Archive for June 2007

Immigration Time Out

June 29, 2007

Yesterday the Senate, on a procedural vote, decided not to pass any immigration legislation.  I hesitate to use the word “immigration reform” because the proposed legislation compromise was anything but a “reform”.  The proposed legislation was bad for everyone and it is hard to find anyone who would have been benefited.  So it is difficult to understand why so many politicians have voiced such large disappointment.  From my perspective the Congress missed the following:

1. Call it what it is.  The bill most Americans thought was being debated was a “Mexican entry limitation” bill.  It had little meaningful about actual immigration.

2. It was not a “Home Land Security” bill.  Secretary Chertoff practically cried over the bills death.  I am confident that Islamic radicals and fundamentalists will not be confused with Mexicans if they should slip into the country.

3. It was not about sealing the boarders.  The 2000 mile boarder is practically impossible to seal and economically it is foolish to try.  Every day the authorized boarder crossings are jammed with trucks, cars, and foot crossers so there is ample opportunity for Mexicans to cross with forged documents and simply disappear into the US.

4. It was not about amnesty.  Somebody was smoking something when they proposed that the undocumented aliens already living here would come forward, pay a fine of $ 5ooo and then face the requirement that the head of the household must return to Mexico and apply to re-enter the US.  That will never happen.  It is a far better deal to continue living quietly in the shadows and let your children grow up as American citizens.

5. It was not about sensible tax and social services policy.  There are over 12 million undocumented aliens, most of whom are not paying any taxes.  They are, however, using social services and no one is paying for it.

6. It is not about getting rid of the 12 million undocumented aliens.   There is no practical way to find them, and most likely economical prohibitive to try to find them and then deport them.

How then did this bill get so far? 

1. Most likely supporters were looking for politically expediant steps now and believe they would have a chance to modify provisions in the bill later when it became evident that the provision was not working.

2. There had to have been well organized special interest groups who were simply opposed to Mexicans taking US jobs.  The statement that if employers simply paid more there would plenty of legal Americans who could fill the jobs is patently impossible.  If farms paid signicantly higher wages, the consumer would vote at the grocery store and choose produce imported from lower wage countries.

3. Ideologues (also a special interest group) were dead against the entry and legitimizing the undocumented because the majority of these people would become a Democratic Party voter.  For these ideologues, opposing the bill with any argument was ok and the outcome, that is a stalemate, was very acceptable.

The “Immigration Time Out” also showed the dysfunctional nature of both the President and the Congress.  George Bush has no (null, zero, niente, none) political capital left and when combined with his lack of any leadership skill or stamina, it should not be surprise that Republicans did not support the bill.  The Congress is so compromised with the race to raise money that they are paranoid about who is objecting to any legislation.  They can not differentiate between real grass roots opposition or special interest smoke screens.  This does not bode well for the near future.

Kennebunkport Summit

June 28, 2007

George H. W. Bush is bailing George W. Bush out of a jam again.  George the senior has agreed to host a mini Summit between Vladimir Putin and his son, George “still listening to a higher power” Bush.  Putin will want to know why the “higher power” thinks it is a good idea to put missiles and radar on Russia’s front door step when if Russia tried to put missiles into Cuba or Venezuela to defend themselves against rogue South American coutnries, Bush would not think that was such a good idea.

Putin’s counter proposal of including Russian assets in the NATO defenses was quite clever and if the US was on the up and up, it should have been accepted.  But our cold war “die hards” (who sorely miss the simplicity of one good guy and one bad guy) really want a system that could potentially be used against Russia or some Russian ally.  What everyone should want is to prevent Russia from retargeting its missiles on European sites.

George senior knows this and so does every other clear headed person.  Speaking of clear headed people, this is one Summit that the other President, Dick Cheney, should not attend.  His mind is locked in the ice ages of the cold war and has been the pusher of this missile program from day 1. 

On my wish list is that George senior will take Junior aside during the weekend and tell him where the bus stops.  George junior is on target to have, in 8 years, discredited the Bush name, the Presidency, and America’s reputation around the world.  The most gracious thing one can say is that Junior has listened too long and too hard to Dick “5 deferments” Cheney and his narrow and wrong headed neoconservatives.  It is time to dump Cheney and as fast as he can paddle the ship of state back towards the center.  (Unfortunately Junior is not big on hard work and much prefers to have his picture taken and give speeches with fractured English).

Coming In From the Cold

June 27, 2007

There are signs that a good number of Republican Senators and Representatives are coming in from the ultra cold fringes of the right.  After years of mindless, lock step following of a failed Administration, we now see signs of these Congressmen are seeking a path different from that of the Presidents (George and Dick).  Could they be thinking of their own re-electability or is this a maturing of their thought processes.

The Iraq war is generally unpopular with the American public, but these Republicans could simply wrap themselves in the flag and say they believe there was a terrorist behind every tree and that they support the brave American troops.  This they could probably sell to the public.  What they are having difficulty selling is the recognition that this war was started on false pretenses, has been mis-managed at every step of the way, and they (and the public) do not trust anything either George or Dick say about the future.  They expect from the Administration more failure to meet promises and that their voters are tired of hearing that.  So Senator Richard Luger, republican from Indiana, drew the short straw and gave a 45 minute speech where he said the surge was not working and it was time to redeploy.  Later, Senator George Voinovich, republican from Ohio seconded Luger’s remarks and added his support.  The march of the elephants has begun.

It would seem to me also a good time for these Senators to add their support to Defense Secretary Gates and his recommendation to close Guantanamo.  And when those 350+ prisoners are transfered to the US and fall under US courts, and less than  50 will have sufficient evidence to charge them with anything, these Senators might escape the label of having slept through one of the worst Administrations ever.

Candidates for the 2008 Presidential nomination, what are your positions on:

  • Iraq
  • Guantanamo
  • Geneva Convention
  • Due Process
  • Habeas Corpus
  • Rendition
  • Ehnanced interrogation techniques
  • NSA warrentless spying

These all flow from the “ends justify the means” and what we have is an Administration that has accomplished no “ends” and has in the process soiled the American reputation aroung the world.  What do you say about that?

The Supreme Right Court

June 26, 2007

The Robert’s Supreme Court has issued a ruling on campaign financing through the unlimited use of “issues” ads.  The Court’s decision signaled the opening of unlimited spending by Unions, Corporations, and any special interest.  If we thought the 521’s in the last election (for example those sponsored by the Swift Boaters against John Kerry) were gutter politics, we have seen anything yet.

The Supreme Court is by definition the highest court in the land and by inference, the most reasoned and fair Court.  The Court has a responsibility to think through the implications of a new interpretation of the Constitution for the unobvious and unwanted consequences.  The Roberts’ Court let us down.  Here’s some of the fruits we can expect to harvest from this less than supreme decision:

1. Smear ads filled with half-truths and mis-statements paid for by a candidate’s opposition.  The purpose will be to influence the congressional split between parties in a coordinated (although with the appearance of grass roots) effort to gain a majority of one party or the other.  This would apply to the Presidential election as well as State Governors too.

2. Unlimited advocacy of special interests such as pro-life, pro-choice, pro-gun, anti-gun, pro-union, anti-union etc, with a clear slant towards a certain candidate, will flood the airways and print media.  This will tend to drive candidates to be even more “two faced” than now (hard to imagine).  In addition an election may turn on pro-guns/anti-guns when the situation cries for thoughtful consideration of major issues like social security, education, national defense, health care, or energy realism (independence from foreign supplies while reducing green house gas emissions).

3. A larger voice to those with lots of money.  This will undoubtably reinforce the growing difference between the rich and the poor.

4. A general invitation for more graft and corruption as politicians work to harness these ads in their personal efforts to get elected.

In addition

5. These special interests will spend even more amounts of money to advertise their positions.  Radio, TV and print media will seek these ads and will become neutered when they become addicted to this income stream.  Fairness in communications will be forgotten.

6. The already wasteful spending that accompanies our elections will only get larger.  At a time when we should be looking to reduce the money and time spent on election campaigns in favor of more serious discussion of issues, we will be increasing our waste of money.

7. The airwaves will become so confusing with “pro and anti” that people will cease to listen and may seek their information from the internet.  This is a cheaper form of commications and when these special interests detect this shift, that the volume of “spam messages” masquerading as a banner ad or a blog will change the landscape we see today.

The amazing issue here is that the Court in essence reversed early Court judgements aimed at trying to keep elections fair and open.  The Court could have ducted this by not having accepted the case in the first place and second by standing by past practice.  I can not imagine that the Founding Fathers had this type of spending in mind when they talked of free speech.

Excuse Me, Who’s Pathetic?

June 25, 2007

The New York Times carried another article today on the potential opposition Rudy Giuliani may face from Catholic Bishops.  The opposition is based upon Rudy’s political compromise on abortion.  It just goes to show you are far better off saying what you really believe than pandering and still getting slammed.

Rudy’s compromise is that he is “personally against abortion” but will respect the law and will not work to change it.  The issue is not abortion and should be framed as being in favor of a woman’s inalienable right to her own body and the right to protect her own reproductive health.  This is clear and inherant in the view that all men are created equal.  Since Rudy could not bring himself to totally flip flop in trying to pander to the right wing and fundamentalist christians, he used the Pontius Pilot line and has washed his hands.

Bishop Thomas J Tobin of Providence got his name in the head lines first calling Rudy’s position “pathetic, “confusing” and “hypocritical”.  These are words coming from a leader in a church rife with child abuse and one that denies the right of women to officiate at church services.  I would say that Tobin is at least consistent in his second class status for women.

Rudy is probably not on the path to sainthood with him working on his third marriage.  Never-the-less this type is of public uterance (by Tobin) is out of place in our non-secular society.  If Tobin can urge his followers this way, then why can’t an Islamic leader urge his follower’s to subvert the current Rhode Island law and substiture Sharia Law in its place?

What is amazing in Tobin’s statement is the use of the word “hypocritical”.  In addition to Catholics, other religions that deny a woman’s right to choose, base this position on not violating human life.  Yet where is the consistancy when human life is born.  Where are these religious leaders when the child is born into poverty or abuse?  Where are they when the child becomes sick or injured?  Where are they when their country enters an unjust war and takes the young to die in combat?  Where are they when the young grow up and some find themselves on death row?  Where are they in preventing abuse by their own ministers and priests?  And once again, who is pathetic?

No Plan B

June 24, 2007

The Bush team of apologists is coming out now announcing that September will be too soon to measure the effectiveness of the surge.  Well tell me something that is a real surprise!

It is not a surprise that the Administration will delay any meaningful assessment in September.  This could have been seen many months ago because the surge was clearly dead on delivery.  The surge has never, and never will have a chance of succeeding.  It is simply based on unrealistic assumptions.

Here is a view of the mess:

1. I am sure George Bush would hope for military success from the surge.  But it is even more obvious that “the 15 watt bulb” that lights up Bush’s thinking processes never expected the surge to work.  Rather the surge is an exercise in buying time.  “Eighteen months and I am out of here,” says George.  Any bad that happens after that is the problem for his successor.

2. The surge will produce results.  Unfortunately the results will be tragic and will be measured in needless American Servicemen deaths not to mention 20 times as many Iraqi civilian deaths. 

3. The next 18 months will mark no progress in integrating an overall Middle East strategy too.  So who ever takes over as the next President will need to piece together a comprehensive Middle East strategy and implement it.  More time and deaths will tick off the clock.  George Bush is like a gift that will keep on giving.

The morale of this story is that we should never elect someone who walks like a chicken hawk, talks like a chicken hawk, and looks like a chicken.  George and the person who pulls the strings that makes the Bush marionette speak and move, Dick Cheney, have been a curse on our country.  I believe it is tremendous loss that George and Dick will not seriously entertain any alternatives to the surge but I am far more worried about these two loose cannons and whether they will fire at someone… like Iran before the 18 months is over.

Immigration Settlement

June 23, 2007

Congress working late into the Friday night evening has agreed on a new grand immigration compromise.  Showing unusual clarity of purpose Congressional leaders separated the Immigration issue into two parts; (1) Mexicans and (2) the rest of the world.  Once this was agreed upon, they decided to do nothing regarding immigrants from the rest of the world and focus only upon Mexicans.  Here’s what they agreed upon

1. There would be no limit to the number of Mexicans that could cross the boarder freely providing the Mexican obtained a new biometric identity card. 

2. There would be “no questions asked” period for all Mexicans currently living in the US undocumented to apply for and receive a new biometric identity card.

3. Minimum wage for any Mexican with a biometric ID would be the higher of $12.50 or the preveiling wage of other currently employed workers.

4. The Mexicans entering the country would need to declare the purpose of their visit

  1. Tourist (2 months maximum stay without a Visa, can not work)
  2. Business (1 month maximum stay without a Visa)
  3. Student (12 months renewable stay with proof of enrollment)
  4. Guest Worker (5 years maximum stay, non-renewable)

5. The guest workers would need to apply for permanent residency and begin a path to citizenship during years 3, 4, or 5 in order to stay beyond the first 5 years.  If not the guest worker must return to Mexico and remain there for at least 5 years before reapplying for guest worker status.

6. All guest workers would need to provide an address and confirn their address every six months.

7. All other Mexicans visitors who overstay their “maximum stay” period would be subject to immediate deportation and forfeiture of the ability to re-enter the US for 10 years.

Congessional leaders explained that this compromise addresses the special nature of the US-Mexican situation and the fact that a 2000 mile boarder joins the two nations.  The leaders cited the fact that like so many evangelicals and mid-westerners, Mexicans were basically a hard working, family centered, and god fearing people and would fit right in with the values of so many Americans.  The higher minimum wage was set to encourage employees to hire people for their skills and work ethic and not to encourage an economic under class.

What would you think of our Congressional Leaders if this posting were actually true?

What is the Real Objective?

June 22, 2007

All of the 2008 Presidential Candidates have a postition on Iraq.  Specifically, the divide along the lines of (1) withdraw now and completely, (2) withdraw soon and withdraw most but not all, (3) keep fighting until all the al Qaeda are dead, and (4) wake me up when it is over (that’s the group that support the commanders in the field).  What should our position be?

Unfortunately we can not push back the hands of time and in some way prevent this huge foreign policy and military blunder from happening.  But time has moved on and the mess we have made in Iraq will not go away on its own.  Former Ambassador Dennis Ross has written a book titled “Statecraft” and in that book he explains clearly about how to use the wide range of methods at the US’s disposal but even more importantly, Ross emphasizes that they must be tied to a “reality based assessment of the present conditions”.  Unfortunately if there is anything that has marked the Bush Administration, it is total avoidance of reality based thinking.

Ross points to two realities that US Policy needs to comprehend.

1. The US needs to leave Iraq in a way that Iraq does not become a major exporter of radicals and extremist soldiers of fortune.  This is different than “and they will follow us home” fear mongering that Bush and the neoconservatives have said.  Rather, exporting radicals and extremists is a huge worry for all of the Middle East too.  This suggests that there should be mutually agreeable methods involving Iraq’s neighbors to produce a stable Iraq without military means.

2. Ross paints a worrisome picture of the emerging Iranian nuclear capability and what that will do to the Middle East.  Estimates vary on how long it will be before Iran has the capability to produce a nuclear bomb but 2 years or less is generally considered realistic.  Once again the US will need a realistic assessment (reality based) and a consistent and coordinated foreign policy to enable the Iranians to see that they are better off without the bomb.  This is a tall order with an Administration so discredited and so averse to reality thinking.

Candidates…  It is time to begin speaking on foreign policy holistically and addressing foreign policy in thoughtful position papers.  Any candidate that advocates the use of force will be recognized as incapable of leading (even though everyone knows force is the option of last resort).  Bravado and “we can beat anyone” rhetoric may sell well in certain places on the campaign trail but the world is also watching and listening.

News Media…  It is high time that you propose thoughtful questions to the candidates especially in debates or lengthy interviews.  You must take time to read and understand any position papers they issue and ask them about their goals and what means will they employ to achieve these goals. 

Got a Passport?

June 21, 2007

The 2008 Presidential candidates have much to still learn by observing the inept and blundering motions of the Bush Administration.  Case in point, do you need a passport?  Unless you have a lot of money and time, preferably both, forget it.

When Bush’s Home Land Security watchdogs unleashed the clamor for needing Americans to have a passport to return from travel to such terrorist playgrounds as Canada, Bermuda, Jamaica, and Mexico, many Americans went to bed that evening relaxed in the secure notion that action was being taken and our boarders were now safer.  Bush Administration officials all “high fived” and promptly went on to the next fear inducing directive that could muster up support for the Republican Party.

Just as with Katrina and the hopeless Government response, those responsible for issuing Passports didn’t have clue how to meet the new demand.  You are left with two possible conclusions: (1) the Bush Administration never really cared whether citizen got Passports or not, all they were interested in was showing they were protecting the country so that citizens would vote Republican, or (2)  the Bush Administration does care but is simply lead by incompetents and performs incompetently.  (I have also considered the possibility that both of these possibilities are true).

The lessons for the candidates as well as the lesson for all of us voters are:

1. If something is important enough to spend tax payer money on, it is important enough to be done correctly.

2. If something is proposed by the Government in the name of national security, it should be done expeditiously and expertly.  Failure should result in investigation and potentially criminal charges (like dereliction of duties).

3. If you use fear to drive voters to support your party, you should be ready to expect the unexpected.  (Today more and more Americans are losing confidence in the moral authority of government because all three branches appear to the voter as not dealing with the realities of life or providing acceptable government services, or said another way, government no longer cares about me).

4. Terrorist acts are unfortunately a way of life and there is no reasonable cost that can prevent them.  Natural disasters (Storms, earthquakes, pandemics, global warming for example) represent a much higher probability of occuring and we ought to practice how we handled them before worrying too much about “foreign terrorists”.

I hear a Shoe Dropping

June 19, 2007

What is the worst sound you could hear if you were Rudy Giuliani?  Could it be Michael Bloomberg’s announcement today that he was positioning himself for a possible run as an Independent?

It will probably take a while for all the candidates to realize the significance of Bloombergs announcement.  They are all hard at work raising money as if it were this year’s corn harvest.  They are saying yes and no to every issue so that they do not alienate any voters (or possibly all voters).  But Michael already has all the money he needs and trust me, he will be offered plenty more.

The reason Bloomberg is such an exciting candidate is that he already occupies the center.  The center is his territory and he naturally speaks from that position as would anyone who was not ideologically driven or just a plain and simple panderer.  Bloomberg is a principled, responsible, intelligent, visionary leader who should make a great President if he chooses to run.

This will not be an easy decision.  An equally divided voter turn out is possible between someone like Fred Thompson who will have all the bible carriers, gun totters, and creationists in his back pocket and Hillary  who has 50% that like her and 50% who hate here, will present a real ethical dillema.  If Michael runs he will take votes from Hillary and assure a Thompson and anti-“Roe v Wade” majority in the Supreme Court.  On the other hand we do not know what will emerge over the next 16 months and both Fred and Hillary could self destruct before the election and Michael could appear even as an Independent candidate, as the preferred choice.  I am hoping for that outcome.