Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Caught in a bad place of our own making

When I started this new site I made a conscious decision to avoid most of the usual politics but for some reason, probably induced by the several beers I had tonight I decided to make an exception. Originally published on Sunday, May 21, 2006 at my old site. I figure I will piss off some but as usual along with many other issues there is nothing black and white here.

A lot has been written and talked about concerning the issue of illegal immigration and its affects, both good and bad, on the United States. By now the professional talking heads have talked to the point that they are blue in the face and a lot of people, like me, are dizzy from lies, half truths, and honest points that they have brought up.
My take on this is that this country has really placed itself into a box and there are no easy answers. All parties involved in this situation had better really think long and hard on how they precede before making this even worse. But as usual, political jackals have infected every position concerning the future of immigration in this country seeking to further their position at the expense of everyone else and the cost of this will be paid for by the country as a whole.
A great many wanting the illegal’s forcefully removed do not seem to understand that estimates say there are at least twelve million illegal aliens in this country. Can anyone really envision families being herded up and forced out of the country? Anyone remember how the Nazis herded up the Jews? And this is ignoring the fact that while the mom and dad might be in this country illegally any children they had while in this country are Americans. What do we do in those situations? Send mom and dad home but place their AMERICAN kids in foster care?

But on the other hand every country has the right to control who comes into its territory and uses its services. While many immigrant groups down play the issue the medical and social services of many border states are straining, at best, to keep up with the influx of the new population. Even here in South Carolina the rise of new immigrants to many areas has caused a huge increase in indigent care provided by hospitals. The cost of such care is passed along to those that can pay raising healthcare costs for all. A great many immigrates are hard working, law abiding people just looking for a better life but that just does not give them a right to walk into this country and demand benefits and services. And what about those individuals in other countries who legally apply and wait for their chance to come over here. And the one item that really bothers me is that some states give illegal aliens in state tuition to their colleges and universities. As a middle class family we will be hard pressed to make tuition for my son and daughter to the college my wife would like them to attend outside of South Carolina.
As far as the duel arguments about illegal’s either stealing jobs from Americans or doing the dirty, low paying jobs that keep the economy afloat I’m going to be infuriating to many and say that both happens. Cheap labor provided by illegal’s are bringing down the wages of construction and some technical service jobs that at one time did have decent wages. Of course, this dove tails back to the to business types, who without any pressure from organized labor are more than willing to take advantage of this cheap labor. My next door neighbor who a few years back owned a small lawn maintenance and irrigation pump repair business was forced out of business by bigger guys with cheaper labor. Because of this, his attitude toward this issue is far closer to wanting all illegal’s removed and given how his life was overturned I’m hard pressed to argue with him. This attitude is not limited to angry white guys, many African-Americans I work with feel that this cheaper labor is going to undercut many of the gains they have achieved.
The other half of this argument is also true. Riding past the several farms that still exist in my area at harvest time you will find only immigrant labor doing the very hard work so that cheap food makes it to Wal-Mart and then your table. The same can be said about many meat and poultry processing plants that allow the BurgerClown and clones to sell its wares. I almost would like to see the immigrant labor factor removed from the equation just to see the reaction of people as the cost of food goes through the roof because farms have to pay what those services should receive.

With both business and the politicians not interested in doing much beyond what it takes to protect their interests this problem is left to fester and be influenced by those who are mainly playing for power by dividing us along social and ethnic lines. Needless to say this is not a path to any real answers, just more anger and frustration which is the last thing this country needs right now.

I'm afraid that neither those who want the illegal’s removed or those that want an open border can have their way. While it will be a major pain in the ass, some sort of wall will have to be built to at least slow the flow of immigration into this country. The size, scope, and effectiveness of such a monument will no doubt be compared to the Berlin Wall and other infamous barriers but it can be done. I find the idea of building such a wall repulsive but we have to regain control of our borders which every country has a right to do. But to upset the other side there is no way to remove those illegal’s already living here so a liberal guest worker program is the only possible solution. Well, that is my input on a nasty problem that this country has put itself in.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Going to have to head home soon.

Despite an excellent vacation to the Sunshine state, along with Dragonwife on average acting like a Homo Sapien (early type) these last few months I am feeling a strong urge to head down to the Lowcountry and home. My grandmother's passing caused the opening of summer party to be canceled and even now there is just no energy available by anyone in the family for such a rescheduled activity but I still need to recharge my soul with the sights, sounds, feel, and smells of the Lowcountry environment. The above picture is from the North Causeway of Pawleys Island at high tide, just a short distance from what use to be Pop's Grill. My best information has it that the latest incarnation of the old place has begun but they have not returned it to its proper condition.
Ideally, I would like to hit the North Island tour and walk untouched beaches along with seeing the North Island lighthouse. But Miss Wiggles and her, at times, problematic behavior makes that difficult since I don't like to hit anyone up to babysit her. North Island had been settled at one time with a rather large community in the late 19th century but a massive hurricane completely destroyed it with the island returning to nature except for the lighthouse. Many years ago, I was about six or seven, my dad and a group of other guys loaded up their various boats, made their way across Winyah Bay and set up a camp on the eastern side of the island facing the ocean. There were about five kids, along with myself, in the group and to this day I remember running around with them on the beach during the day and seeing the Milky Way for the first time those nights we laid sleeping bags on the beach and went to sleep staring into the heavens. Light pollution and development was far smaller back then and the stars visible were staggering. The closest I have come to seeing as many stars was my deployments to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California while I was in the army. The houses and rapid development going around me now in my area blot out all but the brightest stars and planets. I've long since found out that how much I miss the stars and Spoilboy has never seen the Milky Way.

Darth Spoilboy is also wanting to do another visit to Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island, close to Charleston, and Patriots Point and walk through the USS Yorktown again. Fort Moultrie was the sight of a victory for American forces in the Revolution along with the place a bunch of Citadel shitheads opened fire on Fort Sumter starting the Civil War. When Spoilboy was five we made our first visit to the USS Yorktown permanently moored in Charleston Harbor. The time before that my grandfather took me when I was about 12 or 13 right after it opened up as a naval museum. It seems a good time to introduce Miss Wiggles further building a family tradition.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Best and the Worst of South Carolina

Some of the best of South Carolina

One coached football when he wasn't fighting fires. Another cut hair at a barbershop. Yet another was known for quoting the Bible. They called each other nicknames like "Squirrel" and "Lightning."
On Tuesday, this city on the South Carolina coast mourned them all: nine firefighters killed inside a burning furniture store in the nation's worst loss of firefighters since the 2001 World Trade Center attack.
"They did exactly what they were trained to do," fire Chief Rusty Thomas said.

The men ranged in age from 27 to 56 and together had 131 years of experience with the Charleston Fire Department.
At 56, James "Earl" Drayton, known around the fire station as "Squirrel," was the oldest of the group. With 32 years on the job, he could have been enjoying retirement.
Michael French was the youngest firefighter at 27, and had joined just 18 months ago.
Melvin Champaign was nicknamed "Pimp Daddy" because of his flashy clothes. But the name belied his love of Bible study.
Capt. Billy Hutchinson, a 30-year veteran, was jokingly tagged "Lightning" because of his slow, deliberate pace. Hutchinson, 48, worked off-duty at a barber shop. His funeral has been scheduled for Friday.
Brad Baity, 37, was a part-time house painter. Capt. Louis Mulkey, 34, helped coach football and basketball players at Summerville High School, where he had played quarterback.
Also killed were Capt. Mike Benke, 49; Mark Kelsey, 40; and Brandon Thompson, 37
Editors note, these men are the best of not only South Carolina but their selfless service to the community, tested courage, and true honor make them best of America and Humanity.

And the worst of South Carolina

State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel was indicted on federal drug charges Tuesday and was suspended from office by Gov. Mark Sanford.
Ravenel, 44, and Michael L. Miller of Mount Pleasant are charged with one count each of conspiracy to possess and intent to distribute cocaine.
Ravenel was elected treasurer in November. The charge filed Tuesday said he has “knowingly, intentionally and unlawfully possess(ed) with intent to distribute” cocaine since at least late 2005.
The case grew out of a Charleston Police Department investigation into narcotics, State Law Enforcement Division Chief Robert Stewart said.
The Charleston police asked for SLED’s assistance in that investigation, Stewart said.
“Information was developed that state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel allegedly was involved in this illegal activity,” Stewart said at a news conference.
Stewart asked the FBI and U.S. attorney to join the investigation April 1, once the case involved a statewide elected official who “administers the use of vast public funds.”

Editor's note, piss ant pretty boy above comes from a old South Carolina family with high hopes that this idiot would have a bright political career with no limits to how high he could go. While I usually take no satisfaction in seeing any person fall I must admit to this being an exception.

In the category of more information than needed but…..

You know you've been married far too long when a husband can walk buck naked outside into the garage right past his wife and not break her attention from "So you think you can dance" television show.
Not that I would ever do such a thing.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Parrothead review: Prayers for the Assassin

A novel by Robert Ferrigno

I have always enjoyed books with a science fiction edge to them but no matter the genre if a book has great characters that I can have some empathy for I have long found that I can read just about any type of novel. Such a novel I found recently called "Prayers for the Assassin" has great characters and a setting that while not exactly science fiction did have me up all night to finish it. This book can best be described as fitting in the same genre as Margaret Attwood's "A Handmaiden's Tale" in which a radical group overthrows the US government and establishes a Christian theocracy a few decades down the road. I read both the book and saw the movie that was actually pretty good. I never felt it slammed Christianity in general but was a true indictment of the holier-than-thou, both religious and secular, that wish to impose a forced moral or behavior code on everyone.

"Prayers for the Assassin" also has to do with a religious dominated American government but instead of it being Christian in origin it is Islam that holds sway over a Islamic States of America. The basic premise is that in a few years the US will be ran out of Iraq with our country going into a mega post Vietnam-like malaise. Given the empty bromines of the Christian faith, which I see in real life to a certain extent, along with a number of celebrity conversions the Islamic faith in America sees an even bigger rate of growth that it has before. This growth is not commented on by the author but I got the impression that for the most part the American people, both Christian and Moslem, adapted to it. That is until in 2015 when two city busting nuclear bombs explode in New York and Washington DC. along with a dirty bomb at Mecca which effectively decapitate most of the US government, except for the newly elected US president who happens to be Moslem. With the government effectively destroyed a great number of Americans find relief and answers not in a synagogue or church but in a mosque resulting in a huge conversion in which a majority of the US population becomes Moslem. What helps this conversion is when it is learned that Israel was behind the attacks on the American cities and Mecca in an attempt to frame radical Moslem's. This knowledge results in a joint Arab-European attack on Israel destroying it as a state. Only an offer from Russia to give the Israeli survivors refuge prevents them form being completely wiped out.

Back in America the new majority proclaims a new Islamic government for the nation. The South, which largely stayed Christian, declares its independence and sets up its own government. A Second American Civil War erupts which in the end causes the deaths of 38 million Americans. This war saw the use of biological weapons on both sides creating dead zones around many cities, although no nukes were used. The Islamic States of America occupies the "blue states" of the north east and mid-west, most of the Rocky Mountain states, and the Pacific coast. The states that make up the old Confederacy along with West Virginia, Kentucky, and most of Missouri make up the nation called the Bible Belt. Nevada and Mormon Utah, controlling a small piece of Idaho, are both free states and unaligned surrounded by the ISA. Nevada is still the gambling center for the now divided nation with many from both acting as if the war had never happened. I guess even after the death of millions in civil war what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Utah I believe ends up a theocracy in its own right but other than hints that there is no love lost between it and the ISA not much is said. The author has South Florida independent of the Bible Belt government. And given the information in a two chapter preview of the second book that might be the best place in all of the former US. The Bible Belt government has little power and appears to be largely controlled by warlords.

The heroes of the book are Rakkim Epps and Sarah Douglas who just happen to be lovers and the ward and niece of Redbeard, the leader of state security for the ISA. Rakkim was a member of the very elite fedayeen, a special forces unit for the ISA, who for reasons we never really learn has lost a great deal of his faith. Sarah is a smart modern 21st century Moslem lady who upset a Taliban-like group called the Black Robes with her book that says the West fell more to the decay of popular culture than divine intervention. The Black Robes job are to police fundamentalist Islamic believers in the ISA but due to various power hungry members are trying to gain more influence over the moderate ISA government. Sarah has learned information dealing with the basic foundation of the ISA and now her life is very much in danger. At first Redbeard enlists Rakkim, who have fallen out with each other, to find Sarah. Along the way Rakkim learns that someone called the Old One was hired another former fedayeen to kill Sarah and him. It turns out that the Old One wishes to establish a global caliphate and was the one actually behind the New York/Washington/Mecca bombings. As Sarah and Rakkim race to gather the needed info to expose the Old One they learn that he also had a third city busting bomb planted inside the Three Gorges damn in China that was suppose to go off the same time as the others. China at this time is the world's leading superpower and the destruction of the damn with the cities were suppose to seal the fate of Israel but unforeseen complications prevented it along with the bomb being lost.

As Sarah and Rakkim race through to gather the needed information to expose the Old One to the ISA and the world a disfigured and polluted America is described. Disneyland is in ruins and the location of less than legal activities. The California coastline is awash in oil leaking from oil rigs sitting just off shore. And a small section of a chapter involved the telling of how Rakkim was part of a fedayeen operation several years before going into the radioactive hell of New York looking for financial records supposedly stored underground. The only New York survivor appears to have been the cockroach, billions of them, I’ll go no further on this one. Not to leave the Bible Belt nation out but we are informed that due to an ISA embargo the Christian states are even more polluted due to their dependence on coal. Both side in this future hell are seeing a drop in life expectancy and the collapse of a damaged and worn out infrastructure with nations such a Nigeria and the Mexican Empire surging ahead in development and status in the world. We are even offered hints that both nations are being played as pawns by new 21st century great powers. In the two chapter preview of the second book a new major character, I believe, from the Bible Belt is taken hostage by the men from a Tennessee warlord flying a modern Chinese helicopter that the new character knows China never sells to anyone overseas. Not even the Bible Belt president flies in such a new model.

The author, I read from other reviews, may have a axe to grind on several subjects and issues in this novel but I have not read any of his other works so I can’t comment. This novel was one great thriller giving a superb plot and great supporting characters. I highly recommend it and I will be looking forward to the second and third books of the announced trilogy.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Vio con Dios, Mr. Wizard

"Truly, there is a spark of divinity in all who live and think-and strive!"
from the Silver Surfer
And in Don Herbert' case those that teach should be added.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A little faith in the future.

The space shuttle Atlantis as it flies into orbit from Cape Canaveral. Picture taken from Disney's Vero Beach resort by a silly South Carolina low country boy wanting to be going up in that baby.

Last year on the 4th of July my clan left the Magic Kingdom and boarded the Disney Transit bus for a short trip back to Disney's Beach Club Villas after a long, hot but very enjoyable day doing as much of the park as humanly possible. Now I'm going to go ahead and admit that I was stoked, like some small kid I had a blast going through the park doing rides that I had done as far back as 1973 the year after the Magic Kingdom opened. I was even more excited than my kids who was either bored, in the case of Spoilboy, or worn out and asleep, as Wiggles was in my arms. Dragonwife, sweaty and tired herself, was slumped over next to me discussing the options for dinner. Around me on the bus was a eclectic collection of fellow Americans from all over the nation. It was easy to tell that most of the adults were about in the same shape as Dragonwife looking forward to getting cleaned up, having a good meal, and putting the rugrats to bed so they could have some downtime before the new day brought reenergized urchins out for more close encounters with Mickey and crew. The only exceptions, beside myself, were a newly married couple on their honeymoon who were getting an early start on closed door actives right there on the bus and two other families one from China and the other from India. Each family looked about as excited as me discussing amongst themselves the days activities while clutching bags of Disney stuff while wearing the stereotypical world famous mouse ears.
While I am guessing about the origins of the Asian family; I had the pleasure of having a nice conversation with the dad of the Indian family earlier that day while waiting in line at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. He and his family were being wooed by a Florida based software company looking to hire him and relocate to this country. He and the rest of his family were open and very friendly and while riding the Disney Jungle Cruise were a laugh riot while trading corny one-liners with the boat captain on the ride.
We were traveling back to the resort when the bus driver clicked on the bus PA system and told us to look out the left window so we could see the smoke trail of the space shuttle as it flew up into the sky. Every member of the Chinese and Indian families either strained to turn around or cross over the moving bus so they could view the launch. In either case they were pressed up against windows totally entranced as the shuttle escaped from the silly law of gravity. Having always wanted to view a shuttle launch but never able to successfully juggle the time, money, or NASA's ornery space transportation system which could leave hapless Cape Canaveral sightseers in the cold like some goofy groom at the alter when the bride develops cold feet. So I was right beside the others eager to view the space launch and glimpse something of the wonder and adventure of what to me is still a new frontier . Being some distance from the launch pad and having only been alerted to the event by the bus driver rather late not much was left to see except the smoke residue but I must admit to being somewhat dismayed by the complete lack of enthusiasm shown by my fellow Americans on the bus. Once we arrived at the resort I felt rather bummed out about the whole thing the rest of the night. I mean both India and China have infant space programs but their drive and ambition about most other things quite frankly leave the good old USA in the dust. With far too many in America more interested in the "life" and daily affairs of the now dead Anna Nicole, talentless Brittany, or the parasitical Paris it can be honestly said that we are too preoccupied with our tasteless pop culture to have much in the way of a path to the future beyond a new iPod or video game system.
I generally kept that idea until last Friday when at Disney's Vero Beach resort in-house restaurant I noticed how people kept asking about the time and saying that they needed to finish up and get outside on the beach. Like the slow Southern boy I can be I had to ask the waitress what the hubbub was all about only to have her look at me like I had just fallen off the turnip truck and tell me that the shuttle was going up in ten minutes. The kids and Dragonwife were still munching down on dessert but I broke away and headed out with a rather large crowd to the beach to get a good viewing spot. I never left the room without my camera and was getting it ready as I stepped out on the beach to see a huge mass of people stretching both north and south as far as I could see there to view the shuttle also. Nagging doubts about even seeing the thing lift off due to the usual gremlins were soon replaced as a huge cheer went out as the shuttle appeared above the horizon on a bright flame. Whoops of joy along with "Go baby go" were heard as I tried my best to snap a good picture. The damn thing turned about forty-five degrees east, with me thinking the worst was coming to past, and at least from my perspective it really started hauling ass into the sky while cheers continued to sound all around me. A few seconds later the show was over and a truly joyous people slowly went their separate ways feeling good at least for the moment and as silly as it may sound my faith in the future was restored.