Rep. Joe Barton, Immigration and Movie Tix.

Congressmen Becerra of California and Barton of Texas spoke with CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux about immigration reform on The Situation Room.  Barton favors strong border enforcement.  His notion of the issue is black and white – that there’s legal and illegal immigration.  He said that the positions between the two parties are “almost irreconcilable”.   And yet Barton seems to be in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.  He’d like to see an expanded guest worker program for the undocumented who are in the country.  He recognizes that the problem of 11 million undocumented people in the country requires a political solution.  But in a moment of doubt, he seemed to back off the idea of working toward a bipartisan solution when he made what I thought was a bizarre analogy:

“…I took my family to the movies yesterday.  We paid $6 or $7 a piece to go into the movie.  We didn’t just walk up to the ticket window and say we’re here, we’re good people, let us into the movie for free.”

(By the way, $6 for a movie ticket is a heck of a bargain – must be the special congressional discount).

First of all, people are not risking their lives to cross the border to get a shot at a free movie.  Folks are coming here to work to support their families.  If they are lucky, they’ll find work at $6 or $7 an hour.  They come because there is a demand for their labor and as Congressman Becerra points out, they can make in an hour what they can make in a day back in their countries.

Malveaux asked whether the Republicans even need the Latino vote to which Barton replied that they did – that Latinos are the “cornerstone of our base”.  He said that Latinos are conservative, family-oriented and have a strong work ethic.  Latinos, the cornerstone of the conservative Republican base? Really? Were Latinos in Texas against the Dream Act? Apparently so because Representative Barton voted against it, and I can’t imagine that he would go against his Latino base.   Now I could understand if he were a politician from Miami where the conservative Cuban-American base has some influence.  But Barton lives in a border state.  I’d rather imagine his base to be those who believe immigrants are a drain on the economy and should all be deported. If Latinos are the cornerstone of his base, he must be referring to a tiny stone.

What a minute, Joe Barton.  Wasn’t he the guy who apologized to BP for being asked by the Obama administration to establish a 20 billion fund to compensate the victims of the BP oil spill disaster?  As a recipient of over 1 million from the oil and gas industry, it wouldn’t surprise me if big oil formed the bedrock of Barton’s base.

Bowl Game Fun Facts

Here are some fun facts about some of the college football bowl games to be played in 2010-2011:

In today’s first Military Bowl, no team associated with the Armed Forces will be playing.

In the history of the New Orleans Bowl dating back to its first game in 2001, no team from the state of Louisiana has ever played in it.

A team from New Mexico has competed only once in the New Mexico Bowl in the 2007 inaugural game.  They beat Nevada 23-0.

Fresno State won the Humanitarian Bowl in 2007 by scoring 40 points, and gave up 40 points in a losing cause in last year’s Humanitarian Bowl.  In the last 5 games, the winning teams have posted 40 points or more.  In the 11 game history of the Humanitarian Bowl, the lowest point total for a winning team was 34; the highest 52.  In 7 of the 11 games played, the winning team scored 40 points or more.

In the 19 game history of the Las Vegas Bowl, teams from Nevada have only played in 3 games.  The last game in which a Nevada team competed was in 2000 when UNLV defeated Arkansas 31-14.

In the 9 game history of the Hawaii Bowl, winning teams have averaged 48 points.  Hawaii is 3-3 in Hawaii Bowl games.

Arkansas is 1-4 in Sugar Bowl play.  They lost to Bear Bryant coached Alabama teams twice and to Mississippi twice and beat Georgia in 1969, 16-2.   The last time the Hogs played in the Sugar Bowl was 1980 losing to the undefeated National Champion Crimson Tide, 24-9.

In the 66 game history of the Gator Bowl, Florida teams are 15-1.  LSU, representing a state full of alligators and gator hunters, has only played in the Bowl once, defeating South Carolina 30-13 in 1987.

In 77 Orange Bowl matches, Florida teams are 12-8.  The last contest in which a Florida team played was 2004 and this was actually the first time two Florida teams had matched up in the Orange Bowl.  Miami beat Florida State 16-14.

Govt Needs To Put Folks To Work

I’m hearing mixed reports about the economy.  It’s on the rebound according to some.  Consumer spending is up from this time last year by billions of dollars.  Folks are spending money.  One report suggests this is a sign of consumer confidence.  The Republicans would say this has to do with the certainty factor attributed to tax breaks for all.  Wait, isn’t it a little too early for that?  Curiously, another report argued that while folks of all economic means spent money during the holiday season, they did not feel confident about the economy, this despite the “certainty” of tax breaks.

Did not the Repubs argue that tax breaks for the wealthy would create jobs? Have those jobs been created?  Will they be?  I don’t think so.  Yahoo just laid off a ton of workers.  Notwithstanding unemployment numbers, many corporations have enjoyed another year of profits despite the sluggish economy.  They’ve retooled, outsourced, sub-contracted, laid off expendable workers and the like.  They’ve found corporate loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  In some cases business paid no taxes at all and will be getting fat refund checks from the government.  What happened to corporate welfare reform?  CEOs and high salaried executives are getting corporate bonuses and a nice income tax break from the IRS.  Now, I don’t begrudge someone for making a lot of money – I just think they should pay a higher tax rate – and I mean actually pay that rate, not find ways to shield profits or legally game the system.  Our tax system should remain truly progressive and not oppressively regressive.

The economy is a complicated construct.  For those employed, unemployment numbers don’t mean much, but gas prices or tuition bills might.  Not to speak for anybody, but a millionaire or billionaire for that matter might view the economy as a set of policies that should protect and facilitate the expansion of personal family wealth and make it possible to pass it on to family untouched by the government.  I’m reminded of the Pink Floyd song “Money”.

Republicans argue that the wealthy are the key to reducing the unemployment rate.   But do the wealthy really care about unemployment?  Philanthropists might, but they reserve the right to contribute to whatever cause is close to their heart, not necessarily job creation.   Altruism aside, we must remember that the bottom line of capitalism is profit.  There is no such thing as a free market with a social conscience.  It’s all about the bottom line.  The government should be in the business of job creation and should not outsource the responsibility to corporate America whose priority is profit, not people.  Mr. President, put folks to work.   People first!

HTC 4G EVO in the House: A Review

As a Sprint customer, I traded in my beloved Samsung Instinct for a 4G HTC EVO.  I think it’s going to take me a while to get used to this new phone, which is infinitely smarter than the first gen. iphone killa, which sometimes felt like a cheap knockoff sold by a street vendor from the back of U-Haul, to be honest.

Pros:  The HTC EVO is much faster than the Instinct.  Internet access is instantaneous even at 3G or at least it feels so by comparison.

News feeds are a breeze and work well.  I currently scan articles from the Huffington Post, the NY Times and some of the default news feeds that came pre-installed like Yahoo, Engadget, and the Guardian Unlimited.  You can zoom with your fingers to adjust the size of the text for the perfect reading experience.

All the apps I’ve used work well.  Facebook for Android has a pretty good look, though it feels sometimes like a Facebook lite edition.  I downloaded the WordPress blogging app from the built in Android Market app and it works pretty well too, for checking stats at least.  I find posting from it a bit awkward primarily because the Qwerty keyboard is so sensitive to the touch that I’m constantly typing the wrong letters and my fingers are not all that big.  This wasn’t as much of a problem for me with the Samsung Instinct.  I’m sure with time, I’ll get better – I think it’s more me than a design flaw.  I won’t be doing much composing on WordPress from the EVO, but I will be able to do some minor editing, which is convenient.   The Twitter app works just fine and the built in Peep app makes tweeting a treat, ok, not a treat but let’s say a snap.  Pandora also works as advertised, but eats up battery power like you wouldn’t believe.  To use Pandora, you’re better off having your phone plugged into your charger.  I know it’s probably just me, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to use Quick Office.  I’m assuming this would be where I could work on a Word file, or something like Excel.  When I tap on it, I get the message, no files were found on your SD card.  But I don’t want to access a file, I want to create one.  I did find a Notepad app that let’s me jot down ideas, and lists and this will have to do for now.  The Weather app is cool, but also seems to eat up a lot of battery power, so it’s best to turn off automatic updates and just manually refresh when checking the weather conditions.  The other app I have been using that is worth a mention is Google Books.  You can find tons of free books whose copyrights have expired.  I’m currently reading, or I should say finishing up William Dean Howells’, A Hazard of New Fortunes.  I think the reading experience with the EVO and Google Books is just as pleasant, for me anyway, as it would be on a Kindle.

The phone quality is good.  I’m on the east coast and have been talking to relatives in the Midwest as if they were in the same room.  I did get a echo once, but it might have been that my sister had me on speaker phone.

The camera and video are both impressive.  I’ve taken a few decent HD quality vids with excellent sound relatively speaking.  The camera is of the highest quality – 8 megapixels with a zoom and flash.  I haven’t taken very many pictures, but the ones I have taken turned out nicely.  The indoor shots I’ve taken with the flash, were good with sufficient light.  Without good lighting, the colors were somewhat muted to a brownish-yellow hue.  Let’s not forget that this is a camera on a phone, not a SLR.

Cons:  The thing is heavy and bulky; almost too big to put in my pocket.  I have to carry it in my hand or my coat pocket.  I suppose I could get a holster for the thing, but I’d feel armed.  Probably my biggest beef is that the EVO is a battery consuming monster.  A charge lasts about a half a day in the best of conditions.  I’ve had to disable a lot of the automatic updating functions on apps and put the thing on 3G.  On 4G, it seems like it constantly searches for 4G and to the best of my knowledge, has yet to find it, at least not in my house.

The sound is nowhere near approaching high fidelity.  It’s like one of the those mono transistor radios from back in the day that you had to hold up to your ear to hear properly.  Ok, it’s probably not that bad, but not great either.  The kickstand is cool – great for watching videos, but not for listening because the tinny speaker is on the back.  Do yourself a favor and buy some quality earbuds.  My Sennheisers sound great.

The EVO is smart, there’s no question.  To draw an analogy, it’d probably have very high SAT scores and could get accepted to a top school, one that cared more about numbers than the person.  The EVO is in your face smart.  But it lacks soul.  It doesn’t have any funky quirks, like pocket dialing.  I miss that.

IBM Computer to Play Jeopardy Champs

IBM has developed a computer named Watson to compete on Jeopardy against some of the greatest players of all time, like Ken Jennings.  It’s not clear exactly how the whole thing will work.  Does the computer buzz in?  I’d think it’d always have the advantage there.  Will it know all the answers?  My guess is that it won’t.  Will it begin smoking from the ears if it misses a question?  How will it respond to Alex Trebek’s repartee?  Will it take offense and snort back a monotone reply?  What sort of biographical information will it reveal when asked to tell about itself?

Personally, I think the computer will short circuit when Alex Trebek corrects its monotone monolingual response that might contain a word or phrase in French.  Trebek, the Franco-Ontarian spares no prisoners when it comes to proper French pronunciation.  The Canadian born Trebek often chides a contestant by repeating the answer given with his native French accent.  Watson is not likely to fair well linguistically.

Imagine if Alex asks Watson to rephrase the answer as a question and it says: “I’m sorry Alex, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

And what if Watson begins to attack the computer system that runs the show, short circuiting the categories board and the buzzer system.  He’d probably turn off all the mikes and take over the PA system announcing that he will no longer tolerate insults to his intelligence.  I can imagine Watson becoming increasingly agitated and mumbling incoherent threats as his wires begin to smoke and spark setting off the alarms and sprinkler system to the horror of the audience who run for the exit doors.

The Doomed Dream Act

I’m disappointed in the 5 Dems who voted against the Dream Act, which would give children of undocumented immigrants who were born in this country, or had arrived at a young age, who had been educated here, the opportunity to get a temporary green card if they join the military, or complete 2 years of college.  As is, there are many bright high school graduates who can neither serve in the military nor go to college through no fault of their own.  Had these Democrats (can they even be called Democrats?) voted in favor, the bill would have had the 60 votes needed to defeat the Republican filibuster and would have come to the floor for a final vote, where it most likely would have passed, like it did a few weeks ago in the House.

So who are these disappointing Dems? Pryor from Arkansas, Nelson from Nebraska, Baucus and Tester of Montana and Hagan from North Carolina.

Why would these senators vote against it?  Do the folks of Montana fear that droves of undocumented immigrants would relocate to the “Gold and Silver” state and plunder its natural resources?  Do they fear diversity?  Do Arkansans really feel threatened by immigrants who might become more educated and contribute to a vibrant Arkansas economy as managers, planners and engineers were the Dream Act passed?  Do the folks of North Carolina fear that immigrants might rise and demand that their needs be addressed, that they might vote some of their own into office?

Do people fear an educated immigrant class?  This would be at odds with higher education systems at the state level throughout the nation that have made diversity a priority, and I would think would welcome a talented pool of non-white candidates the Dream Act would certainly deliver.  The University of Nebraska has a diversity statement on its website that reads:  “Nebraska is committed to recruiting and retaining a diverse student body.”  It’s state motto is “equality before the law”. Both the flagship campuses of the University of Arkansas and the University of North Carolina continue to embrace diversity.

The senators no doubt have argued that the Dream Act amounts to a blanket amnesty, referring to a provision that allows children of undocumented parents to eventually legalize if they meet certain qualifications, and take a place at the back of the line for a path to citizenship.  Blanket, means unconditional, and the Dream Act is anything but.  There are very strict requirements.  Only children who entered the country under the age of 16 and have lived here for 5 consecutive years or more of good moral character with a clean criminal record who have been admitted to an institution of higher education, or have a GED or high school diploma from a U.S. school would qualify.  Furthermore, they must eventually complete at least 2 years of college in good standing and or serve in the U.S. military for 2 years to even qualify for permanent residence.   THIS IS NOT A BLANKET AMNESTY!

To Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions who has led the charge against the Dream Act because it encourages the breaking of the law, I would say that our country was founded on the principles of justice and the idea that all men (and women) are endowed with unalienable rights that among them are the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.  One of the main justifications for the Revolutionary War was the injustice of taxation without representation.  This is exactly the injustice that many undocumented immigrants face.  Contrary to popular notions, they do pay taxes – sales, property, excise and many actually pay income taxes, not with a social security number, but with a tax identification number issued them by the IRS.

The Dream Act won’t go away, nor will immigration reform.  One day in the not so distant future as the country continues to become more diverse, children of undocumented immigrants will have the opportunity to realize their potential and make significant contributions to society.

Volunteer to Pay Higher Taxes

Looks a little like Major Winchester of M*A*S*H*

There’s a lot of fuss about tax cuts for the wealthy.  Principled Dems say the leisure class would do just fine without another handout.  They argue that most Americans favor tax relief for the middle class only.  The compromise President Obama brokered to extend the Bush era tax cuts to all Americans some say only adds to our mounting debt and will do little to create jobs.

I have a counter proposal, not a bill, but a challenge of sorts to the wealthy and that is this:  volunteer to pay a higher tax rate.  The additional tax revenue generated could be  sent back to an infrastructure project in the tax payers’ home state, or the state of their preference.  A percentage of the  dollars would be shared among the least wealthy states, a sort of revenue sharing plan a la Major League Baseball.

The end result would be that the wealthy with a social conscience, and there are many generous philanthropists in our country, would be contributing directly to job creation and helping to rebuild the country.  This is a far better stimulus plan than President Reagan’s star wars-like trickle down theory that never worked and got us into this habit of spending money we don’t have.

Tax Cuts for the Leisure Class

Well, the Obama administration gave in to Republican demands to extend the Bush era tax cuts for all wage earners, including to the insanely rich which alone will cost $700 billion.  The President argued that the compromise was necessary so that taxes would not rise on the middle class at the end of the year.  Of course the Republicans held the unemployed hostage proclaiming they would let jobless benefits expire for the long-term unemployed unless Obama handed over $700 billion (to be added to the national debt) for the leisure class.  It worked, and the Republicans with smug smiles say this news is encouraging.

Here’s the thing – Republicans have said that they could not support the $56 billion unemployment extension package unless it was paid for by spending cuts.  Yet in the same breath, they demand $700 billion in tax cuts for the millionaire and billionaires among them, (their preferred customers) without a plan to pay for it.  Just charge it to the national debt they say.

As the NY Times reported in the article Tax Cuts Suggests New Path for Obama, the entire package of tax relief will cost $900 billion – call it another stimulus package.  The Republicans have claimed that the tax cut for the wealthy will create jobs.  Now that they have it and there is no more uncertainty, the American public regardless of party affiliation needs to hold the Republicans accountable for job creation.

Common Words of Great Victorian Novels

In a NY Times article entitled Anaylzing Literature by Words and Numbers, two professors at George Mason University are mentioned for using digital search tools to do word analysis of great Victorian novels to see what this might reveal about Victorian society.  Personally, I think the professors are wasting their time with these search tools.  In just under 15 minutes, I scanned three great Victorian novels: Hard Times, Great Expectations and Vanity Fair and found these words to be the most common: carriage, horse, candle, shawl, gentlemen, brandy, beer, cigar, tobacco and mincemeat.  Ok, I only saw one reference to mincemeat, but I thought I’d throw it in since it is the holiday season.

So, what does this tell us about Victorian society?  Exactly what we already know – that they favored hankies and shawls, had no electricity, or cars and were fond of smokes and liquor.  Deep!