Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A reply to a post about illegal immigration

When it comes to the cost of illegal immigraton, as estimated by Professor Huddle of Rice, you left out this nugget (from here): "According to Dr. George Borjas of Harvard University native born workers lose $152 billion annually because of job displacement and wage depression caused by immigration." To me that's the real issue. Republicans, and many others, like to say that these people do jobs Americans won't do. That's a lie. Americans would do those jobs if they paid more. John McCain recently had the balls to question the work ethic of a bunch of union construction workers. He said they wouldn't pick lettuce for $50 an hour. He was booed. Plenty of Americans would do the dirtiest, hardest jobs on earth if they paid well and had health benefits.

Plus, when there are more people willing to work cheap, eventually they find their way into trades that traditionally paid well. Pressure on wages is down. Average income of workers in this country has dropped under Bush, creating a "wageless recovery" that is the direct result of people willing to work for less than the job has traditionally paid. Just look at what's happened to the construction and meat packing industries. I don't think I need to tell people who profits from that. I'll give you a hint. Bush has lowered their taxes, while the rest of us make less, and pay more for fuel, food, health care, homes, and much, much more.

But then comes the last paragraph.
Just watch the "demonstrations" and listen to Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosas, they want a Mexican Government in much of the United States. He and many now in California government were "La Raza demonstrators" in the 60's. Their radical agendas then are unchanged now. They want "old white fogeys" out of the "Aztlan" territories and they want to be part of Mexico. They deny this vehemently, but you only need look at the signs and banners in recent demonstrations all over this country but most particularly in Los Angeles and Phoeniz.
I've listened to Mayor Villaraigosa, who is no Aztlanist, not by any stretch of the imagination. Just because he spoke at a rally where some extremists were protesting doesn't mean that's how he feels. The last thing they want is a corrupt Mexican government controlling them. They love this country, that's why they're here. They are pro-union. That's why you're seeing such a rise in membership with SEIU and other service unions.

One of the problems is that large agri-business (which gives 95% of it's political donations to Republicans) has ruined rural agriculture in Mexico (and in the US and many other countries for that matter), so many rural Mexicans have no way to survive. Since their government does nothing for them, they come here.

As for the crime, well, that's because Mexico sends their problem people to us. They literally empty their prisons and encourage the prisoners to come here. Corrupt officials profit from the drug and people smuggling these criminals perform, and the cycle perpetuates. We have a vested interest in getting the Mexican government to clean up its act, and stop these crooks before they come here. Instead, we reward the Mexican government with all kinds of aid, and by signing trade agreements that have no worker protection, environmental protection, or conditions for control of the border from the Mexican side. As long as we keep electing big business Republicans in this country, we will never see any change that limits the waves of cheap labor coming across the border, or the criminals who hide out in those waves.

Let's not forget what we're up against here. The rich people in this country didn't get that way by agreeing to pay raises for their workers. The immigrants are not our enemies. It is in our interest to make their home country a better place, if it means canceling NAFTA, or imposing sanctions until they do so. We should have partnership programs to help small rural farmers live in Mexico, where they can grow crops organically for fair trade certified crop programs. There are many creative answers to this problem. But the people who profit from the cheap labor don't want to change anything.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Public Argument with a Local Buffoon

One of the things that really pisses me off is when religious people tell me I can't be truly ethical without believing in God. Evangelical Christians take it even further and claim that if you don't believe in their particular vengeful God, you're doomed to be evil. In my local paper, I answered one such moron, and he responded with a long, rambling, disjointed letter that you will get the gist of by reading my response:
In Wayne Moore's response to my letter to him via the Signal, he says that I still don't get it. I don't think he ever has.

Moore claims that atheists have no logical basis for understanding right and wrong. What a crock. He suggests that my understanding of right and wrong "seeped in" from a society that already had a Christian ethos. His certainty that I got that framework from his God is a scary thing. How does he know I didn't get my ethical framework from Jews or Buddhists? To assume that I got it from his "God" is the kind of presumptive evangelical certitude that President Bush used to get us into Iraq. How's that working out, Wayne?

The assumption that an intelligent human being can't logically deduce that ethical behavior is better for society is preposterous. I don't need the fear of hell or the promise of heaven to do what's right. I do it because I have deduced that society benefits from ethical behavior. And, unlike Moore and his right wing friends, who don't seem to mind survival of the fittest when it comes to economic policy, I believe society, and government, should help people. That might very well be a Christian ethic (one which Republicans conveniently ignore when it doesn't suit their purposes), but it is not exclusively Christian. Many other religions and philosophies had come to the same logical conclusion well before Christ.

People who believe in evolution are not doomed, as Moore suggests, to finding that Hitler was cool or that slavery was OK. Moore fails to give a source for his "recent survey of college freshmen," but the fact that he suggests that their uneducated views lead to the conclusion that, without God, morals are determined by a vote couldn't be more wrong. If this "survey" is real, I'd sure like to see what those freshmen think after four years of college, in which, I presume, they are still required to take a philosophy class. In fact, I think Moore should take one, because he really doesn't understand philosophy at all. If there is no God, right and wrong are not determined by a vote. Atheism does not require moral relativism. I can believe there are moral absolutes that should be followed, regardless of who invented them, because they are good for all people. Ideas like the Golden Rule or the Harm Principal (I don't care what you do as long as it doesn't harm me) have been around a lot longer than Wayne Moore's vision of God.

As for evolution, it's ironic that I am writing this letter on the day that scientists announced the discovery of the missing link. For years, people like Moore have been using the missing link as an argument against evolution, and now, they have lost that point. However, people like Moore conveniently dismiss the fossil record as having been put there by God to test our faith. How can a logical person who respects science argue with that? It's impossible. They believe that dinosaurs didn't exist, that things are the same as they were initially created, and all those fossils are creations of God, not life forms that evolved, then became extinct. This literal translation of Genesis is a dangerous mindset in a world beset by problems that only science can solve.

I can point out to Moore that he should have paid closer attention during biology class. Changes in genetic information, called mutations, happen naturally. When an organism mutates into something that's helpful to the species, those with the mutation thrive, and those without it don't. That is natural selection. Over billions of years, this produces the process known as evolution, which Moore states is not "observable." This is because he throws out the fossil record as evidence. But what about viruses? President Bush, a noted creation scientist, recently said that viruses like the bird flu "evolve." What the President was reading was a statement of fact from government scientists that virus mutations have caused observable evolution in different species of viruses. The mutation and evolution of viruses has been observed for quite some time now. The genetic structure of any organism, even a small one like a virus, offers trillions of possible combinations. There doesn't have to be "added information," only a recombination of existing information.

I'm sure Moore will have more nonsensical rebuttal to this fact, all based on something other that scientific reason. It's no coincidence that the vast majority of scientists, even religious ones, believe in evolution. The only people running scared in this country are evangelicals whose hateful treatment of those who don't believe like them is being exposed everywhere. But, hey, don't worry, Wayne. If you and your buddies keep hoping for the Rapture, you'll cause a bloody end to the world you seem determined to destroy, and none of this will matter.

No one will ever convince Wayne Moore, or those like him and President Bush, that life didn't start all at once 5000 years ago. So why do I try? Because I hope that other people reading these letters will realize that just because some of us don't believe in God, it doesn't mean we're bad people. And others, including the Catholic Church, believe that evolution and religion are not mutually exclusive. The big bang had to happen somehow. Maybe that was God. I have no proof of it, and I don't do leaps of faith. I'll wait for the theories to be tested, and for new theories to evolve. Maybe, as our studies of quantum mechanics and the intricate workings of the universe get better, science will actually discover a kind of underlying "spirituality" to the universe. I doubt very much that it will look like the vengeful, closed-minded, hateful God that Wayne Moore wants me to be afraid of, or that George Bush uses to justify his cruelty, crusades, and war mongering. I look forward to a day when science is free from religion, when the EPA and the FDA make decisions based on science and not the religious views of political appointees, and when schools aren't forced to teach, or even mention, religion in science class. In short, I look forward to the day when Wayne Moore and his ilk spew their backwards views to smaller and smaller groups of believers while the rest of the world gets on with its evolution.