vendredi, avril 28, 2006

It's Been a Busy Week

Sorry I’ve been gone so long. It’s been an unreal week (I stay busy, but I’ve never had a week like this one), and it goes a little something like this (hit it).

Friday – (Central time)
General - work, play with daughter in anticipation of a hard week.

Saturday (Central Time)

7:00 Depart for Appleton, Wisconsin (via car) with D.O.N. and Mrs. D.O.N.
10:36 Hear band “The Black Keys” for the first time
10:37 Mind officially blown
12:00 Arrive Appleton, Wisconsin (dress for wedding at friends’ hotel room)
1:30 Attend Panda/Scooter wedding
3:30 Check into to ghetto hotel room*
4:00 Attend pre-reception cocktail hour
4:37 Meet long-time iliveinminnesota reader and commenter Jinx
5:00 Attend Panda/Scooter reception
11:30 Return to ghetto hotel room
11:31 Fall into deep, deep sleep

Sunday (Central and Pacific Time)

7:00 S.S.S.
7:30 Pick up D.O.N. and Mrs. D.O.N.
7:31 Return to Minnesota (via car)
8:30 Stop for greasy** breakfast***
12:00 Arrive in Minnesota
12:10 Pack for business trip
12:15 Play with daughter
3:00 Leave for office
3:15 Arrive at office, gather files, etc.
5:11 Depart for Orange County John Wayne airport (central time)
7:43 Arrive Orange County John Wayne airport (pacific time)
8:30 Dinner at El Torito Grill, Santa Ana, California
11:00 Check in to hotel
11:11 Fall into deep, deep sleep

Monday (Pacific Time)

5:30 S.S.S.
5:50 Go to front desk for network cable
5:51 See Counter Terrorism Team, in the OC to protecting Bush
6:00 Dial in to conference call 1
7:00 End conference call 1
7:00 Dial in to conference call 2
7:55 End conference call 2
8:00 Discover that meeting thought to begin at 10:30; begins at 8:30
8:02 Dress in great haste
8:40 Arrive to meeting
4:00 Leave meeting for another meeting
4:15 Attend other meeting
4:30 Check email
5:00 Pick up colleagues at previous meeting
5:15 Cocktail hour(s) at hotel
7:00 Dinner at Blue Water Grill, Costa Mesa, CA
10:00 Cocktail hour(s) at hotel
11:45 Retire to room
11:47 Fall into deep, deep sleep

Tuesday (Pacific Time)

6:30 S.S.S.
7:00 Dial in to conference call 1
7:35 End conference call 2
7:38 Breakfast with colleague
8:00 Dial in to conference call 2
8:55 End conference call 2
9:00 Attend day-long meeting
4:00 End day-long meeting
4:30 Meet with colleagues for update on other day-long meeting
5:00 Adjourn
5:30 Attend Cocktail hour(s) at Balboa Bay Club, Newport Beach, CA
10:00 Leave Balboa Bay Club
10:30 Cocktail hour(s) at hotel
12:15 Retire to room
12:17 Pack for return flight to Minnesota
12:27 Fall into deepest sleep of all time

Wednesday (Pacific and Central Times)

5:00 S.S.S.
5:25 Depart hotel room
5:40 Leave for Orange County John Wayne Airport
6:30 Return flight to Minnesota in seat in front of my boss and my boss’s boss
12:00 Land in Twin Cities
12:17 Arrive to car; drive to office
12:28 Arrive to office
12:30 Greet visiting dignitaries; sit for afternoon-long meeting
5:00 Adjourn meeting
5:30 Depart for dinner
6:00 Arrive at Interlachen Country Club, Edina, Minnesota
6:15 Dine
8:00 Depart Interlachen Country Club
8:20 Stop at Barnes & Noble
8:22 Select gift for daughter (who had a great report at school)
8:37 Arrive home
10:37 Fall into fitful sleep caused by over-exhaustion

Thursday (Central Time)

6:30 S.S.S.****
6:55 Prepare TinyE’s lunch and breakfast
7:00 Wake TinyE
7:02 Dress TinyE
7:10 Feed TinyE
7:15 Tie TinyE’s shoes; put on TinyE’s jacket
7:20 Depart for TinyE’s school/daycare
7:32 Arrive at school/daycare
7:38 Leave school/daycare
8:02 Pick up out-of-town guest
8:30 Attend day-long meeting
4:00 Adjourn meeting
4:30 Check email
5:00 Attend pre-dinner cocktail hour
5:45 Leave for dinner
6:00 Arrive at Wildfire Grill, Eden Prairie, Minnesota
8:15 Leave Dinner
8:17 Drive to Mystic Lake Casino
8:37 Arrive at Mystic Lake Casino
8:38 Sheepishly call Mrs. Duf for permission to stay out late
8:40 Procure loving permission
8:42 Arrive at cash machine
8:45 Arrive at Blackjack table
9:17 Split, then split, then split again on a ten dollar bet
9:18 Dealer goes bust
9:18 Rake in winnings
10:15 Tip dealer
10:16 Count losses ($5.00)
10:22 Escort guests to hotel
10:37 Leave hotel for home
10:55 Arrive at home
11:02 Take in deep, deep sleep

Friday (Central Time)

6:38 Waken by TinyE
6:40 S.S. (didn’t shave)
6:45 Prepare TinyE for school and self for work
8:10 Leave for school/work
9:00 Arrive to office for meeting
10:30 Adjourn meeting
10:35 Check email
11:29 Start drafting post
11:40 Post to blog

*Friends, when attending a wedding out of town, if the bride and groom recommend a hotel, stay there. Even if you can use points to sleep for free elsewhere. Trust me on this.
**Pronounced “gree-zuh;”
***As an elixir, some in our party caught a kind of flu at the reception
****Alright, I’ll tell you, the first “S” stands for a biological function that is an extremely common daily (or more) requirement among people and animals, the second “S” stands for “shower,” and the third “S” stands for “shave.”

vendredi, avril 21, 2006

Friday Firsts

Thanks to Mary of MaryandKiran (a great Minnesota blog) for the easy Friday post.

1. Who was your first prom date? Cathy S. (last names withheld). She was a Senior and on the debate team with me, and she invited me even though I was a sophomore.

2. Who was your first roommate(s)? Shane C. I am eternally grateful to him. He taught me two things: work hard FIRST, then play hard (in fact you will play harder because you will be unburdened); and try to get a 90% instead of a 100% and use your energy for other things.

3. What alcoholic beverage did you drink the first time you got drunk? Gin. It’s why I still do not drink it to this day.

4. What was your first job? Dishwasher. Yeah, uh huh, I got fired.

5. What was your first car? 1978 Ford Mustang II (stick it haters!)

6. When did you go to your first funeral? 1975 – when my dad died.

7. How old were you when you first moved away from your hometown? 8 when we moved as a family from KC to Wichita.

8. Who was your first grade teacher? I didn’t have one.

9. Where did you go on your first ride on an airplane? Boston, MA (I think).

10. When did you sneak out of your house for the first time, who was it with? Tempest S.

11. Who was your first Best Friend and are you still friends with them? My brother. Yes, very much so.

12. Where did you live the first time you moved out of your parents house? JRP Hall on the bucolic campus of Kansas University

13. Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day? I don’t really have bad days, and I have the horrible habit of being very quiet when I do. So, I don’t call anyone.

14. Who's wedding were you in the first time you were a bridesmaid/groomsman? Todd M’s. I was 18 or 19.

15. What is the first thing you do in the morning? Turn on Sportscenter (okay, it’s the SECOND thing I do).

16. What was the first concert you ever went to? UB40 opened for the Police at Kansas Coliseum.

17. First tattoo or piercing? I’ll keep you posted. Duf is mutilation free.

18. First celebrity crush? Farrah Fawcett. I know, lame. But I was young, and it’s who all the boys were crushing on.

19. Age of first kiss? It was a girl down the street named Tonya, and I would guess I was 12 or 13.

20. First crush? Nichole B. in second grade. She wore pantyhose!

21. First time you did drugs? I’ll keep you posted. Duf is drug free to this point. If I ever become experienced I’m pretty much obligated to do it with Martin D., Carrie F. and Andrea K. (and they've probably retired from the game).

jeudi, avril 20, 2006

In Lieu of "Death" I Offer "Destraction"

I'll get back to death in a second (and sorry for being gone so long), but...

Everyone once in awhile I'm driving to once place or another and someone will pull along side me and either:

a) shoot me a dirty look
b) show me their middle-most and longest finger
c) point at their temple which I take to suggest something about my need to think
d) shake their head "no" at me which I take to mean they are disappointed in me

This tends to happen a lot when I am on the phone. I'm working on causation versus correlation theories, but I can say, I'm significantly less likely to get items "a" through "d" when I'm not on the phone.

And now this.

And I need to tell you, readers and friends and readerfriends that...well...I'm really, really bad about the whole distracted driver thing. Here are some examples:

a) it is part of my ritual to return calls on the way home
b) it is not unusual for me to take confernece calls from the car on the way to work
c) I usually hold the phone to my ear becasue I cannot remember to tote my earpiece
d) I drive a stick shift
e) I have been honked at
f) I have been yelled at
g) I have run red lights (twice) without realizing it until mostly through intersection
h) I have run stop signs (at least 3 times) without realizing it...(ditto)...
i) I drove by an SUV with a "W" sticker, an NRA sticker, and a pro-life sticker and I didn't shake my head or point at my temple or anything. I was too distracted
j) I'm pretty sure there are a bunch of other things (crossing center line, etc.) that I have done as well.
k) I have eaten and talked on the phone at the same time while driving
l) I send text messages while driving
m) I've gone the wrong way on a one way street while talking on the phone
n) I've written down phone numbers and notes while talking on the phone and driving
o) maybe twice I've pulled over to take a call, make a note, etc.

It's important to me that you all know that I'm not making light of this. I had a whole long list of things I told myself I would never do with a cell phone, and I've done them all. I talk in elevators, in store lines, while my items are being wrung up at a store, at restaurants, whilst golfing and during movies (just kidding - I don't talk during movies).

So, can you guys give me an intervention in the comments? Help me stop this destructive behavior before I cause and accident.

dimanche, avril 09, 2006

Talking About Death - Or Not

In colder, snowier states like Minnesota. We have types of fatalities that are lesss common in other places. I didn't realize this until I moved up here, but each year we have the following kinds of deaths that are, to say the least, less common in my native Kansas:

First person to fall through thin ice of the year.
First snowmobiler to fall through thin ice of the year.
First snowmobiler to sink while trying to skim over water (or whatever it's called)
First snowmobiler to hit a barbed wire fence at high speed.
First snowmobile DUI or OWI fatality.
First boater to get a little intoxicated and hit a bridge at high speed.

These deaths are always news. But not all deaths are. I know of two, but before I tell you about them, I want to give a little context in two parts:

Context of the First Part

One Saturday of the NCAA tournament, I was at my friend Rick's house watching hoops. Rick lives near the Mississippi River. He told me that he was looking forward to reading the paper the next day because there was a big flap up at the river earlier that day.

He said the bridge was closed and squad cars were all over the place. He added they were clearly searching for a body in the river.

The next day I searched the paper too, but found nothing.

Context of the Second Part

Back in the go-go 80's when I lived in Sin City, more commonly known as Washington, D.C., I had the great good fortune to see the inner workings of the city's wonderful and well-run Metro train system. Someone in our group asked the Manager of the Metro system if there were ever suicides by Metro. He replied that there were, gave a startlingly high number of them (which I absolutely cannot remember), and then added that they are not reported in the news for fear that reporting them would encourage more of the same/lead to increases.

End of Contexts

On March 29th, a few days after I watched games with my friend Rick, the following letter to the editor appeared in our only local paper*, The Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Last month, a homeless Native American woman named Arlene Beauleau died of exposure behind a Target store in Minneapolis.

Last Saturday evening, her young homeless son, Bobby, committed suicide by jumping into the Mississippi River at Interstate Hwy. 94.

His last words to three friends who watched in horror were, "I'm going to be with my mom."
Neither death was mentioned in any local media.

Police immediately dragged the river and recovered Bobby's body. He is being taken to Red Lake this week.

I find it interesting to observe for which individuals in our community a public death constitutes news.

M. Nilsson, Minneapolis

As long-time readers will recall, a homeless woman, an alum of the University of Kansas, died of exposure in a Minnesota parking lot last winter. I heard about it on NPR while driving home. I fear that a lot of homeless persons die in Minnesota each winter (and probably a number of folks who cannot heat their homes adequately). I try to consider news-worthiness in light of all the detached factors that newspapers must apply, but something seems wrong with a standard that fails to mention the death from exposure of a woman who was identifiable and who left, even if only briefly, a surviving son and family.

Because of my trip to the nucleus of the D.C. Metro, I can understand the policy behind not making news of the son's suicide (although every school shooting get its press), but the basis for it, the dramatic fashion in which he departed, and the newsworthiness of the two tragedies merited mention.

Especially in Minnesota lately. I'll explain in my next two posts.

*We have two papers, but ILIM only officially recognizes the one that didn't endorse President Bush twice.

vendredi, avril 07, 2006

Talking about Death - Zacarias Moussaoui and the Death Penalty

As I was driving home yesterday, I heard a wonderful piece on NPR featuring the reaction of two women both of whom lost loved ones in the World Trade Center tragedy on 9/11. Both women favor the death penalty when the law allows it. One of them favors the death penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui, the other did not.

As long time readers know, I'm completely and utterly opposed to the death penalty. I would not execute Zacarias Moussaoui for many reasons (he wasn't directly responsible for death being one of them; my wholesale opposition to the death penalty being another). But what really struck me is the difference between the two responses.

In my view, one interviewee takes a rational approach to whether Zacarias Moussaoui should be executed. The other takes a visceral approach.

Neither is more valid than the other, and, in some ways, the outcome ends up being the same. But how each talks about the application of it in the Zacarias Moussaoui case seems very significant to me.

One justification for why I oppose the death penality is based in my doubt about whether we can apply it dispassionately. My hope is not to deny or discredit the valid emotional responses of any friend or family who have lost a loved one, but to point out how that kind of emotion can compel human beings to misapply the law and to see guilt and death-worthiness where is doesn't exist.

Both interviews are conducted by the amazing Melissa Block (MB)*.

The first interviewee is named Mindy Kleinberg (MK). Ms. Kleinberg lost her husband, a securities trader with Cantor Fitzgerald. I should say up front that though I disagree with her view on the death penalty, I so admire her and idealize her expression of her viewpoint. Her words will live with me for a long time.

MB asks about Zacarias Moussaoui and whether he was a central figure in 9/11.

MK: He did not know the date of 9/11. He did not know there were any other planes. He had not met any of the other highjackers. He did not have a root. So, this did not sound like a man who really knew about the 9/11 plot. Do I think that he should be behind bars? Given a chance do I think he would hurt us? Yes, I do.

MB: Ms. Kleinberg, as this trial enters the last phase when the jury will be deciding whether Mr. Moussaoui lives or dies, have you thought forward to that decision and how you might feel when it comes?

MK: You know, I think the ball has already been rolling. At this point, whichever way they decide, is not important to me. I really would have hoped that they would realize that the best place for Moussaoui was in jail. I just feel that the death penalty should be reserved for those who commit the crime. I would have like to see my government prosecuting Ramsey
Ben Alsheed and Khalid Shaihk Mohammed who were 100% connected with the 9/11 plot. They were the financier; they were the mastermind. At this point it's in the jury's hands.

MB: I wonder if there's ever a moment when you stop and think about Zacarias Moussaoui and what might happen to him when you think you know, considering what my family's gone through, maybe he should be put to death, maybe there's some measure of justice.

MK: what my family has gone through and the impact that its had on us will be the same whether he's put to death or not. For me he's never been my proxy. You know, it's almost like a scapegoat. We're going to hold this man up and put him to death so you can all feel better? That doesn't do it for me. If you catch Osama bin Laden, I will feel better. If you fix the FBI, I will feel better. If you fix the CIA, I will feel better. If you get radios for the firefighters in New York that work, I will feel better. Putting Moussaoui to death has zero impact on my life, and he is not my proxy...

MB and MK talk about Zacarias Moussaoui potentially becoming a mayrtr. MK says that we shouldn't worry about his mindset. She concludes that if, by our laws, it's appropriate to put him to death, then that's what we should do.

The second interviewee is Sally Regenhard. She lost her son Christian who just started his career as a NYC firefighter.

SR: When I was looking at him, I thought to myself. He looks like a demonic gargoyle. Just his features, his face. He had such an evil, evil look to him. And the thing that I was really struck by was that if you looked into his eyes, his eyes were dead. They were just dead eyes. I caught his gaze about three times. I wanted him to look at me, and for that reason I wore a red blouse that day. I wanted know, this sounds a little strange, but...I wanted to represent my son...I wore red, you know, for my son's heart. Red also represents, in some sense, the fire department. Even red for the blood of the innocents that was shed. I was very, very deliberate in doing that. On three occasions, when he just gave this empty look around, I locked eyes with him. I wanted to look into the face of evil, and I accomplished that part.

MB: It sounds like you're convinced that Zacarias Moussaoui's actions led in some way, directly, to the death of your son, am I right about that?

SR: I feel that he could have, if he did admit, who he was and what he was doing, I think at least we would have had a chance. Even though I'm very critical of the bungling of the federal government and the FBI, the CIA, the INS, all these agencies that failed, I still feel that if this man had told the truth, maybe we would have had a chance.

MB: When you've thought about what the jury is having to think about: what should happen to Zacarias Moussaoui, should he be put to death, should he be sentenced to life in prison, how do you work through that?

SR: Based on what I heard and plus his very willingness to admit to this, I'm convinced that he does qualify for the death penalty.

MB: Ms. Rerenhard, when you think through this question of life and death and what should happen with Zacarias Moussaoui, do you think about what your son, what Christian would have wanted?

SR: I do, I think about my son every day. I just don't know. In some instance I can say what I think he would have wanted. If we were the people who were butchered in a brutal and needless death, maybe he would have had the righteous indignation that I think many of the family members have. I can't make the call. If I thought that he really would have been against it, I would say it, but I just don't know.

* And both were transcribed by me, without permission and doing the best I could to get the words and phrases right, this morning at about 6:45. For the best effect, listen to the linked NPR audios. They are each about 3 minutes long.

jeudi, avril 06, 2006

Tom DeLay as Martyr

Are you ready for this?

Tom DeLay is a martyr. Also, in the new world with the cold, cold sun, words speak louder than actions.

Here's what I learned in the linked article:

That’s right. He’s being persecuted by (wait for it) “enemies of virtue” because he is a Christian.

To make sure I haven’t lost my mind, I turned to the Oxford American Dictionary (the Heald Colleges Edition) for a definition of virtue. This is what I found:

Virtue (vur-choo) n. 1. moral excellence, goodness, a particular form of this, patience is a virtue. 2. chastity, especially of a woman. 3. a good quality, an advantage, the seat has the virtue of being adjustable. By or in virtue of, by reason of, because of, he is entitle to a pension by virtue of his long service. make a virtue of necessity, to do with a good grace what one must do anyway.

And I’m sorry, but based upon that definition, enemies of virtue would stand all out against Mr. DeLay. So, having no other choice, I threw the dictionary away.

This is a man who:

Employed as his deputy chief of staff Tony Rudy who recently pleaded guilty of conspiracy charges for accepting payments from Jack Abramoff. Rudy also corrupted public officials and defraud clients.


Employed as his spiritual advisor and chief of staff Edwin Buckham an evangelical minister who turned lobbyist after leaving DeLay’s staff. Buckham is now in trouble as a result of Rudy’s plea bargain. Buckham and his wife received almost one million dollars from a NONPROFIT called the US Family Network. Buckham created US Family Network as a front group funded by clients of Abramhoff.


Buckham’s family received 1/3 of the total disbursements made by the US Family Network.

But you might guess that family benefited from the remaining 2/3ds, right?


Here’s who did:

Russian oil profiteers (well, families use oil)
Sweatshops in Saipan (children build self esteem when they have a job)
Native American Casinos (game night for the family)

Family values. Virtue. Spirituality. I have a lot to learn (and so does my dictionary). For example, as I understand virtue now, even the Duke Lacrosse team (Duke sucks) is virtuous.

mercredi, avril 05, 2006

And of Course in the Photos She Looks Neither Congressional Nor Supermodelish


This never should have happened for two reasons.

First, the guard should have known she was a Congresswoman.

Second, she should not have hit the guard. As my wonderful TinyE would tell you – “no hitting!”
One thing I remember well from my days as an intern on Capitol Hill is the availability of little books that have a picture of every single elected official within them. The books are popular among staffers and interns and pages, among guards and the little subway train conductors because they keep you from committing the cardinal sin of not recognizing an elected official when you see one. The last thing you want to do if you operate the little train thingy is pull away while mockishly waving at Bill Frist. In fact, the first thing you want to do is kick someone off the train to make room for Bill Frist. The first move gets you fired. The second move gets any social security wrinkles that your dear Aunt Martha is having cleaned right up - post haste and with retroactive remuneration.

Senators tend to be easy to spot. They dress like Senators, and they are usually with people. The act like Senators, and they almost always have some little pin on or another. If that's not a good clue, they often are carrying a glass of wine, pinching someone's butt, or carrying a bag of cash. Congressmen and women are tougher. Sometimes they dress more casually than staffers do. And, well, there are about 435 of them. Their bags of cash can be very small - small enough to fit in a pocket.

But part of the guard’s job is to know the elected officials when he sees them. Shame on him.

And so, you’re an elected official, and you go unrecognized and then you get grabbed by a guard in post 9/11 America. What do you do?

a. say “unhand me immediately” and get the guard’s name from his badge, mispronounce it horribly, and then remember it for “reassignment” purposes;

b. hit that s.o.b. with all you got and end up all over CNN and Newsweek looking muy, very, tres, unCongresional;

c. ignore it - you've got a deficit to reduce; or

d. take the high road, explain who you are and kindly let guard know what your expectations are for future meetings.

A big part of being a Congresswoman is looking the part. When you go the diva route and hit someone, well then you’re not really looking like a Congressman*. You’re looking more like a Supermodel.

Oh, and by the way, the answer is "A."

*Unless the person you hit is either (a) a staffer (critical - must be one of your own staffers!), (b) another elected official (especially if he or she is at the state or local level) or (c) a terrorist.

mardi, avril 04, 2006

Movie Review "ATL"

On some Saturday nights, Mrs. Duf and I get a sitter and sneak off to see a movie. Sometimes this is a well-planned affair – we know we are going to see a certain movie at a certain theater at a certain time. Other times we go to a movie close to our sitter and see what’s showing that might tickle our fancy. On such nights, timing is everything.

It can be a great way to see a film. Sometimes you see a movie that you know little about and you leave pleasantly surprised. Last year, we saw a wonderful movie called “The Jacket” basically because it was showing at the right time.

On Saturday, we went to the movies planning to see either “V for Vendetta” or “Tsotsi” but “Tsotsi” wasn’t showing at the theater we picked. We missed the early show for “V for Vendetta” and didn’t want to stay out too late. So, instead, we saw “ATL.”

Going in with no expectations, somehow I still left disappointed. I would describe the movie as a period piece except that it’s set in present time. I’ll admit that the roller rink played a role in throwing me off there, even as I know that skating is as hot now as it evah was. Somehow, the movie has a naïveté and optimism to it that makes it a better fit for times gone by. Forgive my cynicism, but I don’t think Atlanta is as laid back and innocent as this film makes it out to be. At one point in the script, the character nicknamed “Esquire” decries the urine soaked halls of the projects. Trust me when I tell you, there are no visual depictions of those grim realities in "ATL."

So, left with no other option, I would say ATL is a coming-of-age story. The film involves one protagonist with his three primary friends, all of whom are on the brink of graduating from high school. The story is set against the backdrop of a skating competition, and as the four youths are preparing for the competition, they're also preparing for life: one is applying to “an Ivy League school,” one is trying to find a restaurant job that feels right, one is trying to figure out what he wants to do in life, and one is just trying to graduate (after a couple of attempts). The protagonist has a girlfriend and they end up with a conflict.

There are some great performances in the film, and there are a number of moments with levity and great humor. I was charmed by it much of the time, and I would rather see “ATL” than do any number of other things that are easily less rewarding/satisfying. I didn't hate it; it's just that I didn't like it either.

What makes “ATL” disappointing is your wait for something grand to happen never really pays off. Dramatic tension comes in the form of a lie of omission (someone didn’t tell someone something that they probably should have told them; that same someone allowed the other someone to labor in a false impression and did not correct it). Some omissions are worth the wait (see e.g. “The Crying Game”) and others are not (see e.g., “ATL”). As I said to Mrs. Duf as we were exiting the movie house, “a movie really needs dramatic tension.” Call me overly devoted to the notion of conflict and denouement, but ATL doesn’t really have either. Even the skate off is a really big disappointment (after you see “ATL” you’ll know what I mean).

And worst of all, you expect the soundtrack to be absolutely bumpin’(ATL is a bumpin’ town - the town that put the dirty in "the Dirty South," and Big Boi of Outkast turns in a very nice supporting performance), but after leaving, the only track that survives in my memory is a song that really was really more like slam poetry, and it is easy to recall because it plays at a central time in the story.

My advice? Throw "ATL" in your Netflix queue (you'll lose nothing for not seeing it at your googaplex), and watch it on a rainy day…go into it expecting very little and you might leave only mildly disappointed.

lundi, avril 03, 2006

The National Immigration Debate

It finally happened over the weekend.

I heard an average citizen interviewed about the immigration conversation underway across the nation.

She said “immigrants are dirty, and they have diseases.” Yep, it was right on NPR.

At last, and intelligent viewpoint that eschews the low road and emotion to have a rational discussion on the best approach.

So, we have 11 million or so people here who should not be here. If I understand the conservative argument, it goes a little something like this (hit it):

Immigrants cost us money
They often work illegally (for cash sometimes)
Immigrants are dirty and carry diseases
They consume social services
Immigrants are a threat to our safety
English is our national language!!!
Xenophobia + Homophobia = Republican Majority

Here’s my take on the whole thing.

The immigrants we’re talking about are largely from the Americas.
They are here doing jobs many of us do not want.
They are the new wave of a long-standing tradition that has made America great.
Their children inherit a greater future by being here.
Even excluding practical considerations (how WOULD we remove 11 million people?), the removal of 11 million people from our workforce would shock our economy.
There is no merit to the claim that if the 11 million left then their jobs would go to Americans. Deep down we all know that we have entire industries (meat packing, some agriculture, cleaning, fast food and others) that are either propped up by or exclusively staffed by hard-working men and women who were not born in the United States and aren't exaclty here by persmission.

Three quick anecdotes…

First, on Friday I was watching 20/20 or some such show the topic of which was “up from nothing.” It was ridiculous in many ways (Jon Bon Jovi was said to be up from nothing because he grew up in a home (his family owned) in a working class neighborhood! – hardly nothing) but not without merit. One family featured two Mexican immigrants who supported three children by collecting recyclables at night. Their eldest child attended M.I.T. and is now an Engineer at Raytheon. The middle child went to UC Santa Clara and is in an Executive Training program for a national car rental company. The youngest child is at another UC school and seems destined for success. This family used no social services, even after the parents lost factory jobs.

The second is from my days as a pizza delivery driver. At the end of some shifts I would take our cooks home. All the delivery drivers did it. In exchange, the national pizza company I worked for would give me a few bucks, and the cook would usually give me what they would have paid for a bus ride. There was no refusing it. Believe me, I tried. I always enjoyed giving those rides, struggling to speak Spanish to wonderful hard-working, amazing people who struggled to speak English to me in reply.

The third is about a remarkable woman – Santos Marina who cleans our office suite every day. She is uniformly admired by everyone who works here, and she is teaching me conversational Spanish. She does not speak English, but she is learning. I’m not 100% sure she is here “legally.” In fact, I’m pretty sure she isn’t. I know she sends money home to Honduras to help her family there. I know that on days when work is kicking my teeth in, her smile and “Buenos dios” can improve my outlook quite a bit.

All of these are anecdotal and would have very little value for the national debate, but I hope they will humanize the conversation a bit. The couple from 20/20, the cooks that I worked with when I was a pizza delivery driver, and Santos Marina…well, they’re all folks that I’d like to stay here with us. My guess is that within the 11 million there are the good, the bad and the ugly. But I’d guess further that, on the whole, we’re better off with them than we would be without them.