Friday, November 30, 2007

There They Go Again

Conservatives have done it again. This time columnist Charles Krauthammer is the point man.

In today’s Washington Post column, The Hammer is moist with praise over Shrub’s steadfast refusal to allow stem-cell research from human embryos, in light of the recent discovery of a better way to find the medically valuable cells. Krauthammer writes: “The verdict is clear: Rarely has a president -- so vilified for a moral stance -- been so thoroughly vindicated”

Whether or not Bush took a moral stance or threw a bone to the Christian right isn’t at issue here. As James Thomson said when he first isolated human stem cells, "If human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough." No one truly knows when to call a embryo or fetus a human; we all have opinions. With that in mind, anyone with a facile attitude toward anything to do with the topic has not thought about it enough.

Neither have Bush, Krauthammer, and their cohort. Their moral ground is only high enough to forbid the use of embryos grown for that purpose, or from abortions. In Krauthammer’s words, “I have long argued that a better line might have been drawn -- between using doomed and discarded fertility-clinic embryos created originally for reproduction (permitted) and using embryos created solely to be disassembled for their parts, as in research cloning (prohibited).”

So farming embryos for fertility clinics is all right, even though many of them will be discarded? Aren’t those (potential) lives as sacred as any others? A similar faulty logic is applied to abortions. The conservative line is that abortions should be illegal in all instances, except for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Don’t those defenseless babies deserve some protection, too?

There’s a good reason conservatives are willing to stain their self-proclaimed moral certainties with the fertility clinic, rape, and incest exceptions. They know they don’t have the votes to be pure. Most people in this country see the shades of gray in such cases. Conservatives can’t afford to, because it’s a moral issue, and morality is either right or wrong. They try to cover the nakedness of their arguments with bright line exceptions, but the truth is still there, and its name is hypocrisy.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Hell May Have Frozen Over

The Lingerie Correspondent and I do not often agree on matters political. Even rarer is alignment of planets and asteroids that brings me into concurrence with Lou Dobbs, who may well be the poster child for what’s wrong with the Mainstream Media today. True as that is, I’d like to think the Lingerie Correspondent for passing along Fat Lou’s comments of September 5. (Apologies for taking so long to get to this. Between the start of the Sole Heir’s school year and the baseball playoffs, it’s been busy at The Home Office.)

Lou Dobbs is a one-issue, one-inch depth panderer to the basest American instincts. Still, when he’s right, he’s right. Felipe Calderon’s desire to be president “wherever there is a Mexican” is demagogic drivel on an unprecedented scale. I wonder what jefe Calderon’s thoughts would be if the President of Guatemala said the same things, since Mexico’s policies toward Guatemalans compares to our policy toward Mexicans roughly as the Inquisition’s treatment of heretics compares to a modern Catholic confessional.

Things would be substantially better if Calderon spent more time being presidente to Mexicans while they’re still in Mexico. A much overlooked fact in the heated immigration debate, legal or ill-, is that Mexico is a shitty place to live. Forget Cancun and Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta; they’re tourist traps, no more representative of Mexico than the Las Vegas Strip is of the rest of this country. Try to imagine going to the lengths many illegals take – stowing away, hanging off truck axles, paying smugglers – to end up in a country where you’re not wanted, if there was any reason to stay. Bear in mind, these aren’t people who have had great expectations snatched from their grasp. Mexicans have an historical, almost genetic, tolerance for poverty. I watched the classic Western, The Magnificent Seven, last night. I’d be willing to bet a lot of Mexicans aren’t much better off economically today than they were in the movie, after factoring in a few technological advances.

Two primary things have to happen to stem, or at least slow, the rate of illegal immigration. First is one we have control over: dry up the supply of jobs that makes this country so much more attractive. Enforce existing laws that require employers to get the documents needed to substantiate someone’s work status. We all have to complete the I-9 form whenever we start a job. The federal government takes it so seriously that the form, once completed, cannot follow us from job to job, even though the information contained never really changes.

What about forged documents? With all the computing power available to scan our phone records and emails for anyone who might ever had ridden on a bus with someone who met someone who once spoke to someone who was ever in Afghanistan, the feds should be able to check the legitimacy of a Social Security Number pretty quickly. Round his ass up ay work the next day. Sneaking into the country is one thing; forging official documents is something else altogether.

The benefit to Step One is that it shouldn’t cost much. The Great Wall of America shouldn’t be as necessary if the hardship of crossing the desert is less likely to lead to a better life. Step Two is the hard one: we have to help to make Mexico a better place to live, so people won’t be as desperate to leave.

We’re probably going to have to take that on, too, because we’re the ones with the vested interest. Do you think Calderon cares of a few million of his poorest citizens head north? He’ll hold the door for them; they have nothing he wants. If the wall does get built, don’t be surprised to see the Mexican government distributing breaching technologies. We’re going to have to do it, and NAFTA is the way.

I don’t like NAFTA any more than most of you probably do. Hear me out. Any job exported to Mexico should have to pay roughly the same as it paid here, including benefits. This will slow the outsourcing of jobs that deprive American workers of employment, while creating a middle class in Mexico that will be less inclined to come here (except as tourists, cha-ching!) and more likely to vote for more responsible political leaders.

Calderon and the Mexican elite aren’t going to like this one bit. Such is life. If we’re going to get along with the government to our south, let’s at least make sure it’s because we’re getting some benefit from it.