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.


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.


Zion Island 11.


Apparaitre a la “Theatre d’Ete a Madagascar.”

“Die Hunde von der d’Urbervilles.”

Avec Hardy Kruger comme “Vitus Gasthaus” et Mina Loy comme “Frau Murnau.”

Realise par Franz Seitz, Sr.

Scenario de Graf Guy de Marcheret d’Eu.



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.

Venezuela 7 February 2019.

In 1998, the Venezuelan people elected Hugo Chavez as president of a country with a strong economy, but also one divided over the distribution of the benefits of that economy.[1]  Chavez was a “populist”: he nationalized the oil industry, the banks, and much of the land, then used the profits to fund programs to aid the poor.  A big rise in government spending outstripped revenue, so they started printing money.  Prices soared.  Chavez slammed on price controls.  These didn’t (and don’t ever) work.  By 2013, the inflation rate had climbed to 50 percent; since then it has headed toward 10 million percent per year and the currency is worthless.  Furthermore, owners of nationalized assets were bent out of shape (see: selfish) and the price controls had distorted economic activity (see: Paul Samuelson).  In these circumstances, men with guns might make all the difference when it came to staying in power.  Chavez kept a tight leash on the army.  They—and politicians–went into drug trafficking.[2]

Then America’s “fracking” revolution hit.  An alternative to oil and coal flooded the energy market.  Oil prices collapsed everywhere, to the distress of Arabs, Russians Nigerians, and Venezuelans.  In the case of Venezuela, the country lost most of its foreign exchange earnings.  This cut the amount of money available to pay for key imports.  One of these was food, because the “populist” polices in the countryside had reduced food production.  Venezuela had to import more food, but lacked the foreign exchange to do so.  The same went for pharmaceuticals.  Entrepreneurs-with-pistols now extract goods and services.  As a result, 75 percent of the country is in poverty.  An increasing number of Venezuelans demanded a new course.  The army became even more important.

Then Chavez died in 2013 and his chief subordinate, Nicolas Maduro, took his place.  Maduro could have tried to clean up a bad situation.  He would have been a national hero.  Instead, he decided to ride it down.[3]  Ever-growing street protests began in 2014.  When opposition groups won the 2015 elections, Maduro fell back to rewriting the constitution so that he could do what he wanted and arresting anyone who seemed like a threat.[4]  Both the police and pro-government paramilitary groups called “colectivos” assailed the protestors.  Hundreds are dead.  Many of the original leaders are in jail.  Many ordinary people are pre-occupied with getting food and other necessities.[5]  Three million people have emigrated to neighboring countries.[6]  So protests died down in 2018.  Maduro rigged the 2018 election to win a new six-year term.  Cuba has sent intelligence officers to support the repression, China has loaned millions, and Russia has warned off American intervention.

From one perspective, this looks like the collapse of Communism in 1989.  Like the collapse of Communism, the aftermath will be painful, messy, and often un-just.

[1] “The growing crisis in Venezuela,” The Week, 25 January 2019, p. 11.

[2] This probably isn’t much different from Mexico.

[3] See; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_SMJ-Uwmkg

[4] Many of these people were old Chavez loyalists in government ministries and in the army.  As a historian, I can’t help thinking of Stalin purging the “Old Bolsheviks.”  I’m sure this is an over-reaction.  So don’t write to me.

[5] So, a capitalist black market thrives amidst the ruins of a formally socialist society.

[6] Perhaps seven million more may follow their path, according to one estimate.

My Weekly Reader 6 February 2019.

When the War of the American Revolution began, the rebellious colonies had no real army with which to fight it.  The colonists had long relied up militias made up of part-time soldiers.  For the most part, these militias had been dedicated to local defense against Indian attacks.  The militia units from the frontiers had more experience than did the militias from the eastern territories.  They all lacked training, discipline, equipment, and—often—competent officers.

Still, a bunch of them had “seen the elephant” up close.  George Washington had a couple of experiences in the back-country, then had a memorable experience with General Edward Braddock’s catastrophic attempt to capture Fort Duquesne.  Daniel Morgan (1736-1802) had been a teamster—no very exalted position–on that expedition.[1]  Morgan differed greatly from Washington.  He was a poor-boy immigrant from New Jersey to the Shenandoah Valley.  He arrived with nothing but muscle-power, but there was great need of that on the 18th Century frontier.  He began to accumulate property: first a team of horses, then a farm, and later slaves.  Braddock’s expedition offered him his first taste of war.  It left him unimpressed with British military leadership and also deeply bitter toward British rule after he was severely flogged for smacking one of his officers.  Soon, Morgan became an officer in the Virginia militia and experienced at war with the Indians.

Morgan led a company of Virginia riflemen on Benedict Arnold’s expedition through the wilds of Maine to capture Quebec.[2]  The effort failed and many American soldiers were captured, Morgan among them.  He spent a year in British captivity before being paroled.  Upon his release in early 1777, George Washington promoted Morgan to colonel in the Continental Army and told him to raise a regiment of frontier riflemen.  Morgan led the regiment in the campaign that ended with the surrender of General John Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga (1777).  He and his men passed from this triumph to disaster in the Philadelphia campaign and wintered in Valley Forge (1777-1778).  In 1779, fed up with Congress and ts mismanagement of the army, Morgan stormed off in a huff to retirement.

Then Horatio Gates, who had commanded at Saratoga, took charge in the South.  Morgan initially declined the offer of a command.  When Gates led the army to disaster at Camden (1780), however, Morgan returned to service.  The new commander, Nathaniel Greene, put Morgan in command of a small unit.  His mission was to avoid a battle while harassing the British lines of communication.  In January 1781, Morgan disobeyed the order to avoid battle by setting a trap for a British light force under Banastre Tarleton.  The two forces collided at a pasture called the Cowpens in South Carolina on 17 January 1781.  Morgan’s adept handling of his militia led to a brilliant, small-scale victory.  The American victory had a disproportionate effect because Tarleton’s force—virtually annihilated in the fight—included much of the British light infantry.  This hampered Lord Cornwallis going forward in the Southern campaign.  It also set a pattern for a campaign of attrition that would end at Yorktown.

Plagued with ills, Morgan left the army soon after Cowpens.

[1] Don Higginbotham, Daniel Morgan: Revolutionary Rifleman (1961) is still the best biography.

[2] See Kenneth Roberts, Arundel (1936).

I am running for President in 2020–2.

I’m content to wait on the Meuller Report and on the report of the DoJ’s Inspector General, before deciding whether Donald Trump should be impeached.

I have no doubt that Trump is not fit to be President of the United States.  However, he got elected president.  I haven’t seen any evidence yet that the Russian meddling tipped the balance.  Also, Hillary Rodham Clinton wasn’t fit to be president.  It’s just that she was less unfit than Trump.  Hence my vote in 2016.

George W. Bush wasn’t fit to be president.  Bill Clinton wasn’t fit to be president.  Nor were John F. Kennedy or Jimmy Carter.  Or Ronald Reagan.  Or Barack Obama.  For that matter, neither was FDR, or Harry Truman, or Jerry Ford.  But the last group grew into the job.  Leaves us with Eisenhower, Nixon, and George H. W. Bush.  Three Republican presidents.  Unless you regard Bill Clinton as “one of the lesser Republican presidents, ” as–I think–Mark Shields described him.   I am certainly not fit to be president.  Nevertheless, I want your vote.

That said on the “character” and ethics issues, here are some more of my positions.

First, according to the NYT, two thirds of the revenue lost to the Federal government by the Bush II-Obama tax cuts came from people making less than $250K a year.  We need to recoup these earnings if we are going to tackle the budget deficit and national debt.  For that matter, how can people–including me–be real citizens if we just tell politicians what benefits we want and then tell them to bill somebody else?

Second, the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare) extended medical insurance to about–I think–16 million Americans.  However, the larger problem–the high cost of American medicine relative to the low quality of outcomes–remained unaddressed.  Here’s the thing.  American doctors make about fifty percent more than do Western European or Japanese doctors with comparable skills.  The first step toward making health care affordable for most Americans must be to reduce the bloated incomes of physicians.  This will mean locking horns with the Americn=an Medical Association.  YIKES!