October 13, 2006

They Think We're Idiots

I don't mind if people disagree with me, or with policies I believe in.

But I do mind if their arguments are completely incoherent.

Which brings us to Steve Chapman's op-ed in this morning's Strib.

Steve Chapman seems to think that people only think a paragraph at a time:

In recent years, illegal immigrants have become a continuous river surging over our southern border. When water goes where it shouldn't, you build a dam to stop the flow. So recently Congress voted to block this torrent -- by putting up one-third of a dam. In practice, it will amount to far less than one-third of a solution.
Of course, that'd be one-third more than we have today. But let's look at this "one-third of a dam".
The fence, as advertised, simultaneously manages to be both stupendously vast and pitifully undersized. Covering some 700 miles in five segments, it's the equivalent of a structure stretching from Chicago to Washington, D.C. It would have double steel walls supplemented with cameras, motion detectors and floodlights -- everything but an alligator-infested moat.
The fence won't - can't - cover the whole border. That's a problem - but not an insurmountable one.Whatever the total mileage are, it'll be less than the 2,000 it'd take to seal the border shut. That's a given - for now. But those 300-700 miles will be pretty tightly shut - which is 3-700 miles more than we have now.

Now, we'll get into the parts where we see what I can only chalk up to Steve Chapman's contempt for the rest of us:

Congress also instructed the DHS to consult local and state governments on "exact placement" of the wall. But a lot of them reject the idea. Mike Allen, director of the McAllen Economic Development Corp. in south Texas, told the San Francisco Chronicle, "Every single mayor from Brownsville to El Paso is against it."
What'd happen if we let local mayors set national policy?

The mayor of San Francisco would disband the military. The mayor of Boston would unilaterally impose an oxygen excise tax.

You see how wrong Chapman's statement is, right?

Erecting this giant public-works project is easier to do on paper than on rugged desert ground. Lee Morgan, a former federal agent in Douglas, Ariz., near the planned route, told the Reuters news agency, "You can't build a wall across the mountains of southern Arizona, as much of the terrain is inaccessible even on foot."

Einstein - if the terrain is inaccessible on foot, then we don't need a fence there, do we?

Some of the fence is supposed to traverse creek beds that occasionally play host to violent flash floods. "You are going to have to build hundreds of culverts big enough for debris the size of brush and small trees to float through the length of the border," said another former federal agent. "If it is wide enough for bushes to get through, then people can get through."
Save some of the water to splash in Steve Chapman's face - and put a motion detector on the US side of the culvert.
And what will this lengthy barrier accomplish if and when it is finished? It will certainly prevent transient Mexicans and Central Americans from crossing the border in the places where it stands. But it won't prevent them from crossing elsewhere, as they did when fences were erected in the San Diego and El Paso areas.
Right. Because the illegal had to only to 10-15 miles to find an open border near a convenient, friendly urban area.

Most of the crossing takes place in or near towns or cities. If you cut off the easy crossings, you will cut down on the number of people who are willing to try in the first place. Given a choice between dashing a couple of hundred yards across the border to a neighborhing city or trekking across miles of trackless, waterless, oven-hot-by-day, icebox-cold-by-night desert, what would you pick?

Since the government began cracking down in those places, total illegal immigration has actually risen.

Of course it's risen - the economic disparity between Mexico and the US continues to widen, and as enforcement rises Mexicans figure that now is the time to get a move on.

Correlation doesn't equal causation. Not that Steve Chapman feels it's important to tell you.

Instead of making their way through urban areas, undocumented foreigners have eluded capture by trekking across remote deserts and mountains, paying human smugglers to shepherd them into the United States. Instead of snaring more illegal entrants, we're now arresting fewer.
Does anyone see the omissions and holes in this argument?

Some illegals will make the gruelling trek across the desert - but anything that makes crossing more difficult will, by human nature, whittle down the number that'll try, and in any case will cut down on the amount of space the INS and Border Patrol need to cover.

Research by Princeton University sociologist Douglas Massey indicates that the chance of being nabbed has dropped from about 33 percent 25 years ago to about 5 percent today -- while the cost to the Border Patrol per apprehension has soared. At the same time, the fatality rate of those crossing has tripled. Not exactly a proud achievement: killing trespassers instead of catching them.
Sad, but a non-sequitur.
A longer, more formidable fence can once again divert illegal immigrants to more dangerous routes and increase the fees charged by smugglers to arrange passage. As long as higher-paying employment beckons to impoverished people on the other side of the border, though, the cost and risk will still look modest next to the potential payoff. The fence can make illegal entry harder, but it won't make it any less popular.
Stated without evidence.

Simple economics dictates that making something harder and costlier will cut down on the pool of people who'll be willing to risk or pay for something.

Of course, we don't expect much literacy on basic economics or law enforcement from the Strib.

Posted by Mitch at October 13, 2006 06:02 AM | TrackBack

So if the fence is short, they'll walk around it. Okay, agreed.

Build a 700 mile fence and put a border patrol office at the end. When the illegals walk around, arrest 'em and send 'em back.

In fact, build it the entire 2000 miles or so, but leave convenient gaps about every few hundred miles. Let's see, where should we place the Border Patrol stations along that fence?

Also, it's too bad that the terrain in Arizona is so much more rugged than the terrain in China, where a bunch of peasants built a Great Wall BY HAND stretching over 1,000 miles of mountains. Guess there's no way modern American know-how and technology can ever compete with those clever Chinese engineers living in 400 BC. Give it up, huh?


Posted by: nate bissonette at October 13, 2006 07:47 AM

Mitch, I took those first two lines and quoted them on my Facebook profile. I hope you don't mind; I figured they just fit my debate philosophy as well.

Posted by: Sixth Sense at October 13, 2006 12:24 PM

It's a remarkable bit of ideological blindness that allows someone to be against free trade, which primarily takes away the jobs or reduces wages of high paid union and white collar workers, and yet be in favor of open immigration that takes away jobs & depresses wages for poor folks.

Posted by: Terry at October 13, 2006 12:56 PM

At least a fence would keep the elephants out.

A Republican running for Congress saw some illegal immigrants swim across the river, unhindered. He decided to take the illegal immigration issue to the next level.

This guy borrowed a herd of elephants from a nearby circus and got them across the river, accompanied by a six-piece mariachi band.

The only reason they were stopped - you'll love this - the Department of Agriculture came by to make sure the elephants were sprayed for ticks before coming into the country.



Posted by: nate bissonette at October 13, 2006 04:53 PM

Mitch, I used the seventh line for my Myspace profile because it really describes my water containment philosophy. By the way, I think you're dreamy...

Posted by: Doug at October 13, 2006 05:03 PM

Mitch says,

"What'd happen if we let mayors set national policy..."

So much for local government governing best.

OH, you mean YOUR favored local government doing what YOU want. I get it now.

This fence is as stupid an idea as the wing-nuts have had in years. Fences get tunnelled under, cut through, and avoided altogether through scams and bribing of border guards. NAFTA was terrible for the border area just south of the border, and we have the consequence of predatory employement. Actions, meet consequences.

If you are willing to PAY TAXES to patrol the border over and above making sure sound programs are funded too, then put up as many fences as you want, just you pay for it. Don't ask me to foot the bill for that white elephant. If you do, then you are again the same hypocrite as the one who challenged the wealthy of Minnesota to voluntarily pay taxes themselves rather than ask the rest of the rich to do so. You remember, your comments to the ones who said they'd pay a more in taxes?

This idea couldn't be more stupid if it came out of the mouth of Pat Robertson, it's that moronic.

As the right-wing has so often said, when there is money (for illegal guns), there will be action. There is money to get folks into the U.S. and jobs for them here, thus the money paid to get here. As long as the demand exists, the supply of routes and the application of human ingenuity to meet that demand will continue.

You'd be better served putting finger in the dike.

Posted by: ted at October 13, 2006 08:09 PM

"What'd happen if we let mayors set national policy..."

So much for local government governing best."

Another strawman from Ted. No one has made the blanket statement that 'local government governs best', though I think that most people on the right would say that local government can deal with local issues better than Washington. Mass illegal immigration or the Iraq War are not local issues. How many divisions does Gavin Newsom have? Exactly how accountable is Michael Bloomberg to the citizens of Missourri?
I think the reasons that lefties have such a hard time understanding federalism is that federalism has no goal. We don't have a federal system so we can tackle some social problem or materially improve the lives of citizens, we have a federal system so we can "form a more perfect union".
Take a poli sci class, Ted, you might learn something.

Posted by: Terry at October 13, 2006 09:05 PM


Terry gutted you like a fish, but what the hey, I'll pile on...

"So much for local government governing best.

OH, you mean YOUR favored local government doing what YOU want. I get it now."

As usual, no - you don't.

Defending the borders is a power reserved to the Feds.

"This fence is as stupid an idea as the wing-nuts have had in years. Fences get tunnelled under, cut through, and avoided altogether through scams and bribing of border guards."

You missed the point so completely that, at long last, I have to admit you're not really PB; he could at least distinguish *that* much.

Yes, each of those things *can* happen - but each of them raises the cost (in money and effort) of crossing the border. As I said (and I doubt you comprehended) raising the cost lowers the numbers. Since you're a liberal, you are clueless about economics, so I don't know how I can explain it any stupider.

"If you are willing to PAY TAXES to patrol the border over and above making sure sound programs are funded too, then put up as many fences as you want, just you pay for it."

That definition of "sound programs" is one that'll entertain for days!

" Don't ask me to foot the bill for that white elephant."

Sorry, lil'fella. Once the legislature decides, you really don't get to back out of non-usage-fee taxes.

As to it being a "white elephant" - the similar fence in Israel works just fine.

"You'd be better served putting finger in the dike."

Getcher fresh hot cliches right here!

Posted by: mitch at October 13, 2006 10:49 PM


Your responses are barely coherent, for example:

"The similar Isreali fence works just fine."

News flash to Mitch, there are a handful of people seeking to cross that fence, not millions. That fence is a few dozens of miles long, not over 1000, and no one is seeking employment, nor are there jobs waiting on the other side.

Little boy blue (Mitch), come blow your horn.

As far as cliche's go, you seem to use them without restraint, is there now a double-standard?

Local Government governing best was a cliche of your neo-con bo-bo's. Apparently though, except whenever it's not convenient for you.

If you want a white elephant, pay for it, it's that simple. I don't appreciate the immigration, but what you're proposing is hopelessly flawed, just like Iraq was hopelessly flawed. Pardon me for thinking your ability to predict success is just a wee bit suspect.

The rest of your reply was worth less than the "non-sequitor" about the Israeli security fence - which by the way in fact doesn't work "just fine," though it is effective most of the time. It has it's flaws too, people avoid it and climb it, just like they will this ludicrous idea.

Although the stupid one about cost increase and economics was funny, in an ironic makes you look like an ass sort of way.

Defenses of course are designed to make the easy path hard, however, this is a matter of supply and, to an extent, desparation. Yes it will be harder, however, nothing, given the demand will make it hard enough. I doubt anything will put a serious impairment upon it. Whether liberals don't understand economics is almost enough to make one fall out of a chair laughing at you. Suggesting that giving the rich vastly more sums will result in good jobs here has proven utterly untrue. The new jobs created pay less than those lost, and it is far easier to employ people oversees than it is here in the engineering/technology jobs that are needed to manage and oversee offshoring assets. Supply-side economics is the ecnomics of fools, Rich folks are smart enough to at least employ people smart enough to know you don't build factories to build items for which there is no demand, and more importantly, little disposable income.

Your economics have only resulted in 2.5 Trillion added to the debt under Reagan, and another 3+ Trillion added under Bush. You wouldn't know economics if it bit you in the posterior.

Posted by: ted at October 14, 2006 04:26 PM

Hey, you know, one other thought on the "Israeli fence" idea. The Israelis have the required several thousand troops to police it, a conservative estimate of the number of border agents or troops to police your fence is in the neighborhood of 40,000, probably more like 100,000 thousand. How you do propose to pay for that? As I recall, a military historian named Sir Bentham Howard speculated it would be more likely to require 4-6 full-time Army Divisions. The guy is and was a Republican Hawk, Mitch, but even he realised the absurdity of a fence.

This is just one more "sounds like a good idea" but in reality is an enormous loser. 700 miles of fence will probably only result in more deaths to those who try to cross, without doing any real damage to the numbers themselves. But let's, for argument's sake, say you're right, and we cut illegal immigration by 10%, which would be something like 150,000 per year?, and let's assume that it costs 10,000 lives per year to do so (people who die in the desert). Is that an ethical outcome? Drive the desparate and destitute so far into the desert that they die in the attempt? How is that any different than erecting the Berlin Wall? We build a wall, WE BUILD IT, to keep the poor and needy out, and they die trying to get in, that blood is on our hands. This isn't the Israeli wall attempting to stop terrorism, it's a wall designed to make the attritional cost so high, that people stop trying. Nice morals, kill much?

Posted by: ted at October 14, 2006 05:41 PM

Oh, here's a really nice expose' on your fence, showing that the GOP Leadership has contempt for the public because the "details" will be overlooked - when they essentially gutted the bill.

Fine, fine leadership there.

Sorry about the Sir Bentham Howard, it's Sir Bertram something.. have to go find it.

Here's another really nice one from Lou Dobbs, pointing out that as long as corporate America wants illegal immigration, it will have it. There is zero intention to enforce the laws on the books, or to build anything like a viable barrier, not so long as Wal-Mart gets cheap labor.

The point is, your proposal is both an albatross and flatly, dishonest because no one will ever enforce it - not as long as both parties are owned by corporations. Your comments are merely the useless prattle and hyperbole of a Republican shill. If you believe this nonsense, you're a fool, if you don't, you're a liar. It almost makes it seem like you're as nuts as Hugh Hewitt, but I'm not sure that really is humanly possible. You do seem to usually have two cents worth of sense to rub together, so is it that you are so beholden to the Republican apparatus that you foist this nonsense, or is it that you can't grasp that the economics of cheap labor make this impossible?

Posted by: ted at October 14, 2006 05:54 PM

PB is back!
Be succinct, 'Ted'! How did you find time to write over 900 words of comment? Sunday is supposed to be for church and family.
You pinko atheist family-hater.

Posted by: Terry at October 14, 2006 06:10 PM

It was Harold Coyle, not Bertram Chandler, in "Trial by Fire." In the prologue, Coyle utterly disabuses any idea of securing such a border. Coyle, the author of "Team Yankee" is hardly anyone's liberal, in fact, he's pretty much a died in the wool hawk. It's fiction, sure, but he did his research, perhaps you should do your's.

Terry, whomever you mean, perhaps he was able to say things more coherant than Mitch, but Mitch did after all write 10,000 words to start, then another 9999 words in saying nothing as a rebuttal. Maybe if you spend 1,000,000 words, you can say something important?

Posted by: ted at October 14, 2006 06:13 PM

By the way, Terry, it's Saturday. Get a grip.

Posted by: ted at October 14, 2006 06:14 PM

Ted's posts are a perfect illustration of the Moonbat Victorious Argument Strategy (MVAS): fling poo until the adequate response is nothing short of a small library.

Posted by: Paul at October 15, 2006 07:17 AM

The American Heritage Dictionary (a fitting source) defines a "fence" as "A structure serving as an enclosure, a barrier, or a boundary, usually made of posts or stakes joined together by boards, wire, or rails. "

It is simply irrational and a denial of reality to suggest that a fence is no better than, or even worse than, no fence at all. Why do we put up fences around our yards, military bases, public and private properties of all kinds, minimum security prisons and mental hospitals, and junk yards? It is to keep out people who would steal or otherwise do us harm. The word comes from the old English term for "defense," and that is what the border fence is for. Any argument to the contrary is not only silly and a reflection of poor toilet training as a child, but raises questions as to what is the ulterior motive for NOT wanting to protect our Southern border?

Posted by: J. Ewing at October 16, 2006 09:02 AM

"By the way, Terry, it's Saturday. Get a grip."
Not in UTC, Ted. In my job I live on UT.

Posted by: Terry at October 16, 2006 04:02 PM
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