Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More acronyms

Here’s a primer on the bailout acronyms:
MBS – Mortgage-Backed Securities. The surprise package of all those mortgages with volatile risk, guaranteed by the government.
GSE – Government Sponsored Enterprise. This is a favorite of community organizers where Uncle Sam becomes the bank. We think about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but it could also be the Small Business Administration. They are the darlings of our liberal legislators.
CRA – Community Reinvestment Act. The authority the government gives to itself to assume the responsibility of self-reliance for all sorts of inner-city folks. The best way to do that is to force lenders to give them loans they can’t afford.
OFHEO – Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. These are the folks who smelled a rat way back in 2003 but were run out of DC for picking on the do-gooders. Now, these folks aren’t sharp tools either. Remember Enron and World Com? If they hadn’t blown up, Arthur Anderson would have still been the auditor at Freddie Mac. It was the NEW auditor who blew the whistle on the problem…then OFHEO climbed on board. His Majesty Alan Greenspan showed up in early 2005 to agree with OFHEO and give them some credibility.

So, I read in the paper that opinionist Cynthia Tucker cautions us NOT to blame the bailout on minorities. The culprits are greed, recklessness, and myopia according to Tucker.

But if you watch this video I think you’ll see that all sorts of people were covering for minorities, minorities who benefited from the program.

Frank Raines, then CEO of Fannie Mae told Congress in 2004: “Congress chartered Fannie Mae to expand access to homeownership for low- and moderate-income Americans. And we are committed to that mission. Earlier this year we announced a commitment to create six million first time homebuyers-including 1.8 million minority first-time homebuyers over the next decade, and do our part to raise the minority homeownership rate to 55 percent.”

So, in an effort to assume more responsibility for individuals in this country, our Congress ignored the warnings over and over again. Here’s an account from May of 2005 of the alarm being sounded THREE YEARS AGO, provided by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research:
“To place this in some perspective, all Treasury debt held by the public totals $4.4 trillion, and all corporate bonds outstanding total $2.9 trillion. Fannie's and Freddie's liabilities--including both their MBS guarantees and their borrowings--come in right in the middle, at $3.7 trillion. Thus, only two companies--both of which are GSEs and implicitly backed by the U.S. government--account for more default risk than all other U.S. corporations combined. The risks for the taxpayers are obvious, but as many commentators have also pointed out, risk of this size, if concentrated in only two companies, poses a danger to the U.S. economic system as a whole--a danger known as systemic risk.”

And we live with this warning today: “After years of trimming around the edges of the GSE problem, Congress--with the help of Chairman Alan Greenspan--has finally come to the nub of the issue. If Congress can bring itself to overcome the furious political opposition of the GSEs and their supporters, it will direct the new GSE regulator to reduce the size of Fannie's and Freddie's portfolios and endorse a workable standard by which to measure the proper size of the smaller portfolios that result. This will solve, finally, the problem of two entities using their implicit government backing to control the residential mortgage market, which creates massive risks for the taxpayers and the economy in general.

“If Congress cannot take this essential step, however, no amount of additional authority--given to a purported "world class regulator"--will significantly change the course of events. Fannie and Freddie will continue to grow, and one day--as Alan Greenspan has predicted--there will be a massive default with huge losses to the taxpayers and systemic effects on the economy. We should be grateful that Congress finally has before it a serious proposal that is equal to the seriousness of the problem. But we should also worry about whether Congress can find within itself the political will necessary to see the task through to its logical conclusion.”

I lied. That isn’t the warning today. That was the warning in May of 2005. (This is a great link to give some perspective from three years ago: http://www.aei.org/publications/pubID.22514/pub_detail.asp )

Is there any doubt our Congress is in way over its head? Government so needs to get back to basics and stop pretending to manage our lives.

Monday, September 29, 2008

It quacks me up!

I don't know which is more humorous:
1) Lame duck Bush thinking his phone calls to congressmen will get them to vote for the bailout. (What's his deal? "If you vote for this bill I promise I WON'T come out to your district and campaign for you.")
2) Nancy Pelosi made sure the GOP was against the bailout by delivering a flaming speech right be fore the vote criticizing Bush AND the party for catering to business and spending like drunken sailors. (Somebody send her a Dale Carnegie book.)

The blame game continues as we watch both parties taking campaign money from Freddie and Fanny all the while ignoring the warning alarms.

It sort of reminds me of the immigration mess...all those warnings and they expect people to trust them now.

Is this our October surprise or are we to expect another? Come election day we won't want to send any incumbents back to Washington!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Proud product of...

Mexico Even the macro setting on my camera had trouble with this one. It is a product sticker from a package of tomatoes. The sticker is about 5/8 of an inch high.

The second line, in orange, reads "Product of Mexico."

It also reads "NutriClean certified."

I'd loan them this graphic if they'd like to advertise the country of origin:

Something tells me that if this economy doesn't turn around soon we'll be seeing more of this sign in our stores:

Business is too good

Here is the complete article from today’s business section:
U.S. Mint suspends sale of 24-karat gold coins
Associated Press
Published: 9/26/2008 3:42 PM
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Mint is temporarily halting sales of its popular American Buffalo 24-karat gold coins because it can't keep up with soaring demand as investors seek the safety of gold amid economic turbulence.

Mint spokesman Michael White said Friday that the sales were being suspended because demand for the coins, which were first introduced in 2006, has exceeded supply and the Mint's inventory of the coins has been depleted.

The Mint had to temporarily suspend sales of its American Eagle one-ounce gold coins on Aug. 15 and then later that month announced sales of the American Eagle coins would resume under an allocation program to designated dealers.

White said the Mint expected to soon start distributing available Buffalo gold coins through a similar allocation program.

Through Thursday, the day the Mint suspended sales of the American Buffalo, the Mint had sold 164,000 of the coins this year, up 54 percent from the same period a year ago.

"People are scared. Gold has become a safe haven," said Michael Maroney, a vice president of sales at gold dealer Monex Precious Metals in Newport Beach, Calif.

Maroney said that demand for the one-ounce American Eagle coins was "through the roof." He said Monex still had American Buffalos available Friday because the company had recently stocked up on them.

With the financial crisis gripping markets in recent weeks, investors have rushed to safe havens such as gold and Treasury securities. Demand for three-month Treasury bills last week pushed their yields down sharply to levels not seen in decades.

Investment advisers, however, caution that the volatility often seen in gold prices could make investments in this area more of a risky decision if gold prices suddenly begin to fall sharply.

As the financial crisis unfolded in the past few weeks, American Gold Exchange Inc. saw demand for coins go up about 50 percent, according to Bill Musgrave, a vice president of the Austin, Texas-based gold dealer.

The Mint introduced the American Buffalo gold coin, the country's first 24-karat gold coin, in 2006. Congress authorized production of the coin in an effort to capture a portion of the global market for pure gold coins, competing with such coins as the Canadian Maple Leaf.
(end of article)

Now, I’m scratching my head here. If I am reading it correctly, the answer to high demand for your product is to shut down production.

Yet another reason government shouldn’t be taking an equity position in this bailout mess

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bailout Blues

This mortgage bailout plan is very complex. Bush once again is siding with the progressives, just as he has with the illegal alien problem and deficit spending. Typical RINO thinking.

Only conservatives are putting the brakes on the plan at the moment (and McCain so he can display some authority in the matter).

As for the public, we’ve decided it is beyond our comprehension and have left it up to the experts in Washington to sort it all out. The lead story on the news in Chicago (all three national networks) was Mayor Daley’s proposal that Chicago taverns halt beer sales from the 7th inning to the end of the game for Cubs playoff games.

But lets dissect that $700 BILLION bailout.

The median value of a home in the United States is $185,200 (2006 US Census ACS).

That means that $700 BILLION would BUY 3,779,697 houses in the US. (Not just assume bad loans at 40 cents on the dollar, but buy nearly 4 MILLION real homes at full price.)

There are 51,234,170 houses with a mortgage in the US, so the $700 BILLION would BUY the homes of 7% of all mortgage holders in the nation.

Since “We the people” are going to assume an equity position on these mortgages I would really like to express my concern about some of the things that have not been explained.

1) I am concerned about the urgency on the part of the liberals. Where does all of this fit with the Democrat view of affordable housing for everyone? Just how much of this mess is a result of selling homes to people who couldn’t afford them? What about loan redlining? What about selling homes to the undocumented? Where are the controls?
2) Where is the $700 BILLION going? Will it all be used to buy up bad paper? Or are we paying fees and salaraies?
3) Who is assuming the risk? Investors should. Flippers should. People who bought homes they couldn’t afford should. How do we know these people are being “persecuted” as Bush calls it?
4) What does Obama mean when he says the bailout should benefit main street?
5) What constitutional authority does the Unites States Government have to buy up bad loans?
6) When will we get back our $700 BILLION? Will it be with interest?
7) Can I get a job with this new agency that will keep track of all this?

And by the way, with WaMu failing and J P Morgan picking up the deal, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Friday, September 19, 2008

No Entiendo

I don’t understand it. There was a piece in the newspaper today about the lack of Spanish-speaking election judges in Kane County.

You see, whenever a precinct has 100 Spanish-speaking voters (I’m not sure how they know that) then the county is required to have an election judge who can communicate with them.

Who requires it, you might ask? The United States Department of Justice under authority of the Help America Vote Act passed by Congress. Don’t waste your breath with this logic that a citizen has to pass an English test. I’ve tried it; that doesn’t matter.

They don’t explain how anyone can be an INFORMED VOTER if they don’t know English. How do they follow the debates and proposals?

Here’s a sample of the nuances of this campaign:
Lipstick on a pig.
Trickle down economics.
Date certain for withdrawal.

What I’m saying is…if they require someone to explain how the ballot works in Spanish, who is going to explain the issues and the candidates? The answer is: No one. So they vote according to the endorsement of the Spanish-language media.

Here’s what I don’t understand:
From the 2006 U S Census ACS data on Kane County...
Total population: 493,735
Hispanic/Latino: 137,344
Foreign-born: 89,691
Naturalized citizens: 26,419
Non-citizens: 63,272
Speak Spanish at home: 104,018
English “Less than well”: 66,901

Number of Spanish-speaking election judges: 55
Number still needed: 45

I’ll tell you, those Hispanics are sure engaged in this process. But I’m sure there are all sorts of activists out there who will apologize for them.

And the reason those activists aren’t signing up to be judges? Because they are already busy on Election Day as POLL WATCHERS. They will be out in force looking for some slight that will throw an election or get another asinine ruling in their favor.

They hate America and want to tie up more resources for their cause.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Try this

I’d like you to try this little experiment. Go to the website of your favorite newspaper and type this into the search box: “Constitution Day”

Now, type in this: “Hispanic Heritage Month” or this: “Mexican Independence Day”

I submit that this just might be the problem.

Now, go read Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution and see if our Congress is functioning the way it was set up.

May I suggest that we have failed to secure our borders.

Instead, the government is bailing out AIG, Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae (but not Lehman Brothers) and all those folks who bought houses they can’t afford. And they are writing stimulus checks, all with the full faith and credit of the United States Government. (That must be a LOT OF FAITH and not much CREDIT.)

I suppose it would be one thing if all the basics of government were in tip-top shape. You know, the basic stuff like roads, bridges, wars, treaties, and borders. Then maybe Washington could tackle everyone else’s problems. But they aren’t in tip-top shape. (Somehow, I think the Founding Fathers knew to keep it simple.)

So, we’ve got Congress NOT DOING the things they SHOULD … and getting mixed up in things they SHOULDN’T.

I’m thinking we ought to get back to basics here, forgo the politically correct fluff, and study the Constitution.

Until we do we will continue to consider candidates like Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter unelectable…while throwing tons of money at candidates who appeal to us but are entrenched in a self-protecting system that has power way beyond what was originally intended. And that is how the campaigns are funded and candidates brought forward.

Start reading the Constitution today.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Watch your words

Tony Kornheiser was announcing the Monday Night Football game last night. They cut to a play call in Spanish in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

As a joke Kornheiser said, “I took high school Spanish and that either means 'nobody is going to touch him' or 'could you pick up my dry cleaning in the morning.’ It’s one of those two.”

Later in the broadcast they create an opening by announcing that they are celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month during the broadcast and Tony chimes in… "On that subject I said something before I shouldn't have said. I apologize for it. Not my first mistake, undoubtedly won't be my last, but a 100% apology."

And everybody was thinking the same thing: Huh? What’d I miss?

We will never know how that apology came about. Did someone phone in a complaint? Was it a decision by the brass to avoid a Don Imus moment.

Now, I’m analyzing the comment and as an insult it doesn’t make any sense to begin with. Who is going to pick up the dry cleaning? The football player? The Spanish announcer? Tony Kornheiser?

And I’ve picked up the dry cleaning before. I never thought that was demeaning work or something only a peon would do. I just don’t get the slight.

Now, maybe the comment was disrespectful to the Spanish language. I don’t think so, but maybe they took it that way.

If so, every person who speaks Spanish in the United States in the presence of someone who does not is being far more offensive. Maybe we could make that behavior politically incorrect.

The Palin bounce...

…is over. The problem isn’t Sarah. In fact, she’s already helped put people to work and she isn’t even elected. Tina Fay can thank Palin for full time work.

Like I said, Palin isn’t the problem. It’s John McCain. He has been riding high for the last couple of weeks and now he comes up with a solution to the financial mess.

And that solution sounds like tired, old Washington at work. Just yesterday here’s what he said: “We're going to need a '9/11 Commission' to find out what happened and what needs to be fixed.”

Federal commissions fill a need, but it apparently isn’t to solve a problem. Sure you parade a bunch of experts up there and the politicians get to take jabs at them. Then the politicians have ample time to pontificate.

Perhaps elected officials like them because they get to ask the questions. After a long, hard campaign of difficult questions by reporters, finally they get their turn on the pecking order.

They subpoena some mid-level banking sap and grill him for three hours, making sure that their questions point the problem away from Washington. Then they have all the time they want to make comments about the answers. And it’s all on the record.

After all the CYA by elected officials nothing really gets done, except the public sees all sorts of press coverage of the hearings and we think something positive is happening in government.

It’s funny that McCain should invoke the 9/11 Commission as the model for fixing the problem. Here we are seven years after that dreadful day, and what do we have to show for it? The 9/11 Commission had some recommendations. How are we doing?

Controlling Visas – US-VISIT is a total disaster. We’ve spent a BILLION DOLLARS to create an automated way to track people entering and leaving the country. And it doesn’t work. (Newt and Malkin were right; FedEx can track two million packages around the world every day, but government can’t track visas.) And US-VISIT only keeps score; it does nothing to enforce the law when visa violators are caught.

Border Security – Still bad. We still have vast areas on both borders where heavy equipment can cross into the US. And human traffic still gets through. And the 700 miles of fence by the end of the year? Sorry, we ran out of money. We'll be lucky to have 400 miles, and virtual fence towers that are defective.

Inter-governmental Cooperation – Homeland Security, the IRS, and Social Security are still fighting.

Local Police – There is a two-year backlog of local agencies who want 287(g) training. The federal answer is that no one is getting the program unless they are at the county or state level.

This can’t possibly be the sort of solution to the financial crisis John McCain had in mind. If so, he isn’t shaking things up in Washington at all.

On the other hand Obama just talks. He points the finger at Bush and McCain. But if you want to watch Barack squirm, just ask him this question: “Since part of the financial crisis is the result of loans to unqualified borrowers, would you support a return to lending practices based on the ability to repay the loan?”

Monday, September 15, 2008

Reading Tips

As a special service for Hispanic Heritage Month we are offering this free article entitled, “How to Read a Pity Piece.” Highlighted in red is the running commentary of an article that appeared in USA Today and The San Diego Union Tribune. Maybe it was in your paper as well. It’s a loooong article, but progressive editors can always find space for such fine work.

First U.S.-Mex fence: fewer migrants, more violence
By Traci Carl
ASSOCIATED PRESS (Here’s your first danger sign, the AP.)

September 13, 2008 San Diego Union Tribune (Warning #2. The Union Trib thinks Ruben Navarrette is conservative.)

TIJUANA, Mexico – There is a moment each evening, as the sun melts into the Pacific, when Colonia Libertad is at peace.

The dimming light blurs the hilltop slum's rough edges, camouflaging piles of trash in long shadows and making it difficult to tell that some of the tightly packed homes clinging to vertical canyonsides are made of old packing crates and cast-off plastic tarps. (Aah, the tone of poverty.)

The stadium lighting that towers over the corrugated metal wall marking the U.S.-Mexico border is dark, permitting residents a bird's eye view of Tijuana, where lights are blinking on, blanketing hills that lead toward the ocean. Farther inland, the dark shadows of mountains are sketched across the sky.

There are no helicopters reverberating overhead, no drone of all-terrain vehicles. Even the bony guard dogs chained outside their homes respect the silence. Fathers stroll lazily behind children who steer beat-up tricycles along the rutted dirt paths that serve as streets.

For a moment, residents are reminded of what it was like before the wall, when children ducked under a barbed wire fence to play soccer in U.S. territory and returned home for dinner. When smuggling meant giving directions to migrants who simply outran border agents and melted into the crowds of tourists. (“Migrants” they call them. It would ruin the piece to call them trespassers or illegal aliens. Too harsh.)

But it is only a moment.

The floodlights click on, bathing the neighborhood in a blinding light. The helicopters return, clattering past. And the smugglers arrive with their ladders and blow torches and groups of people desperate to escape a fate similar to the one residents of Colonia Libertad long ago accepted. (The MAN…big, bad government…picking on the innocent.)

As the U.S. government battles environmentalists and residents to build hundreds more miles of fencing along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, both sides would be well served to take a long look at Colonia Libertad – Freedom Neighborhood. (Play the green card wherever you can.)

In the early 1990s, Colonia Libertad became one of the first places to coexist with the recycled, corrugated-iron barrier that has become a symbol of the conflicted relationship between a first-world superpower and the developing nation that lives in its shadow. (Note the imagery. “Superpower” and “shadow.”)

The fence didn't stop the migrants. It didn't stop the drugs. It merely pared down the hopeful crowds that used to flood San Diego hillsides, diverted the drugs underground and into the mountains, and helped create a ruthless smuggling industry dedicated to beating the U.S. Border Patrol at its own game. (Once again, Uncle Sam failed. The “hopeful crowds” were kept out but the drugs kept coming.)

But that's not to say the sections of fence that have been built haven't been successful. The barriers, combined with high-tech security measures such as surveillance cameras and ground sensors, have made getting into the U.S. extremely difficult. And as security has increased in recent years, the number of people trying to cross has fallen dramatically. (I’d like to see the data on that one.)

The downside, residents on both sides say, is that the border has become a violent battleground, shattering a shared American and Mexican history that is blind to things such as fences and borders. (Those Border Patrol home wreckers!)

Once, the only barrier between Colonia Libertad and San Diego was a barbed-wire fence.

Residents would squeeze between its rusty spikes, escaping the crowded barrio for the open hillsides of U.S. territory. Adults roasted meat in barbecue pits while children ran free.

“It used to be fun, because we'd cross and play soccer or baseball or volleyball,” says Jaime Boites, 35, whose home is steps from the border. (A "man-on-the-street" expert on the subject. Much easier to get juicy quotes from him than an economist or someone who runs a drug rehab program or a street cop in San Diego. Choose your interviews carefully.) “Nobody cared. When we were done, we'd just go back to our houses in Mexico.” (OK, hold it right there. They came here because we had soccer fields and barbeque pits? How hard can it be for the Mexican Government (or the people themselves) to supply such basic amenities? Besides, Mexican citizens LEGALLY cross in droves every day to shop and picnic. They make it sound like the Berlin wall.)

U.S. Border Patrol agents left the picnickers alone. Sometimes they even strolled over and shared a taco.

They were more concerned with the other side of Colonia Libertad, the smugglers who used the neighborhood as a staging ground for vanloads of people or drugs or some other kind of contraband that the gringos legally didn't want but were always willing to pay for. (It’s our fault, not theirs. They are just the suppliers.)

It wasn't hard to get to the United States, which had few agents and little security. Sometimes migrants gathered at the border in large groups to rush past outnumbered guards, like a crude game of sharks and minnows. Others packed into vans that raced drugs or people across the hills.

“Back then, there used to be vans going through U.S. territory, just like nothing,” Boites says. “Vans full of people, any time of day.” (OK, we’ve gone from day trips to have a barbecue in the USA to hordes of people wanting to sneak in. Which is it?)

Boites was 8 when one van struck and killed a 5-year-old girl.

That was the main reason the wall went up: to stop the vehicles.

When the first stretch of wall went up, made of material recycled from landing strips left over from Vietnam, Boites was a teenager living in San Diego. Back at his family home, the fence cut off the view of the United States.

Little changed in Colonia Libertad. Smugglers cut holes in the fence and drove their vans through. Migrants scrambled over the wall, using the corrugated ridges like the steps of a ladder.

But to people in Colonia Libertad, it was still a slap in the face, proof the gringos weren't willing to acknowledge that they needed Mexicans to cut their lawns and take care of their kids. (Jobs Americans won’t do. Totally false, but if Bush can say it, so can the Mexicans.)

“Sometimes we get the feeling that we aren't wanted over there,” Boites says, gazing at the graffiti-covered wall. (D’ya think?)

Americans saw the fence as a necessity because millions of undocumented workers and tons of illegal drugs were streaming into their cities.

But it had consequences they never intended: Seasonal workers unable to easily go back and forth built permanent lives north of the border. (People with papers never have trouble crossing.) Migrants were pushed into the searing desert of Arizona, and more than 1,600 have died, often of thirst and exposure. (Now we are blamed for their poor choices and illegal activity.)

In Tijuana, the United States kept increasing security, using the area to test new anti-smuggling methods and expanding the ones that worked. It added a second layer of fencing at some points, redesigning each barrier to make it more difficult to overcome.

Smugglers responded by charging migrants more money and becoming more violent. They used slingshots to launch rocks, bottles, nail-studded planks, Molotov cocktails. Sometimes they wanted to hurt border agents, but mostly they were trying to create diversions while they moved people or drugs across at another point. (Defending attacks on U S agent. Have they no shame at all?)

Since last October, there have been 340 assaults on Border Patrol agents patrolling the California border. The Border Patrol says it doesn't know whether any agents were injured in those attacks.

The response, however, has taken a toll. In 2005, an 18-year-old Mexican boy was fatally shot by the Border Patrol. In August, a Mexican man was shot and wounded by an agent trying to disperse a group of rock throwers at a dry, concrete-lined gulley near Colonia Libertad. (Let’s see. In three years time they come up with two cases. I’ve seen some of those “18-year-old Mexican” boys and I wouldn’t feel comfortable around them. Please tell us the circumstances surrounding those events.)

During one assault, agents fired pepper and tear gas across the border into Colonia Libertad. (Oh no! Not non-lethal force! How about the Mexican military firing at BP agents INSIDE the US?)

In a ramshackle house that uses the border fence as its back wall, Esther Arias' eyes began to water, her throat burned and she couldn't catch her breath. Her 3-week-old grandson screamed in pain, confused by the air that singed his tiny lungs.

A tear gas canister punched a hole in her father's house across the street and landed on the floor.

“Soccer field” is written on the U.S. side of the fence facing Colonia Libertad.

That's the only reminder that Mexican children once played here. Now it's a marker for the Border Patrol.

High-powered cameras look in every direction from atop towering poles. (That’s because “low-powered” cameras wouldn’t be able to see anything.) Ground sensors let agents know when someone is moving through the fields.

“We've got bodies,” a voice crackles over James Jacques' walkie-talkie. (Oops! How disrespectful to refer to them as “bodies”! No one is a “body”. They are human beings. In the future BP spotters must refer to them as “children” because every one of them is a child of their mother. OK?)

In the distance, a few people dressed in black jump from lightweight handmade ladders they used to scale the second layer of fencing. They run into a ditch, but agents catch them within seconds. A van pulls up, and they are loaded inside to be driven back to Mexico.

Those are the easy ones. Jacques says many smugglers have become violent, once stringing a nearly invisible wire across a path to knock agents off all-terrain vehicles. One took out a camera tower with a shotgun.

“Before, they wouldn't fight back if caught,” Jacques says. “Now it's military-style tactics.”

He defends the use of tear gas and pepper balls, saying the alternative is worse.

Studying Colonia Libertad through binoculars, Jacques sees not a neighborhood of families, but a smugglers' den.

“That's a lookout tower,” he says, pointing to a small room built on top of a house. “You'll see them all along the border.”

Drug smugglers have gotten more sophisticated as well. They have built more than two dozen tunnels under the border since 1994. One opened into a warehouse steps from the border, and drug dealers posing as businessmen quietly shipped their wares across the U.S. until agents shut them down.

Other drug runners have taken to the mountains, using blowtorches to cut large doors in the fence and then taking four-wheel-drive vehicles across the rugged terrain.

In one of the new subdivisions carpeting the hills north of the border, Alma Beltran, 42, (Another "expert" witness. Quotes from such sources really add punch to your stories.) turns her sport utility Volvo into her two-car garage and carries groceries into the kitchen for dinner.

She and her husband, both Mexicans, own a factory that makes packaging labels in the beach resort of Ensenada, but they moved to the U.S. a few years ago so that their daughter could go to American schools and speak fluent English.

But they didn't go far: Their home is two miles from the border.

“If we go on a walk – and we like to go on walks – every time we try to do that, we are stopped by border patrollers,” Beltran says. “They are always pleasant and say, 'Ma'am, you shouldn't be walking here. It is dangerous.'”

Beltran says she is polite, but rarely turns back. Having grown up in both Mexico City and the U.S., she's not frightened by the increased security in the U.S. or the violence in Mexico. (But watch for the lawsuit if a little tear gas gets in her eyes!)

“It's the same problem: People trying to cross. Agents chasing people home,” she says. “There's nothing new.”

Her neighborhood is a sprawling collection of cavernous terra-cotta homes that sell for double what most Mexicans will make in a lifetime. Spanish is the predominant language, and most of her neighbors are upper-class Mexicans driven north by a wave of kidnappings and drug violence south of the border.

But even in the carefully groomed suburbs of San Diego, it is impossible to escape Mexico. Beltran has only to look out her kitchen window to be reminded that she is caught between two worlds.

As she makes dinner, she can see the hillsides worn bald by the Border Patrol, the fences dividing the San Diego suburbs' neat grid from the jumbled streets of Tijuana. In the distance, the stadium lights flooding Colonia Libertad flicker on. (Of course, she chose to live here. She was escaping Mexico and now she complains about the view. Typical. How about returning to Mexico and running for office? Maybe she can fix a few things in her own country to make it more like San Diego. Nah. Complaining is much easier. And in the US people have pity on you.)

See, it really isn’t hard when you have this handy chart used by most journalists:

Bad things:
White people
English language
Large corporations
The rule of law

Good things:
“The people”
The underprivileged
Foreign languages
“My rights”

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Rolodex Test

If the best candidate for VP knows the most world leaders...
...then he's your man.

Palin v. Gibson

Once again, Day by Day cartoon nails it.

What we didn't hear from Palin was this:
"Well, Charlie, I was thinking...I ought to just whip up a batch of brownies and fly over to Russia and sit down with Putin, or whatever that new guy's name is. I mean, we need to just talk this through. We need to understand each other. We need consensus."

No, that would be Obama foreign policy and Palin wasn't going there!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Are Obama and McCain the same?

When it comes to immigration policy people like me aren’t too happy about the choice we have this year. McCain teamed up with Ted Kennedy and put his name to the last reform bill effort.

And he gets a little upset with his colleagues when they claim he’s an opportunist on immigration. Remember the spring of 2007 when fellow GOP senators chided him for parachuting into the process after being away campaigning?

Remember his expletive-laced insistence that he knows more about the issue than any of his fellow GOP senators?

McCain claims to have won 75% of the Latino vote in Arizona last election. Surely his stance is pleasing to the builders, landscapers, and farmers of Arizona as well. So, there are some political reasons for him to be pro-illegal alien; reasons that go beyond the brown vote.

But just how deep does his philosophy go?

Obama reads like an open book on the issue. He’s all for redistributing wealth through taxation and trade. He’s for a socialistic approach to the services and functions of government.

It’s hard to tell with McCain.
He’s pro-NAFTA.
He’s promising job training and income subsidies to help the unemployed.
He’s in favor of keeping business taxes low, especially small business.
He’s offering a low-interest, government-backed mortgage replacement program.
He’s got a health plan that will make insurance affordable for all.

My question is, which one will motivate the most illegal aliens to come to the United States? The signals Bush sent created part of the invasion.

I have to believe that either choice will encourage illegals to make their move. I also tend to believe that Obama will resonate with more of them. His style is more charismatic. His party is more behind him.

On that alone, McCain is slightly less objectionable than Obama.

Watch the remittances. Right now the money sent back to Mexico is DOWN about 7% in July compared to last year. Year-to-date, it’s down 2.9%. If that trend continues, we’ll know there is a reason to pack up and go home.

If it begins to rise based on pre-election polls, we’ll be able to tell who the Mexicans are backing; more precisely, who they think can deliver an amnesty plan.

Mopping Up

Paul Green is a poli-sci professor in Chicago. He’s also a rather entertaining political consultant for the media.

Green says the new president in November will have won with MOP.


The dems have been downplaying the gender issue by warning people not to play the gender card. That is a dead give-away that they are worried about Palin.

And yesterday Biden thoughtfully told reporters that Hillary may well be a better candidate than Joe himself.

His exact words while praising Mrs. Clinton: “She is qualified to be president of the United States of America, she’s easily qualified to be vice president of the United States of America and quite frankly it might have been a better pick than me.”

Rather odd talk, I’d say.

So, what’s going on in the Obama camp? Only time will tell. Some candidates have changed horses after the convention but it is rare. But don’t put it past the dems to try something like that. Obama was trained by Emil Jones and there are no rules in Machine Politics.

Could it be that the magic to winning this year is Mom, not MOP?

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Issues please

I’m tired of the “phenoms” Obama and Palin. The GOP really did a number on the Obama campaign with the selection of Sarah Palin. She has shot up like a rocket on the national stage, hogging (watch those pig-like references) the stage.

Driving home from a meeting last night I tuned in three talk radio stations. They were all talking about Sarah and so pleased that someone has upstaged Barack. One host has been taking 100% of his calls from women ever since Palin was nominated. And there is no lack of call activity.

This comeuppance is fun for a few days, watching Oprah make an absolute fool of herself as she snubs Sarah, and (by extension) all the women with special needs children and/or a real family.

It is fun to hear some of the negatives about Sarah’s past like, “Do you realize she shoots wolves from aircraft? How cruel!”

But there comes a time when the people really want to see some plans for America. And we want to analyze those plans to see what they cost, and who will benefit, and how likely they are to succeed.

Instead we get these strategies about attacking, getting tough, or fighting back. Typical mudslinging.

What we need is a serious evaluation of the direction these different leaders want to take us. Ross Perot got out his charts and graphs. Let’s see some evidence that these candidates have spent any time at all on the details.

Or are we so enthralled by reality TV that this is just another episode of American Idol. Which party has the best entertainer? Do we want to look at/listen to Obama for four years or Palin?

The way it looks now, this is all a beauty contest. Let’s hope we see something more in the next few weeks.

Citizenship on sale

A year ago the citizenship office (USCIS) was swamped with applications for naturalization. People were all of a sudden anxious to become citizens.

Why? Well the price was going up. The fees jumped from $400 to $675 and they wanted to get in before the increase.

So, in this election year, how are things going? Not so good. In fact, worse than before they announced the increase. Here’s the tally for each year (January through June):
2003 269,689
2004 379,276
2005 321,578
2006 397,299
2007 686,816
2008 281,198

Latino activists blame the decrease on the economy, saying these immigrants can’t afford the additional $275. That’s an indictment on our failed system if you ask me. We obviously are not inviting immigrants who are self-supporting if after at least seven years in the United States an increase of $275 keeps them from obtaining the most important piece of paper in their entire lives!

Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez said, “Citizenship shouldn't be for the wealthy.”

And Obama said at the time the new fee schedule was announced, “Setting sky high immigration application fees could deter immigrants from following a legal path citizenship, sending those that played by the rules into the shadows.” (Or they could go on in their Green Card status until they saved the $275. He can’t explain that one because it doesn’t make any sense…but typical Obama rhetoric sounds soooo good.)

And Jan Schakowsky said, “Instead of making it more expensive and more difficult to become a citizen, we should create a fairer system that provides immigrants with an affordable and reasonable path to citizenship. Under the current proposal, the USCIS would discourage immigrants from becoming full and active participants in our society.”

And all these groups agree with these politicians that higher fees are unacceptable, even if they are the actual costs of processing the applications:

The National Council of La Raza, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the National Immigration Forum, the National Immigrant Justice Center, the Asian American Justice Center, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Legal Momentum, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, and the Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition.

Link here: http://obama.senate.gov/press/070307-obama_gutierrez/

Three observations from Alien Rants:
1) The price wouldn’t be so high if we hadn’t left the door open on 9/11, causing much more careful background checks.
2) Why do we insist on allowing such a high number of low-skilled people from the Third World who need a subsidy for the processing fee?
3) It’s too bad some of these politicians aren’t going to get those new voters they were counting on.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mitt's grateful

So Sarah Palin is under the microscope for all sorts of things from beauty contests to basketball to her expense account.

One interesting attack goes like this: She belongs to a church that prays for the souls of homosexuals. Can you believe it?

I ask: What would Mitt do?

Well, the Mormon Church has entered the battle on same-sex marriage in California, seeking to motivate its members to vote against it in November.

What is the Mormon position on homosexuals? Well, you can read it here at the Church website:

The nitty-gritty is that the Church recognizes that some people struggle with same-gender feelings. It is not a sin to have those feelings. It is a sin to act on those urges and engage in sexual acts with others of the same sex.

It is also hoped (prayed, if you will) that the individuals will seek counseling. The church sponsors an addiction recovery program (not specifically for sexual addictions) as a way to assist people to overcome at least the habits of homosexuality.

I know, they can’t help it…it isn’t an illness…there’s nothing wrong with that choice…studies show their brains work differently (so do the brains of alcoholics but we don’t encourage them to drink themselves silly)…they have a right to live as they choose…

Save it! There are millions of people in America who view homosexuality as wrong. They don’t put on leather Speedos and parade around carrying protest signs, but they do believe gays and lesbians need rehab, not validation for their “choice.”

If this is your election deal-breaker, I would guess that you will also disagree with Palin on many other issues.

But if you think open gayness has gotten out of hand, maybe you’ll agree with Sarah’s church.

Then again, progressives aren’t much for organized religion. They get nervous when anyone, including evangelicals, feel strongly about something. But it gives a little relief from the bitterness.

That’s it! Obama feels threatened because religion offers an antidote…and Barack is the antidote. There can be no other solution.

I’m thinking Mitt is a grateful man as he watches from a distance the examination of all things Palin.

A Mexican Standoff at the courthouse

Three guys walked into a Mexican grocery store last January. They tied up the owners and proceeded to rob the place. But the owner of the store works his way free, grabs his pistol, and begins shooting at the robbers.

Two of them get away; the third was not so lucky.

It’s against the law to rob a store. As it turns out, it’s even more “against the law” to shoot at the robbers.

Now, here’s where it gets a little complicated so get out a piece of paper and map out what has happened here.

Rafael Diaz is the owner of the store. Because he fired at the robbers as they took off down a busy street, he was charged with aggravated battery with a firearm. As far as we know, he didn’t hit anyone (not even the robbers) with his shots.

So Diaz failed to show up in court to answer the charges. He has “fled the jurisdiction” as they say.

Two of the robbers were never picked up. Sad Sac robber number three, Efrain Castanon, came to court and the charges were dismissed. The prosecutors sort of needed Diaz to testify and he wasn’t around.

They talked him into pleading guilty and placed him on probation.

But Castanon still doesn’t walk. He was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Now, what are the chances that this fellow gets deported, only to run into “Dead-eye” Diaz hiding out somewhere in Mexico? Just a thought.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The bad...the worse...and the ugly

First, the bad news. After the tainted tomatoes and peppers the government is banning beef and chicken coming out of Mexico.

But it gets worse. The USDA did their audit in June and July and we are just now finding out about this in September. They just halted shipments on August 29th. No urgency here, folks! In fact, the audit report will be out within the next 60 days or so. Ho-hum. (Now, if they could find lead in the meat, we’d have all sorts of headlines and congressional hearings.)

And to make it even worse, the Mexican government isn’t even protesting. Usually they whine and send official letters to Washington. This time they are VOLUNTARILY suspending shipments. It must be really bad.

Mexico produces/processes about 2% of our beef and poultry.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The smoke is killing me!

The EPA has announced that starting in 2011 your lawnmower will be subject to air pollution controls and standards. New lawnmowers will need to have equipment installed that will reduce emissions by 35%.

And estimates are that a new walk-behind mower will cost us 18% more than regular models.

(And your power boat is also a target of the new regs. “The rule requires a 70 percent reduction in emissions from recreational watercraft.”)

But here is the astounding fact. This new regulation will prevent “more than 300 premature deaths” each year.

Wow, such a body count!

You don’t see Washington talking about the 25 a DAY who die at the hands of illegal aliens in the United States. You don’t see anyone inviting Danielle Bologna to a congressional hearing to tell people what happened to her husband and two sons in San Francisco.

Or the Shaw family. Or Sandy Innis, the mother of Patricia Henneken.

That would be a grim reminder of the failure of the federal government.

Instead, we’ll put catalytic converters on our Lawn Boys. (Oooh, can I say “boy” or is that pejorative? Sorry if I offended anyone.)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Palin Screen Test

Last night was quite a performance by VP nominee Sarah Palin.

And "performance" is the right word for it. I have not heard any news story saying, "Palin insists on writing her own speeches."

So, I'm going to assume that someone else wrote it for her. It was delivered very well. She was confident. The words seemed to be coming from her heart. I didn't detect any hesitation or body language that would belie her true beliefs.

She covered it all:
*A special needs mom.
*A military mom praying for her son.
*Self-deprecating (pit bulls and lipstick).
*Success in the executive branch of politics.
*Kitchen-table tastes, sort of like Jerry Brown in California trading in the limo for a brown sedan.
*Love of her family, with great shots of the little babysitter.
*Loyalty to McCain.
*Taking shots at Obama.

I couldn't help but think of Candice Bergen in Sweet Home Alabama when Palin took after the Democrats. She was tough and deadpan, but not shrill. (She was also the villain.)

She hasn't got a picture-perfect family life. This isn't Ozzie and Harriet. She's faced the challenge of a baby with disabilities. She's got a daughter who has made some wrong choices. She's just like all sorts of swing voters who have their own problems.

Her best lines IMHO were these:
"...in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening. We tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco."

"...I got rid of a few things in the governor's office that I didn't believe our citizens should have to pay for. That luxury jet was over the top. I put it on eBay. I also drive myself to work. And I thought we could muddle through without the governor's personal chef..."

"There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you ... in places where winning means survival and defeat means death ... and that man is John McCain."

So, was it an act? Well, Reagan was a good actor who turned out to be a pretty good president. Folks who have spent time with her say she's the real deal. Can she think on her feet?

These are questions that will get answered as she goes through the meat-grinder of debates, interviews, and off-the-cuff statements to the press.

She looks promising as one who understands us commoners and is willing to add a fresh perspective inside the Beltway. On her own she would run the risk of another Jimmy Carter presidency, but as VP with a veteran politician as her boss she can be an advocate without being destroyed by the machine.

So far, so good.

Sarah's good...

…but you can’t beat the immaculate conception of Barack Obama, the son of two men.


Those wacky liberals.

I’m guessing Biden is wishing he were a woman after last night’s performance by Palin.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

We've insulted them again

My local newspaper carried a two-inch blurb at the bottom of the page today, something about the GOP platform and not counting illegal aliens in the census. So I had to find the entire story and read it. Indeed, the Repubulicans only want to count people who are here LEGALLY. How weird is that?

Well, La Raza spokesman Munoz says such an idea is “unconstitutional and insulting.” And McCain was doing so well among the Hispanics. Now this.

The last time a Hispanic was insulted in this town was when political gadfly Heaton insulted Sheriff Perez by asking him to explain Kane County Jail’s relationship with Immigration.

My, they get insulted easily. Do they think this indignation somehow changes the reality?

Anyway, back to the Census. The U S Census Bureau rang in on the issue of excluding illegal aliens from the count by saying: “Our mandate is to count all residents regardless of legal status.” (Well, they don’t do a very good job of it since their estimate of 11 million is off by at least 50%.)

The platform language was designed to disenfranchise illegal aliens by excluding them from the house seat apportionment calculations. Whether they vote or not, large concentrations of illegal aliens create representation in Congress.

Here’s the platform language that was so “insulting.”
"The integrity of the 2010 census, proportioning congressional representation among the states, must be preserved. The census should count every person legally abiding in the United States in an actual enumeration."

Of course, the census makes no effort to determine status in the survey itself. They do some calculations based on known values such as naturalized citizens and green card holders. Then they assume all the rest are illegal. Not very scientific.

If they were to ask immigration status, what would be the value of the answer given the target audience? What respect do illegals have for this country? Not much.

But the Census Bureau keeps trying. In fact they have requested that Immigration suspend enforcement activities during the census so as not to frighten illegal aliens. (FYI, there was an informal agreement to suspend large scale raids during the 2000 census.)

Immigration spokesman Kelly Nantel answered in no uncertain terms: "I don't want there to be any question in the American people's mind as to whether or not ICE would suspend enforcement efforts. The answer to that is emphatically no."

And the Latino activist group National Hispanic Leadership Agenda fired a shot across the bow of the GOP ship with this plea to McCain: “We urge you to lead your party's platform away from the deportation and detention path that deprives newcomers and the nation of immigrants' positive economic and societal contributions.”

Can we somehow muddle through this without Karl Rove? If ever there was an issue separating the elites from the delegates, this is it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Happy Labor Day

This one has been making the rounds for a year or two, but today it seems worth repeating:

A Somalian arrives in Minneapolis as a new immigrant to the United States.
He stops the first person he sees walking down the street and says, “Thank you Mr. American for letting me in this country, giving me housing, food stamps, free medical care, and free education!”

The passerby says, “You are mistaken, I am Mexican.”

The man goes on and encounters another passerby. “Thank you for having such a beautiful country here in America!”

The person says, “I not American, I Vietnamese.”

The new arrival walks further, and the next person he sees he stops, shakes his hand and says, “Thank you for the wonderful America!”

That person puts up his hand and says, “I am from Middle East, I am not American!”

He finally sees a nice lady and asks, “Are you an American?” She says, “No, I am from Africa!”

Puzzled, he asks her, “Where are all the Americans?”

The African lady checks her watch and says…”Probably at work . . .”

(Author unknown)


WBEZ is the Chicago NPR station. They did a little on-line poll. I'm not sure it's going as well as they thought.

As of a few minutes ago it went like this:

How should Chicago Public Radio refer to out-of-status immigrants?
Illegal alien (89%, 1,776 Votes)
Illegal immigrant (7%, 138 Votes)
Undocumented immigrant (4%, 90 Votes)
Total Voters: 2,004

Wanna join the fun?
Here's the link:

Update: Well, in case you tried it and it didn't work, the poll is CLOSED. I think the comments still work but the moderator is "progressive" so don't expect your words to stick around very long. Yet another example of the rights of the left I suppose.