Thursday, May 09, 2013

Forget Teabagger/Corporatocracy Scuffles

This fight could shape up to be the nastiest of the next three years ahead of the Presidential campaign:

WASHINGTON — Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, aggressively pushed back Tuesday against a Heritage Foundation report that estimated new immigration legislation would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion by using the foundation’s longstanding support for dynamic scoring — which takes into account projected economic growth when determining the cost of legislation — as a cudgel against it.

“Heritage, I think, is the king of dynamic scoring, and in many respects we’ve advocated for dynamic scoring here because of the positions that they’ve taken,” Mr. Rubio, a chief author of the legislation, told reporters. “They are the only group that’s looked at this issue and reached the conclusion they’ve reached. Everybody else who has analyzed immigration reform understands that if you do it, and we do it right, it will be a net positive for our economy.”

The Heritage Foundation analysis released Monday found that the immigration legislation, which offers a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country, would produce a “lifetime fiscal deficit” of at least $6.3 trillion — an amount calculated by assuming that immigrants would receive $9.4 trillion in government benefits and services, while paying only $3.1 trillion in taxes.

Rubio’s not wrong, factually. If anything he understates the case of it being a net positive. Immigration has, and always will be, the single biggest economic engine for the American economy. Seal the borders, you seal our fate as a banana republic.

So why could this be a popcorn moment for liberals?

Well, let me come in through the back door.

Mark Sanford won an election Tuesday to replace Tim Scott as the Representative from South Carolina’s 1st District. Scott was named to replace outgoing Senator Jim DeMint. Jim DeMint took the post as head of the Heritage Foundation.

So there are a LOT of irons in this fire, not least of which is the circle that gets completed when you consider it was DeMint who encouraged Rubio to run in the first place and shepherded him into the Senate. They remain close friends to this day.

So you have apprentice versus Sith lord, in other words, with a bunch of ancillary people watching to decide which side to choose.

That Rubio will introduce the legislation to the Senate is undoubted. It will be very interesting to see if he gets filibustered or not. My instinct says no, but there are an awful lot of Republicans, Inc. who believe immigration needs to be stopped.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

As If We Didn't Have Enough To Worry About

It looks like China and India are heading towards their own version of the Cold War:

Under cover of night last month, a platoon of People’s Liberation Army soldiers hiked across barren mountains and set up camp in the foothills of the Himalayas, one of the most inhospitable places on earth for a bivouac.

But it wasn’t just an exercise in high-altitude preparedness. The Chinese camp was 19 kilometres on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which separates Ladakh in the state of Jammu & Kashmir from Aksai Chin.

The border here has never been demarcated and remains a thorn in Beijing’s side. A Foreign Ministry spokesman insisted the soldiers were still in China.

The incursion comes as Beijing is on an imperialist expansion kick. It is already embroiled in territorial disputes with neighbours like Japan and the Philippines over islands, and mineral and fishing rights. It recently started cruises to to the Paracel Islands, which is claimed by Vietnam.

Now, the latest land grab, which has passed almost unnoticed in the western press. But it has raised alarm bells in New Delhi, brought protesters out onto the streets and recalls alarming memories of 1962, when the two countries fought a short-lived war triggered by border disputes, and a standoff in 1986.

Well, OK, then! Two nuclear powers are edging closer and closer to outright hostilities! How do I sign up for Mars One again?

China has long given assistance to Pakistan to keep India otherwise occupied, but the combination of American intervention in the region as well as Pakistan’s own internal struggle to keep the Taliban and Islamists tamped down has rendered that an exercise in academia. So I’m guessing China is finding some other way to kick India in the nuts.

Given China’s other pots on burners, like North Korea, Iran, and Africa, you’d think they’d want to fix this as peacefully and unobtrusively as possible. And so far, they’ve managed to keep the skirmishes on the back burner, even in India.


If China intends on adding itself to the roster of failed imperialist states, annexing the closest territories it can find is a good place to start. After all, America’s imperialism began with our doctrine of Manifest Destiny, the belief that we owned the continent from sea to shining sea.

Now, this is not to say that China is necessarily at fault. Apparently, India has been massing troops on the LAC noted above. It has done this twice before, and both times, China punished them. It could be that India has decided to act while China is distracted elsewhere, with Japan and the Philipines, both of which have made some inroads into territory that China has claimed, and that have nebulous nationality. You can add Vietnam, Brunei, and the Maldives to the list of nations with border spats with China.

The larger concern is, of course, an accident that triggers an armed confrontation. No one wants that, but as history has shown time and time again, it’s one of the few guarantees when two nations go toe-to-toe in dust-ups. It only takes a local commander with a hangover.

Take Comfort, Liberals

Mark Sanford may have won, but there are signs that South Carolina is starting to crack under the weight of its own stupid:

Mitt Romney won the 1st by 18 points in 2012. Sanford carried the seat with more than 60 percent in each of his gubernatorial campaigns. The district hasn’t been represented by a Democrat since the early 1970s. This was not a fair-fight sort of seat. A generic Republican would start any race against a generic Democrat with a clear edge. Sanford is obviously not a generic Republican – truer words were never typed — but he got enough (actually, plenty) of the district’s GOPers to turn out for him. Did some of them hold their nose while voting for him? Sure. But they still voted for him. And they all count the same.

In a special election, turnout tends to be low, which tends to favor Republicans.

Think about that for a moment: a district Mitt Romney carried by 18 points, favorite son Mark Sanford only carried by 9.

Now factor in that in 2008, the Republican, Inc. incumbent very nearly lost the seat when Barack Obama carried the district with 54 percent of the vote, the first time a Democratic presidential candidate has won the heavily-gerrymandered district since 1976.

It was a tough race to win for Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, and she did yeoman work in her attempt. But I want to point out something the press seems to be ignoring, except to paint Colbert-Busch as incompetent: she held a double digit lead as late as last week, and on Monday, the race was a dead heat.

So how does Sanford pull off a twenty point swing in the electorate?

Keep in mind that South Carolina is a state where Republican dirty tricks have seen Alvin Greene, a man so stupid he believes Neil Diamond is a soul singer, nominated to face the Republican Senatorial candidate. Greene won 60% of the primary votes, despite having a felony charge hanging over his head and never meeting with local county officials or even bothering to campaign.

Put it this way: in 88 of South Carolina’s districts in 2010, the total votes awarded to Alvin Greene and the other candidates only equal the total number of votes cast in 2 of them.

We’re winning. We just don’t know it yet.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Epic Fail

Some moron is coming to NYC to give away shotguns.

The man behind an effort to put free shotguns in the hands of homeowners says he’ll dole them out in the Big Apple by the end of the year — and the lawmen may not be able to stop him.

“We’re coming — and we’re going to get shotguns into the hands of responsible citizens,” said Kyle Coplen, who founded the nonprofit the Armed Citizen Project in January.

“When criminals fear the citizenry, it deters crime,” the 29-year-old added.

Um. No. Statistically, when criminals fear capture, it deters crime. This is why the homeowners best defense is his neighbors. Or noise from inside his home. Or even just a fake alarm sticker on his door. Or failing that, a strong lock.

That’s not me suggesting that. That’s the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies guidance. When it comes to studying crime and crime prevention, suffice it to say they have a far bigger interest in it than some balding asshole cowboy from Houston.

By extension, the whole argument for guns falls apart quickly if you bother to look at the numbers. Guns in the home are more likely to attract crimes and criminals, for everything from domestic violence to burglary. When criminals know there’s a gun inside, they’re more likely to try and steal it, because most criminals injured or killed by guns aren’t injured or killed by people defending themselves or their property. They’re most likely, by far, to be injured or killed by other criminals.

In that respect, defending a criminal from another criminal, then yes, owning a gun makes sense: if you’re a felon. Remember how “when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”? That’s because they need them more than homeowners do.

Too, gun permits in the city -- even for a long gun kept strictly in the home -- are damned expensive: $230 including fingerprinting. Plus, if you have even a traffic ticket, you can be denied for possession.

This is a publicity stunt, but a dangerous one. Perhaps ol’ Kyle here should spend even one night sleeping in his car in the South Bronx before offering these weapons of war for free.    

Monday, May 06, 2013

Should We Be Taking This Syrias?

It may, in fact, not be the Assad government using chemical weapons. It may actually be the rebels:

Carla del Ponte told Swiss TV there were "strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof".

However, she said her panel had not yet seen evidence of government forces using chemical weapons.

This all sounds suspiciously, or eerily, depending on your point of view, like the Hans Blik/Scott Ritter warnings that Saddam Hussein possessed no chemical or biological weapons and that there was no evidence he was even trying to obtain them. In the building drumbeat towards committing war with Syria, including Israeli airstrikes over the weekend, a lone dissenter of not unsubstantial authority and credibility steps forward to try to thwart the onset of war.

Which of course puts Democrats and liberals in a quandary: for the past decade or so, we’ve been chiding neo-cons and their fellow travelers about committing what amounts to a war crime, ginning up false charges then invading a sovereign nation that, while her leader may have wished us harm, was in no position to do anything to harm us.

This warning even amps that by one: Blik and Ritter stated Hussein had none. Del Ponte is suggesting the other side is the tyrannical aggressor here.

Long-time readers of my writing know that I stand foursquare against nearly all wars: unless our very existence is threatened or we are under a clear diplomatic mandate (e.g. a pact like NATO – but even then, we ought to be holding back), we should not be committing combat troops anyplace, anytime, anyhow. So it will come as no surprise that I would oppose Barack Obama’s potential deployment of troops to Syria.

And yet, I don’t envy President Obama’s position here between Iraq and a hard case. It’s hard to stand idly by, even as a pacifist liberal as myself, and let citizens of a nation die from attacks by their own government using weapons banned by treaty.

And yet, I’m concerned about where this heads if we do commit troops. After all, there’s an uptick in confrontation in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, some of it involving rival Islamist factions it seems, that speak to treading very very carefully.

Which makes del Ponte’s report all the more vital for consideration. We clearly should not be treading in a place where both sides “do it.”

And yet, what happens in Syria might not stay in Syria. It certainly will spill over into Lebanon and Israel, and might spread into Jordan and Iraq. And from there? Who knows.