Friday, June 29, 2007

Chertoff complains enforcing law upsets some people

Frustrated with the monumental defeat of surreptitious Senate-sponsored amnesty, Michael Chertoff had this to say:
"I'm going to say to those people who say build a fence, 'Come with me when I go to Texas, and I tell the ranchers and the mayors that they may not like it but they're going to get some fencing'. When people say enforce the law in the interior, I'm going to say 'Come with me when we do conduct enforcement operations, and we have to put people in detention and remove them'."
How incredibly lame. The Secretary of Homeland Security doesn't like upsetting people who disagree with the laws he's sworn to enforce, so he's going to drag his feet? And he actually has the audacity to say so?

Imagine John Walters balking in the campaign to remove hard drugs from the urban core because the dealers find his initiatives to be bad for business.

Or Robert Mueller whining about how upset members of terrorist cells in the US would be if they found out the Bureau was trying to infiltrate them.

Think if, after calling the police to check out the loud party going on across the street while the parents are out of town, an officer shows up at your door complaining that he doesn't want to approach the kids because they're going to be mad if he makes them turn down the music or confiscates their kegs.

My job's tough. It's hard work, really hard work. Some people don't like the things I do in my hard work. I don't want to do it anymore. If it's that important to you, you do it. But don't try to help me do it, you vigilante!

What a crybaby.

Incompatibility with West illustrated in increased Saudi Arabian executions

Saudi Arabia has executed more than one person every other day so far this year:

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday said it beheaded three men convicted of various crimes, bringing the total number of executions announced by the ultra-conservative kingdom so far this year to 101.
This year will see the Kingdom dole out the most capital punishment to criminals so far this decade. In 2000, 113 were put to death. At the current pace, 204 executions will have taken place by year's end, giving Saudi Arabia the highest official per capita capital punishment rate in the world.

Fine. Internal violent crime in the turbulent country is impressively low, and from a perspective of immediate global economic stability, it is encouraging to see that the royal family is willing to see heads roll to dampen the powder keg.

But in several ways, the news illustrates just how hopelessly quixotic is the dream of realizing a Jeffersonian liberal society in the Middle East. The reference above to heads rolling isn't figurative. Most executions are by way of beheading, on display for the public to see. The death penalty may be meted out for the following offences:

Executions are usually carried out in public in Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict form of sharia, or Islamic law. Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking can all carry the death penalty.
Think about that. Giving up the faith falls under the same category as rape and murder. To turn against the dominant belief system carries the risk of death. It's not an issue of governmental tyranny either--there are legions of groups residing in the Kingdom that would elect to take an apostate's head before the royal family would.

Contrast this to the US, where challenging the Zero Group Differences orthodoxy is largely considered to be the gravest of all intellectual sins. It may carry a public pilloring and ultimately threaten the apostate's livelihood, but the worst official punition is the threat of a loss of governmental funding that had been previously received.

The vast majority of Westerners are appalled at the idea of physically harming a person for what he thinks or says. Without this repugnance in play, it is difficult to imagine anything close to a liberal democracy taking form. Rather than abandoning that illiberalism, however, the Islamic world is bringing it into the Occident while increasingly embracing it at home. Not only is extirpation of the dissenter desired, the most brutal and undignified way of removal is to be employed.

The situation isn't necessarily hopeless for those condemned by the Saudi government:

But it is possible for the condemned to have their live's spared. Local newspapers have carried stories of people on death row for murder who are pardoned by the family of the slain victim. ...

Such pardons are accompanied by the payment of diyya, or blood money, to the victim's family. They can also be the result of "reconciliation" involving greater compensation than stipulated by law.

The possibility of an isonomic society is hopeless, though. That money can so conspicuously buy justice, with official sanction no less, makes a mockery of the idea of equal protection under the law.

The assumption that a man's extended family is responsible for his actions and entitled to reparations for harm done to him is the strongest rebuke of all against liberalism. Justice is merely an issue to be decided upon by clans party to the conflict. Legal principles are contingent upon the opinions of the 'plaintiffs' and 'defendants'. Instead of crimes being committed against the public or against humanity, acts are committed against the tribe, and that same tribe determines what actions are necessary to rectify the situation.

Expect an impartial judicial system to be constructed out of this? Hope to be adequately represented by your local politician? Better hope the jurist and the legislator share your blood.

The Islamic world strikes us as retrograde. But it is not returning to any previous period of time. It is continuing, in all of these ways, a civilizational tradition that extends fourteen centuries into the past. Introducing a few propositions and boots on the ground is scarcely going to scratch the surface.

Liberalism has no way of asserting itself in the face of illiberalism. Worse, it cannot defend itself against illiberalism, but only be tarnished by it.

Consequently, the West should separate from the Islamic world in every possible way. End immigration from the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, deport those illegally present, and bribe legalized immigrants to return home. Create lucrative awards for innovative entrepreneurs and corporations that create economically viable energy alternatives to oil. Pull out most troops stationed in Iraq. Don't return them to Saudi Arabia, instead retaining only strategic contingents in places like Kuwait and the Persian Gulf to react to abrupt oil distribution disruptions.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Magic: The Gathering custom card sets

Using this neat card editor created by Twan van Laarhoven, I've indulged myself in coming up with a few old RPG-inspired custom card 'sets':

Final Fantasy IV (originally II)
Final Fantasy VI (originally III)
Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy X
Chrono Trigger
Earthbound
Dragon Warrior (Quest) IV
Dragon Quest VIII

Parenthetically, I've had a recurrent pining to get back into Magic: The Gathering, but am not able to justify the time or money expenditures serious Type II playing entails. I'd like to get my foot back in the door via Booster Draft. However, I haven't seen much in the KC metro area that doesn't conflict with other personal happenings. If a reader from these parts is aware of a regular draft host, please let me know via email or in the comments.

Magic: The Gathering and Marle, Frog, Lucca, Crono, Ayla, Robo, Magus





























Magic: The Gathering and Ness, Paula, Jeff, Poo















Magic: The Gathering and Ragnar, Brey, Cristo, Alena, Taloon, Mara, Nara












































S. 1639 goes down 46-53

If ever there has been a time in recent politics that a self-congralutory pat on the back is merited by the citizenry of the US, today is that day. Collectively, we fought the establishment forces--big business, big politics, and big religion--pushing for a pliable population of menials to labor for low wages subsidized by the net taxpayer, vote for a larger and more intrusive government, and to become members of an antiquated institution, respectively.

Not only did we fight, we won. Through an indefatigable campaign of phoning, faxing, and writing, we averted a demographic disaster that would've made southern California a sure harbinger of what would soon befall the rest of the nation: Dismal educational performance, public bankruptcy, an increasingly squeezed middle class unable to afford housing and so less likely to start new families, greater wealth inequality, strained social services, lowered levels of trust among members of their respective communities, dirtier roads and skies, urban sprawl, ad infinitum.

Praise is also due to the 114 House Republicans who, in showing their opposition to the S1369, took a decisive stand against the Kyl-Kennedy-McCain open borders coalition that sent a clear signal to the upper House that the bill had lots of enemies in the other chamber.

We beat back an offensive onslaught against American sovereignty. But her status remains tenuous. There has to be carry through. The GOP Presidential contenders have been presented with a tremendous opportunity to do just that. The approval rating of Congress has dipped to a dismal 25%, while the President has sunken to a Carter-esque 28% (and 15% on immigration). McCain and Brownback are finished. The other hopefuls should, aligned with a House that has sharply rebuked the Bush administration, do everything they can to show they are in opposition to the failed national leadership of their party.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

S1639 moribund, just like predecessor S1348?

We needed to peel off five formerly-supportive Senators. Three down so far:
Late Wednesday, two Republicans, Sens. Kit Bond of Missouri and Richard Burr of North Carolina, told FOX News that they will switch their vote and not try to prevent the filibuster. One Democrat who never votes against cloture, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, also told FOX News that he will vote "no" this time.
Richard Burr has been a particularly surprising open borders advocate as of late who must've been so deluged with constituency outrage that he decided to throw in with the vast majority of the electorate he is supposed to represent.

Encouragingly, House GOP members gave a thundering vote of no-confidence to their colleagues in the upper House today:
Domenici added that a vote Tuesday night in the House GOP conference was very telling for him. Only 23 Republicans of 201 voted against a resolution of disapproval of the Senate measure.
Don't grow too weary yet. These are the nine Senators we need to put acute pressure on:
At least nine other senators told FOX News they are undecided or leaning toward a no vote. They include Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor, Jim Webb, Jeff Bingaman, Robert Menendez and Republican Sens. Ted Stevens, Lisa Murkowski, Pete Domenici, Judd Gregg and John Ensign.

Let each of them know that the bill is destined for the bottom of the sea and they'd be wise to jump ship now while they're still above water instead of sinking with the ship. Feel free to cut and paste the following:

---
Senator ,

I've been pleased with your efforts in the in opposition to amnesty and in favor of national security and the rule of law.

Please vote with the vast majority of the American public on Thursday morning to kill S. 1639, a labyrinth of legislation that will among other things offer amnesty in 24 hours to the 12-20 million illegal aliens who've disrespected the rule of law, do nothing to ensure the construction of more than 700 miles of fencing that was approved a year ago, and will increase immigration at a time when so many of our cities are feeling a suffocating strain on infrastructure, vital services, and education.

Respectfully,

(signed)
---

Simply click on the link embedded in each of the above Senators' names and insert that text. Call and fax them, too. We just need to convince two of them to switch to the pro-sovereignty position.

DragonForce's Soldiers of the Wasteland

One word to describe this: Fast.

The twin electric guitar playing is mind-numbingly quick, and the percussion is hardly a step behind.

The guy playing Stepmania appears to a be a savant of celerity as well, but I've a sneaking suspicion that there were more than one set of hands on the keyboard when this went down.

This power metal band plays perpetual tribute to the legions of Western males lost in the ennui and anomie of contemporary abundance, who house within themselves a desire for some epic purpose in their lives. The sound is uplifting and energizing. It's good stuff.

Prolific commenter creates own site

John S. Bolton, who most famously pointed out how fishy the 2004 Presidential election exit poll results of Hispanic voters were, has started his own weblog. He's a regular and appreciated commenter here, and this pontificator is certainly glad to see him create his own interactive forum.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Senate amnesty bill revived; View roll call

Yesterday, the battle went to the open borders establishment forces. Here are the Senators, alphabetically by party, who voted to breathe life back into an amnesty bill the American public overwhelmingly opposes:

Akaka (D-HI)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D- OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Obama (D-IL)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Schumer (D-NY)
Webb (D-VA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)

Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Burr (R-NC)
Coleman (R-MN)
Collins (R-ME)
Craig (R-ID)
Domenici (R-NM)
Ensign (R-NV)
Graham (R-SC)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagel (R-NE)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Lott (R-MS)
Lugar (R-IN)
Martinez (R-FL)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA)
Stevens (R-AK)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (R-VA)

If you're upset, let these guys and gals know. I'll be referencing this roll call of shame for every subsequent re-election any of these Senators are ever up for in the future.

But throwing in the towel is premature. Three weeks ago we body-slammed a Congress that wants to replace us, sending S1348 to the graveyard. But the amnesty reincarnate, S1369, won one of the two cloture votes it needs to receive a final vote on the Senate floor. Unlike the cloture procedures, the final vote only requires a simple majority for passage. The Senators listed above are the reasons, if the amnesty does jointly pass, for its doing so.

Some supportive Senators will attempt to cloak their anti-sovereignty stance by pointing out that today's procedural vote allows for a gamut of amendments to be considered. When most of these fail, as they inevitably will (and those that do pass will not strip the 24-hour amnesty provision, the increase in legal immigration, the lack of a mandate for an immediate physical barrier on the US-Mexican border, or any other aspects of the bill that make it so disastrous), a few of these Senators will vote against the final bill. Fourteen of them can afford to do so and still see the bill pass. They know this. And they'll know that they could've prevented it from doing so. But they won't want you to know it. Well, if you didn't, now you do. Don't be fooled by their deceptions.

If we muster a sharp riposte in the next several hours, we have a chance to kill the bill by peeling away five supportive Senators for the next cloture vote on Thursday. If we're setback there, the amnesty is virtually guaranteed to pass the Senate.

If this worst-case scenario comes to fruition in the upper House, however, the fight will still be far from over. The bill will then pass to the House, where a new crop of Democrats has largely sided (in both rhetoric and action) with the citizenry against the national leadership of both parties. Despite his being blacklisted and called all sorts of nasty names by most of the nation's 'mainstream' media organs, a bi-partisan coalition in the House backed Tancredo's anti-sanctuary amendment by a margin of 234-189 on June 15.

Nancy Pelosi is hesitant to demand party obedience on the bill if it reaches the lower House without a guarantee of significant GOP support. Many of our elected leaders want to shove this thing through, but few want to shoulder the blame for doing so--a truly embarrassing situation for a democratic society to find itself in. That guarantee is in doubt, as House Republicans are expected to vote on a resolution signaling their disapproval with the Senate bill later today:
House Republicans are set to vote on a measure Tuesday afternoon rejecting the Senate immigration bill shortly after the upper chamber votes whether to proceed on that debate in yet another hurdle for backers of a comprehensive overhaul. ...

The resolution is a largely symbolic measure, but would signal widespread displeasure of the Senate bill just as that chamber revives debate on the controversial issue, creating an additional roadblock to dissuade wavering Republicans.

The single sentence reads: “Resolved, that the House Republican Conference disapproves of the Senate immigration bill.”
The lower House is the portion of elected federal government officials most beholden to the will of the people they're supposed to represent. Unlike two-thirds of the Senate, each representative will be up for re-election in a little more than a year from now. Collectively, they represent the closest thing to a bulwark against open borders that we have. Let your representative know where you stand on the Senate bill now, and remind him repeatedly in the future.

Randall Parker reports that House GOP members are expressing frustration with the White House on immigration that threatens to erode their support for his other awful policies. Not only is that sensible, it's also smart politics. The President's approval rating has descended to another new nadir, sinking into the almost unheard of twenties. On immigration, it's a miserable 15%.

That's angering but hardly surprising. The citizenry, who have been overwhelmingly opposed to the Senate's amnesty since news of its surreptitious creation became public knowledge, have subsequently soured on the bill even more:

In fact, despite a massive White House effort, public opinion has barely moved since the public uproar stalled the bill just over two weeks ago.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 22% of American voters currently favor the legislation. That’s down a point from 23% a couple of weeks ago and down from 26% when the debate in the Senate began. ...

Among the public, there is a bi-partisan lack of enthusiasm for the Senate bill. It is supported by 22% of Republicans, 23% of Democrats, and 22% of those not affiliated with either major party. ...

Support is found from 20% of conservatives, 32% of liberals, and 18% of moderates.

Immigration restriction (fewer in absolute number and a halting entirely of low-skilled menials) and reform (to a system that is exclusively merit-based) should be top priorities. While progressive taxation and the continued involvement in the Iraq War are damaging, they're things we can recover from or absorb and continue to enjoy a collective standard-of-living and degree of personal freedoms that makes the US the envy of the world. But continued underclass immigration from Latin America will see the US increasingly come to resemble, well, Latin America, which is hardly the envy of the world, the hemisphere, or even much of Latin America. You can blow discretionary income at the casino or buy an inordinate amount of annuity investment vehicles and remain financially healthy, because your earning potential remains strong. But if you start eating paint chips, you're in serious trouble.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Deportations up, apprehensions and (hopefully) S1639 down

Interior Customs and Enforcement reports deportations are on track to reach 240,000 this year, an almost 30% increase from last year, which had marked a 15% increase over 2005. With S1639, the reincarnation of the Senate's stalled S1348, set for a likely make-or-break cloture vote tomorrow, the big business-media-religion are making a full court press. Geraldo Rivera used young girls as political props, Chris Matthews hosted Diane Feinstein and Trent Lott for discussion on the legislation (both are open borders champions in their respective parties), and ABC also featured a poor illegal child ("Won't somebody please think of the children?!"). Lourdes Garcia-Navarro of NPR's Morning Edition ran a sob piece that is encouraging even though it's not meant to be:
The majority of deportees are being sent back to Mexico, where the bulk of undocumented migrants originate. And some of the towns they come from — are feeling the strain, financially.

In the state of Guanajuato in Mexico, a recent visit to INTERMEX, a company that pays out remittances to families who have relatives working in other countries, the counters were completely empty, except for the tellers.

If remittances fall, it is a problem not only for families, who say they are struggling to make ends meet. It's a problem for this whole country. Money sent by migrant workers is the second-largest source of foreign income in Mexico, only exceeded by oil revenue.
Only the intro is textually archived, although Navarro's audio is available here. Notice immediately the sloppiness--an anecdote is assumed to be a trend. Nevermind that in 2006 around $25 billion was exported to Mexico (roughly $2,000 per Mexican living in the US) in exchange for menial net liabilities coming stateside. It is insinuated that no one is sending money home now.

The report is interesting in that it illustrates the shifting angles the open borders establishment is coming at the amnesty from, with condescension and facile economic arguments continuing to fail. The Navarro story features a family geographically split between Guanajuato and Florida. The reliably lugubrious piece laments the male's desire to return home to his family. It's supposedly not possible, as he, out of work (due to workplace raids, it is asserted), cannot scrape up enough to make it back home.

Now, this is NPR and accordingly the subject matter is only evaluated anecdotally (if you do not regularly listen to government radio, sample the story to understand why in spite of being reputedly the news source of choice for many academics and cosmopolitan types, listeners are less knowledgeable about current events than Rush babies, No Spinners, or Stoned slackers are), so the family's story may or may not becoming increasingly common.

Whether or not it is, there are a few points of interest. For one, the guy is a stone mason. The domestic construction industry isn't exactly booming. That's likely the elephant that's keeping him out of work, not the federal government's isolated high-profile workplace raids.

Secondly, he's allegedly been supporting a family in Mexico (and until recently they lived relatively well) but now is unable to gather up a few hundred bucks to return home? And I thought natives had a problem with their dismal savings rates.

It's also nice to see that the claim that underclass laborers are an economic necessity more-or-less being dropped (take a ten minute refresher course in the basic economics of supply and demand to see how fallacious such an assertion is), although Navarro does briefly relay the woman in Mexico's concerns that the "work isn't getting done" in the US. The idea that natives won't bus tables, no matter how well they're paid, is absurd. Employers of subsidized Latin labor have no inherent right to be able to employ enough people on whatever wages they feel like paying. If they can't find workers, they'll increases the wages they offer. If they can't stay in business doing so, they'll either invent more efficient ways of doing business or they won't belong in the world's most advanced, dynamic economy.

Most importantly, the story suggests the historically proven result of greater border and interior enforcement--that most illegal immigrants leave voluntarily through attrition as a consequence. During President Eisenhower's Operation Wetback, for every one that was deported, seven or eight left on their own volition.

The open borders crowd claims largescale deportations are impossible. That's not true, as the absolute number and rate of deportations has skyrocketed over the last year on an ICE border security supplemental increase of less than $2 billion (about the burn rate of one week in Iraq). As the anecdotal story does indicate, however, a few ostenstious raids send a much greater number of illegal aliens scurrying back across the border on their own than are picked up in this or that raid on a meat-plant. Notice that while deportations are up 30%, apprehensions at the US-Mexico border are down by a similar percentage. Clearly, we can control migration into the interior, as every sovereign nation should (and most, including Mexico, do).

A big chunk of the story is devoted to letting the Mexican woman emphasize how great Mexican migrants are. It's funny how the "family values don't stop at the Rio Grande" bromides illogically suggest that while Mexico is anarchical, thoroughly corrupt, and not particularly industrious, Mexicans are the polar opposite.

In reality, Mexican migrants in the aggregate are about as good as their counterparts who remain in Mexico. The border states, especially California and New Mexico, dispel the preposterous myth that ingesting more Mexicans will somehow make the US less like Mexico.

Tuesday another battle takes place. Contact your Senators and tersely let them know how you feel on 24 hour legalization, increased legal immigration, and a continued delay in the 700 mile fence that should've already been constructed along the US-Mexico border.

There are reasons to be encouraged--Trent Lott backed away from committing to vote for cloture at Feinstein's prompting on Matthews' show. If one of the more open borders members of the GOP is getting cold feet on the amnesty, and only 37 Democrats are supporting it, the outcome looks promising. But don't become complacent. It's critically important to vociferously make yourself heard now to send a lasting message to Congress about who they're supposed to be representing.

Going (against?) Green to the Extreme

Today while working I happened to catch part of a muted news segment on ABC's Good Morning America. The network aired what was clearly designed to be a glowing piece on environmentalist Colin Beaven, who fancies himself the No Impact Man. The segment was entitled "Going Green to the Extreme: No Lights, No Car, No Coffee".

For the leftist media to give this guy gushing approval, however, is lunacy. Talk about confirming everybody's worst fears about the true intentions of the CAGW movement. It'd be like Tom Tancredo interviewing some nutjob who advocates putting all people of Hispanic descent living in the US in hard labor camps and emaciating them to the point of death as a way of bolstering his Presidential platform's support for immigration reform. Beaven shuns virtually everything about the existence of a capitalistic society--or human civilization, more accurately (he's opposed to using toilet paper or transporting food)--as having a catastrophic impact on Mother Gaia. Logically, it seems the last step he must take in his ascension from Greenisatva to Gruhda is one of self-immolation--he must commit suicide. Only then will his zero-impact aspirations become sustainable!

As someone who is fascinated by the natural world and seeks to preserve much of it from the artifices of man, the 'mainstream' environmental movement has little credibility. There is a dogmatic obsession with the putative disastrous consequences of climate change, with almost no attention given to the many of earth's species and regions that have benefitted from the gradual surface warming over the last four decades. It is generally in opposition to or silent on the two surest ways to clean up the globe--more nuclear power and population reduction in the third-world, both strategies that would raise, rather than cause to plummet, the standard-of-living for the average planetary resident.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Predicting hits in entertainment

About a month ago, Fat Knowledge posted on a study investigating how big hits in entertainment are determined. In a nutshell, the authors conclude that early buzz begets more buzz--the cumulative-advantage theory in action. The study separated participants into different "worlds" without overlap. All songs in each world started with zero downloads, but once downloading began, the popularity of various songs diverged in the different worlds, with the songs that happened to get off to a strong start tending to continuously build on that early advantage.

The results won't come as much of a surprise to marketing majors, as word-of-mouth is held up as an elusive but critical method of successful advertising in business schools across the country. Target the market mavens, who have disproportionate influence on making the hot stuff hot, and they'll do the legwork for you.

The lesson for aspiring musicians and actors: Put your stuff out there. Promote it on MySpace and YouTube. Take the pro bono gigs offered to you in college towns. You're not building a better mouse trap, you're attempting to entertain. You have to beat your own pathway.

The authors note that in a parallel universe, Madonna may be nothing while some other bunny makes it big. The entertainment industry is unique in that way, because a huge swath of people have the abilities and competence, even the appearance, to do what the entertainment industry's upper echelon (the actors and actresses up for consideration at the Oscar's) do. In music, especially the Pop 40 scene, little talent is actually required of the singer--synthesized rhythms are put to words the artist didn't write. The vocals are enhanced in edit, and concerts are lip-synced if need be.

In the realms of engineering, investing, and sports, an objective set of parameters holds the mediocre down, buoying only the best to the top. If we traveled back twenty years, repitched the world, and let entropy do its thing, Lebron James will still become the NBA's best, Warren Buffet will still be one of the world's richest men. But would Lindsey Lohan or Ashton Kutcher be the celebrities they are today? Britney Spears? It's not difficult to make an argument that they would not be.

While predicting the success of movies and the actors who star in them is a tall order, there is an entire class of putative experts who do quite well in opining about this stuff. Shouldn't they be able to prognosticate with some precision?

Collectively, they're not much help. Two popular rating sites, Rotten Tomatoes and MetaCritic, amalgamate the ratings and reviews of movie critics across the country to construct average rating scores. I looked at domestic box office receipts for 133 movies released in 2005 and compared the revenue they brought in with how the critics evaluated them (data via Swivel here).

MetaCritic scores correlate with receipts at .27. That means you can predict about 7% of a movie's performance based on what the critics have to say about it. Rotten Tomatoes fared slightly better, at .30 and 9%, respectively. Pretty paltry. And how much of this modest predictive power comes from cumulative-advantage? As a professional reviewer, praising a movie should create some self-fulfilling effect on that movie's performance unrelated to the movie's actual merits.

Removing a few titles (Syriana, Brokeback Mountain, and Munich) with clear leftist agendas that were mediocre box office performers but not surprisingly garnered glowing reviews bumped the correlations up about .01 for both sites. Although the changes are small, a realizable difference discovered by pulling only three of 133 data points suggests that extricating less obvious political or cultural agendas would make critic reviews more useful.

What about predicting the business success of a film? Movie critics are notorious for scorning mindless action thrillers with lots of big explosions and little plot substance or character depth. Actually, the critics are scarcely better at predicting which movies will have the greatest return on investment than randomly assigned ratings would be, with neither site's critics coming anywhere near statistical significance in their reviews.

A surer way of estimating the likelihood of a blockbuster is to look at how much was spent in making and promoting it. Budget and receipts for the same movies correlate at .63, meaning that 40% of total box office receipts can be predicted by seeing how much money was plowed into the movie to begin with.

That doesn't do you a whole lot of good if you're a cost accountant for Miramax, but if you're a movie critic, you'll be head-and-shoulders above the rest of the pack if you simply look at how much money is spent on a movie and rate it accordingly, praising the big-dollar projects and criticizing the poor man productions. Your opinions will be more in line with that of the moviegoing public than Ebert's are. And if you're a member of the rabble, subject to the vagaries and viccissitudes of your lemming-minded lot, you should go to the films that were the most costly, as they're likely to end up being quite popular!

An aside, of interest to Idiocracy-Watch members, is this small victory: March of the Penguins had the highest ROI of all major 2005 releases. But don't you dare get complacent, for breathing down its neck in the number two spot: Saw II.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Immigration and tuberculosis

++Addition++A couple of astute commenters point out that I incorrectly stated that most Americans are protected from TB. Most Americans have not, in fact, been immunized against TB.

Immunization is mostly reserved for children at higher risk for the contracting the disease. Most of the developed world does adminster vaccination widely to the general public, but the US and the Netherlands do not. At least not currently. But stateside, the disease's prevalence has been steadily increasing for the past two decades (thanks in part to the IRA of 1986), and if some form of S1348 is passed, we can expect that prevalence to be accentuated more still.

---

Michelle Malkin spotlights a trend that has remained suspiciously under the media radar--a resurgence of tuberculosis in the US decades after it had (supposedly) been all but eradicated from the US. She forcefully identifies the vectors:
Translation: Illegal aliens. Or, as President Bush calls them, “newcomers.” Or, as Harry Reid calls them, “undocumented Americans.” Whatever you call them, they are people who have not been screened for infectious disease before entering the country. The Charlotte Observer reports that “more than 60 percent of line workers in the chicken industry are Hispanic. And experts say most of the workers probably entered the U.S. already infected.”
While the anomalous case of Andrew Speaker, who travelled internationally despite carrying a highly drug-resistant form of tuberculosis, garnered international attention, the sharp rise in domestic cases of TB go almost uncommented upon.

Most of the TB growth in the US can be attributed to immigrants, who are nine times more likely to carry the disease than natives are. One-quarter of those infected with TB in the US are from Mexico.

Most Americans are protected from the disease, having been immunized against it during childhood. But those who were not--disproportionately among the poor--are pervious. In adulthood, immunization is no longer possible and must be substituted with a costly medley of antibiotics that can have severe side effects.

By shutting down illegal immigration through the construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border, targeted deportation, and tougher interior enforcement, the US would be in the position to screen all potential legal immigrants for TB and other nasty foreign diseases like Chagas.

To do otherwise is a dereliction of duty. That dereliction especially hurts the native poor (but burdens affluent Americans as well by way of less sanitary services and taxes diverted to treating indigent immigrants with these diseases), who already have the odds stacked against them.

China's Pirates editing illustrates differences with West

While the US government shows its disdain for the bulk of its own citizenry, the Chinese government attempts to prevent any perceived slander against its own:

Censors have cut scenes of Chow Yun-Fat as a bald, scared pirate in the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, saying they insult China's people, the main state news agency said Friday.

Xinhua said Chow's time on the screen in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End had “been slashed in half by censors in China for vilifying and defacing the Chinese.”

The version of the Hollywood blockbuster released in China earlier this week shows only about 10 minutes of Chow's scenes compared with 20 minutes in the version seen in the rest of the world, it said.

Chow Yun-Fat's role as Sao Feng in the movie hardly constitutes a becoming portrayal of a Chinaman. The CPC's censorship may seem petty, but it illustrates an important distinction between the rising East and the declining West. The Han are proud of who they are, to the point of sustaining major tension with Japan over its honoring of a Japanese WWII monument. By contrast, in the self-loathing West, the US haggling with Vietnam over what it owes for using Agent Orange during the Vietnam war and censuring itself for its treatment of enemy combatants.

That distinction is buoyed by a belief in white culpability in the states and Euorpe and a belief in Han superiority on the Chinese side. The former is a familiar theme, while the latter is less well-known.

White 'nationalism' is and will continue to be on the upswing in the future due to increased third-world immigration and a corresponding growth in race-based politics, affirmative action policies, and wealth-transferring entitlement programs (all of which will be detrimental to the average white Westerner). But this will correspond with an increase in the growth of race-consciousness among Hispanics, blacks, Asians, Arabs, and other minorities in the West. The resulting internecine squabbling will increasingly lead to paralysis at the national level where foreign policy decisions are made.

Han nationalism will remain strong for decades into the future, as China's continued stellar rise puts it at odds with other nations over environmental, economic, and geographic concerns. But with a population that is over 90% Han and a deep mistrust of foreigners, China will not see the same level of internal conflict.

Coupled with an ever-expanding trade deficit and an increasingly sensescent, top-heavy demographic trending in the West, China's rise is a pretty sure bet.

Ron Paul and libertarians on the web

In a recent post dealing with the online popularity of Texas Congressman and Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul, Randall Parker remarked:
Libertarians are probably online far out of proportion to their numbers in the general population. So Paul's popularity online might be a reflection of number of libertarians on the web.
That certainly struck me as plausible. People who are largely oblivious to politics still tend to have a general idea of what separates those who call themselves "liberals" from those who call themselves "conservatives". But "libertarian" is a term familiar to people who are at least somewhat in-the-know politically. And libertarianism's inherent distrust of corporate entities (political, industrial, religious, and otherwise) probably filters out many people of modest intelligence.

So I was surprised when I fiddled around with a few Facebook search queries. The online networking site is open to anyone who wishes to join, but it groups people by network when searches are conducted. Even then, the number of entries returned tops out at 550.

To get workable results, I looked only at 23 year-olds, grouped by gender. The political categories used considered are "very liberal", "liberal", "moderate", "conservative", "very conservative", and "libertarian".

Presumably, men are more likely to self-describe as libertarian. Tying into what was aforementioned, men are more knowledgeable about current events than women are. And the live-and-let-live aspect is attractive to women, while the learn-to-fish-or-starve aspect still allows men to be (indiscriminate) hardasses at the same time.

Indeed, the Facebook query results shows men more likely than women to self-describe as libertarians. But less than 3% prefer the descriptor. Among women, the proportion of political libertarians is just .6%.

The numbers for men:

76 - Very liberal
257 - Liberal
297 - Moderate
229 - Conservative
23 - Very conservative
27 - Libertarian

For women:

90 - Very liberal
423 - Liberal
238 - Moderate
216 - Conservative
11 - Very conservative
6 - Libertarian

The sample is taken from the University of Kansas, which admittedly isn't MIT. But it's not the local Juco, either. By far the state's premier public university, the most recent freshman class boasted an average ACT score of 24.6, suggesting an average IQ of about 118. That's far enough to the right on the bell curve to be in what is assumed to be libertarian waters.

The results have face validity. Women, the more conciliatory of the two genders, are less likely to self-label as "very X". The female distribution is skewed further to the left than the male distribution is. As to be expected of hifalutin university kids even in a state as conservative as Kansas, both genders are left-of-center. Yet the libertarian contingent is still paltry.

It may be an appellation issue, with people who generally oppose higher tax rates and governmental intervention in the economy while supporting lots of positive personal rights classifying themselves as either "conservative" or "liberal", depending on whether economic or social issues matter more to them. Or they may be opting for the safe "moderate" option.

I'm even more surprised by the dearth of libertarians in light of my personal experience. When I used the service with some regularity, I classified myself as a libertarian to give my 'unorthodox' views the best chance of being entertained. This inspite of the fact that I disagree with much of the Libertarian party's platform, considering myself libertarian only as a means of portraying the limitless expanse of intellectual landscape I like to think I'm willing to tour.

All this is reason to be even more excited about the libertarian Paul's surging popularity. As a small-government, non-interventionist, pro-sovereignty politician, he's attracting a lot of attention among non-partisans. As the polar opposite of John McCain, I can't help but support him.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Majority of Democratic freshmen break with party to join with Tancredo

Like so many others on the political right opposed to non-vital interventionism and nation building, I was conflicted over the 2006 mid-term election results. The Democratic sweep, historically unprecedented in that the party did not forfeit a single seat while snatching up 30 from their incumbent Republican rivals, was clearly a rebuke of the war in Iraq.

But the self-destruction caused by the Bush Administration's war left me worried that the President, with the castigation of his party, would eagerly team up with the new Democratically-controlled Congress to pass a 1986 amnesty repeat. On that cool November evening I could already envision glowing media stories about a new era of 'compromise' and 'bi-partisanship' in Washington, with Senator Ted Kennedy standing behind Bush as he signed IRCA 2.0 into law.

But parsing through the rhetoric of the victorious Democratic rookies a few days after the elections boosted my spirits a bit. Overwhelmingly, this freshman class stressed enforcement-first while being critical of the Bush Administration's dereliction of duty in failing to penalize employers for workplace violations and for failing to halt the illegal influx.

Apparently, most of them are sticking to their guns. Congressman Tancredo's amendment to the Department of Homeland Security funding resolution calls for 'sanctuary' cities to receive no federal funding via DHS. For being a 'fringe extremist', Tancredo sure garnered a lot of support, as the amendment passed by an impressive 234-189 margin.

Included in the yes-votes were 49 Democrats. What's especially noteworthy is that 17 of these pro-sovereignty Democrats are members of the rookie class. Among the 180 Democrats opposed to the resolution (six sat the vote out), only 13 are newly-elected representatives. That is, while 57% of Democrats who beat out their Republican incumbent challengers in '06 voted in favor of Tancredo's amendment, only 16% of the Democratic old guard did. The freshmen aren't willing to dutifully tow the Pelosi line.

Keep in mind that while only 5.9% of Republicans who had been member to Tancredo's Immigration Reform Caucus lost their seats last November, 16.7% of non-IRC Republicans did. At least on immigration, the mid-terms resulted in both parties in the House becoming more 'conservative'.

Despite a solid Democratic majority in contrast to the Senate and Executive, the House is the most reliable stalwart against the Latinization (ie greater wealth disparity, cultural balkanization, dismal school performance, greater prevelance of communicable diseases, increased welfare use, less mutual trust among members of the community, a lowly-skilled workforce, etc) of the US.

That the Republican Party--whose voters are even more opposed to open borders and amnesty than Democratic and Independent voters are--willfully allows this to happen says a lot about the GOP's national leadership and why the party is crashing on the rocks.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Public support for S1348 hits a new nadir

Directly after the subterfuge was exposed, the American public came out in opposition to S1348 by a 48%-26% margin. A week later, after an open borders media blitz, the public's steadfast opposition to the amnesty remained, 48%-26%. After more time for exposure, debate, and contemplation, the public is now less convinced than ever. Almost a month after its introduction, S1348 is now down 51%-20%. Randall Parker has more.

Your voice matters. Just because you're in the majority doesn't mean you have to be silent. Keep the pressure on. It's working.

++Addition++The latest WSJ/NBC opinion poll shows President Bush's approval rating hitting a new nadir as well. He's a lame duck, a major liability for the Republican Party in '08, etc. That's with an approval rating of 29%--almost 50% greater than the support for the Senate amnesty! Why doesn't this reviled beast of a bill get the same sort of disparaging media treatment?

As Mensarefugee pointed out in comments, there's scarcely another issue so opposed by the public that the politicians are determined to force upon them nonetheless.

Gaza pullout was not a mistake?

In September 2005, I predicted that the Israeli pullout from Gaza was a mistake. That the Israeli military is now contemplating an invasion into an area it forcibly removed its own citizenry from less than two years ago does make it appear so.

The involuntary removal of the only productive (Jewish) segment of southern Palestine begged for a militant Islamic movement to fill the order vacuum. In a state that 'imports' more than $8 in foreign aid for every dollar in product, service, or agricultural exported, misery cannot be far. Despite continued water and electricity provided to the Gaza Strip by Israel, its population is engaged in a perennial struggle to get enough to eat. If ever there has been an utterly dependent people, it is the Palestinians.

But one man's misery is another man's blessing. Leftist media sources and sober members of the American and European right alike cheered the evacuation, while the pro-Israel contingent lamented Ariel Sharon's pusillanimous appeasement. Now it appears the Israel-skeptics who celebrated the pullout and the canary-in-the-coalmine and Zionist coalition that opposed it were both off the mark--instead, each side landed an arrow square on the bullseye of the other's mark. Evacuating the Strip has turned out to be beneficial to the state of Israel.

The Sharon disengagement strategy from the more marginal and less defensible settlements has been instrumental in spurring the current internecine fighting between Hamas and Fatah. The violence is so Hobbesian that even the internatioinal media are having a hard time apologizing for it. At the same time, the splintering of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip into the respective hands of the Aksa Martyr Brigade and Hamas militants attenuates the security threat Israelis face from Palestinian Arabs. This is about as close to winning the PR battle without having to perform acts of self-immolation that Israel can hope to get.

It is also a reminder of the inherent risk involved in Western nations providing arms and resources to perceived 'moderates' in the Islamic world, especially while encouraging democratic self-determination in that world. We sided with Fatah. The Palestinian population put Hamas in power. And now Hamas has seized whatever weaponry and intelligence was housed at the headquarters of the Fatah-allied security forces in northern Gaza.

Instead of playing the unpredictable, high-stakes game of picking which factions to back in the Muslim Middle East to keep the oil flowing, Israel extant, and Islamic terrorism under attack, the Occident needs to separate itself from Islam. Disallow further immigration into the West from Muslim countries, deport illegal Muslim immigrants and pay legal ones to return to their countries of origin, create lucrative awards for people and companies who develop economically viable petroleum energy alternatives, and drop the quixotic (and unrealistic) goal of refashioning the illiberal Islamic world into a Jeffersonian liberal paradise.

The tribalistic warfare that has always characterized Muslim societies isn't going to change with the forced introduction of a few self-determination and free-market propositions. Best to keep involvement in them to a bare minimum.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Semler holds on, Funkhouser refuses to back down

Thanks to the groundswelling of support that hit KCMO Mayor Mark Funkhouser's offices in favor of retaining Parks and Recreation Commissioner Frances Semler, he's remained reticent in the face of City Council resolutions urging him to ax her for being a member of the local Minuteman Chapter (that another commissioner, Ajamu Webster, is the founder of the local chapter of National Black United Front which argues in favor of reparations and African separatist educational curricula--for black kids in the US--is apparently not concerning in the least).

You wouldn't know it from the local media reporting, though. All four of the KC metro area's television news outfits failed to mention the popular support for Semler, a septaugenarian and grandmother whose crime was joining a grassroots political group that most Americans view favorably. Along with the KC Star, however, they did devote stories to a Thursday morning "rally" that took place on Cesar Chavez avenue. Although it had been hyped up all day Wednesday during the local news cycles, less than forty people--including the organizers and representatives of the Jewish and Hispanic groups behind it--showed up.

The local media have also consistently reported that "some view [the Minutemen] as a violent vigilante hate group," without mentioning that despite ACLU and other 'civil rights' watching them like hawks, and the constant provocations local chapters have received at gatherings across the country, there has been no evidence that the Minutemen have been either "violent" or "vigilante". Essentially, they are a national neighborhood watch group, keeping an eye on the community and reporting illegal activity to the proper authorities.

I realize that pointing out leftist bias in the journalistic world is about as stimulating as pointing out that WWF wrestling is staged, but doesn't sound reporting require some minimal vetting of the sources used and the assertions those sources make?

I thought the ostratization of ZGD heretics was especially bad at the national level, where the distance between the act of moral posturing and its actual consequences is greatest. But the ad hominen mudslinging can get pretty nasty at groundlevel as well. A blogger who goes by the name Tony is a bit of a local phenom, regularly appearing on local TV and news radio stations. As a Latino activist, he unsurprisingly makes all kinds of baseless charges, stating that supporting Funkhouser in retaining Semler is to "hate Mexicans" as a "virulent racist". Predictably, Tony makes no attempt to back up any of his assertions or challenge any of mine, cloaking himself in the 'satire' panoply.

Character assassination is also on display in the vitriolic comments section. The strategy isn't novel: Scour previous writings for a few controversial conclusions, excerpt them out of context, present them as baseless assertions without mentioning the evidence the writer used to arrive at them, and point-and-sputter using every "ism", "ist", and derivative of "bigot" that can be thought of. Divert attention from analysis of the facts at hand, while being as aggressive as possible to preempt any serious discussion. Draw attention only to the 'controversial' conclusion without giving any attention to what led to it.

Thankfully, the internet is rendering that stratagem less effective by the day.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Funkhouser's Frances Semler under pressure to resign for being Minutemen member

Frances Semler is under siege. This 73 year-old grandmother was recently named by Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Mark Funkhouser as one of five Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners. Six of the thirteen City Council Members are now calling for her to step down.

Their reason: Gross incompetence? A felonious past? Dereliction of duty? Nope. She's a member of the local MinuteMen chapter. That apparently is reason enough to disqualify this otherwise qualified appointee.

Generally, I avoid local issues, but bear with me as I color the pertinent backdrop to this outcry. Mark Funkhouser is a recently-elected Democrat who was celebrated just three days ago for shaking up the blue-blooded, WASPy Parks and Rec. Commission:
Mayor Mark Funkhouser today took a slap at the parks department for decades of 'elitism and cultural divisiveness' in naming his appointments to the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners.

'The commissioners have often been chosen from among the city's wealthiest,' Funkhouser said, pointedly making his announcement in Troost Park in the city's poorest council district. 'In fact, the reason the parks board is separate from the city management structure at City Hall is because the city's elites wanted it to be free from the influence of regular folks. With the appointment of this board, I am signaling a change.'
In place of the white guys he dumped, Funkhouser installed a 'representative' team comprised of women and minorities. One of the other newly-minted commissioners, Ajamu Webster, is a founding member of the National Black United Front's local chapter. The NBU Front's homepage describes it as "a coalition made up of individuals and organizations working together for the benefit of all people of African descent." Among the NBU Front's major causes are support for reparations payments and African-centered schools (in the US!). Semler's critics are (surprise, surprise) smearing her as a racist. Apparently membership in this explicitly racialist group doesn't bother them.

Parenthetically, the MinuteMen are careful to the point of absurdity to avoid any mention of race when promoting and defending their cause, even spelling out in their pledge that "a Minuteman believes that just as ethnicity, race, religion and all such factors are incidental and do not affect our God-given, constitutional equality as American citizens, such factors are also irrelevant in the debate over illegal immigration. There is no tolerance among Minutemen for racism or bigotry - E Pluribus Unum - Out of Many, One." No such verbiage from the NBU Front.

Said Councilwoman Beth Gottstein, referring to the Minutemen:
This is one step from the KKK (Ku Klux Klan). My world is totally rocked by this. We fight this every day. I am grieving for my friends in the Hispanic community.
Nevermind that the Minutemen have not engaged in vigilantism, and have not been found to have engaged in any illegal activity despite being under the watchful eye of ACLU scouts sent out to try and catch one of the thousands of members--who've donated their time and energy, pro bono, to alerting a severly overburdened Border Patrol of invaders from south of the border who've illegally crossed into US territory--doing something untward.

Gottstein, and another Council Member, John Sharp, say they are offended by the group Semler is associated with. Nevermind that the Coalition of Hispanic Organizations (COHO), one of the groups leading the charge against Semler, has teamed up with La Raza ("The Race") in the past to support various legislation and causes. Association with an ethnic separatist group doesn't bother Gottstein or Sharp like a multi-racial group of concerned citizens drawing attention to unenforced federal laws does.

Frances Semler is understandably astonished at the paroxysm of cricism directed at her. It is tough to see how her membership in a grassroots citizen group that is viewed favorably by most Americans has any bearing on her ability to perform her duties as a member of the KCMO Parks and Rec. department, but a potential connection is being asserted nonetheless:
Some worry that Semler will impose her views on the parks, such as attempting to mandate that all materials be in English and banning immigrants from using city parks — fears that Semler said were absurd.
Given that English is the official language of both Kansas and Missouri, and that many illegal immigrants do not pay into federal programs like the National Park Services' Land and Water Preservation Fund, which provides grants for the creation and development of state and local parks, these are things I'd advocate for. But my view is irrelevant--she's given no indication that she will do any such thing.

As if that wasn't enough of a stretch:
In addition, some council members were dismayed that one of the leading anti-abortion advocates, Phyllis Schlafly, praised Semler last fall for her leadership in opposing Kansas City’s plan for an inland trading port with Mexico.
If you weren't already convinced that this unctuous outrage is more of a vendetta against a woman with conservative views serving in a leftist city government than a genuine concern for her ability to perform her duties sufficiently, that should do it. From where does abortion come into play? And what does her opposition to a trading port with a foreign country have to do with her ability to oversee local parks? This is cultural Marxism.

Yet another Councilwoman, Jan Marcason, is worried that the attention devoted to this newly-created controversy will divert too much of Semler's attention--but if it weren't for people like Marcason making a big fuss over a non-issue, there'd be no 'controversy' in the first place.

Others have criticized Semler for wanting to halt not only illegal immigration but legal immigration as well, to allow the record number of foreign-born US residents currently living in the states have ample time to assimilate into the American mainstream. She wants an immigration timeout, similar to what took place from 1924 to 1965. The public overwhelmingly shares her sentiment--a detailed, comprehensive Zogby poll found that 66% of Americans believe current immigration levels are too high, while only 2% believe they are too low.

Interestingly, the Jewish Community Relations Bureau is joining other special interest groups in calling for Semler's resignation. Perhaps the Bureau should focus more on the immigrants coming into the US from Latin America, who are by far the most anti-Semitic major demographic group in the US:
One of the most important findings of ADL's 2002 Survey of Anti-Semitism in America concerns Hispanic Americans, one of the most significant and fastest growing segments of the American population, in which the poll found an extraordinary gap between those born in the United States and those born abroad. The survey revealed that while 44% of foreign-born Hispanics hold hardcore anti-Semitic beliefs, 20% of Hispanic Americans born in the U.S. fall into the same category.
While only 12% of white Americans hold what the ADL considers to be "hard-core anti-Semitic beliefs", 35% of Hispanics in the US do. So ubiquitous is the antagonism towards Jews in Latin America that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has accused them of murdering Jesus and taking "all the world's wealth for themselves."

The KCMO Morning Show's Chris Stigall has listed contact information for the six Council Members demanding Semler's head on the station's blog, and I humbly borrow from him below:

Deb Hermann (1st Distirict) 816-513-1624
Jan Marcanson (4th District) 816-513-1617
Terry Riley (5th District) 816-513-1629
Ed Ford (2nd Distirct) 816-513-1601
Beth Gottstein (4th District) 816-513-1616
John Sharp (6th District) 816-513-1615

City Council Main Number 816-513-1368

Email their assistants...

Deb Hermann - terri_mailto:terri_wolfe@kcmo.org
Beth Gottstein - kristin_mailto:kristin_gore@kcmo.org
Ed Ford - lisa_mailto:lisa_minardi@kcmo.org
John Sharp - daron_mailto:daron_mcgee@kcmo.org
Jan Marcason - susan_mailto:susan_borge@kcmo.org
Terry Riley - schylon_mailto:schylon_clayton@kcmo.org

Thus far, Funkhouser has been reticent in the face of the special interests lined up against Semler. I will be contacting the council members listed above to suggest they reconsider their perplexing positions, and urge concerned readers to do the same.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Speculations on common purchase behavior and IQ

With access to transactional data from an established convenience store retailer, in what ways would you be able to analyze the data to produce ballpark IQ estimates for the immediate area (radius of a couple of miles) where various stores are located, by comparing specific locations with one another?

Assuming a normal distribution in all cases, a few I presume would be useful:

Higher ratio = Lower IQ:

- EBT (food stamp) sales to total indoor (non-gasonline) sales

- Number of gasoline transactions to total gasoline sales (spending less per fill)

- Scratch-off lottery ticket sales to total indoor sales

- Transactions involving cigarette, alcohol, or lottery purchases to total indoor transactions

- Trojan Magnum condom sales to total condom sales

- Number of single cigarette pack sales to number of cigarette carton sales

- Shrinkage to total indoor sales

- Transactions occuring after 9pm and before 4am to transactions occuring after 4am and before 9pm

Higher ratio = Higher IQ:

- Handsoap supply expenditures to total indoor sales

- Payments using credit or debit card to payment using cash or check

- Bottled water sales to alcohol sales

- Diet softdrink sales to regular softdrink sales

If you can think of others, please share them in the comments!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Collin Levy on Jon Kyl on S1348

With the repulsion, not once but twice, of S1348 last Thursday, I'll avoid being a one-trick pony again for a few days, until some limited number of amendments have been bantered about and the bill goes up for vote on the Senate floor.

After this, that is. Last week, the WSJ ran a hagiographic 'interview' (the "Weekend Interview" feature is more accurately described as a press release issued by the interviewee, with the WSJ's interviewer serving as the PR firm producing it) with President Bush. It is laced with condescension and blatant lies (I hate throwing that descriptor around, but in this case it's verifiably true--see my take here, or read the source material for yourself).

This weekend, Senator Jon Kyl is the man on the pedestal, with Collin Levy narrating. The first paragraph is the self-indulgent fluff of the sort you expect to hear on NPR, of no value whatsoever. In the second, Levy asserts without evidence that those on the restrictionist side are salivating gorillas, irrational and without factual arguments, while at the same time insinuating that the open borders crowd has a boatload of slamdunk polemics (as usual, those polemics are nowhere to be found):
This is the season when most of the political establishment would rather keep controversial topics for stump speeches or direct mail campaigns.
Oh, it's the Senate that is leading the charge against its own bill, to the chagrin of an American public that so desperately wants to see it passed! I had it all backwards.

In reality, by a 3-to-1 margin (69% to 23%), those who are the most up-to-speed on the immigration debate oppose the bill. Among the more oblivious, the legislation is only down about 2-to-1. And it is the pro-sovereignty Republican contigent (along with a minority of Democrats) in the Senate that wants to give the bill more time for floor discussion and amendment review, so the accusation that they don't want to spend time dealing with legislation on the immigration issue is ignorant.

Jon Kyl is insulated by the caprice of time, as he's not up for re-election again until 2012. Still, his support for the surprise bill was crucial, and the potential political damage is of consequence. In contrast to Arizona's senior Senator, Kyl generally comes down in opposition to the open borders crowd. Cognizant of this, Levy is sure to portray Kyl as a sensible immigration hardliner:
The intra-GOP fighting over immigration will only get more furious as we move toward the 2008 House and presidential races. And the administration, without a lot of political capital of its own, will need him more than ever. With 20 years in Congress, he's built a reputation as a go-to guy on border security--tough, but without the tinge of nativism that afflicts some hardliners.
Nativists like myself are "afflicted" by a concern for the well-being of the country we live in and the citizenry that comprises it. I'll take that figurative affliction over the literal affliction that are the disease cocktails being brought over by the migrants Levy wants to inundate my neighborhood with (living in DC, a prohibitively high cost of living allows him to avoid seeing these helots outside of their servile functions--a luxury we don't enjoy in Kansas).

In brushing aside the charge that granting legal status to those who've entered the country illegal is amnesty, Kyl asks what the alternative is. Because it's either this bill or a continuation of the Bush Administration non-enforcement!

Of course, that's a false dichotomy. A few high-profile raids have reduced the flow of illegals into the country by a full 30 percent in one year. History suggests that for every one forcibly removed, another seven or eight will leave voluntarily. In 2006, ICE deported 221,664 illegal immigrants. Significantly decrease the inflow through tougher employer punitions, the construction of a wall running the length of the 1,951 mile US-Mexico border, and an ending of sanctuary policies, and then increase ICE's paltry activity by five-fold, and we've conceivably cleared out the illegal immigrant population in a few years. Meanwhile, France is doing what the neocons claim we can't and then some.

Interestingly, Kyl laments the need to make concessions to Democrats:
There are a lot of things in the bill I'm still not happy with . . . It's impossible to make the existing system work so we have to change the law, and changing the law requires Democratic votes, so you have to make concessions to Democrats."
If the GOP hadn't abdicated control of Congress by supporting the Iraq War and by opening itself up to charges of corruption, they wouldn't be in that situation. While only 5.9% of Republicans member to the Immigration Reform Caucus lost their re-election bids last November, 16.7% of non-caucus members did. The right's stance on immigration is a political winner--the putative right's stance on Iraq is a political disaster.

Only a small minority of Democratic, as well as Republican and Independent, voters support this bill. The Republocrats in Congress don't represent either Party's constituency on immigration.

Levy writes:
A frequent conservative mantra is "enforcement-first."
Actually, most Americans want enforcement-period. And then they want less legal immigration in tandem with no more illegal immigration. But to label the desire for enforcement "conservative" is misleading. Yes, it is conservative. It is also 'liberal' and 'moderate'. Eighty-nine percent of Republicans favor "enforcement-first". It's 65% and 63% among Democrats and Independents, respectively.

In attempting to make the perfect the enemy of the good, Levy quotes Kyl explaining the employee verification system (something the "nativists" definitely do support):
You can try to prevent people coming in, but there is a magnet of employment. Resourceful people can find ways to get here.
A wall obviously won't stop everyone. It's not a binary question, though. It will cut down the flow enormously. And the illegal immigrants who do evade the physical and virtual barriers are likely to be the most intelligent and industrious Latin America has to offer. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Continuing:
In Arizona, the economic realities are clear and immigrants are part of them.

Indeed, they are quite clear to Arizonans. Consequently, by a margin of more than 2-to-1 (50% to 24%), they oppose the legislation their two Senators were critical in putting together. They are slightly more opposed even than the rest of the country is.

McCain and Kyl want amnesty. Arizona voters don't. Why would they want to sink their educational standing, strain their state's infrastructure, increase entitlement recipiency, accentuate the state's wealth gap, and decrease levels of mutual trust among the residents of their communities?

Levy:
I note that Democrats have played things closer to the vest so far, though they would seem to have as many problems with the current bill as Republicans.

No, they don't. A few special interests on the left are feigning opposition to make the amnesty bill look like a 'compromise'. Harry Reid knows that a repeat of the 1986 amnesty, albeit on a grander scale, is a long-term boon for the Democratic Party. Impoverished, welfare-using, urban-concentrated, affirmative-action eligible, ethnic minority--this is the stuff the Democratic pol dreams of. It also happens to be the profile of most illegal immigrants in the US right now.

But the Democratic leadership is rightly worried about an immediate political backlash due to the vast unpopularity of the Senate bill. Why not try and make Bush look like a dolt for not being able to do anything about immigration, let the lame duck continue to run his party into the ground, gain the Whitehouse in '08 while maintaining control of both Houses of Congress, and pass an amnesty then?

You'd think lining up with Ted Kennedy, La Raza, and the AFL-CIO against the Republican voting public would give the WSJ op/ed board pause enough to realize this bill isn't in the best interest of the party that is with them on the vast majority of the policies they favor.

Kyl brings up fears of outsourcing (something the WSJ mocks at every opportunity it gets, save this one):
"Everyone says enforcement first, and that's important, but in Yuma County, what that means is you are basically going to send that crop, the melons and the tomatoes and the lettuce . . . to Mexico. So when people complain about outsourcing..."
Uh, I don't think picking fruit and putting it into burlap sacks in the desert heat is the kind of work most Americans are concerned is being outsourced to tech hubs like Bangalore and Hong Kong.

I thought this immigration amnesty was necessary because without it we'd be stuck with lots of jobs Americans won't do. Again, I had it all backwards. If we don't pass S1348, a bunch of jobs Americans would otherwise do will disappear to Mexico!