Archive

  • IF BUSH WELCOMES...

    IF BUSH WELCOMES IMMIGRANTS, WHY PANDER TO THEIR ENEMIES? In today's Times , Elisabeth Bumiller offers a rather remarkable take on President Bush 's immigration speech. She basically said that because his rhetoric was more accommodating than his actual policy proposals , it meant that his approach is "more subtle" than his proposed real-world solutions suggest. She tells us that "what was remarkable to people in Texas was how much he still believes in the power of immigration to invigorate the nation," and adds paragraph after paragraph about Bush's embrace of immigrants while in Texas. Why, he even likes to joke with Hispanic people! (Or maybe not, as Atrios notes .) Look, Bush probably does think immigration is a positive force. But that only makes Bush's speech more cynical, not less. In the real world -- as opposed to the alternate universe of Bush's welcoming rhetoric -- his speech moves us away , not toward, a solution that fully acknowledges this. The largest policy proposals...
  • FUN WITH SCIENCE....

    FUN WITH SCIENCE. In answer to Mike 's motion sensor query, the reason the border has been largely bereft of such Flashdance -era technology is that motion sensors aren't very smart. Separating a person from a squirrel, or a bird, or a tumbleweed is tricky. The number of false positives, which would force our already understaffed border guard to constantly dart out into the desert, would be staggering, and would probably lead to less effective enforcement than we have currently. To be sure, there are better systems out there, capable of separating man from marsupial, but they're expensive and we're cheap. --Ezra Klein
  • INTIMIDATION: IT WORKS....

    INTIMIDATION: IT WORKS. Ezra described today's Richard Cohen joint as a break with recent precedent, but his previous column on Hillary Clinton was also good, solid liberal stuff. The two columns before that were the Stephen Colbert ones that got everyone upset. Cohen may not have enjoyed being attacked by the digital lynch mob , but in Garance 's terms , the mob seem to have been successful in getting Cohen to start playing for Team Blue instead of antagonizing it. --Matthew Yglesias
  • HOUSING SLOWS. ...

    HOUSING SLOWS. For the third month in a row, housing starts -- which is to say, the number of new residences under construction -- dropped . Interestingly, analysts had expected a very slight slowdown this month, predicting a 0.5 percent decline. The real number? 7.4 percent. Meanwhile, builder's confidence dropped from 51 in April to 45 in May -- the lowest number since 1995 -- meaning most builders now see a negative housing market. That�s not terribly good news, but so long as the market cools at a relatively calm pace, we shouldn't see any particularly catastrophic impacts. But watch for those variable rate mortgages -- interest rates are rising, and if they start racing up while the market goes down, the economy is in serious trouble. --Ezra Klein
  • WALLING THE BORDER....

    WALLING THE BORDER. In response to Mike 's query below, it's worth recalling that when Goldfinger was released in 1964, there were no restrictions whatsoever on crossing the border from Mexico to the United States. People from all over Latin America were free to just wander north as they pleased and wander back again, just as they were in 1864 or at any other time from the conclusion of the Mexican War to the Immigration Act of 1965 which first restricted movement across the southern border. Consequently, it took a long time for the fact that these new restrictions were imperfectly enforced to start bothering people, and it's genuinely no surprise that we haven't managed to make our southern frontier look like the GDR border system yet. The President's speech contained this rhetoric about how "the United States must secure its borders" which is "a basic responsibility of a sovereign nation," but in truth throughout the vast majority of our history we didn't even try and it all seemed...
  • CREDIT WHERE IT'S...

    CREDIT WHERE IT'S DUE. In a sharp break from his recent wankery, Richard Cohen has an excellent column on John McCain today. It's interesting, though, that Cohen thinks Jerry Falwell can codify McCain a true conservative. If that's the case, and Falwell has become a gatekeeper for the ideology rather than just the Christianist voting bloc that rests in uneasy alliance with conservatism, then the word truly has lost all meaning. --Ezra Klein
  • DO THEY HAVE...

    DO THEY HAVE FAX MACHINES? So, according to the speech last night, we�re just now installing motion sensors and infrared cameras on the Mexican border? Can this be true? Watching Goldfinger a little while ago, I actually wondered about this. You�ll recall the early scene in which Bond , joined by a revenge-seeking Tilly Masterson , whose sister Jill was killed by Goldfinger in Miami (she�s the one who was covered in gold paint), tries to infiltrate Mr. G�s compound in the Alps. It�s nighttime, and Bond, on a hill at the edge of the compound�s property line, dons some night-vision goggles and sees a complex web of thin red lines -- motion sensors, designed to prevent intruders from attaining ingress. I forget how he finally does get in; I think he kills someone and drives the Aston Martin in (after Tilly gets the Oddjob treatment). Anyway, that movie was made forty-two years ago. And while the Bond films were sometimes ahead of reality, they weren�t ahead by much, and certain...
  • Immigration ID Logic

    Perhaps I'm missing something, but it seems that there is an obvious flaw with President Bush's proposal to have a tamper proof identification card for guest workers. As I understand it, under his program guest workers would be required to present this ID to employers when they get a job. The flaw in the logic is that all workers are already required to present ID to employers showing that they are either a U.S. citizen or have legal authorization to work in the United States. The problem is that the necessary documents can be readily forged, which is why so many workers are employed illegally. The question is, if the documents accepted for proof of U.S. citizenship can still be readily forged, what difference does it make that the ID for guest workers is relatively secure? If the flaw in the president's plan has been reported, I have not seen it. --Dean Baker
  • No Fun With Numbers: Another Cost of Intellectual Property

    The Times had a piece this morning about how Major League Baseball is suing to prevent fantasy baseball games from using players' statistics without paying a licensing fee. The article tried to be fair in presenting the views of both parties as well as independent legal scholars. What is missing from the discussion is any independent economic analysis. The lack of economic analysis in articles on efforts to extend intellectual property has been an ongoing problem in the media (read the discussions of the legal battles over Napster and related services). This would be comparable to reporting on the debates over agricultural protections without ever referring to their economic costs. The economics profession has not been very good in its treatment of intellectual property (IP) issues, but that should not give the media an excuse to ignore the often sizable economic impact of IP controversies. --Dean Baker
  • RUMBLINGS FROM INSIDE...

    RUMBLINGS FROM INSIDE THE BUBBLE. In his speech on immigration tonight, President Bush will be calling, once again, for "a tamper-proof card" to "help us enforce the law � and leave employers with no excuse for violating it." Whoever wrote this speech obviously hasn't been reading The New York Times lately, or he'd have known that the reason we don't have a tamper-proof card already is because of the self-dealing ways of a certain Kentucky Republican known to his local paper as "The Prince of Pork": The Department of Homeland Security has invested tens of millions of dollars and countless hours of labor over the last four years on a seemingly simple task: creating a tamperproof identification card for airport, rail and maritime workers. Yet nearly two years past a planned deadline, production of the card, known as the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, has yet to begin. Instead, the road to delivering this critical antiterrorism tool has taken detours to locations,...

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