Thursday, July 31, 2014

We rent bikes in Karlsruhe and head to Lindau to start our trip

    Lucy and I finally rented our bikes and got ready to start our adventure in earnest.
    Our original plan was for us to start two days earlier in Chur, Switzerland. My hope was to rent or even buy a bike in Heidelburg, Germany, and then travel to Chur to start our trip.
    We arrived in Heidelburg on a Saturday and nothing was open. I had decided that if I couldn’t buy or rent a bike in Heidelburg I would just rent from the Swiss rail station in Chur. But the cost was simply outrageous, so we waited until Monday and rented a bike in Karlsruhe from a guy operating as Mike’s Bikes. The cost for two bikes for almost two weeks was 230 euros, which was just a little more than half of what we would have had to pay if we had tried to rent in Switzerland.
"Mike's" real name is Martin
    Mike's real name is Martin; he explained the Mike thing to me but I didn't understand. He rents mostly Giant brand bikes, which are considered a cheaper model, which is just fine by me. Those wanting to pay more for a fancier bike can look elsewhere. He has a lot of bikes, and with advance notice could easily equip a group of 40 or more.
    This fee included use of two waterproof panniers, as my bags were too large for the Bushwacker grocery panniers that I brought with me. The Bushwackers worked great for Lucy, though. I’m going to devote a full blog post to this, and carrying one’s belongings while biking is a pretty darn important thing.
    Fortunately our stays in the Heidelburg area didn’t cost much. For our first night in Heidelburg we stayed at the Crowne Plaza on an 80-euro advance purchase rate. A bit high for me but the hotel was near the old town. There was a barber shop connected to the hotel and I got a much-needed haircut, as my hair was getting really sweaty from the heat.
    The next night I used Club Carlson points for a free night in Heppeheim; I was cheated, as I paid extra points for a superior room and didn’t get it. The next night I used a Marriott Rewards certificate for a free night in Karlsruhe. As far as we could tell there was nothing in Karlsruhe but cheap bike rentals, but feel free to make your own judgments.
    Yesterday we got a late start after renting our bikes and headed to Lindau, a little jut-out almost-island on the Bodensea, also known as Lake Constance. Our hotel cost 80 euros, and is one of the few that I’ve had to pony up the money for. The breakfast was nice, but there was no air conditioning. Our room had neither a bathroom nor shower. The location was nice, though
    We had to take fairly slow trains to Lindau as we were carrying bikes, which are not allowed on the faster ICE trains. As a result we didn’t arrive until fairly late. I wish we had made it early, because Lindau is a neat place. We spent some time the next day just wandering about to make up for what we missed the day before.
   Much to our surprise, Lindau closes early. At 10 p.m. everything was closing and we headed back to our hotel to go to bed. There was no air-conditioning, and the room was a sweltering-hot 75 degrees, if not more. Even worse, apparently everything didn’t close at 10 p.m., because at 2 a.m. a bunch of rowdy college kids walked under my window waking me up.
    Enough for this post. My next will detail our first full day of actual bike riding.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Paris, home of lost luggage and really stinky antiperspirants

    Lucy and I have arrived in Paris, thanks to a $50 fare on Iberia Airlines, although we actually flew on its low-cost carrier, Vueling.
    Fifty dollars is a great airfare. Unfortunately, the bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price. Vueling/Iberia lost my little checked suitcase, which had my seersucker suit jacket, two paris of shoes, several pairs of pants, plus toiletries. Plus socks. Plus more.
    I’m not happy. Technically I’m entitled to replace some of these items, but I’m at the mercy of the airline in seeking reimbursement. European clothes are terrible; they don’t fit the local citizenry properly, and I’m sure none of them will fit me. Plus, from a cost standpoint a really nice pair of pants that costs $25 in the U.S. costs about $200 in Europe. Did I say I’m not happy.
    I went to a Monoprix today to buy some toiletries to replace those in my bag. The St. Michael Monoprix is about as crappy as they come, by the way. Among the things that I needed to buy was antiperspirant. I spent 30 minutes looking at and smelling the varieties on offer. All of the products contained perfume. I don’t want my antiperspirant to work by stinking more than I do. I want an absolute absence of odor. Why can’t I have this? Why? (To the store’s credit they did not have Right Guard and Mennen Speed Stick (the brown kind), which stink worse than any human I’ve ever smelled). I finally bought a product that I thought didn't smell too bad, but the odor from it is making me sick.
    Did I say these jackasses have lost my luggage and I’m not happy?
    Paris was not part of our original plan. I was willing to fly almost anywhere in Central Europe, but the $50 fare to Paris was the cheapest by almost $100 per person, so that’s where we went.
   Two years ago my dad took the entire family on a Mediterranean Cruise, after which Lucy and I spent four days in Paris before returning home. Last year we managed to scrape together enough frequent flyer miles and hotel points for a family vacation to Paris and London.
    So I feel a little like Forrest Gump. Due to the way the airline tickets were priced, Lucy and I had to go to Paris, AGAIN.
    I had planned to make Paris a quick stop, but last year and the year before Lucy was sorely disappointed that she didn’t get to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Tickets have to be purchased a certain number of days in advance, but I discovered that you have to be sitting at your computer right at 9 a.m. Paris time (that’s about 2 a.m. Mississippi time), as the tickets sell out in a matter of minutes.
    I finally got the Eiffel Tower tickets, but using them requires us to stay in Paris for four days. There are worse fates.
    For the past three years I’ve purchased a goodly number of Choice Hotel points during the American Express Daily Getaways promotion. I’ve managed to use these to get decent hotel rooms relatively cheaply. For example, before our family cruise two years ago I was able to treat the entire extended family to a free night at the Hotel Diana in Venice. My cost, about $38 per room, versus about $200 or more if we simply paid cash.
    I’ve booked quite a number of nights with these points for this trip, including our Paris hotel, the Andre Latin. The cost in points per night is 20,000, so I’m shelling out just under $80 per night for a decent Paris hotel room in the Latin Quarter. It’s more than I’d like to pay, but I’m not sure one can pay any less in Paris.
    Now I’m just praying that my luggage will arrive tonight and be delivered to my hotel tomorrow.

No such thing as a 'free' supper after all

    In my last post I reported that our hotel in Lisbon was pre-paid and cost $51 per night. This was in error. The rate was actually 52 euros per night; a good deal still, just not as good a deal.
    At checkout I also discovered the mystery of the free meal voucher that we were given. At the time I booked the room I checked the option allowing me to pay for one meal in advance. So a mediocre buffet that would have cost the two of us 32 euros if purchased on the spot “only” cost us 30 euros through our advance purchase. We could have had a far better dinner for less money in Old Town Lisbon.
     With the exception of the overpriced buffet meal Lisbon was a budget destination. We bought a subway pass, two museum tickets, plus a few beers and Cokes, and that’s about it; plus the Augmentin for my sinus infection.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lisbon has been an unexpected surprise

    Sometimes a city will surprise you, and so it has been with Lisbon.
    I don’t think of Portugal as a wealthy county in relation to other EU nations. Democracy came to Portugal while I was in high school, so the history here is quite different from most other European countries.
    In terms of per-capita income, Portugal ranks behind Greece and Estonia, and ahead of Poland and Lithuania. So the country isn’t rolling in money.
    The Lisbon airport was certainly unimpressive. The airport is mostly served by smaller planes which park on the tarmac. We had to take a bus into the terminal building.
    We resisted the urge to just take a taxi to our hotel, which is an easy temptation after a long flight into an unknown city. Instead we headed for the metro. The constant effort to save the $20 or $30 that can be so easily thrown away while traveling is what makes it possible to travel.
    We must have looked prosperous, because two French ladies gave us their unused metro tickets while we were waiting in line to buy our own tickets. My experience is that free metro tickets are always given to those who look like they need them the least, so at least we didn’t look needy.
    The Metro was remarkably clean and modern; certainly far better than the fine systems offered by Paris or London. It’s amazing how nice a metro can be in a city that doesn’t suffer the homeless to defecate, sleep, and urinate all over the common areas!
    Lisbon is a bit like San Francisco, with hills everywhere. Major roads are on various levels, and the sidewalks run up and down a bit like exit ramps. It can be confusing. But the city as a whole is very clean, modern, and pleasant to visit. It's one of the more pleasant places I've been.
    We stayed at a Novotel hotel, in the north part of the city. The downside of this hotel was that it wasn’t really within walking distance of Old Town Lisbon; there were few restaurants in the area and seeing anything required a subway ride.
    The upside was that it is a very nice hotel that I purchased through an advance-purchase special a couple of months ago for $52 per night. A huge breakfast buffet was included every morning, and we got one free supper as well. Thanks to the huge breakfast we did without lunch, and got by with just a snack for our first two nights.
    My biggest unexpected expense in Lisbon has been for some Augmentin. I’ve got a nasty sinus infection that simply will not go away. The cost in Lisbon for sixteen 875-mg Augmentin is about $12, which is pretty reasonable in my book. And the pharmacists were highly trained and did not need a pesky doctor’s prescription.

    On our first day in Lisbon we slept. That’s it. We managed to get checked into our room at 2:30 p.m. and went straight to bed. Lucy slept straight through to the next morning. I got up at around 8 p.m. and had a beer and mini-pizza in the hotel lobby and went back to bed.
Harry Potter was here?
    On Day Two we took a nap after our huge breakfast, followed by a visit to El Cortes Ingles department store and a visit to the old town, where we toured the Church of San Roque and the attached museum. We were mightily impressed, as virtually every surface was covered in gold leaf. Lucy noticed what looked like the Sign of the Deathly Hallows on one of the paintings in the attached museum, which suggests those novels may in fact be based on true events. I couldn't help but notice that the paintings seemed to have a much more vibrant style than paintings I've seen in other countries from a similar period.
    On Day Three we again visited the El Cortes Ingles department store, but still managed not to buy anything. We discovered that the little horsies on Ralph Lauren shirts are about 25 percent larger in Portugal than they are on the American version (we measured). We also saw some people wearing the grotesque Polo shirts with the one-foot-high horsey. Why? We also visited the Castle of King Jorge, atop Lisbon's highest hill.
    Sadly, we missed the Gulbenkian Museum, which is closed on Mondays. We return to Lisbon briefly before our return home, so it is on our list of things to yet to see.
    So the takeaway is that Lisbon is one of the most difficult cities to see in Europe. There is but a single train per day to and from Madrid, and it's an overnighter. But it's a great place to visit. I look forward to coming back for a single day before our return home. I was very surprised at how impressed I was with everything here.
    Tomorrow we head to Paris. Right now I’m off to sleep.

Chapter two, in which we learn advantages of clinging to window or aisle seats

    I mentioned in my previous post that we had managed to get really cheap tickets to Europe. We flew on USAir.
    The plane we flew on explains part of the reason for the low price. It was a 757-200 with 3-3 seating, a plane more suited for domestic flights than international travvel. There was no IFE system. Movies were shown on television screens in the center aisle. I kept wondering if Jimmy Carter was still president.
    Whenever booking seats for two on a three-across grid I always take a window and aisle, in hopes that the middle seat will stay open. I then check back regularly to make sure the middle seat hasn’t filled. If it does I’ll move to a new row.
    On our flight the middle seat showed empty until our check-in a few hours before the flight. I had high hopes that we would therefore have some extra space.
    When we arrived at our row there was already a man in the center seat. By mutual agreement Lucy and I refrained from speaking to each other, in hopes that this middle occupant wouldn’t know we were traveling together, and thus get the idea that one of us should volunteer for middle-seat duty.
    A minute after we took our seats my phone vibrated, indicating an arriving text. Since I have a record, I will share our conversation:
Lucy [all exchanges by text message]: Course of action, if any?
Me: You can ask him if he would like window. I think he’s French (note: Lucy speaks a slight amount of French).
Lucy: Nah...
Me: Well you can’t yik yak w me.
Lucy: Then you can ask him if he wants the aisle...
Me: I am too fat to sit in middle
Lucy: And I’m too comfortable to move. So I think ima just kick back with the book. Let’s see how long it takes for me to finish
    And so Lucy and I headed to Europe with a stranger between us, each clinging to our coveted aisle or window seat, pretending not to know each other.
    I was courteous. I leaned out towards the aisle, giving the stranger the full use of the armrest. But then a miracle happened.
    The stranger motioned that he wanted to go to the bathroom. He never came back. We saw him somehow manage to get an aisle seat a number of rows in front of us. I think it was a seat that you have to pay for, but he just took it (on USAir the premium seats offer nothing more than early boarding and easy exit; no extra legroom or free drinks).
    So for almost the entire flight Lucy and I had an empty middle seat between us. Lucy stretched out a bit, but I kept my armrest down. I just enjoyed being able to use the armrest and my right arm without touching or being touched by a stranger. Of course, if we had offered this stranger one of our comfortable window or aisle seats we would have had his company for the entire flight, no doubt touching us the whole way. So standing firm paid off.
    USAir now offers only a single free glass of wine with dinner, poured from a milk carton. It’s pretty wretched stuff. I accepted my free glass and bought an additional airplane bottle of wine for $7; it, too, was closer to wretched than good.
    Only after my free glass of wine had been poured and my $7 mini-bottle purchased did I discover that the airline offered both Conundrum and Meomi Pinot Noir – two of my favorite wines – for $15 per half bottle. This is about what it would cost at a liquor store. I desperately wanted to buy one of these half bottles, but figured that amount of wine would either make me very entertaining or very unentertaining to my fellow passengers. So I drank my rotgut, put some tunes on my Android, and took a fitful nap.
    Today’s lesson: Bring your own in-flight entertainment. Never voluntarily take a middle seat. Always read the airline drink offerings before ordering.

And we're off . . .

    My daughter Lucy and I have embarked on a grand adventure of sorts. I managed to score us a couple of $600 round-trip tickets to Europe.
    Our tickets are from Boston to Lisbon. So to use them we had to get there, which in the end meant driving to Atlanta so that I could use a companion ticket so that Lucy could fly for free. After factoring in the cost of three weeks of parking I’ve realized this was a terrible mistake; I could have booked a flight out of Memphis months ago, but I kept waiting for the fares to drop. They never did.
    In the end, after tallying all costs we still will have managed to get from Oxford to Europe and back again for less than $1,000 each; flying out of Memphis would have cost almost double.
    Last year we spent four days on rented bicycles. This year we plan to spend almost a dozen. I’m fat and short of breath, but we plan to stay on flat ground.
    My hope is that we will convert my blog into a travelogue for the next three weeks, as we recount our adventure. Where we’ve managed to save money, I’ll share it. Where I’ve managed to blow money needlessly, I will try to admit it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

If Thad Cochran wants to call Chris McDaniel a racist, what exactly does that make him?

    As Chris McDaniel seeks to find enough evidence of voter fraud to overturn the Republican primary run-off, it’s important not to forget the most important issue: Thad Cochran won, if he won, by running last-minute radio ads and making robo-calls equating conservatism with racism.
    Liberals have, for years, equated any conservative position that they did not like to racism. Now Thad Cochran has climbed aboard their bandwagon.
    I have serious doubts about Chris McDaniel’s ability to prove enough voter fraud and get a new election, although I think there was rampant fraud and vote buying. But I have no doubts about the Cochran-Barbour radio ads and telephone calls. I’ve heard them. There is evidence these ads were apparently paid for through some illegal machinations through the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which attempted to attribute them to an unregistered PAC operated out of a Jackson storefront church.
    I pointed out repeatedly before the election that Cochran had a conservative voting record, with only rare liberal lapses. Until the last days of the campaign I had planned to vote for him. But I can’t ever remember him championing any conservative cause, and I feel he is a little wobbly on illegal immigration; for that reason I decided to support Chris McDaniel.
    So if Chris McDaniel is a racist because of his political views, so is Thad Cochran. If Chris McDaniel is a racist because of his associations, so is Thad Cochran.
    Those who followed the campaign know that a man who donated $800 to Chris McDaniel’s campaign was a member of the Klan back in 1962 (when interviewed the former Klansman said he was a Cochran supporter in prior campaigns). So I guess for some that makes Chris a racist by association.
    But wait! Haley Barbour, who controlled Cochran’s campaign because he essentially controls his vote, claimed the White Citizen’s Council was an organization designed to help blacks. He joked to a New York Times reporter that people shouldn’t use racial epithets because they might be reincarnated as a watermelon and be eaten by blacks. So that makes Thad a racist by association.
    Salon reported that Chris re-tweeted something written by a racist. So I guess that makes him racist (the tweet wasn’t racist, but apparently he was supposed to have read all of the guy’s tweets before re-tweetinig one).
    A senior Cochran campaign strategist is Austin Barbour. Barbour’s business partner in Clearwater Group is Arnie Hederman, as in the Clarion-Ledger Hederman family, which operated the most racist newspaper in America. Headline after Martin Luther King’s March on Washington: "Washington is Clean again with Negro Trash Removed.” Double-racist!
    It’s sad that Thad Cochran was too senile to debate. It could have been a lot of fun.
    Thad could have declared, “You’re a racist!”
    Chris could have responded, “No I’m not. You’re a racist!”
    Thad then could have said, “I’m not a racist. You’re the racist!”
    Chris then could have delivered the knockout blow: “I know you are but what am I?”
    At this point Thad likely would have gotten befuddled and declared “I’m a racist!", perhaps adding something about indecent things with farm animals. And Chris would have won the debate and the election.
    That, of course, is why Thad refused to debate.

    A recent PPP poll shows that Cochran is currently highly popular with blacks and Democrats and unpopular with Republicans. He's actually outpolling Democrat Travis Childers strongly among these two core Democratic groups. It’s our duty to make sure the voters of Mississippi know that if they think Chris McDaniels is a racist, so is Thad Cochran. Cochran must be made to pay for the terrible things he has done, and pay he will. We must give him the same treatment that he gave Chris McDaniel, with radio ads and robo-calls letting people know the he and his supporters are racists.
    I really don’t think Mississippi’s black voters will find the Barbour joke about the watermelon very funny.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Eleven years ago Jinny and I hiked the Nietzsche Trail, dressed more nicely than anyone else

    Today is Bastille Day, and what better time to share the story of Jinny and me traveling down the Nietzsche Trail from Eze, France to the coastline.
    We hadn’t planned to walk the Nietzsche Trail. We had planned to eat at a really nice restaurant, but those plans were dashed.
    We were in Eze as part of a 12-day Mediterranean cruise with a port call in Monte Carlo. Monte Carlo is a pretty worthless port call in my view, since you can’t visit the casinos in the day time. But I had read in one of the travel magazines about a great deal to be had in Eze, a short cab ride from Monte Carlo.
    I had read that the famous Chateau de la Chevre D'Or restaurant in Eze, which has two Michelin stars, offered a fixe prix lunch for about 65 euros. Dinner for two at this restaurant can cost as much as $1,000, so a 65-euro lunch was not unreasonable (at the time the euro and dollar were at par). It was hailed as one of the greatest travel bargains in all the world.
    We stepped off of our cruise ship on July 14, 2003. I don’t know the exact temperature, but this was in the middle of the biggest heat wave that Europe had experienced since 1540. It was hot. Seventy thousand Europeans died from the heat in 2003, including 15,000 Frenchmen. I was wearing a blue blazer, tie, and khakis. Jinny was wearing a dress and heels. We wanted to look sharp for our fancy meal, for which we had reserved in advance.
    We arrived in Eze and then at the restaurant, which sits atop the highest hill in Eze like a castle. Jinny decided to read and menu and confirmed that the 65-euro lunch was indeed on offer. It was. Underneath it said, “Except on Festival Days.”
    “You know what today is, don’t you?” Jinny asked. I didn’t. “It’s Bastille Day.” A "festival" day. An a la carte lunch, if we ordered carefully, would have cost us $500. We declined, although we did pay $10 each for a drink at a bar with the finest view we’ve ever enjoyed.
    I had heard about the Nietzsche Trail which went from Eze, high on a hill, down to the French coastline. I suggested we walk down, find a place for lunch and a drink, and catch a train back to Monte Carlo.
    We found the entrance to the Nietzsche Trail. Among my grandmother, Mom Hurdle’s effects was a church bulletin where she had taken a single note from the pastor’s sermon: “Wide and broad is the path to destruction.” Such is the Nietzsche Trail.
    The entrance to the Nietzsche Trail in Eze is well-marked, and there are nice, neat little steps leading downwards to a paved path. This paved path continues for about 100 yards. There is then a bit of deterioration; and then more deterioration. The further down we went, the worse the trail got; but to go back meant a hard trek uphill. The trail deteriorated to just rocks, to the point where we honestly could barely walk, and feared falling off the mountain.
    We should have known something was up when various hikers gave strange looks to this couple dressed for a dinner party stumbling down a path more suited for billy goats. We survived, but for a while we thought we might join the 70,000-plus death toll.
    Jinny has not stopped thanking me for our wonderful lunch to this day.

    Below is a video that someone took of their jog down the Nietzsche Trail, just to give an idea of what it is like.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Illegal immigrants now pouring in by trainloads, but a border fence would solve everything

Trainloads of poor, disease-ridden welfare seekers head to the
U.S. every day as a result of Obama's refusal to enforce our laws.
    A cargo train derailed in Mexico last week. Thirteen hundred minors seeking welfare and amnesty in the United States were aboard. Thirteen hundred on a single train!
    Such is the flood of humanity that has been unleashed by our jackass-in-chief's refusal to enforce our immigration laws and his insistence that all criminals in this country illegally would be granted amnesty, citizenship, and the benefits of the welfare state for life.
    Conservatives warned that even the hint of amnesty would bring on new waves of illegal immigration. Liberals simply will not or can not listen. And so now what we said would happen; America is being invaded.
    The conservative position has always been that we are willing to discuss immigration and even amnesty, but we have to secure our national borders first. Having a non-porous border is what makes a nation a nation.
    Obama has ridiculed conservatives for wanting to build a border fence. "Or they’ll want a higher fence. Maybe they'll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat!"
    Right now we don't even have a fence over much of the border. Illegal immigrants can simply walk over the dry Rio Grande and enter the country. Children often allow themselves to be caught immediately, as they have been told they will never have to leave and will have welfare for life.
    We need a fence, and believe it or not, many experts say some type of "moat" is actually needed as part of proper fencing in order to keep trucks or armored vehicles from just getting a running start and ramming through a wire structure. As for the alligators, why not? It's our moat, after all. Good fences make good neighbors. Moats filled with hungry alligators make for better neighbors.
    There has been a great deal of debate about the ending of unemployment benefits. Democrats want them to continue for life. A better idea is to offer every American a job helping to construct a border fence between the United States and Mexico. If there aren't enough immigration judges and clerks to handle the backlog of cases, let's hire more.
    If we make it physically impossible for these criminals to walk across the border people will stop – drum roll please – walking across the border!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Obama says amnesty will encourage 'best and brightest,' while new wards of the state pour in

Does this look like the very best and brightest
Latin America has to offer?

   Several years ago when our Idiot-in-Chief violated his oath of office and quit enforcing our immigration laws, virtually all conservatives pointed out that we could expect additional hordes of illegal aliens flooding across the border.
    And of course we were right; conservatives are rarely wrong. Now we have hundreds of thousands of children streaming into the country in search of free food, free housing, and free medical care, all to be paid for with additional taxes on those of us who are here legally.
    These are literally the dregs of Latin America society: unskilled, uneducated workers likely to burden our welfare system and jails for generations to come.
    Oh, and please my Left-Wing-Nut friends, spare me the argument our ancestors were illegal immigrants when they entered the country in the 1600s. Can anyone deny that the Indians would be far better off today if they had possessed the political will and police power to prevent European entry into North America? Open borders ruined the lives of American Indians and open borders will ruin our lives, too.
    Obama claims all we need to do is just grant legal status and amnesty to anyone who enters the country illegally and all of our problems will be solved. "If we want to keep attracting the best and the brightest from beyond our shores, we're going to have to fix our immigration system, which is broken," Obama said during a break between his frequent golf games.
    The problem is that most of the illegal immigrants coming from Latin America in recent years simply aren't the best and brightest. They are the uneducated, unskilled, and sometimes criminal, and the United States does not need them.
    There was a time when an immigrant coming to this country would either work hard or starve to death, and as a result we could allow virtually unlimited immigration; new entrants would succeed or starve. Today we have the welfare state, and no citizen or legal resident has to work. We cannot afford to allow even a single unskilled, uneducated, low-IQ immigrant to enter our country and become a burden on society.
    Nor can we allow unskilled immigrants to depress wages for our own citizens. We need to put the sorry, leaching fruit farmers on notice that they do not have a right to $15-an-hour illegal-immigrant labor, and they will need to start paying Americans $30- to $40-an-hour to do the job. There are no jobs that Americans won't do, just jobs that Americans won't do for relatively low wages in relation to the difficulty of the work.
    If the United States wants to attract the best and brightest we can do so by offering legal residency and citizenship to anyone making a minimum score on the SAT or ACT, perhaps a 1200 math/verbal on the SAT or a 27 on the ACT. These scores are low enough to be within reach of those who really work at it while high enough to ensure that those qualifying truly will be among the "best and brightest."
    A couple of years ago I met a young Chinese guy at a bar in Barcelona. He had attended graduate school at the University of Illinois but couldn't obtain legal residency in the United States. It's a shame, because he would have been a great addition to our nation. But since he couldn't get legal residency he left and now lives in Hong Kong, and he won't be back.
    And that's the problem with the Obama immigration plan. Potential immigrants with high IQs and a respect for the law have excluded themselves from residency while low-IQ criminals just keep pouring in.
    A rational immigration policy starts with a several layers of border fencing, border moats, and border minefields, along with immediately and permanent deportation of anyone in the country illegally. We must protect our borders first. Then we should let in immigrants, and lots of them, who demonstrate the ability to contribute more to our nation than they will consume in services.
    A rational immigration policy welcomes the best and brightest, but shuts the door on the worst and dullest. Sadly, our current policy does just the opposite.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

When I saw this photo of Austin Barbour I immediately thought of Cam Brady

    He's a bit younger and fresher of face, but the minute I saw this photo of Austin Barbour at a recent press conference I thought of the Cam Brady character played by Will Ferrell in the Movie "The Campaign."
    In that movie Ferrell played a politician who would stop at nothing to get re-elected, much like Thad Cochran, or his handlers.
    Barbour, by the way, is the one on the left.


In Republican Senate runoff, McDaniel is entitled to identify and exclude illegal votes

    The more I hear about the election-day shenanigans of the Thad Cochran campaign the madder I get.
    I wrote recently that as much as I disliked Cochran I would likely support him in November. I wasn't aware at the time that thousands of the Democrats who voted for him had actually voted in the first Democratic primary. These were invalid votes. There are now allegations that cash was actually distributed to voters in order to entice them to vote. If so, these were invalid votes.
    Apparently in at least one county there was a deliberate effort to facilitate this illegal voting by failing to provide as usual the "swap book" of voters who voted in the first Democratic primary. So there was no way for poll workers to identify and exclude illegal voters.
    The London Daily Mail has reported on radio ads funded by a PAC tied to former Gov. Haley Barbour which tied McDaniel to the Klan and told black voters, "If the tea party, with their racist ideas, win, we will be sent back to the '50s and '60s." Fox New's Hannity also aired a piece on Cochran's dirty politics on July 1. This is disgraceful.
    McDaniel has a right to see the voter rolls and determine who voted in the first Democratic primary and then compare their names to those who voted in the Republican runoff. We have a right as Mississippians to fair and honest elections, without voter fraud and without cash payments to voters. And yet many county clerks are thwarting his efforts in an effort to deny us an honest election.
    My personal opinion is that McDaniel is going to have a tough time finding the 6,500 or so unlawful votes that he needs to overturn the election. But justice demands that every election official cooperate with him in reviewing the voting records.
    There are two issues here. The first is the legal issue of whether Thad Cochran actually won the election. McDaniel has every right to insist that votes cast illegally be excluded from the vote count. And there needs to be a full criminal investigation into the allegations of cash payments to voters. If they are true someone, perhaps even Cochran, needs to go to jail.
    The second issue is whether a Republican candidate can be allowed to engage in last-minute race-baiting, with slanderous ads calling his opponent a racist. Even though the ads were full of false information, I don't think they were illegal (although there were numerous illegal flyers distributed with no claim of authorship). But it does take some gall to slander your opponent in this fashion and then turn around and ask for his support.
    Of course, the Cochran camp is urging everyone to just pull together for the common Republican cause. Isn't it great that these folks can defraud their opponent, slander their opponent, and then demand that their opponent thank them for doing so?
    Prior to this election I always thought of Thad Cochran as a good guy with an occasional liberal streak. Instead I've found him to be a man without any scrap of moral or scruple save the desire to remain in office.