Saturday, January 10, 2004

This is why I love having a blog site, my own OP ED column, even if it isn't "journalistic standard"....

Regarding illegal immigration:

This site is run mostly by people living in the State of Maine (thus the name of the site-for those of you not familiar with Maine-Downeast is the "local" jargon for all parts of Maine from the Midcoast up the coast to the Northeastern part of the State). Scott is a graphic artist, Tom is an IT guy, and I am, well, let's say a "jack of all trades". Michael is our European perspective, an engineer and businessman. And we're all patriots and history buffs. But back to the point.

Maine is a border state. We're one of the border states that haven't been worried about enough. No, we don't have a whole lot of Canadians coming down here to try to get work. But we do have so much forest land, and so few manned crossing points between Maine and Canada that it is easy for anyone with the right equipment to get from Canada to Maine. There are lots of old logging roads from Maine to Canada and they aren't all covered, this has been well documented down here since 9/11 happened. Believe me, we have not forgotten that Mohammed Atta lived here in Portland for awhile before September 11th. He used the same ATM's as us, ate where we ate, and shopped where we shopped. He hopped on a flight from Portland to Boston, then drove the Boston flight into the WTC in NY. Our community felt at the same time violated and guilty. Why didn't somebody notice? Could we have somehow stopped it? Portland, though a small city, has a growing base and a small airport that has seen a huge pickup in traffic over the past 10 years. A full year after 9/11, my cousin flew from O'Hare in Chicago into Portland for a visit and commented that the security was tighter here than in O'Hare, with armed National Guards everywhere. I reminded her that one of the masterminds behind 9/11 got on here. You see, it's easy to forget a small state like Maine. It's probably easy to forget Montana and North Dakota too.

In my not so humble opinion, we NEED to SECURE our borders first. I don't even want to talk about people coming into the country until the borders are tight. If we took a pittance of the money spent on the "Kennedy education bill" we could secure at least the northern borders quite easily and inexpensively in the scheme of things. The other guys with Atta, they didn't all live here before September 11, they came down through Canada to meet up with Atta in Portland.

I know that President Bush needs to win re election, but he's trying to import an idea that works in one state (TX) and make it work for the entire country. We'll either end up with a place that looks like CA or another 9/11, and we can't afford either of those.

Friday, January 09, 2004

I guess the "Lion of Kosovo" can make claims like this when he hasn't a snowball's chance in hell of being elected. What a fool.
And now David Limbaugh with a counterpoint on the immigration plan...
Here's a piece in the Wall Street Journal defending Bush's immigration plan. There are a few details here that I had not heard yet, such as the fact that current illegal residents would have to pay a fine to qualify for their work visa, and they would also have to prove that they have employment. There also seems to be no plans to make this 3 year work visa a stepping stone to citizenship.

While I'm not ready to jump on board by any means, this article doesn't make the plan sound quite so horrible. What I'd like to see detailed are the specific plans to crack down on the flow of additional illegal immigrants once this is passed. So far that has only gotten some lip service, and in my opinion it's the most important part of the proposal.

Thursday, January 08, 2004


I'm not sure I buy Jarvis' viewpoint on Bush's immigration proposal. Outsourcing certainly does send money, and to some extent, jobs, outside our borders, but there is more to the equation than merely keeping the jobs here. All of those new immigrant workers are going to be eligible for benefits, which cost the American taxpayer money. If the majority of these workers are working at payscales below what most Americans would accept, as seems to be the plan, then it is likely that they will be taking more from the public treasury than they put in. There are a lot of complex variables involved here, and it's nearly impossible to predict the outcome of such a move. As the Germans discovered, you can wake up in a recession with a massive population of immigrants collecting far more benefits than they are putting into the system.

I was watching O'Reilly last night, and Dick Morris had an interesting observation about Mexican immigration. He pointed out that over the last several years no states have gone from being Democratic states to Republican states. However, several states (I can't recall which ones) have gone from being Republican states to Democratic ones. The reason? The states that switched from Republican to Democrat received enough Mexican immigrants to tip the scales in favor of the Democrats. This points out one of the potential unintended consequences of Bush's immigration policy. While I'm not against immigration as a concept, and I don't have anything against Mexicans, I do worry about allowing a large population of people into this country who are likely going to vote for more and more benefits for themselves out of the public treasury. While Bush is counting on the Hispanic vote in 2004 with this move, we may see the massive influx of Mexican "guest workers" mysteriously become citizens, and then say "thanks for letting us in, but we're voting Democratic anyway."

Ideally, I believe in the concept of open borders. Two things keep me from supporting that concept in our current environment: First, our current welfare state makes it so that immigrants can move here and live of the American taxpayer instead of adding to the economy. Second, the war on terror has made open borders a near suicidal policy for the US. Without the fear of terrorism, we could get rid of our social welfare system, abolish the minimum wage and other regulatory policies, and open the borders. The result would be a booming economy open to anyone who wants to come here to work. Unfortunately, al Qaida and the American left (and now the right) has seen to it that this system will never see the light of day.
Here's a class act from Donald Rumsfeld. I wonder if The Lion Of Kosovo would have turned this honor down?

Jeff Jarvis has an interesting theory on the immigration policy.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Now this is diversity training.

This guy has a point.
A visit to our archives of Dec 10 reminds me that this is likely a continuation of my first suspicion about the "illegals" policy. Why would the administration be worried about looking like they care about illegals? "Votes" are the main reason that I can think of.
I love this.

Hat tip to Eye on the Left
This just shouldn't be.

Hat tip to NRO's Corner.

Thanks for pointing out yet another piece of depressing policy from the Bush administration. Before reading this I would have said that Bush is just trying to secure the Hispanic vote for 2004, but given the statistics pointed out in this article, that doesn't really seem plausible. Beyond Bush's strength on national security and tax cuts, I can't think of any to vote for the guy, other than the "unusually weak" crop of democratic contenders. Clearly there is a plan at work here, but I'll be damned if I know what it is.

I can actually understand some kind of amnesty towards existing illegal immigrants, as the cost of tracking them down would be astronomical and we would likely only find a small fraction of them. However, encouraging more and more illegal immigrants to come here while giving only lip service to tighter immigration standards is complete insanity. This type of policy brings in the type of person who generally takes more from the public fund than he puts in, and you don't have to be a PHD to see where that gets you.

Hopefully this ridiculous policy has no chance of becoming law, and GW is just trying to look like he cares about illegals, all the while knowing that this idea will get canned. Somehow I doubt it, though.
John O'Sullivan over at NRO talks about President Bush's proposed immigration reforms:

Even on its own terms, Mr. Bush's plan is full of holes. Experience from Germany to California shows that "guest-worker" programs invariably increase illegal immigration since they create welcoming cultural enclaves of foreign nationals into which the "illegals" promptly vanish without trace. Amnesties also encourage illegal immigration by sending the message that if an "undocumented worker" makes it over the border, he will eventually be granted legal status. The 1986 amnesty prompted just such an upsurge in illegal immigration. And what exactly is the point of stricter border controls if you admit anyone willing to work-temporarily — for starvation wages? Surely not even Republican congressmen are likely to be deceived by such a "palatable" absurdity.

Read the whole thing.

I saw your cousin in action last night. I hope he wins; cette femme est très chaude!

Yes, the ICC is a joke, and it illustrates many of the problems inherent in worldwide bureaucracies such as the UN. While from an ideal perspective the concept has some merit, there is no way to ensure accountability or even a semblance of neutrality within the system. The sad spectacle of the US state department sucking up to Cameroon trying to get authorization to enforce 12 years of resolutions against Iraq is a glimpse of what we'd be dealing with in legal matters if we bought into the ICC.

Any democratic or federal system has limits in both size and scope. While the US is a large democracy, it is not particularly balkanized internally, so things go relatively smoothly. If you applied the same federal system to the entire world, it would implode almost instantly due to the vast cultural differences and vastly different intentions of the member states. More democracy in this world is a good idea. Bigger democracy is not.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Hey! This guy is my cousin. I am not making this up.

The ICC is bad stuff, nothing we want to get tangled up in and should discourage others from as well. Augusto Pinochet is a case in point, detained in Britain (no crimes committed there) on the order of a Spanish magistrate (no crimes committed in that country either). Now Pinochet is not the most savory of characters but was a vast improvement over Allende who he removed by coup (for which many would like the ICC to try Henry Kissinger as well, but that's a topic for another day), but more importantly, whatever crimes he committed were in CHILE, not Spain, not Rwanda, not Vanuatu, but Chile. This needs to be dealt with by the Chileans in their court system.

Now I can guarantee that if this thing ever gets off the ground you're not going to see names like Arafat, Mugabe, Castro, or Qaddafi brought up for indictment, it's going to be more like Bush, Kissinger, Powell, Rumsfeld (my man!), or Sharon. These are all names by the way, that have been bandied about as candidates for justice Hague style. We might as well keep our soldiers and sailors at home as well. This is a just bad idea which just sounds so nice and utopian but will have very far reaching, unintended consequences.
Those disciplinarians at the Hague strike again. Rumor has it that if Saddam is tried there he could be given a "time out" if found guilty.

You had to go and mention small business taxes. Now that my blood pressure is up, I'll sum this up for Michael: If you own your own business in the US, half of what you make, sometimes more, goes to the government. This puts me in a higher tax bracket than the CEO of IBM. Needless to say, I made a bit less than he did this year.

All taxes on capital gains from investments should be eliminated. The fact that we punish fiscal responsibility and financial success in this country (and others) is completely ludicrous. The estate tax is a particularly obscene incarnation of our broken tax code. The answer to this problem can be found here. In short, we switch to a consumption based system of taxation, eliminating the income tax and all taxes on investments and estates. Unfortunately, this concept has little chance of success, because it would take a great deal of power away from the very people that would have to vote it into law. We can dream though...

Kerry, you've also nailed the problems with our system of education. I am also a big fan of privatization. The singular problem that needs to be addressed is the fact that we require by law in this country a certain amount of education. I believe in this law, because without it we would just be creating more and more dependency over time. Since by law we require a certain amount of education for every citizen, there must be affordable education for low income families. I think there is a way to do this in free market system, but I have to research the details. I like the idea of vouchers under our current system; perhaps some version of that combined with abolishing the NEA could work.

Here's one more note regarding taxes. One of the things that keeps the entitlement spending going is the reference to the "poor" portion of our population. By the IRS's current system of measuring income, about 20% of the population qualifies as poor. Here are some of the flaws with that system: First, it doesn't take net worth into account. Someone who has a net worth of $10,000,000 that takes a year off and draws no salary is classified as poor. The system also has no way of tracking how transient people of low incomes are in regards to their income. Children of middle and upper class households working part time or summer jobs are classified as poor, but most of them move out of this category as soon as they enter the work force full time. If you look at the numbers over time, you realize that only 3% of the US population remains poor over an 8 year period. You won't be hearing this from the politicians any time soon, however. 20% just sounds so much more impressive. Bring on the entitlements!

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Here is more evidence of success in the war on terror.
Hello all,
I just returned from a weekend away and I think that I have caught up on all that I've missed here this weekend!

Michael, thank you for all of the time that you are giving us, it is very helpful. One of the things that you have said I want you to know that we feel the same about....
You stated:
To the contrary: probably in 30 years China will have become such a global power that you will be more than happy with a strong partner like the EU. In 30 years I see us rather like brothers-in-arms than like adversaries.

As an American, I would like nothing more. I pray that someday we will stand side by side with all of Europe for what is decent and just in the world. We've just been shafted too many times for me to quite believe it yet, and after 9/11 I must ask you to forgive this not as pessimism but as protectionism. We are very proud of our European roots. My own family on my mother's side is here only 2 generations from Ireland (I was named for Kerry County, where our family is from). The other side of my family is English, but my paternal grandfather's family has been in America since the early 1700's, (yesterday to you, but an "old bloodline" in terms of America's timeline) in Plymouth, NH. My maternal grandmother was Spanish background, with American Indian mixed in over the years as well as some Scottish blood. I love having my European culture and heritage, it enriches my appreciation for many things. (We often joke about how a stubborn "Irish" girl and a stubborn "French" man can be married!) But I am an American, and anyone who stands with me is my brother. That is the best way that I can describe my feelings for my compatriots, be they in Europe, or in Iraq, or anywhere in the world.

Certainly Asia in general could be a growing threat, with huge potential in both China and the oft overlooked (I feel) India. Everyone has become more aware of the India/Pakistan issue over here since our going to Afghanistan, but it is often overshadowed by issues in "The Middle East" or the Koreas. I have a friend that was born in India, her extended family still lives there and the only time that I have ever heard her use the word "hate" is in reference to Pakistan. I am interested to see what happens in China over the next 10 years, this is a critical time for them, and for our relationship with them. Japan could also become one of our most important allies, if not militarily, certainly economically. We will certainly need our friends in Europe in the years to come, and I only hope that your predictions come true.

NOW, on to other topics. As far as the domestic spending complaints here are mine, in order:

TAXES: There has been a "suggestion" that Bush may actually try to repeal taxes on investments. This would be the most amazing thing IF it happened. They are having some success in changing the estate tax (which shouldn't even exist). Here's the way it works right now; you make money, you are taxed on it. If you are smart enough to invest it and save it for yourself so that the government (ie the taxpayers) don't have to support you, you get to pay taxes again, and the more that you make on your investments, the more that you pay! Then if after all of this you manage to save enough to hit the "estate limit", the government gets 40% right off the top. In other words, you are penalized for taking care of yourself and your family, and rewarded for being irresponsible with your money. The idea behind this was "forced charity" essentially. Americans are a very generous people as a rule and the idea that the government has the right to take your hard earned money and decide where this money is going to go (charity of their choice: the welfare state, Medicaid, Medicare, education, whatever) is criminal. The estate limit is on its way up each year to eventually hit 1 million, but when my father died, it was $675,000. Sounds like a lot of money. My grandfather died 2 years before my father, and had an estate worth a total of $900,000. Take 40% off the top for the Fed, that leaves you with $540,000. Pay the lawyers, accountants, state tax, and your down to about $500,000. Split between two kids, $250,000 each. However, half of this is tied up in real estate, so the actual working amount was $125,000 each. And you can't touch it for the first year or so until you have an idea of what you'll owe in taxes. It takes 3-4 years on average for the IRS to close out an estate. IT IS A NIGHTMARE. So of what my father got from that was added as part of his estate, putting him over the limit at $700,000. The Fed gets to take 40% again! I can't even begin to get started, let it suffice to say that is only ONE tax issue. Scott can fill you in on the hell of owning your own business, and the thanks that you get for contributing to the economy if you are a small business. I deal with this too, but on a much smaller scale than he does. Basically, most people in our generation would love to see Social Security go away (as I mentioned for much more of our history than not we did without such things, taking care of each other and our families, but when someone else will do it for you people lose the incentive to do it themselves). You give me the money that I pay in SS and let me invest it, and if I don't have two pennies to rub together when I'm 80, that's my problem. Self reliance and self respect go hand in hand, and our government today has eroded the very core of our ancestors brilliance when setting up this country by creating so much government dependence.

EDUCATION: I mentioned this to you in a separate personal e mail. Let's just say that basically says it all. Education spending has increased at a rate much higher than inflation, (65% since Bush took office) cost of living, teachers salaries, and such things that could be arguably needed to be taken into account in the past 20 years. The new idea in education here seems to be the more money that you throw at it, the better the education will get. Not with the NEA around. I will use Catholic schools as an example since I just got some data released on them, but throughout the country they outperform public schools on all standardized tests, and are particularly higher in language and literature categories. And they do it with a whole lot LESS money. I truly believe that the only way to save our education is to privatize it, it is the only way to guarantee accountability. If people have their tax money and use vouchers, then if the public schools don't shape up, the parents will use the money to take their kids elsewhere. I guess that one of the large problems with this is the kids of people that are not property owners, and thus don't pay into a tax base. Where do they go to school? They are often the poorest, and need the education the most in order for them to not continue the cycle that they have been introduced to in life. I haven't solved this problem, but I do know that before all of the lawsuits and teachers unions, public education was different. The teachers still had some clout, and respect from the kids. In many schools that isn't so anymore, and the administrative end has gotten so ridiculous as to leave the teachers with little time for actual "teaching" and lots of red tape.

OK, I guess that is enough for tonight. BTW, in my version of European heaven, the Belgians would make the chocolate (maybe someday we will come and eat truffles with you)!

Good night dear friends all.
Michael I am very impressed with your knowledge of our country but don't think the analogy quite fits. The U.S. went from the Articles of Confederation to the federal system in a very short period of time. We were not dealing with, in some cases, hundreds of years of customs, language differences, etc., even with the relative homogeneity of those 13 original colonies the system was unworkable. Even with some sovereignty and independence being given up it was still to OUR government. I know an argument can be made that it is YOUR (Europe's) government, but remember France is one of the players here.

With the European Union I just see so much control being voluntarily handed over to a supranational organization and that would scare the hell out of me. I would be fighting it the whole way if it were announced that we were combining with Canada and Mexico to form a North American Union. I hope never to see that day. I suppose since this process has been ongoing for 50 years it is not such a big deal over there (and public apathy regarding the EU does seem to be high in Europe), is inevitable, and a break has to be made somewhere. This reminds of the anecdote about the frog in the pot of water. It just seems to me that there could be more inter-European cooperation without giving up quite so much nationally.

Now this is probably a uniquely American outlook (we tend, as I'm sure you've noticed, to wear our patriotism on our shirtsleeves) because we are somewhat isolated (and Britain as you mentioned) and have seen no major conflicts on our soil in quite some time. Howell didn't label Flanders the "cockpit of Europe" for nothing - and that was before Napoleon and the World Wars! I can understand the desire for integration based on military history, but hasn't NATO effectively neutralized that?

Well that's enough of that for now, I'm sure we'll discuss this issue much more in the coming years.

Oh yes Michael regarding Texas, you are quite right. God bless Texas!

Tom wrote: " I just don't understand how people seem so willing to give up their nation's sovereignty and independence. I cannot even imagine something like this going over in the U.S."

Ah Tom, but is this not precisely what happened in your country? I understand that after the British were defeated the Continental Congress first drafted the Articles of Confederation in which a central government was instituted, albeit with little power. I see a parallel here with the ECCS/EEC during the fifties. And the 1787 attempt to revise the Articles into the Constitution transferred much more power to the Central Government and defined the Congress' composition. This reminds me of the, admitted, much more numerous steps through Treaties to shift more power from European states to the EU's Commission. I read too that there was a lot of discussion between Federalists and Anti-Federalists in Early America and here again I see a striking similarity with the hefty opposition from some EU countries, e.g. the UK, to cede more power to "Brussels".

Last but not least, the "growing" of the EU through consecutive admittances of candidate member states looks very much like the joining of new states to the original 13 in what had become the USA. I would not be surprised if in time the EU's denomination is not changed again, and then probably definitively, in USE!

From my point of view Europe is now going through exactly the same process as the US once did, be it at a slower rate. And this is because on the "Old Continent" the nations, over the centuries, acquired such strong national identities.

Whereas Oregonians and Californians and North Dakotans and Texans will deem themselves Americans first and Oregonians, Californians, North Dakotans and Texans later (well... possibly the last peculiar group of individuals is maybe not such a good example), over here in Europe the situation is on historical grounds totally reversed.

Danes, Brits, Italians and Austrians are Danes, Brits, Italians and Austrians FIRST and Europeans later - many have not even come so far to think of themselves as true "Europeans", especially in those countries with a long and proud history. Each nationality has its own stereotype, as you are probably well aware of. Remember the well-known joke about the difference between the European Heaven and the European Hell. In the European Heaven the Germans are mechanics, the Brits police officers, the French (grmbl) cooks, the Dutch fundraisers, the Belgians lovers, the Scots whisky-distillers and the Swiss bankers. In European Hell the Brits are cooks, the French mechanics, the Germans police officers, the Swiss lovers, the Scots fundraisers, the Italians bankers and the Dutch whisky-distillers. So yes, it's going to take time for our populations to get used to the European idea. The reluctance of the British to give up their pound e.g. is a purely emotional matter. While the majority of UK businessmen would be glad to accept the euro the general population is not yet ready for it nor will it be for some time to come.

The UK harbors arguably the strongest national feelings and this is because it has now been since 1066 since it was last invaded (by the French!). Also, I think they are probably still deluding themselves they are as yet some kind of world power. I must admit, though, that from all former colonizing countries they played a clever trick in coming up with the Commonwealth. For Germany, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and yes, my country too, the decolonisation process was invariably a rather traumatic experience, as those countries were either being deprived of their former colonies through humiliating treaties or quite simply roughly kicked out. The UK though, can still kid itself to some degree that it "rules the waves" and the idea that it should yield power to some Higher Authority has therefore the greatest trouble to gain ground.

Kerry, I am not forgetting you. Will adress your questions this week. Just allow some time yet.


Sorry about wringing you out for so much insight on the EU. I think we all had a backlog of questions as the reporting on the EU over here is somewhat limited.

I hope you are right about the EU's intentions. I don't fear a powerful and influential Europe, as long as their goals are as you suggest. So far the outward appearance from my point of view has been otherwise, but I'm willing to keep an open mind about the the whole thing. It's nice to hear you mention our common roots; that seems to be overlooked too often these days. You're also right about us mixing up the topics here a bit to include non-EU subjects. In that spirit...

Tom, I hope you were wrong about GW continuing his spending spree as well. I've given this a lot of thought, and it just doesn't seem to make sense that an administration that has shown considerable political savvy up to this point would continue to pour money into social programs after securing a second term. Stranger things have happened, though.

Just as an FYI for Michael, you'll probably never hear Tom, Kerry or myself complain about defense spending during a time of war or otherwise. It's the wealth redistribution nonsense that gets us in a froth.

I thought I'd mention that I got the book "The Quest for Cosmic Justice" by Thomas Sowell for Christmas this year. I'm only about a third of the way through it, but it's an amazing piece of work. A definite must read for anyone with a remote interest in politics, economics, or sociology in general.