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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Playing the "Plus" in CRM Plus: Why Vote Democratic

I called this blog "CRM Plus" to give myself the space to write about things other than "cultural resource management," but haven't heretofore taken advantage of that flexibility. Now I will. I recently posted a note on Facebook asking anyone who was even thinking of voting Republican in the forthcoming election to give me the chance to talk them out of it. Only one person did so; I'll not reveal his or her identity; suffice to say that he or she is a law enforcement professional. Below, for whatever interest it may have for any of my faithful (or other) readers, is what I sent him or her.

Since I did my Facebook posting inviting anyone thinking of voting Republican to give me a chance to talk them out of it, and you (and only you) took me up on it, I guess the ball’s in my court and I’d better put up. Let’s see…..

Let’s start with something you and I discussed not long ago – immigration. You told me a story about stopping a vanload of obvious illegal immigrants en route to a distribution point, and being unable to do anything about it because dealing with them was reserved to the feds. That convinced me that there was justification in Arizona’s attempt to empower/require its police force to deal with illegals. Whether it’s constitutional for the state to do so is another matter, but I think we agree that something needs to be done, and that the federal government hasn’t yet done much. OK; I’ll also volunteer that I think one of the few smart things G.W. Bush proposed as president was an immigration policy including a guest worker program. But the Republicans never supported that, and now can’t propose anything but higher walls and more firepower along the border. That’s not going to do the job; the Romans and the Chinese and the French all learned that walls and troops along their borders don’t stop folks who really want to get in. We ought to profit from their education.

So what would work? I think it’s painfully obvious. Why are people risking and often losing their lives crossing the deserts to work here? Two related reasons. First, there are too many of them in their home countries – too many mouths to feed. Second, there aren’t enough jobs at home to make it feasible to feed everybody. How to fix this? Support population control and economic development in the countries from which illegal immigrants come. Do Democrats, on the whole, support such things? Yes. Do Republicans do so? Hell no; Republicans consistently want to cut foreign aid and prohibit our aid agencies from even talking to people about family planning.

Before you even say it, I know that promoting economic development and family planning in other countries isn’t going to solve the illegal immigration problem quickly; it’s a long-term strategy. In the meantime we need things like guest worker programs and probably amnesty for people already here, and some way for police forces not to have their hands tied in dealing with illegal immigrants. But those are all band-aids. We ought to be looking for long-term solutions as well as doing the best short-term fixes we can. At least some Democrats are willing to consider such things; Republicans have forbidden themselves even to contemplate them.

Let’s talk about drugs. Here again I think there are some obvious ways to bring drug abuse and drug-related crime under control. We ought to learn the lesson of Prohibition; decriminalize the use of at least the common “recreational” drugs, regulate their use the way we regulate the use of alcohol, and tax it. Undercut the cartels, stop stuffing the jails with relatively inoffensive “criminals,” bring in some revenue. Is this a perfect solution? Of course not, but it makes a whole lot more sense than the utterly mad arrangement we have now. Is it at least possible that Democrats would entertain such ideas? Yes. Republicans? Individual Republicans, sure, but as a body? Nope; the only thing the Republican Party can offer is to build more jails, contract with questionable private firms to run them, and lock lots more people up.

Then there’s the economy. It wasn’t really that long ago that the federal budget was showing a surplus, and the national debt was shrinking. That was an achievement of the Clinton administration, fighting back from years of tax cuts for the rich during the Reagan and Bush Senior years. Eight years of Bush Junior, more tax cuts, profligate spending, and blind deregulation of Wall Street, and the Obama administration comes in faced by a staggering debt, two wars to fight, and a meltdown of the stock market, housing market, and practically every other market around. They’ve had less than two years to fix all this and are making progress. Have they done everything right? Certainly not; whoever does? But they’ve tried, and they’ve had some success. What have the Republicans done? Sniped, whined, and tried – effectively, it sadly appears – to convince the electorate that our economic distress is Obama’s problem, that things would be better if we just cut upper-tier taxes some more.

How about health care? Is there some reason the World Health Organization ranks the U.S. health care system #37 in the world (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVgOl3cETb4)? Other than that they’re all internationalist commies? Maybe there’s a problem? Maybe we should try to fix it? Again, the bill passed last year may not be the best approach in the world (I don’t think it was; I’d like to see single-payer), but it was what could be done, an exercise of the art of the possible. What would the Republicans prefer? Maybe a nice comfortable slip to number 47, as long as the upper crust can afford privileged treatment.

I could go on and on, but let me wind up with a subject close to my heart – the environment, impact assessment, and regulation. I’m frankly mad as hell at the way the Obama administration has dealt with the environment. They’ve gotten railroaded into backing every cockamamie “green energy” scheme that’s come along, and as a result are bending the environmental impact assessment laws into pretzels to expedite putting up solar fields and wind farms – in the process screwing over some of the most pristine environments on the continent. And even when confronted with the Deepwater Horizon disaster they couldn’t be moved to pursue ways to fix the obvious flaws in the impact assessment and regulatory regime in anything like a systematic way. They’ve renamed agencies and set up study commissions instead. But we’ve hardly seen the Republicans doing better – remember the notion that we should all apologize to BP for being so mean to them?

OK, enough. I think it’s a no-brainer; the Democrats are far, far from perfect, but the Republicans, to be charitable, are nuts. If they’re not nuts, there’s nothing I can say about them that wouldn’t be libelous.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

HR 5282 Needs Support in the U.S. Senate

HR 5282 would provide long-term support to the Veterans Curation Project, a Corps of Engineers project that trains wounded veterans in curation skills and helps them find work and/or encourages them to continue/resume their education. It addresses two needs -- the need for such veterans to develop marketable and intellectually stimulating skills, and the need to get federal and other archaeological/archival collections properly cared for. It's been in existence for a couple of years and already it's highly successful, with a high percentage of its graduates finding work and/or enrolling in college. Informal interviews with participants even suggests that the work may have direct therapeutic effects in handling PTSD. But the Corps money will run out soon. HR 5282 would provide longer-term funding, perhaps long enough to enable the program to become self-supporting.

HR 5282 has passed the House, but has no sponsors at all in the Senate. I've urged Maryland's Senators Mikulski and Cardin to become its champions in the Senate, and I hope they will, but anyone who's concerned about wounded veterans and/or the care of collections ought to consider asking their Senators to do the same.

For the text of the bill and its current status, see http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c111:4:./temp/~c111RV8i2E::

Monday, October 18, 2010

Apologies to New Orleans

My good friend Chris Goodwin has quite properly taken me to task for the flip comment about New Orleans in my last post. Chris emphasizes the city's and region's overwhelming cultural, historical, and economic importance and very justly criticizes me for slandering it by suggesting that it's a lost cause. He argues that New Orleans is coming back and will be a stronger city than ever in the wake of its recent traumas.

I do apologize for any offense. My comment was a thoughtless one. It was driven by my unhappy belief that in the long -- and maybe not very long -- run we are not going to be able to do anything about global warming and the sea level rise that goes with it, so low-lying cities like New Orleans (to say nothing of the Pacific atolls to which I have attachments not unlike those Chris feels toward the Big Easy) are doomed. I'm not happy about that; I don't think it's a good thing, but I think it's a bullet we are probably going to have to bite and ought to be planning for. But for the sake of those whose roots or hearts lie in the bayous, along with the people of the atolls, San Francisco, Miami and Hong Kong, among many, many other places, I hope I'm wrong. Thanks, Chris.