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Posts Tagged ‘” Congress’

Who needs a wall?

November 19, 2016 Leave a comment

If we really wanted to stop illegal immigration, we wouldn’t need a wall. If we really wanted the unknowable millions of illegals to return home, we wouldn’t need to round ‘em up.
All Congress would need to do is pass a law that jails those who employ illegals. Those employers would be fined—which would help balance the budget and reduce the national debt—but they would have to serve time. First offense: one year. And I don’t mean the lowly foreman. I mean everyone up the line to the top. It’s high time for CEOs to stop ‘taking responsibility’ while claiming no knowledge and suffering no consequences. [There might be a temporary building boom owing to the many new prisons needed]
We need not be draconian about it. Our wise Congress would surely include a provision to issue permits to allow the hiring of some illegals to, for instance, harvest tomatoes. [Or build new prisons] But to make sure illegals aren’t taking jobs away from hard working Americans, those workers would, by law, be paid at least minimum wage.
You may argue such a law would add yet another interfering governmental agency. Not at all. We could re-purpose immigration agents currently employed in keeping ‘em out, because no one would be coming in.
It could be that easy, if our government officials were really interested in addressing illegal immigration. And if the people that hire undocumented workers were equally interested. Once Congress passes such a law, we could sit back on our easy chairs, sipping (add your beverage of choice) and watch those many million unfortunate people return home. Keep in mind, though, we would be also watching the collapse of the US economy.

Am I going insane? Someone is.

June 21, 2016 2 comments

There is an old joke–all my jokes are old–about a man about to marry into a Baptist family. [I think it would work almost as well if the man would be marrying into an orthodox Jewish family.] The man asks the cleric about dos and don’ts.
Dancing is a no-no, he is told, but sex is okay.
“Really?” the man asks, surprised.
“Absolutely.”
“Any sex.”
“Yes.”
“In the bedroom, in the bathroom, in the kitchen?”
“Yes, yes and yes.”
“Indoors and out?”
“Yes.”
“Standing up?”
“Uh, no, that might look like dancing.”
Sadly it reminds me of the Republican, right wing stance on terrorism and assault weapons. “We are waging a war against terrorism. We must,” they say, “kill ’em all. Bomb them back to the stone age, hunt them wherever they hide, pursue them to the ends of the earth, do everything we can, whatever it takes, even if we kill a few innocents, even if we have to snoop on Americans, or on leaders of friendly countries, do whatever you can, even if it means hacking away their money, blowing away their resources and weapon caches.”
“How about stopping them from buying assault weapons in the USA?
“Uh, no, that might look like dancing.”

They are doing it to us, and we are letting them.

April 8, 2016 2 comments

Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders are doing it. Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul did as well, just as president Obama did eight years ago. They kept their federal jobs, their titles, salaries and wonderful benefits while openly seeking other employment.
The Hatch act prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity. Even state employees who are principally funded by the federal government are subject to this law. So why should it be possible for members of the Senate and House to keep their jobs while running for higher office?
Silly me. Because they pass the laws and they carefully exclude themselves from being affected by those laws. And yet, they do like to carry on about their ‘solemn duty’ to follow ‘laws’ that don’t exist. (see phantom Biden rule about supreme court justice nominations.)
So, while I am paying their salary, they not only aren’t showing up for work, they don’t even mind being filmed and recorded while pursuing this other job. If they worked in industry, my HR department would fully support my decision to fire them and no court in the land would dispute my being right.
If you were paying their salary, and you are, why wouldn’t you fire them?
Which brings up a related situation: the GOP platform is explicit about wanting smaller government. They are big on shrinkage, something akin to the “Costanza rule.” So why doesn’t the GOP question whether some positions are needed at all, such as state governors. Does New Jersey need one?
Chris Christie spent the last year seeking other employment. (Some may argue he has spent a lot more time than that.) Even when it became clear he wouldn’t get the position he sought, rather than returning full time to his current duties as governor of the state, Mr Christie chose to take an unpaid internship as Mr. Drumpf’s lackey, in the hope that it may lead to some undefined, albeit well rewarded, federal job.
Fortunately, at least in Mr. Christie’s case, as the ancient knight in the Indiana Jones “Last Crusade” episode said, “he chose. . .poorly.”

Are Parisians rude?

December 28, 2015 Leave a comment

The first time Ruth and I visited Paris was the first time we went anywhere. After my cousin Manolo—nicest man I ever knew—died in his early forties, I told Ruth that, no matter what, we were taking the next trip.
By next trip I meant the MIT travel brochures we received regularly, featuring vacations we couldn’t possible afford; my classmates were obviously doing better than me. Incredulously, the next brochure offered an inexpensive week in Paris. Paris was at the very top of places I wanted to see.
My parents and sister offered help. They drove the 300 miles from Boston to baby sit Evan and Joanna. My sister Sara loved the kids as her own, my mother adored her grand-kids and my father loved them as well, in his own way. Nonetheless that was quite a nice thing to do.
Other aspects of the trip proved nerve wracking. Not being a US citizen—though Cubans could become citizens after living in the US for one year and I had been here for fifteen, I hadn’t gotten around to apply—I needed the IRS to certify that I didn’t owed them anything within thirty days of departure. Afraid I might lose the plane/hotel tickets I’d paid for in advance, I showed up at an IRS office one month before departure only to be told I was early. Our departure date was late April and since March has thirty one days, I was required to return the next day. “Thirty days before you leave, not thirty one,” the IRS clerk said.
The French government didn’t help either. Because I was still classified as a political refugee, they didn’t grant me permission to visit until a week before departure. They had been concerned I might decide to remain in France, but just in case, I had to fill forms providing detailed information about my education, income, etc.
Evan who was six and a half, and Joanna who was only twenty seven months old, were happy to have everyone in the house. But the kids had never been separated from us and I had concerns about their reaction. To get to Kennedy I had rented a car I would drop-off at the airport. The evening of our departure, after stowing our luggage in the trunk, I noticed Joanna sitting in the middle of the rental car’s back seat. She had dressed herself in her little pink raincoat and had somehow snuck out of the house and into the car.
“Lets go to Paris,” she said, and broke my heart.
What made me think of that long ago trip—other that Joanna is in Paris with her husband, children and in-laws as I write this—is the book I have been reading, “The Speechwriter,” by Barton Swaim and in particular some examples of extreme rudeness. Swain’s memoir spans the three years he spent writing for then governor Sanford, infamous for ‘hiking the Appalachian trail,’ and mentions examples of his rudeness.
It reminded me of Parisians’ rudeness. I was taken aback the first time a Parisian allowed a door to slam behind him rather than holding it open for me. A simple gesture. Then I noticed they did it to everyone, not just tourists, not just me. Store employees did not wait on you either and when they finally did, they made it appear as a favor. Alas, that habit has spread to the US.
But the rudest episode took place our first day in Paris.
Our charter flight, ‘the sardine express,’ left hours late. By the time we landed, got through formalities and were bused to our hotel, it was early afternoon. And we were staying in La Defense, not in Paris. Nowadays La Defense is a destination favored by business people but at that time it was a remote suburb. I didn’t understand any of it. I thought we were in ‘Paris’ and I wanted to see it. We took the hotel’s shuttle to the train station, which I thought was a subway stop.
I didn’t speak French but I had done a bit of preparation. Back in 1977 people in Paris didn’t speak English and if they did, they kept it to themselves. The lady selling tickets asked where I was going. When I said Paris she asked something else. I shrugged. She shrugged back and sold me two tickets.
A group of fellow tourists who’d come along in the shuttle were so impressed by my French speaking skills that they asked me to get them the same thing. I warned them that I had no idea what I had bought. They insisted.
La meme chose,” I said to the lady and she sold them tickets.
We got off at the first train stop and as we ascended the escalator into Paris, the sky was filled with a magnificent sight. The Arc de Triomphe. Who knew it was so beautiful and so massive. A most impressive way to be introduced to the city.
We started to walk down the Champs-Élysées when Ruth, who was four months pregnant with Michelle, announced she was starving.
“Right now. I have to eat now. How about there?” She pointed at a restaurant across the street.
It was past four in the afternoon and we hadn’t eaten anything since leaving home. I bought a Michelin guide and learned that “Le Fouquet’s,” the restaurant across the street, had four dollar signs. And it was way too early for such a fancy place. I found a more reasonable restaurant on a side street, where we ordered as planned: spécialité de la maison. I figured if they feature it, it it must be good, and I didn’t want to try and interpret a French menu.
I even had a prepared answer for their next question, “une poisson et un viande,” one fish and one meat. But their next question threw me. I had no idea what the waiter wanted. Eventually he got another waiter plus the maitre’d plus a diner—everyone was quite nice—and I finally understood the question: how I wanted the meat cooked.
“Medium,” I said. “A point,” the waiter nodded. No use asking for medium-rare in French.
Ruth was served the fish, a lovely Dover sole she thoroughly enjoyed. For my first meal in France, I had their specialty: T-bone steak and French Fries. A raw steak at that. In subsequent business trips to France I learned the French prefer their meats cooked less well done than we do. In addition to raw hamburger (tartare) they have ‘bleu,’ (the meat heard of fire), saignant or rare, (once saw a flame), à point (their medium) and finally bien cuit, which my Parisian friends refer to as McDonalds.
At least I could look forward to dessert. We were seated on a table for two, one of many arranged side by side and a mere few inches away from each other. A pair of New Yorkers (I could tell by their accent), sitting two tables away, were served desert as we were being served our main courses and I instantly decided that would be my dessert as well, but, between my tiredness from the sleepless flight and the tension of navigating into the city and finding an affordable restaurant and ordering, my mind went blank. I could not think of the name of the dessert.
I leaned forward, excused myself, and asked the New Yorkers the name of their dessert.
Que?” One said.
Je ne comprend pas,” the other said.
“Oh, stop it. Cut the horseshit,” I said. “Just tell me the name of the dessert.”
They hesitated until one said profiteroles before dramatically turning his head away.
And so I discovered, albeit based on a very small sampling, that New Yorkers are ruder than Parisians.
I have been to Paris and New York a few times since and have found no reason to change my opinion.
As far as governor Sanford rudeness, (he had to resign and yet last year South Carolina elected him to the House) apparently he liked to read while seated on the passenger seat of his chauffeur driven car. Once done with whatever he’d been reading, he threw it onto the back seat, whether anyone was sitting back there or not.

I draw inspiration from the debates

October 29, 2015 Leave a comment

I’m not a “professional engineer.” I have a post-graduate engineering degree from the world’s foremost engineering school, I made my living as an engineer and yet, according to the authorities, I’m not a professional engineer. To become one I would have to pass a test. I would have to be certified as one to bid on government work .
I dare say that the same legislators who reasoned that the public requires the extra protection afforded by a test certifying a minimum level of competence, wouldn’t consider consulting a physician who hadn’t attended an accredited university and passed the required boards or a lawyer who hadn’t passed the bar.
And yet, it has never occurred to them—at least no law has been passed—that anyone aspiring to become a legislator or a governor or the president of the United States, should first be certified as competent to hold such a post. That anyone who wants to write our laws, influence our economic policy, even decide whether we should send our children to war, should have demonstrated a minimum level of knowledge or competence before becoming eligible to run for office. It seems they’d rather ascribe to the ‘everything is fair in politics’ dictum.
This helps explain why we have reasonably competent doctors, lawyers and engineers but the same can not be said for those holding political office.

Our Honorable and Learned Congress

March 20, 2015 Leave a comment

I must be getting old and ornery; in the past I was merely ornery. But more and more the actions of governments, ours as well as others, seem designed to annoy me–that is when they aren’t harmful.

I felt compelled to do something,which in my case means, writing something and send it to the paper. I sent this opinion to the Courier Times, where it will be published.

Sometimes I preface a statement with “in all honesty.” To me it has been a meaningless cliché, a way to start a sentence, until recently, when someone warned me that it is the sort of thing people say before they lie.

This led me to wonder about other phrases and terms I’ve thought devoid of meaning, merely the product of long established custom, such as the term “honorable,” as in the honorable so and so we use for our representatives.

All this rattled into my consciousness by the unexpected Senate gridlock on the anti-white slavery bill. For a brief period it was that rarest of things, a bi-partisan bill, a law to right a wrong. Unfortunately, the honorable Republicans failed to mention they had included an anti-abortion clause while the honorable Democrats claimed foul because they hadn’t read the bill. I am not sure how things work among the honorable Congress people, but down here, on earth, we read before we agree. And if it is written in the gobbledygook favored by the honorable people, we hire someone versed in the language to translate.

“That’s just politics,” a phrase that excuses all sorts of otherwise unacceptable behavior, seems to apply here. But why should it be acceptable? Why should a bill contain amendments and attachments and the like that have little to do with the intent of the bill? Why should bills be so long that members of Congress and their staffs will sign without reading them?

The US constitution was written using 4,400 words. The Bill of Rights with 492. The first amendment, establishing freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and to petition the government, is forty five words long. By comparison, this piece is about 550 words long.

We are either willing to accept that laws, written in confusing detail and language inaccessible to most of us, can be crammed with unrelated items that wouldn’t stand on their own or, we are impotent because our honorable representatives don’t represent our interests.

I propose that if our representatives want a law authorizing the building of some road or bridge or the approval of some ‘pork’ so they can bring it back to their constituents as a sample of the good they are doing for their community, let them do so in a stand alone proposal. And if our honorable representatives want to grant someone immunity, or the the right to sell property without paying taxes on the gains, or any of the myriad other ridiculous attachments hidden in all sort of laws, let them propose it, in the open. If they want to ban abortion, let them introduce it as a bill. That would be the honorable thing to do.

No doubt people will say that I am naïve, that what I suggest is unworkable, that no one would vote for those bills, that only by sneaking them in, only by obfuscating their intent can a law be passed. Isn’t that the point? Shouldn’t we expect clarity, transparency and honesty from our honorable servants?

By the way, members of Congress refer to each other not only as honorable but also as “learned.” Having listened to some of them—more than a few, I’m sorry to say—I have sadly concluded they are anything but.

What does a statesman need to know?

October 19, 2013 Leave a comment

     I just learned [Thanks to Stephen Kinzer’s “The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War http://www.amazon.com/The-Brothers-Foster-Dulles-Secret/dp/0805094970] that the Dulles brothers, who were in charge of overt (State Department) and covert (CIA) foreign policy in the fifties, were corporate lawyers. It gives me agita just trying to digest the idea that a background in corporate law can prepare one to run State or the CIA.

     Once given charge of American foreign policy, the Dulles brothers set out to redress their corporate defeats. First they went after Iran’s Prime Minister Mosaddegh, who’d nationalized oil company holdings of Dulles’ former corporate clients. The 1953 coup returned oil interests to the Dulles’ clients. And, oh, by the way, in exchange, it gave the Shah absolute power.

     Then in 1954 they deposed Guatemala’s President Jacobo Arbenz. He was a danger to another client, United Fruit, a company that at the time owned 40% of Guatemala’s arable land.

     The Dulles brothers didn’t stop there. They concocted the domino theory, fanned the cold war, refused to met with Stalin’s successor Malenkov, botched the Hungarian revolt, betrayed our allies after the Suez canal nationalization, got us into Vietnam after they refused to accept Ho Chi Minh’s victory and on and on, with the Bay of Pigs fiasco being the final straw. Is it all in the past? Not a chance, their legacy lives on—see Iran and Cuba and, well you get the idea.

     I earned an advanced degree in engineering from a very prestigious university and yet, to conduct engineering work for the state, county or city, I’d have to be licensed as a professional engineer. For that I’d have to pass a difficult, multidisciplinary test and be licensed by the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs. I understand, just like I understand that none of us would want to see an unlicensed physician when ill. Our medicines and medical procedures have to be FDA approved. If we want tax advice we seek it from a Certified Public accountant. In short, our government has seen fit to protect us from our own gullibility and from charlatans eager to take advantage—no matter how charismatic they might be—by requiring most professionals to demonstrate knowledge and competence by passing a test. Unless said charlatans seek public office.

     Why don’t the same licensing principles apply to those who write the laws or set policy? I would much prefer that my alderman, councilman, congressman, senator and president, regardless of sex, race, religion, culinary preferences or anything, have demonstrated reasonable knowledge of local, national and global history and geography, economics, business, law, science, and most important, that rarest of skills, common sense, before being allowed to run for or hold office.