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Thursday, June 28, 2007
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Senate blocks immigration bill

The Senate drove a stake Thursday through President Bush’s plan to legalize millions of unlawful immigrants, likely postponing major action on immigration until after the 2008 elections.

The bill’s supporters fell 14 votes short of the 60 needed to limit debate and clear the way for final passage of the legislation, which critics assailed as offering amnesty to illegal immigrants. The vote was 46 to 53 in favor of limiting the debate.

Senators in both parties said the issue is so volatile that Congress is highly unlikely to revisit it this fall or next year, when the presidential election will increasingly dominate American politics.

I have expected, from the very beginning, that this bill was not going to pass, and it appears now that those suspicions have been confirmed.

No doubt there will be much rejoicing and chest-thumping on conservative talk radio and at blogs like Michelle Malkin’s.

Now, I was never convinced of the merits of this particular bill and I have long taken a somewhat neutral (if not almost disinterested) view towards it, given that I never thought it would pass–so I have considered much of the discussion a bunch of sound and fury signifying nothing. Still, the one thing I find curious about the outcome, especially from the point of view of the more vociferous critics of the bill, is that with the bill’s defeat, nothing changes: we still have at least 12 million illegal immigrants in the US, and more will come. And despite all the hand-wringing over “amnesty” the bottom line is that we have de facto amnesty at the moment, and that isn’t going to change. Further, we seem, as a country, farther away from dealing with the economic realities of supply and demand that bring these people here in the first place than before this debate started a few years ago.

Any solution (if that is even the right word) for this situation is to recognize that short of making Mexico a first world economy, there will continue to be a serious influx of immigrants from the south no matter what we do. That is simply reality. From there the only policy solutions will have to be oriented towards managing that flow, not stopping it or even “controlling” it.

Some other suggestions for a sane debate:

  • There is no serious reconquista movement–unless the goal is to conquer the right to clean McDonald’s and pick vegetables. yes, there are fringe groups that have talked about retaking the Southwest–but they are kooks.
  • This isn’t about al Qaeda: if al Qaeda or other jihadists want to get into the US, there are easier ways to do than going to Mexico and trudging across the Sonoran desert.
  • We will never truly “control” the southern border–it is too big and real control (if by control is meant actually dictating all crossings) would take resources so vast as to be ridiculous.
  • Ultimately we have to focus on integration of new populations as a policy goal, rather than segmentation.

As I said before, there are a large number of very important issues that need to be debated here, and yes there are negative consequences of illegal immigration–but the balance sheet is not all negative (it certainly isn’t as dire as some would make it out to be).

It would be nice if we could have a serious debate about this issue and if that debate would result in sane policy. However, I shan’t be holding my breath.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Iran bans negative petrol stories

Iran’s top security body has ordered local journalists not to report on problems caused by petrol rationing, a day after its surprise introduction.

Angry motorists have reacted violently to the curbs, attacking up to 19 petrol stations in the capital, Tehran.

[...]

The authorities switched off the mobile text messaging system in Tehran overnight to prevent motorists from organising more protests.

[...]

Iranian TV initially did not mention the unrest and mostly interviewed people who said they supported the rationing.

The advantages, so to speak, of authoritarian government…

Pro-government newspapers have fallen in line, although some of the opposition press is not, according to the story.

Iranians are being limited to 100 liters of gasoline a month, or 3 liters a day. (That is 26.41 gallons a month or .79 gallons a day). Which, when one is a oil power, is especially problematic.

Also, inflation is in the 20%-30% range.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Seattle Times: Nation & World | Pope changes rules on papal elections

Pope Benedict XVI has changed the rules for electing popes, making it potentially harder to name a successor but ensuring that when the white smoke rises from the Sistine Chapel, the new pontiff will have broad support among cardinals.

Benedict issued a one-page document in Latin on Tuesday requiring that two-thirds of the cardinals in a conclave agree on the new pontiff. The move was a return to Vatican tradition and reversed Pope John Paul II’s 1996 decision to let an absolute majority decide on the next pope if they remained deadlocked after 33 rounds of balloting.

Well, maybe not so much reform as the reversal of previous reform.

I guess this means an even longer wait as we watch the Popestack when Benedict passes.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Spice Girls announce reunion tour

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Miliband is new foreign secretary

David Miliband has become UK foreign secretary in new Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s first Cabinet.

At 41 years old, he is the youngest person in the post since Dr David Owen had the job 30 years ago.

Mr Miliband has spent the past year as environment secretary but did not stand to be Labour’s leader or deputy leader, despite being tipped to do so.

[...]

Mr Miliband, the MP for South Shields since 2001, is considered as one of the more intellectual figures in the government.

He began working in Labour’s policy unit before the party’s election in 1997 and was brought into the Cabinet two years ago.

He was minister of communities and local government for 12 months before his appointment as environment secretary.

He replaces Margaret Beckett, who had been foreign secretary since May 2006.

More on the new cabinet here: New faces in huge Cabinet revamp.

The only name that is likely familiar to US readers is Jack Straw, who will now be justice secretary.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Thirteen die in Rio slum battle

Clashes between police and drug traffickers in a slum in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro have left at least 13 people dead, officials say.

Guns and grenades were used in the fighting, with armoured vehicles and helicopters backing police units.

The violence began when more than 1,000 policemen advanced on Alemao, the slum stronghold of a drug-dealing gang.

Rio de Janeiro officials are trying to make the city safer before it hosts the Pan-American games on 13 July.

[...]

More than 30 people had been killed and 80 injured since the police first surrounded the slums in northern Rio known as the German Complex on 2 May.

But Wednesday’s police operation was the biggest to date, triggering fierce fighting for several hours in the slums which are home to some 100,000 people.

The city is expecting around 800,000 tourists for the games and will also be hosting “the global series of Live Earth rock concerts on 7 July.”

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the LAT:Major drug suspect seized in Colombia

The capture of Herrera was one of the most important drug trafficking arrests in Colombia in recent years, a U.S. law enforcement official said Tuesday. Herrera is thought to have worked for various Colombian and Mexican cartels, he said.

[...]

A 2003 indictment in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., alleges that Herrera annually managed the shipment of several multi-ton loads of Colombian cocaine, ferrying it by air, land or sea to U.S. markets via Central America and Mexico.

After escaping from the Mexico City jail, Herrera allegedly did anything but retire. Authorities say he became instrumental in repatriating hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit profit from Colombian drug traffickers.

Sources said that Herrera was seized while arranging for a single-engine aircraft to carry $25 million from Central America to Colombia.

The piece starts with a story about how he tried to bribe the cops with $5 million. Apparently he can afford it:

After Herrera’s arrest in Mexico in April 2004, police searching his house in Guatemala found $14 million in cash. Herrera has “many properties” in Colombia and was heavily involved in laundering the drug profits he helped bring back here, DAS detectives said.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Does anyone out there with some web design experience know of an easy method for displaying RSS feeds on an otherwise static web page? Any suggestions would be welcome.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: White House, Cheney’s office, subpoenaed.

And, of course, the question is: will Cheney claim executive privilege? Or will he bow to the will of his Legislative Branch overlords?

Let’s just say I ain’t betting on the latter.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via WaPo: Cheney Aide Explains Stance on Classified Material

In a letter to Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Cheney Chief of Staff David S. Addington wrote that the order treats the vice president the same as the president and distinguishes them both from “agencies” subject to the oversight provisions of the executive order.

Addington did not cite specific language in the executive order supporting this view, and a Cheney spokeswoman could not point to such language last night. But spokeswoman Lee Anne McBride said the intent of the order, as expressed by White House officials in recent days, was “not for the VP to be separated from the president on this reporting requirement.”

Several thing come to mind:

First: the grand irony here is that this explanation is diametrically opposite from the “fourth branch” argument, as it firmly weds Cheney’s office to the very center of the executive branch (i.e., the President himself). So, now the argument is that the Office of the Vice President is so embedded in the executive branch as to be indistinguishable from the President as far as this Executive Order is concerned.

Second: as best I can tell, there is no language in the EO that could be interpreted as Addington’s letter asserts–which just further confuses this situation.

Third: it seems to me that all this is about the Vice President not being willing to admit that he didn’t want to comply with the EO any longer (he had done so for about two years) and simply quit doing so. Since the issue at hand was an EO and not a statute, it isn’t as if he couldn’t have simply asked the President to amend the EO. However, for some reason the VP seems to think that it is necessary to make convoluted arguments rather than explaining why he thought it was no longer necessary to comply and having the President make a determination as those action and to the EO.

It is as if actually having to explain himself in a cogent fashion was more painful that cooking up all of these “explanations.”

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