Saturday, November 25, 2006

This Water Contains High Levels of Hydrogen

My wife, daughter and I are in Louisville, Kentucky today visiting friends. During a tour of their hometown we stopped to see beautiful Waterfront Park. In the center of the park is a fountain that was designed in such a way that it made me wonder how they kept people from swimming in it during the summer. I then noticed a sign that said. "Warning. This water contains high levels of hydrogen. Keep Out!" I immediately burst out laughing.

If you do not get the joke here is an article from Fox News that I found after returning from the park in which they carefully explained to their readers that there is nothing wrong with water that contains hydrogen.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Second-Class Citizens

What rights and privileges do natural-born citizens have that naturalized citizens are denied? If you read any civics books the answer given is that naturalized citizens have all the rights and privileges of natural-born citizens except they cannot be president or vice-president of the United States. The civics books also say that the only way a U.S. citizen can lose their citizenship is by serving in the armed forces of another nation or committing a very serious crime such as treason.

But that is no longer true for naturalized citizens. Since 1996 not only can a naturalized citizen lose their citizenship and be deported for crimes far less serious than treason but it can now be done by the INS on its own say-so without a judge being involved at all:

from the Columbian Law Review
In 1996, against a backdrop of partisan criticism of its Citizenship USA naturalization campaign, the Immigration and Naturalization Service promulgated regulations implementing, for the first time, an administrative procedure to revoke citizenship of naturalized citizens. Prior to this, naturalization could be revoked through judicial proceedings only.

It is almost as if we have to have an underclass in our society. When I was a child in the 1950s and 1960s I heard racist whites taking great satisfaction that however lowly was their status in society at least they were not black. Now I hear the same sort of sentiments being expressed by the anti-immigrant crowd who place great value on things that natural-born citizens possess and immigrants do not, such as speaking English without an accent and not having any emotional attachments to foreign flags or holidays.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Why now?

Two men came to Maria Hernadez’s door in Moline, Illinois Monday evening asking for her 19 year old son, Jose. They said they were from the Probation Office and needed to talk to him. This seemed a little strange since Jose had completed his probation several years ago but the family called him to come home. As soon as he came he was arrested and taken to the Rock Island County jail.

The men were federal agents conducting a sweep of immigrants in Illinois with more than one DUI arrest. A new law makes multiple DUI convictions a Class A felony. Immigrants who are not yet citizens and are felons are subject to deportation. For some reason a federal judge had issued an order and a sweep was being conducted. As of Tuesday evening at least 16 people had been arrested and were being held in the Rock Island and Henry county jails.

The Hispanic community in the Illinois Quad Cities is in turmoil. Many of the arrested, like Jose, had completed their probation and paid their fines years ago. Some had been advised by their lawyers to plead guilty to the misdemeanor rather than go to trial since no jail time was involved and this would not affect their immigration status. Many were asking why this was happening now. Did it have something to do with the recent elections? Why were the families not allowed to talk to them in jail? What was going to happen now? Would they be deported without the families being able to see or talk to them?

Jose was a student at Moline High School. Others were arrested at their place of employment. All of them have families. Many of those arrested were the primary wage earners leaving wives and children to worry about how the rent was going to be paid.

How does rounding people up and deporting them years after their DUI fines have been paid and probation served make us safer or improve anything? Who does this judge and these agents serve? Do you approve of their actions?

Read news articles about the arrests:
The Quad Cities Times
The Moline Dispatch

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Karl Rove actually believed the polls were all wrong

Newsweek claims that Karl Rove actually believed that Republicans would hang on to majorities in both the Senate and the House.
Rove's miscalculations began well before election night. The polls and pundits pointed to a Democratic sweep, but Rove dismissed them all. In public, he predicted outright victory, flashing the V sign to reporters flying on Air Force One. He wasn't just trying to psych out the media and the opposition. He believed his "metrics" were far superior to plain old polls. Two weeks before the elections, Rove showed NEWSWEEK his magic numbers: a series of graphs and bar charts that tallied early voting and voter outreach. Both were running far higher than in 2004. In fact, Rove thought the polls were obsolete because they relied on home telephones in an age of do-not-call lists and cell phones. Based on his models, he forecast a loss of 12 to 14 seats in the House—enough to hang on to the majority. Rove placed so much faith in his figures that, after the elections, he planned to convene a panel of Republican political scientists—to study just how wrong the polls were.

Funny how reality has a way of intruding into even the best laid plans.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The election results force the President to change course in Iraq

I have heard the convergence of factors leading to the overwhelming nature of the Democratic sweep of the midterm elections 2 days ago as a "perfect storm." Everything played its part including the President and Vice President insisting that a vote for any Republican for Congress was a vote for a 2 year continuation of the present policy and leadership in Iraq.

But then, in a move that must have angered and frustrated Republicans who had just lost, immediately after the election the President fired Donald Rumsfeld and announced a change in direction in Iraq policy. If he had done that before the election some of those defeated Republicans might not have lost. What is going on here?

I remember hearing a story about President Franklin Roosevelt. After meeting with a group asking for federal action on civil rights FDR told them, "OK, you’ve convinced me. Now go out there and force me to do it." Although we always talk about the president as if he is the "decider" there are vast institutional forces at work constraining the president. He is probably being told constantly by his staff what he cannot do.

It is almost as if the Republicans in government were as unhappy with how things were going as the rest of the country but felt powerless to change what they were doing before the election. The election results forced the President’s hand. I may be imagining things but it almost sounded to me like he was relieved. Maybe the burden of being the "decider" is wearing on him, especially when things are so obviously going wrong.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Why was Karl Rove so confident?

As of this writing the Democrats look to have about a 15 seat majority in the House and possibly control of the Senate depending on recounts and legal challenges in Montana and Virginia and whether Joe Lieberman caucuses with the Democrats or the Republicans. (Joe Lieberman’s party affiliation reminds me of Abraham Lincoln asking how many legs a dog has if you call the tail a leg. Answer: 4 – calling the tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.)

These results make me wonder what happened to Karl Rove’s October surprise and why he was so supremely confident up to the end. Did he think that his dirty trick of harassing swing voters with robo-callers which deceptively appeared to be from Democrats would cause a last minute swing? Did he just assume that the Republicans would have a superior Get Out the Vote drive? Was Karl unaware that the powers that be in business (such as in the media and possibly the electronic voting machine companies) who had aided his efforts in previous elections had decided that the current situation in the country was bad for business and needed to change? Or did he really know what was going to happen and was just putting on a show of confidence?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A walk on Sylvan Island

Today was another beautiful sunny fall day in the Quad Cities. I took my dog, Bear, for a walk on Sylvan Island in Moline.

One of the main paths on Sylvan Island. (click on the pictures to see them full size.)

That's Bear up ahead on the right side of the path.

The Moline power dam and a popular fishing spot.

Cheney - "Stay the Course"

On ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” this morning Vice President Dick Cheney said that a vote for any Republican for Congress, no matter what the individual candidate may be saying about the war, would be a vote for 2 more years of the policies and leadership we have seen up to now. A vote for a Republican Congressional candidate was a vote for the war and a vote for a Democratic candidate was a vote against the war. Although President Bush may have backed down from "Stay the Course" Vice President Cheney most definitely has not.

If President Bush and Vice President Cheney had suddenly announced before the election that they were changing strategy and they had, ala Nixon, a secret plan to win the war this could have been bad news for the Democrats. The Democrats can breathe a sign of relief. The President’s and Vice President’s stubbornness and inability to admit to any mistake or miscalculation apparently prevent any such last minute surprises.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

"End Iraq" -- David Brooks

Conservative columnist David Brooks in his column today in the NY Times (requires a subscription) calls for ending our occupation of Iraq.
Partitioning the country would be traumatic, so after the election it probably makes sense to make one last effort to hold the place together. Fire Donald Rumsfeld to signal a break with the past. Alter troop rotations so that 30,000 more troops are policing Baghdad.

But if that does not restore order, if Iraqi ministries remain dysfunctional and the national institutions remain sectarian institutions in disguise, then surely it will be time to accede to reality. It will be time to effectively end Iraq, with a remaining fig-leaf central government or not. It will be time to radically diffuse authority down to the only communities that are viable — the clan, tribe or sect.

Mr. Brooks does not explain in his article whether he now believes that it was a mistake for the US to invade and occupy Iraq or if he still thinks it was a noble and worthwhile effort to try to bring democracy to the Iraqis at the point of a gun. It is not clear whether he believes the 3,000 American lives, the 40,000 to 650,000 Iraqi lives (depending on whose estimates you believe) and the billions of dollars of American tax-payer money spent (wasted) was an acceptable price to pay for a plan that (as is now clear to almost everyone) was doomed from the outset.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

John McCain on the sacrifices of our Iraqi War veterans

Yesterday Senator John McCain was campaigning with Peter Roskam who is the Republican candidate for Congress in the Illinois 6th Congressional District. Roskam’s Democratic opponent is Iraqi war veteran Tammy Duckworth, who walks on two artificial legs as a result of injuries suffered in Iraq. Roskam is not a veteran.

McCain had this to say about the sacrifice of our veterans:
I go out to Walter Reed quite often and see these brave young soldiers who have served and sacrificed so much. Many of them have lost limbs, as you know. And it's a very sad thing to see. But at the same time it's very uplifting.

But what was the sacrifice of our Iraqi War veterans for? When the war started we were told it was necessary to eliminate Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. When it turned out there weren’t any the stated reasons for the war shifted to bringing the benefits of western style democracy to the region. That no longer seems very likely so now we are told that the war in Iraq is part of the global war on terror. But many experts tell us that the war is increasing the likelihood that the United States will be attacked by terrorists rather than lessening it.

Maybe John McCain finds sacrifice itself inspiring even if the sacrifice accomplishes nothing. I guess everyone is entitled to find inspiration and meaning where ever they can, but if he feels that way why is he not campaigning for Tammy Duckworth rather than for her opponent?