Immigration orders: Vox just told me what to think

I did not know what to think about President Obama’s new executive order on immigration. Most of my mainstream news comes from NPR, and sadly most of what they talk about is the Capitol Hill gamesmanship. Since 50.01% of what goes on on Capitol Hill is straight-out lies from teabaggers, I wasn’t getting much actual information.

Then this video from Vox came along and laid it out rather clearly. What got my attention is the fact that eleven million people are living in the US without authorization and it’s not at all practical to kick them all out.

Let’s start with that: Deporting eleven million people is not a thing we can really do. It doesn’t matter what the teabaggers want to believe. There is nowhere for them to go! Their former home countries can’t accommodate them! We need them to work here!

Look. You can’t evict 3% of a country. Well, you can, but we’ve seen how that goes in Europe, Africa, and South Asia. Not an option unless you want to go all Full Sudan out there.

Furthermore, if you ask me how I feel about people who cut out of their former countries for food, jobs, safety, or a place to live? I’m on their side. Let me put it this way: My foreign-born grandmother didn’t have papers either.

And back to the video, a majority of unauthorized immigrants have lived here more than ten years. Home is here for them.

So starting from the reality-based assumption that jacking up deportations by an order of magnitude is off the table, the administration has no choice but to prioritize its cases. And then doesn’t it make sense to let peaceful, productive, good neighbors stay? And furthermore, if they’re going to stay, what advantage is there in forcing them to stay underground and off the radar?

No, the only reasonable thing is to allow a path to permanent legal residency for people who are already living in the United States and already making a contribution. Let’s get them integrated, employed above the table, paying taxes, receiving benefits, and acting like they belong here. Because even though they or their parents may have slid under the radar years ago, the fact is that they’re here now and nobody benefits from creating a culture of “illegals.”

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

It’s amazing the things you find when you poke around the law library on a cold, rainy Saturday in November.

I was looking for case law and other authority on the issue of “innocent until proven guilty” and found this part of the US Constitution that hardly anybody knows about!

No person shall state an Opinion about the Character or S’posed Actions of Another, but there be full Presentation of said Evidence before a Jury of said Another’s peers; nor shall one Think bad Thoughts of Another lacking Proof beyond a reasonable doubt in a Court of competent jurifdiction; nor shall any Victim make claims of same beyond applicable Statute of Limitations.

Damn. Now I have to take back everything I said about Bill Cosby. And that ex-girlfriend. And I guess I can’t call Voinovich a crook anymore since he was never charged with anything. Damn. Sorry everyone.

NPR fails again. Teabaggers gotta teabag.

Today’s Morning Edition on NPR featured an interview by Arun Rath with teabagger Tom Cole (OK-4). It’s a great example of the thing I hear again and again on NPR: lots of softball questions, casual acceptance of whatever nonsense “both sides” say, lack of followup, and a complete failure to get at actual facts. Here we go.

In the first twenty seconds, Rath repeats the teabagger line that President Obama is “bypassing Congress” with his plans on immigration reform. That’s bullshit right there. Absolutely nothing in the three and a half minute story backs up the “bypassing” accusation.

Unless by “bypassing” you mean I bypassed Congress by shoveling snow off my own sidewalk this morning, and I bypassed Congress by eating breakfast of my own choosing.

What I’m saying is that when you make an accusation like that, it’s meaningless (i.e., bullshit) without something that makes the action, well, wrong. It’s a loaded term. If NPR wants to take sides in this, great, they can go all Fox and use all the loaded words they want, but without substantiation it’s fake news.

So Rath put it right out there, asking Rep. Cole what he thinks of the administration’s assertion that the new immigration plan is within the President’s powers. “The President’s been on both sides of this issue,” Cole replied, waving around words like “inappropriate,” “unproductive,” and “unconstitutional.” Calling the President out for some perceived inconsistency, Cole went on with “It’s hard for us to understand, when were you [Obama] being disingenuous?”

Now stop right there. Cole did not answer the question. He made an assertion that Obama’s plan exceeds his powers, and when asked to substantiate that charge he switched to calling the President “inconsistent” and “disingenuous.”

Rath failed as a reporter. He simply moved on to the next question, without comment or challenge.

The question of whether Obama’s plan is legal and within his powers is an important one. I’m curious about it myself. I honestly don’t know what the legal issues are in this regard, but my point is that I still don’t know because the reporter didn’t do his job.

What’s wrong with this is that the interview leaves the question hanging out there with no actual information other than one guy’s uninformed opinion about some other guy’s alleged inconsistency on a point that may or may not be relevant.

Rath could have made the interview not useless by asking a simple followup: “I hear you saying that the President has been inconsistent in his own statements on his powers in the realm of immigration, but what I’m asking you is on what basis do you say he is exceeding his legal powers?” If Cole dodged the question again, Rath could have said, “Wait, no, you’re claiming the President is stepping over a legal line, so you must know where that line is. What is the limit of the President’s power in this regard, and how do you know that?”

I realize this is a morning news show, and NPR could only allocate three and a half minutes to the interview, but can we hold them to a higher standard than merely filling time?

Political reporting isn’t supposed to be amateur hour. This story is yet another easily found example of NPR doing C-level work and expecting an A for showing up. I call bullshit. The interview was a waste of time at best, a disingenuous propaganda vehicle at worst.


This server is now running WordPress 4.0.

Just a note to anyone else upgrading on FreeBSD: For the dashboard to work, you need to install the lang/php55-extensions port, then restart the web server.

Basic Bus Station Design

I went to Chicago (it’s a Grinnell thing, you wouldn’t understand) the last week in September. This is what the Greyhound station looked like when I was waiting to head back.

You’d think there would be a clock. Why is there no clock?

Chicago Greyhound station
Where the heck is a clock? It’s a bus station for heaven’s sake.

Nope. No clock visible from the spot where you charge things. Huh.

Edit: I looked again, turning myself about 120 degrees to the left, and spotted a grayish digital clock over Gates 1 through 12. I suppose that works, but it wasn’t that noticeable and… hey, bus station. People do need to know what time it is!

Here’s the other thing. Sadly, I was unable to snag a clearer photo of this particular design flaw because a rather aggressive police officer told me that “for security” I can’t take pictures there. (It probably is indeed illegal, because the world is still crazy over fake “terrorism,” but what a stupid law.)

Greyound station in Chicago, zoomed view
These gate numbers look nice, but they block your view of the buses’ destination signs.

Anyway, the other thing I’m trying to show you is visible in this zoomed-in image. Do you see the horizontal panel highlighted by my green rectangle? Okay, those are the express (red) gate numbers. Guess how high off the ground they are.

I don’t know either, but they’re at exactly the same height as the destination signs on the buses themselves. Come on. From across the room I might see that there’s a bus at Gate 15, but I can’t tell where it’s going. They could have raised or lowered the red panel, or left it out entirely.

Clearly, the “user experience” part of this design was not thought out. The architect made something pretty and modern but missed badly on some practical issues.

Why I’m not dumping ice on my head

Dammit. Dammit.

I got tapped the other day by my best friend and favorite person in the world, Dr. Katherine H. Clark, to do that “ice bucket challenge” thing. I was dreading that, and I really hate to say no to Dr.

Here are a few things about it:

  1. Bluntly, even though I know a bit about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) I… still don’t care that much about it. It’s a rather rare disease, terrible for those who are affected by it but… sigh. We can’t fix everything right away. I wouldn’t start there.
  2. The gimmicky nature of this thing pushes my “KONY 2012″ buttons.
  3. Oh. I’m really uncomfortable with the part where you call your friends out publicly. I’m not Jewish, but I’m a big fan of Maimonides’s Eight Levels of Charity. Long story short, if people know you’re donating, it’s less of a mitzvah. This thing is designed to draw attention to your donation. It makes me uncomfortable.
  4. Furthermore, a hundred bucks to me isn’t the same as a hundred bucks to someone else.  I know a lot of people who would have to turn down (gently deflect, awkwardly ignore) the challenge because they money is just too much. I realize that it’s totally allowable to donate less if that’s what you can afford, but it’s still putting the expectation out there. It’s extra discomfort for people who don’t need one more thing to feel guilty about.
  5. Back to the gimmick–I realize that nonprofits do all kinds of clever things to attract attention and get people to give money. I’ve done fundraisers where you pay to join your friends for dinner, or where you pay for a concert, or where there are silly prizes. Sure. The ice-on-your-head thing, though, huh. Maybe I’m old and cranky. I guess the silliness ratio is just too high for my taste.
  6. Admittedly kind of a non sequitur: For the last two weeks I have been absolutely sick over the police-state bullshit going on in Missouri. It’s driving me crazy that people who consider themselves good Americans aren’t outraged by it. So part of me wants to say “Forget being ‘aware’ of a disease that isn’t anyone’s fault. Let’s all be a hell of a lot more aware of effectively losing the Bill of Rights.” Obviously the ALS fundraiser isn’t the problem here, but it still grates.
  7. My convenient excuse! My cardiologist says I need to avoid sudden extremes of heat and cold. There you go.
  8. Finally, now we’re deciding who lives and dies based on which charity has the silliest fundraisers? Cringe?

My objections add up to… not much really. I can’t find the exact words right now, but Dr said something like “Look, if you think it’s dumb that’s fine, but people are doing a fun and silly thing that is nice and helps others and I’m always in favor of doing nice things.”

Hmm. Dilemma. Dr’s right. I don’t want to bug out of doing a nice thing that helps people, but I don’t like this bucket-of-ice thing either and I am not that concerned about ALS.

Now something I do care about is kids with cancer. It’s not so rare: 1 child in 300 is diagnosed with some form of cancer before turning 18. Research into childhood cancer benefits everyone, including adults, and successful treatment of cancer in children obviously has the best payoff if you’re counting future healthy years.

And finally, one of my children was saved from a particularly harsh form of leukemia by an aggressive chemotherapy program that was part of a research project funded by the Children’s Oncology Group, which is now known as CureSearch. (They look pretty good on Charity Navigator too.) I’ll throw $100 in today, and rather than specifically calling out my friends I’m just going to ask you to consider doing the same.

Best of luck to the ALS people.

Stragglers gotta straggle.

Last night I went (again) on this semi-regular cycling event called The Slow Roll. As usual, Sam the organizer picked a spot, put out a Facebook event, and announced that the gathering starts at 6:00 and the actual ride starts at 6:30.

Also as usual, nobody’s wheels moved until about 7:00.

Now I would start showing up half an hour late for these things, but I can’t count on the half hour. Sometimes it’s twenty minutes. Sometimes it’s longer. Sometimes the waiting around is kind of fun. (No, it isn’t.) I can’t make plans around this.

Last night it was all census-taking, repeatedly, until the last few stragglers showed up from some other event. I’m still not clear on why they couldn’t just join us in progress–Lakewood isn’t that big a town. Stragglers gotta straggle.

So from now on, rather than stewing at the starting line, I’m going to start the Roll on time for myself and whoever else Rolls along. Maybe we’ll do a half-hour sized lap around the neighborhood.

When Sam’s crowd is ready to roll too, that’s great. They can catch up, or not. Riders gotta ride.