Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Terror scarf! (Seriously)

If you see Keffiyah (alias: "The Scarf"), do not let on that you have recognized him, do not approach him, do not confront him. Instead, call local law enforcement, the FBI, or preferably Michelle Malkin. We've all got to do our part to keep the Homeland safe!

PS -- Thank goodness, Dunkin' Donuts' responsible capitulation to conservative bloggers has allowed me to continue loving their sweet, America-friendly products, instead of hating them for destroying America.

Rachey Ray says, "Allahu Akbar, it's time to make the Donuts!"

Sunday, May 25, 2008

'Immigrationomics' 101

For those interested in a rational, informed debate about immigration reform, and not demagoguery, check out the following:

1) A short discussion with Prof. Bill Ford, author of "Immigrationomics:"

2) And his short paper titled "Immigrationomics:"

Diplomacy is not appeasement

The Appeasement Paradox
By Matthew Yglesias
May 23, 2008 | American Prospect

George W. Bush, never one to miss an opportunity for a partisan cheap shot, decided last week that a Knesset speech to mark the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence was an appropriate moment to smack Barack Obama around a bit. Specifically, Bush compared Obama's view that it might make sense to enter into some good-faith negotiations with Iran to the actions of those who appeased Hitler prior to World War II. John McCain couldn't resist chiming in: "There have been appeasers in the past, and the president is exactly right, and one of them is Neville Chamberlain."

Thus we plunge once again into an incoherent line of argument the American right has employed for decades. Of course, back in the 1930s when there was actual appeasement happening in Europe, American conservatives weren't complaining. But after the war, conservatives started flinging the accusation willy-nilly. Franklin Roosevelt was said to have sold freedom down the river to Stalin at the Yalta conference, General Douglas MacArthur criticized Harry Truman for waging a limited war in Korea and sought to move to all-out battle between the United States and the combined forces of the USSR and China. Barry Goldwater deemed the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis appeasement, and Ronald Reagan termed the SALT II arms-control treaty signed by the Carter administration appeasement. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton was regularly accused of appeasing China.

Nor have Republicans been immune to the charge. When Dwight Eisenhower, having wisely sidelined the far-right elements of the GOP that wanted to "roll back" communism agreed to a meeting with Nikita Khruschev, William F. Buckley Jr. deemed it "an act of diplomatic sentimentality which can only confirm Khruschev in the contempt he feels for the dissipated morale of a nation far gone." Indeed, as Peter Scoblic has noted, even Reagan wasn't immune to the charge, facing allegations from his right flank of appeasing the Soviets after he embraced arms control and negotiated the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Needless to say, none of the oft-forecast dire consequences of appeasement flowed from any of these incidents.

In part, this is all political opportunism, but on other levels it reflects a fundamental conservative misapprehension of how the world works.

One defining feature of appeasement-phobia, after all, is a curious tendency to underrate the importance of objective reality in determining the behavior of foreign countries. In a speech Tuesday on Cuba policy, McCain derided willingness to "sit down unconditionally for a presidential meeting with Raul Castro" on the grounds that this would "send the worst possible signal to Cuba's dictators -- there is no need to undertake fundamental reforms; they can simply wait for a unilateral change in U.S. policy." The idea that Cuban decision-making would hinge on a "signal" from Washington is baffling. After all, the past 50 years of failed American efforts to starve the Cuban people into rebelling against the Castro regime is better evidence than any signal that Havana has no need to back down in the face of our embargo. Similarly, Buckley worried that meeting Khruschev would signal low U.S. morale to Moscow, with unspecified dire results. And McCain says the trouble with meeting with Iranian leaders (when he's not too busy being confused about who the leaders of Iran are) is that a meeting "is the most prestigious card we have to play" and scheduling one might give the Iranians an ego boost and "confer both international legitimacy on the Iranian president and could strengthen him domestically."

That's all fine, but the premise of the appeasement frame is that we're dealing with hardcore irrational ideologues who'll stop at nothing to destroy us. Adolf Hitler actually was such a man and, not coincidentally, he wasn't particularly interested in acquiring the international prestige and legitimacy associated with a sit-down with English politicians -- he wanted a giant war. In general, the right wants us to believe that world history is littered with countries whose rulers, like Hitler, will stop at nothing short of world-domination but who also spend their evenings fondly dreaming of the chance at a White House photo-op. But that's absurd. One shouldn't, of course, strike a bad bargain with a foreign country just because you held a meeting, but to fear that the very act of holding a meeting is a blow to the national interest is silly. Genuine madmen aren't going to care what "signal" we're sending, and non-crazy people can be productively bargained with.

The truth, however, is that conservatives don't just make this mistake over and over again, they fundamentally don't understand the use of diplomacy. McCain describes Iran as "an implacable foe of the United States" but the truth is that the Iranian government made several post-September 11 overtures to the U.S. seeking to improve relations. The real implacable foe of our era is al-Qaeda, the same al-Qaeda that's recently been denouncing Iran Bush/McCain-style for an alleged plot to dominate the Middle East. But the Bush administration rejected those overtures out of hand, preferring to hold out for regime change. As Dick Cheney said of North Korea, "we don't negotiate with evil, we defeat it."

But in truth we rarely have. Rather, we've historically tried to maintain enough military strength to prevent ourselves from being defeated, while working to build up the prosperity of ourselves and our allies and watching liberal democracy -- the worst system of government except all the others -- spread as alternative regimes inevitably collapse. War and conflict are incredibly costly and destructive. Wise statesmen recognize the negative-sum nature of relating to foreigners primarily by blowing them up. Moreover, it's usually possible to reach agreements with even very bad people that both sides deem preferable to fighting. In refusing to even contemplate negotiations, conservatives are being flatly irrational, spurning offers of a half a loaf for no real reason.

They're acting, in short, like the demonic foreigners of their own anti-appeasement rhetoric, impervious to objective reality and hell-bent on total victory no matter what the cost or how dim the prospects of success.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Study: Illegals contribute billions to economy

Report: Illegal immigrants contribute billions to Nevada
By Timothy Pratt
May 23, 2008 | Las Vegas Sun

If Nevada's undocumented workers left tomorrow, the state would lose tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars, according to the first report to quantify the impact.

The study, from the Houston-based Americans for Immigration Reform, estimates 45,000 jobs would be lost over time and $9.6 billion would no longer circulate through Nevada's economy each year.

The report is particularly timely because something like the posited scenario — losing tens of thousands of workers — may well be occurring in the Las Vegas Valley. In an April 6 story, the Sun reported that an estimated 60 percent to 80 percent of the valley's residential construction workers are illegal immigrants. With the downturn in the new housing market, tens of thousands of immigrants have lost jobs and are no longer feeding as much money into the local economy. Many are leaving the area.

Because these workers live and work under the radar, economists did not foresee the effects of their lost wages and spending on state revenue; some say more accurate information could have helped the state plan better and avoid some of its current shortfalls.

Nearly two years ago, Assemblyman Moises Denis, D-Las Vegas, unsuccessfully called for a study calculating the effect of illegal immigrants on Nevada's economy. He says the Texas group's effort is "a good start."

The report's conclusions about Nevada "don't surprise me," Denis says. "I don't think it's inflated."

A colleague of his, state Sen. Bob Beers, isn't so sure. "What's missing," Beers says, "is an attempt to quantify the costs to society and government" of the illegal immigrant population. He points to the school system as an example, with its large population of students learning English as a second language.

The Perryman Group, a Texas company with 30 years in economic research, conducted the study. Ray Perryman, the company's president, says his report does try to account for the costs Beers cites.

Perryman allows that his outfit doesn't have access to each state's tax or social service records, but says he uses data gathered in other studies, including one the state of Texas did, for a model that includes those costs. The report estimates that Nevada in 2007 had 130,000 undocumented immigrants in its workforce, or 9 percent of its total number of workers, the fourth-highest percentage in the nation behind Arizona, California and Texas.

The study says the United States would eventually lose 2.8 million jobs and $551 billion in annual spending without undocumented workers — not only the jobs held by those workers but jobs lost in other industries as losses rippled through the economy. The state and national figures cited take into account adjustments the economy would make, over time, in the absence of illegal immigrants, the report's authors say.

Maureen Kilkenny, a professor in the resource economics department at the University of Nevada, Reno, wonders whether Perryman's work doesn't reflect the interests of the businesses in the group, Americans for Immigration Reform, which paid Perryman to do the work.

She says the report doesn't factor into its calculations the difference between wages offered undocumented workers in sectors such as construction and services and what would be paid to legal workers in those sectors.

"The study looks only at the interests of employers ... who can get away with hiring workers at a lower cost," Kilkenny says.

Beers, somewhat similarly, thinks the study is an example of "when you start on a mission to conclude something, you usually get there."

Beto Cardenas, counsel to the Houston-based group and spokesman for the report, says its conclusions are based on facts, and that he welcomes similar studies with different conclusions. Perryman says his group's reputation precedes this report and that he "started with a blank piece of a paper and went from there."

The study took about six months and cost about $100,000, Perryman says.

Denis says Nevada needs to have its own version. "We need to be worried in Nevada how we handle this issue. We depend on these workers and ... if we don't have an opportunity to bring in more workers in the future, it is going to have an impact."

Rev. Rausch: Is war the answer?

Are wars inevitable?
By Father John S. Rausch
May 8, 2008 | Spero News

The United States spends more on defense than all other nations combined. Considering the basic budget for the Department of Defense that covers salaries, operations and equipment and the supplemental budget that pays for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense spending bests the second military spender by nearly a factor of ten. The supplemental itself for funding the two wars looms larger than the combined military budgets of China and Russia.

In addition, the government has folded a variety of military-related expenditures into departments other than Defense. The Department of Energy FY 2008 will spend $23 billion on developing and maintaining nuclear warheads, and the State Department will distribute an additional $25 billion among allies as foreign military assistance.

Add in obligations with Veterans Affairs, military recruiting and Homeland Security, plus Military Retirement, the paramilitary activities of the FBI, outer space related security and interest for past debt-financed defense spending, and U.S. spending on its military establishment for the current year, according to Chalmers Johnson, professor emeritus at University of California, San Diego, reaches $1.1 trillion!

In a 2006 Angus Reid poll, 65 percent of Americans said the country has been "too quick to get American military forces involved" in conflicts. Instead, the American public supports more preventive security measures like diplomacy, nuclear nonproliferation, peacekeeping and foreign aid.

A 2007 World Public Opinion poll found 78 percent of Americans "believe that all countries should eliminate their nuclear weapons" through a well-coordinated international verification system. Yet, the military budget continues to grow and has more than doubled since the end of the Cold War.

Behind the expanded military budget lies certain structural reasons for this aggressive spending. Prior to World War II, the U.S. had no dedicated arms industry. In time of war, manufacturers would convert their facilities from producing consumer goods to military hardware. That changed after the war.

In his Farewell Address to the Nation in 1961, President Eisenhower confessed, "...we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions." Yet, later in the speech he issued his famous warning: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial-complex."

Eisenhower recognized the need for arms manufacturers, yet emphasized their dangers. Originally, his notable phrase read: "the military-industrial-congressional-complex," though he chose to drop the one term in the final draft of the speech.

Yet, Congressional representatives get reelected when they bring home federal money to their districts, and arms manufacturers make profit when they sell weapons to the government. Killing a weapons system becomes near impossible because of the economic and political impact. The F/A-22 "Raptor" fighter jet, for example, designed to counter a Soviet aircraft that was never built, has one thousand subcontractors in 42 states.

People of faith recognize morally troubling aspects of the military-industrial-congressional-complex. Plainly, the opportunity cost–what could have been purchased instead of military items–represents a matter of justice. The catastrophe of a bridge collapse in Minnesota and the levees' failure in New Orleans represent essential infrastructure problems overlooked while unnecessary weapons get funded.

Morally, opportunity costs represent choices: eradicate polio worldwide or do 3 tests of the missile defense system; vaccinate 10 million children worldwide or buy 6 Trident II missiles; provide health coverage for 7 million children or fund the nuclear weapons program for one year.

The words of Paul VI remain true today: "If you want peace, work for justice." Justice demands we rethink the military-industrial-congressional-complex that robs society of essential goods and services while raising the threat of more and longer wars.

Rev. John S. Rausch is a Roman Catholic priest serving the communities of the Appalachian region of the US.