Thursday, May 31, 2007
I posted this in the Exiles of the New York Times forum, which was set up to accommodate posters to the many forums the New York Times hosted until this spring. One of the amnestyite posters is named weezo, who voiced the reflexive opposition to a universal ID common among left and right wing partisans. He said any ID card would just be copied, so it was useless to try.
weezo, your certainties are outdated. Unless you've figured out a way to rearrange the pattern of veins inside your hand. Check out Fujitsu's non-contact palm ID system. And that's not the only biometric system that can't be faked using any existing methods. That's the whole reason for biometric ID. Just because ID cards were faked historically doesn't prove anything about the future. If past proved future there'd be no stock market. And if someone, someday figures out a way to fake it, it'll be a long time before that becomes widespread, and we'll be evolving our own means of taking out the fakes. Nothing stands still.
And the argument about everyone coming from illegals is simply an emotional statement. Every country on Earth has a sovereign right to decide who gets to cross its borders, and for how long, and what reason. I travel internationally every year, and I know this from personal experience. There isn't a country on Earth that's OK with illegal immigration. Heck, you should see how Mexican law and Mexican legal authorities treat illegal aliens. They're denied access to all social services, just for a start.
Mexico has a moral obligation to look after Mexicans. America has a moral obligation to look after Americans. Mexico does not have a moral obligation to look after Americans who are in Mexico illegally--and vice versa--other than adhering to international standards for dealing with people guilty of criminal trespass. I fail to see how any of this is difficult to comprehend.
If we choose to extend ourselves to certain foreigners for humanitarian or strategic reasons, that's our prerogative. But there's no principle you can propose for admitting foreigners that puts Mexicans ahead of everyone else. Want to know who we actually owe something to? It's the TWO MILLION Iraqi refugees--comprising most of its middle class and nearly all its Christians--due to The Decider's little adventure. If we admit anyone for humanitarian reasons, it should be them.
Or if you want to make it on the basis of suffering, we'd start with the starving citizens of Niger, which ranks at the very bottom--#177--of the United Nation's "suffering index." Mexico only ranks 53rd on that list.
And if you want to make it on the basis of people who we're simpatico with, who already appreciate American society...well, I can vouch for the Balinese. They love us. And they're great people. Family oriented, hard workers, tolerant.
And the Balinese don't boo innocent American young women for the crime of being American, as the Mexican upper crust audience did to the American entry in the Miss Universe contest a few days ago--and not just a few boos, and not just a little. Talk about having no class.
Nor do the Balinese chant "Osama, Osama" at futbol games with American teams. Why should I want to let people come here from a country that treats Americans this way? This shows a hostility towards more than the tool in the White House. It shows hostility towards America in toto. Remember when some Palestinians danced in the streets on 9/11, handing out sweets to neighbors? I have no intention of welcoming anyone like that to our country.
As for family reunification, I certainly encourage anyone who want to have his whole village around him to stay in his village. My spouse and I stay in California partly because we have family here. And we certainly have an obligation not to tear apart the families of Americans unless there's a good reason. But what's tearing apart Mexican families and depopulating Mexican villages is Mexico's callous, greedy, government. Want family reunification? Demonstrate in front of your nearest Mexican consulate. Demand fundamental reforms in Mexico's government.
Remember, every single illegal alien is a citizen of some country--some country that owes that person the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship, unlike us. If you think we're responsible for everyone everywhere--for letting anyone come here who wants to--the consequence of that policy would be the world's poor coming here until here is no different from where they came from. And we'll have a billion+ population like China and India.
The only other principles you could invoke for letting Mexicans in ahead of everyone else would be if you're Catholic and want your church to dominate American life like it does in Latin American countries; or if you're a racialist who puts Mexicans ahead of others, just because you think Mexicans are the bestest people on Earth.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
The opposition to illegal immigration is generally thought of as being a bunch of cranky old white guys. I'm sure most cranky old white guys do oppose illegal immigration, but they've got some interesting company. If you look at exit polling for the last several anti-illegal immigrant-type initiatives here in California (discontinuing social services for illegal aliens, making English the official language etc.), you'll find that around a quarter of Latinos voted for them statewide--and over a third of Democrats did too.
I'm one of those Democrats (who has always voted for you BTW). And ultimately my concern is not whether illegal aliens contribute to the economy or are a net expense, or whether particular illegal aliens would be a credit to society or prey upon it. I'm concerned with rule of law. I vacation in third world countries which are usually democracies but don't really enjoy rule of law--places like the Philippines and Indonesia--and I know from personal experience what a blessing it is to live in a country as law-abiding as this one.
I genuinely fear that we're sliding into a milieu where cheating is expected and playing fields are never level. The current bills in Congress do or do not grant amnesty to the millions of illegal immigrants currently here in California, depending on how you define amnesty. And in a building full of lawyers, as you are, there's no dearth of arguing about this. But let me suggest that the only definition that counts is the one the illegals themselves use: "Does it let me stay here?" If it does, they consider it amnesty.
And if we do that, what ensues will make the 3 million person amnesty of 1986 and the 12 million (?) person amnesty of 2007 look like a drop in the bucket. Beyond the vast numbers who will come, we will also be saying to Americans, to would-be legal immigrants, and to the world, that America always gives in if you just turn up the heat enough.
We'll gradually turn into the Philippines, which has great laws on the books. Trouble is they never get to the streets. Please don't let that happen to this country. Your own grandchildren will not benefit from it. Nor will mine.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Friday, May 25, 2007
A universal biometric ID is what it would take to control who's here and who's not. It's what could turn off the illegal work spigot--especially with large employers. It could also turn off the social services spigot, if we wished. It would erect an electronic fence blocking everyone trying to access American opportunities and benefits illegally. It would force many of the 10-20 million people here illegally to self-deport to their home countries.
A border fence would only block new entries, would cost a fortune, and would inspire endless digging and climbing. Numerous evasions have also greeted previous ID card technologies, but today we have ways of linking a stored, electronic identity to you that are far, far harder to fake.
So as a people we face a simple choice: hang onto the level of privacy we now have and reconcile ourselves to a river of humanity flowing over our borders; or sacrifice a measure of that privacy in order to know and control who's here--not just immigrants, but criminals and terrorists too.
Then why is hardly anyone talking about universal biometric ID? isn't what the pollsters are asking about. Even supposed hardliners like Tom Tancredo (R-CO) don't dare bring it up. And IDs for immigrants only accomplish exactly nothing. It's the illegals we need to identify, and only universal ID will do that. Unless you offer legalization to anyone who wants it, along with an ID. But then an ID will be meaningless, since we'll have given up our sovereignty.
Of course politicians fear to propose the only thing that would work because zealots of both the right and left would go berserk.
This is sad, because for most of us it's not much of an increment over how much the government already knows about us. And it's sad because we're being denied this protection by the knee-jerk reactions of those who talk the most yet think the least about politics.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Actually, as far as I can tell neither left wing nor right wing zealots give a fig about the truth. Instead they divide the world into what I call "Goodfacts" and "Badfacts"–straight out of Orwell's Brave New World.
Goodfacts are pieces of information which might be true or false, but which, if accepted, promote the zealot's agenda. Badfacts are the reverse.
Extra points for Goodfacts which are exactly true but taken out of context, such that if you considered the context you'd go the opposite way. De- or Mis-contextualized Goodfacts are Extra-Goodfacts.
BTW I use the terms "right wing" and "left wing" because the terms "Liberal" and "Conservative" have become Goodfacts themselves that have largely lost contact with what they meant denotatively.
Example of a Goodfact: "The economy is booming and employment's at an all time high. Therefore anyone who complains about the economy is just a leftie who hates America."
This enshrines a right wing Extra-Goodfact. It is true that the economy is booming, and it is true that employment's high. But it's also true that less than 1% of America's richest have appropriated nearly all the increase in this booming economy. This expropriation of the improvement in the GNP has actually reduced the economic circumstances of the median American wage earner. Not by a lot, but enough to make this the first recovery from a recession in which ordinary wage earners have not prospered.
And while employment is high, so is overwork--people are being forced to labor more hours per week than those in any other advanced country, with the possible exception of Japan.
There's more, but suffice to say here that when you add in other equally true facts (Badfacts to right wingers) you get a very different picture.
Now here's an example of a Goodfact for the other side: "Undocumented immigrants."
The left loves this one. In just two words this Goodfact (from the left wing point of view) tilts the playing field of the debate.
"Immigrant" is all of our ancestors (yes, even our Indian ancestors--they didn't evolve here; they walked over the Bering land bridge during glacier advances that lowered the sea level). "Immigrant" is hardworking, honest, humble, courageous, devoted to family.
"Undocumented" hardly sounds illegal. Sounds like you just left your papers in a drawer at home. Together they imply what's needed is for us to supply these honest, hardworking folk the documents they in the country they want to inhabit--ours.
However. The problem is that while "immigrant" applies to many of the people described this way, it does not describe those who don't plan to settle here, but who plan instead to return to their home country after earning some money. Such people are international migrant workers, but they're not immigrants. Look up "immigrant" in any dictionary.
Also, a certain number of border crossers come here to commit crimes. That's a Badfact.
Even if such people intend to settle here permanently I have trouble calling social parasites like these "immigrants." They're criminal trespassers. Of whom 280,000 have been convicted of serious felonies and currently reside in federal prisons at taxpayer expense. Of whom uncounted others are in state prisons and county jails. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to estimate that a million foreigners here illegally are currently imprisoned here. Then add in all the ones who haven't been caught, and who are busily engaged in human sex trafficking, immigrant trafficking, drug trafficking, robbery, rape, murder, identity theft--and don't call ID theft a victimless crime unless you talk to some of the victims.
So you can't call them all immigrants. Many are, but many aren't.
Likewise "undocumented" isn't necessarily true. After all, if someone has a Mexican birth certificate they certainly are documented. The term doesn't specify the nationality of the documents. An alien visiting here from a country we don't require visas from wouldn't have American documents--he'd have his own country's passport--yet he wouldn't be considered undocumented. And if someone has a phony socieal security card, they're documented--it's just a false document.
OTOH "illegal alien" means a foreigner who's in this country illegally. You don't have to know whether they intend to reside here permanently. You don't have to know whether they have various documents establishing their identity (legally or otherwise). But "illegal alien" is a Badfact by left wing standards, because it has a whiff of...well, illegality. Right wingers consider it a Goodfact for the same reasons, but in this case the denotation of the term is actually correct.
Fellow centrists, I hope this helps you in dealing with the whirly-eyes, whatever wing they cling to. BTW have you noticed that some of the wackiest zealots formerly belonged to the opposite wacky extreme? Bush's favorite philosopher that he actually follows is right wing fundamentalist Marvin Olasky (pictured above)--who used to be in the Communist Party.
Makes no difference intellectually. He's still floating in the world of Goodfacts and Badfacts.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Both left wingers and right wingers trade in powerful emotional appeals, mostly focusing on the suffering or the depredation of individuals. The right wing used the rapist Willie Horton to defeat Dukakis. Here in California the left used a "Hate Ahnold" campaign to defeat a nonpartisan redistricting initiative. Goes on all the time.
With immigration, the left uses Maria Sanchez (to pick a name out of a hat), hardworking, honest mother of three citizen children. The lefties ask how can we be so heartless as to deny her the good life we ourselves enjoy?
Then the right uses Guillermo Horton, evil rapist/murderer (to pick another name out of a hat), currently doing life and then some in a federal pen. So the right asks how can we be so misguided as to let this monster into our country to prey on our wives and daughters?
The right also brings up Yung Jo (yet another hat name), who has gone the legal route and been on an immigration waiting list for 10 years. and who is a professional engineer whose wife is an accountant. Here the right asks how can we let Maria Sanchez, regardless of her virtues, jump the queue ahead of Yung Jo, who played by our rules?
All these stereotypes have a kernel of truth.
But using them to make decisions means renouncing what makes us different from a dog. Dogs have great capacity for empathy. If someone they care about is hurting they'll do everything they can to allay their pain.
But they can't count.
We can. So we can weigh one hurt against another, and act based on the greater good--not just individual situations. To do any less is to renounce our humanity.
ICE raids scare people. Maria Sanchez looks up at the brutal cop, eyes welling with tears, clutching her terrified children around her. Whose heart wouldn't melt? Well, remember Guillermo Horton. And Yung Jo. If we let Maria in illegally, we let Guillermo in too. And we keep Yung out. You have to advocate all three situations writ large, or, like me, advocate rule of law--which has served this country pretty well, and which I'd be darned reluctant to give up. Especially after having experienced what relatively lawless societies are like.
Arresting drug dealers--excuse me, "undocumented pharmacists"--scares them too. And it really scares their children. But we can't go around not arresting lawbreakers because it scares them. And we can't let children provide lawbreakers with a free pass. You can see where that would lead.
Of course those who advocate amnesty for illegal aliens don't consider them lawbreakers. But that's not up to you, or to me. I'm not a country--just a citizen of one. I don't approve of all our laws, and I despise some of them. And I do what I can to change laws I don't like. But I don't set myself above our legal system just because it isn't perfect. No sane person wants to live without laws, and making each individual an autonomous arbiter of our legal system produces just such a result.
Historically, America has benefitted greatly from immigration. One reason is our skill, both personally and institutionally, in assimilating foreigners. However, it's always a problem when you get an influx of foreigners from one culture--enough to form huge ghettos where they can preserve their original language and culture and not assimilate. That's the problem Europe is facing today. And it's the problem we're facing in the Southwest here. I'm fine with letting thousands of Maria Sanchezes into our country legally, if that's what our country needs. But I'm not in favor of letting millions in illegally.
And as with the last two times in the last 40 years that we granted amnesty to everyone who'd managed to get here, I see the long-term consequences of illegal immigration being so bad for our country that scaring Ms. Sanchez and her children is by far the less evil. She actually has a country that's responsible for her welfare--most likely Mexico. So I recommend that all those who feel bad for the plight of all the Maria Sanchezes demonstrate in front of Mexican consulates and embassies and encourage vigorous international efforts to get Mexico to do right by its citizens. To claim these people are America's problem is actually an insult to Mexican soverignty and to its dignidad as a nation.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Daily News editorials are usually admirable. Not so your hand-fluttering screed against capital punishment. You stated “It’s wrong to take a life.” Really? You just ruled out killing in self defense or in defending the life of others, in policemen being armed, in having an army.
The biblical injunction “thou shalt not kill” is a mistranslation; it really said “thou shalt not murder.” Murder is killing someone unlawfully. Conflating that with legitimate killing is simplistic—and immoral.
Of course the state has the right to take a life. Otherwise it surrenders its ability to defend its citizens, which is its primary reason for existing. And no sane death penalty advocate would extend that penalty to non-murder crimes like rape. That would only incentivize rapists to murder their victims.
Yet at the same time you failed to make the best anti-death penalty argument: the fact that many innocent people get executed, as the Innocence Project (www.innocenceproject.org/) has proven, using DNA evidence to exonerate (thus far) 164 people facing death or life without parole. You could reasonably argue for a death penalty moratorium in cases where there’s any question of guilt. Even multiple eyewitnesses have been wrong, due to faulty police procedures and the fallibility of human memory.
But often there’s no question of guilt (BTK, Dahmer, etc.). And ultimately you need the death penalty as a final control on lifers who would otherwise feel little compunction about killing other prisoners and jailers.
Here’s how to win any debate: just frame its terms. Thus it’s not about abortion. It’s about being “pro life” (making your opponent “pro death”) or “pro choice” (making your opponent “pro-enslaving women”). Extra points for defining your opponent implicitly, not openly, which gives you plausible deniability about your unfairness. Of course once you’ve framed the debate this way you can kiss rational discourse goodbye. Which is the goal, actually. Social conservatives have mastered this art form. I recall reading a letter to the editor about Terry Schiavo when that debate was the sole topic. The writer framed the debate as being between valuing human life intrinsically (i.e., infinitely precious) or instrumentally (valuable only as long as it’s useful).
The implication--again, extra points for not saying it out loud: we “Culture of Death” types are like the Nazis euthanizing retarded kids. Of course life is too messy to cram into such black and white categories. And I doubt even the letter writer is true to his beliefs. If he were, he’d be advocating unilateral disarmament. Better to be a live slave, right? Plus he’d be pushing for a national speed limit of, say, 20mph. That would wreck the economy but save lots of lives, both useful and useless.
This missivist longs for an “objective, fixed standard” that overrides our personal wishes about our lives, our dignity, our privacy--and our spouses’ role in speaking for us when we can’t. Instead we’d live under divine rules. Just like they do in Iran.
Friday, May 11, 2007
This was inspired by a Washington Post article several years ago. However, the topic remails current, unfortunately, and provides an egregious example of where the left can be just as anti-science as the right. I illustrated it with a pic of Barack Obama--someone every identifies as black, despite the fact that he's 50.0% white. And in fact, most American so-called "African Americans" wouldn't be regarded as black in Africa, but rather as mixed race, which Apartheid South Africa designated "colored."
Subject: Bad Science Stated as Fact by the Washington Post
Re: "Scientists Find A DNA Change That Accounts For White Skin," by Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, December 16, 2005:
In this article Weiss said "Recent revelations that all people are more than 99.9% genetically identical has proved that race...is a phony construct." This canard is as popular among liberals as so-called "Intelligent Design" is among conservatives. Both are, however, equally fatuous--and equally driven by ideology.
Race is determined by constellations of traits, not particular genes. Most widespread species of plants and animals develop into distinct races as part of the process of evolution that eventually produces separate species. For example, dogs and wolves are different races. They can interbreed freely for the most part, and though no one gene sets them apart, only a fool would call them indistinguishable. Likewise doctors who ignore race ill-serve their patients. Everything from Tay-Sachs syndrome to sickle-cell anemia are strongly racially linked, as are subtler traits, such as the fact that many Eskimos' livers metabolizing one tuberculosis drug so quickly as to render it ineffective. Ignorance of this led to a TB epidemic in Canada in the 1950s.
Even the 99.9% argument shows profound ignorance of the effect of relatively small numbers of genes on differentiation. Chimpanzees are 98% genetically identical to humans. Even mice appear to share over 39,000 of our 40,000 genes. Would you call their differences from us just skin--or fur--deep?
For further reading, try "Medicine's Race Problem" from the Hoover Institute. I realize the Hoover Institute is a conservative think tank, but the assertions in this article are all confirmable independently.
As a moderate Democrat I'm dismayed by the Republican Party's broadband assault on science, seeking to subvert it to political expediency as thoroughly as the Soviets did. But it may dismay me even more to see one of my favorite newspapers fall prey to equally ideological considerations on the other side. Outcome-driven investigation is always bad, no matter how noble the goal. It's particularly galling that your writer presented something so controversial--the assertion that race doesn't exist--as settled fact. This particular scientifc faux pas represents the ongoing historical backlash against White Southern racism in America and Nazi racism in Europe. But how can we oppose Republican tampering with scientific objectivity when we do it ourselves?
I hope for more than a correction or a piece of editorial asperity from your desk. Ideally the Washington Post should do a series of articles showing how both the left and the right seek to corrupt science on behalf of their goals and ideology. It's obvious to liberals what convervatives are pulling, and to some extent vice versa. But such a series would draw the wrath of both sides, and I believe you've stated that that's a good omen.
I sent a letter to the editor on December 16 regarding the Washington Post article, on the day it came out. I'm sending this message to you now since that approach evidently failed.--Ehkzu
"Journalism is the one source those who want to manipulate the public are most prone to denounce." --the Project for Excellence in Journalism
POSTSCRIPT: To my knowledge the Post never responded and never printed a correction.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
And here I thought Senator Tancredo opposed illegal immigration. But in this debate he came out squarely against a national ID card. And that's exactly what it will take to expel the illegals already here; to keep illegals from getting jobs here; to identify them when they try to get taxpayer-funded services. Nothing short of that will make a dent in the problem.
It doesn't matter what you say you're for or against--unless you're willing to put your money where your mouth is.
In the business classic In Search of Excellence, Peters and Waterman discuss visiting companies where the the CEO declared himself firmly in favor of product quality. But then later the middle managers would tell Peters and Waterman that the other 364 days of the year the CEO talked about cost cutting.
Tancredo isn't in favor of controlling illegal immigration unless he's in favor of measures that will actually control it. A fence is good, more border guards is good, IDs for legal aliens is good. But none of that is sufficient.
Here you see the shadow of the far right falling over the GOP's president wannabes. The far right doesn't want a national ID card, just as the far left doesn't either. Ideologues tend to be paranoid, don't they?
But we all must sacrifice aspects of our privacy in order to live in a lawful society. Today a single individual with a suitcase full of anthrax can wreak more damage than a whole army could in the 18th century. Our privacy is worthless if we aren't safe. We should demand as much privacy as is compatible with being safe, and as much safety as we can hope for without sacrificing too much privacy.
Any ideologue should agree with that last sentence, but the problem isn't with the general principle; it's with the specific proposals you endorse that will effect that principle. And the ideologues' values haven't kept up with history. The current world situation requires taking our ability to identify people to a new level.
Tancredo is close to being a one-issue candidate, yet even on this one issue he falls short. I'm guessing it's out of fear of the legendary "Republcan base" -- the same folks who to this day believe Saddam co-planned 9/11...and have at least contemplated wearing foil hats to keep Martian thought control rays from penetrating their brains...
I'm disappointed. I like Tancredo. He's always articulate, never hateful. And yet...