The Long View 2007-05-18: Immigration Compromise; Abora III; Crank Koranic Critics; Red-Green Alliance

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I’m not sure this exactly counts as a prediction, but it sure came true:

The entire United States is now a border town. Even enforcing the immigration laws we have now would require a national police tasked chiefly with that function. Asking the current bureaucracy to manage the guest-worker program, much less the Kafkaesque fine-and-repatriation program, would push the system from incompetence to meltdown.

Immigration Compromise; Abora III; Crank Koranic Critics; Red-Green Alliance

The latest immigration compromise is going to be a train wreck. This is a shame, really, since elements of the Senate's plan have merit.

The open-borders features are supposed to be contingent on the enforcement features, which include:

--370 miles of fence, plus other barriers and sensors

--Hiring 18k border-patrol agents

--Requiring employers to electronically veerify new hires within 18 months, all employees within three years.

The open-borders features, of course, include a visa-to-Green Card system for illegals in the United States, involving fines and temporary repatriation. There is also a 500k-visa guest-worker program.

The historically interesting element is the change from an immigrant-evaluation system that favors family reunion to one that favors skills and education. That is actually where we came in: it was the change in immigration law in the late 1960s to favor family reunion (to accommodate Italian families living in congressional districts in the Northeast) that opened the borders.

A skills-based system will be no more popular with Hispanics today than it was with Italian-Americans 40 years ago; to the extent that both parties are pandering to the Hispanic vote, they are likely to find themselves pandering in vain. Similarly, the labor unions, or what is left of them, are experiencing a rare moment of clarity about the huge guest-worker feauture: they really don't want employers to have federally ensured access to a global ocean of non-union labor.

The real flaw in the proposal is that it asks the immigration bureaucracy to do things. The entire United States is now a border town. Even enforcing the immigration laws we have now would require a national police tasked chiefly with that function. Asking the current bureaucracy to manage the guest-worker program, much less the Kafkaesque fine-and-repatriation program, would push the system from incompetence to meltdown.

What would work? These three steps:

(1) Declare that the public policy of the United States now favors low immigration, with total admissions to be limited to 200,000 persons per year;
(2) Control the borders, ports, and airports to a degree that attempted illegal entry is a bad bet. After that has been done:
(3) Give illegals in the US a choice of registering for a one-time four-year work visa or for a citizenship track with extensive background checks and citizenship instruction. Illegals who apply for neither will be subject to summary deportation whenever they encounter the immigration, labor, or transportation bureaucracies.

In other words: border security plus attrition.

* * *

This is by the Morris Canal in Downtown Jersey City. I discovered the ship at lunchtime yesterday afternoon, when I was walking on the path along the light-rail tracks by the canal between Marin Boulevard and Van Vorst Street:


A helpful sign directs viewers to, where we read this about the Abora Project:

There is growing evidence that before Columbus or the Vikings made their maiden voyages to the New World, people were regularly crossing the Atlantic to trade goods...The most remarkable example of this originates from the “Cueva del Castillo” in northern Spain, dating back to 12,000 BCE. It refers to the Canary Islands Gulf Stream System, a downwind course – much easier than sailing in the windy Mediterranean.

This German-organized effort (the motto on the top left of the webpage says "With the Boat of Reeds through the Sea of Stars") has already demonstrated, at least the satisfaction of its members, that it is possible to cross from the Canaries to the Americas with this Stone Age technology. Abora III is scheduled to depart from Jersey City on June 7 to prove that it is possible to make the trip back.

The hypothesis of very ancient transatlantic contact has merit; the idea often comes up in connection with high-latitude megaliths, for instance. Still, this is the first time I have seen the notion advanced in connection with travel so long ago and so far south.

The name "Abora" sounded vaguely familiar. The website offers this explanation:

The Abora III is named after a divine power of the Canary Islands, born at the moment the sky and sea merge at sunset, protector of these ancient people in their lives and travels. Amazingly, in Egypt, the word Abo-Ra means “Father of the Sun God Ra”.

Yes, amazing, but not so amazing as these lines from Kublai Khan:

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.

We may recall that Coleridge's use of language was sometimes pharmaceutically enhanced.

* * *

Speaking of Germans, real and imaginary, that Spengler at Asia Times says things both fair and foul in his column, The Koranic quotations trap:

Islam-bashing, whether justified or not, is a waste of time...Robert Spencer has missed his adversary's mortal weakness: by insisting that the Koran is clear, consistent and unambiguous in preaching violence, Spencer has conceded the most important weapon in the arsenal of Islam's critics, namely the integrity of the Koran...

As I wrote on Spencer's website, there are any number of factual problems in his approach, of which two stand out:
1) Mohammed may never have existed, and
2) If he existed, he may have had nothing to do with the Koran, which well might be an 8th- or 9th-century compilation.

The trading of proof texts is entertaining but rarely fruitful, as Spengler notes. Nonetheless, I am not at all impressed by this outburst of higher criticism in the polemics against Islam. It is true that Islam claims an ontological status for the Koran different from that claimed for the Bible by Christianity (though not self-evidently different from that claimed for the Torah by esoteric Judaism). Textual criticism might be more embarrassing for Islam than it has proven to be for Christianity. We should recall, however, there is a long tradition of cranky criticism of the New Testament that, if anything, tends to strengthen the faith of believers who encounter it: sometimes I think that the people who make those elaborate arguments to prove that Jesus never existed, or was perhaps a magic mushroom, are actually in the pay of Christian evangelists. Moreover, there is a disturbing overlap between the cranky anti-Christians and the cranky anti-Islamists. There are good theological and historical arguments to be made against Islam, but anti-Koranic skepticism is not among them.

Spengler knows this, too. He goes on to observe that:

A religion is not a text but a life.

Just so. Theology is what people think; faith is what they believe; religion is what they do.

* * *

The subversion of Islam is far from the thoughts of the left these days, if we may believe this report about yet another effort to forge a Red-Green Alliance:

If any doubt still existed regarding bonds being formed between the hardcore left and elements within Islam, one needed to look no further than the leftist “Festival of Resistance” conference held at the University of Toronto last weekend for confirmation...

In the audience were members from such stimulating groups as the environment, First Nations, the anti-war movement and the transgendered (Was Marx a cross dresser?)...But, as reported in the Canadian newspaper, The National Post, the conference’s opening night ...was dedicated to forging unity between Marxists and Muslims. To this end, the keynote speaker the first evening was a controversial local Muslim, Zafar Bangash, a Muslim imam and the director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought.

All well and good, but here's the confrontation I have yet to see in person:

It was an irony of the evening, however, that Bangash interrupted his delivery to his audience of atheists in order to go and pray. And while Marxism has always been virulently anti-religious, the heirs of Marx and Lenin present said not a word. On the contrary! According to the newspaper report, they shouted down a Trotskyist who said he opposed all religions, indicating how much times have changed for the radical left.

Of course, there was a time when Marxists held their peace in the company of fellow-traveling Social Gospellers and Christian pacifists, so we must question how novel this latest duplicity really is.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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