Saturday, March 1, 2008

An interesting report on some of the hazards faced by "undocumented immigrants" in Mexico.

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Obama-NAFTA-CTV plot thickens. CTV stands by its report:

On Wednesday, CTV reported that a senior member of Barack Obama's campaign called the Canadian embassy within the last month saying that when Senator Obama talks about opting out of the free trade deal, the Canadian government shouldn't worry. The operative said it was just campaign rhetoric not to be taken seriously.

The Obama campaign told CTV late Thursday night that no message was passed to the Canadian government that suggests that Obama does not mean what he says about opting out of NAFTA if it is not renegotiated.

However, the Obama camp did not respond to repeated questions from CTV on reports that a conversation on this matter was held between Obama's senior economic adviser -- Austan Goolsbee -- and the Canadian Consulate General in Chicago.

Earlier Thursday, the Obama campaign insisted that no conversations have taken place with any of its senior ranks and representatives of the Canadian government on the NAFTA issue. On Thursday night, CTV spoke with Goolsbee, but he refused to say whether he had such a conversation with the Canadian government office in Chicago. He also said he has been told to direct any questions to the campaign headquarters.

As Geraghty notes, if Goolsbee didn't talk to the Canadian Consulate General, wouldn't he just say that he didn't speak to the Canadian Consulate General rather than refusing to answer that question? Over at the Politico, Ben Smith says that of course Obama and Clinton are insincere about their criticisms of NAFTA.

ABC News also finds Goolsbee and the CCG in Chicago Georges Rioux refusing to say whether or not they had a conversation.

The McCain campaign, according to ABC, is already hitting Obama for this story, and, via Geraghty, Clinton is now going after Obama on this report. Obama's rivals may, it seems, try to use this story as a means of tarnishing the sheen of Obama's "new" politics and argue that this story offers further evidence that this "new" politics includes that double-talking and deception that Obama says he stands against.

UPDATE: Goolsbee now criticizes the story as inaccurate:

“It is a totally inaccurate story,” he said. “I did not call these people and I direct you to the press office.”

The Obama campaign, and Obama himself, have also said the story isn't accurate, but have mostly avoided specifics about the call itself.

Obama's campaign is now offering more strident denials:

This story is not true. There was no one at any level of our campaign, at any point, anywhere, who said or otherwise implied Obama was backing away from his consistent position on trade.

Matt Yglesias thinks back to the time when John Kerry's economic team told some assembled ambassadors that "all of his anti-trade rhetoric was just empty rhetoric"--and believes that Obama would do well to avoid these types of stories.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Indiana House votes today on a bill punishing those who hire workers illegally:
Delph's bill would target Indiana employers that hire illegal immigrants, punishing them in a series of three steps that could end with the revocation of a business license. A similar law in Arizona was recently upheld in a federal court as constitutional.
The bill also requires the the Indiana State Police to take the necessary steps to start enforcing federal immigration laws and provides funding to make that happen. It also includes funding for the Indiana attorney general's office, which would investigate written complaints made against employers.

UPDATE: The House passes the measure 66-33. A coalition of Republicans and Democrats supported the measure. It next goes to a conference report with the state Senate. More details:
Although some lawmakers disagree about the details of the proposals, both chambers have supported the idea of going after companies that profit from illegal immigration. The House version of the bill would set up a three-tier penalty system for companies that hire illegal immigrants after July 1, 2009. After three incidents within five years, companies could have their business licenses suspended or revoked. The House also included $1.5 million in state money to help enforce the bill, and removed an exemption in the Senate-passed legislation for those who hire part-time or seasonal workers.
Rasmussen Texas poll: Obama 48-Clinton 44. The trend favors Obama.
The "campaign rhetoric" of hope:

Within the last month, a top staff member for Obama's campaign telephoned Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the United States, and warned him that Obama would speak out against NAFTA, according to Canadian sources.

The staff member reassured Wilson that the criticisms would only be campaign rhetoric, and should not be taken at face value.

But Tuesday night in Ohio, where NAFTA is blamed for massive job losses, Obama said he would tell Canada and Mexico "that we will opt out unless we renegotiate the core labour and environmental standards."

Late Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign said the staff member's warning to Wilson sounded implausible, but did not deny that contact had been made.

"Senator Obama does not make promises he doesn't intend to keep," the spokesperson said.

Since the staffer's statements are paraphrased, it's hard to tell what this staffer really said. Still, if this report is true--and the Obama campaign is not explicitly denying it [UPDATE Obama's campaign is now denying this reported conversation.]--it may raise questions about what else is "campaign rhetoric" for Obama.

UPDATE 2/29: CTV stands by its story.
Howard Dean continues to encourage Americans to come together:
The Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former Governor of Vermont contrasted the two parties’ presidential candidates, saying that with a woman and an African-American as the two front-runners, the Democratic field “looks like America,” while the all-white male Republican field “looks like the 1950s and talks like the 1850s.”
After all, you do hear John McCain regularly include a defense of the Fugitive Slave Act in his stump speech. (Ron Paul might be closer to the 1850s--note his comments on Lincoln and notions of the role of the federal government....)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The state of Maine offers a 14-point plan for dealing with a broken CFL bulb. Due to the release of mercury from one of these bulbs when it breaks, a broken bulb can be quite hazardous--particularly to children. More concerns are raised here.
Andrew Sullivan tries to differentiate Obama's "liberalism" from that of the past:
What makes Obama's liberalism different from both the technocratic meliorism of the Clintons and the 1970s big government liberalism that preceded it is that it is an inclusive, self-help kind of liberalism. It is participatory, not passive. It is not about government saving us; it is about us saving the government.
Bill Clinton famously said that the "era of big government is over"; I haven't heard Obama say that. Indeed, many of his signature policies (such as nationalized healthcare) are about expanding the role and powers of the federal government. So there's an expansionist aspect of government for Obama (as there has been for Bush, too). There also seems to be a compulsory aspect to "Obama's liberalism," as in Michelle Obama saying that her husband "will require you to work" and "will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual." It may be "participatory," but it also demands participation (or says it does).

Monday, February 25, 2008

Virtual troubles:
Homeland Security Dept. officials have decided that an experimental 28-mile "virtual fence" meant to extend the U.S. Border Patrol's eyes and ears along the U.S.-Mexico border—a web of radar, infrared cameras, ground sensors, and airborne drones—won't be copied anywhere else in its entirety. The project was plagued with design, software, and other glitches; had fallen months behind schedule; and sometimes proved inoperable.

The government agreed to pay Boeing almost the full $20 million for successful completion of the prototype endeavor just south of Tucson, known as Project 28. But in choosing not to expand the project, Homeland Security officials are dashing expectations and causing embarrassment from Capitol Hill to the campaign trail.

Even Real Clear Politics is proclaiming the death of the "virtual fence." Obama, Clinton, and McCain have all been touting the value of a virtual fence in place (at times) of a physical one; will this disappointment cause them to change their policies?