Polispeak: May 2007: Archives

May 30, 2007

Dr. X - Illegal Immigration And Unemployment genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Illegal immigration is a more complicated, multi-layered issue than the heated words in this political debate often suggest. I really don't have a side — just some observations, some concerns and a few opinions. So, don't take this as a "pro-illegal" immigration position on my part, but among the 18 states that have set new records with historically low rates of joblessness, one finds California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.

This data runs against the grain of resentment that can be found among many of those who are extremely troubled by illegal immigration. Of course, these record low rates of joblessness don't prove that illegal immigration doesn't take ANY jobs from Americans. If, however, one's contention is that illegal immigration takes jobs from legals and from American citizens in the aggregate, you've either got to collect some data and start testing that hypothesis or you will be arguing entirely on the basis of fanciful theory — something that is particularly suspect when the argument is associated with resentment. At the very least, it is difficult to look at data like this and declare that illegal immigration has had a significant negative effect on the employment prospects of legals and Americans.

Many economic and cultural issues like the immigration issue involve dynamic subtleties that don't lend themselves to simple bifurcation into all good versus all bad positions. The primitive side of the human mind wants to simplify things in just this way because, for a variety of reasons, a world in which our wants, desires and opinions are unassailably pure is more manageable and bearable. In service of achieving such simplicity, however, the truth has a tendency to get back-written to fit assumptions that either aren't supported by data or are supported by fudged and cherry-picked data.

Previously, for example, I wrote about a fictionalized history of immigration in response to LaShawn Barber's ill-informed moralizing on the issue. Barber's version of history represents an instance of how someone operating with nothing but a data set simplified by a puerile imagination tends to avoid the effort of investigation if those fantasy "facts" support an opinion they hold dear.

H/T: The News Junkie

Cross-posted at Dr. X's Free Associations

Dr. X | May 30, 2007 | 1:58 PM | link | Comments (0)
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The Iraq War: A Suspect Plot & A Disingenuous Script genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

To Laugh Or To Cry?

When it became apparent that the war effort in Iraq was going to take far longer than anticipated, a debate ensued as to whether or not the strategy employed from the outset was sufficient. Early on in that debate, several observers as well as one high ranking active duty officer, General Shinseki, suggested that we lacked the necessary troop levels to win the peace. Shinseki and others argued that we would need at least 300,000 troops to achieve some progressive level of order in Iraq.

Time and again, the President, Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, and other members of the administration routinely dismissed criticism and the calls for more troops. At the time, they argued that we were building an Iraqi military that would soon “stand up so we could stand down". Time and again, the number of fully trained Iraqi forces has been modified. One most recent assessment suggests that just over 6,000 Iraqi soldiers are capable of functioning fully independent of U.S. oversight…which then led to arguments about the definition of independent.

I recall that before the 2004 presidential election, the administration touted that the Iraqi security forces numbered nearly 200,000…though it was never clear if they were fully trained to assume the primary role in policing the country…and the number seemed to change from day to day. John Kerry suggested that we focus on training these forces as soon as possible in order to facilitate the reduction of American troops…and the president countered that those efforts were already underway and progressing as expected.

The most recent assessment states that the Iraqi security forces now number 337,000…of which 143,000 comprise the Iraqi military and 194,000 are members of the Iraqi police force. Discussions are also underway to increase the total security force to 365,000 by the end of the year.

While I’m no mathematician, when one takes a look at the chronology of the increasing numbers of Iraqi security forces along with the recent surge of American forces in comparison to the level of insurgent and sectarian violence, something just doesn’t add up.

If General Shinseki was wrong, then the Iraqi security force alone exceeds the number of troops the administration ever believed would be needed to prosecute our efforts in Iraq. The combined security forces in Iraq now number right at 500,000…far greater than the number the administration ever stated would be needed and well beyond the number that led to Shinseki’s forced resignation. At the same time, there is speculation that the U.S. troop surge could soon approach 200,000 American soldiers.

The only conclusions one can draw from this recent information…along with the four plus years of ever changing rationales…is that we are still being fed inaccurate assessments by an administration that places more weight on reconstructing its rhetoric than restoring security and rebuilding a functional Iraq.

If our efforts in Iraq were a theatrical production, it would no doubt have been billed as an epic tale of good versus evil…but the reviews would be more apt to characterize it as a poorly crafted and executed dramatic offering turned farcical comedy…one that left the audience scratching its collective head while wondering if it should succumb to satirically inspired laughter or simply acquiesce to the tears that are born of the Bush administration’s propensity and pattern of offering the far more familiar and formulaic tragedy.

Image courtesy of mycousinjoey.com

Daniel DiRito | May 30, 2007 | 11:25 AM | link | Comments (0)
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May 29, 2007

Polls Be Damned - George W Knows Best genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

Bad Math

President Bush has his own interpretation of public opinion...one that is contrary to existing polling data. In fact, the president has taken to offering his particular version in public appearances, a move that strangely fits the modus operandi of this administration. They seem to believe that if you say it often enough, it magically becomes the truth. The following excerpts are from an Associated Press article.

Democrats view the November elections that gave them control of Congress as a mandate to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq. Exit-poll surveys by The Associated Press and television networks found 55 percent saying the U.S. should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq.

The president says Democrats have it all wrong. The public doesn't want the troops pulled out - they want to give the military more support in its mission.

"Last November, the American people said they were frustrated and wanted a change in our strategy in Iraq," he said April 24, ahead of a veto showdown with congressional Democrats on a troop withdrawal timeline. "I listened."

"A lot of Americans want to know, you know - when?" he said at a Rose Garden news conference Thursday. "When are you going to win?"

Polls show that leaving - not winning - is most Americans' main goal.

In a poll released Friday by CBS and the New York Times, 63 percent supported a troop withdrawal timetable of sometime next year.

Another this month from USA Today and Gallup found 59 percent backing a withdrawal deadline that the U.S. should stick to no matter what happens in Iraq.

The article also points out that the lack of a clearly defined alternate plan of action in Iraq (think Democrats cave on a withdrawal timeline) likely provides this opportunity for the White House to define public sentiment. If one believes the premise that people are, for the most part, followers, then the lack of leadership on the part of Democrats cedes that role to the Bush administration. How unfortunate.

Image courtesy of www.lincolnsblog.com

Daniel DiRito | May 29, 2007 | 11:13 AM | link | Comments (0)
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May 28, 2007

Iran, Iran So Far Away...But Not Anymore? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak


I don’t begrudge anyone changing their mind…and frankly, I view it as having been willing to remain open to the possibility that changing circumstances may well warrant new conclusions. Notwithstanding, I do find myself less than accepting of the Bush administration’s propensity to state positions absolutely…such that those who hold the opposing view are deemed to be anything from wrong to near treasonous…until such time as they quietly reconsider…without so much as an acknowledgment of their possibly flawed judgment.

Such is the case with our frosty relationship with Iran. For much of the Bush administrations tenure, and especially prior to the 2004 election, direct conversations with Iran were off limits…and the president let John Kerry and the voting public know that it wasn’t going to happen. An article in today’s New York Times tells us that everything has changed.

BAGHDAD, May 28 — The United States and Iran held rare, face-to-face talks in Baghdad on Monday, adhering to an agenda that focused strictly on the war in Iraq and on ways the two bitter adversaries could help to improve conditions here.

“The Iranians as well as ourselves laid out the principles that guide our respective policies toward Iraq," he said. “There was pretty good congruence right down the line: support for a secure, stable, democratic, federal Iraq, in control of its own security, at peace with its neighbors."

The meeting occurred against a backdrop of a worsening conflict in Iraq and deepening animosity between Iran and the United States — each accuses the other of contributing to Iraq’s instability.

The American ambassador said he “laid out before the Iranians a number of our direct, specific concerns about their behavior in Iraq." The United States has repeatedly accused Iran of meddling in Iraq, including training Shiite militiamen and shipping highly lethal weaponry into Iraq for use in attacks by Shiite and Sunni Arab militants against American troops.

The Iranian ambassador said he told Mr. Crocker that Iran was willing to train and equip the Iraqi security forces to create “a new military and security structure" and asserted that the American efforts to do the same were inadequate. He said Iran was also prepared to help rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, which he said had been “demolished by the American invaders."

Mr. Crocker said the Iranian delegation proposed forming a “trilateral mechanism" to coordinate security matters in Iraq, a proposal that Mr. Crocker said he would forward to Washington for consideration.

If I’m properly deciphering the facts, some four years into the Iraq war, the Bush administration has apparently realized that without regional cooperation, it is doubtful that Iraq can become a stable nation. In fact, our reluctance to entertain direct talks with Iran and Syria may have served to amplify the insurgency and sectarian conflict within Iraq. The president’s proclamation that nations either stand with us or stand with the terrorists may have simply inflamed animosities and pushed others to join radical group’s intent on undermining U.S. efforts.

Clearly, this new attempt to dialogue about specific issues while still maintaining our objections to other actions on the part of the Iranian government is consistent with the successful efforts of prior administration’s to handle rogue nations. It is also consistent with the arguments put forth by a number of Democrats (and a handful of Republicans)…arguments that were ridiculed and dismissed.

I applaud the shift in strategy though I’m inclined to believe that it comes in response to what must be intense efforts by the GOP leadership to convince the Bush administration that it must consider any and all means to progress in Iraq prior to the 2008 election. At the same time, one can’t help but wonder how differently the war on terror and the subsequent conflict in Iraq could have proceeded had it been managed differently or had the administration been willing to consider alternatives along the way. Unfortunately we’ll never know.

Daniel DiRito | May 28, 2007 | 6:21 PM | link | Comments (0)
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May 26, 2007

Rare Footage: A Straight Talking GOP Candidate genre: Polispeak & Video-Philes

Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, a GOP candidate for president, appeared on Real Time With Bill Maher last evening. Paul has been shunned by most of the other GOP presidential candidates...but if you listen to Paul, he actually is a refreshing voice of clarity on a number of issues. Unfortunately, he hasn't a chance of winning the GOP nomination...but perhaps he will usher in a new era of inclusion and an appreciation of independent thinking within the party. Don't hold your breath...but hey...it's at least a start.

Daniel DiRito | May 26, 2007 | 6:42 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Perfect Storm: Rising Tide But The Boats Won't Float genre: Econ-Recon & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Perfect Storm

I’ve always been fascinated with society, psychology, and the human condition…especially from the perspective of what the future may hold. Don’t misinterpret that to mean that I think I can predict the future; rather I try to predict how the state of thought…what people believe, what they are saying, and how they are saying it today…will impact their experiences some time in the not so distant future.

Additionally, I love it when my musings can connect several disparate dots into a snapshot of what might unfold in that regard. Lastly, I adore words…how they are used, what they can and should mean, how they shape our hopes and beliefs, and how they can often be used to say one thing while intending or imparting another. Some say that we are what we eat…I say we are what we hear…which becomes what we say.

A couple of articles caught my attention this morning and allowed me to get lost in one of my moments of ADD induced speculation. First, let me offer the backdrop. Of late, I’ve spent a lot of time focused on the state of parenting and the messages today’s parents are giving their children which will influence how they will function in the world as adults. Add in the influence of religion and its tendency to support absolutist thinking, the preoccupation with being famous and being number one and you have a snapshot of the launching point for my contemplation.

The first article deals with the issue of climate change and the impact of global warming. According to a Washington Post article, the United States appears prepared to reject the proposal to be offered at the upcoming G8 Summit that would set limits on greenhouse gas emissions in order to cap the rise in global temperature.

Representatives from the world's leading industrial nations met the past two days in Heiligendamm, Germany, to negotiate over German Chancellor Angela Merkel's proposed statement, which calls for limiting the worldwide temperature rise this century to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit and cutting global greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Bush administration officials, who raised similar objections in April, rejected the idea of setting mandatory emissions targets as well as language calling for G-8 nations to raise overall energy efficiencies by 20 percent by 2020. With less than two weeks remaining, said sources familiar with the talks, the climate document is the only unresolved issue in the statements the world leaders are expected to sign at the June 6-8 summit.

"The U.S. still has serious, fundamental concerns about this draft statement," a paper dated May 14 states. "The treatment of climate change runs counter to our overall position and crosses multiple 'red lines' in terms of what we simply cannot agree to…We have tried to 'tread lightly' but there is only so far we can go given our fundamental opposition to the German position."

As I’ve followed the global warming debate, a couple things stand out to me. One, the projections suggest that if the trends were to in fact proceed unabated, rising ocean levels would threaten some of this country’s major population centers. Two, those rising waters are apparently being taxed to absorb the rising levels of carbon dioxide and should they reach saturation, the problems will only accelerate. At some point the entire system goes awry and all hell breaks loose…think high waters and boats…perhaps Noah’s arc meets Poseidon Adventure.

I read the second article at MSNBC. That article, in its broadest terms, is a discussion of the state of the American Dream…the promise of advancing prosperity from generation to generation. Toss in the oft heard GOP theory that the rising tide lifts all boats and you’ll begin to see some rhyme to my reason.

The American dream has always held that each generation will enjoy a higher standard of living than the previous one, and that is still true, as measured by household income.

But the generational gains are slowing, and the increased participation of women in the work force is the only thing keeping the dream alive, according to an analysis of Census data released Friday.

A generation ago, American men in their thirties had median annual incomes of about $40,000 compared with men of the same age who now make about $35,000 a year, adjusted for inflation. That’s a 12.5 percent drop between 1974 and 2004, according to the report from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project.

To be sure, household incomes rose during the same period, but only because there are more full-time working women, the report said.

"Today’s data suggest that during a 30-year period of economic expansion, a rising tide did not lift all boats," Morton said in a release accompanying the report, "Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well?"

Of course, the men who run American companies don’t have too much to complain about. CEO pay increased to 262 times the average worker’s pay in 2005 from 35 times in 1978, according to the report’s analysis of Congressional Budget Office statistics.

Going back to 1820, per capita gross domestic product in the United States has grown an average of 52 percent for each 30-year generation, according to the report. But since 1973, median family income has grown only 0.6 percent per year, a rate that produces just a 17 percent increase over a generation.

"Thus, unless the rate of economic growth increases, the next generation will experience an improvement in its standard of living that is only one-third as large as the historical average for earlier generations," the report said.

Stay with me, I promise a big finish (wink, wink).

So when you take the words found in these two articles and factor in the issues from the backdrop, one can begin to see the images that will form a preliminary snapshot of our future human condition premised upon the existing and established social and psychological influences.

I’ll attempt to explain. Generally speaking, it seems to me that many of today’s parents are raising the expectations found in their children. Call it the American Idol mentality morphs with the Tiger Woods phenomenon…meaning mom and dad say to themselves, “My kid has star potential so I simply need to cultivate it from the outset". My bottom line assumption suggests that a growing number of parents believe every child can, should, and will be coached such that they are eventually discovered and catapulted to their rightful position in the spotlight. Call it the American Dream juiced up on steroids (h/t to David Letterman for the steroids slang).

At the same time, we see the data from the study referenced above suggesting that the economic prospects are moving in a diametrically opposite direction…and we have yet to consider the unknown though increasingly predictable ramifications of climate change that could render all prior historical equations virtually useless. Oh, and did I mention the case of the missing honey bees?

I’ve previously argued that humanity has continued to move towards a construct of diverging identities…in other words there is a greater divide between the outward lives we live and the more obscure, though ever lurking in the background, state of hyper reality…those moments when the facade of the outer world identity is stripped of its accoutrements to reveal the starkness of our real identity.

A couple examples might be helpful. It’s the eighteen year old young woman that dad has convinced is destined to be the next Serena Williams who finds herself entering college without a tennis scholarship and void of other measures of self worth…though still convinced her exaggerated “manifest destiny" is just around the corner.

It’s the thirty five year old son who was handed success in the form of family instituted social security when he joined his maternal grandfather’s business as a vice president the day he graduated from college…now left to realize the day after grandfather has entered a nursing home with Alzheimer’s that sales have evaporated in direct relation to grandpa’s advancing disconnect and that what little is left of a fortune will now be needed to pay for round the clock care.

The reality is that this aquarium we call America isn’t big enough to hold the advancing expectations we have sought to institutionalize and that we have exponentially instilled in the next generation. Worse yet, we haven’t yet equipped that generation with the boat to survive the rising tide…no, not the rising tide of success that will raise all boats…but the rising tide of a global economy that will subject the United States to ever increasing global economic realities. In truth, boats be damned…people are going to need to know how to swim…and no, there won’t be any gold medals awarded.

At the same time, we have a government that is intent on borrowing money in order to spend its way out of each new economic setback. Simultaneously, they ignore the warnings of an ever advancing science that suggests an entirely new and ominous cash eating calamity in the form of global climate change is just beyond the rising liquid horizon.

The bright future that has become the staple of our private and political rhetoric (the words we speak) may be nothing more than the glow of an approaching apocalypse…no, not the one associated with the rapture that runs rampant in religious imagery and that promises an idyllic after life…the one that was there in full view for all to see and fully of our own human making…the one we chose to ignore because our best human attributes and identities had atrophied such that we lacked the will to right the ship before it succumbed to the weight of an endless burden of belligerence and betrayal…particularly that betrayal which suggested that god would save us…because we chose to conclude that that would be easier than saving ourselves.

The curtain falls.

Daniel DiRito | May 26, 2007 | 12:11 PM | link | Comments (2)
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May 25, 2007

Brewing The Iraq War: The Slow Drip Continues genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Slow Drip

Looks like the White House may once again need to modify its explanation of the decisions and determinations made prior to invading Iraq. Time and again the American voter has been told that the President simply responded to the intelligence that was available at the time…seemingly suggesting that he and his neoconservative cohorts had no particular axe to grind.

Today we find further evidence that the administration ignored warnings from the CIA that an invasion of Iraq and the toppling of the Hussein regime might “lead to a dangerous period of internal violence and provide a boost to terrorists". If obtaining the full truth about the Iraq invasion were akin to the making of a good cup of coffee, then complete disclosure must be viewed as the ultimate in slow drip “brewing". Sadly, the bitter taste of the few sips we’ve been given suggest that the final product will be most foul and, more than likely, completely unpalatable.

In a move sure to raise even more questions about the decision to go to war with Iraq, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will on Friday release selected portions of pre-war intelligence in which the CIA warned the administration of the risk and consequences of a conflict in the Middle East.

Among other things, the 40-page Senate report reveals that two intelligence assessments before the war accurately predicted that toppling Saddam could lead to a dangerous period of internal violence and provide a boost to terrorists. But those warnings were seemingly ignored.

In January 2003, two months before the invasion, the intelligence community's think tank — the National Intelligence Council — issued an assessment warning that after Saddam was toppled, there was “a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other and that rogue Saddam loyalists would wage guerilla warfare either by themselves or in alliance with terrorists."

Perhaps I’m wrong, but I interpret this to mean that, despite repeated assertions by the administration to the contrary, there were clear indications of what could be expected in the aftermath of an invasion. One is left to wonder just how overwhelming the zeal to topple Hussein must have been at the time. Even if one were inclined to conclude that the stated reasoning for the war wasn’t contrived or manipulated, wouldn’t it still have been prudent for the administration to heed the warnings about the obstacles that would likely be encountered upon Hussein’s removal? If for no other reason, shouldn’t concerns about committing loyal and dedicated servicemen have led those in charge to consider the ramifications of an ill-conceived and hastily executed endeavor?

The report goes on to point out that the invasion may well fuel further radicalization and enhance the recruitment efforts of anti-American terrorist organizations…almost the exact opposite of one of the many justifications for the invasion that have been offered by the administration.

It also warned that “many angry young recruits" would fuel the rank of Islamic extremists and "Iraqi political culture is so embued with mores (opposed) to the democratic experience … that it may resist the most rigorous and prolonged democratic tutorials."

None of those warnings were reflected in the administration's predictions about the war.
In fact, Vice President Cheney stated the day before the war, “Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators."

A second assessment weeks before the invasion warned that the war also could be “exploited by terrorists and extremists outside Iraq."

“These should have been very sobering reports," says Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst at the Brookings Institution. “The administration should have taken them very serious in preparing plans for a difficult post-Saddam period. And yet the administration did not do so."

William Harlow, part of Tenet’s senior intelligence staff and co-author with Tenet on his book, added: “Although the intelligence got the WMD case in Iraq wrong, it got the dangers of a post-invasion Iraq quite right. They raised serious questions about what would face U.S. troops in a post invasion Iraq. The intelligence laid out a number of issues of concern. It’s unclear if administration officials paid any attention to those concerns."

On this Memorial Day Weekend, I can only imagine how this kind of information impacts the families of soldiers who have lost their lives in Iraq. A soldier’s love of country and the desire he or she exhibits to serve and protect this nation ought to be held sacred by those entrusted to risk the lives of these fine young Americans. A mother and father ought to be able to expect that our nation’s leaders will view their child as if he or she were their own…not as the vehicle by which small men satisfy large ambitions and egos.

Image courtesy of www.travelblog.org

Daniel DiRito | May 25, 2007 | 10:28 AM | link | Comments (0)
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May 24, 2007

Who Is Baking The Immigration Cake? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Immigration Cake

I’ve yet to comment on the recent immigration debate, though I have previously shared my thoughts on the topic at Thought Theater. Having recently spent some time ruminating on the relevnt issues, along with today’s reading of George Will’s latest commentary, I’m ready to take another swipe at the subject.

There seems to be a movement to characterize the tepid across the board voter polling as an indication that the new legislation is generally unacceptable...or in the extreme, as Minority Leader John Boehner described it after meeting with the president, it is “a piece of shit". While I can comprehend Will's rationale, I’m inclined to disagree with his subsequent conclusions.

In fact, I view the poll numbers and the lukewarm reactions to this pending legislation as an egg that won’t hatch because it’s been sat on for far too long by an impotent brood of “banty" roosters who have repeatedly placed partisan objectives ahead of pragmatic and prudent policy. What we are witnessing is simply the acknowledgment that reality has come home to roost…and it has been forever altered by the proverbial practice of “head in the sand" hegemony and hypocrisy.

Let me attempt to explain what I mean. First, let’s look at some of the arguments being advanced in George Will’s op-ed piece.

Compromise is incessantly praised, and it has produced the proposed immigration legislation. But compromise is the mother of complexity, which, regarding immigration, virtually guarantees -- as the public understands -- weak enforcement and noncompliance.

In 1986, when there probably were 3 million to 5 million illegal immigrants, Americans accepted an amnesty because they were promised that border control would promptly follow. Today the 12 million illegal immigrants, 60 percent of whom have been here five or more years, are as numerous as Pennsylvanians; 44 states have populations smaller than 12 million. Deporting the 12 million would require police resources and methods from which the nation would rightly flinch. So, why not leave bad enough alone?

Concentrate on border control and on workplace enforcement facilitated by a biometric identification card issued to immigrants who are or will arrive here legally. Treat the problem of the 12 million with benign neglect. Their children born here are American citizens; the parents of these children will pass away.

Were I living in the civil war era, I might conclude that The Reconstruction had commenced…though this time in the form of rewriting history to mask the motives that allowed the 1986 policy to morph into an illegal immigrant incubator. Ask the owner of any small business in operation during this period and they will gladly confirm that the process of worker verification had been given a virtual vasectomy…rendering it harmless, helpless, and hopeless.

Here’s how the Center for Immigration Studies describes the enforcement of the 1986 law:

Enforcement of this measure, intended to turn off the magnet attracting illegals in the first place, was spotty at first and is now virtually nonexistent. Even when the law was passed, Congress pulled its punch by not requiring the development of a mechanism for employers to verify the legal status of new hires, forcing the system to fall back on a blizzard of easily forged paper documents.

And even under this flawed system, the INS was publicly slapped down when it did try to enforce the law. When the agency conducted raids during Georgia's Vidalia onion harvest in 1998, thousands of illegal aliens — knowingly hired by the farmers — abandoned the fields to avoid arrest. By the end of the week, both of the state's senators and three congressmen — Republicans and Democrats — had sent an outraged letter to Washington complaining that the INS "does not understand the needs of America's farmers," and that was the end of that.

So, the INS tried out a "kinder, gentler" means of enforcing the law, which fared no better. Rather than conduct raids on individual employers, Operation Vanguard in 1998-99 sought to identify illegal workers at all meatpacking plants in Nebraska through audits of personnel records. The INS then asked to interview those employees who appeared to be unauthorized — and the illegals ran off. The procedure was remarkably successful, and was meant to be repeated every two or three months until the plants were weaned from their dependence on illegal labor.

Local law-enforcement officials were very pleased with the results, but employers and politicians vociferously criticized the very idea of enforcing the immigration law. Gov. Mike Johanns organized a task force to oppose the operation; the meat packers and the ranchers hired former Gov. Ben Nelson to lobby on their behalf; and, in Washington, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R., Neb.) (coauthor, with Tom Daschle, of the newest amnesty bill, S.2010) made it his mission in life to pressure the Justice Department to stop. They succeeded, the operation was ended, and the INS veteran who thought it up in the first place is now enjoying early retirement.

The INS got the message and developed a new interior-enforcement policy that gave up on trying to actually reassert control over immigration and focused almost entirely on the important, but narrow, issues of criminal aliens and smugglers. As INS policy director Robert Bach told the New York Times in a 2000 story appropriately entitled "I.N.S. Is Looking the Other Way as Illegal Immigrants Fill Jobs": "It is just the market at work, drawing people to jobs, and the INS has chosen to concentrate its actions on aliens who are a danger to the community." The result is clear — the San Diego Union-Tribune reported earlier this month that from 1992 to 2002, the number of companies fined for hiring illegal workers fell from 1,063 to 13. That's thirteen. In the whole country.

So when Will states that the problem was “weak enforcement and noncompliance", he is only offering a superficial view of the problem. The law was sufficient…but the will of the government (executed by elected officials)…tempered by the economic concerns of important constituent groups and the politicians who needed their votes…didn’t exist for long, if at all.

What resulted was a confluence of competing interests that enabled the unbridled and unchecked flow of immigrants into the country. Republicans satisfied their corporate supporters and Democrats tallied the numbers of a rapidly expanding voting block. Keep in mind the relevant dates…from 1986 to 1992 we had a Republican in the White House and from 1992 through 2000, we had a Democratic president…all followed by the seven years of festering and fractional concerns that have plagued the Bush administration’s tenure. So if it wasn’t solely Republican or Democratic malfeasance that defined these years, what was it? Perhaps politicians of all flavors were savoring the perceived spoils?

The beauty of history is found in the limited degree to which it can be altered…though I realize efforts to flummox are attempted with rampant regularity. With that said, it is necessary to acknowledge that George Bush and his minions, cognizant of his years as the governor of Texas and the data from the elections in 2000 and 2004, thought that they could have their cake and eat it too. By all indications, they concluded that they could facilitate an already substantiated shift of Hispanics voters to the GOP. Given the Bush teams preoccupation with establishing generations of GOP dominance, should anyone be hesitant to conclude that they were salivating at the prospects that immigration reform might afford?

Step forward to 2006 and the obvious Democratic shift…especially in middle class Middle America and one can easily explain the divergent positions found primarily in the GOP, and to a lesser degree amongst Democrats…especially in labor laden districts and regions. Add in the unique considerations and perspectives found in Border States as well as an indeterminate amount of garden variety bigotry and one might well agree with Will that the immigration conundrum fits the premise that “compromise is the mother of complexity"…but when he concludes that complexity leads voters to expect “weak enforcement and noncompliance", that simply provides politicians a ready made excuse for what they have already failed to do along with a rationale for the continuation of failure.

To be fair to Will, we agree that the public is coming “to the conclusion that the government cannot be trusted to mean what it says about immigration". Beyond that we diverge as he goes on to suggest that the government should focus on “border control and on workplace enforcement" while treating “the problem of the [existing undocumented immigrants] 12 million with benign neglect". I’m not sure if Will wants us to focus on the “benign" or the “neglect"…but it’s certainly a doozy of a double entendre.

I do understand Will’s rationale. He believes that any path to citizenship for the existing illegal immigrants would eventually afford them the benefits that come with citizenship and therefore tax entitlement programs at a time when we are approaching the retirement bubble of the baby boomer generation. By ignoring them, we avoid the potential cost considerations while still benefiting from the cheap labor they will continue to provide. With the borders sealed, we halt the continuing influx and, by law, the children of the existing illegal immigrants become citizens…time passes and the 12 million illegal immigrants die off without becoming a worsening financial burden.

Now I’ve heard of sweeping ones problems under a rug…but what Will is suggesting is that we sweep an entire generation under the rug…but not before we let them nanny our children, harvest our crops, clean our toilets, and contribute to our entitlement programs…without the prospect of ever participating in any of those benefits.

Hey, I haven’t trusted politicians for a number of years…but if George Will is suggesting that we entrust him and his ilk with resolving the complexities of this and other issues, then he, like the politicians he chastises (wink, wink), not only wants his cake and eat it too…he already has his eye upon the lowly cooks that will bake it. The one ingredient he lacks, and the one he clearly seeks through his tortured treatise, is for the rest of us Americans to turn our heads and close our eyes while he puts the proverbial squeeze upon what’s left of our commitment to dignity and decency.

If that’s the best America has to offer, I’m gonna have to pass on dessert. That’s one convoluted cake I can’t swallow. I keep thinking that our politicians and their emissaries will someday realize that the voting public, almost without fail, eventually sees through the charades that have become the staple of the political pabulum they ask us to ingest. Perhaps its time we serve them a heapin’ helpin’ of some good old fashioned humble pie?

Daniel DiRito | May 24, 2007 | 12:58 PM | link | Comments (0)
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May 23, 2007

Keith Olbermann Special Comment On Iraq Betrayal genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Well it was bound to happen. Just over six months after the American voter sent politicians what appeared to be a clear message about the direction of the country...and particularly their displeasure with the war in Iraq...the criticism of the Democrats (in addition to the Republicans) has made its formal debut in the form of a signature “Special Comment" by the always ebullient and opinionated Keith Olbermann.

Whether the emerging criticism and anger spells trouble for the Democrats in 2008 is yet to be seen...but thinking ahead to the next election, voters may find themselves sending the same message…though wholly uncertain whether they can expect either party to demonstrate enough leadership to bite the bullet and resolve the Iraq situation once and for all.

The growing anticipation of change that characterized the post election period may transform into an extended and continuing period of agonizing indecision and hesitation on the part of politicians in both parties as they jockey for advantage. 2008 may be a watershed election...but that may mean nothing more than an “in your face" realization that the need for power has poisoned the well of public service to such an extent that the lives of honorable Americans and vulnerable Iraqis have become expendable pawns in a never ending game of pedantic power plays.

I'm not prone to predictions...but in this instance...if the above comes to pass, rest assured that the deafening drone that will emerge will be the sound of the collective awareness and awakening of an American voter tsunami hell bent on tearing up the template of our two party system and starting over. I could be wrong...but I doubt it.

Daniel DiRito | May 23, 2007 | 9:00 PM | link | Comments (0)
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May 21, 2007

Today Show On Limbaugh's Barack The Magic Negro genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Don Imus firing has drawn attention to the comments made by the hosts of other similar programs. The following clip is from a piece on The Today Show that discusses a segment from Rush Limbaugh's radio show. During the program, Limbaugh has a song called Barack The Magic Negro that pokes fun at Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. My goal isn't to promote Limbaugh being fired (though it wouldn't bother me if he were); rather I think we should treat everyone with the same standards.

Does Limbaugh cross the same line that led to the firing of Imus? I don't really know how to make that determination...which is why I find myself leery of efforts to monitor and censor what people say and what they write.

Feel free to share your own thoughts and feelings. I'm anxious to hear how others suggest we determine what is appropriate and what is unacceptable.

Daniel DiRito | May 21, 2007 | 6:51 PM | link | Comments (1)
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May 19, 2007

Trench Warfare: Can The Democrats Stand The Slog? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Trench Warfare

In the most recent Gallup polling, the President's approval numbers were slightly better than those of Congress...33% to 29%. Perhaps the numbers aren't sufficient reason for alarm on the part of Democrats, but they do give one reason to ponder their meaning.

The first thought that comes to mind is the perceived success or failure of the Democrat's 100 hour pledge...subsequently replaced by ample media analysis of their first hundred days. While I've heard Speaker Pelosi explain the successes, it is my impression that the majority of voters would be hard pressed to recount any particular legislative measure that actually shifted the nation's direction on the issues that they intended to signal with their vote in the 2006 midterm election (the minimum wage increase may be the one clear exception).

An article in the Washington Post helped me better understand what may be behind these tepid Congressional numbers and the apparent perception that little has happened under Democratic leadership.

House Republicans, fighting to remain relevant in a chamber ruled by Democrats, have increasingly seized on a parliamentary technique to alter or delay nearly a dozen pieces of legislation pushed by the majority this year.

And an election-year promise by Democrats to pay for any new programs they created has made it easier for Republicans to trip them up.

Since January, GOP leaders have relied on a maneuver known as the "motion to recommit" to stymie Democrats and score political points for Republicans still adjusting to life in the minority.

The motion to recommit allows the minority a chance to amend a bill on the floor or send it back to committee, effectively killing it. In a legislative body in which the party in power controls nearly everything, it is one of the few tools the minority has to effect change.

In the 12 years of Republican control that ended in January, Democrats passed 11 motions to recommit. Republicans have racked up the same number in just five months of this Congress.

I have to repeat the numbers...the Republicans, in five months, have racked up the same number of motions to recommit as the Democrats used in twelve years of GOP congressional control. I try to avoid overreacting or rushing to draw conclusions...but these numbers seem noteworthy...if not significant.

Let me be clear. I am not suggesting that the Democrats have failed in their first 100 days or that their performance warrants these dismal polling numbers. On the other hand, I am questioning if the Democratic leadership has the dexterity and foresight to understand this thing we call politics...and the reality that it has become a high stakes game of strategy and perception.

Democrats say any comparison is unfair because when Republicans controlled Congress, they directed their members to vote against all Democratic motions to recommit.

Now in the majority and mindful of staying there, Democrats have given no such instruction to their members, allowing them to break with the party if they choose. Many freshmen Democrats from GOP-leaning districts find themselves voting with Republicans as a matter of survival -- a reality Republicans have seized upon.

Democrats dismiss the Republican maneuvers as largely symbolic and so arcane as to be irrelevant to the public.

"From a public policy standpoint, it's not very significant," said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), regarded as an expert in parliamentary combat. "It's almost a Capture the Flag game. The number of people in America who say, 'Oh my gosh, the Republicans won another motion to recommit' is very small."

The Democrats' own rules have made it easier for Republicans to offer motions to recommit. In January, the party promised to observe "pay-go" -- finding a way to pay for any new spending rather than adding to the federal deficit. The unintended consequence is that tax proposals open legislation to modifications by the minority that would not otherwise be allowed.

This week, Democratic staffers privately discussed a rule change to limit the Republicans' ability to make motions to recommit. GOP leaders were incensed and threatened to use all available procedural techniques to block every bill except war spending legislation. But Democrats are hampered by their promise to run the chamber in a more open fashion than Republicans did when in the majority.

I like Barney Frank but his remarks suggest a tin ear and at least one eye patch...and I'm not drawing a pirate analogy...that might be too generous a comparison since statistics may well suggest that pirates were more mindful of tactical considerations.

I'll offer a more fitting analogy. If navigating politics were akin to walking the streets of an unknown city, the Democrats seem to invariably find themselves in bad neighborhoods...at the end of dark and dead end alleys...being stalked by a group of savvy street thugs intent on teaching them an old fashioned turf lesson...all the while armed with little more than the ability to ask their adversaries what it's going to take to let them off the hook without a pair of black eyes and a bloody nose.

Perhaps my assessment is too harsh but the reality of politics is that the voting public has about as much sympathy for the party in power as a crowd at a boxing match has when watching the home town underdog pin and pummel the brass belted champion against the ropes. Voters assume that both party's know the stakes and are prepared for the battles that will ensue...they simply lack patience for excuses or cries of foul play. When they vote, they vote with expectations that their candidates are prepared to do what it takes to promote and pass the legislation they seek. As much as I dislike the existing construct, is there any doubt that politics isn't for wimps and whiners?

Lastly, I think it is important to look at the comparative numbers of the President and Congress. It would be difficult to imagine that George Bush is more popular with voters than Congress...but I would bet that most voters see the President as a fighter...and when that is compared to the perception of Democrats as soft and spine deficient, it seems plausible that this leads voters to give this Congress lower approval rankings.

Don't get me wrong...I don't agree with the perceptions nor do I like what I view to be the boys will be boys bully mentality that seems to be ingrained into the voting public's political psyche. Unfortunately, it appears that the American voter has accepted that these are the rules of the game.

If the Democrats want to win in 2008, they will either need to become adept at executing their agenda accordingly or they may find themselves in the same place they were when John Kerry suffered what one might call an unexpected and unfortunate TKO. Riding the political fence reminds me of riding a bicycle…if your feet slip, it’s really gonna hurt.

Daniel DiRito | May 19, 2007 | 9:01 AM | link | Comments (0)
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May 17, 2007

The Daily Show On The GOP Debate genre: Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Jon Stewart has some fun with the latest GOP presidential debate. Stewart demonstrates that there is virtually no limit to the effort of each candidate to prove their conservative credentials as they engage in an escalating game of one-upmanship.

Daniel DiRito | May 17, 2007 | 10:55 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Victory Is Coming Sayeth The "Lords" To The Hordes genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

False Prophets

In the wake of the 2006 midterm elections little has happened to predict how Republican voters will ultimately respond to the strong Democratic showing. I suspect that it would be difficult to make definitive conclusion as to what led more voters to back Democratic candidates across all regions of the country. No doubt opposition to the war in Iraq was a factor but I'm anxious to see the degree to which voters may have been dissatisfied with the far right's level of influence within the GOP.

At the same time, it remains completely unclear if GOP voters can find enough common ground to rally around one presidential candidate and whether that consensus will be sufficient to overcome the voter shift witnessed in 2006.

If compromise is to be a part of the GOP equation, it doesn't appear that influential members of the far right will acquiesce on the positions that have catapulted them to the forefront of the party, allowed them to wield ever expanding influence, and rapidly grow their ranks and their coffers. Perhaps James Dobson of Focus on the Family is offering us a clear preview with his firm rebuke of Rudy Giuliani in an editorial published today on worldnetdaily.com.

The jig is up. Rudy Giuliani finally admitted in a speech at Houston Baptist College last week that he is an unapologetic supporter of abortion on demand. That revelation came as no great shock to those of us in the pro-life movement. His public pronouncements as mayor of New York, together with his more recent tap dances on the campaign trail, have told a very clear story.

How could Giuliani say with a straight face that he "hates" abortion," while also seeking public funding for it? How can he hate abortion and contribute to Planned Parenthood in 1993, 1994, 1998 and 1999? And how was he able for many years to defend the horrible procedure by which the brains are sucked from the heads of a viable, late-term, un-anesthetized babies? Those beliefs are philosophically and morally incompatible. What kind of man would even try to reconcile them?

Like Bill Clinton, who told us glibly that he wanted abortion to be "safe, legal and rare," Rudy wanted conservatives to believe he had undergone some kind of an election-eve conversion, more or less. Then the contradictions began catching up with him, which often happens to those who play games with words. No, this leopard has not changed his spots – as revealed again as recently as Tuesday night's GOP presidential debate. Giuliani now admits he is what he has been all along. Or as Popeye used to say, "I y'am what I y'am and that's all I y'am."

This self-styled defender of marriage says he is "proud" of having submitted, as New York's mayor, a bill creating "domestic partnerships" for homosexual couples. Admittedly, many liberal Americans will agree with the social positions espoused by Giuliani. However, I don't believe conservative voters whose support he seeks will be impressed. Presidential elections are won or lost by slim margins. Rudy has an uphill slog ahead of him, even though he is the darling of the media.

There are other moral concerns about Giuliani's candidacy that conservatives should find troubling. He has been married three times, and his second wife was forced to go to court to keep his mistress out of the mayoral mansion while the Giuliani family still lived there. Talk about tap dancing. Also during that time, the mayor used public funds to provide security services for his girlfriend. The second Mrs. Giuliani finally had enough of his philandering and, as the story goes, forced him to move out. He lived with friends for a while and then married his mistress. Unlike some other Republican presidential candidates, Giuliani appears not to have remorse for cheating on his wife.

It may be presumptive on my part, but that certainly sounds like the laying down of the gauntlet. Its hard to say if this threshold of accountability would hold true for Newt Gingrich or any other GOP candidate who may have the bones of the bogeyman not so neatly tucked away in a closet...but it does demonstrate that the far right intends to erect some formidable hurdles for candidates to navigate if they hope to be the anointed one.

Harry Truman asked, "How can I trust a man if his wife can't?" It is a very good question. Here's another one: Is Rudy Giuliani presidential timber? I think not. Can we really trust a chief executive who waffles and feigns support for policies that run contrary to his alleged beliefs? Of greater concern is how he would function in office. Will we learn after it is too late just what the former mayor really thinks? What we know about him already is troubling enough.

One more question: Shouldn't the American people be able to expect a certain decorum and dignity from the man who occupies the White House? On this measure, as well, Giuliani fails miserably. Much has been written in the blogosphere about his three public appearances in drag. In each instance, he tried to be funny by dressing like a woman. Can you imagine Ronald Reagan, who loved a good joke, doing something so ignoble in pursuit of a cheap guffaw? Not on your life.

My conclusion from this closer look at the current GOP front-runner comes down to this: Speaking as a private citizen and not on behalf of any organization or party, I cannot, and will not, vote for Rudy Giuliani in 2008. It is an irrevocable decision. If given a Hobson's – Dobson's? – choice between him and Sens. Hillary Clinton or Barrack Obama, I will either cast my ballot for an also-ran – or if worse comes to worst – not vote in a presidential election for the first time in my adult life. My conscience and my moral convictions will allow me to do nothing else.

It looks as if the far right has decided that it isn't going to wait as long to voice it's displeasure with candidates that fail to clearly champion their issues. While we saw some grumbling prior to the last two elections, I don't recall hearing any such unequivocal pronouncements from Dobson or his compatriots. I suspect this early and emphatic warning won't bring comfort to a party that is trying to recover from a midterm election that the president called "a thumping".

Yes, we did hear hints that evangelicals were considering sitting out the last election...and perhaps some did...but I'm inclined to think that this presidential campaign is going to sharpen the differences within the GOP rather than soothe any past or festering wounds.

No doubt the naysayer’s will suggest that sitting out an election serves no purpose and harms the efforts of the evangelical agenda...which would mean they should and will vote for the GOP candidate regardless. Always the contrarian, my impression of men like Dobson is that bravado may supersede practicality since I view their absolute inclinations to be the prevailing appeal they have with those they lead...and thus it is the means by which they hold the power they seek and the money and the influence that it provides. With that assumption, any action that can be viewed as weakness or an admission of defeat would be tantamount to suicide...and we know that is unacceptable and considered sinful.

As such, this dynamic creates a double edged sword for the purveyors of the far right's agenda. Part of their appeal is predicated upon success...success that is framed and therefore becomes synonymous with rightness...all of which originates from the approval and assistance they believe is provided by their designated higher power. The absolute nature of their dogma dictates the taking of absolute positions. In as much as the Bible is touted as the very absolute word of god, so too is the requirement to never waiver when administering and advocating the rightness of the higher power's words.

I think it’s helpful to look at an analogy. The notion of momentum is frequently associated with sports and that momentum serves as the basis to motivate the players to push forward in order to achieve victory...not a tie, not a well fought loss...but a victory that becomes the vanquishing of the enemy and the validation of the victor. Note how frequently the victor in a sporting event cites the assistance of god...as the source of the talent, the will to win, and the strength to prevail.

I've always mused that such a notion seems to suggest that god has a vested interest in competitive sports...enough so that he weighs the merits and prayers of the competitors and grants victory to the worthy while smiting the unworthy. At the same time, there is no objective means or reasoned justification to measure and confirm that premise...yet the words of the victor frequently imply as much.

I see the efforts of the far right in the same light...guided by the same rationale and therefore driven to achieve the same outcome...absolute victory. Further, those who lead this movement are keenly mindful of the power of momentum...which also means they understand the compounding nature of momentum lost. Defeat to the far right is therefore akin to conceding one's rightness and to suffer defeat serves to undermine that rightness (and the fact that it is granted by their affinity and kinship with the one true god) and the loss of momentum must be avoided at virtually all costs because it can begin to unwind the very blind mystique that fuels its existence.

Allowing an alternate awareness to succeed not only undermines the institution but it unravels the mechanism that attracts the individual...that being the assurance that one is living a right life which is repeatedly ratified by one's ongoing proximity to victory. Living that right life comes with the means to manage the terror of mortality and the far more acceptable promise of an idyllic after life. Being right...or achieving victory reinforces this premise.

Our human construct of faith is therefore fatally flawed...it is constantly seeking confirmation and it first requires an origin that cannot and must not be questioned or disputed. Once that absolute Holy Grail is in place, all actions are undertaken to prove the founding premise and victory becomes the fundamental means by which that can best be achieved and verified. Faith is thus maintained when success in human events affirms the rightness of the believers.

James Dobson and the handful of those who lead the far right may give many voters reason to dislike them...but one should never underestimate the degree to which they have discerned the essence of our human frailties. Notwithstanding, this knowledge comes with some inherent limitations. The choices they have at their disposal which allow them to maintain their hold over those who follow are necessarily restricted by the very human frailties they have identified.

I view Dobson's words to be an anticipatory shot across the bow at the politicians who could damage the standing of the far right...but more importantly I view his words as an acknowledgment that 2006 put his power over those he leads at risk. If my hypothesis is correct, those aligned with Dobson will counter intuitively draw a much clearer line in the sand with regard to the 2008 election. Losing the election is secondary to losing the hold they have on their followers.

Conceding doctrine in order to win an election is far worse than losing an election. As long as the adherence to doctrine is maintained, rightness can be affirmed. If rightness can be affirmed through leadership’s unwavering and willful demonstration of faith, (even in the presence of predictable defeat) then that faith can be extrapolated to and embraced by the flock. That negates the risks associated with the possible negative attributions that may result from the previously identified human frailties and that might befall the individual followers should they perceive that their cause is lost (and their beliefs invalidated).

Therefore it is essential that the enemy remains clearly identified as well as the need to persevere. In order to achieve the promised victory, the wrongness of the opposition must be magnified in order to allow momentum to intervene and sustain the faith of the followers. Victory will have been postponed but never conceded. That leaves the identified and established fundamental beliefs and their absolute premise intact and available to employ in the maintenance of unquestioned and unchallenged power.

In the end, leadership reassures the flock that victory remains the goal and that it remains attainable...but only through blind adherence to the doctrinal interpretations of the leadership because they are the individuals who have exhibited sufficient will and faith to sustain the flock. The end goal has been delayed but the ending remains unchanged. The movement lives on and the benefactors live well in the here and now. Everyone else is asked to be patient, to contribute to the cause, and to anxiously await the rewards of the afterlife.

Image courtesy of www.traditioninaction.org

Daniel DiRito | May 17, 2007 | 12:57 PM | link | Comments (0)
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May 16, 2007

Follow The Oil: Identifying The Real Surge In Iraq genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

Iraqi Oil

I sometimes find it difficult to comment further on the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq...its all been said before...and done before. The latest iteration of a troop surge seems little more than an encore of prior attempts to bring some semblance of order to a nation that seemingly isn't ready to sit down and figure out how its various sectarian groups can coexist. Four plus years into the conflict and those in charge are still churning out new rationales for their actions while asking the American public to remain optimistic and to be patient and give them a little more time.

A new report on the benefits of the latest troop surge, compiled by the Pentagon, suggests that the best case scenario is that the added military presence has created a slight decrease in violence. The more likely conclusion is that it has had virtually no impact on the overall statistics and the more important mind set of the combatants.

Newly declassified data show that as additional American troops began streaming into Iraq in March and April, the number of attacks on civilians and security forces there stayed relatively steady or at most declined slightly, in the clearest indication yet that the troop increase could take months to have a widespread impact on security.

Even the suggestion of a slight decline could be misleading, since the figures are purely a measure of how many attacks have taken place, not the death toll of each one. American commanders have conceded that since the start of the troop increase, which the United States calls a “surge," attacks in the form of car bombs with their high death tolls have risen.

As troops continued to arrive, the statistics show, the early effect on countrywide attacks was at best marginal, although there does appear to have been a slight decrease. The daily attack figures for March and April, released yesterday for the first time, were 157 and 149, respectively.

“The improvement is too small to be meaningful, but it’s too soon to declare defeat," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a research group that closely follows the conflict.

The attack data are compiled by the Pentagon but were made public in a report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office. It analyzed the effect of the attacks on the struggling American-financed reconstruction program in Iraq, especially the program’s failings in the electricity and oil sectors.

Alas, there is one surge happening in Iraq that has caught my attention and that I believe speaks to the real status of this ill-conceived and terribly executed mess we now call the war on terror...it is the surge of oil...in the form of 100,000 to 300,000 barrels a day that have continued to vanish each and every day.

A draft version of the report, obtained by The New York Times last week, indicated that every day during much of the past four years, somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 barrels of oil, valued at anywhere from $5 million to $15 million, had been unaccounted for. But the draft report did not contain the attack statistics.

“Insurgents have destroyed key oil and electricity infrastructure, threatened workers, compromised the transport of materials, and hindered project completion and repairs by preventing access to work sites," the report says.

The report also contains the analysis of what appears to be billions of dollars of oil that is unaccounted for over the past four years. The report says smuggling, sabotage or colossal accounting errors could potentially account for the discrepancy.

A senior Iraqi official said yesterday that the Iraqi government believed the most likely explanation is a major smuggling effort by Shiite militias in the oil-rich south of Iraq.

Perhaps I'm hopelessly naive, but wouldn't it be safe to conclude that siphoned and smuggled oil money is funding much of the insurgent activity? I realize that when it comes to money, the U.S. frequently operates under the premise that the left hand need not understand the activities of the right hand...but aren't we dealing with far more than routine economics when it comes to Iraq? If I understand the conflict, economics is further fueling resistance to the crafting of an acceptable political solution as the various regions battle for control of oil reserves and the money they will generate.

If the U.S. effort cannot succeed in managing, monitoring, and maintaining Iraq's vast oil resources (the primary source of hope for rebuilding the country), just how do we expect to see an undermanned and poorly trained Iraqi security system do so? Further, unless Iraq can create a viable government that can sustain a functional economy, there simply isn't enough glue to hold the shattered country together.

If, as it seems, oil revenues are fueling the sectarian conflict, the battle to create a functional Iraq is not only a pipe dream...it is a shattered pipeline pouring out the fuel that will forever feed the fires of civil war.

Many months ago, Senator McCain described our efforts in Iraq as being akin to a game of whach-a-mole...a process of constantly shifting troops from region to region in an effort to quell unrest...only to see the conflict pop back up again in each area just after the troops have vacated.

I'll offer a far more ominous analogy...we're literally running out of fingers to plug the leaks in a poorly designed and fully makeshift barrier that is holding back the fuel (literally and figuratively) that has the potential to engulf the entire region in the flames of unfettered futility. If we can't oversee the flow of oil, what hope can there be to extinguish an unchecked and expanding fanaticism?

Daniel DiRito | May 16, 2007 | 8:06 AM | link | Comments (0)
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May 10, 2007

George W. Bush: When Did Justice Become Just Me? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Human Psyche

The United States Attorney scandal continues to offer insight into the machinations of unbridled partisan politics and the flaws of the human psyche. It now appears that efforts to remove those who were viewed to have failed to be proactive enough in their partisanship were being forced from office prior to the 2006 midterm election. The latest example involves the resignation of Missouri attorney Todd Graves and his replacement Bradley Schlozman. An editorial in today's New York Times discusses the particulars.

Jim Talent, the Republican incumbent, was facing a strong challenge from Claire McCaskill last year when the United States attorney, Todd Graves, resigned suddenly. Mr. Graves suspects that he may have been pushed out in part because he refused to support a baseless lawsuit against the state of Missouri that could have led to voters’ being wrongly removed from the rolls.

Mr. Graves was replaced by Mr. Schlozman, a high-level Justice Department lawyer who had made his name in the Bush administration by helping to turn the department away from its historic commitment to protecting the voting rights of minorities. Mr. Schlozman was one of the political appointees who approved Tom DeLay’s Texas redistricting plan and Georgia’s voter ID law, over the objection of career lawyers on the staff, who insisted that both violated the Voting Rights Act. McClatchy Newspapers reported that Mr. Schlozman also has been accused of hiring Justice Department lawyers based on their political party.

Mr. Schlozman injected the United States attorney’s office directly into the Talent-McCaskill race. Days before the election, he announced indictments of four people who were registering voters for the liberal group Acorn on charges of submitting false registration forms. The Republicans turned the indictments into an issue in the campaign, although Ms. McCaskill won the election anyway. Congress should investigate whether the indictments violated Justice Department guidelines, which say that election crime investigations should not be conducted right before an election, because they can themselves become a campaign issue.

Mr. Schlozman’s short stint in Missouri — he left after about a year — appears to be another case of the Bush administration’s politicizing federal prosecutors’ offices. Mr. Graves was reportedly on a list to be fired, and clues are emerging about why. He said this week that when he interviewed for the job, he was asked to name one attribute that describes him. “I said independent," he said. “Apparently, that was the wrong attribute."

Granted, we lack sufficient information to draw any conclusions that Schlozman was sent to Missouri to assist with Jim Talent's reelection but the circumstances are certainly suspect and worthy of further investigation. Keep in mind that the vast majority of U.S. Attorney appointees are members of the sitting president's party who have historically been strong political and financial supporters. Notwithstanding, the apparent need to hold and wield power was so strong that it led to dismissals and resignations of those who weren't using their positions within the justice department to further the objectives of the Bush administration.

Taken individually, each example of the Bush administration's efforts to push the partisan envelope could be viewed as the overzealous efforts of loyal, though misguided supporters. However, when viewed together, there is what lawyers might call an alarming pattern and practice. I've previously argued that there are similarities between the Nixon administration and the current Bush administration.

Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that George Bush has broken the law and should therefore be impeached...that is a subject for which I prefer to withhold commentary and judgment...I simply don't know enough to voice an opinion. What I'm talking about in drawing this comparison is the apparent fear that seems to be the driving force behind both of these presidents.

Richard Nixon was devastated by his early political losses and those experiences laid the foundation for his future actions and his virtual obsession with winning and holding power...even if that required questionable and illegal methods. The Richard Nixon that left office in disgrace had once been impassioned and sincere in his desire to serve...but the drive for power in conjunction with bitter loss apparently overwhelmed what remained of his good intentions

I would suggest that the George W. Bush psyche suffers from the same preoccupation. Perhaps its the result of his less than stellar track record in business coupled with his well documented substance abuse that led to the insecurity that so frequently leads otherwise good men astray. Add to that what I believe are issues with his father...perhaps the need for approval and vindication for prior moments of parental disappointment...perhaps it stems from the need to one up a successful father by winning a second term. Such influences are difficult to pinpoint but they can undoubtedly be significant.

Sadly, we humans are fragile beings who are often driven by those elements of our psyche that are furthest from our awareness. Unfortunately, they often dictate behavior and that means they have consequences. George W. Bush may have extracted some psychic victories in the last seven years but he may have also done so at the expense of his own well intentioned moral standing...as well as the best interest of the country he serves.

As a child, I remember my anger at Richard Nixon but I also remember my moments of empathy for a man who lost his way. With regard to George W. Bush, I suspect that my empathy is being held in reserve until his misguided white knuckles can be pried from the helm of this ship we call America.

Daniel DiRito | May 10, 2007 | 8:24 AM | link | Comments (0)
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May 9, 2007

White Woman, Black Man: How Big Is Ballot Box Bias? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Pew Research Center has a new poll that seeks to determine if the American public would be willing to elect a woman president. On its surface, one might argue that the results are encouraging...especially when compared to similar...

Daniel DiRito | May 9, 2007 | 12:45 PM | link | Comments (5)
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