Sunday, December 31, 2006


AP:Thousands flock to see Saddam's grave
Staff Sgt. David Earp, who also fought in 1991's Operation Desert Storm, said the execution worried him.

"In my opinion, something big is going to happen," said Earp, of Colorado. "There will be a response. Probably not today because they know we are looking for one, but soon."

Where will foreign policy go after Iraq

American Future: The Coming of Neo-Multilateralism

Even if President Bush decides to stick by his guns (literally and figuratively) and manages to pull a rabbit out of his hat, I believe that the doctrine that bears his name will be jettisoned by his successor, be he (or she) a Republican or a Democrat. The doctrine's demise will mean there will be no further efforts to defeat terrorism by using force to spread democracy. Chastened by the cost in lives and treasure, a majority of Americans want to withdraw our troops from Iraq, a preference indicating a willingness to accept an ill-defined stalemate (or even defeat) in Iraq. As in the early 1970s, the spirit of our time is "Come Home America." In the view of at least one pundit, "With hindsight we may see 2006 as the end of Pax Americana."

Where does this leave us after Bush's term in office is over? Barring an unpredictable event—in particular, a terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 or greater on U.S. soil—the signs point to a retreat to neo-isolationism, as happened after the Vietnam war.

No administration will use neo-isolationism to describe its foreign policy. Whether the next administration is Republican or Democratic, some other word or phrase will be invented to describe a policy that will amount to neo-multilateralism. Whatever it's called, this policy will eschew military interventions carried out unilaterally or by ad hoc coalitions of the willing.

The central feature of neo-multilateralism will be an American rapprochement with the UN, a process that will be made easier by Kofi Annan's departure. Many observers—here and even more so in Europe—will cheer this development, as Gulliver will be chained.

I won't be among them. As most recently evinced by its inaction over Darfur and the watered-down sanctions against Iran (Security Council Resolution 1737), the UN Security Council is structurally incapable of confronting threats to humanity. Whether the issue is genocide carried out by Khartoum or Tehran's nuclear weapons program, the Security Council epitomizes ineffectiveness. Given the agendas of Russia and China, there is no reason to hope that this will change.

Terrorist and militant groups, not just certain governments, will be among the primary beneficiaries of American neo-multilateralism. An America that's tightly-bound to the UN will feel compelled to abide by the rules of international law. These rules are supposed to apply to all parties to a conflict but, in reality, don't. The most recent example of the asymmetric application of international law was this past summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah. The vocal, widespread claim that Israel used "disproportionate force" wasn't matched by outrage over Hezbollah's installation of its rocket-launchers in civilian areas and its intentional targeting of civilians in northern Israel.

Like the UN Charter, the rules of war—in particular, rules of engagement—were agreed upon at a time when warfare meant fighting among states. That isn't the type of conflict present in today's world, nor is it likely to be in the foreseeable future. Instead, asymmetric warfare pitting a state against terrorist and militant groups will continue to be the most frequent type of violence.

As I discussed in considerable detail in an earlier post, the U.S., in order to minimize civilian casualties in Iraq, has conformed to strict rules of engagement. I concluded that post with these words:

Without maintaining that our forces have never deviated from these rules of engagement, it's clear that our intent has been to fight a "civilized" war. From a humanitarian standpoint, this objective is commendable. However, fighting with one hand tied behind our back (to borrow a phrase from the Vietnam era) has undoubtedly resulted in greater American casualties and made it more difficult to prevail against an enemy that obeys no rules. The limitations, by enhancing the ability of the insurgents and terrorists to carry on the fight, have probably resulted in more, not fewer, civilian casualties. If our rules of engagement were formulated, in part, to present a better face to the "international community," they have failed. Nobody has commended us for our good behavior.

The rules of engagement we've followed in Iraq raise an issue than couldn't be more fundamental. If our twenty-first century conflicts are going to pit us (or, I might add, Israel) against extremist groups whose tactics know no bounds and we allow our conduct to be constrained by the dictates of international law, as defined by such multilateral institutions as the UN, we are condemning ourselves to fighting protracted conflicts that erode American willpower, as has happened with Iraq. If we give precedence to conforming to international norms over winning, it won't escape the notice of militants, who will use every opportunity to weaken us.

The neo-multilateral foreign policy I foresee, because it will exclude unilateral American military interventions, means that interventions against terrorists and militants will rarely, if ever, take place. And when and if they do, the "international community" will employ rules of engagement that are advantageous to the instigators of violence.

Because the Iraq war has been so terribly mismanaged, the "Pax Americana"—a phrase that implies the ability and willingness of the United States to act unilaterally—may indeed be over. If it is, the only possible replacement is a "Pax United Nations." Those who favor this change may live to regret it.

I think the likely outcome of defeat in Iraq is not a chastened U.S. that cheerfully sends its protection money to the U.N. every month and sends its troops the fool's errand of the week with the Boys in Blue Helmets, rather I think the outcome is going to be Pissed Off country that is going to have little patience for international adventures. Any such involvement is going to bring the recriminations over Who Lost the Middle East to the surface, thus grinding activity to a halt while the tribes of the chattering class sling poop at each other. We could also see "To Hell with Them" hawks ascendant, but I think for at least a few years we are going to be occupied licking our wounds and assigning blame.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Laugh or Cry

Blog Them Out of the Stone Age:The Urge to Surge

I haven’t had time to write it up (and with Winter Quarter coming like a freight train can’t imagine I’ll ever find the time), but for weeks now I’ve been mentally composing a long, discursive post on the Bush administration’s dogged assertion — and apparently sincere belief — that it can still win big in Iraq. In this it is supported by a number of gifted military historians, most notably Eliot Cohen and Fred Kagan.

Since I have great respect for Eliot and Fred, I’ve tried hard to see things their way. But they don’t even begin to persuade. Their arguments strike me as basically elaborate, occasionally eloquent embroideries of the old platitude, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

And their urge to surge strikes me as particularly untenable. It’s what the United States did in Vietnam from 1964 through 1968. It’s what the Italians did in 1915-1917, the result being no fewer than twelve Battles of the Isonzo River before the Germans cleaned their clocks at Caporetto. The Germans, for their part, got the urge to surge in March 1918, and the result was complete defeat within eight months.

But those are just three historical examples. Eliot and Fred could dispute each one of them and come up with three counterexamples in a New York minute. We’re all smart guys who know a lot about military history and strategic studies.

My three examples essentially buttress a gut level conviction, which I’ve held ever since July 2002 — when the Bush administration began laying the domestic groundwork for the Iraq war — that this adventure was needless and would/will end badly. Eliot and Fred had and have the equal but opposite gut level conviction. Unfortunately, they also have the ear of the president, whose own gut level convictions have for six years had him bounding from disaster to disaster with a kind of animal joy.

emphasis added

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Mark Heard Lyrics Project:NOTHING IS BOTHERING ME

No news is good news but news is here to stay
Tightening the thumb-screws from day to day
I hear the tale of a distant fray
War is hell but it's half-a-world away

I'm alright
Nothing is bothering me
I'm just trying to keep the weight of this world
From dawning on me

We get the picture from week to week
The rich get richer and inherit the meek
Long since started preying on the weak
Am I the guilty party if I turn the other cheek

I'm alright
Nothing is bothering me
I'm just trying to keep the weight of this world
From dawning on me

Mark Heard: Victims of the Age 1982

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Best thing I've read this Christmas

The Evangelical Outpost:The Fountainhead of Bedford Falls: Comparing George Bailey and Howard Roark

.....My purpose, however, is not to defend the genius of these creators but to compare two of their protagonists, The Fountainhead’s Howard Roark and Wonderful Life’s George Bailey.

To anyone familiar with both works it would seem that the two characters could not be more different. I contend, however, that they are not only similar but a variation on a common archetype.

Howard Roark, for example, is an idealistic young architect who chooses to “struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision” by conforming to the needs and demands of the community. In contrast, George Bailey is an idealistic young architect-wannabe who struggles in obscurity because he has chosen to conform to the needs and demands of the community rather than fulfill his artistic and personal vision. (Howard Roark is essentially what George Bailey might have become had he left for college rather than stayed in Bedford Falls.)

While both represent the artistic, ambitious, talented individual who is surrounded by stifling mediocrity, each character’s story unfolds in dramatically different fashion. Rand portrays Roark as a demigod-like hero who refuses to subordinate his self-centered ego for the wishes of society. Capra, in stark contrast, portrays Bailey as an amiable but flawed man who becomes a hero precisely because he has chosen to subordinate his self-centered ego to society.

(Ironically, Rand’s protagonist has become something of a cult figure, an ideal to aspire to, while Capra’s hero, a far darker and complex character, is considered an “everyman.” Such a misreading is laughably absurd. Howard Roarks can be found just about anywhere. Although they may not be as talented as drafting or speechifying, the self-centered libertarian fratboys found on every college campus exemplify Roarkian morality. But while Roarks are all around us, where can the George Baileys be found?

Every Christmas audiences flatter themselves by believing the message of Wonderful Life is that their own lives are just as worthy, just as noble— just as wonderful—as the life of George Bailey. Despite the fact that the left their smalltown communities for the city, put their parents in an “assisted living facility”, and don’t know the names of their next door neighbors, they truly believe that they are just like Capra’s hero.)

But what makes George Bailey one of the most inspiring, emotionally complex characters in film is that he continually chooses the needs of his family and community over his own self-interested ambitions and desires – and suffers immensely for his efforts.

Although sentimental, Capra’s movie is not a simplistic morality play. In the end, George is saved from ruin but the rest of life remains essentially the same. By December 26 he’ll wake to find that he's still a frustrated artist scraping out a meager living in a drafty old house in a one-stoplight town. In fact, all that he has gained is recognition of the value of faith, friends, and community and that this is worth more than anything else he might achieve. Capra’s underlying message is thus radically subversive: it is by serving our fellow man, even to the point of subordinating our dreams and ambitions, that we achieve true greatness.

This theme makes Wonderful Life one of the most counter-cultural films in the history of cinema. Almost every movie about the individual in society—from Easy Rider to Happy Feet—is based on the premise that self-actualization is the primary purpose of existence. To a society that accepts radical individualism as the norm, a film about the individual subordinating his desires for the good of others sounds anti-American, if not downright communistic. Surely, the only reason the film has become a “Christmas classic” is because so few people grasp this core message.

The fans of The Fountainhead are therefore not likely to appreciate Wonderful Life. Indeed, the messages are so antithetical that only a schizophrenic personality could truly appreciate both George Bailey and Howard Roark. For even though they are surprisingly similar characters, when the spell of sentimentalism has faded the contrasts become clear.

For instance, Roark lives to create inspiring works of architecture but cannot do so without relying on others. When society fails to appreciate his “genius”, his egotistical purity leads him to engage in a massive destruction of private property. By the end of The Fountainhead Roark is revealed to be an infantile, narcissistic, parasite.

Bailey, on the other hand, has all the marking of a repressed, conformist, patsy. He lives for others (a sentiment that would make Ayn Rand gag) rather than “following his bliss.” He compromises everything but his integrity. And yet he discovers that he has all that makes life worth living.

I admire the genius of Capra and Rand. Each has given the world an enticing vision of the role of the individual. But given the choice, I’d much prefer to live in a world with more George Baileys and fewer Howard Roarks.

I was watching "Miracle on 34th Street" with the family Christmas Eve and Mr Macy is depicted bridling at being depicted as a "moneygrubber". Compare and contrast with today's corporate philosophy.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Great Quote

Church of the Masses in the context of a review of Flags of our Fathers

For the Watergate generation, however, unmasking dirty politicians is always what it is about. "See, if we can unmask corruption in the establishment, maybe nobody will see the rot and inconsistency and meaninglessness of our own disastrous sexual revolution racked lives. If we can say that "The Greatest Generation" wasn't really that great, maybe we can drown out the voices of our kids who hate us for our selfishness? If we can say that there are no heros, even on a place like Iwo Jima, then maybe we can rid ourselves of the uneasiness we feel for our own pampered narcissitic lives?"

Monday, November 27, 2006

Times are tough all over?

Japundit: Money, money, everywhere, but poverty on the rise. . .
Japan has officially entered its longest period postwar economic growth ever, and economic experts are quibbling over what to name it. Suggestions include “Escape from deflation” (datsu-defure), “Candlelight,” “Koizumi,” and even “New Bubble.”

Many people who are living here swear they have not felt any of the benefits that normally are generated by economic expansion, there are quite a few stories appearing in the news these days indicating that there is still quite a supply of “funny money” floating around for those willing to grab it or lucky enough to stumble across it.
Despite all this, a noted economics professor claims that the relative poverty rate and income disparities in Japan are growing at alarming rates. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development seems to agree.

International Herald Tribune: Roh loses support as South Koreans struggle via DPRK Studies
SEOUL: Bruised by South Korea's cutthroat politics, bewildered by voters' rapidly changing concerns and battered mercilessly in the polls, President Roh Moo Hyun is limping toward the last year of his term.

But it is not Roh's engagement of North Korea, or even its recent nuclear test, that has saddled him with a current approval rating of 11 percent.

"The main reason we have lost support is that we were not able to perform well on issues of livelihood," said Chun Jung Bae, a senior lawmaker in the governing Uri Party who is a close ally of Roh.

"The overall economy is not bad - the growth rate is over 4 percent - but the life of the average person is very difficult,"

........With South Korea experiencing solid growth and record stock prices, Roh initially dismissed descriptions of a slumping economy as opposition bombast, experts said. He failed to see that growth was not trickling down to the average voter, who became increasingly frustrated with rising household debts, high education costs and unaffordable real estate prices.

The Big Picture:Its Still the Economy, Stupid
So while the media drones on about whether the GOP will suffer from Iraq in tomorrow's elections, or prosper from the "strong" economy, you can be sure they know not what they say. While those of us in the top percentiles are doing very nicely indeed, the rest of the country is scraping by.

The economy, despite good overall data and record high corporate profitability, does not exactly imbue to the incumbent's advantage. ......

• Over 2000-05, workers with four-year college degrees saw their inflation adjusted wages fall 3.1%

• Only two groups, who together make up just 3.4 percent of the workforce, saw inflation-adjusted wages rise: workers with doctoral degrees or specialty degrees, such as medicine or law, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.........

Those numbers are precisely why the Middle Class rates the economy only fair to poor, despite the data showing overall (but diminishing) strength.

All these economies are seeing similar issues, economic growth is occurring, but very unevenly, with the benefits going to a small portion of the population.

This is hilarious

Japanpundit:Extreme ironing in Japan

I stumbled across an interesting Sunday Feature article on The Japan Times website, about a new “sport”: Extreme ironing! If you are into outdoor activities, and you don’t manage to find the time to iron your clothes, then this activity is for you :an extreme sport and a performance art in which people take an ironing board to a remote location and iron a few items of clothing. Extreme ironing is “the latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.” according to Wikipedia.

Hey, if curling is a sport.....

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Yahoo News:Man injured after launching firework from bottom

LONDON (AFP) - A man was rushed to hospital in Britain with severe internal injuries after trying to launch a powerful firework from his bottom, an ambulance service spokesman said.

It is thought that the 22-year-old could have been trying to imitate a scene from "Jackass: The Movie", a controversial film featuring a series of edgy pranks.

Footage of the incident in Sunderland, north-east England, was captured on a mobile phone by a gang of youths and shows a white flash followed by hysterical laughter and a youth shouting: "Ha ha ha ha," followed by an expletive.

A spokesman for the North East ambulance service said: "We received a call stating there was a male who had a firework in his bottom and it was bleeding."

He is now recovering in a Sunderland hospital after sustaining internal injuries including a scorched colon.

The incident took place on November 5, when Britons light bonfires and let off fireworks to commemorate a 17th century plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Military Option for Iran?

Commentary Arthur Herman:Getting Serious About Iran: A Military Option
.......Despite Iran’s richly developed repertoire of denials, deceptions, and dissimulations, there is ample evidence that it has no intention whatsoever of relinquishing its aim of becoming a nuclear power. Moreover, this aim may be achievable not within a decade (as Senator Biden fancies) but within the next two to three years. In September, the House Intelligence Committee reported that Iran may have already succeeded in enriching uranium; some intelligence analysts believe that it may already have access to fissionable nuclear material, courtesy of North Korea. If that is so, no diplomacy in the world is going to prevent it from acquiring a bomb.

But neither are nuclear weapons the only threat posed by the Islamic Republic. While the international community has been preoccupied with this issue, the regime in Tehran has been taking steady steps to achieve hegemony over one of the world’s most sensitive and economically critical regions, and control over the world’s most precious resource. It is doing so, moreover, entirely through conventional means.

To put it briefly, the Islamic Republic has its hand on the throttle of the world’s economic engine: the stretch of ocean at the mouth of the Persian Gulf known as the Straits of Hormuz, which are only 21 miles wide at their narrowest point. Through this waterway, every day, pass roughly 40 percent of the world’s crude oil, including two-thirds of the oil from Saudi Arabia. By 2025, according to Energy Department estimates, fully 60 percent of the world’s oil exports will be moved through this vital chokepoint.

The Straits border on Iran and Oman, with the two lanes of traffic that are used specifically by oil tankers being theoretically protected by international agreement. Since 9/11, a multinational force comprising ships from the U.S., Japan, six European countries, and Pakistan have patrolled outside the Straits, in Omani waters, to make sure they stay open. But this is largely a token force. Meanwhile, the world’s access to Saudi, Qatari, Kuwaiti, and Iraqi oil and gas, as well as other petroleum products from the United Arab Emirates, depends on free passage through the Hormuz Straits.

The Tehran regime has made no secret of its desire to gain control of the Straits as part of its larger strategy of turning the Gulf into an Iranian lake. Indeed, in a preemptive move, it has begun to threaten a cut-off of tanker traffic if the UN should be foolish enough to impose sanctions in connection with the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. “We have the power to halt oil supply,” a senior Iranian official warned the European Union last January, “down to the last drop.”
Something like this very nearly happened in 1987 during the Iran-Iraq war, when only direct U.S. intervention kept the Straits open and the world’s oil flowing. For the United States is hardly the only country with a stake in keeping the Gulf and Straits free of Iranian control. Every country in Western Europe and Asia, including those that complain most bitterly about American policy in the Middle East, depends on the steady maintenance of the global economic order that runs on Middle Eastern oil.

But—and herein lies a fruitful irony—so does Iran itself. Almost 90 percent of the mullahs’ oil assets are located either in or near the Gulf. So is the nuclear reactor that Russia is building for Iran at Bushehr. Virtually every Iranian well or production platform depends on access to the Gulf if Iran’s oil is to reach buyers. Hence, the same Straits by means of which Iran intends to lever itself into a position of global power present the West with its own point of leverage to reduce Iran’s power—and to keep it reduced for at least as long as the country’s political institutions remain unprepared to enter the modern world.

Which brings us back to the military option. That there is plentiful warrant for the exercise of this option—in Iran’s serial defiance of UN resolutions, in its declared genocidal intentions toward Israel, another member of the United Nations, and in the fact of its harboring, supporting, and training of international terrorists—could not be clearer. Unfortunately, though, current debate has become stuck on the issue of possible air strikes against Iran’s nuclear program, and whether such strikes can or cannot halt that program’s further development. Optimists argue they can; pessimists, including those highlighted in Time’s cover story, throw up a myriad of objections.

The most common such objection is that the ayatollahs, having learned the lesson of 25 years ago when Israel took out Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor at Osirak, have dispersed the most vital elements of their uranium-enrichment project among perhaps 30 hardened and well-protected sites. According to Time’s military sources, air sorties would thus have to reach roughly 1,500 “aim points,” contending with sophisticated air-defense systems along the way. As against this, others, including the strategic analyst Edward Luttwak in Commentary (“Three Reasons Not to Bomb Iran—Yet,” May 2006), argue convincingly that it is hardly necessary to hit all or even the majority of Iran’s sites in order to set back its nuclear program by several years.

But, as I have tried to show, the most immediate menace Iran poses is not nuclear but conventional in nature. How might it be dealt with militarily, and is it conceivable that both perils could be dealt with at once? What follows is one possible scenario for military action.

The first step would be to make it clear that the United States will tolerate no action by any state that endangers the international flow of commerce in the Straits of Hormuz. Signaling our determination to back up this statement with force would be a deployment in the Gulf of Oman of minesweepers, a carrier strike group’s guided-missile destroyers, an Aegis-class cruiser, and anti-submarine assets, with the rest of the carrier group remaining in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. Navy could also deploy UAV’s (unmanned air vehicles) and submarines to keep watch above and below against any Iranian missile threat to our flotilla.

Our next step would be to declare a halt to all shipments of Iranian oil while guaranteeing the safety of tankers carrying non-Iranian oil and the platforms of other Gulf states. We would then guarantee this guarantee by launching a comprehensive air campaign aimed at destroying Iran’s air-defense system, its air-force bases and communications systems, and finally its missile sites along the Gulf coast. At that point the attack could move to include Iran’s nuclear facilities—not only the “hard” sites but also infrastructure like bridges and tunnels in order to prevent the shifting of critical materials from one to site to another.

Above all, the air attack would concentrate on Iran’s gasoline refineries. It is still insufficiently appreciated that Iran, a huge oil exporter, imports nearly 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign sources, including the Gulf states. With its refineries gone and its storage facilities destroyed, Iran’s cars, trucks, buses, planes, tanks, and other military hardware would run dry in a matter of weeks or even days. This alone would render impossible any major countermoves by the Iranian army. (For its part, the Iranian navy is aging and decrepit, and its biggest asset, three Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, should and could be destroyed before leaving port.)

The scenario would not end here. With the systematic reduction of Iran’s capacity to respond, an amphibious force of Marines and special-operations forces could seize key Iranian oil assets in the Gulf, the most important of which is a series of 100 offshore wells and platforms built on Iran’s continental shelf. North and South Pars offshore fields, which represent the future of Iran’s oil and natural-gas industry, could also be seized, while Kargh Island at the far western edge of the Persian Gulf, whose terminus pumps the oil from Iran’s most mature and copiously producing fields (Ahwaz, Marun, and Gachsaran, among others), could be rendered virtually useless. By the time the campaign was over, the United States military would be in a position to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch.

An operational fantasy? Not in the least. The United States did all this once before, in the incident I have already alluded to. In 1986-88, as the Iran-Iraq war threatened to spill over into the Gulf and interrupt vital oil traffic, the United States Navy stepped in, organizing convoys and re-flagging ships to protect them against vengeful Iranian attacks. When the Iranians tried to seize the offensive, U.S. vessels sank one Iranian frigate, crippled another, and destroyed several patrol boats. Teams of SEALS also shelled and seized Iranian oil platforms. The entire operation, the largest naval engagement since World War II, not only secured the Gulf; it also compelled Iraq and Iran to wind down their almost decade-long war. Although we made mistakes, including most grievously the accidental shooting-down of a civilian Iranian airliner, killing everyone on board, the world economic order was saved—the most important international obligation the United States faced then and faces today.

In fact, there is little Iran could do in the face of relentless military pressure at its most vulnerable point. Today, not only are key elements of the Iranian military in worse shape than in the 1980’s, but even the oil weapon is less formidable than imagined. Currently Iran exports an estimated 2.5 million barrels of oil a day. Yet according to a recent report in Forbes, quoting the oil-industry analyst Michael Lynch, new sources of oil around the world will have boosted total production by 2 million barrels a day in this year alone, and next year by three million barrels a day. In short, other producers (including Iranian platforms in American hands) can take up some if not all of the slack. The real loser would be Iran itself. Pumping crude oil is its only industry, making up 85 percent of its exports and providing 65 percent of the state budget. With its wells held hostage, the country’s economy could enter free fall.

Could we accomplish a lot of the same just by using less oil? We're going to have to make the change sooner or later. That'd also cut off the spout where the money comes out for the Sunni nuts too.

Nice Little Slap Across the Snout

House Gets Trucking's Counsel on Highway Policy
Christopher Lofgren, president and CEO of Schneider National, put it this way: "I think people recognize that there isn't one answer, there isn't one mode to solve the problem. There's more of a willingness to say how do we work through this, where traditionally we have fought each other to get whatever share we could get. It is different today. There is a new spirit of collaboration in the industry."
Lofgren suggested a raft of policy changes, from tax breaks on federally mandated equipment to lowering speed limits. One suggestion was directed at the driver shortage.
"Driver pay is our No. 1 cost," he said. "It hasn't changed in real terms since 1980 – it's actually less. We have to be able to recover that cost and the market does not allow us to do it."
Part of the solution would be to expand permanent employment visas to cover immigrant truck drivers, he said. "We know there is a significant population of potential immigrants with truck driving experience. Existing immigration laws have allowed us to successfully recruit a limited number. To do more, the laws must recognize truck driving as a critical skill."
This drew a sharp response from the Teamsters' DeFazio, who said that instead of importing cheap labor, the industry should raise driver pay. "If we don't open the door to immigrants who will work for less, then maybe everybody will have to raise their wages and you won't be at a disadvantage." DeFazio also suggested a federal minimum wage and benefit standard for truck drivers.
"With all due respect, sir," Lofgren told DeFazio, "I don't know that you guys have been proved to be real successful with these kinds of activities."
"Well," DeFazio replied, "it doesn't sound like you've been real successful in your business here, because you want to import labor into a country that has a labor surplus among people who have less than a college education. And, as you pointed out, you're paying people less than in 1980. I don't consider that to be a great success, either. Maybe profitable, but at some point you have to have a middle class, and truck drivers used to be middle class. And if you want to put them in the poverty class then you are moving in the right direction."

This shows the rapaciousness of corporate America. They've driven pay below 1980 levels and it's not good enough. They're all for the free market until it doesn't work in their favor, then they want to change the rules. It's a bit of an open question who's going to buy the crap we haul when no one makes a dime.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Are there Rocks Ahead? If so, we're all dead

AP:GAO chief warns economic disaster looms
From the hustings and the airwaves this campaign season, America's political class can be heard debating Capitol Hill sex scandals, the wisdom of the war in Iraq and which party is tougher on terror. Democrats and Republicans talk of cutting taxes to make life easier for the American people.

What they don't talk about is a dirty little secret everyone in Washington knows, or at least should. The vast majority of economists and budget analysts agree: The ship of state is on a disastrous course, and will founder on the reefs of economic disaster if nothing is done to correct it.

There's a good reason politicians don't like to talk about the nation's long-term fiscal prospects. The subject is short on political theatrics and long on complicated economics, scary graphs and very big numbers. It reveals serious problems and offers no easy solutions. Anybody who wanted to deal with it seriously would have to talk about raising taxes and cutting benefits, nasty nostrums that might doom any candidate who prescribed them.
Their basic message is this: If the United States government conducts business as usual over the next few decades, a national debt that is already $8.5 trillion could reach $46 trillion or more, adjusted for inflation. That's almost as much as the total net worth of every person in America —
Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and those Google guys included.

A hole that big could paralyze the U.S. economy; according to some projections, just the interest payments on a debt that big would be as much as all the taxes the government collects today.

And every year that nothing is done about it, Walker says, the problem grows by $2 trillion to $3 trillion.

It always struck me as a bit rich when the politicians who voted for "Bankruptcy reform" talked about fiscal irresponsibility. The bad thing is this mess has been building for years along with a crushing "debt" of future bills. Between our neglected infrastructure and looming demographic crises we are going to have a devil of a time paying on, much less paying down, the National credit card.


Dyseptic Murmurings: Thursday, October 26, 2006
Sawing your own branch.

O Christians, do not give Caesar a precedent to render unto you.

1. There were complaints about a room being set aside at lunch time for Muslim students during Ramadan. This action deserves applause, not whining.

2. After a long and wholly unnecessary fight, the wife of a Wiccan soldier killed in combat gets symbol on his headstone. About time.

Though neither a Wiccan nor a Muslim, I can't shrug this stuff off. If it's not obvious by now, let me hasten to reassure you that my motivation is not closet indifferentism bubbling to the surface--"Behold the Modernist!"

Rather, it seems pretty obvious to me that if we do not stand against Caesar's refusal to accommodate (as opposed to promote) religious belief, we are implicitly asking him to do the same to us. In a world becoming increasingly secular, I don't think he needs the encouragement.

Just Finished Turtledove's Homeward Bound (cue Lamb Chop "This is the series that does not end.....") and one of the principal themes is the aliens inability to see "turnabout is fair play", sadly Americans (including American Christians) seem to have a hard time grasping that lately.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Walter Michaels:The Trouble With Diversity The American Prospect

But it’s the response to Katrina that is most illuminating for our purposes, especially the response from the left, not from the right. “Let’s be honest,” Cornel West told an audience at the Paul Robeson Student Center at Rutgers University, “we live in one of the bleakest moments in the history of black people in this nation.” “Look at the Super Dome,” he went on to say. “It’s not a big move from the hull of the slave ship to the living hell of the Super Dome.” This is what we might call the “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” interpretation of the government’s failed response to the catastrophe. But nobody doubts that George Bush cares about Condoleezza Rice, who is very much a black person and who is fond of pointing out that she’s been black since birth. And there are, of course, lots of other black people -- like Clarence Thomas and Thomas Sowell and Janice Rogers Brown and, at least once upon a time, Colin Powell -- for whom George Bush almost certainly has warm feelings. But what American liberals want is for our conservatives to be racists. We want the black people George Bush cares about to be “some of my best friends are black” tokens. We want a fictional George Bush who doesn’t care about black people rather than the George Bush we’ve actually got, one who doesn’t care about poor people.

Although that’s not quite the right way to put it. First because, for all I know, George Bush does care about poor people; at least he cares as much about poor people as anyone else does. What he doesn’t care about -- and what Bill Clinton, judging by his eight years in office, didn’t much care about, and what John Kerry, judging from his presidential campaign, doesn’t much care about, and what we on the so called left, judging by our willingness to accept Kerry as the alternative to Bush, don’t care about either -- is taking any steps to get them to stop being poor. We would much rather get rid of racism than get rid of poverty. And we would much rather celebrate cultural diversity than seek to establish economic equality.

What a surprise

Stephanie Salter: Putting faith into action dangerous in Washington Terre Haute Tribune-Star (IN)

TERRE HAUTE — Something strange is happening to David Kuo. The former deputy director of the White House office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives is losing his right-wing, conservative Christian credentials. Fast.

Before taking the White House post, Kuo worked for and with the créme de la créme of the Christian conservative right, most notably, Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, John Ashcroft and William Bennett. We are talking speech writing and strategizing, not coffee fetching. He also has composed articulate essays on about Jesus and a Christian nation’s responsibilities to its poor.

Kuo’s zenith, of course, was his two-plus years as second-in-command in the Faith-based and Community Initiatives office in the White House. Created by George W. Bush, the program was, Kuo said, “my dream come true.”

Kuo left the Bush administration of his own accord in December 2003. At least 20 months ago, he began publicly to say why. Especially among White House senior staff, when it came to action instead of words, to funding instead of photo ops, “there never really was great concern over what he [President Bush] called ‘the poor people stuff.’”

Back in February 2005, when Kuo shared that disillusionment with Beliefnet readers, barely a flutter occurred in Washington or in Christian-right circles. But Kuo made the mistake of putting his criticisms between hardcovers. “Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction” (Free Press), appeared last week.

In it, as generous excerpts all over the Internet reveal, Kuo expands on his Beliefnet revelations. Still admiring of Bush, Kuo nevertheless delivers a picture of the administration as manipulative, politically craven and, often, contemptuous of the evangelical Christians to whom it has so tightly tied its identity and moral authority.

Kuo writes that, in addition to “the poor people stuff” getting the short end of every budgetary stick, policy makers in the White House made fun of such evangelical loyalists as Robertson, Jerry Falwell and James Dobson. Respectively, Kuo writes, the three were termed “insane,” “ridiculous” and “had to be controlled.”

As Kuo told Leslie Stahl on “60 Minutes” last Sunday, “You name the important Christian leader, and I have heard them mocked by serious people in serious places.”

White House staff, Kuo says in his book, mocked “the millions of faithful Christians who had put their trust and hope in the president and his administration. Bush knew his so-called compassion agenda was languishing and had no problem with that.”

Much of Kuo’s book — he has tried to explain — deals with his own relationship to Jesus, God and Christianity. His scope is considerably broader than White House hypocrisy. His pointed criticisms also include plenty of Democrats and their party’s approach to legislation, which Kuo has described as “allergic to faith.”


That's the problem, both parties are "allergic to faith". The Republicans "get religion" every two years, but mostly work on taking care of their real constituency....the "economic conservatives" who are cutting taxes and running the government on a Nation-State sized Option-ARM and the "neo-cons" who thought invading Iraq was a brilliant idea. The Democrats go into hysterics and assume a fetal position in the corner when they hear of Christians acting out their beliefs in public life (I still remember listening to Prairie Home Companion half-jokingly suggest Evangelicals shouldn't be allowed to vote). We have the party of Mammon and the party of Berkeley liberalism. Not much of a choice.

Scary stuff

Coffeyville Journal (KS): Problems with Montgomery County foster care cited in state audit

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. — An audit of the state's foster care system, presented to legislators Tuesday, addressed issues raised by parents in a dozen foster care cases in six counties. Legislators ordered the review after parents complained about how they were treated by attorneys, judges and state welfare officials.

Lawmakers who are faced every session with concerns about treatment of parents and children in foster care acknowledge there are no easy answers in a system tilted toward the best interests of the children.

The audit examined such things as whether parents were amply represented during foster care proceedings in court, whether they were treated fairly and whether judges acted too quickly in taking away their children.

The 12 cases reviewed were among the 5,821 cases filed in 2005. Legislative Division of Post Audit teams conducted interviews to determine whether there was wrongdoing in the court system or Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, which oversees adoption and foster care in the state.

Five of the cases were from Montgomery County, where investigators found problems with the court transcripts of cases, including a recording device used in the courtroom that failed to work for a year.

“According to the audit, Montgomery Co. has more than double the state's rate of children taken from parents and put up for adoption, as a percentage of child-protection cases. Further, there are abnormal –possibly illegal – behaviors of specific individuals in the Montgomery Co. judicial/child-protection bureaucracy,” said Richard Harris, a former commissioner of the Wichita Civil Rights Commission. “The audit is especially full of troubling details about Montgomery County's system – including a permanent-severing rate that is statistically nearly 5 times what auditors expected.”

According to the audit, 59 children in Montgomery County were put up for adoption, while only 12 were expected, based on state-wide data and statistical adjustment for poverty rates.
..... (emphasis added)

Kind of hard to see how the system is working "in the best interests of the children" if it is unjustly separating families. The bureaucrats always hide behind the children whenever questions are raised, though (that and the high profile abuse cases). Of course in the child welfare court merry go round, an attorney or a CASA (court appointed special advocate) (usually a volunteer or a social worker) is appointed as the child's representative. This person usually operates hand in glove with the state (and often never sees the child outside the courtroom). So when the case goes before the judge (these cases are almost never handled by jury) there are two folks calling for the severing of parental rights, one of whom claims to speak for the child, versus the parents. The system is not designed to protect the children nearly as much as it is executed to impose the will of the bureaucracy upon families that fall in their grasp.

Children are much more likely to be molested and abused in foster care than in their homes of origin. There are a lot of good foster families, and even more that are good enough, and there are a few horror stories. Part of the problem is inadequate screening, part of it is overcrowding (too many kids are taken from "tolerable" homes and too many foster parents take more than they can safely handle for income reasons).

The sad thing is the majority of cases where SRS (or the corresponding state agency) takes a kid out of a home it's for dependency (i.e. not having adequate food, care, and shelter). For the money the state spends on foster care, they could probably provide services to pick up the slack where the parents cannot. Even if your mom is dirt poor, nobody will love you the same.

Monday, October 16, 2006


First Things: Joseph Bottum; When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano: Catholic Culture in America

....“You remember how, you know, the old hippie types used to say, ‘Never trust anyone over thirty’? Well, they were right. Only it was their own generation they were talking about,” the thin, quiet one in the back announced as we pulled up to the hotel. “You can see it clearly out here in California. That whole generation of Catholics in America, basically everybody formed before 1978, is screwed up. Left, Right, whatever....The best of them were failures, and the worst of them were monsters.”

There’s something disturbing about that line, although one hears it often enough. Last year, a young seminarian used a version to dismiss the revelations of the priest scandals—day after day of news reports about heart-wrenching vileness: “Yes, yes,” he told me, “it was sickening and evil, but what did anybody expect? Those are just the worst examples of everything that generation did wrong.”....

I think the Boomers will not be thought of kindly by History. The wreckage of their reign extends from the boardroom to the academy to the church.

I think this has universal applicability to church life

Rod Dreher: Orthodoxy and Me

......I have talked about how the Church itself failed me in all this. Let me confess how I failed myself.

The Amish example of forgiveness and detachment from anger recently made a powerful impression on me, because I can see so clearly how I allowed myself to become snared in it. The pursuit of justice is a wonderful and necessary thing, even a holy act. But I became so tormented over what had happened to those children at the hands of the Catholic clergy and hierarchy that I could see nothing else but pursuing justice. And my own pursuit of justice allowed me to turn wrath into an idol. I didn't know I was doing this at the time. I came to believe that if I didn't stop, or if I let up, that I would in some sense be failing the victims, that I would be helping the perpetrators get away with it. Again and again, I kept thinking What if this had happened to our family? And over time, the anger, and my inability to master it and put it in its place, corroded the bonds that linked me to Catholicism. That is something that could happen to anybody, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox or what have you. Be warned.

What's more, I had become the sort of Catholic who thought preoccupying himself with Church controversies and Church politics was the same thing as preoccupying himself with Christ. Me and my friends would go on for hours and hours about what was wrong with the Church, and everything we had to say was true. But if you keep on like that, it will have its effect. One night, some Catholic friends left after a long and vivid night of conversation, and Julie and I reflected that we had all spent the entire evening talking about the Church -- but never mentioned Jesus. Julie said, "We need less Peter around here, and more Jesus." Her point was that all this talk about the institutional Church was crowding out our devotion to the spiritual realities beneath the visible structure. And she was right. But I didn't learn that until it was too late.

I can look back also and see that my own intellectual pride helped me build a weak foundation for my faith. When I converted to Catholicism in 1992 (I entered the Church formally in 1993), it was a sincere Christian conversion. But I also took on as my own all the cultural and intellectual trappings of the American Catholic right. I remember feeling so grateful for the privilege and gift of being Catholic, but there was a part of me that thought, "Yay! I'm on the A-Team now, the New York Yankees of Christianity. I'm on Father Neuhaus's team!" A short time back, an intellectual friend who is a Protestant told me that he almost became a Catholic, and would have except for the place where he was working at the time was filled with conservative intellectual Catholics who wouldn't shut up about the superiority of Catholicism. Their arrogance finally put him off the Church, and now he says he couldn't imagine converting. I swallowed hard when he told me that, because I can only imagine how I must have come off to people like him in my prideful heyday.

Without quite realizing what was happening, I became a Professional Catholic, and got so caught up in identifying with the various controversies in the American church that I began to substitute that for an authentic spirituality. This is nobody's fault but my own. Part of that involved hero-worshipping Pope John Paul II, and despite having a healthy awareness of the sins and failings of various bishops, exaggerating the virtues of bishops my side deemed "orthodox." Bernard Cardinal Law was just such a bishop. I count it as one of the most shameful acts of my life the moment when I rushed across a courtyard in Jerusalem to kneel and kiss Cardinal Law's ring. I don't count it as a sin to kiss a cardinal's ring; what was wrong was my motivation for doing so: I felt so much pride in showing myself to be an orthodox Catholic paying due homage to an orthodox archbishop in that public way.

Well, I was a fool, and I set myself up for a big fall. A few weeks back, I mentioned to Julie on the way to St. Seraphim's one morning, "I'm now part of a small church that nobody's heard of, with zero cultural influence in America, and in a tiny parish that's materially poor. I think that's just where I need to be."

See, this is why you won't see me ballyhoo my conversion to Orthodoxy as I did with my conversion to Catholicism. Partly it's because I still consider myself to be among the spiritually walking wounded. I need to build myself up in Christ, and in ordinary Christian piety. I believe that God rescued me from a pit partly of my own making by showing me Orthodoxy, and through the witness of the people of St. Seraphim's parish. I have to laugh when well-meaning people say, "Well, Rod's still looking for the perfect church, I wonder what's going to become of him when he figures out that the Orthodox Church is screwed up too." Shoot, the Orthodox Church in America is neck-deep in a financial scandal at its pinnacle! Don't they think I see that? I am perfectly aware that sexual sin and the temptation to cover it up or deny it exists in every human institution. I do not imagine that I have escaped that in Orthodoxy. I am incapable of being the kind of gung-ho Orthodox as I was a gung-ho Catholic. I've learned my lesson. What I do have in Orthodoxy, though, is a second chance to get it right. To receive the Sacraments as an aid to theosis, and to learn to love the little platoon around me, building up the community and my own family. Had I started out this way as a Catholic, maybe it wouldn't have come to this. But I did, and here I am, and God is merciful.......

I remember many discussions in Bible College about what was wrong with the church. Most of it was true. But it is a life sapping thing nonetheless. That is the problem when what you need for life also is your career and obsession. As you hack and chop at the weeds in the field you kill some of the harvest in your own soul.

It also reminds me of David Meece song To the Glory of God
Once I used to ride off to war
There was glory to win
Thought I knew what it was for

But most of the battles were mine
Now so is the pain

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Just watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail What an absolute turd of a movie. If you can't bother with an ending, why start a movie?

And how on earth can you leave the French unpunished?

Isn't that cute

No sooner did Congress authorize construction of a 700-mile fence on the U.S.-Mexico border last week than lawmakers rushed to approve separate legislation that ensures it will never be built, at least not as advertised, according to Republican lawmakers and immigration experts.

GOP leaders have singled out the fence as one of the primary accomplishments of the recently completed session. Many lawmakers plan to highlight their $1.2 billion down payment on its construction as they campaign in the weeks before the midterm elections.

But shortly before recessing late Friday, the House and Senate gave the Bush administration leeway to distribute the money to a combination of projects -- not just the physical barrier along the southern border. The funds may also be spent on roads, technology and "tactical infrastructure" to support the Department of Homeland Security's preferred option of a "virtual fence."
In this case, it also reflects political calculations by GOP strategists that voters do not mind the details, and that key players -- including the administration, local leaders and the Mexican government -- oppose a fence-only approach, analysts said.

Liars and Crooks.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Truth in Advertising; or Great Moments in Journalism

CNN: Microsoft warns software pirates

Microsoft Corp's upcoming Windows Vista computer operating system will include technology that is designed to prevent pirated copies from fully functioning, the software giant said.

Reduced functionality is already a part of the Windows XP activation process, but Windows Vista will have a reduced functionality mode that is enhanced, Microsoft said on its Web site on Wednesday.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

What, Me Worry?

Mark Shea quotes Richard Comerford

I have a friend, who is also my hero, who went to prison for the crime of praying the Rosary on the steps of an abortion mill. He is also the local leader of Operation Rescue. We later learned that under the Clinton administration that my friend, along with other pro life activists, was placed on a terrorist watch list by the Reno Justice Department. Also on the list was the Cardinal Archbishop of New York. Prior to 9/11/01 the Justice Department spent an enormous amount of its resources trying to find a mythical pro life terror network in the United States. Meanwhile UBL plotted his moves.

Will on some future day our government torture American citizens suspected of pro life sympathies in order to prevent an alleged bombing at an abortion mill or an alleged shooting of a abortion doctor?

Will on some future day our government torture American citizens suspected of harboring homophobic thoughts?

Who is safe now?

I still remember the mini-furor when Falwell said that Hillary Clinton inspired more fear than Lucifer. But we are setting in motion a perpetual motion terrorist hunting machine. Which, should she win in 08, she would get the keys to this low mileage leviathan to with as she pleases. Maybe we can do away with filibusters in the Senate, too. Then a democratic majority could really run amok. I shouldn't worry though, it's not like we've had a democratic majority in the Senate and Democrat in the White House any time recently rolls eyes. I guess we shouldn't be surprised, these are the folks that think borrow and spend is on a much higher plane than tax and spend.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Bushwhacked v.2

I still remember when Bush Sr took on Dan Rather during the 88 campaign. Rather did a live interview on CBS news and tried to go after Bush about Iran-Contra, and got his backside handed to him on a platter with fries. Time had a cover story the next week titled "Bushwhacked" and it seemed the whole incident made Bush seem tougher than he had before. Now Bill Clinton has come out on top in a similar confrontation. Maybe it is a precursor to a Hillary run?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Culture of Death Watch

Yahoo News: Parents kidnap daughter to have abortion

BOSTON (Reuters) - Police charged a Maine couple on Monday of kidnapping their pregnant 19-year-old daughter, who was bound with rope and duct tape and bundled into her parents' car to force her to have an emergency abortion.

Nicholas Kampf, 54, and his wife, Lola, 53, were arrested on Friday in a New Hampshire parking lot after their daughter Katelyn escaped by persuading her parents to untie her so she could use a Kmart bathroom.

A court affidavit said her parents chased her out into the yard after an altercation, grabbed and tied her hands and feet together. Her father then gagged her and carried her to their Lexus and they drove toward New Hampshire.

"The case facts are somewhat bizarre," aid Mark Dion of Maine's Cumberland County Police Department, which is involved in the investigation. "It is a bit of a shock."

He said the Kampfs, who were arraigned in New Hampshire's Salem District Court on Monday on kidnapping charges and held on bail of $100,000 each, appeared to have been angry that their daughter was pregnant by a man who is now in jail.

It's all about choice, isn't it? I wonder how many more subtle cases occur throughout the country. It made me think of a column I read some time ago by Orthodox Writer Frederica Matthewes-Green

Roe has taught us many lessons which now govern our lives in ways we can barely perceive. Instead of being one small tool for women’s advancement, abortion opened a chasm, and a lot of unexpected things fell in. It turned out to be an irresistible force., because abortion makes things so much easier for everyone around the pregnant woman. Before Roe, unplanned pregnancy created many problems for many people-the woman’s lover, her parents, her siblings, her boss, her landlord, her dean. Abortion changes the picture instantly: just go get it taken care of, dear, and it will be as if it never happened. Women were expected to do the sensible thing and save everyone else a lot of fuss and bother. Overnight, unplanned pregnancy became her private problem, a burden for her to bear alone. Abortion rights rhetoric compounded this effect with terms emphasizing her isolation: My body, my rights, my life, my choice. The flip side of all that first-person assertiveness is abandonment. The network of support that once existed had been shattered.

To continue a pregnancy came to look like an insane choice, one which placed an unfair burden on others. Having a baby in less-than-perfect circumstances came to look like a crazy and even selfish whim. A woman in an unplanned pregnancy was not just permitted to have an abortion-she was *expected* to. And that has made all the difference.

Monday, July 24, 2006

From the "Never worked a day in his life" department

NY Times:Cities Shed Middle Class, and are Richer and Poorer for it

SOME big American cities are flourishing as at no time in recent memory. Places like New York and San Francisco appear to be richer and more dazzling than ever: crime remains low, new arrivals pour in, neighborhoods have risen from the dead. New York is in the throes of the biggest building boom in 30 years, its population at an all-time high and climbing. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg proudly promotes his city as “a luxury product.”

But middle-class city dwellers across the country are being squeezed.

This time, they are being squeezed out by the rich as much, or more so, as by the poor — a casualty of high housing costs and the thinning out of the country’s once broad economic middle. The percentage of middle-income neighborhoods in metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington has dropped since 1970, according to a recent Brookings Institution report.

The percentage of higher-income neighborhoods in many places has gone up. In New York, the supply of apartments considered affordable to households with incomes like those earned by starting firefighters or police officers plunged by a whopping 205,000 in just three years, between 2002 and 2005.


Of course, cities need police officers, firefighters, teachers. But as long as they can get the labor they need from somewhere nearby, some economists say, middle-class shrinkage may not hurt. In Southern California, developers import construction workers from Las Vegas and put them up in hotels; costs go up but rich clients can pay. Firefighters who want to live in high-priced cities can work two jobs, said W. Michael Cox, chief economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “I think it’s great,” he said. “It gives you portfolio diversification in your income.” Pay for essential workers like plumbers and cabdrivers will tend to go up, he said.

If working two jobs to put a roof over your head is a good thing, why doesn't Mr. Cox give it a whirl and see how much he appreciates the "portfolio diversification of his income"? Who needs to see the wife and kids?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

When you don't know what you don't know, you don't know nuttin'

Interesting interview with David Gunn, former head of Amtrak on the Philadelphia Inquirer website.

CAPE BRETON, Nova Scotia - Even now, David Gunn isn't sure who in the Bush White House wanted to kill Amtrak. What he does know is that Amtrak's opponents came very close to getting their wish.

As the Bush administration threatened to cut off funding last year, Gunn, then Amtrak's president, and other Amtrak managers feared that the beleaguered national rail line would collapse financially or that passenger safety might be jeopardized.

Gunn was fired Nov. 9 in a dispute with the Amtrak board over how to modernize the rail line. He said in an interview on his Nova Scotia farm that he warned the Bush administration that its threats to force Amtrak into bankruptcy could prompt suppliers to demand cash and creditors to seize assets, effectively shutting the rail line down.


The way the Bush administration managed Amtrak "is almost a microcosm for the whole bloody administration, because it is what they have done everywhere," said Gunn, a Republican. "It has gotten them in trouble with FEMA; it has gotten them in trouble with Iraq. They just don't trust their own management."

How to do that has become a huge issue. Arguing that Amtrak was an outmoded relic, administration officials last year threatened to withhold money to force the rail line's restructuring.

But Gunn said the strategy came close to backfiring. Vendors began demanding cash, an insurer resisted renewing vital liability coverage for Amtrak officers, and directors and Amtrak auditors declined to certify its financial statements.

The standoff caused Moody's Investors Service to downgrade Amtrak's debt rating, and threatened to prevent needed repairs to failing track switches, overhead power lines, bridges, and other critical infrastructure, Gunn said.

After decades of deferred maintenance, some track switches had become so unreliable that Amtrak had to assign staff to monitor them 24 hours a day. Gunn said Amtrak eventually made the necessary repairs.

"What we said was, 'Look, we have trains running at 150 miles an hour - you have human beings riding that stuff,' " Gunn said.

Throughout his conflict with the administration, Gunn said senior transportation officials repeatedly suggested that Amtrak could revitalize itself by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection - like a bankrupt airline, it could void its labor contracts.

"Oh, I think they felt... somehow, out of the wreckage, would come a new company," Gunn said.

But he said that bankruptcy for Amtrak could have caused a service shutdown - in a way it never would for an airline - because of the nature of the passenger rail business, which is mostly unprofitable and lacks competition.

Amtrak was formed from the remains of several bankrupt private passenger lines in 1970. It is responsible for service in the heavily traveled Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston, as well as on 16 long-distance lines traversing much of the country.

Amtrak also provides service on shorter-range lines in Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, California and other states, which share the costs.

It has never turned a profit, and requires billions of dollars in government subsidies.

And that is the problem, Gunn said. Because no other company has Amtrak's experience running a national passenger rail service, Gunn said it was highly improbable that any other rail line could have stepped in had Amtrak gone out of business. The airline industry offers no comparison, he said, because its losses are smaller and another airline is always available to take over the business of companies that fail.

Gunn took over as head of Amtrak on May 15, 2002, and quickly moved to cut costs, establishing a new bookkeeping system that gave managers a clearer idea of how much money they had and how much various Amtrak operations cost. Before he arrived, Gunn said, the rail line was charging as much as $200 million a year of day-to-day operational costs to accounts set aside for replacing bridges, rail and other infrastructure.

Among financial auditors, the practice is considered a transgression roughly comparable to a homeowner's taking out a second mortgage to pay for food and clothing.

For a time, Amtrak stabilized. Gunn reduced staffing, and began repairing aging bridges and neglected track. But his relationship with the administration abruptly changed when the White House budget cut Amtrak's federal funding from $1.2 billion to zero.

Amtrak's vendors - companies that furnished fuel oil, food and other supplies, debt holders, and rating agencies - were startled.

Its auditor, KPMG, declined for months to sign off on its financial statements or to certify that Amtrak would make it through another year. That meant Amtrak risked being in default of its loan agreements, raising the prospect that creditors could seize assets such as the high-speed Acela train, Gunn said.

But he maintained that the Bush administration never took the possibility of collapse seriously, although its officials seemed to take every opportunity to make matters worse.

After the administration released its budget, the Amtrak board of directors barred Gunn and other rail managers from asking Congress for money, as they had in the past.

In May, in another move that Gunn interpreted as a tightening of the financial vise, Mineta wrote Gunn to inform him that the Transportation Department would withhold about $60 million in cash reserves until the department was sure Amtrak would survive. Gunn and the Transportation Department agree that Congress required Mineta to inform Gunn that the money would be withheld to pay for shutdown costs if the rail line failed.

But Gunn said Mineta greatly complicated matters by releasing the letter to the public. Vendors deluged the rail line, demanding cash. Particularly concerned, Gunn said, were the credit card companies that Amtrak customers used to purchase their tickets.

He said Amtrak managers worried that those companies might demand faster payment or, worse, require Amtrak to post as much as $100 million in reserves to insure payment if Amtrak went bankrupt. Gunn said the credit card companies never forced the issue, but if they had, Amtrak would have been bankrupted.
"We managed our way through; it wasn't them [the Bush administration]," Gunn said. "They didn't do anything to help us. They did a lot to hurt us."

When you have to remind someone there are human beings riding passenger trains, it seems like there is not much basis for hope. Maybe the administration will get its wish soon and bankrupt Amtrak. When the Northeast corridor comes to a halt and the already overloaded roads and highways in the region are even more jammed (and many people just cannot get to work at all) I'm sure it will enhance their reputation as competent administrators of the public good.

Bread and Circuses

The Nation:Born-Again Rubinomics

When Robert Rubin speaks his mind, his thoughts on economic policy are the gold standard for the Democratic Party. The former Treasury Secretary, now executive co-chair of Citigroup, captured the party's allegiance in the 1990s as principal architect of Bill Clinton's governing strategy, the conservative approach known as "Rubinomics" (or less often "Clintonomics"). Balancing the budget and aggressively pushing trade liberalization went hard against liberal intentions and the party's working-class base. But when Clinton's second term ended in booming prosperity, full employment and rising wages, most Democrats told themselves, Listen to Bob Rubin and good things happen.

So it's a big deal when Robert Rubin changes the subject and begins to talk about income inequality as "a deeply troubling fact of American economic life" that threatens the trading system, even the stability of "capitalist, democratic society." More startling, Rubin now freely acknowledges what the American establishment for many years denied or dismissed as inconsequential--globalization's role in generating the thirty-year stagnation of US wages, squeezing middle-class families and below, while directing income growth mainly to the upper brackets. A lot of Americans already knew this. Critics of "free trade" have been saying as much for years. But when Bob Rubin says it, his words can move politicians, if not financial markets.

Rubin has launched the Hamilton Project, a policy group of like-minded economists and financiers who are developing ameliorative measures to aid the threatened workforce and, he hopes, to create a broader political constituency that will defend the trading system against popular backlash. A strategy paper Rubin co-wrote defines the core problem: "Prosperity has neither trickled down nor rippled outward. Between 1973 and 2003, real GDP per capita in the United States increased 73 percent, while real median hourly compensation rose only 13 percent."

Astorm is coming, Rubin fears. He wants a new national debate around these facts. In an interview, he explains the danger he foresees for global trade: "Where there's a great deal of insecurity, where median real wages are, roughly speaking, stagnant...where a recent Pew poll showed 55 percent of the American people think their kids will be worse off than they are, I think there is a real danger of heightened difficulty around issues that are already difficult, like trade.... Look at the difficulty around immigration."

Princeton economist Alan Blinder, a Hamilton participant and Federal Reserve vice chair in the Clinton years, describes the "difficulty" in more ominous terms: "I think the prospects for the liberal trade order are not great," he says. "There's a whole class of people who are smart, well educated and articulate, and politically involved who will not just sit there and take it" when their jobs are moved offshore. He thinks CNN commentator Lou Dobbs, who has built a populist following by attacking globalization and immigration, "is just the beginning--nothing compared to what's going to happen in the future."

What should we make of Rubin's heightened concern for the "losers" who, he now recognizes, include a vast portion of the populace? Many view the Hamilton Project as just more talk-talk. I regard it as an important event--a "course correction" in elite thinking that, given Rubin's influence, may reshape the familiar trade debate, at least among Democrats. Rubin's central objective, however, is to control the terms of debate: to address the economic disparities globalization has generated but without disturbing anything fundamental in the global system itself.

His program consists mostly of familiar ideas that might soften the pain for displaced workers. But I doubt the Hamilton proposals will do much, if anything, to reduce the global forces that are depressing incomes for half or more of the American workforce. Even Rubin is uncertain. When I ask if his agenda will have any effect at all on the global convergence of wages--the top falling gradually toward the rising bottom--he says: "Well, I think that's a question to which nobody knows the answer. I think the proposals and approach we are proposing are the way to get the best possible outcome for the United States in a complicated world.... But whether that's going to stop the global convergence of wages, I don't know the answer to that. I would guess the answer is no."


The "soft" ideas in the Hamilton Project playbook are mostly old ideas--improve education and retraining, provide "wage insurance" payments to dislocated workers, increase public investment in industrial development and infrastructure. All are worthy things to do, but they seem like tinkering around the edges. Ron Blackwell, chief economist of the AFL-CIO, observes, "What they've got going are these little ideas that sound like they are forward-looking and respond to the problem of living standards, but they don't speak to power."

The right-of-center tilt of Rubin's group is reflected in some secondary proposals that are sure to rattle Democratic constituencies: Reform education by weakening teacher tenure, linking it to student performance; reform the system for tort litigation to eliminate what Rubin describes as "vast excess today" (his own firm suffered from tort litigation when it had to pay billions to settle investor lawsuits for Citigroup's role in the financial fraud at Enron and other corporate scandals).

The "hard" economic propositions in Rubin's agenda are essentially the same ones he pushed successfully in the Clinton Administration: Balance the budget to boost national savings and thereby (Rubin assumes) reduce the country's horrendous trade deficits and enormous capital borrowing from abroad, where the creditors are led by China and Japan; advance more trade agreements if possible, but don't tamper with the trading rules or international institutions that currently govern the system.

So we keep doing what is wrecking our economy and pump up unemployment compensation, build (or repair) more infrastructure, allow corporations to stiff arm people they wrong (Bhopal here we come!), bust the teachers' unions and put them on a piecework basis (I'm sure special ed and inner city students will be well served), and spend more retraining folks to train their replacements from India. Basically anesthesia for the heart transplant donor. Oh and we're going to do all this while balancing the budget (at least until the whole edifice collapses as the bottom 95% see their income go into free fall, kinda hard to balance the budget when no one has income to tax, eh?)

Strange things

Ford Shotgun
One Word: Why?

Yahoo/AP:Feline felon suspected in glove thefts

PELHAM, NY ......As if the gardeners of Pelham don't have enough to worry about, with the rocky soil and the slugs and the big trees casting too much shade, a feline felon has been sneaking into their back yards and carrying off gardening gloves.

Goche's flower-patterned number may soon take its place on the clothesline that's strung across the front fence at Willy's home, which he shares with Jennifer and Dan Pifer, their 19-month-old son Hudson and a mutt named Peanut Chew.

Above the line is a sign that says, in words and pictures, "Our cat is a glove snatcher. Please take these if yours."

On Thursday morning, nine pairs of gardening gloves and five singles were strung up, nicely framed by the Pifers' flourishing tomato and basil plants. Willy, looking innocent, was playing with a beetle under the Subaru in the driveway and occasionally dashing after Hudson.

"This all started about the time people began working in their gardens, I guess March or April," Jennifer Pifer said. "Willy would just show up with a glove, or we'd see them on the front steps. I guess it's better than if he was bringing home dead birds."
She doesn't know how far afield Willy goes to find a glove, but she has learned it takes him two trips to bring home a matched pair.

Willy, born to a stray last spring and taken in by the Pifers as a newborn, stays out some nights but seems to assemble his collection in daytime raids.
Willy couldn't care less about the gloves after they're captured. On Thursday he could not be enticed into a grab-the-glove game.

In winter, when gardening gloves are hard to find, Willy switches to his offseason prey, dirty socks, which he brings from the laundry room.

"We find them in the hallway, on the stairs," she said. "I used to think, `Oh, I must have dropped it on the way down.' But now I know better."

Despite his criminal nature, neighbors get a kick out of Willy. Cassone said the cat likes to accompany the mailman up and down the block, all the way to each front door. Willy also likes to climb trees and bat at the heads of people below.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Isn't this classy?

Day by Day

Let's see here, we'll equate Jack Murtha with Cindy Sheehan then we'll accuse him of being a selfish coward. Who says Republicans aren't working to elevate the discourse?

The guy may be many bad things but he's hardly a stereotypical limp wristed "other cultures are superior to ours" liberal. Could we maybe have something a bit more adult than "you're a coward/you're not a patriot" as a response to policy disagreements?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Haven't posted for a while. It's amazing how 70+ hour workweeks keep one occupied. Hopefully things will settle down soon.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Get a room!

Tribune Star:Officials to address crime at Fairbanks

The Terre Haute Park Board hopes to meet with law enforcement officials June 28 to address problem activity in the northern end of Fairbanks Park, park Superintendent Greg Ruark said Friday.

Ruark said the board hopes to meet with city police Chief George Ralston and Vigo County Sheriff Jon Marvel to discuss ways park officials can minimize illegal activity in that park.

The invitation to law enforcement officials follows a police raid on Fairbanks and Mills Dam parks earlier this month in which five men were arrested for acts of public indecency.

The parks board discussed the northern end of Fairbanks Park at their Wednesday meeting, with council members recommending possibilities from closing the road leading to the north end of the park to fencing off part of the park as a preventive measure.

Some City Council members at the meeting stressed that a particular segment of the population was not being attacked in addressing the recent arrests at Fairbanks Park....

Gee, I wonder what "segment of the population" they are referring to? If a guy and a gal are arrested for doing it in a park there wouldn't be any hand wringing about making a "segment of the population" feel "attacked". We'd demand an appropriate punishment and cluck under our breath about those nitwits the cops caught in the park (especially given the fact that there are a couple hotels within a few blocks). Whatever your orientation, it isn't too much to ask you take care of your needs in a private place.

This has been a well known problem in the city for years and our community "leaders" won't step up to the plate and deal with the issue. A big part of that is the university, the ever growing tumor in the center of our city, which provides a never ending supply of activists to protest on behalf of the perversion of the day (and the continual expansion of the university). Then of course there are the few members of the university community who participate in such illegal activities. Those of us who work for a living don't have the free time to go to every meeting and publicly protest every decision. We just vote. And the last two mayors have been voted out in primaries because nothing is done about the problems in the city (this is one of the very trivial ones).

Friday, June 02, 2006

Caught with their hands in the cookie jar

Autoblog: Network truck stop showdown at the Flying J

A consortium of networks including ABC, CBS, Fox, Turner Entertainment and Disney have banded together to file a federal lawsuit against the Flying J truck stop chain.

Apparently, the chain of 178 travel plazas and fuel stops has taken to substituting outside commercials for their own spots in every location that has a trucker's lounge playing a service called Plaza TV. Basically, this is made possible by a little box called the segOne 2000 LS, which detects commercials in normal broadcasts, them replaces them with new ones. In this case, trucker-specific ads for Flying J, which itself turns around and charges other companies $31,250 per month for a 30-second spot on Plaza TV.

You just have to wonder what passes through people's minds sometimes. Use someone else's programming and insert your own commercials. Gee, I wonder what will happen when "someone else" finds out about it.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

JFK: the sequel

It's interesting, you've got Barack Obama, who wants to be JFK, Hillary wants to be JFK, John Edwards still has happy thoughts of being JFK and Kerry being his LBJ. But the odds of a first term Senator going to the head of the class are low. Part of the JFK legend is that he pulled off such an impossible stunt. Generally Presidents come from Governors' Mansions not down the street. But folks still try and try and try and.....

The thing is JFK's have been a pretty decent president even if he had been Governor of Massachusetts instead of Junior Senator from same. Imitating the man is more profitable than imitating the resume.

But given the long odds for Senators why do folks arrange their careers to follow that trajectory? Maybe a lack of willingness to risk being a governor? Senators may not get the big plusses a governor has in a presidential race, but they also do not face the risks. A lot of Democratic states are basket cases. I think Solomon would have a hard time making Michigan successful enough to be a good launching pad for a presidential run. Whoever replaces Ah-nold will be almost as unlikely to become president as the Austrian born bodybuilder-turned actor-turned pol. Given the woes that New York faces, who can blame Hillary for being disinterested in running the show in Albany? Plus, really building a legacy in a state often takes time, as in more than one term. By the time a pol gets to the level where they can win a Senate seat or a Governor's spot time is beginning to seem a precious commodity., so a lot of 'em head for the Senate and hope to posture enough to springboard themselves into the White House.

What an a**

FAA takes the wind out of wind farms

The federal government has stopped work on more than a dozen wind farms planned across the Midwest, saying research is needed on whether the giant turbines could interfere with military radar.

But backers of wind power say the action has little to do with national security. The real issue, they say, is a group of wealthy vacationers who think a proposed wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts would spoil the view at their summer homes.

Opponents of the Cape Wind project include several influential members of Congress. Critics say their latest attempt to thwart the planting of 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound has led to a moratorium on new wind farms hundreds of miles away in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.


Harnessing the wind is a clean and relatively inexpensive way to generate electricity without the troublesome byproducts of coal or nuclear power. But the vast collections of turbines--some of which are 40 stories tall--are derided by opponents as unreliable and unsightly.

Of the scores of projects proposed around the country, perhaps the most controversial has been Cape Wind. If approved, it will be the first offshore wind farm in the United States.

Most of the opposition focuses on the proposed location in a channel between Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard, the bucolic Massachusetts vacation areas frequented by many high-profile celebrities, business executives and politicians.

Critics of Cape Wind include members of the Kennedy family, whose summer compound is on Cape Cod. Both U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and his nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., have said the turbines would spoil the ocean views, threaten the local tourist economy and endanger migratory birds.

The younger Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and activist who has supported wind power in other parts of the country, said putting a wind farm in Nantucket Sound would be akin to placing one in the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park.

"This isn't the right location, for a number of reasons," Kennedy said.

Another opponent is U.S. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), who has tried several times to block the Cape Wind project. In a 2002 letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, Warner included a handwritten note saying he often visits Cape Cod, which he called a "national treasure."

But the project continued to move forward until late last year, when Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, slipped an amendment into a military spending bill. The one-sentence congressional order directs the Defense Department to study whether wind towers could mask the radar signals of small aircraft.

Since then, at the Defense Department's behest, the FAA has been blocking any new wind turbines within the scope of radar systems used by the military.

Warner's amendment also appears to have reversed the government's position on the Cape Wind proposal. Both the FAA and the Air Force had previously signed off on the project, which would be located within miles of a missile defense radar system.

"This has nothing to do with wind," said Michael Polsky, president and chief executive officer of Invenergy, a Chicago company with projects in Illinois and Wisconsin that have been blocked by the government. "It has everything to do with politics."

Warner's office did not return telephone calls seeking comment. A spokesman previously released a statement saying the Defense Department study "ensures that Congress will possess as much information as possible on wind farms' impact on military operations."

So Warner will send the FAA on a fools errand and stiff arm sustainable energy developers nationwide so he and his fat cat buddies can have a lovely(er) time vacationing at Cape Cod. Talk about NIMBY taken to the extreme. Warner is fine with his constituents living next door to a wind farm but God forbid he have to vacation in the same zip code as one. The Kennedys and Warner may not know what they can do for their country but they certainly know what their country can do for them.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Chicago Daily-HeraldA Carol Stream firefighter's long journey back to normal

It would be far too easy for Jerrod Goebel to just forget the past year.

Forget it ever happened. Forget about the pain. Forget the physical therapy that helped him learn to walk again.

And forget all the little details of a yearlong recovery from a car accident that killed his wife.

It would be far too easy for the Carol Stream firefighter to forget why he wanted to be a firefighter in the first place.

"It's going to be on my mind a long time," Goebel, 26, said in his Lisle home, a modest ranch at the end of a street overlooking the Reagan Tollway.

Jerrod Goebel, seriously injured in a car crash that killed his wife, returned to the Carol Stream Fire Protection District last week.


Just two weeks into his first full-time job as a firefighter, Goebel lay comatose in intensive care as family members prepared to bury his wife. He'd just completed eight days of department orientation and was to begin his first shift as a Carol Stream firefighter last Memorial Day.

Goebel had no insurance and an uncertain chance for survival, but his colleagues mobilized to keep his job safe.

Fellow firefighters donated sick days and covered his shifts. They took turns traveling to Rockford Memorial Hospital to keep vigil at his bedside. They organized fundraisers, took up collections and sold raffle tickets, ultimately raising $15,000 for his medical expenses and donating 720 sick hours.


To be sure, Goebel's challenge isn't over. He will likely never retrieve memories of the week leading up to the accident.

The efforts of his colleagues at the fire department ensured he would qualify for the department's insurance plan. They covered his shifts during the first month after the crash so he could qualify for insurance because he needed to be on the job for a month to do so.

There's days the world seems like a pretty terrible place, then you realize 1) you don't have it that bad, and 2) there really a lot of great people out there who will go the extra mile to help someone.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Party of the Corporations

CNN - Coming Soon:The Web Toll

Welcome to the brave new Web, brought to you by Verizon, Bell South, AT&T and the other telecommunications giants (including PopSci and's parent company, Time Warner) that are now lobbying Congress to block laws that would prevent a two-tiered Internet, with a fast lane for Web sites able to afford it and a slow lane for everyone else.

Specifically, such companies want to charge Web sites for the speedy delivery of streaming video, television, movies and other high-bandwidth data to their customers. If they get their way (Congress may vote on the matter before the year is out), the days of wide-open cyberspace are numbered.

The Republicans keep selling out their base (or at least the 99.99% that are not well connected CEOs). We may not have all the bucks, but we can still put their sorry butts back on the street. I didn't sign up for the K Street agenda. If we have to endure a few years of Democrats to purge the "for sale to highest bidder" Republicans so be it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Driven over by Miss Daisy

CNN: Homeless men die and 2 women get rich

The ties between two elderly women and a homeless man killed in a hit-and-run were strong enough to raise police suspicions five years ago, but it took a second death with eerie similarities for police to make arrests.

Helen Golay, 75, and Olga Rutterschmidt, 73, were charged last week with eight counts of federal mail fraud for collecting more than $2 million from policies they held on the two homeless men, Paul Vados and Kenneth McDavid.

Cha-ching, or the Sound of Betrayal

Washington Post Richard A. Viguerie:Bush's Base Betrayal

As long as Democrats controlled Congress or the White House, Republicans could tell conservatives they deserved support because of what they would do, someday. Now we know what they do when they have control. Their agenda comes from Big Business, not from grass-roots conservatives.

There's the heart of the matter. The Republican Party (and the Democratic Party for that matter) consists of several factions with their own interests. You can hold such a thing together over the long haul only if the factions see their interests advancing. In the Republican Party, the Pro-Lifers aren't happy with stealth judges and Arlen Spector's chairing of the judiciary committee, the Small Government types aren't pleased with the growth of government, and the law and order Republicans aren't thrilled with the Border and the Botched Response to Katrina (not that they let the locals off the hook).

Friday, May 19, 2006

What irritates me about the administration's response to immigration

In the last 30 days the president has suddenly discovered the merits of border enforcement. Catch and release has been curtailed and now we are sending the national guard to the border (albeit in an a pretty inefficient way that will hurt readiness out of proportion with the improvement it will make to border security). Why has he gotten religion? Are we to believe it took 5 years after 9/11 for "the decider" to decide border security is important? It looks to me like posturing to give the "conservatives" cover to sign off on an amnesty bill. I'm not convinced that the president isn't going to "lose his religion" once he's gotten his way on amnesty. The president wants a legacy, fine. Build a fence, secure the border, crack down on employers, and come back in 2008 with a secure border and "earned legalization" *cough*amnesty*cough* might be OK.

The second thing is the amnesty and guest worker programs are bass-ackwards. We give lawbreakers citizenship, and law abiders temporary work visas. I'd rather see the number of legal immigrants from Mexico increased rather than an amnesty or guest worker program. Right now we allow 50,000 legal unskilled workers to immigrate from Mexico. Rather than 250,000-400,000 guest workers and 50,000 legal immigrants, why not just increase legal immigration to 300,000. Simultaneously step up immigration enforcement (deporting illegal workers) and make the law abiders the winners and the law breakers the losers. That will do more to stop the human tragedy on the border than a hundred amnesties.

The other thing I would like to see is substantial penalties for employers who use illegals so they can violate workplace safety and minimum wage laws. Give the DOJ a few thousand green cards to give away to witnesses and make the vultures pay.