Thursday, July 31, 2003

Immigration Reform - A Winning Issue for Democrats?

Exceptionally interesting article by Scott McConnell over at The American Conservative about Howard Dean and the immigration question, which he thinks - and I concur - could be a winning issue for Democrats to run on in 2003. The current immigration policy in this country is primarily popular, from what I can tell, with a) big business, because it forces down wages and benefits, b) leftists of the brain-dead school who still believe in the "melting pot" and c) immigrants already here who want to increase their numbers and hence influence. Well, folks, the pot is melting. Immigrants force down wages, take jobs from Americans who need them, consume more than their share of welfare benefits, and if they're illegal and paid under the table, pay no income or FICA taxes. Large numbers of them now appear to have no interest in learning English and becoming American. They are the sole reason our population continues to skyrocket, degrading the environment. Very few people that I talk to of any political orientation believe that our current immigration policies - and our H1B visa policy - is a good idea. This is an issue that could truly resonate with large segments of the American people.

Any Democrat interested in raising the immigration issue has a good precedent and ready-made vocabulary. In 1995, the bipartisan federal advisory Commission on Immigration Reform headed by Barbara Jordan, the first black member of Congress elected in Texas, recommended cutting the legal immigration rate by about one-third and sharply stepping up enforcement against illegal aliens. President Clinton initially endorsed her proposals, but legislation based on her commission's recommendations was defeated in the House after a massive Left-Right lobbying campaign by open-borders business interests and ethnic lobbies. The economy was booming then, however, and hardly anyone was out of work. The vote would probably be different today. Why couldn't a Democrat like Dean seize the "vital center" of the immigration debate, embrace the Jordan proposals, and outflank Bush as a protector of American culture, prepared to enforce American laws and preserve the rights and living standards of working-class Americans? Answer: he could.

It's worth thinking about, for all of the Democratic candidates. It would set them firmly apart from the current Administration and would appeal to a lot of people, especially working-class white males, who have the most to lose from the continuation of present immigration policies.

Where are those Wacky Weapons?

It's deeply interesting that in spite of ongoing interrogations under somewhat mysterious circumstances, sources indicate that Iraqi scientists still firmly deny that there was an ongoing, active WMD program in place before the recent invasion. These people no longer have anything to hide, and no real reason to lie. According to Dubya, "It's going to take awhile and I'm confident the truth will come out." Yes, I'll bet it will, though it may prove a touch inconvenient for the Administration.

Perhaps more worrisome is the fact that some of these people are being arrested in smash-and-grab raids worthy of the KGB and then held incommunicado for long periods, leaving their families wondering where they are being held and under what conditions:

Family members of Abdel Ilah Hameed, the former Iraqi minister of agriculture, were interviewed in Beiji and described his arrest. Hameed, a native of Hussein's home town, Tikrit, tried twice to surrender after he saw how U.S. troops were searching all homes, according to his son, Usama. On April 15 and 16, he was turned back by U.S. officers at checkpoints, although one took his name after the second attempt.

On April 22 at 3 a.m., soldiers backed by helicopters overhead knocked down the door, searched the house and took Hameed away, leaving his two older sons in plastic handcuffs that had to be cut away by a younger brother, Usama said. They have had no direct contact with their father since.

Definitely a great way to win hearts and minds - and somewhat dubious under the Geneva Conventions I would think, especially regarding the treatment of civilian scientists and technicians. Are Iraqi scientists and former government ministers going to join the happy ranks at Gitmo? Stay tuned...

He Really is a Poindexter!

The author of a letter to the editor in the NYT this morning remarked dryly, "One can only hope that the ridiculous idea of a futures market in terrorism will end John M. Poindexter's career in the public sector." Amen, and it is reported that the former Admiral is indeed leaving us, hopefully to find some deserving private sector company to screw up. Considering that his latest cracked idea was indeed a "futures market in terrorism," an unsuspecting brokerage firm would seem appropriate, although I would warn my stockholding readers to watch where he goes and then quickly transfer any accounts they have there....

On Vacation Again

Now that his latest press conference is behind him, replete with the usual cretinous statements and Bushisms, Dubya wanders off to his ranch for, yes, another vacation! Considering that most Americans are lucky to get a week off a year - we have less vacation time and work more than citizens in any other Western country - Dubya's endless vacations are a source of puzzlement. After all, he doesn't seem to do enough to NEED a vacation. Watching Dick Cheney run things and Donald Rumsfeld mismanage things can't be too absorbing.

Making the Trains Run on Time AND Helping the Economy

A not over-bright Chicago bank is in hot water at the moment for praising the economic policies of, believe it or not, Adolf Hitler. According to Glenview National Bank's July newsletter, Hitler's spending gave confidence to reemployed German workers, in sharp contrast to the performance of other Western economies. Of course considering that some rightwingers are currently trying to rehabilitate "Tailgunner Joe" McCarthy, can Hitler be far behind?

Wednesday, July 30, 2003


Well, the cretinous decision on air marshals has, rather mysteriously, been reversed. Hmmm.

We're Not a Monolith

I recently have had a couple of interesting experiences dealing with, shall we say, persons of the right who apparently believe that everyone on the left is just as attached as they are to beliefs that are sacred and untouchable and shared by everyone of their persuasion. One fellow who, for reasons of his own, was following a Wesley Clark discussion group I'm on announced that if indeed Clark is a Democrat (for the record, General Clark has not announced a party affiliation), then he's an America-hating traitor like "all other liberals."

Now that's fascinating, that a four star general with a distinguished career, service in combat in Vietnam, former SACEUR and Commander of NATO forces, could be considered, whatever his party affiliation, a traitor. What's even crazier is that a lot of right wingers believe that everyone on the other side, or even near the center, have a set of beliefs apparently adopted from Noam Chomsky or Ralph Nader or some of the other denizens of the extreme left; i.e. we're all anti-Semitic (I found this especially amusing), hate Israel (not me), are against the death penalty (which I believe in certain cases is richly deserved), are anti-nukers (nuclear power is probably the only realistic choice at this point), despise the military (uh, right), etc. Supposedly we're all anti-Catholic now too (?!). Sorry, Mom!

In fact, anyone who looks at the non-right world with their ideological blinders off will see that there's a wide spectrum of beliefs and stands on issues on the left and to the center. We're a lot more immune to duckspeak than the far right, and they just can't figure that out. Maybe they're secretly jealous. After all, it must be hard to see things going on that disagree with their teeny tiny world view.

Compromised? Gee, You Think?

Lisa Myers and Aram Roston at MSNBC are asking whether the war in Iraq “compromised” the war against terrorism. Of course it did, and as far as I am concerned, and I believe this will eventually become obvious, it was a foolish and perhaps almost criminal misdirection of our efforts. We have been fiddling in Iraq while Afghanistan burns - while the Taliban every day regain lost ground, while al Queda rebuilds both in Afghanistan and in our supposed ally Pakistan (a country, note, which already has nuclear weapons, which Saddam, for all his delusions of grandeur, did not), while Osama and his henchmen plan new atrocities.

BUT, AS "Operation Enduring Freedom" kept al-Qaida on the run, the White House was already planning for war against Iraq. Sources say that in the spring of 2002, key weapons in the war against terror — such as the commandos, the drones and the high-tech surveillance planes — were rotated out of Afghanistan. Now experts tell NBC there was a clear tradeoff as the United States let up on al-Qaida to pursue regime change in Iraq.
A former national security official in the Bush administration tells NBC News Senior Investigative Correspondent Lisa Myers the White House was warned that the buildup against Saddam might provide a respite for Osama bin Laden and his henchmen. "There were decisions made," says Flynt Leverett, a former director at the National Security Council in the Bush White House, "to take key assets, human assets, technical assets, out of theater in Afghanistan in order to position them for the campaign to unseat Saddam."

An unnecessary campaign. Saddam was a problem admittedly, but a problem mainly to his own people - and his own people should have been the ones to unseat him. Of course this would not have resulted in rich contracts for friends and supporters of the President and the GOP, and what the President must have hoped would be high poll numbers resulting from a successful war, but it would certainly have made for a better ending. One can hope that at least some of the truth about this comes out before the 2004 election, because an election defeat is so much cheaper and less stressful than a long, nasty impeachment.

Tech Jobs Booking

This is a topic more people need to start paying attention to before their jobs get filled in Bangalore or Kiev and their butt ends up on the street. A leading high tech consultancy firm has predicted that 1 in 10 high tech jobs may move overseas by the end of next year. In the short term these companies will save money. In the long term, of course, one wonders who in the hell they expect to sell their software and equipment to. We can not be a nation of burger flippers (and most of those jobs are filled by immigrants, legal and illegal, anyway!). This will be an issue in the upcoming Presidential campaign, and it's time for the Democrats to position themselves on the side of job-protecting tariffs and an end to the immigration firehose. I expect we'll see more from Jerry Pournelle et al over at Chaos Manor on this soon.

More Troops?

The NYT this morning covers the confirmation hearings of new Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker before Congress. According to Schoomaker, we need more troops to meet our commitments. This is certainly true, but whether increasing the actual size of the Army is necessary should be given a good long look. Before that, General Schoomaker would be well advised to look at the size of the Army's "tail" - the support services that put fighting soldiers into the field. I suspect a great deal of fat could be carved away from this area and the manpower reassigned and Schoomaker, an ex-Special Forces type, is acquainted with doing more with less. It will be interesting to watch and see what he does - and how much interference from the not over-bright SecDef he has to deal with.

Iraq - "Scary"

I have a cousin in the Marine Corps who recently returned from deployment in Iraq and who will be on his way to a new posting in South Korea in a few days. He described Baghdad as "scary" and, interestingly, Kuwait in almost the same terms. Hey, we're loved over there!

ISS Crew Announced

The Expedition 8 crew for the International Space Station has been announced; the mission commander is astronaut Mike Foale (a veteran of five space flights, including a four month stay on Mir) and his number two is cosmonaut Alexander Kareli, a veteran of three missions to Mir. The crew will launch to the station via a Soyuz on October 18, accompanied by ESA astronaut Pedro Duque making his second space flight. Duque will return to Earth ten days later with the current ISS crew, Commander cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and astronaut Ed Lu, in the Soyuz currently docked to the station. The Expedition 8 crew will continue the reduced program made necessary by the Columbia tragedy.

Valerie Plame Wilson

Is this the "third rate break-in" that will bring down the current administration? One can hope so, but so far Mark Kleiman has been one of the few closely following this case and its implications. He has a new update posted yesterday.

More Hijackings?

Could there be another round of suicide hijackings later this summer, as the Deparment of Homeland Security has warned? I find the idea unsettling, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, we all know now that a fueled airliner is a pretty efficient bomb. But secondly, don't the terrorists realize now that any passengers on an airliner they hijack are literally going to tear them to pieces because they know what's going to happen? It's been suggested that passengers will be pacified by terrorists trying to convince them that they're being held hostage, but I just can't see this working any more. And, with this, we find out that air marshals are being pulled from certain flights as a "cost saving" measure. Conspiracy theories, anyone? Who in the world is smoking what? Here's what one air marshal quoted at had to say:

"The fact that this is coinciding with the new airline threats, it just blows our minds," an air marshal said. "We can't cover [every flight] but at least put us on the high-threat planes, the ones traveling across the country," the air marshal said, noting that the four planes hijacked on Sept. 11 were all scheduled cross-country flights and therefore filled to capacity with aviation fuel. Not having air marshal coverage on those types of flights, "is just plain scary," the air marshal said.

Yep. Scary it is. Stupid, too.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Tariffs and jobs

Jerry Pournelle has an interesting discussion on tariffs going on over at Chaos Manor that's worth looking into and thinking about. Pournelle makes the point, often overlooked by both Republicans and Democrats, that half of the population is below average and, guess what, they deserve to have good-paying jobs too. And, for that matter, must have them if we expect this country to prosper.


There's an article on college Republicans over at Salon that's well worth sitting through the mandatory ad to get a day pass. Read closely, then go back to the article and every time one of these charming young people uses the word "liberal," insert, say, "jew," or "kulak," or whatever. The perversion of political discussion in this country - the demonizing of Democrats - by Republicans has to stop now. I would invite any of these "true believers" (which they are, in the full Hoffer sense of the word) to imagine Dwight Eisenhower or Theodore Roosevelt, or, for that matter, John McCain talking of the Democratic opposition in this manner (in his recent book McCain in fact mentions a number of Democrats that were helpful to him in his political career). This is the kind of thing, this brainless duckspeak, that makes me fear that we may be tripping down the happy path to fascism. And this is a problem that only Republicans can remedy.

Uday's briefcase

I see that the late and unlamented Uday had Viagra, a condom, a cheesy tie (no surprise there), and a bunch of money in his briefcase. Apparently he was ready for anything.... No word yet on Qusay's briefcase.