To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chicagoboyz has a post up: Blinded By His Narrow Focus. It's about an article the blog author read, that seems to extrapolate conditions in a county in California to the rest of the country.

I started to comment on it and then realized that my comments were running too long, so I decided to park them here.

I lived in Memphis, TN from 1982 until last year. When my daughter was in first grade - that would have been in 1993 or so - there weren't very many Hispanics in Memphis. Her class studied Mexico during multicultural week. One of my coworkers, a Mexican-American, was kind enough to speak to her class and answer questions about Mexico because no one in the school had any direct experience. By the time she finished elementary school, there were a few Hispanic children in some of the classes. Not long after, a third to a half of the school was Hispanic. (This was a parochial school.) Memphis experienced a big demographic shift, during which we saw some things we were not used to seeing, including Hispanic-looking people standing around outside Home Depot. (I never inquired as to their immigration status.) Billboards, flyers, newspapers in Spanish appeared and then increased in number too. No one planned this or decided it should happen, it just happened

My point(s)?
1 - Nothing, NOTHING is static. It never was. Memphis was never frozen in time. The Hispanic demographic shift was visible because of the Spanish-language stuff, and the schools suddenly had to add a lot of ESL classes, sure. But busing for desegregation happened, white flight happened, etc., long before this. Also waves of immigrants from countries where they were fleeing oppression, so that certain parts of town began to see Vietnamese restaurants and grocery stores, and various things of that nature. You can't really pick a moment in the past and say "this is the real Memphis". The only constant is change, right? Xenophobes and other people who can't handle change are going to have heartburn but they can't stop the process.

2 - Nothing stays put, either. Today Marin County, CA, tomorrow Podunk, OH. I should say "nothing people-related". El Ninos aren't going to suddenly start causing drought in Texas and flooding in California. But there's not a wall up between California and Ohio so even though the article might not speak to conditions today, the blog post author might re-read it two or three years from now in a different light.

But I keep thinking about cells. Cells have membranes, not walls, so that things can move in and out of the cells as needed for the cells to survive. [Edited to add: some non-animal cells have walls, of course.] The movement in and out is strictly controlled. If a cell membrane is destroyed, the cell no longer has integrity and it can't function any longer. I think eventually the world will be like one big cell. This process started happening with pre-Roman Empire trade routes and really started accelerating with steam ships and railroads and trans-continental air travel, and the internet by which we can read newspapers in other countries and have conversation with their inhabitants; and NAFTA and free trade and all that other stuff. But we're not there yet, and I wonder what kind of cell membrane the USA really needs. Maybe I'm a xenophobe but I wonder if we've let our membrane weaken prematurely.*

When I think about all the illegal immigrants who come here to find work, and why it is that they can find it (because employers can sidestep OSHA regs and labor laws if they know their employees won't complain) I wonder about capitalism. I wonder if it's true, as Marx(?) said, that capitalism requires an underclass. First the US had slaves, then black people without civil rights, then when black people got the same rights that white people had, suddenly we needed a new class of people without rights. Is that it? Or is it not necessary except for those capitalists who want too much profit and are willing to break the law to get it? I bet Fred Smith and people of his ilk aren't hiring illegals, and they're not hurting. I've had to show proof of eligibility to work at every job that I remember filling out paperwork for.

Still, it seems that we must somehow want these people here, and in the status they have. If we truly didn't want them, we'd send them out and close our borders, right? Instead of discussing whether, for instance, they should get driver licenses and pay in-state tuition. But since they are here, why is it so hard for those who are self-supporting and law-abiding (as far as they can be) to be regularized? Is it just the usual lumbering monster of bureaucracy, or an inherent flaw in our political system? I wish I knew.

*To continue the membrane analogy - one could look at immigration or at occupation, as a kind of endosymbiosis. The idea of endosymbiosis is that some of the organelles in eukaryotic cells - mitochondria, chloroplasts in plant cells - started out as prokaryotes that moved into other cells either as parasites or as food, and because the larger cell offered some protection and the smaller cell offered energy, it stayed around and reproduced with the larger cell. There's some evidence to support this (mitochondria have their own ribosomes, which are like bacterial ribosomes, and they have their own DNA, which is configured like bacterial DNA, not the X and Y of eukaryotes' nuclear DNA). These things have evolved so that you can't independently culture the mitochondria or the chloroplasts; they can only function as part of the eukaryotic cell. The point is that it doesn't matter now whether the prokaryotes that gave rise to these organelles started out as food or as parasites; they are a vital part of the eukaryotes either way. In the same way, it hopefully doesn't matter whether an American's ancestors came here for a better life, or fleeing famine or oppression, or were brought here in chains - they should be able to both contribute to the "cell" and enjoy the "cell's" benefits, and see themselves and be seen as part of the larger whole. This is hopefully true of our Hispanic immigrants as well. They change us, we change them, and we all benefit.

Adapt or die, right?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wesley J. Smith has a post on his blog, Secondhand Smoke, about abortion in Australia.

Australia: Abortion Through the Ninth Month--Culture of Death Brooks No Dissent

A new law out of the Australian state of Victoria must be discussed. First, it permits abortion through the ninth month, meaning that viable babies are subject to being killed, which is to say it gets close to the land of infanticide. Second, it requires all doctors to either do abortions, or if they have a moral objection, to find and refer to an abortion friendly doctor....

From the statute:

Part 2: (5): Termination of pregnancy by registered medical practitioner after 24 weeks:(1) A registered medical practitioner may perform an abortion on a woman who is more than 24 weeks pregnant only if the medical practitioner--(a) reasonably believes that the abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances; and (b) has consulted at least one other registered medical practitioner who also reasonably believes that the abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances.(2) In considering whether the abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances, a registered medical practitioner must have regard to--(a) all relevant medical circumstances; and (b) the woman's current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.

The woman's future social circumstances?

Sometimes I actually am tempted to become an atheist. It would be so comforting to think that things like this really don't matter. Wouldn't it? That there will be no Day of Judgment? I read these things and in my mind I am hearing

Dies illa, dies irae,
calamitatis et miseriae,
dies magna et amara valde.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Does anybody but me think the INVESTIGATION of Joe Wurzelbacher is creepy as hell?

The man opened his mouth and expressed doubt at Obama's plans for taxing small businesses, and for this his tax records, voting records, and God knows what else have been minutely scrutinized, mischaracterized, and reported to the entire world?

FOX News contributor Howard Wolfson, former Hillary Clinton spokesman, had at it when Joe the Plumber was broached as a topic on air Friday morning.

"He's not a plumber, his name's not Joe and he would actually get a tax cut under Barack Obama," he said. "What it says is that John McCain's campaign didn't vet Joe the Plumber."


And may I add, after this, Hillary Clinton's spokesman is the last person who ought to say anything.

Feeling Plumber Fatigue, Media Turn on 'Joe'

Friday, October 17, 2008

Two Papers in One!

* "In Wednesday night's debate, John McCain warned that a group called Acorn is 'on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history' and 'may be destroying the fabric of democracy.' Viewers may have been wondering what Mr. McCain was talking about. So were we."--editorial, New York Times, Oct. 17
* "Several F.B.I. offices are reviewing reports of fraudulent voter registrations submitted by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn, a liberal community organizing group that has been under fire from Republicans."--news story, New York Times, Oct. 17


From WSJ Online.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oh, where've I been?

Work work work.

Regular stuff in the lab PLUS getting the quality program off the ground again in preparation for maybe running the plant, which means lab trials (more work for me), PLUS somehow I'm chairing an ASTM committee, good for my resume but more stuff to do, PLUS a bit of lab work for another company that doesn't have a lab, that somehow I got volunteered to do. I feel like a pie chart. The thing about a pie chart is, it can only add up to 100% of the pie, so if X gets done then Y did not, and that's all there is to it. It's all about the priorities.

F had a long weekend with us recently for fall break, during which time she cooked for us (she's taking a culinary arts class this semester) and made me a birthday cake. Yes, it's my birthday month. Whee.

I think the economic issues have pretty much guaranteed Obama the presidency. In a way I wish we didn't know about Jeremiah Wright, about Rezko, Ayers, ACORN, and all that other stuff (plans to redistribute wealth, broken promise to help the school back in Kenya). If you don't know and you elect somebody, that's one thing. If you do know, and you elect and support him anyway, you've changed the standards. I remember wishing and hoping with tears in my eyes (so to speak) that nothing would be found on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress. Because I knew that nothing would happen to Clinton if the stain was his, and that would mean the country accepting something that previously had been unacceptable. So we're going to swallow blatant vote fraud. Far-left-wing radicalism. Back-scratching with corrupt figures. Racist demagoging. (Why hasn't anyone asked Obama about his membership in the Congressional Black Caucus, which excluded Steve Cohen because of his race? Because we already know what he's about and apparently don't care.) I know the argument will be offered that they all do this-and-that, and maybe a lot of them do, but this time we know about it in advance and are taking it anyway. So how can we ever object to this stuff again, ever?

And my boss asked me the other day what I thought all that voting "present" was about. I told him I thought it was the same as "above my pay grade" when asked at what point a human gets rights - not when does life begin, which may be a philosophical/religious question, but when does he/she get rights, which is a question pertaining to law and government. (I know Obama later said he regretted his flippancy.) I said to my boss, "President Truman had a sign..." and as I said, "...on his desk" my boss was already nodding and saying "yep". Production manager sitting next to me said, "What?" Dang, I mean, I know he's very young, but is this really not part of the culture anymore? My boss and I simultaneously answered, "The buck stops here". Would Obama have such a sign on his desk?

Well, there's nothing I can do about it but hope for the best.