Friday, June 24, 2005

Mexican Government Opens More US Offices

With so many of its citizens currently violating US law and settling in American cities and states, the Mexican government is busy opening new consular offices across the US to conduct its government business. Minnesota, now home to anywhere from 100,000 to 140,000 Mexican nationals, has just received its new Mexican consular office in St. Paul.
The doors didn't open until 8 a.m., but Tania Fernando wanted to make sure she wasn't left out in the rain when Minnesota's long-awaited Mexican consulate began business Monday on St. Paul's East Side.

Expecting a packed house, Fernando, 18, and her father arrived at 5 a.m.

Before Monday, Mexican immigrants living in Minnesota often drove to Chicago if they needed consular services. At the consulate there, they could request such documents as passports and official IDs.

Fernando and her father, Ramiro, of Burnsville, made that trip earlier this year.

'Whew, it was a long drive,' Ramiro Fernando said. They made the round trip in one day, as many do.

The Fernandos made their much shorter trip Monday because Tania needed a passport so she could go back to Mexico City before returning to the Twin Cities to attend college.

They were the first ones at the counter Monday morning. To their surprise, the consulate did not look like Chicago's, where hundreds of people and a lot of paperwork can create some grumpy attitudes at times.

With about 30 people waiting quietly behind them and Tania wiggling her knees in excitement, her father looked up at the Mexican flag hanging behind the counter and whispered: 'This is beautiful.'
If Mr. Fernando is so enamoured of the Mexican flag, he might consider staying in Mexico. But, of course, placing the Mexican flag on American soil is the thrust of the whole exercise. In California, Mexican government officials are becoming especially bold, which is not surprising given that Washington turns a blind eye to their operation on US soil.
Responding to comments from two Escondido officials who criticized the consulate's presence at a city-sponsored event, the top Mexican diplomat in San Diego on Tuesday responded by calling their statements irresponsible and misleading.

Luis Cabrera, Mexico's consul-general for San Diego, said that his office had done nothing wrong in setting up a mobile unit at a May 21 Escondido Civic Faire event at Grant Middle School, where Mexican nationals could apply for an identification card known as a matricula consular.

On Monday, City Councilwoman Marie Waldron and Escondido Union School District board President Joan Gardner told the North County Times that allowing the consulate to issue the ID cards at a city-sponsored event on a public campus promoted illegal immigration. Waldron also characterized the cards as easy to forge and an unreliable source of identification.

'It is very common but it's very misleading,' Cabrera said of their comments. 'Issuing these documents has nothing to do with immigration.'

Cabrera added: 'The statements of Ms. Waldron are very superficial and show a great ignorance. Saying our cards are based on fraudulent information is very irresponsible.'

Gardner took her concerns to the City Council last week, prompting Waldron to ask the city staff to investigate who invited the consulate to the annual event. She suggested cutting off city funding for the event if the Mexican agency continues to participate.
Well, at least one city official had the temerity to criticize a foreign government's officials operating on American soil. To bad, so few American officials have Ms. Gardner's courage.

Permitting millions of Mexicans to swarm across the border and then refusing to deport them weakens both respect for the law inside the US and the very notion of US sovereignty. Mexico is clearly delighted to acheive this. Apparently US President George W. Bush is too.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Supreme Court Eviscerates Individual Rights

In a shocking 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court has ruled the municipal governments can use eminent domain to seize the property of citizens for "economic development" - i.e. shopping malls, housing developments, etc. The case before the court pitted a handful of residents of a poor a neighborhood in the City of New London, Connecticut, against their city government which wants to raize the neighborhood in favor of projects designed to attract corporations and tourists.

The New London neighborhood that will be swept away includes Victorian-era houses and small businesses that in some instances have been owned by several generations of families. Among the New London residents in the case is a couple in their 80s who have lived in the same home for more than 50 years.

City officials envision a commercial development that would attract tourists to the Thames riverfront, complementing an adjoining Pfizer Corp. research center and a proposed Coast Guard museum.

New London was backed in its appeal by the National League of Cities, which argued that a city's eminent domain power was critical to spurring urban renewal with development projects such Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Kansas City's Kansas Speedway.

Under the ruling, residents still will be entitled to "just compensation" for their homes as provided under the Fifth Amendment. However, Kelo and the other homeowners had refused to move at any price, calling it an unjustified taking of their property.

The concept of eminent domain was originally meant to give government the power to clear private property for "public works" projects like roads, rail lines, sewer systems; its use to clear land for private development represents a dangerous new abuse of government power, one that strips the citizen of his most powerful protection against the power of the state, private property. Naturally, the justices who ruled in favor of New London are the very same liberal justices whose ideal notion of economics is one in which the state controls the economy.

Local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community, justices said.

"The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including - but by no means limited to - new jobs and increased tax revenue," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.

He was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

Mind you, the neighborhood being seized by New London officials isn't run down, isn't blighted. The city officials simply believe that they could gain more revenue form commercial development.

Susette Kelo and several other homeowners in a working-class neighborhood in New London, Conn., filed suit after city officials announced plans to raze their homes for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices.

New London officials countered that the private development plans served a public purpose of boosting economic growth that outweighed the homeowners' property rights, even if the area wasn't blighted.

By that logic, any piece of private property - any home or business - can be confiscated by any level of government at any time if that level of government can propose a more revenue generating project for that site. Since that will almost always be possible. The results? Expect to see wealthier municipalities condemn poor neighborhoods within their borders, replacing them with luxury homes or shopping malls. This ruling would permit a legalised "ethnic cleansing" of minority neighborhoods by town and city governments eager to pave them over with a shopping mall. Big money interests will now have absolute power of private individuals, able to seize their homes or business whenever they can convince (or bribe) local officials to their way of thinking. The once formidable defense of private ownership has been radically diminished.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been a key swing vote on many cases before the court, issued a stinging dissent. She argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

The lower courts had been divided on the issue, with many allowing a taking only if it eliminates blight.

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," O'Connor wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

She was joined in her opinion by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, as well as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

This ruling is a disgrace, the result of the quasi-socialist thinking that has pounded into the skulls of young liberals at America's universities for the last eighty years. The result of justices who have no understanding of the principles under which the US was founded. Now, no one is safe.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Helping Africa

Africa is a mess. Everyone agrees. Worse for Africa, everyone wants to help. Tony Blair wants rich, Western nations to forgive the debts various African governments have racked up with Western banks; he also wants wealthy nations to pledge a certain percentage of the national incomes to bailing Africa out. Poor Tony could only convince his good friend George Bush to go half way on that, sort of. Blair's ideas are more popular in Europe. U2 frontman Bono generally agrees with Mr. Blair and has been crusading for Africa for years. Sir Bob Geldof has emerged from 80's obscurity to announce a new series of "Live Aid" concerts whose profits will lift Africans out of poverty. Unfortunately, despite all the good intentions, none of this will help Africa even a little bit. Surprisingly, one very useful bit of advice has come from a representative of a United Nations program, usually the repository of mostly bad advice.
Africa must develop a "culture of science" if it is to solve many of the challenges it faces and meet the UN Millennium Development Goals, a leading international scientist has said.

Hans Herren, the outgoing director of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Nairobi, Kenya, added that African countries must address their lack of investment in science if they are to develop.

In an interview with SciDev.Net, Herren said that Africa lacks a scientific culture because, although a growing number of Africans have practical research experience, few national policymakers do.

Herren believes that African governments have not given enough recognition to the value of science in guiding and supporting sustainable development.

"If you look around at national budgets, the amount spent on education from primary to tertiary institutions is far too small," he said.

Investing in education, scientific research and technological advances would help all sectors of the economy in African countries, he added.

Mr. Herren has it right, though fostering a "culture of science" will likely take longer than he expects. In the long run, the best way for Africa to climb out of its current decline is change the thinking of its people.

Herren said there are various projects that governments could invest in. But they need to identify long-term research priorities and adopt policies that will mean that in a decade's time the continent has a "critical mass" of scientists and an infrastructure able to make a significant contribution to development.

He added that scientists in African universities and research institutions need to move away from simply teaching about other people's research, and instead conduct and teach about their own studies.

"Africa needs more science wherever it comes from, but people have to do research and move away from just teaching about other people's work."

This, he explained, would help a scientific culture develop — it cannot simply be adopted.

Africa's massive economic and social problems stem, at least partially, from lousy ideas in which Africans - with plenty of help from European ideologues - have indulged since the end of European colonial rule. There has been no shortage of African Marxist and Communist regimes. They have all failed, as have all the quasi-socialist regimes. Those who have sought to blame the European colonial past for all Africa's problems have provided nothing but an excuse for Africans to continue failed policies, or indulge in racist nonsense (like Zimbabwe's siezure of white own farms) that only make the situation worse (those siezed Zimbabwe farms now lie fallow and the country requires international food donations to feed itself). Nor have they ever explained how former European colonies in Asia have managed to transform themselves into economic powerhouses in the same period.

The best thing the West could do for Africa would be to leave it alone. No more loans. No more IMF interference. No more glitzy rock concerts - whose proceeds never reach the people who need them, and really only serve as PR promotion for the rock stars who perform at them. And no more immigration to the West from Africa - that only drains the best minds and most motivated people from Africa. Without smart, motivated and achievement oriented people at home demanding change, Africa won't advance at all. If you want to help Africa, leave Africans to assess their own problems and figure out their own solutions. That's the only way the African people will develop the resolve and maturity to help themselves.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Unprotected Border Risks Terrorist Attack

Security experts worry that the porous US-Mexico border is an open invitation to terrorists to try and sneak a nuclear device into the US.
Still, terrorists might consider a 50 percent chance of getting caught too risky if they can cross the border at some other spot that has no detection equipment at all. Harvard's Bunn frets about hikers carrying pieces of a nuclear weapon across the woodland border between Canada and the United States. The Homeland Security Department, in its classified National Planning Scenarios, conjures up a situation in which 'different groups of illegal immigrants' smuggle in materials and parts for a bomb. Or they might drive a fully assembled bomb across the border in a rental truck or a large SUV.

It's actually pretty easy to cross the border undetected, says T.J. Bonner, president of the Border Patrol officers union. There are plenty of small, unmonitored roads, especially along the northern border. 'Drive-throughs are still an easy way to move material that happens to be heavy,' he says. And as for people and vehicles that the Border Patrol does encounter on these roads, he says, 'we just don't screen people to see if they're carrying any nuclear materials with them, nor do we screen vehicles we happen to catch that drive between the ports of entry.' Smugglers have gotten contraband across the border undetected through tunnels, in planes, even hidden inside a tank full of propane. The possibilities are 'only limited by your imagination,' Bonner says.
Equally worrying is the prospect that a nuclear device could be smuggled into Los Angeles on a cargo ship - only a fraction of the hundreds of such vessels entering the ports of Long Beach and LA are thoroughly searched - and transported by terrorists into the heart of the city.
That scenario is what keeps Los Angeles City Council member Jack Weiss up at night. 'If a nuclear weapon were smuggled into Los Angeles via the Port of Los Angeles and transported via the Alameda Corridor into downtown L.A.,' he says, 'I would be shocked if anybody would have any prayer of finding out about that.' Weiss represents one of the wealthiest districts in the city, and his constituents rarely, if ever, talk to him about terrorism. But as a former assistant U.S. attorney and Capitol Hill national security aide, he's mounted a personal quest to raise awareness, and money, for terrorism prevention and preparedness. 'It's inevitable,' he says of a nuclear attack somewhere in the country. 'I don't even view it in terms of risk.'

But Weiss says he's fighting an uphill battle, because local officials are not elected for their anti-terrorism credentials. 'The next attack, if and when it comes, will not galvanize most leaders in most American cities to do more,' he contends. 'The attitude will continue to be, 'It can't and won't happen here.' ' He notes that the Los Angeles Police Department just changed the name of its Counter-Terrorism Bureau to the Critical Incident Management Bureau. 'The chief of police believed that if he kept using the word 'terrorism,' it would be hard to keep getting additional resources from the City Council,' Weiss says with a mix of exasperation and resignation.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Welfare Culture: the Social Disaster of Entitlement

Julie Atkins is a single mother with three daughters living in public housing in Derby, England. All three of Ms. Atkins' daughters have given birth to new babies, which might seem like a pleasant development until one learns that her daughters were twelve, fourteen and sixteen years old, respectively, at the time they gave birth. One might be tempted to wonder exactly what their mother was doing during the run-up to such events, but not to worry, Ms. Atkins knows exactly where to place the blame for her daughters' fertile predicament.
Mrs Atkins told the Sunday Mercury: "I don't care what people say about me. I blame the schools - sex education for young girls should be better."
Her comments caused some of her neighbors to point out certain flaws in Ms. Atkins's logic, as Val McQueen points out in her excellent article on Ms. Atkins and her burgeoning brood on Tech Central Station.
When the neighbors, reading this, lost no time in calling the papers to report that Mrs. Atkins had been allowing her then-11-year old daughter to have sex with her 13 year old boy friend in the family home, Mrs. Atkins widened her sphere of culpability for her daughters' pregnancies to include "the government."
Actually, Ms. Atkins would do well to look closer to home for clues to her daughters inability to remain out of the maternity ward.

Although Mrs. Atkins, currently divorced, has been married twice, she was never married to any of her daughters' fathers, so the three girls are themselves illegitimate, a glittery point lit upon by magpie Aussie author of The Female Eunuch, Germaine Greer. Never slow with a pert social comment, she opined in The Daily Telegraph, "Social historians will tell you that illegitimacy is highly hereditary. There have always been women like Yeats's Crazy Jane whose gardens grow 'nothing but babies and washing'. They live in an alternative society that is matrilineal, matrifocal, and matrilocal, a society that the patriarchy has always feared and hated." Ah yes, the patriarchy. Where would Dr. Greer be without it?

And then, as conservative commentator Melanie Phillips points out, there is the long-gone Martin Dodd, father of two of the new mothers, who claims not to have realized his daughters were pregnant until he read it in the papers. Unlike his ex-girlfriend, the girls' mother, Mr. Dodd does not blame the schools or the government. Instead, he blames her. He said, "I think they have only copied what they have seen at home. … Having one pregnant daughter could be an accident, but three seems irresponsible."

Writes Phillips in The Daily Mail, "Seems? There can be surely not a scintilla of doubt that the whole grisly situation is the very quintessence of irresponsibility. What does not seem to occur to Mr. Dodd is that he is very much part of that irresponsibility himself.
Clearly, there is plenty of irresponsibility to go around. Nevertheless, one might think that Ms. Atkins would show greater gratitude toward the government, since it alone has been responsible for permitting her to live a relatively comfortable life while raising her three daughters.
Currently, including the council-provided house, the Atkins family is estimated to be costing British taxpayers around £650 -- $1,178 -- a week, or around $60,000 a year. Mrs. Atkins, though, has expressed herself dissatisfied with current arrangements, complaining to the papers that now her three daughters have babies, she is finding her three-bedroom house "cramped", and is requesting larger accommodation from the local council.
And what of Ms. Atkins's daughters and their new-born children?
Natasha recently gave birth to a girl, just around her 16th birthday. Her sister Jade, 14, also gave birth to a girl.

However, the first of the three sisters to deliver a baby was 12-year old Gemma, who gave birth to a boy. She named him T-Jay, which presumably means something in 12-year-old circles, and was chosen, of necessity, without consultation with the 14-year old father, who has made himself scarce.

Nor does 14-year old Jade seem to have any great expectations of seeing the father of her baby any time soon either, noting off-handedly that she became pregnant as a result of "a one-night stand".

Delightful. And all of this happily subsidized by the British taxpayers, who do not, it would seem, even merit the benefit of Ms. Atkins's gratitude for their beneficence. Of course, the politically correct policy "advocates" and old line leftists who current man the helm of the British ship of state - and who are busy scuttling it on the skoals of social decay - view Ms. Atkins not as an example of utter irresponsibility but as a victim of Victorian moralizing.

Meanwhile, married couples with children no longer get preferential tax treatment, as Tony Blair's government has declared that no one form of "family" should have a tax advantage over another. Anything anyone chooses, however temporarily, to regard as a "family" is as good as any other. Given that the family is the basic unit of human society all over the world, this typical Labour perversity is not unintentional. Tony Blair gave a speech a few years back, in which he vowed to "destroy the forces of conservatism" -- meaning everything that binds society together -- and he has laid about him with a wrecking ball ever since. Middle-class British parents, meanwhile, are mortgaging their futures to keep their children out of state schools, or to buy homes in areas where the local state school has a civilized reputation.

Blair's old confrere, Roy Hattersley, a creepy socialist ex-MP, lost no time in dashing off an article for The Guardian, in which he castigated the opprobrium and japery being heaped upon the Atkins household. "Why," he spluttered in outrage, "they're being treated like characters in a Victorian morality play!" The Victorians were notably continent and family-oriented, so one can understand his repulsion. Regarding the £650 the family takes from the taxpayers, Hattersley opines, "Shocking? It certainly is. But not for the reasons that have excited tabloid passions. Despite their 'rent free, three-bedroom council house', the Williams [the daughters' surname] family is expected to survive on less than £70 ($127) a head. The three babies are being brought up in poverty. And society does not care."
In a sense, Mr. Hattersley is right. British society does not care about Ms. Atkins and her brood. If it did, it would never have permitted such nonsense to continue. It would not have subsidized Ms. Atkins reckless lifestyle, thus making it possible. If the British government truly cared about Ms. Atkins or her children, it would have demanded that she provide a stable home for her children, and removed them from her care when she didn't. A truly compassionate government would have demanded that Ms. Atkins learn to fend for herself economically and would not have burdened the taxpayers with the bill for her behavior. If the British government cared about British society, it would have demanded that, whilst receiving public assistance, Ms. Atkins refrain from having additional children, and would have taken steps to ensure that she did. But the British government doesn't care about Ms. Atkins or her children, or worse, about the British people. It cares only about the failed ideological fantasyland in which most of its officials continue to believe, despite the rampant evidence of societal decay rapidly mounting around them.

Ms. McQueen's article is well worth reading in full.

Chirac in Freefall

Having married his political fortunes to the creation of a US-rivaling United States of Europe, Jaques Chirac finds himself caught in a downward spiral of credibility at home after the disastrous French vote against the proposed European Union constitution and this weekend's failed Brussels talks over the EU budget. The French press was uncharacteristically harsh in its criticism of Mr. Chirac as he limped home to Paris after a bruising confrontation with Tony Blair.
As he awoke to a summer heatwave on Saturday morning, after a dawn flight from Brussels, Mr Chirac was instead greeted with headlines depicting him as the principal loser of the summit.

Le Monde, the grand old tribune of France's intelligentsia, declared the summit a "double victory" for Tony Blair. Downing Street officials could barely believe their luck as they read that Britain had buried the EU constitution and succeeded in highlighting the "anomaly" of how the EU spends seven times more on farmers than it does on "future" projects, such as science and research.

"This new failure on Europe risks affecting his credibility in the world arena and having the ricochet effect of further weakening him on the domestic scene," Le Monde said.

Such powerful language shows how profoundly Europe has been shaken by the double blow over the past month of the rejection of the EU constitution and the failure by leaders to agree a new budget.

The days when the French elite would automatically rally behind their president in a row with a British prime minister have ended as the establishment ponders the emphatic no in the referendum.

Mr. Chirac's failure to sieze the initiative in Brussels, coupled with France's loud and embarassing "NON!" vote led many in the French press to declare Tony Blair as the man now steering Europe's fate.

The consensus of most French press commentary over the weekend was that the British Prime Minister had "won" the Battle of Brussels (on the eve of the 190th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo). President Chirac was presented as a double loser, on the future of the EU constitution and the future of the EU budget. The centre-left newspaper Le Monde, in an editorial headed "Blair prend la main" (Blair takes over) pointed to the paradoxical consequences of the French non to the European constitution three weeks ago. Left-wing campaigners for the "no" vote in France had promised a plan B in which Paris would be able to impose a more "social", protectionist, anti-free-market Europe. In fact, the "champion of social-liberalism", Tony Blair, had been placed in the driving seat, Le Monde said. "The only plan B which exists ... is the plan Blair," the newspaper said.