The Tar Pit

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Al Jazeera cartoon depicts
U.S. troops targeting journalists

Here's the thumbnail:

The link to the flash animation is at the Al Jazeera Homepage.

Nice work, Eason Jordan.

Hat tip: Hugh Hewitt.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Gigot Prophecies:
Divining the Bush Amnesty down

In the early, heady, first term, pre-9/11 days of the President George W. Bush, the President and Mexico's President Vicente Fox were boon companions, partners with a "new vision" of the American-Mexican border, where illegal aliens were not to be looked on as lawbreakers but as victims of inhumane American immigration laws.

In those simpler, kinder, gentler, more naive times, Wall Street Journal editorialist Paul Gigot was inspired to pen Alien Notion: The case for the right 'amnesty,' in which he offered the following premise:

Take a statistical snapshot of politics today and most Hispanics are Democrats. But look down the road and the only way Republicans can be a majority party is if they do better among Hispanics. A Bush amnesty is precisely the kind of large political event that could shake up those allegiances.

As he took his "look down the road," Paul Gigot detailed a remarkable set of prophecies for a future "Bush amnesty," to use Gigot's own words. Let's take a look at his accuracy in comparison to the actual Bush Amnesty proposed by the President in January of 2004.

Gigot Prophecy #1:

Mr. Bush will also be able to frame whatever immigration deal he eventually cuts with Mr. Fox. Thus he will probably shy away from a politically freighted total "amnesty," in favor of a guest-worker program.

Bush Amnesty:

I propose a new temporary worker program that will match willing foreign workers with willing American employers, when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs. This program will offer legal status, as temporary workers, to the millions of undocumented men and women now employed in the United States,

Paul Gigot prophesied that the President Bush would shy away from "total amnesty."

Since that time (and even before), we see that the President has often employed the synonym "blanket amnesty" (read "blanket," "blanket," "blanket," "blanket," and "blanket.") and positioned himself as being against it, a precise fulfillment of Gigot's soothsaying.

It's not clear whether the President also opposes quilted or patchwork Amnesties.

Gigot was also proved correct in his second clause in the Amnesty Prophecy above, that the President would propose an amnesty for illegal aliens (see Gigot's premise, about "a Bush amnesty" that would shake up Hispanic political allegiances, which was derived from Karl Rove) in the form of a guest worker plan. This prophecy is also fulfilled.

Gigot's First Amnesty Prophecy is completely fulfilled by the Bush Amnesty.

Gigot Prophecy #2:

Whatever it's called, it's bound to include a process by which illegals who've lived here at least five years can get green cards and eventually become citizens.

Bush Amnesty:

All who participate in the temporary worker program must have a job, or, if not living in the United States, a job offer.


Some temporary workers will make the decision to pursue American citizenship. Those who make this choice will be allowed to apply in the normal way. They will not be given unfair advantage over people who have followed legal procedures from the start.

In the first clause of Gigot's Second Amnesty Prophecy -- "whatever it's called" -- the Wall Street Seer discerns some future uncertainty as to how President Bush would refer to his Amnesty. We see the fulfillment in the President's efforts to construct new definitions of Amnesty that have no precedent in order to distinguish his "temporary worker program" which would legalize millions of illegal aliens as being something other than an Amnesty.

The main thrust of Gigot's Second Prophecy is that the President's "guest worker" Amnesty would include a provision that legalized illegal aliens "who've lived here at least five years" would be eligible for the green cards given to permanent residents, and eventually, American citizenship. If Gigot meant those five years to include the time the illegal aliens were still in illegal status, then it's unclear, though unlikely, that the Bush Amnesty would include such a provision. It seems more likely, though, that Gigot was referring to the normal five-year permanent residency requirement before applications for citizenship would be accepted. President Bush declares that his legalized illegal aliens would be "allowed to apply in the normal way" for American citizenship, which means the normal five-year permanent residency requirement, which would fulfill our best understanding of Gigot's revelation here.

So, Gigot's Second Amnesty Prophecy is completely fulfilled by the Bush Amnesty.

Gigot Prophecy #3:

The best -- the only -- conservative argument against this is that it rewards people who've broken the law. So perhaps the amnesty could include a modest fine, as well as some requirement to pass an English course or otherwise show the desire to assimilate.

Bush Amnesty:

...we should not give unfair rewards to illegal immigrants in the citizenship process or disadvantage those who came here lawfully, or hope to do so.


Undocumented workers now here will be required to pay a one-time fee to register for the temporary worker program. Those who seek to join the program from abroad, and have complied with our immigration laws, will not have to pay any fee.


In the process of immigration reform, we must also set high expectations for what new citizens should know. An understanding of what it means to be an American is not a formality in the naturalization process, it is essential to full participation in our democracy.

In Gigot's Third Amnesty Prophecy, the Journal's Paranormal Pundit anticipates the quaint conservative legacy reflex to uphold the Rule of Law, a vestigial, throwback concept held by Republicans of the late 1990s. Sensing conservatives' latent neocortical response that creating a system that legalizes millions of illegal aliens "rewards people who've broken the law," Gigot divines that Bush's "amnesty could include a modest fine." In unveiling his plan, the President affirmed a fine so modest that he aptly called it a "one time fee" for illegal aliens who've also violated employment laws to obtain legal status (Reagan's Amnesty charged a fee too). In the final clause of Gigot's Amnesty Prophecy, he predicts "some requirement to pass an English course or otherwise show the desire to assimilate," a prediction confirmed by the President when he says "An understanding of what it means to be an American is not a formality in the naturalization process."

Gigot's Third Amnesty Prophecy is completely fulfilled by the Bush Amnesty.

Gigot Prophecy #4:

As for the danger that amnesty will be an incentive for more illegal immigration, any reform is likely to include a regular work-permit system for future migrants as well.

Bush Amnesty:

This program will offer legal status, as temporary workers, to the millions of undocumented men and women now employed in the United States, and to those in foreign countries who seek to participate in the program and have been offered employment here.

Not content to lean exclusively on his remarkable gift of second sight, here Gigot modestly burnishes his bona fides as a modest student of Illegal Alien Amnesty History. Since the population of illegal aliens in America increased after the Reagan Amnesty and each phase of the Clinton Amnesties, Gigot has managed to deduce that rewarding illegal behavior just might be an incentive for more illegal behavior. Thus all doubt is removed that in his apprenticeship Gigot worked on that Nostradamus extra credit project at the complete expense of the chapter on Pavlov.

We see in the President's January comment that Gigot's forecasting is again correct, that an adjunct of the President's "guest worker" Amnesty would be the inclusion of foreign nationals who didn't cross our borders and take employment illegally.

It's not clear, however, how rewarding legal and illegal entry into the United States doesn't encourage both paths.

Gigot Prophecy #5:

The last amnesty, in 1986, flopped because it was traded for employer sanctions, which were unenforceable.

Bush Amnesty:

Employers must not hire undocumented aliens or temporary workers whose legal status has expired. They must report to the government the temporary workers they hire, and who leave their employ, so that we can keep track of people in the program, and better enforce immigration laws. There must be strong workplace enforcement with tough penalties for anyone, for any employer violating these laws.

Here we see that the President has fulfilled Gigot Prophecy #5, by accepting the dubious premise that the reason the Reagan Amnesty flopped was because of poor enforcement against employers of illegals. Poor enforcement certainly amplified the failure of the earlier Amnesty, but Amnesty fails because its premise is flawed; behavior cannot be discouraged by rewarding it.

To be fair, workplace verification is crucial for any plan to prevent illegals from taking illegal employment, and the President has a positive baby-step in this area. Meanwhile House Rules Chairman David Dreier, a key Bush ally, is sponsoring even stricter enforcement against illegal employers.

Gigot Prophecy #6:

The idea this time is to swap amnesty for temporary work visas that would help to minimize the black market in low-skilled Mexican labor.

Bush Amnesty:

This program will offer legal status, as temporary workers, to the millions of undocumented men and women now employed in the United States,


I oppose amnesty, placing undocumented workers on the automatic path to citizenship...

That's a slam dunk fulfillment of Gigot Prophecy #6. Is he good, or what?

The President wants to legalize some unknown millions of illegals, while posing as though he opposes Amnesty because his plan doesn't provide an "automatic path to citizenship." Of course, neither did the Reagan Amnesty.

Gigot Prophecy #7:

Even Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, who opposes amnesty, has his own guest-worker proposal. But it lacks the political support to pass because he'd require illegals to return to Mexico first.

Mr. Gramm, who has long favored immigration, might as well relax and enjoy the Bush-Fox "amnesty"-reform. Sometimes what's popular is even good.

Oooo... That's a double airball for Paul Gigot. No less a poliical heavyweight than House Majority Leader Tom DeLay supports a guest worker program that would require illegals to return home. Nor is the President's guest worker Amnesty popular, never mind "good. "

It was a good run, but Gigot's flawed Seventh Prophecy grinds his streak to a halt.

What's clear, though, is that in August of 2001, pro-illegal alien pundit Paul Gigot advocated a guest worker "Amnesty" for illegal aliens that is virtually identical to the plan that President Bush proposed in January 2004, which the President still refuses to concede is an Amnesty.


Monday, February 14, 2005

Cornyn Amnesty finds a friend in Frist

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R - Tenn) offered support, last week, for the Cornyn Amnesty, a so-called "guest worker" program which would legalize millions of illegal aliens.

From Frist's interview in the Washington Times:

Q: Have you thought through what principles you would support in a guest worker program? Do the folks now here illegally have to return home before applying?

A: I have not gotten to that specifics. And probably, I support [Texas Republican] Senator [John] Cornyn's approach of doing a more comprehensive approach, not what the House just did, but rather than try to piecemeal immigration issues. There are so many different amendments and bills from guest worker, from what the House did — though I don't know exactly what they did — to [Idaho Republican] Senator Larry Craig's bill, which focuses on agriculture. Since we have so many things on the agenda right now with what I mentioned, plus energy and transportation, which are sitting out there just waiting for committee work, I think that we do have time to address immigration in a more comprehensive way. It doesn't mean that we won't necessarily address what the House has done. That'll be what my bias is.

More on Cornyn here.

It's worth noting that the other illegal alien "reform" on Frist's table is Craig's AgJOBS bill, which Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney called a "stealth amnesty" in a column last year.

Elsewhere in the Washington Times interview, Frist is lukewarm about Senate passage of Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner's REAL ID Act:

Q: The House today passed the [Rep. F. James] Sensenbrenner [Wisconsin Republican] bill that has those border security initiatives and they added one other provision about expediting deportation for those ordered deportable. Do you support that and when will the Senate take it up?

A: I haven't seen that provision just because I've been doing this so I don't know what was added. The other provisions I generally support, but even those I haven't gone through and dissected. I guess the administration came out and said they support them and I just haven't specifically addressed them. And our leadership has not. In terms of how we address it or when, it just hasn't been decided. It is, sort of, waiting to see how they handled it and then we'll have to see. We get the supplemental that will come, what, next week. Probably will not be dealt with until after the recess and whether or not it is in some way addressed there or not, I just really don't know.

More than three years after September 11th, when jihadists exploited airline security using drivers licenses the REAL ID Act would have prevented them from getting, Frist and the Senate Republican leadership is remarkably nonchalant about passing this legislation to prevent it from happening again.

Even the Bush Administration supports REAL ID. Yet here we see Frist looking for ways to tie it to various Amnesty plans currently in the Senate, just as Craig and Arizona Senator John McCain threatened to do last month.

How not to oppose Amnesty for illegals

In today's Intellectual Conservative, W. James Antle III writes:

According to a Washington Post report last week, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay distanced himself slightly from the president on immigration reform. DeLay's proposal wasn't much better. He would offer illegal aliens guest-worker status, but only if they go home first. It doesn't benefit lawbreakers as much as Bush's version, but many current illegals would probably still see their status regularized after a visit back home and overall it would increase immigration. In the New York Times account, the Republican leader suggests it as a possible modification of the White House proposal.

DeLay's arm-twisting tactics may have earned him the nickname the Hammer, but he also has a good read on the House Republican Conference. If he is suggesting compromise, it is a good indication that the President's immigration-liberalization plan cannot pass as presently outlined, because it lacks GOP support.

Mr. Antle appears to be acquainted with the mouth of Mr. Gifthorse.

Roll these words around in your mind: "He would offer illegal aliens guest-worker status, but only if they go home first."

Delay's plan would provide a positive incentive for illegal aliens to voluntarily return to their homelands to apply for legal admission on a level playing field with their countrymen who didn't break our laws. If the President would give up on the Bush Amnesty, we could combine a program like that with the Bonner Plan to crackdown on the employers of illegals, as well as other measures, and we can leverage a whole lot of illegals with relatively little effort and no infringement on civil liberties.

Rather than complain, foes of the illegal alien lobby ought to be hiring marching bands.

The American Dinosaur

A belated growl of gratitude goes out to Arizona blogger BillyBudd at The American Dinosaur:

I blogrolled The Tar Pit today, but after reading all this great stuff coming out of my home state I might never go back! Just kidding, it is a great blog that I have missed somehow, please check it out.

Any extinct, prehistoric conservative is a friend of mine. Take a look at The American Dinosaur.

Prescription for Bloat: Bush threatens veto
to protect runaway spending

Attempting to stifle criticism of his budget busting new prescription drug entitlement, President Bush waved his never-used veto pen on Friday:

Because we acted, Medicare now covers preventive medicine, including screenings for heart disease and diabetes, and a "Welcome to Medicare" physical. Instead of waiting to get sick or facing costly treatments, seniors can now identify problems early and manage them before they grow worse. By reducing major surgeries and longtime hospital stays, preventive medicine will save money, and, more importantly, it will extend the lives of our seniors.

Because we acted, Medicare will also cover prescription drugs. Under the old system, Medicare would pay $28,000 for ulcer surgery, but not the $500 a year for the prescription drugs that eliminated the cause of most ulcers. That system didn't make any sense. It made no sense for our seniors; it made no sense for American taxpayers.

Because prescription drugs are expensive, many seniors face the terrible choice between buying groceries and buying medicine. We left those days behind with the Medicare Modernization Act. Low-income seniors can get up to $600 to buy medicine this year. Next January, every senior in Medicare will have the option of a prescription drug benefit. And so that all seniors can get the care they need, low-income seniors will get extra assistance and will pay a reduced premium or no premiums at all on prescription drugs.

Because we acted, seniors in Medicare will have more control over their health care. Seniors will be able to choose a health plan that meets their needs and health plans will compete for their business, which will lower costs throughout the program. The system probably sounds familiar to some here -- (laughter) -- after all, it's what we offer federal employees. If choosing your health plan is good enough for the federal employees, it's good enough for America's seniors, as well.

Putting these reforms in action will be challenging. But with the leadership of Secretary Leavitt and Administrator McClellan, I know you're up to the task. We all know the alternative to reform: a Medicare system that offers outdated benefits and imposes needless costs. For decades we promised America's seniors that we can do better, and we finally did. Now we must keep our word. I signed Medicare reform proudly and any attempt to limit the choices of our seniors and to take away their prescription drug coverage under Medicare will meet my veto.

What is this "we," Kimosabe? Republicans were typically supposed to be for smaller or slower-growing government, fewer entitlements, and against forced transfers of wealth. The President's prescription drug handout runs against all three principles. How is it possible to dismantle the New Deal and the Great Society by offering up a Great New Deal?

Not surprisingly, where there are votes to be bought with taxpayer dollars, biddings wars and demagoguery abound. Following the President's lead, we read this from the Senate Minority Leader:

"This is an attempt by the president to stop the bipartisan groundswell for drug reimportation and price negotiation," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. "The only individuals threatening to take away seniors' benefits through reductions and caps are Republicans, and the president does not need to threaten a veto to stop them."


Yesterday, Mr. Reid accused the president of giving unfair advantages to health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and the pharmaceutical industry when he signed the Medicare reform bill in 2003.

"Make no mistake, the president's blanket veto threat is designed to protect only special interests, the big drug companies and HMOs his flawed bill gave billions to in the new law," he said.

The President's veto threat is designed to protect expanded government and enormous spending, his allegedly austere 2006 Busget Request notwithstanding. Stephen Slivinski, director of budget studies at the Cato Institute takes a contrary view of the best use of the veto pen:

In fact, in the first few pages of the budget document, the president outlines 37 new or expanded initiatives on which to spend taxpayer money. Here's the bottomline: the new Bush budget actually proposes an overall 3.6 percent increase in all spending for 2006. Non-entitlement spending, including defense, will increase by 2 percent.

Unfortunately, Mr. Bush may have started the budget bidding too high. Once Congress gets its hands on the budget, all proposed cuts go out the window. Indeed, the president's proposals are usually seen as spending floors, not ceilings. Congress ratchets up the spending almost from the minute the president's budget reaches Capitol Hill. Over the past four years, Congress appropriated $187 billion more than Mr. Bush proposed in defense and domestic spending. By refusing to veto a single bill in his first term, Mr. Bush did nothing to stop this budget ratchet.

Because he refused to battle the budget ratchet in his first term, the president is going to have to push even harder to keep his spending cuts intact. The only way this will work is if he threatens to veto any budget bill that is more expensive than what he proposed.

Hat tip: Window on the Arab World, and More!

President Bush established a legacy in his first term as a big spender. His current budget battle is not just with Congress, but with his own record.

We read from Kate Schuler, of the Congressional Quarterly:

The Medicare prescription drug law, slated to go into effect Jan. 1, 2006, represents the biggest expansion of the program in its 40-year history. The administration estimates Medicare outlays of $345.5 billion in fiscal 2006, compared with an estimate of $295.4 billion for 2005.

That $50.1 billion dollar increase in Medicare spending represents an alarming 17% growth rate, but it's only the start:

The looming problems were easily foreseeable, said Joyce, the public policy professor. The White House and Congress vowed last year to keep the 10-year cost of a prescription drug bill to $400 billion. But to do it, the 2004 law did not come fully into effect until 2006. Hence, legislation once priced below $400 billion over 10 years now will cost at least $724 billion over a decade, simply because the law would then be fully in effect.

So that original $400 billion estimate was really an eight year total, which was revised upward to $530 billion two months after the prescription drug entitlement was passed in late 2004. $530 over eight years averages out to about $66 billion a year on an entitlement program that didn't exist when President Bush took office. Now we learn that in years nine and ten the program will spend at least another $194 billion combined (and some estimates are as high as $1.2 trillion over 10 years), or at least $97 billion a year by 2015. That's a big jump in cost from the initial $66 billion average, and the retirement of the massive Baby Boom generation would only just be beginning, with greater demands on Bush's new entitlement to follow.

Despite the fact that the Democrats are weaker at the federal level than they've been since before the Great Depression The American Mind takes this important insight: angry Democratic party on the path of its own marginalization is not good for Republicans or conservatives. Democrats negatively spin Republican ideas, but even their worst accusations contain a kernal of truth. This week, when we found the Medicare prescription drug plan is already balooning in cost it was Democrats making the loudest noise.

Who can blame the Democrats? Republicans beat them up with the big spenders stick for decades. Turnabout may not always be fair play, but it's a political inevitability.

Fortunately some sense of fiscal responsibility isn't completely extinct in the GOP:

Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg said he will try to modify a law that expands prescription-drug coverage under Medicare starting in 2006 to trim the cost, estimated at $720 billion over 10 years.

That position puts him at odds with Senate Republican leaders, who said there is no need to make changes now, and President George W. Bush, who on Feb. 11 threatened to veto any effort to alter the law.

"I do feel there needs to be some changes in the Medicare drug benefit in order to make it affordable," Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican, said today on ABC's "This Week'' program. "There has to be spending restraint in that program."

Gregg, one of nine Republicans who voted against the Medicare law in 2003, said the benefit's cost should be limited to the Congressional Budget Office's estimate of $400 billion over 10 years starting in 2004. The White House budget office last year said it would cost $511 billion starting in 2004 and last week estimated that the price over the first 10 years the law is fully in effect would be about $720 billion. Over 75 years, Greg said, the drug benefit will cost $8.6 trillion.

While Gregg's vote against the entitlement lends him a lot of credibility, that $8.6 trillion is the only current bid in the President's prescription drug vote-buying plan, and assumes the entitlement will stay on budget without the Democrats upping the ante. That assumption isn't likely to hold up, Les Jones writes:

lots of government programs go over-budget, but prescription drug plans seem to be the worst. For previous examples, see the UK and the state of Tennessee.

In fact, as I detailed at The Tar Pit, the Bush Administration's initial 10 year prescription drug entitlement estimate wasn't $720 billion, $530 billion, or $400 billion, it was $153 billion. That's still too much for a program that has no business existing, but it's also an illustration of the relentlessness of the budgetary bloat of entitlements, and this bloat has the protection of the President's veto pen.

The Agitator wonders:

Still waiting for the condemnation from limited government conservatives. If those three words even belong together anymore.

On the same theme is OKIE on the LAM:

...what we have to face personally, as communities and as a nation is what could very quickly be a health care crisis beyond the imagination of this generation. Never before have we, as a group, been told "NO" to what we really want or need. On an individual basis, sure, but not as a generation. Cheap, and in states like CA, free education? No problem. Tons of available credit? Ditto. HUD, Fanny Mae, low-interest housing loans and even lower re-fi's? Sure. Employer provided health care for white collar, and union or government jobs? Definitely!

But what about now? What happens when we lose that job, start a business to participate in the "Ownership Society", have, or want to, finally retire? Medicare, Medicaid, supplemental insurance, private insurance if we're wealthy and if it's allowed? How much should we spend on ourselves in our final two months of life, two weeks or two days? Statistically, more is spent on health care measures those last few months or weeks before death, except for sudden death, than in one's entire life. Where does society's financial responsibility to the individual end, and to what extent is the individual responsible for him or her self?

Republicans calling for self-reliance? Isn't that so,.. 1994?

Not entirely:

Bush's veto threat will not stop them from trying, said Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.), who is among those seeking repeal of the drug benefit.

"In many respects, that kind of language is like waving a red flag in front of the bull," Gutknecht said. "On issues like prescription drugs and the budget, the bulls are running."

While that's encouraging, it also signals trouble on another front for the Bush Agenda. From a little further down at the link for Gutknecht's comes this:

A fight over Medicare "would torpedo any chances to do Social Security," said John Rother, the top lobbyist for the AARP, the seniors organization. "No good outcome could come from that kind of debate."

The AARP helped Bush win hard-fought passage of the Medicare prescription benefit, but it opposes his plan for private accounts under Social Security.

So the prescription drug entitlement, like every other government handout, has developed a politically powerful constituency to keep spending high and growing while holding budgetary solvency hostage to their special interests. However, unlike previous entitlement schemes, Republicans won't be able to cite Roosevelt or Johnson as the author of this component of future runaway budgets; that legacy of fiscal irresponsibility will belong to President George W. Bush.