Immigration Bill: Online and Awaiting Your Comments

Late Friday night, an electronic version of the “immigration reform” bill was finally published, and quickly found its way into the hands of KLo at class=”textlink”>the Corner. From there, it has spread all over the net, of course.
But the published version is a big, clunky PDF file (which, if you like, you can download here.) Good if you plan on printing out all 326 pages of it, not so good if you are a blogger who wants to comment on a particular section and show your readers exactly what you’re talking about.
So I’ve taken the copy published by NRO and parsed it into a format that allows for easy browsing online. Features of this version include:

  • A table of contents on the left side that allows you to jump directly to a section of your choice. I’ve also included a “Highlights” index at the top — which should really be “lowlights” — where I’ll collect links to the most interesting sections and commentary on the bill.
  • The ability to add comments to any page of the bill, including links back to a blog post or other web commentary. Just go to the section you’re discussing, and click on the ‘add a comment’ link in the right sidebar. You can also, of course, read the comments that everyone else has provided.
  • Direct linking to any page of the bill. You can grab the ‘permalink’ for the page you are currently viewing by right-clicking on the “Page x” heading above the bill text. The format for a direct url is simple, though: where x is the page number you want to link to.

If those who forged this “compromise” have their way, this bill will be voted on as early as Tuesday. That’s a crazily short amount of time for Senators — let alone the American public — to review, understand, and have a voice on the substance of such a complex bill.
My hope, however, is that by presenting the bill in this form, I will help make the bill more accessible to all, and provide a central spot where commentary, criticism, and suggested improvements can be assembled. Who knows — maybe our erstwhile leaders on Capitol Hill will take notice, and take some of our comments to heart.
There’s only one way to find out, so let’s get to it…

Immigration Bill: Bigger Than The Bible, Not Nearly As Enlightened

class=”textlink”>Everyone’s talking about the immigration bill, as well they should be. It sounds like a complete train wreck to me, and to many others.
I always want to judge for myself though, and so I’m keeping a watch out for when the actual text of the bill becomes available online — which I hear might be sometime today. The government printing office has, however, provided hard copies to Senate offices for their review.
So until all us lowly citizens can actually read the thing, I present you with the photo below, taken by a friendly staffer, which provides a nice visual aid to the size and scope of the monstrosity:

Yes, that’s the Bible next to the bill, and yes, the bill is bigger than it. The copy shown is about 400 pages, although I’m told that the final version will balloon up to near 1000 pages once it is printed in the “official” format.
Do you think maybe we might want to take more than a day or so to quickly skim through this thing? Just a thought. As my staffer friend quipped, “The immigration bill is bigger than the Bible, and we’ve had a few thousand years to read through that.”
Stay tuned for more updates, including (hopefully) the full text of the bill…
Update: To be clear, this is not being declared the “final” text of the bill, but it is the current draft. To quote my source again, “we probably won’t get final text until after we vote on the stupid thing.”
Your democracy at work!
Update Friday p.m.: So I’ve spent a decent chunk of time today observing the reactions to the immigration deal, and I’ve come to a conclusion: this parrot is dead.

Dead, dead dead. An ex-parrot. It has, indeed, ceased to be.
The grand immigration “deal” is going absolutely nowhere. Why? A few data points.
One: The Republican base hates it. Hates hates hates it.
Two: Harry Reid (yes, that Harry Reid) is lukewarm at best. Check this out, via RedState:

Reid: Agreement Will Help Start Debate on Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Thursday, May 17, 2007
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada issued the following statement in response to the bipartisan agreement on immigration reform:
“I applaud the hard work of the bipartisan group of Senators who have proposed a new approach to comprehensive immigration reform. Their agreement can serve as a starting point for the Senate debate next week. I have serious concerns about some aspects of this proposal, including the structure of the temporary worker program and undue limitations on family immigration. We need to improve the bill as it moves through the legislative process.

Say whaa? The Senate Majority leader has “serious concerns”? Kinda a stumbling block for a grand compromise, isn’t it?
Three: The prospects in the House aren’t all that bright either:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., acknowledging deep divisions on immigration among Democrats, says she won’t bring it up unless President Bush can guarantee he will produce 70 Republican backers—a tall order given GOP concerns that the bill is too lenient.
Four: The bill text isn’t even done yet. As I stated earlier, the lovely copy in the photo above is just a draft — final language is still being hammered out (somewhere, by someone). That tells me that there are still huge opportunities for the grand bargain to collapse as the dirty details of the language are nailed down.
Does this mean that everyone should relax? No, it means everyone should call their Senators with renewed vigor, because this thing actually can be stopped. So get to it!

The Catalina Fire: Blogging vs. Traditional News at the LA Times

As a Southern California fellow, I’m taking particular interest in the wildfire currently raging on Catalina Island. But beyond the normal fascination with a natural disaster, I found that there’s an interesting comparison between “blog coverage” of the story and “real news coverage” to be had on the LA Times web site.
The LAT has the same reporter, Louis Sahagun, posting updates to breaking news blog and writing the “real” news stories on the fire.
The “real” news story is clearly out-of-date; it appears to have been fiinalized late last night. The blog, on the other hand, is highly current, packed with detail on what’s happening, and to me seems a nearly perfect way to cover a breaking story like this. Particularly given that they corrected the one flaw of the blog format, the lack of an overall summary for those not following the story closely, by putting a nice summary box at the top with the key facts as of now.
Why is the blog coverage so much more appealing for a story like this? The problem is with the traditional form of a news article — the “pyramid” structure that dictates putting the most important information at the top and then working your way onward to the less relevant details. This format makes perfect sense when you are publishing one story on a given event or topic per day (i.e., in a daily newspaper). But the traditional news form fails miserably when you are trying to convey updated information on an ongoing story repeatedly throughout the day, because it forces the readers who are paying attention to wade through the same basic facts that they already knew to find the small nuggets of updated information hidden in the story.
The blog form, on the other hand, does exactly the opposite: rather than organize the content strictly by importance (the pyramid structure), it organizes it by time: the most recent updates at the top with previous postings scrolling downwards. The blog form guarantees that when a reader who is following a story reads the blog coverage, they are immediately presented with new information that they haven’t seen before.
The ideal strategy for a breaking story like this, I think, is to do more or less what the LAT is doing: provide a “traditional” news piece that is updated a couple of times a day that provides the casual reader a full summary of the event and assumes no prior knowledge, while at the same time also posting a frequently-updated blog that allows the more focused reader to mainline the latest new information without wading through the same stuff they already knew.
It will be interesting to see whether the LAT uses this approach more frequently in the future, and if other mainstream media outlets follow the example…

Live from the Reagan Library: Blogging the GOP Presidential Debate

Through the good graces of my friend class=”textlink”>Hugh Hewitt, I’m pleased to report that I am typing this from the Reagan Library, where it is now just four and a half hours before the first GOP Presidential debate will take place.
I’ll be blogging when I can on the goings-on at the site. Since the place is full of “real journalists”, I’ll be focusing more on covering the coverage, and hopefully giving the blogosphere a little behind-the-scenes view of how an event like this works.
Right now, I’m perched up on “radio row”, conveniently located on a balcony looking directly down on the “spin room”, where the candidates and/or their flacks will be doing their best to put their best feet forward throughout the day and into the night. There are only five radio outlets set up here, including Hugh (who is broadcasting live from the site this afternoon, natch). The BBC is one of them, but they are thus far AWOL. So like any good blogger would, I swiped their spot:

We’ll see how long until I get evicted. Or perhaps British courtesy will win out and I’ll just get a “right-o; carry on good chap!’.
The spin room itself:

A better view of Radio Row in its entirety:

And where better to put Radio Row than… next to the cafeteria! (No, really.)

And the view from the Reagan library itself — fabulous! This is just in one direction:

More to come throughout the day…
1:39 pm: Hmmm. A subtle plea for fiscal responsibility from the cafe staff?

2:12 pm: Here’s the “filing center”. Looks like about 180 spots for the press corps. Yikes.

And the ‘spin room’ as of now. More or less the quiet before the storm. If I understand correctly, the big candidates probably won’t make an appearance here until after the debate, if at all. But I did nearly bump into Ron Paul and his entourage a few moments ago…

2:27 pm: Yup, that was Ron Paul:

(he’s the blur on the left)
He looked a bit lonely. I’ll have to go see if he’ll talk to a lowly blogger next time his orbit returns him here…
3:04 pm: Correction! That’s not Ron Paul above, rather, it’s Charlie Black, one of John McCain’s folks. My bad! Charlie was kind enough to chat with me for a few moments, but when I asked, said that Senator McCain is not planning on stopping by the spin room. Bummer.
Check back for further updates throughout the day to find out who I confuse for Ron Paul next!
3:13 pm: Yikes. I was just informed that the good news is I have a ticket to get into the debate hall proper — but the bad news is, I have to be there by 3:30, after which the doors close. The debate doesn’t start until 5pm. So that might put a crimp in my blogging ability, but we’ll see…
6:55 am, the morning after: Well, as I feared in the last update above, the debate room itself was most certainly a no-blogging zone. I arrived there on-time, showed my “spin room” pass:

(which didn’t work), and then my “debate guest” pass and debate ticket:

(which did). Going in the door, I promptly found myself… backstage. Equipment, cabling everywhere. Actually had to hunt around a bit to figure out how to get out and into the public area. Odd !
Seating was extremely limited (they weren’t kidding about that) and it was all assigned seats. I ended up nearly dead-center in the room, a mere three rows almost directly behind the Governator and Mrs. Reagan.
The Air Force One pavilion was certainly impressive. I was disappointed that I didn’t have time or opportunity to see more of it — security for the event being in place, they clearly weren’t encouraging folks to wander around and explore. I had never been to the Reagan Library before, and honestly it never occurred to me to be a destination I should seek out. But having seen just a bit of it, I’d definitely like to return — a great facility in a spectacular setting.
So here’s a few shots of the debate area itself:

After Mrs. Reagan was escorted into the room by the Governator, the candidates filed in. But it was about ten minutes before air time, and so they were basically left to mill around for a while:

Now, as for the debate itself. If you want to know how the candidates played in the room to the in-person audience, well… I have no idea. Because the forum was so stringent about the “no applause” rule, it was more or less impossible to really know who was playing well with the crowd and who wasn’t. But I can tell you my own impressions, which I suppose are in some way different from those you’d get from viewing on TV, simply because I could watch all the candidates while they reacted to others or simply waited to speak. A small thing, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that subtly influenced my perception versus that of folks who watched on TV.
So here goes. Mitt Romney:

In my view, the clear winner of the debate. His only weak answer was on his position on abortion, and that’s one he just has to live with since he genuinely has changed his position. But other than that, he was solid and yes, Presidential on everything. He also benefited from a stroke of luck: because he was all the way on the far-left, that meant that on all the “down the line” questions, he got to go first, which his definitely used to his advantage to get in some good lines.
John McCain:

I disagree with many of McCain’s positions (campaign finance ‘reform’ in particular). But I definitely don’t share the visceral dislike of the man that many of my right-leaning blogging colleagues have. He’s a genuine Porkbuster, and he’s been strong on the war, and those are two of my biggies, so I’m definitely willing to give him a fair hearing.
But last night he just didn’t get it done. With respect to friend Erick, I thought his delivery was strangely angry, and frequently disorganized. Which was doubly odd, because before the debate actually started (during the milling about phase), he seemed downright cheery, and appeared to almost be horsing around up on the stage. But maybe that was his version of punchiness or nerves.
Rudy Giuliani:

I thought Giuliani did ok — not great, but OK — after the debate was over. Maybe hurt himself a little — his abortion answer in particular was weak, and you would think that by now, he’d have the whole “I’d leave it to the courts” answer down pat in a more smooth delivery.
But reading through commentary this morning — wow. I think it’s safe to say that he did indeed hurt himself, and not just a little.
I hardly noticed, but apparently, there were seven candidates on the stage whose names were not Romney, Giuliani, or McCain. None of them made much of an impression on me, although once and for all, here is the real Ron Paul:

Ron Paul scares me. He came across as a kind of grumpy, isolationist Jiminy Cricket.
And speaking of scary, I haven’t watched Hardball in … well, ever. So I can’t recall when the last time I actually saw Chris Matthews was, and therefore was not aware that he had turned into a thousand year old walrus:

When the debate was over, I joined my new friend Russ from Salem Radio in the important task of whisking Kenneth Starr (yes, that Ken Starr) from the debate hall up to Radio Row to do a little post-debate discussion with Hugh. Starr was an amiable and friendly fellow (didn’t threaten to investigate me even once). Here he is chatting with Hugh after Russ and I successfully accomplished our mission:

With the debate over, the spinning began in earnest. Here’s the spin room in full swing:

The rule seems to be, if you’re a top-tier candidate, you don’t show up in the spin room personally. So for example, Mitt Romney had his son Tagg doing some interviews:

And hey, look, it’s my buddy Charlie Black again!

(who is not Ron Paul, I am obliged to point out).
The second-tier candidates, on the other hand, did show up personally, at least some of them. Tom Tancredo grabbed some coffee (a man after my own heart) to steel himself for the ordeal:

Strangely, Tancredo was also seen at the entrance to the spin room, insisting that the security guards double-check everyone’s credentials before allowing them in. (Kidding).
Also making appearances were Jim Gilmore and I believe Duncan Hunter and Sam Brownback. I didn’t see Ron Paul around, so I assume he was off scaring small children somewhere.
And lastly, a shot of Radio Row from the spin room floor (Hugh’s the blur on the left):

Overall, it was definitely a great experience to not just see the debate live but get a behind-the-scenes view of the process. I can’t say I walked away knowing terribly much more about the candidates or their positions than I came in with, but it was a fun day and hopefully I’ve contributed something by sharing a bit o’ the behind-the-curtain view with the blogosphere. My thanks again to Hugh for bringing me along!