Thursday, July 27, 2006

Keeping "them" out? Or us in?

Sometimes governments want to have things in contradictory ways. Consider an email briefing from Nick Sinatra of the White House Office of Public Liaison. He sent out a self-praising email informing people just how wonderful the federal government is. This one is entitled “Border Security Efforts Are Working.”

How does he know they are “working”? He starts out with a quote from Associated Press saying, “The number of illegal immigrants caught trying to sneak into the United States has dropped since President Bush ordered the military to help tighten the border...”

Now why is he quoting Associated Press since the wire service themselves are only quoting a federal official. But listing AP as the source, instead of another bureaucrat, makes it look all that more reliable. It is certainly an old trick used by environmental extremists as well. They make scare-mongering claims to the media which writes up their “concerns”. The media has no other source except the environmentalist in question. But then the environmental group quotes the article to prove their case and no one seems to notice that they are merely quoting themselves once removed. So in this informative email the government quotes a publication which is only quoting the government. And ring around the circle we go.

Everyone assumes that closing the border, which means locking others out and locking Americans in so that no one can move without government permission, is due to the 9/11 attacks. Of course all the terrorists in that attack had the approval of the federal government to come to the US. Not a one of them entered the US illegally. Secondly, everyone assumes the purpose is to keep people from arriving. Of course it could just as well be intended to keep people from leaving. The wall in Berlin certainly did keep West Germans from entering the Soviet dominated East but it also kept Easterners from escaping to freedom.

It may well be the Bush Administration’s desire to keep Americans stuck. They are now closing the last non-US territories that Americans could visit without a passport. For the moment an American can visit Canada or Mexico or various Caribbean islands without a document book from the feds. That will change shortly. In addition Americans can’t take out $10,000 of their own money without reporting it to the feds. If they do they risk imprisonment for not snitching on themselves. And if they can take it out they will find more and more US government regulations that are making it impossible for US citizens to open bank accounts overseas. Even the much talked about Swiss bank accounts won’t touch Americans now. Again it’s supposed to stop the war on terror. Rubbish. The only people it regulates are US citizens not terrorists. So each step of the way the US government, to crush an “enemy”, is actually stripping away the freedom of Americans to travel. And as Mr. Sinatra brags the US is now stationing troops on the border. Personally I take these things as signs that one ought to leave before that option is entirely shut.

But there is another aspect to this self-congratulating email. And it is odd. Consider another bad government idea: the war on drugs. In that “war” they measure success by how many arrests they make. If arrests go up they brag about it and say it shows their policies are working. But when it comes to would-be dishwashers, subverting the American way by working cheaply, a decline in arrests is touted as success.

The email didn’t say that there is actual evidence that fewer people got in illegally just that fewer were caught. Pretend that in May there were 100,000 people entering the US illegally of whom 80,000 were caught. In June another 100,000 attempt to come in and 50,000 are caught. The arrest rate declined but the number of illegal entries increased. If success is measured by how few people are arrested then Bush could declare victory tonight simply by ordering the end of all arrests. It wouldn’t stop the flow of workers, seeking to better their lives without government permission, but it would take the arrest rate right down to zero. And by the logic of the email that would be a great victory.