Devil in the Details

Law and Border

Let's say you're Michael Chertoff, and you want to build a fence. What would you need?

According to the House of Representatives, anything you want.

As the Real ID Act, passed by a 261-to-161 margin on February 10, says, “[T]he Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to waive, and shall waive, all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary's sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction” of barriers and roads anywhere in the vicinity of the border.

Whence the need for such expansive power? Since 1996, Republican Representative Duncan Hunter has been pushing to close a three-mile gap in the “Triple Border Fence,” which stretches 14 miles along the California-Mexico border, from the Pacific to Otay Mesa. Even though the 1996 congressional authorization allowed the attorney general to waive the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act to finish the project, construction has been slowed by environmental concerns. So Hunter, with the generous support of Real ID sponsor James Sensenbrenner, added the new waiver to the national ID bill. And, in case the authority to waive “all laws” was needed at a later date, it was written so as to apply not just to three miles in San Diego but to anywhere “in the vicinity of the United States border.”

And just what does the phrase “all laws” comprise? “Whatever you think, it's worse,” Representative Bob Filner sighed to the Prospect the day after the bill passed. Filner's district encompasses southern San Diego and the adjacent border area. “Due process laws, maybe? Maybe murder? Could you kill an undocumented [immigrant] and not face any crime?”

While the bill probably does not license Chertoff to kill at will, it does give him substantial leeway to waive environmental, labor, and procurement laws, among others. Or, as Representative Earl Blumenauer noted during the House debate, “[T]he secretary of homeland security could give a contract to his political cronies that had no safety standards, using 12-year-old illegal immigrants to do the labor, run it through the site of a Native American burial ground, kill bald eagles in the process, and pollute the drinking water of neighboring communities.”

That's a lot of leeway, considering that the case for the bill is thin at best. The area is “not on a very high priority,” according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection public-affairs officer Sal Zamora. Once “a no-man's-land,” Zamora says, it's now “well-lit, it's laden with security … . It used to take 15 to 20 agents to have an impact in that area; today we benefit from having possibly one or two agents.”

Whether or not it's needed to cut off the flow of border-crossers, the new provision does allow the department to waive all labor and bidding laws -- a task to which the department had rededicated itself just two weeks before with a redesigned personnel structure. Chertoff may not hold power over life and death, but if the House gets its way, power over overtime and pay will be his alone.

-- Jeffrey Dubner

A Ladies' First?

Of the many gender gaps in the political arena, one of the most persistent has been the donor gap. As recently as 2000, women donors were responsible for just one-quarter of hard-money contributions greater than $200 to political candidates, and just one-seventh to one-eighth of soft-money contributions to political parties. Because most donations were large donations in the pre-Internet political world, that meant that politics was mainly funded by men who, according to a 1999 report by the National Center for Policy Analysis, have tended to see giving to political candidates as a kind of business investment. Women, meanwhile, had tended to give to issue-oriented causes.

Now, however, those numbers may be starting to change -- thanks to the Internet. “A lot of people think that the Internet is all male, and that people who sign up for things and participate in things are all men, but actually these progressive activist lists tend to skew female,” says Zack Exley, former director of Internet organizing and communications at Kerry-Edwards '04. “By a little bit, the Kerry [e-mail] list skews more female.” That list was responsible for more than $122 million in donations to John Kerry's campaign and the Democratic National Committee in increments averaging less than $100 per gift.

Nor was the Kerry list exceptional in securing female supporters on the left. MoveOn's 3 million-strong list of supporters is also predominantly female, as is its activist base. “At MoveOn, the rates of volunteers who participated -- it was a lot more women than men,” says Exley, who also worked for the anti-war progressive activist group. The same basic demographic pattern held true for the grass-roots shock troops of the Kerry campaign. “The vast majority of people who came out to do stuff for Kerry were women,” he says.

Look for these trends to continue with Howard Dean at the helm of the Democratic Party. Dean raised 61 percent of his record $52 million primary-campaign dollars in increments of less than $200, drawing mainly from the anti-war left and people who had not previously given to politicians. If the Kerry and MoveOn lists are any guide, that means women donors. Is it possible that the Democratic Party's renewed financial health now depends on its being able to tap into the purses of its female supporters? Stay tuned to find out.

-- Garance Franke-Ruta

On Beyond Data

It's a budget that focuses on results,” President Bush told reporters on the day he sent his $2.57 trillion budget to Congress. “Taxpayers in America don't want us spending their money on something that's not achieving results.”

Of course, results are important. Thus it's curious that one of the 48 education programs that Bush budgeted out of existence was a novel $306.5 million college-preparatory program for low-income students that's shown great promise. The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, aptly nicknamed GEAR-UP, gives six-year grants to states and local partnerships to provide college-preparatory services at the nation's poorest middle and high schools. Starting at seventh grade, GEAR-UP follows entire classrooms of low-income students as they navigate their way through high school and ready themselves for college. Further, GEAR-UP funds help provide college scholarships to low-income students.

According to the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (GEAR-UP's Washington liaison), the 1.4 million middle- and high-school students that the program serves have greatly benefited from it. But you needn't take the council's word for it: In assessing the program's performance, the White House's own Office of Management and Budget concluded that GEAR-UP addresses the obstacles to college enrollment using strategies that two separate studies have demonstrated to be effective.

So why eliminate the program? According to the president's budget summary, “No data are available to measure progress towards long-term program goals.” An indisputable assertion -- for in the absence of time travel, it would be impossible to measure the long-term success of a college-preparatory program that started with a cohort of seventh-graders in 1999. As those students are only now reaching college age, no long-term data exist precisely because no long-term data can exist.

Of course, empiricism is a fluid concept in Bush's budget. Despite studies that have shown the ineffectiveness of abstinence-only sex education, for instance, programs that promote abstinence as the only method of contraception received $205.5 million in the budget -- a 25-percent increase over last year.

While Bush's results-based rhetoric dooms certain programs and passes over others, one outcome of this budget remains certain: Fewer students will be having sex -- in college.

-- Mark Leon Goldberg

Hitchy 'n' Horowitz

Back in august 1999, when he was promoting his soon-to-be-released book, Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes, left-wing radical turned right-wing radical David Horowitz observed that “it is precisely because Bush is perceived as a candidate who can break the vicious stereotyping of Republicans as anti-black that he has to be smeared. Bush was thus labeled ‘Governor Death' in a Christopher Hitchens column.” By the time Horowitz was done, the plot by Hitchens, the NAACP, and Amnesty International came in for 20 more paragraphs of castigation.

Then again, the unkind remarks may just have been payback for Hitchens' 1990 comment to The Washington Times that, “I consider Horowitz and [frequent Horowitz co-author Peter] Collier sellouts. I wouldn't want anything to do with them socially. It's not a political question. I just think they're sleazy.” Times, however, have changed, and Hitchens has decided to cap his intellectual journey from contrarian to left-wing hawk to right-wing obscurantista by joining with Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture to stage a weeklong “Tour London With Christopher Hitchens and David Horowitz” fandango this June.

According to FrontPage Magazine, an online Horowitz screed, the price for the trip “includes airfare from Los Angeles, seven nights at the Athenaeum Hotel, all breakfasts, 2 lunches, one at Penshurst and another near Stratford, as well as 3 dinners including a welcome dinner at Parliament, and a farewell dinner at the Calvary Guards Club, and all programs.” Evidently, there's nothing sleazy about it.

The Hitchens-Horowitz rapprochement appears to go back some time and may have its origins in their joint passion for Clinton-bashing. It only blossomed into romance, though, when Hitchens concluded, as he explained in a recent FrontPage interview, that the left has formed “an alliance with women-stoning, gay-burning, Jew-hating medieval theocrats.”

Stranger still than this outburst of pedestrian punditry was Hitchens' January 25 appearance at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute. Beltway right-wingers were invited to “bring your kids, young and old, and join us” for an evening of poetry readings by, among others, Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, Policy Review Editor Mary Eberstadt (author of a recent book about the dire threat working mothers pose to America), and Hitchens, not hitherto considered the most family-appropriate writer in town.

Sleazy? Incongruous? The union of festering minds? You decide.

-- Matthew Yglesias

PRESIDENT BUSH, SPEAKING ON FEBRUARY 4, 2005, IN TAMPA, FLORIDA: Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to what has been promised.

Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.