. Whatever, no Hispanic would be in favor of it, right? "Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, percent, 2008 (b) 30.1%" Wow, that's 130% of the opposition...

Well, forget the numbers- the law is so outrageous, racism must be behind it, right? What other country would do such a thing? Well, nearly all them, it turns out- including, according to Amnesty International, Mexico: "At present, Article 67 of Mexico's Population Law says, "Authorities, whether federal, state or municipal ... are required to demand that foreigners prove their legal presence in the country, before attending to any issues."

So if maybe there's more than racism at work here, what could it possibly be? Well, let's look at the headlines from Arizona recently... from
"The near-daily kidnappings and home invasions in Phoenix often involve masked gunmen armed with high-powered assault rifles and bulletproof vests, emulating tactical strike-team maneuvers to force others to forfeit drugs or cash. Roughly half of all marijuana seized along the U.S.-Mexico border was taken on Arizona's 370-mile border with Mexico. The targets are usually drug stash houses and their keepers scattered throughout the region. Both the perpetrators and their victims tend to be Mexicans with roots in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Phoenix has long been a destination for Sinaloans, and only the rare kidnapper is not from Sinaloa, according to detectives." Then there's this
NY Times story about Tuscon: "Since officials here formed a special squad last year to deal with home invasions, they have counted more than 200 of them, with more than three-quarters linked to the drug trade. In one case, the intruders burst into the wrong house, shooting and injuring a woman watching television on her couch.... The amount of violence has drastically increased in the last 6 to 12 months, especially in the area of home invasions, “ said Lt. Michael O’Connor of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department here. “The people we have arrested, a high percentage are from Mexico.”

Hmm... I wonder how many of the people looking down their noses at Arizona today would be on their high horse if they had 200 home invasion assaults in a single year in their own home towns. Well, if nothing is done, they may get the chance to find out- from the same article:
"Tucson is hardly alone in feeling the impact of Mexico’s drug cartels and their trade. In the past few years, the cartels and other drug trafficking organizations have extended their reach across the United States and into Canada. Law enforcement authorities say they believe traffickers distributing the cartels’ marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs are responsible for a rash of shootings in Vancouver, British Columbia, kidnappings in Phoenix, brutal assaults in Birmingham, Ala., and much more.
United States law enforcement officials have identified 230 cities, including Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston and Billings, Mont., where Mexican cartels and their affiliates “maintain drug distribution networks or supply drugs to distributors,” as a Justice Department report put it in December. The figure rose from 100 cities reported three years earlier, though Justice Department officials said that may be because of better data collection methods as well as the spread of the organizations."

But forget for the moment Arizona's justifiable anger at the federal government for failing to enforce its own laws, or protect their citizens from what amounts to a de facto foreign military invasion. Forget the drugs. Forget the people who talk about jobs. There are still other reasons to address the issue of illegal immigration. Those who argue- and this seems to be a majority of the UUA- that people should be able to "wander free, Where–so us listeth, uncontroll'd of any", are doing more harm than good to the poor and oppressed they would help.

The people of Central and South America, trying to get to the US, find nothing but more oppression in Mexico on the way here, according to
Amnesty International "Rupert Knox, Amnesty's Mexico researcher, said in the report that the failure by authorities to tackle abuses against migrants has made their trip through Mexico one of the most dangerous in the world.
"Migrants in Mexico are facing a major human rights crisis leaving them with virtually no access to justice, fearing reprisals and deportation if they complain of abuses," Knox said.
Central American migrants are frequently pulled off trains, kidnapped en masse, held at gang hideouts and forced to call relatives in the U.S. to pay off the kidnappers. Such kidnappings affect thousands of migrants each year in Mexico, the report says.
Many are beaten, raped or killed in the process."

And what of the people of Mexico itself? Mexico is one of the most corrupt and oppressive regimes on Earth. Any other nation so corrupt would have collapsed decades ago, but the Mexican regime is being propped up by illegal immigration to the US in two ways: first, in the money sent home- until the current recession caused a drop off, it was the largest source of income for Mexico, surpassing even oil; it's still a close second at this moment- and the Mexican government gets a cut during the electronic transmission of these remittances. Secondly, the Mexican government can and does encourage the discontented to come here instead of facing down the corrupt government. That safety valve relieves the oligarchy from any need to address the grinding poverty, the criminal gangs who rule the streets, the bought-and-sold justice.

How bad is it? By some estimates- not the highest- 20% of the population of Mexico has already come here, and
46% of those remaining would come here if they could- including among those who earn well above the minimum wage and are well educated. And those are the people Mexico would need to rebuild its own economy, its own infrastructure- if there was any desire to. But why should they want to? The oligarchs are getting rich, and the people who would in any other country revolt just leave instead- a grand formula, if you're one of those on top. And those here who argue for open borders are unwittingly doing their part in propping up the regime.

UPDATE: As we were debating crime statistics, this was happening in the open desert of Arizona:

Yes, this is coincidental, anecdotal, but... when people don't feel safe in their own homes, it does no good to say, "Suck it up; things are worse in my home town". I think a tipping point was reached when rancher Rob Krentz was shot- he was known to help illegal immigrants; I imagine people thought to themselves, "If he can be murdered on his own land, what chance do I have?"

Look- suppose you have someone dropping bricks off an Interstate bridge. Statistically, you may still have the safest roads in the country. Statistically, you can probably prove that you would actually save more lives by setting up speed traps to lower highway speeds than wasting the manpower chasing one man... but the people will demand you go after what they feel more threatened by. That's what's happening in Arizona- the criminal gangs hiding amongst the normal immigrants are what's terrifying them, and no amount of "Well, in the greater scheme of things..." is going to allay those fears.

UPDATE: UU Blogger Will Shetterly lives in Arizona, and reports, "Emma and I marched with thousands of Tucsonans for immigration reform. There was a very small group of supporters of Arizona idiocy across the park from us, maybe thirty when we got there. (Emma and I were at the end of the march, so some might've left before the march was over.) A point for people who think this is exclusively about racism: at least two of the supporters were Hispanic." This is all I've been trying to say here. While not a good law, and no doubt unconstitutional, it is genuinely popular not because evil KKK types hate Hispanics, but because ordinary people of all stripes feel their government is doing nothing.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The stalker is back

In September of last year, I wrote about a reader with an excessive, possibly unhealthy interest in me. Once again I have had the dubious pleasure of this person's attentions: first with the reader's own blog post discussing the contents of my pants, and boasting about lighting a fire therein; then a, shall we say, off topic comment submitted to this blog concerning my lips that I declined to publish.

I really don't know how I can make it any clearer to this person that I am not interested in a relationship. Perhaps it is hopeless; I know that in this blogger's home town another poor unfortunate was forced to seek a restraining order, and the court was concerned enough to grant it. Sheer distance makes it unlikely that I will need to do the same- but given this individual's numerous and bizarre obsessions, one never knows. I hope- not just for my sake, or even the sakes of the others this reader has pursued so relentlessly, but for the reader's own sake- that the reader will seek the help so desperately needed, and rejoin polite society. I would welcome the reader back, should it ever happen.