Monday, August 31, 2015

I'm not patronizing you I'm just mindlessly agreeing with everything that you say.

Eli,

I saw this headline and couldn't believe it was true, but alas, it is:

"Walker would consider building wall on Canadian border,"

My fifteen year-old daughter commented, "It sounds like something a kindergartener would say." Alas, that is also true.

I started complaining about Republicans and immigration. My 15-year old was agreeing with everything I said. I asked her if she was patronizing me. Her response:

"I'm not patronizing you I'm just mindlessly agreeing with everything that you say."

I was so proud.

Bill

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Worst of the Repblican Party.

Eli,

Donald Trump, and his views on immigration, is bringing out the worst of the Republican Party. Unfortunately, it's a strain of hatred and bigotry that goes back to the Know-Nothing Party and its hatred of Catholics, particularly the Irish. Trump, as you know, among other things, wants to deport all illegal aliens, build a giant wall along the Mexican border (and get them to pay for it!) and end birthright citizenship. What is shocking to me is others running for the Republican nomination  actually support some or all of this plan.

My views on immigration are far from either the Left or the Right in that I'm in favor of something as close to open borders as possible. In my view, if someone wants to come to America, come on in. I see very little downside and mostly upside to this trade. People coming to America, desirous of work, desirous of making a better life for themselves and their children? Please come and be my neighbor. I reject the call of the Right and the Left to limit immigration to high-skilled workers or only allow in those under a guest-worker program. Let them all in: the tired, poor, hungry yearning to be free. Let them in.

Strangely enough, Americans have had a love/hate relationship with immigrants since our founding. The Irish, the Italians, Germans, Jews, Poles, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Central Americans and Mexicans were all dirty, poor, uneducated, parasites coming here only to spread their diseases, Popish religion, obedience to monarchy. They were unwilling to become "true" Americans; they stayed in their own communities; they spoke their own language; they practiced their own religion; they weren't one us. They were the other, the outsider. This hatred that Trump espouses is nothing new; neither is its vileness.

And in my mind, at least in in the sense that this is an immigrant nation, this hatred of immigrants is unhinged. I understand why this influx of strangers with different customs is upsetting to people and I know I am far removed from the discomfort can cause to established neighborhoods. But still. My paternal great grandparents come to America during the Irish potato famine. And my maternal ancestors came from French Canada. My wife's ancestors also came from Ireland and were Native Americans.  I know your ancestors were not indigenous to America. Of the 330 million Americans I would guess less than 1% are native.

What bothers me most about the Trump hatred is the attempt to blame Mexico for many of the troubles in America. Jobs are tough to find? Blame the Mexicans. Factories are moving out of your community? Blame the Mexicans. It's the other. The outsider. The one who isn't like you that is responsible for your woes. All demagogues use the other as a way to avoid responsibility. Hitler was the example par excellence, but Stalin, Castro, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and every other tyrant uses the other as an excuse to gain and consolidate power. And I am quite aware I just compared Trump to mass murderers.

I read this morning in Ben Domenech's "The Transom,"

Many Republicans support an end to birthright citizenship. Mitch McConnell held hearings on it in 2010, and Steve King and David Vitter have introduced the current versions of the legislation aimed at doing so. In the presidential field, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum and others have backed ending birthright citizenship. In the wake of Donald Trump’s immigration proposal, two more have added their support for the idea: Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal, the latter of which is a birthright citizen himself. In scattered polling on the issue, a minority of Americans but a majority of Republicans support the idea.
Have they lost their minds? For God's sake Bobby Jindal was born in America of non-American citizens. Even setting aside the Constitution and the 14th Amendment, it's just common sense: If you were born in America, you are an American. Hard Stop!

While the Democrats haven't been as anti-immigration as Republicans, they too blame the other. It's just that the other for the Democrats are the Koch Brothers and Insurance Companies and Wall Street. Frankly, just as ignorant as Trump and the modern Know Nothing Party.

This is becoming a choice between dumb and dumber.

I'm so depressed.

Bill



Friday, August 14, 2015

The Problem We All Live With

Bill,

My daughter has gently dragged me a little further into into the 21st century, introducing me to podcasts. I finished listening to her first recommendation,. "The Problem We Live With, from This American Life, the long running (left leaning to be sure) series produced by its acclaimed creator, Ira Glass. Without giving too much away, the podcast examines, in its signature narrative fashion, the story of a failing minority school district, the solution that was successfully employed to improve that district, and the (inevitable?) abandonment of that solution. I'll bet you can guess what the solution was.

The cast left me disturbed and more than a little ashamed. I find the idea that black or brown children are somehow innately deficient deeply pernicious. And yet, for years I asserted that switching the student bodies of the prosperous, integrated town where my children were raised with the desperately poor, overwhelming minority school district next door would make no difference; the (mostly) white, middle class kids would perform just as well in the crummy inner city schools, and the black and brown kids would continue to fail in the fancy schools. Where did I come up with that?

The podcast's praise of integration not withstanding, consistent data on its effects are not easy to find. It does not appear to affect white student's performance; assessments of its overall effects on minority students performance appear to be more uneven. What is clear is that we are largely back where we were 60 years ago.




Eli






Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Iran Deal

Bill

My letter to my congresswomen is posted below. This has been a tough call.

Eli


Dear Rep Esty,

Thanks for your invite to tomorrow's Town Hall. I can't make the event, but I write to urge you to support the deal. I'd be deceiving myself, and you, if I denied my misgivings; there's no question the deal has flaws, and that it carries risk, as the President has acknowledged. Could we have done better? Perhaps. There's no logic or reason to believe that the alternative, its rejection, will move us no closer to our goal of a non-nuclear Iran. Rejection, as argued by many observers, has a high likelihood of producing an escalation of Iran's effort to build a bomb, and the inevitable (and likely unsuccessful) military response to that effort that will follow.
We don't have to like Iranian regime, or even trust it, to reach this agreement. We have follow our own best self interest. For now, this is the best we are going to do.

Sincerely,

 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Ghettoside

Eli,

I’m almost in total agreement with you on your latest, “These Black Lives Also Matter.”

It seems to me we are like the blind men and the elephant each diagnosing one small aspect of a very large issue. I agree, teen pregnancy and violence are important; I tend to focus on the war on drugs and monopolization of  education by the state as key issues; others focus on family structure; others on lack of economic opportunity. All of these are important and it’s probably impossible to say which is THE key. We (as a society) shout past each other because we all know our pet answer is the answer.

I think this is another issue where the attitude that “the science is settled” is harming more than helping. If you think maybe doing nothing is better than something you are a racist (or denier).

But think about the model(s). The dependent variable is improving poverty. In your model the independent variables are teen pregnancy and violence. Reduce both and poverty is reduced. How is your model performing? A link to an HHS study on teen pregnancy from your link to the NY Times story on Colorado’s birth control program states, “The teen birth rate has declined almost continuously over the past 20 years. In 1991, the U.S. teen birth rate was 61.8 births for every 1,000 adolescent females, compared with 26.5 births for every 1,000 adolescent females in 2013.” According to your model there should have been a reduction in poverty. Was there? Your model says effective control of violence is a key element also. Yet you admit violence has declined, but what about poverty? Are you sure your model is valid? And calling me a racist if I don’t agree with your model doesn’t change the model’s results. (Just like calling me a denier doesn’t change the results of a tragically failed model on global warming).

I wonder if the issue might be exacerbated instead of mitigated by our solutions. For instance, those in poverty receive benefits from local, state and national governments. Families get more support. Families with a single parent even more support. That sounds fair and compassionate to everyone, including me. But is it? From an economic perspective it creates an incentive for single parent households. (And taking umbrage at pointing out the obvious doesn’t help). Another “solution” is raising the minimum wage. We’ll just legislate the way out of poverty. However, increasing the minimum wage can result in losing the benefits of the welfare state. A great exploration of this is Andrea Louise Campbell’s, “Trapped in America’s Safety Net: One Family’s Struggle.” But look at this, and this and this (trust me, I didn't need to look too hard to find these) as well. It supports my first point and begs the question if our first solution was flawed, what is flawed about our second solution?

I know comparing the experience of blacks in America to the experience of the Irish, Italians, Jews and Chinese is dangerous, and in many ways not apt. But in others ways it seems quite relevant. If government aid is good and lack of it bad how do we explain the rise of the Irish and Italians and those other groups out of poverty when government actively discriminated against them? I don’t think blacks are any different than the other ethnic groups in terms of ability. What is the difference then? I look at one big difference and that is the active role of government in crafting a solution and certainly it warrants asking if maybe the solution is the problem.

Bill

Friday, July 31, 2015

These Black Lives Also Matter

Bill,

I just finished reading a book that has affected me greatly. Ghettoside, by Jill Leovy, a crime reporter at the LA Times, is the story of the murder of an 18 year old boy in Southeast Los Angeles, and the heroic and successful efforts of one detective to bring the killers to justice. The story, which reads like a thriller even though the end is known, serves as the backdrop for Leony's thesis that the ongoing violence in poor segregated neighborhoods is the direct result of the  State's failure to control that violence through effective policing. In between riveting vignettes of the crime and the subsequent investigation, she recounts the long and dismal history of black-on-black murder and the larger indifference of white society, a reality that extends as far back as the end of Reconstruction. It is that indifference, combined with policing tactics that focus on petty crimes and rely on harassment as a means of crime prevention, that have produced an "underground law" of that honors block-to-block tribalism and promotes reprisal in a society that that more closely resembles a medieval revenge culture than an post enlightenment society.

The statistics alone are appalling; African American men between the ages of 18-30 are murdered at a rate 15 times greater than whites; even now, with the marked decline in murder rates, more than half of the killings in LA occurred in just 2 precincts in South Los Angeles. At the height of the murder epidemic in the early 90s, less than 40% of killings were solved.

But what is far more affecting than statistics are the heart rending accounts of the effect upon the survivors; the loved ones whose lives decay in a waking death full of grief. Several passages left me heaving in agony. Violence is a scourge upon these communities, a soul breaking, life destroying plague no less destructive than cholera or a tidal wave.

Some elements of Leovy's thesis withstand scrutiny with difficulty. Her analysis most critically does not explain the marked drop in violent crime in the absence of any real improvement in the efficacy of crime solving. She also gives little examination or counter weight to the widely held belief that crime prevention tactics, such as gang units, are an effective deterrent. Still,her account convinced me that along with effective reductions in teen pregnancy, effective control of violence is a key element in improving the lives of the poor. These black lives also matter.

Eli