May 2010

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Some of you may have noticed that Windypundit was unavailable for parts of Saturday.

It turns out that my hosting provider migrated Windypundit to a new server sometime in the last week or so. Normally, they’d also change the entries in the nameserver, which is the server that provides the link between the “windypundit.com” domain name and the IP address of the server that hosts my content. However, for reasons too boring to go into, I use a third-party company for nameservice, so my hosting provider has no way to make the change.

They are aware of this issue, and sometime last week they sent me an email explaining exactly what changes I had to make…which I kept meaning to do.

Anyway, for much of the past week, when you or I pointed our browsers at windypundit.com, we were using the old server, not the new one. That lasted until sometime on Saturday, when they finally shutdown the old server, and Windypundit went off the air.

I’ve changed the nameserver entries to point to the new server, and that’s where you’re reading this. There was still a problem, however. You see, the copy of Windypundit on the new server was made several days ago, so it didn’t have anything recent, including my post about the Tweet-up meeting at the Fairmont hotel, the comments to that post, and drafts of several other posts I had started.

By poking around in the Google and Bing page caches, I managed to put the tweet-up meeting post back together, along with everyone’s comments (although the dates are off). But since they were never published where Google can find them, I can’t think of any way to get back the drafts of my new blog posts.

Bummer.

Update: I probably also lost emails from the past week too, so if you were trying to send me something, please send it again.

I stopped by the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Chicago after the InsideCounsel Superconference today and finally met the man, Scott Greenfield, who’s a lot friendlier in person than you might think.

Amy Derby and Scott Greenfield
Larger ImageAmy Derby and Scott Greenfield

The young lady with him is Chicago Twitter sensation Amy Derby. That’s probably not how she’d like to be introduced, but I don’t know much about her other than that she has almost 5000 Twitter followers and everybody seems to know her. If you follow Amy’s tweets, I should say that in real life she’s exactly how you think she’d be.

Oh, and all these other people were there too:

Twitter meet-up at InsideCounsel's 10th Annual SuperConference
Larger ImageTwitter meet-up at InsideCounsel's 10th Annual SuperConference

From left to right, they’re Dave Gulbransen (maybe), some guy (I’m bad at remembering names), Ashley Scheck (I can see her badge in the original image), some woman, a guy, another woman, another guy (somebody please help me), Kashmir Hill from AboveTheLaw.com (badge), another guy, Kevin Thompson from Cyberlaw (maybe), Ed from Blawg Review (or just some guy who’s using Ed’s identity to get chicks), Molly McDonough from ABA Journal (she gave me her card), and Adrian Dayton, best known for being Adrian Dayton.

Update: Kevin Thompson helped fill the blank spots in my memory. Here’s the list: Dave Gulbransen, Chris Schneider, Ashley Scheck, Jane Simon, Jeremy Kissel, Gwynne Monahan, R. David Donoghue, Kashmir Hill, Chris McGeehan, Kevin Thompson, Ed from Blawg Review, Molly McDonough, and Adrian Dayton.

Update: In a comment, Mirriam says “I still mentally draw in Greenfield’s mustache.” I say, why do it mentally when there’s Photoshop? Hope this helps:

Scott Greenfield Touched Up To Match Our Expectations
Larger ImageScott Greenfield Touched Up To Match Our Expectations

I seem to have developed a talent for offending people at Reason magazine. I think I might have annoyed Radley Balko with this post from last year, and now I think I can add Nick Gillespie to the list.

In my previous post, I was a little peeved at Reason for not producing a better article for Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. After writing that post, I emailed both the authors of the offending piece, Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, to encourage them to explain why the piece turned out the way it did.

Much to my surprise, Nick Gillespie answered:

Mark,
 
Now that my parents have been dead for over a decade, it is always a relief to know that I am still capable of seriously disappointing somebody!
 
Based on traffic volume and a desire to weed out gratuitously abusive comments (almost all of which revolved around Mohammed either fucking or getting fucked), we closed the comments to Matt’s and my blog posts introducing the contest–we continued that with this as well. Additionally, in what was probably an incorrect anticipation of server-crushing traffic (alas!), we decided to host our winners page on our backbone server, which is less prone to server squirrels shutting down.
 
Yrs,
 
Nick Gillespie
Editor in Chief
Reason.tv and Reason.com

Ah, Geez. That sounds right doesn’t it? And now that I think about it, I’ll bet that a lot of the drawings weren’t much better than the comments. I guess that makes sense.

What the hell?

As you probably know, today is Everybody Draw Mohammed day. In case you’re wondering, I’m not participating. Mostly because I couldn’t think of anything clever to draw. And you probably wouldn’t have recognized it if I tried. In case you haven’t noticed, Windypundit doesn’t have a cartoon section. There’s a reason for that.

On the other hand, I was looking forward to Reason magazine’s post on the subject. They’ve been asking people to send them drawings of Mohammed for about a month, and I wanted to check them out. So I waited, and waited, and waited…until finally, late in the afternoon, they posted this.

What the hell? They say they received over 190 images, but they just picked three winners and wrote a long article. Where are the other 187 images? I thought I’d get to see them all.

As for the winners, I think the first one is kind of dumb, the second one is pretty funny, and the third is absolutely brilliant. But there’s a problem with all of them: They’re not really pictures of Mohammed. Granted, none of the Mohammed drawings are pictures of Mohammed because nobody knows what he looked like: You only know it’s Mohammed becasue of the context (which is kind of the point of these three winning images).

Still, if people are going to celebrate free speech by drawing Mohammed, I would have expected the images to be a little more in-your-face offensive, like the original images here. Or this.

The post is a little strange for a couple of other reasons as well. First, it’s hosted on Amazon’s storage server at this URL: http://reason-contest.s3.amazonaws.com/index.html. What, did they think it would get so many hits that their server would crash? Maybe if they had all the images, but not with this weak collection.

Second, like most Reason articles, this one was announced in Reason‘s Hit & Run blog when it went up. But unlike every other post I’ve seen there, this one doesn’t allow comments.

What the hell is going on at Reason? Are they owned by Comedy Central now?

Update: Got an answer from the boss.

Heh. Looks like Mary Beth Buchanan lost her primary bid in Pennsylvania’s 4th Congressional District. It was a 67 to 33 percent blow-out in favor of her opponent, Keith Rothfus. I don’t know anything about Rothfus, but Buchanan is a reprehensible human being:

Buchanan promoted her eight years as Western Pennsylvania’s top federal prosecutor even though opponents ridiculed her for a failed corruption case against former Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril H. Wecht and her conviction of famed marijuana advocate Tommy Chong for selling bongs online.

She’s also done a lot of other useless crap, like the first obscenity prosecutions in 20 years and railroading Dr. Barnard Rottschaefer for supposedly prescribing too much Oxycontin. She’s a winner of Radley Balko’s Worst Prosecutor of the Year award.

I’d like to think this is the last we’ll hear of her, but I suspect she’ll be around to haunt us for a while. At best, she’ll switch sides and end up running the white collar defense department for some big New York or D.C. lawfirm, where “white collar defense” is defined as “dealing the client to the federal prosecutor faster than anyone else.”

More likely, she’ll hang around the fringes of the Republican party until someone gives her a job again, perhaps Drug Czar for the next Republican president. And I wouldn’t be too surprised if we start seeing a lot of her on Court TV and Fox News. 

I thought this was a joke, but it looks like they’re serious. This just might be the dumbest idea on the internet.

Stephen Baldwin of the famous “Baldwin Brothers” Hollywood clan is a veteran actor who has starred in over 60 films and TV shows. He is no stranger to the Hollywood life of glitz, glamour and the public eye.

In 2002, he had an experience that changed his life forever. He became a Born Again Christian, giving his life to Jesus Christ. Over the next few years, he became very vocal about his faith, using his spotlight to boldly preach the gospel. However, because of his convictions it has caused him the loss of many jobs and the most recently, a highly publicized bankruptcy.

He has been publicly ridiculed and insulted by people who think that he has been abandoned by God. A simple search through the internet will reveal that people not only mock Stephen, but mock God.

In response to this (with the permission of Stephen’s ministry President Daniel Southern) we have established RestoreStephenBaldwin.org. A privately funded and managed website. Our vision is to see Stephen Baldwin publicly restored in front of millions. Stephen’s platform will increase allowing him to reach even more people with the Gospel and God will get all of the glory. Publicly.

Everyone knows that God restored Job, but do they understand the mechanism of his restoration? Job was restored by the people. By “All Who Knew Him”. This website was created to see a rebirth of that mechanism. If the people of God come together and each give a small “Token Gift” we can see a massive restoration of a Christian public figure and all the glory will go to God. Its simple, will you take part in the second ever All Who Know Him event?

Uh. No.

If you feel inspired to give money for a good purpose, but propping up a B-list celebrity has-been isn’t your idea of charity, the Pacific Garden Mission could probably put your money to better use.

Update: Oh wow. As of May 9th, they took the site down. Possibly because of this video. Pussies. 

In my previous post about illegal immigration, I asserted that,

What illegal immigration amounts to is taking your turn when you’re not supposed to. It’s the moral equivalent of fishing without a permit, or running a red light when there’s no other traffic.

That brought the following response from commenter “mahtso”:

“Arizona is the busiest entry point for illegal immigrants. State and federal investigators estimate that their fees generate between $1.7 billion and $2.5 billion for smuggling rings.” The Arizona Republic (azcentral.com) July 2, 2008.

To me, this is a far cry from running a red light.

The difference is that I was talking about the illegal immigrants themselves, whereas mahtso and the Arizona Republic are talking about the criminal enterprises that spring up to smuggle them into the United States. Since the illegal immigrants are a source of funds for the criminal enterprise, they are obviously somewhat responsible for it. But they’re not the only ones responsible, because illegal immigration follows a sad pattern that we’ve all seen before.

Consider that if I feel like buying some beer, my money goes to the fine folks at my local Foremost Liquors. Or my local Jewel grocery store. Or Walgreens or CVS or White Hen or 7-Eleven. But if this was 90 years ago, back when booze was illegal under Prohibition, my beer money would have gone to a bunch of Chicago mobsters.

That’s the problem with our current immigration policy. We’ve taken away the legal avenues of immigration from many potential immigrants, so they are turning to criminals for help. It’s bad for everybody except the criminals. But none of this would be a problem if we made legal immigration easier. Who needs to hire a coyote to sneak them across the border when Greyhound does it faster, cheaper, and safer?

This is not exactly a radical proposal. Keep in mind that for most of this country’s history, immigrants simply got off the boat, went through a brief interview and maybe a medical checkup for dangerous contagions, and that was it. Welcome to the new world.

To fix the problems with our current immigration system, we wouldn’t have to go quite that far, and we could certainly keep our current practices of screening for people who pose threats to public health or national security. All I’d like is for us to get rid of the arbitrary annual quotas that force otherwise acceptable immigrants to wait so long for their turn to enter.It’s these long waits — often five to seven years, but effectively forever for low-skilled workers without family members already in the U.S. — that encourage many potential immigrants to seek illegal methods of entry.

Eliminating the quotas would simplify and speed up the immigration process because immigrants would not have to prove — and immigration authorities would not have to verify — the various family and employment connections that are used to determine which waiting list the immigrants belong in. If we could get the immigration approval process down to 30-90 days, I’d think most immigrants would take the legal route into our country.

This might even improve national security. As mahtso pointed out, smuggling people into the United States is big business. This means that any terrorists who want to sneak across the border have a vast criminal enterprise to help them out. But if we make legal immigration easy, the border smuggling operations will dry up, and terrorists will find it that much harder to sneak in.

Changing the immigration process would lead to a surge in immigration as the next several years worth of immigrants enter all at once (although we could phase it in slowly if necessary), but keep in mind that illegal immigrants who are already here might be more interested in returning home if they knew they could come back whenever they wanted.

A couple of years ago, I wrote about an immigration analogy I read on another site. I don’t want to repeat the whole thing, but here’s the key part I didn’t like:

Let me see if I correctly understand the thinking behind these protests. Let’s say I break into your house. Let’s say that when you discover me in your house, you insist that I leave.

But I say, “I’ve made all the beds and washed the dishes and did the laundry and swept the floors. I’ve done all the things you don’t like to do. I’m hard-working and honest (except for when I broke into your house).

It’s only fair, after all, because you have a nicer house than I do, and I’m just trying to better myself. I’m a hard-working and honest, person, except for well, you know, I did break into your house.

I thought this analogy was pretty flawed, and I offered one of my own:

Let’s say I own a house, and I’ve hired you to tend my lawn. It’s a great deal for both of us. You get money and I get a great lawn.

However, my neighbor doesn’t like you, so he forces you off my property at gunpoint, and just to teach me a lesson, he steals some of my stuff.

The point, in case it’s not clear, is that the United States of America is not your house. It’s our house. Actually, it’s more like a neighborhood of houses, and you’re complaining about who your neighbors have as guests. Which is none of your business.

A couple of days ago, somebody named Phil left a comment that illustrates a fairly typical response:

The first analogy makes some sense, but the follow up analogy is absurd, since it ignores the fact that the person is in the country ILLEGALLY. Why is that such a hard concept for some people? Unless of course you feel that laws are only meant as guidelines, and you get to pick the laws that you will follow.

Well, I am a libertarian, so just because what they’re doing is illegal doesn’t mean I hold it against them. I may not get to pick the laws that I will follow, but I sure as hell get to pick the laws that I respect. And I think immigration laws are too stupid to respect.

Like many other people who complain about illegal immigration, my commenter here would probably insist that he has nothing against immigrants. Advocates of strict immigration enforcement usually insist they’re only opposed to illegal immigrants.

Frankly, I doubt their sincerity, because you never hear them arguing for more relaxed immigration rules that would make it easier for people to immigrate legally. To get an idea what’s required of legal immigrants these days, check out this diagram published in Reason magazine.

As near as I can figure it, every year about 800,000 people immigrate legally. Most of those 800,000 got green cards under some sort of special rules for skilled workers sponsored by employers or people with family members already resident in the United States. But unless they were some kind of superstar or the spouse, parent, or minor child of a U.S. citizen, they probably had to wait five years or more to get a green card.

If you’re an unskilled laborer, or a skilled laborer who can’t find someone to sponsor an H-1B visa, you have almost no hope at all of entering the country legally. Only about 10,000 non-skilled, non-family immigrants are allowed to enter legally each year. By comparison, each year about 500,000 people enter the country illegally, down from 800,000 a few years ago. I think we can safely assume that most of those people are unskilled workers. That means that unskilled workers want to enter the country at a rate 50 to 80 times higher than is legally allowed.

Or to put it another way, we can eliminate the problem of illegal immigration with an 80-fold increase in green cards for unskilled laborers. This would roughly double the legal immigration rate. I wonder how many people of the “but they’re illegal” crowd would support such a measure. My guess is not many, because when you suggest reforming immigration law, they usually respond with some variation of “let’s deal with the illegals first.”

What’s so bad about illegal immigration anyway? Yes, I know it’s illegal, but lots of things are illegal. Just because something is a law, doesn’t mean it’s a good law. I’m pretty sure all of us can think of a few laws that are unimportant or just plain wrong. Between federal, state, and local laws, I’ll bet there are a million defined crimes in this country, and we all probably commit a couple of felonies and a handful of misdemeanors every day (and several traffic violations per hour while driving). Again, the real question is not whether illegal immigration is illegal, but how and why it’s a bad thing.

The problem can’t just be that illegal immigrants are living and working here in the United States, because hundreds of millions of U.S. citizens are doing the exact same thing. All illegal immigrants want is what people like me already have, and if it’s not wrong for me to have it, why would it be wrong for them?

I suppose the answer is that they’re born in other countries. I’m not entirely sure why that makes them less worthy to live here, but lets accept it for the sake of argument. That still can’t be the complete answer, becase we do in fact let in hundreds of thousands of people from other countries every year. There must be some additional difference between people from other countries that we let in, and people from other countries that come here illegally because we don’t let them in.

As far as I can tell, with the exception of people who are explicitly prohibited from entering — serious criminals, terrorists, people with dangerous contagious diseases — most of the people who come here illegally would be allowed to come here legally except for one thing: Immigration quotas.

Understand that these quotas are arbitrary by definition. They’re not based on the qualities or behavior of the people they apply to. The only difference between the immigrants we let in and the ones we don’t is where they were in line.

What illegal immigration amounts to is taking your turn when you’re not supposed to. It’s the moral equivalent of fishing without a permit, or running a red light when there’s no other traffic. I just can’t get worked up over it.

This is an ad for a book, but it’s also pretty much my take on the human condition.

Despite all the complaining on this blog, I really am something of an optimist.