Quotulatiousness

May 25, 2014

The US immigration system and the plight of Meriam Ibrahim

Filed under: Africa, Bureaucracy, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:00

Mark Steyn posted this earlier in the week, but I only read it today. It’s a very sad tale of slow moving bureaucracy that may result in a woman being executed for the crime of becoming a Christian:

… Meriam Ibrahim [has] been sentenced by a Sudanese court to hang for the crime of being a Christian and refusing to “revert” to Islam (she was turned in to the authorities by her brother, apparently). Judge Abbas Mohammed Al-Khalifa has ruled that the convicted woman, who is eight months pregnant, will be permitted to give birth to her child before he executes her. Her two-year-old son Martin is currently imprisoned with her.

I would like Meriam Ibrahim not to be hanged — for several reasons. First, I’m not in favor of hanging women for apostasy. However, I recognize that, in a post-imperial age, barbarous despots are free to terrorize their subjects, and no matter how many pouty-faced hashtags we do we can’t save them all. However, there are compelling reasons why the United States Government ought to be making an effort to bring back this girl in particular.

As I’ve discussed here and on air, Meriam Ibrahim is the wife of a US citizen, Daniel Wani. Mr Wani lives in Manchester, New Hampshire, a couple hours south of SteynOnline corporate HQ. He has lived in the Granite State for 17 years. He has been a US citizen for almost a decade.

I don’t think it’s in the interests of Americans for thug states to learn they can execute the spouses of US citizens with impunity. That will not improve the security of Americans and westerners as they move around the world. As I said the other day, the spouse of a US citizen is entitled to US citizenship herself: It’s essentially non-discretionary. So Mrs Wani is in effect an American-in-waiting.

However, the sclerotic, dysfunctional and utterly shameful US immigration bureaucracy takes years to process these routine spousal applications. And that is why Daniel Wani’s wife was languishing in Khartoum: she was waiting for “permission” from the United States Bureau of Inertia to travel to New Hampshire and join her husband. And, while she was waiting, the Sudanese decided to kill her.

[...]

The reason Mr Wani was in Manchester and Mrs Wani and their son Martin were in Khartoum is because they were trapped in the processing hell of US immigration:

    Soon after Ibrahim and Wani were wed, in December 2011, Wani applied to his government, the United States government, for a spousal visa to bring his wife to America.

As I said, a spousal application is essentially non-discretionary: An American has the right to fall in love with a Belgian or an Uzbek or a Papuan and bring her to his home, but US immigration has gotten into the habit of dragging it out, for three years, a half-decade, and even longer if the paper-shufflers are minded to really screw you over. In this case, for poor Mrs Wani, US bureaucratic torpor has proved fatal.

So this is a tale not just of a rotten worthless Third World basket-case tyranny, but of US bureaucratic incompetence, too. The late Christopher Hitchens, who died a US citizen, summarized his dealings with American immigration thus:

    There was a famous saying, I think it’s by the Roman poet Terence. Nihil humanem alienurm puto — Nothing human is alien to me. The slogan of the Department of Homeland Security is nothing alien is human to them.

And so an expectant mother and her two-year old American son are chained to a wall. Britain’s Daily Mail (which is now America’s most-read newspaper website — because American newspapers have entirely lost their nose for news) reports:

    Martin was born in Sudan and may be entitled to a US passport because Daniel in a naturalized American citizen, though the process is complicated and not certain.

“The process is complicated and not certain”: There’s another epitaph for the republic.

May 7, 2014

Peak inequality in England – about 200 years ago

Filed under: Britain, Economics, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:18

An interesting article that starts and ends talking about Thomas Piketty’s new book, but in the middle goes a long way to explain what happened to English aristocracy over the last few hundred years:

Extravagances like the stately homes of England made economic sense before the 19th century because the relative wages of servants and construction workers mostly fell from 1500 to 1800 as the supply of English workers slowly recovered in size from the Black Death of the 1340s.

But, outside of economic theory, the rich have often tended to get poorer, especially when they spend more than they make. It’s a common theme in English literature (Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust) and television (Downton Abbey). For instance, by the time of Winston Churchill’s birth in 1874, the English ultra-rich weren’t getting richer.

[...]

The long agricultural depression of 1873-1896 meant the great houses of England began falling apart. Wings had to be shut as servants found higher paying jobs in factories. Repairs could not be paid for.

The usual solutions were to first auction off the art collection, then marry American heiresses, as in Downton Abbey, where Countess Cora, played by Elizabeth McGovern, is from the Chicago Levinsons. Winston’s mother Jenny was from the Jeromes of Wall Street.

[...]

Servants had steadily become more expensive in England. One reason was the increase in jobs elsewhere in a modernizing economy. On Downton Abbey, to illustrate, a maid applies for a job in town as a secretary, which is a much better post.

A forgotten reason, though, was that the massive emigration from the British Isles reduced the supply of workers and thus raised their wages. While Tony Blair’s Labor Government liked to claim that Britain had always been a nation of immigrants, it was in truth a nation of emigrants. Today, there are perhaps two or even three times as many people descended from the British Isles living in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Argentina as there are in Britain and Ireland. Without all that outflow, wages in Britain would be lower and land prices astronomical.

H/T to Kathy Shaidle for the link.

February 18, 2014

The Tea Party’s vulnerabilities on abortion, gay marriage, and immigration

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:21

L. Neil Smith agrees with a lot of Tea Party positions, but correctly points out that their determination to drag (some) religion into politics undermines them in three key areas with non-Tea Party audiences:

As for abortion, gay marriage, and immigration, I was taught in college (and have since confirmed) that the populist Grange Movement of the nineteenth century never quite got off its knees because white farmers didn’t want to share their cause with black farmers. The Tea Parties are demonstrating exactly the same kind of suicidal short-sightedness.

In the eighteenth century, most Americans were either passionately for or against slavery. When the Framers wrote the Constitution, they came to a compromise about the issue: slaves would be counted as three fifths of a person for the purpose of representation. They have been severely castigated about this compromise for a couple of centuries, but without it, there would never have been a United States of America.

I’m saying that similar compromises are possible regarding two of the three issues I’ve mentioned, and I have a question about the third.

Abortion first: I know that one side thinks it’s murder and doesn’t seem aware that half the population — with equal passion and sincerity — considers laws against it to represent expropriation and slavery.

A few years ago, I ran an admittedly unscientific abortion survey on my personal website for three years, asking this question: “Could you be satisfied with a compromise under which abortion would remain legal, but not a single cent of tax money would ever used to pay for it?”

The result was that an overwhelming eighty-five percent responded “Yes”, leaving, I assume, a disgruntled seven and a half percent at either end of the curve, who believe that women — or at least their uteruses — belong to the State, or that abortion ought to be an entitlement. Beyond the palest ghost of a shadow of a doubt, the issue is settled, then. We just need to pound it into our “leaders'” thick skulls.

[...]

The question I have about the third issue is this: by precisely what mechanism is my marriage of thirty-odd years to my lovely and talented wife in any way damaged or diminished by letting my friends George and Fred get married, too? I’m talking about nuts and bolts, here, palpable connections. I don’t want to hear about the Bible or your religion. Under the First Amendment, that’s excluded from the conversation.

Their taxes help pay for the courthouse and the judge’s salary. They are entitled, by virtue of that payment, to exactly the same services that you and I expect. What we’re talking about here is leaving George and Fred alone to live the same dream that Cathy and I have been able to live, I can’t find it in myself to deny them that hope.

February 17, 2014

Ultra-progressive agenda to fix California’s woes

Filed under: Government, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:06

Let’s be clear: parts of California are doing fantastically well, but other portions of the state are suffering disproportionally. Here are a few suggested legislative fixes to redress the inequalities of life faced by too many disadvantaged people in the state:

2. The Undocumented Immigrant Equity Act

The “I am Juan too Act” would assess all California communities by U.S. Census data to ascertain average per-household income levels as well as diversity percentages. Those counties assessed on average in the top 10% bracket of the state’s per-household income level, and which do not reflect the general ethnic make-up of the state, would be required to provide low-income housing for undocumented immigrants, who by 2020 would by law make up not less than 20% of such targeted communities’ general populations.

There are dozens of empty miles, for example, along the 280 freeway corridor from Palo Alto to Burlingame — an ideal place for high-density, low-income housing, served by high-speed rail. Aim: One, to achieve economic parity for undocumented immigrants by allowing them affordable housing in affluent areas where jobs are plentiful, wages are high, and opportunities exist for mentorships; and, two, to ensure cultural diversity among the non-diverse host community, bringing it into compliance with the state’s ethnic profile.

[...]

4. The Silicon Valley Transparency and Fair Jobs Act

This “Google Good Citizen Act” would set up a regional board to monitor commerce in the San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara tri-county area. The state regulatory commission would monitor offshore investment, outsourcing, and unionization. All commercial entities, with over 100 employees, would be in violation and face state fines if: 1) the number of a firm’s employees overseas accounted for 10% or more of the workforce currently employed within the tri-county Silicon Valley area; 2) more than 1% of the current capitalization of a Silicon Valley company were deposited in banks outside the United States; and 3) more than 50% of a tri-county company’s workforce were non-union. Aim: To ensure progressive Silicon Valley commercial businesses are caring progressive state citizens.

5. The California Firearms Safety Act

The “No Guns for Grandees Act” would forbid private security details to be armed with handguns or semi-automatic long guns. It would allow private security personnel to be armed only with paintball, BB or pellet guns. Aim: To prevent unnecessary armed deterrence by private security units in the hire of the affluent.

6. The Fair Housing Adjustment Act

The “Everywhere an Atherton Act” would tax all private residential square footage in excess of 1800 square feet at four times the current per square foot assessment. Aim: It would ensure state resources are equally distributed and not inordinately siphoned off to a small minority of the state population. Would encourage existing large homes to downsize through reverse remodeling.

December 5, 2013

The unhappy math that undermines the Guaranteed Income notion

Filed under: Economics, Government, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:30

Megan McArdle is convinced that despite the appeal, any form of guaranteed income is doomed to fail. She provides four strong reasons for this, but I think the strongest reason is sheer mathematical impossibility:

Not a few libertarians have embraced the idea as an alternative to the welfare state. Get rid of all the unemployment insurance and just cut everyone a check once a month. There’s a lot to like about this: It has minimal overhead, because you don’t need to verify eligibility beyond citizenship, and it may reduce some of the terrible incentives that poor people face under the current system.

There are a couple of problems with this, however. The first is that zeroing out our current income security system wouldn’t provide much of a basic income. Total federal spending on income security (welfare, unemployment, etc.) is under $600 billion a year. There are 235 million adults in the U.S. Millions of those are undocumented immigrants, but that still leaves you with a lot of people. Getting rid of all of our spending on welfare and so forth would be enough to give each of those people less than $3,000 a year. For a lot of poor people, that’s considerably less than what they’re getting from the government right now.

The problem is that if you try to bring it up to something a bit more generous, the cost quickly escalates. Cutting everyone a check for $1,000 a month, which most people in that room would consider too little to live on, would cost almost $3 trillion. But if you means-test it to control the cost, or try to tax most of the benefits back for people who aren’t low-income, you rapidly lose the efficiency gains and start creating some pretty powerful disincentives to work.

$12,000 a year isn’t enough to live on in a major city — which is where a lot of the people you’re hoping to help are living — and providing higher guaranteed income to those living in more expensive areas will create an incentive that will draw more people into the qualifying areas. Excluding immigrants from the benefits will exacerbate the already serious problems some areas have with their illegal immigrants (and create yet another barrier for legal immigrants over and above what is already in their way, as documented here).

Switzerland is reported to be considering a guaranteed income plan. As Megan says, it’ll be an interesting experiment if they do:

In general, I am wary of exciting results from small pilot programs. Most of those programs fail when they’re rolled out statewide, either because the result was spurious or because the exciting work of a small, dedicated group just can’t be replicated in a gargantuan state bureaucracy.

I will be very happy if Switzerland decides to mail a check for a couple of thousand dollars to every citizen every month; it will be fascinating to see what results this has. But I am skeptical that those results will, on net, be good ones.

November 26, 2013

Twenty-five years on, Canada has clearly changed

Filed under: Cancon, History, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:23

Richard Anderson notes the 25th anniversary of an almost forgotten Canadian crisis:

From the perspective of a quarter century the whole thing is almost inexplicable. It isn’t just that everything turned out well. The oddness of that time is how worked up people got about a trade agreement. Seriously. It’s an international trade agreement. The Harper Tories have signed quite a few, including an important deal with the EU. It’s barely headline news. But way back then it was the beginning of the end of Canada, if the good and great of the Canadian Cultural Establishment were to be believed.

Adding more distance to the passage of time is the demographic revolution that has taken place since, a revolution kicked into high gear by Mulroney not Trudeau. The Canada of 1988 was a much whiter and far more WASPish place than it is today. The Canadian WASP is an odd creature. Genial to a fault, decent, hard working and subdued in manner and lifestyle. He does, however, have one terrible weakness: A paranoid fear of the United States.

The Punjabi, the Vietnamese and the Filipino immigrant could not tell a Loyalist from a lolipop. The strange psycho-drama that has consumed the Canadian elite since Simcoe landed is now, mostly, over. The new Canadians have no fear of the old enemy America. There are no intergenerational flashbacks to the Battle of Queenston Heights. The Americans are just the loud neighbour to the south. It is not entirely coincidental that free trade was at last brought to Canada by an Irish Catholic, supported by a phalanx of Quebecois. Neither group ever really feared America. Among them there was never that nagging sense of imminent cultural absorption.

Never-let-a-crisis-go-to-waste department – the modern slavery bill

Filed under: Britain, Law, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:11

Tim Worstall explains why the rush to legislate based on the public outrage over the most recent case of slavery is a bad idea that will have worse results:

I know that I shouldn’t giggle over such things but the revelation that the three “slaves” recently found were in fact the remnants of a Maoist commune well known to social services (indeed, housed by the local council) does provide a certain amusement as we see various leftish types suddenly running away from the story. However, now onto something a great deal more important. Theresa May and various campaigners are going to use this to try and pass an extremely bad law about modern slavery. And it’s worth our all complaining very loudly about this now, as the bill is being drawn up, not later when it is too late.

The problem is that there are two distinct meanings being conflated together for the convenience of the legislators, police, and media: I) sex slavery (which most people recognize as a terrible crime that should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law) and II) illegal immigration (which is not the same thing at all). By lumping the much larger number of type II cases in with the tiny number of type I, you get a big headline-friendly number to shock and energize the population who think you’re really talking only about type I cases.

As Operation Pentameter found out, after every police force in the country tried to search out and find sex slaves they found not one single case in the entire country that they were able to prosecute for the crime.

That is, the police went looking for slavery, type I definition of trafficking, while this foundation is using the type II definition of illegal immigration (or, to get to that 50% number, simply of immigration, legal or not).

Oh, and Eaves is involved. They were the people behind the Poppy Project. Which, laughably, claimed that evidence of foreign born women working in brothels in London was evidence of trafficking. Guess all those foreigners working in The City are slaves then, eh?

Just to make this entirely clear here. These campaigners (and that includes May here) are going to use our revulsion of the type I trafficking to pass extraordinarly severe laws against the type II stuff. Up to and including life imprisonment and confiscation of all financial assets. Yet it is only type I that is in fact slavery. Type II is more normally defined as the employment of an illegal immigrant.

Anyone really want life imprisonment for employment of an illegal immigrant? Someone who, entirely of their own volition, tried to make their lives better by breaking the law to come to this country is now going to be defined as a slave?

September 4, 2013

QotD: Quebec and religious minorities

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Liberty, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

As this blog has pointing out for many years now, too many for these tired old eyes, at its core Quebec nationalism is an ethnic nationalism. By their nature ethnic nationalists are bigots. Certainly the sort of bigotry that emanates from the pure laine wing of the PQ is fairly tame. This is Canada and even our fanatics have a dullness about them. Still bigotry is bigotry. Tyranny is tyranny. Telling people what they can wear in the workplace, regardless of any objective public health and safety concerns, is tyranny. A private employer may discriminate at his leisure. The government cannot. It must represent all its people.

Our tax dollars, for Quebec is the great mendicant of modern Canada, are financing a policy of religious bigotry. Some conservatives might welcome this decision as it seems, on the face of it, to be going after the burqa. The ban, however, is on all religious headware. At the moment it applies only to the public sector, which is vast in Quebec, but knowing the statist inclinations of the PQ it will soon apply to the private sector as well.

To borrow from Churchill, this is worse than a crime, it’s a mistake.

Quebec is not an appealing place for ethnic and religious minorities. It’s why so many flee to Ontario when they receive their citizenship papers. Expect a second Exodus from La Belle Province should this Charter of Quebec Values come into force. Just as talented Anglos were driven from Montreal and the Eastern Townships in the 1970s, we’ll soon have waves of Sikhs arriving in Toronto. I will be delighted to greet them. There is a large community here in the Imperial Capital and they are peaceful and productive. If Quebec wants to put their bigotry ahead of economic common sense, let them. Then let us cut the equalization life line that has propped up these statist and bigoted policies for over forty years. First they discriminated against the English. Then the Jews. Now the time comes for all the others who are not of the blood.

Richard Anderson, “Quebec Values”, The Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2013-09-02

August 4, 2013

Who speaks for those neither rich nor poor?

Filed under: Economics, Government, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:37

Victor Davis Hanson on the forgotten people in the middle:

There are more than 48 million Americans on food stamps, an increase of about 12 million since the beginning of the Obama presidency.

At a time of record-high crop prices, the U.S. government still helps well-off farmers with some $20 billion in annual crop payouts and indirect subsidies.

The Left mythicizes food-stamp recipients almost as if they all must be the Cratchits of Dickensian England.

The Right romanticizes corporate agriculture as if the growers all were hardscrabble family farmers in need of a little boost to get through another tough harvest.

Those in between, who pay federal income taxes and are not on food stamps, lack the empathy of the poor and the clout of the rich. Can’t a politician say that?

Illegal immigration is likewise not a Left vs. Right or Republican vs. Democrat issue, but instead mostly one of class.

The influx of millions of illegal immigrants has ensured corporate America access to cheap labor while offering a growing constituency for political and academic elites.

Yet the earning power of poorer American workers — especially African Americans and Hispanic Americans — has stagnated.

The common bond between the agendas of La Raza activists and the corporate world is apparently a relative lack of concern for the welfare of entry-level laborers, many of them in American inner cities, who are competing against millions of illegal workers.

Given the slow-growth, high-unemployment economy, and the policies of the Federal Reserve, interest on simple passbook accounts has all but vanished.

The poor are not so affected. They are more often borrowers than lenders, and they are sometime beneficiaries of federally subsidized debt relief.

The rich have the capital and connections to find more profitable investments in real estate or the stock market that make them immune from pedestrian, underperforming savings accounts.

In other words, this administration’s loose money policy has been good for the indebted and even better for the stock-invested rich. But it is absolutely lousy for the middle class and for strapped retirees with a few dollars in conservative passbook accounts.

June 4, 2013

Sanandaji – Sweden’s problem is too many libertarians

Filed under: Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:40

Okay, that headline is unfair, but Tino Sanandaji does go out of his way to include the vast hordes of notoriously dogmatic and highly influential Swedish libertarians as part of the problem triggering the recent riots:

While immigrant unemployment is high, recent unrest can hardly be blamed on austerity. Successive governments have poured billions into problem areas in public investments, with limited success. In addition to free health care and other services, a family of four in Sweden is entitled to around $3,000 in welfare benefits each month. Last year, every middle-school pupil in one of Husby’s public schools received a brand-new iPad. (A total of 2,300 tablets have been distributed to local schools.)

Nor is Islam the cause of the riots. Radical Islamism is a problem, but it’s not related to this unrest. Most rioters appeared to be secular, even atheist. Some were Christian Assyrians. Frankly, most young immigrants in Sweden today do not care much about Islam. A far more potent influence than Islam on the Swedish ghetto is American gangster rap.

[. . .]

Making matters worse, multiculturalism morally privileges Third World cultures over Western culture. It preaches a modern version of original sin, damning Western civilization for historical crimes such as colonialism and racism. Much of public discourse today is devoted to endlessly reciting the historic crimes of the West. The problem with this discourse is not that the West is innocent of these crimes; it is not. The problem is that the blame-the-West interpretation of world history is one-sided. Endlessly recounting Western crimes against humanity while ignoring similar crimes committed by non-Westerners creates a dark and biased image of Western civilization. Meanwhile, the West’s contributions to humanity — such as democracy, the scientific revolution, human rights, and the industrial revolution — are downplayed or falsely credited to other cultures.

Resentment toward the West makes integration harder. Immigrants learn — and make use of — the message of victimhood, which fosters hostility toward their host society. And claiming victim status is appealing from a psychological perspective, as it confers moral superiority. Immigrants who wish to integrate and adopt a Swedish identity are accused of “acting white” or being “an Uncle Tom.” The latter is not a translation from Swedish; the American phrase “Uncle Tom” is the actual term of abuse.

In the face of this litany of crimes, Swedes have developed a deep sense of collective guilt and consequently lack the cultural self-confidence to integrate immigrants. The former leader of the Social Democratic opposition famously stated: “I believe that this is why Swedes are jealous of immigrants. You have a culture, an identity, a history, something that binds you together. What do we have? We have Midsummer’s Eve and other lame things.” Not to be outdone in the department of self-abasement, the current right-of-center prime minister added: “The fundamentally Swedish is merely barbarism. The rest of development has come from outside.” Note that this fierce hostility toward Swedish culture does not originate with Muslim immigrants; it comes from Swedish elites, including liberals to the left and libertarians to the right (there are no conservatives in Sweden). Swedish libertarians are, if possible, even more militantly hostile toward Sweden as a nation-state and to the very notion of patriotism.

While I’m sure that Swedish libertarians exist, I have to say that they’ve managed to stay pretty carefully out of my view.

May 30, 2013

Latest EU legal move may drive support to UKIP

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:13

Mats Persson explains why Nigel Farage and UKIP may see a spike of support when the latest legal challenge gets going:

The European Commission will today take the UK to the European Court of Justice — the body meant to police the EU treaties — over its rules on EU migrants’ access to benefits. The Commission says the UK’s so-called “right to reside” test — a filter used to make sure that EU migrants are eligible to claim benefits — is illegal under EU law as British citizens pass it automatically. The UK Government is disputing this claim saying it is clear that the UK rules “are in line with EU law.” In other words, the folks in Brussels are about to throw a hand grenade into the already red-hot domestic EU debate.

The legal details around this case are hugely complex as are the rules governing EU migrants’ access to benefits [...] But essentially, this is about the EU’s one-size-fits-all model sitting poorly with the UK’s ‘universalist’ welfare system, which is largely made up of means tested benefits rather than contribution-based benefits — unlike many other systems in Europe. The UK government feels it needs a filter — practically and politically — to make sure migrants come here to work rather than to claim benefits. Legally this is a grey area but it’s clear that the Commission is taking the strictest interpretation.

As I’ve argued before, claims that EU migrants come here in droves to claim benefits are widely exaggerated — and free movement of workers has been largely beneficial for the UK and Europe. However, it’s clear that the combination of immigration, Europe and benefits is one of the potentially most toxic ones in modern day politics, so needs to be treated with kid gloves. Even if all the evidence suggests EU migrants are less likely to claim benefits than British citizens, the perception of “benefit tourism” is still absolutely explosive.

April 30, 2013

Shikha Dalmia: This was not Rand Paul’s finest moment

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:18

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bomb attack, Republican politicians didn’t cover themselves in glory:

Remember the story about the drunk who loses his car keys in the forest but looks for them under a lamp post because that’s where the light is? Conservative calls to fight terrorism in the wake of the Boston attack by ditching immigration reform make just as much sense.

The difference is that the drunk’s efforts were merely futile. Conservative efforts are also dangerous because they ignore the security threat that Big Government poses.

No sooner was it revealed that the two bombers were Russian emigres of Chechen heritage than Iowa’s Sen. Charles Grassley declared that the attacks show that America needs to “beef up security checks,” not let more newcomers in. Rep. Steven King, also a committed restrictionist from Iowa, demanded we pause and look at “the big picture” on immigration, as if seven years since the last failed effort at reform is not enough.

Most disappointing was Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky’s switcheroo. Last month, he distanced himself from his party’s harsh anti-immigration rhetoric. This week he counseled that we rethink visas for foreign students, never mind that neither of the Brothers Tsarnaev ever obtained one.

None of this, however, would have prevented the attack given that the Tsarnaev brothers obtained asylum around 2002 at the ages of 8 and 15 along with their parents, fleeing persecution in Russia. Reportedly, the older brother Tamerlan, a boxing champion, became radicalized only eight years later, after his mother, not seriously religious then, reminded him of his Islamic faith’s strictures to wean him off alcohol and drugs. When he met his wife, Katherine Russell, at a nightclub, he was a nominally pious, somewhat confused young adult with few signs that he’d become a raving zealot.

April 15, 2013

Why UKIP has been drawing support away from the Conservatives

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:59

In the Telegraph, Ed West explains some of the reasons for UKIP’s rise in support at the expense of David Cameron’s Tories:

Across the North of England, Ukip is able to appeal to a wide range of socially conservative people who hate the Tories as the people who destroyed their towns and yet are voting for Thatcher’s heir.

The key to David Cameron’s failure, in 2010 and since, has been the pursuit of the centre ground. The key to Ukip’s success is their understanding that there’s no such thing, and that on a range of issues — health, transport and jobs — the public are more Left-wing than the powers that be, and on several others — crime, Europe and immigration — they’re considerably more Right-wing. Whether Ukip’s economic policies would help working-class people is open to debate, although restricting unskilled immigration would help.

The cornerstone of Ukip’s support is the subject of mass immigration, which is not only an unpopular process in itself, but tends to create a code of dishonesty and cant in the political class, further driving them apart from the public. It is an issue inescapably tied up with the European Union, and Ukip has successfully (so far) negotiated a middle course close to the centre of public opinion; most people do not share the political elites’ talk about “Britain’s diversity is its strength”, but neither do they dislike immigrants or wish to support the politics of hate. They just don’t want their country changed beyond recognition, and don’t see why they should be condemned for this.

None of this would matter, of course, if people had particular confidence that one of the major parties knew what they were doing with the economy. As it is, Labour got us into this mess, while having George Osborne in charge rather feels like being on an aeroplane where the company owner’s 12-year-old son has insisted on being the pilot. I hope he knows what he’s doing, but I’m prepared to let someone else have a go.

March 10, 2013

Do they have to destroy the Republican Party to save it?

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:00

The defeat of the Republicans in the last US federal election has a lot of them starting to consider radical changes to the party in order to attract new voters. Some of these proposed changes are so radical that it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t rupture the party and drive away nearly as many as they hope to bring in. The farcical notion of a “conservative welfare state“, for example, would likely jettison any last vestiges of reducing the size of government:

[Matthew] Continetti is not the first conservative to argue — falsely as I note in an upcoming piece for Reason magazine — that courting new constituencies such as Hispanics, Asian Americans and other minorities will require the party to give up even its pretense of limited government. Still, Continetti’s basic point that the GOP does not have a coherent ideology that will allow it to court new constituencies while hanging on to its old ones is well taken. After all, how does the party appeal to the “millennial generation” that includes gays, young foodies and indie-music listening hipsters without losing the meat-and-potato social conservatives in, say, Charleston, South Carolina?

Continetti’s answer, dusted off from a 1975 essay by Irving Kristol, is that what the GOP needs is an authentically conservative version of the liberal welfare state. To fashion such a state, Continetti argues, would require:

    Republicans to revisit some of the assumptions they have held since the end of the Cold War. Maybe the foremost concern of most Americans is not the top marginal income tax rate. Maybe you can’t seriously lower health care costs without radically overhauling the way we pay for health care. Maybe a political party can’t address adequately such middle-class concerns as school quality and transportation without using the power of government. Maybe the globalization of capital and products and labor hasn’t been an unimpeachable good.

I am all for rethinking post-Cold War assumptions, but do we have to throw globalization and trade liberalization under the bus in the process? After all, hostility to trade has become passé even among Third World anti-trade activists such as Vandana Shiva — the last ones holding their finger in the dyke to stop globalization. This is in no small part due to the debunking done by economists such as Jagdish Bhagwati who have shown that even the immediate losers of trade liberalization win in the long run. So what is the point of reviving this animus especially since Continetti offers no new (or even old) evidence of trade’s downside?

[. . .]

In short, the ideal conservative welfare state would be a libertarian dystopia of even bigger proportions than the liberal welfare state. There is less welfare and more state in it.

But what is deeply ironic is that a magazine that accuses libertarians of isolationism because they oppose American military interventionism has no qualms about recommending a restrictionist immigration policy to keep foreigners out and a protectionist trade policy to keep foreign goods out. If I had to pick a term for this foreign policy, I’d call it neo-isolationism. And maybe I lack imagination, but it is hard to see how a party that wants to engage the world through its “fearsome military” — rather than through voluntary exchange and mutual cooperation — could gain enough moral high ground to craft a winning political message, especially in a war-weary country.

February 2, 2013

Romania responds to British anti-immigration talk

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:01

Romania’s Gandul has a bit of fun at Britain’s expense:

Gandul - Why don't you come over

Public fears in the UK over mass immigration by Eastern Europeans has prompted a peculiar response from Romania: One newspaper published a series of ads playing on British cultural stereotypes, and saying why people should move to Romania instead.

­“Our draft beer is less expensive than your bottled water,” one of the ads proudly states, hinting at the high costs of living in the UK. Another ad made fun of British cuisine: “We serve more food groups than pies, sausage, fish and chips.”

Other ads touched upon politics, weather and even women: “Half of our women look like Kate. The other half, like her sister.”

The ‘Why don`t you come over?’ ad campaign was designed by the online Romanian newspaper Gandul and GMP Advertising firm in response to numerous reports in the British media about a possible government initiative to launch a negative ad campaign discouraging Romanians and Bulgarians from coming to work in Britain.

Update, 13 September: The campaign just won a Gold Award at AdStars.

Older Posts »
« « Hidden under Britain’s defence HQ: Henry VIII’s wine cellar| Cris Carter (finally) voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame » »

Powered by WordPress