December 08, 2005

Torture, renditions and European goverments: One quick, big question

To put it in Nixonian style: "What did European governments know about American renditions and the renditions' connections to their countries, and when did they know it"?

This is important for both a moral and a political reason.

First, the political point. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will have no qualms about dragging lapdog Great Britain, or possibly backdoor-conniving Germany, through the mud if they continue to push this issue. So, their governments (and the Tory opposition in the UK), as well as the leadership in Eire, etc., had better be prepared to answer this.

Second, the moral point. If they did know, well, guilt by association, let alone enabling, is on the law books of every civilized country.

December 07, 2005

Gilchrist shows Dems, too want immigration controls

Jim Gilchrist's 25 percent showing in CA-48 shows that Democrats, too, want immigration answers.

And, unlike Andrew in this same thread area, I do get it that many Democrats are frustrated on this issue, too.

I believe we need to combine a mix of a higher min wage plus better workforce conditions in agriculture and meatpacking (two heavily illegal-dominated areas), so as to make these jobs more attractive to residents and citizens. with strong, even draconian, prevention and enforcement.

An actual fence on the border? Yes.

With concertina? Yes.

More drone planes? Yes.

More watch tower stands? Yes.

Doubling, tripling, or quadrupling Border Patrol agents? Yes?

Ditto for search dogs? Yes.

Denuding the border of vegetation for easier tracking? Yes.

Folks, Mexico's official foreign policy is to export population growth. And, a fair amount of illegal immigration that is Hispanic is because Mexico can't or won't control it's southern border. Plus, as recently reported in the mainstream media (see link below), we're at the highest five-year immigration rate in our country's history.

Enough.

Immigration advocates of various sources shoot down alleged myths out there, but many of the "myths" are just alleged. If not fully true, they have enough basis in reality to not be called myth.

This website lists five alleged myths about illegal immigration.
MYTH 1. Migration is Caused by Lack of Economic Development in Migrants’ Home Countries
· International migrants do not originate in the world’s poorest nations, but in those that are developing and growing dynamically. The largest single source of U.S. immigrants, Mexico, is not a poor nation by global standards. Mexico has a one-trillion dollar economy, a per capita income of almost $9,000 (compared to $9,700 in Russia), a fully industrialized economy, a high level of urbanization, and an advanced life expectancy.

MYTH 2. Migration is Caused by Rapid Population Growth in Migrants’ Home Countries
· The fertility rate in Mexico is about 2.3 children per woman, which is only slightly above “replacement” level. The highest fertility levels are generally observed in the Arab world and Sub-Saharan Africa, but these regions contribute few migrants to global streams.

MYTH 3. Migrants Move Mainly in Response to Differences in Wages
· Households use international migration as a tool to overcome failed or missing markets for insurance, capital, and credit at home. For example, because Mexico has virtually no mortgage banking industry, a large share of the money earned by Mexican immigrants in the United States is channeled into the construction or purchase of homes in Mexico.

MYTH 4. Migrants Are Attracted to the United States by Generous Public Benefits
· Immigrants are less likely than natives to use public services. While 66 percent of Mexican immigrants report the withholding of Social Security taxes from their paychecks and 62 percent say that employers withhold income taxes, only 10 percent say they have ever sent a child to U.S. public schools, 7 percent indicate they have received Supplemental Security Income, and 5 percent or less report ever using food stamps, welfare, or unemployment compensation.

MYTH 5. Most Immigrants Intend to Settle Permanently in the United States
· Mexico-U.S. migration has historically been circular: 80 percent of Mexican immigrants report that they made no more than three trips to the United States and three quarters stayed less than two years.

No. 1 — Sorry, but Mexico IS below Russia. And Russia doesn’t border us. If it did, we would get more illegals from there than we already do.

No. 2 — I suspect that mestizo or Mexican Indian population growth rates are still well above this and sangre azuls may even be below replacement levels. (That, in turn, may be another reason Mexico’s political leadership wants to export the problem.)

No. 3 — Isn’t “failed or missing markets” a matter of wages? Hell, yes. As for the banking problems, fixing those would help somewhat, I’m sure, but still not cure the problem.

No. 4 — I don’t doubt this one; fear of arrest may be part of why that is so.

No. 5 — Lots of us wind up doing things we never intend. And, even if those statistics are true (true not only of those sampled, but that’s a scientifically valid sampling), it doesn’t justify illegals coming across.

So, let’s stop pretending that many people don’t have a populist point of view on this issue.

Update:I forgot to list the mythmaking of the whole ILW methodology of conflating information about legal and illegal immigrants, not to mention the conflict of interest of being a website for immigration lawyers.

Not even sworn into Congress yet, and the lies star

Congressman –Elect John Campbell of California and Orange County’s 48th District can’t even wait until election night is done to start the lying.

Getting less than 50 percent of the vote, with Minuteman Project co-founder Jim Gilchrist hauling in 25 percent, he had this to say about illegal aliens:
“it’s not the only issue, and I think that's the key message here.”

Well, the professional analysts beg to differ:
”Illegal immigration is the overwhelming issue in Orange County, and that’s why he was able to come out of nowhere, because it was the perfect issue for Gilchrist to run on,” political consultant Scott Hart told the Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile, Democratic challenger Steve Young barely finished ahead of Gilchrist with 28 percent. Wonder how the lying spinning of Democratic types is going at places such as Kos, where Young’s possible win was being broached a day ago.

Even progressives can be clueless at times

At The American Prospect, Garance Franke-Ruta says we should have no problem with letting C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia septilogy (my neologism), or almost any of his books, be part of the public school curriculum.

Ironically, after criticizing blogger Lindsey Beyerstein (Majikthise) for allegedly setting up a straw man in her critique of Franke-Ruta’s story about has NARAL, Planned Parenthood, et al, are burying their heads on this issue of multiple abortions (scroll just down the page from the link above), Franke-Ruta does the same herself to Americans United for Separation of Church and State and other groups opposing a state of Florida effort to make LWW part of public school curriculum.
If schools are to ban literature because it deals with morality and spiritual or religious themes, they will rapidly find themselves banning all but the most banal contemporary writing, because the history of literature in English is often also the history of Anglophone thinking about religion and morality. What next, are the metaphysical poets to be banned? Or Milton? The Chronicles of Narnia may contain metaphors or allegories with religious significance, but to ban all literature that uses literary techniques is to fundamentally misunderstand what it's for.

There are so many ways to deconstruct this.

First, Milton is part of “the canon,” if I may refer to that. C.S. Lewis is not. In short, he’s not great literature. And, who are you going to bump to make room for him?

Second, if I really want ethics from “the canon,” without a specifically religious source, I’ll assign Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics to high schoolers.

But, those two points are just penny ante, compared to her political naivete.
Just because the movie is backed by a Bush contributor is no reason to deprive Florida schoolchildren of one of the few works of literature that has descended to them from their parents' childhoods.

First, getting past the point, again, that LWW is not literature, she ignores the background.

Children aren’t clamoring for it to be in the classroom at all. Politically active wingers are.

Second, if parents really like it that much, let them be good parents and read it to their children at home.

Third, kids may not recognize the clear allegory of LWW, but their parents, if they’re among the winger activists sure as hell will — and do. After all, that’s why they want the book in the classroom.

How she could miss that, I don't know.

Judy Miller getting some Pinch in the sack?

That’s one possible inference from a sure-to-sizzle Vanity Fair expose of her cozy relationships with New York Times publisher Pinch Sulzberger. Judging from the sampled comments in the E&P story, this one an’t and won’t do anything but produce a shitstorm of commentary from Pinch and Judy both. I wonder just who all leaked what to produce tidbits such as this:
(Seth) Mnookin pulls no punches in stating that over the years Miller “had built a reputation for sleeping with her sources,” had dated one of Sulzberger’s best friends, Steve Ratner, “and had even, for a time, shared a vacation home with Sulzberger,” whatever that means.

It’s in the January issue, at your newsstand in hardcopy Dec. 13. Yum, yum.

DeLay rides the Cunningham defense scandal gravy train

Tom DeLay was getting a cut of the Duke Cunningham defense contractor scandal pie, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Poway military contractor Brent Wilkes – whom Justice Department officials identify as the co-conspirator … who gave more than $630,000 in cash and favors to former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham for help in landing millions of dollars in federal contracts … (gave) $30,000 to Tom DeLay, who flew on Wilkes’ jet several times and has been a frequent golfing buddy.

But Tom, Abramoff’s friends already had your flight expenses comped. Why did you need this? And the golfing buddy bit? How many “charitable tournaments” of DeLay’s were you in

December 06, 2005

Photo editing in the media — when is it photo editing and when is it manipulation?

I am the editor of a suburban Dallas weekly newspaper, part of a five-paper group. We have a full-time photo editor and some stringer photographers, but I do take some of my own pictures. I was at a stand-alone semiweekly (actually, part of a scattered rural newspaper group) and a quasi-alone weekly before that, so doing my own art isn’t new to me. I’ve got Photoshop on my office computer, and edit most of the photos I take myself as well as some others as needed under time pressure.

(If you’re not a halfway serious user of Photoshop, skip the rest of this post.)

Anyway, I had shot some wild art about a week before Thanksgiving. I was at our community library at about 8 p.m. and saw the young red oaks, just nicely in the process of changing color in our part of the world. One in particular looked photoworthy under the mercury vapor lamps, with poles only about 10 feet high.

So I drove back home to get my camera (tripod was already in my car) and shoot some “natural” light pics (natural as in no strobe).

When I was editing one of them the next day at the office, our photo editor sees me using the Selective Color command. (It’s under Edit à Adjustments.)

He accuses me of “photo manipulation.” Of course, that’s a cardinal sin. He then goes on to say the National Press Photographers Association (of which he may or may not be a paid member — the $99 a year is not a worthwhile investment for me) has ethics (no duh) and that I’m being unethical.

He also had the snarky comment that if you can’t edit it in the camera, you shouldn’t shoot it. (Bullshit, and more on that later, about shooting in the camera.)

We’ll, I’m slow to anger and rare to confrontational expression of anger. So I start cogitating on this for several days. And here’s my answer.

First of all, let me stipulate that I was using Selective Color to fine-tune, and not blow out any colors, saturation, contrast, etc. Now, here’s my response to our photo editor.

First, if you’re just using Levels and Curves, what if you fade them, and use any fade command besides Normal (such as Luminosity) for the fade? That’s manipulating color.

Second, as often needs to be done, what if you dodge an black person’s face. Especially with a newspaper printing on newsprint, not glossy, this has to be done. But, isn’t that manipulation?

Third, as an article in dpreview.com notes, what if I’m deliberately shooting with a Nikon instead of a Canon in certain situations, precisely because of differences between camera brands?

Fourth, different cameras have slightly different white balance settings for the same situation.

Fifth as far as saturation, sharpness and contrast controls in digital cameras, they vary from one to another even on defaults. For example, Canon says about my digital Rebel that the defaults are one setting about Adobe RGB.

Sixth, what if you use fill flash in daytime? True, that’s on the camera, but it’s not what the eye is seeing.

Seventh, what if you’re using filters? Skylight to kill haze? Polarizer for glare? (Lots of it off natural vegetation greens.) A neutral density to blur a waterfall or rapid? A warmer?

Eighth, and combining Nos. 5-7, I shot some fall color pics in Big Bend. On the north side of a mountain trail, I got some good oak pictures I deliberately underexposed two-thirds of a stop, with a fill flash, shooting at 200 ASA equivalent. The greener leaves in the background of this scrub oak darkened out nicely while the fill flash (via pop-up) brought out the front colors just right. My natural eye certainly didn’t see that.

Ninth, although digital sensors continue to improve on resolution quality in low light, they still don’t compare to the human eye. Even in daylight, pixel numbers don’t equal sensitivity.

Tenth, what if I’m using a generic flash on a name-brand camera? That will skew the camera’s white balance.

Eleventh, Photoshop and another middle or higher-end program, such as Paint Shop Pro, will handle colors differently.

Twelfth, every press is different, and gains color differently. Is adjusting pictures for that “manipulation”?

Thirteenth, what about an Unsharp Mask? What pixel radius and percentage is “acceptable” and what is “manipulation”?

Fourteenth, isn’t trying to draw rules too hard and fast making photography too much science and not enough art?

Fifteenth, photography is holistic. “Shooting” and “editing” are the total and combined act of photography. We edit not just by how we frame pictures, but even with old film cameras, by the use of filters, sun screens, fill flashes, f-stops, shutter speeds and more.

Bottom line — no cutting and pasting, cloning, or other manipulation of artifacts in a “raw” photograph. No unnatural use of colors.

Beyond that, any fine-tuning of colors, done to fine-tune, with the memory of what the picture looked like to the naked eye (if the photographer is also the photo editor) is acceptable in my book.

Lottery Christmas tree at state capital nixed

In Oklahoma, the State Capitol annually has a Christmas tree decorated and donated by an elementary school. This year, Woodward Elementary teachers and students got creative, making ornaments out of used lottery scratch-off tickets.

Oops. The tree drew objections, prompting its removal.

“I certainly think it inappropriately twists the meaning and the spirit of Christmas,” said Rep. Randy Terrill, a lottery opponent.

That’s opposed to the normal level of crass Christmas (Christian) capitalist commercialism, which, I guess, appropriately twists the meaning of Christmas, because we all know Jesus favored free enterprise.

McCain kneecaps Murtha, who DOES NOT SUPPORT a withdrawal.

John McCain will apparently stop at nothing to bolster the cause of fighting to the bitter end — if such an end could be found — in Iraq.

His latest? Sliming John Murtha.

So Murtha’s an old sentimental wimp.

However, he is not supporting a withdrawal from Iraq. His latest? See here for Murtha’s plans for redeployment.

On the one hand is the Dallas Morning News; on the other is a handful of warm shit. Can you tell which is which?

The Dallas Morning News has now officially shown itself to be as clueless about real working people as President George Bush was in 1992 about bar code scanners.

Dec. 6, the Snooze penned something it had been getting away from for a while, something for which the Dallas Observer rightly criticized it in the past: The “on the one hand, on the other hand”

This particular bit of mealy-mouthed drivel as about “Wal-Mart may be good, Wal-Mart may be bad.”

The editorial itself is lame enough, but here’s the kicker, literally the last word of the editorial”
And if you cash one of those minuscule Wal-Mart paychecks, quit your job. Paying the bills is no reason to support evil in our midst.

Apparently, Editorial Page Editor Keven Ann Willey and the rest of the Joe Barton-decimated crackerjack editorial board are too clueless to recognize that for many of its employees, Wal-Mart is their real world dream job.

WTF, are they going to go work at Family Dollar instead?

December 04, 2005

US: Excuse us, we didn’t really mean it; Germany: OK, we’ll look the other way

That’s the hot word on how the U.S. told Germany about the kidnapping and false imprisonment of German citizenKhaled el-Masri story says.

Of course, it’s nice to know that, after so fiercely opposing the war in Iraq on various grounds, the government of Gerhard Schroeder sat on this information for a full year.

Yes, al-Qaeda (this arrest was made related to al-Qaeda and operations in Afghanistan) was separate from the war in Iraq. But, as a result of the war and our own human rights abuses, we’ve taken a lot of grief from people in western Europe. Apparently they don’t have a lot of room to talk.

True, we don’t know what behind-the-scenes protest Schroeder’s government made to Washington, but it seems like Berlin was determined to sit on this issue for a variety of reasons. Perhaps Europeans are willing to let Americans do the dirty work on legitimate actions against al Qaeda and suffer the consequences as well.

Plus, what effect will this have, and its revelation at just this moment, on the CIA rendition flight stopovers in various European countries, above all, Germany?

For a basic summary of his kidnapping and imprisonment story, see here, including el-Masri’s claim he was visited by a German state security official while imprisoned in Afghanistan.

For a scientific sidebar about how hair analysis can uphold part of his claim, see here.

For a brief timeline of his time in Afghanistan, see here.

Discovery Institute channels BushCo for lies and spin

There’s more than one bit of deception in the Discovery Institute’s latest attempt to spin the Dover, Pa. school board suit over intelligent design

Example no. 1:
“The future of intelligent design, as far as I’m concerned, has very little to do with the outcome of the Dover case,” (John G. West, a political scientist and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute), said. “The future of intelligent design is tied up with academic endeavors. It rises or falls on the science.”

That’s a good first lie, or first part of a series. Discovery has always played down the religious background of ID when trying to “get the controversy taught” — the alleged controversy over the fallibility of the theory of evolution.

So, here’s lie no. 2:
Advocates of intelligent design perceived the risk as so great that the Discovery Institute said it had tried to dissuade the school board in Dover from going ahead and taking a stand in favor of intelligent design. The institute opposed the Dover board's action, it said, because it “politicized” what should be a scientific issue.

Really? I didn’t see Discovery complaining about “politicization” either the first or second time fundamentalists got elected to a majority of the Kansas Board of Education.

Nor did we see them complain about politicization when our nation’s non-scientist in chief said schools ought to teach “both sides.”

As one scientist says, why can’t they just be honest? A professor at Baptist stalwart Baylor University tells them just that:
Derek Davis, director of the J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor …, noted that the advocates of intelligent design claim they are not talking about God or religion. “But they are, and everybody knows they are,” Mr. Davis said. “I just think we ought to quit playing games. It’s a religious worldview that's being advanced.”

A wonderful idea, but Discovery’s only chance is bait-and-switch obfuscation and people like West know that. Else, why wouldn’t Discovery still post its wedge strategy on its website?