Rising Tide.

In the 1840s, two republics contended for power in the southwestern quadrant of North America.  In 1846, Mexico and the United States went to war over the issue.  The United States inflicted a catastrophic defeat on Mexico.  As prize of war, the United States got California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico.  Plus the Republic of Texas was allowed to join the United States.  In 1853, the United States “purchased” the Gadsden Strip from a chastened Mexico.

Until 1924, the United States pursued a policy of “open borders.”[1]  That meant millions of Southern and Eastern Europeans could migrate to the USA.  Big industrial cities in the East and the Midwest filled up.  It also meant that there were no restriction on cross-border movements in the Southwest.  Many Mexicans migrated northward toward the more dynamic economy of the United States.

Then came the Depression, which decreased wages in both Mexico and the United States.[2]  When the United States entered the Second World War, the American economy began a long boom.  Between 1944 and 1966, 5 million “braceros” (Mexican temporary workers) came to the United States.  Not all of them went back.  By 1969 an estimated 540,000 illegal immigrants were working in the United States.  That number increased markedly in the 1970s and 1980s.  The economy of Mexico slumped far more than did that of the neighboring United States.  By 1986, perhaps 3.2 million illegals were living in the United States.  Mostly they were doing work that ordinary American citizens would not do.  Hard, dirty, and for long hours.

In 1979, the Carter Administration (1977-1981) proposed building a border wall.  In contrast, inn1986, the Reagan Administration supported an Immigration Reform and Control Act that granted amnesty to 2.7 million of the illegals.

Under the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations, it was back to “get tough.”  From a dozen miles of fence between San Diego and Tijuana, the amount of fence grew to 560 miles after 9/11.  In 2000, 1.6 million illegals were caught at or near the border.  Then the Obama Administration added 137 miles of fence for a total of 697 miles of fence on the 1,954 mile-long Mexican-American border.  Purportedly, improvements in the Mexican economy then reduced the migration of Mexicans.[3]  In 2017, the Border Control arrested only 310,000 illegals.   So, triumph without a—full–wall!

The recent border “crisis” arises from different sources.  Many Central American countries are collapsing under the weight of gang violence and mis-government.  Whole families are migrating and presenting themselves as “refugees” at US points-of-entry.

However, people crossing the Sonoran desert is a peripheral issue in so far as illegal immigration is concerned.  In 2017 alone, 700,000 people obtained US tourist visas and then over-stayed their visas.  They just disappeared into the American hinterland.[4]  That is better than half of all the illegals.

Why should Central Americans get priority while Asians, Africans, and Muslims wait?  “It’s a serious question.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vInFuLgwR1U

[1] From 1882, the United States did try to limit immigration by Asians to the Pacific Coast.

[2] “A history of the southern border,” The Week, 8 February 2019, p. 11.

[3] The huge slump in the American economy—the “Great Recession”—may also have had something to do with it.

[4] This was basically the story with the 9/11 hijackers.

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Bus Station.

Back in the day (as my undergrads used to say back in the day) I was in the head in the Greyhound station in like, IDK, Winnemucca, Nevada?  Cold as all get-out.  Riding the bus east from Seattle to Boston after Christmas break.  See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GONmFCkCGCc   Black kid is using the head also.  Then this cowboy staggers in through the swing-door.  Older guy in jeans, boots, sheep-skin lined  jacket, real Stetson.  So, a real cowboy.  His saddle is probably in the luggage compartment under a bus bound for Casper.  He’s holding a fifth of some amber colored fluid and I don’t think it was green tea full of whatever green tea is full of that’s supposed to be good for your health.  OTOH, it’s in a regular “factory whiskey”–as Henry Fonda said in “Grapes of Wrath”–bottle instead of a Mason jar, so you probably won’t wake up two days later, blind and in a culvert.  Anyway, who was I?  Oh, yea.  The cowboy sees the black guy and says “Hey darky, help me get this thing whipped” and holds out his jug.  Black kid is just frozen.  He knows the guy meant it in a friendly way.  He knows that he isn’t going to do some Man-Tan “Nossuh, Ah don’t drink no whiskey” routine.  He knows that he should fight for being called “darky.”  He knows that there isn’t another black person around for 250 miles—unless there’s a train stop and some old porter named Ulysses Grant Weems is aboard.

Once every five years or so, I think about those two guys and wonder how it shook out after I left in embarrassment for all three of us.

 

Curmudgeon Me.

Il y a etait un fois, America had the best democratic public school system in the world, AND the greatest college and university system in the world.  More Americans went farther in education than did people in any other country.  In percentage terms, America had more and better “human capital” than did any other country in the world.  “We cultivated the world’s greatest artists AND the world’s greatest economy.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q49NOyJ8fNA&t=16s

Then, standardized tests revealed a terrifying decline in American educational attainment.  The generally-accepted, state-mandated, and Federally-funded response took the form of more standardized testing, accountability through assessment, the standardization of delivery models, and the proliferation of rubrics.

Here’s the thing.  When American education led the world, nobody did much standardized testing, nobody did much formal assessment[1], nobody insisted on standardized delivery, and no truly-educated person knew what the word “rubric” meant.  Schools and teachers didn’t do ANY of the things that now are supposed to cure “the prince of our disorders.”  This suggests that the origin of American educational problems lies elsewhere than in the educational system itself.

This applies to the American education reform experience of the last several decades.  Has anyone—other than me—ever been lost in the woods?  The hard-won lessons of millennia in this matter counsel certain behaviors.  First, Stop where you are!  Do not keep going forward!  Do not turn aside to the left hand or to the right to go bush-whacking through the brush!  You will fall over the edge of a cliff, bust your leg, and end up being mauled by some aggrieved Momma-bear.  Second, turn around and head back down the trail that you came up.  Eventually, you will come upon the place where you last knew where you were.  Third, stop in that place, consult your map and compass, and discern where you went wrong.  Fourth, get back on the trail you were supposed to be on before you missed the way-mark because you were looking down at your boots, trying not to trip over roots, when you should have been looking up to notice the white-painted blaze in a tree.

Thus, we need to stop bush-whacking through the educational underbrush.  We need to stop, turn around, and go back to whatever it is we were doing right before the wheels came off.

What was it we used to do when “once we were warrior kings”?  Historians have begun to explore what went wrong since the 1970s.  The early evidence suggests that complex social, economic, and cultural forces combined to wreck the foundations of American educational achievement.  The oil shocks of the 1970s put an end to an already troubled economic boom.  Families stopped valuing education as the pathway to success and stopped supporting the teachers who provided it.  Women’s Liberation took a lot of smart women out of career ghettos in teaching school (and nursing and bank-tellers and secetaries in offices), then replaced them with inferior substitutes.  They stopped buying encyclopedias and stopped subscribing to newspapers and magazines, and stopped taking their children to public libraries.  (Which have now become “social centers” with Ute and yentas grumbling at the top of their lungs.)  Divorces and re-marriages multiplied even though that meant that children had fewer resources and less family-support structures in challenging circumstances.  Trust in any and all institutions (understandably) declined.  (Hard to appreciate where those idiot anti-vaxxers come from otherwise.)  In short, the bourgeois social norms that had raised up individual “achievement” and collective “civilization” (along with its many injustices) went into a death spiral.

It would be un-fair to ask college administrators and faculty leaders at any one college or university to have the testicular fortitude to “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”  So, I’m doing it.

That’s my straw-man.  Knock it to bits.

[1] Although teachers and professors wrote a good deal of commentary in the margins of blue-books and essays.  Less common now because many people just score a rubric.  Leave the student to figure it out on their own.

Just the Facts, Ma’am 2 11 February 2019.

Second, three tax proposals have been offered to raise more revenue from the rich.[1]  Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has suggested raising the tax on incomes above $10 million from the current 37 percent to 60 or 70 percent.  This would return upper-income tax rates to the level that prevailed during the 1970s.  In the regime of the 1970s, many deductions and exemptions existed which do not exist today.  The effective tax rate on high incomes under the Ocasio-Cortez proposal would be much higher than the one of the 1970s.  However, the top rate in the 1970s applied to the contemporary equivalent of $800,000.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has proposed a “wealth tax,” not merely an income tax.[2]  People with a net worth between $50 million and $1 billion would pay 2 percent per year[3]; people worth more than $1 billion would pay 3 percent per year.[4]  According to the calculations underlying Senator Warren’s proposal, this tax would generate $2.75 trillion over ten years.

The Warren proposal may not be constitutional.  The 16th Amendment to the Constitution created a tax on income, not a tax on all assets.  Apparently, the courts have held that taxes on estates and gifts are excise taxes on the transfer of assets, rather than a tax on the assets themselves.  The tax also might be a logistical nightmare to apply.

Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed revising the estate tax.  Until 2009, the tax applied to estates of more than $3.5 million.  A 2017 tax change raised the threshold for individuals to about $11 million and the threshold for couples to about $22 million, with a standard tax rate of 40 percent.  Senator Sanders would return to the 2009 level of $3.5 million.  In addition, he replaces a single tax rate with multiple rates.  From $3.5 million to $10 million, the rate would be 45 percent; on estates of $1 billion or more, the rate would be 77 percent.

[1] Paul Sullivan, “Taxing the Rich Sounds Easy.  But It’s Not,” NYT, 2 February 2019; Sydney Ember, “Sanders Unveils a Plan To Increase Estate Taxes,” NYT, 1 February 2019.

[2] Senator Bernie Sanders also supports the idea of a wealth tax, if not necessarily Senator Warren’s version of such a tax.

[3] Apparently, there are 39,735 people worth between $50 million and $1 billion in the United States today.

[4] Apparently, there are 680 billionaires in the United States today.

I am running for President in 2020 1.

I believe that life begins at conception.  (If it didn’t, then women wouldn’t want abortions.)  Let me state plainly: I would never have an abortion.  OK, I’m a 64 year-old guy, so that’s an easy position to take.  At the same time, I’m not willing to shove my personal opinion down the throat of a fifteen year-old black girl in West Philadelphia, living with her mom and grand-mom in some tumbledown row house, and attending what the City of Brotherly Love is pleased to call the public “schools.”  Moreover, with Prohibition and the War on Drugs having been such great successes, I don’t see how a War on Abortion is any more likely to succeed.  Unless, you know, heart-break and misery across multiple generations is what you really want to produce.  Then go ahead, knock yourself out.

 

The same goes for a War on Guns.  Yes, there are things we can do.  We could strictly regulate the sale and possession of all firearms through the Defense Department.  This is what our friends in Mexico do.  Virtually no one in Mexico is allowed to own a firearm of any sort.  This step would could reduce our gun-death rates to Mexican levels.  Furthermore, many deaths are linked to the drug trade.  We should forbid the use of or trade in drugs.

OK, sounding like the mayor on “The Simpsons.”  More realistically, we could end the War on Drugs and we could try to revise the National Firearms Owners Protection Act.  The former promotes a “war for the corners.”  It also promotes a macho “step to him” code of behavior that leads to violence not directly related to the drug trade.  The National Firearm Owners Protection Act restricts the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to closely regulate federally-licensed gun-dealers.  While the vast majority of such dealers are responsible and honest people dealing in a Constitutionally-protected commodity, a tiny minority facilitate straw purchases and suffer “robbery.”  So, let’s knock-off the stuff about the “gun-show loop-hole” and not allowing father-to-son gun transfers without a background check.

 

We should RICO the Catholic Church.  Pennsylvania’s attorney general recently released a report on the sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy.  Here’s the thing, the AG got the information for the report by gaining access to Church records and then interviewing a lot of parishoners who had been abused.  Well, this scandal has been running for a while now.  Long ago, the Church could have done what the AG later did without breaking a sweat.  If they wanted to know.  Apparently, they didn’t.  Why not?

I suspect that, at some point back in the day there, the American priesthood became a place for gay Irish men to go and hide.  Fine by me.  They were doing God’s work.  If they go sylphing-off to have sex with other gay men, I don’t care.  However, given the anti-gay stance of both the Church and larger society, it exposed them to a terrible vulnerability.  They could be black-mailed by pedophile colleagues.  Pedophiles appear to be a very small segment of any sexual orientation.[1]  But they may have been just as ruthless and predatory toward their fellow-priests as they were toward their child-victims.

So, treat the Church as a criminal conspiracy.

[1] You ever noticed how few girls from Catholic schools have come forward to say “Sr. Mary Elephant copped a feel on my then-almost-non-existent tit”?

Migration.

The United States began limiting immigration in 1924.  The United States currently has an estimated 11-12 million illegal immigrants living in the country.  The United States admits 950,000-1 million legal immigrants each year.  Both of those realities have become the centers of political contention.  Pro-foreign-life people argue that immigration is vital for America’s society and economy, that the illegals should be granted some kind of legal status (often phrased as a “path to citizenship”), and that the United States has some kind of humanitarian duty to welcome everyone who has been the victim of one of life’s hard knocks.  Pro-it’s-our-choice people argue either that the immigrants are a bunch of undesirables from failed societies who will wreak havoc, or that immigration is good, but we need to pick and choose while recognizing that massive immigration will disrupt American society.  Various combinations of the two views either make the most sense or are a recipe for disaster.[1]

There are about 7.7 billion people in the world.  They live in 195 countries.  Gallup polled people in 152 of those countries.  They report that 15 percent of adults in those countries, an estimated 750 million people, would migrate to another country if they could.  Of that estimated 750 million people, about 158 million people want to move to the United States.[2]  Obviously, the real numbers could be much higher.  For one thing, many adults have children.  For another thing, there are the 43 countries where Gallup did not poll.  One can imagine virtually every single person in North Korea or Syria wanting to bolt.

One distortion in the contemporary debate arises from geography.  The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans bar most foreigners from getting to the United States except by sea (rare) or air travel.  You can’t get on an international flight from most places in the world headed for the United States unless you already have a visa.  That’s not the case for Central America.  People willing to run the risks of traveling the Lawless Roads can end up at the southern border of the United States.  Where political stunts by all sides provide something for cameramen to do.

The 2017 population of the United States has been estimated at 325 million people.  Can we take in 158 million people from foreign cultures—many of them very different in values from that of the United States—without any impact on American society?  If so, at what pace?  A million a year?  Five million a year?  Ten million a year?  All of them at once?  No?  Then the pro-foreign life people accept the idea of immigration restriction.  They just want to set the threshold at some undefined higher level.  And they don’t want to talk about the social, political, and financial costs.

As for the pro-it’s-our-choice people, there are 158 million people who want to come here, but you think there aren’t any among them who would make a vital contribution to America?  Red China wants to take over Taiwan, just like it did Hong Kong.  So, many people from a leading Far East industrial nation are going to want to migrate.  Russia and Iran are going to add Lebanon to the bag, just like Syria.  Lots of Lebanese Christians will want an out.

It’s an important debate.  It would be nice if we had it.

[1] I don’t have a ‘source” for this statement.  It’s just my sense of all the stuff I’ve been reading for years.  While there may NOT have been “good people on both side” in Charlottesville, there are idiots on both side of this debate.  Just hoping that I’m not one of them.  No need to tell me if you think I’m an idiot.  That’s what my sons are for.

[2] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 21/28 December 2018, p. 17.

The 2018 off term elections.

Some of this is now out-dated, owing to continuing counts of ballots and recounts.

“Analyzing 417 House races that featured at least two candidates on the ballot, the AP determined that Democrats earned more than 51.4 million votes in competitive House races nationwide, or 52 percent, compared to 47.2 million votes cast, or 48 percent, for Republicans.”[1]

NB: Of 98.6 million votes cast, Republicans won about 47.8 percent of the 2016 vote.  Democrats won about 52 percent of the vote.

NB: The Democrats margin of victory was 4.2 million votes.  In the “American presidential election held on November 8, 2016,… Republican Donald Trump lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by more than 2.8 million votes.[2]  NB: So two years of Trump government energized Democrats more than did Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  No surprise.

NB: Will this be enough to win the White House in 2020?  Basically (back of the envelope), it looks like Republicans pulled 74.6 percent of their 2016 turnout, while Democrats pulled 78 percent of their 2016 turnout.  Motivated by the Kavanaugh shenanigans, Republicans turned out much more than one might have expected.  Motivated by Trump-vulsion, Democrats turned out as one might have expected.

“According to the latest data, Democrats won the House popular vote by about seven percentage points in Tuesday night’s midterms.”  [NB: that works out to be something like 53 percent to 46 percent.]  Furthermore, “They picked up 29 Republican-held seats in the House, while losing two of their own incumbents, resulting in a net gain of 27 seats.”[3]

From 1918 to 2016, the president’s party lost an average of 29 seats in midterm elections. In the 20 percent of elections where the president lost the most seats—which Ballotpedia defined as wave elections—his party lost at least 48 seats.”[4]  “In the 2010 midterms, by contrast, Republicans stormed into control of the House with a haul of 63 seats.”

“Each of America’s 50 states elects two senators, regardless of population, and only a third of the country’s Senate seats are voted on each election cycle.”  According to David Golove, a professor at the New York University School of Law, “That’s a radically undemocratic principle, and it gives rise to what we see, which is that the minority populations are going to have a disproportionate impact in the United States. That tends to mean conservatives have a disproportionate influence over the Senate.”

NB: OK, but his argument is with James Madison, not me.  Wear a cup.

The country is divided 52-48 percent.  A purely normal (see above) “blue wave” should not disguise this reality.

Still, if the Democrats have a good candidate[5] and can sustain their “get out the vote” effort, they have a fair chance of re-capturing the White House in 2020.

Of course, we’ll have to take what comes with getting Trump out of the White House.

[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/09/heres-how-your-state-turned-out-to-vote-in-the-midterm-election.html

[2] Donald Trump: 62,984,828; Hillary Clinton: 65,853,514.

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/nov/08/democrats-republicans-senate-majority-minority-rule

[4] https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_Congress_elections,_2018

[5] Aye, there’s the rub.  Could Corey Booker or Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden mount a credible candidacy?  More likely, JMO, Hillary Clinton will “offer to serve” when the midgets flame out.