Wednesday, December 26, 2007

top 10 movies of 2007

It's a relief to come back from the Christmas break to high-speed internet. I didn't realize how much I rely on it until I only had intermittent access to it for about a week.

To celebrate my personal gratitude for cable internet, here are my top 10 Movies of 2007 (in no particular order):

  • Hot Fuzz
  • American Gangster
  • Lust, Caution
  • Superbad
  • Eastern Promises
  • No Country for Old Men
  • Ratatouille
  • King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
  • Knocked Up
  • Tears of the Black Tiger (U.S. release)

Honorable Mention:

  • Grindhouse
  • Sicko
  • Killer of Sheep (re-release)
  • Taste of Tea

Haven’t yet seen, but want to:

  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  • Once
  • Rescue Dawn
  • Fido
  • There Will Be Blood
  • Redacted
  • National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Also, unrelatedly, I'll remark that Daft Punk's recent live album, fittingly titled "Alive," came into my possession yesterday and it's pretty freakin' cool. It replicates the concert at Coney Island I attended this summer, which was a mind-altering, religious experience of the sort that makes you feel like a teenager again, but in a good way. I hope they turn out to be the kind of band that stays around for decades, milking their glory days to sold-out crowds of balding middle managers, accountants, and attorneys. If they are that band, I will certainly be there, jiggling my paunch and waving my hands in the air with abandon.

Adding that I'll outsource the top albums of 2007 to my wife, who has probably already forgotten more about pop/rock music than I will ever manage to learn.

Monday, December 17, 2007

end the Widow Penalty

From the website of Surviving Spouses Against Deportation:

Marlin Coats didn't hesitate to jump in the water to try to save two drowning teens caught in a riptide at San Francisco Beach Park. He lost his life that Mother's Day in 2006, but because of his heroism those two teenagers survived. So why is the U.S. now responding to Coats' ultimate sacrifice by deporting his wife Jacqueline Coats?

U.S. Army contractor Todd Engstrom of Illinois gave his life for his country when he was killed in Iraq, and now the federal government is telling his wife Diana she too must go. And so must Dahianna Heard of Florida, whose husband Jeffrey Heard was shot in the head by insurgents in Iraq. What will happen to their children?

Because of a flaw in the law, women and men who entered this country legally are facing deportation when their spouses die during the lengthy administrative visa process. There are scores of these cases across the country affecting women, mothers and children.

The “widow penalty” is an obscure interpretation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that puts widows or widowers of U.S. citizens at risk of deportation if they have not been married for at least two years and are waiting for an application for permanent residence (the “green card”) to be approved. I say it’s an “interpretation” of the INA because several federal courts that have ruled on the issue have disagreed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) interpretation of the statute. More on this below.

**contact your Senators and Congressional Representatives to end the widow penalty**

[Continued at Citizen Orange]

Thursday, December 13, 2007

the semipermeable immigration bureaucracy

One portion of the Q&A from the USCIS National Stakeholder Meeting on December 4, 2007, addressed the issue of how an applicant for some immigration benefit (like a green card or work permit) could notify the government of an address change as required by law if a notice acknowledging receipt of the application had not yet been sent to the applicant due to large backlogs stemming from this summer’s fee increase. The receipt notice contains a tracking number that USCIS uses to update an applicant’s file with the new address. Without the tracking number to process the address change, USCIS could have difficulty getting in touch with an applicant with information about the case, and in theory, a case could be denied if an applicant did not show up to a fingerprint appointment or otherwise respond to USCIS’s instructions. Here is the exchange (pdf):

[Continued at Citizen Orange]

"shoot me in the head"

The best case for libertarianism I’ve seen so far, aside from the existence of Ioz’s blog, comes from the thread to this Dave Weigel Reason post on immigration and the GOP (via Immigration Prof Blog):

Taktix® | December 11, 2007, 6:51pm |

A Republican who pledges to put proximity mines on the border

No no no. Anyone who's played GoldenEye knows you have to put the mines on the bottom of platforms so the other players can't see them.


No wonder Tancredo's polling so badly. He has no deathmatch skillz!


Anonymo the Anonymous | December 11, 2007, 6:58pm |

Taktix, even that won't help us if the illegals find that grenade launcher hidden in the middle of the temple. That's why America must redouble our efforts to develop the Golden Gun.


Taktix® | December 11, 2007, 7:00pm |

Taktix, even that won't help us if the illegals find that grenade launcher hidden in the middle of the temple. That's why America must redouble our efforts to develop the Golden Gun.

If only the government had invested in the Klobb, we'd all be better off...

Woe to the sad sap who got stuck with the Klobb against the RC-Pro or the laser. Every group of friends probably had one player who dominated the game. So did we—his name was Evan. He would hone his skills on his brothers. Around the house, he called the game “Shoot ‘em in the head,” while his brothers referred to it as “Shoot me in the head.” I played the game from the brothers’ perspective and spent most of my game time trying to avoid my friend and shoot the weaker players before he did (assuming there were any weaker than me, which wasn't always a valid assumption). Good times . . . I still remember the time my brother called in sick to work so we could play Goldeneye all afternoon.

as pepper is to fly manure, so Mexicans are to al-Qaeda operatives ... for some

From Ryan Lizza’s recent New Yorker article on immigration and the GOP:

Dean Allen, a plump and friendly fellow sporting an American-flag tie, told me that he runs something called Spirit of Liberty; he’s also helping Witherspoon’s campaign. “Some of these people may be coming in here to get jobs washing dishes, but some of them are coming in here to hijack airplanes,” he explained. “If you’re down there trying to look at the people coming across the border, maybe a lot of them are just motivated by economics, and they want a job washing dishes or cutting grass. But I can’t tell Jose Cuervo from the Al Qaeda operatives by looking at them, because they cut their beard off. It’s like trying to get fly manure out of pepper without your glasses on, you know? I mean, not a racist thing, but they’re all brown with black hair and they don’t speak English and I don’t speak Arabic or Spanish, so if they don’t belong here and they don’t come here legally, I want to know who’s here.”

Anytime someone prefaces a statement with, “I’m not a racist, but . . .” make sure to turn your bulls%#t detector up a notch or two.

It’s alarming to consider that much of the animus and fear behind anti-migrant politics right now is apparently attributable to a simple case of mistaken identity. It bears repeating since it hits me in the face like a sledgehammer: “They’re all brown with black hair and they don’t speak English and I don’t speak Arabic or Spanish.”

Translation: They’re different from me in ways I don’t really understand but that worry me, so they’d better make sure they keep their distance.

[Continued at Citizen Orange]

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

GOP risks long-term health for short-term gains on immigration

Marisa Treviño at Latina Lista wasn’t shy about calling out the Republican candidates for a suspicious confluence of scheduling conflicts that prevented all but one of them from committing to a Univision debate earlier this year. Por ejemplo:

It's very telling that the strongest advocate who hasn't been afraid to speak out for the Hispanic voters to his Republican colleagues is none other than Karl Rove.

Donde estan los demas?

"Where are the rest?" Lo and behold, last night all the GOP candidates but one dutifully appeared on Univision in front of a Latino audience broadcast to millions across the country. I guess someone in scheduling got the message that a debate targeted to a key constituency in danger of being lost completely to the GOP in 2008 was a higher priority than forever attempting to placate the implacable, one-note restrictionist wing of the party.

[Continued at Citizen Orange]

Monday, December 10, 2007

hi, my name is Elder Jensen, and this is my companion, Elder Christensen

The missionaries came to my workplace the other day. They had heard through the grapevine that I had roots in Utah or was possibly an inactive member or whatever. They showed up at reception prepared to reestablish contact and bring me back into the fold. Or maybe they just had run out of more promising referrals for the week.

They were pitifully young—just babies, really. All my young life, I had thought of the missionaries as the pinnacle of manhood, full-fledged adults. Once you had completed a mission, nothing fazed you anymore, you could do anything. But the other day talking with them in my cubicle, I realized how young they are—just 19 or 20—barely out of high school. Hardly prepared for what they had been thrust into.

After they left, I told my coworker I felt like I’d been living the last ten years in the witness protection program, always looking over my shoulder for the mob, wondering if this would be the place they’d find me. In a way, I was relieved that they had finally caught up to me, and part of me wondered why it had taken so long. Was I really that easy to let go? I can see how having someone pay attention to you can be a powerful attraction. It’s like that guy everybody knows who hits on every woman he sees and 1 out of 20 responds favorably just because someone—anyone—is paying attention for once, and he’s so persistent, and he’s not that bad looking, it’s easier just to say yes …

Of course there wasn’t a chance in hell I was going to their Christmas party. But it was nice of them to ask, if a bit creepy. I even turned the tables and made a pitch to them, handing them a bunch of my cards to give to their contacts and ward members. If I’m not mistaken, I thought as they left they might have been as relieved as I that our encounter was as brief as it was.

And apropos of nothing in particular, check out these RMs (“returned missionaries”) fully half-naked—it’s the Mormons Exposed pin-up calendar. My wife loves it! (Seriously, she bought one.)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

evil yave

Well, I thought I'd put my email address up on the sidebar so people could email me if they wanted to. But now some numbnut has decided to use it to impersonate me to leave comments on other blogs. So down it comes until I figure out some other approach.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Q: Is there anything more frightening . . .

. . . than the four-foot tall animatronic Santa currently stationed in front of the olive bar at my grocery store?

Scary Santa
Originally uploaded by Jo Salmon

A: No, but the children seem to love it. When you walk by, he starts wobbling lecherously from side to side and singing “Up on the Rooftop,” in a terrifying basso profondo. Then any children within earshot stand transfixed while their parents remark how creepy Santa is this year.

I’ve seen the Pied Piper, and its name is Animatronic Santa.

Romney as Nephi

Here is a Romney "Mormon speech" react from a jaded Mormon who isn't me.

He's got some good points, but I'm more inclined towards Ezra's take. There should be no religious test for public office, full stop. I don't care what faith my elected officials belong to and I don't want to hear them talking about it on the job.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

they can have my Eagle Scout medal back now

Boy Scout Memorial
Originally uploaded by jparakilas
The city of Philadelphia has terminated the Boy Scouts’ taxpayer-subsidized lease because of the group’s odious prohibition on gay members and atheists.

My advice to any Scout leaders in Philly who are contemplating litigation against the city: make sure you haven’t been touching your Scouts’ little soldiers, or you may achieve notoriety of the sort you may wish to avoid.


Another project born from Bush's mythical compassionate conservatism is struggling:

The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a federal agency set up almost four years ago to reinvent foreign aid, has taken far longer to help poor, well-governed countries than its supporters expected or its critics say is reasonable.

The agency, a rare Bush administration proposal to be enacted with bipartisan support, has spent only $155 million of the $4.8 billion it has approved for ambitious projects in 15 countries in Africa, Central America and other regions.

Since the project has been so slow to get off the ground, the Senate is having second thoughts about approving funds that have already been promised to poor countries to encourage them to reform stagnant and corrupt oligarchic economies (qualifier: more stagnant, corrupt, and oligarchic than our own). It’s all about incentives, you see.

“Do we cut maternal health?” [Senator Leahy] asked. “AIDS? Malaria? Do we cut refugees? The only thing that’s got a blank check is the war in Iraq.”

One might almost draw the conclusion that the announcement of the formation of the MCC a few years ago with great fanfare and bipartisan acclaim was geared more towards eliciting great fanfare and bipartisan acclaim than improving the effectiveness of foreign aid.

But that’s silly, because Bush’s faith tells him to give to the poor, and he is a faithful man.

thank you, NRA . . .

[Image: AP Photo/Yearbook photo via KETV-TV and]

. . . for making sure Robert Hawkins had access to an AK-47-style semi-automatic weapon with which to spread Christmas cheer at a mall in Omaha.

Mr. Hawkins fired about 30 shots from an AK-47-style semi-automatic weapon that the police said he stole from his stepfather. He had two magazines with 30 rounds each, the chief said, that “had the capacity to fire multiple rounds in a short period of time.”

. . .

Meanwhile, some customers and employees used cell phones to call their families and the authorities. The chief said the first call to 911 came at 1:43 p.m. local time, and the first officer arrived at the scene six minutes later. By the time the police descended on the mall in full force, the shooter had ended his rampage.

“It doesn’t appear there was an opportunity for mall security nor police officers to interrupt this incident,” he said.

If only each of the “retired ‘well-educated’ older women who worked at the well-appointed [Von Maur] store ‘for the discount’” had had an AK-47 of her own strapped inside her garter, one of them could have stopped this madman in his tracks.

More guns are exactly what we need to prevent further outbursts of senseless violence. It makes perfect sense. And how can we defend ourselves against the bad guys if we aren’t armed ourselves?

Thankfully, we’ve finally reached national consensus on this once contentious issue.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Dobbs, Tancredo, and Romney: for immigrant labor, against immigrant rights

There’s this thing about rich people. They need poor people to work for them. In this country, often those poor people are immigrants. Some of those immigrants may not have their papers in order. But the richer you are, the harder it’s going to be to avoid employing some immigrant labor that is not work authorized (a concept that didn’t even exist in the U.S. until 1986).

[continued at Citizen Orange]

Monday, December 03, 2007

who wants to marry a U.S. citizen

Via Nezua comes word of a proposed reality TV game show show called "Who Wants to Marry a U.S. Citizen" that “aims to create televised matrimony between legal citizens and immigrants who have temporary visas.”

The show's backers at Morusa Media hope to make a sort of love match between reality TV and a national obsession with immigration. But the producers make no promise that a marriage will occur or lead to U.S. citizenship.
That's partly because any marriage that resulted from a game show with marriage to a U.S. citizen as the prize would lead to a strong presumption that the marriage was entered into for the sole purpose of circumventing the country's immigration laws—hence, no green card.

[continued at Citizen Orange . . .]

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Citizen Orange

Kyle De Beausset from Citizen Orange has invited me to post on immigration-related issues over at his place. Here's a link to my introductory entry. Kyle grew up in Guatemala and now studies at is currently on leave from Harvard. He is an advocate/activist who puts his money where his mouth is. Frustrated at widespread anti-immigrant rhetoric and inability to effect change here in the U.S., last year he traveled along migrant routes from Guatemala to the U.S. to better understand what immigrants go through and bring some attention to their struggles. He started blogging to chronicle his trip (see "Trip" on the sidebar). Read more about the trip here and here.

There are some exciting things going on at Citizen Orange and elsewhere in the, as Kyle puts it, pro-migrant blogosphere. Check back often at Citizen Orange to find out more.

Michigan slapped down by DNC

The Democratic National Committee has taken action against Michigan for scheduling an early primary to try to have some say in who gets the Democratic nomination for president, instead of ceding the decision to a few citizens of Iowa and New Hampshire as normally happens. In the face of rising national discontent with politics as usual, The DNC seems committed to continuing disproportionate representation of rural, conservative voters vis-à-vis urban, progressive voters. The candidates with the best chances of doing well in Iowa and New Hampshire are following suit, trying to knock Clinton from the lead or at least secure a VP nomination.

Democratic leaders voted Saturday to strip Michigan of all its delegates to the national convention next year as punishment for scheduling an early presidential primary in violation of party rules.

In spite of the vote, some party leaders and officials said they believed the delegates would eventually be seated at the convention.

Michigan, with 156 delegates, has scheduled a Jan. 15 primary. Democratic Party rules prohibit states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina from holding nominating contests before Feb. 5. Florida was hit with a similar penalty in August for scheduling a Jan. 29 primary.

. . .

Saturday's vote further diminishes the significance of Michigan's Democratic primary. All the major Democratic candidates have already agreed not to campaign in either Michigan or Florida because the states violated party rules. And in Michigan, most of the major candidates won't even be on the ballot.

Democratic candidates John Edwards, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson and Joe Biden have withdrawn their names from the ballot to satisfy Iowa and New Hampshire, which were unhappy Michigan was challenging their leadoff status on the primary calendar.

. . .

Michigan officials defended their early primary, saying it helps provide geographic, racial and economic diversity early in the primary calendar. They also complained that other states that were allowed to hold early votes were receiving preferential treatment.

. . .

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said in a statement: ''The threat not to seat the delegates of Michigan and Florida at the Democratic convention is a hollow threat. They will be seated, and when they are, it will be plain for all to see that the privileged position that New Hampshire and Iowa have extracted through threats and pledges from candidates is on its last legs.''

. . .

With the DNC's work Saturday, the primary calendar appears to be set. The panel approved some final shifting of early contests, approving the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 8, and the South Carolina primary on Jan. 26.

The system as it exists privileges rural white voters—long framed in the media as more authentically American than urban voters or voters of color—and acts as a conservative shot in the arm at a crucial point in a heated presidential campaign to a party with purportedly progressive goals and values. But the risks of standing up to the Iowa/New Hampshire mafia and losing the nomination are apparently too great for anyone to challenge the status quo.

The only benefit I can see coming from Iowa/NH picking the nominee while the rest of us watch from the sidelines is a prediction I read in a post or comment thread the other day, I forget where. Given: (1) irrational hatred of godless communist/socialist/lesbian/feminazi Clinton among conservatives, (2) Iowa’s conservative bent, and (3) widespread belief that Clinton is far to the left of the other candidates, there is a good chance that Iowa will pick Edwards or Obama. This would give one of them a fighting chance at taking the nomination. Paradoxically, Iowa could give us a more progressive president than we would otherwise have.