Saturday, July 31, 2010

COMING SOON... Homeland Security, Inc.

A critique of the economic inefficiencies integral to the current relationship between the US Department of Homeland Security, and state and municipal law enforcement bodies in the US, with thoughts on cost/benefit analysis of future improvements.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Highlights and Lowlights

Basically, this was my vacation:

Highlight: The guitar-shaped pool at our Hotel in Memphis completely sucked my kid and my nephew into pool nirvana.
Lowlight: For a 7-year old, going to Graceland and other Elvis-related tourism is in no way as cool as a guitar-shaped pool.

Highlight: surprisingly good quality of the hotels and motels we stayed at- even the ones we didn't prebook.
Lowlight: the welfare motel that was the exception to the rule.
Rebound highlight: the Hilton next door, worth every penny.
It may have been worth every penny, but dammit, those were a LOT of pennies.

Highlight: accolades and adulation from family for putting together an awesome trip
Lowlight: I have a claustrophobia attack in the middle of Times Square, and turn into an 8-year old girl in front of my wife, kid, and nephew, who have to step up and get me back to my car and out of New York City.

Highlight: The Mrs. falls in love with the Blue Ridge mountains in VA. Marital bliss ensues.
Lowlight: The Mrs. tells me that our next house must still be within 30 minutes of The Ant Farm, even though she loved being out in the country. Marital bliss makes a landing-gear-up style landing, and bursts into flame, colliding with a day care center, a homeless shelter for female porn stars, and an Arby's in the process. A blue funk ensues.

Highlight: the owner of a little diner in West Virginia is so taken with my wife's exotic look and friendly-but heavily-accented banter that we dine off-menu, eating real country food that I've never even heard of before.
Lowlight: I fart for 9 days straight.

Highlight: hotels and motels in the South cost about 1/3 of similar places up north.
Lowlight: hotels down south shut down about 10pm. My Brazilian family doesn't even like eating dinner before 10 while on vacation. Anything before 7pm is lunch.
Rebound Highlight: finding a Brazilian restaurant 5 minutes from our hotel in NJ, just outside of NYC.
Rebound Lowlight: the waiter hits on my wife, in front of me, using flowery Portuguese too complex for me to understand. I am oblivious.
Alley Oop- my wife tells me to stiff the guy on the tab. She writes something on the bill, using a frighteningly-accurate facsimile of my signature. She leaves the guy 3 pennies, and tells me why about 12 hours later, so I don't make a scene.

Highlight: visiting the Statue of Liberty, seeing a Broadway show
Lowlight: the lines for both.

So, overall, it was a great time. As I wrote, I had a massive Claustrophobia attack in the middle of Times Square. It was hot, and we had come out of Madam Tussaud's Wax Museum, which is where the attack started, as I was constantly jostled and bumped into by thousands (literally) of rude tourists and locals who were adamant about getting their fucking picture taken with plastic mannequins of RuPaul and Madonna. I came out of there frazzled, and onto the 5pm Times Square crowd, which was too much, I guess. Anyhow, I was miserable, and my wife missed the cues, and she's running all over, taking pictures of me while I'm trying to breathe and not to curl up in a ball. I don't feel like reliving the experience here by writing about it. I lost massive face in front of my family, which is important to me. 'Nuff said.
Now, what was amazing was that, after a thorough drunk at the hotel bar that night, and, I'm ashamed to admit, a good fight with the wife, I emerged at 7am, ready for the next day, and another try at NY. We went to see the Statue of Liberty, which took 3 hours to get to, mostly spent in lines to get tickets, go through security, and wait in lines with extremely polite Indian tourists (not a bad thing). In the 95% humidity, and 95+ degree weather, we spent only 45 minutes touring the island, and another 3 hours in lines to get back to the car.
My wife explained it thusly: everyone asks about whether or not a foreign resident has visited the statue. My wife and son (and nephew) can now say yes, they have. The weather sucked the joy out of much of the experience, but it was an experience, nontheless. We definitely shared the space with the tired, poor, and hungry.
We also went to see the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. This is my 5th time seeing it, but it's still fun. My wife, having never been to a theatre in the US, and being a fan of the show, was completely with child over the experience. She wore a ridiculously elegant outfit that got our seats upgraded to the center-row aisle seats, 10 rows back from the stage. She's good about opening doors that way. The manager was a somewhat heavyset 30-something Irish-looking guy, and he gave me an attaboy, as we looked like cousins.
Oh, and I was hit on very politely, by a guy. Sort of flattering. Then he saw my wife, went bonkers over her blouse, and said congratulations to me. I sense a theme here. Nice guy, anyhow.

So, I'd call New York a hit-and-miss for me. I think, if it were cooler out, and outside of peak tourist season, that I'd have been OK. As it is, though, I'm not cool with how that first day went, and it soured the experience for me.

Anyhow, with 2 days at home before we left for Tennessee, and only 2 days at home before I went back to work, I arrived here on board tired and ready for some of the isolation that is part and parcel of doing my damn job.
And that's the way it was.

Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife, just downstairs from where Elvis died having a shit.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

has anyone else noticed?

...that despite screams and whining to the contrary, fuel economies for cars have gotten worse rather than better?

I remember my sister's compact car when she first got out of the navy. 40 mpg. That was 20 years ago. My little compact car, bought for grad school 10 years ago, a Dodge Neon, was comfortable enough, reliable as hell, and had plenty of storage room... 41 mpg.
Today's compact cars get less than 35.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

back to work...

After my first actual week's vacation as an adult, and 13 years after the last time I took more than 4 consecutive days off for non-work purposes, I'm feeling pretty good. I stumbled onto a pretty good maritime-related issue that I'm fleshing out for submission to a paper forum, and I left home long before the sun was up, ready to return to my little hot metal box for 4 weeks of inquisition.
Before I get underway, I'd like to point out a new glaring character flaw that I've discovered in myself. We had an arab family move in next door to me at the Ant Farm while I was underway with the fam on vacation, and last night, they were being particularly loud until about 11pm. Now, I've only had 3 nights at home since I came back from our trip, and all three nights were busy. Last night, I was hoping for a 4-hour nap before driving the 6 hours down to Philly. I got about an hour, I guess.

I wanted to go say something, but I felt like if I did, the angry looking father figure would send his youngest son over to blow himself up in my kitchen. I mean, the guy looks and sounds angry whenever he's outside.

I'm intimidated. I'll admit it. The problem is, my discomfort will turn to rage before it turns to determination to create meaningful dialogue. I don't like finding weakness or aversion to negativity in myself.

I figure I'll just send him a nice Oscar Meyer gift basket with "Shut the hell up, you rude, stinky prick" written in glitter.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

home, for a little while

So, we made it back home, after 3,000+ miles of driving in the past 10 days. It's been hectic, crazy, fun, mortifying, and an experience, everything a vacation could be, I guess. I'm beat. I'll be back to work on Wed, so maybe some time after that I'll write more.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

what's doin'

It's hard to believe it, but I've been away from work for one week, effective tomorrow am. Last time I checked in, we were in VA somewhere's, heading southwest. 12 easy, very beautiful hours later, and we were in Memphis TN.
So, fast forward. We did 2 days of Elvis-related stuff, and Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife has been on cloud 9. As a raging fan of the King, she's been in heaven for 48 hours.
One thing I've got to say, the anachronisms that occur across cultures don't quite explain this. While I laugh, heavily and secretly, at my teenage South American nephews and their enjoyment of the works of Michael Jackson, for example, even my mother-in-law can't explain Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife's love for The King. I guess she was hanging out with parents and relatives, and their enjoyment of Elvis was contagious. Whatever, she's so happy that it's really made me happy, just watching her.
In reality, Graceland is pretty neat. Elvis had an understated lifestyle, and the tours are quite short, but interesting, for all that. Absolutely, 100% worth the 1,300 miles.
Oh, BTB, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife also fell in love with the mountain country of Virginia. It's really, really beautiful out there, especially north of the Blue Ridge mountains. She received her first speeding ticket in 10 years of driving here in the US, too, and even then, she was both shocked that her appearance didn't lead to a mere warning (making me wonder how many times she's gotten away with speeding based on her looks), but also enchanted with the VA statie who ganked her. She's got a thing for blond hair and blue eyes (like her husband, for example). The guy laughed out loud and was very friendly when he learned that he was giving my wife her first ticket ever, but then my wife bursts out with "Choo are so pretty, chust like a beautiful girl with chort hair, but choo ooniformmm is wery masculina, like-a da toy solja." The guy was obviously ambivalent about hearing such a thing, but he was polite and smiling the whole while.
And I've got to say here that my wife's feminine charms have been a real mixed blessing thus far. Entertainment-wise, it's been fun. At Sun Studios, where Elvis got his start, for, example, some midwest 20-something couple was across the crowd from us, and the guy is eyeballing my wife heavily (I didn't notice, which was strange, for me, as I get jealous). The first I know about it, the woman slaps the guy's neck, HARD, with the sound of a mouse trap snapping shut, and she says in a horrible stage whisper (which everyone heard) "Enough! She's with her husband and their kids!" Everyone cracks up, my wife starts giggling, my kid and my nephew (whom we took for the trip) are laughing out loud... and the guy is duly mortified.
BUT, as I said, it's a double-edged sword. We were also coming out of a McDonalds (the kids harangued me into going. I won't actually eat there), and these three 40- to -50ish black guys, on bicycles, no less, start eye-banging her. I get furious, but with two kids with me, I'm trying to keep my cool. One of the idiots has to open his ignorant mouth, however, and says "Sexy Woman," pretty damn loud. In front of kids, for God's sake.
I get jealous, I'll admit, but I also get very protective. I'm furious, however, and can't ignore this affront, but I've got kids with me, one of 'em my own. I'm not going to be an ass, but I can't keep my fool mouth shut. I compromise: I hit the button on my keychain, bleeping the alarm off on my wife's shiny new bright red SUV, and turn around, smiling. "Yes, she is. You should try getting a F*&king job so you're not sitting in a McDonald's parking lot on a kid's bicycle at 2 in the afternoon on a weekday, and maybe you won't get laughed at by women like my wife."
The guys say nothing, and, as if on cue, my wife AND both the kids start laughing at what I said. I'm laughing, too, 'cus, other than the F-Bomb, I did well, and had no idea what was going to come out of my mouth.
Anyhow, it's been good, but tomorrow sees us heading back on the road for our next stop, NY city.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

offline for a time

BRB, taking a road trip with the Family B. Day one saw us from MA to VA. Aside from a 120-mile detour courtesy of someone who played bumper cars with a tank truck, all went well... thus far.
Tomorrow sees us, hopefully, from VA to TN.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

'ats a big 'un

Ever wonder what it takes to move your set of commemorative Dale Earnhardt displayin' plates from the workstation of an 8-year old in China to your local Wal-Mart Super Store?

picture via

This is the latest in large diesel engines for the newest generation of large container ships. This particular one is just under 109,000 horsepower. Look for the workers on each deck for scale. Also, look at the ladders (stairs) and catwalks (platforms). There's a lot of them.

"We greatly regret the loss of U.S. jobs that will result from this rig relocation."


Big thanks to Barry lObama for fucking us just a little bit more than we've already been fucked.

Exodus of deepwater rigs from GOM is underway

The exodus of deepwater rigs from the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the Obama administration moratorium on deepwater drilling is underway.

Diamond Offshore Drilling, Inc. (NYSE:DO) yesterday announced that it has entered into a term contract ending June 30, 2011, plus option, with Burullus Gas Company S.A.E. that will immediately mobilize the Ocean Endeavor from the Gulf Of Mexico (GOM) to Egypt.

Diamond Offshore President and CEO, Larry Dickerson, noted, "With new contracting severely restricted in the GOM as a result of the uncertainties surrounding the offshore drilling moratorium, we are actively seeking international opportunities to keep our rigs fully employed. This new contract for the Endeavor will help us preserve backlog, and will allow the previous operator of the rig to satisfy its contractual obligations which extended until June 30, 2011. We greatly regret the loss of U.S. jobs that will result from this rig relocation."

The new contract, combined with a $31 million early termination fee paid by the previous operator of the rig, is expected to generate combined maximum total revenue of approximately $100 million.

The Ocean Endeavour is a semisubmersible nominally capable of drilling in 10,000 ft water depths. It is one of several rigs on which Diamond Offshore customers have sought to exercise force majeur clauses in their contracts.

Diamond Offshore gave the details of the rigs and contracts in question in an 8K filing with the SEC last week.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

winding down

With only 4 days to go to the end of this tour, I'm starting to get antsy. To recap: It's hot, it's sunny, and we've had a spate of not-so-easy jobs of late... or so it felt until last night, anyhow.
Last night I discharged a tiny sip of bunkers to a pretty little Chinese asphalt tanker. The ship was only about 30 feet longer than my bunker barge.
I'll say this: The Chinese know how to build a ship with easy bunkering in mind. The bunker port was midships, though not in the cargo manifold area on their deck... the bunkering port had a separate area of its' own, behind a heavy rail that was ideal for propping up the fuel transfer hose.
Here's how it went: we arrived at the ship, came alongside, idled forward into the current (the ship was at anchor) until I figured out where to place the barge to best allow for my hose to be passed to the ship. Then we came forward another 15 feet. The deckhand and I passed two lines to the ship- the ship had heaving lines ready to throw (!). One line ran aft to a chock in my bow area, the other was led to my offshore side as a breast line. We heaved both lines fairly tight, then I walked back to my manifold area, and called out over the radio that we had to fall back 8 feet. The captain of the tug let her slip into neutral, and the deckhand let the spring line slip until we fell into position. Within a few minutes, we had thrown up 6 lines, and were made fast. The ship had many chocks and ports for mooring alongside- My capstans winched us tight to her hull, and the tug was shut down.
This is where it got downright pleasant for me: The ship was small, and my barge is not, as bunker barges go. Our decks were of a height. I was able to use my short (60-foot) fuel transfer hose to do the job. This is good because the hose weighs less than a ton when empty. I can drag it if I need to. Which I didn't.
I got the end of the hose to the ship in short order. I had wrapped a cargo sling around the flange of the hose, so I had lifted the hose by its' terminal end, and had dropped the flange within a foot or so of the bunker connection, which was about 3 feet above deck level. The crew quickly loosened my sling and slid it about 8 feet aft, then had me lift the sling with my boom. Working quickly, they removed the blind cap from my flange, removed the blind from theirs, and lined up- 2 guys on one side, and one bigger guy on the other. They lifted the end of the hose and slipped a bolt in place. Two of the guys then were dismissed. The third quy slipped the other 7 bolts in place, cranked them down, and we were done. Total time, from when I lifted my hose off the deck until Hose On, was 7 minutes. Has to be a record for me.
Anyhow, this is where the trouble often starts. This is usually the point in time where I discover whether or not someone speaks the same version of English that I do.
Now, in my opinion, this is also where American tankerman make a big mistake- we tend to speak as we normally do, and hope that someone understands. One thing about this ship last night is that I never spoke a word while we we lining up, making fast, and getting the hose on. Internationally-standardized hand signals did the job perfectly.
So, when I went to the rail, it was with a sense of optimism- a ship so well run, and organized as well, would probably have someone on board who could do a very good job with the English language. And the engineer didn't disappoint.
As I said, the ship was of a height with us. The Engineer leaned over the rail, as I did, and we shook hands. I said one of my two chinese words (I can say Hello and Thank you). The engineer, in clear but heavily accented English, asked some questions, I asked mine, and we settled into our pre-bunker conference right there, with none of the usual asking and re-asking of questions that so often has to happen to get everyone on the same page.
Having experienced before the need to pass and exchange subtle information without the concurrent common language usually needed, (from first dating my wife, when neither of us spoke much of each others language), I'd like to think that I'm pretty good at having a valid bunkering conference despite language barriers. All I can say is Thank God that English is the gold standard for maritime exchanges. Learning another language is hard for me, and I've got the largest incentive to do that already, being married to a foreigner. I don't know if I've got it in me to learn another language just to do my job. Intellectual laziness, maybe.

I dropped the bunkering hose onto the containment pan for the bunkering area.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Feeding my frankenstein

I think that half the reason I chose the University was because of the Field Station.

Being the youngest of four kids, by the time I finished high school, I knew that there wasn't going to be enough money for college for me. I'm smart enough that I could have pushed myself and gotten a free ride to any non-ivy league school I chose... but I was also unfocused and running in a million different directions. I didn't know if I wanted to join the Navy, be a lobstermen, become a marine engineer, or be a scientist. So, after high school, I pumped gas, and worked on a lobster boat... and it was fun, but not for long. After a year, I had one of those moments where I realized that I didn't have to pick one job and forget about the rest. I chose to enter a Marine Science program, something that would give me the ability to study all the sciences, and focus on the aspects that I found interesting.
= For the first time since grade school, I was an A student. I was still pumping gas two nights a week, and Saturday was my day to go lobstering. In the summer, peak lobster season (at least for a college student), I was working up in Maine, along the Canadian border, up in the Bay of Fundy, and that's where I learned how to be a marine biologist.
My first summer up at the remote field station mostly consisted of washing dishes, cleaning bathrooms, mowing, clearing paths in the woods, and painting. In between, I sat in with the upperclassmen, who were studying marine biology and learning how to identify animals in the field. I was in heaven.
So, my second summer up in Maine, I was as happy as a pig in shit. I was taking a field class, and, with no dishes to wash, I started to tinker with the animal storage tanks- I had learned how to lay fiberglass, so I repaired a very large but leaky tank (about 6 metric tons), and proceeded to fill it with every marine creature I could find.
My lobsters kept eating the sea urchins, and my sea urchins kept eating the base of the kelp, and the kelp leftovers clogged the drains in the tank, so I had seawater flooding the wet laboratory about three times a week.
I really got interested in sea urchins. Lobsters have always been my bread and butter, and, while I find them interesting scientifically, I was fascinated with sea urchins.

At the time I was up in Maine, the sea urchin fishery had exploded. Urchins were in high demand for their eggs, or roe, for sushi. Downeast Maine is for the most part economically depressed, so the 'green gold' immediately came under heavy pressure. My freshman year, I had helped a friend perform a population assessment, and, in the local urchin habitats, there were over 100 urchins per square meter of seafloor.
By the next summer, I performed my own population assessment, and I found less than one urchin per meter in the same areas, but without all the hungry urchins, there was a kelp forest growing where the seafloor had previously been barren. I was completely sucked in by the changes to the ecology.
There was a small muddy bay not far from this new kelp forest- the bay contained a massive population of small urchins. This area, called an 'urchin barrens,' was something of a desert, ecologically speaking. There was just enough activity to keep the large population of urchins present, but the lack of food, coupled with the massive population, left them stunted, and, thus, avoided by fishermen, who were looking for heavy, fat, egg-laden urchins.
Being sympathetic to the locals severe economic woes, and generally being a fan of commercial fishing, I hated to see the urchin fishery curtailed, as it obviously was coming to an end. And then I had one of those 'ah-ha!' moments.
I very quickly whipped up a very short and simple study proposal: I would try to associate urchin reproductive potential with seafloor type: Since fishermen wanted nothing to do with urchin barrens, and urchin barrens contained massive populations of urchins, and urchins are dependent on density to ensure reproductive success (that is, the more urchins there are in an area, the more they successfully breed), the barrens could be urchin nurseries, despite the near-starvation conditions, and fishermen could harvest the living hell out of urchins outside the barrens and not deplete the population... at least in this part of Maine.

Well, turns out I was right. I spent the next YEAR writing and rewriting a report of sufficient quality for publication. My academic advisor, in this manner, taught me how to write scientifically, over the course of 25+ revisions. Anyhow, 14 months later, we published our first article in a small journal.
My second article, produced a year later, was published in the most prestigious journal of marine biology. I discovered that lobsters use differing neurological input to find food by smell, based on the properties of chaotic turbulence of diffusion of chemicals in water, and not by the concentration of the chemical odors, as was previously believed.
I wrote that article in one take, in under two hours. That's the impact of a good teacher.
Anyhow, I got addicted to writing and then reporting on my findings. Scientific fora are good places to network, and I got to know some great people- I actually met with E.O. Wilson, perhaps the greatest evolutionary scientist since Charles Darwin himself (we talked about the evolution of the sea urchins' jaw, the most complex mandible in nature, with its' 19 moving parts). I also, quite by accident, had lunch at the Harvard Club with a quiet, unassuming astrophysicist, who also accidentally invented the digital camera, and not-so-accidentally designed the Hubble telescope (he paid, obviously).
I've never been able to focus on being any one thing. The more I got invested in marine sciences, the more important lobstering, and my other new passion, fish farming, became to me... and the problem with being pretty good in a couple of fields is that it doesn't leave enough time to focus passionately and become excellent in one field. I had spent part of my last year as an undergraduate in Scotland, writing an economic analysis of the impact of globalization of the salmon farming industry, and the 300-page monster that came out of it was an abortion, scientifically speaking, mixing economics and sociobiology.
Like anything, when things get out of balance, something has to suffer. By the time I was in grad school, I was driving 100 miles every weekend so I could go home and go lobstering. My first summer in grad school, I had helped test an experimental fish farm down in Florida, and learned that lobstering was more important to me than fish farming, but that I enjoyed both. I was starting to want to go fishing more than I wanted to do anything else, and I knew that it was time to give something up. It was time to either be a researcher or be a lobsterman, and I chose to be a lobsterman...for a few years, anyhow, until my perennial case of itchy feet pushed me into working on an oil tanker.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New blog!

With a new laptop in hand, I have lost a bunch of links that were sitting in my bookmarks folder... I've added another gem to my blogger sidebar. New York Tug Captain's Weblog has been on my regularly visited list for the past two years. Capt. Brucato writes quite a bit about boathandling in a way that makes it accessible- something that I didn't think was really doable for tugs.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Additional thoughts on the Jones Act

With triple-digit heat, bright sun, and enough HFO on board to fuel the two tankers we've got scheduled for today, it's going to be a rough one. This will be one of those days where I'm going to be tempted to hide inside with the AC a little too much.

With the prospects of suffering some serious diaper rash today what with the heat and all, my thoughts fall again to the recent political stuntwork of Sen. John McCain.

Sen McCain is a war hero and a survivor. Having lived through the Hanoi Hilton, I hate being smarmy, but I can't resist. A man who survived such an ordeal shouldn't be so willing to grease himself up to be a human hand puppet with the Agriculture lobby buried elbow deep and manipulating him so skillfully.

So, if I could sit down with Sen McCain, I'd say this: War hero or not, I hope your prostate falls out for having been so eager to take food out of my family's mouth, all in the name of working a scant few more years before being laid to rest yourself.

I'm suffering today. It's 8am, and I'm earning every penny I am paid, because I am miserable and being professional, even in the face of being pushed to compromise safety in the name of expediency. The difference between myself and the screaming, belligerent and hung over Russian engineer I dealt with today, is that I get paid well enough to protect my job in the face of enormous pressure, and I protect my job by being safe.

I'm not raising eyebrows by stating the obvious here: you get what you pay for. Pay a little, get a little. Maybe a little magic pipe in your engine room. Maybe a broken Oily Water Separator. Maybe a valve lashed open. Maybe a fire supression system with more holes in it than a sprinkler.
I'm aware that the Jones Act is a subsidy, and subsidies are bad, economically speaking. While the incredible arrogance of Sen. McCain's actions (criticizing the Jones Act while being the buttboy of the agriculture industry, the US's most heavily-subsidized industry) are scandalous, comparing two economic wrongs doesn't make for an easily-derived equation vis-a-vis the merits of the lesser of two evils; rather, the benefits of both can be compared and contrasted by comparing the effects of removing each subsidy.

if we're going to tilt at windmills here, if we were to simply stop our chokehold on Africa's farming industry by stopping grain subsidies, Africa could become self-sufficient. The consolidation of farming infrastructure would slow or reverse (economic superpowers don't like shrinking profit margins, and ag subsidies principally go to the majority stakeholders, the ag conglomerates).

If the Jones Act were repealed, local jobs would be offshored- consolidation of maritime interests would increase (the US is still a major player in terms of global tonnage owned- we just don't flag, or build, or crew our ships in-house). Naval shipbuilding would continue to be dismal and trending downward, as one of the two top-tier military shipbuilders also builds merchant ships, so procurement costs would increase, while shipbuilding infrastructure would require additional subsidization to remain viable for military construction. I would assume that the already shamefully-bloated shipbuilding budgeting process would increase. I would guess it would go beyond hyperbolic.
There's no way that even in the US Gulf of Mexico that an American could work for international wages, when it comes to unlicensed positions aboard. The foreign First Assistant engineers that I interact with in the course of bunkering all go google-eyed when I tell them that a shithole apartment in a crime-ridden neighborhood where I come from rents for $1,200 a month with no utilities included.
So, when it comes to Sen. McCain's hubris, I give him a big thumbs down, in the Roman sense. I say, politically, salt him and let the lions out. The mob needs entertainment.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

This is what I was talking about...

When I get online while I'm at work, I have a widget that gets me the local headlines in the papers of whatever city I happen to be working near (or heading for). Yesterday was a busy one for me, so I didn't get to look over the New Jersey headlines before sailing for Baltimore.

It seems that New Jersey is being compared to Arizona in the news, because one of the larger cities has begin denying business licenses for food vendors who can't provide a social security number. Arizona being the principal boogeyman for all things related to criticism of illegal immigration into the US, I think it's safe to say that we've got some new hyperbole to work with here in the Northeast. It seems to me that everything vaguely critical or providing a form of restraint on unimpeded immigration is now being compared to the way things are in Arizona.
I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing in NJ. I'm very ambivalent right now on the subject.
One thing I do know is that I've long said that the best way to restrain and limit illegal immigration is to deny legitimacy to illegitimate workers- which is to say, punish the living hell out of employers who knowingly employ illegals to save money. This reduces the incentive to provide cut-rate wages to illegals... and, although no one likes to say it, if an employer can't remain competitive by hiring workers legally, then the rest of us are creating a subsidy for that person by giving competitive advantage via the savings on salary and the nonpayment of taxes and benefits.
Anyhow, my own opinion is that if one were to prosecute the employers, the casual labor pool would dry up, both legal and illegal... this is a real mixed blessing, as everyone likes a little cash earned by sweat when they're first entering the labor force. I survived my 20's purely by working and earning a mix of reported and unreported income from labor.
As I said, I'm ambivalent. The truth is, even under pressure from a crackdown on illegal labor, many illegal immigrants are still living under better conditions than they'd have in their home country. At that point, then, there's a moral quagmire; it's no longer possible to say that we've got ours and everyone else can go pound sand.
Still, it ain't easy. I live with one foot in a community made up of a mix of illegals and legitimate immigrants. The Brazilian pool in Massachusetts is interesting to me, from a social standpoint; there's enormous societal pressure to stay under the radar. Any interaction with government or civil bodies is viewed prejudically- if one member gets a talking-to by a cop for having jaywalked, there's sure to be a conflict after church the next Sunday... same thing with medical care- while there are still far too many people who use the Emergency Room as a free clinic, there is an increasing awareness of 'American' discontent at the practice, and the resultant backlash is causing a sea change there, as well.
Classism is rampant. As an example, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife is viewed with both envy and criticism for having married me. In coming here, my wife went from upper class to immigrant upper class- she came here legally, which made people envious, of course. Then she went and married a stolidly middle class gringo marinero, apparently denying illegals of both genders the opportunity for a green card by taking us both out of the dating pool.
My reaction is that tragically I was never aware that hundreds of hot foreign women with dark eyes were eyeballing me like the parish bull. My wife denies this, of course. Seeing as she was the very first Brazilian woman I ever spoke to or was aware of, I suppose she has a point.

Anyhow, for obvious reasons I'm biased regarding the illegal immigrant issue. Regardless, it still seems to me that the most efficient way to handle this is to enforce our existing laws before we draft new ones that principally act to create public discussion rather than actually accomplish anything.