Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Watch what you say

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The first amendment addresses all things pertaining to freedom of expression. As amendments go it seems somewhat cumbersome because it appears to have freedom of speech, press and religion all thrown together with the right to assemble and the right to petition. That does not diminish the importance of these rights. The fact of the matter is that this amendment is the cornerstone of our democratic republic. It’s sacred.

Nobody can be punished for exercising this right. People can’t be prohibited from expressing themselves. That’s why every year the KKK gets to hold rallies. There are some limits as to how one can express themselves but those limitations only apply when the rights of other people are infringed upon. When expression becomes harassment the first amendment has been abused.

However, there is no provision addressing the issue of public accountability. When you exercise your right to free expression you open yourself up to varies consequences. You can’t be imprisoned for exercising your rights but there a big difference between punishment and accountability.

In Columbus, Ohio racism doesn’t seem to be that big a problem. Mayor Mike Coleman enjoys tremendous popularity and he happens to be African American. He’s a career politician bent on climbing the political ladder so he is not nearly as effective as he should be but all things considered he is a decent mayor. He’s done a fair job and his administration’s only serious scandals have involved his alcohol dependent wife and even her struggles have been handled fairly. Nobody has passed undue judgment.

Columbus, however, is no racial utopia. Racism is alive and well. It’s practiced on a daily basis but it’s covert. White people in Columbus don’t have the guts to express their true feelings unless they believe they are in the company of like-minded people. In many ways this racism is worse than overt bigotry because it has evolved to survive the so-called politically correct era in which we live.

That’s why Susie Purtee comes as a surprise. Susie Purtee is a patrol officer for the Columbus Police Department. Recently WBNS and The Columbus Dispatch reported that Susie Purtee published some racially insensitive commentary on the internet with her sister. In this video rant Susie and her sister call themselves the “Subie Sisters” and discuss a variety of topics ranging from Jews to African Americans, to Hispanics. If there’s a problem it can be attributed to some filthy minority and the Subie Sisters explain how to make that connection with the intellectual savvy only inbred white trash can deliver. The fact that these two old war horses managed to post videos on the internet is quite a surprise. I would have pegged them as the opening act for Toby Keith.

Now Susie is a cop, a fact she believes makes her an authority on the state of affairs in the world today, which creates a public relations nightmare for the Columbus Police Department. It’s bad enough dealing with day to day complaints but now there is proof in streaming video that at least one cop on the payroll might be predisposed to prejudice. That places every case Susie Purtee has been involved with in doubt. City officials are reviewing the matter to see what action should be taken and the FOP has already stated that it supports Susie Purtee’s constitutional rights and will defend her if action is taken.

The problem is that Susie’s constitutional rights do not guarantee her continued employment. When you open your mouth you take your chances. I know that everything I publish on the internet can be reviewed by anybody at any time. I accept the fact that I can be held accountable for expressing my opinions in a public forum. That means my boss might not care for my thoughts on George W. Bush and subsequently fire me. My employment is not guaranteed under contract and even if it was there are ways to show cause. I’m a representative of my employer and my blogs could affect business if clients read them.

Police have to be held to a higher standard. They carry badges and guns. They have the ability to arrest people and enter private property. The constitutional measures that prohibit civil rights abuses by law enforcement officers are retroactive. Ultimately police are granted the authority to temporarily override the Bill of Rights. When a patrol officer asks to search your vehicle he is asking you to forfeit your rights but if you refuse he can claim exigent circumstances and conduct the search anyway. If that officer is Susie Purtee the exigent circumstances could be tied to ethnicity.

We can’t have racist cops. There’s too much at stake. A racist car salesman might not be inclined to throw in floor mats, a racist realtor might steer non-white buyers away from certain developments but a racist cop might shoot a black suspect when the similar white suspect would live to run another day. Not too long ago a warrant was served on a deranged Somali man living in Columbus. He refused to drop a knife that he was waving around and officers shot him dead. The shooting was justified but a few months later a white man was taken down with non-lethal stun guns. Race might not have been a factor but when somebody like Susie Purtee comes along you have to wonder.

Shame on the FOP for pledging support. There are too many good cops out there for the Fraternal Order to waste time defending the thugs, hooligans and bigots who besmirch the reputation of law enforcement. Instead of defending Purtee, the FOB should be lobbying to get her fired. The so-called “blue wall” is precisely why so many people lack respect for police. Americans don’t trust cops because they refuse to hold themselves to the higher standard their station demands. Susie Purtee’s rights are not being trampled.

When it comes to employment the only right we have is to pursue it. We have a right to be judged on our qualifications and our character. Potential employers aren’t supposed to allow race, gender or creed to affect the process but nobody is entitled to a job. You have to earn your living. Susie Purtee earned the privilege of working as a police officer because she passed all the tests and met all of the requirements but her continued employment is conditional. By publishing her racist views on the internet she brought shame upon her profession and betrayed the trust of the public she works for. She must be held accountable.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Vick's not worthy of NAACP support.

Wow! The Atlanta NAACP has asked the NFL to refrain from banning Michael Vick. Why? The NAACP is an important organization but throwing its support behind a man who made a conscientious decision to break the law only compromises its credibility in dealing with more substantial issues.

Michael Vick is not the victim of racial discrimination. He hasn’t been singled out or treated unfairly. It’s true that this story has garnered considerable attention but that’s not because Vick happens to be black; it’s because he’s one of the most marketed players in the NFL. The world was his oyster and he had a enough money for seconds. People are fascinated because Vick chose to throw it all away.

Vicks supporters, including teammates like Fred McCrary, insist he’s a good father and a fine man but do good men associate with known criminals? People bought and sold drugs in a house Vick owned because he allowed drug dealers to live there. Do good fathers slam dogs to the ground until they stop breathing? We all make mistakes but traveling around the country to participate in the felonious act of dog fighting isn’t an indiscretion, it’s a criminal lifestyle. Good fathers don’t end up in prison.

Animal cruelty is not as serious an offense as it should be. Realistically Vick will serve less than a year behind bars. He’ll be sentenced to more but post sentencing appeals and good behavior provisions will have him out in time to start the 2008 season. Virginia is considering state charges but Vick’s attorneys will fare much better in thwarting their efforts. The real penalty will come from the NFL.

The problem the NFL faces is twofold. On one hand they have the public relations disaster Michael Vick has created. Just when Roger Goodell thought he was getting the NFL’s image restored by punishing troublemakers like Chris Henry and Pacman Jones, the Vick saga unfolds and the NFL is suddenly taking a beating. Everybody is waiting to see how Goodell handles this high profile case. Suspending Chris Henry for eight games was easy, banning Pacman for a year was understandable but Vick was an officially licensed icon. What now?

Goodell wanted to wait for the courts to determine Vick’s fate but the specter of boycotts and protests forced him to put Michael Vick on administrative leave. At the time it looked as though Vick would be mired in a high-profile trial that was scheduled to start right after Thanksgiving. It was a distraction nobody wanted so Goodell put everything on ice. Now that Vick has agreed to plead guilty to felonious criminal activities the NFL must take action. The fact that Vick has been accused of virtually torturing dogs to death makes determining the course of that action decidedly difficult.

But it might be a moot point. The NFL has never had to address the issue of dog fighting but gambling is a subject sports league commissioners know all too well. Every sport at every level has rules that spell out stiff penalties for gambling and most of them end with the words lifetime ban. Vick’s activities included illegal gambling because numerous bets were placed the dogs. It doesn’t matter how much he bet or that the betting was limited to dog fighting. The fact that Vick participated in illegal gambling might warrant a significant suspension. With the recent gambling scandal in the NBA no league can afford to take these infractions lightly. So the NFL has an easy way out.

Aside from skin color the NAACP has no basis for getting involved on Michael Vick’s behalf. Unlike Genarlow Wilson, a high school kid thrown in prison for receiving oral sex, Vick knowingly committed the crimes he is going to plead guilty to. Playing in the NFL is a privilege Michael Vick revoked when he allowed himself to become a public relations nightmare. The NFL will lose millions of dollars in revenue thanks to Vick’s decision to break the law and millions more will be lost if Vick is allowed to come back.

This isn’t about color. The NFL places a similar stake in Peyton Manning’s public appeal. Like Vick, Manning is one of the official faces of the NFL. Ladainian Tomlinson and Brian Urlacher are also go to guys when it comes to mass marketing the product that is the NFL. If any of them brought similar shame upon the league they would be facing similar circumstances. To put it in perspective OJ Simpson was found not guilty in a court of law but the NFL goes to great lengths to keep the Hall of Fame running back away from league functions. In the end it’s about money.

Racism is alive and well in this country. Genarlow Wilson is still in jail, six black kids in Louisiana are facing prison time for fighting back against racial intimidation, and somewhere somebody is being denied an opportunity because their skin is too dark. Michael Vick has his opportunity and squandered it. The NAACP should not compromise its integrity by helping him get another one. The NFL would be right to banish Vick from the league forever and the NAACP support that action.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I made you say underwear!

I go out of my way to avoid Fox News. I guess I like the liberal propaganda foisted on society by all of the other media outlets. Last night, I stopped at a local pub and caught a closed caption version of John Gibson’s “My Word” rant.

Now Gibson is a professional polemicist. He is paid to be a pompous, self-righteous ass because there’s a lot of money to be had when there’s a heated argument. I don’t take people like Gibson or transsexual pundit Ann Coulter seriously. They don’t believe half of what they say. What I do take seriously are the people who subscribe to their positions.

Gibson’s latest rant was in support of a local ordinance in the little town of Mansfield, Louisiana. Apparently local officials have been so successful curing the ills of the world that they now have time to focus on the scourge of sagging pants. Effective September 15th Mansfield police officers will be able to write a $150 ticket to people who expose their underwear. It was not specified if there will be an exemption for plumbers and/or appliance repair technicians.

Gibson thinks that the community should enforce the ban until the courts rule against it. He said he might sound old but he doesn’t like sagging pants and he’s tired of seeing people like Britney Spears running around in her underwear. Of course he is, being staunch conservative he would rather see a congressional page completely naked and face down on a bed.

Forget about Gibson’s support of the ordinance or his homosexual procilivities. The issue at hand is the enactment of a law that is essentially a waste of time and a violation of civil rights. This battle has been fought time and time again to no avail. Back in the 1950’s the issue was plain white t-shirts and tight blue jeans. Small towns across the country futilely imposed rules and regulations mandating an acceptable dress code. Sagging pants and exposed boxers are no different. Sadly, many of the people carping about low riding pants are the same people who dared to wear jeans and t-shirts in public. Way to keep the faith, pops.

Below the surface it’s about race, not underwear. Clearly Mansfield is experiencing a little post-Katrina culture shock. Mansfield is not far from Shreveport and with New Orleans a long way from being repaired, former New Orleans residents are settling into nearby communities. Mansfield has probably seen an increase in African American residents which means that Hip Hop culture is more prevalent in a community that time somehow forgot. All of the sudden people woke up and the sharecroppers were lollygagging on the corner. Yes white kids do it to, but in the mind of these conservative nitwits that’s only because “negro culture” has been forced on them by the liberal conspirators.

Those who support the ban insist it’s about decency, contending that nobody wants to see another person’s underpants but how do you define underwear? What if somebody opts to wear swimming trunks or gym shorts under their sagging pants? And how can anybody take offense to boxers? I can see an objection when it comes to thongs but that objection is subjective. There are some people who shouldn’t wear thongs under any circumstance and others who should be required to wear nothing but a thong at all times.

Still, there’s no need for a law. If I happen to catch a glimpse of something I don’t like I tend to look the other way. If people want don saggy pants I have the option of ignoring their attire and the luxury of passing judgment on them. I never judge a person by the color of his skin but mix stripes with checks and court is in session. Throw on a “What Would Jesus Do” bracelet and I’ll cross the street to get out of harm’s way.

Generally I accept sagging pants as a passing fad. Like white T-shirts, flood pants and engineer boots, sagging pants make a statement. The whole idea is to piss off the old folks. A stupid ordinance is exactly what these kids want. It proves to them that adults are petty, small minded and ultimately powerless.

Hell, it stirs up my rebellious nature. Since the ban focuses on exposed underpants I’m tempted to drive down to Mansfield and put a pair of white briefs on the outside of my pants. Super hero style. I wonder if that would draw the attention of cops. We could get together and stage a million panty march to protest the ordinance.

The best way to get kids to pull up their pants is for adults to pull theirs down. Nothing kills a trend faster than adoption by old white people. Why do you think the Beatles broke up? As soon as old folks got past the mop tops and listened to the music the Beatles had to change their style and the band imploded. And look what happened to FUBU. My dad picked up a FUBU shirt at a thrift store and the entire brand lost its street cred.

Personally I’d rather see laws passed limiting how high pants can be hoisted. I find issues like camel toe far more offensive than whale tail. I’d much rather see junior’s boxers than the outline of grandpa’s nuts through a pair of chest high, sky blue sans-a-belts. Why not impose a ban on stretch pants too? While we’re at it, how about a complex ordinance outlining proper sock/shoe combinations? If we’re going to put an end to sagging pants we should also eradicate the practice of wearing black dress socks with white sneakers. And for crying out loud people, can we agree on a minimal amount of pigmentation before shorts can be worn in public?

Youth always wins. Every time the older generation has drawn a line the younger generation has rushed to cross it. We all know where this is headed. The underwear ordinance will fail and then kids will celebrate their victory by taking it to the next level. In fact, that trend has already started. Paris Hilton and her friends have been playing a game of celebrity hoo-hah for the past several years. If you didn’t like seeing underwear how will you feel about the full monty?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Dirty Work

Illegal immigrants are criminals. End of story. The entire problem can be simplified to one issue: documentation.

If you believe that then the only thing that's simple in this discussion is your mind. It doesn't matter if Lou Dobbs has your back, failing to delve deeper into the subject is socially, ethically and morally irresponsible.

Illegal immigrants aren't stealing jobs. They are filling jobs that American citizens find disagreeable. If employers would improve working conditions, increase pay and offer benefits sufficient to support a modest existence people would fill these jobs. Of course that would require the American consumer to shell out more for goods and services that are provided thanks in part to cheap labor.

Much of that cheap labor comes from illegal immigrants but there are programs that allow employers to import workers from other countries. Illegal immigration is a convenient scapegoat but even if it's eliminated, we still have cheap foreign labor coming in. The primary provider of this labor is Mexico and the program is called H2B It essentially converts Mexico into a temporary labor provider. You can find H2B workers throughout the country performing work in seasonal operations such as landscaping, sanitation and roofing.

The H2B program sets a minimum wage (adverse effect wage rate) that the employers must adhere to and the available jobs must be publicly posted. The classified ads of your local newspaper are replete with H2B ads months before the effective recruiting season begins. This is clever because people seldom look for landscaping jobs in January so the recruiting effort is designed to fail. You can pick out an H2B ad by looking for jargon-laden spots that post an odd hourly wage. In Columbus the recent ads featured an hourly wage of $8.62 an hour. Several larger landscaping companies posted the same ad with the same hourly rate and they currently have Mexican work crews. Once the ad has run for a predetermined period of time the employer can request assistance from the H2B program to fill remaining openings.

The employers arrange for seasonal housing to accommodate this foreign workforce. The housing arrangements often violate local housing ordinances by crowding too many people into a single family home. In Columbus, Ohio one local lawn care company got into a little hot water when it was revealed that 12 men were living in a three bedroom home. The reason for this is that people making $8.62 an hour can't afford to rent an apartment or a home of their own. The H2B program exploits foreign workers, shipping them to the U.S. like some sort of economic militia.

Of course Lou Dobbs doesn't talk about this. He's worried about those illegal immigrants, many of whom secure documentation that looks legitimate enough to qualify for full time permanent jobs that pay a more realistic wage. The legal H2B program allows employers to keep wages below market value driving away natural born or naturalized candidates. The waiting list for the H2B program is long and it doesn't provide an actionable plan for gaining permanent residency status. This program actually makes illegal immigration more attractive thus exacerbating the problem.

But people don't want to pay $100 a pop to have their grass cut in order to bridge the wage gap. We like to blame the American worker for being too demanding and lazy but that's not it at all. The problem is $8.62 an hour. And that isn't even a real wage. The H2B workers are often 1099 employees which means they are subcontractors who must deduct their own taxes, cover their own workers' compensation and most importantly they are not entitled to overtime wages. Those H2B laborers will work 16 hours a day seven days a week until the assignment ends.

Employers who use the H2B program claim to see an increase in productivity, experience fewer complaints from the workers and of course they see a decrease in attendance problems. That's because they replace an empowered American workers with a captive labor pool. It's not quite slavery because these people volunteer and recieve compensation but it's not as if an H2B employee can quit for a better job.

The problem with the American worker is the fact that they have freedom of choice. If you don't want to work on Saturday you can quit and find another job, if an H2B employee doesn't want to work on Saturday INS will be there first thing Monday morning to escort him back to Mexico. The incentive for H2B workers is built in. Who needs whips when deportation is just a phone call away? H2B employees get no due process, they either do as they're told or they are rejected from the program. It's not fair.

The scam goes even deeper. The employer arranges for room and board and often deduct those expenses from the H2B payroll. In fact, many H2B employers purchase low cost housing and can write it off as an business expense while receiving remuneration for putting the employees up in those houses.. The employer also arranges for transportation and can deduct for that as well. If an H2B employee gets hurt or sick, they go back to Mexico. How can Americans compete with that? How can anybody? The H2B program allows employers to establish work conditions that haven't been legal since the early 1900's.

Instead of increassing pay and benefits to stimulate productivity in a highly competitive job market, employers sign up for the H2B program because it's cheaper. The process isn't easy and there are requirements that must be met but once the employer learns to navigate the red tape, the pipeline of cheap captive labor is open.

Illegal immigrants are actually better because they put most of their money back into the local economy when they pay rent, purchase food or acquire relaible trnasportation. H2B employees send most of their money back to Mexico as their living expenses are covered by the employer. Still, illegal immigrants drive wages down because their choices are limited by education and language barriers. The difference is that employers don't control those choices.

The H2B program was created to provide qualifying companies with a legal means of acquiring labor that was once only available through illegal immigrants. Instead of risking heavy fines and sanctions associated with violating INS regulations, employers can artificially drive American workers out of the market. It's becoming increasingly difficult for skilled and semi-skilled laborers to find gainful employment.

Corporate outsourcing is an extension of the same problem. Labor is cheaper overseas because those people live in conditions Americans find unacceptable but as long as those computer programs are packed five to a shanty in Bashur, the greedy senior executives who contracted them don't have to think about it. It's unfair to expect American workers to compete with people who live with a drastically reduced cost of living and the consequences of exporting jobs while we import cheap labor will be severe for everybody. How will companies make money when nobody can afford to buy their products?

Illegal immigration is a smoke screen. Spending more money to "secure" or borders fails to address the issue. Threatening resident aliens with prison time and deportation will not solve the problem. We have a serious problem but in order to solve it we need to take a long hard look at the actual value of the goods and services we depend on. Where do people get the money to purchase them? Yes, it's great to get your grass cut for $30 a week and a new roof for $2000 is a fantastic deal but what's the actual cost? What impact will your thriftiness have on your son's career? The economy is cyclical; if we allow that cycle to be broken everybody will pay a devastating price. We have already started making those payments.

Lou Dobbs can rant and rave from his anchor desk but has he ever stopped to wonder why those peaches were only 98 cents a pound? Does he think about who made his shoes or where his landscaper got his crew? Talk is cheap, Mr. Dobbs. Illegal immigrants aren't causing the problem…we need to address our greed. Before it consumes us.