Mike Kueber's Blog

March 9, 2014

Joaquin Castro for Vice President?

Filed under: Media,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:41 pm
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Surely the title of this post is jest, isn’t it?  How could anyone seriously consider Joaquin Castro as qualified for VP?  His skimpy qualifications include ten years in the Texas House, during which he had no legislative achievements, and one year in the U.S. House, during which he has no legislative achievements.  You can search high and low looking for something that Castro has accomplished in public office, and you will find nothing other than getting elected by modest numbers in heavily Hispanic, Democratic districts.

Yet, according to an article in the estimable Washington Post, one of the Castro twins is the third most likely politician to receive the Democratic nomination for VP in 2016:

  • The Castro brothers. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro was introduced to the country to rave reviews when he keynoted the 2012 Democratic National Convention. His brother Joaquin serves in Congress. Viewed as two of the brightest rising stars in the party, the Castros, who are Mexican American, would have to be considered top choices for Clinton. Like Booker, they would add some youth and newness to the ticket. Plus, they are from Texas, which Democrats are trying to turn purple. And their Hispanic heritage makes them natural messengers to help the party grow its advantage over the GOP among Latino voters. Both are still relatively inexperienced at the national level. And Julian Castro might have his eye more on running for governor.

You can’t make this up.

Castro’s page on Facebook recently announced that he was appearing again this morning on This Week.  It seems that he appears on one of the Sunday morning shows every other week.  What I would love to know if how the mainstream media decides to anoint a callow politician as someone with promise.  Is it a subjective, gut feeling, or are there objective, rational criteria?

I would bet there is a herd mentality of liberal journalists who create a safe-harbor consensus for these ridiculous projections.

January 29, 2013

Innovation and creativity used by Joaquin Castro against the radical, crazy Republicans

Filed under: Culture,Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 8:58 pm
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Express-News columnist Brian Chasnoff’s column today appeared to have a two-pronged purpose:

  1. Advance the deification of the Castro twins.
  2. Create a perception that Democrats are on the verge of becoming competitive in Texas.

Chasnoff addresses the first prong by telling a three-act story involving Joaquin Castro.  In the first act, Castro is block-walking on the Republican northwest side of San Antonio.  Then in the second act, Castro is depressed because his list of targeted houses – those with reliable voters – causes him to walk past most of the houses.  And in the third act, Castro has an inspiration, which is to get the reliable voters to influence their unreliable friends and family to vote.  For melodramatic measure, Castro names his idea the “Victoria Project” after his late grandmother.

Your response to Castro’s inspiration might be, “Duh?  Tell me something I didn’t know,” but that is not how Chasnoff characterizes it.  Instead he describes it as an epiphany – “Castro’s idea, conceived that day on the campaign trail, is more modest in scale. But its creative approach might inform the myriad efforts here to revitalize Democrats, who haven’t won a statewide election in two decades.

And that brings us to the second prong of Chasnoff’s column – i.e., there is a serious movement underway to make Texas a competitive state for Democrats within the decade.  Chasnoff refers to an extensive new article in Politico.com that describes the myriad, far-reaching efforts to revitalize Democrats that might be informed by Castro’s creative approach, but instead of discussing those efforts, Chasnoff decides to elaborate on Castro’s “more modest in scale” project:

  • Each voter would cast a personal appeal powerful enough to motivate nonvoters to cast ballots.  Castro offered a fictional example: Maria Fernandez, whose father died from diabetes, emails 10 people “who really cared for her dad” with a message that “combines a personal narrative with a policy imperative.” In other words, Fernandez mourns both her father and GOP policy on health care.

The column concludes by suggesting that the Victoria Project would work perfectly against Republicans if Governor Rick Perry and party leaders persist in refusing to extend Medicaid under ObamaCare to two million poor, uninsured Texans.  According to Castro (and Chasnoff?), this position is beyond radical, it’s crazy.

Although this simple concept of trying to leverage your voters unquestionably makes sense, its effectiveness is questionable.  As Castro says, “It’s very intensive work.  There’s a lot of follow-through and a lot of handholding because you’ve got to help people craft the message.”  You think?

Think about crafting a message from your voters to their friends telling them about their poor family member who can’t afford ObamaCare, but would be eligible for free Medicaid if more people would vote Democratic.  Good luck on that in Texas.

November 12, 2012

Joaquin Castro on Meet the Press

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 8:51 am
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San Antonio’s newly elected congressman from the 20th District, Joaquin Castro, made a surprise appearance on MSNBC’s Meet the Press yesterday.  He was one of five guests in the show’s panel discussion, along with heavyweights Doris Kearns Goodwin, Steve Schmidt, Bob Woodward, and Chuck Todd.  How did he do?

My initial reaction was that Castro sounded polished and seemed comfortable, even though moderator David Gregory treated him as a junior member of the panel.  But that reaction is always subject to revision, just like the reaction of football coaches at post-game press conferences, after viewing the game tapes.  When I went back to a tape of the show, I saw that Castro had actually performed poorly.

My conclusion that Gregory treated Castro as a junior member of the panel was based on the first question, which dealt with the issue of the day – the Petraeus affair.  Gregory gave every panelist except Castro the opportunity to comment.  As Gregory went around the panel, I wondered what Castro could possible add to the discussion, and I was relieved when Gregory skipped him.

This omission was obviously planned because Gregory immediately tried to obscure it by lobbing the second question directly to Castro: was the election in favor of the status quo or a mandate for change?  Not surprisingly, Castro characterized the election as an Obama mandate telling the Republicans to follow him.  (If that were so, why didn’t they simply elect a Democratic congress?)  Castro got in trouble, however, when he tried to explain his assertion.  He said that intransigent Republicans who most opposed Obama, “including Alan West and almost Michele Bachmann,” went down in defeat.  Huh?  One defeat and one “almost” is flimsy support for such a broad assertion. 

A little later, Gregory threw another softball question toward Castro – were the Democrats in Congress willing to deal realistically with the need to cut spending?  Not surprisingly, Castro said the Democrats were, as long as they were accompanied by tax increases.  Drawing on his previous comment, Castro noted that Republicans had resisted tax increases for four years, but based on this election, the Republicans will be forced to get in gear.  Huh?  The Republicans have controlled the House only since their landslide 2010 election.  And the vast majority of those Republicans were re-elected in 2012.  That is no mandate for the Republicans to start raising taxes. 

The third, and final, cream-puff question from Gregory asked Castro to comment on the tone of Rush Limbaugh’s post-election comments that pundits were demanding that Republicans give up their principles against illegal immigration and abortion in order to placate the moderate middle of America.  Not surprisingly, Castro denigrated the radical right of the Republican Party, which he said considered Hispanics and illegal immigrants to be synonymous.  Huh?  Republicans are forever trying to distinguish between illegal and legal immigrants, while the Democrats continually imply that the treatment of one is indistinguishable from the treatment of the other.

The liberal bent of Meet the Press was vividly displayed when each panelist used Castro’s response as a jumping off point to close the show:

  • Doris Kearns Goodwin pointed out that the Republican Party is totally missing the new governing coalition in America – Latinos, women, and the young.  I agree that the party needs to increase its Latino support, but married women already prefer the Republican Party.  These are natural conservatives.  And the party can thrive without the support of single women and the young, who are natural liberals. 
  • Chuck Todd accused the Republican Party of being a party of special interests, without bothering to list those special interests.  That comment shocked me because I have always considered the Democratic Party to be the party of special interests – unions (especially public-employee unions), feminists, African-Americans, Hispanics, and the poor.  The Republican Party, by contrast, is principled support of a robust private economy and a small, yet effective government. 
  • Steve Schmidt worried that the Republican Party had too many shrill voices and social extremists.  I agree that the Evangelicals are a special interest that seems to have acquired too much power within the party.
  • Bob Woodward pointed out that the Obama’s legacy as president will depend on whether he makes any progress in resolving our nation’s debt/deficit crisis and that Speaker Boehner appeared willing to help.  Hear, hear. 

I thought we were going to end the panel discussion on Woodward’s most excellent, uplifting point, but suddenly Joaquin Castro jumped into the discussion by warning that Boehner has a record of saying one thing and then reversing course the next day. 

At that moment, Castro sounded like a small-minded partisan.  And his campaign promise to represent all of San Antonio, not just its Democrats, was gone with the wind.

October 15, 2011

Campaign financing gone wild

Filed under: Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:18 am
Tags: , , ,

Earlier this week an article in Politico.com reported on the crop of promising political stars who were looking to make a big move up in the next election.  What were the criteria for earning a place in this prestigious grouping?  Actually there was only one criterion – how much money the candidate had been able obtain raise in the past few months.  Thus, Politico could have labeled this group as the greatest money grubbers, but instead it generously adorned them as promising stars.

Who is on the list of ten?

  1. Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren is attempting to unseat Scott Brown, the Republican who claimed Teddy Kennedy’s seat.  She is a lightning rod for controversy, and her claim to fame is her role in creating a consumer-protection agency for the Obama administration.  In a mere six weeks, she has collected $3.1 million.
  2. Illinois’ Tammy Duckworth is also an alumnus of the Obama administration, but that apparently is not the sole reason for her fundraising prowess.  She ran for Congress in 2006, and lost despite raising “an eye-popping $4.5 million,” but the profile fails to say how she was able to raise so much money back then.
  3. Texas’ David Dewhurst is the Lieutenant Governor who is running to replace Rick Perry as governor.  In addition to the $2.4 million that Dewhurst raised in the first quarter, he added $2 million of his own money.  [Loaning that results in a significant financial advantage over your opponent is like buying an election.  Un-American!]  Lieutenant governor is an exceptionally powerful position in Texas, with the occupant of that position having almost unlimited access to special-interest money.  Rick Perry is known for his “pay-to-play” corruption, but that game has been played in Texas for a long time.
  4. Florida Democrats Lois Frankel and Patrick Murphy are competing for the opportunity to retire conservative talk-show star freshman congressman Allen West.  Frankel raised $415k in the first quarter and Murphy $313k.  Florida Democrats hope
    that their candidates don’t spend all of this money to do permanent damage to each other, with the result that the winner vulnerable to West, who raised $1.9 million in the quarter.
  5. Ohio’s Joe Mandel raised $3.8 million in six months for his Senate race.  The profile fails to explain why money is flocking to Mandel, but there is a mild suggestion that his opponent Senator Sherrod Brown is the cause.
  6. San Antonio’s Joaquin Castro raised $500k in the first quarter, but he will need more than that because he is leading an intra-party mutiny against Austin’s Lloyd Doggett, who raised $375k and has $3.3 million in the bank.
  7. Arkansas’s Tom Cotton is a Republican Young Gun, and while the profile describes his financial connections, it neglects to specify the amount of money collected.
  8. Iowa’s Christie Vilsack has raised $750k in her first six months.  She is relying on connections made through her husband who is Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture and who was governor of Iowa.  Inexplicably, her incumbent opponent raised only $200k in the first six months of the year.
  9. New Hampshire’s Ann McLane Kuster has raised $730k in the past six months.  She is planning to raise $3 million, which is
    $500k more than she raised in 2010, losing to the same guy.  The money will allow her to buy TV ads in the expensive Boston market.  According to the article, Kuster is so successful at raising money because nationwide liberal special-interest groups, such as EMILY’s List and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, really like her.

Politico explains the fundraising acumen of these candidates as follows:

  • “Some are tapping national fundraising networks, casting their nets far beyond the states and districts where they are
    running. Others are raking in funds from the party activist set.  A few are enjoying the fruit that comes from running against a controversial foe who stirs partisan passions.”

Instead of exploring the skillset that enables a candidate to amass a huge war chest, I think Politico should be focusing on the systemic dysfunction that enables moneyed special interests to have outsized influence on who succeeds in politics.  The voters are supposed to select the winner, but in the practical world of politics today, the special interests select the winners – which is exactly what one of the leading liberal special interests admit – EMILY’s List or “early money is like yeast.”

We should be working to decrease the influence of money whenever we can.

October 13, 2011

Lloyd Doggett profile in the Express-News

Filed under: Media,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:07 am
Tags: , ,

Last week I posted a blog entry titled, “Joaquin Castro – an obviously flawed profile on an ostensibly unflawed candidate.”  As the title suggests, local reporter Brian Chasnoff had written a terribly unprofessional profile on someone who is apparently his paper’s favorite son.  Proof – there was nothing less than glowing about Joaquin in the entire book-length article.  I had no doubt that the paper’s promised profile on opponent, the legendary Lloyd Doggett, would have a different tone.

Like Castro’s profile, Doggett’s profile (also book-length) appeared in the Sunday edition.  But the tone shifted from paternalistic affection to cynical skepticism.  For example:

  1. He is not a team playerThe profile was titled, “Lonesome Lloyd seeking new friends.”  The appellation is not an unmitigated complement – “the liberal Democrat from Austin is displaying many of the same traits that have defined him for decades.  One is a zeal for broadcasting his principles, even if it means criticizing his colleagues. In nearly four decades of public service, such fierce independence has earned him admiration.  It also has earned him a nickname: Lonesome Lloyd.”
  2. He is ineffective.  “The legitimate complaints about Doggett aren’t about his positions that he takes on issues or his effectiveness in speaking on them. The legitimate complaint with Doggett is that he doesn’t always think outside his own district or think outside his own election as to how you create a majority.”  Kueber: this subjective malarkey is reported as an objective fact.
  3. He is not a team player.  “He was elected to the U.S. House in 1994, the year Republicans seized 54 seats and control of the chamber.  Arriving in Congress, Doggett was outspoken — sometimes to the point of combativeness with his own party.”  Kueber: who knew that party loyalty was such a good thing?
  4. He is an ideologue.  “Of his reputation for aggressive advocacy, Doggett is characteristically unyielding.  ‘I’m finding many people across San Antonio who want someone to scream and yell about all the wrong that is happening in Washington and all the things that are not being done there.  And they’re tired of people that give up and give in all the time.’”  Kueber: who knew passion was such a bad thing.
  5. He is uncivil.  “Along with votes that reinforced consumer protections, Doggett successfully pushed for more public access to government.  Yet by 1992, his relationship with his fellow justices, the majority of them Republicans, had deteriorated so much that Doggett flouted a taboo against personal attacks.  In a concurring opinion, he agreed with the majority that a rape victim could sue the University of Houston for leaving a dormitory door unrepaired. But Doggett blasted his colleagues for delaying the case for 17 months, assailing their opinion as ‘tardy,’ ‘convoluted,’ ‘strange’ and ‘misleading.’  The majority responded with an appeal to civility.”  Kueber: since when does labeling an opposing opinion as tardy or misleading constitute a personal attack?
  6. He is too partisan.  “These days, Doggett’s passion for taking entrenched positions can inspire both praise and condemnation. The trait has taken on new significance in contrast to the politics of Castro, who is seen as more collegial and eager to work with Republicans.”  ‘He’d argue with a fence post,’ Sepulveda said. ‘He just gets stuck in this mode of arguing. And that’s also why this Congress is so ineffective.’”  Kueber: Castro got his glowing profile last week without any need to contrast his attributes with Doggett.  Let’s be fair.
  7. He is an Anglo.  “Such history is significant, considering the Republican-engineered pickle in which Doggett now finds himself, forced to run in a new district with a minority population of 68 percent. The ethnic makeup has inspired calls for the Anglo congressman to step aside.  ‘It would be a travesty to not use this opportunity to improve the underrepresentation of Hispanics in Congress,’ local state Rep. Mike Villarreal said.”  Kueber: This was an issue in my congressional race, with Quico Canseco claiming that our minority district deserved an Hispanic representative even though his principal opponent was African American.  Quotas anyone?
  8. He is crass.”  “His strategy now is the same: relentless public appearances.  Some local politicos are supportive, such as Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Adkisson. Others are annoyed.  District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal was at a local pizzeria in August attending a benefit for a 6-year-old boy killed in an apartment fire when Doggett showed up with aides and campaign buttons, he said.  ‘I thought it was distasteful,’ Bernal said. ‘I certainly don’t think an event for a child who so recently and tragically passed away is a place to campaign.’”  Kueber: Does this profile need negative statements by Castro supporters?  At least there should have been a disclosure that Bernal was not a disinterested observer.
  9. He is ungenerous with his campaign funds.  “Doggett now sits on a campaign war chest of more than $3 million. At the same time, he’s known for offering relatively few resources to other Democrats.  ‘There are various avenues by which people in the House can lead,’ said Sean Thierault, a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin. ‘And one of the avenues is they can raise lots of money and then they can pass it out. And he has chosen not to use that avenue.’”  Kueber: Do his constituents really care about this?
  10. He is corrupt.  “His personal net worth, meanwhile, has nearly doubled since he arrived in Washington, growing to somewhere between $8.5 million and $20 million, according to financial disclosure forms.”  Kueber: Doggett arrived in Washington 17 years ago, so this growth in net worth does not justify any suggestion of corruptness.

I closed my post on Joaquin’s profile by saying, “Don’t get me wrong – the Castro twins seem like decent, capable public servants.  It’s just that I often find myself rooting against people who the media anoint.  As Ann Richards famously said, ‘They were born on third base and thought they hit a triple.’

The Doggett profile leaves me with those same feelings.  It was not an all-out assault on Doggett.  This posting highlights the negative things in the profile, but there were many favorable items, too.  Furthermore, I don’t like ideologues, and many of the criticisms of Doggett’s social and political skills seem deserving.

So, standing by itself, I might characterize the profile as a bit too tough, but generally fair.  When I contrast it with Castro profile, however, I am left with the unmistakable feeling of watching a teacher favor her pet.  It’s hard to root for the teacher’s pet, even when he’s competing against a guy who’s a bit of a bully.

October 2, 2011

Joaquin Castro – an obviously flawed profile on an ostensibly unflawed candidate

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:47 pm
Tags: , ,

The San Antonio Express-News contained a book-length front-page profile on state rep Joaquin Castro this morning.  It is obviously flawed because a profile that contains nothing less than glowing about the candidate can’t be legitimate.  Unfortunately, you can read only a few paragraphs of the article on-line because the paper is trying to discourage its readers from relying on the free on-line edition and terminating their paid paper edition.  For those who don’t get the paper edition, let me summarize:

  • Newspapers are not fair.  As a former congressional candidate, I am still bitter about the paper’s decision early in my campaign to give one of my unknown, inexperienced opponents a glowing profile that helped springboard him to first-tier status.  Lesson learned – newspapers don’t have to play fair.  This profile on Joaquin Castro fits the same pattern.   Obviously, the Castro twins (Joaquin’s twin brother Julian is the mayor of San Antonio) have learned to assiduously curry favor with San Antonio’s establishment newspaper, which rarely misses an opportunity to showcase the twins in a favorable light.  Talk about having favorite sons!  To fake some semblance of fairness, the Express-News profile on Joaquin included a footnote saying that next week the paper will take “a look at incumbent U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett.”  I can’t wait.
  • Hard reporting.  The only hard reporting in the profile was the revelation that Castro worked with Republicans behind the scenes in the state legislature to ensure that the new district was gerrymandered in such a way that incumbent Doggett from Austin could be defeated in a primary challenge from someone (Castro) from San Antonio.  Talk about internecine warfare!  The Republican majority was only too happy to comply because their motivation was to destroy Doggett’s career.
  • A family legacy of public service?  The profile says that the twins’ life stories “have grown into local lore.”  Huh?  Their Horatio Alger story is that of a single mother, a past chairwoman of the Bexar County Raza Unida party (a third party for the advancement of Chicanos), who raised them to be involved and excel academically.  According to the Express-News:  “Joaquin Castro, for one, feels the solemn weight in the surname – ‘I’d say it’s a family committed to public service for two generations, that strives to be earnest and work in the public interest.  I suppose there’s some hope invested in my brother and I – I’ll say my brother now because he’s so far ahead.  And I appreciate it, but if I dwelled on it, I think the weight would be too much.’”  Talk about delusions of grandeur!  The Castro story is not much different than Rick Perry’s more prosaic version – his dad was a small-time politico (a county commissioner) who inspired his ambitious son to become a career politician.  Nothing especially romantic about that.
  • The saintly mother.  According to the Express-News, the Castro matriarch was almost saintly – “She said that with her activism, she had trouble finding a job.  Around that time, the boys’ father moved out.  The family made trips to food pantries and public libraries.”  Which makes me wonder, if the father didn’t leave home until the boys were eight-years old, why did they have their mother’s last name.  Perhaps, as feminist Nora Ephron recently said, “My first marriage ended in the early 1970s, at the height of the women’s movement….  We took things too seriously….  But the main problem with our marriages was not that our husbands wouldn’t share the housework but that we were unbelievably irritable young women and our husbands irritated us unbelievably.”   Furthermore, I think a more complete version of Rosie Castro’s less salutary influence on the Castro boys should include a reference to her statements made a few months ago to a NY Times columnist doing a profile on Julian Castro:  “They used to take us there (the Alamo) when we were schoolchildren,” she told me. “They told us how glorious that battle was. When I grew up I learned that the ‘heroes’ of the Alamo were a bunch of drunks and crooks and slaveholding imperialists who conquered land that didn’t belong to them. But as a little girl I got the message — we were losers. I can truly say that I hate that place and everything it stands for.”  I wonder how Joaquin feels about that, but apparently the Express-News did not.
  • American meritocracy.  According to the Express-News profile, “A love for learning, fostered by their mother, was bolstered by the boys’ sibling rivalry.  ‘The competitive thing, which drove me crazy, was really a source of helping them do better,’ she said.  ‘They were forever competing to make sure they had the best grade.’”  Based on local media reports, you might think these boys from San Antonio’s west side were academic superstars.  In fact, they matriculated into Stanford by virtue of affirmative action, and their high-school academics would not have earned them spots in the University of Texas without affirmative action.

Don’t get me wrong – the Castro twins seem like decent, capable public servants.  It’s just that I often find myself rooting against people who the media anoint.  As Ann Richards famously said, “They were born on third base and thought they hit a triple.”

June 25, 2011

Immigration and the State Bar of Texas

Earlier this week, I attended the two-day annual meeting of the State Bar of Texas.  One of the more promising sessions was titled, “A Civil Conversation about Immigration Reform,” and it did not disappoint.  The 90-minute session was the longest that I attended during the meeting,  but it seemed like the shortest.

The topic of immigration was touched on in an earlier session called, “Overview of the 82nd Legislative Session,” presented by State Representative Joaquin Castro.  Although Castro has the demeanor of a rational, dispassionate analyst, his words belie that.  He described the pending sanctuary-city bill (S.B. 9) as enabling a citizen to sue his local police department if it fails to enforce the federal immigration laws.  Arizona’s notorious H.B. 1070 doesn’t even go that far.  In fact, Texas’s S.B. 6 merely prohibits local government entities from adopting sanctuary policies – i.e., instructing their law enforcement officers to not ask anyone about their immigration status.  Because Castro did not take questions, his misstatement of the law went uncorrected.  Before leaving the session, Castro reported that two prominent Texas businessmen (liberal San Antonio grocer HE Butt and conservative Houston construction magnate Bob Perry) recently came out in opposition to S.B. 6 and this development might result in the bill being significantly watered-down.

Joaquin’s identical twin Julian, the mayor of San Antonio, was a part of the six-member panel for “A Civil Conversation about Immigration Reform.”  Unfortunately, there was not much conversation with Julian because he was the last of the panel to give 10 minute presentation, and then he left, leaving the other panel members to engage in a conversation with the audience.

Two things of note presented by Julian:

  1. People who opposed illegal immigration tended to treat these immigrants “more like animals than people.”
  2. We should start thinking of a path to citizenship as not some sort of amnesty, but rather as analogous to the legal concept of deferred adjudication.  Application of this concept would involve the imposition of some terms, and once those terms were satisfied, the immigrant’s  unauthorized entry would be forgiven.  Personally, I think this is a distinction without a difference, but I have to admit that I initially felt the same way when the New York Times recommended that we re-characterize the Death Tax from being a tax on an estate (double taxation) to being a tax on the income of a recipient.  Eventually I came to agree with the Times recommendation.

Julian’s suggestion for deferred adjudication has the same weakness as amnesty – i.e., it rewards an individual for breaking the law; it allows a lawbreaker to stay in America although millions of potential immigrants are patiently waiting in line to be legally permitted into America.

Julian would be better served if he were to apply the legal concept of adverse possession (squatter’s rights) – i.e., title to real property can be obtained without compensation by holding the property in a manner that conflicts with the true owner’s rights for a specified period.  Thus, America can be held to have waived its right to deport an undocumented immigrant who has lived in America and set down roots for a specified period (e.g., five to ten years).

In contrast to Julian, the other members of the panel provided substantive information on the illegal-immigration issue.  Dr. Steven Murdock from Rice University provided a plethora of statistical information suggesting that immigrants were critical to the economic future of Texas and America.  As is the wont of most immigration proponents, Dr. Murdock sometimes failed to distinguish between legal immigration and illegal immigration, but generally he provided cogent information.  The most interesting was his report that illegal immigrants are a slight financial positive to the federal government (they send more money in than they take out), a break-even factor for state government, and a huge negative for local government because of their drain for education and medical expenses.

Kathleen Walker is an immigration lawyer, and the dominant theme of her talk was to complain that illegal immigration is a civil matter, not a criminal matter, and these people should not be treated like criminals.  Toward the end of her talk, Kathleen confused this distinction by telling us that it was incorrect to say the people were here illegally, but it was proper to say that their presence was unlawful.

An anti-terrorist government lawyer followed Kathleen.  He was the only panelist who was opposed to amnesty for illegal immigrants, and he chided the panel for all of their semantical variations in describing – illegal immigrants, undocumented aliens, unauthorized immigrants, unlawful presence, and about four other similar terms.  He also asserted that it is impossible for the federal government to physically close our borders, but that a pending bi-partisan bill for a national ID card might be effective.  From an anti-terrorist perspective, he said that the Canadian border was much more problematic than the Mexican border.

The government lawyer was followed by an AFL-CIO person from Houston.  He contributed little to the discussion other than noting that businesses were taking advantage of illegal immigrants and that “theft of salary” charges were seldom prosecuted.

According to the program, one member of the panel was a DREAM candidate, but it turned out she was a mother of three DREAM  candidates.  She could barely speak English and broke down shortly after beginning her talk.

The moderator for the panel was federal judge Xavier Rodriguez.  At the conclusion of the presentation, he revealed that he hadn’t been listening by asking the panel a long question regarding whether illegal immigrants were a net financial benefit or expense to various governmental entities.  Everyone who was listening knew that Dr. Murdock had definitively provided this information in his presentation, and to humor the judge he regurgitated it.

During the Q&A part of the session, the first comment came from a quintessential bleeding heart.  She started by saying that she was not a  lawyer (her squirming husband was alongside her), but she felt compelled to describe the shame she felt as a person who was taking advantage of illegal immigrants by living in a house that was likely build by those immigrants who received substandard pay and eating in restaurants that likely employed illegal immigrants for substandard pay.  After two long minutes of her confession, Judge Rodriguez cut her off and tried to  assuage her guilt by saying that these immigrants were making five times as much as they would make back in Mexico, so she shouldn’t feel so bad.  She refused to be assuaged.

In response to another question, Dr. Murdock got on a soapbox about America’s shameful immigration record.  According to him, America’s immigration policy was horribly racist until the Voting Rights Act of the mid-60s, and he said that it had never been welcoming to immigrants, such as the Chinese or even Irish or Italians.  At this point, I asked him why an “unwelcoming” America, throughout its history, has a record of receiving more immigrants than any other country and whether the “huddled masses” invitation on the Statue of Liberty was a cruel hoax.  Murdock responded by backing off his accusations and shifting toward a position that America has made mistakes and can improve.  Agreed.

What was the result of the “civil conversation”?  I learned some information, but there wasn’t enough discussion – either within the panel or with the audience – to evaluate the information.  I pointed out during the Q&A part of the session that it wasn’t fair to give amnesty to illegal  immigrants while I have a friend in the Philippines with a graduate education who has been on a waiting list for ten years, and a lady responded that we shouldn’t complicate the issues by tying them together.  As a practical matter, that may be right.