Posts tagged ‘Homeland Security’

My Brief Conversation with the Homeland Security Department This Morning

I got a call this morning from Homeland Security about their e-verify immigration tracking system (which we are required by law to use in Arizona).  The caller said that Homeland Security was interested in the satisfaction of their customers.  I told her that I am not her customer.  I am a subject of the state who is forced by law against my will to use their system.  A customer is someone who is in a voluntary relationship.

The call ended soon after that.  I supposed I have just asked for some sort of audit, but at this point I don't care.

Arizona Sheriff Exaggerating Immigration Crime, and its Not Even Joe Arpaio

Electing law enforcement officers is a terrible idea, but like most of the country, we do it here in Arizona.  We shouldn't be surprised, then, when Sheriff's try to pump up their image by portraying themselves as the last bastion against an invading horde.

When it was over, Sheriff Paul Babeu issued a news release declaring that Pinal County is "the No. 1 pass-through county in all of America for drug and human trafficking."

It's a line the sheriff has used countless times - most recently on Thursday in testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security - as he criticizes the federal government for failing to secure the border.

There's just one problem: There is no data to support the assertion.

In fact, an Arizona Republic analysis of statistics from local, state and federal sources found that, while sheriff's officials do bust smugglers and seize pot, Pinal County accounts for only a fraction of overall trafficking.

The newspaper also found that other headline-grabbing claims by Babeu are contradicted by statistical evidence or greatly exaggerated.

Babeu's County, for example, does not even touch the border.   And crime rates in AZ have fallen faster over the last 10 years than the national average, right during the period of high illegal immigration.

We Have No Idea What We Are Doing

Its pretty clear from this summary of the Obama administration legal brief that the Administration has no idea what its own immigration policy should be.  I don't agree with all of the author's statements (for example, I am not a fan of e-Verify, as it just reinforces to me that the government has gotten itself in the business of licensing labor) but its a pretty interesting summary of just how muddled the Obama administration is on this topic.  While I don't support our newest immigration law here in AZ, its easier to see why states like AZ feel the need to take some independent leadership on the topic.

In this brief, the Obama administration is challenging an earlier AZ state law that requires, as a condition to retain one's business license, that companies use e-Verify to check new employees legal work status  (here and here).  Unfortunately, Obama's head of Homeland Security (and thus all immigration-related activities) actually signed the law into being and the administration wrote a brief in favor of the law just 9 months ago, about the same time Congress reauthorized e-Verify without doing anything to strike down AZ implementation practices).  I am not much of a legal scholar, but states use compliance with Federal programs all the time as minimum requirements for retaining business licenses -- e.g. non-payment of Federal taxes can cause one to lose his state business license, but no one has ever argued that is an illegal intrusion of states on federal powers.  If the Feds want to argue all of these provisions are unconstitutional, fine by me.  Anyway, the article linked above is highly entertaining.

Postscript: Here is the e-Verify post one must post in his business to be legally compliant:

This is fairly Orwellian for those of us who believe that all people have the right to work, irrespective of the country they were born in, and this right does not flow from any national government and therefore does not stop or start at any border.

Napolitano: Last Politician to Head DHS

I have said for a while that Homeland Security is the worst possible job for any politician who actually wants to have a future political career.  The job is all downside.  I wrote a year ago:

Yeah, I know it is not a done deal, but the rumors are that our governor Janet Napolitano will be Obama's choice for Homeland Security.

On its face, this both makes a ton of sense, and simultaneously is odd.  It makes sense because Napolitano is one of those rising Democratic stars who get special love in part for not being white males.  It is odd because pulling her up to Washington would, by law, pass the governorship for the next two years to the Republicans (the Secretary of State completes the term, and she is a Republican).  It also strikes me as odd because I think Homeland Security would be an absolutely awful platform for launching a run for higher office.  That job has no upside "“ it is all downside.

But the final reason in the end that this may make sense can be seen in this table below from Paul Kedrosky on projected state budget deficits as a percentage of state revenues

Arizona is almost in as bad of shape as California, and California is a disaster area.  So the financial chickens are about to come to roost here in Arizona for the drunken spending spree the state has been on, presided over by Napolitano.  To preserve her from going to the Gray Davis Memorial Retirement Home for Failed Governors, Obama is likely to beam her up to Washington.

As I wrote before, I don't think Napolitano would normally have accepted this job had she not been desperate for a face-saving way to escape Arizona mid-term.  But after recent events, I think it is highly unlikely anyone else on an elected-official career track will take this job.  Look senior FBI or CIA types on the future.

Update: More here from Expresso Pundit.

So in the next six months--probably much sooner--Janet will move on and the President will pick an obscure, non-political, retired General who is clearly qualified and above reproach.

Life Support for Government

I have warned about this before:

In fact, Hollywood's portion of the stimulus package reveals an important factor of the Recovery Act: The money is not going to areas that would more directly stimulate the economy but instead to provide ongoing life support to deficit-ridden federal, state and local agencies.

That is the main impression I have gotten when reading the stimulus jobs data base -- the fake districts and BS accounting did not catch my eye so much as the fact that all the jobs seemed to  be saved jobs in government agencies.  I am pretty sure that had the stimulus been originally sold with its true goals -- to help stave off financial accountability in state and local governments -- it would have had more difficulty passing.

Though some of us saw this even in the bill itself (this blog, Jan 27, 2009)

So do you see my point. The reason so much of this infrastructure bill can be spent in the next two years is that there is no infrastructure in it, at least in the first two years!  42% of the deficit impact in 2009/2010 is tax cuts, another 44% is in transfer payments to individuals and state governments.  1% is defense.  At least 5% seems to be just pumping up a number of budgets with no infrastructure impact (such as at Homeland Security).  And at most 6% is infrastructure and green energy.  I say at most because it is unclear if this stuff is really incremental, and much of this budget may be for planners and government departments rather than actual facilities on the ground.

Unexpected Problem - Finding Non Fluorescent White Paper

I am working on the first module in a new N-scale model railroad layout.  In this urban scene, I am using florescent paints of various types under black light to simulate neon and other lighting in night scenes.

I use printed paper in a lot of applications in my modeling - not just for business signs but highway signs, tar paper on roofs, some areas of brick and concrete, small details, etc.  The unexpected problem I am having is finding any white printer paper that doesn't fluoresce under black light (it is the whiteners that are used in modern papers that fluoresce -- in fact one test to see if you have an older document in your hand is to put it under black light).  Stop signs and tar paper roofs of buildings and manhole covers should NOT be glowing at night.

I am told some art supply stores sell non-fluorescent natural white papers, but I have yet to track any down.  I went into the OfficeMax yesterday with a handheld black light (we all own these in Phoenix for finding scorpions in our houses at night, as they fluoresce too, but that is another story).  The good news is that Homeland Security did not bust me for odd behavior, but I did not find anything that would work.  I actually have some clear paint that is a UV block, but it dries glossy, so right now I am painting a layer of the block and then a layer of matte clear coat.  This does not look entirely right, and is a pain to do for every item.

On the off chance one of you has an idea with this ridiculously niche bleg, fire away in the comments.

Update: Solution found! Thanks to commenter Agesilaus

Napolitano to Homeland Security

Yeah, I know it is not a done deal, but the rumors are that our governor Janet Napolitano will be Obama's choice for Homeland Security.

On its face, this both makes a ton of sense, and simultaneously is odd.  It makes sense because Napolitano is one of those rising Democratic stars who get special love in part for not being white males.  It is odd because pulling her up to Washington would, by law, pass the governorship for the next two years to the Republicans (the Secretary of State completes the term, and she is a Republican).  It also strikes me as odd because I think Homeland Security would be an absolutely awful platform for launching a run for higher office.  That job has no upside - it is all downside.

But the final reason in the end that this may make sense can be seen in this table below from Paul Kedrosky on projected state budget deficits as a percentage of state revenues:

state_deficits

Arizona is almost in as bad of shape as California, and California is a disaster area.  So the financial chickens are about to come to roost here in Arizona for the drunken spending spree the state has been on, presided over by Napolitano.  To preserve her from going to the Gray Davis Memorial Retirement Home for Failed Governors, Obama is likely to beam her up to Washington.

In Case You Thought Homeland Security Knows What it is Doing

I am on my way to a few days of skiing in Utah, but I thought I would leave you with this travel story.  A few weeks ago I was traveling and was at the airport really early.  I had forgotten to remove the toothpaste from my stuff, and I was flagged for extra screening because they saw it on X-ray (I remember the good old days when they were X-raying for guns and stuff rather than toothpaste, but I digress). 

The screener pulled it out and said - sorry, this is more than three ounces.  So, as an engineer with no sense of self-preservation, I asked, "Weight or volume?"  The screener asked what I meant.  I said that an "ounce" is a unit of both weight and volume, which did he mean?  (The TSA site is no help, it just says ounces).  He said "volume."  Still being stupid, I said "but the 3.5oz on that toothpaste is weight -- you can tell by the 'net Wt.' in front of it and the number in grams behind it.  He looked at it for a minute, and then gives me an answer right out of Spinal Tap:  "But its over 3 ounces"  [but this one goes to 11].  Anyway, I gave up and surrendered my Crest to government authorities, and the world was that much safer.

I am told by an airline exec that the policy was originally volume, but after many complaints, the government realized that an ounce was also a unit of weight and they have informally changed the policy to "3 ounces weight or volume" but they never really communicated this change fully because it's too, you know, embarrassing that they operated so long not knowing the difference.

Have a good week -- I will probably post a bit but it will be light.

A National Security Announcement

Today, the world is a safer place.  Federal Agents from the Department of Homeland Security have siezed my Crest toothpaste.  You can all fly safely now.

Update:  Hey, I have an idea.  The airplane liquids ban makes so much sense, let's promote its author to Attorney General.  Nothing says "able to make clear-headed choices on tradeoffs between security and civil rights" like the liquids ban.  4oz - safe.  4.2 oz - security threat.

Best Wishes to London

My best wishes to the people of London today.  London is perhaps my favorite city in the world.  Only a coin flip with my wife put us on the Paris metro rather than the London underground yesterday, so the bombings hit close to home.  This is only the second time in five years my wife and I have gotten away without the kids for more than a day -- the first was a trip to Manhattan from September 9-13, 2001.  Maybe we should notify Homeland Security when we make our travel plans next time.  I know my mom is getting exasperated with worrying about me near major attacks.