Monday, October 24, 2011

Political Idea Bomb #1: Rejigger the Immigration Debate

What can any sensible American citizen do about the present political climate? (Wait... not "climate." Let's use a less divisively fraught word. "Environment?"  Aw hell.)

Rebuilding an optimistic, pragmatic, problem-solving, scientific, brave and world-valuable United States will be hard. The skill I'm paid for is looking at things from quirky angles - perspectives that hardly fit our tiresome cliches. So here's the first of several "political idea-bombs."

== The Immigration "Debate" ==

I've mentioned this before. Everything you think you know about immigration is probably wrong. For example, U.S. immigration rates have fallen during the world economic decline. And - as many point out - the jobs that are "lost" to undocumented immigrants are almost never filled by American citizens, even when the work goes begging.

So where does all the anger come from? Consider that the "white" category became a minority group, for the first time ever, in U.S. census figures.  Sure, it's the largest minority, by far. Even so it is inflated by the fact that many Americans of Hispanic background check "white."  Hence, the image of a multi-colored United States has millions writhing in discomfort, even if it delights  liberal intelligencia.

One visceral root of culture war, then, is understandably psychological.

What is the biggest driver of this rapid change in the makeup of the U.S. citizenry? Listen to the rage, and you'd think that it was an invasion, a veritable tsunami of wetback illegals. But facts speak otherwise. The driver of demographic change in America, over the last generation or so, has been legal immigration.

When ethnic quotas on immigration were removed in 1965, the number of first- generation immigrants living in the United States quadrupled, rising from 9.6 million in 1970 to nearly 38 million in 2007.  In 1990, George H.W. Bush signed the Immigration Act of 1990, which resulted in an increase in legal immigration to the United States by 40%.

The United States admitted more legal immigrants in the most recent decade -- ten million legal immigrants settled in the U.S. Still, this represents an annual increase of only about 0.3% as the U.S. population grew from 249 million to 281 million. A lot of people. But remember  this isn't new. By comparison, the highest previous decade was the 1900s, when 8.8 million people arrived, increasing the total U.S. population by one percent every year. Specifically, "nearly 15% of Americans were foreign-born in 1910, while in 1999, only about 10% were foreign-born.

So why has the lion's share of attention gone to the smaller flow of undocumented aliens coming to the U.S., many of whom are only here temporarily? Well, part of it is a purely visceral matter of fairness and perception of equity. Take this, from The Public Agenda web site:

"In surveys, the public consistently makes a sharp distinction between legal and illegal immigrants. In general, the public looks more favorably on immigrants perceived as "playing by the rules." Illegal immigrants are viewed with much less sympathy. Half of those surveyed by Public Agenda say giving the government the power to detain legal immigrants indefinitely in the war on terrorism "goes too far," but six in 10 say illegal immigrants who are detained "don't deserve such protections because they are here illegally." What's more, six in 10 also say illegal immigrants should be deported immediately after being caught, without recourse to the courts. The distinction is strong enough that caution should be taken in reporting survey questions that do not distinguish between legal and illegal immigration or those that combine these elements."

Part of the fixation on illegal immigration, then, comes from the simple fact that it is disreputable and potentially embarrassing - even racist-sounding - to go after the larger flows of legal immigrants. Railing against illegals is more than sufficient.  In a movement whose goals are purely emotional, never practical, culture warriors spare nary a thought for the legal variety.

== A Pause for Perspective ==

Besides, the United States has so clearly benefited from immigration across the last 200 years that anyone who thinks otherwise must either be very ignorant or... well... a Native American. (Can't blame them, after all.)  Indeed, together with Canada and Australia, three countries account for nearly all of the legal migration around the world, a fact that (among other things) should give us a certain moral cushion, when outsiders complain about some of the mistakes made by Pax Americana. Study after study has shown that our vigor as a nation grew out of this tradition.

Indeed, there is a sci-fi kind of eugenical twist to all of this. Since we are all descended from people who came... albeit some of those ancestors arrived involuntarily... might that restless spirit underlie some of America's accomplishments? And its continuing potential for the future?

== Ironies Abound! ==
I'm not here to give a lengthy analysis of immigration law and its consequences.  I am no expert and don't claim to be. What gets my dander up, though, is the way that partisanship causes people to glom onto positions that often bear no relationship at all to facts.

For example, the notion that Republicans are harsh defenders of the border, while Democrats are wimpy pushovers.  In that case, how does one explain the fact that one of President Obama's very first acts in office was to boost the number of "boots" at the national boundaries and to demand a major rise in funding for the Border Patrol? This is no anomaly. Remember Operation Gatekeeper? It got a lot of play, back in 1993, when Bill Clinton virtually doubled the Border Patrol and began constructing new barriers along our then-porous borders?

In contrast, President George W. Bush, cut the BP in his first year. (Though, in fairness, Congress restored that funding in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, leading to a rise in staffing across the last ten years.)

These facts provoke cognitive dissonance, because they don't fit our preconceptions of left-versus-right.  But there really are logical reasons, if you pause and manifest that greatest human gift -- curiosity.

For some years, I thought the explanation was pure and simple. Why should Democrats like illegal immigration? No reason at all! Sure, touchy-feely niceness to newcomers can play well to the left wing of the party. Moreover, kindness and investment in kids who already live here makes sense, both morally and in purely practical terms.

But after saying all of that to the Democratic base, the politicians have to think about their top constituents - labor unions and urbanites. And those core groups have no reason to like floods of cheap labor. They prefer legal immigration - people with green cards who can join unions and who have good prospects to become new voters.

Supporting evidence: since 1986, Congress has passed seven amnesties for illegal immigrants, converting one kind of immigrant into the other.From the kind that are easily exploited by predatory employers to those who might vote and pay labor dues.

This explanation still seems pretty valid, even after qualifying it with this inconvenient fact: that Republican President George H.W. Bush signed that 1990 immigration law, accelerating legal immigration. Moreover, in 1986, Ronald Reagan signed immigration reform that gave amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants in the country. Clearly, my pat division of motives merited some qualifiers, and I am willing to learn from facts.

Still, Democratic Congresses played a large role in boosting legal immigration, and they have always gone along with hikes in the Border Patrol. Those facts won't go away.

What about  Republicans? They go on and on, endlessly complaining about illegal immigration as a horrid betrayal, because that kind of red-rhetoric speaks to their base. But please dig it: they controlled the United States of America, top to bottom and every branch of government all through the first decade of the 21st Century, and nothing much was done.

Why? Because the folks who actually pay the GOP's bills have their own agenda. And a cynic can quickly see how many of them benefit from floods of immigrants who cannot complain or join unions or demand the minimum wage.

Can I prove these ironies? Only circumstantially; but shouldn't they provoke you to ponder?  The parties are rife with situations like this -- in which the public stance of dems or goppers can differ markedly from the actual policies that the party enacts, when it is in power.

(But this should come as no surprise.  The Republican values-base has never received anything that it really wanted, other than lip service, from the GOP. Again, the Republican Party had complete and absolute mastery of the Presidency, Congress and the judiciary, and gave the base nothing during all that time, about abortion or any other hot topic.  Only the aristocracy got what it wanted. Every time.)

== University America ==

Americans tend to self-flagellate over our "horrid education system." Elsewhere I ask - "if our schools are so bad, why do we have 85 of the 100 best universities on the planet?

The answers (several of them) are rather complex and never discussed in public... but the one reply I always get is "the best students are all foreign!"

In fact that answer is wrong. But even if it were true... so? Just think about that flood of foreign kids, flooding our colleges. Swarming in to learn, to better themselves and their homelands, and then - 90% of them - returning filled with new, wider values. What a deal! Especially when you note that they are paying for the privilege! It is the greatest investment in future peace and ensuring that the world's leaders are generally friendly to their second home - America.

But it goes deeper.  That 10% who remain here consists often of the very best, skimmed off the top and given visas, then citizenship. Envision this scam in its awesome majesty! Draw the world's best over here, teach them, infect them with new values, and keep the best? And they pay us for this? (Chuckle; hand-rubbing glee...)  Of course this has changed a bit. Chinese and Indian scholars now scurry back home because there's vast money to be made there. But the overall program still works.

It's an example of a win-win-win game. We used to be really good at finding them, before culture war imposed zero-sum thinking.  This particular one suggests some new directions for immigration policy.

== More Surprises? ==

Actually, there are issues that run beneath issues here, and they merit your consideration. Take the criteria that the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the State Department have been required to follow, when doling out legal immigrant visas.

For decades, the top consideration went to re-uniting family members. And at first sight, that does seem a compassionate and just basis to allow people into the country, instead of keeping folks separated from those they love.

Except... isn't that just rewarding the lucky with more luck? And when you admit a legal immigrant's brother, then does the brother's son come along? Of course the son's mother (his wife) is next.  And then... her brother too?  And that brother's kid and wife... and so on...  Isn't it clear that there is no place to clearly draw a line?

There should be a way to say: "This here clan has had a lot of luck.  Let's pause for a while and let some of that good fortune go to the millions of others out there, who have their faces pressed against the glass."

Indeed, shouldn't we try for a positive sum game here? If we're limited in the number of people we can absorb per year, and can only take a small fraction of those who are both deserving an eager, then why not have a fair number of those slots go to those whose arrival will benefit us all, in clearcut and immediate ways? Are they any less deserving, just because they happen to be instantly useful?
Indeed, won't the increased prosperity they help generate here allow us to be more generous to others, in the future?

Canada and Australia and the U.S. all issue a certain number of Employment-Based visas. And a strong case can be made for increasing this number, along with slots for inventors and company builders and major investors. It has even been proposed to solve our current housing crash by giving a green card to anyone who immediately buys a home with $500,000 or more in cash.

(All right, that's rewarding the lucky, and it won't play well on the left. But those of you who follow my "contrary" swings know that I am perfectly happy aiming jabs in that direction! Sure, the right has gone completely bonkers with its War on Science and every other knowledge profession. But that doesn't mean their opponents are always correct, not by a long shot.)

== Listen Up, Rick Perry! ==

In fact, let me couch this as advice to a man I don't especially admire, and dislike in many ways... but a fellow who on occasion has actually intrigued me with the unconventional words that slip out of his mouth, from time to time.

(Example: the Texas Governor is the only other person I know who has publicly declared an obvious fat -- that the first phase of our ongoing American Civil War began in 1851, with southern oppression of northern states! Okay, I admit it; I'd buy him a beer, because to me interesting compensates for many sins, and I enjoy challenging disagreement more than I like parroted sameness.)

Okay, so right now Rick Perry has a problem regarding immigration. So crazed has the Republican base become that he must backpedal furiously from actions and positions that were completely mainstream in the GOP, during the era of Ronald Reagan.  It should be blatantly obvious to anyone with a mix of compassion and practicality that immigrant kids need health care and education... and we need them to be both healthy and educated. Duh? Well, the obvious becomes deniable, in times that Robert Heinlein called "The Crazy Years."

(Perry reminds me of the "good German" Oskar Schindler... who was a low-life scoundrel by the standards of a normal-calm nation, but who, when all his friends and neighbors went mad, refused to sink below a certain level of insane turpitude. Who then exhibited surprising heroism. We'll see if my comparison proves apt.)

Is there a way out for Perry?  Well, I can suggest one. Turn the focus toward legal immigration. A judo move. Get people talking about the larger flow, instead of the smaller. Get them talking about fresh ideas, like visas for investors and home-buyers and inventors. Take a lead there, making people talk. Heck, even blame the democrats for something they actually did for a change! (Increasing legal immigration.)

And lay it out as a bipartisan given that the border will be better policed, with new technology. Indeed, make technology a topic for optimistic talking points. (Remember Reagan?  Optimism can be good politics!)

Who knows, maybe some Republicans will even respond if you defy the Fox-propelled mad-lemming rush and actually say something good about science!  Yes, that may be too brave to ask of any GOP candidate.  Still it would set you aside from the pack...

== Shake it up! ==

What's my real point here?

Immigration, like most other policy issues, is far more complex than the simpleminded politics of this benighted-lobotomized era. An era when the sheer notion of the positive sum game is anathema... and so are people of the kind who use words like "anathema."

We could negotiate positive sum, win-win solutions, to this and a myriad other vexing dilemmas.  But it would have to start with accepting that complexity ain't evil. And neither is negotiation. And that is why I'll keep tossing these "idea-bombs."

Because some of you out there really want to live in a civilization that's worthy of the name. And together, maybe we can persuade enough of our neighbors to want it, too.


Nicholas MacDonald said...

Inventors, entrepreneurs, sure... these are rather fuzzy categories, however.

China issues nearly unlimited quantities of work visas for developed-world citizens with skills they need- most notably teachers and academics (practically anyone with an advanced degree can get a university lecturer position somewhere in China, and anyone with a BA and native-level English- including fluent continental europeans and southeast Asians- can get an English teaching position), but also including airline pilots, medical doctors, and senior-level engineers. In addition, by investing merely $3000 in a business license, nearly any would-be entrepreneur can get permanent residency (I just recently incorporated a market consulting firm in Shanghai- half because I want to be able to do business legally, and half so I can stay here with my fiancee without having to rely on an employer for my residency!)

Of course, not everybody (understandably) wants to move to China. The US, despite high unemployment, is still seen as the land of opportunity, so such an easy immigration regime is probably out of the question. But it seems that a simple, streamlined "unlimited work visa policy" like China's for people with legitimate credentials in jobs we need- such as medical doctors, registered nurses (and Mandarin teachers!)- would be sensible, as well as some sort of policy for foreign entrepreneurs. (No initial investment requirement, but you have to prove legitimate revenues - not profits - within a year in order to stay.)

sociotard said...

An occupy wall street riff that Dr. Brin would enjoy.


LarryHart said...

Dr Brin, you've been "onwarding" so quickly that I have to answer my fellow posters from last post over in this one or they won't see the response. I hope that's not too gauche a thing to do.


You're not really deducting "expenses", you are deducting the VAT you've already paid.

Once you get your head around it, it makes sense. But I guarantee no US President who introduces such a bill will get it through congress in any recognisable form. It will make the Obamacare debate look like nothing.

Agreed on all counts. I'm not sure exactly how Cain presents the three pillars of his tax plan, but given American animosity toward the term, I sincerely doubt that he CALLS it a VAT. That's why I'm not sure how he DOES explain it.


For those who'd like to remember the golden age of the 90's, here is a Clinton administration report that was never published: What would happen if the US actually paid off its debt?

Couldn't the US run a surplus and yet continue to issue Treasury notes as long as it also held more than enough cash reserves (or gold or whatever) to COVER those notes? If the lack of Treasury notes is a problem in and of itself, it seems that there would be a way around it. Sounds like it might have been a nice problem to have.

Nonetheless, I suspected back in 2001 that a hidden reason for GW Bush's then-inexplicable decision to give away the store BEFORE paying down the debt was intentional. That some very powerful interests were dead set opposed to the debt going away. I suspect those same powerful interests are now stirring up the Tea Partiers agasint *gasp!* government debt.


(Note that the "House Rule" in question does not, in fact, address cameras at all, so the citation by Dear Leader makes no sense at all from a "thinking" POV; it's sheer government by force of brutality, which one would think "conservatives" would dislike.)

In my day, conservatives were the "law and order" party. They LIKED police brutality, as long as it was directed against hippies and minorities. Now, conservatives claim to not like government coercion, but what they seem to mean is they don't like it directed against the elite (in the form of regulations and such). They are not, nor have they ever been against the use of force in the service of authoritarianism.

Tacitus said...

A few short of time thoughts on the immigration issue.
-almost anybody when given a chance to address the issue will be in favor of basic health care for illegal immigrants. Heck, most of our outbreaks of vaccine preventable disease comes from immigrants.
-in my experience illegals underutilize the health care system. The are trying to stay under the radar. Sometimes they stay away too long.
-the hispanic community is viewed by most conservatives in a favorable light. Strong family values, understandable desire to better their lives. And yes, I suppose a Christianity based culture helps in some people's minds.
-As to the jobs that go "unfilled" by Americans. Well, I would now cue all parents of young folks with nebulous future plans to join me in an avuncular "harumph!". It would do our pampered young a great deal of good to pick grapes for a season. I have mixed feelings on #OccupyWallStreet. I stand in solid opposition to #OcccupyMySofa.
-With respect to legal/illegal immigration the devil resides at his customary address. Who do we invite in? More Phd's? Folks willing to repopulate North Dakota? Do we even know how many illegals there are? If we lock in more generous legal levels will the illegal flow increase or decrease on top of that?
-This is a somewhat regional issue. The impact of hispanic immigration is much greater in Calif and AZ and TX. I listen respectfully to the varied opinions of those who have this issue front and center in their communities.

(back to D-isomeric form)

Hans said...

Rick Perry (or any other candidate) will not get the chance to talk meaningfully about any sensible topic. It doesn't pay the bills in the mediasphere.

The fact that Rick Perry and Mitt Romney had to deal with real problems (respectively immigration and healthcare) makes not one whit of difference to those who make their living from stirring the pot for fun and profit. News as entertainment... meh.


Msoong said...

Regarding immigration of yore and today: One big difference is skin color. Looking back, immigrants in the 1900's are perceived as all white (i.e. Jewish, Italian, Irish) even though there are folks like Chinese and Philippine in the mix. Nowadays the Reds mainly look at it as a south of the border problem. I think (not so) subtle racism is also at work here...

sociotard said...

This is why Uplift is a bad idea:
(actually, why giving an AK-47 to anyone under 30 is a bad idea)

sociotard said...

EDIT: oops, the video I posted was faked, part of the planet of the apes viral marketing campaign.

David Brin said...

Tacitus: "I have mixed feelings on #OccupyWallStreet. I stand in solid opposition to #OcccupyMySofa."

Dang! What a great Grampa you'll make! Seriously, I do not disagree at all. This is where I get all Paleocon and Heinleinian.

Heck I think all 18 yr olds should be drafted... though just for 3 months... a "camp" either taking very basic military or EMS training or picking fruit or helping in schools.

But the Dakotas should simply be given to the First Nations as reparations. Wouldn't that solve two problems at once? See EXISTENCE.

Crap. Seif-al_islam escaped. There go serveral billions. I need to write that Helvetian article.

sociotard said...

So, remember Dr. Brin's theory that 'world government' will form via lots of treaty organizations, not unlike the Galactic Institutions in Uplift?

An article pointing out that the US could be forced out of those groups as Palestine starts joining.,0,2019108.story

Rob said...

Found it; an NYTimes article about the dropoff of illegal migrations north from Mexico:

I think it's a combination of marginally improving conditions in Mexico, the peril of going through the border cities because of drug-runner violence, and the appalling rhetoric against illegal immigration in the U.S.

By the way, this is leaving many Washington State apple orchards unharvested. If you want work, you can get $150/day (that's $15/hour or so, I imagine paid by the bushel or something) right-freaking-now. Picking apples is nothing compared to cucumbers, strawberries, beans, what have you.

Carl M. said...

The key to sane immigration law is dealing with a fundamental dilemma: with our labor law and welfare system we are trying to maintain a minimum standard of living in this country far above that of the median of most of the world. Open the gates to millions of low skilled laborers and you pull down the market for the work they do. This indirectly burdens the welfare system as many of the native born opt for welfare rather than compete with arbitragers of labor markets/comfortable incomes.

An answer: SELL the right to come here. Have a hard to avoid nearly flat tax that goes all the way down to the first dollar. Then, give all citizens a monthly rebate check. This turns a low minimum wage into a living wage. It also provides a damper low skill immigrants, while providing less damper for skilled immigrants than the current quota system.

Our immigration system runs like a Soviet bread line: the price is too low so we ration with long waits. Raise the price and reduce the wait.

As for the racism angle: as a Southern white I feel significant moral obligation to ensure that U.S. citizenship is valuable to the descendents of those dragged here involuntarily. I have no such obligation to those who would arbitrage away this value.

LarryHart said...

A little off-topic, but this is a very good article trying to explain just why the OWS meme is really catching on now...

The whole thing is worth a read, but here's an excerpt:

We should not, so the thinking went, begrudge the multimillionaire living behind his 15-foot walls for his success; we should admire him. Corporate bosses deserved not our resentment but our gratitude. It was in our own interest not to demand more in taxes from the wealthiest but less, as their enhanced wealth -- their pocket change -- would trickle down in various ways to all of us.

This is the mentality that enabled massive growth in income and wealth inequality over the past several decades without much at all in the way of citizen protest. And yet something has indeed changed. It’s not that Americans suddenly woke up one day and decided that substantial income and wealth inequality are themselves unfair or intolerable. What changed was the perception of how that wealth was gotten and so of the ensuing inequality as legitimate.

Many Americans who once accepted or even cheered such inequality now see the gains of the richest as ill-gotten, as undeserved, as cheating. Most of all, the legal system that once served as the legitimizing anchor for outcome inequality, the rule of law -- that most basic of American ideals, that a common set of rules are equally applied to all -- has now become irrevocably corrupted and is seen as such.
That catches the mood of America in 2011. It may not explain the Occupy Wall Street movement, but it helps explain why it has spread like wildfire and why so many Americans seem instantly to accept and support it. As was not true in recent decades, the American relationship with wealth inequality is in a state of rapid transformation.

It is now clearly understood that, rather than apply the law equally to all, Wall Street tycoons have engaged in egregious criminality -- acts which destroyed the economic security of millions of people around the world -- without experiencing the slightest legal repercussions. Giant financial institutions were caught red-handed engaging in massive, systematic fraud to foreclose on people’s homes and the reaction of the political class, led by the Obama administration, was to shield them from meaningful consequences. Rather than submit on an equal basis to the rules, through an oligarchical, democracy-subverting control of the political process, they now control the process of writing those rules and how they are applied.
The tide that was supposed to lift all ships has, in fact, left startling numbers of Americans underwater. In the process, we lost any sense that a common set of rules applies to everyone, and so there is no longer a legitimizing anchor for the vast income and wealth inequalities that plague the nation.

That is what has changed, and a growing recognition of what it means is fueling rising citizen anger and protest. The inequality under which so many suffer is not only vast, but illegitimate, rooted as it is in lawlessness and corruption. Obscuring that fact has long been the linchpin for inducing Americans to accept vast and growing inequalities. That fact is now too glaring to obscure any longer.

LarryHart said...

Carl M.:

The key to sane immigration law is dealing with a fundamental dilemma: with our labor law and welfare system we are trying to maintain a minimum standard of living in this country far above that of the median of most of the world.

There is indeed a fundamental...I was going to say "dichotomy", but maybe "tension" is a better term...between the ideals that everyone has the right to human dignity and equal treatment under the law vs the other ideal of everybody having access to cheap goods and services.

In an earlier age, the two might be incompatible. Luxury in stuff requires an underclass to create that stuff. Modern manufacturing techniques and (more importantly) technology might make both things possible at the same time.

It gets a little to Dr Brin's concept of "otherness". Are the ideals that "We find to be self-evident" in the Declaration of Independence meant to apply to all human beings anywhere? Or do we decide which subgroup of people these inalienable rights apply to and consider everyone else to be a sub-class, valued only for their productive capability and nothing more?

I'm not exactly arguing with you--more like going off on my own tangent. I think I mainly agree with what you said.

soc said...

I don't know how your system works in the US, but here in Canada we have a points system. You get points for things like work experience, qualifications, education, age etc. Once you get a certain minimum number of total points you qualify for immigration.

This system was brought in to give people immigration based on merit rather than race, as was the case previously.

There's also a visa for investors, entrepreneurs and self-employed persons.

From Citizenship and Immigration Canada website:

"Business immigrants are expected to make a C$800,000 investment or to own and manage businesses in Canada, and must meet certain experience and/or net worth criteria."

soc said...

Here's a points chart for a business immigrant.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Rob, if it weren't for the fact that most teachers are in school and very busy at this time, I'd suggest that they might take a month or so off and pick produce. They could actually get paid a reasonable amount rather than fight over wages. Would the hiatus make the neocons realize what a service education specialists do, or would it make them circle the wagons and say they can easily do without?


pajocrup: BS ad hominem arguments

David Brin said...

Carl, have you read my article? I included that possibility... though expressing it perhaps a bit less crassly. You over-generalize. Please read it.

Fruit picking? I think every citizen owes the nation a year, only three months of it compelled at 18. You could choose between a summer-camp level of basic training in military, EMS or such...

...or helping others or in schools...

...or helping with that year's harvest.

Paul451 said...

Just had a quick look at 9-9-9.
He's basically got a double tax on sales to replace business tax, and a double tax on wages to replace payroll tax. Oh, but it "ends the double tax on dividends", so proclaims Cain's website... because double-taxing... is bad?

I also noted he's already started modifying it to allow exemptions. ("909"). That's the problem with "flat" taxes, they never stay flat for long.

"I'm not sure exactly how Cain presents the three pillars of his tax plan,"

He doesn't. It's a struggle to find useful details, the terminology used is often confused. Gak, too much effort over a second tier candidate.

As one article put it: "it's not ready for primetime, and it's not going to become the law of the land. That's all you really need to know."

(sonsopat: A reassuring sound.)

Tim Morgan said...

Example: the Texas Governor is the only other person I know who has publicly declared an obvious fat -- that the first phase of our ongoing American Civil War began in 1851, with southern oppression of northern states!

I'll bite, what did Perry say about 1851? I know the Great Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and various southern states threats of succession around that time. What am I missing?

Paul451 said...

Re: Fruit picking.
When I was in high school, orchards had a terrible reputation for ripping off kids. The rate of pay was below minimum wage (legal loophole), and then they charged you fees for board (required, you weren't allowed to stay off-site), meals (again, whether you had them or not), and anything else they could think of. And even then, towards the end of the season, you'd find it harder and harder to get any pay you were owed anyway. Eventually most kids walked away, still owed hundreds in unpaid wages.

We'd rather clean public toilets.


I've noticed, even today, that help-wanted ads for toilet cleaners are downright picky ("must have two years experience, will only hire working couple, etc"), while ads for pickers are much more desperate ("No skills required! Wages paid daily(**)!")


Likewise, call centre ads are begging, "We'll hire anyone! No experience necessary! We'll train you! Free cookies!" OTOH, office cleaners "Must have current certificate, must have genuine references, must be experienced with Brand X3000 Gas Buffer..."

I think there's plenty of people willing to do shitty work for shitty pay, but less willing to tolerate shitty employers. But I guess when the free market bites the free marketeers, suddenly Something Must Be Done.

(bonsu, Your small tree.)

Tony Fisk said...

I think OWS came about, not because the 99% woke up one day and decided to begrudge the billionaire his wealth, but because, after GFC, it became increasingly evident that said billionaire's peers had gathered all the bananas, scoffed the lot, and were holding out their paws for more. All without doing a thing in return. #occupySofa indeed!

Illegal immigration is also a contentious issue in Australia at the moment. It's a strange situation where *both* the main parties are seeking to impose some form of off-shore processing (which denies immigrants certain rights, as well as keeping them out of the public eye) However, a large fraction of the public are shaking their heads and saying 'Oh! Get *over* it! Just bring 'em in and process them here!'. Immigration to Australia as a whole has always been a complex issue. How many to let in? There may be plenty of room, but the place is not so rich in certain resources (eg water, fertile soil) Any population limiting move usually has an undercurrent of racism to it. Definitely a need for 'possum' thinking there.

Indeed, there is a sci-fi kind of eugenical twist to all of this. Since we are all descended from people who came... albeit some of those ancestors arrived involuntarily... might that restless spirit underlie some of America's accomplishments? And its continuing potential for the future?

Have you heard of a new evolutionary theory called 'spatial sorting'? Arising from studies of the spread of cane toads across Australia, it might explain how meek, 'mild' nature types ambled in after the Neolithic Klingon types cut a swathe across Asia and the Americas (then and more recently), and why the 'fury of the Norsemen' dissipated after a couple of generations.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Paul, and it's only being examined now that we are throttling down on the number of people willing to tolerate rotten employers because they are afraid of being deported, or worse. When the people willing to put up with selling their soul to the company store aren't around any more, this will hopefully bite unscrupulous employers. In this case the citizen's 'entitlement mentality' is 'I want to be paid what I was promised'. Heh indeed.


antero: new insecticides

Tony Fisk said...

Occupy Boston is being evicted... with tear gas and, from some reports, sound cannon.

Now, I've pondered whether or not twitter is 'demoting' certain trends (they advertise promotions). I accept that 'trending' is based more on an upsurge in tweets (a spike)

I've recently found 'Trendistic' Compare the mildly trending Oakland PD with the non-trending OccupyBoston I really would like to know how twitter selects trending topics...

Tony Fisk said...

It gets better(!?) Trendistic is currently showing tweets with #occupyoakland trending at no. 2 (#ows is no. 7) Twitter shows... Oakland PD and OPD (which are 1/10 the size) #InnerFire is promoted with no real traffic.

suste: the smell of the State of Denmark

juicy couture said...

Thank you for sharing your knowledge on this topic with your readers. I, for one appreciate how much work you went to in putting all this together. Thanks a bunch.

Tim H. said...

From my perspective, immigrant labor is used to depress wages and support marginal businesses. All of the positive aspects of immigration are true, but secondary.

"ovell", impressive marketing concept that failed due to a lack of sentient, oviparous beings with disposable income.

Paul451 said...

Re: Your take on spatial sorting.

Damn. I have this whole universally applicable solution to Fermi's Paradox based on Spatial Sorting.

(Expansionist colonies have more colonies, rinse&repeat until the wave reaches the edge of the galaxy, turns on itself and burns out.)

But if the slower stable colonisers can expand into territory conquered by the less "fit" hyper-expansionists, my beautiful theory she is rooned. <sob>

Re: Aussie immigration hysteria.
[Everyone else: The amount of illegal immigration Australia gets is tiny compared to most countries. So, obviously, the level of media hysteria about it is higher.]

I had an plan, back in the '80s, to allow unlimited so-called "economic refuges" via a 5 year Work-To-Live scheme. Anyone who didn't qualify for existing legal migration/refuge-status could still earn residency if they were willing to sign up to a 5 year work program.

They work for the government on labour intensive infrastructure projects (from roads/rail to weeding national parks). Housing and meals are provided (built by, cooked by, guess who), along with mandatory language and civics classes. The program would be designed to have a 30% drop out rate in the first two year, 15% in the remaining three.

Each year, the workers are increasingly mainstreamed into society, to give them a clear sense of progress and seniority, and to avoid institutionalisation. After 5 years, they have full permanent residency (even citizenship if they pick that "stream".)

Five years is a long time to be, effectively, an indentured servant. But 1 or 2 years might still earn a "Meh" from the Haters. 5 years is... worthy. "Mate, you'd have gotten less time for [crime]!"

Paul451 said...

Tim Morgan,
"I'll bite, what did Perry say about 1851?"

Google "perry civil war".

Essentially, he said it was violation of Northern sovereignty which was the real cause of the civil war, not violation of The South, nor slavery itself. David has riffed on a similar theme.

The difference, though, is that Perry twisted it into a "states good, Fed bad" theme. It wasn't the Southern states who violated the rights of the North, it was "The Federal Government". And had the Federal government stayed out of the issue, it would have somehow been sorted out at the state level.

("Unwilling to give up a way of life inexcusably based on an abominable practice, southern states persuaded Congress — the federal govenrment — to pass the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which compelled citizens of northern states to act against their conscience and help return escaped former slaves to bondage. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court got involved, striking down states' personal liberty laws and ruling in Dred Scott v. Sanford that federal territories could not be free and that free states were not entitled to offer the rights of citizenship to former slaves. Thus, while the southern states seceded in the name of "states' rights," in many ways it was the northern states whose sovereignty was violated in the run-up to the Civil War" ... "we can never know what would have happened in the absence of federal involvement" )

I think David likes it (beyond "Hey, I wrote that!"), because it uses one Republican shibboleth (State's rights) to gently challenge another (Civil War was The War Of Northern Aggression.)

Critic deride Perry for ignoring slavery, but I think the "Unwilling to give up a way of life inexcusably based on an abominable practice" seems clear enough. Slavery as an addiction.

Saw a comment in this article that I thought you might find interesting:

"This is a mistake too often made when people remember the civil war. It is formulated as a conflict between two sides — the slaveholding South and the abolitionist North — leading to the strange notion of a slaveholding country with no actual slaves. It's better to see the battle as being between at least three parties: The South, who wanted to maintain slavery, the North, who wanted to preserve the Union [and] black people who, for centuries, had wanted to be free."

(deranc: Warcry of the Dred Scott.)

LarryHart said...


Just had a quick look at 9-9-9.
He's basically got a double tax on sales to replace business tax, and a double tax on wages to replace payroll tax. Oh, but it "ends the double tax on dividends", so proclaims Cain's website... because double-taxing... is bad?

Well, taxing the "job creators" is bad. But I think that argument is finally fizzling. As I and others on this thread have mentioned, there's a kind of sea-change going on where people are waking up to the fact that there's a difference between "hating and envying the winners" and "calling them out for cheating", and that OWS etc are about the latter, not the former.

I also noted he's already started modifying it to allow exemptions. ("909"). That's the problem with "flat" taxes, they never stay flat for long.

Just this very morning, a conservative listener called into Bill Press's show and said he'd be in favor of Perry's 20% flat tax because he'd know exactly how much money he'd owe and be able to plan his life accordingly, whereas the current system is too complex and uncertain. He seemed to have no idea that the reason the current system is complex and uncertain is NOT because of multiple tax rates (a calculator or a tax table solves that "problem"), but because of deductions and exemptions, most of which are STILL a part of Perry's tax plan.

LarryHart said...


The difference, though, is that Perry twisted it into a "states good, Fed bad" theme. It wasn't the Southern states who violated the rights of the North, it was "The Federal Government". And had the Federal government stayed out of the issue, it would have somehow been sorted out at the state level.

Wow! That line of argument can blame any right-wing actions ("Citizens United") on the power of the federal government, which the right-wing claims to oppose. It's like they're campaigning on "Vote for us, so we'll limit the federal government from doing all the stuff that WE'RE doing now."

The sad thing is that it seems to work as a campaign strategy.

LarryHart said...

Katherine Vanden Heuvel had an article in the Washington Post about the GOP wanting not only to repeal the 20th century, but the 19th and 18th as well. In there, she had this throwaway line:

It seems worth reminding the candidates that these debates have been settled, many for decades, some for centuries and that the year is 2011, not 1611.

...which made me wonder, has ANY attention been given to the 500th anniversary of the King James Bible?

LarryHart said...

Heh...that should have been FOUR hundredth's anniversary.

sociotard said...

David Brin said:
But the Dakotas should simply be given to the First Nations as reparations. Wouldn't that solve two problems at once? See EXISTENCE.

Assuming that all tribes got to keep their current reservations in addition to the Dakotas, but that the 'state' government of the Dakotas switched to representation from all tribes . . .

I could see that working.

Stefan Jones said...

Science is making it increasingly hard for the Social Darwinist clade of conservatism to condemn populations as inferior and beyond help:

Your DNA may carry a ‘memory’ of your living conditions in childhood

"Family living conditions in childhood are associated with significant effects in DNA that persist well into middle age, according to new research by Canadian and British scientists.

The team, based at McGill University in Montreal, University of British Columbia in Vancouver and the UCL Institute of Child Health in London looked for gene methylation associated with social and economic factors in early life. They found clear differences in gene methylation between those brought up in families with very high and very low standards of living. More than twice as many methylation differences were associated with the combined effect of the wealth, housing conditions and occupation of parents (that is, early upbringing) than were associated with the current socio-economic circumstances in adulthood. (1252 differences as opposed to 545).

The findings, published online today in the International Journal of Epidemiology, could provide major evidence as to why the health disadvantages known to be associated with low socio-economic position can remain for life, despite later improvement in living conditions. The study set out to explore the way early life conditions might become ‘biologically-embedded’ and so continue to influence health, for better or worse, throughout life. The scientists decided to look at DNA methylation, a so-called epigenetic modification that is linked to enduring changes in gene activity and hence potential health risks. (Broadly, methylation of a gene at a significant point in the DNA reduces the activity of the gene.)"

Can you imagine Conservatives spending as much energy on making life better for poor children as they did protecting protecting embryos?

Fat chance.

LarryHart said...

Stefan Jones:

Your DNA may carry a ‘memory’ of your living conditions in childhood

"Family living conditions in childhood are associated with significant effects in DNA that persist well into middle age, according to new research by Canadian and British scientists.

I think I first heard about this sort of thing on Thom Hartmann's radio show--the notion that even before birth, the fetus and the mother exchange some sort of biological communication which informs the fetus whether he's about to be born into a threatening world or a beneficent one.

Weird to think that the old cliche of "His mother was scared by a fill-in-the-blank" to explain an irrational fear might have some truth behind it. :)

It also makes me glad that I've strived as much as I have to shield my daughter from thinking of life as threatening, as much as I secretly hold that opinion myself. I used to feel guilty for "lying" to her, but now I see it more as an attempt at making her a better person than I am.

LarryHart said...

Sorry...I know I shouldn't let this get to me, but Pat Buchannan has a recent column in which he complains that (paraphrasing) liberals have so ruined the country since the 1960s that conservatives may be forgiven for giving up on America.


The social, political and moral revolutions of the 1960s have changed America irretrievably. And they have put down roots and converted a vast slice of the nation.

In order to love one’s country, said Edmund Burke, one’s country ought to be lovely. Is it still? Reid Buckley, brother of Bill, replies, “I am obliged to make a public declaration that I cannot love my country. … We are Vile.”

And so what is the conservative’s role in an America many believe has not only lost its way but seems to be losing its mind?

What is it now that conservatives must conserve?

The reader comments at the bottom are full of excuses why these good conservative readers can no longer love their country as it is. They sound a lot like the guy on the Ayn Randist site declaring himself to be "on strike!" from creating new jobs until Obama's war on small business is called off. They also sound like Jerry Falwell blaming 9/11 on gays and feminists.

So much as I sound like a broken record...why is it that LIBERALS are evil if we criticize directions our country goes in that we believe to be wrong and/or immoral? Why are WE supposed to "Love it or leave it" and "Go back to Russia" and "not criticize a sitting president during wartime"? Why is it that those same conservatives who score points by impugning OUR patriotism free to pick and choose the things THEY don't like about America.

Why is it somehow patriotic to complain that America is too far to the left, but beyond the pale to comoplain about America being too far to the right?

David Brin said...

Stefan, amazing article.

Now let’s be careful. This is not Lamarckianism (inheriting of acquired traits by the next generation). Though another science report seems to imply that result in methylization studies, as well!

No what this shows is that the effects of childhood conditions can last for life, beyond mere malnutrition stunting of the brain or general health or psychological damage caused by poverty. Those latter effects should be enough to convince anybody that society must invest in the children of the poor, even if adults are consigned to libertarian perdiction, for their foolish choices.

As I've shown, the basic thrust of Adam Smith and even Hayek - maximizing the number of skilled competitors - demands this.

But the new result reinforces the lesson. I consider myself to be a style of libertarian. But anyone who rejects socialist intervention to help poverty-wracked children is not only evil but also now clearly shown to be batshit crazy. And wrong.

David Brin said...

See this cartoon that distills a point I'd been making for years. Everything we must do re Climate Change are things we ought to do anyway (TWODA). "Ruin the economy?" Who wants that! A strawman. Efficiency is next to godliness.

David Brin said...

Tony Fisk said...

The effects of methylated DNA (epigenetics) are touched on in the 'Life at 1, 3, 5, (..7)' series. (wrt obesity: seems that poor starving grandparents can end up with obese grandchildren. A rather skewed form of that biblical quote about sins of the fathers)

Back to 'twitter' trends. It doesn't really make sense for censorship to be occurring (if so, the #occupychicago tag conversation wouldn't be taking place) What appears to be happening is that tags that come out of the blue are favoured over spike heights. Thus #STANDWITHOAKLAND (and 'Oakland PD') trends at 0.02%, even though #OccupyOakland (0.75%) does not because of earlier traffic.

Personally, I think the algorithm's broken.

Anonymous said...

Some new info on the $40 billion in cash sent to Iraq and the last CPA official to oversea the money (a naturalized American born in Saudi Arabia):

Carl M. said...

Not a straw man. Read Grist or many of the other deep environmental publications. They can make Glenn Beck look sane, polite, and well informed.

Yes, there are reasonable voices in the environmental movement, but the extremists are loud and numerous.

A common problem I see with many of both progressives and environmentalists: they want every action to be progressive and/or environmentalistic. The idea of overall net benefit gets lost in the shouting. So yes, they promote things we ought to be doing anyway, AND things which make sense only if the Antarctic is about to dump 20% of its ice in 12 years if we don't cut emissions by 70% by then.

So yes, naysayers can easily pick out ludicrous proposals. It is a trivial procedure. Pick three proposals at random, and the odds are good you have a least one excellent "straw man" to attack.

David Brin said...

Carl, this is fundamental. You know that I am keenly aware of horrid maniacs of both left and right. I skewer both.

Only one extreme currently owns and operates a major political party, a media empire watched religiously by 1/3 of Americans, and has strong prospects to return to absolute rule over the nation - a rule which led to a perfect record of disaster.

They other bunch of extremist flakes make some noise in some NGOs and a couple of hundred university soft-studies departments, control nothing, have zero prospects of power, and are heeded only by right wingers who love them! Because they are great boogeymen.

Tony Fisk said...

Thinking of Scott Olsen, Sgt. Shamar Thomas, and OccupyMarines (and other branches) in general, it occurs to me that those '1000 Tim McVeighs' have found a better way to express their frustrations. (Thank goodness!)

LarryHart said...


A common problem I see with many of both progressives and environmentalists: they want every action to be progressive and/or environmentalistic. The idea of overall net benefit gets lost in the shouting.

Whereas conservatives and libertarians are

Men tshirts said...

This looks fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Mr Brin has much to learn, he is an erudite man and I respect his views but we in the UK have our sages too and they have done nothing to save us in our emerging predicament which is immigration related. There is a lesson here and he'll learn it from the UK in a few short years, which will cease to be white and fall to Islam if projections (not some Zany think tsank but our own National Statistic Office) are accurate by around 2080 when the muslim poplution projections outnumber the indiginous British folks.
He should review the Daily Telegraph editorial yesterday and the dynamic which appreared in the subsequent blog 543 posts in less than 24 hours)

it is a concern to the UK, Germany and France currently but it will spread...

See here:

Preaching a liberal progressive view is admirable and worthy of our "civilisation" but the US is someway behind the UK and things still appear to be normal there but trust me the rates are exponential albeit slow.

our rate is only 0.8% per year but over the 120 years thats roughtly parity-any more and you lost your country in less time, but right now 0.8 seems dandy doesn't it?

Now imagine that you are a small overcrowded nation teetering on the edge of an abyss resulting from a huge cultural change and scarcity of resource and overburdened infrastructure due solely to immigratio with a 2nd geneeration immigrant birth rate that outnumbers the existing population by a factor of 10. Then ask will preaching the status quo and accepting it is our moral duty that every human has the right to everything, actually work as a practical human solution to a western and eventually global problem.

Unequivacably, mathematically, certainly the answer is "no"

There are no easy answers-but without more than just thought, and intellectual debate its coming to you and though you see it now, you will be surprised when it hits.

Think bigger.

rewinn said...

@Dr Brin - are you actually preaching (as Anon 9:28 AM says) that "...every human has the right to everything..." ???

... because my Schlock Mercenary collection is missing several volumes. Hop to it, my good man, and get some sent over!

David Brin said...

I never said that a country should not regulate its immigration to a rate that it can healthfully absorb.

--- onward

Anonymous said...


I was of course satirising the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UN1948) which outlines that "everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of oneself and one's family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care." But I do get your point so your Gallactic comedy opera is in the post.

its all well and good if human life is more sacred than the resource you use to say feed your own children. I'd fight over that.

to Dr Brin (apologies for the Mr, I should know better) I know you do not advocate such a move to do so would be foolish when it is clearly unsupportable-but that I'm afraid will not stop it happening. it is happening here and we have similar measures and similar analysis helping us avoid what seems to many to be inevitable.

Think about the US doubling rate of immigration growth over a term of say 120 years, or whatever that function of the rate is, and see if you think that is sustainable then and at what point you or your grand children will think they are reaching a point of no return in terms of standards decline.

I won't labour what is after all a simple maths equation any further.
but imigration is a factor in that equation.

Have a good evening Sir.

Best regards

Mr.Tim Fitzgerald

rewinn said...

@Tim - welcome, and why not get a logon - it's free.

Your attack on the UDHR is irrational. Do have a good day now!