Friday, April 21, 2006

immigration and the living wage

i spent most of the night on the phone with my lil brother, a very smart, wonderful man. he is a general contractor in Iowa, owns his own business with 4 guys working for him. he does excellent work and looks out for his guys, no one would argue that, but he hasn't worked in 5 weeks.

now, that isn't to say he hasn't been working. he has been working his butt off trying to land a contract but to no avail.he has called everyone he knows, but no luck. the funny thing is there are $300,000 condos going up all over the area, yet no one has anything corporate to offer.

just last week, he had this bid on a big project that he thought was really going to bail things out. insulation work at 65 ft for a big facility. his bid came in at $28,000. that comes out to $115/sq ft plus soffit cost, or $25 over market cost. the next lowest bid was 35K and the one above that 52K. at the last minute, a bid came in at 17K and he lost the contract. here is what my brother says:

almost half. that is almost half our bid. at 65 feet mind you. there is no way anyone could do that unless there ain't a guy on the project that speaks a lick of English. i'm not passing judgment or nothin'-i mean everyone has got to eat-but there is just no way to beat that.

besides breaking my heart, because he is after all my baby brother and i cannot protect him, two things stood out.
1. my brother may not be able to hold his business together much longer given the unfair market pressures of an illegal workforce, but he has the sense not to blame the immigrants for also just trying to put food on the table.
2. no one should be risking their lives/welfare working for so little.

these to me are the talking points of immigration reform:
1. we need to crack down and hard on employers to give US workers a fighting chance and decrease the incentive for illegal immigration.
2. if we don't make a living wage a priority for all workers, there will always be someone more desperate for food and more willing to sacrifice safety and quality.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

i <3 Ken Gordon

i thought i was pretty sold on Ken when he walked all the way across the state to save Colorado, decided he was without doubt the bee's knees when he jumped out of the airplane, and declared i couldn't be more sold when he reported in his newsletter about his son's struggle over whether cookies are leavened or not.

i was wrong.

Contact: Ken Gordon
Thursday, April 20,

DENVER-Secretary of State candidate Ken Gordon announced today that he will make himself available to assist the Republican Party in the counting of votes at their May 20th convention.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Republican Gubernatorial candidate Marc Holtzman is considering circumventing the convention process, citing "too many unanswered questions" and "a potential for widespread fraud and manipulation" in the handling and counting of ballots. Holtzman faces Congressman Bob Beauprez in the Republican primary.

In a news report in the Rocky Mountain News, Dick Leggitt, Holtzman campaign manager, pointed out that at the 2004 Republican convention, 400 more people voted than attended.

"The Holtzman-Spradley campaign appears to have legitimate concerns about the ability of the Republicans to accurately count the votes in their own preference poll," said Gordon. "In the interest of bipartisan cooperation, I am glad to offer the Republican candidates my assistance in the counting of votes at their convention."

"I am completely neutral in the race between Mr. Holtzman and Congressman Beauprez. I think that neither candidate is any better than the other," Gordon added.

Ken Gordon kicks heiny.

this cautionary reminder courtesy of the Colorado walk website...

hat tip: johne at soapblox colorado

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

always room for one more

believing firmly that there is always room for more insanity, i have signed up to arrange a Fort Collins canvass as part of the 50 States Campaign. this probably doesn't sound that bad, if you don't know that i am leaving town on a 15 hour road trip with two cats three hours before the canvass is to occur. still, i have never stuck with the easy way and would hate to start now. (don't worry-i have an onsite partner in crime. i do the planning, she does the execution.)

so far, i have contacted all the local candidates for the mid-term election about getting their campaign literature plus/minus their participation in the event. efforts to involve the LarimerDems and CSU Young Dems continue semi-successfully. there still remains much to do and many materials to collect. it continues to astound me how much data is not centralized and how hard it can be to bring like-minded people from multiple organizations together. in any event, i would encourage all of you to find and assist with a 50 States Event near you!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

fox, meet henhouse...

is it just me or is this a bad idea?:

One proposal calls for scrapping the current system of accreditation, which has been done largely by private regional bodies, in favor of a National Accreditation Foundation that would be created by Congress and the president.

for a moment, let's leave aside the obvious problems with having an agency put together by politicians (e.g., people with political science backgrounds and with many priorities besides education) mandating standards for all types of undergraduate training in addition to overseeing the specialized fields of medicine, dentistry, law, and business (just to name a few). on the face of it, this would centralize accreditation and more closely tie the carrot (government funding) to the stick (loss of accreditation).

on the simplest level, accreditation is about assuring a minimum standard of quality and accountability for students and for future employers. how much havoc can politicians really wreak with regard to student achievement? oh wait. that isn't the only area evaluated by accreditation (bolding mine):

While each accrediting organization establishes its own standards by which institutions and programs are accredited, these standards all address similar areas, such as expected student achievement, curriculum, faculty, services and academic support for students, and financial capacity.

the FDA is mandated to address the safety of drugs and make decisions based on available science and yet emergency contraception continues to be held hostage to the Administration's stance on abortion.

by creating a National Accreditation Foundation, the Administration would essentially gain the ability to mandate all American education or lack thereof. subjects judged contentious by a politically-controlled body could be barred from the curricula (evolution, stem cell research and abortion) or forcibly introduced (creationism into the science classroom). standards limiting the ability for faculty to espouse views dissenting from the Administration's could be easily introduced.

the real surprise on this issue is how little press the potential ramifications have gotten. university presidents remain more focused on trading barbs with business recruiters (who gripe about underqualification in American graduates while continuing to lay off qualified professionals in the relentless quest to outsource all skilled labor positions to other countries).


this article brings up some interesting questions/points. unlike many in the blogoshere, i wasn't particularly shocked by this:

while 28% say he did nothing wrong.

the things i found more interesting and important are:

3 in 10 Republicans also find that Bush did something illegal or unethical.

The more closely people are following the issue, the more likely they are to say he did something illegal rather than merely unethical.

The poll, conducted April 7-9, 2006, shows that just 25% of Americans are following the matter "very" closely, while another 39% are following the issue "somewhat" closely.

to me, this is interesting/important because it shows that:

1. the stalwart unquestioning GOP base is eroding in the face of multiple scandals.
2. people aren't tuning in, possibility because the overload of 'politics as usual'/white noise has caused anergy.
3. if we can get them to tune in, Bush's support may bottom out, clearing the way for legal proceedings and 'healing.'

so the big question to me is what can be done to get people tuned back in? with the importance of the impending November elections, this no longer is an 'intellectual exercise.' given poll data on Bush and stories like this continuing to hatch, the GOP are very unlikely to maintain control if only we can get voters to plug in and turn out.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

happiness makes you lazy

things have been quite busy in the 'land of j,' but postings have been sparse-partially for fear of 'jinxing' the good, partially to avoid making too much of the bad, mainly though just out of laziness.

Mickey on moving day
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
first things first, Grandma is doing great! she was transferred from the hospital to [pulmonary] rehab just a few days after i headed home. as with all our women, she made great strides and, slightly unlike my memories of her mother, got all good marks on her 'report card'. she had a mere few days home trying to clean up the mess we made before i arrived back to help her move to her new digs. Mickey hadn't been so sure she was up for life at McKendree, what with it being full of so many 'old people', but she agreed that perhaps the time had come to not live in an apartment complex with 400 20something singles. after two days of 'You don't really need this,' i am sure she wanted nothing more than for me to get close enough for her to garrotte with her oxygen line. luckily, Mickey is naturally sunny-tempered and only beat me twice. (kidding!)

big truck, little stuff
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
Mickey's tolerance paid off big time when the movers came, for there was little to load; actually, according to the movers who go to McKendree a lot, we had just the right amount of stuff! once it was unloaded, it certainly didn't seem like 'just right' but that is always the way with boxes! because there was so little room to move, we decided to push through the unpacking process and had things mostly out within 24 hours. one more day of hard work and we found ourselves able to relax and tend to picture hanging and furniture shopping at a much more leisurely pace.

right after the move, there was a big windstorm that took out the power for over 4 hours. Mickey ended up changing her oxygen tank herself, in the hall, by the light of an emergency lantern! woman in charge, she is indeed! since then Mickey has been busy fitting bridge parties and social calls into her normal social calendar. in addition, she is doing so well medically, that her pulmonologist Dr. Miller has discontinued one of her medicines.

the biggest fly in the ointment has been the cat, Callie. she is Grandma's baby and has not generally been the nicest of creatures. unfortunately, McKendee does not allow pets and they aren't really hide-able given the twice monthly housekeeping (lucky dog, she is). Callie has gone to live with Pam and Rol, where she can still be visited by her ma at least weekly. the transition was more than a bit rough, as Callie expressed her displeasure by sneaking in to urinate on their bed, twice, but things are looking up:
'Callie is actually adapting quite well. She loves to sit on the dining room chairs and keep track of us. She virtually let me pet me yesterday. She and Glenn enjoy trading barbs, so to speak :) We think she's going to end up pretty civilized and almost pleasant.'

this is a huge relief for all for obvious reasons.

as for Mom, she has continued to have quite taxing problems with her left ear. Mom and i have been researching her symptoms and we think she has developed something called a patulous Eustachian tube. there seemed to be potential treatment options, if the diagnosis could be confirmed but we went round and round with her current ENT to no avail. he honestly appears to not care about her plight. happily, we appear to be on the verge of another miracle. Mom finally spoke to Jeanene about getting a second opinion; Jeanene got her an appointment with Dr. Shea Jr at the Shea Clinic for April 20th.

given the complexity of her case and Dr. Shea's location in Memphis, we decided we should send Dr. Shea a case summary in advance to maximize the potential benefit of her appointment. Mom emailed Dr. Shea last week and he actually called us that night to discuss her case, inform us he was certain of the diagnosis (the same we were suspecting) and to reassure us that he has a treatment solution that is fairly non-invasive. most importantly, it was obvious to us all that Dr. Shea actually understands how traumatic this condition is and really cares about its effect on Mom's quality of life. he is making arrangements on his end so that they can perform the corrective procedure, Eustachian tuboplasty, the day of Mom's appointment once they have confirmed the diagnosis. the relief this has provided has been profound for all of us, not just because of the potential cure in sight but because finally Mom has someone on her team that we trust really will give his all to help fix this horrible problem. since then, Mom has stumbled upon a number of people who have been to see Dr. Shea and they all say the same thing:
"I hear you're going to see John Shea - man's a magician."

Gordon Gee, the chancellor at Vanderbilt, actually went so far as to say he is going to write Dr. Shea to let him know how dear Mom is and to take good care of her!

with regard to me, my allergies have remained intractable and have actually be so bad as to force me to take a couple sick days. this last week, i was able to get my sass on enough to thoroughly clean the apartment, including removing and dusting all the books and moving all the furniture. knocking back the dust mites seems to have helped some, and i have some further environmental modifications in the wings.

leaving aside the allergies, i really feel the tide has started to turn. in spite of my two bum ankles, i have been exercising regularly at the gym and this week was able to carefully work out without my splints, aka torture devices. hopefully, if this keeps up, i will have the ligaments in fighting trim in time for backpacking season. research is picking up and i am [hopefully] on the cusp of getting another paper accepted for publication.

TraV in motion
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
personally, wonderful things have also been happening... i have finally met a 'boy' with whom i really seem to fit. his name is TraV, he is always making me laugh (and vice versa), and as you can see, he is always in motion. we play videogames, watch hockey, talk politics (but not too much), and are looking forward to hiking together. most every time they talk, his Mom asks to make sure he hasn't 'screwed things up;' my friends like him so much they email me regularly to ask the same of me. Saturday will make two months, and i cannot remember the last time i was this happy. how cool is that?

the only thing left to complete my happiness would be to see the tides turning back toward a democratic America from this most Orwellian Amurka. as news like this continues to pile up and polls on every potential facet of the presidency hit record lows, one can only hope the waiting will soon be at an end. in the interim, i will keep an eye out for small islands and housing in Canada...