Monday, April 19, 2004

Immigration

I've had trouble getting my brain around this topic. All sides make good arguments, and figuring out what tradeoffs are best is a rough piece of work. Fortunately, Mr. Kendall was kind enough to get the ball rolling with an excellent article on his site. So, rather than come up with my own thoughts (of which there are few), I'll go ahead and tackle his points. Firstly, Mr. Kendall (rightly) skewers the arguments of the left ('overpopulation') and right ('wage degradation'):

What I find profoundly repugnant in both these worldviews is the implicit picture of human beings as nothing but rapacious animals who exist only to consume and destroy everything in their path.

In fact, neither the American economy or even the global resource base that sustains it can be considered closed in any meaningful way.

I'll give him the wage argument up to a point. Although spoiled, middle class babies make the most noise about immigrants stealing their jobs, it's actually the very poor and unskilled that stand to lose the most in any kind of open immigration. The little pressure there may be for raising the wages of the poor will be squashed when the supply of such workers greatly outstrips the demand. One may say that the oversupply will be worked out as workers improve their lot, but his will be difficult to do with wage stagnation; as well, the U.S. will never work off the worlds current supply of excess unskilled labor. Mr. Kendall then goes to make the next point:

This argument [of enforcing existing immigration laws] fails on several counts, not the least of which is the sheer hopelessness of the task. It is simply not practical to either seal off the border or rid the country of the approximately 10 million illegal immigrants that are already here, and those who advocate the enactment of such measures are truly deluding themselves

Firstly I'd like to point out that I don't think it would be so hopeless. As with any law, not all the perpetrators would be caught, but a sufficient number would be so as to serve as a deterrent towards committing the crime by others who might be given to break the law. Not even 10% of the existing number of illegals would need to be caught in order to drive the existing number down. However, in my mind this point is irrelevant because:

  1. The PC police would never let it happen
  2. There's really no benefit to doing so anyway. In fact it would be quite detrimental

What would be gained in the U.S. by kicking out 10 million people who want to be here and are contributing to the GDP of the country? A rough equivalent would be enforcing an age old law that limits oil imports without regard to the effect on the country. Mr. Kendall then touches on the security benefit:

Yet bringing the cross-border flow of immigrants out from the shadows of illegality and into the light of official scrutiny can actually play an important role in preventing would-be terrorists from successfully infiltrating the country—with good execution on the part of the authorities.

I'm given to think this was the primary motivation for President Bush's initiative. Mr. Kendall is careful to note though that 'good execution on the part of the authorities' will be key. Unfortunately, those ambivalent about immigration aren't likely to be soothed by this argument for exactly that reason. Are the same authorities who are responsible for the current immigration mess going to be the ones in charge of implementing this solution? What if they find someone without documentation? Will they get kicked out of the country? (Ha!) Will such documentation be available to peoples equally around the globe? Or is it a sop to the semi-nasty Mexican government? From someone outside looking in, this looks merely like amnesty with with a layer of bureaucratic paperwork over it to disguise it long enough to get it through the congress.

I guess that was always my primary concern with the proposal. Bush proposes throwing in the towel on any kind of controls, and in return, the people of America get... nothing. We could get North Korean émigrés and destabilize a hostile nation. We could document workers properly and enforce the law so that those who mean us harm can be kicked out of the country. We could make it easier for skilled labor in Europe to emigrate from there to the U.S. Anything...please! Just throw me a bone so that it'll make some sense to me.

Mr. Kendall then brings up the main rub. This is it, the big event. Were this not a worry, I doubt if anyone would care about any of the other points because they would work themselves out as they have in the past:

...large-scale immigration from Mexico could pose a problem for the United States if the worst aspects of multiculturalism—the rejection of a common culture and the elevation of discreet group identities based on race or ethnicity—cannot be overcome.

America has nothing against different ethnic groups, but Americans of all ethnicitys don't care for groups that use the funding of the government to set up fiefdoms that mirror the same country that they'd just left. Canada is a great example of how even just an unshared language base can split a country up. Heaven forbid there's no shared heritage as well. Well, I think I'm ready to round up the ideas.

Enforce current immigration law

The Good: There are plenty less idiotic laws that are enforced. There will always be a need for some kind of limit on immigration to keep the (theoretical) assimilation process from being overwhelmed (a'la Lebanon), so it's good to stay in the habit. Limiting immigration from Mexico may force improvements for the people there.

The Bad: Even if we ignored the PC ramifications (a big IF), the effects on the U.S. economy would not be good

The Gist: Despite it's drawbacks, I still have a soft spot for this proposal. It's not because of any anti-immigrant feelings on my part, but because it would be a confidence building measure (My goodness, they will enforce the law!) and so that U.S. immigration can be geared more towards our foreign policy aims (improvements in Mexico, destabilizing unfriendly totalitarian regimes). As well, I'd be more open to the worker permit deal since the government has proven that it can and will enforce the law.

Amnesty

The Good: The U.S. government will be able to track foreign workers, and a halfway point will be there for those who want to continue and be citizens, or go back home.

The Bad: Punishes those who obey the law

The Gist: As with the existing laws, this law won't be enforced. It's good in theory, but crap in practice.

Trial by fire assimilation

The Good: We get rid of everything multilingual in the government. One language taught in schools (yes, English). Schools will teach the greatness that is the U.S. Proper ID will be needed for voting. Socialist benefits are reigned in so that the motivations for sopping off of the federal government are negated.

The Bad: A lot of work

The Gist: Enforcing existing laws has a better shot

The Status Quo

The Good: Existing nonfunctioning system already in place, no new rules are needed! Politically expedient.

The Bad: Sucks worse than some, but it's not as bad as others.

The Gist:I guess the future looks like the past!

Monday, April 12, 2004

NPR on Japanese pacifism

I found myself listening to NPR this morning (yes, the other stations were that bad!) and came across this line in a report from a British ex-pat reporter in Japan:

...[Japan's] pacifist, post WW2 constitution, does not allow troops to be involved in combat abroad. This military castration, born of Japanese aggression in the '30s and '40s [hmm, I think I heard something about that],...

Oh, wait, is that all it was 'born' of? Good thing those Japanese saw the error of their ways and corrected that!

This sloppy reporting reinforces the 'accidental' view many Japanese have of their actions in WW2. In this line of thought, Japan's fate at the end of the war wasn't necessarily a result of anything evil that was done on their part ('mistakes were made'), but because those Americans were trying to suffocate Japan by taking their oil. At best, many (on both sides, unfortunately) put up a moral equivalence that says that Americans were just as bad as the Japanese because of U.S. military's actions during the war. In the words of a former defense minister of Japan (which I want to note, in no way characterizes the people of Japan's opinion as a whole. God forbid someone think all Americans think like Jimmy Carter!):

"Faced with oil and other embargoes from other countries, Japan had no choice but to venture out southward to secure natural resources," Norota, who is chairman of the Budget Committee of the powerful Lower House of parliament, was quoted by domestic media as telling supporters of the dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Sunday.

"In other words, Japan had fallen prey to a scheme of the United States. This is what many historians are saying," he said in remarks reminiscent of the justification used by Japanese militarists in the 1930s for their invasion of much of Asia.

I also found a brief article detailing some differences in how the war is handled on television in the two countries:

The most striking element in the American WWII documentary was the scene that depicts the day when the Japanese surrendered: American soldiers that returned triumphantly, happy faces of their families, relatives, and friends, and the triumphant parade in New York. These images are filled with joy and pride from the victory.
[Yup, sounds good to me!]
In fact, few TV shows on WWII that I have seen ever mentioned the American Air Force's bombing on sixty one cities in Japan, including the two biggest cities, Tokyo and Osaka. Before the Americans dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, more than 170,000 Japanese people, most of them civilians, had been killed, but this historical fact is largely ignored in most American documentaries.
[more on this point later]
Japanese TV shows on WWII, on the other hand, do not deal with military history. The Japanese military's invasions to China and Korea, and many other battles against European countries that colonized many Asian nations, are wiped out from WWII history programs on Japanese TV. There must have been brave military actions of Japanese soldiers. There must have been aggressive and cruel behavior of them as well.

Brave military actions? He mean ones like this and this. As well, I'm sorry to tell him, but the reason the civilian deaths aren't (highly) covered by American TV is because Americans don't give a hoot. Why is this? Because as any (non-NPR) idiot can see, Japan was evil and the U.S. did a great service to the world (and Japan) by tearing it down and building it anew.

Of course, for NPR to point this fact out, it might lend further credence to a certain war going on at the moment, and it might also benefit a certain hated president. Now we can't have any of that on taxpayer supported radio! Better that Japan have their history white washed than Bush win four more years!

(I will point out that the reporter later talks to an American professor in Tokyo that points out many of the same great points made by yours truly.)

NPR Watch - Japan

I found myself listening to NPR one morning (yes, the other stations were that bad!) and came across this line in a report from a British ex-pat reporter in Japan:

...[Japan's] pacifist, post WW2 constitution, does not allow troops to be involved in combat abroad. This military castration, born of Japanese aggression in the '30s and '40s [hmm, I think I heard something about that],...

Oh, wait, is that all it was 'born' of? Good thing those Japanese saw the error of their ways and corrected that!

This sloppy reporting reinforces the 'accidental' view many Japanese have of their actions in WW2. In this line of thought, Japan's fate at the end of the war wasn't necessarily a result of anything evil that was done on their part ('mistakes were made'), but because those Americans were trying to suffocate Japan by taking their oil. At best, many (on both sides, unfortunately) put up a moral equivalence that says that Americans were just as bad as the Japanese because
of U.S. military's actions during the war. In the words of a former defense minister of Japan (which I want to note, in no way characterizes the people of Japan's opinion as a whole.
God forbid someone think all Americans think like Jimmy Carter!):

"Faced with oil and other embargoes from other countries, Japan had no choice but to venture out southward to secure natural resources," Norota, who is chairman of the Budget Committee of the powerful Lower House of parliament, was
quoted by domestic media as telling supporters of the dominant Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP) on Sunday.

"In other words, Japan had fallen prey to a scheme of the United States. This is what many historians are saying," he said in remarks reminiscent of the justification used by Japanese militarists in the 1930s for their invasion of much of Asia.


I also found a brief article detailing some differences in how the war is handled on television in the two countries:



The most striking element in the American WWII documentary was
the scene that depicts the day when the Japanese surrendered:
American soldiers that returned triumphantly, happy faces of their families, relatives, and friends, and the triumphant parade in New York. These images are filled with joy and pride from the victory.

[Yup, sounds good to me!]

In fact, few TV shows on WWII that I have seen ever mentioned the American Air Force's bombing on sixty one cities in Japan, including the two biggest cities, Tokyo and Osaka. Before the Americans dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, more than 170,000 Japanese people, most of them civilians, had
been killed, but this historical fact is largely ignored in most American documentaries.

[more on this point later]

Japanese TV shows on WWII, on the other hand, do not deal with military history. The Japanese military's invasions to China and Korea, and many other battles against European countries that colonized many Asian nations, are wiped out from WWII history
programs on Japanese TV. There must have been brave military actions of Japanese soldiers. There must have been aggressive and cruel behavior of them as well.

Brave military actions? He mean ones like this and this.
As well, I'm sorry to tell him, but the reason the civilian deaths aren't (highly) covered by American TV is because Americans don't give a hoot. Why is this? Because as any (non-NPR) idiot can see, Japan was evil and the U.S. did a great service to the world (and Japan) by tearing it down and building it anew.

Of course, for NPR to point this fact out, it might lend further credence to a certain war going on at the moment, and it might also benefit a certain hated president. Now we can't have any of that on taxpayer supported radio! Better that Japan have her history white washed than Bush win four more years!

(I will point out that the reporter later talks to an American professor in Tokyo that points out many of the same great points made by yours truly.)

Monday, April 05, 2004

Obesity isn't an issue for this priest!

Through two years of my high school experience, I attended a seminary run by the PIME organization. Over the years, they have been kind enough to e-mail me their PIME World publication. It is generally a nice publication with a couple stories from different nasty countries where they have missions. It's interesting to see what they go through in different cultures and how happy they are to do it.

The latest issue, though, contains an article which trots out some worn out arguments about world hunger. I'm disappointed by the fact that it was not more well informed since the missionary who wrote it, Fr. George Berendt, has obviously been 'down in the trenches' where these problems exist.

He starts off with the following point:

In 1993 the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that enough grain is grown to supply every human being with 3,500 calories per day.

Now I cannot attest to the veracity of this, but it would appear that he is already dooming whatever later arguments he might make based on this fact since this would mean any hunger is a logistics issue and not a supply issue. The number seems off at first to me (That's a lot of calories, and just in grain), so I would probably work from the assumption that grain raised for livestock is taken into this factoid. He goes on to get in a dig at the great Satan:

Based on a Census Bureau report, 3.8 million American families were hungry last year. For the last three years hunger has been increasing in America.

I would have thought he just made this up since America is well known to go against thousands of years of human history by having the lower classes plumper than the upper classes. However, this site points out the basis for this assertion:

Though media confidently quoted the hunger numbers, a closer look reveals that the evidence is deeply flawed.

...Depending on the questions, a survey can magnify the appearance of real need by confusing it with something called "food insecurity," a subjective perception. For example, the Radimer/Cornell University hunger scale defines hunger as, "the inability to acquire or consume an adequate quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that one will be able to do so." Research using that definition found in New York state in 1993 an astonishing 47 percent of women surveyed were "hungry."

Hell, I'm hungry right this friggin' minute (don't worry, it matters not when you're reading this), so I guess I go in the starving category as well! Fr. George takes some time to take junior Satan to task:

Let's look back on the Irish Potato Famine for some clues....During the Famine, Ireland was an exporter of food. The same blight that destroyed the potato harvest in Ireland also destroyed the potato harvest across northern Europe as well. Why only in Ireland did people die from hunger? The reason is simple: colonization.[?!?!] When the British colonized Ireland, they threw the Irish off the land, claimed it as theirs and left marginal land for the Irish to farm.

What trolley truck did this guy drive in on? Did he learn history from the back of an IRA pamphlet? As Derbyshire at NRO points out, the real problem was one of despair surrounding a problem which could probably not be solved:

For years before the famine it was perfectly obvious that Ireland was heading for a demographic catastrophe. Everybody knew this, and many said so Anthony Trollope, for example, who knew Ireland well (and whose novel Castle Richmond, by the way, includes the only account of the famine by any contemporary novelist of quality). From 1801 to 1841, the Catholic population of southern Ireland quintupled. A thing like that is hard not to notice. And yet, within the political thinking of the time, nobody, not even the best-intentioned and most charitable observers, could think of anything to do to avert the coming disaster. Britain was a minimum-government state, ill-equipped for the sort of speedy, wide-scale relief the situation called for.

As for Fr. George's quip about Ireland being a food exporter during this time, I'm given to think he pulled that fact from the same source from which he'd drawn his conclusion; and it is thus in doubt. It's veracity, however, would still not support his ill drawn conclusion. He continues on in the same vein for some time, saying that Europeans, Americans, and Japanese kick the natives off their 'good' land while the natives are left to starve on their 'poor' land. This good Christian fires up some good old fashioned American Indian paganism and goes on to lament the fact that westerners don't know how to worship take care of the land:

Westerners, however, often see land as a commodity from which to extract as much as they can and in any way they can and in any way they can.

Now wait a minute chummy, I thought you were just lamenting the fact that the natives (supposedly) couldn't get any money out of the land, surely they would be in league with the Great Satan if they were to be as greedy as the colonizers are with the land; better that they remain victims. All this should be a non-issue though because of all the excess production he sited at the beginning of the article. But wait, might that production/logistics problem have more to do with the issues you sight than anything else?

As it turns out, Fr. George is on the right path in looking for a villain, but puts forth the wrong charge. Food issues in the developing world are caused by a couple big issues, just a few are below:

  • Say you're an African farmer who has busted his butt all year to scrape together a decent crop. You borrowed money for seed, tended the field, gather your harvest, take it down to the market, and guess what? The kind government of the U.S.A. has just dropped off a whole shipload of grain - for free! Well that certainly makes American lefties (and freeloading farmers) feel good about themselves, but how much money is the African farmer going to get for his harvest? I digress however, since this is a poverty point and not a hunger point. More here
  • Secondly, I'll put forward the point that in the last 100 years, there has not been a natural famine that has killed off people, they've all been man made. Fr. George himself sites no specific examples (apart from his botched attempt at Ireland) to back his vague claim of colonization. He does site as sources, though, avowed socialists Frances Moore Lappe and Susan George, who are no doubt forgiving of the Communist institutions which continue to cause so much real hunger around the world.