Pete Buttigieg

Met Pete Buttigieg today. I read his book and was impressed by his intellect.

I am not impressed when politicians present detailed plans. Everybody should know that the detailed plans will always fail, as the conditions presidents face will be different from those they imagine. What I liked about Buttigieg is that instead of detailed plans, he talks about the intellectual process that we reach goals. It might seems a subtle difference, but it is important. During his brief talk today, he said that the best thing we can do is envision the future we want and then work to figure out how to get there. He didn’t say it, but I think it implied the iterative approach that is best for addressing complex problems.

He didn’t engage in that anger you too often hear on the campaign trail. He was critical of the “current president” but specifically showed respect for those who voted for him. He said that the election was not the cause but the result of frustration. Some people voted for a candidate that they did not love because they wanted change.

Asked about foreign policy, he supported our network of alliances, adding that American values are important in the world and that we had the responsibility to advocate for them in our deeds and our words.

I literally got an elevator speech with Pete. After the talk, there was the usual milling around and I thought I there was nothing more for me to see, so I went to the elevator. Just about the time it arrive, Buttigieg and his entourage showed up. I offered to take the next one, but he invited me in. I told him that I had read his book. He said that he wrote to book to show the kind of guy he was, rather than just a long political advert. I said that I was impressed, but it might be that he is too intellectual to play well with much of the electorate. He responded that problems were nuanced and required nuanced solutions. I agree. He said that he got along alright with the people in Indiana and thought that people could understand the complexity if properly presented.

Seemed a good guy. Let’s see how it does.

My first picture is the standard photo with the candidate. Next is the Capitol. It was very pleasant day. Extraordinarily fresh for middle June. Last is part of the green roof at the building where we met.

The Senkaku paradox: Risking great power war over small stakes

The Senkaku paradox refers to something unimportant causing a major war, as all sides escalate until it all gets out of hand. That is the World War I scenario. Nobody got what they thought, much less what they wanted.

I rode down to see Michael O’Hanlon talk about this paradox. The Senakaku Islands are totally unimportant. Nobody lives there. Nobody goes there. Their total land area is only seven square kilometers. They don’t even qualify as islands under the law of the sea. But China has begun to talk about claiming them. They are currently “administered” by Japan, but not even claimed by the Japanese. How can these piles of rocks constitute a risk?
The Chinese are using this as a provocation. It is a matter of pride and principle. This is what happens when there is no practical value and it makes negotiations harder, since nobody can trade concessions.

The “islands” are covered by the USA-Japan defense treaty, so if the Chinese make a move on them, the USA is bound to help Japan. Failing that would harm the alliance. Doing it would risk a war over something nobody cares about. This is the paradox.
O’Hanlon also talked about Putin. China is a rising power, and rising powers are dangerous to the established order. Russia is a declining power, and declining powers are even worse. Consider that World War I was provoked to a large extent by a declining power, Austria-Hungary, trying to hold on to its fading glory.

Putin wants to weaken NATO. What if he made some “small” aggression into a Baltic country, something too small to fight about but big enough to endanger the alliance if left untended?

O’Hanlon suggests sanctions aimed very precisely against Russian gas and oil. This is better deployed as a threat than a response.

Putin can be put on notice if the Europeans build more ports for liquefied natural gas. Putin would know that we COULD be serious about cutting off his markets. W/o energy sales, Russia is just a 3rd world country.

Fracking has greatly weaken lots of bad guys, chiefly Putin and the Iranians.
Anyway, good talk and worth the time going down.

I have a personal story about Michael O’Hanlon. Back in 2007 I ran State Department Worldwide Speaker Program. I noticed that too many of our speakers were Bush supporters. I was myself a Bush supporter, but our mandate was to represent all the diversity of American opinion and I respect the principle, so I checked into it.
I learned that some programmers were avoiding “controversial” speakers, and by controversial they meant possible Bush opponents. The irony is that most of the programmers were liberal Democrats. They feared the reaction, even if there had never been one. They believed those intolerant myths.

I reiterated our long-standing policy of representing all of America and told everybody that if there were any complaints to send them my way. Among the people I asked our programmers to recruit was O’Hanlon. He had written lots of good articles. They were often critical of Bush but thoughtful. I don’t recall if he ever traveled for us, but he was contacted, as were many other thoughtful liberals.

We got only one complaint. A couple colleagues showed up in my office looking scared. They said there had been a complaint that one of our speakers was critical of Bush. I determined that the complaint was unjustified and then asked who complained. I assumed that no experienced diplomat would lodge such complaint. Still, I was relieved to find out it was nobody important, some pissant junior officer who had yet to learn not to antagonize his betters. We could safely do nothing and nothing is what we did. I told my guys not even to answer the guy. So ended a tempest in a teapot.

Let’s hope that other small things like that end w/o even whimper. It is too easy to make little things big when you think small.

The Senkaku paradox: Risking great power war over small stakes1

A simpler and better way to choose students

This is the simple, fair & transparent solution. Determine threshold requirements based on a combination of tests, grades and courses taken. This might produce many more qualified students than places available. Then do a lottery.

There is no such thing as a “whole person” at 18-years-old. Any attempt to be more precise in assessments is silly and invites bias and corruption. Keep it simple and it is harder to cheat.

Almost all kids who want to go to college can go to college today. The problem comes from the artificial scarcity created by the “top” universities. A lottery addresses this. It also makes the kids less crazy competitive and would make them less hierarchical.

Consider that today if a kid is rejected by a university, she feels personally aggrieved, maybe suspects cheating. The lottery would not eliminate the sorrow, but it would mitigate the anger and the hurt.

I feel strongly about this and have articulated it for years in more detailed form. IMO, the big reason we do not eliminate the anxiety in admissions is that too many benefit from it.
One more thing. Consider that those kids that got in through the dishonest procures discussed in the recent scandal evidently did okay in those “competitive” schools. Some have already graduated. What does that say about the emissions process? Beyond the threshold requirements, it is not better than random chance, just more anxiety causing, expensive and opaque.

Brunswick stew

We went down to the forests to do the usual look around.  Trees are looking okay.  They will soon start their spring growth.  We stopped to see our local friends who were making Brunswick stew.  This is the signature dish of Brunswick County, where the forests are located.

You see they make it in big pots.  The hunt club uses the stew as a fund raiser.  They told me that they had originally used the stew pots to make stew as fundraiser to rebuild the local church, destroyed by fire. 

Old Dogs

Younger people think us baby-boomers had it made but this was not really true. Older baby-boomers, who became adults in the 1960s, enjoyed a great economy. Younger ones, who became adults in the 1970s, faced high unemployment and stagflation, economic times more challenging than we face today, at least for youth. One reason we are well educated is that we stayed in school because we couldn’t find good steady work. 

I noticed an interesting story in the WSJ talking about how older workers are being affected more acutely then even younger workers by current doldrums. Take a look at this chart and count backwards. Younger baby-boomers were young during the rotten times of the 1970s and are now the old of the rotten times today.  

But let’s share a deeper fear. As a 57-year old, I am afraid that my skills are becoming – have become – obsolete. Experience means much less in a world that is rapidly changing and in some cases old skills may actually become a liability. Thirty years of experience in one line of work may be of no value looking for a job in another.  There is also the assumption that young people know the tricks of technology that old dogs cannot learn.  

I think this is why older workers fear losing their jobs so much. Once we fall out, our chances of getting back in are limited. Those with the means may simply choose early retirement; others will just be poor and this period of unemployment may well affect their life prospects for the next thirty years or until they shuffle off this mortal coil, poorer, sadder but perhaps not wiser. 

Random chance plays a big role in our lives. Those who are successful are less often the smartest or the quickest than those who keep trying.  As you get older, you have fewer roles of the dice left and often fewer places to throw them. I don’t have a solution to this problem, which more or less reflects the human condition. But I do point it out to those who might think that unemployment among older people is a situation that doesn’t matter so much since they can retire.

The End of a Long Day

I left Milwaukee at around 5:30 this morning and got to Dodge City at a little after 9:30 tonight.  I got to experience all kinds of weather.  It was raining hard when I left Milwaukee.  I also ran into a particularly violent thunderstorm in Kansas.  In between it was cool and cloudy in Iowa and humid and sunny in parts of Kansas.  After the big rain in Kansas, I ran into a “rain” of grasshoppers.  There were thousands kind of them on a part of the road. It really messed up the windshield.

It really wasn’t too bad of a drive until it got dark.  My last couple of hours were down a very dark two-lane Kansas road.  I got stuck behind a truck, but I figured that it wasn’t so bad.  The truck was moving at almost the speed limit and I figured he would plow off the road any night-active animals, such as the now very common deer. This is my longest day. I won’t have to drive this far alone again on this trip and that is good.

About the pictures – the top one is HWY 151 in Western Wisconsin. You can see how the road cuts through the limestone.  Next is a Kansas field with windmills.  The third picture is the start of what used to be the blue stem prairies (now mostly corn fields) in the Flint Hills in Kansas.  It was interesting to see the change.  In Missouri and Eastern Kansas, the trees are thick. Then they thin out. There are more trees now than there were originally (i.e. before white settlement) since modern people suppress fire.  

Below is the Sinclair gas station. I filled up there because I like the logo.  There was a Sinclair Station on Howell Ave when I was a kid.  I like the dinosaur logo than and I still like it now. Just above this paragraph is the “big sky” in Kansas from behind the windshield.   The picture, as usual, didn’t do a great job of picking up the light contrasts.

Below is from my last day in Milwaukee.  George Webb has, IMO, great but simple hamburgers. 

Some Thoughts on Immigration

My grandfather was an immigrant who came to this country w/o particular skills. Back in those days there were lots of jobs that didn’t require skills and his education was about the same as that of the average American at the time. Today we can still use immigrants, but maybe not those uneducated masses like grandpa.

We should allow MORE legal immigrants,but we should choose the types of people we want and need. Literally millions of smart & skilled people would bring their skills here within days if we would let them. There is no shortage of applicants. WE should choose who gets to come to our country. Sorry, grandpa. Today you need at least a HS education or comparable tech background and you need to speak English if you want to make yourself useful.

People say that we need somebody to do the dirty work that we don’t want to do. This is only partly true. We still need some temporary farm workers, given the seasonality of that work. But there is no reason why these guys cannot go home at the end of the season. If we had a system that allowed them to come when needed and then come back again, I think many would indeed choose to do just that. Besides that, cheap labor is a mixed blessing.

Cheap unskilled labor creates its own demand. We employ lots of people doing crap jobs like blowing leaves because they work cheap. If we didn’t have cheap labor, we wouldn’t bother doing many of these jobs or we would use machines to do them. Cheap labor makes it less profitable to invest in new technologies to replace labor. We “need” cheap immigrant labor because we have cheap labor. Many jobs could be restructured or replaced by machines if we had to pay more for workers. It is a fairly simple equation.

I used to load cement bags. They had a dozen of us piling bags on pallets. Now they have one guy with a machine. We used to work twelve hour days; this guy doesn’t even come in to work every day. They don’t even use the bags at all most of the time. Now they just load cement directly. Dozens of dirty jobs have been eliminated by redesign. Some smart guy’s ideas replaced our many dirty and blistered hands. But if labor had been really cheap, nobody would have bothered doing that. Cheap labor retards development in anything but they very short run.

The fact is that you don’t get prosperous by hard work and there is nothing virtuous about working hard at low productivity. That is just for people who don’t know any better or are doing it for the exercise. People in the past worked physically harder than we do now and people in many poor countries still do but none of us wants to trade places with them. The key to prosperity is managing the connections, understanding the exchanges and working smarter. That is why we pay so little for unskilled labor. It is not worth very much. Knowing what to do and how to do it better is almost always worth more than actually performing the task. Brains won the battle with brawn long ago, even if some still ain’t heard the word.

Some jobs cannot be automated, but many of those jobs now done by immigrants used to be done by American teenagers or college students and could be again. I worked at McDonald’s, Burger King and several Italian restaurants whose names I cannot recall when I was in HS and college. My kids had trouble finding work at fast food places because they were competing with immigrants who would work almost full time. I say almost full time because employers are very careful not to let them work 40 hours where they would get benefits. Employers prefer immigrants to American young people because they are more reliable and easier to exploit. These are not indispensable reasons and may not even be good ones.

I don’t want my country to be competitive in low-wage industries, so I prefer not to import low-wage workers. I like the guys who come to America and open businesses, make software or do some things that create wealth. Immigrants account for about a third of the tech workforce in Silicon Valley. These guys make the big bucks and they create jobs in America. Good. Let’s have more of them and fewer of the cheap ones.

Changes in Attitudes; Changes in Behaviors

Influence means changing behaviors. Changing attitudes, raising awareness and altering opinions are all important but ONLY to the extent that they lead to changed behaviors. Research shows that the link between most attitudes and behaviors is sometimes weak and sometimes not present at all. (Most of the people who hate us don’t try to harm us and many of the people who try to harm us don’t hate us.)   

Those were some of the surprising things I heard at a presentation yesterday. The guy said that we have to look for the drivers of behaviors, which may be very different from what we think they are what people say they are or even what the people involved themselves believe they are.

He gave the example of a middle aged man who buys and expensive car. If you ask him why he wants that Corvette or Jaguar, he will probably tell you (and believe) that it is because of the performance, the fine leather seats, the comfort and reliability etc. What he is really doing is trying to impress others.   

Many times the drivers of behaviors involve social inclusion. People want to be part of a group and/or improve their status within it. The reasons they give are often rationalizations.  It is hard to find the accurate reasons by asking the people  involved, since they are often deceiving even themselves, but ask the neighbors and acquaintances. The middle aged owner of a muscle car thinks he is just interested in the vehicle.  His neighbors know that he bought it to show off his wealth or impress women with his still youthful and powerful outlook.  

Our public diplomacy goal is to have deep influence on large groups and this is very hard. Nobody else really does this. When you look to the advertising world, you see that they are usually trying to influence shallow, short term decisions. They want to sell a product or service and that requires little in the way of long term influence. Politics is not much better. The whole campaign culminates in a single transaction, which costs the person nothing and requires no long term commitment.  As politicians learn to their sorrow, the extreme love the voters profess for them on Election Day usually will not translate into long term behavioral change and will not even guarantee a repeat of the same behavior two or four years down the road.

This is why public diplomacy remains an art and not a science. It is complicated by the fact that we are working in other cultures, but knowing the culture is also not enough. (I am always suspicious of those “experts” who claim to know what 1.2 million Muslims or a billions Chinese are really thinking.  Experts like that are a blight that should be avoided.)  We Americans know our own cultures very well, but how many of us can accurately predict, let alone influence the behaviors of our compatriots six month in the future? We have to understand before we can influence, but where to start?

It is good to look at what people have been doing for a long time and accept that they have a good reason for doing what they do. It may not be a correct reason from our point of view.  It may not even be objectively accurate, but it is a driver of behavior because it serves some useful purpose from the point of view of the person doing it.  

So the first task is to identify the driver of behaviors we want to encourage or slow down and then address them, recognizing that the ostensible driver is probably not the real one.   Our confusion about the stated driver and the real ones is a reason why many of our outreach efforts produce the results they do.   

A terrorist might say that he wants to kill to avenge some earlier perceived wrong, but he is not telling the truth (even if he believes it).  Put in a pragmatic way, removing his ostensible grievance would not change his behavior, although it might impel him to revise his grievance list.  I thought of last week’s talk by Ghaffar Hussein on understanding radicals.

So … what do we do?

First we admit that it is not easy. Public diplomacy is not a science, but it can benefit from some scientific methods. The first should be to have some firm behavior based objectives. A goal to “change attitudes” or “raise awareness” is not sufficient. I have to admit that it would be hard for me to come up with objectives for many of our general public diplomacy programs, but the task is easier when we are talking about countering radicals.  We might define goals such as “cut donations to radical groups,” “reduce recruitment,” or “eliminate offers of safe havens.” After that, we need to formulate a hypothesis about how this might happen as a result of our work. This would be something we could test.  We don’t do this very often and the speaker  offered that some of our attempts at Muslim engagement don’t really do much of anything, since the real drivers of behavior are not our attitudes toward Islam, and even if they were we would not have the authority or credibility to address them.   

The proliferation of information on the web has proven a wonderful laboratory for social research, since you can see relationships, sometimes literally graphically. The web has shown itself to be a decent measure of non-web behavior, but so far is less useful as a driver.  Some of this has to do with us. Very often we are not present in the places where influence is exerted and if we are there, we are not authoritative enough to make an impact.

Influence and authority are not fungible. This is a bit of a change on the web versus earlier times. You used to have influence or authority because of the influence or authority of the sender. We listened to the official BECAUSE he was the official.  Here the USG is acting from a position of disadvantage. Most of the people we want to influence don’t respect our authority in the subjects at hand. Star power has also greatly diminished. A celebrity can draw a crowd, but influence only follows from having something compelling to say. Now the power lies in the reception of the audience. And it is not only how many listen to you, but more importantly WHO.   Most people are not influential.  You want to get the respect of those who are. You have to appeal to the influencers and to do that you have to have something THEY will consider new or useful. 

Technologies can help us identify the influentials and the links among them. We can see the content, topology (links) and dynamics of networks in ways and detail we never could before.  LES (latent Semantic analysis), the stuff Google uses, does a great job identifying patterns. Language reveals biases and ideologies and so these systems are very useful.  But the computer cannot read.  It just sees a bag of words and sorts them based on their proximity. We need to see or create useful taxonomy and there is no structured or permanent taxonomy, so we just cannot let it go by itself. There is no garden w/o the gardener and nobody has yet invented a perpetual motion device.

Once again we come back to the human factor.  Humans influence humans. Our systems can supplement and enable human expertise, but they cannot replace it. We still have to set the goals and monitor the progress because if we don’t know where we are going, we probably will end up someplace else. Our technologies will help us get to the wrong place faster.

Talking to the Dead

I am listening to a great “Teaching Company” series on Western Literature.   (BTW – you never have to pay full price for these things.  They always go on sale.)  Western literature traditions are a little out of style these days, which is a shame because the great literature really does speak to us across the centuries.   A good education has to include some knowledge of the classics and nothing can become a classic until it has been well-known enough for a long enough time to influence thought and literature in a broad sense.   In other words, no matter how great something written a couple of years ago may be, it cannot have the power of older literature.   Maybe it is a future classic, but it is not a classic yet.

Literature extends influence beyond the grave

The guy giving the lectures explained that literature is a way of talking to the dead and getting an intergenerational perspective.  I was thinking about that as I drove down to the farm last weekend.   I was listening to “Infotopia,” by Cass Sunstein.   He was talking about markets, in the broad sense to include markets for attitudes and ideas and how they aggregate the opinions and attitudes of many minds.  Literature is like that.    He mentioned that the great economist Fredrick Hayek had contended that traditions are a type of market too and you have to be careful changing established relationships, since they are essentially long-term distilled experience, a record of how people adjusted and adapted to problems over the years.   Edmund Burke made a similar observation about morality.   I did too.  When I wrote my note Found in Translation I didn’t directly recall my literature professors or Hayek or Burke, but don’t doubt that is where the ideas originated.   One of the benefits of a liberal education is that you learn all these things and if they sink in early enough and deep enough you come to think of them as your own.   There not any really new ideas; just restatements of and new compilations. 

Reformulations

The funny thing is that those w/o the “useless” liberal education often believe they thought them up for the first time.   And they often get away with it.  Many best-selling authors and highly paid speakers recycle old stuff.  I suppose they sometimes do it consciously, other times not.    You tend to get the classics in the watered down version.  I remember reading the science fiction “Foundation Trilogy” by Isaac Asimov.  I recognized it back then as a allegory of the fall of the Roman Empire.  What I didn’t get at the time was how closely the second foundation tracked with Boethius on the consolation of philosophy. Asimov was an educated man, so I think he did it on purpose.   Generations of Sci-Fi fans have essentially read Boethius.    

BTW – I first came met Boethius way back in 1975. You can go through college w/o ever coming into contact with him at all, since he has largely “fallen out of the cannon.”  I got to know him when studying Chaucer.  Boethius was a much bigger deal in the Middle Ages than he has been more recently and if you study the philosophy surrounding Chaucer’s writings, you run into Boethius. I mostly forgot about him for the last … oh thirty years. I was reminded of the details of his death by the audio program.  It was dreadful, but I guess it helped secure his position as a martyr.  After he fell afoul of the Ostrogoth King Theodoric and was executed by having wet leather straps wrapped around his head. The straps contracted as they dried and crushed his brain. It must have been very unpleasant and it is an example of man’s inhumanity to man. What kind of guy even thinks of that?  I mean really, was there a bunch of guys sitting around thinking of novel uses for wet leather straps and ones gets the eureka moment?   Well, hey, we can use these leather straps to wrap this guy’s head.

Old literature and new persuasion

I am thinking of “new” media and the arts of public diplomacy persuasion in my last couple of posts, since I am doing the FSI course on that subject, but I think this fits right in.   Consider the persistence of influence of great literature and how it is so useful to have a compete repertoire of literary images, motifs and metaphors.   After all, not only are they time-tested but they also lurk in the subconscious of our culture waiting to be revealed.  It is a good lesson in this ostensibly fast-changing world that some things move slowly but have profound influence and create sustainable structure and technologies of the mind.

And the delivery mechanism is very much new media. I get these lectures over the Internet and download them onto my I-pod.  This I-pod is smaller than a matchbox, yet can probably hold a full college curriculum of courses and lectures, along with supplementary texts. Sweet.  But how does that delivery method change how the classics are received and how about who receives them?  An old guy like me is unlikely to get them from a college professor standing in front of him.  The whole relationship to knowledge is changing.  That is new media.

The Changing Face of Hate

It might be a positive sign that there are more hate groups.  This is counter intuitive, but according what I learned at at the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of active, affiliated “haters” has actually decreased while the number of groups has gone up.  That indicates a fragmentation of the hate culture.  Maybe some people are ostensibly members of several groups and not committed to any. In the 1920s, the KKK had an estimated 4 million members and was organized enough to influence politics at the state level.  Today there are fewer than 10,000 members, mostly unorganized losers. 

I didn’t know that the Klan of the 1920s recruited most of its members by its anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant stance.  In other words, they hated people like my Polish-Catholic grandparents. That probably explains why the Klan was not strong in Wisconsin.

The speaker said that 6-10,000 hate crimes are reported each year.  Most of these crimes are now aimed at Latinos and immigrants.  Ironically, some of the perpetrators are urban blacks who fear that new immigrants are taking their jobs.  This is in many ways a repeat of the anti-immigrant ideas of generations ago and is evidently the hardy perennial of problems.

We have to be very careful in the “hate crime” designation.  It is a very broad category that can range from name-calling and vandalism to actual murder.  Even in cases of actual violence, the hate motivation is slippery.  Murder is always a crime of hate, whether or not those involved are ethnically similar.  And as in any broad distribution, the very serious instances get the most attention but are very rare.    In a classic case of vividness bias; we more easily recall extreme events and our imaginations turn to frightful images when we may have merely a more comprehensive definition or reporting.

It was much more dangerous in the past to stand up for civil rights in America than it is today and the Institute documented the history of the struggle, especially during the 1950s and 1960s.  There was a memorial listing the names of the forty people killed during those decades.   Alabama was in many ways the center of the struggle and the struggle was much more black and white and not only in terms of race.  When Martin Luther King led boycotts and marches, he was asking only for dignity that most of us agree that all humans deserve.  He was success precisely for this reason.   He appealed to the humanity, virtue and fundamental goodness of his opponents.  Some willing to use firehouses, dogs and worse against protesters, but most suffered pangs of morality.  Almost everybody could agree about what was right and wrong.

Non-violent methods work less well against jihadists or dictators willing or even eager to kill hundreds or thousands of innocent people to make their points and maintain themselves in power.  In Rwanda, Bosnia, Congo or the unfortunately many other places, murder was/is done on a vast scale and individual voices are silenced before they can be heard, sometimes even when they are heard – and murders are seen in the media – as in the recent case of the Iranian elections the regime rolls on. That is the fundamental dilemma of pacifism.  It requires a fundamentally decent society in order to work. 

It has become a lot more complicated since then, which is why I think we often hearken back to those days when right and wrong were clearly defined.  Forty five years after the Civil Right legislation, it is much harder to know which side is right on debates on affirmative action, racial preferences or even – especially – immigration.  The people as the Southern Poverty institutes talked more about immigration than anything else.  Maybe it was just because of the nature of our questions, but I suspect that the direction has indeed turned.

IMO, immigration is much more nuanced and problematic as a civil rights issue.  Good people can disagree about fundamental values.  Of course, individual immigrants are entitled to civil rights and human dignity.  But the act of immigration is not a right and an immigrant who enters the country illegally has committed a crime, no matter what we consider the motivations. A country is also entitled to design its immigration laws as it sees fit. 

I am generally in favor of immigration, since it strengthens the diversity of our country, but there are plenty of problems I do not want to import.  I don’t want immigration that encourages things like the Russian mafia, human trafficking or drugs.  Most people would agree with me on the broad direction, but some of the details of procedures and laws would work against this.  And clever reading of rules can provide “rights” to some pretty bad people in situations that good people might not have envisioned.  I would hate to see the definition of hate expanded to encompass vigorous debate about immigration.

The discussion of immigration inevitably turned to race.  Most new immigrants are non-white, but race is not a necessary dominant factor.  The focus on race indicates a lack of historical understanding or perspective. There are plenty of reasons to advocate strict immigration rules that have nothing to do with race. I remember when our rejection rate in Poland was over half and as I mentioned above the KKK disliked Polish-Catholics.  It just now happens that no European countries now have the growing populations that export people, so that is no longer an issue. The problem with immigration is that immigrants bring different values and often create economic dislocation. Most people want SOME change; not many people want comprehensive change.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to keep change manageable or even not wanting much of it at all.  America is a great country.  It makes sense to be careful when changing a good thing, since usually more things can go wrong than go right.

Frankly I don’t want my country to become more like most countries I have visited in many ways. That is not saying we should just freeze in place.  A culture that doesn’t change, dies.  I like the America of 2009 better than the America of 1969 in most ways. I just want us to get the best, not the worst of what the world offers.  We don’t want to just open the doors and let whoever or whatever come.  It is our right to choose. That is why I want rights to remain attached to individuals, not activities, not groups.  If you protect the people, other legitimate things follow.  It doesn’t work the other way around.