Sunday, October 19, 2003

Immigration Secrets

The crisis of illegal immigration will not go away by denial or more airport inspections of my birkenstock sandals. There are some not-so-secret agendas at work that touch both sides of the political spectrum. Let's focus on the crisis in the Southwest. Thousands are crossing over from Mexico each year. Here are some of the "secrets":

Conservative agribusiness and manufacturing owners like the present situation - in ensures low-cost labor and happy consumers.

Liberal political groups see present and potential voters beholden to their socioeconomic policies.

Radical groups are pandered to in Mexico and on US college campuses, dreaming of a future "bronze nation" and conveniently forgetting the oppression, slavery and human sacrifice of the Pre-Columbus era.

Some overzealous "patriots" want to seal the borders and create a Fortress America where the "good old days" (that never were) can be restored.

The "secret list" could go on for pages. What should we do?

The following questions will make no extremist happy, but perhaps the thoughtful among our nation can begin a movement toward 21st century sanity.

First, can we agree that the words "legal' and "illegal" need to matter, or the rule of law is in jeopardy? Should driver's licenses and significant benefits and opportunities be offered to only to legal residents, and not proffered for cheap votes?

Second, will we muster the wisdom to create a real guest worker program that regulates and releases people to come and work without fear and without all the same privileges as citizens?

Third, will we honestly confront history? Will the conservatives among us admit that The USA grew into a continental power through warfare against the Native Americans and Mexicans? Will the liberal consider that the way forward is not destroying the present borders, but creating mutual understanding, trade and cultural exchanges that allow the US, Indian nations and Mexico to cooperate without the loss of sovereignty?

The way forward requires moral courage. If we want to rid our hearts and land of prejudice and xenophobia, we must find guiding principles that will continue to allow the USA to be a beacon of hope.

Next time: The Bambino and Billy Goat Curses - How the Red Sox and Cubs can finally win.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Post-Recall Realities - After the Party

This is an unusual year. Both the Red Sox and the Cubs have a chance to play in the World Series. They will probably break our hearts, but you never know...the curses of the Bambino and Billy Goat may be lifted.

California offers the world another actor-turned-politician. Let's see...George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, Fred Thompson (oops, he is from Tennessee!)...and now - Arnold Schwartzenegger.

What happened? Is it all a right-wing conspiracy funded by Enron? Maybe it is a deep-cover operation orchestrated by the Left to discredit Gray Davis' replacement. Or maybe, just maybe, the leaders of the recall tapped into a raw nerve of frustration. Recalling the entire state legistlature was not feasible. Davis, like a baseball manager of a losing team, takes the fall for a system subverted by short-sightedness and corruption.

What is next for Arnold and California? Gridlock? More cliches and posturing? Or is there an opportunity for the powers in Sacramento to make wise decisions for the future?

The post-recall realities are just as harsh as the pre-recall ones. Bloated budgets, infrastructure crises, immigration controversies and the climate for economic growth remain paramount issues obscured by politically-correct social legistlation (driver's licenses for illegal residents and domestic partner laws deserve real thought, not just impassioned polemics) and backroom deal making with casino owners on the Left and agribusiness on the Right.

There are two guiding thoughts that should inform the way forward for California. The first is the fact that individual Californians must bear most of the responsibility for the current crises. Voters elect politicians, feed off the pork passed into law and abuse benefit programs. Voters make bad economic decisions (dot-bomb) and then expect the government to rescue them. The solution? A call to personal integrity, sacrifice and community support.

The second thought is derived from the first - government administration must be made efficient and excellent, delivering necessary service is a cost-effective way. We CAN cut money from a variety of programs without cutting essential services, if we are willing to take on certain entrenched powers, like public employee unions and some educational establishments.

Do teachers deserve more money and smaller classes? Yes, if they teach well and we cut administrative overhead. Do we need improved parks, roads and sewers? Yes, if the process is streamlined and fewer "boards" are involved. Should all qualified students have a shot at college? Yes, if we focus on programs and schools that educate broadly and well. Even though I have a humanities background and am a champion of academic freedom, I do not think my tax dollars need to fund the political agenda of academic elites who are still living in the late 1960s.

Personal responsibility and administrative efficiency are not popular solutions, but they are essential to the future of our state.

Next week - The Immigration Crisis

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Unholy War - Is There Hope for the Middle East?

The violence in the Holy Land seems unrelenting. A suicide bomb kills Jewish civilians. An Israeli military strike follows. Radical Islamic groups swear "Death to the Zionists" and Israel vows to fight for her survival.

Meanwhile, the American "Road Map" for a two-state Palestine is in tatters and European nations begrudgingly acknowledge that Hamas may be a terrorist organization. Waves of Anti-Semitic propaganda and violence grow in the West and the politically-correct in the academy and the media ask for balance, fairness and understanding concerning the plight of all parties.

History is helpful for stimulating hope...Or at least giving us a more objective view of the present and the possibilities for the future.

In the mid-19th century both religious and secular leaders began to dream and plan for a safe Jewish homeland in Palestine, which was under the oversight of the aging Ottoman Empire. Small Jewish groups began legally purchasing and painstakingly transforming the land, with at least the tacit approval of some Arab and Turkish leaders.

In 1917 the Balfour Declaration offered England's support for a Jewish homeland. This would be abrogated less than 20 years later in light of Arab pressure.

Competing claims for the land, Arab rivalries, British waffling and local outbursts of Arab and Jewish violence made the 1920s and 1930s challenging days indeed. Jewish groups continued lobbying, Arab nations vied for control and geopolitical events conspired to delay the homeland issue until after World War II.

The Holocaust created enormous pressure for a Jewish Homeland. The United Nations, led by the USA and the Soviet Union, created two states, Israel and Jordan, during the momentous days of 1947-1948.

Four wars (1948-49, 1956, 1967 and 1973) and one long "intifada" later, peace is still elusive.

Israel traded land for peace with Egypt in 1978, returning the Sinai and agreeing to Palestinian autonomy.

The Oslo Accords offered the Palestinians a pathway to statehood.

The American "Road Map" pleases no one completely, but it offers yet again another two-state solution.

It is 2003.

Is there any way forward?

Yes, but only if every side shows courage and perseverance.

A Palestinian leader must unequivocally affirm Israel's legitimacy.

New Jewish settlements on potential Palestinian land must be stopped from expanding.

A joint Israeli-Palestinian Task Force must be mobilized to quell the violence and arrest the leaders of any group that vows to subvert peace.

The good offices of the US, Russia and the EU should play a supportive role.

Arab nations who support peace must come forward and offer economic aid so that both states can resettle populations and create viable economies.

These are first steps. The real issues are moral courage for the Palestinians, patience for the Israelis and support from the West.

Next week - California Chaos - Post-Recall Realities