Tuesday, November 27, 2007

urban guerillaz

The kids are unhappy again in France:

Rampaging youths rioted overnight in Paris' suburbs, hurling Molotov cocktails and setting fire to dozens of cars. At least 77 officers were injured and officers were fired at, a senior police union official said Tuesday.

The violence was more intense than during three weeks of rioting in 2005, said the official, Patrice Ribeiro. Police were shot at and are facing ''genuine urban guerillas with conventional weapons and hunting weapons,'' Ribeiro said.

Who, nevertheless, didn't manage to kill a single officer. A prerequisite to attaining "genuine urban guerilla" status should be the ability to inflict at least one fatality. But it was scary business even so:

Some officers were hit by shotgun pellets, Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said. She said there were six serious injuries, ''people who notably were struck in the face and close to the eyes."

Oh noes! This is why I keep saying you can't have that air rifle for Christmas--you'll shoot your eye out.

The riots were triggered by the deaths of two teens killed in a crash with a police patrol car on Sunday in Villiers-le-Bel, a town of public housing blocks home to a mix of Arab, black and white residents in Paris' northern suburbs.

Residents claimed that officers left the crash scene without helping the teens, whose motorbike collided with the car. Officials cast doubt on the claim, but the internal police oversight agency was investigating.

. . .

A recent study by the state auditor's office indicated that money poured into poor French suburbs in recent decades had done little to solve problems vividly exposed by the 2005 riots, including discrimination, unemployment and alienation from mainstream society.

While there's no excuse for shooting people, including the police, it seems official France is better at talking up threats than it is at solving problems in the banlieues.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

the Economist jumps the shark

Inside, the Economist's editors advance the Bush/pony plan for Palestine, in which Bush makes bold strides towards resolving one of the the most intractable political conflicts of the modern era. The newspaper seems determined, against all available evidence and common sense, to lash its fortunes to Bush's sinking ship. Like Paul Newman coming back against blow after blow from Paul Kennedy's meaty fists in the jailyard, refusing to stay down, the newspaper refuses to back down from its blind support of U.S. imperial ambitions. This is because its editors are heavily invested in the status quo and lack imagination.

Relatedly, Brad DeLong writes:

One thing worthy of note. Carlyle Group CEO David Rubenstein's reaction to George W. Bush:

David Rubenstein: you know if you said to me, name 25 million people who would maybe be President of the United States, he wouldn't have been in that category...

That was the reaction of everybody not on Bush's payroll who has met Bush I have talked to--everybody except our elite Beltway press, that is.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

immigrant innovators: the Chinatown bus

I saw this article in the Economist a few weeks ago about the impact of the Chinatown bus on travel prices on the Eastern seaboard:

The Chinatown bus business developed in the 1990s to offer recent immigrants an inexpensive van ride around town and, later on, between cities. By the end of the decade, the Fung Wah bus company had begun shuttling college students and other cash-strapped Americans between New York's Chinatown and Boston's for $10 each way.

Competition soon became so intense that it prompted the 2004 “bus wars” in New York's Chinatown, in which buses were rammed and torched and a decapitated torso was left near a passenger loading zone. Spotty safety records—in 2005 one Chinatown bus caught fire on the road—and reports of drivers working excessive hours also raised concerns about safety. But with prices so low, the buses still left packed.

Greyhound, America's biggest passenger bus line, dropped its prices, offering a name-brand alternative to the Chinatown coaches. Dozens of new competitors also emerged. Hasidic Jews from Brooklyn founded the Washington Deluxe and Vamoose Bus. Most recently, a Marriott executive founded DC2NY, a service between Washington and New York that guarantees customers seats if booked online and charges only slightly more than the Chinatown buses (a $40 round-trip versus $35). It also offers free bottles of water and Wi-Fi internet access. The “luxury” bus carrier has more than doubled its operation since its inaugural trip this summer. Watch as its older rivals start copying its perks.

I’m typing this right now from the DC2NY bus on my way from NYC to DC. Wireless has been a little touch and go, but it’s pretty nice to be able to access the internet at all while traveling.

The Economist story covers the main points. Chinese immigrants needed an affordable way to make short-hop trips on the East Coast and nothing in the existing market was suitable. So immigrant entrepreneurs created a new product that soon caught on outside the Chinese community by dramatically undercutting the competition. A Greyhound bus is no more comfortable than a Chinatown bus, although perhaps less likely to catch fire or trigger gangland killings. For what it’s worth, no Chinatown bus I’ve ridden has ignited. Perhaps the cachet of momentarily escaping sanitized modern life is another draw for the bohemian set.

There’s also a minibus company that primarily serves Latino immigrants commuting from the New Jersey suburbs to New York City—or at least it did 5 years or so ago when I used the service from time to time. $3 from Passaic to Port Authority can’t be beat. Again, an immigrant community was not being served by existing transportation alternatives, so somebody stepped into the breach and created a new product.

This pattern is nothing new—it constitutes the history of New York City and, more broadly, of the United States.

Monday, November 19, 2007

she's crafty

Matt Yglesias uses Dave Roberts' LBJ/Clinton analogy as an opening to explain why the prospect of a Clinton presidency makes him uneasy on foreign policy grounds.

The basic reality is that each and every time the candidates stake out a position on something, Clinton takes a less-liberal line. Then each and every time Obama starts getting traction with the argument that Clinton is too hawkish, she backtracks and makes the argument that there's no real difference here. And it's true that if you look at any one thing with a microscope, the "no difference" argument can be made to stick. But it's the pattern that matters -- the initial support for Iraq, the more hawkish caste to her advisory team, the "naive and irresponsible" line, the meager carrots she's prepared to offer Iran, her weird position on nuclear disarmament, her campaign's courting of CANF and AIPAC, her vote for Kyl-Lieberman -- all point in the same direction and it's a frightening one.
Quite so. Going back to the LBJ analogy, LBJ's foreign policy woes stemmed in part from his basic lack of understanding of foreign affairs, aside from his flawed conception of the U.S. role in the world. Clinton seems to know what is going on, but shares the same flawed Albrightian view that LBJ held of the U.S. as the indispensable leader. We need someone who can walk us back from that cliff. Yglesias suspects, as do I, that someone may be Obama.

Or even if Yglesias and Obama both still cling to Albright's vision, perhaps an Obama presidency could be an intermediate stage in the U.S.'s evolution away from empire, like Australopithecus or Clement Atlee.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

an American dream deferred

Some long-time permanent residents are antsy because, although they’ve done all that was required of them to naturalize—waited the requisite number of years, filed the forms, paid their taxes and child support, paid the application fees, been fingerprinted, passed the English and civics exams, and passed an in-person screening interview with an immigration officer—they are still waiting months or years for the government to approve them for citizenship. From CNN:

Manny Barajas was eagerly awaiting his first taste of American democracy. Instead, he is learning a frustrating lesson in government bureaucracy.

. . .

"I was hoping that I could be ready to go in '08," Barajas said.

Barajas came to the United States from Mexico nearly 40 years ago and has raised a family in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he works as a waiter. For years, he said, family and friends have urged him to apply for citizenship; the decision to hold a Democratic presidential caucus next January was the clincher.

"The American dream brings me to Las Vegas," Barajas told us when we first met nine months ago. "And the last thing for me to do is become a citizen and make my vote count."

. . .

He filed his paperwork more than six months ago but hasn't heard a word from the government. His union says it knows of at least 1,000 in similar limbo.

. . .

Barajas is at the beginning of the process. Felipe Lopez at the end [so he thinks -Ed.]-- but also in limbo.

"I am waiting almost two years -- it is a long time," said Lopez, who came to the United States from Mexico 14 years ago and drives a truck for a seafood distributor.

Lopez showed us the paper trail of his frustration. He first applied in January 2006. He passed the citizenship test 16 months ago. The last step is a background check -- and three times Lopez says he has been called in for the required fingerprinting. The last time was four months ago. Still no word on if and when he will be approved to take the oath of citizenship.

. . .

The Department of Homeland Security says the process should take seven months -- start to finish. But it acknowledges a growing backlog; there are nearly 900,000 pending applications now -- almost twice as many as a year ago.

The government says it is a simple case of increased demand and limited resources.

This is partly true. But the increased demand is largely of the government’s own making: first, in response to increased federal enforcement and failure to resolve issues on the national level, leading to punitive local and state enforcement initiatives, many long-time permanent residents have applied for citizenship out of fear of what might happen to them if they don’t. Second, the government, after ignoring contradictory input from community-based organizations and religious groups predicting increased hardship on those least able to bear it, increased its naturalization fees by about 70 percent. Many immigrants took the opportunity to apply before the fee increase. This is something the government should have seen coming and prepared for. Instead, the applicants must bear the consequences for the stresses put on the system for which the system was not prepared.

"I think it is a little discrimination, because they focus on the bad part of immigration." Barajas said. "What about all these people who have been in the country legally and paying their taxes?"

Unions are a major force behind the citizenship drive and some labor leaders here wonder aloud if a Republican administration is perhaps dragging its feet processing the applications of people it believes are likely to become Democratic voters.

The administration says that is not the case, that the backlog is simply a question of resources.

I suppose that is possible. There are many things the government really wishes it could do, but there’s just not enough federal money to go around, or logistical bumps in the road take time to smooth over.

It happens all the time:

According to UN estimates, more than 4 million Iraqis have been displaced since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Refugee advocates call it the fastest-growing humanitarian crisis on the planet, deteriorating more quickly than Myanmar (also known as Burma) or Darfur.

More than 2 million people have fled the country, with most finding temporary asylum in the Middle East while they apply for permanent status in nations such as the U.S.

But while people are flooding out of Iraq, arrivals in the U.S. are more a trickle.

In February, the Bush administration pledged to resettle 7,000 Iraqi refugees to the U.S. in fiscal 2007. But by its close on Sept. 30, fewer than a quarter -- only 1,608 -- had arrived.

Government officials blame setbacks in creating and staffing on-site offices needed to conduct background checks, essential procedures they say have just recently been put into place, allowing them to process more refugees.

"There was nothing set up ... and we didn't have clearance from governments to bring in the organizations that are needed, to establish office and computer systems, and all the things that go with it," said Gina Wells, spokesperson for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration at the State Department. "It's kind of like the start-up of a business. It doesn't happen in an hour."

But refugee advocates suggest the administration has simply been dragging its feet, perhaps in an effort to downplay the scope of the crisis and the U.S.'s role in creating it.

. . .

Others argue that the U.S. has a moral obligation to those seeking asylum.

"Many are former translators and interpreters who have already been through a [security] clearance and have demonstrated loyalty to the U.S.," Kocher said. "Historically, there is precedent: we took a million Vietnamese since 1975. We took over 600,000 Russian Jews from the Soviet Union, over 150,000 Bosnian refugees since 1993, and 15,000 Kosovo refugees in the spring of 1999 over just a few months. We have a noble history as a country of responding with generosity during refugee crises. But we haven't done it here yet."

In recent months, the government appeared to pick up the pace of admissions. More than 1,400 Iraqi refugees arrived in August and September. And for fiscal year 2008, the government pledged to accept up to 12,000.

Iraqis should know by now what the pledges of the U.S. government are worth. But this isn’t the first interaction we’ve had with Iraq—there was a small affair in 1990-91 that created a lot of Iraqi refugees. But back then, the red tape was a lot less impenetrable:

The numbers appear especially small when compared to average arrivals during the presidencies of Bill Clinton -- about 90,000 a year -- and George H.W. Bush -- about 120,000 a year.

What happened since then? Well, 9/11, combined with the inability of the government to tell brown people apart from one another and a national propensity for bed-wetting.

"What we have to remind folks of is that there's a war going on," Homeland Security spokesperson Laura Keehner said. "We have to make sure we do not inadvertently welcome a refugee who wishes to do us harm or has ties to terrorism."

What we have to remind folks is that we started a war that has ripped apart a country, and that perhaps not all of its citizens will have warm, happy feelings towards us, no matter what Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Wolfowitz told us beforehand.

If the government were so confident our actions in Iraq are in the best interests of Iraqis, why would they be nervous to let in Iraqi refugees? Wouldn’t those refugees be eternally grateful to the government that liberated them? What could we have to fear from such people?

Perhaps we’re not really in Iraq to help Iraqis achieve better lives. Perhaps someone should notify the American people.

And when Bush-appointed bureaucrats tell constituents that they are doing their best, but the resources are too little and the obstacles too great, perhaps we should think twice before accepting that explanation at face value.

your daily dose of Americana

Where else but America could you find a squirrel dressed up as Lady Liberty:

Sandra Day O’Connor

Or my favorite, Saddam Hussein.

This is one versatile squirrel, as she also dresses as a U.S. soldier tasked with preparing the gallows for Saddam’s execution (causing me to wonder how many Americans believed it was the U.S. that hanged Saddam rather than the Iraqis. Perhaps the squirrel, if not the president, realized there wasn’t much daylight between American directives and supposed impartial and independent Iraqi judicial procedures.)

I suspect this is the sort of thing people will be looking at in museums 500 years from now, not the modern art hanging in galleries today.

[Sugar Bush Squirrel, via somepowers]

And, to get back to my roots, my wife found a website dedicated to Utah names. The site creators insist the names are all legit (click “What’s in a (Utah) Name?”), but some of them make me wonder.

I can see R'lene, Desereta, Xione, Brighaminie, or Najestica—those don’t seem so far fetched. Utahns don’t seem to feel bound to the same social conventions as the rest of the country. And living physically and socially isolated as Utahns did for 100 years or so, a society is bound to develop some unique cultural characteristics.

But Chinchilla Zest, Desdedididawn, Luvit, or Treasure Cocaine? Wow. Just wow.

Also, I watched the first Left Behind movie yesterday. But that’ll have to be a post for another day.

Friday, November 16, 2007

in case you had forgotten . . .

IOZ has recapitulated the story of the Iraq war in a single blog post. It's worth a read. Here's an excerpt:

Now the Americans are largely incapable of telling a Sunni from a Shi'ite from a Maharashtran Hindu from an Ecuadorian day-laborer toiling away under the heavenly aegis of the Holy Mother and the many candle-bearing saints. Iraqis, meanwhile, appear to be able to tell each other apart, and so, among a thousand other reasons for the parties to the Iraqi "government" not to agree on anything, not the least of which is the fact that they are powerless agents of a government with no force monopoly who may as well use their sinecures to save up in case they have to flee for an expatriate's life in London, there is the fact that the Shi'ite majority seems to remember that these were the very fuckers who were trying to bring them down in the first place, and are therefore understandably skeptical about inviting them into the henhouse for a chat.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

anything available out there?

Well-qualified MSW with a concentration in Macro Social Work and Community Development seeks position in community development/program management. Can be contacted here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Spitzer backs down on license plan

Bad news from the NY Times today:

Gov. Eliot Spitzer is abandoning his plan to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, saying that opposition is just too overwhelming to move forward with such a policy.

. . .

“You have perhaps seen me struggle with it because I thought we had a principled decision, and it’s not necessarily easy to back away from trying to move a debate forward,” he said.

But he came to believe the proposal would ultimately be blocked, he said, either by legal challenges, a vote by the Legislature to deny financing for the Department of Motor Vehicles or a refusal by upstate county clerks to carry it out.

“I am not willing to fight to the bitter end on something that will not ultimately be implemented,” the governor said, “and we also have an enormous agenda on other issues of great importance to New York State that was being stymied by the constant and almost singular focus on this issue.”

. . .

Opposition to the proposal sent his poll numbers plunging and stalled his broader agenda.

The decision is likely to be a relief to many of his fellow Democrats in Albany and in Washington, who feared the issue could haunt them into next year’s election season.

The primary reason immigration might stem Democratic gains in New York would be if the NY Times predicted this in its pages every day as it has done since the proposal was mooted.

To me, this represents a failure of the progressive community to identify and promote convincing arguments on immigration. Progressives failed on this issue because the other side has laid the groundwork for success in the public debate and we have not.

The outcome in New York represents the future of immigration policy at every level of government: acrimony, deadlock, and, ultimately, perpetuation of the status quo. The restrictionist lobby can’t produce the votes to implement significant new policies; it can only obstruct action intended to resolve the situation.

Democratic politicians cannot be relied upon to act on principle; they have to be shown that they have more to fear from pursuing a Rahm Emanuel/James Carville-approved “restrictionist lite” policy than from working towards sensible, humane immigration reform. This requires educating progressives about why immigration matters and how to combat misinformation from restrictionists. But first, progressives must not buy into the restrictionist point of view, as so many have done.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds

I attended a panel on Jobs, Trade, and American Votes at the NYU Stern School of Business last night. The panel was jointly sponsored by the Economist magazine and the Council on Foreign Relations website. I was hoping to hear more about immigration, but the panelists stuck primarily to trade issues. The moderator noted more than once the lack of disagreement on fundamentals among the panelists: free trade is a net good for the U.S. and its trading partners and efforts to stymie free trade are usually attributable to the inability of the political system to balance diffuse benefits against concentrated costs.

While agreeing myself with some of their assumptions, I became convinced that they must inhabit some fantasy world where the median American voter reads the Economist every week and laughs knowingly at Lou Dobbs over pinot noir on the next expensed Maxjet flight to London.

Matthew Bishop of the Economist thought that recent anti-trade noises from Congress are just so much puffery. Despite expressing antagonism to trade, no significant political faction has passed the Wal-Mart Test, which is to pass policies that would raise prices at Wal-Mart. Democrats perceive they have a lot to gain by “pandering” to interest groups, but when it comes time to vote, they will vote for open trade as they always have.

Amity Shlaes, a fellow at CFR, raised the specter of Chavez, Venezuela’s “Castro with oil,” to argue that the U.S. needs to increase its influence in the region [!] by passing a trade deal with Colombia over protests that trade unionists have been murdered there at an alarming rate.

Stern dean Thomas Cooley expressed concern that the current Doha round of international trade negotiations has been sidelined and wondered why corporate leaders don’t make more public appeals in favor of free trade. The answer that comes to mind is that they are not stupid—business leaders know they are unpopular at the moment and that free trade is relatively unpopular. Also, public appeals of this sort are not how corporations typically operate in the political sphere, instead working behind the scenes to advance their preferred policies.

Bishop lamented the failure of political leaders in the rich countries to stand up for free trade, causing me to wonder whether he has heard any public speech by any politician in the U.S. at any point in the past 50 years. Bishop worried about anti-trade rhetoric he anticipates will be forthcoming from the left during the 2008 campaign, ignoring the recent popularity of Lou Dobbs, Tom Tancredo, and Ron Paul on the right.

Cooley stated matter-of-factly that increased trade inevitably brings increased inequality due to greater rewards to human capital. He argued that this is why we need to invest in education to take advantage of this trend so as not to end up with the short end of the stick. Trade adjustment assistance was mooted as a necessary sop to voters, but the panelists seemed not to place much importance on it.

Bishop pointed out that the U.S. is by far the biggest beneficiary of globalization in the world—its businesses are profit leaders, U.S. corporations are benefiting from outsourcing trends, and there is little evidence of U.S. jobs being lost. Since America is doing fine economically, the problems must lie elsewhere, perhaps in failings in the education, healthcare, and pension systems, as well as post-9/11 angst and fear of outsiders who don’t like us. These factors explain the current malaise and shouldn’t cause us to give up the thing that’s working so well: trade. Bishop stressed that politicians may disparage trade but ultimately won’t mess with it. Bishop's line of argument here was about the most persuasive thing I heard from the panel, but he failed to explore further how policy-makers might implement his prescription with an anxious public. This argument also fails to consider inequality outside the U.S. One might also speculate that the comparatively one-sided benefits from trade accruing to the U.S. might have something to do with low opinion of Americans abroad, and that the narrowly extractive business model the U.S. government and corporations have pursued around the world might have something to do with failings in education and health care inside the U.S.

Shlaes asserted that you don’t see old immigrants fighting against new immigrants as they have during past periods of tension, causing me once again to wonder what country she has been living in lately. According to Shlaes, you don’t hear racial hatred like you used to in the bad old days—things are great now. This was apparently ridiculous enough to give Cooley momentary pause, as he asked, What about Lou Dobbs? before going on to predict that, absent a significant financial meltdown, trade will largely be absent from the campaign next year.

To the panelists, the gains from trade to the American public are so massive and self-evident, that only those blindly opposed to progress or selfish workers with vested interests in outdated sectors would stand in their way.

The long-standing problems of global inequality that the Washington Consensus has systematically failed to address, the rising sense of economic insecurity in the American middle class, the unmitigated migration flows stemming from the pressures of globalization—these issues went largely unaddressed.

Overall this was a remarkably unaware and blinkered assessment of U.S. public opinion on trade. If these are the people charged with explaining the benefits of trade to the American public and convincing politicians that increased trade is a political winner, if these are the people tasked with figuring how to address the very real problems caused by Washington-style globalization, we have much to fear. It would be hard to imagine a less convincing set of arguments less convincingly presented than those I heard last night. I hope they don't next turn to the subject of immigration, or we'll really be in trouble.

state-assisted suicide in Brooklyn

Contrary to popular opinion, the government will help you kill yourself at taxpayer expense, as long as you are young, black, and can brandish a hairbrush in a sufficiently threatening manner.

What’s perhaps most disturbing is that the “assisted suicide” version of events is the one that the NYPD itself is pushing, so confident are they that the public will come down on the side of the God-given right of law enforcement to shoot an 18-year-old for threatening them with a hairbrush.

No Country for Old Men

It is as good as they are saying. Except for those who aren’t—but they should be ignored in this case.

After watching the movie myself, I read the tortured attempts by some critics to explain the film to their readers, and a simpler theme came to mind: Death comes to us all, implacable, emotionless, resolute. We can avoid it as we can avoid gravity.

And I couldn’t help but think of Monsieur IOZ in one scene, where a West Texas driver is stopped by Javier Bardem’s psycho character, who has commandeered a police car, and the driver trustingly and unsuspectingly offers himself up for the slaughter. In a sense, a person who would wait so patiently to be killed was already dead.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mormons and migration

Every Latter Day Saint, or Mormon, knows about the central role migration played in the history of the early LDS Church. After Joseph Smith founded the Church around 1930 in New York state, he moved from state to state westward, accumulating followers and alienating locals. Much of the membership of the early Church in the U.S. had only recently emigrated from Scandinavia and the British Isles, often after conversion by missionaries, themselves recent converts.

Emigration to the United States to help build the main body of the Church was the recommended pattern for the members during the first century of the Church in the British Isles. The perpetual emigrating fund was established in September 1849 to assist. Those who emigrated with the help of this revolving fund were to pay back the money as they could, so that others might be helped. The fund was formally discontinued in 1887, after thousands had benefited from it. Additional thousands were assisted by friends and relatives who had already emigrated. From 1847 to 1869, more than 32,000 British and Irish converts to the Church left their homelands for a new life in pioneer America.

Religious freedom proved to be elusive for the early Church. Unwelcome in every state they settled, they faced persecution and were targeted by an extermination order by Governor Boggs of Missouri (who later survived an assassination attempt widely assumed to have been undertaken at the urging of Joseph Smith) not rescinded until 1976. Members of the early Church were kicked out of Ohio, Missouri, and finally Illinois, where Joseph Smith was killed by an angry mob.

After an uncertain transitional period, Brigham Young took charge of the remaining membership and led it across the plains in an exodus terminating in the Salt Lake Valley. The journey was difficult and many who started the trek did not complete it. Stories of the sacrifices of the pioneers are still retold by their descendants today, and form a crucial part of the historical narrative of the Church's formative years.

This migration was not chosen willingly by the early Mormons; like most migrants, given the chance, they would have stayed in one of the communities they had worked so hard to build in the Midwest. And their new home in the West was already inhabited—like the other groups of Europeans settling in the “uninhabited” territories that became the United States, the Mormons displaced the Native Americans who lived there first. The land the Mormons settled in was part of Mexico at the time, but the United States annexed it along with California, Nevada, and parts of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming after the Mexican-American War in 1848.

For some of those who arrived in Utah in the late 1840s, the journey was not yet finished. Brigham Young instructed faithful members to fan out across the Mountain West, founding communities in some of the least hospitable parts of the continent. My ancestors settled in Vernon and Orderville, located in the deserts of Western and Southern Utah, respectively. In the second half of the 19th Century, Mormons became known for the practice of polygamy instituted in secret by Joseph Smith and then taken up openly by most of the Church’s leadership. Reviled by mainstream society, Church leaders were targeted by federal officials, forcing many of them into hiding. Some continued the long trek, turning southward to settle in northern Mexico. Among this group was Mitt Romney's grandfather. Latina Lista recently had a post on the history of the migration of the Romneys:

It seems that Governor Bill Richardson isn't the only presidential candidate with a Mexican-born parent.

Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, can technically claim Latino heritage as well. His father, George Romney, was born in Colonia Dublán, Galeana, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

The elder Romney was born in a Mormon colony on Mexican soil that his parents had fled to, for lack of a better word — sanctuary.

That's why, it's rather ironic that Mitt, being the son of a man whose family fled to Mexico for sanctuary reasons, would authorize a plan to slash funding for American cities that declare themselves to be immigration sanctuary cities.

. . .

According to the book, Mormon Colonies in Mexico, published in 1938,

In the 1880s, as a precondition to granting Utah statehood, the United States government enacted laws to put a stop to the Mormon practice of polygamy.

Those who continued to practice this principle were forced underground as federal marshals roamed the territory searching for “polygs.” In response, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints looked for safe places to send its members; many found refuge across the border in Mexico.

The book recounts how the Mormon polygamists soon had grown so tired of the constant pressure from the US federal government that several Mormon leaders discussed "surrendering at the same time, overwhelming the government with the proposition of jailing them all."

Instead, several hundred families made their way to Mexico and established several colonies. The book further states that local Mexican citizens and state officials in the state of Chihuahua tried to drive the polygamists out but they were spared by (drum roll) the Mexican federal government.

The Mormons lived in relative peace with their Mexican neighbors until the Mexican Revolution. Then their settlements were overtaken by the rebels and in 1912 the decision was made to send the women and children back to the United States.

. . .

That the son of a Mexican-born Mormon would so easily forget or ignore his own family history is testament to the fact of how anti-(Mexican) immigrant hysteria has a stranglehold on common sense and has turned a humanitarian issue into a volatile political football.

What she said. Americans generally, but Mormons in particular, would do well to maintain some historical perspective in today's immigration debate.

Migration was familiar to early Mormons both in the context of a young, expanding United States where growth was propelled by European immigration, and in a religious context. Joseph Smith claimed to be leading a restoration of the early Christian church, which had itself claimed the Judaic heritage of the Old Testament. Parallels to the 40-year exile of the Jews in the desert under Moses, as well as the persecution of the early Christian church at the hands of the Romans, came easily to early members.

In addition, the Book of Mormon, one of the Church’s four foundational texts (along with the King James Bible, the Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants), is filled with stories of migration. The Book of Mormon opens with the story of Nephi and his family, who emigrated from the Middle East to the Americas to found a new nation. The scripture details how the descendants of Nephi became the (usually) virtuous Nephites, while the descendants of his mutinous brothers Laman and Lemuel became the (usually) savage Lamanites. For generations, Church leaders taught that the indigenous peoples of the Americas were remnants of the Lamanite civilization.

As DNA testing has enabled historians and sociologists to pinpoint the geographical origins of modern people with greater precision, the historical claims of the Church have increasingly come into conflict with scientific evidence indicating that the ancestors of the Native Americans migrated across the Bering Straight from Asia.

Now comes news from Church headquarters in Utah:

The LDS Church has changed a single word in its introduction to the Book of Mormon, a change observers say has serious implications for commonly held LDS beliefs about the ancestry of American Indians.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe founder Joseph Smith unearthed a set of gold plates from a hill in upperstate New York in 1827 and translated the ancient text into English. The account, known as The Book of Mormon, tells the story of two Israelite civilizations living in the New World. One derived from a single family who fled from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. and eventually splintered into two groups, known as the Nephites and Lamanites.

The book's current introduction, added by the late LDS apostle, Bruce R. McConkie in 1981, includes this statement: "After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians."

The new version, seen first in Doubleday's revised edition, reads, "After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians."

LDS leaders instructed Doubleday to make the change, said senior editor Andrew Corbin, so it "would be in accordance with future editions the church is printing."

The change "takes into account details of Book of Mormon demography which are not known," LDS spokesman Mark Tuttle said Wednesday.

It also steps into the middle of a raging debate about the book's historical claims.

Many Mormons, including several church presidents, have taught that the Americas were largely inhabited by Book of Mormon peoples. In 1971, Church President Spencer W. Kimball said that Lehi, the family patriarch, was "the ancestor of all of the Indian and Mestizo tribes in North and South and Central America and in the islands of the sea."

After testing the DNA of more than 12,000 Indians, though, most researchers have concluded that the continent's early inhabitants came from Asia across the Bering Strait.

With this change, the LDS Church is "conceding that mainstream scientific theories about the colonization of the Americas have significant elements of truth in them," said Simon Southerton, a former Mormon and author of Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA and the Mormon Church.

"DNA has revealed very clearly how closely related American Indians are to their Siberian ancestors, " Southerton said in an e-mail from his home in Canberra, Australia. "The Lamanites are invisible, not principal ancestors."

As an “inactive” member of the Church but, like Mitt Romney, a DNA Mormon with ancestors in the Church going back to the 1840s, I have watched the unfolding debate on the origins of indigenous Americans with a mix of emotions. I think the scientists have the upper hand, which the Church has been forced to acknowledge with the recent change to the introduction to the Book of Mormon, but I respect LDS scholars who genuinely try to reconcile principles of faith and science. It’s a difficult needle to thread, one I was ultimately unable to manage. Church members place great store in education and in the benefits of science and technology, and ever since I left the Church ten years ago, I have marveled at the ability of LDS scholars to maintain a steadfast belief in the historical claims of Joseph Smith alongside advanced expertise in diverse fields of study. The Church leadership and the bulk of the membership professes belief in the literal truth of the events described in the Book of Mormon. New information attributable to advances in archaeology and genetics more often strengthens long-held religious beliefs rather than weakening them.

But setting aside the truth or errancy of Joseph Smith’s claims, migration is hardwired into the Church’s collective consciousness, both through its religious texts and the experiences of the early membership. Even today, the Church’s focus on proselytizing gives the Church an uncommonly international perspective, as young missionaries learn new languages and fan out across the planet to spread the gospel. Many come back to represent the U.S. government abroad—Mormons, with their language skills and squeaky clean backgrounds, are overrepresented in the Foreign Service, FBI, and CIA.

Active members know that, no matter how comfortable their current lifestyle, the next forced migration could come at any time. Anticipating the eminent second coming of Christ and the tumult that will accompany his return, faithful LDS keep a year’s supply of food and water in their basements. And no matter how well accepted by their neighbors Mormons are today, they know from experience how fragile tolerance by the majority can be. One would hope that all these things would give Mormons special insight into—and compassion for—the plight of immigrants in the U.S. today.

[Images: Wikipedia]

Thursday, November 08, 2007

"the time is always right to do right"

John Lewis encourages his colleagues to pass ENDA:

Via Andrew Sullivan.

the great Virginia immigration fizzle

The wave of anti-immigration sentiment that Republicans were planning to ride to victory in this year's state and local elections never quite materialized. Duke from Migra Matters has a couple of follow up posts on the topic here and here.

Rather than repeat Duke, I'll repeat myself with an earlier comment:

Patterning its national strategy after Virginia would be a mistake for the GOP for the simple reason that the country is not Virginia. Treating the country as an extension of the South may have worked for the GOP in the past, but is unlikely to work next year. I think Republicans are grasping at straws, and immigration happens to be the closest straw at hand, but it won't stop the party from the approaching free fall.

Immigration matters most to people already voting for the GOP, an ever-diminishing number. For many of the rest, it is less important than health care, Iraq, wage stagnation, or global warming, for instance. The current media overload on immigration is calculated, not organic. The GOP should understand the risk of putting all its eggs in one basket, especially when the strategy could so easily backfire and destroy Hispanic support for the GOP for the next 50 years. The Virginia strategy is a sign of desperation, not of careful political manoeuvreing.

Given that the “Virginia strategy” didn’t even work in Virginia, its chances for success elsewhere seem limited.

And via Kevin Drum (via Ezra) , Tom Tancredo explains why he’s always going around making ridiculous statements:

Why is Tom Tancredo such a monomaniac on the subject of illegal immigration? In an interview on our radio show with Markos Kounalakis and Peter Laufer, he explains that a lot of it isn't about winning, it's about redefining the playing field:

What happens is, you provide people with some space to get into where they can say, "That guy is a racist xenophobe. That guy is just so crazy that we can take a more moderate stance."

....I have to set the bar as high as I can. I'm being completely candid with you. If I had actually set out to become president, then of course it would be ludicrous for me to do it in the way I'm doing it. I don't have that as my goal; I never have. The only way I can get on that plane and go to Iowa or New Hampshire and spend night after night in hotels in places you've never even heard of is by saying, "Think about why you're doing this, Tom. It is because the issue is important. You are the person that is advancing it." I have the luxury of saying, "I will set the goalposts as far as I can down the field because then I will have a better chance of getting the game played on my side."

So: Politics 101. Stake out an ultra-extreme position so that when the rest of your party endorses a merely extreme position it looks like it's a moderate compromise.

Also, Tancredo notes the effect of leveraging a core of motivated people through talk radio and the internet to flood Senators with calls and push a debate rightward on a subject that most people are ambivalent about. It’s the same pattern as any other interest pressure group—the sugar lobby, the Cuba lobby, agricultural subsidies, for instance—where a small number of people highly invested in an issue can drown out the diffuse interests of the diffident majority.

There is a group of people highly invested in the issue on the other side—immigrants themselves—who can't provide an effective counterweight because they are largely voiceless, either because they are not citizens or are otherwise marginalized, not having learned to navigate the political process as well as long-time residents have. When they try to make their voices heard, the government acts quickly to silence them.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

watch it crystallize

This is how conventional wisdom is formed in Bizarro World, circa 2007:

Step 1: Purportedly savvy centrist Democratic strategists reheat standard right-wing talking points on immigration and circulate them to Democratchiks eager for something to fill the void of center-left policy discussion on immigration. A great sense of relief permeates the Force as a “sure thing”—Democratic triumph in 2008—is saved from the ruinous error of ignoring the electorally crucial Reago-Dobbs-Limbaughbwian Democrat, a rare creature not seen in its natural habitat since late 2003.

Step 2: Self-proclaimed sensible immigration moderate approvingly cites the above-mentioned “shrewd Democratic strategists” in an article asserting that immigration will be the deciding factor in 2008, conveniently omitting the assumption underlying this conclusion: that the electorate will generously and inexplicably experience temporary selective amnesia at the voting booth about Iraq, health care, rising inequality, global warming, loose nukes, and near-universal anti-Americanism.

Step 3: Intrepid contrarian academic picks up on the sensible immigration moderate’s reference to the purportedly savvy centrist Democrat recirculation of standard restrictionist fare, completing the wingnut circle of life, in which every member of the chain plays a key role in regurgitating the godfather’s nativist bullet points. Rule, Wingnuttia! Wingnuttia rules the waves …

And thus, everyone to the right of James Carville (including James Carville, who is definitionally always to the right of himself) is in agreement. Next up: a Washington Post editorial to fix the “illegalz R teh scary” meme in the firmament for all time and space.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

you never call, you never visit

Via Atrios, it seems that our plan to build a Berlin Wall-style border fence, arbitrarily lock up and deport unskilled laborers, and probe, prod, and generally hassle everyone who wants to set foot on American soil is impacting travel patterns in predictable ways:

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The number of foreign visitors to the United States has plummeted since the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington because foreigners don't feel welcome, tourism professionals said Thursday.

"Since September 11, 2001, the United States has experienced a 17 percent decline in overseas travel, costing America 94 billion dollars in lost visitor spending, nearly 200,000 jobs and 16 billion dollars in lost tax revenue," the Discover America advocacy campaign said in a statement.

It’s good to see the business-friendly Bush administration working its trademark administrative magic to improve the competitiveness of American corporations in an ever-more connected world.

Chairman Stevan Porter lamented the "extraordinary decline" in the number of overseas visitors to the United States, while the advocacy group's executive director, Geoff Freeman, blamed the slump on the shabby welcome many foreigners feel they get in the United States.

"It's clear what's keeping people away in the post-9/11 environment: it is the perception around the world that travelers aren't welcome," Freeman told AFP.

"Travelers around the world feel the US entry experience is among the world's worst," Freeman said, calling on the US government to work with the private sector to make visa acquisition more efficient, the entry process traveler-friendly, and to improve communication.

Traveling to a place, meeting the people who live there, and experiencing their hospitality in person typically improves a traveler’s perceptions of the place, perceptions that would otherwise be premised on abstraction and rumor. We’ve removed that option for many, and made travel difficult and sometimes humiliating for those for whom the option remains. We’ve even stopped our own leaders from traveling freely, showing that our entry policies long ago lost touch with reality.

Last year, only 56 percent of Britons had a positive opinion of the United States compared with 83 percent in 2000, the Pew Global Attitudes report for 2006 shows.

Thirty-nine percent of French people saw the United States in a positive light last year, compared with 62 percent in 2000.

In Turkey 12 percent had good things to say about the United States last year -- 40 percentage points down on 2000.

These are our ostensible allies.

The cycle we’ve been stuck in for most of my lifetime, but especially since 9/11, of distrust and alienation is not sustainable. It’s up to us to change this country in which we live.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

immigration discourse today

Here is an excerpt from a recent post at Latina Lista, a blog about issues affecting Latinas:

Paying the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on America's Children is documentation for the first time on how severely impacted children are by seeing their parents either taken into federal custody or waiting for them, only to never arrive due to being caught in immigration raids.

This report spells out not only the initial impact of the event on these children but underscores the long-term effect that will haunt these children into their adulthood.

. . .

As the report shows, the children suffer greatly:

Children experienced the emotional trauma of their parents' sudden absence, often personalizing the cause of the separation and feeling abandoned or fearful that their parents could be abruptly taken away from them.

Mental health experts noted that children's and parents' fears and the events surrounding the raids led to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety, and suicidal thoughts in children.

The researchers found that while the majority of children remained behind with a second parent, there were some children who were left alone. In Grand Island, 17% of the children impacted by the raids had both of their parents arrested.

. . .

It's a fine line between being sensitive to children's well-being and enforcing the law. But that is what marks the difference between great nations and developing countries that let fear and intimidation rule instead of compassion and common sense.

Ok, fair enough. Readers are free to agree or disagree on whether this is a serious problem and, if so, how best to respond to it. But here are some representative comments in the thread:


I find it appalling that foreign nationals would abandon their children just because they were born in the USA. However, I do know of many families who, after coming over on work visa and having had children here (read citizens), return to their homelands without fuss, and believe it or not, actually love their children enough to retain responsibility for them (read take them home to their countries of origin). Deported illegal aliens with citizen children are still responsible for their children even though they themselves have been deported. Honestly, Marisa, what is the Hispanic family coming to?


Perhaps potential illegal aliens should stay in their own country and save their families from the anguish of being deported. Others who are here should leave by simply leaving on their own accord, before the long arm of justice prevails.

In response to another commenter pointing out that immigrant parents aren’t leaving their kids unattended by choice, but instead because they’re being swept up with little consideration for the health or safety of young children, commenters responded thusly:


No, it is the illegal parents that put themselves and their children in those positions. They know they are breaking our immigration laws when they come here. Our immigration policy has only failed because of lack of enforcement.

Even when the parents were kept with their children in a detainment center to keep the families together the pro-illegals were still crying foul.


La Raza and unscrupulous advocacy groups lie, cheat and obfuscate every day in order to make the feds look bad. They take lessons from Al Sharpton, who commonly stoops to hystrionics to sensationalize what he perceives as civil right violations. It wouldn't matter whether the feds put the whole family up in the Ritz Carleton and served them caviar, Hispanic advocacy groups would attempt to villify our law enforcement officials. To them, the end justifies the means. Discount any report by La Raza, as they have no loyalty to this country.


Illegal aliens deny our right to keep them out, degrade and defraud the credentials that we use to prove out identity. Their entire life in the U.S. is just a lie. Lying is a way of life for them. Why should we believe them when they complain about abuses by our government officials?

Why indeed? And there you have it. This is our immigration discourse today.