Blog Life

Capitalism aiding immigration reform?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Normally I’m suspicious of Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ as a force for good. The whole idea that everyone flourishes in a free market is so clearly nonsense that you forget that sometimes it actually works.

A great article on immigration in this week’s Santa Fe Reporter (that now I can link to, because they finally sorted their website out) argues that large US corporations are way ahead of government policy in recognising undocumented Mexican migrant workers, and giving them the sort of services that ordinary people deserve.

So Wells Fargo and Bank of America will let you open a bank account with your Mexican ID card (which is very handy, as it stops you getting mugged on your way home on Friday night with a pocket full of cash). Citibank and some credit unions will also give you a loan for a house, so you can get out of that dodgy rented place you were in.

Oh, and you’re paying your taxes too. The IRS allows you to apply for a Tax Payer ID number, even if you don’t have a social security number, and many people have done just that, thinking that if ever there’s an amnesty and a chance to get full legal status, having been an upstanding tax payer (if not actually a legal resident) will stand to them.

Of course the reason the IRS and the other organisations are doing this is not because they’re selfless souls with a progressive stance on immigration reform. It’s because, as Adam Smith would point out, they want your money. These aren’t people who are just coming to the US for a summer and then leaving – they’re part of the community, they’re raising families (with their children as US citizens, of course), and they’re here for the long haul.

The economic certainties that bring migrant workers here in the first place (11 million and counting, according to the SFR story) are the same ones that mean companies are going to provide services to them when they’re here: there are plenty of low-wage jobs here that need doing, and plenty of hard-working people willing to do them. Bush’s surprisingly moderate stance on immigration issues (to the chagrin of the hard-liners in his own party) is based on the understanding that the US needs these workers as much as the workers need the US.

As an immigrant myself (albeit a legally documented one), I have a great deal of sympathy for people arriving here looking for work, and it’s good to see that there are moves afoot to acknowledge the permanence of their lives here. It would be nice if the sweeping immigration reform needed to create a path to permanent legal status for them, would at the same time drastically simplify the Kafka-esque hassles we went through to get a spousal visa.

Posted by David in • Life

Arts reviews Blog

The British are Coming

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Something very strange is happening to American TV – it’s come over all English.

We’re used to the sporadic attempts to remake British sit-coms for the US market – from Sanford and Son (Steptoe and Son in the UK), via an ill-advised attempt at Fawlty Towers, through to Coupling and the Office.

Most of the time these don’t work, with the standard explanations given that American audiences don’t like the cruel streak of English humour (the US versions of Absolutely Fabulous and Men Behaving Badly were so bland as to be unwatchable), and that the team approach of US sit-coms (needed because each season is so long) doesn’t sit well with the lone creator style preferred in the UK.

But if comedies don’t often work, it’s a different story with reality TV. Most Americans don’t know that Pop Idol started in England, along with Wife Swap, Nanny 911, What Not to Wear and Trading Places (the US Changing Rooms, because here changing rooms are called locker rooms so the pun doesn’t work).

There are also US versions of Airport, How Clean is Your House, Property Ladder, Antiques Roadshow, Brat Camp, Celebrity Come Dancing, Hit Me Baby One More Time and Life Laundry. Basically, any mildy watchable piece of cheap reality TV you’ve ever seen in Britain has reached our colonial cousins.

So the formats translate pretty well (I’d even argue that What Not to Wear is better here), but recently the personnel have also made it over here, with some weird results.

I’m not sure what the Amercian audiences make of Vernon Kaye’s flat vowels as the host of Hit Me Baby . . . , but everybody loves Gordon Ramsey.

Continuing the theme of British villains (Anne Robinson hosting The Weakest Link, Simon Cowell making hopefuls cry in Idol), it seems the folks here can’t get enough of Ramsey’s rants. The US version of Hell’s Kitchen involved real people rather than celebrities, competing to win a restaurant. It was riveting stuff.

And I switched on ABC the other night to see Johnny Vaughan presenting a frantic game show that looked a little like Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush, but with a bigger budget.

Throw in the fey northerner Cash Peters on the Travel Channel’s Stranded, and you’ll see there are plenty of my countrymen on TV over here.

And that’s without watching BBC America, where I can currently get my fill of Little Britain, Teachers and the rest.

How long before Des Lynam’s introducing baseball games, and Paxo’s replacing the sadly departed Peter Jennings as the host of ABC’s flagship news programme?

Posted by David in • Arts reviews

Blog Life

David’s Gaggia Fund

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

So here’s the plan: I currently drink maybe four coffees a week from one or other of the cafes within walking distance of the office. I rotate my choices, based on a range of factors. If I also need a breakfast burrito, then it’s the Meridien (where they wisely offer a cyclists’ discount if you’ve come on the bike).

If I riding, but have already breakfasted, then I’ll swing by the Holy Spirit coffee stand round the corner from the Eldorado Hotel, and carefully ride through the Plaza with my coffee stuck in the bottle cage.

If I’m on foot, it’ll maybe be Sage’s coffee stand on Marcy, and now the new Caffe e Gelato place near the library (although I haven’t made up my mind about the quality there).

At each place, I’ll drop $2.50 – $3.00 maybe on the coffee, which got me thinking. If I cut it down to one or two coffees a week and put the difference in David’s Gaggia Fund, then pretty soon I’ll be on the way to something nice for the kitchen at home (plus a burr grinder which my new friends at assure me is almost as important as the espresso machine itself).

Of course I could just go out and buy the damn machine, stop drinking coffee out altogether, and have recouped my outlay even quicker, but the saving up somehow seems more moral, especially as your own espresso machine is such a ridiculous luxury anyway. I have to earn it somehow.

Posted by David in • Life


Coffee and submarines

Monday, August 15, 2005

Although I’m currently on a decaf kick (helps me wake at odd hours of the night, when Fionnuala calls), I’ve always had a yen for a good espresso machine.

Over at Engagdet, there’s some spirited debate on the topic.

It seems the Rancilio Silva (shown) has a lot of admirers. And it looks like a bit of an Italian submarine. Which is interesting, given the rather spectacular efforts now underway to move just such an item from Cremona to downtown Milan.

But given the Euro/Dollar exchange rate, it sure is pricey (the espresso machine, that is, not the submarine).

Update: I think I may have got into something I can’t stop:

Posted by David in