Robert X. Cringely Rant

Robert X. Cringely tells it like it is re Congress’ recent stupid action.  But there have been so many lately!  From the essay:

Last Saturday the United States Congress passed a port security bill that carried an amendment banning Internet gambling. This was a huge mistake, not because Internet gambling is a good thing (it was already illegal, in fact), but because the new law is either unenforceable or — if it can be enforced — will tear away the last shreds of financial privacy enjoyed by U.S. citizens.

Ironically, many of the senators who voted for this legislation may not have even known the gambling bill was attached, since it didn’t appear in the officially published version of the port bill. But such ignorance is common in Congress, along with a smug confidence that people and institutions can be compelled to comply with laws

the new law isn’t really against Internet gambling at all, since it specifically authorizes intrastate Internet gambling, imposing on the net the artificial constraint of state boundaries. So the law that is supposed to end Internet gambling for good will actually make the practice more common, though evidently out of the hands of foreigners

Once again, Congress is proposing to regulate something it ought not to — something that in any practical sense is probably beyond its power. And the result will be only bad, not good. And Congress’s response will probably be even more regulation, not less. And all this to push one man’s presidential ambitions?

There ought to be a law against THAT.

Tacking these sorts of amendment onto bills of actual importance is an abhorent practice that serves only two purposes:  deception and blackmail.  I despise it and so should you.

That’s why I like Kay Bailey Hutchison so much

Dead Zone

The Internet is the most amazing tool of our time – or any time – for spreading information around.  But when it comes to person-to-person relationships it’s an emotional dead zone.

The first wired generation is beginning to realize that, while others have known it for some time.

Why blog, then?  Not to connect emotionally, but perhaps intellectually.  To put some data out there and hope that it resonates.  Perhaps to shake loose some votes for a better class of politician.  To influence, then, but not to love, not in the frigid binary void.

Consider:  The most striking on-line image, the coolest special effect fades to insignificance when compared to the electric touch of a friend’s bare hand on your skin.  Think about it.  Log off.  Talk, don’t type.  Do it now.  Remember.

The Internet, an Emotional Dead Zone

The Internet is the most amazing tool of our time – or any time – for spreading information around.  But when it comes to person-to-person relationships it’s an emotional dead zone.

The first wired generation is beginning to realize that, while others have known it for some time.

Why blog, then?  Not to connect emotionally, but perhaps intellectually.  To put some data out there and hope that it resonates.  Perhaps to shake loose some votes for a better class of politician.  To influence, then, but not to love, not in the frigid binary void.

Consider:  The most striking on-line image, the coolest special effect fades to insignificance when compared to the electric touch of a friend’s bare hand on your skin.  Think about it.  Log off.  Talk, don’t type.  Do it now.  Remember.

Illegal Immigration, IV

As discussed previously, illegal immigration is (still) a crime in this country. While some would paint those in opposition to illegals as being mean-spirited, it’s really a question of cost to those of us who have to bear them.

There is also the much-discussed question of security, not from the migrant workers who are the bulk of illegal immigrants, but from those who might follow in their footsteps with dastardly agendas. As important as that issue may someday be, it is tangential to the problem of illegal immigration itself and won’t be discussed today.

The Three Big Issues of Illegal Immigration

Wages

The point of opposing illegal immigration, in case you missed it earlier, is not necessarily to deny these people work, at least not on principle alone. But the hard truth is that de-employing illegals is a desirable thing to do from the point of view of the American working man.

A lesson from Economics 101: More workers competing for the same jobs = lower wages. Simple.

The corollary to this rule is that workers displayed by illegals have the “opportunity” to compete for other jobs or start their own businesses. For some that can be a winning proposition. But for too many – remember we’re talking about folks at the bottom of the skill ladder here – losing a decent-paying job ends up being a ticket to the welfare line and/or bankruptcy. Even those that succeed have an ambivalent impact on the job situation as their success negatively impacts existing players in their segment of the job market.

It’s quite true that illegals’ effect on the job market isn’t something that’s simple to measure. It’s complex and complicated by human dynamics, but in general I believe the Econ 101 model holds when considered broadly.

Health Care

Before we got in trouble in Iraq, one used to hear and read news stories about the problem with the health care system in this country on an almost daily basis. It’s been well documented that our routine health care costs and benefits have fallen behind many other developed countries, so I won’t belabor that point here. While the U.S. has the best doctors, surgeons, and facilities in the world, most of us will never see those doctors. If we do it’s probably because our routine care system has failed us and we’re in serious trouble medically.

Given these problems (which admittedly I’ve glossed over but should be understood by most Americans), should illegal immigrants be allowed to burden an already sub-optimal system?

If one’s answer to this question is going to be heard, it has to be framed carefully. To state the truth bluntly invites a visceral reaction from many people, one that can involve accusations of elitism, cruelty, and racism, among others. (That language must be handled carefully is a sure sign that logic hasn’t prevailed in the debate to-date and that’s not a good thing.) So I’ll proceed as delicately as possible.

The fact is that, because of our semi-broken private insurance system, Americans already get far too much of our care in the emergency room. By the nature of their legal and often financial status, illegals are going to add directly to that problem almost person for person.

Here’s another simple equation for you: Illegal Immigration = No Insurance. No, it’s not true 100% of the time, but it is in the vast majority of the cases. Ergo, a significant portion of their health care is going to come from the E.R. almost by definition.

So should we turn them away from our hospitals and clinics? Sadly, I think the answer is yes. Removing the “right” to free health care would, as much or more than anything else we do, serve as a barrier to illegal immigration. On an individual, case-by-case basis it’s a cold, cruel policy. It is. There’s no denying that. But taken at a macro level it would be an effective one. A fair number of illegals would go home if the health care system rejected them. Fewer would come here in the future. In their home countries, the more people who are unhappy with the state of their health care would lead directly to the development of better facilities there.

Bi-lingual Education

Another semi-failing institution in the U.S. is our school system. Only the most woefully uninformed American can still believe that our schools are world-class. The evidence is quite clear and, in my opinion, indisputable. Read Tom Friedman’s “The World Is Flat” if you want a bone-chillingly direct look at the state of the world and Americans’ future in it.

There are too many issues to delve into in this article, but two related, ill-conceived notions stand out as relates to the problem of illegal immigration:

  1. Inclusion
  2. Bi-lingual Education

Inclusion is a code word that makes what I call feel-good sense to some people. According to the principal of inclusivity, we must place all students, regardless of ability, in the same classrooms so that no one feels left out. According to the theory, the better students can help and set a good example for the ones of lesser ability and/or interest. Inclusion is particularly directed at special needs cases: the mentally and physically impaired, those with learning and behavioral disorders, etc., but is also used to justify keeping bullies, druggies, football players, and other ne’er-do-wells in class with the few students who care about school.

For some, it is a top priority to have these categoies of children educated in the same rooms by the same teachers as the rest so their feelings aren’t hurt by not being put into the top class. That is their primary concern, not educational outcomes and not America’s place in the world.

At the risk of beginning a rant that I won’t finish, I have to say that this is complete nonsense. If you put an 7 A students, 7 C students, and 7 F students in a room with an average teacher (that she is under paid, under educated, and under supported by parents and administrators goes without saying – think “average”…), you’re not going to come out with 21 A students.

Neither will you come out with 10 A, 7 B, and 3 C students. What you’ll end up with is 2 B, 8 C, 8 D, and 2 F students, none of whom are capable of competing on an international level. This is something that I think has been demonstrated. Disagree? Look around. Where then are our doctors, rocket scientists, and engineers coming from? Not Houston ISD, not unless it’s Houston, India.

Special needs students need classrooms of their own and they need instructors trained specifically for the tasks they have to undertake to educate them. And they deserve no greater funding on a per capita basis than is given to the average student. It’s patently ridiculous for a teacher to spend 30% of her time with 2 special needs students while letting 20 average children twiddle their thumbs while she explains the intricacies of addition to the dumb jock for the 3rd time. Try running a relay race that way and see what happens. Or a business.

If anything, the best and brightest students should be culled from the herd in elementary school and given the best of everything – teachers, equipment, even food. These kids are the ones who are going to pay for our Social Security, not the burnout sniffing glue in the head between classes. But that will never happen. Somebody might be offended by the “discrimination”.

So how does this tie into illegal immigration? Simple. A majority of illegals can’t speak English well enough to function in ordinary society. They can only interact with a limited circle of like people. In many cases their children suffer from the same limitation. When they’re put into the education system, their intelligence isn’t an issue but their ability to communicate is. Because of their lack of language skills, they can’t perform at grade level and either don’t benefit from their experience or absorb an unreasonable amount of their educators’ time.

To the extent that their parents pay taxes and contribute to the funding of the school system, the children of illegals should be educated. But given that illegals pay very little in the way of school tax, their children are negative contributors to the resources of the schools they attend. They aren’t bad people, but they often serve as a drag on an already disfunctional system.

For those who may still be wondering, I believe that bi-lingual education is a terrible idea. For social integration purposes, it’s essential that we all speak the same language. This must be driven home as part of the educational process. It’s fine to celebrate Cinco de Mayo at home or after school, but during the day we need to be speaking English, learning the same things, and going in the same direction, not wallowing about in 5 different tongues.

In short, we should deny illegal immigrants and their children seats in our schools for the same reason as we should turn them away from our hospitals – to encourage them to stay at home and develop their own infrastructure. There’s no question in my mind that Mexico could become as well-educated a society as ours if their government would allow it and if their best stayed in Mexico instead of coming here.

Summary of These Issues

It’s important to consider that what may look like cruelty in the heat of the moment is actually what’s best in the long term. Taking these approaches would undoubtedly cause some illegal immigrants to come to harm. As unfortunate as that is, they are in our country illegally. They’ve come here as a shortcut to relative prosperity because they’ve given up on their own countries. But that’s not a good strategy for the future. Mexico, among other countries, need these people at home to build those countries up, not abandon them.

Short-term pain = long-term gain. It works and it’s the right thing to do. Convenient when the planets align, no?