On Immigration

I suppose I should comment on immigration, since it’s the hot topic of the week.

Unfortunately, I don’t know much of anything about the immigration situation. But I found a shockingly non-partisan (or, at least, minimally-partisan) overview of the situation at Daily Kos: A primer on immigration: background and legislation. The section describing current immigration law was particularly helpful in addressing my main misunderstanding about the whole thing, which was basically, “why didn’t those 12 million illegal immigrants just become citizens??” (The answer, apparently, is that most of them can’t because the U.S. only gives out like 5000 immigrant worker visas per year.) (“They” and “them,” by the way, are my discreet euphemisms for Latinos.)

So after a little self-education, I still don’t know what to think about immigration. I can find valid arguments on all sides. It looks like there’s no reasonable solution; somebody’s going to get screwed no matter what we do. So I suppose it boils down to who can tolerate being screwed the most?

Maybe we should just annex Mexico and make it a state. (Hehe… I just Google’d “annex mexico” to see if anyone else had thought of that, and there’s like a bazillion results. So much for originality.) But seriously… the root of the problem is that the cheapest, crappiest, unskilled jobs in America, even the ones run by the most contemptible, below-minimum-wage-paying bosses around, are still way, way better than the unskilled jobs in Mexico. So the real “cure” has to come from Mexico (as in, they need to do something to make their country attractive to its citizens). And we can’t do anything about that unless we own it.

Borders and Waldenbooks: Dead To Me

In the wake of today’s announcement that Borders and Waldenbooks will not stock an issue of Free Inquiry magazine because it shows some of those Mohammad cartoons on its cover (uh.. I dunno where I read it, just look it up on Google News), I will no longer be frequenting their establishments. (Not that I ever did before, but that’s beside the point.) Take that, you stupid lemon-eating Sharia-lovers!

georgia10 Smitten By Real Security

Well, well, it looks like the great georgia10 is quite smitten by this newly unveiled Democratic “Real Security” “plan:” Real Security, Part II. So smitten, in fact, that one has to wonder if she is not on the Democratic party payroll (the word “shill” comes to mind). She even calls it “tough and smart,” a verbatim recitation of the party line. It makes me wonder if blogs ought not to have some kind of political oversight after all.

Anyway, I eagerly looked over this Real Security “plan” yesterday, admittedly without the benefit of expert political analysis, and I came to the conclusion that the Democratic party must think that American voters are complete idiots. (Actually, I already thought that about all politicians.) I put “plan” in quotes here, of course, because this so-called Real Security “plan” is not a plan at all; it’s just a series of vague feel-good talking points. The best one, of course, being “we’re going to eliminate Osama!” Uh… okay, sure. Dare I ask how? Terrorist-sniffing dogs? A clone army? A Terminator perhaps?

I could ramble about the plan some more, but I found an article today on Tom Paine that does a good job of echoing my sentiments, so I’ll take the lazy way out: Democrats’ Tough Talk.

Video Game Violence Scrutinized

A rare article about kids and video games that actually puts blame where it belongs: Rebecca Hagelin: Video game violence and our sons. (Hint: It’s not on the video game industry.)

Admittedly, you have to read to the end of the article to find her shocking conclusion. In the rest of the text, you’ll get the impression that Hagelin has her targeting system locked firmly on Rockstar Games and the rest of the video game industry as the root of all evil, and government regulation is the only thing standing between us and barbarism. It’s not until the last paragraph that she recovers her sensibilities:

But armed with the truth, and a God-given mandate to train our own children, we must never depend on government to take care of our kids or raise them.

Civil War or No Civil War?

With everyone trying to define exactly whether Iraq is in a “civil war” or not, as if the label should somehow affect our opinion of what goes on there, I thought it would be a fun project to see how many Americans are murdered every day in our country. I think we can all agree that there is currently no civil war in America, but most people recently have been citing “dozens of Iraqis” dying every day as an irrefutable measure of a civil war. So let’s see how the numbers stack up.

Based on the FBI’s violent crime statistics, 16,137 people were murdered in the United States in 2004. That works out to about 44 people dying every day nationwide, or almost 4 dozen. Therefore, we know that a country is not in civil war if up to 44 people die every day.

So how much more than that would it take for America to be in civil war? Let’s check the statistics for… the American Civil War.

According to civilwarhome.com, the number most often cited for Civil War deaths is 620,000. However, as the site shows, clearly the vast majority of soldiers died from disease, not battle wounds. So let’s take those out. That leaves us with, say, 204,000 deaths. For simplicity we’ll say the Civil War lasted exactly 4 years. That means, on average, about 140 soldiers died every day from the war.

So to summarize: 44 people dying every day is not civil war, but 140 people dying every day is civil war. Clearly, with only “dozens” of Iraqis dying every day, it is not even close to a civil war yet. Whew!

But wait! An argument could be made that since America contains 300 million people and Iraq only contains 26 million people, the numbers need to be adjusted. Okay, that makes sense. If we divide it down, we get about 3.8 deaths/day from peace and 12.1 deaths/day from civil war. So by that measure, if “dozens” of Iraqis are dying every day, they are definitely in a civil war.

But wait! An argument could also be made that since the population of the U.S. in the 1860 Census was only about 31 million, the civil war numbers don’t need to be adjusted nearly that much. 26 million is 83.9% of 31 million, so adjusting our civil war deaths of 140 by 83.9% gives us about 117 deaths/day.

So there you have it. Iraq will be peaceful when an average of 3.8 Iraqis or less die every day, but it will not be in civil war until an average of 117 Iraqis or more die every day. The matter is settled. Bloggers and media, you may now divert your considerable energies into another topic.

Evangelicals On The March Again

They’re at it again… GOP Blogger Mark Noonan thinks that Fundamentalist Evangelicals represent all of Christianity: “Tolerant” San Francisco. Once again, Fundamentalist Evangelical Salesmen are rolled out as the essense of Christianity, the all-knowing, all-seeing Truth of Jesus, not to be questioned, not to be argued with. Forget those loser Episcopalians, Catholics, Presbytarians, Methodists, Mormons, and Mennonites… if you want the Christian perspective on anything, just go to the loudest Evangelicals you can find. They’ll tell you the Truth. (After a small donation, of course — $199 in the case of the San Francisco Evangelicals cited in the story.)

It\’s Mock georgia10 Monday

Georgia10 continues her supremely intellectual “liar, liar, pants on fire” personal vendetta against the president: Liar in Chief. I shall dumb down my writing to a level she can understand.

georgia10, crouched over her laptop: “How can I write ‘liar’ today? My comment-fans demand it. And honestly, I just like saying it. It rolls off the tongue. Llllllliar. Lllllies. LIES! LIAR! Ahh, that feels good. I know, I’ll write that Bush is a liar! I’ll be so popular!”

“The world” excludes the Iraqis who are dying by the dozens each day.

Objection! This unattributed statement creates the impression that Iraq was just as peaceful as could be before we came along. This site says that around 300,000 Iraqi civilians died during Saddam’s regime. On average, that’s about 12,500/year and 34/day.

“The world” excludes America which, with every bullet and every bomb, creates more recruits for Al Qaeda.

Objection! Pure speculation, no evidence provided. (Unless you count Al Qaeda’s propaganda, that is.)

This President wanted war.  He wanted to provoke Saddam into starting war, even though Saddam didn’t take the bait and offered to surrender and have full inspections. This President wanted war, and he used a steady stream of lies start that war to quench his bloodlust.

Objection! Speculative. The linked article clearly states that any “surrender” (a large g10 exaggeration, by the way) scenario that Iraqi leaders proposed required leaving Saddam in power, which is quite clearly contradictory to the U.S. regime-change policy, and thus irrelevent.

The new Downing Street Memo isn’t so new. Like previous documents, such as the original Downing Street Memo that stated flat out the evidence for war was being fixed around the policy of regime change, this document has been around in the foreign press and the blogosphere for a while.

Objection! Those Downing Street memos represent the opinion of a bystander. It’s circumstantial evidence. Oh and, by the way, regime change in Iraq became official U.S. policy when Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998, so of course evidence was being “fixed around the policy of regime change.”

Bush and Blair were hellbent on launching a war which they knew was in violation of international law

Objection! Delusional. I’m looking and looking at that sentence and I just can’t find the hyperlinks pointing to a) evidence proving that the war was in violation of international law and b) evidence proving that Bush and Blair knew it was in violation beforehand. I can find, however, in the Downing Street memos, statements opining that the Iraq war plan was not in violation of any international law.

They [Bush and Blair] were determined to lie and deceive the world into thinking Saddam Hussein possessed WMD, that he was an imminent threat.

Objection! She failed to include Saddam in her little liars club. I wonder how his attempt to deceive the world fits into her neat little Bush-Blair conspiracy theory? Oh, I see the problem: It doesn’t fit. When in doubt, just ignore the evidence.

What can we do to show the American people that all the bloodshed on their TV screens is the result of a dangerously incompetent and manipulative President?

Objection! Oh. My. God. THE LIES!!! And here I thought the president was in the White House or his ranch in Texas, when all this time HE’S BEEN ON THE GROUND IN IRAQ!! SETTING OFF IEDS!! KILLING SHI’ITES!! KILLING SUNNIS!! BLOWING UP MOSQUES!! FORMING DEATH SQUADS!! ALL BY HIMSELF!! Gosh, I was so naive. (That was an example of how ridiculous georgia10’s articles usually sound to me.)

Shut down the Senate, Senator Reid. Shut. It. Down.

Yes, please, for the love of God, man. Shut. It. Down. Take. A. Vacation. Anything. To. Shut. This. Whiney. Drama. Queen. Up!

Ugh, I tire of this. Does anyone else see through this charade yet? When is this girl going to realize that the world is a big, scary place where important grown-ups make big, secret, scary decisions that affect millions and billions of people every day?

On Al-Haramain and Government Wiretapping

(Today’s been very dull, if you hadn’t noticed.)

If georgia10 wrote more articles like this, I wouldn’t have indicted her as a PunDip/Entertaindit: Safeguarding The Smoking Gun? This is an article of substance with some intellectual value, about that whole illegal wiretapping program.

georgia10 says that there are some classified government documents related to illegal wiretapping being held by a Portland, Oregon court, in the case of an Islamic charity suing the government for illegal wiretapping. She believes these unredacted documents, released by the government accidentally, contain some explosive evidence that will blow the lid off this administration’s crimes. (Sigh.)

Here’s what I find interesting about all this. The government allegedly wiretapped this Islamic charity because they thought it was funneling money to a terrorist organization, but charges were eventually dropped. The charity is now suing the government because it was illegally wiretapped. My question is, why? What are they hoping to gain (besides embarrassing the U.S. government)? georgia10 does not answer this question, so I had to go looking on my own.

I found information about the case at OrCon Law, including a PDF copy of the actual complaint. The plaintiffs are suing for $1,000,000 (each — there’s 3 of them) in punative damages, and $100/$1000 per day (each) that they were out of operation, per some FISA rule. They also want all the evidence that was obtained through the wiretapping handed over. Seems a bit greedy to me, but hey, this is America. It could have been a lot worse.

Since, as alleged in the complaint, “plaintiff Al-Haramain Oregon has been irreparably damaged insofar as its assets have been frozen, preventing it from engaging in the charitable and humanitarian efforts for which it was organized,” I wondered what charitable and humanitarian efforts were being conducted by this Al-Haramain charity. What exactly have they been prevented from doing? So off to Wikipedia we go: Al-Haramain Foundation. We don’t find any specifics about their charity work, but we do find that they’ve been on a United Nations-designated suspected terrorist organization list since 9 Jan 2004.

So next we turn to Google. Searching reveals the following tidbits:

Al Haramain Islamic Foundation Welcomes Retraction; Washington Times Apologizes for Inaccuracy – 26 Nov 2003.

Friends can’t believe Ashland man would finance terrorism – 19 Feb 2004. This is an article about a secretary at the Al-Haramain charity, who is not one of the plaintiffs.

U.S.-Based Branch of Al Haramain Foundation Linked to Terror – 9 Sep 2004. Government press release about Al-Haramain charity.

U.S. Indicts Oregon Charity Linked to Saudis – 19 Feb 2005. Government indictment of the Al-Haramain charity.

Charges tossed against Oregon Islamic Charity – 10 Sep 2005. The government dropped the indictment charges essentially because the Al-Haramain organization no longer exists except as an empty shell.

Still can’t find much about the “humanitarian efforts” of this charity, which is kind of strange. You’d think they’d want to advertise that sort of thing. Anyway, I find the whole Al-Haramain thing to be a bit suspicious. If they really are affiliated with al-Qaeda, wouldn’t it be ironic if they pulled off winning a $3,000,000 paycheck from the very government they were fighting against?

PZ Myers On Easter And Drywall

I find that PZ Myers at Pharyngula generates a mixed bag of reactions from me. On one hand, I find his thoughts on evolution pretty solid and interesting. On the other hand, I find his thoughts on religion pretty childish and annoying: War on Easter!

PZ is an atheist to the core. He never fails to find opportunites to ridicule religion — any religion, anywhere — and point out how atheism is superior in every way. (I’m paraphrasing, of course.) Atheism doesn’t naturally annoy me, but religious zealotry does, and I consider atheism just as much of a belief system as any other religion. So when PZ ticks off sarcastic bullet points enumerating Easter’s pagan roots as if it was damning evidence that God doesn’t exist, it annoys me.

Likewise, when PZ unqualifyingly calls church-goers “natural-born suckers” (Drywall Jesus), it annoys me. I agree that there are a large number of religious people that don’t really “think” about religion, and there are a large number of greedy people that take advantage of that, but it’s certainly not everyone.

As for the Drywall Jesus: The older I get, the more I’ve come to think that creativity and spirituality are somehow connected, so it could be that PZ’s brain’s inability to assemble some squiggly lines on a piece of drywall into an artistic rendering of Jesus on the cross indicates a fundamental lack of the imagination required to perceive anything mystical, which is kind of sad when you think about it.

PZ should just stick to the evolution thing.

Entertaindit Balance

Since I’ve been ragging a lot on Daily Kos writers lately, I suppose I should be fair and balanced and identify some conservative Entertaindits too. I’ve already mentioned Ann Coulter a few times, which was a no-brainer. But overall I find that it’s much harder to locate Entertaindits on conservative blogs.

Conservative bloggers generally fall into one of two categories: Quoters and Bloviaters. The Quoter constructs an article by quoting a large portion of some news story that supports their view and then attaching one or two sentences of commentary to it. This is typically the style for Michelle Malkin and GOP Bloggers. If the quote supports a conservative view, the commentary is usually pretty bland. If the quote somehow attacks a liberal, the commentary is usually something sarcastic (“Speaking of feeling sick, check al-Reuters’ latest shenanigans in its coverage of the Rahman case at LGF.” -Michelle Malkin). In either case, there’s such a small sample of the author’s writing that it’s difficult to identify a true Entertaindit.

The Bloviater is more commonly found on radio, television, and print, but you can also see it in the new, much-hated Red America blog. (I first heard the term “bloviate” on Papa Bear Bill O’Reilly’s show. I didn’t know what the actual definition of the word was at the time, but I still knew that it described Bill O’Reilly to a tee.) These bloggers “discourse at length in a pompous or boastful manner.” A defining characteristic of the Bloviater is the obsessive need to appear credible. Therefore, they usually include a lot of facts and evidence that looks pretty reasonable on the surface. You have to dig a little to find out if the facts and evidence is actually truthy or not, and most people (including me) are too lazy to do that.

So as you can see, it’s a lot more work to weed out the conservative Entertaindits.

(By the way, liberal bloggers basically have two categories too: Quoters and Inveighers.)

P.S. Wow, I think RedState will be fruitful ground for potential Entertaindits. I just read Pathetic. I’ll have to keep an eye on this guy Clayton.