Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Time Travel

The faster one travels the slower time passes for the traveler. This is a fundamental, if bizarre, entailment of Einstein's theory of relativity, and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, his brilliant mind still active despite a body wracked by Lou Gehrig's disease, thinks this makes time travel into the future possible.

Of course, this isn't a new idea. It's been the premise for movies like Planet of the Apes and others of that genre for decades.

Even so, it's interesting to read Hawking's thoughts on it and why he doesn't think travel into the past is possible. Read the story here.


Stupid Reasons

Washington Post writer Eugene Robinson spends an entire column arguing rather desultorily against constructing a wall along the border with Mexico. His brief against the barrier is summarized by this paragraph:

It would be possible to build a 2,000-mile-long Berlin Wall, complete with watchtowers. But it would be stupid and counterproductive. The U.S.-Mexico relationship is vitally important, economically and politically, and the border has to be permeable enough to permit a massive legitimate daily flow of goods and people.

That building the wall would be stupid, Mr. Robinson is certainly entitled to believe, but anyone who offers the sorts of arguments he does in this essay should be more judicious about how he employs the word.

In the first place, the analogy to the Berlin Wall is at best awkward. The Berlin Wall was built to imprison people, to keep them from getting out. The border wall would keep no one in but rather keep out those seeking to enter the country illegally. It's like having a lock on the front door of your house.

In the second place, despite what Mr. Robinson evidently believes, our commerce with Mexico does not transpire in the desolate areas of the desert, it occurs at entry points on highways supervised by customs agents. These would still exist whether a border fence were built along the desert or not. The only commerce that would be effected by a fence would be the nefarious trafficking in drugs and human beings.

One could, perhaps, make a case against building a wall by arguing that it would be prohibitively expensive and/or it wouldn't work, but both of these are very difficult cases to support. Compared to the trillions that the current administration is spending to bail out the unions at GM and their cronies on Wall Street a couple of billion for the fence would be relative pocket change. Whether a wall would work or not would depend, of course, on how it is patrolled and maintained, but none of these details matter to Robinson who sees no problem on our borders in the first place.

He cites the fact that a police chief in the border town of Nogales tells him that violence isn't high in his jurisdiction, and concludes from this that there's no real reason for concern about illegal immigration. This is breath-takingly obtuse. Arizona has become known as the kidnapping capital of the world, and the perpetrators are almost all illegal aliens. Moreover, contrary to what Robinson must think, the bad guys don't settle in the border towns, they move on to America's heartland cities where there's more profit to be made from their mischief. Finally, the problem is not just the criminals that are coming across illegally, but the vast hordes of poor people who flow into this country in need of goods and services which the taxpayer has to provide.

Trying to solve our illegal immigration problems without turning off the spigot is like trying to contain the Gulf of Mexico oil slick without capping the gusher that's producing it. Thankfully, the people trying to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf don't think it's "stupid" to do so.