Friday, August 26, 2011

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

China as strategic competitor

“Lenin once said: When it comes time to hang the capitalists, they will sell us the rope. Even he didn't expect that the capitalists would provide their enemies with the funds for the rope as well.”
--Clifford D. May (1), January 13, 2005, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies’ symposium (2) on “Propaganda and Terrorism”
Lenin, of course, was talking about “capitalists,” the bane of the collective. While Mr. May was referring to the Saudis and Iranians and the capital provided by their oil revenues that funds the radical Wahhabi madrassahs and Shiite Islamic terrorists. It seems not much of a stretch to see how this also applies to the economic and strategic relationship between China, the West in general, and the United States in particular.

Now, the first definition of “strategy” according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary (3) is:
1 a (1) : the science and art of employing the political, economic, psychological, and military forces of a nation or group of nations to afford the maximum support to adopted policies in peace or war
while the third is given as:
3 : an adaptation or complex of adaptations (as of behavior, metabolism, or structure) that serves or appears to serve an important function in achieving evolutionary success
Both these definitions would seem to apply to the economic reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping (4) in the late ‘70s. For he did not embrace a total abandonment of Marxist-Leninist ideals but an evolved hybrid economic system wherein the Communist leadership would still do the central planning but implement the plans through market mechanisms rather than central party dictates. The ten years of the Cultural Revolution had devastated China economically as well as in many other way. Deng, the last great personage left alive from among the ranks of the long marchers, proclaimed that socialism did not mean that the proletariat and peasants should be forever condemned to a state of “shared poverty.” And so at the age of 76 Deng Xiaoping carefully, deliberately and strategically began the opening of China to outside capital, technology and markets in order to achieve the transformation – an evolutionary adaptation – of China’s ancient but now collectivist society into a modern industrial giant.

A mere quarter-century later the results are astonishing. A visitor to China twenty years ago might have described the visit as a trip to a planet from our past. Today, in the industrialized metropolitan centers, it is a trip to the modern present, and in some cases might even be considered a trip to future planet. This was achieved through the extraordinary hard work of the Chinese people who were enabled by the investment of capital and technology by the West. All the while all economic activity was directed and moderated by the plans and policies of the Chinese Communist Party.

And just what kind of policies might the Party planners implement? First, currency control. No one is permitted to speculate with the yuan as it will be pegged to the U.S. dollar so as to strictly control the exchange rate. If you wish to do business with and in China you just have to live with it. Period. What has been the result of this policy? China’s foreign exchange reserves (5), which includes all its reserve currencies, have grown almost exponentially and will probably exceed one trillion (6) U.S. dollars (excluding Hong Kong) before the end of this year. It’s currency remains undervalued (7) by as much as forty percent, thus keeping China’s exports very inexpensive indeed. While the U.S. Chamber of Commerce assails (8) China over copyright fraud and currency manipulation, even the normally hard-to-ignore Senator Chuck Schumer (9) seems but easily ignored (10) by the cat-bird-seated Chinese.

Though no longer a strict requirement (11), for most of the period since the economic opening of China foreign ownership of joint ventures was generally limited (12) to forty-nine percent. This meant that managerial control and decision making remained in Chinese hands while any technology contributed by the foreign partners became Chinese property. If you wanted to do business in China, technology transfer was mandatory. Boeing is teaching (13) the Chinese how to manufacture aircraft components using the latest composite construction techniques and General Electric is handing over generator designs (14$) while footnoting that the transferred technology is not the “most advanced.” The same has been true for General Motors which has achieved success with it’s Buick line of autos in China, but also at the price of telling its hosts everything they wanted to know about how and why everything is done. Such a deal.

Intellectual property is not held sacred by the Middle Kingdom. At least that which they deem not worth protecting. For years the U.S. has beseeched China to clamp down on entertainment and PC software pirating (15) to little or no avail. The Chinese knockoff business, however, is apparently not limited in scope to within China proper. There’s a recent story about a factory in Italy, said to be owned by two Chinese businessmen, that’s turning out counterfeit Gucci and Louis Vuitton bags and other branded accessories in the Tuscan town of Prato. Italian police confiscated more that 650,000(!) fakes in a raid (16) that also uncovered a dormitory for illegal immigrants who produced the bags. Now, it may be unfair to taint the Chinese bureaucracy with this specific example of overseas shenanigans, but when business ethics and intellectual property protections are merely paid lip service by those that govern and regulate, such bold piracy seems much more likely to occur.

But overseas shenanigans in the form of industrial espionage and intellectual property theft are more the rule than the exception when it comes to China. As Peter Brookes of the Heritage Foundation informs (17) us:
"One good spy is worth 10,000 soldiers."— Sun Tzu, ancient Chinese military strategist […]

But don't think James Bond. It's all much more methodical — and mundane.

Chinese intelligence collection uses numerous low-level spies to painstakingly collect one small piece of information at a time until the intelligence question is answered. Kind of like building a beach one grain of sand at a time.[…]

China also doesn't rely on "professional" spies stationed overseas to the extent other major intel services do. Instead, it uses low-profile civilians to collect information.

The PRC's Ministry of State Security (MSS) often co-opts Chinese travelers, especially business people, scientists and academics, to gather intel or purchase technology while they're in America.

The MSS especially prizes overseas Chinese students, hi-tech workers and researchers living in the U.S. because of their access to sensitive technology and research/development that Beijing can use for civilian and military purposes.

Of course, not all the 150,000 Chinese students and researchers now in America, or the 25,000 official PRC delegates — or the 300,000 victors (sic) — are spies, but they do provide the MSS with a large pool of potential recruits for collecting secrets on U.S. targets of interest.
But what do you do when there isn’t a fellow traveler in the right place at the right time to get what you wish to possess? Well, if necessary, get out the checkbook and use some of that foreign exchange surplus you’ve accumulated or just find an overseas native sympathetic to China:
An equal opportunity employer, the MSS (China’s Ministry of State Security) will, of course, "hire" sympathetic Americans — or any ethnicity — that will further China's cause, including scholars, journalists and diplomats, among others.

The United States isn't the only country with a Chinese spy problem. The MSS runs an espionage network against scientific labs and large research universities in several European countries, including the U.K., France, the Netherlands and Germany. In Asia, Taiwan recently arrested 17 of its military officers for working for the PRC.
While Americans were being treated to a daily barrage of Clinton’s “Oval Office Adventures with Monica,” the Senate Intelligence Committee was preparing a classified report that included a detailed history of China’s theft of American nuclear weapons designs as well as its history as an egregious weapons proliferator. The Senate version of the report was so revealingly detailed that it had to be reissued later in redacted form (18) by the House of Representatives:
IMPORTANT NOTE: This declassified report summarizes many important findings and judgments contained in the Select Committee’s classified Report, issued January 3, 1999. U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies within the Clinton administration have determined that other significant findings and judgments contained in the Select Committee’s classified Report cannot be publicly disclosed without affecting national security or ongoing criminal investigations.
So, we can’t be told the really, really bad stuff but what we can be told is that:
• The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has stolen design information on the United States’ most advanced thermonuclear weapons.

• The Select Committee judges that the PRC’s next generation of thermonuclear weapons, currently under development, will exploit elements of stolen U.S. design information.

• PRC penetration of our national weapons laboratories spans at least the past several decades and almost certainly continues today.
And when it comes to the Chinese proliferating weapons they’ve legitimately developed themselves or by means of stolen technology we learn that:
The PRC is one of the leading proliferators of complete ballistic missile systems and missile components in the world.

The PRC has sold complete ballistic missile systems, for example, to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and missile components to a number of countries including Iran and Pakistan. The PRC has proliferated military technology to Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea.[…]

The Select Committee is aware of information of further PRC proliferation of missile and space technology that the Clinton administration has determined cannot be publicly disclosed without affecting national security.

See the chapter PRC Acquisition of U.S. Technology for more detailed discussion of the Select Committee’s investigation of these matters.
Again, we don’t get to see the really, really bad – or good, depending on your viewpoint – details that are in the Senate version of the report. What we are told comes from the House “U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China” report, more succinctly and popularly known as the “Cox Report.”(19) Guess the American public, mainstream media and legislators paid too much attention to the wrong set of events tag-able with that moniker.

The United States is not, however, the only supplier, through means legitimate or otherwise, of weapons systems and military technology to China. As the Taipei Times complained (20), “French perfidy must be challenged.” And just what did the French do to deserve this uncomplimentary description? Well,
As France tries to pressure the rest of the EU into lifting the arms embargo on China, some readers might remember that Christine Deviers-Joncour -- the erstwhile mistress of former French foreign minister Roland Dumas whose tell-all books played a serious role in clarifying details of the scandal surrounding the kickbacks involved in Taiwan's purchase of Lafayette frigates in the early 1990s -- once wrote a book about herself called The Whore of the Republic.

The former lingerie model's right to this title is now under severe challenge from France's Defense Minster Michele Alliot-Marie, who last week said -- and you should probably reach for your sick bags now -- "France has the strictest, most stringent rules applying to the sale of weapons of the European Union and probably in the world." As the American writer Fran Lebowitz once said: "To the French, lying is simply talking."

In Taiwan we know about French arms sales -- principally how they are manipulated so that everyone in on the deal can pocket huge wads of cash at the taxpayers' expense. According to Dumas himself, the sum involved in the Lafayette case was US$500 million with People First Party Chairman James Soong's then office, the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) secretariat general, acting as bagman. What could Alliot-Marie's "strict rules" be? Perhaps she means a strict scale of bribes.

Unfortunately, even the Israelis are not without sin when it comes to selling arms to the Chinese. One deal that didn’t go through because of intervention by President Clinton – see, on occasion even he did the “right thing” – was the sale to China by Israel of the Phalcon Airborne Early Warning System.

William Safire described (21) this deal with China as “shameful”:
Li Peng, China's hardest-line Communist leader - the man famed for ordering the Tiananmen massacre - was feted in Israel this month.

After a visit to the Holocaust memorial, foreign ministry officials took him to the Israeli Aircraft Industries facility near Ben-Gurion Airport. He inspected a Russian-built plane, owned by the Chinese, on which Israel is installing an advanced AWACS battle-management system called the Phalcon.

Israel is charging a quarter of a billion dollars for the aerial reconnaissance radar installation, and has a contract for three more. It's a lucrative deal. It may also be the biggest geopolitical blunder any Israeli government ever made.

Free Chinese on Taiwan have no such high-altitude early warning system. Combined with the new long-range and surface-to-air missiles being installed by the PRC in Zhangzhou, China's Israeli purchases will give it a ``qualitative edge'' in any military confrontation in the Taiwan Strait. That would include, of course, new ability for China to look down on and target any U.S. warships sent to discourage invasion.

Why is Israel, a small democratic nation threatened by powerful neighbors, helping to menace Taiwan, another small democratic nation threatened by a nearby tyranny?
When the deal got cancelled at Clinton’s insistence, Jonathan Adelman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs opined (22):
The Israeli decision, under intense American pressure, to cancel the sale of the Phalcon Airborne Early Warning System to China during the Camp David summit in July 2000 threatens to be a major foreign policy debacle for Israel.

What was once a promising Israeli endeavor to develop strategic and lucrative commercial relations with a rising great power now lies in tatters. The Chinese, still angry over the Phalcon debacle and loss of face, have demanded large-scale compensation. The Americans, the reigning superpower, demand a veto over Israeli arms sales to certain countries. Israel's very credibility as an arms exporter has been called into question.

…Israel began to develop close ties with China beginning at the end of the 1970s, and in recent years these ties have become particularly strong in the area of defense. Yet Israel's security is primarily dependent on its relations with the United States -- a country perceived by the Chinese as the main obstacle to achieving their national objectives. This leads to great risks for Israel, as evidenced by the forced cancellation of the Phalcon deal.
The Chinese-Israeli business relationship was put back to ‘normal’ when Israel agreed to settle what had turned into a long-running quarrel with China by paying (23) $350 million as compensation for the cancellation of the deal to supply the Phalcon system.

But the U.S. is certainly not without grievous fault – maxima culpa for the classically inclined. This is illustrated by our own Clinton-approved sales of missile and satellite technology to the Chinese as the ever-vigilant David Horowitz explains (24):

Thanks to the Cox Report, we now know that the seven years of the Clinton presidency have coincided with the most massive breach of military security in American history.

As a result of the calculated degrading of security controls at America's nuclear laboratories, the Chinese communists have been able to steal the designs of our arsenal of nuclear weapons, including our most advanced warheads.

As a result of the 1993 Clinton decision to terminate the COCOM security controls that denied sensitive technologies to nuclear proliferators and potential adversary powers, the Chinese communists have been given the secrets of our intercontinental ballistic missile systems, along with previously restricted computer hardware. This allows them for the first time to target cities in the United States.
Well, enough of this spilt-milk, water-under-the-bridge nonsense. Over the dam of the last twenty years what did America get out of its trade and economic policies vis-à-vis the Chinese? We certainly didn’t receive any advanced technology from them as a result of our trade relationship. Has our military capability relative to China improved or deteriorated? Has their foreign policy proved congruent with that of the U.S. in our dealings with countries such as North Korea and Iran? Where in the world, the third world especially, aren’t the Chinese making inroads and weakening the influence (25) of the United States? Seems there are many, not a few even in this country, who consider that an improvement and a sign of progress for mankind. What, in fact, of lasting value have we accumulated with our credit-financed purchases of vast quantities of Chinese consumer goods?

Debt. And plenty of it.

Now, the American voting and consuming public has been hearing for years how “free trade” is a panacea for curing economic stagnation and just great for re-invigorating the health of America’s post-industrial, service-oriented economy. We’ve been fed the pabulum that the trade deficit is really something we need not worry about and, as far as the federal budget deficit is concerned, that’s not a real problem since that debt is owed to ourselves. If you’ve been among those who’ve swallowed all of this, or have just pushed it to the bottom of your things-I’ve-got-to-worry-about list, you are probably in for a very rude awakening.


As reported (26$) by Mark Whitehouse in the Wall Street Journal:
U.S. Foreign Debt Shows Its Teeth As Rates Climb - Net Payments Remain Small But Pose Long-Term Threat To Nation's Living Standards

Over the past several years, Americans and their government enjoyed one of the best deals in international finance: They borrowed trillions of dollars from abroad to buy flat-panel TVs, build homes and fight wars, but as those borrowings mounted, the nation's payments on its net foreign debt barely budged.

Now, however, the easy money is coming to an end. As interest rates rise, America's debt payments are starting to climb -- so much so that for the first time in at least 90 years, the U.S. is paying noticeably more to its foreign creditors than it receives from its investments abroad. The gap reached $2.5 billion in the second quarter of 2006. In effect, the U.S. made a quarterly debt payment of about $22 for each American household, a turnaround from the $31 in net investment income per household it received a year earlier.
Please note the bit about “…for the first time in at least 90 years, the U.S. is paying noticeably more to its foreign creditors than it receives from its investments abroad.” This is not the same old refrain about trade and budget deficits. This is new, at least if you’re less than about 110 or so years old, and may represent a major tipping point in America’s economic and power relationship with the rest of the world.

What’s happened is that budget and trade deficits have combined to make the U.S. a net debtor nation paying more in interest to other nations than it receives in earnings from overseas investments. This is the result of large budget deficits that were financed by foreign nationals and foreign nations buying U.S. Treasury instruments with all those extra dollars they had accumulated selling us all that oil and all those consumer goods that we so covet. In other words, folks, we no longer owe our national debt to ourselves. We owe it to others to a greater extent than they owe us.

All this seems to imply some belt-tightening is in our future:
The size of the nation's debt payments matters because it represents a share of income that American consumers, companies and government won't be able to spend or save. The higher the debt payments, the harder it will be for the U.S. to prosper.

"Your standard of living is going to be reduced unless you work much harder," says Nouriel Roubini, chairman of Roubini Global Economics. "The longer we wait to adjust our consumption and reduce our debt, the bigger will be the impact on our consumption in the future."
And just how bad could it get?
Among economists' biggest concerns, though, is the fast pace at which the U.S. is accumulating new debt. As that leads to larger interest payments, it will make the current-account deficit harder to control -- a vicious cycle that could accelerate if worried foreign investors demand higher interest rates to compensate for the added risk.

"You end up having to pay more and borrow more," says the University of California's Prof. Gourinchas. "Things could get out of hand very quickly."
Well, maybe things aren’t as rosy as we often hear on the evening news in those quickie macroeconomic reports. Low unemployment levels, rising household income and record corporate profit reports don’t seem to tell the whole story. If America has maxed-out its collective national credit card, no one in Washington will be willing to take any responsibility for our short-sighted economic policies when the free-trade and fiscal-finger-pointing merd hits the fan.

And where does that leave the country after we’ve consumed ourselves into poverty with a $800 billion per year trade deficit?(27$) Two hundred billion or so of that being with China. That’s right. We’re rapidly approaching one trillion per year. That would be a lot of dollars even to Everett Dirksen (28), the late Republican Senator from Illinois who once quipped regarding Congressional fiscal follies, “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money.” Even today a billion dollars is “real” money. But there aren’t enough politicians in Washington who think so to make a substantive difference in America’s spending habits. We seem be unable to curb our own appetites. We may quickly be approaching the day when our global competitors will, despite our inability to do so ourselves, wean us off our excesses.

When and if that day comes, we will have neither the economic nor military muscle to protect and advance our national interest in a world dominated by a country we helped bring into the twenty-first century – having done so by significantly impoverishing ourselves financially, technologically and morally.

Think they’ll thank us?


(1) Clifford D. May, Biography Section, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies

(2) Clifford D. May, Opening Remarks: Symposium on "Propaganda and Terrorism", Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, January 13, 2005


(4) “Deng Xiaoping”, Wikipedia free encyclopedia, October 5, 2006

(5) “Foreign exchange reserves”, Wikipedia free encyclopedia, September 28, 2006

(6) Macartney & Duncan, “Chinese foreign reserves to exceed $1 trillion”, The Times, March 29, 2006

(7) Entry for July 21, China Reform Monitor No. 635, American Foreign Policy Council, August 16, 2006

(8) “US business leaders assail China over copyright fraud, currency”, Channel NewsAsia, MediaCorp News, September 28, 2006

(9) “Good call by Graham and Schumer”, Washington Times editorial, April 2, 2006

(10) Irwin M. Stelzer, “Surprise, Surprise – The economy isn’t performing exactly as expected”, The Daily Standard, October 3, 2006

(11) “Cargill Acquires Full Ownership of Its Xanthan Gum Joint Venture in China”, Cargill Corporation News Release, August 7, 2006

(12) “Commercial Presence in China – Transportation and Related Services”, Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration bulletin, December, 2001

(13) “Boeing 787 Highlights $600 Million in Contracts with Chinese Suppliers”, Boeing Aircraft Corporation news release, June 2, 2005

(14) Kathryn Kranhold, “China's Price for Market Entry: Give Us Your Technology, Too”, Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2004

(15) Engardio & Yang, “The Runaway Trade Giant – As its impact on the U.S. economy expands, China is also growing less vulnerable to American pressure on key issues”, Business Week, April 12, 2006

(16) “Fake Gucci, Vuitton bags seized in Italy - Police raid counterfeiting factory in Prato, Italy, said to be run by Chinese businessmen”, Reuters, September 25 2006

(17) Peter Brookes, “Legion of Amateurs: How China spies”, The Heritage Foundation, May 31, 2005

(18) Rep. Christopher Cox et al., “U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China”, Overview of the Report of the House of Representatives Select Committee, May, 1999

(19) Rep. Christopher Cox et al., “U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China”, Report of the House of Representatives Select Committee, May, 1999

(20) “Editorial: French perfidy must be challenged”, Taipei Times, March 14, 2005

(21) William Safire, “Israel’s Deal with China on Weapons Is Shameful”, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 24, 1999

(22) Jonathan Adelman, ”The Phalcon Sale to China: The lessons for Israel”, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, March 1, 2002

(23) John Gee, “Phalcon fight over at last, as Israel agrees to pay China $350 million”, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April 1, 2002

(24) David Horowitz, “The Manchurian Presidency”, Salon, June 21, 1999

(25) Joshua Kurlantzick, “How China is Changing Global Diplomacy”, The New Republic, June 27, 2005

(26) Mark Whitehouse, “U.S. Foreign Debt Shows Its Teeth As Rates Climb”, Wall Street Journal, September 25, 2006

(27) Greg Hitt, “Trade Deficit Climbs to a Record, Driven by Summer Oil Prices”, Wall Street Journal, September 13, 2006

(28) “Everett Dirksen”, Wikipedia free encyclopedia, October 2, 2006

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Dots that need connecting?

This week sees the latest, but certainly not greatest, revelation regarding the Bush Administration’s abuse of power – its intrusion into SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, a Belgium-based financial cooperative. With the New York Times in the lead, the Los Angeles Times a close second, and the Wall Street Journal following-up ($), we learn that:

The program, however, is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans' financial records. Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specific transactions, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from the cooperative, known as Swift.

That access to large amounts of sensitive data was highly unusual, several officials said, and stirred concerns inside the administration about legal and privacy issues.

That concern for “legal and privacy issues" prompted the ACLU to issue its own take on this “further abuse of power” while Captain’s Quarters noted and commented on how quickly these ever-vigilant guardians of freedom for all – including terrorists – had “jumped into the fray.”

Over at the Weekly Standard, Heather Mac Donald justifiably condemns the New York Times for its “guiding philosophy” of ignoring national security when it comes to publishing classified information; while in a companion article Gabriel Schoenfeld presents “The case for prosecuting the New York Times.”

Personally, I’m less concerned about prosecuting the Times than nailing the “Nearly 20 current and former government officials and industry executives (who) discussed aspects of the Swift operation with The New York Times on condition of anonymity because the program remains classified.”

Isn’t that special?

Well, what’s this all about? Is this really a matter of “public interest” as the Times touts as its reason for revealing this “classified” information? Can we be confident that the reasons given are genuine? Or could there be something else here with the public interest being a straw man held up to misdirect our gaze?

Everyone likes a good conspiracy theory, so why not engage in a bit of speculative reasoning? It can be a useful exercise and, after all, who believes everything the Grey Lady says anyway?

Here are some dots:

* The New York Times is in deep doodoo financially. You need look no further than American Thinker to access several articles regarding “Pinch” Sulzberger’s headlong driving of the Grey Lady off the proverbial financial cliff.

* The Saudis have lots of money. Disgustingly, corruptingly insane oodles of the stuff with historically high crude oil prices gifting the Kingdom a financial windfall of epic proportions.

* The Saudis are well-known for their world-wide financing of radical Islamic imams and madrassas for the purpose of promoting Wahhabism, the official Saudi state religion. No secrets here. They just have to have a means of getting all their gigabucks moved around the world and from one financial institution to another.

* The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is the world’s official means of getting gigabucks moved around the world and from one financial institution to another.

* The United States is scrutinizing, as noted above, transactions handled by SWIFT that appear to be connected to or involving terrorists and terrorist organizations – who, one may with reasonable assurance say, are on at least some occasions connected with some of those Saudi sponsored and financed “religious” leaders and schools.

* If the American monitoring of SWIFT is an “inconvenience” for the Saudis, they have one of two choices. First, move money around the world not using SWIFT which seems a non-option considering the current structure of the world’s banking systems. Or, get the Americans off their backs. The only question being how best to do this.

Go ahead and connect the above dots to see what kind of picture emerges.

Just be sure to keep in mind that the Saudis are “our friends” and everything the New York Times publishes is “fit to print.”

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bienvenidos America!

Twenty years have come and gone since the passage of IRCA – The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. If legislation is to be judged by the successful implementation of its title, then IRCA should probably be considered an abject failure as immigration seems to have remained unreformed and little controlled over the last score of years. Now comes Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana with some new thoughts and freshly introduced legislation that he recently proposed in an address to the Heritage Foundation. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has given Mr. Pence’s legislative progeny his imprimatur. The Pence Plan, though apparently not yet headline material, has received favorable mention from American Spectator commentators Messrs. Hillyer and Crocker.

The question is, of course, whether twenty years from now the Pence legislation would prove more effective in reforming and controlling immigration than was its predecessor. Legislators, being paid to legislate, seem inclined to see new or amended laws as the solution to nearly every concern or woe expressed by the American electorate regardless of from which end of the political spectrum they wail. Once passed into law, such additions to the United States Code are thereafter regarded as “solutions” despite any and all evidence to the contrary.

One need only consider the “billions and billions” of dollars – fifty billion per annum at last count – spent on the War on Drugs. This apparently does not include the cost to the states of incarcerating those convicted of “drug” offenses. The dollar figures do not consider the social cost of the resulting militarization and alienation of community police forces. Rampant crime as well as the corruption of some law enforcement personnel are the unavoidable results of the obscene profits available in the drug trade. The nearly imperious authority that drug laws and policies granted or that encouraged government agencies, courts and individuals to assume has without question proven abusive of our freedoms.

What’s this to do with immigration reform legislation? Well, two things.

The unspoken conspiracy

First, any law that relies strictly on enforcement and does not adequately consider the economic and social factors inherent in a given situation is bound to fail. There is a large contingent of conservative Congressmen and their constituents advocating, insisting on, what are essentially “law and order” approaches to deal with the millions upon millions of illegals in this country - most, but certainly not all, having come to the U.S. from the country immediately “South of the border, down Mexico way.”

But why should they be the ones to feel the teeth of any new legislation or more strictly enforced policies when they came to America with at least the implicit sanction and cooperation of local, state and federal agencies? Why should the illegals be the only ones to pay penalties when many of those who benefited financially from inexpensive immigrant labor did themselves violate tax and other labor laws? Just knowingly hiring an illegal is, after all, a violation of IRCA.

Consider the fact that in 1996, that’s all of ten years ago, the IRS quietly introduced a taxpayer ID number for those individuals without a Social Security number. This made possible officially legitimate reporting and payment of taxes by illegals and their employers. They could now pay their taxes with reduced fear of discovery by the INS (that’s the Immigration and Naturalization Service) since the IRS promised to not snitch regarding the illegals’ employment or whereabouts. One alphabet agency versus another. How convenient for all the co-conspirators.

As reported by the Christian Science Monitor in March of 2002:

"We had to do something," says Leandro Leon, education and communication director in the Houston IRS office. "These undocumented aliens were working here, using bogus Social Security numbers, and not reporting their income."

When the ID was first announced, Mr. Leon had a trickle of immigrants come to his office. But as word spread, and with assurances given that no immigrants' information will be shared with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Mr. Leon started having to set up seminars to handle as many as 500 immigrants a night.

Those same high numbers can be seen at seminars all across the US. The IRS has signed up 5.3 million since the taxpayer ID program began in 1996.

"The majority of people here, regardless of their immigration status, want to pay their taxes and abide by the laws of this nation," says Aisha Qaasim, the legislative staff attorney at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund in Washington. "This tax ID allows them to do that."

Ms. Qaasim says the fact that the federal government is backing a program like this is a signal of official acknowledgement that millions of people live and work here illegally and will continue to do so.

Mind you now, that’s “official acknowledgement that millions of people live and work here illegally and will continue to do so.” Certainly sounds like official acknowledgement. Perhaps “official complicity” would be a better description.

Government agency complicity at the state and local levels generally takes the form of assisting illegal aliens to illegitimately obtain legitimate identity documentation and welfare benefits. This clears the path for illegals to obtain employment on something other than a paid-in-cash day-labor basis. Having genuine, government-issued identity documents can certainly go a long way in keeping the INS off an illegal’s case.

The issuance of real IDs to illegals is not always done knowingly. But the complex of rules and procedures from one state to the next can lead, for example, to a fake birth certificate that was ostensibly issued in one state being successfully used in obtaining a driver’s license in another. How does someone in Virginia know what a real California birth certificate looks like? “America’s Identity Crisis” is a study of the problem of fraudulent documentation in the U.S. that was published in 2002 by the Center for Immigration Studies. Even a cursory glance at this long article affords one an appreciation of the enormity and complexity of this issue alone.

The “Real ID Act” of 2005 is scheduled to take effect in May of 2008 and is intended to address the problem of fake real IDs – or is that real fake IDs? In either case, USA Today reports it will become more expensive for states to issue driver’s licenses in compliance with the new law and that:

Real ID sets federal rules for obtaining and renewing licenses and state identification cards. Residents of states that don't comply with the law will not be able to use their licenses for official federal purposes such as boarding a plane or entering a federal courthouse.

Does this mean that you’ll be able to skip a federal court date if your license was issued by a non-compliant state? What about intra-state flights on a local carrier? Does this imply an increase in bus travel? Which stocks might be favorably affected? Or, if you’re a short-seller, unfavorably. The possibilities for ridiculing this provision of the law seem endless. Voluntary compliance by all the states seems questionable and rigid enforcement by the Feds unworkable if not downright silly. But then, the law is the law. Right?

Mr. Pence’s proposed legislation creates a non-automatic revolving door of sorts for illegal immigrants. Those here illegally would be required to leave the country and then apply for and receive a new class of visa predicated upon their having a job waiting in the U.S. before being allowed to return. Details of the new “W Visa” include criminal background and health checks along with the inclusion of biometric data on the new style of work card to be issued. Employers would now be required to double check with the INS before accepting the already-hired individual to verify conformance between the card, its bearer and the data stored at the INS. Sounds logical. However. . .

If an individual has been resident in the U.S. for several years, obtained virtual citizenship identification through one of more of the methods discussed above, voted in several elections as a result of the motor-voter law, has produced children who, by virtue of being born on American soil, are legitimate U.S. citizens, as well as worked and paid taxes with his or her IRS issued taxpayer ID, why should and would such a person voluntarily leave the country with no guarantee of getting back in? Would you?

And by officially accepting the tax payments of persons known to be illegal aliens who are resident and working in the U.S. has the Federal Government granted quasi-citizenship to those who have voluntarily stepped forward to comply with wage and employment laws? Even as one branch of the government shielded illegal taxpayers from the clutches of another? Who’s been more egregious with their lawbreaking? Sidestepping if you prefer. The government or the illegals? This could be an immigration lawyers wet dream.

How can or should immigration reform legislation deal with the shielding from the INS of illegal immigrants that can be the result of local police department policy? The Federal right hand and the state or local left hand often don’t just don’t know what the other is doing but actually work at cross purposes. “Jack Dunphy” is the pen name of a Los Angeles police officer who writes anonymously for the National Review Online about the influence of local politics and political correctness on the policies and procedures of L.A. law enforcement. His January of 2006 ”Arresting a Crime Wave” indicates that cooperation between immigration authorities and local police is improving somewhat. However, the legacy of years of non-cooperation and persistence of political advocacy for illegal aliens continues to hamper law enforcement efforts.

The third leg of the illegal immigration conspiracy triad is the private citizen or business person who knowingly or questionably employ illegals. Money fuels the illegal immigration engine just as it does the illegal drug trade. The opportunity to earn $8 per hour in California rather than $8 per week countries such as Mexico has been an irresistible draw to literally millions of Latin Americans. With endemic poverty as the only living standard available at home and the promise of a vastly improved lot in life waiting north of the border for illegals and their families, there should be little that is surprising about the flood of immigrants into the United States. America’s immigration barriers have proven woefully inadequate when placed in the path of the economic imperative of an inexpensive labor supply and a welcoming demand for it.

Private households hire illegals for domestic chores and housework, nannies for the tots so mommy (or daddy) can go to work or the spa, or provide home care for resident sick or elderly. Reliable and compliant domestic servants are available for a reasonable price. However, in many cases this involves not paying, in direct contravention of the law, income and social security taxes, or unemployment and disability insurance premiums. Comparison of 1990 census information with tax returns indicated that about one in four households with resident domestic help paid Social Security taxes for those employees. So who’s more the lawbreaker here? To a greater or lesser degree it seems not the illegals. This was embarrassingly illustrated by the aborted appointments to high office of Zoe Baird, Kimba Wood and Linda Chavez - though none suffered the indignity of criminal prosecution.

What about the multitudes employed by private businesses engaged in manufacturing, farming or construction? The avoidance of payroll and other employment taxes by either the illegals themselves or their employers may now be of much less importance than it once was since even as of four years ago there were 5.3 million signed up for the extra-SS tax ID number program. Those who work as paid-in-cash day laborers, however, are still subject to the whims of their employer and face a bleak future when they are older and no longer fit for long hours of hard manual labor. No unemployment. No disability. No health care. No 401(k). Nothing. In the long run not much of a deal. In these instances those employing outside the law are certainly taking advantage of those working outside the law. And as guilty of breaking it.

And now we’re proposing that all the illegals fess up? Voluntarily. Leave the country. Leave his or her job, all without any assurance of being rehired or permitted back in. Just stand in line while hoping to get an officially offered job that’s the legal ticket to get back in. Who’s going to watch their children, in a very large number of cases U.S. citizens by right of birth, while the parents queue up? Are we seeking to punish, inconvenience if you prefer, those who were invited here by the promise of a better life, shielded by any number of government agencies, worked hard, paid taxes and, in many cases, were exploited by a not insignificant number of our fellow citizens for their own personal financial benefit?

Victor Davis Hanson has written about his personal experiences with the dark side of the illegals situation in what he terms “Mexifornia.” Second generation illegal immigrants seem to not have the same work ethic as their parents. Nor do they possess the same strong family values that are extant amongst the native Latin American population. Criminal activity increases along with the size of the immigrant population and its length of stay. Politically correct or not, this is real. And is a continuing problem for those living in California. Twenty years after the passage of IRCA, initially low-cost shortsightedness is proving to be socially and economically rather expensive. And not just for the myopic, but all Americans.

The “W” Visa

Part of Congressman Pence’s plan to resolve our problem with the current illegal immigrant “nation-within-a-nation” is the creation and issuance of a new, high-tech ID that would be used to admit, hire and track “guest workers.” The details of its structure, the encoded information held therein and its anti-tampering security features are, for the purposes of this discussion, not relevant. What is relevant is where, by whom and to whom the cards would be issued. According to Mr. Pence:

Therefore, the solution is to setup a system that will encourage illegal aliens to self-deport and come back legally as guest workers. This may sound outside of the box, and it is. It may sound far-fetched and unrealistic, but it isn’t. It is based on sound, proven conservative principles. It places reliance on American enterprise and puts government back into its traditional role of protecting its citizens. Let me explain to you how it will work.

Private worker placement agencies that we could call “Ellis Island Centers” will be licensed by the federal government to match willing guest workers with jobs in America that employers cannot fill with American workers. U.S. employers will engage the private agencies and request guest workers. In a matter of days, the private agencies will match guest workers with jobs, perform a health screening, fingerprint them and provide the appropriate information to the FBI and Homeland Security so that a background check can be performed, and provide the guest worker with a visa granted by the State Department. The visa will be issued only outside of the United States.

Outside of the United States. That is a key point because it is the provision that will require the twelve million illegal aliens to leave. Now, some of you are thinking to yourselves that twelve million people aren’t going to pack up and leave just to get a visa to come back legally. But, I believe most will.

The process that I just described to you will only take a matter of one week, or less. That is the beauty of the program. Speed is so important. No employer in America wants to lose employees for an extended amount of time. No worker who is earning money to feed and clothe a family can afford to be off the job for long.

But, an employer faced with a looming requirement to verify the legality of its employees and stiff fines for employing illegal aliens will be willing to use a quick system to obtain legal employees. And, an illegal alien currently employed in America will be willing to take a quick trip across the border to come back outside of the shadows and in a job where he does not fear a raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

This isn’t “outside the box.” It’s off the planet.

The federal government will license private contractors to run “Ellis Island Centers”? Is this putting the fox in charge of guarding the hen house or what? Employers will be the ones responsible for financially supporting the centers. Whose expectations will the center operators wish to meet or exceed? Recall all the shortcomings in the way government agencies have handle illegal immigrant issues. Private companies will do a better job of enforcing regulations?

Could there be even the slightest chance that the centers will take the place of coyotes? Maybe former coyotes will end up running some of the centers. Do you think that perhaps some corrupt Mexican officials might aid and abet the process of suppressing criminal record information? What about falsified medical information?

The only apparent advantage of the scheme accrues to Congress itself. Since it won’t be a government operation, the American voting public won’t be able to blame their fearless legislators for any glitches, shortfalls or failures of the system. Once cracks begin to appear, as they most assuredly will, outraged Senators and Congressmen will be calling for some form of remedial “Sarbanes-Oxley” legislation to more tightly regulate the Ellis Island Centers, impose more detailed reporting and greater transparency, as well as severely punish the dishonest operators thereof. The only additional expense being the cost of extradition proceedings and transportation of those indicted under the new legislation/regulations since they’ll always be located outside the U.S.

What about the employers? Will they buy into it? Not if they lose the services of trained employees for some unknown period of time without any assurance that they can get the same person back. All employees are certainly not readily interchangeable like mass produced widgets, where whichever one you happen to have is of no consequence. Those illegals who’ve been here for awhile may no longer be quite so unskilled. Small business owners can rarely afford much redundancy in their employee ranks and parting with even one for a week or two is not always inconsequential nor without added cost.

Thinking that the vast majority of illegal immigrants will willingly cooperate with the Pence Plan is an assumption that is at least questionable and may very well be just flat wrong.

The logic of forcing illegal aliens to leave the country in order to bring them back, now newly baptized and reborn as a legal guest workers, is not clear. This seems to be no more than pandering to the “no amnesty” hawks. Yes, the illegal aliens have broken the immigration laws. But perhaps as many Americans have violated IRCA as well as federal, state and local tax and employment laws. Are they to be summarily forgiven and given absolution? All while the wretched poor who came here seeking to better themselves, and have in ever increasing numbers even paid their taxes, are to be trundled back across the border to satisfy what is at the very least a discriminatory insistence on “law and order”?

Laws and legalities are the stuff of legislatures, courts and the other various components of the jurisprudence system. For better or worse, the issues related to the vast numbers of illegal immigrants in this country are far from being just a question of law and law enforcement. The illegals did not get here, live here, work here, pay taxes here and have children here all on their own. They were aided and abetted nearly every step of the way and over long periods of time by any number of government agencies and a multitude of private American citizens – to the benefit of all Americans in the form of lower prices and convenience. Those who lost their job to an illegal should not blame the worker. They didn’t hire themselves. And yes, we have a moral obligation to these people. Surely to those who are hard-working and, at least when it comes to paying their taxes, honest.

To be sure, we as a nation should not permit the current situation to continue unabated. Controlling our borders, if we are to remain a nation, is imperative. We need not promise citizenship to anyone. Yes, it must be earned. However, many of the illegals have already made a sizeable down payment. There is no urgent requirement to strip them of it. There is the issue that these persons are, at least in one sense, undocumented aliens. That might be resolved by offering illegal aliens an opportunity to register within a specified period of time and without leaving the country, but with the provision that if they do fail to do so they will forfeit any future opportunity to gain citizenship – however that may or may not be offered at some later time.

The quandary we currently find ourselves in developed over a period of some twenty years, and involves issues that we as a nation neglected, sometimes officially, often deliberately, always unwisely. Illegal immigration isn’t going away and its concomitant problems won’t be easily resolved. Our esteemed legislators can, within very broad limits of course, pass any law they wish. But legislating a “solution” to meet an election deadline seems folly. The great majority of illegal aliens residing and working in America are likely the ones least worth blaming for our current immigration concerns and woes. To do so would be unfair, unwise and, in the long run, unproductive.


There is no one-time legislative “solution” to the myriad of problems deeply imbedded within the immigration issue. New or amended laws, however vigorously enforced, will not provide that solution if social and economic factors are not incorporated into and also contravene those laws. One need only consider the continuing negative impact and ongoing costs of the Drug Wars. Law alone will not provide answers when a sizeable minority of the American public economically encourages and supports illegal immigrants. Law alone will not provide answers when government agencies at the federal, state and local levels aid and abet in the illegal immigration conspiracy. In fact, law alone never provides answers to social and economic problems.

And there is no sense in thinking that somehow in this instance it will.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Deterring WMD terrorism

The “war” that the United States is attempting to wage against Islamic Fundamentalist terrorist is inextricably interwoven with the economics of oil in particular, and the world economy in general. What follows are some thoughts that came to mind while contemplating the controversy over the purchase by a Dubai organization of the British operator of our major East Coast port facilities. Though such a transfer of ownership at first seems counterintuitive to our security interests, a little thought and analysis indicate otherwise. It also suggests what may be a realistic means of engaging the cooperation, or rather, twisting the arm of all who may be in a position to help us thwart a WMD attack upon the U.S.

Americans expect that their dollars will buy all the gallons of gasoline that their over-sized SUVs will guzzle and do so at a price that ranges from between one-third to one-half of what Europeans customarily pay for their motor fuels. What we seem to lack is a clear notion of why anyone should be willing to sell to us all that sticky, black stuff we need to craft the lighter, aromatic fluids we use to power our cars, trucks, tractors, planes and trains. Well, for every dollar we give them for their crude oil, they – be they Emirates, Kingdoms, Islamic Republics or any one of the other assorted arrangements of dubious or unsavory political stripe – actually expect to use that dollar as they see fit. To buy with it what they wish, when they wish, given an agreeable price and terms.

If you were to have dollars that could not buy what other dollars could, they wouldn’t be worth as much as those “other” dollars, would they? And the price of what you’d be willing to exchange for such “restricted” dollars would probably rise, wouldn’t it? But any given dollar is supposed to be interchangeable, that is fungible, with any other dollar. It’s value should not depend upon who is holding it. If it does, then the dollar’s value is lessened. Especially for those holding “restricted” dollars. So, if we tell the Emirate of Dubai, or any other OPEC member for that matter, that their dollars are not the same currency as that held by others, we can expect the price of oil to rise, substantially perhaps.

The price of crude oil has already risen substantially over the past three-plus years. At the end of November, 2002, the dollar and euro were at parity and the price of a barrel of crude was $23.32. By mid-February of last year the price of crude was $39.59 per barrel, but the euro price was only 30.77. That’s a 28.7 percent premium for dollar oil over the price in euros. Today the dollar is worth 0.8390 euros, crude oil is at about $60 per barrel, and so the euro price would be about $50 per barrel. We are thus still paying a 20 percent premium for crude over the price our European cousins do. They of course pay much higher price for refined fuels but that is mostly a function of taxes and not obscene windfall profits by big oil companies.

Restricting investment by those foreigners holding petrol-dollars could go a long way towards further increasing the price of crude oil through additional reduction in the value of the dollar. If we can’t trust those who accept our money for their goods, then we’d better stop asking them accept our dollars.

We also must ask ourselves why we would expect those investing their oil dollars in the United States to diminish or destroy the value of those investments? We should be quite confident that the Dubai company purchasing the operating control of the ports has absolutely no intention of facilitating nor any desire of being responsible for a WMD terrorist attack that results from its ownership of port operations. Their $6.8 billion investment could become worthless. Middle Eastern Arabs may confound and enrage us, but they still have their own financial self-interest at heart.

The same is probably true of all of those around the world with whom we do business, but with whom we experience elevated levels of political, religious or cultural friction. This is at least true of those who control the monies and are running the economic show in those countries. This is why we should little fear that any recognized political entity has any desire to instigate or perpetrate a WMD, especially nuclear, terrorist attack upon the U.S. Such an event would probably totally screw up the world economy and result in horrific financial losses to those who have invested their dollars in the U.S. The Saudis and other Muslim countries may not be, nor may ever be our friends, but they do covet the business we and others send their way, as well as the value of their investments in our fair land and other points West of their oil-rich desert kingdom. The same preference for wealth preservation can be said true of any number of other countries – Muslim or otherwise.

If economic considerations provide reasonable insurance against state- or corporate-sponsored WMD attacks, how do we deter the rogue factions that seem to care not a twit for the world economy and the impact its devastation would have upon even Muslim lands? What should be America’s response if we ever experience a nuclear terror attack upon one or more of our major cities? As President how would you respond? If you’re still around, that is. Whom do we nuke? No one? Everyone? How would we determine who was responsible for furnishing the weapon? Building it? Delivering it? Detonating it?

The Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) school of deterrence doesn’t work if one doesn’t know against whom to retaliate. So how might we construct a deterrence not involving the retaliatory use of nuclear weapons? How do we get the Arab world, and any others upon whom we might cast a suspecting eye as perpetrators or co-conspirators, to actively work to prevent such an attack?

Show them the money. The money they would forfeit should such an attack occur. The assets we’d confiscate. The wealth within our grasp that we’d strip from them. And promise to do so to the fullest extent that we have the capacity to impose our will. What else, other than the threat to obliterate the entire Muslim world – a threat not credible – would have any deterrent effect?

If you know, please tell the President. So he can tell “them.” Meanwhile, be assured that the Emirate of Dubai will do a fine job of running the ports. Just learn to enjoy hommus and lamb. We here in the Detroit area, having the largest concentration of Arabs outside of the Middle East, have become quite fond of Middle Eastern cuisine. There’s a bright side to everything!

Bon appétit!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

That almost doesn't require translation, does it? Jesuits place the abbreviated form, AMDG, at the end of letters and other documents to indicate that what they’ve done has been done for the greater glory of God. Muslims do something analogous when they invoke the name of the Prophet Mohammed – “pbuh” – that is, “peace be upon him.” At least Saudi Muslims do. How do I know that and what does it matter?

Well, for those who may not have yet heard as it’s not been widely publicized by the mainstream media (MSM), former Vice President Al Gore gave an address on Sunday the 12th of February to the Jeddah Economic Forum held in, of all places, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In a story dated the 13th, the Arab News, a Saudi English language publication, starting in the third paragraph and while quoting Mr. Gore states that:

“The 21st century has to be a century of renewal, and our ability to
overcome these kinds of cycles of disrespect and violence is the key to making
it a century of renewal,” he said, alluding, like many other speakers at the
forum, to the recent controversy that erupted over caricatures of Prophet
Muhammad (pbuh).

Commenting on the negative Saudi image in America and the treatment
meted out to Saudi nationals and Muslims in the US after the tragic events of
Sept. 11, 2001, he said that he and his Democratic Party colleagues have always
opposed illegal detentions of Arabs and other people in the United States.

“Unfortunately there have been terrible abuses and it’s wrong,” said
Gore, adding that there were people even in the current Republican
administration who have worked to protect the human and civil rights guaranteed
in the US Constitution, and to expose abuses that have occurred following the
Sept. 11 attacks. He also criticized the thoughtless manner in which visas for
Arabs are now handled.

“. . . even in the current Republican administration”! Isn’t that special? This does make one wonder how Americans would have reacted to Mr. Gore had he made remarks critical of the U.S. while delivering a prepared speech in Japan or Germany during the halcyon days of WW II. And getting paid for it, to boot. My, oh my, how things have changed. But then, the Saudis are our “friends,” aren’t they? Seems I’ve heard somebody say that. So how can we be critical of Mr. Gore mouthing such defamatory statements regarding his own country when he’s just having a friendly chat with our friends? Guess we can’t. Nor should the subject even be brought up.

A non-scientific, small-sample survey of a few MSM sources indicates that they whole-heartily agree amongst themselves that this is the case. A search conducted on Wednesday for items published over the prior seven days on the sites of the New York Times, Washington Post, BBC News, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News for the term “gore AND saudi” yielded exactly two results. Both were at the Washington Post site and both were the exact same Associated Press article published on two consecutive days. Expanding the time frame did yield results for those same sites, so the search expression was not faulty.

One might also want to take note of some familiar corporate names who were sponsors of the Jeddah forum. To start with we have one of the “diamond” sponsors, the Saudi Binladen Group. Sound familiar? But that’s to be expected. Included in the “gold” category we have Budget Car and Van Rental, (wonder how many are one-way?), Citigroup Private Bank, (that’s for the big shooters/exploders), and SAP Arabia, (that wouldn’t refer to us, would it?). Dropping a notch to the “silver” there’s Credit Suisse, (they had to be in there somewhere), and GM, (wait ‘til the UAW hears about this). While one of the media sponsors is Sky News, sister network to our very own favorite FOX News. How ‘bout that?

While Al’s in Jeddah sliming his own country, for pay, in the homeland of fifteen of the nineteen hijackers of 9/11 fame, at an economic forum sponsored in part by some big-name American corporations, V.P. Cheney is out over the weekend quail hunting and regrettably but accidentally shoots and, as it turned out, seriously wounds a friend. Guess who’s raw meat for the MSM dogs?

Even Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal has suggested that Bush might want to dump the Vice President, he’s become such weighty baggage. Though, as an elected official, I do believe he’d have to resign or be impeached. However, Bush has already stated he’s satisfied with Dick’s explanation of the accident and the surrounding events. And why shouldn’t he be? There really isn’t all that much explaining required by the circumstances.

Mr. Gore can disgrace himself, lie about and defame his country, and sell his soul to the Saudis with barely a peep in the media. His words and deed will reverberate throughout the Middle East to the detriment of the United States and all that it hopes to accomplish in that racked and inflamed part of the planet. More fuel for the conflagration that may yet turn out to be our funeral pyre. But he gets a pass since his mind is right and he’s of approved political stripe.

Mr. Cheney? No quarter given this guy. He’s the Dark Lord of the Administration. Surpassed, perhaps, only by the trebly-evil Karl Rove. Should the V.P. resign? Will he resign? Off with his head! Oh, my!

My days as a political junkie may be near an end. I just don’t know how much longer I can tolerate all this deceitful nonsense. This foul crap. The defamation being endlessly spewed by the MSM, Democrats and radical liberals is revolting. They aren’t just traitors to their country, they’re traitors to themselves and all humanity. And it certainly isn’t for the greater glory of God.

That’s what the Saudis are up to. And if the attitude of the Democrats and their political rhetoric remain as foul, acerbic and disingenuous as it has been for some time now, the Saudis will have their way with us. The Saudis will have their way if the President, along with a large contingent of the GOP, continue to refuse to publicly recognize the danger that is Saudi Arabia. They are not our friends. They wish to be our masters. How much longer can it be before they are? With oil at $60+ per barrel, it shouldn't take them that long to buy an effective controlling interest in the United States, should it?

Pity be upon us.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veterans Day 2005

To all who see these presents,
To all who served their nation,
To those who still stride with us,
To those whose toil is e'er done,
To all brave men and women
Who still carry freedom's sword,
I thank you for your service
And do honor you this Day.

D. Sevakis
Captain, USAF, and F-4 Driver
Once upon a time!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Parsing Politics as Parallel Universes

Originally published as a reader response by the American Spectator on 5/27/2004

See: (about half-way down)

There has been little ink and few electrons spared over the last several days regarding L’affaire Chalabi. Having read opinions from opposite sides of the issue, one wonders whether or not these differing accounts are of events on the same planet. Descriptions of Ahmad, his activities, loyalties and history are so dramatically different that they must be mutually exclusive. This does, at first, seem self-evident to the casual observer. However, upon closer consideration of this and other events extant within the body politic, I have reached a radically different conclusion. Both descriptions are true. “How is this possible?”, you ask. My response is that the parsing of politics demands the inclusion of the parallel universe postulate.

Science fiction has for a long time hypothesized the existence of a parallel universe and String Theory embraces the concept of multiple universes. Modern political discourse has proven to be the incontrovertible evidence supporting these assertions. For how else can one explain the simultaneous existence of such mutually exclusive perceptions within the consciousness of diverse segments of the populace? How can it be that so many persons adamantly believe things that cannot possibly be true? And simultaneously believe that those holding the inverse are either lying, befuddled, epsilon-minuses or members of the competing political party?

For brevity’s sake and for the purpose of being consistent with modern acronymity, let’s agree to use PPUP – Parallel Political Universe Postulate – as our shorthand notation. That’s pronounced “Pee-Pup.” This has the advantage of mnemonically reminding one as to the action one should take when one is suddenly and unexpectedly confronted with a PPUP manifestation. This will not, of course, in any manner whatsoever affect or diminish the ghastly apparition. It will, however, provide comforting relief.

PPUP also has the advantage of affording competing political camps the capacity to live with the beliefs of the other party without their having to logically formulate or justify their opinions. These contradictions are just “True” in the space-time of the alternative universe. Once this concept has been fully integrated into our political discourse, the level of acrimony and name-calling will inevitably and substantially subside.

Think I’ll get a Nobel? After all, Arafat did.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Klein v Steyn - Who Spin Sins?

Just read the following two articles, both published today, and pity the poor person who sees not who speaks the truth.

TIME online
Sunday, July 17, 2005

Stop Trying to Spin the Iraq War
The Bush Administration needs to stop fighting its critics and figure out how to fight the war
by Joe Klein

"You're gonna protect me on this, right?" the magic words. When someone in Washington makes that request and a journalist agrees to the deal, a blood oath has been signed, no matter how scurrilous or trivial the information involved. You don't break the oath or even hedge on it. You agree to stand outside the law respectfully, not "above" it, and to suffer the consequences. You go to jail to protect your source, if necessary. If you do not adhere to these tribal rules, other potential sources will surely notice and you will be considered unreliable. It is not an elegant system--and yes, there are exceptions to the rules (on matters of imminent national or individual peril)--but it is a bedrock principle of the freest and fairest press in the world. And so I disagree with the decision of Norman Pearlstine, the editor-in-chief of Time Inc., to hand over our White House correspondent Matt Cooper's electronic notes and e-mails to the special prosecutor investigating who disclosed the identity of an undercover CIA officer.

To be fair, Pearlstine made his decision on this case only, not on the more general principle of journalistic confidentiality--and this was one tough case: an instance of confidentiality twisted to protect nonvital and vindictive information and also, perhaps, to provide cover for a criminal act. It is easy to understand why some people--perhaps even most--would have trouble supporting standard journalistic practice in such a situation.

It was, in fact, a story that had everything to do with politics and not much to do with national security--a story that illuminates a signature disgrace of the Bush presidency: its tendency to treat the war in Iraq as an issue to be spun, rather than a life-and-death struggle to be won. In this case the White House was trying to "knock down" a former ambassador, Joseph Wilson, who had disputed the claim--made by President Bush in his State of the Union address--that Iraq attempted to buy uranium in Niger. The Administration had built its case for war on the probability that Saddam Hussein had "reconstituted," in Vice President Dick Cheney's felicitous and inaccurate phrase, his nuclear-weapons program.

Eventually, the White House was forced to retract the Niger claim. There had been no uranium deal. But there was collateral damage: in the course of trying to "knock down" Wilson's story, White House sources implied that the ambassador had been sent to Niger by his wife, a CIA operative. In fact, Valerie Plame had worked undercover--and it is a crime to knowingly reveal the name of a covert officer.

Karl Rove, who was one of the sources, was running the President's re-election campaign at the time. Clearly, he was trying to deflect attention from a very real political problem--the absence of weapons of mass destruction--to the question of whether Wilson, a supporter of John Kerry's campaign (and a distressingly flamboyant fellow), could be trusted. This is a standard political tactic and, arguably, fair game in matters of electoral politics--but perhaps not in matters of war and peace. No doubt, the battle against Kerry seemed more immediate to Rove, who was immersed in it, than the battle against the insurgency.

The election is long over, but the campaign-style spinning persists. Last week, after Rove's name was divulged, the Republican National Committee engaged in a freestyle vitriol spew, attempting once again to discredit Wilson and suggest that Rove was merely trying to "knock down" a bum story. This was so much smoke and baloney--and all too typical of the persistent fecklessness on the part of the Administration and its allies when it comes to Iraq. Cheney continues to spin dross from the hard currency of military intelligence: he recently said that the insurgency was in its "last throes." The President makes a prime-time television address to the nation about Iraq in late June and merely rehearses campaign platitudes without offering a serious discussion of the problems on the ground and the real sacrifices needed to overcome them. Some liberals--equally feckless--may have complained that Bush didn't announce a timetable for withdrawing the troops, but the speech was far more disappointing to those who see success in Iraq as crucial to the larger war against terrorism.

"There is still a peacetime mentality," a military-intelligence officer told me. "The folks in the White House are sincere but not serious," a Republican military expert agreed. More troops are needed. So is a more active diplomatic effort to ensure Sunni--and secular Shi'ite--participation in Iraq's governing coalition (perhaps even reaching out to former Baathists involved in the insurgency). A more focused intelligence effort is needed to root out the insurgency both within Iraq and among its supporters in neighboring countries--including "allies" like Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. It is long past time for the White House to stop fighting the press and the Democrats and figure out how to fight the war. There are, after all, oaths more important than those between reporters and sources. One is the oath between the Commander in Chief and his people. I mean, Mr. President, you are going to protect us on this, right?,9565,1083876,00.html


Sunday, July 17, 2005

Plame security breach? It just ain't so, Joe
by Mark Steyn

Karl Rove? Please. I couldn't care less. This week finds me thousands of miles from the Beltway in what I believe the ABC World News Tonight map designates as the Rest Of The Planet, an obscure beat the media can't seem to spare a correspondent for. But even if I was with the rest of the navel-gazers inside the Beltway I wouldn't be interested in who ''leaked'' the name of CIA employee Valerie Plame to the press. As her weirdly self-obsesssed husband Joseph C. Wilson IV conceded on CNN the other day, she wasn't a ''clandestine officer'' and, indeed, hadn't been one for six years. So one can only ''leak'' her name in the sense that one can ''leak'' the name of the checkout clerk at Home Depot.

Back when Woodrow Wilson was running for president, he had a campaign song called ''Wilson, That's All.'' If only. With Joe Wilson, it's never all. He keeps coming back like a song. But in the real world there's only one scandal in this whole wretched business -- that the CIA, as part of its institutional obstruction of the administration, set up a pathetic ''fact-finding mission'' that would be considered a joke by any serious intelligence agency and compounded it by sending, at the behest of his wife, a shrill politically motivated poseur who, for the sake of 15 minutes' celebrity on the cable gabfest circuit, misled the nation about what he found.

This controversy began, you'll recall, because Wilson objected to a line in the president's State of the Union speech that British intelligence had discovered that Iraq had been trying to acquire ''yellowcake'' -- i.e., weaponized uranium -- from Africa. This assertion made Bush, in Wilson's incisive analysis, a ''liar'' and Cheney a ''lying sonofabitch.''

In fact, the only lying sonafabitch turned out to be Yellowcake Joe. Just about everybody on the face of the earth except Wilson, the White House press corps and the crowd accepts that Saddam was indeed trying to acquire uranium from Africa. Don't take my word for it; it's the conclusion of the Senate intelligence report, Lord Butler's report in the United Kingdom, MI6, French intelligence, other European services -- and, come to that, the original CIA report based on Joe Wilson's own briefing to them. Why Yellowcake Joe then wrote an article for the New York Times misrepresenting what he'd been told by senior figures from Major Wanke's regime in Niger is known only to him.

As I wrote in this space a year ago, an ambassador, in Sir Henry Wootton's famous dictum, is a good man sent abroad to lie for his country; this ambassador came home to lie to his. What we have here is, in effect, the old standby plot of lame Hollywood conspiracy thrillers: rogue elements within the CIA attempting to destabilize the elected government. If the left's view of the world is now so insanely upside-down that that's the side they want to be on, good for them. But ''leaking'' the name of Wilson's wife and promoter within the CIA didn't ''endanger her life'' or ''compromise her mission.'' Au contraire, exposing the nature of this fraudulent, compromised mission might conceivably prevent the American people having their lives endangered.

Here's the thing: They're still pulling body parts from London's Tube tunnels. Too far away for you? No local angle? OK, how about this? Magdy el-Nashar. He's a 33-year old Egyptian arrested Friday morning in Cairo, and thought to be what they call a ''little emir'' -- i.e., the head honcho in the local terrorist cell, the one who fires up the suicide bombers. Until his timely disappearance, he was a biochemist studying at Leeds University and it's in his apartment the London bombs were made. Previously he was at North Carolina State University.

So this time round he blew up London rather than Washington. Next time, who knows? Who cares? Here's another fellow you don't read much about in America: Kamel Bourgass. He had a plan to unleash ricin in London. Fortunately, the cops got wind of that one and three months ago he was convicted and jailed. Just suppose, instead of the British police raiding Bourgass' apartment but missing el-Nashar's, it had been the other way around, and ricin had been released in aerosol form on the Tube.

Kamel Bourgass and Magdy el-Nashar are real people, not phantoms conjured by those lyin' sonsofbitches Bush and Cheney. And to those who say, "but that's why Iraq is a distraction from the war on terror," sorry, it doesn't work like that. It's not either/or; it's a string of connections: unlimited Saudi money, Westernized Islamist fanatics, supportive terrorist states, proliferating nuclear technology. One day it all comes together and there goes the neighborhood. Here's another story you may have missed this week:

''Iran will resume uranium enrichment if the European Union does not recognize its right to do so, two Iranian nuclear negotiators said in an interview published Tuesday.''

Got that? If you don't let us go nuclear, we'll go nuclear. Negotiate that, John Kerry. As with Bourgass and el-Nashar, Hossein Moussavian and Cyrus Nasseri are real Iranian negotiators, not merely the deranged war fantasies of Bush and Cheney.

The British suicide bombers and the Iranian nuke demands are genuine crises. The Valerie Plame game is a pseudo-crisis. If you want to talk about Niger or CIA reform, fine. But if you seriously think the only important aspect of a politically motivated narcissist kook's drive-thru intelligence mission to a critical part of the world is the precise sequence of events by which some White House guy came to mention the kook's wife to some reporter, then you've departed the real world and you're frolicking on the wilder shores of Planet Zongo.

What's this really about? It's not difficult. A big chunk of the American elites have decided there is no war; it's all a racket got up by Bush and Cheney. And, even if there is a war somewhere or other, wherever it is, it's not where Bush says it is. Iraq is a ''distraction'' from Afghanistan -- and, if there were no Iraq, Afghanistan would be a distraction from Niger, and Niger's a distraction from Valerie Plame's next photo shoot for Vanity Fair.

The police have found the suicide bomber's head in the rubble of the London bus, and Iran is enriching uranium. The only distraction here is the pitiful parochialism of our political culture.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

And now, for something completely different...

Have a tech note posted over at American Thinker on Google's new for-your-very-own-computer "Desktop" search engine. Now you can do searches on your files, email, and internet cache files just like the big boys do on the internet. Well, maybe, kinda, not quite.