Will May Day be a bust?

Sunday, April 30, 2006
I tend to agree with much of what Debra Saunders says in her article The Great American Turnoff however, it ain't that simple:

I am one American who will be moved in the direction not intended by sponsors of the May 1 National Day Without Immigrants Great American Boycott demonstrations.

When supporters of illegal immigration threaten to boycott all stores, it makes me feel like shopping. When I see TV reporters interview demonstrators, who announce that they are undocumented, I can only surmise that illegal immigrants have nothing to fear from immigration authorities.

When demonstrators say that Americans should welcome them because they are willing to work at low wages, I notice that they have depressed wages for other low-skilled workers and made it harder for less-educated Americans to earn a living wage. I salute anyone who wants to work hard, but I cannot feel good about the fact that they do so by dragging down other people's ability to earn a decent living.

When I read Mexican American Political Association flyers for the May 1 event that demand "immediate legalization without conditions," that tells me activists don't want the earned citizenship in the Senate Judiciary Committee immigration bill, because it requires would-be citizens to learn English, attend civics classes, pay a fine and back taxes, and pass a criminal background check.

Well obviously things are not going to go that way. In fact it has been said that the demonstrations will backfire. Will they? I suppose that depends on what their purpose is. If the goal is to seperate the Hispanic from the Republican party base and drive the nativists berzerk then it just might work. Otherwise it will be counterproductive. I also would not be surprised if a great many of the undocumented workers in this country just wish these people would shut up and stop making trouble for them. It has been my observation that often times activists only represent other activists. Most people just want to be left in peace.


But I do not agree that these people just depress wages. There is no way Americans will do migrant labor work in the numbers needed. Paying another couple of bucks an hour won't help. The truth is the only time Americans have been willing to do that work in any numbers in the last century were the years of the Great Depression. My grandparents went to work the fields in California and as soon as they could get out of it they did. My grandfather was not a lazy man but he hated picking fruit and was ashamed of the time he spent in the camps. By the 50's the US was encouraging people to come up from Mexico and work. I suppose that if we did try to unionize the work and offer enough benefits it might help, but that would raise prices to consumers. Considering the reaction to high gas prices I doubt this would be popular or sustainable.

So while it is true that Americans will do some of the jobs these people do, like construction and truck driving, I think the truth is that without Mexican migrant workers we would be looking at some empty produce shelves.

This is why I think the guest worker program is needed. But it seems that any more people think in extremes, everything is all or nothing.

Jail Time?

I don't think so. Over at Power Line there is talk of the possibility of criminal prosecution for those responsible for leaks published in the New York Times and the Washington Post:

In this morning's paper, the Times finally gets around to noting its own reporters' and editors' legal jeopardy in an article by Adam Liptak:

[T]he Bush administration is exploring a more radical measure to protect information it says is vital to national security: the criminal prosecution of reporters under the espionage laws.

Both critics and allies of the administration say that the espionage laws on their face may well be read to forbid possession and publication of classified information by the press.

A second law is less ambiguous. Enacted in 1950, it prohibits publication of government codes and other "communications intelligence activities." Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor who took part in terrorism investigations in New York after the Sept. 11 attacks, said that both The Times, for its disclosures about the eavesdropping program, and The Post, for an article about secret C.I.A. prisons, had violated the 1917 law. The Times, he added, has also violated the 1950 law.

"It was irresponsible to publish these things," Mr. McCarthy said. "I wouldn't hesitate to prosecute."

The reporters who wrote the two articles recently won Pulitzer Prizes.

So the Times has now acknowledged that its own reporters are at risk of criminal prosecution for their role in the NSA leak scandal.

Yet the Times allows those same reporters to continue reporting on the leak scandal, even though their own interest—the prospect of going to jail—must inevitably color (or at least be suspected of coloring) their coverage.

Already the Times has been embarrassed by this practice. On March 28, five former judges of the FISA Court testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the NSA program. Eric Lichtblau, one of the two reporters who wrote the original stories publicizing the NSA leak, which are now the subject of a criminal investigation, covered their testimony. Lichtblau wrote that the judges had "voiced skepticism...about the president's constitutional authority to order wiretapping on Americans without a court order."


read it all.

I will be amazed if the protected and feared journalists of these two papers get anything out of this but book deals.

I hope I am wrong.

Bush was a hit

But was Colbert ?


WASHINGTON - It was twice the fun for members of the White House Correspondents' Association and guests when President Bush and a lookalike, soundalike sidekick poked fun at the president and fellow politicians.


"Ladies and gentlemen, I feel chipper tonight. I survived the White House shake-up," the president said Saturday night.

But impersonator Steve Bridges stole many of the best lines. Vice President
Dick Cheney and his hunting accident were targets of his humor on a couple of occasions.

"Speaking of suspects, where is the great white hunter?" Bridges said, later adding, "He shot the only trial lawyer in the country who supports me."

Bush continued a tradition begun by President Coolidge in attending the correspondents' dinner.

He invited Bridges to play his double. The president talked to the press in polite, friendly terms. Bridges told them what the president was really thinking.

Bridges opened like this: "The media really ticks me off — the way they try to embarrass me by not editing what I say. Well, let's get things going, or I'll never get to bed."

"I'm absolutely delighted to be here, as is (wife) Laura," Bush replied.

"She's hot," Bridges quipped.

The featured entertainer was Stephen Colbert, whose Comedy Central show "The Colbert Report" often lampoons the Washington establishment.

"I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq," Colbert said in a typical zinger.


What a funny funny guy.

Mexico Swings Libertarian

Saturday, April 29, 2006
MEXICO CITY — Mexico's Congress approved a bill Friday decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin for personal use — a measure sure to raise questions in Washington about Mexico's commitment to the war on drugs.

The only remaining step was the signature of President Vicente Fox, whose office indicated he would sign it.


From Fox News. Locking up the California tourist industry, presumably.

Saturday Mini-Review: Sword of Gideon

Posted by Loner.
--------------------------------------------------------


This past week Netflix finally sent me Sword of Gideon, the 1986 made-for-television adaptation of the George Jonas book Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team. Steven Spielberg's 2005 theatrical adaptation, Munich, will be available on DVD on May 9th. I reviewed Munich elsewhere and after seeing Sword of Gideon again, I find myself even more at a loss to explain why Spielberg didn't turn the material into a Red Harvest or, alternately, use the same narrative structure he employed in Saving Private Ryan—i.e., fully re-enact the event (substituting September 5, 1972 in Munich for June 6, 1945 on the beaches of Normandy) during the first half-hour or so and then tell a story of a counter-terrorist team assigned to assassinate some of those believed to be responsible for the "Munich Massacre" and for other atrocities.

Sword of Gideon, though not nearly as technically interesting, is a far superior rendition of the story Munich purports to tell. It still might contain too much ambiguity and contradiction for those who like their stories simple without regard to truth. The epilogue:

On October 6, 1973 when Egypt attacked Israel, Avner returned to his country to fight in the Yom Kippur war. He led a commando unit across the Sinai desert into Egypt. Since then all the remaining men on Avner's list have died. Nonetheless terrorism has escalated and governments throughout the world are still seeking the near impossible: a civilized response to acts of wanton savagery.



Now imagine. You're an assistant director and screenwriter who has just directed his first feature film. You must appear before a board of examiners consisting of government censors and already established directors. Your mentor tells you he will not be there, but not to worry because another established director will. You're treated badly, and just when you've endured as much of the spitefulness of censors as you reasonably can (you'll later make a pact with some friends that if it comes to the point of the "Honorable Death of the Hundred Million" you'll meet in front of the Ministry of the Interior and assassinate the censors before taking your own lives) you begin to rise, but the established director anticipates you, stands, and, ignoring everyone else, says: "If a hundred points is a perfect score, Sugata Sanshiro gets one hundred twenty! Congratulations, Kurosawa!" He strides over to you, whispers the name of a Ginza restaurant in your ear and says, "Let's go there and celebrate." Forty years later you write in your autobiography that the thing you are most grateful to the established director for is that he kept you from taking the chair upon which you were sitting and hitting the censors over the head with it.


By next weekend, I hope to have completed reviews of the first-time director's first great movie, Nora inu (Stray Dog) and the established director's last great movie, Sanma no Aji (An Autumn Afternoon). Stay tuned.

General Information

I found some general information on immigration that answers a few basic questions. It seems sometimes that the more political an issue becomes the more difficult it is to get real information and facts.

Hasn't the U.S. substantially increased border surveillance? Why hasn't illegal immigration slowed?

There are many reasons.

It is true that the budget and staff of the Border Patrol has increased significantly, nearly tripling since 1990. A major effort has been particularly made in the El Paso area (Operation Hold-the-Line) and in San Diego (Operation Gatekeeper). The number of deportable aliens located has significantly increased but this is more a reflection of the greater numbers of people who are attempting to immigrate.

These changes have stopped many illegal crossings - in those areas. They have increased the charges that "coyote" smugglers charge to assist aliens who cross the border at more isolated areas. The charge used to be about $300. Now it often exceeds $1000. Because of severe climate conditions at some of the frequent crossing areas, almost 1500 deaths have occurred since 1995. They have also had the effect of keeping immigrants from returning to Mexico because of the difficulty in returning to the U.S. again. But they have not kept new immigrants from coming.

About half of the undocumented immigrant workers do not cross the border surreptitiously. Instead, they pose as tourists or temporary visitors (often improperly using temporary border crossing cards issued to local border residents). These crossings have not been affected by increased border surveillance.

Studies have shown that the volume of illegal immigrants is directly related to economic conditions in Mexico. Mexico has long had more people of working age than jobs and unemployment there is about 20%. As Mexico's economy continues to grow and its birth rate slows, it is likely that illegal immigration will decline significantly even if additional enforcement measures are not taken.

There is also information regarding the basics of legal immigration and ctizenship as well as a list of pros and cons on immigration.


Amnesty and guest worker programs

In January 2004, the Bush Administration proposed a solution to the undocumented problem in the form of a new guest worker program. In order to qualify under this plan, the workers must have a job offer and the employer must show no Americans wanted the job. Under the plan, undocumented workers who gained temporary-worker status would enjoy the rights and protections of legal workers. They could also apply for green cards, which convey permanent residency and, potentially, citizenship. The workers must return to their home countries at the end of the term. Dependents of the temporary workers would be allowed in the US if the workers could prove they could support their family. The workers would be allowed to move freely back and forth between the US and their home country. The proposal has rekindled the immigration debate by pitting employers and many Hispanics who support the proposal against some elements of organized labor and many conservative "America First" citizens who oppose it. The proposal does not have broad public support.


I heard on Fox news the other night that up to 80% of the agricultural workers in California are undocumented workers. I have heard and read similar numbers for Oregon. It would seem to me that the guest worker program would work for these kinds of workers. When Bush says there are jobs Americans do not want to do he is ridiculed by some conservatives, but like it or not he is right.

I don't think Americans will like high food prices anymore than they do high gas prices, and they would like food shortages even less.

Who is the worst President?

Jay Cost at Real Clear Politics has interesting takedown of Sean Wilentz's Rolling Stone article on George Bush. Wilentz seems to believe that Bush is in fact the worst president.

As a prelude to his disquisition about how careful historians are when they think about ranking presidents, Wilentz writes this puzzling sentence:

From time to time, after hours, I kick back with my colleagues at Princeton to argue idly about which president really was the worst of them all.

So, which is it? Is it serious work by a historian using his professional expertise to answer a burning question? Or, is it just the compilation of the "idle" thoughts of a historian off the clock?

To answer these questions, we must ask another: what is it that separates the historian from the history lover, the political scientist from the politically attentive, the scholar from the buff? It is not the title of "professor," it is not the number of books from prestigious publishers, it is not the doctoral degree hanging on the wall. It is only this: the scholar uses a method of inquiry that the buff does not, and he operates in a community where adherence to that method is (or at least should be) of paramount importance. This, and this alone, is what should endow the social scientist, as opposed to the buff, with the status of "expert." The social scientist has spent time thinking not just about the question at hand, but also how to think about the question at hand.

This is why I was so aggrieved to read Wilentz's piece. He is a great historian who should know better than to devolve into the idle speculations of the history buff - but that is exactly what he does.

This becomes evident with a careful reading of his eighth paragraph. Wilentz gives three criteria for differentiating the good president from the bad. These are: (1) did they divide or unite the nation? (2) did they govern erratically or "brilliantly"? (3) did they leave the nation more or less secure? I shall take these as they are given - but I will say that I have serious objections to all three (particularly the second, which seems to present a false dichotomy and, with "brilliant," uses a word so hackneyed that it is almost bereft of meaning).


It would seem to me that using the above criteria Abraham Lincoln would not come off so well.

Great presidents have done some very unpopular things, in fact often that is what makes them great. The Jay Treaty was wildly unpopular, but it was necessary. George Washington did what was best for the country in the long term. But it was divisive in its time.

Let us imagine that Al Gore had been given the keys to the White House. The Court had gone his way. What then? Would Republicans have felt he belonged there? And when those planes hit those buildings on that September morning who would have been held responsible? After all the Democrats would not have had Bush to make movies about and cast blame on. No the buck would have stopped with Al Gore. Am I supposed to believe that would have made me more secure or the country more unified or for that matter that Al Gore was capable of brilliant rather than "erratic" rule?

I think it is too soon to know what kind of president George Bush has been, but I think we are forgetting that we the People bear some responsibility for our country as well.

Is Steve Ballmer the Sole Reason for Microsoft's Decline?

On Thursday Microsoft announced its quarterly results. It missed expectations by 2 cents per share. To those who don't follow the stock market closely this seems like nothing, but there has been a game played on Wall Street for years called "managing expectations". In this game the company always passed information to analysts in such a way as to ensure that when the actual numbers came in they were above what the analysts predicted. Consistently. Microsoft, during the boom, was the acknowledged master--if not the inventor--of this game, and its stock repeatedly shot up as a result. For Microsoft to miss expectations, knowing full well that this is the game they are playing, was completely catastrophic. For the shareholders that is, the widows and orphans. $32 billion dollars in shareholder value evaporated yesterday, never to be seen again. The CEO will undoubtedly get the usual golden parachute. When they finally get around to canning him. Don't hold your breath.

There was also the small matter of the $2.4 billion that was "missing", or as one analyst said, "the numbers didn't add up". Evidently Microsoft elected to hide this money, money that it plans to use as a war chest to attack Google, within the profitable Windows division's budget. Why does Microsoft always have the passion to "kill" its competitors (Steve Ballmer's term) rather than to build great products? In principle, I favor the idea that Microsoft is going to use the money to build greatness; in practice the market believes that Microsoft will spend its way into further losses like the X-Box and stockholders are voting with their feet. Ominously, Friday's stupendous drop in shareholder value was accomplished with the highest one-day volume recorded in years. Old stockmarket hands will always tell you to "follow the volume". Rising volume on a declining price is the worst thing that can happen. Stockholders beware.

You might think that this would cause a shakeup within Microsoft, as Steve Ballmer and his team have just lost more money in one day for stockholders than Enron managed during its entire crooked fiasco. A shakeup, one might think, should be the least he should expect. Would jailtime be too good for him? But no, according to the Mini-Msft blog, it's business as usual, and Steve's only comment was "The reaction to yesterday’s news is a lesson that the entire leadership team at Microsoft will learn from." I'm sure he's learning it real hard. The employees meanwhile are dispirited and discouraged. Read the blog. The investors are probably right to jump ship.

So, after the ongoing Vista saga, with its continually missed shipping dates, its several rewrites, and its missing features, and with the X-Box continuing to lose $100 per box sold, isn't it time to ask just exactly what it is that Steve Ballmer has added to Microsoft?

People assert that Microsoft has become as toothless and hidebound as IBM. I fear something considerably worse. Has Microsoft under Steve Ballmer become GM?

The Daily Kos is Not the Sole Reason for the Democratic Party’s Decline

Friday, April 28, 2006
It would be a mistake to believe that marginalizing the Daily Kos crowd is sufficient to save the Democratic Party. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only major difference Kos has with the party’s “mainstream” leaders is his unrelenting hostility towards the private sector. Robert Rubin and the Daily Kos can never work out their differences. The Clinton types are only willing to give lip service to the discredited economic policies of John Kenneth Galbraith. When push comes to shove, the former president’s buddies sit on the boards of major corporations and earn substantial incomes. Are they hypocrites? It matters little whether I believe this to be the case. The Daily Kos, however, perceives these Democratic establishment figures to be low-life sell outs. He despises them. Still, both sides are in total agreement regarding abortion choice and gay marriage. And most importantly---the Daily Kos and the Democratic Party’s older power brokers essentially see eye to eye on defense matters. A pacifist mindset has captured the Democratic Party. It instinctively believes that the use of American military power will usually cause more harm than good. Any conflicts with the Islamic nihilists are the result of our imperialist policies of the past. The United States support of Israel has particularly brought us much grief. Offering an olive branch to the terrorists is the preferable way to bring peace. Who are we to think our culture is better than theirs? A more humbled America will make the world safer for everybody.

Sign me up



I'm in. I'm joining the 101st Fighting Keyboardists. Our mascot is, of course, the very worthy chickenhawk.

Bush on the Boycott

Interesting little blurb on the May Day and Bush.

WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush said on Friday he opposes a national boycott planned by pro-immigration activists on Monday that could include millions of participants. Organizers have timed the action for May Day and have strong support from big labor and the Roman Catholic church. They vow that America's major cities will grind to a halt and its economy will stagger as Latinos walk off their jobs and skip school. "You know, I'm not a supporter of boycotts. I am a supporter of comprehensive immigration," Bush told a Rose Garden news conference, referring to efforts to reach an immigration deal with the U.S. Congress.


I thought the Unions were supposed to be against this kind of thing.

hmmm.

Himno Nacional Mexicano.

Himno Nacional Mexicano.

Mexicanos, al grito de guerra
El acero aprestad y el bridón,
Y retiemble en sus centros la tierra
Al sonoro rugir del cañón.
Y retiemble en sus centros la tierra
Al sonoro rugir del cañón.


Mexicans, at the cry of battle
prepare the steel and the bridle;
and let the earth tremble at its core
at the sonorous cannon's roar.
And let the earth tremble at its core
at the sonorous cannon's roar.

Ciña ¡oh Patria! tus sienes de oliva
De la paz el arcángel divino,
Que en el cielo tu eterno destino,
Por el dedo de Dios se escribió;
Mas si osare un extraño enemigo,
Profanar con su planta tu suelo,
Piensa ¡oh Patria querida! que el cielo
Un soldado en cada hijo te dio,
Un soldado en cada hijo te dio.


O Fatherland your forehead
shall be girded with the olive garlands
of peace by the divine Archangel,
for in heaven your eternal destiny
has been written by the finger of God.
But should a foreign enemy dare to
profane your land with his footstep,
know, beloved Fatherland, that heaven
gave you a soldier in every son.

Gave you a soldier in every son.

Guerra, guerra sin tregua al que intente
De la patria manchar los blasones!
Guerra, guerra! Los patrios pendones
En las olas de sangre empapad.
Guerra, guerra! En el monte, en el valle
Los cañones horrísonos truenen
Y los ecos sonoros resuenen
Con las voces de Unión! Libertad!


War, truceless war against those
who would attempt to blemish our heraldry!
War, war! The patriotic banners
soak in waves of blood.
War, war! On the mountain, in the valley
The terrifying cannon thunder
and their echoes nobly resound
to the cries of Union! liberty!

Antes, patria,
que inermes tus hijos
Bajo el yugo su cuello dobleguen,
Tus campiñas con sangre se rieguen,
Sobre sangre se estampe su pie.
Y tus templos, palacios y torres
Se derrumben con hórrido estruendo,
Y sus ruinas existan diciendo:
De mil héroes la patria aquí fue.


Fatherland, before your children go
Beneath the yoke, their necks in sway,
May your countryside be watered with blood,
On blood their feet trample.
And may your temples, palaces and towers
crumble in a horrid crash,
and their ruins exist saying:
The Fatherland was made
of one thousand heroes here.

¡Patria! ¡Patria! tus hijos te juran
Exhalar en tus aras su aliento,
Si el clarín con su bélico acento,
Los convoca a lidiar con valor:
¡Para ti las guirnaldas de oliva!
¡Un recuerdo para ellos de gloria!
¡Un laurel para ti de victoria!
¡Un sepulcro para ellos de honor!
¡Un sepulcro para ellos de honor!


Fatherland, Fatherland, your sons vow
To give their last breath on your altars,
If the trumpet with its warlike tone
Calls them to valorous battle.
For you, the garlands of olive,
For them, a glorious memory.
For you, the victory laurels,
For them, an honoured tomb.
For them, an honoured tomb.

Lyrics - Francisco González Bocanegra
Music - Jaime Nunó

Et tu, JohnO?

I don't read John O'Sullivan habitually, but I've read a goodly number of his columns and I cannot recall ever being left with the idea that Mr. Sullivan was playing fast and loose with the facts. Before I get into what will be a long post I will admit that the facts - or at least the numbers - seem oddly difficult to come by. (If any of my fellow Yargbians or our legions of readers can find better sources than I have, please point me to them.) I may be misinterpretting Mr. O'Sullivan's purpose, point, or anything else. It seems to me, however, that he's joined in doing what far too many Les artistes de la Presse Ancienne have long been doing. Well, anyway, on to looking and Mr. O'Sullivan and such facts/numbers as I can discover.

In his NY Post article, A 'CRACKDOWN' THAT WASN'T - DUBYA'S IMMIGRATION ARRESTS, (ht: commenter "falco" at Polipundit) O'Sullivan uses the Great Pallet Raid to do the initial setup for the takedown of Dubya about his immigration policies. Fine, nuttin' new there. But when I reached this:

I recently suggested - wrongly - that there had been little or no enforcement of employer sanctions since the passage of the 1986 amnesty law; that, once an illegal reached a major city such as Los Angeles, Phoenix or Chicago, he was safe from official interest and could work unmolested. That was not quite accurate. The Clinton administration in fact managed some (albeit patchy) "internal" enforcement of employer sanctions. For instance, the period 1995-1997 saw 10,000 to 18,000 worksite arrests of illegals a year. Some 1,000 employers were served notices of fines for employing them.

Under the Bush administration, however, worksite arrests fell to 159 in 2004 - with the princely total of three notices of intent to fine served on employers. Thus, worksite arrests under President Bush have fallen from Clintonian levels by something like 97 per cent - even though 9/11 occurred in the meantime.

I was stopped in my tracks. Numbers tend to do that to me, especially when they rise and/or fall dramatically (80% increase from '95 - '97 followed by a 97% freefall through '04). Why did they rise so dramatically in Clinton's second term and why did they fall off the cliff in Bush's first term? Hmmm... that struck me as perplexing and so I set off with my trusty google to try and have a look at the numbers and see if any sense could be made of them. My discovery was somewhat unsatisfying but here's where it has taken me.

First, where did those numbers come from? I don't know but
according to this DoJ report:

INS national worksite arrest statistics and removal targets reinforce what we were told in the field. INS has reported approximately 10,000 to 12,000 worksite arrests of illegal aliens annually from FY 1991 to FY 1995. INS has targeted 12,400 worksite arrests for FY 1996 and 17,200 for FY 1997. Prior to FY 1996, INS did not track removals associated with worksite enforcement. However, INS intends to modify systems to track these removals this fiscal year. INS has targeted 1,680 worksite enforcement removals for each of FY 1996 and FY 1997. If INS meets these targets, its removal rates for aliens arrested in the worksite will be 13.5 percent for FY 1996 and 9.8 percent for FY 1997.

These seem to agree closely enough with O'Sullivan's numbers. “Worksite arrests” were running around 10-12K annually entering into the Clinton administration and seem to have been growing somewhat and then reached a spike in ‘97. That’s the 18,000 year that Sullivan quotes although it says 17,200 for '97. Close enough for gummint work.

What the devil was going on over these years. Well, I found some hints in this Migration News piece.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 introduced federal sanctions on employers who knowingly hire unauthorized foreigners. However, in an effort to ensure that employers would not discriminate against minorities, IRCA made it an offense for an employer to request more documents from some newly hired workers than others, or to specify particular work-authorization documents that new hires must present. The result was confusion and a proliferation of false documents during a time of very limited enforcement.

By 1994, when the Commission on Immigration Reform examined workplace enforcement of immigration laws, document fraud had become so widespread that CIR called for a new national registry to verify new hires. Critics decried the expense and "Big Brother" aspects of a national registry, and the 1996 Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act instead called for the government to test three pilot verification systems with employers who volunteered to participate. The Basic Pilot, the only one of the three that has continued, was expanded from five to 50 states by the Basic Pilot Program Extension and Expansion Act of 2003, and in Fall 2005 included 3,600 employers (the US has 8.4 million employers) and 22,000 work sites.

To participate, employers complete a Memorandum of Understanding and obtain a login name and password. In FY04, they submitted data on 757,000 new hires to the Social Security database, up from 613,000 in FY03. About 75 percent were immediately confirmed to be employment-authorized, and only 208 were found to be definitely unauthorized. Of those that triggered questions, 70 percent were quickly found to be employment-authorized, and another 10 percent were cleared after further checking.

The major verification problem involves work-authorized non-US citizens. Only half are verified to work by the automated Social Security database because its databases are not up to date. Those rejected must have their data sent to USCIS, which also does not have continuously updated databases. Most of those who persist are found to be employment-authorized. By contrast, unauthorized workers tend to quit, so employers do not resubmit their data.

The major impact of Basic Pilot is not found in submitted data. Instead, when applicants learn that their data will be submitted for verification, they do not apply or withdraw their applications.
OK, so the DOJ/INS gave employers voluntary access to a system that did a reasonable, but slow and somewhat mistake prone, job of verifying the legal work status of the people they were considering hiring. The spike of worksite arrests and employer fines in ‘97 probably “encouraged” some additional “voluntary” access to this system. The net of all this is that by ‘97 the big boys wanted no part of hiring illegals (well, they wanted no part of the fines and bad press) and were pretty much out of the jobs to illegal aliens game.

I have been unable to find, so far, any site that provides the worksite arrest numbers for ‘98 through ‘02. Except for this one lone AP report from December of ‘05 which presents numbers for ‘99 and ‘03:

A Government Accountability Office report in August found worksite arrests were down from 2,849 in 1999 to 445 in 2003. In 1999, 417 civil notices of intent to fine employers for hiring illegal workers were issued, not counting civil settlements; in 2003, there were just four.

Well, now, just hang a minute there Johnny O! The drop in worksite arrests from ‘97 to ‘99 is already on the order of 80+%! It would seem Dubya's numbers weren't in freefall from the heady Clintonian numbers of '97 but that, rather, the worksite arrest numbers were in pretty significant freefall by '99. Why did worksite arrests of illegal alien workers fall of the cliff like that?

There are a some hints. One is that the Big Boys were out of the game. INS couldn’t do 1,000-1,500 raids and net 12,000-18,000 illegals anymore. Have a look at the chart at the top of the AP report I pointed to above. Also have a look at the DoJ report I linked to - it ends with this little tidbit:

Even if the illegal alien work force in the U.S. were to remain static at 2 million and INS were to meet its removal targets, INS worksite removals would equal less then 0.1 percent of the illegal alien work force and could be expected to have a statistically insignificant effect on the remaining work force. Consequently, we believe that a large illegal immigrant work force is likely to continue to be available to sweatshop operators for the foreseeable future.

INS seems be saying, as far back as that late ‘96 report, that they felt the worksite arrests program was leading nowhere fast.

I apologize for losing track of the link but somewhere in the DoJ/INS website I noticed, but didn’t capture and cannot find again, some report (I’m nearly certain it was from the late ’90s) recommending that they switch from an “inspection” methodology (dropping in on worksites and looking for illegals) to a “leads” methodology (acting upon tips about worksites with illegals).

That would make some sense. The old fishing grounds (the Big Boys) were no longer producing and they were probably spinning their wheels trying to run around inspecting the little guys who, even when busted, weren’t paying the fines - they just go belly up, disappear, and re-emerge somewhere else a few months later and they believed it was all for naught anyway. The little employers, the “sweatshops” in INS parlance, was where the illegals were.

O'Sullivan would have us believe that it was a “dramatic relaxation in enforcement” and seems to want to pin it on the Bush administration. What seems to be more likely as an explanation is that, by ‘98 the big fishing grounds were fished out and nobody was giving the INS more boats and fishermen to go searching out new fishing grounds and they switched to a policy of sending their resources out based on calls telling them where the fishing might be hot at the moment.

But why a continuing drop and even though the “Bush Drop” was not the 97% Sullivan would have us believe, it still seems it might be rather large. After all, we were getting nearly 3,000 in ‘99 but not even 500 by ‘03. I haven’t yet found numbers for ‘00-’02, but given the drop off the cliff between ‘97 and ‘99 we might reasonably speculate that the numbers didn’t rise in ‘00 and, since the INS seems to have lost the good fishing spots and, therefore, didn’t find fishing nearly as profitable, the numbers probably fell ‘99 - ‘00 at least a little.

But what happened between ‘01 and ‘03? Sullivan seems to want us to believe that the government, under the Bush administration, stopped enforcing the immigration laws "even though 9/11 occurred in the meantime".

Maybe I'm way too duped or forgiving but it seems to me that since 9/11/01 federal resources have had some jobs to do that were arguably higher priority than tracking down insulation installers, roofers, and motel cleaning ladies. It seems pretty clear that, under the Bush administration, not enough has been done to either secure the border or to deal with the rapidly rising number of illegal aliens. I believe O'Sullivan was being disingenuous when he chose thenumber of "worksite arrests" as the tool with which to flog Dubya. It seems that worksite arrests may have fallen off the cliff long before Dubya stepped up to bat and, perhaps, there was understandable reasons for that. I have not doubt he knows full well he was disingenous.

To pretend that this immigration mess all happened on Bush’s watch and that nothing else of arguably higher priority has happened on Bush’s watch is disappointing coming from Sullivan. Hillary… Kerry… Krugman… Dowd… Ivins… that ilk one can understand.

O'Sullivan I expect more from.

Judge Walton - Reason is on the line for you.

Clarice Feldman provides a clear analysis of the logical errors rampant in Judge Reggie Walton's opinion rejecting the TeamLibby Motion to Dismiss. I'm just guessing but I don't think that Clarice intends to go back into practice in DC any time soon.

From a non-lawyer standpoint, I found Judge Walton's opinion understandable and without the obvious political slant that stained Judge Tatel's opinion in the Miller case. I thought his holding Morrison as being definitive and overriding Edmond to be ludicrous, although he is careful to state that no 'bright line' exists concerning SCOTUS debutante with regard to the superior versus inferior officer argument.

I hope that interlocutory appeal is allowable and that this opinion is reviewed prior to Fitz's Folly proceeding. This case (particularly Fitz's behavior as a prosecutor) is not strengthening my opinion of our justice system.

My favorite company pulled a Microsoft and I LOVE IT


I love to render in 3D and started, as many, with Bryce then added Poser for content for my Bryce scenes. A couple or three years ago Poser came out with a new version that (1)had a very restrictive license (2)instituted a user-unfriendly copy protection scheme and (3)was buggy as heck! The community of users felt taken for granted and were furious. The company, Curious Labs, removed the added restrictions in the license and removed the copy protection and put out a patch. Still buggy. Another patch. Still buggy.

There was a danger the company, which wasn't in too good financial straights anyway, would fold.

There is also a company that makes and brokers content for Poser users. Figures and scenes and props and clothes. Wonderful stuff. There are several 'stores' that broker Poser content, but DAZ3D shines because of high-quality standards and brilliant marketing. They realized if Poser died, they'd be out of business too.

So they decided to create their own Poser-like program from the ground up that could utilize Poser content. So if Poser died, they'd still be okay. They announced their intentions and also let it be known that they planned that the base program would be free. Bring more users into the community and they'd, naturally, purchase content, and most likely purchase it from DAZ3D. (Believe me it's easy to get hooked on content AND DAZ3D.)



The Poser community was all excited about it!

The program, named DAZ Studio, came out of beta last September and it's wonderful! and free! And it does almost everything Poser does with a more user friendly interface and content management.

In the interrum, Poser's parent company went into bankruptcy and the Poser part was purchased by (Oh, man, I'm going blank here) a company in Japan and they came out with the next version of Poser which is excellent with a lot of new features. It's the program the previous version should have been. Poser users are ecstatic.

And then, what do you know, but human nature took it's course and along comes rivalry between the users of DAZ Studio and Poser 6. My program's got more features! My program works better!

Poser's company purchased a 3D modeling program (Shade) and some other stuff and offer bundles for Poser 6 purchasers. One online content store does not even test products in Studio though DAZ3D makes sure the content it sells works with everything (more customers that way, of course). Poser's company has a storefront called Content Paradise where partner stores (Renderosity and RDNA) sell products. They also instituted a club called (blank again---I think it's a mental block) which mimics DAZ3D's Platinum Club. I don't know the exact details of Passport (I remembered!) But in Platinum Club one pays a certain amount annually, or monthly, and products put in the club are available to members at 1.99 and discounts on other stuff. GREAT for folks like me.

Competition! I love it. Even the grousing and wars.

But when you get right down to it, DAZ3D are marketing geniuses. AND they have a certain advantage over Poser in that DAZ3D also creates content--it doesn't just broker it--while Poser's company only makes the software and runs a storefront for merchants. But Poser also has Shade, as I said.

Meanwhile, DAZ3D has released several plugins for DAZ Studio that add features. At DAZ famous reasonable prices and introductory sales.

This week DAZ3D made a big announcement. They just purchased another 3D software company: Eovia. Eovia makes Carrara and an extremely well-regarded fairly new 3D Modeling program called Hexagon.

All right! I don't know what DAZ plans for a 3rd renderer (Carrara) but we (heh) have our own 3D modeling program now to go along with the content and renderers (DAZ Studio and Bryce). And we were all sure that DAZ would give their customers a nice discount on the price.

So I hop over to DAZ to see what's new and everything is slow as molasses. Just like the day they announced V1.0 of DAZ Studio and everyone on the 'net was downloading at once. (An announcement at Slashdot didn't help matters.) And what do I find?

DAZ put Hexagon in the Platinum Club!!!!!!!!!

1.99!!

DAZ promises they take care of their customers. AND THEY DO. And we're all gonna be 3D Modelers now! :) I love it!

What does this have to do with Microsoft? Well, Shade don't cost 1.99. :)

DAZ3D
e-frontier
The Cricket Cage, my personal site for my renders

-------------
Just a note to add that after May 31st, the price of Hexagon will go back to its normal retail price of US$269. I missed that leetle detail when I first got the news. I think I may be excused because I was in shock. :)

The Olden Days

Thursday, April 27, 2006
My dad is the skinny one.

After Terrye's wonderful short post about her dad I thought I would add a bit about mine. Here he is in 1928, age nine, carrying water for the men building the tabernacle at the religious campground established by my grandfather. It was my dad's job that summer and he says the men worked hard and long and kept him busy. The tabernacle itself was built over a ravine that had to be filled with boulders and dirt, which was done using a mule team, a dirt skimmer, and wheelbarrows.

The camp is still in use and is situated near Hinton, West Virginia, a small town on the New River. At the time it was a railroad town with a repair depot and the trains hauled coal to the mills in Ohio. My dad was born at home, "between a whore house and the railroad tracks," as he tells it. The coal industry has moved on to cleaner coal and the railroad facilities are gone. I understand that the area is becoming a bit of an attraction for kayakers and such, although West Virginia as a whole is not exactly booming. My cousins used to say "last one out, shut the door."

Here is a recent picture taken near the campground showing the New River. It is easy to forget looking at scenic vistas like these just how hard life was without modern machinery and the wealth this country has accumulated over the years. It is one thing to visit someplace as a tourist toting a camera, it is quite another to make a living there.

We grow bigger, get richer, live longer...you name it, but we (Americans) often complain


In thinking about the previous post, I wanted to do a little bit of shameless self-promotion. A theme of my just released book, Tantalizing Times: Excitements, Disconnects and Discontents in Contemporary American Society addresses this juxtaposition of our great fortune and our...well you name it... complaints, peeves, discontents, unhappiness, entitlements, etc. My peeve is that the publisher is selling it as a textbook (i.e., too expensive for most folks sight unseen), although I wrote it for the general public. Oh well, beggers can't be choosers. In any event, this is a theme that Tocqueville wrote about beautifully. The book is available through Amazon or via the publisher Peter Lang Publishing. OK, end of self plug for now.

The poor are getting poorer or...

..the worst [your pet peeve here] since the Great Depression.

Yes, I know, I frequently link to Jim Miller on Politics. That's because I often find things there that, figuratively speaking, stop me in my tracks. Such was the case a moment ago. In his post, Americans Are Getting Bigger, (which I almost didn't read 'cause, well, it didn't strike me as interesting), Jim drops this little bombshell he found in An Army At Dawn: The War In Africa, 1942-43

...a description of the standards the draftees had to meet in 1940, which shows just how much bigger we've gotten:
Physical standards remained fairly rigorous; soon enough, the day would come when new recruits claimed the army no longer examined eyes, just counted them. A conscript had to stand at least five feet tall and weigh 105 pounds; possess twelve or more of his natural thirty-two teeth; and be free of flat feet, venereal disease, and hernias. More than forty of every hundred men were rejected, a grim testament to the toll taken on the nation's health in the Great Depression. (p. 9)
105 pounds! When was the last time you even saw a man who weighed that little? If the men in those old World War II photos looks small, that's because many of them were.)
Emphasis added by me. Forty percent of the American men who were drafted could not meet those standards even by 1940? I am unfamiliar with Rick Atkinson's work and have no idea if this paltry level of size and general health can be laid directly on the effects of the Great Depression. For all I know half of the 40% who couldn't meet those standards ran out and got a dose or some teeth extracted the moment their draft notice showed up in the mailbox, but I doubt it.

The next time I hear some local moonbat chant the "worst since the Great Depression" mantra I'm gonna be sorely tempted to slap the idiot. With a little luck I'll control myself and merely say, "You're too stupid for words. Please just STFU."

NPR strikes again

On my morning drive to work I was listening to their major coverage on the EU report on CIA renditions in Europe; knowing NPR to be fair and balanced, I was curious to see how they treated the similar EU report that could not establish the existence of CIA prisons (it broke on April 21, and I searched All Things Considered--the afternoon coverage, and both Weekend editions--what to my surprise!!! there was No in depth coverage of THAT story. Who would have guessed. Fortunately I became a free rider to NPR years ago--its the least I can do to make them go away.

I am getting tired of this already

I got home early today. A client of mine passed away and so my day was cut short. I get online and go to Instapundit , and this is what I see:

REPUBLICANS ARE SAGGING IN THE POLLS: Maybe, in part, it's because Harry Reid is doing better than Bill Frist in fighting pork?

Here's the kind of response that's getting from former GOP supporters: "Okay, real conservatives, Republicans, and libertarians, stay home. Just...stay home in 2006. Or - what the hell - vote for a Democrat. We have to wake up the Stupid Party, before it completely merges itself into the Republicrat Statist Party."

I think that a GOP disaster is now officially looming.


So, it seems that pouting is the way to get what you want in politics.

Yesterday I checked out Glenn's and he was talking down ethanol, said it depleted the soil, as if that corn was not going to be planted any way. I am not saying that ethanol can ever take the place of oil but it seems that every little bit helps. However, when it comes to something that might help farmers libertarians turn into environmentalists.

And today we hear the argument about how irrelevant gas prices are, but hey...look out because the public is going to stay home out of outrage over pork.

What??? How far removed from average Americans do you have to be to realize that people are more concerned about gas prices than they are about Trent Lott's railroad? I mean really. If these people stay home and hand the government over to the Democrats in the middle of a war because of pork then to hell with them.

Disaster looming indeed.

It seems to me that there are a lot of big time bloggers out there that are becoming every bit as arrogant, egotistical, self involved,and self serving as the media they swore they would counter act.

So now after praddling along after Chucky Schumer when he savaged Dubai Ports and the Bush Administration over selling our ports to Muslims we see high profile conservative pundits and bloggers getting all pissy because the Bush administration is [gasp] sounding like Schumer and calling for an investigation of gas prices.

I have no desire to see Exxon nationalized but when I hear from a true blue Republican Hoosier that there is something obscene about the Exxon CEO getting a bonus that comes to about $190,000 a day for everyday he had the job...well, people are wondering if something is amiss.

Between hysterical bloggers bringing back the good old days of the Red Scare comparing undocumented workers to serial killers and libertarians calling for Democratic victory to punish the Republicans who fail to do their bidding I am wondering if some folks in blogland are suffering from hubris.

It also seems to me they have completely forgotten the war. It is as if a bridge in Alaska or some other silly earmark is more important than the fact that CIA agents with ties to the Democratic party are deliberately breaking the rules, if not the laws, and divulging classified information to reporters.

But no matter, Bush wants a guest worker program which means surrender to the wetback invasion and Republicans have not eviscerated domestic spending so what the hell, let's go over to the other side just to punish the GOP. That'll teach them that when we say jump all the hell we want out of them is how high.

Just who do these people think they are? And you know what? My guess is that Trent Lott will win reelection as long as he wants the office, because the people voting for him are not from Tennessee, they are from Mississippi and they just might want that damn railroad.

Maybe Truman was right. After being savaged in the press and pronounced dead in politics he said we should create a new department. The Department of Columnists..to run the country since they think they do anyway. Add bloggers to that list.

UPDATE: AJ has a slightly different view of recent polls than those referenced above:

While the liberal media spins some new polls to paint a bleak picture for reps, the actual numbers show America is sick of them all, left and right. Buried at the end of this fantasy piece is the bottom line:

Americans take dim views of both parties, giving Democrats a positive rating of just 33% and Republicans 35%.

So, the only thing I can tell Dems looking for a silver lining is they are worse than or as bad as the Reps! Don’t expect this to turn into a electorial sweep to the dems this fall.


Makes you wonder.

Time To Go

There are a number of columnists still churning material in the same manner as they did thirty years ago. They apparently believe that the information age's apogee occurred with the invention of the word processor and that this new fangled internet thing is a passing fad of limited utility. That is the kindest excuse I can find for this David Broder column which seeks to rather unartfully minimize McCarthy's transgression:
For the first few days after the action was announced, the agency and the White House let stand the impression that McCarthy had been a source for the stories about secret U.S. detention centers in Europe that won a Pulitzer Prize for The Post's Dana Priest on April 17. But when McCarthy's lawyer said she had no part in that transaction, CIA officials confirmed that was the case -- leaving it unclear exactly what she had done to bring down the punishment.

Had Broder been aware of existence of that marvelous invention known as the search engine, he might have discovered that even the New York Times was able to figure out what the CIA actually had to say:
A C.I.A. spokeswoman, Jennifer Millerwise Dyck, said: "The officer was terminated for precisely the reasons we have given: unauthorized contacts with reporters and sharing classified information with reporters. There is no question whatsoever that the officer did both. The officer personally admitted doing both."


Rather than characterize Broder as a compliant liar for a poor cause it is much kinder to think of him as a disingenuous fool overtaken by technology.

In either event, both pieces from the Democratic Party propaganda organs steer clear of McCarthy's startling generosity to the Kerry campaign as well as her connection's to 'Sandy the Burglar' and the VIPers nest in the CIA. Given the probable intellectual prowess of anyone foolish enough to continue to subscribe to either paper, leaving out such information is probably a very safe bet. A WaPo or NYT subscriber lives in a very special world and needs shelter from reality at all times.

Sun's New Corporate Strategy Explained

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Numbers, numbers everywhere!

While slugging it out with the Round 'em Up and Stack 'em Like Cordwood on the Border to Make a Fence gang over at Polipundit I was pointed, by a commenter (Many hundreds of thousands of American citizens live here..."

I had no idea so many Americans lived in Mexico but found "many hundreds of thousands" a bit too inexact for my tastes and curiosity so I went poking around to see if I could narrow down "many hundreds". So naturally I started googling. The search hasn't been very satisfying for tracking down some number, but it did turn up the blog of one Bill Masterson, the People's Guide to Mexico.

Bill takes a look at HOW MANY AMERICANS LIVE IN MEXICO? That link is actually his "Question Revisited" update of his first look at the matter. Both articles are, IMHO, interesting and worth the clicks and few minutes. According to Bill:

Published: 2000

How many Americans live in Mexico? 600,000? 500,000? Less? More?

Americans (as well as the rest of the world) are becoming more comfortable with Mexico. As the relationships between the North American countries grow closer, more Americans than ever before are considering a move to Mexico, whether it be for retirement, to start a business, look for work or just to travel. One of the key factors that comes into play when most people consider moving to another country is how many of their fellow countrymen are already there. For all of our professed desire for independence, when push comes to shove, most of us really want to be in relatively close proximity to some people who are similar to us.

It is often said that more Americans live in Mexico than in any other country. Several documents published by the U.S. Department of State say that, "More than 500,000 Americans currently reside in Mexico". This same figure is often quoted in travel articles written for newspapers and magazines. Travel and retirement guides quote similar numbers.

Persons promoting the Lake Chapala area of the state of Jalisco as a retirement-living option for foreigners claim that "more than 200,000 Americans live in Jalisco, the largest English-speaking population in the world, outside of the United States", and "60,000 Americans live along the shores of Lake Chapala."...

Bill's own experiences in Mexico led him to suspect the number was less. So he set about trying to find out what the number actually is. Along the way he discovered that apparently neither the US nor Mexican governments seem to know or care very much. He finds estimates ranging from the 500,000 number to as high as 1,000,000 with 600,000 living in Mexico City. He dismisses this high estimate as "sloppy research" by some PhD candidate at some US university (read it if you care). Where Bill eventually winds up is:

As I stated at the beginning of this article, these new population projections of Americans residing in Mexico "appear to be nothing more than the byproduct of sloppy research."; that’s the bad news. Rather than helping to answer the question, these "projections" only cause confusion and mislead people. Although I'm open to the proposition of being corrected by numbers that can reasonably be substantiated, I've seen nothing over the course of the past year that would cause me to change the opinion I expressed in my prior article, that, "the best factual estimate of Americans living in Mexico is below 150,000." (emphasis mine).

The good news -– from a data gathering viewpoint -– is that the national identity card and the data it might produce ought to narrow the range of numbers being bandied-about, and offer a better idea as to how many citizen-residents are residing in which parts of Mexico. Barring unforeseen revelations on the subject, it looks as if we'll all just have to sit and wait and see what results from the national ID card program. This program, however, is bound to be controversial in the expat community and, like most government programs in any country, is likely to get off to a shaky start.

Along the way he does a reasonable job of telling us who cares and why as well as suggesting a possible explanation for the disparity (undocumented "visitors"). While reading his articles and a link or two I got the impression from these expat types (Bill apparently returned to the US) that Americans are somewhat notorious for ignoring the immigration laws wherever they go.

Roughnecks



Alta, Oklahoma circa 1952.

My Daddy is the good looking one.

He would be critically injured on a rig just like this one two years after this picture was taken. The company, Viersen-Cochran Drilling Co. had neglected to replace a chain holding the block used a counter balance. The chain broke, the block fell and my father was the man it hit. It cracked his skull, broke 6 ribs, punctured a lung, broke his collarbone, broke his pelvis, broke his right leg, shattered his knee cap and split his foot in half. He was 28 years old. That is what saved his life. The company told my terrified 23 year old mother they would get him the best of medical help if she signed a form saying the family would not sue. She did and they brought doctors from all over the country to Oklahoma City to work on Daddy. He survived and they called him the Walking Miracle.

But he was never the same. I was a very young at the time, not quite three..but I can remember going to the hospital and seeing the nuns in the black habits gliding down the halls like great black birds and seeing my father in that white bed with the crucifix on the wall. I did not recognize him until he began to weep.

Later when my Daddy went to work selling oil tools I would go to the rigs with him. He would take a box of work gloves and a cooler of Orange pop and crushed ice with him and I would sit in the dog house with the men and watch them put out cigarettes on the palms of their work worn hands. To this day I can still remember the smell of crude oil and hot metal and sweat.

These are the kind of men who worked the oil fields back in the day when they called such people oil field trash. God bless them. We may never see their kind again.

Is George Bush a dissident?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Natan Sharansky says he is:

There are two distinct marks of a dissident. First, dissidents are fired by ideas and stay true to them no matter the consequences. Second, they generally believe that betraying those ideas would constitute the greatest of moral failures. Give up, they say to themselves, and evil will triumph. Stand firm, and they can give hope to others and help change the world.

Political leaders make the rarest of dissidents. In a democracy, a leader's lifeline is the electorate's pulse. Failure to be in tune with public sentiment can cripple any administration and undermine any political agenda. Moreover, democratic leaders, for whom compromise is critical to effective governance, hardly ever see any issue in Manichaean terms. In their world, nearly everything is colored in shades of gray.

That is why President George W. Bush is such an exception. He is a man fired by a deep belief in the universal appeal of freedom, its transformative power, and its critical connection to international peace and stability. Even the fiercest critics of these ideas would surely admit that Mr. Bush has championed them both before and after his re-election, both when he was riding high in the polls and now that his popularity has plummeted, when criticism has come from longstanding opponents and from erstwhile supporters.

With a dogged determination that any dissident can appreciate, Mr. Bush, faced with overwhelming opposition, stands his ideological ground, motivated in large measure by what appears to be a refusal to countenance moral failure.

I myself have not been uncritical of Mr. Bush. Like my teacher, Andrei Sakharov, I agree with the president that promoting democracy is critical for international security. But I believe that too much focus has been placed on holding quick elections, while too little attention has been paid to help build free societies by protecting those freedoms--of conscience, speech, press, religion, etc.--that lie at democracy's core.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Dr. Sanity follows the above quote with the following:

Those who persist in portraying Bush as some evil mastermind, the Bushitler etc. etc. etc. who is determined to undermine American democracy and freedom are so far gone with BDS and out of touch with reality that they have lost all perspective and judgment.

Bush certainly has many failings and is by no means perfect. But on the issues of freedom and democracy -- he is a light in the darkness and voice in the wilderness compared to most people who presently identify themselves as "progressives" and "liberals".

President Bush's domestic policies are not particularly brilliant and may even be simplistic and obvious. When you observe President Bush you see what you expect: a normal man muddling along.

Many have accused me of idealizing President Bush, and while it is true that since 9/11 I admire him quite a bit, I hardly idealize him. On the contrary, what I find compelling about him are his obviously ordinary human qualities. He strikes me as a very REAL person--not a slick "persona" created by an ad agency; or a "celebrity" onto whom we project our own fantasies.

___________________________________________________________________________________
I have mentioned before that I see a comparison between Bush and Truman. David McCullough in his biography Truman made the point that Truman was exactly the kind of man the founding fathers had in mind for the office of the President. That is, he was a real American. He came from the people. Bush had opportunities that Truman never had, he had an education that Truman never had...but I think the trait they had it common would be their genuineness.

There is in both men a depth that one rarely sees in public figures. Perhaps these traits are there in most people and it takes the right circumstances to bring them out..but I am not so sure about that. I think Bush is hated for this reason: he put the progressives to shame and he is in fact what they only pretend to be.

A new face.

Well new for this job. According to CNN :

Sources close to the White House said Monday that Fox anchor Tony Snow is likely to accept the job as White House press secretary, succeeding Scott McClellan.

Exhibit A

Well if we are to make a case of treason against people in government who in the guise of the loyal opposition have put partisan politics ahead of the good of the nation..we will have to begin with Rockefeller's memo :

We have carefully reviewed our options under the rules and believe we have identified the best approach. Our plan is as follows:

1) Pull the majority along as far as we can on issues that may lead to major new disclosures regarding improper or questionable conduct by administration officials. We are having some success in that regard.

For example, in addition to the President's State of the Union speech, the chairman [Sen. Pat Roberts] has agreed to look at the activities of the office of the Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, as well as Secretary Bolton's office at the State Department.

The fact that the chairman supports our investigations into these offices and cosigns our requests for information is helpful and potentially crucial. We don't know what we will find but our prospects for getting the access we seek is far greater when we have the backing of the majority. [We can verbally mention some of the intriguing leads we are pursuing.]

2) Assiduously prepare Democratic 'additional views' to attach to any interim or final reports the committee may release. Committee rules provide this opportunity and we intend to take full advantage of it.

In that regard we may have already compiled all the public statements on Iraq made by senior administration officials. We will identify the most exaggerated claims. We will contrast them with the intelligence estimates that have since been declassified. Our additional views will also, among other things, castigate the majority for seeking to limit the scope of the inquiry.

The Democrats will then be in a strong position to reopen the question of establishing an Independent Commission [i.e., the Corzine Amendment.]

3) Prepare to launch an independent investigation when it becomes clear we have exhausted the opportunity to usefully collaborate with the majority. We can pull the trigger on an independent investigation of the administration's use of intelligence at any time. But we can only do so once.

The best time to do so will probably be next year, either:

A) After we have already released our additional views on an interim report, thereby providing as many as three opportunities to make our case to the public. Additional views on the interim report (1). The announcement of our independent investigation (2). And (3) additional views on the final investigation. Or:

B) Once we identify solid leads the majority does not want to pursue, we would attract more coverage and have greater credibility in that context than one in which we simply launch an independent investigation based on principled but vague notions regarding the use of intelligence.

In the meantime, even without a specifically authorized independent investigation, we continue to act independently when we encounter footdragging on the part of the majority. For example, the FBI Niger investigation was done solely at the request of the vice chairman. We have independently submitted written requests to the DOD and we are preparing further independent requests for information.

SUMMARY: Intelligence issues are clearly secondary to the public's concern regarding the insurgency in Iraq. Yet we have an important role to play in revealing the misleading, if not flagrantly dishonest, methods and motives of senior administration officials who made the case for unilateral preemptive war.

The approach outlined above seems to offer the best prospect for exposing the administration's dubious motives.


Subtle, isn't he? I like to think that when our soldiers are sent to war it is to defend the country and what it stands for. It is rather depressing to know that the loyal opposition just looks at it as another political ploy.

Just a bit about gasoline prices

The National Association of Manufacturers blog says that Gas Prices Outpaced Only by the Rhetoric (ht: Powerline). It provides a good set of links that are useful for gaining a basic familiarity with the factors that drive oil and gasoline prices. The grafs that strike me as most interesting (but I invite y'all to read the whole thing):

For all the theatrical political venom directed at the oil companies, the US-based companies represent only 13% of the world's output, a mere drop in the bucket. The real powerhouses are the state-owned operations in Russia, China, Venezuela, etc. All the finger pointing, all the speeches about price-gouging and windfall profits won't change that simple fact. And it won't alter the law of supply and demand.

At the end of the day, there are only so many solutions: drive down global demand or drive up domestic supply. If we could only harness the hot air being generated by the politicians and the media these days, we might solve the problem once and for good. In the meantime, we must conserve (manufacturers are leading the way in doing it and in inventing the newest technology) and we must search for new sources of fuel. Manufacturers there, too, are the ones who will invent and perfect it. But we also must continue to tap domestic supplies of oil, both on shore and off.

Here's a Department of Energy chart that tracks the price of gasoline (including taxes) on a weekly basis for Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and the UK since 1/1/96 through 4/10/2006. The price of a gallon of gasoline has remained more than twice as expensive in all those countries over the past 10 years. If Americans think they have pump shock at pumps here they should make a point of going to Europe and purchasing a tank of petro at the pump. Standard European pricing for petro makes rental car company pricing seem sane.

Here's an MSNBC article about gas prices in other places. This article uses the same DOE source I linked above but also brings us this interesting little tidbit:

As of April 10, drivers in the Netherlands were paying the equivalent of about $6.73 a gallon at the pump. The gas itself cost $2.61; the rest — $4.12 — represented tax. That’s a 158 percent tax.
Read that and weep.

Here's a CNN Money article (a bit dated, nearly a year old) that looks at gasoline prices around the world. In Venezuela, in May of 2004, the price per gallon was only $0.14. Yes, that's fourteen cents. Anyone wanna go live in Venezuela or trade Bush for Chavez straight up? In fact, I'm pretty sure few of us want to live in the places where gasoline is less expensive than it is here in the US.

Lastly here is another old article (Oct. 2005) - High Oil Prices Met With Anger Worldwide

Rising fuel prices are stoking popular anger around the world, throwing politicians on the defensive and forcing governments to resort to price freezes, tax cuts and other measures to soothe voter resentment.

The latest example came this weekend in Nigeria, where President Olusegun Obasanjo promised in a nationally televised Independence Day speech that the cost of gasoline would not increase further until the end of 2006, no matter what happened in global oil markets. He acted after furious demonstrations shut down whole sections of major cities around the country over the past several weeks.


Update: Instapundit points to
Record Crude Oil Prices (Nominally Speaking) which, in turn, points to this Energy Bulletin article reporting on a Goldman Sachs report, which claims:

During 1980-1981, gasoline spending in the United States corresponded to an average 4.5 percent of GDP, 7.2 percent of consumer expenditures, and 6.2 percent of personal disposable income, Goldman said.

"Our new $50-$105 per bbl super spike range perhaps conservatively corresponds to gasoline spending in the United States that reaches 3.6 percent of forecasted GDP, 5.3 percent of consumer expenditures, and 5.0 percent of personal disposable income.

Goldman said that were it to assume gasoline spending needed to reach 1970s levels to destroy demand, its upside super-spike estimate would be $135 per barrel for New York crude."


Hmmm... That suggests that, compared to 1981, in 2006 the US spends 20% less as a percentage of GDP, 26% less as a percentage of comsumer expenditures, and 24% less as a percentage of disposable income. 1981, BTW, was 2 years after the inflation adjusted record price for oil.

Treason

"Treason doth never prosper. What is the reason? For if treason doth prosper, none dare call it treason." - Sir Julian Hurrington

On occasion I have been taken to task for plain speaking. There is a hesitancy in these times to call something by its plain name for fear that such usage may offend or outrage others. This is part and parcel of the Gramscian war, of course, and I am unwilling to concede ground on the enemies' terms.

I will not claim that McCarthy should be charged with treason because I am not using the word in the strictly legal sense but in the sense in which it is commonly understood. Cal Thomas has a good column today in which he gives his justification for labeling McCarthy a traitor. I agree with his reasoning and see no reason why she should not be labeled as such. An oathbreaker within the CIA deserves no better. She has betrayed both her oath and the country which elevated her to a position of trust. Traitor is the proper appellation for those who engage in such conduct.

Rush Limbaugh's monologue yesterday referred to the Democratic Party as a "Culture of Treason" and I cannot fault his reasoning for arriving at that conclusion either. Too many Clinton appointees and too many Kerry advisors from within the intelligence community have broken their oaths for the label to be easily discarded. Too many Democratic Senators and Congressmen have subverted the war effort for which they voted. Their subversion and sedition has cost American lives and I will not sit silent while they continue to work against victory in a battle which we did not start but must surely finish.

I have been the subject of reproach at times (as I mentioned) for plain speaking. The argument advanced is that by calling something by its earned name I may give offense to the extent that the supporters of whatever I name will not be "won over" to "my" side. In reply I can only say that I do not regard "winning over" supporters of sedition and treachery to be an admirable aim. I would ask what the value of a traitor gained as an ally might be?

UPDATE:Wretchard has some interesting speculation concerning potential Russian involvement.

Hot Air does an outstanding job on the first 48 hours of the story - with updates through today.

and Gatewaypundit has a rundown of McCarthy's career - both in the CIA and as a media source.

I think Vnjagvet has called this correctly. Even if no indictments come from this it is going to be terribly damaging to the Democrats who chose loyalty to party over loyalty to country.

Good.

I love the internet

The internet is the only place I know of where I can be called a fascist and a leftist on the same damn day.

We spend a lot of time talking about left and right, but I am not sure there is not a more important political divide. Let's call it common sense vs. ideology.

For instance when I look at issues such as the toppling of Saddam Hussein. I ask myself what the alternative is. To me it seemed that Saddam Hussein was a costly problem that had to be dealt with before it became worse. I did not see it fixing itself or simply going away.

In regards to Dubai ports I felt that since 80% of the freight terminals were already in the hands of foreign companies, some of them much less friendly than UAE it seemed rather silly to interfere with that deal. Silly and self-destructive.

In regards to immigration I felt that since we pretty much looked the other way for 150 years and have not bothered to enforce our own laws the idea that we will somehow transport more than 10 million people out of the country in buses or cattle cars is absurd.

I keep getting stuck on absurd. To me Kyoto cannot work because it is absurd. Mass deportation is absurd. Believing that Saddam and AlQaida cannot be working together is absurd. Not dealing with the looming problems in programs like Social Security is absurd. Notice how much support Bush got from the conservatives on his private accounts. For a bunch of folks who call themselves fiscal conservative they were conspicuous in their absence.

This is not about some intense ideological fervor, it is just what makes sense.

I think I get this from my Dad. Years ago we were watching some show on TV about soldiers in WW2. I think Vic Morrow was in it.... Anyway a scene came when Morrow started to load his gun. That was it for my Dad. It was the wrong ammo. The illusion was shot to hell by this mistake and the story was ruined for my Dad. Well sometimes I think there are those of us who fit into this category more than any other.

It is the "that won't work" category.

When Sandy Berger can get away with stuffing classified documents in his pants and Democrats just kind of pretend that did not happen, they cease to be serious people.

By the same token when some conservative lawmakers pompously say we will make felons of millions of undocumented workers without even acknowledging the impact this will have on law enforcement, they cease to be serious people. These same kind of preening people also cease to be serious when they seem to believe than we can nationalize port terminals to save them from the clutches of foreigners.

So perhaps it is not just about left and right. Maybe there are some of us grumpy people who can not help but wonder, how will that ever work?

Tuesday Tech Digest



Rumors have been swirling around for weeks but my contacts at Sun denied all: Scott McNealy finally stepped down as CEO of Sun, allowing for the beleaguered icon of the tech boom to have half a prayer of picking itself up off the floor. We'll see.

Scientific shocker of the week: images of women can be distracting to men. But wait, there's more. Sex is good for you.

Self-awareness, regarded as a key element of being human, is switched off when the brain needs to concentrate hard on a tricky task. Like sex for example.

Age of miracles: researchers at the University of Utah will be building a bionic arm "that would work, feel and look like a real arm". And magnetic refrigerators may soon be coming to a Sears near you.

The newly discovered species of meat-eating Tyrannosourus-sized Mapusaurus travelled in packs.

The great global-warming debate continues: the carbon cycle was disrupted millions of years ago.

Yet another fundamental constant of physics probably isn't.

Digital cameras leave fingerprints in the pattern of noise they produce, so that it should be possible to match a picture with the camera from which it was taken, much as one matches a bullet to a gun from which it was fired.

David Thomson will be happy to know that police will soon be able to tell whether you're going 51 in a 50 simply by placing hidden microphones along the roads and listening for doppler shifts in your engine.

Stunning infrared image
image of a glacier in Alaska released by NASA (click on it to get a feeling for the immensity).

Our friends in Peking will conduct their third crewed space flight in September 2008, immediately after the Beijing Olympic Games.

New, interesting websites—almost all emanating from Silicon Valley—are starting to pop up all over. I intended to do a review this week on some of them but ran out of time. I refer you only to Second Life—in many ways the most interesting of all—a home away from home, a virtual world, a metaverse. So far it has approximately 200,000 "inhabitants". To quote The Economist (sorry, pay only):
Avatars [Second Life inhabitants] trade their creations in 'Linden dollars', convertible into hard dollars on Linden's currency exchange, which has a monthly trading volume of $4m. One user, Anshe Chung, pays Linden Labs the equivalent of about $200,000 a year to buy land in Second Life. Ms. Chung turns a profit by developing this land into residential communities (such as 'Hangzhou', 'Gotland', 'Emerald Island' and so on) and charging avatars rent.



Well, one more site: flexlists looks interesting and useful. Oh, and don't miss this guy's photography of the Manhattan you've never seen. Ok, really the last one, a map for Terrye to enjoy.

New googleism of the week. Windows keyboard shortcuts you never knew existed. Beware the most common ways to kill a PC. Top ten Windows XP tips of all time. Microsoft's new Live Drive may launch before the fabled G-Drive.


Since there were complaints about my last picture of black holes, I present colliding black holes, the missing picture. (Ok, it's a simulation.)