21 April 2002

Hull deals a losing hand to taxpayers

I would like to turn your attention to a good writeup by Steve Wilson in the Sunday AZ Republic concerning Jane Hull and her bid for a new Indian gaming setup. Not that I'm opposed to Indian casinos, or gambling in general, but I do think the governor is fumbling and bumbling again, and another alternative fuels fiasco is on the horizon.

The governor's deal would be spectacular for the tribes and a missed opportunity for Arizona taxpayers. If adopted, it would make the more than $200 million lost in the state's alternative-fuels debacle look trifling. Negotiating behind closed doors, the governor's office worked out a revenue-sharing plan with the Arizona Indian Gaming Association that allows a huge expansion of gambling at Valley casinos. Using a sliding scale between 1 and 8 percent, it would bring the state an estimated $83 million the first year, based on casino revenues of $1.5 billion. The agreement stipulates, however, that 88 percent of that money be spent on Native American programs.

Contrast what Hull's deal would give Arizona with the money being received in Connecticut and predicted revenue in New York. Connecticut last year took in $322 million, based on an agreement giving 25 percent of tribal casinos' slot machine proceeds to the state. In New York, legislation passed last fall calls for casinos to give 25 percent of all gaming revenue to the state. Estimates vary, but most expect New York will receive at least $500 million a year, once a half-dozen new casinos are opened. Are tribes in those states up in arms? Hardly. Connecticut's casinos are yielding close to $2 billion a year. The moneymaking opportunity in New York is so attractive that even out-of-state tribes have applied to build gambling halls. If you see 25 percent as excessive, think about this: If the state offered exclusive, long-term franchises in a highly profitable business and you had to hand over a quarter of your revenue to the state but would pay no state, federal or local taxes, the line of applicants would stretch from Phoenix to Yuma.

Also, in case you missed it, there was a featured "My Turn" column by Robert Hazard a few weeks ago that asked some questions on Hull's proposed deal that I haven't heard answered yet ...
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18 April 2002

In the Name of Homeland Security, Telecom Firms Are Deluged With Subpoenas

Operating under new powers to combat terrorism, law enforcement agencies are making unprecedented demands on the telecommunications industry to provide information on subscribers, company attorneys say. These companies and Internet service providers face an escalating barrage of subpoenas for subscriber lists, personal credit reports, financial information, routing patterns that reveal individual computer use, even customer photographs.

Behind the rising pressure for the fullest use of new technology and surveillance is homeland security. As police and intelligence agencies seek to deter future terrorist threats, the government is testing the limits of the expanded authority Congress provided when it passed the Patriot Act with broad bipartisan support in October.

"The amount of subpoenas that carriers receive today is roughly doubling every month -- we're talking about hundreds of thousands of subpoenas for customer records -- stuff that used to require a judge's approval," said Albert Gidari, a Seattle-based expert in privacy and security law who represents numerous technology companies.
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Wal-Mart Profits From Death

Here is this morally reprehensible bit about a Wal-Mart lawsuit clipped from a Houston Chronicle article.

Jane Sims always knew her husband was a valuable employee to Wal-Mart. She just didn't know how valuable. Sims discovered recently that Wal-Mart, the company her husband, Douglas, worked for before he died, had taken out a life insurance policy in his name. When Douglas Sims died in 1998 of a sudden heart attack, Wal-Mart received about $64,000. She got nothing from that policy.

"I never dreamed that they could profit from my husband's death," said Sims, whose husband worked in receiving at Wal-Mart's distribution center in Plainview for 11 years.

Companies routinely take out secret life insurance policies on the lives of their low-level employees and collect thousands of dollars when they die. The families never know the policies are in place and typically receive none of the money. The policies are called corporate-owned life insurance policies or COLIs for short. But they're better known in the insurance industry as "dead peasant" and "dead janitor" policies.

As it says in the bible, the love of money is the root of all evil ...

9 April 2002

A Part of Something or Apart from Everything

I urge all to take a look at the latest column by Steve Tuttle, posted up at Witkowski's site - it's chalked full of prescient points regarding the illegal immigration issue. He's dead on in claiming that it's mainly a Republican issue and the driving force is the commercial interest of a cheap labor supply. Tuttle concludes the column with the salient remark that 'It isn't so much the "immigrant" part of illegal immigrant that bothers us. It's the "illegal" part"' ... Here are some more excerpts ...

With somewhere around 400,000 illegal immigrants now entering our country annually, this is a topic that not only merits informed discussion, it demands it. But such discussion has now disappeared, the victim of political correctness and yet another in the endless string of rights movements being industrialized by those who see oppression wherever they look. Illegal immigrants now have their own, full-time advocates who spend all day every day looking for new ways this group can be considered victims. What discussion does exist centers almost exclusively on the conditions and rights of these immigrants, not whether they should be here in the first place. Just raising the questions will get you called xenophobic, racist, nativist and anything else that can be thought of to quickly end the discussion.

We might want to reconsider. We might want to ask ourselves some salient questions. For example, does or should American citizenship have any real value? Is there any point or purpose to having borders at all? Do we really believe in the rule of law, specifically immigration law?

If we answer "yes" to those questions, then we have to reconsider the way we now protect our borders and the growing acquiescence to the illegal immigrant rights movement.

And that's one of the great, unspoken truths about illegal immigration. It's a mostly Republican problem. While GOP leadership continues their incessant whimpering about values, they quietly welcome all the illegal immigration we can stomach. Why? Because it enables their rich business pals in the agri-business, hospitality, and home construction industries the opportunity to keep their labor costs way, way down. That helps keep profits up and shareholders smiling and contributing to the values-spewing Republican candidate of their choice. (If you don't believe that then ask yourself when was the last time, if ever, you heard of an employer being arrested for hiring illegal immigrants? We simply do not go after the employers, though such a strategy would clearly end the reason most of illegal visitors arrive here. Eliminate the illegal jobs and you eliminate the reason for coming.) Democrats, who pander shamelessly to Latinos, believing that if this growing minority ever votes they will vote Democratic, are not blameless. It's just that the industries primarily responsible for the illegal job market are not the industries-of-choice for Democrat fundraisers.

The "immigration problem" has easy and common sense solutions now completely ignored. Nobody currently in our country illegally should be entitled to amnesty or any free pass to citizenship unless we change the laws they broke. The consequence of breaking immigration laws should be inconvenience for the lawbreaker, not for the rest of us. They should be sent home, where we should develop a shortcut system that allows those who would have qualified for amnesty legal re-entry. We have to decide who gets in and why. The borders should be severely tightened, at least until we stop playing war. We should crack down on employers who have made a business out of hiring, underpaying and abusing illegal workers.

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4 April 2002

ITAA Disinformation On H1B Visa

I wrote this in response to an publically posted argument in favor of the H-1B visa program by ITAA president Harris Miller

Mr. Miller, you've done nothing to dispel the notion that you're merely a shill for an organization that's solely interested in preserving a source of cheap labor for the tech industry at the expense of American professional IT workers and the communities in which they live. I speak as a programmer who has witnessed and endured first hand the follies of this misguided program. I find it enlightening that Tancredo's arguments are supported with empirical data, while you attempt to cast opponents of your proclamations as aspirants of "anti-immigrant fervor".

First, let me say that I have nothing but the utmost respect for individuals emigrating to this country to apply their IT knowledge and hone their craft. I count many as friends, and several as dear friends. Yes, there may be a small contingent of those who dislike immigrants for xenophobic reasons, but I think a consensus of IT professionals bear no ill grudges against the H-1B visa holders themselves, just the anti-American policies that undercut our means of providing for our families.

Your arguments are riddled with inaccuracies, irrelevant anecdotal references and blatantly false prentensions. I'll try not to allow emotion to seep into my arguments here, but speaking as an American who was displaced in a previous computer programming position by an H-1B visa holder, it may be a tad difficult. But here goes ...
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