Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Reflections...

Border and Immigration Policy...

I generally support President Bush's proposals to reform immigration policy, though I would prefer a "future citizen" program to a "temporary worker" program. However, the Bush Administration has completely mishandled the Minutemen Project in Arizona and the border issue in general. The Washington Times reports that President Bush said he would pressure Congress to further loosen immigration law before referring to the American citizens volunteering for the Minutemen Project as "vigilantes". I've read the transcript of the press conference with President Bush, President Fox, and Prime Minister Martin, and I am doubtful it supports the language used by the Washington Times. The President does repeatedly say he'll continue to push Congress for reasonable, common-sense immigration policy, but that is exactly what he will not get as a result of his use of the word "vigilantes".

Instead, I read in my local paper (San Diego Union Tribune) that 500 new border agents will be deployed along the Arizona border. Normally, I would applaud such news except for the way this deployment is being managed.

500 more agents due for Arizona border: Until then, 200 agents would be transferred to Arizona on a temporary basis. Most of the reinforcements will be drawn from other states, the federal official said.

Shifting personnel to Arizona will leave fewer Border Patrol agents in the San Diego sector and will keep vacant jobs from being filled, Border Patrol union leaders said.

We're pulling border patrol agents from San Diego (and other areas) and sending them to Arizona because of, in the words of White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, concern for "a group of armed, untrained individuals roaming around the desert".

This certainly takes the cake when it comes to misdirected concern. Unlike crossing the border from Canada or Mexico into the United States without proper documentation, roaming around the Arizona desert with an unconcealed firearm is not illegal. The administration's concerns would be better placed in the President's desire for reasonable, common-sense immigration policy in light of the chain-reaction this could cause in the electorate and Congress. The Real ID Act of 2005 (HR 418) was just passed in the House and is now in a Senate committee. This bill is far from common-sense immigration law, but it does contain provisions in Title III for completing the border fence between San Diego County and Mexico, which makes it hard to oppose in light of our newly depleted ranks of border patrol agents.

In addition to such legislation such as the Real ID Act, how many over-reaching initiatives are going to be on the ballot in the border states in 2006 as a result of this administration's approach to immigration? Like the debate over the practice of extraordinary rendition, are we abdicating our sovereignty and security to Canadian and Mexican border officials? Since we certainly couldn't have our immigration department do anything like profiling in singling out immigrants, are we having the Mexican immigration officials do our profiling for us?

Living in a border town, immigration is an important issue for me, and I truly think a more liberal policy for legal immigration is in the best interest of this nation. However, the best immigration policy in the world isn't worth the paper it's written on if we can't secure our borders and ensure our sovereignty.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

File Sharing - Still Not a Good Idea...

I've never been a big fan of peer-to-peer file-sharing applications. I work on a lot of computers and spent a great deal of time clearing them of adware, spyware, browser hijackers, and viruses all the result of P2P file sharing applications.

Instapundit links to a Michelle Malkin piece on some pretty heinous side effects of a P2P file sharing application. She even has instructions for installing a common P2P application and downloading personal tax information from random users. A business partner of mine also told me he has seen files shared from applicaitons like Outlook, Money, and Quickbooks as well. Personally, I would never run a P2P sharing application on my computer. Even ignoring the inherent security risk, such applications usually come with their own payload of spyware or a browser hijacker. It also goes without saying that just about any software you download through P2P networks is likely to come with a virus or some other malicious application.

Constant pop-ups, Internet Explorer unexpectedly losing focus, and Internet Explorer failing to start or reporting errors when launched are all indications you may have adware or a browser hijacker. In any event, I highly recommend Lavasoft's Ad-Aware to rid your system of these hidden applets. The personal edition is free for use on a personal computer. I also recommend Microsoft's Anti-Spyware Beta software. It is free for all users, but I do not recommend it for low-end systems or the most computer-illiterate users (you know who you are).

Finally, the Firefox browser is the first FREE browser that offers a real alternative to Internet Explorer in almost ten years. However, beware the hype of Firefox as a panacea for all Internet security threats to browsers. It does not support Active-X technology, which reduces its exposure to attack, but it is still susceptible to Java, Flash, and user selected security threats, just like Internet Explorer. Nevertheless, I highly recommend Firefox, especially for the novice user who has better things to do than worry about browser security.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Zimbabwe Election Scheduled for March 31... *Edited*

Zimbabwe, which has been ruled by marxist President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party for the last 25 years, is marching towards another election at the end of this month. Now, it would seem that President Mugabe must be very popular to keep winning all these elections for so long, but Nicholas Kristof relates a different story in his New York Times article from March 23 where he quotes several citizens of Zimbabwe wishing for a return of the white racist government that oppressed them in the 1970s.

I wouldn't (yet) equate President Mugabe to a Saddam Hussein or a Kim Jong Il, but we are clearly seeing a descension rather than an ascension in political freedom and accountability in Zimbabwe. My disagreement with a comment from Kristof's editorial provides an example of the growing problem with President Mugabe.

The West has often focused its outrage at Mr. Mugabe's seizure of farms from white landowners, but that is tribalism on our part. The greatest suffering by far is among black Zimbabweans.

The objections to Mugabe's siezure of farms from white land owners were based on more consequential reasons than mere tribalism. After Zimbabwean voters rejected a constitutional referendum in February 2000 that would have expanded Mugabe’s powers and allowed the government to seize white-owned farms without compensation, ZANU-PF veterans of the revolution began unlawfully seizing the land. In addition to plunging the Zimbabwean democracy further towards despotism, the farms taken from white land owners were often awarded to political cronies and party enforcers instead of qualified and capable farmers. This resulted in a tremendous loss of productions which, compounded by recent years of drought, is directly responsible for the suffering among black Zimbabweans mentioned by Kristof.

Enter the opposition. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has an uphill battle for progress in these elections, even despite some concessions on access to the state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Company (ZBC) for political advertising. The MDC currently hold 57 of the 150 seats in the parliament. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party holds 62 seats and the ZANU-Ndonga party holds one seat. On top of those 120 seats open to popular election, the President (Mugabe) fills 30 additional seats with ZANU-PF party allies. The President can use these 30 seats to keep any popularly elected ZANU-PF members of parliament (MP) with centrist tendancies from siding with the opposition. So, these 30 guaranteed parliamentary seats keep popularly elected MPs in line with the President while promoting voter apathy.

In order to have significant impact on legislation, the MDC would have to successfully defend all 57 of its seats and win another 19 seats currently held by ZANU-PF members in an electoral environment highly resistant to openness or fairness. That would give MDC a simple majority in the Zimbabwe Parliament. On the other hand, if the ZANU-PF can defend their 62 seats and win eight of the seats currently held by MDC members, that would give them a two-thirds super majority and the power to rubber stamp changes to the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

I think this is important for the United States because this is precisely the type of nation that could have tremendous positive impact on its African neighbors with the right leadership. Jacques Chirac's handshake notwithstanding, I think Robert Mugabe is not that leader. Africa is featured prominantly in the National Security Strategy and potentially great nations like Zimbabwe could be turned into potentially great problems for the United States down the line.

HAT TIP: Thanks to Munoda for the clarification on the ten seats held by the traditional chiefs. He says they are loyal to the President of Zimbabwe, so they will be ZANU-PF.

UPDATE: Munoda offers another correction:

"I just want to explain that since the last elections, a few Members of Parliament have died and new elections held. ZanuPf has uncreased its tally to 65 while that of MDC declined to 54 because MDC lost some and boycotted some elections last year.

The major problem with the elections seems to be the Voters Roll.MDC believes that there are ghost voters on the roll which will be used to rig the elections.See article on how elections will be rigged on http://www.zwnews.com/."

EXTRAS: New Zimbabwe Internet Forums, Sokwanale Blog

A New Era of Progressive Republicans...

I've always argued that, despite not voting for him in the 2000 election, President George Bush has turned out to be a surprisingly progressive politician. Along those same lines, the San Diego Union-Tribune has an excellent examination of the parallels between the progressive policies of early 20th century Governor of California, Hiram Johnson, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

A century ago, California marked a brief but historically eventful period when a reform-minded governor, Hiram Johnson, pushed through a flurry of constitutional amendments. Today, the state stands at the gate of a comparable era of political ferment as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pursues an agenda of change nearly as sweeping as that accomplished by Johnson and his Progressive allies during his first term in Sacramento, 1911-1915.

The parallels between Johnson, a moderate to liberal Republican, and Schwarzenegger, a moderate to liberal Republican, are striking.

I voted for Governor Gray Davis in 1998 but quickly came to realize what a poor choice that had been. I thought the California Recall Election was one of the most democratic experiences in my life, and I wonder whether or not all state elections shouldn't be conducted in such a fashion. I voted for Schwarzenegger in the Recall Election but support for him was not universal in this household. I think he is fulfilling the purpose for which he was sent to Sacramento and hope he continues with his reforms to the California State government.

UPDATE: Joe Klein has an editorial about Schwarzenegger's war on special interests in the Time Online Edition. Klein seems to agree with the Governor's push for reforms but thinks he is missing the opportunity to propose "real reform in exchange for new revenues". He even asserts to do otherwise makes Schwarzenegger appear like "an animatronic action figure" for not proposing additional tax increases.

Dan Balz also has an article about the Governor's reforms in the Washington Post.

I think it would be worth keeping in mind while reading these articles that California State Budget revenues have increased by almost one billion dollars since Schwarzenegger took office, but once again, spending will outpace those revenue increases again in the 2005-06 budget.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter, a Day of Resurrection and Victory...

Easter Sunday is a day for celebrating Jesus Christ's resurrection and conquering of death. I celebrate Easter by renewing my spiritual life and relationship with God, and by trying to rid myself of some persistent sin that I have allowed a foothold in my life. I do this for the same reason many people diet, start new exercise regimens, or stop smoking. The human spirit is, in some ways, like the human body. The spirit will atrophy without the regular exercise of faith and persistent sin can stunt spiritual growth and power, just like a poor diet can sap physical energy and stamina. This year, my spiritual tune-up is much needed and long overdue.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Governor Schwarzenegger the Conqueror...

A superior court judge has cleared the way for the Governor to raise unlimited funds to push his proposed ballot measures in a special California election. In case there are any out-of-state readers, California state law permits legislation to be put directly on the ballot for democratic approval by the voters, bypassing the State Legislature.

According to the report, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is being coy about whether or not they are going to appeal, but you can bet the farm that they are going to appeal this court's ruling. The superior court judge is the lowest ranking judge, for these types of cases, in the state of California. Also, the issues Schwarzenegger is proposing to put before the people threaten the California Teachers' Association and hopefully destroy gerrymandering in statewide electoral districts. The only way this does not get appealed is if the Democratic leaders carry-out their ominous sounding legislative remedy threatened in the article.

What is good in life? To crush the losers, to drive the special interests from Sacramento, and to hear the lamentations of the gurly-men!

Roadmap to Peace...

Yesterday, the BBC ran an article with the headline US will accept Israel settlements. Indeed, the text of the article seems to support the headline with Dan Kurtzer, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, making the following claim:

"US policy is the support that the president has given for the retention by Israel of major Israeli population centres [in the West Bank] as an outcome of negotiations."

I didn't think that statement sounded quite right as it appeared in conflict with the spirit of the Bush Administration's Roadmap to Peace, if not the letter. It's entirely possible that Israel could retain such settlements as a result of negotiations with Palestinians, but my observations of the President's statements and policies in this matter have led me to believe that Israeli retention of the settlements in the West Bank are optional to this administration.

Today, I find this NYT/WP news service article with the headline U.S. ire grows over Israel's plan to expand settlement. Here again, the text of the article supports the headline with no less than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice condemning the plan as "at odds with American policy."

Given the Bush Administration's track record on this issue and the fact that one Secretary of State beats any number of U.S. Ambassadors, I think the latter story is probably going to be closer to reflecting the reality of American policy towards the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

My One and Only on Terry Schiavo...

I first started paying attention to the Terry Schiavo issue this past Monday and it was immediately evident that as long as Michael Schiavo was her legal husband, the case was closed barring any findings of abuse or other mistreatment. I'm not going to entertain any of the innuendo or outright accusations of Michael's malicious intent or past mistreatment of Terry Schiavo. Unfortunately, I believe some otherwise good people are getting carried away with the employment of any means to an end when a life is on the line.

Since we wouldn't be having this discussion if Michael had divorced Terry Schiavo (like when he started having children with another woman for example), my only question to him would be why he hasn't divorced her? That would clear the way for her parents to legally take custody of her with little or no problem. Some may say that he loves her so much he wants to see her wishes (to be allowed to die) honored in the this situation. However, even that is controversial because wishing to be allowed to die and wishing to be allowed to starve to death are two entirely different wishes.

I agree with the legal outcome of the Terry Schiavo situation, but I believe it is an unjust outcome that deserves legislative correction to avoid future injustices. It also has me wondering whether the Institution of Marriage, though defended in this case, has in fact been weakened in this nation.

  1. Should a husband be able to express his wife's dying wishes when she is unable to do so herself?


  2. Should a husband maintain full legal standing with his wife when he is living with another woman and raising another family?

The answer to the first question seems pretty straight-forward, but I don't believe the answer to the second question is as self-evident as it may first appear. I also don't believe the political ramifications and fallout from this episode can be readily calculated. Some are attributing President Bush's precipitous drop in a recent favorability poll to be a positive sign for Democrats, but I would be more concerned about the motivational impact this will have on even larger numbers of traditional conservative Christian voters, if I were a Democrat. It's certainly something to think about.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

"Root Causes" of Terrorism...

I'm involved in what I consider to be a very lively and intelligent debate about the reasoning behind Osama Bin Laden's attack against the World Trade Center and whether or not invading Iraq during the Clinton Administration could've prevented the destruction of the WTC.

This debate is taking place in the comments section of mostly unrelated post over at the Belgravia Dispatch. The other side of the debate is being competently represented by Eric Martin from Total Information Awareness.

I contend that the terrorist attacks against Americans since the Gulf War are not simply opportunistic acts of violence, but a campaign waged against the United States as a reaction to the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia from 1991 to 2003. My theory is supported by such experts as Milton Bearden, head of the CIA's covert operations in Afghanistan during the 1980s, and the Council on Foreign Relations. A March 3, 2002 article in the Boston Globe noted that bin Laden's original and still preeminent goal is to rid the US military presence from Saudi Arabia, according to Bearden.

Amazingly enough, these sources are backed up by Osama Bin Laden himself. Bin Laden conducted an interview in 1998 where he was having a henchman pitch him questions. He could have started with any question and answer he liked, but the first question asked of him was he had called for Muslims to take arms against America in particular:

"The call to wage war against America was made because America has spear-headed the crusade against the Islamic nation, sending tens of thousands of its troops to the land of the two Holy Mosques over and above its meddling in its affairs and its politics, and its support of the oppressive, corrupt and tyrannical regime that is in control. These are the reasons behind the singling out of America as a target."

In addition to these sources, this seems to be a logical theme repeated over and over and over again in the discussion of Osama Bin Laden and anti-american terrorism leading up to and including the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001.

So, in retrospect, it is safe to say that it was a mistake to allow the Gulf War cease-fire to persist and fester, keeping the U.S. in a legal state of war with Iraq and U.S. troops stationed in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to fulfill the obligations of our mutual defense agreements with those nations.

Now, whether or not the American people would've had the stomach for an Operation Iraqi Freedom during the Clinton Administration is an entirely different argument.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Climate Change Back in the News...

Global Warming and climate change are back in the news, but this time with an Open Source twist as noted by Joe Katzman over at Winds of Change. It is yet another challenge to the "hockey stick" graph as a totem of extraordinary global warming. In addition to piling on the failing "hockey stick" graph, John A of Climate Audit has posted a contribution on Debunkers asserting that the authors of RealClimate are deleting dissenting opinions from their comments section. While you're over at Debunkers, you should check out one of my favorite discussion threads on the subject of global warming entitled Hockey Stick or Bathtub.

Enjoy!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

You Have to Start Somewhere...

Welcome to Vagabondia, the Sequel...