Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cops don't want to bust illegals

Monday's Washington Post published this editorial:

Police on the Spot
In the absence of a workable immigration system, state and local officers are forced into a quandary.

Monday, June 25, 2007; A18

DESPITE THE objections of police chiefs all over the country, officers at the state, city and county levels are increasingly being drawn into what should be the federal government's responsibility to deal with illegal immigrants. In some instances officers are compelled to arrest undocumented immigrants a fter routine traffic infractions if a computer shows that they are facing outstanding federal warrants. In this way local police are being made complicit in federal deportations, which subverts their attempts to establish ties and cooperative relations with immigrant communities. Hence the police chiefs' objections.

This is a potentially serious problem. Violent gangs have gained a dangerous foothold in many immigrant communities, including some in the Washington area. To contain them, police need informers and other kinds of help in those neighborhoods. But what immigrant informer will come forward if he knows that as soon as police enter his name into a database, they will be compelled to arrest him because he failed to appear at a hearing on his immigration status or a deportation proceeding some years ago?

A handful of police departments have refused to enforce the federal warrants, which include about 250,000 from the Immigration and Custo ms Enforcement agency. Most departments, including those in this region, are enforcing them, albeit unenthusiastically in some cases. Lawsuits have been brought challenging the inclusion of the warrants, which are for civil violations, in a national criminal database.

All of this is symptomatic of the underlying sickness, which is the nation's failure to devise a workable immigration policy and the resulting problem of 12 million illegal immigrants. The tensions between federal and local law enforcement will only worsen until lawmakers in Washington figure a way out of the impasse -- one that recognizes the reality that most of those immigrants are an integral part of the U.S. economy and are here to stay. As the Senate prepares to take up its immigration bill for the second time in a month, it should be mindful of how tenuous the status quo has become.


I posted the following response:


ehkzu wrote:
Once more, Beltway insiders—and that includes the Washington Post editorial board, Congress, and King George—are touting a clever plan to outsource your generosity to the border states. You won’t pay the price for this generosity. We Californians and Arizonans and New Mexicans and Texans will. How convenient. All the self-satisfaction of good-heartedness, with none of the messy consequences. Woo hoo.

Well, here’s a little reality check. You all proposed the same thing in 1986—“comprehensive immigration reform” combining amnesty for those already here and enforcement to make sure there’d be no repeats. Only it turned out to be real amnesty and fake enforcement. So instead of 3 million and no more, now there are 12 million “and no more.” That extrapolates to next time facing 48 million “and no more.” Do you really think we’re that stupid? Do you have any idea of the impact of dozens of millions of non-English-speaking unskilled workers on the economy of the border states? The Congressional Budget Office recently reported that on balance these workers will put more into the economy than they take out of it…300 years from now.

And the so-called “reform” of 1986 turned out to be yet another unfunded mandate. We border state taxpayers got to foot the bill for their huge social costs, while their productivity swelled corporate coffers and went to their home villages south of the border. And the bosses have used their presence to bust unions and drive down wages for the working poor.

But not only are none of you Beltway insiders here—few of you have any first-hand experience of the world of the warehouse worker, the Walmart clerk, the American field hand. Their real wages have gone down substantially since 1986, and much of that is due to your generosity towards foreigners. And why not? Those unskilled Americans have dirt under their fingernails, for goodness’ sake. They wouldn’t know Bach from a box cutter. They watch American Idol non-ironically. Who wouldn’t disdain their misery in their trailer park homes?

You say how unfair it is that cops are being forced to do the Feds’ dirty work. Certainly it interferes with community relations. But your alternative—“Come on down!” is even worse. The choice is between bad and horrible.

And you say we have to recognize “the reality that most of those immigrants are an integral part of the U.S. economy and are here to stay.” Oh really? You act as if we sent busses down to Mexico, Guatemala etc. and kidnapped families off the street and brought them here. In fact they left home because they thought opportunities were better here than under the kleptocracies that pretend to be governments in Latin America. They will return if they come to think the reverse. And we have a way to make them think that.

We can now implement a universal biometric ID database—which one presidential candidate has endorsed, BTW. It could erect a virtual border throughout America. New biometric technologies include a palm vein reader, for example. Hold your hand over a pad for a moment and it reads your palm. You can fool it only if you can rearrange the veins inside your hand. It doesn’t cost a lot. We could put one in every outlet for social services and every corporate HR office. If employers can’t get away with employing illegals, many will go back—and, hopefully, start long-overdue revolutions in their home countries.

While we’re at it, why do you act as if they dropped out of the sky? Every one of them is a citizen of a country. Why don’t you ever talk about that? Mexico is only number 53 on the UN’s poverty index. It’s not a poor country. It just has a poor government. Agitate for reform there for once.

As for the current bill in Congress….tell you what. We’ll be glad to talk about amnesty for the 12 million here the moment the feds turn the flood of illegals into a trickle. You can use universal bio ID, fences, UAVs, National Guard on the border, vigorous prosecution of large employers of illegals, you name it. We’re not fussy.

We agree that “comprehensive immigration reform” seems better than “enforcement first.” But, see, you’ve taught us to not believe you. Last time you broke your word. Why do you expect us to think you won’t do it again? Especially since you all act as if the 1986 amnesty sans enforcement never happened. As if this is the only time we’ve faced a horde of illegals across the border states.

And another BTW: “we” aren’t just the cranky old white guys who listen to right-wing radio, like you think we are. If you analyze California voting records for several anti-illegal immigrant initiatives over the last decade, you’ll find that “we” includes a quarter of all citizens of Latino ancestry and as much as 40% of registered Democrats.

What we aren’t is Charley Brown--though you are Lucy. We aren’t holding the ball for you this time. To quote The Who: “We don’t get fooled again.”

Thursday, June 21, 2007

More race-baiting in the immigration debate

Here's an interchange from the NYTimes Exiles Immigration forum. A participant named theCap0 quoted part of a posting of mine, to wit:

...So in that light, perhaps "European" would care to enlighten us about Europe's no doubt vastly superior model for accommodating large numbers of illegal immigrants (and legal ones, for that matter). How all those Muslims and Blacks and Caribbeans and Pakistanis and Indians work and live happily shoulder to shoulder with native Euros in the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, France etc.

Your little essay on logic (and, BTW, it was Mill, not Locke, who developed the theory of utilitarianism) was fairly convincing, until your last paragraph, which is quoted above.
There you, like all the 'phobes on this forum demonsrate that your issue, once again, is not migration but non-white migration.

The simple fact was, is, and forever will remain the color of the migrants at issue. Whether in the deep recesses of your being you want to admit it or not, the issue with you and your ilk is what you see as the loss of domination of the culture by white, Christian folks. If today the migrants were blond haired, blue eyed Scaninavians, we would not be hearing a peep from you.

To which I responded:
Still trying to change the topic from immigration to people's motives, I see. When this website starts a forum titled "Ehkzu's motives" we can talk about my motives. Until then you're off topic. Try to address the actual arguments for once.

And once again, for the benefit of readers who may fall into this little trap, I'll explain:

In any debate the motives of the debater matter when the debater has based her argument on her personal reputation--some variant of "trust me." However, when the debater relies on logic and independently verifiable facts--and not on personal reputation--accusations about motives are a dirty trick--the sort of thing Karl Rove specializes in, though he's got plenty of company.

It's a dirty trick because it's at attempt to change the subject, and it's so emotionally charged you'll be tempted to forget what you were discussing and rush to defend your honor. Resist! Call the other person on it and challenge her to deal with the actual items being debated.

And of course I've done no such thing here. How could I? We're all anonymous in this forum, so I couldn't reasonably ask anyone to trust me personally even if I wanted to. My arguments are based on logic and independently verifiable facts. Period. So feel free to imagine that I'm a card-carrying member of--what's that called?--the Christian Identity Church, which champions a racist theology. Or the Aryan Nation. Or Mecha. Whatever.

Reader, you'll run into this sort of underhanded tactic so often when discussing politics that you really need a slime shield. I recommend "Crimes Against Logic" by Jamie Whyte, a past lecturer of philosophy at Cambridge University who lives in London. It's only 157 pages long and well worth reading. Especially because he's so readable. Here's an example that's germane to this discussion:

Political Motives

The Motive Fallacy is so common in politics that serious policy debate is almost nonexistent. The announcement of a new policy is greeted, not with a discussion of its alleged merits, but with a flurry of speculation from journalists and political opponents regarding the politician's motives for announcing it.


Journalists and politicans now devote their attention to instegigating the possible causes rather than the likely effects of their opponents' policies.


Good actions can be performed for bad reasons. Equally, bad actions can be well intended. [I believe that's the case with those advocated amnesty for illegals, for example].


The difficulty with the Motive Fallacy is not so much seeing that it is a fallacy, but spotting its instances in everyday life. It is so common that we have become desensitized, and it can be committed in subtle ways.


Here's a tip for spotting it: watch out for the word just, as in 'You're just saying that.' Why has the 'just' been included in such sentences? Everyone knows that when I say something I'm saying it...Well, it is supposed to show that what I am saying is also not true...The mere addition of the word just can, of course, achieve no such thing--it has no magical power of persuasion. Nevertheless, people try it all the time. Beware!

Whyte also points out in a later chapter that a related way of winning an argument is to shut up your opponent. I recall listening to a liberal talk show as a listener called in to brag that he and his pals had silenced Ann Coulter as she was scheduled to speak on some midwestern college campus. The host, Ed Schultz, congratulated this guy on his liberal achievement. It didn't seem to occur to Schultz that this kid's action involved some heavy ironies.

In this case, theCap0 is playing the race card. Heaven forfend that anyone be thought of as racist. Better to be accused of being a bank robber. As Whyte says, watch out for "remarks that serve only to shut you up, without showing that your position is wrong...In public debate, the idea that you can refute a view by claiming its advocate is not entitled to speak is pervasive, especially on race-related issues." And "We mustn't confuse being sensitive with being right. Nor rudeness with error.

Refutation by association, which Whyte also talks about, comes into play here. Amnesty advocates will observe that some acknowledged racist opposes illegal immigration--therefore [i]anyone[/i] who opposes illegal immigration must also be a racist. And if they're a racist their facts and logic must be wrong, or at least needn't be dealt with, since racists have no right of free speech--that's only accorded to folks who agree with you.

I've also observed that left- and right-wing zealots tend to hold a lot of beliefs in common, many of which are not logically related to the concept of liberalism or that of conservatism. For example, Democrats ought to oppose illegal immigration and Republicans ought to favor it, according to the traditions of each party before both were taken over by special interests. And conservatives ought to be conservationists--heck, it's the same word. Yet it has become an article of faith on the far right to celebrate the extermination of animal species in the service of some corporatist's short term profits.

In Whyte's words, "most social groups, even those that are not explicitly ideological, have membership opinions."

Lastly, theCap0's comment also commits the fallacy of confusing messenger with message. My comment about European immigration focused on the groups that have been having and giving the most trouble assimilating. There are lots of Caucasion Eastern Europeans flooding into Western Europe, but their challenges to assimilation are far less than that of people who are more obviously different. Someone named Fyodor can get a job. Someone named Muhammed can't in many areas. This reflects the general cultural homogeneity of traditional European countries. America started out multicultural, and we've had centuries to get into it. The Euros have only had 50 years or so, and it shows.

Many years ago there was a TV show called "All in the family," derived from a Brit show about a bigoted working stiff and his family. In America that character, Archie Bunker, was played by the actor Carroll O'Conner. Archie Bunker was a right wing bigot. Carroll O'Conner was a stereotypical Hollywood liberal. Yet people on the street would constantly clap O'Conner on the shoulder and praise him for sharing their (and Archie's) racist worldview.

Depiction is not advocacy. The Bible does not advocate fratricide, even though it leads off with one. I might or might not be a racist, but observing that there are race-based issues in Europe says nothing about the observer unless that observation is incorrect and you want to start a new topic about the observer's motives.

I like freeways. Hitler invented the freeway (for military purposes, actually). Therefore I'm like Hitler.

Basic logic ought to be a high school graduation requirement. Maybe we'd elect fewer buffoon and scoundrels then.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Hearts, Heads, and Immigration

This is a posting I made to the Exiles of the NYTimes immigration forum:

Incadove, your comments on arguments having to be based on humanitarian principles gave me pause. To some degree I agree. For example, I know an ardent libertarian, and the heartlessness of his worldview certainly turns me off. Moreover, what's the purpose of continuing to live if you don't get positive feelings out of life--and try to contribute to the good-heartedness of the whole shebang while you're at it.

OTOH, I was raised by drunks as you'll perhaps recall. They weren't stupid people, but they always put their feelings first, and gave me a rotten childhood as a consequence of their dionysian wallowing. A little more cerebralness would have been welcome.

There has to be a balance. The reason for reason is to give us as accurate an understanding of the world and our condition as is possible. Seems like in the long run you'll get and give the most happiness to others if your reason mediates your feelings.

Maybe that's why my favorite saying is "Hope clouds observation."

Think of the guy with TB who flew on seven airplanes and subjected hundreds of people to lengthy medical treatments, the harrowing fear of having contracted a drug-resistant strain of a serious disease, and has become an icon of self-centeredness. When he made his decision to go home this way, he obviously went with his gut feelings. He wanted to go home. To get treatment in America. To not spend an enormous amount on a private medivac flight. But what he did was wrong for both him and everyone else.

I believe there must always be an utterly cold, remorseless Eye of Logic nestled in your head somewhere, cooly regarding every choice, every action in the pitless sunlight of reason. You'll be a better person for it.

In the immigration debate, it seems to me that much hurt has come from much good-heartedness. Locke's Utilitarian notion of the greater good needs to be considered.

TB guy just wanted to go home. We all should feel sympathy for that desire. But that doesn't justify the choice he made. Likewise, I'm moved by every propaganda piece I see on PBS about hardworking illegals. No, I'm not being sarcastic. Remember, I know a fair amount about Latin culture.

There's an Italian movie titled "L'America." I'm sure someone with European's vast sophistication has seen it. It's about immigration--only, in this case, from Albania to Italy. It's called "L'America" because Italy is to Albanians what America was to Italians. It's a wonderful movie. In it two Italian con artists go to Albania to set up a fake factory for the sole purpose of gulling Italy out of foreign aid which they'd then pocket. But one of the con artists gets stranded in rural Albania without resources, and in his struggles to get out of there he slowly--very slowly--comes to see the Albanians as humans, and not just as ciphers to be exploited.

At the very end of the movie, there's a long shot of a rusty freighter loaded to the gunwales with desperate Albanians trying to sneak into Italy illegally. The shot starts with the freighter at some distance as it plows across the Adriatic. Then the camera slowly zooms in on the passengers until it's close to their faces. It goes slowly from one face to another, each so sad, so hungry, so nearly out of hope. There's no fatuous dialogue or bombastic music telling you how to feel. Just their faces. It made me weep, and that doesn't happen to me often.

I'm sure Chakotay Feels the same way as I do about all this. But I'm also sure he and I agree with Patricia_K that until we have one world government or some such, nations are the ultimate unit of government--the one we all depend on ultimately for our safety and the safety of those we love. No other country on Earth would take in an American refugee willingly. You ought to see how Mexico treat American illegals there (mainly American citizen children of deported illegals). Vastly worse than anything here.

We have an obligation to care for our own working poor, therefore, since there is no world government or other nation's government that will look out for them. TheCap0 calls this a zero sum game. It's no game. As Krugman pointed out, every cycle of massive immigration has depressed the wages and protections of the working poor. General idealistic statements cannot fool the Eye of Logic, wishful thinking notwithstanding. "European" pointed out that Krugman drew different conclusions than I did. That's true, but I quoted the factual part of his essay, which is incontrivertable. My different conclusions don't stem from a disagreement over the facts on the ground, but over having different values than Krugman in some regards.

Lastly, Patricia_K alluded to the fact that the high-immigration states are being forced to bear the brunt of illegal immigration, while the federal government--whose policies made it possible for them to come here--has forced us to provide for their social services vastly in excess of the value they add to the economy. That goes to Washington and the corporatists. And I'm a native-born resident of the highest-immigration state of all: California. Much of the fatuous idealistic pronouncements I read in NYTimes editorials and suchlike show no awareness whatsoever of what's it's like here, and how it's draining us to do so. All you who advocate for illegals: go spend your next vacation in LA. Please, please find out what's actually happening. Might change your minds, or at least help you take Joe Lunchbox's concerns more seriously.

PS: I believe in learning from other countries' experiences when I consider America's social issues. For example, the Netherlands provides a vastly superior model for a transportation infrastructure. So in that light, perhaps "European" would care to enlighten us about Europe's no doubt vastly superior model for accommodating large numbers of illegal immigrants (and legal ones, for that matter). How all those Muslims and Blacks and Caribbeans and Pakistanis and Indians work and live happily shoulder to shoulder with native Euros in the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, France etc.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Help illegals or help America's own working poor--your choice

Paul Krugman is a Princeton economics professor, an avowed liberal, and a New York Times columnist--oh, and most conservatives spit on the ground when you say his name. I say all this to help provide context for something he said in his May 25 column:

>>There's a highly technical controversy going on among economists about the effects of recent immigration on wages. However that dispute turns out, it's clear that the earlier wave of immigration increased inequality and depressed the wages of the less skilled. For example, a recent study by Jeffrey Williamson, a Harvard economic historian, suggests that in 1913 the real wages of unskilled U.S. workers were around 10% lower than they would have been without mass immigration. But the straight economics was the least of it. Much more important was the way immigration diluted democracy.

>>In 1910, almost 14% of voting-age males in the United States were non-naturalized immigrants. (Women didn't get the vote until 1920.) Add in the disenfranchised blacks of the Jim Crow South, and what you had in America was a sort of minor-key apartheid system, with about a quarter of the population -- in general, the poorest and most in need of help -- denied any political voice.

>>That dilution of democracy helped prevent any effective response to the excesses and injustices of the Gilded Age, because those who might have demanded that politicians support labor rights, progressive taxation and a basic social safety net didn't have the right to vote. Conversely, the restrictions on immigration imposed in the 1920s had the unintended effect of paving the way for the New Deal and sustaining its achievements, by creating a fully enfranchised working class.

I gather from those advocating for illegals that they want to help people--that they want to be, and to be seen as being, generous, kind, loving, welcoming. At least to foreigners who want to live and work here.

But there's the rub. You can't help illegals without harming America's working poor. Helping one group hurts the other. Of course the mechanism is greedy, narcissistic CEOs who ruthlessly exploit the illegals directly, then use their exploited labor to drive down wages and benefits for America's working poor--and bust unions while they're at it. But that means that by supporting illegals you become the dupes of those selfsame CEOs--you help them in their quest to squeeze America's working poor.

This amazes me. The little guy was the core of the Democratic Party's membership and focus for a century. The Republicans stood for the Big Guy--the Demos for the Little Guy. Now the Democratic Party stands for a group of special interests and the Republicans for another (though overlapping) group of special interests. Neither looks out for the little guy.

Of course no one on this forum is a Little Guy. You all probably have college degrees and a fairly safe spot in the middle class--as do I. But my dad had a crappy Georgia education and dropped out in the 7th grade to go work in Florida where he lost a finger in a sawmill. He spent the rest of his life working with his hands. I only remember one comment he made about politics. He said "Government is where the rich and the poor get together and decide what the middle class has to pay to support them."

And as a consequence of being a Little Guy's kid, I grew up in blue collar neighborhoods, surrounded by the kinds of people who are being beaten down by the generosity of liberals towards foreigners.

You'll do anything to avoid facing the fact that your particular kind of generosity is hurting America's working poor, won't you? That you're violating your own humanitarian principles. That rich as America is, we can't give everything to everybody all the time. Somebody has to get the short end of the stick, and without admitting it you've picked American working stiffs to get shafted.

You say that the intense anger boiling out of America's lower and lower middle classes over the immigration comes from their racism/nativism.

That's easy to say--especially since no one can disprove accusations that are based on mindreading. But this accusation fails to account for the fact that one out of four California Latino voters oppose illegal immigration.

It's more reasonable to suppose that this intense anger comes from their feeling--accurately--that they're getting the shaft, and that you're helping them get the shaft. They don't hate the illegals. They know they'd be doing the same thing as the illegals if they were in their situation.

Want to know who they hate? They hate the leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties, who represent every special interest under the sun--but not Joe Lunchbox. They hate the greedy, soulless CEOs who exploit both the illegals and them. And they hate you, for stepping over them to help someone else--as if they didn't even exist.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Lehrer News Hour (PBS) indocrinates viewers

I watch the Lehrer News Hour on PBS regularly, and the team there seems to work hard at providing factual news coverage and balanced editorial analyses.

But the topic of illegal immigration seems to have unhinged them. Today they presented a 10 1/2 minute segment on the sanctuary movement. Of that coverage, 87.5% of the time was devoted to sympathetic, evocative portrayal of what they terms "undocumented immigrants," interviewing one at length. She came here 10 years ago but still appears to speak no English--the interviewing was entirely in Spanish.

Lip service was paid to the other side via a former immigration official was interviewed twice, for a total of 1 minute 10 seconds--12.5% of the segment. His points were rebutted by church workers and activists. He wasn't given a chance to challenge the rebuts, nor did the reporter. The main rebuttal was an appeal to "higher law" and comparisons to the civil rights movements of the 50s and 60s.

Beyond the lopsided apportionment of coverage, the pro-illegal side was presented vividly, with a lot of affect, while the other side was a guy in a suit in an anonymous room.

Cameras do lie.

The overall effect was that of an unapologetic propaganda piece for illegal immigration, with just enough lip service to the other side to let a PBS official claim both sides were represented. Really, they were not.

I'm sorry to report this. My spouse--a diehard social and fiscal conservative--believes PBS and the Lehrer News Hour are as left-biased as Fox is right-biased. I try to disabuse her of this belief. And then pieces like this come along.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I attended a citizenship ceremony today

I attended a citizenship ceremony today here in Silicon Valley, with hundreds of participants. The new citizens came from 60--sixty--different countries, speaking dozens of different languages. The proceedings started with an invitation to the about-to-become citizens to register to vote. And in fact voter registration booths were set up outside the auditorium for the two major parties and I believe some of the others as well. The speaker pointed out that you could get ballots in a wide variety of languages in case your English was too rudimentary to understand the ballot propositions and whatnot.

Then a series of speakers got up and gave lengthy speeches in Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Spanish. We sang the national anthem and recited the pledge of allegiance, the about-to-be-citizens on the main floor, and the rest of us up in the balcony. They provided text for both, but some of us already knew the words. The guy next to me was there for a Filipino friend who he said had wanted citizenship primarily so he could vote against Republicans. They played "Proud to be an American" --a Red America anthem I've mainly heard in conjunction with fireworks at 4th of July celebrations on Lake Tahoe.

President Bush gave a little video intro that made the guy sitting next to me squirm. The President seemed sincere, though. The denouement was the group reciting the Oath of Allegiance.

I was there for an Indian friend who as a child in Puna had seen a video of our astronauts landing on the moon and said to himself "I want to live in the country that did that!" On our way out I persuaded him to register. He wanted to register Independent but I explained to him that the major parties had gone to court and defeated the open primary initiative that California voters had passed with a large majority. So here if you aren't a registered Demo or Publican you have no voice in primaries.

This was the first citizenship ceremony I'd attended. I was surprised by the huge variety of source nations; by how moving it was; by how multilingual the proceedings were; by how political involvement was so integrated into it.

Living near the nation's #2 university, I know plenty of people who consider themselves far too advanced to relate to the unabashed patriotism of this ceremony.

They don't know what they're missing. But the new Americans emerging from that auditorium today do know. I admire them for how they persevered in their dream of becoming American citizens. I just wish every one of them had had someone in the balcony rooting for them like my formerly Indian friend did.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mormon liberals? Yes, they exist!

I found a Mormon liberal site called www.bycommonconsent.com. Most of the posters disavow nationalism and favor amnesty for illegal immigrants. I also found the accompanying cartoon there. Can you tell in how many ways it's grossly unfair propaganda?
I wrote this post on their site in response:

I don't think most posters here have considered the cold-hearted consquences of their good-hearted urge to help illegal aliens settle here.

Basically, you can't help illegal aliens without harming the bottom rungs of America's working class. It's lovely to talk about transcending national boundaries, but it's not a zero-sum game. Everything--and I mean everything--you do to help illegal aliens in this country harms us. Well, not nice middle-class, college-educated people. Our jobs are safe. Our neighborhoods are safe. MS-13 (and please don't be discussing immigration if you don't know what that is) isn't in our neighborhood. They're all in the neighborhoods whose people you speak of so patronizingly and call racist for resenting the fact that their $12/hr. jobs now pay $9--when they can get them.

And you're helping Mexico's corrupt ruling class stay in power. They're outsourced their social welfare system to the U.S.A. Our illegal immigration is their societal relief valve. That's good-hearted how?

Yes, scripture enjoins us to help the poor and the suffering. Doesn't that include America's own poor and suffering?

Perhaps you don't think their needs count as much as Mexican illegal immigrants' needs. But if you're gauging alms based on need, we should expel every Mexican here and replace them with folks from Niger, or the Congo, or the Darful. I can assure you the Darfurians would think the were in heaven if they had the lives of the average Mexican peasant.

If your basis is thinking we're obligated--well, houw about our obligation to the TWO MILLION Iraqi refugees who are on the run as a direct cause of our actions? We do owe them--big time, since we invaded their country.

And it's easy to be dismissive of mere nationality when you're a comfortable American middle-class citizen. Traveling in the third world changed my perspective. We take our legal structure for granted. But it's a heavenly gift we all benefit from, and anyone who disagrees with this should spend an hour in Mogadishu. That's all it would take.

Lastly, we're all flying blind. No one knows how many illgal aliens are here, or what they earn, or what they take in the way of social services. Just as no one knows how many Al Qaeda members have thrown on a poncho and climbed the fence with the other pollos.

The only way we'll be able to tell who's here--and then to make policy based on real knowledge instead of guesswork--is a universal national biometric ID, which has only become possible in the last few year. So please recommend this innovation to your local legislators. We can all only benefit from really knowing what's going on. And though only a small percentage of illegal aliens are felons or harboring multidrug-resistant TB, wouldn't it be nice to know who they are and how many are here?

Monday, June 11, 2007

1 Theologian vs. 3 Athiests + big Greek Chorus commenting

New York Times columnist Stanley Fish reviewed three popular atheist manifestos recently, and in doing so he got pretty prolix. Still, he inspired hundreds of comments, including mine. And both the books and the review and the comments dwelt at length on the question of the social benefits of religion, or lack thereof. This was my response:

So many words. Look, folks: suppose all religions were really swell, and every believer were equally swell. And suppose all atheists were irredeemably evil, and all nonreligious organizations such as the Communist party were all evil too.

Or assume the exact reverse. It doesn't make a bit of difference to the question "Is there a God" whether believing makes you swell or fell.

Even atheists get trapped in the endless noodling of literate Ptolomies like Fish. Because the only rational answer to the question "Is there a God" is "Huh? What was that last word?"

All definitions of God and arguments to support those definitions are tautologies. The word "God" is completely meaningless from any scientific/rational context. You can't deny the existence of something whose existence can't be meaningfully described. So it's impossible to be an atheist, really. The term "atheist" was invented by religious people to describe "those who deny the existence of God." It's a propaganda term like "miscegenation." You can't deny the existence of things that aren't definable/describable. Nothing to deny.

Hope clouds observation. We're born. We live. We die. Deal with it. Life can still be deeply meaningful once you realize that it's up to us to create meaning. Stop looking for it and start doing it.
Q. "What does the dyslexic agnostic insomniace do?"
A. "He lies awake all night wondering if there's a Dog."

Friday, June 8, 2007

Subtle pro-illegal immigration bias in the media

Note sent to the PBS news show Washington Week:

In this week's reportage Charles Babington told Gwen Ifil that the public favored amnesty a lot more when it wasn't called amnesty. The smiles and body language of all strongly implied that the public was just fine with giving illegal aliens citizenship and benefits as long as it was worded correctly without prejudicial terms.

I have a degree in sociology from UCLA and over 20 years' experience in publishing, including interpreting polls, and IMO this issue is not nearly so cut and dried as you indicated it to be.
I regularly read the NY Times, Washington Post, and the LA Times, as well as some local papers, and all of their editorial pages tirelessly promote amnesty for illegal aliens. That's their prerogative, but their news reportage promotes amnesty more subtly--as I believe this interchange did.

The most common form of covert promotion consists of presenting human interest stories about noble illegals who just want to work. Each is true and accurate as far as it goes, but it creates a false context around illegal immigration, neglecting the rapidly growing problem of transnational gangs such as MS-13, human and drug trafficking, widespread ID theft, and plausible estimates that undereducated illegal immigrants and their kin consume vastly more in social services than their unskilled labor ever puts into the economy--and that a new amnesty will plant a time bomb in the social security and Medicare systems that will go off in twenty years and wreak havoc in those systems and our economies.

The other bias that appears outside the editorial pages is a complete lack of focus on the fact that these people didn't drop out of the sky. Every one of them is a citizen of some other country--and it's that country we all should be tackling when it comes to alleviating their poverty and need for social services.

Lastly, other than proximity, why Latin Americans? Mexico is only 53 on the UN poverty index. If we want to help those in need, shouldn't we help the neediest? That would be the citizens of Niger (177), the Darfur, or the two million Iraqis who are now refugees thanks to us. If we want to benefit America, we should be fast-tracking educated, English-speaking, middle class immigrants of every race and country. Simple proximity, unlike these alternatives, is based on no principle at all--just convenience.

Instead of talking about any of this we get target fixation on the current plight of today's illegals. I'm not discounting this but I urge you to consider the long-term implications and greater context that I've outlined here.

And I put it to you that the more adverse public reaction to calling it amnesty could be a more accurate reaction to more accurate language, while not calling it amnesty is deceptively euphemizing it. And believe me, to the illegals themselves, anything whatsoever that lets them stay here legally--with or without citizenship--means amnesty to them. And it's their understanding of the term that counts most, doesn't it?

You don't have to agree with all this. What I do want you to agree with is that presenting it the way you did embodied the implied presumption that Babington's pro-amnesty interpretation of the facts was the only one possible. It was not, and I'm not parsing words to say so.

I know Gwen Ifil prides herself on her objectivity and fair-mindedness, and I hold up Washington Week in Review to my right-wing friends as an exemplar of unbiased reporting. Please don't disappoint me in this area.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Richard A. Clarke says biometric ID a necessity

"In the absence of a secure border and verifiable biometric identification systems, preventing terrorists from getting in to this country and setting up sleeper cells here is almost impossible. Maybe we will get serious after the next attack. "

--from a New York Times op-ed piece by Richard A. Clarke, former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council, & author of “Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror.”

Immigration: different issue for left & right

When you study foreign languages, sometimes you run into words that sound like English words--only they mean something else. These are called false cognates. "Immigration" is a false cognate when it comes to discussions between left wingers and right wingers.

To left wingers, "immigration" is an aspect of the issue of government-supplied social services. So when they discuss "immigration" they mean "how can we provide these people with the social services they need?"

To right wingers, "immigration" is an aspect of security and rule of law. So when they discuss "immigration" they mean "How can we regain control of who's here, so we can obey the prime directive of any state--to protect its citizens?"

This also means that to left wingers, the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants is meaningless, since it has no bearing on whether someone needs social services or not. But to right wingers it's a crucial distinction, for rule of law/security purposes.

I came to this insight courtesy of Washington Post columnist A.J. Dionne, who got the Pew Research Center to re-analyze a recent national political survey in order to highlight differences between Democrats and Republicans. Later he validated his results against other reputable national policy polls and got similar results.

Some highlights:
.................Democrats Republicans
Iraq is #1 issue ......40%.........29%
--in deciding which presidential candidate to vote for
Healthcare is #1.......13%..........2%
Immigration or Abortion.2%.........20%
Domestic issues........42%.........20%
(economy, healthcare or education)

That is, overall, for Democrats Iraq is the #1 issue, with the economy #2.
For Republicans Iraq is the #1 issue, with terrorism #2 and the economy #2.

So when Republicans and Democrats try to discuss immigration, each is coming to the table with different assumptions. The Republican talks about controlling the borders, halting illegals' ID theft, catching terrorists entering the country along with the economic migrants. But what the Democrat hears is paranoid crazy talk (apparently 9/11 didn't happen) coupled to a despicable lack of concern for human rights and needs.

Then the Democrats talks about amnesty for illegals, along with giving them free medical and educational services, helping each one bring over his or her entire clan, make sure they can vote in their native language so they don't have to bear the burden of learning English, and that any children born in America continue to receive automatic citizenship. What the Republican hears is crazy talk (apparently all playing fields are already level), coupled to a despicable lack of concern for the most fundamental requirements of a nation: rule of law and the safety of its citizens.

No wonder we can't discuss immigration without it all devolving into a shouting match. Our premises differ, and we have to resolve those premises before we can really discuss immigration with each other.

One last item--many issues have become "Republican" or "Democrat" issues, with people pressured to hew to the party line across the board. This is why so many Americans consider themselves "Independent." Their priorities do not line up with the priorities of either party.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Answers to objections to biometric ID

I put this post in the Xscape from Elba forum for New York Times forums in exile:

poster Incadove said:

As you know, I too am strongly opposed to that totalitarian big brother invasion of privacy called the biometric ID.
These measures are also seen in various opposing states as increasing the risk of identity theft.

I said:

Words like "totalitarian" pack a wallop. But precisely because of that they should be used sparingly. "Totalitarian" means "of or relating to centralized control by an autocratic leader or hierarchy" with synonyms like "authoritarian, dictatorial, despotic." Worst case it's "of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation, especially by coercive measures (as censorship and terrorism).

Incadove said:
Sounds to me like the shoe fits.
It is also described as massively bureaucratic and costly. That, like building another wall, people find other ladders, the ID theft risk increased precisely because it is so centralized.

I'd rather spend the money on educating Americans, including our newcomers, and universal health care, rather than handing the government another free ride into my privacy.

Legalization will redress any ID theft issues related to immigrants needing papers in order to work. That portion of ID theft, to my understanding, being but a small portion of a much larger problem not even related to immigration.

Compulsory IDs are not biometric IDs.
But I don't like them either, having once lived once abroad in a country that had them. Being an American, I didn't appreciate the notion that the police could stop me at will on the street, for whatever tickled their fancy, and demand that I produce ... my compulsory ID.

I said:

Re: "sounds like the shoe fits." Bad as Bush/DeLay/the rest of the GOP scoundrel-ocracy is, a police state they're not, and it's hyperbole to call their administration as such. We're friends with a couple in which the guy is a computer scientist from the former East Germany and his wife is from the Union of South Africa, of Indian descent. Both grew up in police states with ubiquitous secret police and no bars to arbitrary arrest and confinement. Ask them whether this is that and they're laugh at you. I'm NOT justifying the GOP's efforts to lean in that direction. But they're a lot ways from today's police states (N. Korea, Zimbabwe, China, Iran, and Cuba for starts, with Venezuela and Russia not far behind).

A national biometric ID would be costly and bureaucratic, to be sure. The question is, what are our alternatives?

Actually, a poll analysis just released by the New York Times helps explain why Democrats and Republicans are at such loggerheads over such issues. The poll analysis concluded that for members of each party, the priority stack of crucial issues is almost completely different (except for Iraq). Things Republicans think are "man the barricades!" emergencies are nothingburgers for Demos and vice versa. Illegal immigration as well as ID theft are just two examples of this.

This explains why you'd find the ongoing expense of a national ID unacceptable, while the average Republican and independent would find it unfortunate but necessary. We're trying to solve a problem you think isn't a problem. No wonder you wonder at our efforts.
I'm not saying either side is right or wrong, mind you. Not here at least. Just that it helps explain why it's so hard for us to have a conversation about these issues. We can't imagine the mental universe the other side lives in.

I'll take a small stab here. Once upon a time the ability of a handful of people to do serious damage to a whole country was nearly infinitesimal. Even if Guy Fawkes had blown up Parliament it wouldn't have changed Brit history. Some Americans did more by giving smallpoxified blankets to Indians--and that's the best historical analogy I can think of. But in, say, 1776, a man with a firearm couldn't have sunk a warship.

Today a zealot with an RPG can. Those smallpox blankets could decimate a village of dozens, even hundreds. But a zealot with a briefcase full of aerolized anthrax and a Cessna 152 could lay waste to a modern city, and another with a dirty bomb in an Econoline van could render Manhattan uninhabitable for a generation. And it's not like these guys would hesitate for one second to do such heinous acts.

In some ways this is a paranoid's dream come true. I'm not happy with the fact that all this feeds into the rich fantasy life of suvivalist nut cases like the Atlanta Olympics bomber. Unfortunately it is true, though, and I don't think there's any way we can appease the Islamofascist movement. They need us as an enemy, and like Osama once said, accurately, we love life, while they love death. Fareed Zakaria has said BTW that the biggest hotbed of Islamofascism isn't in Iraq--it's in our "ally" Pakistan." We aren't remotely prepared to deal with that.

All this puts biometric ID in a vastly different light than before 9/11. And the Madrid train bombing, and the Brit subway bombing, and the Toko subway poison gassing, and the Chechin mass murder of a schoolful of children...the list goes on and on.

I believe it's a failure of imagination not to be able to believe something worse than 9/11 could happen here--worse by an order of magnitude. I don't want us to turn into a police state, and by opposing something like biometric ID I think you make that future police state more likely, actually. Because if the bad guys take out a US city I think we'll get martial law "for the duration." And you'l think the privacy-invasion of biometric ID was chickenfeed compared to what we'll be living under.

As for centralized secuirity measures being more susceptible to getting hacked--well, that's a two way street. Governor Richardson says if you build an 11 foot fence they'll use 12 foot ladders. That's a cute bumper sticker slogan but I don't see many people getting over the Israeli's fence. And they've have suicide bombing incidents diminish radically everywhere they've put their fence up. It doesn't have to be perfect to be worth doing.

As for the centralized system--we already have a bunch of centralized commercial ID systems that make for attractive criminal targets. Think about ATMs, credit card billing systems, stuff like that. There's crime involving them, all right, but it's tough to do. And in all the years I've used ATMs here and abroad not once did anyone else get my money and not once did I not get exactly the amount I'd requested.

This is why I said history is important but not definitive. Some things actually change. And a biometric ID is one of them. It ups the ante on ID theft--massively. The bad guys will try, but it'll be tough, and we'll be looking for them constantly.

Bottom line, all biometric ID needs to be is better than the alternative. Liberals think this is all nonsense, and that we should pour our resources into healthcare and education. Let me point out that nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki was bad for the health of those cities' inhabitants. And you can't educate a pile of ashes.

As for legailzation of illegals solving ID theft problems, and ID theft being a separate issue with only a small part connected to illegal immigration:

Well, sure, legalizing any crime eliminates the costs of combatting that crimw. I actually agree with this line of thought when it comes to adults using illegal drugs. But as a general principle it sucks. How about legalizing rape? That costs a bundle to prosecute. DNA tests are expensive, after all. And the rapists don't think they've done anything wrong.

Now of course you don't agree with that; neither do I. Which means you don't really believe we should legalize crimes. Rather, you're implicitly arguing that crossing into a country without that country's permissions isn't a crime, or at least isn't if the person is just coming here for work and not to commit felonies or acts of war.

But the only way for that not to be a crime is if you think nations have no right to exist as separate nations--or at least that "the people's" rights supercede those of nations. This is--and I'm not using the word to inflame the debate--anarchism. The black flag. It's the state of affairs in failed states, and what always happens in such places is that hard men with guns take over, and life under their rule makes the most onerous burdens of living even in a police state look like heaven by comparison.

I'm writing this in a comfortable home with the doors unlocked. In a little while my spouse and I will walk over to church to print out the Sunday program. When we're there I'll probably use the bathroom, and we'll certainly turn on the lights. At not time will we be worried about our physical safety. In exchange for these things we pay our taxes and submit to the state having a monopoly on physical force (I realize it doesn't in the inner cities, but we don't live there). Our taxes are spent in many ways that help us and some that hurt us. I wish they were spent well 100% but that's never going to happen. Doesn't mean we shouldn't always try to improve things, of course. And overall I think we're getting a great bargain. Don't you?

Lastly, yes, ID theft overlaps illegal immigration. YOu can have both together or either without the other. And illegals' ID theft is rarely done to rob Americans--though it imposes on many American victims as badly as if they had been robbed. Just as the drunk driver didn't mean to hurt you--or that horse's behind with active TB didn't mean to infect anyone sitting beside him on the various airplanes he flew in--the amount of hurt you receive from someone is an independent variable with that someone's desire to hurt you. Sometimes you're hurt most by someone who thinks he's helping you, actually.

But steps taken to prevent ID theft will help control illegal immigration in addition to helping curb the Russian and Nigerian etc. gangs who do the ID theft to empty your bank account.
I realize I'm aking people to accept less freedom, less privacy. That's always a hard sell. My main argument is that we accept strictures in wartime that we woldn't accept in peace, and the only reason we don't think this is wartime is that the enemy isn't a country and the weapons are often bitstreams instead of bullets.

It's a new world...yay.

Friday, June 1, 2007

I posted an entry on biometric ID in an immigration discussion forum recently & got this response:

"As you know, I too am strongly opposed to that totalitarian big brother invasion of privacy called the biometric ID.

These measures are also seen in various opposing states as increasing the risk of identity theft."

To which I said:

Words like "totalitarian" pack a wallop. But precisely because of that they should be used sparingly. "Totalitarian" means "of or relating to centralized control by an autocratic leader or hierarchy" with synonyms like "authoritarian, dictatorial, despotic." Worst case it's "of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation, especially by coercive measures (as censorship and terrorism)."

And of course "big brother" refers to Orwell's "Brave New World," possibly the best-known dystopian novels about a future society that's a Soviet-style state with a Disney World-type smiley face pasted on it.

Using these words by themselves to refute biometric ID proposals employs the logical fallacy of refutation by association. "Hitler wore pants." "You wear pants." "So you're a Nazi."

But if you look at it factually the association of universal ID with totalitarianism melts like a snowman in Houston. If a universal ID is uniquely totalitarian, then totalitarian societies will have it and democracies won't. Right? OK, by that standard here's a partial list of totalitarian nations, taken from Wikipedia's listing of countries with compulsory ID cards:

Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Taiwan, Colombia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Thailand.

'nuff said.

As for "increasing the risk of identity theft" --the devil is in the details. Wikipedia summarizes arguments for and against universal ID at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identity_card. Overall, a badly implemented biometric ID system probably would increase the risk of ID theft--and a well-implemented BID would decrease it. The biggest unsolved problem with ID theft has nothing to do with the risks/rewards of BID, but with the fact that ID theft has become an international criminal business, and we don't as yet have a comprehensive international police effort designed to track down and prosecute the thieves. Russia is a prime harbor of ID theft organizations. Nigeria's another, just to name some of the worst. And neither country plays well with others.

ID theft has become a highly technical issue. As I pointed out in an earlier post, biometric ID eliminates the kinds of theft that occur at the street level, with fake ID cards readily available to illegal immigrants across America. Biometric ID moves the dangers of ID theft to the large databases required. Criminal organizations with sophisticated technical people--again Russia looms large in this area--have hacked into several commercial databases, though the main source of entry has been corrupted organizational employees. It's a technology race that will never end, with the hackers pitted against the rest of us. Russian hackers recently attacked Estonia because Estonia moved a statue (I couldn't make this up!) and would have brought down Estonia's e-infrastructure if it hadn't been so well designed.

That said, it's not a zero-sum game. ID theft is rampant today, so it's not like not having a universal ID system protects us from ID theft. BID gives us an opportunity to reduce ID theft, and at the very least it pushes the small operators out of the ID theft business and lets us focus on the big, often tacitly state-sponsored criminal organizations.

These are not simple issues, and it does such issues a disservice to condemn new technology based on past experiences with previous technologies. It would be like condemning automobiles because horse poop was a big problem in 19th century cities full of horse-drawn vehicles. Automobiles have plenty of pollution problems, but rampant horse poop isn't one of them.

Family Reunification vs. Chain Migration? Here's a New View

There's a lot to be said for the extended family. You could argue that one of sadder aspects of modern America is how so many of us live in nuclear families, without a rich assemblage of uncles and aunts and grandparents and cousins etc. I've no wish to impose our nuclear family concept on those who wish to move here. Their idea is probably better than our concept of parents-children-no one else.

However, if you agree with me that our primary goal with immigration is to help America prosper (both financially and emotionally), we can't just let someone come over, then bring dozens of relatives, with American taxpayers winding up supporting many of them.

How to reconcile these things? I have a proposal I haven't heard anyone else make: when someone applies for a visa with the intent of settling here, that person must list everyone he/she ever wants to bring over. Then we evaluate the group collectively. If the applicant can create an escrow account sufficient to cover everyone's fiscal needs in perpetuity, no problemo. If the group can demonstrate a net profit in productivity for the group, also no problemo. Otherwise, problemo. But it should all be sorted out before the first person comes over in the first place.

Doesn't that sound reasonable?