Saturday, May 20, 2006


Heading out to a conference today. Will return to sporadic blogging in a few days.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

On the Border

BushCheney’s dispatch of National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border is the third in American history. James Polk sent US forces into disputed territory between the Nueces and Rio Grande Rivers in 1846. Mexico attacked what it believed were foreign troops on its territory and the US took the opportunity to seize the disputed lands along with California and New Mexico. In 1916 Woodrow Wilson sent 6,000 troops to punish Pancho Villa for his attack on Columbus, New Mexico. Now BushCheney is sending the same number to assist the Border Patrol in controlling the border. Unlike 1846 and 1916 (apparently the US only sends troops to the border in years ending with six), this year’s deployment is support rather than engagement. It may yet evolve.

Using military force on the Mexican border is one for two in success. James Polk won big in the Mexican War. Woodrow Wilson never caught Pancho Villa but that dust-up faded into the vagaries of the Mexican Revolution. (It did, however, provide the basis for one of my favorite Warren Zevon songs.) BushCheney won’t be so lucky. Immigration is a BIG issue and he is on the wrong side of his political base. He’s sending troops to placate nativist, nationalist Americans who fear that Mexican immigrants will subvert our white, middle class culture. At the same time he serves his corporate (and financial) base by allowing illegals to remain in the US as guest workers. Offering a these workers a path toward citizenship prevents the Republican Party from totally alienating the fastest growing voting bloc in America as did California governor Pete Wilson in 1994.

In the absence of broader reform, BushCheney’s sleight-of-hand policy will do little to reduce illegal immigration. Its root cause is opportunity: lack of it in Mexico, abundance in the US. Unless Mexicans believe they have a future in their country they will continue to stream north, regardless of the obstacles. Mexico’s polarized economy reserves most wealth for a few; the rest live in poverty and want. The North American Free Trade Agreement was supposed to create opportunity in Mexico. What happened was that American jobs migrated south for a few years before jumping overseas to China. In the meantime, American agricultural products wiped out much of Mexico’s small scale agriculture, forcing many Mexicans off the land, into the cities and eventually to El Norte. Despite all of our efforts, America has not been able to stem this human tide. Six thousand National Guardsmen will not add much to the fight.

Edward Abbey would scoff at BushCheney’s meager effort. He would use real force in sealing America’s borders. I don’t fully agree with him on immigration but I cannot dispute the humanity behind his ideas.

Poverty, injustice, over breeding, overpopulation, suffering, oppression, military rule, squalor, torture, terror, massacre: these ancient evils feed and breed on one another in synergistic symbiosis. To break the cycles of pain at least two new forces are required: social equity-and birth control. Population control. Our Hispanic neighbors are groping toward this discovery. If we truly wish to help them we must stop meddling in their domestic troubles and permit them to carry out the social, political, and moral revolution which is both necessary and inevitable.

Or if we must meddle, as we have always done, let us meddle for a change in a constructive way. Stop every campesino at our southern border, give him a handgun, a good rifle, and a case of ammunition, and send him home. He will know what to do with our gifts and good wishes. The people know who their enemies are.

Without real change in Mexico, Americas borders will always be swamped with immigrants seeking just to live. BushCheney’s speech (and for that matter, much of the immigration debate in America) does nothing to address fundamental causes. Ed Abbey’s solution is risky and messy; despite much bloodshed Mexico’s history of revolution has not liberated its economy. Perhaps the US and Mexico should begin looking at some new ideas.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Data Mauling

Whatever I've written so far about BushCheney's telecommunications surveillance is still not as good as Billmon. My thoughts are nowhere near as sharp or clear as his simple reminder that the men who wrote the Constitution knew and feared the Leviathan.

Billmon and pretty much demonstrate whey this massive data sweep is a very bad idea.

Remember, this is The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight. Why does any American Think that BushCheney will ever get anything right?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Building a Better Haystack

To understand how unlikely data mining is to identify terrorist cells, read this article at BushCheney's broad data sweep is far more likely to waste limited resources while while doing nothing to reduce the risk of attacl.

And remember, BushCheney had PLENTY of warning of the 9-11 attack. He just didn't listen. NO ONE paid attention. I insist that this administration demonstrate competence with the tools already available before launching sweeping dragnets that only further complicate the task.