the latest from Joebloggers

where I live

The U.S. Mexico border is a zone in transition. Those of us who have lived here for most of our lives call our area of the country part of the "second world". No quite third world conditions, but not first world like the rest of the country. If you live and work here, you know that the desired skill in order to deal with the majority of the public is the ability to speak Spanish.

Many might call this state of afairs poetic justice. After all, 180 years ago, illegal immigrants who refused to learn the language and brought foreign coustom to the area ultimately took over this area. This movement resulted is the brief Republic of Texas and a separation from Mexico. If history does repeat itself, we may be headed towards a reversal of this situation.

My town has an interesting population mix. We are ~80% hispanic, ~16% anglo (really european decent), ~2% korean, and ~2% Black. We are the poorest city of its size in the United States. Yet the northern states of Mexico (that share the border with the U.S.), are among the richest areas of Mexico. "todo es relativo"!

 

nuclear dump denial

Congress Daily reported last week that 08's final budget includes $390 million for Yucca Mountain, the fed's only real long term plan to bury away our nation's nuclear power plant waste.

It may seem like a lot, but at $104 million less than the president's request, and with estimates that the full project will cost about $70 billion, the feeble funding is yet another sign that Yucca has unwanted step-child status in Congress - and that Congress would rather be in denial than deal with nuclear waste.

This isn't an environmental problem on par with global warming and it's not like the nuclear waste is oozing into our water supply (it's all being kept in about 121 temporary facilities scattered around the country). But everyone agrees there's got to be a long term dumping solution - I mean, we can't leave the stuff hanging out forever. Yet, once more, Congress doesn't deal.

 

the right to be bad

I'm a good girl, a really good girl. My idea of being bad is buying a pack of cigarettes (and taking a week to smoke them) or not flossing every day.

But even though I eat right, exercise, try to give back to the world and don't break the law (unless you count jay-walking), I like the idea that I can be bad if I want to.

Sadly for our inner-rebels, it's getting harder and harder to have a naughty side these days.

I had just grown resigned to the fact that big brother and corporate America were winning the war on health-facism - saving me and the rest of American from our nasty smoking and trans-fat habits. But that's probably just because I've drunk the cool-aid - and after being beatie into salad-eating, exercising, (generally) non-smoking submission, I'm happy to let other be muscled into our national health-cult.

I could also give up being bad to my body because there were so many other ways to ditch the angel wings and go off on a bad-girl bender, like... maybe... break the law.

Not any more.

the headless FEC

With America rolling into an election year that is sure to have its share of "swift boat," "issue ad" and other electioneering shenanigans, my mind was sadly boggled to read in the Washington Post that we won't - as of January 1 - have a Federal Election Commission to oversee it all.

The FEC's staff will still be around, but with only 2 out of 6 commissioners on hand (the others' terms are ending December 31, with no replacements lined up), federal funds for primary campaigns as well as any questions on campaign practices will be on hold until the Senate votes at least two new commissioners on.

There is, of course, the political back story of how this happened, with senators finessing to get their guy in - or keep the other guy out. But in the end, who cares?

There are some appointed posititions, Americans will probably agree, that are worth waging a political battle over, like Supreme Court Justice.

High Lights of the Season

Continuing my holiday blog series, I bring to you an analysis of Christmas displays. And fat Santas. Now, it seems that you can guarantee that someone on your street will put up Christmas lights over the holiday. But when I pulled up Yahoo today, I was told that some people are complaining about extravagant Christmas displays. Now, where I live, there really aren't that many displays up: just lights, really. Then again, I reasoned, I live in a small town, so maybe people in the cities are different. My family doesn't put up lights, due in large part to the fact that we're too lazy. But I was curious, so I decided to check it out.

The featured story took me to a story on the Wall Street Journal. The picture it immediately presented to me was quite a spectacle:

Extravagant Christmas Display

spy in the sky

Joseph Weisberg, former CIA employee, explains in today's Washington Post why US intelligence will never be able to depend on high level secret agents for good insider information.

The simple reason: about half of them are double agents, so half of their info are lies.

A good read, especially for fun factoid that one of our recent secret agents - Sadam Hussein's foreign minister (who knew?!) - leaked us the clandestine info that Iraq had no WMD. But who can trust a spy?

What Happened to the Family Love?

It always seemed to me that those who celebrated Christmas got a lot of joy out of it: getting together with their family, friends, and loved ones; having an opportunity to eat great, homemade food, and, of course, getting gifts. But it seems to me that the holiday fun is getting a little bit off-balanced. Many people seem to care more about the idea of getting gifts rather than being with the ones they love, and this sort of worries me.

We are definitely a nation of consumers. I walked into my local Target not too long ago, and I was surprised by the amount of work people were putting into their Christmas shopping. What really surprised me was how stressed many of these holiday shoppers were. It seems that we are missing the point of this holiday. For the religious, Christmas was originally a celebration of the birth of Christ. But then, for my family, it's about getting together, sharing stories of the year and discussing the year's events, and having a nice meal together. Now, we do share gifts, but we don't give each other these extravagant gifts.

the AMT charade

Democracies really should be able to do better.

This week, senators pulled off a smoke and mirrors routine that's become old hat in Congress - that is, extending exemptions from the dread Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), an act that got applause from the anti-taxists, gave a sigh of relief to millions of middle class families and let us all live in happy accounting-denial bliss.

The AMT has been around as long as I have (both born in '69), with the idea of setting up a second tax calculator for the mega-rich so they couldn't deduct their taxes down to znada. The problem is that the mega-rich threshold wasn't set to rise with inflation, so now over 20 million middle income families have to pay up. Now, every year, to avoid slamming voters with thousands of bucks more in taxes, Congress votes to exempt middle class families from the tax.

On E85 Ethanol, Hybrids, and My Lack of Concentration

Okay, I started out actually reading the New York Times today, but my eye was caught by an ad by Chevy, preaching "Chevy. Gas-friendly to gas-free." It had some encouragingly green graphics regarding fuel efficiency, E85 ethanol, hybrids, and fuel cells, so I decided to go to their website to see what the hype was.

First, let me just say that I'm glad someone is finally taking a look at fuel efficiency. Many of the people in my community are driving huge, gas-guzzling trucks and sport utility vehicles, and I've never understood why they felt it necessary. I don't know, maybe they like the space the cars offer or all the accessories that come with it. Of course, when I see a Cadillac Escalade driving by with only one person in it, the space argument starts to lose foundation; our family Mazda Protege offers plenty of room with one person in it.

Little Mistake? Maybe...

I read on the NYTimes website today that two separate National Intelligence estimates, one from 2005, the other from 2007, had contradicted each other over the subject of Iran and Atomic weapons enrichment. According to the article, written by Mark Mazzetti, a recent report says that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program back in 2003; however, in a report issued in 2005, it was said that, at that point, Iran was still working hard at creating a nuclear bomb. Now, Iran is continuing to enrich uranium, but this is said to be for "civilian purposes." Whether or not you believe the purpose of their uranium enrichment, a recent report has said that even this enrichment program would provide Iran with enough material to produce a nuclear weapon " . . . sometime in the next decade."