Friday, April 21, 2006

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction

If I'm going to enjoy my weekend, I have to get this out of my system now, so please bear with me.

I am completely outraged by the extreme apathy and inexplicable lack of action by those around me regarding the discussion of gas prices. Obviously, everyone I know is upset about them. Clearly, gas prices have risen to the point that it's a little prohibitive for people to just hop in their cars (I'm not even talking about SUVs yet) and take a nice little Sunday afternoon drive without being out $50 when they head to their neighborhood Shell station to fill up. I have yet to meet one person who is absolutely thrilled about paying $3 a gallon, or even worse, the prospect that it's only going to get more expensive as summer approaches. The infuriating part of all of this is that the general public response following any kind of complaining and kvetching is "Well, what are you gonna do?", with the obligatory shoulder shrug and conceding eyebrow lift that says, "Is there anything I can do to make the oil and gas industry more comfortable as it rapes me?"

We are partially at fault for the unreasonable gas prices we're paying. During hurricane season last year, we allowed oil and gas companies to practice organized and sanctioned price gouging while we did little more than whine and pay up. The industry saw that the American public is willing to pay quite a bit of cash to keep gas in their cars, and they have now seized the opportunity to make record profits off our apathy. Meanwhile, Average Joe stands at the pump with his credit card in hand saying, "Wow, I can't believe I'm paying this much for gas!"

Joe, I can't believe you are either, because I for one, refuse. I recognize the fact that, as a young adult with an active social life, a demanding job, and friends and family scattered up and down the Eastern seaboard, it is unreasonable for me to say that I will never drive again. I actually plan on driving to North Carolina in a couple of weeks to see my aunt, and when I look at my gas receipts after the trip, I'm sure I'm going to wish I had bought a plane ticket instead. Despite all this, I do recognize that I have complete control over when and how I spend my money. I've decided that I'm not filling my car up more than once every 5 weeks, and you'd better believe that when I do get gas, it's sure not going to be from Exxon, because they don't need anymore help with their 2nd quarter profits. If I have to carpool with someone, I will. If it takes me a hour to get home because I have to wait in the rain for a bus, I will. If I'm a little late for an outing with a friend because I opted to walk from my office rather than drive my car in, I will.
Don't get me wrong- I'm not naiive enough to think that my personal refusal to feed my gasoline addiction is going to have any kind of effect on market prices. I know it won't. The average American commutes 50 minutes to work, which makes gasoline a necessity, not a luxury. Like all other necessities, though, we can control how much we use.

I am naiive enough to think that maybe some people will start to rethink their gas consumption a little. Maybe you'll decide to make your tank of gas last a few extra days by planning to run errands with a friend, and you can take turns driving. Maybe you'll take a look at the ridiculously inconvenient public transportation schedule where you live and take the bus once a week. Or maybe just walk somewhere today instead of driving?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Monday Morning Soap Box

Mondays are difficult. This Monday morning is a little more difficult for me than most because I'm coming off of a fantastic weekend spent with 3 of my favorite DG's in what will henceforth be known as "East Coast 2006". 3 days, 7 states, 1 "eatin' out 95" NYC cabbie, and not that much sleep later, I find myself at my desk trying to make it through the morning on coffee and my liter of Wawa water. I got to work really early this morning after delivering the last of my girls to Dulles at 6:15 AM, so I had a chance to listen to the morning news on the radio. It seems that while I was away playing this weekend, immigrant rights advocates across the country were setting the stage for a massive protest march in favor of the immigration reform bill that stalled in the Senate last week. They seem to be expecting a rather large crowd, and by the looks of it, this large crowd is going to be assembled on the street that was supposed to take me to my Tuesday night TiVo appointment. Because having a car in a city is one of the more inconvenient decisions I've made, I'm now trying to figure out how I'm going to get out of downtown before midnight, because I need to watch the Sopranos and sleep.

In the meantime, since you're dying to know my opinion on the immigration reform bill, I'll feel free to share.

Let me preface this by saying that I am not anti-immigrant. I was barely old enough at age 3 to remember the day my mother got her US Citizenship. My favorite story about my dad's side of the family involves a tale about my great grandfather who came to the United States from Germany and proceeded to lose all 18 cents he had to his name while sleeping in a haystack in New York City the same day he arrived at Ellis Island. We are a country of immigrants, and a majority of the services and luxuries we enjoy on a day to day basis are made possible by the many immigrants who are willing to do work at wages that I am unwilling to accept for myself but am more than happy to pay others for. The immigrants who come to this country in search of opportunity and a better life for their families are generally very humble, hardworking people of integrity. From a human rights standpoint, as well in the interest of American soverignty, immigration reform is desperately needed sooner rather than later.


Noun: pl. Amnesties.

A general pardon granted by a government, especially for political offenses.

ETYMOLOGY: Latin amnstia, from Greek amnsti ; see amnesia

That being said, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, I'm going to go ahead and call it a duck.

The immigration reform bill being considered by Congress is amnesty. The President has proposed pardoning people who have resided in the United States illegally for a certain amount of time by allowing them to apply for US citizenship without requiring them to leave the country first. This is amnesty. He says it isn't. I say it is. Democrats say it isn't. I say it is. And for the first time in my life, I find myself seeing eye to eye with some politicians that I normally abhor who also say this "guest worker program" is amnesty. It is.

Without a doubt, millions of people would be helped by this legislation if it were to pass Congress. There is an entire subculture of people who are abused by opportunistic employers who take advantage of the fear and uncertainty that dictate the lives of the undocumented. Any opportunity for them to find independence from exploitation is a step in the right direction.


Even worse, it is counterproductive to the goals of our immigration policies because it encourages illegal immigration, which most immigration policy experts agree increases exponentially any time the word "amnesty" is even uttered in political discussion. Amnesty rewards people who have broken the law, and is a slap in the face to those who follow the process provided by US Citizenship and Immigration, only to find themselves waiting decades before they are ever granted a visa to even enter the country, much less pursue citizenship. Bureaucratic backlogs can leave immigrant visa applicants in a state of limbo for 10, 20, 30 years before their petitions are ever reviewed. The US Department of State is currently processing some immigrant visa petitions from the Philippines that were filed October 15, 1983. That was 22 years ago, and a lot of things can happen to a petition and its filer in that amount of time that really make you wonder why we even advertise citizenship if we're not willing to make good on our offer.

It's obvious that immigration controls are incredibly necessary, especially given the hostile sociopolitical climate we find ourselves living in these days. Despite this, I somehow don't see the effectiveness of a system that allows an application to languish for such a long time that it actually goes to storage for a decade or two before it is ever processed. How is this constructive in efforts to screen and track petitioners to make sure they're not going to come to our country to further untoward causes? And even worse, we've allowed these people to spend YEARS waiting in their home countries for visas, while family members in the United States are born, graduate from school, marry, die... and in the end the people who scammed the system are rewarded with legal papers that can be picked up at any port of entry within the United States? What kind of message does that send? Come to our country, defraud our government, and we'll let you sit in line over here while we hold your citizenship application for another 16 years because we're too inefficient to do things any other way?

What's wrong with dealing with the problems we already have rather than creating new ones? What's so revolutionary about hiring a few more people for each CIS processing office who actually understand that they're being paid by MY tax dollars to perform a service who are willing work on the backlogs that already exist and create an more efficient and effective immigration system rather than making it a million times worse? What's wrong with passing a few laws to improve our albeit broken system rather than sending a message to the world that we would rather ignore the real issues than come up with real and lasting solutions to a situation that isn't going to fix itself?