Adventures in Bureaucracy
Thursday, July 27, 2006
This one probably would have gotten into any U.S. port of entry. Because one soccer jersey looks pretty much like any other one over here.
The talk of all my friends in the immigration bureaucracies is borne out with statistics: since the overhaul of port of entry processing with the creation of DHS, the number of people intercepted has dropped. A lot. By about a third nationwide, but nearly ninety per cent at Newark Airport. And they always used to be one of the busy ones. Interesting analyses in the article about the possible reasons for the big drop.
Monday, July 24, 2006
Reading the referral log always makes me wonder how Google's searches work. Because this site is the NUMBER ONE result found when searching for "theme music Elvira Gulch".

It pulls up my archives for November 2002, and -- not to toot my own horn -- but some of it really holds up well. And my prediction about who would succeed in DHS seems to have come true, if all the talk of CBP and ICE being "Custom-ized" is correct.

Unfortunately, I'm only number two for Bob Saget's "nuts over her" joke.

And why do I keep finding references to Adam Caskey? WJLA hasn't been the same since they lost Renee Poussaint and Susan King. In fact, judging from the flagship broadcasts, it's become channel 9.
"Huge Backlogs, Delays Feared Under Senate Immigration Plan." Well, duh. Citizenship and Immigration Services granted permanent residence to about one million people last year. Putting at least another ten million in the queue isn't going to enhance turn-around times. And this after CIS seems to finally be getting a handle on the backlogs that have plagued immigration processing since time immemorial.

But that's not why I found this article interesting. The funny part was Doris Meissner, former head of a former agency, talking about everything that was wrong with the previous amnesty. Low evidenciary standards, loosely written legislation, and the whole agricultural worker program -- she's spot-on with her assessment. She wasn't in charge when it all happened, so she doesn't have to worry about putting the rosy spin on everything.

Then there was this comment: "The more documents you have . . . the more fraud you have -- that's the lesson from 1986." So no documents to prove eligibility will mean no fraud? I really hope the Senate version of the legislation doesn't go through, because I think the entire Department will be swamped if it does.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Some things never change. I saw a short bit in the newspaper about a bomb scare in Rochester involving two Sri Lankans with false identification and knew immediately what had happened. And just as I has suspected, it was two more Tamils trying to get to the promised land (Scarborough, Ontario) by pretending to be Canadian. Somehow someone heard something about a bomb, and one thing led to another, which is the only reason they got caught in the United States.

This has been going on for at least as long as I have been in the federal government, which is a very, very, very long time. It was always the same thing when I was at the airport. Some small, dark person with bad teeth who could barely speak English would arrive from overseas and show me a Canadian passport, quite often showing a French-Canadian name and a place of birth in Quebec. So they'd go straight back to the office, where they would initially offer a half-hearted insistence that, no, really, they were Canadian, even if they couldn't tell me who was in charge of the country, or what its capital was, or what kind of money they used there. And shortly after seeing the skepticism in my eyes, they'd say it was dangerous for them in their homeland and that they wanted to seek refuge in Canada.

And the ironic part is that the people who pay to get away from civil strife in Sri Lanka give money to the very same people who are doing the fighting -- the LTTE, or Tamil Tigers. Smuggling is thought to help finance LTTE operations, and Tamils in Canada raise funds for the Tigers in their new home. The asylum angle has been problematic for a long time, since there's almost no way to verify the veracity of anyone's stories. This loophole has been exploited by people in the LTTE.

The route here sounds like a pretty convoluted one, even by international smuggling standards. The two caught in Rochester went from Sri Lanka to South Africa to Brazil to Chile to Easter Island to Tahiti before flying to Los Angeles. Apparently they were part of a larger group, of which the other two got popped by CBP on arrival. It looks like everything old is indeed new again, as a major smuggler was sending his clients through Africa and South America way back in the 1990's.

My prediction: the two in Rochester will be bonded out of custody, after which they will take a bus to the border and file their claims for refugee status in Canada.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
I totally have to enter this contest one year. All I have to do is pretend I'm at the office, and horrendous prose should follow. Sooner or later I will write the bureaucrat's guide to writing good memoranda, but then, I don't know whether I should share the secrets of my success. They might help others climb to the middle of the ladder too, and there's only so much space on the rung.
"Distrust of career employees by political appointees is the single issue causing the most dysfunction in the federal workplace."

Or so says a former aide to Colin Powell from his State Department days. I don't think that's necessarily the case. The federal workplace is unlike any other, with people dedicated to writing responses to inquiries from Congress and where personnel rules are actually the law of the land.

Tension between political appointees and the career civil service is certain a problem at times, but is it the problem? Chalk that one up to the nature of government work. Getting a new president probably isn't all that much different from any business that gets a new chief executive officer. They'll bring in their own coterie of people to implement their new policies, whether the people who've been in the company approve of it or not. The only difference is that CEO's talk about shareholders while political appointees talk about taxpayers.

The cumbersome personnel rules probably play a big role. I've worked with people who desperately needed to get fired, but it was practically impossible without a criminal conviction (which in at least two cases I can think of eventually happened). There's one guy I can think of who has managed to consternate, fluster and annoy just about everyone who has crossed his path. Last I heard he was on the road to senior management.

Still, I wonder how much of the joy of federal work happens in any large organization. I mean, I read "Dilbert". I know about seagull managers (the ones who fly in, crap all over everything, then fly away to leave other people to clean up the mess). Part of that, in my opinion, comes from the whole business school ethos, which says a good manager -- preferably one with an MBA -- can manage anything. The problem is that this assumes a manager doesn't have to know anything about a particular line of work, which denigrates the knowledge acquired by working up through the ranks. There's definitely something to be said for experience.

Then again, maybe it's just because the federal government has a huge number of lawyers.
Monday, July 10, 2006
Helpful tip for the bored and restless: if you want mail, just fill out the reply card for the advertisers in "National Geographic Travel". I've been getting inundated with the stuff for the past week.

Part of it is the feeling that I need to get out more. That was largely brought on by totting up the places I've seen from "1000 Places to See Before You Die". I've been to about fifty of them - only about five per cent! Luckily for me a lot of the places are ultra-expensive hotels and restaurants that I feel no need to go out of my way to see, especially when they seem to have knocked out some of those places I would like to visit that weren't listed. At least with Life's list of a hundred places to see I've covered over twenty per cent.

If only I could figure out a way to get paid without actually having to show up at work... Legally, I mean.
Rogue waves exist.

Shelley Winters could have told us that.
Two Border Patrol officers plead guilty to smuggling. And they apparently got them for... tax evasion.

I seem to recall El Centro having a certain reputation at one point. This isn't going to help. Or this.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
The Washington Post is going for more interaction with its readership, and they are soliciting comments for mediation of the Israel/Palestine issue. It makes for interesting reading. Why is it that some of the most highly educated people in the world place so much stock in the United Nations that they'd recommend U.N. peacekeepers as part of the solution? Let's face it, they don't exactly have a great record of conflict resolution. Here's a PDF file showing peacekeeping operations. In the Middle East since 1948, between India and Pakistan since 1949, separating Cyprus since 1964... and how many times have they been to Haiti?

Part of the problem is in this comment:
"Insist that Israel get back behind the l948 Green Line where it belongs, since it has no right to keep property won in the l967 war."
Why exactly does it not have the right to keep property won in a war? That's one of the oldest principles out there. Look at the borders of countries around the world and you'll find that they were established in wars. Nobody argues over whether Alsace-Lorraine should be a part of France any more, or whether Trentino is part of Italy, or whether Paraguay should give back the Chaco it won from Bolivia in 1938.

Israel strikes me as a gutsy little country. It staved off invasion in 1948 and 1973 and preempted another one in 1967. As for the Palestinian cause, any sympathy I may have had was lost at Munich.
Personal comments, opinions and observations from someone stuck inside the Capital Beltway.

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