Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Upon hearing of the Abu Dabi bail out of Citibank I sent a kneejerk email to the spouse that read something like this: the revolution will not be televised after all, once they own us they will no longer have use for terrorism. I know it is bad to generalize but.... This reaction was no doubt fueled as well by the indication the other day from a person in the know that one of the largest homebuilders in the US was about to be sold to middle eastern oil interests as well. It seems I am not the only one who raised an eyebrow. The spouse responded with this link: .

12/11/07 Post script. Now I learn that USB a very large Swiss Bank that is caught in the web of the subprime debacle is getting an injection of capital from the Middle East and China as concerns in those regions buy interests in the bank. Even the Swiss banks, once the bastion of isolated neutrality are succumbing. There is a bigger reason than the climate for weaning ourselves from the oil of the middle east.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Answer to the Question People Always Ask

We are commonly asked, what would Michael have done if not for you guys? Well, today we saw the answer.
On Doug's rounds for St. Vincent de Paul food deliveries to the homes of the poor we met Mr. McKinney. A veteran of the army and the navy he apparently got hit in the head with an axe. In his rendition they had to "put his brains back in a couple of times." In the few moments we were there we learned the following: it took him three years to remember he had a family only to learn that his wife had cleaned out his bank account; he is on tons of meds including narcotics which is a problem because he is going blind and cannot see to take them at the proper times. He has had roommates but they end up stealing all his meds. He was cut off SSI when someone broke in and stole his ID's. The VA cannot help him with the blind training until he can prove he is stable, but he has no money to pay the rent. His landlady is working with him but she is in CA and the manager is inept; letting her family squat in empty apartments instead of renting them out. He has serious physical ailments that need constant care but he has no resources to get it. He should be in a wheelchair but only has a walker. A police detective working with him on the ID theft and an ex-marine who found him on the street some time back and has been of great help, but the marine is elderly and apparently dying also. Mr. McKinney also suffers from PTSD and there are concerns he might commit suicide. Could you blame him?
We passed on his application for rent assistance and wished him luck. It was heartbreaking to leave him there, but you can't save the world. Although he still wears his wedding ring, it was apparent that he has no one.
We have much to be thankful for and we should not ever take any of it for granted.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Unlicensed to Kill-why we should license illegal immigrants to drive

The illegal immigration debate invariably comes around to the issue of driver’s licenses. Well, this is one area with which I happen to have some personal experience. Believe it or not, it is not a prerequisite to actually HAVE a driver’s license in order to have it suspended in the State of Arizona. Nor do you need an Arizona license to attend defensive driving school.

Let me explain. Having a driver’s license is not a right. It is merely a privilege. In order for the roads to work with a modicum of safety and success, we set up rules for driving, test the potential driver on them and affirm they know them by issuing the license. It is a serious hazard for people to be out there driving without knowing the rules. It is all about public health and safety. It is not about civil rights.

Even with a license some people are really bad drivers. They get tickets for moving violations. First we offer them a refresher course in the form of defensive driving school. But sometimes that is not effective. There are several legal reasons for suspending someone’s driver’s license. Getting a second DUI is a good sign that you do not understand the rules; causing serious injury on a first DUI is another one. But the most frequent reason is failure to pay your tickets. Yes, if you get a ticket and you don’t pay, your license is suspended. It shows you don’t know the rules and you don’t care to. Now, the mere act of driving is a crime!

The officers can spot you usually by running your plate and then your driving record. Invariably there are a myriad other things wrong if you are a person who is out there driving on a suspended license, the most obvious is lack of insurance and the second is expired registration.

So how does this work then with people who can’t get a license in the first place-the illegal immigrant? Having no driver’s license is a civil offense and usually has a fine of over $100. But it is not a moving violation and therefore not eligible for defensive driving school (DDS). Most often these people are discovered when they commit a moving violation. They are found very, very frequently. That tells me something: they don’t know the rules of the road. This is confirmed when they get ticketed for no license. The best thing we can do in this case is send them to DDS. At least there they will get some exposure to the rules, having skipped all that by not getting a license. All you need for DDS is a valid, government issued ID; any government will do, including Mexico.

If, on the other hand, they fail to come to court on the ticket, it goes into default and their privilege to drive is suspended. On the next infraction they get a criminal ticket-no DDS is available. So they run around and pay all these fines, get their privilege reinstated and go right back out on the road. There is just no way to stop them.

The net result is that illegal immigrants are constantly getting misdemeanor tickets for driving on a suspended license which carries a hefty fine-first offense with surcharges and all the other little fees added in is nearly $600. But they pay; maybe over time, but for the most part they pay. Courts often incentivize this payment by giving them a discount if they get their privilege to drive reinstated. Those receiving civil fines, if otherwise eligible, get their ticket dismissed for attending the school but that is more rare.

On its face this practice makes little sense. We raise tons of money through the system but ignore the entire basis for licensing people in the first place-safety on the road. How does this help the legitimate drivers on the road? I submit not only does it not help; it is putting us all needlessly in harm’s way.

They are here and there is no way to stop them from driving. As noted, this is merely a privilege extended by our state, not a right. I on the other hand have the right to expect that everyone on the road has received at least some training, thus providing the safest driving experience the State can offer. The current practice is depriving me, a legitimate citizen, of the right to a safe driving experience. By depriving the illegal immigrant of this privilege I am being deprived of a right.

It may cost the municipal coffers but in the long run society will be much better off with a trained driving force. I’ll bet the same people who complain about illegal immigration also lament the demise of common sense in our society. Here is a chance to use some common sense and save lives at the same time. How can that be wrong?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Huh? This Makes My Head Hurt

Thursday's newspaper contains the following two stories. At least they were not in the same section:

High air pollution alert day--don't drive!!!!

Nascar this weekend-traffic will be a challenge.

Do you think Al Gore will be there?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

How Stupid Can We Get?

In my last post I lamented anonymous blogging. A sort of corollary to that is the phenomenon where people gravitate toward sites that contain content they agree with. One thing about all the personalization of the internet is that it is so insulating. If you spend all your time in one genre, so to speak, the rest of the world passes you by. A byproduct of this is that now that my teenager is out of the house I have no clue about music anymore. Someone just hand me a fully loaded IPOD, please!

As a long time watcher of political evolution I long ago concluded that the greatest thing about our system of government is the debate and compromise method of making law. To that end I have always felt that the best situation is when the power is split among the parties. I am in hog heaven when you have a Democractic congress and a Republican presidency, or vice versa and at the local level a Democratic governor and a Republican legislature. The resulting action are going to be much more well considered in that scenario.

In terms of political thinking this concept has been fleshed out in a new book of which I read a review on You can read an interview with the author at this link:

"The Internet is making us stupid"
Legal sage Cass Sunstein says democracy is the first casualty of political
discourse in the digital age.
By Ben Van Heuvelen

Friday, November 2, 2007

Never Take Your Life For Granted Again

It is helpful to understand the context when you hear things about the issues in Africa and the Middle East and with the Muslim religion. What more insightful way to learn this information than through the eyes of people who lived it during their formative years?

I have previously recommended Dave Eggers "What is the What" a retelling of the life of a young lost boy the of the Sudan. Imagine in the late twentieth century wandering for months in the desert as a twelve year old with no food and your friends being snatched by lions right out from next to you. This is a must read for all persons living today.

Now, for another perspective I highly recommend Infidel (Hardcover)
by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (2007). I am here to tell you this book is amazing and I am only half way through it.

Here is the first review on the Amazon website:

From Publishers Weekly
Readers with an eye on European politics will recognize Ali as the Somali-born member of the Dutch parliament who faced death threats after collaborating on a film about domestic violence against Muslim women with controversial director Theo van Gogh (who was himself assassinated). Even before then, her attacks on Islamic culture as "brutal, bigoted, [and] fixated on controlling women" had generated much controversy. In this suspenseful account of her life and her internal struggle with her Muslim faith, she discusses how these views were shaped by her experiences amid the political chaos of Somalia and other African nations, where she was subjected to genital mutilation and later forced into an unwanted marriage. While in transit to her husband in Canada, she decided to seek asylum in the Netherlands, where she marveled at the polite policemen and government bureaucrats. Ali is up-front about having lied about her background in order to obtain her citizenship, which led to further controversy in early 2006, when an immigration official sought to deport her and triggered the collapse of the Dutch coalition government. Apart from feelings of guilt over van Gogh's death, her voice is forceful and unbowed—like Irshad Manji, she delivers a powerful feminist critique of Islam informed by a genuine understanding of the religion. 8-page photo insert. (Feb.)
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