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News Updates 9/27/2003

September 27th, 2003

A major quake hit Japan yesterday, but no one here in Tokyo seemed too concerned–no one mentioned it to me all day long at work, I only found out by going to CNN that night. Yes, it was an 8.0 (followed by a 7.0), but the epicenter was about 100 kilometers off the coast of Hokkaido, which is a sparsely populated island. The closest major city, Sapporo, is at least 250 km. from the epicenter. Various reports have the number of injured up to as high as 500.

People (like Steve Forbes on CNN this morning) are talking about where George Bush’s poll numbers will be by whatever time frame, whether his popularity will jump or tank by Thanksgiving or by the end of the year. Don’t these people look at more than just the last few polls? For the past two months, I’ve been mentioning as much as possible the fact that Bush’s poll numbers follow an amazingly simple pattern: they jumped for 9/11 and the Iraq War, otherwise they have followed a highly regular and predictable downward trend since he took office in 2001.

In August, I plugged Bush’s poll numbers since the Iraq War into an Excel worksheet and produced a chart, and then extrapolated a linear trendline. That was two months ago. The trendline said that by the end of September, his poll ratings would be hovering around 49%. Well, by golly, that’s exactly where they are. So what does the trendline say for the future? Barring terrorist attacks or a new war, Bush should be at about 42% by Thanksgiving, and as low as 36% by the end of the year. At some point, Bush will have to bottom out (the trendline reaches zero by September 2004), and it will be interesting to see where that will be. But for now, with the predictions for this year on the record, let’s see what happens.

Davis challenged Schwarzenegger to a debate, head to head. Do you even need me or any news site to tell you Arnold’s response? No, of course you don’t. But then, it was an unlikely proposition; Schwarzenegger obviously wants to duck any non-controlled appearance he can get away with avoiding, and it probably would not do him much good–and it would lend publicity and popularity to Davis. On the grounds of principle, it was the Right Thing–the public deserves to hear as much debate as can be arranged, and after all, they are the real main contenders in the race, Arnold does take every chance he gets to smear Davis publicly, and since half the election is about recalling Davis, he should be allowed to face his challenger head-on. But then again, we know that principle is never allowed to get in the way of electability.

I‘m getting sick and tired of people slamming illegal immigrants in California and elsewhere, with a how-dare-they response to the desire to have things like driver licenses. We hear so often about illegal aliens arrested and being taken away, but we never hear about the people who hire them illegally being punished. The fact of the matter is, these people come to the U.S. because we offer them jobs. They’re not the problem. We are.

We need them, the California economy would collapse without them. The question is not why they come, the question is why don’t we offer enough work visas to accommodate the necessary immigrant workforce, and why don’t we crack down severely on employers who take advantage of these people? I get the very strong impression that the people who hire them want them to be illegal–that way, they can pay them less, and overall administration for the employer is reduced. It also means that we as a state or country can avoid giving them the benefits they deserve as residents, creating a virtual apartheid-like system.

We need to do a few things. We should determine the number of jobs these people fill and set up a temporary work visa program that would allow them to enter the country safely and legally, with the least administrative hassle and cost for employers. Perhaps general visas for an industry (farmworking, construction, etc.) could be granted, and then employers could recruit from that pool. Far better than doing so from the back of a truck. Finally, levy serious fines for anyone who employs illegal aliens more than once, with jail terms for the worst offenders. Once the illegal jobs dry up, so will the illegal aliens.

Another thing I’m getting tired of hearing is how election candidates can “win” debates simply by not losing them badly. On a CNN interview this morning, Peter Beinart of the New Republic mentioned that Howard Dean won the last debate by not stumbling. George W. Bush, who even called himself the “master of low expectations,” “won” his debates with Gore effectively by not self-destructing.

Now, I was never in debate club in high school, but I seem to recall hearing somewhere to the effect that the winner of a debate is the one who makes the best argument. But today it’s all spin and presentation. The thing is, it’s not the fault of the politicians or pundits for presenting these standards, it’s our fault for accepting them, for voting for anyone on those grounds.

Bush, responding to polls that he supposedly doesn’t follow, is beginning to back away from his preference for the U.S. paying for rebuilding Iraq, as opposed to doing it on loan, to be payed back by future Iraqi oil revenues. In a few weeks, we’ll likely be hearing about how loans were the president’s idea in the first place.

We’ve heard that before too many times. Remember when Bush first proposed invading Iraq? He said he didn’t need the approval of Congress, even went so far as to lay out legal grounds for making it an executive decision. But then he did a 180, and afterwards claimed that he never tried to do it without Congress. Then he said we didn’t need U.N. support. When that didn’t fly, he went to the U.N., and again, later acted like that was all part of his master plan from the start. Then he opposed U.N. weapons inspections, and cut them short with his premature invasion–and yet again, later claimed that he wanted inspections, but Saddam Hussein refused to even let them in.

This is the man who criticizes others for being “revisionist historians.”

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