30 May 2005

Let's dedicate ourselves, as a nation, to ending this violent, unnecessary conflict

This Memorial Day
And the exploitation of our soldiers doesn't end when their tours are over. How do our leaders show their gratitude to those who are lucky enough to make it home? By pinching pennies on veterans' benefits and forcing them to pay more for the health care they need because they were put in harm's way for the rest of us. If the war's human cost is not compelling enough, consider the economic cost to the nation. The price tag for Iraq has now climbed above $200 billion, in a nation buckling under the strain of debt and still neglecting many domestic priorities in areas like education and health care.

Just when you thought Arnold couldn't get any more shameless

Schwarzenegger's new commercial is filled with conspicuously placed products, products that just so happen to be sold by major contributors to his campaign.

Here's Arnold at a choreographed pothole filling.

And here's a site that's keeping watch on the Gropeinator

29 May 2005

More people will live in rural settings, with technology enabling them to do almost anything they like, be it work or play, without leaving their homes

By 2020, a real estate crash will be in effect, due to advances in technology which will make rural areas much more desireable to live in, according to an "expert on human use of technology".
Despite these lifestyle trends, it will still be necessary to travel to central cities occasionally, and some people will continue to prefer urban life. But overall, the balance between remote regions and the center will change in favor of a more distributed lifestyle, resulting in a real estate crash.

27 May 2005

It is the left that has lost the most with the accord

So writes Arizona Republic columnnist Rob Robb on the matter of the recent judges compromise and I would have to say that his assessment is on the mark.
Conservatives have denounced the accord's statement encouraging President Bush to consult with both Republicans and Democrats before making judicial nominations as some sort of untoward limitation on his authority. But if there are seven Democrats who have publicly announced their willingness to buck their leadership on such nominations, working with them is simply smart politics.

Conservatives would have preferred to lift the specter of the filibuster from judicial nominees entirely, but it's not clear that there were the votes in the Senate to do so.

That option, however, remains.

Republicans get a free pass for a number of judges right now AND they can always still pursue a "change of rules" to suit future nominees.

Personally, I don't have a sentiment one way or another on the filibuster rules — everybody wants to think of the noble Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith goes to Washington, but to my recollection, it's been used to thwart good as much as it has been deployed as a beacon for gathering consensus against dubious Senate acts. As troublesome as the character of some of Bush's nominees may be, as they say, to the victors go the spoils, and if Senate Republicans can flex enough legislative muscle, the prizes belong to them.

However, the notion advanced by Republicans that filibusters have never been used to block nominees to federal courts is just pure bull. Even Supreme Court nominees have been blocked by filibuster, despite attempts of Republican historical revisionism to greasepaint a different story. And even an obedient mainstream media has sung along with them, even attempting to erase the fact that it was Republican Trent Lott that coined the term "nuclear option".

In the current state of Congressional affairs, Democrats folded instead of calling the bluff of a Republican dominated Congress that continues to sink in approval, to the lowest point in a decade. And cowering to bullies isn't likely to earn them votes in the 2006 elections either.

Spammers Wrecked my Web Site

No, actually I broke it, due to changes I made to scrape and scrub the spam away. It looks like ever since I renamed one of the scripts here that performs the task of posting data to the database, the new account registration function broke. Additionally, in my set of verboten spam pastings used to filter out spammer post bots, I seemed to have triggered a syntax error that led to Trav's peculiar odyssey in posting here.

Well, I believe I've made the necessary fixes, and all should be copasetic in the kingdom of AZplace. If not, well, I hope I become alerted to the source of dismay in a more timely fashion. Or I should say sufficiently informed, as I believe I received reports that account registration wasn't working, but it took trav1bailey's comments to spur the root cause discovery and subsequent correction. Thank you Trav.

25 May 2005

Arizonans Give Governor High Rating for Job Performance

According to a KAET poll, 79% of registered voters in Arizona rate Janet Napolitano's performance as very good or good.
Sixteen percent gave her a negative rating. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of the Republicans interviewed gave the governor a good performance rating, as did 95 percent of the Democrats and 80 percent of the political independents.

The survey also found that 56 percent of those interviewed felt the legislators who recently completed their 2005 legislative session did a good job. Thirty percent gave the legislators poor marks and 14 percent said they had no opinion. Seventy-four percent of the Republicans, 60 percent of the political independents and 58 percent of the Democrats gave the legislature positive marks. Voters over 65 tended to be less supportive of the legislators than younger voters.

Voters tended to support the governor's decision to veto several bills passed earlier this spring by the Arizona Legislature. The most support for a gubernatorial veto came over a bill that would have allowed patrons to carry guns into bars, as long as they were not drinking. Seventy-nine percent agreed with the governor 's veto of that bill. Seventeen percent opposed the veto and 4 percent were undecided. There also was strong support for the governor's decision to veto a bill that would have allowed pharmacists the right to refuse to fill prescriptions if it would violate their moral principles related to birth control and contraception. Sixty-five percent supported the veto, 28 percent were opposed and 7 percent had no opinion.

24% of the respondents were registered independent, giving more creedence to the notion that Arizona is definitely a swing state.

24 May 2005

Bush's "war against terrorism" is no less orchestrated than Palpatine's war

Former Reagan staffer draws parallels between Bush and Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars Episode III.
The Sith, however, are everywhere. In our day, the Sith masquerade as neoconservatives. Neocons deal in absolutes. They believe the end justifies the means. As the Jedi master Obi-Wan tells Anakin, who is turning to the dark side and emerging as Darth Vader, "only a Sith lord deals in absolutes." Anakin to Obi-Wan: "If you're not with me, you're my enemy."

Palpatine is able to manipulate the Galactic Senate with the clever use of words that play upon emotions. People want to feel secure. They want their side to prevail and will do whatever it takes to win, including trading their Republic for an Empire. Palpatine prevails because people deceive themselves.

22 May 2005

Unfortunately for Iraq and the United States he is getting what he asked for

President Bush, when he urged "Bring em' on", as it appears that the US is recruiting for the Iraqi insurgency.
The level of insurgent activity in Iraq today is four or five times higher than it was in early summer 2003 when there were 10-13 attacks per day. Currently, there are approximately 50 per day. A report released by the Project for Defense Alternatives explains why the resistance to U.S. occupation is expanding – the root cause is the U.S. occupation itself. In a March-April 2004 poll sponsored by USA Today, CNN, and Gallup, 58 percent of Iraqis said US forces have behaved very or fairly badly. Indeed, nearly one in four Iraqis – 22 percent – have been "directly affected by violence in terms of death, handicap, or significant monetary loss" during the occupation according to a survey by the International Republican Institute.

The report, Vicious Circle: The Dynamics of Occupation and Resistance in Iraq, notes U.S. occupation offends many Iraqis every day.

21 May 2005

Major political contributors and friends of Bush not only paid illegal kickbacks to Saddam Hussein but personally profited from sanctions-busting with Iraq

Galloway was correct in criticizing the Coleman committee for not concentrating on U.S. violations of Iraqi sanctions and pay-offs to Saddam in the Oil-for-Food program, which involved U.S. oil companies who have long-standing connections to the Bush family.
Minority report documents indicate that one of the largest recipients of Bayoil Iraqi oil shipments was Enron, the bankrupt company that served as a virtual slush fund for the political campaigns of George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Iraqi Oil-for-Food scandal also involves one of the Bush children—Dorothy "Doro" Bush Koch, sister of George W. Bush and married to Bobby Koch, reportedly a cousin in the oil industry Koch family, the owner of Koch Industries, which is also one of Bush's largest political donors. The minority committee report indicates that Koch Industries was also a major recipient of illegal Iraqi oil and a huge source of kickbacks to Saddam Hussein:

The total sum in kickbacks from George W. Bush's cousin-in-laws to Saddam's bank accounts: $1,294,620.

It's a smokescreen alright.

20 May 2005

They give reporters stories that are true, but whose truth favors their clients

An insightful article on how insidious and pervasive the influence of the public relations industry over the the media is.
Our startup spent its entire marketing budget on PR: at a time when we were assembling our own computers to save money, we were paying a PR firm $16,000 a month. And they were worth it. PR is the news equivalent of search engine optimization; instead of buying ads, which readers ignore, you get yourself inserted directly into the stories.

Our PR firm was one of the best in the business. In 18 months, they got press hits in over 60 different publications. And we weren't the only ones they did great things for. In 1997 I got a call from another startup founder considering hiring them to promote his company. I told him they were PR gods, worth every penny of their outrageous fees. But I remember thinking his company's name was odd. Why call an auction site "eBay?"

PR is not dishonest. Not quite. In fact, the reason the best PR firms are so effective is precisely that they aren't dishonest. They give reporters genuinely valuable information. A good PR firm won't bug reporters just because the client tells them to; they've worked hard to build their credibility with reporters, and they don't want to destroy it by feeding them mere propaganda.

If anyone is dishonest, it's the reporters. The main reason PR firms exist is that reporters are lazy. Or, to put it more nicely, overworked. Really they ought to be out there digging up stories for themselves. But it's so tempting to sit in their offices and let PR firms bring the stories to them. After all, they know good PR firms won't lie to them.

So when you read stories about shortages of IT workers or how suits are making a comeback, as detailed in Graham's article, it should raise a needle on the "bullshit detection meter".

19 May 2005

Twisted by the dark side young Skywalker has become

Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith opened today to record crowds, in what must be a welcome respite for theater owners across the USA.

I've had the opportunity to see it twice already, taking in a midnight showing early this morning and back to the theater again this afternoon for an encore viewing. It was truly entertaining, and far better than the previoius Episode I and Episode II prequels. Many excellent battle scenes and special effects eye candy, minus the annoyances of Jar Jar Binks in Episode I and the incessant whining of a younger Anakin Skywalker in Episode II.

I'll not say too much as anything I write here is a spoiler, given the nature that it is a prequel, afterall, so most all who are familiar with the George Lucas Star Wars movie realm know where this story is headed. In this installment, it's the big schism that erupts between light and dark, and Mr. Skywalker is transformed into Lord Darth Vader. However, it's Ian McDiarmid who plays Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, who steals the show, putting on a performance far more stellar than any other on the cast. Every line he spoke or facial twinge he displayed was indeed epic.

It was thrilling viewing, for the simple fact that even though you know how things are going to play out, you still view in anticipation of subsequent action.

Even if the science and technology presented in the movie are comical anachronisms or even if its just a sorry George Lucas pushing one of the most downer and anti-modernist messages of all time.

Of course, there was some hullabaloo about Star Wars being a piece of anti-Bush propaganda. I didn't get that from my viewing, it just seemed like standard fairy tale story schlock dressed all up with snazzy special effects, lots of battle scenes and eye catching CGI.

A reality-based perspective on Iraq

Are we winning in Iraq?
American military commanders in Baghdad and Washington gave a sobering new assessment on Wednesday of the war in Iraq, adding to the mood of anxiety that prompted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to come to Baghdad last weekend to consult with the new government.

The generals said the buildup of Iraqi forces has been more disappointing than previously acknowledged…

The senior officer who met with reporters in Baghdad said there had been 21 car bombings in the capital in May, and 126 in the past 80 days. All last year, he said, there were only about 25 car bombings in Baghdad.

Tens of thousands of people are dead in Iraq, including more than 1,600 U.S. soldiers and Marines, because of false allegations made by President George W. Bush

An editorial on the "lies that led to war".
Going to war is the most serious decision a president can make. It should never be approached in a cavalier fashion. American lives, the prestige and influence of the country, international relations, the health of its defenses, and the future of the next generation are at stake. Yet every single piece of evidence we now have confirms that George W. Bush, who was obsessed with unseating Saddam Hussein even before 9/11, recklessly used the opportunity presented by the terror attacks to march the country to war, fixing the intelligence to justify his decision, and lying to the American people about the reasons for the war. In other times, this might have been an impeachable offense.

18 May 2005

The Mother of All Smokescreens

George Galloway delivers a riveting statement to U.S. Senators who have accused him of corruption.
Now, Senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life's blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq which killed one million Iraqis, most of them children, most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the misfortune to born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies.

I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.  

If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth.

Have a look at the real Oil-for-Food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Haliburton and other American corporations that stole not only Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer.

Have a look at the oil that you didn't even meter, that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went who knows where? Have a look at the $800 million you gave to American military commanders to hand out around the country without even counting it or weighing it.

Have a look at the real scandal breaking in the newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee. That the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians. The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own Government."

Truly stunning, especially considering a recent report that U.S. oil purchases accounted for 52% of the kickbacks paid to the regime in return for sales of cheap oil - more than the rest of the world put together.

Galloway's testimony was blistering, and his shredding of the neocons is a speech for the ages.

Capture Bin Laden, kill him, and bring his head back in a box on dry ice

A MSNBC transcript of an interview with senior CIA veteran Gary Schroen describing how his orders were to deliver bin Laden's head in a cardboard box to President Bush.
MR. SCHROEN: That's true. He did ask that once we got bin Laden and killed him, that we send his head back in a cardboard box on dry ice so that he could take it down and show the president.

MR. RUSSERT: Where would you find the dry ice in Afghanistan?

MR. SCHROEN: That's what I mentioned to him. I said, "Cofer, I think that I can come up with pikes to put the heads of the lieutenants on," which is the second part of what he wanted done. "Dry ice, we'll have to improvise."

17 May 2005

This plan will further depress salaries, and will increase poverty and unemployment among entry-level workers

David Decherd of Mesa writes to the Arizona Republic on why the recent McCain-Kennedy immigration proposal is a bad tonic for American workers.
The main problem I have with the McCain-Kennedy immigration proposal is found in Sen. John McCain's assertion that there are jobs that Americans will not do at any price.

This simply is not true. Americans will do any task, if the payoff is worth it.

McCain's proposal requires an employer to advertise an opening and, if no citizen takes the job, the employer can hire a migrant. There is no requirement to offer a market wage. An entry-level citizen worker might not want to pick lettuce for $6 an hour, but might consider it for $12. But the lettuce company need only offer the job at $6, and then bring in out-of-country labor when no citizen takes the job at that price.

Whenever you hear "jobs Americans will not do", the question is bogus, as they lump off the phrase "at any price".

An absolutely accurate description of what transpired during the senior British intelligence officer's visit to Washington

The Downing Street Memo
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

The Bush administration cooked up a case for a war it wanted.

Abundant evidence now exists in the public domain to convict George W. Bush of the crime of the century.

16 May 2005

Newsweek Got Gitmo Right

The CNN headline says Newsweek is backing away from a previously reported Michael Isikoff story that told of Koran desecration, after pressure from a Pentagon spokesman who blamed the the report for recent unrest in Muslim countries. However, the allegations of religious desecration at Guantanamo are common among ex-prisoners and have been widely reported outside the United States.
Several former detainees at the Guantanamo and Bagram prisons have reported instances of their handlers sitting or standing on the Koran, throwing or kicking it in toilets, and urinating on it. Prior to the Newsweek article, the New York Times reported a Guantanamo insider asserting that the commander of the facility was compelled by prisoner protests to address the problem and issue an apology.

One such incident (during which the Koran was allegedly thrown in a pile and stepped on) prompted a hunger strike among Guantanamo detainees in March 2002. Regarding this, the New York Times in a May 1, 2005, article interviewed a former detainee, Nasser Nijer Naser al-Mutairi, who said the protest ended with a senior officer delivering an apology to the entire camp. And the Times reports: "A former interrogator at Guantanamo, in an interview with the Times, confirmed the accounts of the hunger strikes, including the public expression of regret over the treatment of the Korans." (Neil A. Lewis and Eric Schmitt, "Inquiry Finds Abuses at Guantanamo Bay," New York Times, May 1, 2005.)

Juan Cole notes that Newsweek has, in other words, confirmed that the source did read a US government account of the desecration of the Koran. Even the CNN article notes at the bottom that Isikoff "uncovered more allegations of Quran desecration".

Sounds like "we don't like the news", so let's rewrite the news in a most Orwellian fashion.

15 May 2005

Trust a computer to be inaccurate

Why we need ensure accuracy and security with voting machines and how so far, the process is totally suspect.
Computer security experts are unanimous on what to do (some voting experts disagree, but it is the computer security experts who need to be listened to; the problems here are with the computer, not with the fact that the computer is being used in a voting application). They have two recommendations, echoed by Siva Vaidhyanathan:
  1. DRE machines must have a voter-verifiable paper audit trails (sometimes called a voter-verified paper ballot). This is a paper ballot printed out by the voting machine, which the voter is allowed to look at and verify. He doesn't take it home with him. Either he looks at it on the machine behind a glass screen, or he takes the paper and puts it into a ballot box. The point of this is twofold: it allows the voter to confirm that his vote was recorded in the manner he intended, and it provides the mechanism for a recount if there are problems with the machine.

  2. Software used on DRE machines must be open to public scrutiny. This also has two functions: it allows any interested party to examine the software and find bugs, which can then be corrected, a public analysis that improves security; and it increases public confidence in the voting process - if the software is public, no one can insinuate that the voting system has unfairness built into the code (companies that make these machines regularly argue that they need to keep their software secret for security reasons. Don't believe them. In this instance, secrecy has nothing to do with security).

Computerised systems with these characteristics won't be perfect -- no piece of software is -- but they'll be much better than what we have now. We need to treat voting software like we treat any other high-reliability system.

The auditing that is conducted on slot machine software in the US is significantly more meticulous than that applied to voting software. The development process for mission-critical airplane software makes voting software look like a slapdash affair. If we care about the integrity of our elections, this has to change.

13 May 2005

The claim by outsourcing's proponents that outsourcing creates new and better jobs for Americans is pure fantasy

Paul Craig Roberts dissects the BLS April 2005 job numbers and debunks the phony jobs hype.
Outsourcing's proponents claim that it benefits corporations and their shareholders. This is true only in the short run. The substitution of foreign labor for American labor allows executives to reduce costs and increase profits, thus producing large bonuses for themselves and capital gains for shareholders. The long run effect, however, is to destroy the US consumer market and to reduce US corporations to a brand name with a sales force selling foreign made products to Americans employed in third world jobs.

Offshore outsourcing is a new phenomenon that has received little attention from economists, who mistakenly view offshore outsourcing as just another manifestation of the beneficial workings of free trade and comparative advantage. In fact, offshore outsourcing is the flow of resources to absolute advantage. Economists have known for two centuries that absolute advantage does not produce mutual gains. Unlike the operation of comparative advantage, absolute advantage produces winners and losers.

80% of the new jobs in the private, or nongovernment sector were service sector jobs (and 60% of those went to Hispanics, who only comprise 13% of the work force), and keep in mind, those are the types of jobs that will be displaced by automation and robotics.

12 May 2005

They are stupid

It's what Republican president Dwight David Eisenhower said about President George W. Bush and his desire to destroy social security. Well, not Bush specifically, but well, here is a quote from one of his presidential papers…
Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

But Bush and Cheney are Texas oil millionaires, arn't they…

We're Not Interested in Covering the Iraq War

Says ABC News
Brides gotta run, planes gotta stray, and cable news networks gotta find a way to fill a lot of programming hours as cheaply as possible. We say with all the genuine apolitical and non-partisan human concern that we can muster that the death and carnage in Iraq is truly staggering.

And/but we are sort of resigned to the Notion that it simply isn't going to break through to American news organizations, or, for the most part, Americans.

What a joke the national television network news divisions have become…

Iraq Moving Towards Open Civil War

An interview with Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Seymour Hersh on the topic of the illegal immoral Iraq invasion, Abu Ghraib, the insurgency, and Ahmad Chalabi.

The overall status:

I have a friend who is a major player who went to Iraq recently. There's been a series, unreported, a series of missions in Iraq that have all been there to study the war -- where are we? -- and they’ve all come back pretty negatively. This guy came back and he saw the President months ago. And he said, “Mr. President, we're losing the war in Iraq.” And there was a sort of a three-second beat and Bush said, “You mean we're not winning.” And this guy said, “Hey, I told him what I had to say. If he wants to turn it the way he wants to, that's the way it goes.” You know, so he hears what he hears.

On Ahmad Chalabi:

Here's what I know about that. I know that King Jordan comes to visit America quite a bit – the United States. And the President likes him -- our President, George Bush, because he speaks good English. He went to a prep school here in America, and he's very pro-Western. And he sees the President, and he has told friends -- this is about nine months ago -- he was stunned. He was seeing the President. The President said, you know, “Your” -- whatever he calls him -- “I have a favor.” He said, “Of course, anything.” “I want you to pardon Chalabi.” And he was stunned, because, you know, how can he pardon Chalabi after what he had done. The money he stole was from old women and children, you know, little funds, and he was reviled, Chalabi. I have actually read -- I actually somebody in the intelligence community once gave me the transcript of his trial in Arabic. And we had it translated at The New Yorker. This time he was sort of out of vogue, and a story never emerged out of it, but the trial was devastating. I mean, they had him nailed. And he was smuggled out of the country. He probably was in cahoots, by the way, with various members of the royal family then during this stuff, you know, bribery, etc. In any case, he was stunned, and he didn't know what to say. He went back and he asked people in the parliament, who said, “Are you kidding?” So all I can tell you is that Abdullah is doing what the President of the United States, to his amazing shock, because this was after the stuff came out about Chalabi and his connection to Iran. This is probably a neo-con, a neoconservative play. I guess if you wanted to extrapolate it, I don't know whether -- if anybody cares, but I’m sure the White House would deny it and say it's not true, but I can categorically tell you this is Abdullah's story, this I do know. And he was stunned. And he couldn't do it then, so obviously, he thought time had passed. The idea that the President after Chalabi was in big trouble over his connections to Iran and being accused of leaking information whether rightly or not --

America is putting into power the same crew that we struck against.

Well, basically, what we have done since -- in the last year, is we have recreated the Iraqi Mukhabarat. This is the heavy-hitting secret police that Saddam ran. We have gone in and recreated many of the members, put them through a little acid test, made them vow that their allegiance – to what? – I guess, to America, or they're no longer Saddamites. In any case, this is our main force right now. This is the force that Allawi controls. This is a force, the former, you know, whatever the guys, whatever you want to call them, the former roughest guys that Saddam had are now working for us. They're our most prominent security force. And we have had really an amazing spectacle of the Secretary Of Defense, Rumsfeld, making at least two trips in the last five months, I think it’s three, but I know of two, I think it was three, though -- going in and basically -- once before the election was announced, and two more trips -- basically pleading on the inside for the two major factions, the Kurds and the Shia, I'm assuming some knowledge of -- I hope I'm not -- Iraq? -- you know, the country? and there's -- anyway, I don't want to kid you. But we're negotiating -- obviously the whole point of the election was to keep Allawi in play so that he could serve as a bridge, our man, between the Kurds and the Shia. And what he delivers is, of course, is the Mukhabarat.

11 May 2005

Valley Hispanic boycott called a success

Yesterday was pronounced Day Without Hispanics by Arizona Hispanic leaders to protest recent actions by the state legislature.
Several restaurants, carwashes, construction companies and golf courses reported higher absenteeism. Some, such as Baja Fresh Downtown, closed for the day. Lombardi's Restaurant at Arizona Center limited its menu to salads and pastas because of a reduced kitchen crew.

Some roofing companies were crippled by the boycott. An office worker who answered the phone at Catalina Roofing and Supply in Phoenix said none of the company's 160 roofers showed up for work Tuesday.

At San Tan Roofing and Superstition Carpentry in Gilbert, half of the company's 150 roofers and 400 of its 700 framers didn't show up for work, Chief Financial Officer William McGlothlin said. Ninety percent of the company's workforce is Hispanic.

Some of my thoughts on illegal immigration, no doubt repeated from past missives…

  • I have no sympathy for employers who rely upon illegal aliens for their labor force composition. This is where the problem could be really nipped in the bud, if punitive measures were taken against those who provide the greatest incentive for illegal immigration. Until such actions are taken, no other proposed solution will have any significant effect. The argument that my company must hire illegals because the competition does holds no sway with me, as I believe one must always choose the ethical road.

  • I am opposed to any guest worker proposals, as any such programs will in effect render a whole class of people as sub-humans, not entitled to the same rights as Americans, which is totally un-American in my belief. Sure, it will be dressed up in euphemistic wrappers, but bottom line is it will be the equivalent of legalized indentured servitude, with little recourse for those who are on the receiving end of employer abuse and injustice. Not being accorded official "citizen" status should not translate to victim of abuse, or even preferential worker over American citizen.

  • The notion of a huge economic impact due to the curtailment of illegal immigration is total nonsense. The scare mongering that lettuce will cost $10 a head is ridiculous, and recent labor protests have illustrated this clearly — tomato gatherers for Taco Bell recently received double wages after a successful public relations campaign, yet the contract firm was barely dented in their inbound profit flow. Tennis shoes have a raw production cost of a dollar, but they are sold to Americans for $50 and greater. Labor costs amount to a very small sliver of the pie, in just about all fields of commerce and industry.

  • If there is truly a need to import more workers, then fast track provisions should be implemented to allot more legal immigration resulting in more American citizens. Such arguments should undergo critical scrutiny, as employers will always argue that there is a shortage of workers, when they actually mean there is a "shortage of workers willing to work at the wages they are offering".

  • Nothing happens in a vacuum. Illegal immigration brings undesireable elements that accompany honest, hard working folks. It causes deterioration to neighborhoods and a strain on already impacted community resources. Basically, it's a form of corporate welfare where employer receives benefits of a captive labor force whilst other Arizonans must pay (or suffer) for additional services rendered, be it police, school, hospital, park, city or whatever. The most critical of these unintended consequences, is the lowered security and danger introduced to Arizonans.

  • The buck stops with the Bush administration, and simply, they are reneging on their obligation to secure the borders and have turned a blind eye to the problem. But it probably would be no different under a Gore or Kerry administration either, as both parties refuse to address an issue that many Americans feel should be on top of the priority list.

I rarely agree with conservative columnist Thomas Sowell, but this column by him lays out some truths, even if I disagree with his points about a "living wage". He glosses over the natural phenomenon that wages tend to sink to just above subsistence level, and that for many illegal aliens, subsistence level is a mark well below that of an American worker, as there is acceptance of dormitory living and the meager leftover wages are sent back to Mexico, where the dollar goes a lot further.

9 May 2005

The world is now warmer than it has been at any point in the last two millennia

An excellent feature New Yorker article series on climate change by Elizabeth Colbert. All need to read this.
There is a very broad consensus in the scientific community that global warming is under way. To the extent that there are conflicting views, they are usually over how exactly the process will play out. This is understandable. The climate affects just about every natural system on earth, and these systems in turn affect the climate. So making predictions is very complicated. Meanwhile, we have only one planet, so it’s impossible to run a controlled experiment. To focus on the degree of disagreement, rather than on the degree of consensus, is, I think, fundamentally misguided. If ten people told you your house was on fire, you would call the fire department. You wouldn’t really care whether some of them thought that the place would be incinerated in an hour and some of them thought it would take a whole day.

6 May 2005

National ID card on the way?

While the American public is bombarded with Michael Jackson trial news, the runaway bride story and other trivialities, Congress is set to approve Real ID legislation tacked on to an apporpriatons bill, that creates a National ID program.

The "Real ID" Act is indeed a real (national) ID. Although individual states' driver's licenses may continue to exhibit cosmetic differences, they will now contain a standardized set of information collected by all 50 states, which means that underneath each state's pretty designs they are really a single standardized national card - backed up not only by biometrics, but also by a standardized "machine-readable zone" and by a national database of ID information. Local DMV offices may continue to appear to be state offices, but they will now become agents acting on behalf of the federal government, charged with issuing a national identity document without which one will be unable to function in America.

National database creates powerful tracking tool Real ID requires the states to link their databases together for the mutual sharing of data from these IDs. This is, in effect, a single seamless national database, available to all the states and to the federal government. (The fact that the database is a distributed one, maintained on interconnected servers in the separate states, makes no difference.)

National database creates security risks. The creation of a single interlinked database creates a one-stop shop for identity thieves and terrorists who want to assume an American's identity. The security problems with creating concentrated databases has recently been demonstrated by the rampant number of data breaches in recent months in which information held by commercial database companies has fallen into the hands of identity thieves or others. The government's record at information security is little better and that is especially true at state Motor Vehicle Departments that have routinely been the targets of both insider and outsider fraud and just plain larceny.

The "machine-readable zone" paves the way for private-sector piggybacking. Our new IDs will have to make their data available through a "common machine-readable technology." That will make it easy for anybody in private industry to snap up the data on these IDs. Bars swiping licenses to collect personal data on customers will be just the tip of the iceberg as every retailer in America learns to grab that data and sell it to Choicepoint for a dime. It won't matter whether the states and federal government protect the data - it will be harvested by the private sector, which will keep it in a parallel database not subject even to the limited privacy rules in effect for the government.

This national ID card will make observation of citizens easy but won't do much about terrorism. The fact is, identity-based security is not an effective way to stop terrorism. ID documents do not reveal anything about evil intent - and even if they did, determined terrorists will always be able to obtain fraudulent documents (either counterfeit or real documents bought from corrupt officials).

Negotiated rulemaking. Among the any unfortunate effects of this legislation is that it pre-empts another process for considering standardized driver's licenses that was far superior. That process (set in motion by the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004) included a "negotiated rulemaking" among interested parties - including the states and civil liberties groups - to create standards. Instead, the worst form of rules is being imposed, with the details to be worked out by security officials at DHS instead of through balanced negotiations among affected parties.

"Your papers, please." In the days after 9/11, President Bush and others proclaimed that we must not let the terrorists change American life. It is now clear that - despite its lack of effectiveness against actual terrorism - we have allowed our security agencies push us into making a deep, far-reaching change to the character of American life.

Opposition to illegal immigration is justifiable, but this monstrosity is abhorrent to any lover of freedom.

In North Carolina, you can get barred from church for not voting Republican

Churchgoers being barred from the East Waynesville (NC) Baptist Church for being Democrats.

View the WLOS-TV video (WMP).

Very sad, to see so-called Christians embrace such dogma. Neither party is the sole recipient of God's blessing, and it can be argued that the Republicans have been less Christian in their actions, considering their disregard of those in poverty and love for bloodlust.

5 May 2005

ABC doesn't take advertising from religious groups.

Unless it's for the far right James Dobson's Focus on the Family.
ABC, NBC, and CBS refused to air this ad from the UCC. NBC and CBS claimed it was "too controversial" because it says "Jesus didn't turn people away". Tolerance of gays and ethnic and racial minorities is really, really controversial with the bigoted set.

ABC said it had a blanket prohibition of all ads from religious organizations. Unless, it seems, they are run by conservatives.

Liberal media bias my arse…

NSA intercepts for Bolton masked as 'training missions'

Another troublesome detail about Mr. John Bolton, who is the nominee for ambassador to the United Nations.
It was revealed by Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) during Bolton's Senate Foreign Relations Committee nomination hearing that Bolton requested transcripts of 10 NSA intercepts of conversations between named U.S. government officials and foreign persons. However, NSA insiders report that Hayden approved special intercept operations on behalf of Bolton and had them masked as "training missions" in order to get around internal NSA regulations that normally prohibit such eavesdropping on U.S. citizens.

In the case of Bolton and other Bush administration hardliners, the material in question was not deleted and was transmitted in raw intercept form to external agencies for clearly political purposes—a violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and USSID 18, which only allows such raw training mission intercepts to be transmitted when evidence of criminal activity is uncovered during the training mission.

And why is an abusive boss with "no diplomatic bone in his body" being considered for a important diplomatic post?

4 May 2005

Four Dead in Ohio

On May 4th, 1970 - 35 years ago today - National Guardsmen opened fire on a crowd of unarmed students at Kent State University. Four students were killed and nine others wounded.

No one was ever punished and the remaining and unanswered questions are many.

Was there a conspiracy at Kent State?

Previously undisclosed FBI files reveal that:
  1. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover felt the victims deserved to be shot;

  2. Hoover eagerly followed Nixon's instructions to "knock down" (that is, discredit) accurate news reports that the shootings were not necessary and that the Guardsmen could be prosecuted; and

  3. After Hoover relayed that order, one of his top aides boasting of "scotching" those accurate news accounts.

1 May 2005

Schwarzenegger actually has questionable history in terms of complying with America's immigration laws

The Hollywood celebrity California governor has been flexing some anti-immigrant muscles in stark contrast to his own history.
As the San Jose Mercury News reported on 9/21/03, immigration attorneys agreed that when Schwarzenegger first immigrated to the United States, he "most likely violated the terms of his work visa." In interviews over the years, Schwarzenegger has said he joined forces with an Italian bodybuilder to rebuild damaged homes after the deadly Sylmar earthquake jolted Southern California. But immigration attorneys across the country said Schwarzenegger would have been barred by visa restrictions from starting his own business. That revelation followed an earlier discovery that Schwarzenegger might have violated his visa in 1968 as well.

When asked about this hypocrisy, Schwarzenegger aides "declined to make the candidate available for an interview" and then refused to release Schwarzenegger's immigration records. Maybe he should take a cue from his campaign, start once again keeping his mouth shut, and stop trying to appeal to his radical right-wing base by attacking immigrants.