Thursday, March 30, 2006

Were Your Ancestors Legal Immigrants?-A True Story

A friend of mine, who was born in post-war Hungary, told me this true story. His family lived in a tiny Hungarian village, until the Soviets crushed the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Then his family joined the crowds of refugees who sought asylum in neighboring Austria. They were housed in a refugee dormitory in a hotel in Vienna, where many refugees, who had applied to immigrate to the United States, lived and waited for their name to reach the time of the visa list. One day someone in the hotel died, who had been near the top of the waiting list to enter the USA. Did the refugees report the death to the U.S. Embassy? No. Instead, one of the other refugees, who had been much farther down on the waiting list for entry into our country, assumed the identity of the dead refugee. The impostor in due course was granted a visa, immigrated to the United States, became a citizen, prospered, and contributed immensely to his adopted nation. He married, and had children and grandchildren. However, unbeknownst to his grandchildren, he had entered the United States illegally, under false pretenses.

It is not unlikely that his grandchildren might be heard today saying, "I am not against immigration or immigrants. My grandfather was an immigrant. But he entered the country legally." The truth of the matter is that the story I related is not rare, but with minor variations has no doubt happened thousands of times. (Such an incident is part of the plot of Scott Turow's wonderful recent novel, Ordinary Heroes.) People in desperate straits do desperate things. Few of us are privy to our ancestors' immigration papers and case histories. If we were, we might not be so quick to decry illegal immigration. I for one am quite certain that if I were a Mexican or Honduran or Salvadoran or Guatamalan who needed to feed my family, and I could not make a living in my native land, I would make the desperate trek al norte. Such an attitude may represent the best in human nature--love of family, courage, initiative and self-sacrifice, not a criminal mentality.

Yes, we need to secure our borders. Yes, we need to register those illegal aliens who are already in our country and run backround checks. Yes, we need stronger sanctions for those who knowingly employ illegal aliens. But I fully support the President's call for a guest worker program that would allow presently illegal immigrants and those waiting to come here to regularize their status as legal resident aliens. Also, I for one would not be too quick to support legislation, such as the House immigration reform act, that would make an illegal immigrant a felon. As my story illustrates, one never knows whom such a wide net would snag.

Another point: We probably need a large Latin American immigrant population to become citizens, not merely temporary residents. The United States has an aging population and a birthrate too low to sustain its current numbers. If it were not for immigration from Latin America, mostly illegal, our country's population would be shrinking, not growing, and the demographics of an aging population would greatly exacerbate the burden that social security and Medicare will impose on the workers of the younger generations. Immigrants with marginal jobs will have children who will be better educated, and who will have better jobs. We aging Baby Boomers will be depending on those children of Latin American immigrants, when they grow up, to pay the income taxes necessary to pay our entitlements.

The countries of Europe face a similar demographic problem, but, unhappily for them, their young immigrant population largely comes from Islamic countries with anti-Western sentiments. Dennis Prager, among others, has pointed out that we should consider ourselves fortunate that our immigrant population comes from cultures within the Judaeo-Christian tradition.

Lowell adds: First of all, I can see that adding Ralph to this blog was an inspired idea. He is definitely classing up the joint. What took me so long?

Second, "amen" to everything Ralph says above. I am a little more eager than he apparently is to see the borders secured, as a first priority, but I do believe a guest worker program should be implemented simultaneously with such enforcement efforts, or very shortly thereafter.

Another point: It has become fashionable in certain conservative circles to call any guest worker program "amnesty." As Michael Medved pointed out on his show yesterday, that's a terrible distortion and is flat wrong. Even the McCain-Kennedy bill, which I find problematic, requires any illegal immigrant who wants to "come in" to pay a fine, pay back taxes, and go to the end of the line for citizenship consideration. That's not amnesty; it's a admission of having broken the law and an acceptance of a legal penalty for doing so.

Finally: Victor Davis Hanson was on the Ingraham show two days ago. He told Laura that we have to do something to distinguish among the 11-12 million illegals who are here. Some should be deported, of course-- for example, the unmarried 18 year-old who got here six months ago. But what about the 30 year-old who was brought here from Mexico when he was 9 and owns a home, is married, has children, and has a responsible job? Even Laura shed her Attila-like exterior for a moment and agreed that there is a need to make distinctions. Medved echoed this point also yesterday.

It's not a simple problem. We need to find a smart, ingenious, tough-minded, compassionate, and fully American solution to it.

Peggy Noonan on Military Heroes and Immigration

Long-time readers here know that two of my favorite subjects are military heroes (especially Medal of Honor winners) and illegal immigration, from the standpoint of assimilation. Peggy Noonan tackles them both here. A highly-recommended read for the weekend.

Polling on Illegal Immigration

Commenter Nash to my post just below, as well as Laura Ingraham, seem quite certain that "the American people" want tougher border enforcement now and do not want to see any kind of guest worker program. In this post last November 30 I referred to a Manhattan Institute poll that, if accurate, suggests that Laura is all wet on this one. From the poll's conclusions:

According to the new poll, 78% of likely Republican voters favor
immigration reform that includes increased border security, tougher penalties
for employers who hire illegal workers, a policy that allows illegal immigrants
to come forward and register for a temporary worker program that eventually
placed them on a path to citizenship. Facing a choice between a registration and
earned-legalization plan and a plan that includes deportation and
enforcement-only, respondents favored the earned legalization plan 58% to 33%.
In addition, 67% of respondents indicate they would have a more favorable view
of President Bush if he supported an earned legalization reform plan.

My November 30 post offers lots more commentary on the Manhattan Institute poll. A Fox News poll, conducted last May by Opinion dynamics, found that

a 62 percent majority, including almost equal majorities of Democrats (65
percent) and Republicans (62 percent), favors allowing illegal immigrants who
have jobs in the United States to apply for legal, temporary worker status.

Maybe opinions have changed since then, but I don't see where Ms. Ingraham gets off saying a clear majority of Americans are opposed to temporary work programs.

Maybe there are more recent credible polls with different conclusions. I'll look for them. If you know about any, please let me know.

Laura Ingraham: Fair-Weather Republican? And A Telling Question from Hugh Hewitt

This post is about Laura Ingraham. So why do I have Hugh Hewitt's latest book pictured at left? Because Hugh's approach to politics is that of a conservative Republican like me. A party man who votes in every election for "the most conservative candidate who can win." He thinks strategically.

That approach stands in stark contrast to the "tantrum style" of politics that Laura Ingraham seems to embody these days. It goes like this: "I currently happen to be a Republican, but I'm a conservative first, and I will loudly and persistently attack and ridicule the GOP and its leaders in a heartbeat the second I think they are straying from what I consider to be true conservative principles."

You may be wondering what has me so aroused. It's this: I just came in from my morning workout, which included 45 minutes of listening to Laura Ingraham rant about illegal immigration. I enjoy Laura's show half the time; the rest of the time her message simply grates. My biggest problem with her show (aside from the constant ridicule of anyone who disagrees with her) is the vicious manner in which she attacks her political allies when they stray from what she considers to be the "true" conservative position on any issue.

Today Laura's "Lie of The Day" award was given to . . . President Bush.

I am not kidding. The supposed "lie" was that the president said, in a speech, that "you cannot strengthen border enforcement without a guest worker program," or words to that effect. Now, I'm not sure I agree with that statement, but is not a lie. Besides, Bush is the Republican President of the United States and the leader of the party that is the only credible vehicle for the policies Ms. Ingraham hopes to see implemented.

That was followed by a long rant about how the president and the GOP do not listen to the "majority of Americans" (meaning Americans who agree with her, which is certainly not a majority of the body politic) and that Republican party leaders basically spit on those who got them elected (or words to that effect). She came very close to urging her conservative listeners to stay home during this fall's elections.

Laura raised Harriet Miers and the Dubai Ports deal as examples of Republican betrayals of conservatives. Excuse me, but the president changed his mind on both issues. Conservatives won. Is that supposed to be an example of Bush dismissing his base? Is Laura's real concern that Bush even attempted such actions? How dare he!

Now back to Hugh Hewitt, and the most telling moment of today's Ingraham show. It came during Laura's interview of Hugh, who is plugging Painting the Map Red. The two of them had a lengthy discussion of the illegal immigration issue, on which they seem to be in full agreement. Then Laura began to rant about how the president and many Republicans are wrong on the issue, are disrespecting their base, etc.

Hugh said, "Let me ask you a question. Will we ever get the right policy if a Democrat is elected president, or the Democrats take over Congress?" (Or, yes, words to that effect.)

There followed a rare moment of Laura Ingraham speechlessness. She had no answer, and to me her greatest shortcoming as a conservative voice was exposed: She steadfastly plays to her audience and really has no answers on the complex issues of the day; in fact, she is most effective when she is against something.

Which is why, more and more, I find myself listening to music during my morning run, and occasionally even to NPR. I detest NPR's blithe liberal bias, but at least the content there is usually interesting, and unlike Laura, the folks at NPR seem to try to be responsible in the message they convey to their listeners.

Read Hugh's book. You'll get a lot more out of it than you'll get out of listening to daily tantrums on Laura Ingraham's show.

Illegal Immigration: Can You Say, "True Idiocy?"

Thanks to Michelle Malkin, we have the photo at left, which reflects someone's idea of how to change hearts and minds on the immigration issue. There are more photos at her site.

On my way to an appointment Tuesday, traffic on the 405 Freeway near my home was stopped. Not slow, dead stopped. The Highway Patrol was diverting cars off the freeway. The unexpected delay -- in the late morning, long after any rush hour traffic-- surely ruined the plans of thousands of people. I feared the cause was a horrible accident, but learned later that Hispanic high school students were actually on the freeway, protesting proposed immigration legislation.

As Mickey Kaus said, "Skipping school to block freeways and flying the U.S. flag upside down under the Mexican flag . . . Those anti-anti-immigrant student protesters in L.A. know how to win over a majority of ordinary voters!"

I think there is great cynicism underlying the immigration protest marches. It saddens me to see an issue so important in the lives of so many people trivialized by politicians on both sides who are seeking their own fortunes. The high school kids in this story have been ill-served by their "leaders."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

At ABC News Nightline, If You Are Right, You Are Far Right

Last night, ABC's Nightline featured a brief report on the Israeli elections, which displayed a bias that typifies "the Mainstream Media." I suspect that the expression of bias was totally unconscious on the part of ABC News, but that only shows how deeply embedded the attitude is in Mainstream Media Consciousness.

Co-host Terry Moran and reporter John Donvan described the "winner" of the election, the Kadima Party, as "center-left." The party of Benjamin Netanyahu, which lost Knesset seats in the election, was described as "the far-right Likud party." When Mr. Donvan did a report and interview with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzippy Livni, of the Kadima party, it described her father, who was a veteran of the Irgun (a militia that fought the British and the Arabs in pre-independence Palestine), Menachem Begin's Herut party and the Likud, as a politician of "the far right." In contrast, the Labor Party and the Meretz Party were described as parties of "the left." Not the far left, just the left.

Let's examine the appropriateness of those descriptions more closely. The Likud, following the last Israeli election, was the largest Israeli political party, and had governed Israel for the majority of the previous 30 years. The founder of Kadima, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon; Kadima's current leader, and probable Prime Minister in the new government, Mr. Olmert; Ms. Livni, and the current Finance Minister Meir Sheetrit, were all veteran politicians in Likud. Yet leaving Likud to found Kadima magically transforms them into members of a "center left" party, while the Likud, which gave birth to Kadima, is not merely "right," but "far right."

Alright, having admitted people such as Shimon Peres to its ranks, Kadima perhaps can accurately be described as "center left." But how did Likud suddenly become "far right." Its leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, probably differs not at all from his former colleagues, now in Kadima, on the economic policies that usually determine whether one is of the right or of the left. He believes in, and as Finance Minister under Ariel Sharon he promoted, free market economics and welfare reform, just like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Another of Likud's leading lights, Natan Sharansky, is one of the world's most articulate spokespersons for human rights and democracy. Overall, Likud is a classic European liberal nationalist party. Why is Likud not just "right?"

In contrast, let's look at the parties identified by Nightline as "the left." The Israeli Labor Party is a classic European Social Democratic party, with a rigid Socialist approach to economics that one just doesn't find nowadays in a governing party in Europe. In Great Britain, for example, Tony Blair successfully led Labor away from the socialist policies that had crippled the British economy for decades until Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives swept Labor from power. In Israel, the Labor Party went somewhat in that direction under Prime Ministers Rabin, Peres and Barak, but its current leader, former national trade union boss Amir Peretz, wants to transport the Israeli economy back to 1975. That, however, is only "left," not "far left."

The other party of the mere "left," provides an even better example of this unconscious bias. Meretz is a direct lineal descendent of Mapam. "Mapam" is an abbrieviation of the party's Hebrew name, Mifleget Poalei Meuhedet (United Workers Party). As accurately described in Wikipedia:

"It was initially oriented towards the Soviet Union with a strong Stalinist policy until the 1953 Prague Trials shook the party's faith in the USSR. The show trials in which mostly Jewish leaders of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia were purged, falsely implicated Mapam's envoy in Prague, Mordechai Oren, as part of a Zionist conspiracy. After the Prague Trials and, later, Nikita Khrushchev's Secret Speech at the 20th Party Congress in the Soviet Union, Mapam moved away from some of their more radical left wing positions, moving towards social democracy."

So a party that hung with Stalin until 1953, reluctantly separating from its Great Leader only when he purged and murdered its Czech affiliates; a party that nonetheless adhered to a quasi-Communist philosophy ever since, still qualifies for the label of "left," not "far left."

And so my dear readers, to the Mainstream Media, a politician, whether American or Israeli,who strays ever so slightly right of John McCain, is no longer merely "right," but "far right." And conversely, even if a party espouses the economic and political policies of Che Guevara, one may rest assured that it is not "far left," but only "left."

Israeli Coalition Talks--The Posturing Begins

The Jerusalem Post reports on the posturing by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the head of the Kadima (Forward) Party, and Amir Peretz, the head of the Labor Party, as they head into coalition talks. Folks, this may be too esoteric for some of you, but for the true connoisseur of parliamentary politics, this stuff is fascinating.

The negotiations will be over two types of political currency: (1) Cabinet positions (sometimes described as "ministries" or "portfolios"; and (2) policy. It appears that the mostly hotly contested portfolio will be the Treasury Minister. Labor will look for support against the more conservative economic positions of Kadima by trying to align itself with the Pensioners Party and the two Hareidi (fervently religious Orthodox Jewish) parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism. The latter two parties are natural allies of Labor, because their voters include many working poor and impoverished Torah scholars with large families. Kadima will counter by threatening to leave Labor out of the coalition entirely by bringing in a center-right party, Israel Beiteinu (Israel Our Home).

Here is a brief excerpt of how the Jerusalem Post described the action:

Olmert will begin holding personal meetings with the heads of the parties on Sunday. Peretz is expected to tell Olmert that in addition to the Treasury, a "social bloc" of Labor, Shas and the Gil Pensioners' Party would demand the socioeconomic ministries: Education, Industry, Trade and Labor, Social Affairs and Interior.
Kadima's first goal in the talks will be to lower Labor's asking price. Olmert's associates acknowledged that because Kadima won only 28 seats, the party might have to give Labor one or even two of the top four portfolios of Foreign Affairs, Defense, Finance and Education. But they said the Treasury was off limits in coalition talks, especially with regard to Labor chairman Amir Peretz.
"There is a limit to what the economy can tolerate," an Olmert associate said. "Peretz has a history of paralyzing the economy with strikes, so if he were appointed, the stock market would collapse. He can't be finance minister for the same reason that [Israel Beiteinu head] Avigdor Lieberman cannot be defense minister."

President Bush Speaks to Freedom House--A Masterful Performance

President Bush spoke today to Freedom House in Washington, D.C., and, after his prepared remarks, took questions from journalists and attendees. He touched on a wide range of foreign policy topics, including Iraq, the Palestinian elections, Iran and Russia. He showed a masterful command of the issues, including an event that had only occurred within the last 24 hours, the capture, arrest, and extradition for trial of former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor. At first I posted the entire transcript of the President's remarks and the question and answer session on this blog, but then I realized that I probably had overdone it. Sorry, Lowell. So here is a link to the official transcript.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

And the Coalition Is....

With 97% of the vote counted, Kadima has slipped even further, and has won only a disappointing 28 mandates. Labor has won 20 seats, exceeding expectations. A really big winner is the Sefardic Hareidi (fervently religious Orthodox Jewish) party, Shas, which won 13 seats. Ehud Olmert could put together a solid 72-seat center-left coalition with Kadima, Labor, Shas, Meretz (a far-left Socialist party with practically Stalinist origins, which won 4 seats), and the Pensioners (7 seats).

The prospect of a Hareidi religious party such as Shas joining such a coalition is not at all far-fetched. The constituency of Shas is poor and working class Jews from North Africa, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Iran, who have great respect for traditional Judaism, even in the case of individuals who may not themselves be strictly observant. A Shas leader once observed, "The typical Shas voter goes to the synagogue on Saturday morning and the Maccabi soccer game on Saturday afternoon." They probably relate well to Amir Peretz, the head of Labor, who was born in Morrocco in 1952, speaks Arabic, and, as the former head of the Israeli national trade union, the Histadrut, is seen as the champion of the working person.

Shas's main policy concerns are financial support for large families and support for its religious schools and social programs. Labor may well sympathize with the first of those concerns, and Kadima is probably willing to pay the price for accommodating the second, if it means a workable coalition headed by Ehud Olmert.

Finally, Shinui (Change), the most overtly anti-religious of the left-center parties, formerly headed by Tommy Lapid, has gone from the third largest party in the Knesset to zero seats, a complete wipe-out. That means that Kadima and Labor will not have to buck a politically powerful anti-religious Knesset faction in order to make the necessary deal to buy Shas' participation.

Now the bargaining begins. It is a uniquely Israeli process, combining western democratic politics with the Middle Eastern shouk (market).

Does Seinfeld Rule Israel?

During its long run on television, Seinfeld was famously "the show about nothing." Kadima, the winning party in Israel's election today, campaigned that is the political party about nothing. In a campaign speech this past Sunday evening, Kadima Education Minister Meir Sheetrit proudly extolled Kadima's "uniqueness" as the one Israeli party which "has disengaged from all ideology."
Sheetrit proudly proclaimed: "We don't have the baggage of the heritage of Ze'ev Jabotinsky or Berl Katzenelson [the ideological founding fathers of Likud and Labor] on our back. We are looking only to the future."

Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick asks, "How is it that Israelis are expected to embrace a party that stands for nothing? " Her perceptive answer does not bode well in the short term for Israel. However, she predicts that Kadima will eventually collapse, owing to the inherent contradictions of a political party that stands for little more than the aspirations for power of its leaders; and to the proven incompetence of those leaders. Regarding that incompetence, she writes that Kadima's fall will come about:

because Kadima's leaders have rallied around a policy that will endanger Israel, and because they are incapable of shielding the country from the consequences of their policy. As was the case with the leftist peace ideologues, eventually the public will be unable to deny their incompetence.
Today it is hard for the public to connect the holes in the ground left by Kassam rockets raining down on Ashkelon to the looming threats to the state as a whole. The same will not be the case when rockets rain down on Kfar Saba, Jerusalem and Netanya.

In short, according to Glick, there is hope that the conservative realists of Israel, such as Benjamin Netanyahu, will make an eventual political comeback, but only after Israel weathers the hard times immediately ahead.

Instant Analysis--The Israeli Elections

The preliminary results of the Israeli elections are in, as repored here.
The main winner appears to have been apathy. The turnout of 63.7% may seem high by U.S. standards, but it was in fact the lowest percentage turnout in Israeli history.

In addition to the low turnout, there are other signs of an unhealthy body politic in Israel. A one-issue party, the Pensionaires party, which concerns itself solely with preserving the pensions of retired persons, actually won 6-8 Knesset seats. Alright, the elderly are understandably concerned regarding their pensions, and we all know how powerful a lobby the AARP is in the United States, but at this critical time in history, would one choose to cast one's vote for a party that takes a position only on that issue? Talk about, "I've got mine, Jack." Or perhaps, "I'll keep mine, Jack, and to heck with the future after I'm gone."

As expected, Kadima, the party founded by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and headed by the acting Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, won the most seats, estimated at between 28 and 32 mandates in the 120 seat Knesset. But that is far less than the polls were indicating some weeks ago, which at one point suggested that Kadima would win over 40 seats.

A rejuvenated Labor Party, which has gone back to its trade union roots, has increased its Knesset faction to perhaps 18-20 seats. Conceivably, then Olmert could put together a Center-Left coalition, holding at least a 61-seat majority, comprising Kadima, Labor, the Pensionaires and only one other party. The additional party could be another left-wing party, an Arab party or one of the Haredi (fervently Orthodox) parties that is not overly concerned about territorial concessions.

Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu were clearly the big losers. Likud drops from being the largest party to the fourth largest, with perhaps only 12 seats. It lost its centrist voters to Kadima and its right-wing voters to the Israel Beiteinu ("Israel Our Home") a nationalist party headed by former Likud MK (Member of the Knesset) and Russian immigrant, Avigdor Lieberman. Israel Beiteinu will hold 12 to 15 seats in the new Knesset, making it Israel's third largest party. Netanyahu did a wonderful job of retoring Israel's economy as Finance Minister in the Sharon government, but he did so at the cost of those reliant on the Israeli social safety net, cutting government payments to poor families with many children and the elderly. His party was punished for that offense at the polls, as well.

Despite the showing by the Israel Beiteinu, the future is not rosy for Israel's nationalist right. The combined vote of all of the nationalist right-wing parties will be at most round 35 seats, well short of a workable majority in the Knesset, even if they were joined in coalition by the Hareidi religious parties. The Israeli nationalist right is back in the political wilderness it inhabited from 1949 through 1977, when Menachem Begin was its lonely prophet in opposition.

The vast majority of the Israeli people have clearly voted for a continuation of the policy of unilateral disengagement. Unlike the illusions of the Oslo years, Israelis no longer operate under the fantasy that they have a negotiating partner for peace on the Palestinian side. Therefore, they want only to separate themselves from the Palestinians, keeping large settlement blocks close to the pre-June 1967 borders (which were really just the armstice lines established at the end of Israel's War of Independence in 1949); and giving everything else, including most Paletinian population centers, over the the Palestinian Authority. Although an arguably healthier outlook than pro-Oslo camp, this approach hints at a despair, of exhaustion with the struggle, a flight from dealing with the reality of being surrounded by foes who want to destroy Israel.

Unfortunately, that reality still is out there. Note the end of the linked news story about the elections, which reports:

On Tuesday morning, Palestinian militants for the first time fired a longer-range Russian-made Katyusha rocket from Gaza into Israel, and security officials said the precedent was very worrisome.
Katyushas can reach larger Israeli towns near Gaza, and are far deadlier than the homemade Qassam rockets militants have fired in the last five years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

Election Day Missile Launched from Gaza into Israel

Monday, March 27, 2006

Illegal Immigration: A Rare Sober Analysis

Glenn Reynolds posts one of the most on-target breakdowns of the illegal immigration debate that I have seen, at The whole thing is great, and you can't get by with just an excerpt. With that warning, here's an excerpt:

Where I hear resentment of illegal immigrants, it's not so much based on the idea of them taking American jobs. At the moment, at least, unemployment is very, very low so people aren't thinking that way as much as they might if there were a recession. Instead, the resentment is based on the idea that people who come here illegally feel entitled to demand that they be treated like Americans. It's the devaluing of citizenship, as much as the loss of jobs, that seems to upset most people at the moment.

. . .

Most opponents of illegal immigration aren't racists. Most supporters aren't enemies of American civilization. The immigration problem is hard because it pits two things we care about -- freedom of opportunity and control of our borders -- against one another. It's also made harder because people fear that immigrants -- without the pressures of earlier eras -- won't try very hard to assimilate. Those fears may be overblown, but they're real, and the cries of racism, plus the occasional bit of Aztlan-irredentism from the fringes (calling for the reconquest of California, Arizona, etc., by Mexico), make them stronger.

Again, read the whole thing. It makes sense, and so little that is written about this issue does.

Illegal Immigration: Will The Weekend March Prove Self-Defeating?

I'm a supporter of a two-prong approach to illegal immigration: Effective control of the border, once and for all, along with some kind of just program for normalizing the 11 million illegals already here. I think the notion (popular among a minority of diehards) that somehow those 11 million can simply be made to go away is not a serious idea.

The problem is, those who stand to benefit from keeping the immigrants from assimilating into American society, as well as soft-headed thinkers on the left, do not want any immigration reform at all. I think they are leading many well-intentioned and patriotic illegals to shoot themselves in the feet by provoking a backlash.

Starting with the soft-headed left: The Sunday L.A. Times rhapsodized about Saturday's huge protest march, in which an estimated 500,000 people protested tough immigration reform proposals pending in Congress. Here's an excerpt from today's entirely predictable L.A. Times editorial, following that story up:

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES hosted the most awe-inspiring political rally in recent California history Saturday as an estimated half a million people came together peacefully. The ostensible reason was to protest harsh anti-immigration legislation being considered in Washington, but the rally's broader purpose was to celebrate immigrants and reclaim the initiative in the debate from strident anti-immigrant voices.
The Times "news" story on Sunday morning was only slightly less effusive:

A crowd estimated by police at more than 500,000 boisterously marched in Los Angeles on Saturday to protest federal legislation that would crack down on undocumented immigrants, penalize those who help them and build a security wall along the U.S.' southern border.Spirited but peaceful marchers — ordinary immigrants alongside labor, religious and civil rights groups — stretched more than 20 blocks along Spring Street, Broadway and Main Street to City Hall, tooting kazoos, waving American flags and chanting, "Sí se puede!" (Yes we can!).
One wonders about the impact of such public displays, in which Mexican and American flags alike were prevalent. Years ago, when Proposition 187 was before the voters, there was a huge rally in a hall festooned with Mexican flags and full of chanting non-citizens demanding benefits intended for citizens. Polls showed that the resulting backlash was a major factor in Prop 187's passage a few days later.

Glenn Reynolds analyzes the situation exactly as I would:

[T]he obvious tendency of this weekend's marches to provoke a backlash makes me wonder why they're happening. One possibility is that the organizers are dumb, and don't think there will be a backlash. The other possibility is that the organizers aren't dumb, and figure that they'll benefit from a backlash if it occurs. Either they win (which means they win) or they lose, and get a prop. 187 type response, leaving both illegal and legal Latino immigrants polarized and looking to them for leadership (which means they win). Given the GOP's inroads into the Latino vote, this may be, in part, an effort to sabotage any Latino realignment toward the GOP.

Mickey Kaus thinks that this will wind up hurting the Democrats more than the Republicans. I'm not so sure -- but I am pretty sure that the march organizers don't think so.

UPDATE: Of course, the march organizers may not care as much about how this issue affects the Democrats vs. the Republicans as they care about how this impacts their own political positions. The creation of a visible Angry Latino bloc may hurt the Democrats, but still help those seen as the leaders of the bloc.

. . .

As Jim Bennett likes to say: Democracy, Multiculturalism, Open Immigration -- pick any two.

Bennett's comment is especially compelling. You should read Glenn's entire post.

UPDATE: The president's speech on illegal immigration is linked here. (Thanks to Mary Katherin Ham at Hugh Hewitt's site.)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

How They Handle Democracy Protests In Belarus

Thanks to Publius Pundit, we have this disturbing video of police crushing dissent in Belarus. Publius has additional commentary, links and photos.

By the way, doesn't that seem like an awful lot of riot police in the photo at left?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

And Now for Something Completely Different

The Flying Feline

You may be a person who, like me, enjoys cats. (We have two, along with one often befuddled large dog.) Then again, you may be someone who can't stand the critters. Either way, this video should increase your appreciation for the feline species' toughness and survival skills. If you're a cat-hater, you probably won't like the outcome here. Everyone will be amazed, however.

(Thanks to Blogotional.)

Other Offbeat Video and Stories

1. Excuse me, but I found the "helpful tips" at the end of this CNN story a little bizarre. (Preview: The tips are designed to help you avoid forgetting that you left your baby in the back seat of your car. I know some people are absent-minded, but . . . .)

2. This complaint by a disgruntled teacher takes the cake. Or the chair. Or something.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Yale Student Sayyid Rahmatullah Hashemi: About Those Buddhist Statues

Sayyid Rahmatullah Hashemi, the former Taliban spokesman and now Yale student, spoke at the University of Southern California on March 10, 2001. An on-line publication called The Milli Gazette, which bills itself as "Indian Muslims' Leading English Newspaper," published the question-and-answer portion of that talk. Here's an illuminating excerpt, arising from a discussion about the ancient Buddhist statues in Afghanistan that the Taliban destroyed. "Before" and "after" photos of the statues are at left.

Q. Does it mean the statues of Hindus and Sikhs will also be destroyed?
Since the destruction of the statues was done in retaliation, was it really
saving the children?

A.: We are not against Buddhists. Absolutely wrong. We are not against any religion. There are Hindus living in Afghanistan; there are different religions. There is one man who is a Jew living in Afghanistan. So we are not against any religion. And there is no Buddhist in Afghanistan, this I can say. In our religion, if anything, you can leave anything until it is not harmful to you. These Buddhas were not harmful to us so far. But now when the money is going to Buddhas’ reconstruction, and the children are dying next door, we think it is harmful now. Not we think, this is what the people think. And I told you that this decision is taken by the council of scholars and the council of people and has been approved by the Supreme Court. Yet the media is saying everywhere that it is an edict by our leadership. Have you ever seen our leadership on TV? Have you ever seen or heard him [Mullah Umar] on international radio? He has never been on radio.

I hope that clears the matter up for you.

Read the other comments from those carefree pre-9-11 days, when today's equivalent of Joseph Goebbels could come and lecture on a U.S. college campus without much serious criticism. Of course, now the same Goebbels wannabe, who was really nothing more than an a spokesman for a movement of pre-modern fascists, is a student at one of the most prestigious U.S. campuses. Oddly, many of the folks there at Yale seemingly can't understand what on earth has so many people so upset about that.

Early Childhood Education in Hamasistan

Move over, Rob Reiner. Hamas has its own version of Early Childhood Education. Palestinian Media Watch recounts how Hamas promoted a "Palestinian Children's Festival" in Yemen, and posted photos from the festival on the Hamas website. As Palestinian Media Watch notes:

It is somewhat ironic, that while this terror role-modeling for children is being glorified by Hamas, the actual celebration of terror for children took place in Yemen. This is the same Yemen, who according to US News and World Report last week: "has become one of America's most unexpected allies in counter terrorism." [March 13, 2006 page 38]

The photos above illustrate what one Hamas representative described as the theme of the festival, "Palestinian children fight alongside the adults in the resistance." In the left photo, a young girl wears a sash with the name of Reem Riyashi on it. Reem Riyashi was a woman suicide terrorist who killed four Israelis. This is the "early childhood education" that produces suicide bombers.

Lowell comments: This is just another example of what we have noted here before: Among terror-friendly Islamic groups there is a very different notion of what it means to be a civilized society. Sadly, among Islam's sympathizers this behavior is too often seen as noble.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Life In Perspective

I just returned from a condolence call to parents of a 4-month old baby boy, who died Tuesday evening, apparently from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The walls of the family apartment still displayed mementos of their son's birth just four months before. They have a seven-year old son, and either in school or in a home project, he had made a paper vest, on which was painted, "Wish me Mazal Tov [congratulations], I am a Big Brother." On another wall was a poster with the outline of a baby and a baby diaper glued to it, on which was also written "Mazel Tov." The funeral had been this afternoon, and I don't think that the parents yet had the heart to remove the memories of their recent joy, too soon turned to tears of anguish. Several times I found myself close to weeping openly, and later, when I related the scene to my wife, I did cry.

Both the Hedgehog and I live and actively participate in religious communities that exemplify the values of family and community. When caught up in busy and rewarding careers, or just the reactive posture of everyday life, we sometimes forget what is truly important. A tragedy such as the death of a child forces one to appreciate what one has, and what can be so easily forever lost. At the same time, while we would always prefer to share in the joyous events in the lives of our friends and neighbors, it is precisely times of sadness and loss that bring into sharp focus the redemptive strength of religious communal life, as its members rally to support a grieving family. Nonetheless, one can only say, God protect us from such tragedy.

This Old House

This afternoon, Hugh Hewitt, our Blogfather here at The Hedgehog Blog, interviewed Victor David Hanson regarding this article posted at Jewish World Review. Hanson looks at the differences between the past generations who lived in his family home, built in 1870 by his great-great-grandmother, and today's generation. A money quote:

But the greatest difference is that those first four generations who lived and died in this house shared a certain tragic vision of man's limitations. Perhaps they lost too many crops before harvest. Or they grew to assume that optimistic weather reports and upbeat cooperative newsletters were hardly to be trusted as "intelligence." They considered the choices in their many wars only between bad or worse, and that the Americans who fought them did not have to be perfect to still be good.

Tune in to Hugh's show tomorrow for a rebroadcast of his interview with Hanson. Hopefully Generalissimo will post the transcript of the entire interview at Radio Blogger.


The Left's critique of the Iraq war focuses on the loss of American and Iraqi lives and on the cost of the war. Mark Steyn, writing in the Jerusalem Post, argues that intellectual honesty compels one to also calculate the lives saved from the bloodthirsty Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, and the probable cost of continuing indefinitely the "containment" of Saddam, which the Left argues was a viable alternative to the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.


Shortly after the signing of the Oslo Accords, Yassir Arafat, of not-blessed memory, began making speeches in Arabic to Palestinian and other Arabic audiences, in which he explained that the Oslo Accords were part of the PLO's strategy to destroy Israel in phases. When critics of the Oslo Accords obtained tapes and transcripts of such speeches, translated them into Hebrew and English, and publicized their contents, they were vilified by Prime Minister Rabin's Government, the Israeli Left, and the Israeli and American media elites as "enemies of the peace process." Arafat became a master of engaging in "peace talk" to his English-speaking audiences, especially the American Mainstream Media, while preaching terror and war to his Arabic base. Eventually, however, it became obvious even to the Left that Arafat had never forsworn terrorism and the objective of Israel's destruction. By that time, even Tom Friedman of the New York Times wrote that he would only believe an Arafat speech given in Arabic.

Now Hamas has adopted the same strategy, as exposed here by Palestinian Media Watch. "In the latest example, Hamas Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyah told CBS on March 16 that he hoped to some day sign a peace agreement with Israel. A Hamas member of Parliament immediately told the Palestinian Authority media that the CBS report was "unfounded," and part of a "crazy campaign which aims at embarrassing and confusing the Palestinians and undermining the trust of the masses in Hamas." [Al Hayat Al Jadida, March 19, 2006]

As the Who sang, "Let's hope we don't get fooled again!"

The Romney Report

Thanks to blogfather Hugh Hewitt we know about The Romney Report, a blog dedicated to following Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. It's a very useful resource. Please read!

Thursday Morning Humor

If you're in need of a laugh, today's Borowitz Report will give you one:

Effort to Reach Out to White House Press Corps, Observers Say

You've got to read the whole thing.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"They play our own media with a shrewdness that would be the envy of many a political party."

That's what Tony Blair said in a remarkable speech to the Foreign Policy Centre in London. It truly is a must-read. I wish that our own President could make the case as eloquently. Here are some key paragraphs, with emphasis added:

[T]he reactionary elements know the importance of victory or defeat in Iraq. Right from the beginning, to them it was obvious. For sure, errors were made on our side. It is arguable that de-Baathification went too quickly and was spread too indiscriminately, especially amongst the armed forces. . . .

The reactionary elements were trying to de-rail both reconstruction and democracy by violence. Power and electricity became problems not through the indolence of either Iraqis or the MNF but through sabotage. People became frightened through terrorism and through criminal gangs, some deliberately released by Saddam.

These were not random acts. They were and are a strategy. When that strategy failed to push the MNF out of Iraq prematurely and failed to stop the voting; they turned to sectarian killing and outrage most notably February's savage and blasphemous destruction of the Shia Shrine at Samarra.

They know that if they can succeed either in Iraq or Afghanistan or indeed in Lebanon or anywhere else wanting to go the democratic route, then the choice of a modern democratic future for the Arab or Muslim world is dealt a potentially mortal blow. Likewise if they fail, and those countries become democracies and make progress and, in the case of Iraq, prosper rapidly as it would; then not merely is that a blow against their whole value system; but it is the most effective message possible against their wretched propaganda about America, the West, the rest of the world.

That to me is the painful irony of what is happening. They have so much clearer a sense of what is at stake.

They play our own media with a shrewdness that would be the envy of many a political party. Every act of carnage adds to the death toll. But somehow it serves to indicate our responsibility for disorder, rather than the act of wickedness that causes it. For us, so much of our opinion believes that what was done in Iraq in 2003 was so wrong, that it is reluctant to accept what is plainly right now.

Please read the whole thing.

What Did We Fight For In Afghanistan?

This looks like a non-partisan issue to me. Read Michelle Malkin's post about "Muslim-born Abdul Rahman, the Christian convert facing the death penalty in Afghanistan for possessing a Bible and openly professing his faith."

Yes, that's really going on there. I am not sure any American can feel anything but distress and outrage at what seems to be happening. Ms. Malkin's post gives links for those who want to protest the outrage. Please do so.

The telephone number for the Afghan embassy in Washington, D.C. is (202) 483-6410.

If this is not stopped, our claims of bringing democracy to Afghanistan will take on a hollowness that will be hard to deny.

Update: Hugh Hewitt says CBS News is reporting that Afghanistan is looking for a way out. The CBS story somewhat drily notes:

Prosecutors have offered to drop the charges if Rahman converts back to Islam, but the defendant has refused.

The case is believed to be the first of its kind in Afghanistan and highlights a struggle between religious conservatives and reformists over what shape Islam should take there four years after the ouster of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime.
Well, yes!

Update 2: Glenn Reynolds is right:

Civilized countries permit freedom of religion. Uncivilized countries kill people for their beliefs. This will simply provide more ammunition for those who believe that Islam is incompatible with civilization.

Hugh Hewitt on MSM And The War

There's an interesting and very healthy debate underway about the legacy media's coverage of the war. The Today Show video below is evidence of that discussion.

Now Hugh Hewitt (left) has appeared on CNN's Anderson Cooper show, forcefully making the point that all we hear about from the MSM is flame, failure and death in Iraq. Here's an excerpt from Hugh's post about an exchange on the show with Time's Michael Ware:

At one point, Time's Ware got rather emotional and attempted to argue that Iraqis are worse off than they were four years ago, though he didn't quite allow himself to say as much. I'll play the audio on the program tomorrow.

Ware's argument is the equivalent of arguing Poland was worse off in 1992 than in 1988 because the transition to real democracy was so difficult. Stalinist dictatorships are pretty awful things, and Iraq under Saddam was a Stalinist dictatorship. Ware doesn't seem to get this crucial point, or to be concerned with the mass graves that keep turning up.

The vanity of western media is that if they didn't see it, it didn't happen. That Iraq under Saddam wasn't so bad because MSM Baghdad bureaus didn't exist, and those that did (CNN's) censored the news.

The takeaway: MSM wants Bush to fail, and as a result MSM's coverage of Iraq tilts to the IEDs and the terrorist successes and never, ever provides the context that the president did in the press conference today. The MSM thus allows itself to be used by the terrorists, and thus to hamper victory. MSM doesn't believe in "victory," in fact, or in Saddam's unique evil. It believes, mostly, in the necessity of humbling Bush.
We need to see more of this direct challenge to conventional liberal wisdom. As many have noted, a debate like this would have been unthinkable in 1992 or at any other pre-blogospheric time.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Quote of the Day: "Civil War" in Iraq?

Christopher Hitchens in the Wall Street Journal today:

Knowing that their own position was a tenuous one (a fact fully admitted by Zarqawi in his report) the cadres of "al Qaeda in Mesopotamia" understood that their main chance was the deliberate stoking of a civil war. And, now that this threat has become more imminent and menacing, it is somehow blamed on the Bush administration. "Civil war" has replaced "the insurgency" as the proof that the war is "unwinnable." But in plain truth, the "civil war" is and always was the chief tactic of the "insurgency."
Read the whole thing.

A Rollicking Good Debate

Expose the Left has one for you -- video of the Laura Ingraham-James Carville duel on "Today." It's a lot of fireworks, but all in all a fairly decent exposition of the two sides of the current debate over the war in Iraq.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Judicial Modesty

I'm a conservative, and tend to favor the "originalist" approach to interpreting the U.S. Constitution. But I must admit to long-term ambivalence about some aspects of that judicial philosophy. As George Will has often pointed out, at the time the Constitution and Bill of Rights were ratified, such punishments as ear-cropping were not considered "cruel and unusual;" today that penalty is hard to imagine as anything else.

At the same time, the Supreme Court's decision in Roper v. Simmons, holding that application of the death penalty to juveniles is always unconstitutional, no matter what, is the worst kind of judicial legislation under the guise of a "living Constitution."

Stuart Taylor's piece in the National Journal today was persuasive to me:

The bottom line is that nonadherents understandably see originalism and living constitutionalism alike as smoke screens for imposing the justices' personal policy preferences.
Indeed. Originalists like Scalia and Thomas always seem to find the original meaning of the Constitution to fit their policy preferences; and living constitutionalists always seem to find their own way to a policy they prefer. Note, for, example, in Roper Justice Kennedy based the majority opinion heavily on what he referred to as "evidence of national consensus against the death penalty for juveniles." Come on! That's not what courts do.

So which approach is best? Taylor suggests a more pragmatic, realistic approach to judging that relies heavily on what Chief Justice John Roberts referred to as "judicial modesty"

in the sense of great hesitation to second-guess decisions by other branches of government. Embraced in general terms by then-Judges John Roberts and Samuel Alito during their Supreme Court confirmation hearings, the judicial-modesty approach is expounded more fully in a November 2005 Harvard Law Review article by Posner, a prolific and ideologically eclectic legal scholar.
Taylor expounds on Posner's article. I haven't read the law review article, but I recommend Taylor's summary and discussion of it.

As much as we would like them to be clear-cut and simple, life and the law are often messy and complex. A bit more modesty on both sides of the Constitutional divide would save us a lot of trouble. For example, Roe v. Wade never would have been decided to create a constitutional right to abortion, and the law in the United States on that subject would be much more heterogeneous, and much less controversial, than it is now, as James Q. Wilson argues in a weekend Wall Street Journal editorial (link unavailable) entitled "Abortion Nation:"

[A]bortion is scarcely an issue in most European democracies, not because the people who live there have views radically different from American ones, but because legislatures, not courts, authorized abortions using language that tried to strike a reasonable balance among competing views.

When other countries authorized abortions, they did not authorize a right to one. Their laws were designed to give varying degrees of respect to unborn life. (Only in China is there a law as permissive as that conferred by Roe v. Wade.) When Prof. Mary Ann Glendon surveyed abortion laws here and abroad in the late 1980s, she found that in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.K. there existed pre-abortion waiting periods, mandatory counseling, time limits of when during a pregnancy an abortion could occur, and a requirement that several physicians agree on the need for an abortion.

Those European laws are not perfect, and I am anything but a europhile. But the abortion climate Wilson describes in those countries does seem preferable to ours in the USA, which only exists because the Supreme Court issued a sweeping, legislative-style ruling on an issue better left to legislation.

Judicial modesty: An idea whose time has come?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

This Is Amazing, Unless You Understand the L.A. Times

If, like me, you lived in L.A. and picked up your hard copy of the L.A. Times off the driveway this morning, you would have seen this headline, center-front page, above the fold:

A Sliding Scale for Victory
As the conflict in Iraq enters its fourth year and civil war threatens, the Bush administration is again working to lower expectations.
By Doyle McManus, Times Staff Writer
March 19, 2006
Now, you might wonder, that doesn't look like news-- why is it there on the front page? Oh, wait, just above the headline, in small type, it says "News Analysis."

Oh, you say to yourself; it's just the Times, at it again.

Then you turn to the sports page, which is pretty much the only reason you still subscribe.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Thought for The Weekend

Be wiser than other people, if you can, but do not tell them so.

--Lord Chesterfield

The Falling Man

Thanks to Hugh Hewitt I found this post by Michelle Malkin. It's extraordinary; please read it.

As I've pondered the "Falling Man" photo over the last four years, I've wondered what I would have done in his situation. There really was no moral choice to be made, it was simply a matter of choosing the manner of one's death: I am going to die in the next few seconds. Do I stay here and burn, or fall? The latter seems preferable, and as a religious person, I believe that the doors of heaven were just as open to the Falling Man, whichever way he chose to enter them on that day.

That the man was even placed in the position of having to make that choice is what we should never forget.

An Army of Davids

I've finally decided to break down and buy it (from Amazon, of course.) "How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths." I must admit, my "Main Street Republican" heart beats a little quicker when I read those words.

I suppose I'll post a mini-review eventually. By that time I suppose I will be the then-thousandth "David" to do so.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tolerance in Matters of Conscience?

Two worrisome recent developments caught my eye and leave me wondering whether tolerance is in trouble in this country.

The Berkeley Sea Scouts Case

To begin with, in a case named Evans v. City of Berkeley, the California Supreme Court held that the city of Berkeley did not violate the rights of the Sea Scouts, an affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), when the city stopped allowing the Sea Scouts free use of berths in the Berkeley marina. The change was based on the BSA's policy against gays serving as adult Scout leaders. The L.A. Times story is here. The text of the Court's opinion is here.

Update: I did not describe the court's holding well in my first post on this matter; here is what the opinion actually said:

[A] government entity may constitutionally require a recipient of funding or subsidy to provide written, unambiguous assurances of compliance with a
generally applicable nondiscrimination policy. We further agree Berkeley reasonably concluded the Sea Scouts did not and could not provide satisfactory assurances because of their required adherence to BSA's discriminatory policies.

In short, Berkeley adopted a policy that in order to qualify for subsidized (or free) access to the marina's berths, any organization must affirm that it adheres to a non-discrimination policy, including discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Sea Scouts affirmed their adherence to the policy, but said in a letter to the city, "We believe that sexual orientation is a private matter, and we do not ask either adults or youths to divulge this information at any time." In other words, the policy was "don't ask, don't tell."

Notably, the Court's opinion acknowledges that
Ethnic diversity is a hallmark of the Sea Scouts, and many youth participants
are economically disadvantaged. Girls as well as boys participate, and the
Sea Scouts have never actually discriminated against anyone on the basis of
sexual orientation or religion.
But all that was not good enough for Berkeley, because the Sea Scouts were chartered by the Boy Scouts of America, which has a policy against gays serving as adult leaders. In other words, the Sea Scouts in Berkeley did nothing offensive to gays or any other minority group. Their offense as that of being affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America. (I've blogged here about why I think the Scouts are a favorite target of left-leaning civil liberties groups.)

The Supreme Court's ruling was unanimous and is similar to a federal court ruling in San Diego, upholding a challenge to that city's long-standing policy of granting favorable leases and other subsidies to the Boy Scouts of America. (I posted about that controversy here and here.)

Catholic Charities: A Matter of Conscience, but Not Politically Correct

Then there is this story about Harvard Law School students seeking to shame a distinguished Boston-based law firm, Ropes and Gray, out of representing a client. The law firm had been advising Boston's Catholic Charities, which runs an adoption service. Catholic Charities wanted to avoid placing babies with same-sex couples. The Globe reports on the reaction by gay and lesbian law students at Harvard:

Lambda [is] the school's group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students. A Lambda representative wound up meeting with Ropes's managing partner and others at the firm and expressing the students' unhappiness.

Two weeks ago, Ropes said it would no longer do legal work to assist the bishops in their efforts to stop gay adoptions, and last week Catholic Charities said it would end its adoption program because it could not reconcile church doctrine, which holds that gay adoptions are ''gravely immoral," with state antidiscrimination laws.

Presumably, the Lambda group threatened Ropes & Gray with embarrassment if it did not cease its representation of Catholic Charities:

To publicize that many students viewed Ropes's work for Catholic Charities as anti-gay, Lambda members discussed staging protest rallies when Ropes arrived on campus this fall to recruit new associates, stationing themselves outside interview rooms to tell entering students about the firm's work for Catholic Charities, or signing up for interview slots and using the time to voice their dismay.
''The words 'boycott-slash-picket' were thrown around," said Peter Renn, a third-year student and Lambda board member who said he had wanted to shame Ropes into ending its work on behalf of Catholic Charities and warn the firm that the issue could hurt recruiting at Harvard.
It is troubling to me that because of its position in a matter of conscience, an organization like the Boy Scouts can be denied benefits available to other groups simply because it adopts a view on a particular issue that is not acceptable to some.

As a lawyer, I find it repugnant and downright un-American that anyone would bring economic and public relations pressure on a law firm to cause it to stop representing a client because that client takes a position, again on a matter of conscience, that is unpopular or politically incorrect. How would liberals react if similar pressure were successfully brought against a law firm that wanted to take on death penalty appeals on a pro bono basis?

I am not talking about the legal merits of this debate; that's a subject for another post. I'm simply saying that tolerance for opposing religious and moral views in this country is in decline. That's bad for our society and it needs to stop.

Update: I failed to post links in my first paragraph above because Blogger was undergoing maintenance and I couldn't put them in at first. My apologies!

Commenter worldcitizen responds to the Berkely portion of my post:

The city never "denied access" to anyone. They simply started charging the
normal fee. The Scouts want to continue to be treated like some sort of public
service, when many of us--including the leaders in Berkeley, apparently--don't
believe they qualify because they discriminate on the basis of sexual
orientation and religion. I'll believe you're a person of principle on this
issue only when I see you also demanding freebies for a group with a "No Jews"
policy. Not before.

As I said above, I do not want to get into the legal merits of the Berkeley case. Frankly, the California Supreme Court ruling may well be legally correct. But just because the City of Berkeley can impose their views on the Sea Scouts, and thus make a statement about the Sea Scouts' chartering organization, the BSA, doesn't mean they should do so.

I'm not talking about law, I'm talking about tolerance. The Boy Scouts have adopted a moral position that gays may not be adult Scout leaders (and the Scout policy, again, is essentially a "don't ask, don't tell" policy anyway, just like the military's). I think reasonable people of good will can see the difference between that policy and a "No Jews" policy. The former is a matter of conscience based on widely-held religious and moral beliefs and should be tolerated; the latter is a matter of bigotry based on ethnicity/national origin and should be opposed and attacked. Any effort to equate the two is intellectually and morally obtuse.

Are We Thinking with Our Brains? Or Our Emotions?

A friend alerted me to this column by Dick Meyer, Editorial Director of It discusses a recent study showing that the more partisan people are, the more they process political information with the emotional portions of their brains:

When 30 self-described partisans were presented with contradictory quotes about the candidates (President Bush supporting, then denouncing Ken Lay; Sen. John Kerry supporting, then denouncing a Social Security overhaul), it was the portions of the brain that process emotion, not rational thinking, that became active. "The thinking caps went off and the feeling caps went on," is how Westen put it to me.

Normally, Westen says, a brain faced with contradictory information will fire up the zones where reason or rational thought happens. The 30 partisans in this study were presented with contradictory quotes from Bush and Kerry, but also from Hank Aaron, Tom Hanks and the writer William Styron. They processed the information about the non-politicians with the reasoning centers of the brain. It was politics that short-circuited them. ("This is your brain; this is your brain on politics.")

This is a fascinating caution to us all. I have noticed the unreasoning hatred that otherwise fine, intelligent liberal friends and acquaintances have for George W. Bush. While contemplating that animus, I have also reflected on the Clinton years and the unreasoning hatred that otherwise intelligent conservatives had for that president. I personally found plenty to criticize about Clinton, and I have little respect for Clinton as a man, but I don't hate the guy. Still, I must concede that my response to him is often emotional.

If the conclusions of these researchers are correct, they go a long ways toward explaining what most of us consider to be the increasing polarization of the American electorate:

Brooks also found a disturbing level of what he calls "personal demonization" in 2004. Another prestigious, long-running survey, the American National Election Survey, collects public opinion data using what it calls "feeling thermometers"—for example, on a scale of zero to 100, zero being the sub-human low, how do you feel about members of Congress? Or conservatives? Or liberals? Scores below 20 are very rare. Brooks says, "No one gets zeroes, not even Hitler."

But in 2004, lots of people gave out zeroes. They were — surprise, surprise — self-described liberals and conservatives, and they gave zeroes out to their ideological enemies.

And, Meyer notes, people are getting more liberal and more conservative:

In 1972, even though the country was heated up over Nixon and Vietnam, only 4.9 percent described themselves as either extremely liberal or extremely conservative. That rose to 6.6 percent in 2004, an increase of about one-third. Though the baseline percentage is small, a 30 percent increase still potentially effects a couple of million votes.

Interestingly, the percentage of extreme liberals in these surveys grew far more than extreme conservatives, from 2.3 percent in '72 (Nixon) to 3.6 percent in '04 (Bush II).

Meyer concludes, "This is not evidence that America is becoming more polarized or that we are fighting a culture war." Really? Now I think Meyer is arguing with the emotional portion of his brain. Maybe he hopes the polarization of America is occurring, but it may well be.

I don't think this is a healthy trend, and I wonder what can be done to slow or reverse it. It may be one of those phenomena that ebb and flow with the tides of public opinion-- American politics in the latter 1790's were also very polarized and nasty.

The friend who told me about the Meyer article wouild probably say less partisanship is the answer. That's a reasonable suggestion, but I disagree. I think partisanship is fine; but people simply need to engage in a little more "reality checking" when they are thinking about politics.

Maybe bloggers can be a part of that. I'll give it a try here.

Update: Paul Mirengoff of Power Line has a different, more skeptical take. I still think the researchers are on to something.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Illegal Immigration: Will We Get Legislation This Time?

Tamar Jacoby has a typically thoughtful piece in today's Opinion Journal about illegal immigration legislation now pending in Congress. As usual, she addresses the issue that very few politicians, and very few conservative radio hosts, want to address seriously: What to do about the 11 million illegals already here? Here are the proposals Jacoby identifies as currently swirling around the capitol:

  • Sens. Kennedy and John McCain would allow illegals to earn permanent visas without leaving the U.S.--paying a fine and all back taxes, then taking English classes while they wait their turn behind people applying in the usual way from their home countries.
  • Senators Cornyn and Kyl would require the 11 million illegals to come forward and register with the government, then prove they are bona fide laborers, not criminals or security threats. At that point, the Cornyn-Kyl proposal would allow them to work here for five years and then send them home, albeit with the option of returning either as temporary workers or, in some cases, on permanent visas. Some people call this "report to deport" and believe (correctly I think) that very few of the 11 million would participate.
  • Senator Arlen Specter is pushing hard for a compromise. He calls his approach the "gold card," those who earned oneby coming forward would have the right to remain in the U.S. indefinitely. Jacoby notes, however, that these immigrants'
    legal status would be conditional, and as a practical matter they would have no possibility of becoming citizens . . . unless Congress vastly increased the annual quota of permanent visas (green cards)--a difficult step in today's political climate--most would have to wait 60 or 70 years for this prerequisite of citizenship. The result would be a permanent caste of second-class noncitizen workers, people we trusted to cook our food and tend our children and take care of our elderly relatives--but not to call themselves Americans or participate in politics.
  • "Sen. Chuck Hagel . . . argues for requiring the undocumented to go through the normal process, but then makes exceptions for those who have lived in the country for many years, putting down roots and contributing to the economy."

    The entire piece is worth reading. The money quote:
    [T]he one answer that plainly doesn't work is the status quo: an underground economy the size of Ohio that makes an ass of the law and endangers our security. There is just too much at stake not to consider every alternative.

    She's right.

Political Jobs for Life

From Opinion Journal's Poltical Diary (link requires subscription):

Somewhere around the 1930s a not so subtle shift began in the character of the typical elected office holder. The growing power of the legislative officeholder and the resulting prospects for personal advancement turned a short-term
altruistic contribution to society into a long-term political career opportunity. Hanging on to a political office gradually became a more important incentive in itself... The twin shocks of the Great Depression and WWII launched an expanded federal, state, and local government involvement in society that went from less than 5% of GDP to something like the current 35%. The power of the elected legislators grew proportionately. The fallout, thus far, has been bad and it is likely to get worse. Since getting re-elected is now a do or die situation for ones political career, the Professional Political Class have tried to stack the election process in favor of incumbents. And they have pretty well succeeded. About 98% of incumbents are re-elected when they stand for office.
That's why I reluctantly support term limits.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Art of Civil Discourse

We seem to be in an era of such great polarization that respectful discussion has become a rarity. (If you disagree, just listen to talk radio, either conservative or liberal, for a few minutes.) Hugh Hewitt links to "Timely Tips for Having a Civil Political Conversation." It's a keeper.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

More About Dr. Wafa Sultan

The New York Times has a front-page profile of Dr. Wafa Sultan, about whom Ralph posted below: "[T]hanks to an unusually blunt and provocative interview on Al Jazeera television on Feb. 21, [Dr. Sultan] is an international sensation, hailed as a fresh voice of reason by some, and by others as a heretic and infidel who deserves to die."

Here's the video clip that made her famous. You'll be glad you watched it.

Two comments:

1. The article says the American Jewish Congress has invited Dr. Sultan to speak in May at a conference in Israel. I hope she does not accept, otherwise she will begin to look like a shill for Jewish groups and the Israelis and will lose the powerful credibility she now has. (Ralph may disagree; if so, I hope he posts his thoughts here.)

2. Also, she no longer claims to practice Islam, and says "I am a secular human being." That's a pity, because she'd have still more credibility for Muslims if she remained inside the Islamic tent. There are far too few believers in Islam who are willing to call jihadist ideology what Victor Davis Hanson calls it: pre-modern fascism.

Mitt Romney Update

I know that many of you, like me, are following the news media's coverage the all-but-announced presidential candidacy of Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. One recurrent-- and to me, fascinating-- theme has been Romney's religion. It is both shocking and refreshing, in an odd way, to see how frank people have been in expressing their reservations about voting for a "Mormon" candidate. (Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are nicknamed "Mormons.") I've posted about this below here.

The Boston Globe reports that while Romney was in Memphis yesterday, speaking to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference (photo above) , he "looked out over a crowd of about 2,000 mostly Southern Republicans yesterday and declared that he shared their staunch conservative values, even though he leads 'the bluest state in America.'"

That's just the lede. The story wastes no time getting to the religion question in the second paragraph:

But while Romney earned several standing ovations from the delegates to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, many expressed doubts that a Massachusetts politician, or a Mormon, could win a Southern GOP presidential primary.
The up-front candor continues later in the story:

''Obviously, there will be questions," [said one delegate]. ''I don't know much about the Mormon faith, but if people get ugly [about his Mormonism], especially people in the Christian community, that will be hurtful. I hope they listen to the man to see if his values line up with theirs."

Scott Magill, a conservative Christian from Missouri, was blunter. ''I need to hear more from him about the Mormon thing," he said ''Evangelicals are going to have a lot of trouble with it."

This frank acknowledgement that a candidate's religion is a significant factor in many voters' minds is not limited to the Boston Globe. Also today, Tom Bevan of the respected Real Clear Politics blog reports on Romney's SRLC appearance:

All in all Romney’s speech was well received. He came across as very articulate and passionate, and hit all the right notes with the crowd, including the issue of gay marriage, which received big applause. The question mark for Romney, of course, is the issue of his religion. It seemed a bit of an elephant in a room full of hundreds of GOP delegates, a majority of whom are evangelical Christians.

In other words, "Romney's a solid candidate; it's just his religion that's a problem."

This discussion is going on in 2006, in the USA. Does that not at least cause you to raise an eyebrow?

But I enthusiastically welcome the discussion. It will not be comfortable for many observers and participants, particularly Latter-day Saints who will see their cherished beliefs ridiculed, lampooned, misrepresented, and attacked. I am confident that most Mormons do not mind so much the negative attention; what does bother us is when attacks are made on a ridiculous caricature of our beliefs, rather than on what we truly believe. The sunlight of public attention should alleviate that problem.

For those who are curious about Romney's Christian beliefs, I can assure you that if he is a convinced, practicting Mormon (and there's apparently no doubt that he is), Romney's understanding of, and commitment to, Jesus Christ are expressed fully and accurately in this official statement. Again, go ahead and disagree with the official statement and even attack it if you wish; but please attack that statement, not a distortion of our beliefs fashioned by those who are either open enemies of our church or who think they, and not we, know what we really believe.

And where else but in America could such a discussion go on, without even the mention of bloodshed or violence? Such unpleasantness has occurred in the past, of course; but those times are long gone. Just one of the blessings of living in the freest country in the history of the world.

Slobodan Milosevic Dead

The next time you hear someone suggest that the United Nations ought to be trying Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity, consider the excellent job the U.N. has done with the Serbian butcher Milosevic. Scott Ott of Scrappleface says it all, albeit ironically:

The sudden death of former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic in a United
Nations prison toady won’t keep “the butcher of the Balkans” off the witness stand nor slow the proceedings in his genocide trial, according to an unnamed spokesman at the Hague.

“If he thinks that he can slow down this court by dying, he’s gravely mistaken,” said the anonymous source. “There’s nothing that can retard our administration of justice, nor reduce the credibility of this global institution.”

Yep. The U.N. -- nothing if not predictable, stolid, and generally ineffectual.

This Is No Time To Lose Our Nerve

Victor Davis Hanson has a must-read piece in National Review Online, "The Great Stampede: Conservatives are losing their nerve on Iraq." Excerpt:

[T]he latest criticism is more troubling, since it often comes from the “my
perfect war, your lousy peace” school that, for some reason, never critiques the
three-week removal of Saddam Hussein. Instead, it defends its evolving
opposition to the war by advancing particular pet theories of reconstruction
that were never followed. Rarely do we hear that most postbellum efforts are
long, messy, and necessary, much less that the essence of war is lapse and
tragedy, with victory going only to those who in the end err the least and
endure. Anyone back in the United States can post facto write up a list of what
ought to have been done in Iraq amid the heat and fire; but they at least need
to factor in the conditions at the time that led the supposedly less bright on
the ground not to anticipate their own inspired wisdom from afar.
I hope lots of people read it.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Thought for The Week

"It's not what people don't know that gets them in trouble. It's what they know that just isn't so."

--Mark Twain

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Brave Voice of an Arab American Woman

Kudos to Power Line for guiding us to this post at MEMRI, regarding a brave Arab American psychologist, Wafa Sultan, who took on a Muslim theologian, Dr. Ibraham Al-Khouli on Al-Jazeera TV. I have provided the link to the transcript, but there is also a video clip available at MEMRI.

The Hedgehog adds: This is Ralph Kostant's first post as my co-blogger. Previously Ralph has submitted guest posts, but now he's a full-fledged blogger and this is now a team blog. I am delighted to share the space (and the responsibility of keeping this thing full of interesting posts!) and hope my loyal readers will enjoy having another Hedgehog in the house.

We'll get Ralph's profile information up as soon as we figure out how to do that.

Quote of The Day: Clinton, Inc.

Former Clinton adviser Dick Morris, writing in The Hill newspaper:

Are we truly to believe Hillary’s insistence last week that she knew
nothing about Bill’s counseling of his friend and benefactor the crown prince of Dubai, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, on the ports deal? Do Bill and Hillary Clinton ever speak to each other, or do they just attend funerals, fundraisers and Billy Graham crusades together for photo-ops?

Bill is, after all, a regular in Dubai. The crown prince — that is, the government — contributed to his presidential library and pays him $300,000 per speech. Recently, Yucaipa, an American company that has Bill Clinton as a “senior adviser” and pays him a percentage of its profits, formed a partnership with the Dubai Investment Group to form DIGL Inc., a company dedicated to managing the sheik’s personal investments.

No doubt Bill Clinton was brought in to cement this lucrative deal from which he — and therefore Hillary — will likely make millions. Neither Bill nor Hillary will disclose how much he is paid, but her Senate financial disclosure says that he will make “more than” $1,000. They also won’t say how much Dubai royalty gave to the Clinton library.

. . .

What’s really going on here is that Bill Clinton is trying to please his Arab patrons and business partners at the same time that Hillary Clinton is trying to capitalize on American stereotypes about Arab terrorists.

Read the whole thing. One thing about the Clintons - They can always be counted on to dissemble.

Quote of The Day: Clinton, Inc.

Former Clinton adviser Dick Morris, writing in The Hill newspaper:

Are we truly to believe Hillary’s insistence last week that she knew
nothing about Bill’s counseling of his friend and benefactor the crown prince of Dubai, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, on the ports deal? Do Bill and Hillary Clinton ever speak to each other, or do they just attend funerals, fundraisers and Billy Graham crusades together for photo-ops?

Bill is, after all, a regular in Dubai. The crown prince — that is, the government — contributed to his presidential library and pays him $300,000 per speech. Recently, Yucaipa, an American company that has Bill Clinton as a “senior adviser” and pays him a percentage of its profits, formed a partnership with the Dubai Investment Group to form DIGL Inc., a company dedicated to managing the sheik’s personal investments.

No doubt Bill Clinton was brought in to cement this lucrative deal from which he — and therefore Hillary — will likely make millions. Neither Bill nor Hillary will disclose how much he is paid, but her Senate financial disclosure says that he will make “more than” $1,000. They also won’t say how much Dubai royalty gave to the Clinton library.

. . .

What’s really going on here is that Bill Clinton is trying to please his Arab patrons and business partners at the same time that Hillary Clinton is trying to capitalize on American stereotypes about Arab terrorists.

Read the whole thing. One thing about the Clintons-- they're consistent!

Port Security

From Eric Devericks of the Seattle Times:

Monday, March 06, 2006

Rumsfeld v. FAIR: A Good Glimpse of What We Can Expect from the Roberts Court

In case you missed this, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion today in Rumsfeld v. Fair, upholding the Solomon Amendment. That statute provided that "if any part of an institution of higher education denies military recruiters access equal to that provided other recruiters, the entire institution would lose certain federal funds." Law schools had been barring military recruiters from interviewing their students on campus, and the case made its way to the high court.

The Court upheld the Solomon Amendment by an 8-0 vote, with Justice Alito abstaining because of his prior involvement in a lower court's review of the case. Professor Bainbridge comments:

I agree that this opinion tends to confirm the very high hopes many of us had
for Roberts - well-argued, cleanly written, and sufficiently persuasive to pull
in 8 votes (which is impressive for a court that lately has been like herding
The rest of his post is worth the read.

Refreshing: Reese Witherspoon

My most recent attack of employment has me away from the blogosphere, but I will take a moment to comment on Reese Witherspoon's Academy Award. Amid the dank, fetid air of most of this year's nominees ("Syriana," "Crash," and so forth) someone like Ms. Witherspoon is a breath of fresh air. Here's a brief Witherspoon bio. It's hard ever to know what movie stars are really like, but at least this one seems to be a normal person from a normal family with a reasonably healthy attitude about life. I hope that's who she really is, and that she lasts.