Archive for October 4th, 2006|Daily archive page

Buttoning Bashing

Since the Republican Congress seems to be having a gay ol’ time IM’ing former pages, the single-sex marriage issue might not be the best headline pusher for people looking for votes in November. I’m sure they’re glad the other hot button issues are going well. You know things like the Iraq war and immigration.

Oh, wait! There was that little intelligence document that sneaked it’s way into the mailboxes of various journalists last week. Well, we can at least keep the Republicans in the border states like California and Texas going to the poles using the immigration issue. Right?

Oh, wait! Both the LA Times and the Washington Post are both running stories that show less than ecstasy on this point. The LA Times reports on people living directly on the Mexican border while the Post runs with the problems growers are having finding enough help to harvest the crop this year due to increased immigration restrictions.

Miguel Bustillo visits south Texas for the LA Times to give a taste of the feelings directly on the border.

[Border rancher Mike Vickers] very badly wants to stop the trail of death and despair that passes by his doorstep. But when he considers the wisdom of building twin steel walls along the Rio Grande to seal off the Mexican border — the plan Congress approved early Saturday before heading home for the November election — his verdict is swift and harsh: stupid idea.

“That’s just a big waste of money,” said Vickers, a Texas Republican activist who heads a group opposed to illegal immigration that until recently was the state branch of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.

“The Rio Grande is the lifeblood of South Texas,” he said. “A wall is just going to stand between farmers and ranchers and others who need legitimate access to water. It’s not going to stop the illegals.”

It seems the border fence isn’t quite the solution most people directly effected would like to see. Those pesky questions involving water, natural landscapes and social structures are somehow more important to the bilingual, binational towns riming the southern edge of the United States than who garners votes to Washington. Apparently in south Texas, the plan is almost universally disliked and quoting from the story again.

As Congress approved building the fence, it was hard to find a South Texas politician, merchant, economic analyst or academic who believed a wall would work — and who did not consider it an insult to the people of Mexico, with whom the region shares a strong social and economic bond, especially since passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“I am reminded of when Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross and he said, ‘Father, forgive them because they know not what they do,’ ” said Richard Cortez, the mayor of McAllen, which became one of the fastest-growing areas in America after NAFTA.

Ah Republicans! A bible reference for everything! Thank Allah.

Instead of driving into dusty border towns no one has ever heard of, Sonya Geis from the Washington Post chose to report from somewhere even more remote – California. Here the problem isn’t fences, its fruit. Too much fruit and not enough labor to harvest it.

Farmers of all types of specialty crops, from almonds to roses, have seen the immigrant labor supply they depend on dry up over the past year. Increased border security and competition from other industries are driving migrant laborers out of the fields, farmers say.

Earlier this year, many farmers were optimistic about finding a solution in the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits and Security Act, or AgJobs. The bill, proposed by Sens. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), would allow undocumented agricultural workers already in the United States to become legal permanent residents and would streamline the current guest-worker program. In March and September, hundreds of growers traveled to the Capitol to lobby for the bill.
     [snip]
As the border tightens, Mexican workers who once spent part of each year in American fields without a work permit fear that if they go back to Mexico, they will be trapped behind the border, farmers say. Instead, they stay in the United States, taking year-round jobs that pay more and are less backbreaking than farm work, such as cleaning hotels or working in construction in cities on the Gulf Coast devastated by last year’s hurricanes.

There are several factors at work here. First, since the immigrant workers can’t be sure they can get back over the border, they stay in the US and take jobs that are attractive enough that they might even be filled by an American citizen. This puts pressure on the lowest income brackets and allowing the Republicans to get those votes. On the other side of the issue, the Republican farmers and fruit growers are facing losses and possibly forced to increase prices because the harvest is rotting in the fields and might not vote Republican. I wonder which demographic is larger.

But Pat Ricchiuti, owner of P-R Farms in California gives the surprising quote

“Certain Republicans are very closed-minded,” he continued. “They’re prejudiced, and they’re concerned about people taking their jobs. Well, you know what? You won’t do those jobs. You might stick your head up the grapevine once or twice, but you won’t do it a third time.”

Well, maybe no one wants to be a congressperson either.

I think Michelle Malkin should go down there and just tell those people what the problem is. Her. Job. Is. On. The. Line. She could be replaced at any moment by some Spanish speaking, dark skinned, foreign BIMBO. This is all about protection!  But then again, even I would prefer to work in a field than have to do Michelle Malkin’s job. Think of all the cans of worms you would have to open. Blah!

Perhaps the Republicans should just go back to gay bashing. Or IM’ing pages.

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Lose-Lose Situation

News broke yesterday that North Korea has announced (yet again) the intention of testing a nuclear weapon. Everyone seems to be playing this down and one might think this announcement is nothing new. When I read something like this, my first stop is always Jeffery Lewis, ArmsControlWonk, who almost blogged this live as the news broke. In his second post he explains one interesting point

By now, you’ve probably heard that the DPRK has announced its intention to conduct a nuclear test. (The BBC has a translation of the Korean statement; the original is here.)

The money line is:

The DPRK Foreign Ministry is authorized to solemnly declare … the DPRK will in the future conduct a nuclear test under the condition where safety is firmly guaranteed.

Anyway, I recently blogged the GoogleEarth coordinates of the P’unggye-yok site in North Hamgyong province, which often suggested as probable test location—strangely, at the PIIC meeting in Xiamen, one of the presenters expressed doubt that North Korea would test there because of the extensive mushroom crop, which provides significant hard currency earnings and is harvested from late August to early October.

Looking farther, I checked the Washington Post and New York Times articles. Note the comment about safety in the Korean statement. This seems to be a button issue even for North Korea. On page two of the very informative WP article, Anthony Faiola and Dafna Linzer put the test in perspective.

Some scientists question whether North Korea has the technology to conduct a test safely — leaking radiation is a major concern.

[snip]

North Korea has frequently provided the world with early warnings of dramatic moves and has often chosen symbolic dates for them. A series of missile tests took place during the July 4 weekend, and Tuesday’s statement came as South Korea was marking its national day.

“A decision to test is a political calculation, not a technical one,” said one intelligence officer. The officer said analysts believed that the Pyongyang government issued the statement in part to gauge international reaction before making a final decision. “It doesn’t mean they won’t test, but it gives them a chance to roll back, or be coaxed back if they want to,” said the officer, who agreed to discuss some of the classified analysis on condition of anonymity.

And David E. Sanger in the New York Times goes further, playing down the crisis with

American intelligence officials said they saw no signs that a test was imminent. But they cautioned that two weeks ago, American officials who have reviewed recent intelligence reports said American spy satellites had picked up evidence of indeterminate activity around North Korea’s main suspected test site. It was unclear to them whether that was part of preparations for a test, or perhaps a feint related to the visit at that time to Washington of South Korea’s president, Roh Moo Hyun.

Where does this leave us? For a final professional synopsis, I turn back to my arms control expert Jeffery Lewis and, in a strange case of fully quoting a quoter, I give you his latest entry in full.

Dave Kang—Associate Professor in the Government Department at Dartmouth and Managing the Atom Research Associate—sends along his thoughts on North Korea’s announcement of an impending North Korean nuclear test:

Will North Korea actually test? What do they hope to get out of it? I think there are two issues to keep in mind. First, the north Korean leadership may have decided that the benefits of proving their nuclear weapons capability may outweigh even their relationship with China and South Korea. North Korea may be gambling that it can endure further isolation better than it could continued negotiations and interactions with the world. Second, that North Korea has often made announcements that they later do not keep. That is, whether they actually follow through with a test will probably depend on the reactions of the other actors.

As you can tell, you should be reading Jeffery’s blog not mine for this kind of thing so bookmark it! Now!

Still here? OK. Now my take.

I, as a silly ex-pat in Germany, wonder if the Bush administration has finally managed to put North Korea up against a wall. I’m not sure this is a good thing.

The sanctions imposed on Pyongyang have worked but what now? Does the Bush administration have any real plan where to go from here? Do they expect the government in North Korea to disintegrate into dust like vampires in the sun and have the flowers of democracy sprout in the remnants? Remember this is the group that expected parties and flags not bombs and AK-47s in the streets of Bagdad.

I would really like to hear someone, Condi Rice, Tony Snow, maybe even the über-diplomat Donald Rumsfeld, say something about what they expect. Remember the PBS Frontline show about North Korea? They presented the inherently evil Clinton administration opening up channels with the Norks and how things were progressing. The country was being pulled into the world community instead of being bullied out of the international playground. Remember all that changed when the hardliners took over in Washington and North Korea became one of the axis of evil? I have a hard time finding the goal here. Does Bush want a 51st state? An Asian colony? A retirement community? What?!!

I just hope for everyone that Bush hasn’t dealt yet another round of losing hands to US policy, North Korea and the world. At the moment, I don’t see how anyone comes out on top; I don’t even understand what the US is trying to win. But right now, for North Korea, it’s a lose-lose situation. And thats not good.

Feeding the Cyberelves

Remember my Defining Moments in Blogging #1, when the Washington Post linked to me for the first time? Have you been wondering why I almost always write out ‘The Washington Post’ in full instead of using the far more finger friendly WP?

Ah dear readers, it’s all about feeding the cyberelves at Technocrati.

Some people might use common search terms like ‘porn’, ‘bondage’, ‘midget sex’ or ‘mutant ninja dildo use’ to up their google ranks. I on the other hand simply mentally manipulate those little beasties, wandering the inter-tubes, on the watch for those mentioning WP articles. You see, if the full name of the above mentioned newspaper is used near a link to the appropritate article, you get added to the ‘Who’s Blogging?’ sidebar. *evil overlord laugh Bahahahahahaha!*

Shamefully upping my user counts? Guilty
Manipulating the opinion titbits on a major American newspaper web site? Guilty
Sending sexually charged e-mails to cyberelves? Me? Innocent – um – I have a drinking problem – um – I was abused by a cyberelf as a child!!

Airbus? I don’t see any Airbus

I wrote the other day about the Airbus situation and that EADS, the parent company, having had problems with the delivery of the new A380. I was talking about the delays announced earlier. Little did I know Airbus would announce yet another major slip in the delivery schedule.

AviationWeek , the industry standard magazine for this kind of story, reported yesterday

The EADS board of directors met Friday and will meet again today to discuss details of the restructuring proposed by Airbus CEO Christian Streiff. Airbus is also expected to tell its customers this week about the updated A380 delivery schedule.

Industry sources say the A380 could be delayed by up to one more year, which would mean the aircraft is delivered two years later than originally planned. The current delay is the third incurred by the program so far. But according to people familiar with the situation, executives are split over the new timetable: Some would like to announce an aggressive schedule to ease tensions with customers, while others say that the new schedule should be conservative enough for Airbus to be able to meet under any circumstances.

The new delay is expected to cost the manufacturer several billions of euros. The latest six-month shift in the program cut profits for the next four years by $2.5 billion. [my emphasis]

The German news (ZDF) reported 9 months for the Emerates and up to a year for Lufthansa but ouch! The Washington Post lays it on even thicker pointing to the fact that Airbus’ major client might be getting cold feet.

Airbus parent EADS said Tuesday that the flagship A380 superjumbo jet will be delayed for another year and Virgin Atlantic and Emirates, the plane’s biggest customer , hinted that the new setbacks could lead to order cancellations.

For the aerospace industry, this is like having another French Revolution. Having cancellations for a new aircraft would probably doom the A380 to a sideline similar to the role played by the Concorde. Here the problem isn’t fuel economy and noise* problems; here the issues seem to be production and management problems. Even if those get solved, the air industry looks like it is moving more towards small to mid-size puddle jumpers, Airbus A320’s or Boeing 737’s, and not superjumbos. I’ll be surprised if more than 30 or 40 A380 end up getting built. If more get built, they may end up being used as cargo aircraft and not people movers.

*For those that never heard it, the Concorde was amazingly loud, I used to hear it whenever I would stay in Paris. I was staying something like 30 miles from Charles de Gaulle Airport and could always recognise the Concorde on its distinctive ‘Is an airplane about to come through the window?’ sound.

The problems at Airbus have been simmering just under the front-page-headline level for several months lately. For eclectics like me, it’s just something I watch because I find the aircraft manufacturing business interesting. (These things cost HOW much? I find the engineering and logistics involved oh-so-cool.)

One issue is how the German government is going to react to this. Germany is currently trying to solve problems with a relatively high unemployment level brought on, in my opinion, through the major restructuring of the economy after the reunification. Most of the ‘new federal states’ (neue Bundesländer, the area from former East Germany) still have very high unemployment rates and none of the government projects to rebuild the infrastructure and jumpstart industry have really worked. Again quoting from AviationWeek

In Germany, the federal government is mulling an investment in EADS, should DaimlerChrysler further reduce its stake. Officials are concerned that work share in the A380 program could be shifted from Hamburg to Toulouse because of the current production issues — installing the complex wiring in the cabin has been at the root of the current flawed production ramp-up. The investment could be made through state-owned bank KfW.

If EADS tanks in Hamburg, that would put a major stress on the German economy just as things were starting to look up.

Anyway, just though you might like to know. You won’t be seeing any A380’s taking off near you any time soon.