The Problem of Our Laws
(15-24 August 2003)
24 August 2003
Happy Birthday to Dad
-Time flies in directly inverse proportion to the amount of silence during a given time period. Silence is the quiet time-extender.
-"The Weather Underground" filled in some interesting gaps in my historical understanding of the early '70's. It's good a presenting all sides of the Weathermen, including the regrets & support of those who used to be involved in the organization. It's worth seeing if you like documentaries. & I do.
23 August 2003
-I have recently discovered Books-A-Million, which apparently has a low-low price on Loosely Based. Of course you need to sign up for their club or something, but I guess this is the 3rd major online retalier, trying to do something to compete with the Big Two.
-Emily & I were reminded tonight what good kids we were compared to the average American child. I wonder how many people who we've now befriended we would've been befuddled by in grade school.
22 August 2003
-I am now officially qualified to be a Seneca Center counselor. I'm just a little paperwork shy of working.
-Em's home! I had to circumnavigate the San Francisco Bay before I could see her since her plane was 2 hours late & I had gone directly from work to SFO via the San Mateo Bridge. So I drove from Berkeley to San Leandro to SFO to Berkeley. Maybe I didn't quite get the whole Bay, but doing the bulk of that on a Friday afternoon made it feel like I did!
21 August 2003
-I'm aggravated & I don't know why. Training's been much worse this week than last, but it seems like more than that. People just frustrate me, & I want Emily to be home.
20 August 2003
-My car spent most of today stuck on an incline, wedged precariously above a Toyota. So much for 4-wheel-drive. While it's very good to have AAA to be able to get out of such situations, it's not always best to listen to what AAA's affiliates suggest. In this case, the designated AAA person for my car decided to try to drive the car into the Toyota before actually towing it off the incline. No real damage was done, but it does make me wonder about people who work with cars for a living.
19 August 2003
-Jordan Segal & I are having a rollicking time debating out the INS & other immigration policies of the USA. Forgive me if I prolong this just a bit more. Obviously, the core issue where he & I differ comes down to this... "does that mean we re-distribute land and wealth communist style? (don't answer that, you hippie pinko)". He adds the parentheses because he knows my answer is that of course we should redistribute land & wealth! & we both knew from the beginning that our disagreement was more fundamental than this issue alone. Here's what I'm trying to express when I throw out the idea of hypocrisy on border-crossing... the sense of entitlement that people express when dealing with citizenship issues is morally repulsive & ultimately hypocritical. Most people who defend gunning down people as they attempt to enter the USA do so with a snide sense of entitlement backed by a "They're Chickens!" quality of logic. It is absurd for someone to feel a sense of entitlement based on the accident of birth (ultimately, I believe, the only justification for a sense of entitlement is some grevious wrong being done to you personally, & even then I think one's entitlement in return is extremely limited & has little to do with retribution... but I'm getting off topic). But beyond mere absurdity, it becomes hypocritical to feel a sense of entitlement for something that, had similarly situated people felt similarly entitled to at another time, you never would have had access to (let alone entitlement) now. Let's say the US decided to close its borders forever tomorrow (without prior warning). For someone who entered at 11:59 pm on the deadline to feel entitled to citizenship & entitled to sneer in the face of those who were planning on coming to the US but only heard about the change a week later would be hypocritical. There is nothing morally superior or more entitling about being in the right place at the right time. & to feel anything but the desire to extend that luck to others feels wrong to me. I'm beginning to think that this sense of it being hypocritical is either something one feels in one's gut as an intuition or one doesn't, making it sound silly to explain. Either your stomach gets knotted by the idea that luck becomes a moral arbiter, or it doesn't. & it gets further turned when one uses luck as a moral justification for their sense of superiority, or it doesn't. My stomach is currently doing advanced yoga thinking about all this, while Segal's seems to be calm & composed. In the end, I guess that's all it comes down to. But what bugs me more about the US than other countries & what always has is the rhetoric. Random Homogenous European Country Z (RHECZ) never put itself on a pedastal of moral superiority for being more open, welcoming, & accepting than the rest of the world, or for never turning downtrodden people away. The USA did. The USA still claims to be the homeland for the formerly oppressed, the defender of all freedom-seekers, while RHECZ has always been very blunt about remaining aloof. That, as Kevin Grinberg might say, is the difference between hypocrisy & negligence. When people on the borders gun down those trying to get a new start, both the USA & RHECZ have shirked their obligations. But there's something deeper in the wrong when the USA does it, when they promised to fulfill those obligations in the first place. If every person who wanted to enter the USA legally were allowed to, I would clearly have no leg to stand on. But saying "they should do it legally" is no valid argument when thousands are turned away daily when trying to do just that. This is why the murder comparison doesn't hold water. If murder were an illegal form of a legal activity, but 95% of those who wanted to commit that legal activity were barred from it, murder would look a lot better than it does. But no such comparison can be made in any way.
-To elaborate on the "They're Chickens!" reference from above, this is one of my default titles for a certain kind of logical fallacy. The logical fallacy might more descriptively be termed "appeal to incredulity" (in other words, "I'm stumped, but I don't want to admit it"). In the summer of 1999, I visited Fish at UCSD, as I did every summer while we were in college. I met many of his roommates, & over lunch they realized that I was also a vegetarian. They specifically wanted to harp on what our grand plan was for the chickens who were currently being farmed for their flesh. After about an hour or so of us discussing in detail the idea that while some chickens might be kept on free-range farms for their eggs, the bulk of chickens should systematically be trained for reintroduction to the wild, the 4 or 5 boys refuting us were out of moves. Their final argument, delivered with the air of a crushing blow was, of course, "They're chickens!". They congratulated each other after this utterance for finally coming up with the amusing winning argument & went on their merry way. Thus they embodied a style of logic that can only be classified as a default to bad traditions while refusing to question anything one's ever thought in one's life. I was not, above, accusing Segal of using "They're Chickens!", but I do associate many of his ideas with those of the sneering right-wingers who want to build a wall around America & graffiti the world with other "They're Chickens!" notions.
-In other news, I am now certified to save your life. I also won the Infant Resuscitation Congo Line Dance Challenge. Yeah. Three days of training to go.
18 August 2003
-Today's Friendly Terrorism Security Update: Checking the shoes of 1 out of 25 people on every flight (we promise not to profile, really): "good" for beating terrorism. Having the entire power grid for half of the northeast US & Ontario depend on 5 wires near Cleveland: "good" for beating terrorism?
-I want to go on the record as saying that I love the recall. Purely pragmatically, I can't say it's a good use of money, but then so many activities of the government (bombs come to mind) are bigger wastes of money. In this country, having any election at all is starting to seem like a waste of precious cash & volunteer time. That's why I love the recall so much. If you can cut through the New York media haze of rolling in the aisles about "Dem Crazy Californians", you realize that a compelling message about democracy is being sent. Namely, that picking Tweedle Dum over Tweedle Dee by 2% of the vote does NOT equal a popular mandate. If the system gives you two unthinkably bad choices, then make a third choice of your own that's viable! Now obviously the catch in all this is that a plurality is all that's needed to win the next election. & while I don't like that a ton, I do like that it shakes things up in politics. It (at least in theory) gives people who would never have a chance of winning a chance, like say a Green Party candidate. Unfortunately, of course, Americans need to vote for someone they can brag about voting for the next day, so Schwarzenneger will get 79% of the vote, ending debates about the plurality problem. Making this all a little self-defeating, since he would've become Governor in 2006 anyway. Still, it rocks the boat & that makes me happy... complacency is so much of what's wrong with our pseudo-democratic plutocracy.
-When I refuted Segal's defense of the INS, I certainly didn't expect him to rattle off a list of disenfranchised Americans who've somehow become Americans as his rebuttal! I think that argument feeds into my hands more than anything I said myself. The point is that people who we now consider to be Americans are not folks who all came knocking at the door following all the rules & being completely hard-working. Most people didn't even have the ability to work hard (or as in the case of slaves, had not choice about their work or anything else) since they'd been kicked down so low. Thousands of us are descended from "illegal" immigrants. Or immigrants who lied about one thing or another to get in, making them "illegal". My point is that it's arbitrary & hypocritical for such people, a nation of immigrants whom the US either abused, had mercy on, or tried to keep out, to say that now that their people are in, they have the right to keep people out. Now that their people got lucky, everyone else somehow has to "earn" entry. Obviously the next logical step of this argument is that citizenship is a ridiculous concept in the face of the accident of birth, but leaving this where it is still makes a good argument for tearing down the INS & replacing it with "welcome to America" brochures & a nice waiting room.
17 August 2003
Happy Birthday to Matt Frese
-Sometimes I feel like my motivation has been replaced by fog.
-This planet loves patterns. Emily bought me a beautiful green Nalgene water bottle a few months back. I took it many places, but lost it at job training for JMMC in March. She bought me a replacement teal & yellow one that I liked even better, which I took many places before promptly losing it last week at job training again. In Fresno a couple weeks back, we spent $150 fixing a broken back window on the Saturn that had been smashed by someone who apparently found nothing worth stealing inside. Today I found that the replacement window, the exact same window, had been smashed in similar fashion, with nothing gone again. Life has a lot to offer in learning from patterns. At this point, I'm ready to never own another Nalgene bottle, & give the Saturn back to Em's brother & his family.
16 August 2003
-Congratulations to Greg & Clea Wilson (I'm assuming they didn't end up creating Wilemerly as their new last name) on their wedding! Em gave me a full report & said it was a wonderful time. Wish I could've been there.
-In the past 24 hours, I have watched 7 hours worth of Mariners/Red Sox games. If one has to be alone on the weekend, that's not a bad way to be.
15 August 2003
-The group of folks at training for Seneca has been a pretty incredible crew. As I said today during what will be the last time I see many of them, if this is typical of the folks that Seneca recruits, then I'm going to be very excited to work there. Though I have another week of training, it was week #2 for most of the people I was training with, so I'll meet a whole new batch on Monday. The idea that a week of job training could be mostly fun is ridiculous, but it has been just that.
-I am not accustomed to a 9-5 schedule. & I shouldn't get accustomed to it, because when I actually start working, everything will change.
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