The Long View 2007-01-05: Goddard, Mahdi, Climate, Anti-McCain

John J. Reilly proposed this scheme of immigration reform once before:

(1) Physical control of the borders;

(2) Legal immigration restricted to family reunification and political asylum;

(3) Amnesty with parallel tracks for repatriation or naturalization

He intended it as a compromise in the name of domestic peace, even knowing that 1) and 2) would be opposed from the Left, and 2) and 3) from the Right, but he hoped that a broad enough centrist coalition might go for all three. John was of the opinion that America was almost unique in the world in its ability to accept and assimilate new arrivals, but thought it worked best when you took the pressure of continual change away. I suspect this is not the moment for such a thing, based upon poll data.


Goddard, Mahdi, Climate, Anti-McCain

Jeff Bezos is a member of the class of optimates who aspire to become The Man Who Sold the Moon, an ambition that has, perhaps, been advanced by last year's successful testflight of the Goddard -- a first development vehicle in the New Shepard program of his Blue Origin spaceflight company.

The you can find a video of the brief flight by following the link above. For me, at least, the bluntly conical Goddard does not inspire confidence: it's more like an unusually dangerous helicopter than a spaceship. Nonetheless, my hopes for Blue Origin rose when I saw its logo:

The Latin motto, Gradatim Ferociter, lends its self to whimsical translations, such as "Madly Methodical," but the party-line version is "Courageously Step-by-Step," and that will do fine. I am a great fan of tortoises, and here we have two of them.

* * *

Persons who need to add Doomsday to their datebook will be interested to learn that the Mahdi will reveal himself around the time of the spring equinox (though not necessarily this spring's equinox), if we believe this information from Iran:

In our discussion of the world in the last days of the earth we had said in our previous editions of this programme that no source has pointed to the exact date when the Savior will appear and only God knows about the exact timing of the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (AS). The Prophet had said: He will certainly appear and if only a day were to be left to the end of the world God will make that day so long for Mahdi to appear and rise. There are various versions of the exact day of his reappearance. Some say it would be Friday and the date will be Ashura or the 10th of Moharram, the heart-rending martyrdom anniversary of his illustrious ancestor, Imam Husain (AS). Others say the date will be the 25th of the month of Zil-Qa’dah and may coincide with the Spring Equinox or Nowrooz as the Iranians call. A saying attributed to the Prophet’s 6th infallible heir, Imam Ja’far Sadeq (PBUH) says the Mahdi will appear on the Spring Equinox and God will make him defeat Dajjal the Impostor or the anti-Christ as the Christians say, who will be hanged near the dump of Kufa. The 6th Imam goes on to add: There will be no Nowrooz when we will not be waiting for him.

As I have noted previously, there was a medieval opinion that the Second Coming of Jesus would occur on March 25. The Second Coming of Jesus, by the way, is also a feature of Islamic eschatology, even in those versions that do not include the Mahdi.

Be that as it may, I find the notion of the world ending in early spring terribly counter-intuitive. In contrast, for the end to come on a blazing summer afternoon, as in On the Beach, would make perfect dramatic sense, but no one consults me about these things.

* * *

Speaking of dubious Doomsdays, I note with grave displeasure the recent reports that Monsoon records link demise of the Tang in China and Maya in Mexico:

They lived in resplendence, half a world apart, before meeting their respective downfalls within decades of one another. Now a new theory suggests that the decline of the Tang Dynasty in China and that of the Mayan civilization in Mexico may both have been due to the same worldwide drought.

Sediments collected from Lake Huguang Maar in southeastern China suggest that Asian summer monsoon rains were weaker during the eighth and ninth centuries AD, the time during which the Tang Dynasty faded from glory. And intriguingly, the same pattern is seen in sediments from Cariaco basin off the Venezuelan coast, suggesting that a similar drought might have been occurring in nearby Mexico...

The events may both be the result of a southward shift in rain patterns that deprived the entire northern tropics of summer rains, suggest researchers led by Gerald Haug of Germany's National Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam. The hardship caused by this drought could have been a key factor in the declines of the two cultures, they suggest.

I have been reading conjectures like this for as long as I can remember. With very few exceptions, the climatic explanation has proven to be a dead end. As a rule, within the era of civilizations, climate explains nothing.

Consider the vast disparity between the events that are "explained" by this particular determinist pastorale. The Mayan Classical civilization disappeared like Cinderella's coach, leaving only six white mice and a library of creeper-covered glyphs. In China, there was a change of regime, but Chinese civilization was not threatened. The weather while these things were going on became part of the material of history, in rather the way that theatrical directors take up current events and fashions when they stage a production of a classic. These features do not, however, determine the plot.

* * *

Regarding 2008: Mark Steyn bids fair to become the ideologist for a new kind of conservatism. However, we see that he has set his face against the candidacy of Senator John McCain:

MS: Well, I think he's very thin-skinned. I think that is what was clear to me in 2000. I actually regard him as a very unpleasant man, and I don't say that lightly. There's a lot of politicians who are sort of angry and slightly deranged. Al Gore, for example, when you see him campaign, certainly the last couple of years, seems to have pretty much flown the coop. And when I saw Al Gore at close quarters campaigning, one could recognize the sort of human side to him. McCain, I think, is a very different kettle of fish. I think he is someone who is very thin-skinned, very vain, and has a sort of cavalier attitude to big questions, particularly Constitutional questions. So I think he is someone who in fact, the more you know him, the less you warm to the idea of having him...I said rather, I said at one point, you know, he'd be our version of President Ahmadinejad, the crazy guy with his finger on the nuclear button. And I think there's actually quite a bit of truth in that.

The gravamen of Steyn's complaint is plainly false: we know what looney senators look like, and nothing in McCain's history fits that description. The bit about Ahmadinejad is particularly excessive: readers will be reminded of the "diagnosis" published in 1964 and signed by numerous psychiatrists which said that Republican candidate Barry Goldwater was insane. Steyn's chief problem with McCain seems to be that McCain is, more or less, an open-borders Republican. Actually, considering McCain's background in the restaurant business, his attitude toward cheap labor is not surprising. If he wants to be president, he will have to not just receive the memo on this issue, but also initial it.

At this writing, it does look as if immigration is going to be the issue on which both sides of the political establishment will founder. The new Democratic Congress is likely to abandon plans for the border wall, a dereliction in which they will be abetted by their Republican minority colleagues, even as the region on the other side of the border slides into infectious chaos. Meanwhile, some state governments seem intent on suppressing local enforcement of the existing immigration laws.

What are the elements of a workable immigration policy? One more time:

(1) Physical control of the borders;

(2) Legal immigration restricted to family reunification and political asylum;

(3) Amnesty with parallel tracks for repatriation or naturalization

None of this is hard, but does anyone consult me?

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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Linkfest 2018-06-25

Confessions of a former immigration hawk

Matthew Walter calls himself a former immigration hawk, but what he says here is fairly close to what John Reilly used to say about this.

Classless Utopia versus Class Compromise

This was quite good. Class is something that Americans are not good at thinking about, but it matters a lot nonetheless.

British special forces soldier killed six Taliban in pitch-black, Viet Cong-style tunnel fight

Lest you think action movies are completely counterfactual.

Could “mid-tech” jobs elevate more people and non-coastal places?

Mid-tech here seems to mean the act of actually implementing technology. Server farms, help desks, running cables.

US could sanction Chinese officials over Xinjiang abuses

China has a Muslim terrorist problem too, and their method of handling it is not remotely squeamish. When challenged, they could plausibly claim we used to do the same thing in the past.

Alphonse Mucha F. CHAMPENOIS, 1898

Alphonse Mucha F. CHAMPENOIS, 1898

Habsburg culture is back in vogue

From my point of view, the Habsburgs have never gone out of style.

New Study Concludes That Rewarding Good Teachers and Firing Bad Ones Accomplishes Nothing

This was a huge educational fad. Good on Bill Gates and his foundation for admitting it didn't work, even though he poured lots of money into it.

Seattle renters score big as landlords dangle freebies to fill empty apartments

It is possible to slow down the growth in rent. I wish we were better about doing this sort of thing before rents get really high though, it is hard to get enough political capital to build enough to make rents go down, absent urban decay.

Linkfest 2018-06-18

Perhaps Monday is the new Friday around here.


Conan the Barbarian: A Review, an Analysis, and a Little Bit of a Misunderstood and Improperly Played - While Talking About the Pulps

I found this reading the Conan roundup from Monday. I also rate the 1982 Milius Conan higher than Rick Stump. I love that movie, and I am astounded by how well it holds up. Nonetheless, this is a fantastic reflection on Robert E. Howard and his influence on the storytelling of the twentieth century.

THERANOS DIDN'T NUKE THE DIAGNOSTICS BUSINESS

There are reputable companies working in the same space as Theranos, but since there is either no hype or no scandal, we don't hear much about them.

There’s a Place for Us: Revoice and Gay Christian Futures

There’s a Place for Us Part II: More on Revoice & Gay Christian Homemaking

I really enjoyed Eve Tushnet's two-parter on being a gay Catholic, and I think she's completely right that an obsession on avoiding even the possibility of sexual feelings has cramped the friendships of too many people. As Eve rightly notes, this is not limited to those who identify as gay or lesbian, but affects all of us to some degree. This reminds of things the Art of Manliness has written about friendship, from a completely different direction. Anytime I find two people with completely different perspectives and agendas talking about the same thing, I take notice. 

The Murder That Changed Germany

I read John Schindler extensively for a while, then I started to be concerned that he had lost his mind. I'm glad to see he can still write a cogent column. The murders of so many young women in Germany by migrants of various sorts was the kind of thing predicted after Angela Merkel so unwisely threw open the borders. This prediction was then dismissed as racist trash, and inconveniently, happened anyway.

Violent crime rises in Germany and is attributed to refugees

This Reuters report states the facts succinctly.

Why Working on the Railroad Comes With a $25,000 Signing Bonus

Railroad work is irregular, hard, and dangerous. Consequently, it also pays well. Of course, this kind of thing can be highly cyclical, and under railroad union rules, the guys who get laid off will be the ones with the least seniority. Nonetheless, this is really good work.

The Lesser Cruelty on Immigration

Ross Douthat pens the kind of column on the fuckup at the southern US border that I wish I had written. I am resolutely against mindless cruelty, but there has to be some level of cruelty in a rich nation's border enforcement, or that nation will end.

McMoon: How the Earliest Images of the Moon Were so Much Better than we Realised

The more classified stuff comes out that we did during the Cold War, the more sympathetic I am to the idea that innovation in the US has slowed down.

018-021_CAPA_Arqueologia_267.jpg

Time has been kind to Francisco de Orellana.

The Long View 2006-09-05: Union Revolt; Bob Roberts; Mead

I had recently been thinking thoughts much like John Reilly's here: if labor unions in the US had real political power again, one of the first things they would do is demand decreased immigration, and effective enforcement of labor laws. Since at the moment neither major US party really supports unions, it would take a party realignment for anything to really happen.


Union Revolt; Bob Roberts; Mead

 

Most stories about the labor unions these days touch on the support of their activists for illegal immigrants. There had been so many such stories that one might be forgiven for supposing that unconditional amnesty for illegals was settled policy. Then, yesterday, which was Labor Day, stories like this one from Marketplace began to appear:

Many rank-and-file members of the AFL-CIO question why their union is pushing for legalization for undocumented day laborers. But proponents say the move is a sign of things to come. Rachel Dornhelm reports.

And here's an example from the local level:

Local 75 of the Plumbers and Gas Fitters will break from tradition and not march in Milwaukee's Labor Day parade today because the union considers the inclusion of immigrant advocates a distraction from Labor Day. ... "This is strictly a Labor Day celebration. Any other purpose of this parade would not do Labor Day any justice, in my opinion. It's designed to celebrate labor. Labor only," said Harry Kreuser, Local 75 business manager.

In fact, despite all the talk about the next great initiative for organized labor being the campaign to organize illegal service-industry workers, you can mine the AFL-CIO website in vain for evidence of special support for illegals (for whom the polite term is "undocumented workers"). The national leadership is cautious about what they will say to the public, apparently.

This refusal among the rank-and-file to go along with what, in effect, is an open-borders labor policy is the first real sign of life that the labor movement has displayed in a long time. The first sign of revival is often the awakening of the need for self-preservation. As regular visitors to my site will know, I actually do support something close to amnesty (including a godfathered guest-worker program) for illegals currently in the US, provided it goes into effect after the borders are secure and a new regime of low-immigration is in place. What the pro-immigration wing of the unions is trying to do is incoherent, however. They want to coerce the state into ignoring its immigration laws while simultaneously insisting that the state enforce more rigorously its workplace health-and-safety and overtime laws. A government that can't control its borders certainly won't be able to control what happens in the workplace.

At least the plumbers seem to grasp the point.

* * *

Bob Roberts is a film by Tim Robbins that was released in 1992. Ever eager to keep up with popular culture, I got around to seeing it last Saturday. It's about a right-wing country-music singer who runs for the US Senate, dogged all the while by a freelance reporter who has the goods on his CIA connections, particularly the program to support the Nicaraguan Contras by selling crack cocaine in black neighborhoods in the United States. That may sound a little complicated, but it was a feature of the left-wing conspiracy litany at the time the film appeared.

In this and other ways, the film has aged oddly. "Yuppie" is a term of reproach. Part of the soundtrack consists of news reports about the buildup in 1990 for the first Iraq War. One of those reports featured an assessment that the Baathist government could be a few months away from having an atomic bomb. That assessment turned out to be true, but you would not know that from the film. Bob Roberts seems to represent the Left just as it realized that it might really be in trouble. The title character's appearance on TV is sabotaged by one of the cast who says, "You can't let that yuppie go on the air and say whatever he likes!" The strangest element is the reporter with the subversive story too big for mainstream media to handle. There have been many such stories since the film appeared, but they have almost all cut the other way: the Right breaking through the mainstream media monopoly to report on the malefactions of the Left.

Fans of political invective will particularly enjoy the appearance of Gore Vidal as Senator Brickley Paiste, Bob Roberts' prim and liberal Democratic opponent. His appearances are all the more interesting because sometimes he is clearly out-of-character, just cranky old Gore Vidal complaining about the omnipotence of the National Security Council.

Bob Roberts takes place in the world of ANSWER and MoveOn.org. All their themes were in place long before anyone outside of Texas had heard of George W. Bush.

* * *

Walter Russell Mead is among the most illuminating denizens of the murky depths of the nation's foreign policy think tanks. His piece in the current issue of Foreign AffairsGod's Country is a useful corrective to current polemical literature about the alleged rise of American theocracy. In particular, he explains how the different strands of Protestantism actually function in American politics to affect US foreign policy:

The three contemporary streams of American Protestantism (fundamentalist, liberal, and evangelical) lead to very different ideas about what the country's role in the world should be. In this context, the most important differences have to do with the degree to which each promotes optimism about the possibilities for a stable, peaceful, and enlightened international order and the importance each places on the difference between believers and nonbelievers. In a nutshell, fundamentalists are deeply pessimistic about the prospects for world order and see an unbridgeable divide between believers and nonbelievers. Liberals are optimistic about the prospects for world order and see little difference between Christians and nonbelievers. And evangelicals stand somewhere in between these extremes.

Evangelicals are more optimistic than fundamentalists about the prospects for moral progress. The postmillennial minority among them (which holds that Christ will return after a thousand years of world peace, not before) believes that this process can continue until human society reaches a state of holiness:...Although the premillennial majority is less optimistic about the ultimate success of such efforts, American evangelicals are often optimistic about the short-term prospects for human betterment....

One might take issue with many of his points. For instance, Southern Baptists are not as ready to be wholly identified with evangelicalism as Mead seems to think. And Mead revives this old suggestion:

[E]vangelicals managed more than a century of close and generally cooperative relations with Muslims throughout the Arab world. Muslims and evangelicals are both concerned about global poverty and Africa. Both groups oppose the domination of public and international discourse by secular ideas. ... fostering Muslim-evangelical dialogue may be one of the best ways to forestall the threat of civilizational warfare.

That sounds as if it should be true; Peter Kreeft gave the idea systematic form in Ecumenical Jihad. The problem is that it just doesn't work. Sorry.

Despite these quibbles, Mead is almost certainly right about this:

As more evangelical leaders acquire firsthand experience in foreign policy, they are likely to provide something now sadly lacking in the world of U.S. foreign policy: a trusted group of experts, well versed in the nuances and dilemmas of the international situation, who are able to persuade large numbers of Americans to support the complex and counterintuitive policies that are sometimes necessary in this wicked and frustrating -- or, dare one say it, fallen -- world.

Conversely, to the extent that the anti-theocracy lobby succeeds in driving the evangelicals out of the public square, to that degree any American foreign policy will lack public support.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

Why post old articles?

Who was John J. Reilly?

All of John's posts here

An archive of John's site

The Long View 2006-07-05: Format; The Fall of New Jersey; Anti-Southern Strategy; Democrat Immigration Liability

I've lost a few of John's blog posts from the middle of June through July 2006. It looks like he was trying a hosted blog service that he didn't like, and I can't access saved copies of the main blog URL from archive.org since someone is squatting on his old domain right now. Alas.

This was a period when John was experimenting with public comment boards of various types. I have copies of the phpBB, but at this time in 2006 he was using something on Geocities that is probably lost forever. Alack.

2008 United States Presidential Election

2008 United States Presidential Election

On another note, it looks like Thomas F. Schaller's argument in Whistling Past Dixie : How Democrats Can Win Without the South was spot on for 2008, except for the bit about Mountain State hunters. Those guys are way too red tribe for that strategy to have worked. But I can see the argument, a lot of guys on the Right who are really into guns are often pretty libertarianish, and not really social conservatives, at least in my experience. However, identity politics has very much prevented any such wedge issue from working.


Format; The Fall of New Jersey; Anti-Southern Strategy; Democrat Immigration Liability

One more time: Having lost patience with the Yahoo-Geocities-Verizon-Smersh blog software, I am returning to my old format, at least for the time being. However, there is now a Comment board to which readers can post replies and carry on discussions with each other. (Note the links on the right above). Actually, all the Reply links on my site now give readers the opportunity to post there. Unless the number of comments becomes very large, that is probably better than a php board with lots of different categories.

Yes, this is much better.

* * *

Alas for my beloved New Jersey, where the state government has closed down because of the failure of Governor Corzine and the legislature to agree on a budget. (I am not particularly fond of tax increases either, but the governor is probably right in insisting on balancing the budget with a sales-tax increase rather than IOUs and accounting gimmicks, which has been the custom in recent years.) Much sympathy has been expressed for our valiant gaming industry, whose dealers and patrons were forced from their friendly windowless gaming rooms and into the unfamiliar sunlight at 8:00 AM for lack of state inspectors to oversee the casinos. However, all areas of life have been affected. The border fortifications that defend civilization from Pennsylvania are now derelict, and the savages of Bucks County are making devastating incursions into central New Jersey, and even the north. Here is a scene from Paramus Mall this morning:

sor.gif

Already the spreading chaos has provoked the people to raise questions of theodicy. Is the existence of a good God, they ask, really consistent with the total collapse of the EZ-Pass system on the New Jersey Turnpike?

* * *

The Democratic Party has two options for 2008 and beyond. One is to relax its position on culture wars questions, the better to attract cultural conservatives, particularly from the South. As I have elsewhere noted, this was essentially the New Deal formula: culturally Right, economically Left, and it was very successful for a very long time. Plan B, however, would make the bet that secularization and bohemianization are irreversible historical trends. That is essentially what Thomas F. Schaller does in his forthcoming book, Whistling Past Dixie : How Democrats Can Win Without the South.

I just submitted a review for that book to Kirkus (publication is in October), so of course I cannot post the review here. However, I can do another summary. Essentially, the author attempts to make an argument converse to the one that Kevin Phillips made in The Emerging Republican Majority (1969). That groundbreaking study proposed, correctly as it turned out, that the Republicans would become the dominant party of they could get and keep control of the South. Rather than try to retake the South, Schaller says that region is too eccentric to try to placate (which is also the import of Phillips' latest, American Theocracy). Instead, Schaller lays out a quite detailed plan to retake the presidency and Congress by cultivating the Midwest, and to a lesser extent the mountain states. He uses lots of tasty state and local statistics and profiles of local politicians. If the publisher has the wit to give the book a thorough index, this book could become a handbook for both sides in 2008.

As Schaller points out, his proposal would mirror, geographically, the electoral configuration that prevailed from the Civil War until the Great Depression. In those days, it was the Democrats who controlled the South and the Republicans who controlled the Midwest, and the Republicans usually won the presidency and Congress. He does recognize that there are differences, however. In the intervening decades, the Midwest has either stagnated or even declined demographically. He hopes to make up the deficit with, in effect, a coalition of childless professionals, replacement immigrant population, and a scattering of Western hunters to whom the canny Democrats should offer secure Second Amendment rights. The enemy demographic is native-born two-parent heterosexual Christian families with kids.

I can see how Plan B might work for an election or two, especially if the Republicans continue to run inarticulate candidates, but isn't it a bit morbid?

* * *

The president got the memo about immigration, if we believe this report from The New York Times:

Republicans both inside and outside the White House say Mr. Bush, who has long insisted on comprehensive reform, is now open to a so-called enforcement-first approach that would put new border security programs in place before creating a guest worker program or path to citizenship for people living in the United States illegally.

Congress is holding summer hearings too, contrary to its custom:

The meetings will undoubtedly expose the deep Republican rift just as the elections draw near, and some say they are simply a way to stave off legislation until after November. Democrats, eager to pick up Congressional seats, intend to use the hearings to drive home the idea that Republicans have failed to address illegal immigration, a tactic that could further complicate prospects for a bill before Election Day.

One thing the meetings will undoubtedly not expose is the Times's misapprehension that Democrats have a comparative advantage on this issue. The Republican Party contains nativists and open-borders types, though the latter increasingly dare not draw attention to their real beliefs. The Democrats, in contrast, are pretty much riding down a fixed track defined by amnesty and continued heavy immigration. They have no room for maneuver, and they are headed for a cliff.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

Why post old articles?

Who was John J. Reilly?

All of John's posts here

An archive of John's site

The Long View 2006-05-31: The Life of Saint George and the Coming of the Third Party

Third parties have a habit of not actually doing much in American politics. The Unity party ticket mentioned here is a prime example.


The Life of Saint George and the Coming of the Third Party

 

The Bush Administration would be in worse shape were it not for the fact that Congress is in worse shape still: a body that has just alienated public opinion on the immigration issue really should not be claiming newly discovered forms of parliamentary privilege, as it seems to be doing in connection with the FBI search of a congressman's office for (more) evidence of bribery.

That said, though, just what is wrong with the Bush White House? The invaluable Regnum Crucis hits the nail on the head:

[O]ne area that I have been constantly harping on is how tone-deaf the administration has been politically when it comes to defending what is almost certainly going to be the defining event of the Bush presidency [the Iraq War]. Whether it is admitting mistakes (and more importantly correcting them), challenging the critics, or even assisting its supporters in defending the rationales for war (the fact that Arthur Chrenkoff and Steve Hayes respectively have done more for the administration's case in this regard than the entire White House PR staff in of itself speaks as to what utter fools these people have been), the approach of the White House, its Congressional supporters, and the GOP in general have been utterly underwhelming. The fact that the administration didn't even start to notice this until after the Cindy Sheehan/Katrina debacle speaks wonders to just how out of touch many of the people assigned to deal with these issues are, as does the fact that the campaign of speeches to support the war in Iraq has since ended. In 24-hour media environment, especially with a press corps as unsympathetic as this one (and blaming the media is a red herring here - if the administration isn't making an effort to defend itself and its positions, why the hell should they?), you have to be in campaign mode all the time. The Clinton people, love 'em or hate 'em, understood this, but the Bush people clearly don't and it has cost them dearly.

And where does all this lead, you may ask? A mythology-minded correspondent offers this oracle:

>As for the Stooge in Chief, well, I keep remembering what I learned in the
>"Golden Bough", once the chief is seen as week and ineffective, he gets
>torn to pieces and used to fertilize the field.

To that I would say that the destiny of the Bush Administration is a question of form-criticism. The current president's father really did have the Tyrant Holdfast problem. The administration of George Herbert Walker Bush (1989-1993) was seen as the extension of the administration of Ronald Reagan, who, as we know, was a thousand years old and had reigned for a century, after having defeated the greatest dragon the world had ever seen. In other words, poor GHWB was forced to play the role of the hero who has lived past his freshness date: he became the dragon, if you can imagine a dragon who never failed to write polite thank-you notes.

That is not the current president's kind of story. He is not the redeeming hero whose stages of life represent an archetypal lifetime. Quite the opposite: aside from some inevitable graying about the temples, the most notable thing about GWB is that he does not seem to age. The interest his story affords comes not from the development of the man's character, but from the failure of the events through which he passes to change him.

The life of President Bush is a hagiography. There are several kinds of lives of saints: the hagiography of George Bush is of the sort that emphasizes how the saint, after his conversion, resists temptation and works miracles without putting a hair out of place or raising his voice. His power is not growth, but impassibility.

Of course, even the most equanimous saint may suffer martyrdom before he is canonized. I rather doubt that will happen. Bush will stay in office, and even succeed against all expectation. It's the institutions around him that will suffer damage

* * *

This brings us to the vigil of the dawn of the Third Party. Readers will have noticed that, in America, "Third Party" has something of the ring of "Third Age." Be that as it may, a column by Jonathan Alter draws our attention to an effort to immanentize the eschaton: "A New Open-Source Politics: Just as Linux lets users design their own operating systems, so 'netroots' politicos may redesign our nominating system." The project in question is called Unity 08, and it explains itself thus.

We are not looking to build a new and permanent party. That might happen, but our objective is to fix the old parties. A Unity Ticket in office for one term or even taking part in just one election can bring new ideas, new integrity and new leaders to the fore...

In our opinion, Crucial Issues include: Global terrorism, our national debt, our dependence on foreign oil, the emergence of India and China as strategic competitors and/or allies, nuclear proliferation, global climate change, the corruption of Washington's lobbying system, the education of our young, the health care of all, and the disappearance of the American Dream for so many of our people.

By contrast, we consider gun control, abortion and gay marriage important issues, worthy of debate and discussion in a free society, but not issues that should dominate or even crowd our national agenda.

This is a non-starter, of course. The argument for Third Party is that the political class, particularly in Congress, no longer has a clue about what matters most to the electorate. This manifesto begins by, effectively, conceding the culture wars issues to the Left, which is what happens when these matters are relegated to the courts, which is what caused all the fuss in the first place. Immigration, of course, does not even make it to the list of secondary issues. The agenda of Unity 08 is not a remedy for the alienation of the political class, but a manifestation of it.

Alter's account of the origins and organizers of the Unity 08 is quite dismaying:

This Internet-based third party is spearheaded by three veterans of the antique 1976 campaign: Democrats Hamilton Jordan and Gerald Rafshoon helped get Jimmy Carter elected; Republican Doug Bailey did media for Gerald Ford before launching the political TIP SHEET Hotline. They are joined by the independent former governor of Maine, Angus King,...

Antiques indeed, and of flea-market quality. Of course, Alter is not blind to these shortcomings:

There are plenty of ways for this process to prove meaningless, starting with the major parties deciding to nominate independent-minded candidates like John McCain (OK, the old McCain) or Mark Warner. Third-party efforts have usually been candidate-driven, and the centrist names tossed around by way of example (Chuck Hagel, Sam Nunn, Tom Kean) don't have much marquee value in the blogosphere.

Surely we can do better than this?

* * *

103,000,000 immigrants in 20 years was the forecast of the Heritage Foundation made about the Senate version of the new immigration legislation. I noted the matter on May 16 without, perhaps, giving the numbers a good look. Here, in the interests of fairness, is what the Cato Institute has to say in response:

Few [analyses] are wilder than a prediction from a well-known think-tank that the reform bill just passed by the Senate will result in 103 million legal immigrants to the United States during the next 20 years.

In a "Web Memo" from the Heritage Foundation, author Robert Rector claims that the Hagel-Martinez immigration bill (S. 2611) would unleash a flood of chain migration that would overwhelm America's capacity to absorb so many people....

A far more credible and objective study just released by the Congressional Budget Office estimates that S. 2611 would increase the U.S. population by only 8 million in the first 10 years. Although more chain migration would be expected in the second decade after the original temporary workers achieve citizenship, the rate of 800,000 immigrants per year is far more in line with recent history and the expected need of the U.S. economy for new workers.

An analysis by President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers exposed a number of flaws in the Heritage study. The CEA found that the study double counts millions of new immigrants, first as guest workers, then again as new green-card holders. It substantially overestimates the number of illegal immigrants who would remain in the United States permanently as well as the number of parents of newly naturalized citizens who would immigrate, and it ignores millions of immigrants would later choose to leave.

I have not gone over these numbers in detail, either, but I might point out that a more interesting figure than the cumulative increase in the population would be the change in the population's composition. If all the growth and much of the replacement is coming from immigrants, then the objection to cultural dilution still stands.

Of course, I'm not inclined to accept Cato's numbers in this context in any case. For a libertarian think tank like Cato to understate the effect of immigration is another case of the National Ice Cream Council publishing a study that proves ice cream is America's favorite dessert.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2006-05-24: The Next America

Lawful immigrants over the past 200 years

Lawful immigrants over the past 200 years

Pew Hispanic Share of US Population that is Foreign Born

Pew Hispanic Share of US Population that is Foreign Born

Here are a couple of graphs to help illustrate John Reilly's points here. If we would really like to emulate the success of the last large wave of immigration to the United States, from roughly 1840 to 1930, it would be prudent of us to stop, and give everyone time to get used to each other. It took a lot of work last time, and it will this time too.


The Next America

 

A book published eleven years ago by Michael Lind speaks to our condition today: The Next American Nation: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Republic . Indeed, let me suggest that before going any further in this blog entry that you read my review of the book, here. There is a link at the end of the review to bring you back.

All done?

You will note that the review is not uncritical. I don't think there is going to be another American Revolution, unless you count Reconstruction and the New Deal as revolutions. Also, I would suggest that the years since I wrote that review have proven that Lind's dismissal of the religious element in American culture is an unfruitful hypothesis, particularly for someone who hopes to reform the political system to make it more congruent with the national character. Moreover, I think that his notion of an "Overclass" is just one step above David Icke's lizard people. Still, the immigration issue has so changed things that time runs short in which to decide what in this sort of analysis is really prescient. For those slackers who did not read the review, consider this paragraph:

Lind is particularly exercised about the Overclass's nearly unanimous support of free trade. He notes that family income has been stagnant at best for the last twenty years, and that wages per worker have actually declined. Part of this he blames on the decline of unionization among the workforce, which he attributes almost entirely to government hostility. The rest he blames on foreign competition. The Overclass, in Lind's view, has deliberately and successfully driven down the wages of the average American since the late 1970s. This was achieved not only by permitting the import of foreign goods, but by actually importing foreign workers. The author spends a great deal of space trying to show that America historically has experienced heavy immigration only in spurts, all of which produced bad feeling, and which hindered the process of assimilating people already here. Multicultural America is gradually being transformed into a province of the Third World. The Overclass itself, however, dreams of becoming a post-American global elite.

Again, time has tested Lind's ideas, and in the matter of free trade I think they have been found wanting. At any rate, neither NAFTA nor the WTC have caused the disasters that were forecast: quite the opposite. Neither is it true that the globalists are responsible for keeping the borders open. From what I can tell, the political force behind that is generally conservative, even isolationist, middle-range businessmen and farmers who don't see why relegating the manual trades to a special caste of aliens should be a problem. In other words, a large part of the political dynamic is the local notables who, collectively, are far more influential than big business. Lind is worth reconsidering, however, because he foresaw that immigration would be important not just as a depressor of wages, but also because it threatens cultural dilution on an unprecedented scale.

Thus, I think that Mary Ann Glendon's piece, Principled Migration, which appears in the June/July issue of First Things, badly misapprehends the situation. She notes:

Good-faith anxieties about large-scale immigration are sometimes expressed in terms of social costs, such as a feared deleterious effect on the nation's cultural cohesion or the stability of local communities. One would like to take comfort from the fact that similar concerns were expressed at the time of the great migrations of a century ago. Though marked by conflict and competition, the story of those earlier immigrants is, to a great extent, a story of integration.

She then goes on to note some ways in which integration has become more difficult. The Democratic political machines, for instance,

that once brought new citizens into the political process at the local level have vanished. In their place...[the] newcomer from Mexico, Brazil, or El Salvador becomes a generic "Latino" in preparation for initiation into the game of divisive racial minority politics.

Particularly worrisome to her as a lawyer is that whereas "there is no place on Earth where legal values play a more prominent role in the nation's conception of itself than the United States," the 11 million or 12 million illegals "come from societies where formal law is associated with colonialism: and who, as a consequence, "may well find the United States' emphasis on legality rather strange." The earlier immigration did not threaten the rule of law; that immigration was legal.

All good points, but they are not the half of it. Glendon wholly neglects the fact that the earlier immigration succeeded because it ended. In contrast, she does not contemplate an end to the current immigration, or even a diminution. She asserts, without argument, that the United States requires "replacement immigration" to make up for the children who were not born because of 40 years of anti-natalist public policy. She deplores that policy, but does not address the possibility that high immigration is the one measure sure to keep it in place.

Worst of all is that she looks to the Catholic hierarchy for guidance, particularly the 2003 Joint Pastoral Letter issued by the Mexican and U.S. bishops, Strangers no Longer: Together on a Journey of Hope. (Why is it that the church social-documents most likely to cause misery and violence always have the most inanely irenic titles?). There we read this remarkable principle:

III. Sovereign nations have the right to control their borders. 36. The Church recognizes the right of sovereign nations to control their territories but rejects such control when it is exerted merely for the purpose of acquiring additional wealth. More powerful economic nations, which have the ability to protect and feed their residents, have a stronger obligation to accommodate migration flows.

One might compare this with the Catechism of the Catholic Church (section 2241):

The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

Note that it's hard to see how someone with a right to residence can be considered a guest. In any case, the principle is a puzzler. Kant discerned a universal right to travel, but not to settlement. Where else the bishops might have gotten these notions is a mystery; certainly there is no serious scriptural support for the proposition, as William F. Vallicella points out at Right Reason.

For anyone so inclined, the Catechism's proviso, "to the extent that they are able," would allow ample room for limiting immigration in order to forestall the development of irredentist movements and to prevent the depression of wage levels, both of which apply in the current immigration controversy. Frankly, though, I am not much inclined to accommodate this text. The Catechism is a sound document for the most part, but it does contain multicultural flourishes that have aged very badly very fast. It is the vulnerability of advanced countries that has proven to be the more serious issue. (The Latin text was copyrighted in 1994. The previous Catechism dates from the 16th century. The update was precipitous, it seems.)

As for the Pastoral Letter: well, bishops' conferences say the damnedest things.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2006-05-22: Immigration & the West; Various Elections; Unauthorized Photo

Democratic Gains in the 2006 Midterm Elections

Democratic Gains in the 2006 Midterm Elections

I see two good predictions John Reilly made here.

  1. The Democratic Party was going to gain in the 2006 Midterm Elections in the United States
  2. The Open Borders Movement was going to become increasingly bold

Immigration & the West; Various Elections; Unauthorized Photo

 

Of course the Republicans are toast this November; I have nothing to add to this bucket of bile from Sidney Blumenthal:

President Bush's nationally televised address on immigration Monday night [May 15] was intended as a grand gesture to revive his collapsing presidency, but instead he has plunged the Republican Party into a political centrifuge that is breaking it down into its raw elements, which are colliding into each other, triggering explosions of unexpected and ever greater magnitude.

The nativist Republican base is at the throat of the business community. The Republican House of Representatives, in the grip of the far right, is at war with the Republican Senate. The evangelical religious right is paralyzed while the Roman Catholic Church has emerged as a mobilizing force behind the mass demonstrations of millions of Hispanic immigrants. Every effort Bush makes to hold a nonexistent Republican center is generating an opposing effect within his party.

The important point is that the Democratic Party will be subject to the same stresses, as we see in this New York Times account of the debate in the Senate over the immigration bill (hat-tip to Mickey Kaus):

Though the immigration issue was initially thought to favor Democrats since it could hurt Republican efforts to court Hispanics, some Democrats facing tough re-election fights in the fall are finding it cuts both ways. Almost as the votes were being counted on the Senate floor, Democrats like Senators Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Robert Menendez of New Jersey were coming under fire.

"Stabenow Supports Social Security Benefits for Illegal Workers," said the headline over a press release issued by a challenger, Michael Bouchard, after Ms. Stabenow voted against a Republican plan to deny immigrants credit for payroll taxes paid while working illegally.

Tom Kean, a challenger to Mr. Menendez, issued a statement noting the senator opposed designating English the national language. "While I respect the diverse heritage of our nation, English is the bond that binds us together," said Mr. Kean in a statement.

By the way, the Senate rejected the only amendment that would have made the bill acceptable:

[Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota] and other Democrats also joined conservative Republicans in a failed bid to require the Department of Homeland Security to certify that the border was secured before any new programs for immigrants could start.

In any case, the worst thing that could happen to the Democratic Party would be to gain control of Congress and start pandering to what they imagine to be the Hispanic vote. The irredentist wing of the open-borders movement will only become bolder with the passage of time: woe to the party that tries to meet it halfway. If the Democratic party leadership tries, it is not inconceivable that there would be no Democratic Party by 2008. Democrats don't want to see the United States abolished or balkanized anymore than Republicans do.

Everyone I talk to about this says they would like to vote for a third party. The problem is all the third parties on offer are looney bins. Grassroots organization is not enough: we need some of the leadership of both existing parties to secede and join together in third-party caucuses in Congress and some of the legislatures before the new party starts soliciting votes.

This is a pipe-dream, perhaps, but stranger things have happened, just lately.

* * *

This issue is pan-Western. Readers may want to take a look at the Other Spengler's review of Londonistan and perhaps compare it with Victor Davis Hanson's Mexifornia (something I have not done yet, but I may).

Again, I would not trade America's immigration problem for Europe's. America would have no trouble at all assimilating the existing illegal population, or accommodating an expanded guest-worker program, though I think the latter is a bad idea; the problem is control of the border. There are some important parallels on the two sides of the Atlantic, notably the wilful neglect of what would have been an easily manageable problem by a political class that has been debilitated by multiculturalism. (The US neglect was perhaps more rational: the borders have been kept open in large part by libertarians who imagine that they can import an arbitrarily large amount of cheap labor without importing a proportionate political risk.) Something I am trying to get a handle on are the parallels, if any between the use of immigrant population by foreign powers.

The Islamist connection is clear enough. In Europe, Islamism has gone beyond providing a medium in which terrorist networks can flourish to becoming an important factor in retail politics. In Mexico, of course, there has long been some sentiment for the Reconquista, but the Mexican Voelkerwanderung does not seem to be a result of political will. The analogy to that would be a links between the irrdentists and Chavez in Venezuela, which of course would also be an oblique link to Iran.

More pipe-dreams, perhaps, but is anyone working on this?

* * *

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration's strategy in Iraq seems to have succeeded, or so one must characterize the formation of a regular government. Was it paranoid of me to suspect that much of the media did its best to bury this development under atrocity stories? (The atrocities may have happened, but why publicize them just now?) In any case, the issues now become the degree and speed of the Coalition withdrawal.

* * *

Perhaps New Orleans really will be abandoned. Any political culture that could re-elect Mayor Ray Nagin is probably too defective to be viable:

[D]uring the run-off campaign, Nagin courted conservative white voters by emphasizing his business background in contrast to Landrieu, a longtime politician and a member of Louisiana's equivalent to the Kennedy family...The mayoral election Saturday that returned Ray Nagin to office was split largely along racial lines, but both candidates got one-fifth crossover votes...

In such a case, the problem may not be the lethal incompetence of the incumbent, but the failure of the system to put forward a palatable alternative.

Thinking of investing in New Orleans, by the way?

Nagin dismissed threats by some business people who said they would leave if he remained in office..."Business people are predators, and if the economic opportunities are here, they're going to stay. If not, they're going to leave," said Nagin. "I don't worry about that stuff. I think there's enough interest around the country that we're going to attract top businesses. ... God bless them. I hope they stay, but if they don't, I'll send them a postcard."

E-mail might be better: the Post Office requires more public order to function than New Orleans is likely to afford.

* * *

Europe burned to create the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1918, which later became a Republic, variously Socialist or Federal, depending on the current constitution. With the divorce of Montenegro and Serbia, however, now it's all gone. Actually, it was only while reading about the referendum that I realized that the Yugoslav federal government had dissolved in 2003; only a close alliance had held the last two remaining republics together.

* * *

Alvar Hanso supports spelling reform, as we see in this image from his address to a recent international spelling reform conference:

The Hanso Foundation has yet to add its Orthographic Initiative to its list of Active Projects, but no doubt that will happen in due course.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2006-05-19: The Potemkin Cathedral; Immigration & Economic Growth; The Real Da Vinci Hoax

What a world with Open Borders looks like. Oh wait, this is the part without them.

What a world with Open Borders looks like. Oh wait, this is the part without them.

In 2006, John correctly noted that Open Borders was starting to become a defining feature of the ideology of the governing classes throughout the West. He also correctly noted that few people in the electorates at the time noticed just how extreme many politicians and career bureaucrats had become on this subject

Twelve years later, this has all come out in the open. The consequence of this has not been moderation or compromise, but rather the elites have doubled down on the idea that immigration can't possibly be a bad thing, and in reaction, anti-immigration parties are on the rise in Europe and elsewhere. 

John summed up his position thus:

The short answer to the open-borders argument is this: it would be better if the economy shrank than that America should be abolished. The open-borders thesis is false, of course: there was healthy economic growth in the 1920s, and in the 1950s and 1960s, when immigration was negligible. During those periods, the large immigrant influx of the late 19th and early 20th centuries settled in very comfortably. I know this because I'm related to them.
That was a happy outcome, and we should do it again. The alternative is that the United States more and more resemble the Persian Gulf states, where most manual labor is done by a permanently inassimilable caste of aliens. Does anyone really want to live in a country like that?

Neill Blomkamp's Elysium came out after John Reilly had died, but I thought it a rather biting satire on the kind of world open borders would be likely to produce, wrapped in a sci-fi story that was purportedly about universal healthcare. Who find this likely, and who not, is likely to define sides in the years to come.


The Potemkin Cathedral; Immigration & Economic Growth; The Real Da Vinci Hoax

 

The Left has concluded that the key to the American electorate, or at least to enough of it to win a presidential election, is the "values voter," the sort of person whose voting decisions are influenced by religious and moral issues, and who today is almost certainly a conservative Republican. This was not always the case, however: in the afterglow of the New Deal, the Democrats were the Church & Family Party. With the presidential election of 2008 coming up, elements of the Left are trying to regain at least part of this appeal for the Democrats, as we saw this week:

A conference geared to help Democrats infuse God into their politics begins tomorrow at All Souls Unitarian Church in the District [of Columbia] with the unveiling of a "spiritual covenant with America."... The "Spiritual Activism Conference" aims to equip liberals to operate in a political arena where religion has played a more prominent role since 2000, says Rabbi Michael Lerner, founder of the Jewish magazine Tikkun and a chief conference organizer. ...an alternative to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's successful 1994 "Contract With America"...a new term, "spiritual progressives" for the religious left. ...Part of the conference's intent is to form "spiritual caucuses" inside all political parties by the 2008 elections. These caucuses would work to bring elements of the "covenant" onto party platforms.

Lerner has a new book out, The Left Hand of God, which explains this initiative, but we should remember that he has been promoting these views for a long time, as readers can see from my review of The Politics of Meaning, which Lerner published ten years ago.

A more recent entry to this field is David Callahan of The Demos Institute, who also has a new book coming out, The Moral Center.

Spiritual progressivism is a singularly futile enterprise. There is no market for it as a spirituality, and as politics even naive people quickly see that it's just Saul Alinsky for seminarians. (How do you recognize this type of activist? They talk very fast, and they always characterize their opponents as criminals.) Some of its proponents have managed to insert themselves into the rolodexes of journalists, so we will be hearing more from them next year and especially in 2008. Nonetheless, they are the incumbents of a Potemkin Cathedral.

* * *

Delusion rather than fraud inform the views of David Brooks on the matter of immigration, as we see in his editorial in yesterday's New York Times:

You are convinced of certain fundamental things. The current immigration system is completely unsuited to a global market economy. We need to move out of the era of failed prohibition into the era of flexible control.

To use the term coined by Brooks's colleague, Thomas Friedman, this is globaloney. The same issues attend immigration today as attended it in 1900: public order, national identity, and economic growth. (The years around 1900 were arguably part of an earlier episode of globalization, but that episode ended with the First World War: the lesson is that globalization is intermittent.). The situation has changed since then only in that technology has in principle made the border more controllable.

The short answer to the open-borders argument is this: it would be better if the economy shrank than that America should be abolished. The open-borders thesis is false, of course: there was healthy economic growth in the 1920s, and in the 1950s and 1960s, when immigration was negligible. During those periods, the large immigrant influx of the late 19th and early 20th centuries settled in very comfortably. I know this because I'm related to them.

That was a happy outcome, and we should do it again. The alternative is that the United States more and more resemble the Persian Gulf states, where most manual labor is done by a permanently inassimilable caste of aliens. Does anyone really want to live in a country like that?

Here is the sort of intemperate statement that cyberspace facilitates: Every candidate for federal office should be asked if it is possible to gain physical control of the southern border. Any candidate who says "no" should not be elected. In fact, any current officeholder who says "no" to that question should resign and be replaced by someone who believes the United States is defensible.

You see that I am using more italics? That is a sure sign of growing fanaticism.

* * *

Perhaps no film will ever meet the standard set by Plan 9 from Outer Space, but The Da Vinci Code seems to be generating an inordinate number of reviews like this:

You know a movie's a dud when even its self-flagellating albino killer monk isn't any fun.

I'm sure I'll see the movie eventually. Both those who have and those who haven't seen it, but are interested in the subjects with which the film deals, might want to consider settling down for an hour and 40 minutes to see The Real Da Vinci Code, an excellent documentary hosted by Tony Robinson that aired on Wildfire Television last year. He makes the very interesting point that the mythology of the Priory of Sion on which The Code is premised was a self-conscious exercise in Surrealist performance art.

My only quibble is that Robinson's skepticism is suspended for the few minutes in which Elaine Pagels speaks. Her theories about suppressed feminist Gnosticism are not a hint that there might be something to the thesis of The Code after all; her theories were one of the key ingredients in Dan Brown's literary confection on which the film is based. The Gnostics were self-conscious surrealists too, I think. Pagels has never grasped that she is attributing fundamental significance to texts that were not supposed to be taken with a straight face.

There is another possibility, as a correspondent suggests:

Maybe it is an Opus Dei plot: infiltrate, pay the writers for a lousy script, steer the filming to France where they would love to embarrass an American production.......

If that is the case, then maybe the Opus Dei also saw to it that vast, unnecessary sums were amassed to make this film from investors who were sold more than 100% of the potential profit. The producers would keep the investment capital if the film failed; they would be ruined if it succeeded.

Now that would have been a good idea for a movie.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2006-05-16: President Bush, Immigration, and Puppy Killing

Gallup's Results

Gallup's Results

Pew Hispanic's Results

Pew Hispanic's Results

It shouldn't be any surprise that how you ask a question has a big influence on polling results. When it comes to polls asking about Americans political support for immigration, one of the biggest factors is what the respondent thinks the number of immigrants is per year.

And since most people aren't good with numbers, usually that number is wayyyy off. Let's look at the details of the Pew Hispanic report for evidence. I really like Pew Hispanic's work, so I think this is a reasonable source.

Most people are actually pretty good on how big the foreign-born population is. The average impression is slightly higher than reality.

PewHST4.PNG

Most people are also pretty good on the number of immigrants who neglected to follow the law in coming the United States. The plurality is again correct, with the average being a bit high. I didn't actually know that 1-in-4 immigrants were living here illegally. Admittedly, the number is somewhat contested.

PewHST5.PNG

For the Gallup data, it looks like they ask different questions each month throughout the year, so they don't prime respondents with numbers first. This looks consistent with the idea that American's views on immigration are conditional on what they think the number of people involved is.


President Bush, Immigration, and Puppy Killing

 

President Bush may have lost his party the upcoming congressional election last night with his speech on immigration reform. Perhaps this is my fault: I should not have implied last week that he should attempt some FDR-like addresses. Nonetheless, it seems to me that he has not only done himself irreparable political damage, but that he may have begun the breakup of the two existing parties. This is all the more remarkable for an address to which initial reaction was mild and mixed. But consider:

There were five points to the president's program, which I need not recite again here. The only one that interests him is the "guest worker" program, which is intended to keep the supply of cheap manual labor flowing. The point that will count, though, is the one that is supposed to be a placebo. The president's proposed temporary deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops to the southern border is nothing to the purpose; the number would be derisory even if they were doing actual patrolling, which they won't. Similarly ineffectual will be the increase in the civilian Border Patrol by that amount over the next two years. The increase may be fantasy in any case; proposed augmentations of the border patrol have a history of not happening..

The important thing is that the president's program is going to fail to control illegal immigration. The failure will be visible in a very brief period of time. It is one thing for a government to neglect to control its borders. It is another to try and fail.

The Republican Party will experience the effects of this failure first, because many party activists follow the matter closely: they know when they are being trifled with. However, the bipartisan consensus of the Congressional leadership concerning immigration is so repulsive that the Congressional delegations survive only because this consensus is not widely known. Look at this analysis of the current plan for legal immigration:

The Senate immigration reform bill would allow for up to 193 million new legal immigrants -- a number greater than 60 percent of the current U.S. population -- in the next 20 years, according to a study released yesterday..."The magnitude of changes that are entailed in this bill -- and are largely unknown -- rival the impact of the creation of Social Security or the creation of the Medicare program," said Robert Rector, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation who conducted the study...Mr. Rector estimated that it is more likely that about 103 million new immigrants actually would arrive in the next 20 years.

This policy is repulsive in the literal sense that it will drive away almost any block of voters. A bill with a title like the Puppy-Killing Enforcement Act would not be much more unpopular. By and by, people will point this out. The coalitions that formed around the high-immigration consensus will dissolve. Nothing short of the overturn of Roe v. Wade would have such potential for taking the components of the parties apart and putting them back together in novel configurations.

And if a new coalition had to repudiate puppy-killing, what should they put in its place?

(1) The recent era of high immigration has ended.

(2) The status of current illegals will be regularized when the borders are secure.

It really is that simple.

* * *

Fans of Doctor Who should not miss the free content on the BBC's official Doctor Who website. It has long seemed to me that the series would lend itself to animation, since that would relieve living actors of the distress of keeping a straight face. But look: feature-length animated adventures of Doctor who are now being webcast.

* * *

What is the synthesis of security and Doctor Who? It's the new service available on Shoreditch TV:

Reality television may have just become that much more real. A neighborhood program in East London allows residents to look through surveillance cameras from the comfort of their own sofas. Civil rights activists aren't impressed...The program, launched last Monday, provides viewers with live streaming video from a dozen cameras in the neighborhood for a rate of £3.50 (€5.10) per week.

I don't quite understand the institutional context here. Shoreditch TV is not a cable company, but a service of something called the Shoreditch Trust. Directors of the Trust are elected "from the community," but it's not a governmental body.

Why isn't this sort of thing organized systematically with webcams and for free? Schools and businesses might be glad to participate. Follow your friends as they go about their daily business and plan your movements to avoid your enemies. They will certainly be watching you.

So dress nice.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2006-05-02: General Strike; Ethanol

Sometimes bluffs  are  called

Sometimes bluffs are called

I don't remember it it was the same event as the one John Reilly mentions here, but there was a day without immigrants in Los Angeles where all of the illegal immigrants stayed home to show what the impact of their labor was. Mostly the Angelenos were impressed by how not busy the freeways were. That particular experiment wasn't repeated for something like ten years because of how poorly it turned out.


General Strike; Ethanol

 

Consider the multiple misapprehensions in this quote from a participant in a demonstration that was part of yesterday's "Day Without Immigrants":

"We are the backbone of what America is. Legal or illegal, it doesn't matter," said Melanie Lugo, who with her husband and their third-grade daughter joined an estimated 75,000 rallying in Denver. "We butter each other's bread. They need us as much as we need them."

Actually "legal or illegal" makes all the difference in the world. The US is worth coming to because the law works here. The cops won't rob you and the Postal Service will deliver the mail. That is why businesses can grow and that is why there are jobs. However, the point I want to make here is tactical: the modest impact of the demonstrations and boycott showed precisely that illegal immigrants are not the backbone of America.

The boycott was a blunder of the first magnitude.

If you are running a labor movement, you may threaten a General Strike. You may organize in the name of a prospective General Strike. The one thing no sane labor movement ever does is call a General Strike, because unless the world ends as a consequence the movement's bluff will have been called.

That was pretty much the moral of the British General Strike of 1926. That unhappy action was called in solidarity with the coal miners, who had fairly narrow demands, but their cause became mixed up with the mythology of the rising tide of socialism. Over the previous fifty years, the prospect of the inevitable victory of organized labor had become like the Second Coming. When the General Strike failed, it was as if everyone at the Final Judgment had gotten off with a warning.

* *

As for Peak Oil Doomsday, the federal government remains serene:

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said Sunday that the U.S. was just "three or four years" away from perfecting the process that would allow American motorists to fuel their vehicles with ethanol instead of gasoline...Bodman estimated that by 2025, ethanol production would replace about 20 percent of total U.S. gasoline consumption.

Supposedly, ethanol became commercially viable when oil broke $40 per barrel. Those processes that the Energy Secretary was talking about are connected with the processing of cellulosic ethanol; that is, ethanol made from grass, rather than corn. Ground Zero for this technology is the Canadian company, Iogen.

To put it mildly, there are arguments against putting much faith in ethanol as an alternative fuel, and Businessweek has made them at length. On the whole, though, I am surprised at how well the ethanol option stands up to examination.

The really interesting point is this: all renewable energy sources are far more intrusive than fossil fuels. Fossil fuels were attractive precisely because they are so concentrated; geology compacted millions of years of sunshine into easily portable forms. Wind, bio-fuel, and solar, in contrast, all have to collect new solar radiation, and that means taking up space.

The penny is just beginning to drop about this with regard to windpower. Wind-powered electrical generation has its virtues, but a useful infrastructure has to cover a significant fraction of the landscape with towers that look like a force of invading Martians. Ethanol farming promises to become the landscape, especially if the cellulose technology is as effective as we hope. Since 1900, much of the continental United States has become reforested as small farms were abandoned. Now it seems likely that that trend will be reversed.

* * *

None of my readers have emailed me to ask how bad is inflation in Zimbabwe:

Well, consider this: at a supermarket near the center of this tatterdemalion capital, toilet paper costs $417...No, not per roll. Four hundred seventeen Zimbabwean dollars is the value of a single two-ply sheet...By March, inflation had touched 914 percent a year, at which rate prices would rise more than tenfold in 12 months.

I mention this because over the weekend I was shown a letter from Zimbabwe. The canceled first-class stamp had cost $300,000. What shocked me, though, was that in real terms that stamp had cost about $5 in US money. Who could afford to use a system with real prices that high?

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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Who was John J. Reilly?

All of John's posts here

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The Long View 2006-04-10: The Iran War; Biography; The Truth about immigration

John Reilly said this in 2006, and I think he's still right:

I am sure I am repeating myself, but there are just three things to keep in mind with regard to the immigration crisis:
(1) The disposition of illegals currently in the country is almost irrelevant.
(2) The key issue is the size of future immigration.
(3) No law or policy will be effective without physical control of the borders.
My own preference would be to grandfather all illegals in country once border security is established. All of them would have to register and decide whether they were interested in eventual citizenship or simply guest-worker status. The latter would get cards allowing them to leave and enter the country. And no more such cards would be issued.

The Iran War; Biography; The Truth about immigration

 

That most wicked Spengler, at Asia Times, is not only egging on the Bush Administration to take preemptive action against Iran's nuclear program, but arguing that such an attack will solve the Administration's political problems:

Just as in the 2004 elections, the Democrats will have a losing hand if the White House orders force against Iran. Americans rally behind a wartime leader; the one exception was Vietnam. America's engagement with Iran would resemble the Bill Clinton administration's aerial attack on Serbia rather than the Iraq wars, for there is no reason at all to employ ground groups.

God takes care of drunks, small children and the United States of America. Improbably, destiny has a surprise in store for George W Bush.

Spengler takes care to cite the long quotation of his own arguments for a attacking Iran that appear in The Weekly Standard. The Bush Administration does not read each issue of that publication with unalloyed pleasure, but it seems that elements of Spengler's thinking have descended from the outer blogosphere and are now looping through the inner system.

The proposal for a short, bloodless, metal-on-metal campaign has its detractors. Several of them have pieces in the Spring issue of The National Interest, notably The Osirak Fallacy, by Richard K. Betts. That article argues that Israel's strike in 1981 against Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor actually accelerated Iraq's nuclear-weapons program (which we should recall turned out to be remarkably far advanced when it was inspected at the end of the Gulf War of 1990-1991). Those merits are mixed. I'm actually inclined to think that an attack on the Iranian sites would help the situation in Iraq. Even among the Shia, Iran has only minority support, and the aid that Iran has given to certain Iraqi militias has not endeared that country to the rest of the political factions. On the other hand, I have no idea how the attack would play in domestic American politics. Certainly the Serbian campaign would be a misleading analogy. The Serbian government publicly capitulated. There would be no comparable way to judge the success of an attack on Iran.

Then there is the legal issue. As I have said before, the Gulf War of 1990-1991 was, if anything, over legitimated, and the Iraq War's legality was at least colorable: fairly cogently regarding prior UN resolutions, and somewhat less so in light of the multinational policy against genocide. Neither factor applies in the case of Iran. Violation of the non-proliferation regime is not a casus belli.

The "strike" would not be an affair of an hour. It would take several days, probably with some input from special forces on the ground. There would be some interaction with the Iranian air force, and with its navy in the Gulf. The aim would be not so much to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons program (again, the results of the raids could never be accurately known) but to put Iran on notice.

I would not know how to draft the announcement of such an action.

* * *

At the risk of sounding insensitive, might I suggest that the PBS series, The American Experience, is running out of subjects? Last week it was an unwatchable treatment of Eugene O'Neill, whose plays are pretty unwatchable, too, but don't get me started. This week it's the Boy in the Bubble. Next week it's the Great San Francisco Earthquake: that has possibilities, but disasters are no substitute for the important biographies the series became famous for doing so well.

Are they running out of interesting Americans, or just Americans Who Mean Something?

* * *

The implicit open-borders immigration policy is the product of an alliance made in Hell. The Right wants cheap labor; the Left wants to replace enough of the current electorate to improve its own electoral chances. In both cases, the policy is self-defeating. The pro-business lobbyists are importing not just a low-wage workforce, but political risk. The Left is glad of the political risk, but has not yet quite taken on board just how hostile the illegal population is to the Left's cultural agenda. One would be tempted to stand back and watch both sides lose, were it not for the fact their mutual discomfiture would be accompanied by the end of America.

I am sure I am repeating myself, but there are just three things to keep in mind with regard to the immigration crisis:

(1) The disposition of illegals currently in the country is almost irrelevant.

(2) The key issue is the size of future immigration.

(3) No law or policy will be effective without physical control of the borders.

My own preference would be to grandfather all illegals in country once border security is established. All of them would have to register and decide whether they were interested in eventual citizenship or simply guest-worker status. The latter would get cards allowing them to leave and enter the country. And no more such cards would be issued.

Is this too simple?

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

Why post old articles?

Who was John J. Reilly?

All of John's posts here

An archive of John's site

Linkfest 2017-06-23

The Stock Market Speaks: How Dr. Alchian Learned to Build the Bomb

Sometimes public information is the best spy you have.

I saw a series of Tweets this week about how the boss-class is sticking it to workers, usually with the active involvement of the political Left. You expect that kind of thing from the Right, but the increasing alignment of wealth and education with Left-wing parties means the boss votes liberal. My favorite story was where the drywall guy complained that no one but illegal immigrants from Mexico wanted to work 90 hour weeks for him. I miss unions with teeth.

How the Democrats Lost Their Way on Immigration

A look at the political battles that made center-Left immigration skepticism disappear.

I (Don't) Like You! But Who Cares? Gender Differences in Same Sex and Mixed Sex Teams

Hopefully it replicates.

OUR OUTDATED DEBATES

A fascinating article at First Things makes the argument that technological change is leaving our static political debates behind. For example, the double-edged sword of artificial wombs.

Social Justice and the End of Moral Certainty

A look at the progressive mindset.

8 Figures on Gun Ownership, and Attitudes, in America

There continues to be a partisan gap in America, but it is smaller than the gap in the professional activists who make the most noise on the subject. For example, the vast majority of both Democrats and Republicans are not in favor of concealed carry without a permit. 

The Long View 2005-04-24: Sleepers: Issues & Diets

Merkel's Boner

Merkel's Boner

Under my heading nothing ever changes, we have this prescient post from John Reilly in 2005 where he correctly intuits that immigration will be the largest domestic political problem across the West. He also notes that the character of the problem is quite different in different places, since the typical immigrants vary quite a bit.

This is an excellent summary of the problem:

In the US, things are somewhat different. The take-off in immigration coincided with the Giuliani era, when urban public order tended to increase along with immigrant populations. (That was not due just to better policing: it helped a great deal that neighborhoods, which had been semi-abandoned, once again had people sitting on the stoops in the evening.) Nonetheless, the acute problem of national identity that Mexican immigration has created in the Southwest, coupled with the astounding indifference of the the political class to the downward pressure on wages caused by an endless supply of new workers, has created a level of resentment in some localities that Washington may not appreciate until the situation blows up.

But even John didn't really understand how far things would go.


Sleepers: Issues & Diets

 

Perhaps the largest single domestic issue throughout the Western world in the next few years will be the movement to staunch immigration from less advanced countries. It will certainly bulk large in the upcoming British elections; where, as Leo McKinstry explained in a recent Spectator piece called The age of unreason, the powers that be seem singularly disinclined to acknowledge there is a problem:

All around I see mounting social anarchy, gross corruption in the democratic process, the destruction of liberty, mass ignorance and brutality, paralysis in the police, the breakdown of the family and the loss of any faith in the justice system. Only last week an Algerian migrant twice refused asylum in this country was sent to prison for 17 years for plotting a terrorist campaign, while a 15-year-old black girl was stabbed to death at a party in east London, allegedly for standing on another teenage reveller’s toes. Yet I am informed that I must celebrate diversity, celebrate the new richness of multi-ethnic Britain. It is all too reminiscent of the old Soviet Union, whose penurious citizens had to queue for food but were told that they were living in a workers' paradise.

In the US, things are somewhat different. The take-off in immigration coincided with the Giuliani era, when urban public order tended to increase along with immigrant populations. (That was not due just to better policing: it helped a great deal that neighborhoods, which had been semi-abandoned, once again had people sitting on the stoops in the evening.) Nonetheless, the acute problem of national identity that Mexican immigration has created in the Southwest, coupled with the astounding indifference of the the political class to the downward pressure on wages caused by an endless supply of new workers, has created a level of resentment in some localities that Washington may not appreciate until the situation blows up. Consider this red meat language from the admittedly somewhat radical group, US Border Control:

President Bush is, literally, ripping this nation apart. There is no question that, unless he and the Congress that he controls, change their views on open borders, mass immigration, exporting jobs and importing "willing workers," our soldiers may soon be fighting a war on a third continent, North America.

According to every poll taken in the past few years, more than 80% of the American people are very much opposed to all of the above. And this figure includes all races, colors and nationalities. Yet, the President has chosen to ignore the wishes, hopes and aspirations of this huge majority of Americans. ...Meanwhile, the American people, from both major parties, are more than just furious; they are ready to take to the streets. They feel a total sense of helplessness because both major political parties have simply decided to ignore them and, as a consequence, they have no place to turn.

Actually, the places where people are most exercised by this sort of thing don't have "streets" in the classic revolutionary sense; it would take a long time to rouse a rabble along the broad roadways of a typical low-density suburb. However, the issue will tell at the polls, for whichever party has the wit to make use of it first.

* * *

This is the sort of story you find on the Internet, and I am pretty sure it's a joke:

Email users suffered a 10 per cent drop in IQ scores, more than twice the fall recorded by marijuana users, in a clinical trial of over a thousand participants. Doziness, lethargy and an inability to focus are classic characteristics of a spliffhead, but email users exhibited these particular symptoms to a "startling" degree, according to Dr Glenn Wilson.

In comparison, we may note Steven Johnson's article in today's New York Times MagazineWatching TV Makes You Smarter, which I am pretty sure is not intended as a joke:

For decades, we've worked under the assumption that mass culture follows a path declining steadily toward lowest-common-denominator standards, presumably because the ''masses'' want dumb, simple pleasures and big media companies try to give the masses what they want. But as [the series "24"] suggests, the exact opposite is happening: the culture is getting more cognitively demanding, not less. To make sense of an episode of ''24,'' you have to integrate far more information than you would have a few decades ago watching a comparable show. Beneath the violence and the ethnic stereotypes, another trend appears: to keep up with entertainment like ''24,'' you have to pay attention, make inferences, track shifting social relationships. This is what I call the Sleeper Curve: the most debased forms of mass diversion -- video games and violent television dramas and juvenile sitcoms -- turn out to be nutritional after all.

Also in the New York Times today was a column by David Brooks, in which he informs us:

The release of a report in The Journal of the American Medical Association indicating that overweight people actually live longer than normal-weight people represents an important moment in the history of world civilization.

This is, of course, precisely one of the gags in the Woody Allen film, Sleeper, in which a man awakes after several centuries in suspended animation. He finds himself in a world in which science has determined that nothing is more healthy than cigarettes and fudge sundaes. Yum.

* * *

This is not to say that people have given up on blackening the reputation of everything you like, as a recent study by one Susan Darker-Smith illustrates:

Young girls who enjoy classic romantic fairy tales like "Cinderella" and "Beauty and the Beast" are at greater risk of becoming victims of violent relationships in later life, a British researcher says...The research, conducted in Leicester in the east of England, is to be presented to the International Congress of Cognitive Therapy in Gothenburg, Sweden, next month...Her study, entitled "The Tales We Tell Our Children: Overconditioning of Girls to Expect Partners to Change", will be discussed by many of the world's most influential therapists.

I have strong doubts about the benefits of fudge sundaes (yum) and I also have strong doubts about this. The women I know with a keen interest in fairy tales also tend to be strapping specimens who know at least one deadly martial art. Tolkien leads to camping, remember.

* * *

They pay you to say these things, but still Jeffrey Bell must have winced when he turned in his copy for the article in The Weekly Standard of April 25, "Tom DeLay, Red Statesman." He regales us with accounts of Republican House Majority Leader DeLay's recent statesmanship, such as eliminating the estate tax in the midst of a runaway budget deficit, and DeLay's promise to investigate why the judges in the Terri Schiavo case followed the letter of the law.

I have no opinion about the charges against the Majority Leader regarding jobs for his family and sumptuous trips abroad paid for by foreign interests. The measure of his statesmanship is that, after 11Sept01, his idea of a response was to lower the capital gains tax (something which the Bush Administration, to its credit, did not include among the emergency measures it requested from Congress).

The term "statesman" in the the Bell article is not unqualified: DeLay is a "Red State Statesman," which is why, according to Bell, the Democrats and the Mainstream Media are after him. What an insult to the people of the Red States! Anywhere else in the country, DeLay would be considered a bagman for business interests, a man with no concern for public policy as such; but in a "Red State," apparently, such a short-sighted person counts as a "statesman."

The Republican Party is going to have enough problems in 2006 and 2008, but DeLay, as Mark Shields remarked, has the singular distinction of having stripped his party of the status of "the reform party."

* * *

Finally, may I note that it was only when I read the issue of The Weekly Standard mentioned above that I learned Fr. Richard John Neuhaus was, in effect, blogging the recent papal conclave from the First Things website.

Did anyone else know about this? And if any of you did, why didn't you tell me?

Copyright © 2005 by John J. Reilly

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All of John's posts here

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The Long View 2004-10-14: The Third Debate & the Unmentionable Elephants in the Room

I always found John's stance on immigration pretty reasonable. I think this is a pretty good summary, in John's own words:

...almost every other domestic problem they discussed was a product of continuously high levels of immigration: downward pressure on wages; rising income inequality; the growing percentage of people without health insurance; persistently failing schools: all are products of an open demographic structure in which, no matter how many newly arrived poor people make their way up the economic ladder, there are always more behind them.
...
One can only repeat that the movement to end large-scale immigration for a few decades should not be mistaken for hostility to immigrants. The US can handle any finite number. Once the intake is under control, the status of illegals can be regularized in an orderly and humane fashion. Until then, however, we have a political system in which the Republican Party does not want to control immigration, because of the cheap labor, and the Democrats don't want to control it, because they have given up on the current electorate and hope to replace it with a new one.

The Third Debate & the Unmentionable Elephants in the Room

 

Understand: I am a strong supporter of the president, and I intend to vote for him on November 2.

When the third presidential debate ended last night, I thought: "That's it: Bush lost the election." Kerry had him dead to rights on his nonsensical notion of diverting Social Security payments to private investment accounts. The president had no alternative to Kerry's rather well thought out health-care initiatives. Bush kept changing the subject to education, but without saying anything interesting or relevant. And he repeatedly mentioned "Pell Grants." I have only a foggy notion what a Pell Grant is. Nothing Bush said about them clarified the matter.

Then there was the sickly sweet closing statement. Bush minced for the camera, smiled his saccharine smile, and asked the people to vote for him. He did not look like a presidential candidate; he looked like a poster child for some genetic neurological deficiency.

Well, you must imagine my surprise this morning. No one thinks that Bush walked away with the debate, but there seems general consensus that he was human and lucid. Kerry, in contrast, is criticized for being cold and self-contradictory. It really is true: Bush understands the mechanics of social-welfare programs quite well. Moreover, they visibly engage his enthusiasm. It is not clear that Senator Kerry has any enthusiasms, except perhaps for France, a country he goes out of his way not to mention by name.

I actually predicted that Bush would ace the domestic debates. That more or less happened, but I still don't believe it.

* * *

The candidates discussed immigration, though without greatly differentiating themselves. Both assume the continuation of high immigration levels. The only question they see is how to legally accommodate the large portion of it that now occurs illegally. In fact, of course, almost every other domestic problem they discussed was a product of continuously high levels of immigration: downward pressure on wages; rising income inequality; the growing percentage of people without health insurance; persistently failing schools: all are products of an open demographic structure in which, no matter how many newly arrived poor people make their way up the economic ladder, there are always more behind them.

This thought has occurred to others, as we learn from the kausfiles:

A couple of decades ago I read an article--by Norman Podhoretz, I think--that clued me in to the overriding importance of broken families when it came to explaining poverty statistics. Years later, Podhoretz's thesis became conventional wisdom. Now Robert Samuelson has written a similar column explaining that "the increase in poverty in recent decades stems mainly from immigration."

One can only repeat that the movement to end large-scale immigration for a few decades should not be mistaken for hostility to immigrants. The US can handle any finite number. Once the intake is under control, the status of illegals can be regularized in an orderly and humane fashion. Until then, however, we have a political system in which the Republican Party does not want to control immigration, because of the cheap labor, and the Democrats don't want to control it, because they have given up on the current electorate and hope to replace it with a new one.

This is all for 2008. One should note that Europe will be talking about the same thing at the same time.

* * *

There was little mention of foreign policy in last night's debate. However, in none of the debates, and indeed in none of the recent issues of the foreign-policy magazines, did anyone say something as important as what Mark Steyn wrote just before the last debate occurred:

Until recently we thought of ‘asymmetrical warfare’ as something the natives did with machetes against the colonialist occupier. But in fact the roles have been reversed. These days, your average Western power -- Germany, Canada, Belgium -- is utterly incapable of projecting conventional military might to, say, Saudi Arabia or the Pakistani tribal lands.

If you need a reason to vote against John Kerry, it is that he would make that asymmetry total and permanent.

* * *

Speaking of terrorist threats, readers are no doubt familiar with the new marionette-thriller-trouble-making movie, Team America: World Police. The chief villain, I gather, is the Dear Leader of the People's Democratic Republic of North Korea, Kim Jong-il.

Comrade Kim spent the early phase of the Iraq War hiding in underground bunkers, because he thought he was next. Comrade Kim has nuclear weapons and prototype ICBMs. Comrade Kim is known to be a film buff.

The North Korean news agency website is here. I see no reaction to the film. Not yet.

* * *

Here's a new bit of nastiness, reported by Drudge: DNC ELECTION MANUAL: CHARGE VOTER INTIMIDATION, EVEN IF NONE EXISTS (capitalization in original). This caught my eye, because I happened to hear part of The Brian Lehrer show on WNYC this morning. He was interviewing a representative of an activist law firm that was, in effect, challenging the election returns before the voting starts.

Forgive me for forgetting the name of the attorney and his firm. In any case, he stated without evidence or even plausible conjecture that the Republicans are planning to steal the election. Such assertions are Sorelian myths, not descriptions of the world. To use a less fancy term, they are The Party Line. When that term first came into use, it referred to the Communist Party. Now it refers to the Democratic Party.

Copyright © 2004 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2004-01-08: The Martian Frontier

If you needed some proof of my contention that it wasn't only right-wingers that were crazy after 9/11, here is Thomas Friedman, nobody's idea of right-wing nut, calling 9/11 the start of World War III. While not right-wing, he was a nut. There isn't anything in Salafi terrorism that is even remotely close to the impact of the First or Second World War or the Cold War. Fortunately, I think Friedman came to his senses.


The Martian Frontier

As part of its continuing mission to send Tinker Toys where only somewhat smaller Tinker Toys have gone before, NASA's website now features the mission of the rover, Spirit. It's a great site, and I would like it even more if I had high-speed Internet access, which is what it is principally designed for.

I am mesmerized by Spirit's adventures. I, too, have a list of topographical features, revealed by the first panoramic photos, that I want the little critter to go and look at more closely. On the other hand, I cannot help but reflect that I was mesmerized in 1976 by the landing of the two Viking probes, which were in some ways more capable than Spirit and whose results are still disputed. Frankly, I will not be much impressed unless Spirit finds the wreck of a Martian gunboat on the floor of that dried-up lake, if the region is a dried-up lake.

We can only hope,

* * *

Speaking of Mars and gunboats, Thomas Friedman of The New York Times has begun to favor his readers with a seven-part series about how to win the war of ideas against Islamic terrorism. In Part I, published today, he distinguishes this geopolitical contest from prior ones:

What you are witnessing is why Sept. 11 amounts to World War III, the third great totalitarian challenge to open societies in the last 100 years. As the longtime Middle East analyst Abdullah Schleiffer once put it to me: World War II was the Nazis, using the engine of Germany to try to impose the reign of the perfect race, the Aryan race. The cold war was the Marxists, using the engine of the Soviet Union to try to impose the reign of the perfect class, the working class. And 9/11 was about religious totalitarians, Islamists, using suicide bombing to try to impose the reign of the perfect faith, political Islam.......

As my friend Dov Seidman, whose company, LRN, teaches ethics to global corporations, put it: The cold war ended the way it did because at some bedrock level we and the Soviets "agreed on what is shameful." And shame, more than any laws or police, is how a village, a society or a culture expresses approval and disapproval and applies restraints.

But today, alas, there is no bedrock agreement on what is shameful, what is outside the boundary of a civilized world.

I would qualify this by suggesting that, though the Islamist vision may be universalistic, that vision does not consider the non-Islamic world as part of civilization. The West, in contrast, has detached the notion of "civilized world" from religion, and even from culture. It has come to mean something close to Teilhard's idea of the "Noosphere," the region of mind.

To put it another way: it used to be said, during the Cold War, that if the Martians attacked, the Russians and Americans would forget their differences and automatically be on the same side. I am not altogether certain that would have been true; Poul Anderson, for instance, wrote several plausible stories about extraterrestrials picking favorites in the Cold War. However, there is some reason to suppose that the West and the Soviet Block would have thought about an alien incursion in much the same terms. At least they would have understood that it was a new situation that might require a novel response. That is likely to be untrue with respect to Islamists.

If H.G. Wells's Martians had reached the Middle East, they would scarcely have noticed a Jihad against them.

* * *

Here's a bit of information on the continuing attack on the use of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.

In good Biblicist fashion, the opponents of the words often point out that the US Constitution does not refer to God at all. From this, they infer, the Framers intended to establish a wholly immanent theory of legitimacy, one that in no way relied on transcendent justification. The objection to this reading is that the Declaration of Independence has that bit about men being "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights," but then the Constitution was drafted over a decade later by a somewhat different group of people, so one might argue that the intent of the Founders and the Framers should not be too closely identified.

If so, the argument has problems. We should not forget that the Constitution we have today is the second United States constitution. The first, the Articles of Confederation, was drafted just a year after the Declaration of Independence, and it is even sparer with references to religion than the constitution drafted at Philadelphia in 1787. The closest it comes is in the attestation clause, which begins:

And whereas it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said articles of confederation and perpetual union.

This is boilerplate, not theonomy, but it was written and approved by the same people who had made clear in 1776 that they considered government a divine institution. The absence of evidence need not be evidence of absence.

* * *

By the way, regarding updates to my main site, yes, I am still writing book reviews. However, I am being a bit more systematic about submitting them for publication in print journals, so I have to delay putting them online. For instance, First Things says they will publish a review I did of Paul Johnson's Art: A New History, probably in the March 2004 issue. Since they ask for exclusive use of the material for three months, I cannot put it on my site until nearly midyear.

I picked up that book while Christmas shopping, justifying the purchase to myself with the argument that I know several people who would like it as a present. Once I got it home, of course, I bent the spine while reading it and smudged a few pages, so it was no longer in mint condition. Well, I obviously couldn't give that copy as a present, could I?

A surprisingly large fraction of my library has accumulated through just this specious reasoning. So have all my lamps.

* * *

What I find most interesting about the reaction to President Bush's new immigration policy is that anyone in the labor establishment objected at all. On the AFL-CIO site we read:

The proposed changes in the nation’s immigration laws President George W. Bush announced Jan. 6 are "a hollow promise for hardworking, undocumented workers, people seeking to immigrate to the U.S. and U.S. workers alike," says AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. The plan "creates a permanent underclass of workers who are unable to fully participate in democracy."

The objection, at least nominally, is not the traditional one that immigration depresses wages. Rather, as my former state senator used to say about the death penalty in New Jersey, the proposal does not go far enough:

While the Bush plan would give some legal status to undocumented immigrants, it does not provide undocumented workers an opportunity to earn citizenship, SEIU Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina says.

Traditionally, labor unions were leery of immigration, because of the well-founded belief that it depressed wages. Now, of course, the same unions that vociferate against competition from foreign workers abroad are eager to bring the same workers to the US. This is sad, really. US labor unions gave up on native-born workers sometime ago. Now the unions believe that importing prospective members is their only chance of survival.

* * *

History suggests that everyone involved in the immigration debate will be proven to have been gravely wrong about the future, by the way. Here's a story to think about from Germany. It seems that people living in the economically depressed eastern region of the country have begun to find work in Poland. That country is less developed than Germany, but it is more friendly to low wage, labor-intensive jobs.

Just after the end of the Cold War, the Germans nicknamed the Elbe River "the Rio Grande," because so many illegal immigrants were crossing it. Now the situation has reversed. But that could never happen in the American Southwest.

Could it? 

Copyright © 2003 by John J. Reilly 

Why post old articles?

Who was John J. Reilly?

All of John's posts here

An archive of John's site

Art: A New History
By Paul Johnson

LinkFest 2016-04-01

April Fool's Edition

The CDC is trying to make 86 million Americans sick

I've long thought the pre-diabetes thing was a bit foolish. While it is a good thing to be able to quantitate, if you don't understand what you are doing it can make you far too certain. Pre-diabetes is a lot like a risk-factor; something that is correlated with diabetes, but is in totality a poor predictor.

It's all Geek to Me

Neal Stephenson's review of the movie 300 is now nine years old, but I still enjoyed reading it. I liked 300 when it came out, and mostly for the same reasons Stephenson did.

My journey through Molenbeek

A nice synopsis of the way in which not particularly devout partially assimilated children of immigrants get radicalized.

These unlucky people have names that break computers

Parsing text is hazardous.

A researcher explains the sad truth: we do know how to stop gun violence. But we don't do it.

Unfortunately for this well-meaning researcher, his suggestions involve pattern recognition, which is currently disfavored.

Peak Water: United States water use drops to lowest level in 40 years

The story is similar for gasoline. Technological progress means we do more with less.

HVAC Techs — Hackers who make house calls

The kind of unglamorous but well-paid job Mike Rowe likes to talk about.

America may DUMP algebra as new study finds it is the main cause of high school drop-outs - and only 5% of jobs need it

This is a fantastic idea. We have raised the bar to graduate high school so far that we are penalizing people of normal intellectual ability.

Immigration and the Political Explosion of 2016

This is a recurring pattern in United States history.

Philosophical Reflections on Genetic Interest

Frank Salter's concept of genetic interest is a philosophical concept that is muddled up with a scientific one. Unfortunately, his philosophy isn't too sharp.

How much of the placebo 'effect' is really statistical regression?

Courtesy of the ever contrary Greg Cochran, a reason to doubt the placebo effect. Here is a recent blog post expanding on this idea, with further reading suggestions.

LinkFest 2016-03-04

Liberal, Harsh Denmark

Scandinavian welfare states work best when they stay largely Scandinavian.

The Revolt of the Comedians: Tina Fey Edition

When Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt came out, my wife said to me, "It is all one big race joke."

How Trump Rules Twitter

From the Twitter timeline of Tim Dickinson, an admiring but not entirely adulatory take on how Trump uses social media. [PDF]

Another victim of Ayn Rand's Corrosive Objectivism: Sears

Economics has provided some useful insights about how competition can produce good outcomes, but any idea can swell to madness in isolation.

LinkFest 2016-01-10

Jane Jacobs on Cities

Jerry Pournelle recommended reading Jane Jacobs, so I read The Death and Life of Great American Cities. It was an absolutely fascinating book. In retrospect, I'm not surprised that Jerry recommended it. The Death and Life of Great American Cities is a masterwork from the era of the Kennedy Enlightenment. It represents the best that post-WWII American liberalism had to offer, which was in fact pretty good. However, it also represented a certain amount of hubris, and an over-quantification of things that cannot necessarily be quantified. Jacobs saw something true and good about American cities, and then her disciples tried to enshrine that insight in zoning laws and the results were not uniformly pretty.

The increased risk of death at out of hospital birth isn’t small after all

This was a pretty interesting study in the New England Journal of Medicine. The headline for this study is: out-of-hospital birth more risky than in-hospital. That was intriguing, and after reading the study the best I can say is: maybe. The study used a nice data set from Oregon that allowed the authors to tease out a distinction between births that actually happened out of the hospital, compared with births that were intended to out of the hospital but ended up in the hospital. If you only look at births that happened outside hospitals, the overall risk of perinatal death [stillbirths plus deaths during or shortly after childbirth] is the same as in the hospital. However, if you include women who transfer sometime during labor from outside the hospital to inside, the risk goes up to something like double. This is a tricky study, because the patient populations are way different in these two cases. For one, only something like 4% of all births in Oregon aren't in the hospital, which is among the highest rate in the nation. Also, out-of-hospital births are among women older, whiter, and richer than average. Those things matter. I think the most important sentence in the study is this one from the results section: 

In post hoc analyses that assessed the risk of a composite neonatal outcome (fetal death, infant death, a 5-minute Apgar score of less than 4, or neonatal seizures) and the risk of cesarean delivery in subgroups defined according to parity, maternal age, maternal education, and maternal risk profile, we found a significant interaction of maternal age with the planned birth setting for the neonatal composite outcome (P=0.02 for interaction) and of parity and maternal education with planned birth location for the outcome of cesarean section (P<0.001 for interaction for both). 

There is a lot to parse here, but when I was trained in statistics, finding an interaction means you don't report on the main effect at all. What do I mean by this? I'll show you a picture from the article to illustrate:

Two of the risk factors really stand out from the rest. Maternal age [meaning 35+] and high-risk [meaning gestational diabetes and/or eclampsia]. Either of those things in isolation increases risk for childbirth. Both together are pretty bad news. I think the real story here is that women over 35 with high-risk pregnancies [diabetes, eclampsia] shouldn't deliver outside of a hospital, but I would have said that without reading this study. To really answer the question, the authors should have compared the risk in the same higher risk population from their in-hospital dataset. Unfortunately, they didn't. I know why the results got spun the way they did. In an era of social media, that is the best way to get attention. I read about this on Twitter [on my phone, no less]. Unfortunately, that carries some risk too.

Germany on the Brink

The New Year's Eve mass sexual assault/riot in Cologne looks really, really bad for Angela Merkel. 

Hillary's Emailgate goes Nuclear

John Schindler, current historian, former NSA, wonders about the real source of Sid Blumenthal's email to Hillary Clinton.