Sunday, December 14, 2014

First NAFTA, now amnesty; the American worker is being traded away

Part of the narrative the White House is trying to establish around the president’s executive amnesty is that it will ultimately help the American worker.

“One way that the president can generate results for the American people is to take this kind of common sense substantive action that would be good for the economy,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. Reports have also cited estimates by Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, that the amnesty will generate 160,000 new jobs and add $2.5 billion in tax revenue. Others claim even greater numbers.

So, in an era of high unemployment, growing welfare rolls and a ballooning federal deficit we’re supposed to believe that adding millions of low skilled workers will help the economy? Sorry, but folks in Alabama have heard something like this before, and we have the shuttered textile mills and their forgotten workers to remind us that it isn’t true.

“In 1994…President Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, which promised to be a boon to an already struggling American working class by, somehow, creating a greater demand for American goods,” wrote Alabama author Rick Bragg in his book, “The Most They Ever Had.”

The book tells the story of a once thriving textile mill in Calhoun County, Alabama, through the eyes of the community that watched it die a slow, sputtering death partly due to the trade agreement. Then, as now, our leaders promised that our workers would thrive after the deal.

“Instead, American jobs poured south to third-world plants where workers drew drinking water from ditches and lived in squatter communities beside hastily constructed industrial parks that stank of open sewers and human suffering,” Bragg wrote. “It had seemed, to even the most unlettered working man, such a fool’s bargain, a governmental gutting of the industry in a time when it was already dying."

The central planners got it wrong, as they often do, and someone else paid the price.

Bragg wrote that economists “with straight faces” then told the blue collar mill workers to “retrain for jobs in computer programming, radiology, or hotel management.”

Bragg’s book isn’t about amnesty or economic theory, but it does a remarkable job of showing how working families are impacted -- for good and bad -- by sweeping government decisions. It should be recommended reading for every politician and political aide, liberal or conservative, so they’ll remember the people who they’re working for.

Amnesty may be good for illegal aliens, but it’s a raw deal for the American worker.

“There are many out-of-work Americans who want and need the jobs now being held by illegal aliens,” reads a report titled “Amnesty and the American Worker” from the Federation for American Immigration Reform. The report confronts a common misconception; that Americans aren’t willing to accept certain jobs.

“From housekeeping to meatpacking, food service to construction work, the native-born make up the majority of workers in these occupations. However, as the share of illegal aliens rises, jobs available to native workers become scarce, and their wages and work conditions diminish.”

In fact, the federal government inadvertently gives employers an incentive to hire those under the White House’s amnesty plan rather than American workers.

“President Obama’s temporary amnesty … declares up to 5 million illegal immigrants to be lawfully in the country and eligible for work permits, but it still deems them ineligible for public benefits such as buying insurance on Obamacare’s health exchanges,” wrote Stephen Dinan in the Washington Times. “That means businesses who hire them won’t have to pay a penalty for not providing them health coverage -- making them $3,000 more attractive than a similar native-born worker, whom the business by law would have to cover.”

I understand it’s now a global economy, and that we must also be compassionate to the less fortunate. But twenty years ago we sent our jobs down there, and now they’re sending their workers up here.

Meanwhile, against all evidence and common sense we’re supposed to believe these trades are good for our economy, our families and our communities. I’m not buying it. It wasn’t good for our economy then, and it isn’t good for our economy now.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

‘Interstellar’ shows why Alabama should keep reaching for the stars

A few decades ago, visitors driving into Huntsville were greeted by a colorful roadside billboard boldly proclaiming that they had just entered the “space capital of the universe.”
That sounds like a bit of an exaggeration, doesn’t it? Sure, the city had a lot to be proud of during those early years of space exploration -- Werner Von Braun’s headquarters, Jupiter rockets, Atlas boosters and such -- but declaring universal dominance, literally, is perhaps a little audacious.  
But maybe audacity is exactly what’s needed to reach the stars, and a new film from Christopher Nolan might be just what’s needed to inspire it. “Interstellar” shows how love and fear finally push mankind to undertake an unpopular, unproven and risky leap into the universe.  
Matthew McConaughey plays an astronaut-turned-farmer in a future where a crop disease has decimated our food supply. Nations are struggling to feed their citizens amid a global dust bowl. Governments have cast aside extravagances like research and development in favor of necessities like food and water. But along the way mankind turned its back on the stars, science and ultimately, its own potential.  
“We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars,” McConaughey’s character says from the porch of his farmhouse. “Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”
The story takes off from there, taking viewers on an exploration of mind-bending theoretical astrophysics and the familiar complexities of the human heart. While it’s certainly an entertaining ride full of stunning visuals, there are some important lessons to be learned, and about more than just time dilation and worm holes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Senator Jeff Sessions is now a man with a plan

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions has long been the conservative movement’s voice in the lawless wilderness that is our nation’s immigration system.
“What Jeff Sessions is doing is what the Republican Party at large should be doing,” conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said last summer, days after saying “God bless him” for the senator’s work to secure our nation’s borders.
In 2006, Sessions spoke against the Republican-backed bill that would have granted amnesty to millions of illegal aliens before securing the border they so easily crossed. He then spent the next few years trying to get our federal government to enforce existing immigration laws.
In 2013, Sessions spoke against the Democrat-backed bill that would have also granted amnesty before securing the border, and in the process became, as the National Journal put it, “the loudest voice in Washington opposing President Obama’s immigration policies.” The friendly yet resolute senator has been successful despite being in an era when Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., stripped the minority of their long-held procedural rights. In short, Sessions won even when he held no power.
In 2015, everything will change when Republicans take control of the Senate and Sessions becomes chairman of the powerful Senate Budget Committee and a senior member of the majority controlling the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sessions will no longer be a voice in the political wilderness. He’ll be a man with a plan to stop President Barack Obama’s planned executive order granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Remaining faithful to Christian teaching doesn't make you a bigot

Last month Apple CEO Tim Cook took the occasion of his induction into the Alabama Academy of Honor to draw an analogy between the civil rights movement and the gay rights movement.

"As a state we took too long to take steps toward equality, and once we began, our progress was slow -- too slow on equality for African-Americans ... and still too slow for equality for the LGBT community," said Cook, a native of Robertsdale, Alabama.

The comparison is popular among gay rights advocates, but is it fair? That depends. If they're making it against the state and the vile motivation of hatred, then yes. If they're making it against the church and the virtuous motivation of faithfulness, then no. Some are attacking both, of course. Author John Shore takes the civil rights analogy further and targets what many believe is the source of the bigotry Cook referenced - traditional Christianity.

"If you vote against gay marriage or gay rights, you are a bigot -- as surely as anyone who voted against civil rights in the 60s was a bigot," Shore wrote in the Huffington Post. "If you preach against gay rights, you are a bigot ... If you give your money or time to any Christian church or ministry that you know in any way actively works to restrict or limit gay rights, you are a bigot."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What's On Your Nightstand?

A few days ago I was walking through my bedroom and happened to notice the striking difference in the books that my wife and I were reading. 

Here's the picture from our nightstands ... guess who was reaching which book? 

This wasn't really an anomaly. It's a typical representation of what you can find on our nightstands during any given week. My wife (the saint that she is) tends to read things that are meant to improve her life somehow, while I read things that scare the heck out of me.

Believe it or not, we're still a pretty good pair.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pictures Climate Change Proponents Don’t Show

Stories about man-made abrupt climate change are usually accompanied by pictures of all sorts of terrible things: burnt crops due to drought, a lonesome polar bear without a home due to melting ice, and the erosion of coastline due to rising sea levels, among a variety of other calamities. The line of thinking goes something like this: "See this awful picture of this awful thing caused by this awful global warming caused by all those awful can you not believe in climate change?" But they'll never show you any pictures that don't fit their politically-driven narrative. We have to find and share those ourselves.

Earlier this month I visited by hometown of Mobile, Alabama, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and took my children to the nearby barrier island -- Dauphin Island. I’ve read several stories about parts of the island eroding, mostly toward the western end that has always been skinny and full of expensive beach houses. The stories often show some million-dollar house that now sits uncomfortably close to the shore -- thanks to global warming, of course. But as most global warming skeptics believe, climate is cyclical and while one area may erode, another may gain.

The first picture shown here is taken from a postcard of Dauphin Island's public pier several decades ago. Notice the location of the Gulf of Mexico -- under the pier, of course. I remember walking to the end of that pier when I was a little boy, lowering nets off the side into deep water and pulling up dozens of blue crabs. Ah, the good old days.
Dauphin Island Pier -- then

The rest of the pictures were taken during my recent visit to the island. Notice the location of the Gulf of Mexico -- not under the pier!

Dauphin Island Pier - now
The beach has grown several hundred yards south, well past the end of the old wooden structure. Over the past few years a sometimes-submerged sandbar has migrated north and combined with the island's beach. Some historians say it’s the way the island looked when French explorers first came there a few hundred years ago. I bet that the western end was just as skinny then as it is now. Again, a cyclical pattern.

Dauphin Island Pier - now
But global warming believers don't want to look at the full picture, seeing how one side grows while the other side shrinks. They'll only look at whatever proves their point, and ignore the rest.
Dauphin Island Pier - now
The start of the coast line today, far away from the end of the pier

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Speaking about man-made climate change on ClimateWire

ClimateWire recently published a three-part series reporting on global warming and its alleged impacts along the Gulf Coast, with a special focus on my hometown -- Mobile, Alabama.

The journalist -- Daniel Cusick -- did a pretty good job (I knew him from back in my newspaper days). In three very detailed stories he reported all sides fairly, I think, and showed how this isn't just an international or national issue, but very much a local one.

Here's the section where I appear in the first story, which is titled "Ala., which has much at risk from climate change, argues it doesn't exist":
The state (Alabama) also has its share of climate skeptic political pundits.
J. Pepper Bryars, a Huntsville-based writer and former press secretary and speechwriter to Alabama's previous governor, Bob Riley, has cited Christy's work in a handful of op-eds written for the state's major news outlets. He has characterized climate scientists and activists who adhere to warming theories as being "more like Nostradamus staring down into a bowl of water" than "Galileo peering through a telescope."
In an email exchange with ClimateWire, Bryars laid out his views more fully, including some caveats that give credence to the known effects of climate change in the state but ultimately dismissing the science behind it.
"Skeptics of man-made abrupt climate change aren't questioning thermometers or yardsticks. Temperature and sea-level measurements taken in the past and present are facts that we don't dispute," he said.
"However, we're skeptical of future predictions based on computer models that have been proven inaccurate, especially when the proposed remedies sound a lot like long-held political goals of the far left: transfers of wealth via cap-and-trade schemes, greater government control over production and consumption, and regulation over sovereign democracies by non-elected international bodies of supposed experts."
The next article in ClimateWire's series focused on the small barrier island off the coast of Mobile County -- Dauphin Island. It's a great little fishing village, with the same soft white sands of Panama City Beach and Destin but without all of the crowds. It still has the feel of a small town, which it is. For years some of the island's beaches have been eroding, though, and many blame global warming.

The article is titled "Ala.'s Dauphin Island meets 'Years of Living Dangerously,'" and here's the part where I'm quoted:
But there are others in Alabama who view Dauphin Island's fate on different terms and who believe any relationship between the island's slow destruction and climate change is an abstract scientific theory looking for a landscape to fit its fuzzy assumptions.
Such arguments, made by residents like Mobile native J. Pepper Bryars, a former press secretary and speechwriter for Alabama's last governor, Bob Riley, in a recent op-ed in the Mobile Press-Register is that barrier islands like Dauphin Island are ephemeral landscapes, where "every few years it shifts, shakes and remakes itself like Mother Nature's personal Etch-a-Sketch."
It's Mother Nature, not climate change
As for the role that human-induced climate change has in aiding that process, Bryars and like-minded Alabamians remain deeply skeptical.
They point to data compiled by Christy, the state climatologist, that show Alabama's climate has experienced only modest warming over the last half-century and that extreme weather events happen with no greater frequency or intensity than they ever did.
"Why are the changes and threats any different from past decades? Global warming advocates usually rely on two arguments: There's been a lot of bad weather lately, and the computer models show it's only getting worse," Bryars wrote.
"But is that accurate, at least on a global scale? No," he added.
In a subsequent email exchange, Bryars acknowledged that "parts of Dauphin Island may be in greater danger of erosion that they were a few decades ago, but how about a few centuries ago? We must understand that the shoreline now wasn't what Mother Nature made 500 years ago, and it won't be what she makes 500 years from now, either."
On the question of beach nourishment, Bryars added, "We may win, but it may come at a great cost. Residents and taxpayers will have to weigh the gains, risks and costs as the battle continues."
Again, I think Climatewire did a fine job with the series. Sure, they have a perspective on the issue, as most well-informed people do (especially journalists), but to their credit the reporter and editors certainly allowed me plenty of room to make my point.