Thursday, June 28, 2007

Beyond High Gas Prices

Ohio Turnpike Ticket
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Recently I completed a road trip of 1,880 miles from my home in Powell, Wyoming to my parents home in Akron, Ohio. The route of travel wasn't the most direct trip as past trips nor did I complete it in anything close to record time. So, it's safe to say that besides the $500-plus petrol expense, it was a relaxing road trip for the most part.

The trip involved some interstate, national and state highway travel. While the interstates were fast and direct, many of the secondary roads in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, for example, were slower and not as direct. Of course there was plenty of construction along the way and some stretches of road begging for construction—improved simply if the asphalt were ripped up and the surface returned to a graded dirt road.

Perhaps the worst section of road I travelled was a remote stretch of Minnesota's state route 210 winding through Jay Cooke State Park. Some of the bumps and holes in the asphalt made me think of roadside bombs in Iraq—and I was only traveling at 35 mph during much of this drive. Fortunately it was a scenic drive. Beyond SR210, I found the remainder of Minnesota's roads acceptable.

Although I've never traveled New Jersey's Turnpike, I've heard enough horror stories about it throughout my life—even in song. Yet after this recent trip, I'd be surprised to discover that the Ohio Turnpike isn't in the same league as New Jersey's famed ribbon of treacherous asphalt.

Trucks, trucks and more trucks… everywhere on the Ohio "Truckpike!" And many of them don't have time to hang out behind a leisure-driving vehicle from Wyoming. For good or bad, today's truck drivers represent the new cowboy in the 21st century. And if the semis breathing down your back don't give you a migraine, than the jarring potholes in the road and the road construction will. Twice I pulled over at one of the turnpike plazas and neither time did I need petrol or a toilet, I simply needed to dry off and calm down. When I finally exited the Buckeye State's turnpike, I felt payment was owed to me rather than paying Ohio's interstate landlord for such a miserable driving experience.

I'm unsure what it would take to make the Ohio Turnpike more pleasant—more lanes, fewer trucks, smoother asphalt, all of the above? Perhaps they should divvy it up into two dedicated car lanes and two dedicated truck lanes in both directions. No doubt, such a proposal would be extremely costly, but as long as this continues to be a major east-west running thoroughfare, perhaps it could be easily justified and accommodated—once we stop pouring billions of dollars into our country's war-making machine.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Lou Dobbs and Immigration, Part 1

Cattle Sign
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Every night at 6:00 p.m. my folks sit down in front of the television and watch Lou Dobbs and his broadcasts on current events. I suspect there are few nights that go by that he doesn't rail on the subject of immigration here in the United States. I can't say I'm in agreement with everything he says, but I think he's an acceptable alternative to the dumbed-down talking heads on Fox News.

And perhaps his show isn't 100% journalistic given his facial expressions to any given story, but it appears he and his staff do their homework.

Regarding his agenda to put an end to illegal immigration, I watched the other day (what was probably) a typical "American" family work a rest stop on one of our nation's interstates. They were responsible for restocking the vending machines. The two plump children—both teens—walked around aimlessly with their attention devoted to their cell phones while their obese parents waddled about their work. They drove away in a brand new, full-size GMC panel van with handicapped plates on it. Overweight and slow moving certainly, but I wondered who was handicapped?

I tried to imagine members of this family working in the sun-baked fields weeding rows of crops or servicing rooms in a motel... work commonly carried out by our "illegal" friends—who have been doing the majority of this work for years.

My point here is this: in the day of cell phones, internet and 100 things to view on television (all for the most part distractions), how do we get our own legal population who have been exposed to/engaged in these distractions to carry out work that is considered "base," "monotonous" and not very rewarding? Compared to typical Americans of 50-100 years ago, todays American's are for the most part overweight, lazy and unimaginative. Sadly, they are not interested in true, hard work, (and most troubling) they are not physically capable of it. Perhaps all Americans should consider obtaining handicapped license plates as well.

A couple of questions to consider: Suppose we devised a way to automate menial/manual work as mentioned above and people with backs to break were no longer needed. Do you suppose we would still have an immigration problem? Let's say the nation begins cracking down on illegal immigrants that results in exporting them and preventing them from crossing our borders, how much will be have to pay legal citizens of the United States to work the fields and as a result, how much more expensive will that head of lettuce really cost at the market?