Friday, December 28, 2007

What no circus this year because of H-2B stalemate?

Wow, this is weird. Because Congress has failed to act on extending the exemption to H-2B, circuses say they'll be unable to bring in immigrant acrobats and other performers for their U.S. tours. At least one circus is not taking to the road this summer, because of this, reports the Paris (TX) News.

I take this to mean that there's a shortage of U.S-citizen acrobats and circus performers. Who would have thought, right?

Here's the link to the article — — or you can click on the headline if you don't take my word for it. — Ron Hall

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Christmas dinner of tamales and beans

I don't how many of you got out of bed Christmas morning thankful to get a free meal of tamales, rice and beans, but apparently there were more than a few in Bakersfield, CA. I'm guessing most of the folks that turned out for the free food were down on their luck, perhaps even homeless. I'm also guessing many of them (maybe most) were Mexicans or Mexican/Americans.

Yea, I know. Some of you don't like the fact that there are so many Hispanics (primarily Mexicans) in this country illegally. OK, that's not good.

But people are people, and if they're good people, regardless of race, color, creed or circumstance, they should be treated with charity and dignity.

This is the 13th year that landscaper Mike Vallejo and his family (six of his seven children helped) provided free meals of tamales, rice and beans to strangers on Christmas Day in Bakersfield. Good for you Mr. Vallejo.

We saw the news cast on KBAK CBS 29 (click on the headline above), and let's all be more charitable to each other in 2008. — Ron Hall

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sane solution to immigration mess?

I don’t know Michael Lesser and have never met him. But he wrote an article in the Portsmouth Herald, which I accessed via Seacoast Online, and I was struck by his thoughts concerning our nation’s immigration mess.

His suggestions would (it seems to me anyway) provide a starting point in the contentious debate separating business interests and hardliners on the issue of undocumented aliens.

First, the New Hampshire resident who lives and works in Washington D.C. makes it clear that he feels that anybody that enters the country illegally should be “punished and all of the fruits of the that illegal act are null and void.” He also advocates stronger border protection, including using the National Guard, a “zero-tolerance approach.”

He also proposes “draconian lawns” penalizing business owners who cannot document that they are hiring persons legally in this country.

OK, let’s move on to the issue of the estimated 10 million to 12 million so-called illegal immigrants already in the United States? While Lesser believes it would be possible to “create an environment” to compel or force them out of the country, he instead suggests allowing them to stay under the following conditions:

They must report to immigration where the process of complete vetting will begin. All persons not reporting by a certain date will be deported when caught. Criminals are ineligible and will be deported immediately.

Persons going through the vetting process will receive documentation (not a green card) and perform 30 hours of community service per month for three years and must maintain documented employment. They can also get a driver’s license if they can pass the written exam in English. After that 3-year period the person will be on another two years of probation after which time they will be eligible for a green card if they can prove their proficiency in English. One year later they can apply for citizenship.

During this 5-year period these people would be eligible for services currently available to green card holders, and if during this period any person is convicted of a felony, the person will not only serve the required sentence, but will be deported after serving the sentence.

Any persons joining and serving honorably in the military and their immediate dependents (spouse and children) for a period of four years are eligible to apply for, or possibly be granted, citizenship.

I'd rather have the undocumented on the road to citizenry, working legally and paying taxes, than to punish them at this point, and that is a huge change for me,” he writes.

Click on the headline for a link to Lesser’s article at Seacoast Online. — Ron Hall

Friday, December 21, 2007

Throw the rascals out

To say that I’ve become increasingly cynical of the ability of our federal government, or any of its various bureaucracies, to deliver efficient and sane service to the citizens of this nation is to grossly underestimate my growing dismay.

From the screw-ups in Iraq to Katrina and including the ongoing blatant partisanship, posturing and petty bickering that has deadlocked action on just about every major issue facing the nation, if this is the best government on this beautiful blue ball, then God help us all. In fact, it might be that only God can help us if we don't start helping ourselves. . . at the ballot box.

Let’s take a look at the mess our governmental policies have made in just one single issue — immigration. Indeed, everything
that the government has done during the past two generations — going back to the Reagan administration's so-called one-time amnesty — has only worsened the problem of illegal immigration. How else do 10 million to 12 million undocumented people get into this country?

But it gets worse.

Our government’s most recent activities — from building walls along our southern border to its enforcement-only policy to its inaction in expanding programs to allow legal and properly vetted guest workers to flow back and forth between their home countries and the United States — compound the problem.

Our government has guaranteed that illegal immigration issue will simmer on, and the undocumented workers already in the United States aren’t about to leave now, and will continue to live in the shadows of our society. They will continue to work in agriculture and hundreds of small businesses across the United States, And they will continue to look over their shoulders fearing enforcement actions.

For those of you that think that these seasonal guest workers aren’t needed in the United States, and that they take jobs and employment opportunity from U.S. citizens, in the broadest sense you’re right.

There are a lot of small businesses, in particular, landscape companies that could use your help or the help of your U.S.-born sons and daughters. Just apply and show up for work. You’ll find companies a plenty willing to train you on the safe operation of commercial mowers and the art of laying block walls and pavers. And they’ll guarantee you at least 40 hours a week, probably more in season.

(If you don’t think that our government is capable of massive screw-ups, allow me to recommend a recently published book, “Legacy of Ashes, The History of the CIA,” by Pulitzer-prize winning author Tim Weiner.) —Ron Hall

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Just more political posturing

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney fired his landscape company after reporters from the Boston Globe discovered that the company continued to maintain his property with the help of illegal immigrants. The same issue arose just over one year ago. At the time, Romney had a discussion with the company, Community Lawn Service of Chelsea, MA, giving the company a second chance to comply with the law.

The other presidential candidates, both Republican and Democrat, were just a little too happy to jump on this issue.

Fred Thompson’s campaign released a statement saying, “First Mitt Romney was for illegal immigrants working on his lawn, and then he was against it, then for it, and now I guess he’s against it again. Sounds like his position on amnesty.”

Rudy Guiliani’s staffers said Romney’s statement speaks for itself, and John McCain, as described by the New York Times, “walked out of his hotel in Bedford, N.H., yesterday with a broad grin because he knew what reporters were about to ask. He mimed a motion as if he were pushing a lawn mower and said, “I am more than pleased with the fact I live in a condominium.”

"Smooth talking Mitt Romney's lingering lawn care problem is the latest reminder of his shameless and hypocritical efforts to pander to the right wing of his Party by saying whatever he thinks the political winds dictate," said Democratic National Committee spokesman Damien LaVera.

While Romney’s illegal flap is embarrassing, it ultimately means nothing. Right now, Congress is sitting on a bill that will help landscape companies bring in much-needed guest workers to fill their labor needs. It’s called Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2007. The bill would extend the returning worker exemption to the H-2B cap that limits the number of guest workers to 66,000 per year. Without extending the returning worker exemption, more and more landscape companies are either going to lose business due to lack of labor, or they will turn to illegal immigrants to get the work done.

While many like Sen. Barbara Mikulski has led the charge to extend H-2B reform, too many Congress members are afraid to touch the immigration issue in the current political climate.

So while the presidential candidates play politics and Congress sits on its hands, the landscape industry is going to suffer due to political cowardice. It’s time to stop talking and take action. — Mike Seuffert

Another take on the Congo furor

A narrow alley separated our two houses, and for years our neighbors kept a dog in their back yard. It was a cross between a beagle and a rottweiler, a 70-lb., black-and-white spotted creature that rushed to the chain link fence and barked and snarled whenever anybody in our family went into our backyard, our garden. The dog, Tyler, took the barking and snarling to an even more threatening level whenever school kids passed through the alley between our two properties. The only thing separating Tyler from what can only be imagined as an attack was the sturdy fence.

In the dog's defense, it was a happy, tail-wagging joy to our neighbors; they adored the dog. I suspect they greatly appreciated the security it provided them and their property.

Even so, and without apologies, we were happy when the neighbors, too elderly to take care of Tyler and unable to place it with their grown sons or daughter, got rid of the dog. We do not know what happened to it, but we suspect it was given to the local human society and eventually euthanized. That's not what we wanted for the dog; we would have preferred one of the children take the dog and keep it — somewhere away from us.

Our years suffering with Tyler's threatening behavior (It never subsided.) admittedly colors my opinion regarding the curious case of Congo the German shepard condemned to death for mauling a landscape worker last summer near Princeton, NJ. The injuries sustained by the worker were horrendous. Even so the outpouring of sympathy for Congo has been incredible.

Columnist Paul Mulshine, writing on, dares to wonder how the public would have reacted to Congo's death sentence had he attacked a 12-year-old Girl Scout stepping onto the property instead of a 42-year-old landscape worker, one that's since apparently been outed as being an "illegal" worker. (By the way, the worker reportedly received an insurance settlement of about $200,00 along with his medical bills.)

Not unexpectedly, daring to question the ability (and responsibility) of the owners of the dog to control Congo as it chewed up the landscape worker, drew a firestorm of controversy.

Only in America, in the land where capital punishment is legal (the victims almost always being the poor and uneducated), does a dog on death row generate such a flood of sympathy and publicity.

Click on the headline to read the column that Mulshine wrote and the resulting reader response. — Ron Hall

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"Set Congo free! Set Congo free!"

Kelly Heyboer on blog.nj shows just how strongly people feel about Congo, probably the most famous German Shepherd since Rin Tin Tin. Congo remains in death-row limbo after chewing up a landscape worker last summer. A lot of people are blogging that it's time to free Congo. Viva Congo!

If you want to see a photograph of a Congo (happily unaware of the fate that possibly awaits him), click on the headline above.

Writes Kelly Heyboer: Congo, New Jersey's most notorious German shepherd, has his own blog.
Some of the dog's online supporters started the Save Congo blog last week. They are trying to mobilize dog lovers to protest a judge's decision to sentence Congo to death after he allegedly attacked a landscaper in Princeton.

The blog creators say:
Bloggers are not connected in any way with this case or any of the individuals (including the dog, Congo) in it. We are simply concerned indiduals (attorneys, animal advocates, etc.) who, while concerned about the public's safety, are equally concerned about the harsh Dangerous Dog Acts that are sweeping the country condeming innocement dogs to death and their familes to great tragedy.
Over the last few months Congo has become one of the most-blogged-about dogs on the Web, partly because his case also has an illegal immigration angle.
The story began last summer when Congo mauled a landscaper working on his owners' property. The dog's owner said the landscaper, who is an undocumented alien, did not follow directions and inadvertently provoked the dog.
Congo was recently returned to his family after five months in an animal shelter. He is under house arrest while his death sentence is appealed.
And Gov. Jon Corzine has gotten thousands of letters, phone calls and e-mails asking him to pardon Congo. Legislation has also been introduced to make sentences for unruly animals less harsh.

From The Daily Biscuit:
Why was the judge punishing a dog for doing its job? Isn't that what German Shepherds are bred for? Guard dogs? The German Shepherd is used for military work, police work and assistance work. Few other breeds are so widely used. Had Congo been a pit or a rott he would have been put down quickly. Had this been the 80s, when the German Shepherd was the dog everyone hated, he would have been put down.
What do Americans want?

From Immigration Watchdog:
Clone Congo and give one of him to every Sheriff's Office and Police Department in the country. Also provide enough Congo's to ride K-9 with every U.S. Border Control vehicle. Give a Congo to every family whose ever had a burglary or crime committed against a family member or property.

From All American Blogger:
Free Congo.

For the fstory on Congo's attack on the landscape worker that led up to his death sentence and the furor this created, check out the Landscape Management article, by clicking here.
— LM Staff

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Outsmarting some very clever squirrels

There are a lot of big red squirrels in my neighborhood. I don’t know how many because they all look alike to me. Actually, there could just be a couple of very active squirrels. How would I know? Like I said, one big red squirrel looks pretty much like another to me.
Generally, I don’t mind the squirrels. I sometimes get a kick out of watching them; they're so perpetually busy. My feelings toward these twitchy little devils cool each winter though.
I’m one of those guys that waits until the bulbs go on sale 75% off, which is usually just before or after Thanksgiving. I count on the ground not freezing before I can get them into the ground. I buy dozens of tulips, narcissus, daffodils, crocus and tiny colorful things that come up in February.
In late November or early December I get out a tough little spade for the big bulbs and I get down on my knees and drill holes into the ground with an old hand auger for the smallest bulbs. I plant them in groups of three, five or seven, just about anywhere I can an area in our garden that doesn’t already have perennials or bulbs. The smallest, earliest spring bloomers go in my front yard because my wife, Vicky, loves seeing color, even these thumbnail-size flowers that bloom even before the snow is off the ground. They will be spent and gone before the front yard needs mowing.
Several winters ago the foraging squirrels discovered the bulbs I had planted, the sunflower seeds I put out for the birds in our garden not being enough for them. They now can tell just where I plant bulbs regardless of how I try to disguise the sites. Through the course of the winter, they dig them up, generally a couple at a time. The empty holes in the ground give them away. Sometimes I find a bulb on the ground with several bites taken out of it. The squirrels don’t find some of the bulbs tasty enough to finish.
I've finally come up with a plan to thwart the squirrels. I feel pretty clever. I stretch sections of green wire fencing material with a ¾-in mesh that I cut it into rectangles over the areas where I had plant bulbs. You can hardly notice the screen (it's green) in my yard. This spring, after the flowers are poking up out of the soil, I will remove the screening. I think that it will discourage the squirrels from decimating the bulbs I planted. We’ll see. — Ron Hall