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Thursday, September 03, 2015

A PROPOSAL

"Americans want Congress to end the lawlessness, but this bill would have us surrender to it"
-Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama)

The United States, like a lot of western nations, is facing a bit of a crisis in terms of immigration. 
Having ignored immigration laws and encouraged people to flood across the border from poorer nations for decades, the US is dealing with the weight of these new people.
These new immigrants have often ended up on welfare, taking advantage of the generosity of the government which every year extends more and more benefits to not only non-citizens, but people who have crossed the border in violation of immigration law. The resulting expense is burying the nation as a whole and many individual states in debt.  With an estimated 11 million (the actual number is likely as much as 20) illegal immigrants in the country the cost has gotten out of control.
Further, while most of these immigrants are good people who work hard, at the very least every single one of them has come to the country by breaking the law, and some break the law a lot. Every few weeks another ghastly murder, rape, or other severe crime takes place by an illegal immigrant, since not everyone who crossed the border is a nice person.
Illegal Immigrants make up about 25% of the prison population in the United States, according to the Government Accounting Office.  At American Thinker, Randall Hoven points out illegals are more criminal than the average US citizen, that they don't commit minor crimes, either:
The Government Accountability Office has data that show otherwise. Here is the leading sentence from a 2011 GAO report (GAO-11-187, Criminal Alien Statistics, March 2011).
“The number of criminal aliens in federal prisons in fiscal year 2010 was about 55,000, and the number of SCAAP criminal alien incarcerations in state prison systems and local jails was about 296,000 in fiscal year 2009 (the most recent data available), and the majority were from Mexico.”
(SCAAP is the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program and in this context means “illegal aliens” – a GAO term meaning “Noncitizens whom ICE verified were [or whom states and local jurisdictions believe to be] illegally in the United States at the time of incarceration”.)
Of course getting hard numbers on illegals in general is difficult since by their legal status makes them unwilling to admit it to anyone who seems remotely official.
It is true, however, that the greatest bulk of illegals in the USA are there to work, build a better life, and make a future in the USA.  While it is true that immigrant families in the US sent over $20,000,000,000 to Mexico alone last year, they also are a positive for the US economy.  Much of the work done is "off the books" in the form of work for cash, which means no taxes paid or contributions to Social Security, for example, but not all of it.
And immigration has always been a delight for America, not a frustration.  There were no indigenous people in the American continents originally, all who live here came from other lands, even back long ago when the first Indio-Asian groups arrived.  They bring new ideas, cultural flavor, food, music, dance, poetry, art, language, and much more to blend into the American melting pot.  While some are slower to assimilate, eventually after a few generations, they become American and the nation as a whole is stronger for it.
THE REASON
However, immigration law as it stands now is frankly terrible.  Tales of how awful, slow, expensive, and ridiculous it is to enter the United States legally make coming into the country illegally seem frankly attractive and logical.  It takes so long and is so expensive that the system clearly is a mess and needs streamlining, which I've written about in the past.
But the biggest problem with immigration in the USA is that the nation has for decades basically ignored its own immigration laws, and over the last decade or so has been even more determined to do so.  Recently, President Obama deliberately flew thousands of families into the country in the name of sanctuary for refugees, and called them children - but of course, their parents, uncles, grandparents, and so on all came along.
So people are talking about walls and boxcars full of families driven out of the country and jailing people and so on.  Deportations, tougher laws, towers and drones patrolling the border, on and on.  But the thing is, simply enforcing the law and cracking down on businesses that hire cheap illegal labor for low pay and no benefits would actually work to pressure immigrants to self deport.  Take away the jobs and the welfare goodies, and people will go on their own.
What about the people who've been here for years and are working in the society, people who are settled in?  I have a suggestion, based on existing law that is long-established in our legal system, to be implemented once all the other things have been done (enforcing law, cracking down on businesses, fixing immigration law, etc).
STATUE OF LIMITATIONS
When you commit any non-capitol crime such as theft, there is a "statute of limitations" or similar concept which cuts off the point at which someone may be held accountable for their crime.  The principle behind this is that after a certain point testimony and evidence is so unreliable or unavailable that a fair trial cannot be held.
So basically: commit most crimes, hold out long enough, and you walk.  This may seem unjust, but it really isn't; ten years after you shoplifted, the store is no longer damaged and nobody's around to question or remember details, anyway.  Its not like in the movies, if you ask someone in real life where they were on January 15th 2005, they are not going to have a clue.
So I propose that we apply this to immigration.  If an illegal immigrant has been in the country for a certain amount of time - ten years, fifteen, whatever seems best - and has not committed any felonies or additional immigration crime and have demonstrable work and status in their community, then they are treated as if they came to the country legally and may then begin to work toward becoming a citizen, from the point at which they are granted legal status.  In other words, as if they have just arrived.
Naturally a lot of details would have to be worked out, such as what crimes would negate the deal (identity crimes like fake ID probably should not, if done in an attempt to live legally and properly in the country) and who is covered, and what consists of status and employment, but this seems a decent approach.  Perhaps requiring basic familiarity and use of English as a language would also be a useful requirement - demonstrating a desire to fit in and be part of the culture rather than taking advantage of it but remaining part of one's former country.
AMNESTY
Yes, I hear you yelling "amnesty" which, technically this could be called.  Except it isn't.  Amnesty is law enforcement blanket agreeing to ignore your crimes.  This is following previously established legal concepts and precedent.  If you've been a productive, useful citizen and are a useful member of your community then you've proved that you are a benefit to the country and are given a new chance.
Its true that previous statements of immigration law changes have included these concepts, but usually they were too broadly written (anyone who has been in the US a certain amount of time) or were to be established first, rather than after - or in the place of - any other changes.
I think of this not as a compromise, but as a useful addition to law to change the way immigration is treated in the country.  Not as something given up in exchange for something we want, but something that is a logical and proper feature of the law.
THE RESULT
A result of this would be not very significant in terms of encouraging people to come to the country illegally.  If you have to dodge tougher immigration enforcement, have a harder time finding a job, get no welfare or driver's license, and have to stay in the country for a decade or more to qualify, that's not a very attractive concept.  But it is estimated that if all illegals paid taxes, they would increase tax revenues by as much as 77%.  Now, only a fraction of illegals would qualify - certainly fewer than a third - but that's still a noteworthy benefit to the country.
Further, it would allow neighbors, friends, and even family who live here in uncertain status to become full members of society rather than at its fringes or in the shadows of the law.  And that is a benefit to communities across the nation.
I know this concept is pretty controversial but I think it would be a good idea that would make a big difference to the nation and allow the culture to move forward positively from this era of foolishly unrestrained immigration.  But I'm sure you have a lot of tomatoes to throw.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

THE CONSEQUENCES

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive."
-C.S. Lewis

Much is made of unintended consequences in politics and law.  When bills to provide public assistance to the poor are passed, they don't intend to create a dependency upon the government, and few  of its supporters have a desire to damage the family unit, but that's what takes place over time.
But there's another class of poor decisionmaking that was recently illustrated by a federal court decision.  Forty years ago or so, federal courts ruled that southern schools were compelled to desegregate, so that there was a racial mix in each school rather than a single homogenous ethnic body of students in each.  
In doing so, they established a precedent; that courts could order students to given specific schools regardless of the desire of parents, schools, or students.  The principle was considered such a public value and so important that these peoples' desires and needs were overruled.  Their freedom of choice and care of their children was trumped by the government's idea of public good.
At the time, this seemed like a good idea, since black schools were being grossly underfunded and treated like trash in some areas, while black students were banned from schools even in their own district, forced to travel miles out of their way just to get an education.  The government was just trying to help those kids out and fight against institutionalized racism.  Their intentions were noble, but their efforts were at best questionable in terms of the US Constitution.
TRANSFERS
So now a federal court has ruled that parents may be prohibited from transferring their kids to a different school.  Why?  Because this previous ruling establishes that these parents have no constitutional right to choose where their kids go to school.
“[There] is no relevant precedent [to] support the proposition that ‘a parent’s ability to choose where his or her child is educated within the public school system is a fundamental right or liberty,'” says the majority ruling, written by Judge Lavenski Smith, a George W. Bush appointee.
Now, the Arkansas legislature has since changed laws and parents are free to move kids if they want to, but this ruling is consistent with previous, established law.
If the federal government can compel parents to put kids into certain schools and prohibit them from moving their kid to another based on anti-discrimination policy, then that still applies now.  It means that the government has decided parents have no right to choose where their kids attend school.  Not just in that district, but anywhere.  Because this ruling was not specific to this district or state, it was a general statement that there's no support for the idea that choosing where your kids get an education is a fundamental right.
CONSEQUENCES
Now, consider that a few moments.  What does this mean in general?  Courts usually try to be cautious about making major, broad statements about society at large, trying to be specific to a given case.  But this ruling just said that parents may not choose to keep their kids at home to school them, either if the state decides that is wrong.  And it says that the state can deny your ability to put your kids into private schools or religious schools, if the state decides that this is wrong.
If there is no "fundamental right or liberty" for parents to "choose where his or her child is educated within the public school system" then that easily and comfortably extends to education in general.  This ruling does not require anything.  It simply says that parents have no power or choice to resist laws passed by the government when it comes to where their kids study.
So if the state or local government passes a law that says you cannot send your kids to a private school... this ruling says the parents have no constitutional right to disagree.  They must comply, without possible recourse to courts based on the constitution, that's what this case claims.
FREEDOMS
One of the tough things to deal with and handle in a system like the US Constitution establishes and intends is that people are free to do lousy things.  People are free under the 1st amendment to say nasty things.  They're free under the 2nd amendment to own scary guns.  The purpose of the constitution is to preserve the greatest amount of liberty and to restrict the federal government as much as possible, which means people are able to do things that we might not like.
For example, I might not care for a Satanist teaching kids in school, but that Satanist is free to believe and say what he wants, as long as it does not seriously damage another right.  I might not want a mosque in my neighborhood, but the constitution guarantees the freedom of that building to be completed and Muslims to worship there.  And I might not like a business turning down people shopping there because they are native American, but the US constitution says that they can do just that.
In essence, people are free to be stupid jerks, because to be any less would be to surrender too much liberty to the government, to the detriment of all.  Saying you can't build a mosque means someone can say you can't build a synagogue or an atheist study center.  Saying you can't deny service to one group means you can't deny service to any group, even if they have no shoes or shirts.  We're all free... or none of us are.
The desire to restrict liberties the constitution protects because things aren't going the way we want or something seems mean or bad to us inevitably, incrementally, leads to greater and greater government power, while at the same time fewer and fewer liberties for the citizens of a nation.
Each time the court rules in this manner, it strips away freedom from citizens and takes their power away.  And each time it takes away power which, under the US Constitution, belongs solely to the people of the United States and gives it to the government.  This transfer of power - for good intentions - has been going on for more than 200 years, in little steps at a time.
And with the courts, each step has been based on a previous step, with almost no steps back.  Each time a court rules transferring power to the state, that is the basis for the next transfer of power.  And it accelerates over time as the weight of precedent builds and the comfort level of the public adjusts to the loss of freedom.  What was unthinkable ten years ago seems inevitable today.
THE TRAJECTORY
And so we reach the point at which I've given up the idea of ever getting back to the constitution today.  In fact, I've come to the realization that there's no point in appealing to the document as any kind of governing and restraining document because the government and people have simply abandoned it except as a fetish.
Recent supreme court decisions have simply negated the constitution entirely, building on decades of ignoring and twisting the document, inventing things not in it until its simply trash.  And all of this happened because of well-meaning tiny little steps, any one of which the founding fathers would have been enraged at, but we sigh and shrug at today.
There is no rational basis for thinking that any government will reverse this.  It simply is without precedent in human nature and history for a politician to voluntarily surrender their own power or a government to weaken its self.  There is only one direction, one trend: toward tyranny.
The founders knew this.  They did their best to lock in our freedom and protect this inevitable tendency of the state.  It was so well done that the nation lasted more than a century with great, widespread liberties.  That era is over, and only one future lies before us, barring some act of God.
The only question is what lies beyond that point, and how we get through it.

Monday, August 24, 2015

BLACK KNIGHTS


"Heeere I come to save the day!"
-Mighty Mouse

So I'm commenting on a blog about all sorts of stuff, procrastinating, when the topic of Michelle Obama's fashion sense comes up.  This is always worth some laughs because she's as bad at it as I am, and ought to know better.
I noted that she does look pretty good for someone her age, but that a lot of black women seem to be blessed in this way, that they don't show their age.  Its sort of like Asian women; they stay looking pretty young until a fairly old age.
I got two responses to this. 
From a white guy I got "so they all look the same to you???"
From a black woman I got "yep, you should see my mom!"
Now, its hard to tell often online if someone is being sarcastic or not, but this highlighted a serious problem in American culture as I see it.
The black woman had no problem with what I said, she recognized it as being generally accurate and even possibly complimentary.  Now, she's from Africa, so her attitude isn't quite the same as many American blacks, but her response was very reasonable.  This is a recognized fact.
But the white guy, he had to jump in with both feet and make a declaration protecting black women like a knight in shining armor.  Here's my chance to fight racism!  What you said could in some remotely twisted, vaguely connected way possibly be considered racist if you squint hard enough!  I'll save you, helpless negress!  Its pretty condescending, really.
White Knighting is an online term that refers to someone coming to the defense or rescue of a girl who often isn't even present.  How dare you post that picture of her!  The term is used in a derogatory
way, mocking people as if they are thinking she might like me if I defend her!  Which might have some validity in some cases.
But this could be called Black Knighting, where a white guy leaps to the racist argument and assumes bigotry in cases where a black person goes "yeah, ok."  And it happens a lot in modern culture, with white guys trying to out black everyone around them.  
Its a form of contempt and condescension toward blacks, presuming they need help and protecting.  Its a form of social climbing by trying to be the most concerned and socially aware person in the room.  And its driven largely by the fear that someone will say you're racist, so people are trying to get ahead of it by denouncing someone else first.
We've gotten to the point in our culture where its assumed that everyone else is racist, as long as they are not black, and its just a matter of picking the right point at which to yell the word like a social Bingo game.
The white people are trying to out-outrage blacks when it comes to race now, and until that shifts culturally its only going to get... stupider.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

THE ANIMAS EFFECT

"Hell isn't merely paved with good intentions; it's walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too."
-Aldous Huxley

Recently, the EPA went to investigate potential environmental damage from a mine that was closed down in 1923.  Before they were done, the Animas River beneath the mine turned from this:

To this:

Levels of  lead, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium and mercury are up to ten times the acceptable levels that the EPA has established.  Most legacy media outlets are decrying a "mining accident" and not mentioning the EPA at all.  It took almost a week for CNN to mention the EPA as in the article linked above.
Let's say United Allied Mining Consolidated (UAMC), big mining company, had caused this gigantic spill, polluting a popular vacation spot and fishing, boating, and swimming scenic area with millions of gallons of poisons and chemicals.
How long would it be before the EPA had them in court and was fining them for millions of dollars in addition to the costs of cleanup?  How much would this cost the company?  How much would environmentalist groups condemn the action, and how many news stories would there be about the evils of mining accidents and how sloppy they are?
How long would Jon Stewart have done a segment on them, rolling his eyes and mugging for the camera?  How many Daily Kos, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, etc posts would there be about the wicked mining company's negligence and evil activities?
As it is, here's what we see at the Sierra Club:
Amusingly, the link they give goes to a page that immediately blames the EPA, not "an abandoned mine" whose ghosts apparently caused the leak, if the Sierra Club is to be believed.
Now imagine if you will, what the penalty will be for the EPA.
Go ahead, I'll give you a few moments...
That's right: nothing. At worst, some sacrificial lamb will be fired.  The cost of cleanup will be put on the shoulders of the taxpayers, although some especially clever and corrupt agency drone may try to sue the descendents of former mine owners for it.
The EPA will not pay a bit for what happens here.  They aren't even being shamed by the people who claim to care most about the environment.
This makes a pretty critical point about economics, politics, policy and culture for me.
I'm what you'd call an environmentalist.  I've posted about this before; I got our church to start recycling old papers, I pick up trash when I go for a walk.  I'm all for cleanup and blocking pollution.  I want us to be wise, concerned, and responsible stewards of the beautiful world we've been given, not rape it for all its worth.
The Gold King Mine is not a nice place.  Its leaking toxic crud into the nearby creek slowly and needed cleaning up.  I don't see where the US Constitution empowers the federal government to take tax dollars and do so with the EPA, but the job needs doing. This massive gush of death into the water is a bad thing.
And for me, its bad when this happens no matter who does it.  I don't have anyone in particular I want to shield from consequences or penalty in this fight.  Big business, small business, private citizen, government, it doesn't matter.  Its wrong and should be punished.
But the fact is, a business faces more penalties and consequences than government when it does exactly the same thing.  They are fined, sued, penalized, and punished.  What's more, the media makes sure they are shamed and publicly humiliated for their actions - and rightly so, that's one of the best functions of the fourth estate.
In other words, businesses are accountable for what they do.  They pay a price when they do wrong.  That's part of the function of a market as well as legal and moral function of a society, when someone does wrong, they pay a price.  It can take a while, and sometimes they get away with it, but there is still accountability.
Contrast that with government.  Politicians can pay a price for enraging their constituents, by being voted out, but that doesn't happen very often.  Particularly the higher up in office you get, the less often there's a price to pay.  2014 was one of the most shocking and extensive bloodbaths in American history, with voters changing the majority party in office in the Senate and heavily increasing it in the House. Yet still, over 95% of sitting legislators were reelected.  This, despite a roughly 14% approval rating of congress.  And its usually a higher reelection level for incumbents.
And while politicians may come and go, people working in the guts of government - staffers, agency heads, secretaries, etc - stay.  They stay through administration changes, party changes, they stay for decades.  They do not pay a price when the nation gets sick of one party or another, one politician or another.
In other words, government is not accountable.  What would ruin a company causes minor shrugs in government.  Watch, and see if there's even a demotion at the EPA for this debacle.  I bet nothing at all will happen.
And that's the key to understanding conservativism when it comes to markets and business.  Leftists distrust business - and that's good, they should.  But they trust government, and that's naive and foolish.  It might even be corrupt, since many leftists work at government.  Chamber of Commerce Republicans like Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina distrust government, which is good, but they trust business, which is naive and foolish, or even corrupt.
Conservatives should and usually do, distrust both.  But we recognize that while business is accountable and pays a price for its misdeeds, government almost never does, and when it does, its in a minor and meaningless way.
And that's just wise to recognize.