Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Becoming American

Real Estate is not a significant defining attribute of America. People may be awed by the Grand Canyon, the Pacific Coast, Pikes Peak, and the Great Plains, but none of these geographical locations have played a part in making America great. However, the freedom, liberty, and justice as defined in the United States Constitution, codified into American law, and practiced by generations of Americans are the most significant defining attributes of America and are the reasons for American greatness.

When Americans view their heritage as pieces of property, and when Americans consider land to be the defining attribute of their country, the concepts of freedom, liberty, and justice, become restricted and sometimes even unattainable for non-Americans who desire to live the American life because fewer immigrants are legally allowed to migrate to America.

There is more than enough land in America for everyone in Canada and everyone in Mexico to migrate to America if migrating to America is their choice. Let’s be clear, when Americans vote to limit immigration, Americans are voting to limit freedom, liberty, and justice for others. Is that the kind of country America wants to become? It’s not the kind of country I want America to become.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I Don't Get It

How can employers hire employees who have forged Social Security cards? Don’t employers have to send Social Security taxes to the Social Security Administration for each employee? Why is the Social Security administration accepting taxes for workers who are not listed in the Social Security system as having a valid Social Security number?

Is the hiring of illegal immigrants happening with the full approval of our Federal government and the Social Security administration?

Monday, March 27, 2006

In Favor of Immigration and Amnesty

In a just society, nobody should be unfairly advantaged or unfairly disadvantaged by the luck of their birth. Birthrights and caste systems are unjust because the recipient of a birthright becomes entitled to an unfair advantage throughout life while those stuck in a caste system have very little opportunity to succeed and very little control over their own individual destiny.

Immigration in America has suffered through years and years of bad immigrations policy that has created a birthright for some and a caste system for others. Most of the problems ascribed to illegal immigration are not caused by illegal immigrants. Almost all of the problems ascribed to illegal immigration are problems associated with the lack of enforcement and the manipulation of American laws and public policies.

There are many business and political leaders in America and Mexico who benefit from the current immigration system. The government of Mexico benefits from a system where some of its citizens can move illegally to America, find a job, receive a tax payer funded education, receive subsidized health care, and send parts of a paycheck back to Mexico in order to support remaining family members. This system of illegal immigration keeps American dollars flowing into Mexico, helping to support the economy of Mexico, and reducing the pressure on the government of Mexico to reform.

Construction, farming, hotels, landscaping, and many other businesses in America benefit from a system which supplies a never ending source of inexpensive unskilled labor. These unskilled laborers themselves are rarely able to afford the services of the businesses that utilize illegal immigrants. This system of illegal immigration keeps the prices lower, the profits higher, and maintains the growth potential of the businesses who utilize undocumented laborers. It is a system that also punishes all of the honest businesses that obey the law because it is more expensive for a business to follow the law.

Most Americans want to punish illegal immigrants and business that hire illegal immigrants either through existing laws or new legislation with even stiffer penalties. Some Americans, including President Bush, want to create a two tier system of caste for guest workers. At the same time, almost nobody is in favor of granting amnesty to any illegal immigrant regardless of how long they have been in America. The conventional wisdom is that a grant of amnesty will encourage more Mexicans to break the law and come to America illegally with the hope of eventually obtaining their own amnesty.

As American citizens, we have a right to vote for leaders and laws, but we should be very careful about supporting leaders and laws that change the basic nature of American freedom and American justice. Stricter enforcement of existing laws, new laws with stiffer penalties, a thirty foot wall separating Mexico from America, and a guest worker program do not represent a move toward more freedom and justice. All of these solutions would represent a significant turn away from freedom and justice.

It is time for the government of the United States, the government of Mexico, the businesses in America who hire illegal immigrants, and the citizens of America, to find the rectitude to begin making and enforcing an immigration policy that allows Mexicans who believe in America to live in America, work in America, contribute to America, and become American citizens without having the stigma of second class status. It is time for Americans to quit claiming a birthright that is fundamentally unjust and fundamentally un-American.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Real Simple

This is real simple. There is no need to complicate morality when a simple principle is all that is needed.

The obligation of a Christian is to always offer peace. This offer of peace must always be on the table for an enemy to accept when the enemy is ready to lay down their arms. If the enemy of the Christian refuses to accept the peace offer, it then becomes the obligation of the Christian to protect the innocent. Protecting the innocent sometimes involves killing the enemy.

The war in Iraq was not only a just war, it was one of the few real moral accomplishments by my country in my lifetime. The after-war in Iraq has had problems because some of the enemy still does not want peace. The enemy has chosen death over peace. We should oblige.

Curing the Conservative Crack-Up

Here is a good description of what Republicans in Washington need to do in order to return to Conservatism.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

On Vampires, Zombies and Snake Oil Salesmen

Michael Fay has a way with words, too!

Fair Comparisons

The only fair way to evaluate the results of any action is to compare the results of the action to the results of other actions in similar circumstances. It is easy to compare the results of two runners running against each other in a 100 meter dash at the same time on the same day on the same track. One runner will finish in front of the other. We can know with certainty who was the winner.

We can also compare the accomplishments of other athletes who do not compete on the same track at the same time on the same day, but the certainty of our comparison will be a little less accurate. No two golfers have the exact same conditions or get the exact same breaks on each hole in a 72 hole tournament. However, the conditions are close enough for us to declare a winner once all of the golfers have completed four rounds because the scores of each golfer can be compared based on playing the same holes and the same amount of holes, on the same course.

Tiger Woods never played against Jack Nicklaus in his prime. Hank Aaron never played against Babe Ruth at all. However, the accomplishments of Tiger Woods can be compared to Jack Nicklaus and the Home Runs of Hank Aaron can be compared to Babe Ruth because all of these men competed against the best competitors in their sport in their time and each sport is mostly unchanged.

Presidential administrations throughout history can be compared to each other but with much less certainty than is possible in sports because no two administrations have faced the same challenges; some haven’t even faced similar challenges. It is possible to evaluate the results of an administration based on the stated goals of the administration, but it is not possible to do so with any accuracy or precision because different administrations also faced different levels of opposition.

When comparing the competency of the Bush administration to the competency of the Clinton administration, there isn’t a big difference. Objectively, if we consider one of the two to be competent, then we must also consider the other to be competent and if we consider one of the two to be incompetent, then we must consider the other to be incompetent. I happen to like the objectives of the Bush administration more than I liked the objectives of the Clinton administration and I happen to like the person George Bush more than I like the person Bill Clinton, but I don’t think either man was particularly good at running a government. However, I find it hard to completely blame either man for the faults of government because some of the attributes of government seem to be unmanageable no matter who is in charge.

When evaluating the results of a war, it is almost impossible to be fair, accurate, and precise in coming to any meaningful conclusions. The war in Iraq was the fastest and most complete victory in the history of the world. In several weeks the army of a country of 30 million was completely defeated by the army of a country of 270 million on the soil of the country with 30 million people. It really was unprecedented, but it was also expected because of the superior technology of the country of 270 million. Were the expectations realistic? Probably, but there is really no way to know for sure because there is no point of reference for comparison.

When evaluating the after-war in Iraq, it IS impossible to come to any meaningful conclusions at this point in time because the situation in Iraq has never existed before in the history of the world. In hindsight, most reasonable people will conclude that some of the decisions regarding Iraq were poor decisions and some actions were counterproductive. I can’t make it through a day without making a bad decision, and I don’t know of any leader in government, business, church, or any other organization who doesn’t make mistakes and then make adjustments based on the lessons learned. Bad decisions alone are not a measure of failure or success. Uncorrected bad decisions or corrected bad decisions will be the determinate in the final analysis.

Pundits who claim the Bush administration is incompetent in managing the rebuilding of Iraq, or who claim the invasion of Iraq was a big mistake, or who only see the deaths and not the hope and freedom, are basing their judgments on vapid analysis because there is no point of reference for a fair comparison. These pundits are only critics who are willing to exercise freedom in their own speech, but unwilling to pay the price for freedom and unwilling to let others determine their own destiny.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Natural Bias

When a consumer of News considers a News piece written or broadcast by a producer of News to be biased, either the producer of the News IS biased or the consumer of the News IS biased, or most likely, the consumer of the News and the producer of the News ARE both biased.

I’m not really sure why so many mainstream media organizations deny their bias or why so many otherwise intelligent people deny the bias in the mainstream media and defend the objectivity of the mainstream media. To me, the defense of the mainstream media seems to be based more on emotion than an honest appraisal of the reporting.

It is impossible for any writer, any editor, or any producer to completely remove bias from the stories that are chosen to get reported and the way the stories are reported. Some of the bias in the media seems very calculated, but most of the bias in the media is quite innocent and quite natural. For example, I can’t help but tell better stories and use better words when I am reporting on my delightful, accomplished, and well behaved daughters. Have I ever mentioned how beautiful both of them are? However, the stories I tell and the words I use when reporting on the devious little monsters being raised by other parents will be quite different.

Reporters, editors, and producers, who were educated in elite Universities, who are lifelong Democrats, who think President Bush stole the 2000 election, who are opposed to the war in Iraq, who don’t have any moral problems with the right to choose abortion, who believe it is the responsibility of government to help the poor, are surely going to choose different stories and report the chosen stories using different words than someone who has a different background and different beliefs.

An honest appraisal of the stories and the words used in reporting will confirm the bias of the mainstream media and and the bias of every other writer, reporter, journalist, columnist alive. The sooner consumers of News learn to accept, understand, and then filter the bias in reporting, the better the chance the consumer of News will learn and know the truth.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Crunchy Cons?

A Crunchy Con Manifesto

Better Than Dear Abby

Dear Joe

Cheap Talk

Talk is cheap!

In the corporate world, leaders are admired, leadership is honored, but followers get promoted. It’s almost comical how corporate executives can use the terms “leadership” and “standard practices” in the same sentence without feeling any sense of irony.

In the corporate world, customer service is proclaimed, the customer is the king, but the lowest paid employees are the ones who interact with the customers. If the customer really is king, why are the lowest paid entry level employees most responsible for handling customer matters? If the customer really is king, why does the corporate executive move further and further from the customer as he or she gets promoted?

In the corporate world, planning is essential for growth, executing plans the mantra, but cutting costs, especially employee costs, the most common practice. Why do the employees who are least responsible for poorly laid plans the most responsible for paying the cost of the poor plans?

Corporate talk really is cheap!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Expensive Math

Last week I mentioned how I had a little bagel fixing issue with my oldest daughter. At the time, I felt she needed to be taught the importance of doing for herself what she is capable of doing for herself in order to avoid being an unnecessary burden on others.

This week, she needed a different lesson. On Monday, as my wife was picking the girls up from school, some of the classmates of my oldest daughter ran up to my wife and told her how my oldest daughter had tied with another classmate for the highest score in their class on a math test that day. All of the students at her school were given a math test as a first step in determining who would represent their school in a city-wide math competition. On Tuesday, the two students with the highest score from each class competed against each other to determine the two students who would represent each grade of her school in the city-wide competition.

Would I be writing this if she didn’t get selected? Not only did she get selected, she had the highest score of all of the students in the third grade at her school. Nothing in life is free though, so on Tuesday night I ended up paying for my daughter’s success.

After I arrived home from work, she asked me to take her shopping for a pair of Heelys. Never heard of Heelys? Heelys are $10 shoes with $2 wheels that sell for $60 -$85. I don’t know how the third grade ever got by without them. Needless to say, demand for these shoes is high, and supply in my daughter’s size is low. By the second time a salesperson told us to check back next week, I was ready to go home and wait until next week, but my daughter with the persistence to master third grade math was not about to give up after only checking two stores.

On this night, my oldest daughter needed to see her dad being sacrificial in a way that modeled sacrificial behavior and in a way that demonstrated how much I knew and admired how hard she has worked at math in order to achieve the highest score in her grade at her school. At 9:30 PM, after sitting in Sports Chalet for 20 minutes waiting for a sales clerk to help, we got our shoes, and headed home ready to call it the day. I don’t remember the last time I spent $75 for a pair of my own shoes.

BTW, does anyone know what the sum of the smallest prime number and the largest two digit prime number is without looking it up?

06 elections test political physics

Here is an interesting article on the 2006 election by a John Kerry operative.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Myths of Iraq

Ralph Peters claims that during a recent visit to Iraq, he saw an enormous failure, on the part of Western Media. Read about what he discovered here.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Dependence or Independence

On Saturday morning my oldest daughter asked me to fix her a bagel for breakfast. I responded by giving her the same answer most good fathers would give to a 9-year-old daughter. I told her to fix it herself. You would have thought I told her to invade Iran all by herself.

After enduring the crying, and whining, and begging for about ten minutes, I was finally able to convince her to a least open the bag of bagels, get a knife, and start to cut the bagel in half. I helped her cut the bagel in half, but then after the bagel was toasted, I had to endure another five minutes of crying when I told her she needed to spread her own cream cheese. She ended up running to her room screaming that she didn’t want the bagel anyway.

So I turned to my 6-year-old daughter and asked her if she wanted the bagel. My youngest daughter walked over to the counter, took a knife, spread some cream cheese on the bagel and started eating it without saying a single word.

I don’t pretend for a second to understand all of the complexities of human nature. Most of my theories about human nature have been challenged and some of my theories have been changed as I raise two daughters. However, I am quite certain that people change and adapt based on situations and circumstances. I am also certain that the basic instinct of almost all people is to survive and to do whatever it takes in order to survive.

Throughout the drought stricken parts of Africa right now there are many people who would refuse help regardless of how dire their current situation was. There are also some people who are mentally and physically incapable of caring for themselves and who need assistance in order to survive. Additionally, there are many people similar to my daughters. Some of these people are like my youngest daughter who only need a little encouragement and possibly a little role modeling. Some of these people are like my oldest daughter on Saturday who need to be told they will no longer be helped because they are fully capable of doing for themselves everything they need to do in order to survive. These are the people who will be helped the most in the long run by learning self sufficiency.

The aid organizations and the aid programs to Africa are creating serious problems by not differentiating between the types of people who need aid and the types of people who want and expect aid. Until these organizations are able to discern and differentiate, it is time to stop all of the aid. It is time to stop creating problems where none existed before aid started.

My oldest daughter got up Sunday morning and fixed her own bagel. Amazing? No, common sense.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

To Pay or Not To Pay; That is the Question

I have a question for both of my readers and perhaps anyone else who is passing through.

It seems to me that it is quite easy for someone without integrity to influence someone with integrity to behave in ways that are less than honest since there is much to be gained from not being honest.

However, it is much more difficult for someone with integrity to influence someone without integrity to start behaving in a more honest way because there is often a cost associated with being completely honest.

Perhaps my hypothesis is wrong. But if I am right, does anyone have any thoughts on how someone can be influenced to pay the cost of integrity?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Second Memo to the Rich

To: Anyone who is serious about helping the poor

From: Contrarian Views on behalf of the financially poor

Re: Helping the poor and making yourself a better person

If you occasionally eat at Burger King or any other fast food restaurant, treat the counter help where you are eating with the same dignity and respect as you treat your Senior Pastor. Those of us who are poor need to see evidence that you don’t think you are superior to us. Remember what you learned when you were four years old; “please” and “thank you” are always appropriate. In the process, you may become a kinder person.

If you are a member of a fancy Church, start treating your Senior Pastor the same way you usually treat the counter help at Burger King. Your Senior Pastor may not know how you actually act when you are not at Church. Your Senior Pastor may learn the truth about you, and you will be reminded to be more kind to others.

If you don’t normally eat fast food, go eat at Burger King or any other fast food restaurant. Practice being kind and respectful to those who are not your peers and have nothing to offer you other than fries and a burger.

If you own a Burger King or any other fast food restaurant, start paying your employees more than the competition and more than minimum wage. There is no Biblical requirment for you to make the same profit margin as all of your competion. A funny thing might happen though. Happier and more confident employees may just have a positive effect on increasing business.

If you have never taken an economics class or read an economics book, make an effort to do both as soon as possible. After you finish the first class or the first book, take or read a second. Economics is more than micro and macro supply and demand. If you are a Pastor, take a third class; you probably believe more myths about economics than the average person. Continue to take additional classes until you finally realize that Fair Trade Coffee is not the answer to third world poverty.

If you don’t shop at Wal-mart, Kmart, or Target, start shopping at at least one of these. All of these stores are lowering the cost of living for those of us who are poor as well as providing us with jobs and income. Don’t forget to say “please” and “thank you” while you shop. Wal-mart may be a blight on your pristine neighborhood, but it is one entity that is actully doing us some good.

If you are an employer, stop lieing to your customers and employees. If you are an employee, stop lieing to your boss. If you are a boss, stop lieing to your employees. Integrety is more valuable than money. Who knows, integrety might even be contagious if it weren’t so rare.

If you are working more than fifty hours or six days a week, start cutting back. You are probably kidding yourself with the extra work you think you are accomplishing and your family might even start to recongnize you again.

Sit down with a friend or two and drink a Budweiser or two. You don’t need to be rich to enjoy the good life.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Memo to the Rich

To: Anyone who is thinking about donating to a charity

From: Contrarian Views on behalf of the financially poor

Re: Charity

If you are thinking about donating to a charity out of pity for the poor, please reconsider. We don’t need your pity. In fact, many of us pity you for all of the misconceptions and lies you believe about the value of money and the nature of poverty.

If you think you are better, better off, or superior to the poor because of the size of your bank account, don’t bother donating. We may not be superior to you, but in many ways we are much better off than you.

If you have ever used the term “burger flipper”, you think you are superior to us even if you won’t admit it. We don’t need your condescending money.

If you have ever lied to a customer, lied to an employee, or lied to a boss in order to make more money, stick those dollars back in your wallet. We could have lied in order to achieve financial success just like you, but we chose our integrity over financial wealth.

If you worked late at night or on weekends when you should have been spending time with your children, put your bucks away. We could have also sacrificed our children for a little extra green, but we chose to be with our family instead of our checkbook.

If you think anyone is impressed with the type of car you drive or the house you own, you are truly pitiful. Keep your guilt money. We do not wish you to be relieved of your guilt.

If you think you are too good to shop at Wal-mart, we don’t want your money. You don’t have a clue about poverty since you are unwilling to support the one entity that is truly helping us.

If you made your wealth as a Pastor pleasing people when you should have been pleasing God, your money is very tainted. Keep it for yourself. We could have behaved the same way, but we chose to please God.

If you made a fortune selling music and concert tickets to drug induced kids, your money is worthless to us. The gangs associated with illegal drug trade have ravaged some of our neighborhoods.

If your wealth comes from Hollywood where the primary values are sex before the first date and gay sex without a date, keep your money. We already waste enough time protecting our children from you and your misguided values.

If you made of ton of money through insider trading, stock manipulation, or stock options not available to common folks, we don’t want any of this money either, it smells of cigar smoke.

If Budweiser is beneath you, go buy a more expensive beer with your money instead of giving it to us. Good taste is not a requirement for charity, but common sense is.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Purchase on a List

There is something inside of some people that makes them desire money and the things that can be purchased with money. Most people, the financially rich and the financially poor, the Christian and the non-Christian, believe that more money in their bank account will mean more happiness in their life. Despite what Jesus and Scripture have to say about money being a deterrent to Kingdom of Heaven matters, most people still place a high value on financial wealth. Despite what some people know to be true about money, they still have a desire in their heart for more money.

From 1992 until 1994, I had the opportunity to work as a Real Estate Appraiser in Southern California. It was a period when interest rates were dropping, home sales were increasing, and many other home owners wanted to refinance their mortgage and lower their payments. During this period, I appraised homes in all areas of Southern California from the poorest parts of Central Los Angeles and Riverside to the wealthiest parts of Palos Verdes, Malibu, and South Orange County. This experience allowed me to observe people in the complete range of financial situations who owned or wanted to own houses.

I think many of my observations would surprise a whole lot of people. From my observations, the people who owned the big houses weren’t any happier than the people who owned the small houses. Often times though, the people who lived in the multi-million dollar properties were downright miserable. Not all, but a good percentage of these wealthy home owners did nothing but complain from the time I met them and started appraising their house until the time I completed my appraisal and left. Some of the complaints were about money matters and some of the complaints were about other life matters from ungrateful children to poor lawn and pool service. If money buys happiness, why would these people in the big houses be so miserable?

From my observations, people with the small houses took just as much pride, and sometimes even more pride in home ownership than the people with the big houses. I can’t count the number of times a girl or boy in Riverside or Central Los Angeles would make sure I saw their immaculately cleaned closet-sized bedroom or how many times I walked into a house in Palos Verdes where an eight hundred square foot bedrooms was filled with junk and trash. If money buys dignity, why were these people in mansions so undignified?

I can tell you however, from my experience as a Real Estate Appraiser, there was a difference between the financially wealthy and the financially poor that was almost universally true. The people with the small houses in bad neighborhoods almost always treated me with more respect and more kindness than the people in the big houses in the good neighborhoods. The people in the small houses appreciated how I was able to help them lower their payments while the people in the big houses considered me as just another entity that could be bought with the money in their bank account.

My experience as an appraiser makes me wonder if the financially poor need the help of the financially rich, or perhaps in reality, it is the other way around. In many cases, it is the financially rich who are truly the “least of these brothers of mine.” My experience as an Appraiser makes me wonder if those who contribute and support some charities consider charitable donations just another purchase on their list.

My next post will be an open letter to the financially rich on behalf of the financially poor.