Friday, May 19, 2006

Our national language

Oh, great! So now we have a “national language.” Something called “English,” whatever that is. The bill really didn’t define what “English” is so I’m not sure how they expect to enforce it.
What is “English” anyway? Is it the words I find in my Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language: Second College Edition (pulished in 1972)? Flipping through my dictionary I can find definitions for sombrero, adios, amigo, buenos dias, and pinata (which even uses a letter that is not in the English alphabet!)
Caramba! (Found that word in there, too.)
Heck, I even came across a bunch of German words and French words and Italian words. What a mess! Why someone could slip in every word of Spanish into our dictionary and then where would we be?!?

So I propose that we go back to the English language as it was when our Founding Fathers were writing the Constitution. Nevermind that they saw no need to enshrine the King’s English as the national language at the time. It is clearly a vitally pressing matter today or surely our Republican-controlled Congress would not be wasting time debating it. Right?

But then that may not be far enough back to ensure linguistic purity. Just to be safe, let’s go all the way back to our language’s beginnings, before it was polluted with all these other foreign dialects.

Here is a good example. The Lord’s Prayer presented in the standardised West Saxon literary dialect:

Fæder ure pu pe eart on heofonum,
Si pin nama gehalgod.
To becume pin rice,
gewurpe din willa, on eordan swa swa on heofonum.
urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg,
and forgyf us ure gyltas, swa swa we forgyfad urum gyltendum.
and ne gelæd pu us on costnunge, ac alys us of yfele. soplice.

Illegal immigrants pay taxes

In the comments to my post on border security, Gary states that “10-12 million illegal immigrants (are) taking advantage of our government programs without paying in any taxes...”

This is a common misperception that I want to address. As a matter of fact, illegal immigrants do pay taxes - an estimated $16 billion a year. And that is just counting federal income taxes. It doesn’t take into account sales taxes that everyone pays, or property taxes, which if they pay rent (and most likely do) then a portion of that rent is used by the landlord to pay property taxes.

Still, the argument is made that the $16 billion they pay in doesn’t make up for the estimated $26 billion they take out in government benefits. However, there are several problems with the study that makes this argument.

The study acknowledged that, on average, the costs that illegal-immigrant households bear on the federal government are less than half that of other households, and that many of those costs relate to their U.S.-born children.

And critics of the study point out that it does things like charge the costs of small-business loans and civil litigation that are unrelated to illegal immigrants. But the biggest fallacy about the study is the implication that all these expenses would disappear if these illegal immigrants and their children were to suddenly disappear. It won’t. You can take a school district’s budget and divide by the total number of students and then claim that each student receives X amount of government benefits. But that doesn’t mean if one student leaves the district, they suddenly save X amount of money.

The study also fails to consider the return on investment when these children of illegal immigrants use their public education to get a good paying job and start paying taxes. And, as we have seen, some of these children of illegal immigrants grow up to become U.S. Congressmen, Attorney General and Secretary of Commerce.

This is not to say that we should not enforce our immigration laws or guard our borders against illegal entry. But we should maintain a realistic perspective about the true costs and benefits of the people who for good or bad are already here to stay.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A multibillion dollar fence

After failing to fund border protection needs in his regular budgets, President Bush is suddenly ready to rush out and spend billions playing catch-up. Aside from calling out the National Guard to make up for the 6,000 border patrol agents that Bush refused to fund during the past several years, he is also advocating building a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. But did anyone imagine that this fence would cost billions? That’s right. That’s not a typo. Not millions, BILLIONS.
And who else can build billions dollar fences but giant military contractors.

Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, three of the largest, are among the companies that said they would submit bids within two weeks for a multibillion-dollar federal contract to build what the administration calls a "virtual fence" along the nation's land borders.

Multibillion-dollar federal contract! I imangine if we just spent a few hundred million dollars building the fence it might allow a few illegal immigrants to slip through once in awhile. What a travesty that would be!! So naturally, we have to spend multibillions.

And you know of course, based on their track record in Iraq, what will happen next. After about six months when only 20 percent of the fence is completed, they will go back to the government and say that they ran out of money and need more.

The really ironic thing, of course, is that these giant military contractors will probably subcontract most of the work out to small companies along the border that will hire illegal immigrants to build the new fence.

Play ball!

The baseball season is in full swing and looks like it will be a fun season to watch. The Houston Astros got off to a solid start although they have slipped back a bit. But the St. Louis Cardinals look like they will be tough to beat again so we may have to settle for another Wild Card bid to the playoffs. The Texas Rangers have done surprisingly well so far this season too and are leading their division (AL West) despite having a worse record than the Astros who have fallen to third place in the NL Central.
The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are neck and neck in the AL East which is unsuprising. But more interesting to watch, I think, is the AL Central where the Detroit Tigers led by former Ranger All Star Ivan Rodriguez are giving the defending champion Chicago White Sox a good race.
Another good race will be in the NL West where every team is playing better than .500 ball and less than two games currently separates the top dog San Diego Padres from the bottom scraping San Francisco Giants. And over in the NL East the New York Mets are doing surprisingly well.

Spurs height dilemma

Before moving to San Antonio five years ago, I had never lived in a town with a professional sports franchise before. Needless to say, the San Antonio Spurs have been fun to watch as they have won three championships in six years. But this year it looks like they may come up short which is distressing a lot of hardcore Spurs fans that I know. One of my friends is ready to dump the whole team with the exception of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
I admit that it is frustrating when the three stars are all having a great game and you still lose but I don’t think I would let go of folks like Bruce Bowen, Brent Barry and Michael Finley so easily. But there probably is something to the complaint that going with a small lineup - everyone with the exception of Duncan is under 6-6 - is making it hard to get rebounds and block opponents out of the lane.
It would appear that Coach Popovich doesn’t have a lot of faith in the other tall guys on the team like Rasho Nesterovic (7-0) and Nazr Mohammed (6-10), so I’m not sure what else they can do. Do you suppose David Robinson could be persuaded to come out of retirement?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

President Gore looks back

I missed seeing Al Gore on Saturday Night Live this past weekend. Fortunately, Crooks and Liars has the video here of President Gore reflecting on his first six years in office. Hilarious.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Playing politics with border security

President Bush’s plan to militarize our southern borders is a disgusting display of election-year pandering by the Worst President Ever.

President Bush will announce plans to deploy "up to 6,000" National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to support border patrol officers...

Nevermind that our National Guard troops have been stretched far beyond their limit by the neverending Quagmire in Iraq. Let’s just look at whether or not this is a good use of U.S. resources.

First, how much will it cost to mobilize 6,000 troops on the border? Where will they sleep? Where will they eat? How long will they have to be there?

Second, is this really a national security crisis that merits taking these part-time soldiers away from their families and their jobs for an unspecified period?

Third, why can’t our Border Patrol do the job their paid to do? Why not just hire some more border patrol agents and leave it at that?

Oooh! That’s a good question! Let’s look at that question for a minute. Here is the FY 2006 Budget for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.
They got a 4.5 percent increase which they tout as one of the biggest of any government agency. Surely, you can’t criticize the Bush administration for that.

But wait! Maybe you can... spite of what many feel is a generous budget increase, some security experts are disappointed over the continued lack of manpower at US borders and the lack of resolve to add the expected 10,000 new Border Patrol agents within the next five years....
The budget provides $36.9 million for 210 additional Border Patrol Agents, directly supporting the strategic goal to increase and extend control of the borders between the ports of entry. But critics complain that originally 2,000 border agents were supposed to be hired annually for five years and the 210 agents will not have much positive impact on border security.

So, the CBP requested funds for 2,000 more border patrol officers for 2006 and they got 1/10th of that, or enough for 210.
That doesn’t sound like the Bush administration thought this was all that serious of a crisis just a few months ago if they only funded 1/10th of the number of border patrol positions that had been requested.
But now, all of a sudden, Bush wants to mobilize the National Guard and send 6,000 troops down to the border? What has changed between then and now other than Bush’s plummeting approval rating?

Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, wasn’t too happy with the Bush administration’s proposed budget, although it didn’t get much play at the time.

The Bush administration sent a "hollow" budget to Capitol Hill that does not fulfill its funding commitment to add 1,500 law-enforcement officers to guard the borders against illegal aliens, key Senate appropriators said yesterday.
    "This is a situation of showing a proposal and then hiding the funds, and so we end up with a budget that we've got a $1.6 billion hole in," said Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican and chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security.
    Facing off against Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff during a budget hearing yesterday, Mr. Gregg said the funding priorities of the Bush administration treat border protection like "a stepchild of national defense."
    "I can't think of anything more significant to national defense than protecting our border and making sure that our homeland is secure, and yet the Department of Homeland Security is being starved for funds in crucial areas," Mr. Gregg said.
    "It's a hollow budget and I can't understand it because I've watched the press conferences where the administration has said it's committed to border security and domestic defense, and yet this budget isn't going to get there," Mr. Gregg said.

   This is inexcusable. If President Bush thinks we need 6,000 more bodies guarding our border then we need to provide the requisite funding to get qualified and trained people down there in the agency we already have tasked with doing that job. And they are doing it to the best of their understaffed ability.
In 2005 they apprehended 411,221 individuals attempting to cross the border illegally, up from 336,316 apprehended in 2004.
So they are doing their job, unfortunately the only support they get from this administration is lip service. At least until it serves the president’s political purposes to try and boost his anemic job approval ratings.

I feel safer now

Let me see if I have this straight.

We are going to take all the arms we had been selling to Venezuela and we are going to sell them to Libya.

OK, then.

Buyer’s remorse

I love this poll that shows people prefer Bill Clinton to George W. Bush by a wide margin. It gives me some hope that the electorate is finally recognizing how badly they screwed up during the past two election cycles.

Clinton was favored by greater than 2-to-1 on questions of handling the economy and solving the problems of ordinary Americans. He even bested Bush when it came to ethics and trust.

Who did a better job...

Handling the economy:
63 percent Clinton
26 percent Bush

Solving the problems of ordinary Americans:
62 percent Clinton
25 percent Bush

On foreign policy:
56 percent Clinton
32 percent Bush

On taxes:
51 percent Clinton
35 percent Bush

Handling natural disasters:
51 percent Clinton
30 percent Bush

Handling national security:
46 percent Clinton
42 percent Bush

Who was more honest:
46 percent Clinton
41 percent Bush

But Bush did win in one category:

Who did more to divide the country?
59 percent Bush
27 percent Clinton

I don’t think there is any question today that if the 2004 election were rerun knowing what we know now John Kerry would be president. In fact, if the 2000 election could be rerun, Al Gore would be president, as he should have been anyway.