Is Arguing About Politics a Waste of Time?

Friday, April 30, AD 2010

This study suggests an interesting reason why that may be the case:

The investigators used functional neuroimaging (fMRI) to study a sample of committed Democrats and Republicans during the three months prior to the U.S. Presidential election of 2004. The Democrats and Republicans were given a reasoning task in which they had to evaluate threatening information about their own candidate. During the task, the subjects underwent fMRI to see what parts of their brain were active. What the researchers found was striking.

“We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning,” says Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory who led the study. “What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts.” Westen and his colleagues will present their findings at the Annual Conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Jan. 28.

Once partisans had come to completely biased conclusions — essentially finding ways to ignore information that could not be rationally discounted — not only did circuits that mediate negative emotions like sadness and disgust turn off, but subjects got a blast of activation in circuits involved in reward — similar to what addicts receive when they get their fix, Westen explains.

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16 Responses to Is Arguing About Politics a Waste of Time?

  • Thanks for sharing this. The findings of this study seems to correspond very well with reality.

  • Studies such as this are indeed interesting.

    I caution against an extreme over-reliance on cold calculation and equally extreme disavowals of the validity and legitimacy of human emotions.

    We have emotions and instincts for a reason – survival. They alert us to threats and dangers and they provide incentives to avoid bad situations.

    Of course reason is a higher function, one unique to man, and so we should always strive for rational analysis. What I see so often, though, are claims that these two ways of analyzing and experiencing things are mutually exclusive. They are not.

    In the modern world I believe the tension between the two stems from what I would call an information overload. In past societies, and this is just a hypothesis, people had limited and often highly trusted sources of information – the church, their local leaders, etc.

    Now there is a deluge of data, and even people with above average intelligence and education can’t be sure who to trust, especially in politics, especially in the social sciences. How can we know that the methodologies used are sound? That their creators aren’t ideologically biased? Climategate shows we cannot be sure, that the science is not settled, and that the person who claims to bring you “the facts” could be bringing you falsehoods.

    What positions we take in politics, I believe, comes down to a few things – and one of them is who we put our trust in for an accurate picture of reality.

    We also have a legitimate desire to pick a side and stick with it. Once we do that, we just want to go about our business, we want our side to prevail.

    I’ve changed teams more than once in my life and it gets old. Not only that, but when you do it, people question your stability and resolve. Consistency is so highly valued among people of all educational and intelligence levels that people will forgo changing their opinion in the face of clear evidence so that they don’t appear to have been wrong. There is massive pressure to be consistent, and less pressure to simply be right.

    Of course, oftentimes, people aren’t mentally agile enough to understand that things they believe are contradictions are only really antagonisms. So they will embrace contradiction instead of exploring the possibility that the two premises are both true.

  • “At the same time, it is somewhat troubling that people are (paradoxically) the least rational about the subjects in which they are the most emotionally invested.”

    I don’t see the paradox. I expect this all the time, especially in myself.

    Aren’t dispassion and “apatheia” normally considered virtues that correct emotionalism?

    How many partisans are actually familiar with the basic rules of logic and non-contradiction? Their basic failure is they forget that only God is above criticism.

  • One must be careful with such studies. First, no one really knows how the brain works. We have a good sense of what parts of the brain do, but some areas of the brain such as the frontal lobes are still unclear. Also how neural networks interact to aid thought is quite another thing.

    Then there are concerns about fMRI actually proving what it sets out to do. Many questions here especially about other stimuli during the test interfering etc. Also questions about statistical methods. See here:

    Bottom line. In 100 years this study might be in the medical library next to phrenology.

  • “and politically neutral male control figures such as actor Tom Hanks”

    An odd choice considering that Hanks is a left wing activist and appeared in the Dan Brown Catholic bashing Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.

    Color me unimpressed by the study. We are in our infancy in understanding the human brain and I think we will never truly comprehend the human mind. Political beliefs can change swiftly depending upon the circumstances: Reagan Democrats, Obama Republicans, etc, and I believe most people are always susceptible to a convincing argument. It may not convince them today, but it may give food for thought that will cause a modification in belief down the road combined with other factors.

    “In 100 years this study might be in the medical library next to phrenology.”

    Words to live by Phillip in regard to much of cutting edge science.

  • I take your point that our understanding of brain functioning is incomplete. At the same time, even if the observations about the specific areas of the brain incorrect, the study still provides strong evidence about the behavior of partisans. We may be wrong about the mechanism, but not the behavior. The specific criticisms you raise relate to behavior.

    An odd choice considering that Hanks is a left wing activist and appeared in the Dan Brown Catholic bashing Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.

    The study was conducted in 2004. The Da Vinci Code came out in 2006; Hanks has never been a particularly controversial figure. Additionally, the study found that people were able to identify hypocritical statements when made by Mr. Hanks and the opposing candidate; just not when made by their preferred candidate. This suggests Mr. Hanks was not closely identified by the respondents with either party.

    Political beliefs can change swiftly depending upon the circumstances: Reagan Democrats, Obama Republicans, etc, and I believe most people are always susceptible to a convincing argument.

    Of course, people can change their minds. What this study highlights is that committed partisans – not the sort of people who change their minds every election – appear to be unable to process new information effectively. Again, this is true whether you accept the posited physical mechanisms or not; confirmation bias is a widely recognized and studied phenomenon.

  • Actually John Henry, I think committed partisans are often able to process new information quite effectively in support of their position. Rather like scientists who get a grant to run an experiment and, mirabile dictu, the data from the experiment supports the thesis they had before the experiment was run.

    There are many more things in Heaven and in Earth when it comes to human reasoning than are dreamt of by Westen and his brain scanners.

    Oh, and Mr. Westen is a partisan Democrat and a pretty silly one to boot. He believes that Democrats lose elections because they make rational arguments while Republicans rely upon emotional arguments:

    “In the last forty-five years, the American people have elected only three Democratic residents of the United States. Democrats—from the grassroots on up to the party leadership—are befuddled, confused, and angry. What led me to write this book was exactly what leads people to do everything they do, including vote: strong emotions. And that’s the central message of the book. Everything we know about mind, brain, and politics tells us that there are three things that determine how people vote, in this order: their feelings toward the parties, their feelings toward the candidates, and, if they haven’t decided by then, their feelings toward the candidates’ policy positions. Democrats have insisted on starting at the bottom of this hierarchy, practicing “trickle up” politics—the theory that voting decisions trickle up from voters’ rational assessments of candidates’ policy positions. Trickle up politics turns out to be as valid as trickle down economics. The proof is in the White House, the Congress, and the federal judiciary. The antidote lies not in familiar prescriptions of moving to the center or the left but simply in moving the electorate. The way to win elections, particularly against a party that understands how to move people, is to understand the political brain—how it evolved, how it works, and how central emotion is to it.”

    Democrats don’t lose elections in the view of Mr. Westen because their policies stink. They lose elections because they are too rational! This is the junkiest of junk science.

  • Drew Westen is a regular columnist at the Huffington Post and here is a link to a column where he tells Democrats how to sell the pro-abort message:

    “Obama wasn’t going to win over the majority of Warren’s parishioners, but he could have spoken to them in their own language while winning the hearts and minds of the majority who were listening on television. He might have begun by acknowledging the obvious, that he knew he wasn’t going to convince most of Pastor Rick’s flock, but that he was nonetheless one of them, with a comment like, “Well, I knew at some point I was going to be in there with the lions. I know many of you won’t agree with me, but I hope my answer at least leaves you with as much respect for me and my beliefs as I have for you and yours.” He could then have continued, once again drawing them in while addressing concerns about him that had been raised in recent weeks, “The Bible says that pride is a sin, and I’d be showing more pride than even John McCain thinks I have, with those celebrity and Moses ads, if I told you that I know with certainty when life begins. I wish I did, because then this would be an easy question. But here’s where I stand”:

    No one truly knows what’s in the mind of God, and I just don’t like the idea of government telling a woman or couple when they should or shouldn’t start their family based on somebody else’s interpretation of Scripture. We need to find the common ground on abortion, reflecting our shared moral beliefs, not the beliefs that divide us. We are all united in the belief that we should do everything we can to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, teen pregnancies, and abortions, starting with instilling in our children both the values and the knowledge to make good choices. And we all agree that abortion shouldn’t be used as a form of birth control and shouldn’t be an option late in pregnancy except when the mother’s life or health is in danger. I could go on and talk about how misguided I think our currently policies are that deny access to birth control to women and teenagers in our inner cities, which does nothing but perpetuate the cycle of poverty, stop young people from getting an education and fulfilling their God-given potential, and make it more likely that they’ll have children before they’re ready to be good parents. But the main point I want to make is that in this country, we don’t force one person to live by another person’s faith. This should be a personal and moral issue, not a political one.

    This is a variation of one of the messages we tested, although it is considerably longer than those messages, which we kept to about 45 seconds. I revised it here to fit both the audience and the central narrative of Obama’s campaign (the theme of focusing on what unites and not what divides us).

    I’m not claiming that this is the best or only narrative Obama could have offered on abortion. Central to Obama’s appeal is his genuineness, and the only messages he should offer voters are those that fit his values and style. But this way of talking about abortion has several features that render it a strong, principled message. It isn’t hard to come away with the central theme, because it’s offered in both the opening sentence and at the end: That as long as we do not all share the same religious beliefs, the government has no business forcing one person to live by another person’s faith. It speaks to religious freedom and government intrusion, two themes usually associated with narratives on the right but that should be central to a progressive narrative on abortion. It recognizes, as Obama did in his actual answer, that this is a moral issue, and it builds on common ground, emphasizing themes like reducing teen pregnancies and instilling values that are shared by both the left and right and hence are likely to be compelling to people in the center. And it re-enfranchises males by reminding men that they have a stake in this, too: that although ultimately the decision to abort or not to abort resides with the mother, women usually make these decisions together with their husbands or boyfriends, and that a woman or couple, not the government, should make these kinds of intensely personal decisions.”

    Gee, I wonder if Westen is one of those partisans who are unable to process new information effectively?

  • Don,

    I’d think his basic assessment about the way people vote, generally speaking, is quite true. The argument about Democrats offering “rational” policies and Republicans offering “emotionally-based” appeals is false. I think it goes both ways and on different issues.

    But his general assessment that how the electorate feels at the moment usually does decide elections.

  • In any election Eric you are going to have hard core partisans who will not be moved from their position, and to this extent the analysis is correct, although we needed no “scientific” explanation for that. That bit of wisdom is, I suspect, about as old as elections. What is also as old as elections is that hard core partisans are usually not sufficient, certainly beyond the Congressional district level, to win a majority and that political parties have to hone their messages to attract a majority. How that is done, and how it shifts from election cycle to election cycle, has always been one of the more interesting aspects of politics for me.

  • Pingback: Round Up – April 2, 2010 « Restrained Radical
  • In any election Eric you are going to have hard core partisans who will not be moved from their position, and to this extent the analysis is correct, although we needed no “scientific” explanation for that. That bit of wisdom is, I suspect, about as old as elections. What is also as old as elections is that hard core partisans are usually not sufficient, certainly beyond the Congressional district level, to win a majority and that political parties have to hone their messages to attract a majority. How that is done, and how it shifts from election cycle to election cycle, has always been one of the more interesting aspects of politics for me.

    I get the sense that you are hostile to the study, but I’m not clear on why. Mr. Westen can make inaccurate and superficial political diagnoses; that does not mean he is inaccurately reporting the results of a study that describes partisans of both parties as bad at processing information running contrary to their ideologies. He is hardly the first person to notice this, and, as you’ve acknowledged, there are plenty of voters who will never be persuaded from one election to the next (probably most of the people in the study meet that description).

    I agree that studying the Independents who move back and forth and determine most elections is interesting; but that does not mean the study doesn’t tell us something useful about the rest of the population or about how people with deeply held commitments process new information. That, to me, is one of the most valid complaints about the MSM: when over 90% of the reporters are Democrats, there are bound to be striking differences in how information is processed and reported by these individuals, regardless of their intentions. The old joke about a Republican president seen walking across the Potomac River remains as true as ever: The Wall Street Journal headline will read: “Republican President Walks on Water”; The New York Times headline will read “Republican President Can’t Even Swim”. These types of studies highlight how flawed some of our thought processes can be; that’s a valuable thing to keep in mind for the sake of intellectual honesty.

  • I think my point was that this work may actually not actually show what it purports to show. The psychology may be what you point out. But the biology, at least as argued in the study, may be completely false. Again, fMRI data may one day be shown to be even more subject to flaws, including observer bias, that global warming data. 🙂

  • Again, fMRI data may one day be shown to be even more subject to flaws, including observer bias,

    Oh, right. As I said above, I concede that we may be wrong about the physical process in the brain (the mechanism); but I think the study is useful in describing behavior even if we’re wrong about that part. As it is, I still find the guesses about what’s happening in the brain interesting, even if incomplete at this point.

  • If one takes it as an argument from psychology and not neuroscience okay. But I have serious doubts about such studies ever being able to prove a link between our thoughts and neurobiological processes.

Sheridan, Hell and Texas

Friday, April 30, AD 2010

Earlier this week I referred in this thread to General Sheridan’s quip about Hell and Texas.  Here is the background story on Sheridan’s comparison of the Hot Place and the Hot State.

Phil Sheridan could be a nasty piece of work on duty.  A bantam Irish Catholic born in Albany, New York on March 6, 1831, to Irish immigrants, Sheridan carved a career in the Army by sheer hard work and a ferocious will to win.  He had a hard streak of ruthlessness that Confederates, Indians and the many officers he sacked for incompetence could attest to.    His quote, “If a crow wants to fly down the Shenandoah, he must carry his provisions with him.” after he ordered the burning of crops in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864 to deny them to Confederate troops indicated just how hard a man he could be when waging war.

Off duty he was completely different.  He had the traditional Irish gift of gab and in social settings was charming and friendly.

After the Civil War he commanded an army of 50,000 troops in Texas to send a none-too-subtle hint to the French who had used the opportunity of the Civil War to conquer Mexico that it was time for them to leave.  The French did, with the Austrian Archduke Maximillian they had installed as Emperor of Mexico dying bravely before a Mexican firing squad.  During his stay in Texas Sheridan made his famous quip about Texas.  It was swiftly reported in the newspapers:

14 April 1866, Wisconsin State Register, pg. 2, col. 3:
GEN. SHERIDAN, after his recent Mexican tour, states his opinion succinctly and forcibly, as follows: “If I owned h-ll and Texas, I would rent Texas and live at the other place!”

“19 April 1866, The Independent, pg. 4:
But these states are not yet reduced to civil behavior. As an illustration, Gen. Sheridan sends word up from New Orleans, saying, “If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent Texas and live in Hell.” This is the opinion of a department commander.”

“15 May 1866, Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman (Boise, ID), pg. 7?, col. 3:
GEN. SHERIDAN does not have a very exalted opinion of Texas as a place of resident. Said he lately, “If I owned hell and Texas, I would rent Texas and live at the other place.” In former times, before Texas was “re-annexed,” Texas and the other place were made to stand as opposites. Thus, when Col. Crockett was beaten in his Congressional district, he said to those who defeated him, “You may go to hell, and I’ll go to Tex!” which he did, and found a grave.”

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30 Responses to Sheridan, Hell and Texas

  • He had a hard streak of ruthlessness … His quote, “If a crow wants to fly down the Shenandoah, he must carry his provisions with him.” after he ordered the burning of crops in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864 to deny them to Confederate troops indicated just how hard a man he could be when waging war.

    In other words, Sheridan, like the rest of the “total warfare” marauders on Grant’s staff, was a war criminal. Maybe he’s “enjoying” the abode he so famously chose after all.

  • Well here we go on another refight of the Civil War. Couldn’t disagree with you more Jay. Burning the crops was a perfectly legitimate tactic of war. The Shenandoah Valley had served as the main supply source for Confederate forces in northern Virginia since the beginning of the War. Burning the crops vastly increased Lee’s supply woes and hastened the end of the War. As for the ultimate fate of Sheridan, if he went to Hell I am certain that there were quite a few Southern Fireeaters there to greet him for the part they played in starting a war in defense of slavery that the South was bound to lose.

  • I will be away from my computer at a Rotary District Conference until late on Saturday in the event that this thread explodes into the Second Civil War. When I return I will take up the cudgels for the Union Forever. 🙂

  • Don’t care to re-fight the war. Just pointing out that taking warfare to the civilian population – and I would assume the farmers in the Shenandoah Valley qualify as civilian population – violates Catholic teaching.

  • I was not born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could. Before I lived her, I knew it would be hot, and plagued by mosquitoes. But between the heat, the mosquitoes and the hurricanes, I made a living out of it – just like Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and others before me.

    I will admit, like any Texan, that it’s hot down here. It’s the plain and simple truth. But any Yankee who presumes to compare Texas with hell is full of it. That’s my humble opinion, sir.

  • I’ve been critical of some of the destrection wrought by Sherman, but I’m not informed enough to criticize Sheridan. Based on the above exchange I would have to agree with Don about the destruction of crops. That tactic is as old as time, was just as critical in seige warfare as was breeching a wall, and was widespread in Christendom. I am unaware of any condemnations of the practice by the Church.

    On the other hand, Sherman’s men indescriminately and deliberately burning civilian homes is another story.

  • During the War, the U.S. developed what was called the “Lieber Code” to govern what was, and was not, acceptable military behavior.

    While harsher in many respects than we now allow, it did ban torture and “wanton” destruction of property. Significantly, it permits destruction of property if “commanded by the authorized officer.” Article 44. And despite the noble words of Article 56, the Union’s treatment of its Confederate prisoners was as bad as anything at Andersonville. Worse, really–the Union had the material means to provide better for its prisoners.

    Not so by the way, Lieber thought of himself as a compiler/harmonizer, not an innovator. Thus, his Code is a kind of declaration of the law of war as it had developed up until his time.

    Be that as it may, the actions of Sherman and Sheridan rendered the wounds of the nation that much slower to heal.

  • With 27 years in the Army, and service in 2 combat zones, I don’t claim to be a hard-core combat vet, but I’ve seen enough to provide an informed perspective. Spare the enemy’s civilian support at the expense of your own soldier’s life in combat. Spare one in exchange of the other. On which side of the equation can you tolerate more death? Sherman is quoted as saying “war is hell” and a more accurate description would be hard to come by. A commander has to make incredibly difficult decisions. As an officer, I had to figure out how to kill the enemy and spare enough of my own soldiers in a way that would still allow me to reach heaven. There were excesses in Sheridan’s campaigns and Sherman’s march to the sea, to be sure. When my time comes, I’ll find out how God judged them.

    And, since I live in Texas, I can say I like what Crockett said. To paraphrase… if you don’t like Texas, you can go to the other place… I like it here just fine!

  • From the Civil War Preservation Trust website:

    … [Grant] sent Philip Sheridan on a mission to make the Shenandoah Valley a “barren waste”.

    In September, Sheridan defeated Jubal Early’s smaller force at Third Winchester, and again at Fisher’s Hill. Then he began “The Burning” – destroying barns, mills, railroads, factories – destroying resources for which the Confederacy had a dire need. He made over 400 square miles of the Valley uninhabitable. “The Burning” foreshadowed William Tecumseh Sherman’s “March to the Sea”: another campaign to deny resources to the Confederacy as well as bring the war home to its civilians.


    In an effort to force the Plains people onto reservations, Sheridan used the same tactics he used in the Shenandoah Valley: he attacked several tribes in their winter quarters, and he promoted the widespread slaughter of American bison, their primary source of food.

    (emphasis added)

  • For a sin to condemn a man to hell, he has to know it’s a sin and embrace it anyway.

    When I learn from reliable historical sources that Sheridan, prior to burning crops, queried the Vatican website or opened his copy of the Catechism, found teachings there not to his liking, and ignored them, I will then assume that he willfully committed mortal sin in the burning.


    My point is not merely that earlier generations found it more difficult, for purely technological reasons, to reliably know Church teaching on difficult topics when they arose.

    It is also that earlier eras have tended towards sins other than those towards which we tend. For of course one possible rejoinder to my wise-acre remark above would be, “But it’s obvious that burning crops would be sinful!” To you, maybe. But not to every Christian who ever lived in every era.

    If earlier eras were often without mercy, then our era is often without chastity and courage and industry. We look at them and wonder how they could have sunk to the level of burning crops. They look at us and wonder how we could have sunk to the level of producing and maintaining a trillion-dollar pornography industry to help us fill the hours when we aren’t watching American Idol.

    Anyhow, I hope Sheridan is in heaven after a fitting, but not interminable, purgation. And I think that hope is not improbable.

  • I certainly don’t hope or condemn Sheridan to hell. Not my place, so to speak. My comment was a tongue-in-cheek play on Sheridan’s own desire to live in hell rather than in my home state.

    As to the rest of your comment, taking warfare to the populace was controversial even in Sheridan’s time, and, as the link I provided indicates, he did far more to take the war to the populace than merely burn some crops.

    Especially in the example of what he did with regard to the plains Indians. You’d think an Irishman might have qualms about taking an action that forces the starvation of whole peoples.

  • Don’t mess with Texas.

    Here is a quote of General Sherman that provides timeless truth.

    “If I had my choice I would kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure we would be getting reports from Hell before breakfast.”

    Point of information, Mr. Anderson: At any moment, the Confederacy and the Plains Indian could have enjoyed peace and freedom. About 80% of the (thousands of) Indian warriors that massacred Custer and his battalion of the Seventh Cavalry had jumped their reservations (eating guvmint beef) for one last spree.

    Lo, the noble savage! Each Plains tribe had a “calling card” they left on the bodies of their victims. The Sioux would cut the (Marine?) corpses’ throats. Another tribe would cut stripes in the victims’ thighs. The Army told Custer’s widow his body hadn’t been defiled – white lie. And, if they captured an enemy, slow torture to death was de rigeur. The male Plains Indian was a warrior and hunter. It was all he did. He was the finest light cavalryman the world had seen since the Mongols and just about as gentle.

    The quicker the generals destroyed the Confederacy’s/Plains Indians’ means of waging war, the fewer combatants would die.

  • My favorite Sheridan quote is:

    “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

    It is certainly nice to know that the good general’s genocidal tendencies were not restricted to Southern Rebels.

    Defending such actions by stating that they shortened fighting after starting such fighting after initiating aggression and invasion . . . well, let’s just start excusing Hitler and Stalin and Mao, and their ilk. By engaging in ruthless conduct they were just attempting to break the spirit of their enemies and thus bring resistance and additional deaths to a quick end. Like Sheridan, I doubt if any of these men had access to the Vatican web site or had a through understanding of Church teachings so we need to likewise excuse their ruthlessness since it was merely a product of their respective eras.

  • Of course Sheridan was not Stalin, Mao or Hitler and did not engage in the mass slaughter of civilians. Sheridan never said “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” That is a myth. If he had said it, the comment would have come as a vast surprise to his good friend General Ely Parker, a Seneca.

  • In the 1640’s, Oliver Cromwell treated Ireland in the same brutal way that Sheridan would treat his enemies. If Sheridan had some Irish blood in him, he ought to know better.

  • Unlike Cromwell Sheridan did not engage in the mass execution of civilians, especially Catholic priests, nor did he exile the Confederates in the Shenandoah Valley to West Virginia and resettle the land with loyal Unionists. Sheridan was 100% Irish, his parents both being immigrants from the land of Saints and Scholars.

  • The end does not justify the means. Cromwell thought his political/military goals were more important than human life. He did not care too much about the deaths he caused, because they were of a different religion, race or nationality than his own. In this regard, Cromwell and Sheridan are not too far apart from each other.

  • They are miles apart Centinel, as Cromwell’s actions at Wexford and Drogheda amply demonstrate and his policy of Hell or Connaught in expelling the native Irish to the west of Ireland, and if you don’t know that you truly don’t know either Old Ironsides of Little Phil.

  • Cromwell’s actions alone were a signal of the atrocities that were going to be committed in the French Revolution.

    He was ruthless, heartless, and amoral.

    Comparing him to Sheridan is character assassination of the worst order.

  • Sheridan burned the Shenandoah Valley to the ground and promoted the massacre of buffalo to starve the Indians. He caused the deaths of many people. He thought he was doing the right thing. His actions are unjustifiable.

  • Wrong again Centinel. Sheridan burned the crops of the Shenandoah Valley in 1864 in order to starve Lee’s army. He gave his troops specific instructions that the farm families were to be left sufficient food for personal use to get them through until the next harvest. Personal dwellings were not to be touched.

    In regard to the Indians, Sheridan applied the buffalo slaughter strategy to tribes that were at war with the US in order to have them go to reservations where they could have food. It worked very well at bringing the wars to a rapid close. The idea of course that a policy could have been adopted at the time that would have left the plains Indians free to roam the plains following Buffalo herds may appeal to people sitting at their computers in th 21rst century, but in the Nineteenth Century in the 1860s and 1870s that simply was not going to occur.

  • My pro-life values compel compel me to condemn warfare as Sheridan waged it. Sometimes a soldier must kill people, but the use of force must be:

    1. no more than necessary to achieve legitimate goals, and
    2. proportional to the evil that is being remedied or avoided.

    Once again, the end does not justify the means. Human life does not become expendable, merely because of one’s political/military goals. If one’s political/military goals conflict with innocent human life, one must give way to the other.

    I invite you to take a look at the map and see how big the Shenandoah Valley is. If Sheridan indeed left enough food for the farmers, that contradicts his boast of turning the Valley into a barren wasteland that a crow flying from one end to the other would need to bring its own provisions. That’s roughly 180 miles.

    Most of the time, the only justifiable wars are wars of self-defense and defense of others. Some of the Indian Wars may have been for self-defense, but the killing of civilians is seldom if ever justifiable.

  • “Once again, the end does not justify the means.”

    Usually said by someone who supports neither the means nor the end. I believe that the means taken by Sheridan in both the Civil War and the Indian wars were completely justifiable. I have no difficulty at all in distinguishing between abortion and denying sustenance to enemy forces.

  • Of course Sheridan was not Stalin, Mao or Hitler and did not engage in the mass slaughter of civilians. Sheridan never said “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” That is a myth. If he had said it, the comment would have come as a vast surprise to his good friend General Ely Parker, a Seneca

    Depends on what you consider a “mass slaughter” of civilians. It may not have been a mass slaughter to you but to those on the receiving end of the slaughter the number of others (Indians and Southerners) that died with them means very little.

    Secondly, you can deny what he said all you like but Sheridan did state that the only good Indians he knew were dead ones. He may have not used those exact words attributed to him but the ones he did use had the same meaning. Another example is Charlie Wilson and the quote “What’s good for General Motors is good for the USA>” He never said that exact phrase but he said “[w]hat is good for the USA is good for General Motors and vise versa”, and this for all intents and purposes is the meaning of the quote attributed to him.

    Finally, I can’t believe you used the “some of his best friends were Indians” defense.

  • Compared to the attrocites the “Saxon” committed against Irish Catholics (from say 1560 to 1922), Sheridan and all the Indian fighters were gentler than “Mother Teresa.”

    The source quote, by an unnamed US Cavalry officer, was in general response to Eastern papers’ “lo the noble savage” tripe. He said, “The only good Indian I ever saw was dead.”

    The Saxon was far gentler to the Irish Catholic than the Democratic party is to 47,000,000 unborn babies they exterminate.

    Vilifying General Sheridan won’t get you into Heaven if you vote Democratic.

  • “Finally, I can’t believe you used the ‘some of his best friends were Indians’ defense.”

    *I* can’t believe anyone tried to compare Sheridan to Stalin, Hitler and Mao. Supporters of the lost cause should avoid the same victim-speak, hyperbole and morally-incoherent rhetoric deployed at public university ethnic studies departments. Sheridan’s conduct can be condemned on its own terms without resort to bankrupt analogies. Using such trivializes 20th century butchery and obscures what actually happened.

  • “Finally, I can’t believe you used the “some of his best friends were Indians” defense.”

    The mythic statement applied to Sheridan to the effect that the only good indian was a dead indian is refuted by Sheridan’s friendship with Parker, who, I might add, was Commissioner for Indian Affairs from 1869-1871 while Sheridan was in command in the West.

    Before commenting on historical figures and controversies it does help to have some basic knowledge about the individuals involved in them.

  • Nice try, fellas. The name of this blog is The American Catholic, but your position is not representative of the entire American Catholic population. I can count one regular and one guest contributor who have spoken up on this thread and they’re both pro-Sheridan.

  • Zounds, now he tells us! I always assumed that every position we take, even when contributors disagree vehemently with each other, was representative of all Catholics in the US. Thanks for straightening that out Centinel!

  • For that matter, the online calendar on this blog makes Monday look like the first day of the week. You Catholics should know better.

Competing Magisteriums

Thursday, April 29, AD 2010

I give an incredulous salute to the liberal Commonweal for publishing a magnificent column by Kenneth Woodward where he discusses the New York Times Magisterium:

No question, the Times’s worldview is secularist and secularizing, and as such it rivals the Catholic worldview. But that is not unusual with newspapers. What makes the Times unique—and what any Catholic bishop ought to understand—is that it is not just the nation’s self-appointed newspaper of record. It is, to paraphrase Chesterton, an institution with the soul of a church. And the church it most resembles in size, organization, internal culture, and international reach is the Roman Catholic Church.

Like the Church of Rome, the Times is a global organization. Even in these reduced economic times, the newspaper’s international network of news bureaus rivals the Vatican’s diplomatic corps. The difference is that Times bureau chiefs are better paid and, in most capitals, more influential. A report from a papal nuncio ends up in a Vatican dossier, but a report from a Times correspondent is published around the world, often with immediate repercussions. With the advent of the Internet, stories from the Times can become other outlets’ news in an ever-ramifying process of global cycling and recycling. That, of course, is exactly what happened with the Times piece on Fr. Murphy, the deceased Wisconsin child molester. The pope speaks twice a year urbi et orbi (to the city and to the world), but the Times does that every day.

Again like the Church of Rome, the Times exercises a powerful magisterium or teaching authority through its editorial board. There is no issue, local or global, on which these (usually anonymous) writers do not pronounce with a papal-like editorial “we.” Like the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the editorial board is there to defend received truth as well as advance the paper’s political, social, and cultural agendas. One can no more imagine a Times editorial opposing any form of abortion—to take just one of that magisterium’s articles of faith—than imagine a papal encyclical in favor.

The Times, of course, does not claim to speak infallibly in its judgments on current events. (Neither does the pope.) But to the truly orthodox believers in the Times, its editorials carry the burden of liberal holy writ. As the paper’s first and most acute public editor, Daniel Okrent, once put it, the editorial page is “so thoroughly saturated in liberal theology that when it occasionally strays from that point of view the shocked yelps from the left overwhelm even the ceaseless rumble of disapproval from the right.” Okrent’s now famous column was published in 2004 under the headline “Is the New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?” and I will cite Okrent more than once because he, too, reached repeatedly for religious metaphors to describe the ambient culture of the paper.

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2 Responses to Competing Magisteriums

  • That’s a solid and well balanced piece.

    Which maybe explains why the majority of comments are incredibly negative over at Commonweal.

  • I can understand the negative responses of Commonweal readers. I am taking a course with my local diocese. Naturally 99% of what is taught is a variant of liberal (Enlightenmnet) Protestantism. Social justice for this course IS the Democratic platform.
    The teachers have been using the clergy abuse scandal to undermine the hierarchy. This to undermine official Church teaching. This scandal has been a useful club for liberals – of Enlightenment and American varieties.

Snipers and Riot Police Confront Tea Party Protesters in Quincy

Thursday, April 29, AD 2010

[Updates at the bottom of this post as of 4-29-2010 at 8:24pm]

Apparently President Obama is doing his best to paint the Tea Party movement as a group of extremists and racists.

Witness the video below as an army of riot police in full riot gear and snipers on rooftops wield their weapons to intimidate the Tea Party protesters.

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15 Responses to Snipers and Riot Police Confront Tea Party Protesters in Quincy

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  • You never know when those grannies might go berserk!

  • Well not adherents of this new Tea Party is racist or extremists; indeed, I’d argue that the majority are not. But I have seen signs bearing the “n” word (which was humorously misspelled) as well as other strong racial remarks.

    In the same way, the activity at protests against the Arizona immigration law does not characterize everyone who opposes it.

    Every group has its extremists.

  • “You never know when those grannies might go berserk!”

    Now you’re granny profiling. Shame.

  • Eric,

    I don’t have cable so I rely on rabbit ear television and what I saw in my old hometown of Phoenix was a riot.

    Rocks and all sorts of debris being thrown by hooded delinquents unnerved me.

    Yes there are extremists on both sides, but the coverage is disproportionate to what is actually happening on the ground.

    Especially when there have yet to have any ‘racist’ verbiage captured on audio or video tape from the ObamaCare protests outside the capitol a few weeks ago.

  • Donald,

    You’re nothing more than an anti-grannite!

  • Scrolling Byline – – – Tense moment at the White House this morning when Obama daughters discovered having a tea party in their room

  • Jim,

    You’re funny . . .

  • Before you all get bent out of shape — I was at Obama’s announcement of his presidential run at the Old State Capitol in Springfield in 2007 (at the request of a newspaper I used to work for, to cover the event) and there were plenty of snipers on rooftops then too.

    Now bear in mind that was a highly friendly crowd — not tea partiers, no visible opposition outside of a few pro-life protesters — and Obama wasn’t even president yet (just a candidate), although at that point he became entitled to Secret Service protection. This is probably routine at ANY large event he attends with crowds outdoors.

  • Elaine,

    I hope you’re right. BUT the guilty start to get scared when their sins are brought to the light of day and that is exactly what the Tea Partiers are doing to Obamolech.

  • Elaine,

    I also hope you’re right, but I don’t remember seeing riot police in Portland protecting President ‘W’ when his own limousine was attacked by leftist wingnuts.

    So until I get hard evidence, ie, I”ll believe it when I see it, then it isn’t true.

    President Obama is inane enough to do this and has no compulsion to the expense he will incur.

    Considering his romp to New York on the government dime after inauguration for a “dinner” with his wife and his one and a half day foray to Copenhagen on the government dime, he wouldn’t hesitate to pull these kind of stunts hoping to provoke tea partiers if cost is any consideration.

  • Jim I am going to use that one for sure – hahah!

    But I mean seriously… snipers? At a tea party? For what? Sheesh…

  • The Quincy Police Department has issued a CYA statement (Commentary by Gateway Pundit):

    Oops! The Quincy Police Department released a bogus statement calling the SWAT Team on the the protesting grandmothers yesterday. Unfortunately, they forgot about the army of videographers that filmed this incident.

    The Quincy Police Department released a statement today following the embarrassing incident yesterday when they called in the SWAT squad to quash the peaceful tea party protest outside the convention center during Barack Obama’s visit.

    During President Obama’s address, at approximately 1530 hours, the MFFT was deployed. A group of individuals positioned themselves on the south side of York Street near 3rd Street. This was within the area that was to be kept secure at the request of the U. S. Secret Service agents in charge of the site. Prior to the event only ticketed individuals were to be in this area; during the event it was restricted to the general public completely. Secret Service personnel requested these individuals leave the area and to go back to the north side of York Street. They did not comply. Quincy Police Department personnel made the same requests and again they did not comply. At that time the MFFT was deployed to stand post between the individuals and the site and, if necessary, remove the individuals. Once the MFFT was in place, the individuals agreed to move. Once everyone complied and the site was again secure, the MFFT returned to their staging point. No physical force was used during this deployment.

    Of course, this ludicrous statement is a complete fabrication. We are currently contacting the police department to retract their statement.
    We strongly object to these points.

    1. Prior to the event only ticketed individuals were to be in this area; during the event it was restricted to the general public completely.
    From the videos below it is clear that the restricted area was not roped off or marked as restricted. The protesters repeatedly checked with the police to make sure that they were not being disruptive.

    2. “Secret Service personnel requested these individuals leave the area and to go back to the north side of York Street. They did not comply.”
    We have at least three videos below that prove that the protesters asked and double-checked with the police to make sure we were following orders.

    3. “Once the MFFT was in place, the individuals agreed to move.”
    Once again the video shows that we were already moving from the corner to the middle of York Street before the MFFT marched into place.

    The first video produced by Adam Sharp shows Adam checking and double-checking with the police to make sure that we are in the correct area. You’ll also notice that Adam was polite at all times.

    What happened here is that the Quincy Police Department hugely overreacted and went into full Barney Fife mode. Ludicrous.

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The Liberal Dystopia of Political Correctness

Thursday, April 29, AD 2010

In our world today we are living in what I would refer to as the Liberal Dystopia of Political Correctness.  This thing that our current Holy Father warned us about.

As secular humanism continues its march towards a Dictatorship of Relativism we innocent bystanders suffer the consequences of its fruits when prejudice is rewarded and common sense rejected.

Five years ago this month, in the Mass prior to the Conclave of 2005 A.D., then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger warned us in his homily that:

“We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”

An excellent example of this dictatorship of relativism or as I would name it, liberal dystopia, is the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office anti-Catholic memo on the preparation of Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain.

In this event Anjoum Noorani, another Oxford educated civil servant* of the U.K. Foreign Office, who headed the Papal Visit Team that was planning the Pope’s visit to Britain was only verbally reprimanded for his part in approving and distributing the anti-Catholic memo.

What makes this worse is that the Foreign Office advertised the requirements for the position to lead the Papal Visit Team as “Prior knowledge of the Catholic church is not necessary“.

To add some irony the advertisement also stated, “High levels of tact and diplomacy will be required.

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2 Responses to The Liberal Dystopia of Political Correctness

  • Britain has become, as one Russian news commentator put it a while back, “an Orwellian prison camp.”

    I used to dream about visiting the British Isles as a kid because I loved the Middle Ages and my heritage is there.

    Now I wouldn’t be caught dead in that trash heap, a nation of degenerates. Maybe I’ll visit Ireland before the putrid soul-rot of England and Scotland completely consumes it as well.

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Illegal Immigration: A Winning Issue for Democrats?

Thursday, April 29, AD 2010

Some Democrats think that the Arizona law cracking down on illegal aliens will save them from electoral disaster in November.  They think this will rile up the Hispanics, and to fan the flames a few Democrats are making free with their favorite epithet against those who oppose them, Nazi.

I think that these Democrats are pursuing a losing hand on this issue.  Illegal immigration is extremely unpopular in this country and overheated epithets will simply further energize the conservative base.  More to the point, this election is going to be fought on the economy and government spending, and the Democrats are in dire shape on both those issues.  In regard to the immigration issue, I think there is evidence that some Democrats understand that rather than a gift this could be an electoral landmine.  This AP story here indicates that Obama concedes that Congress may not have the political appetite for immigration reform anytime soon, and notes the type of legislation that the Democrats propose eventually may ostensibly put enforcement before amnesty:  “An immigration proposal by three Democratic senators calls for more federal enforcement agents and other border security-tightening benchmarks before illegal immigrants could become legal U.S. residents, according to a draft of the legislation obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press. The bill is being developed by Reid of Nevada, Chuck Schumer of New York and Robert Menendez of New Jersey.”

In an earlier post this week I quoted my favorite living historian Victor Davis Hanson on the issue of illegal immigration.  Here are his current thoughts on immigration as a political issue in the Fall:

A Losing Political Issue

The politics of illegal immigration are a losing proposition for liberals (one can see that in the resort to euphemism), even if they don’t quite see it that way. Here are ten considerations why.
Law?—What Law?

First, there is the simplicity of the argument. One either wishes or does not wish existing law to be enforced. If the answer is no, and citizens can pick and chose which laws they would like to obey, in theory why should we have to pay taxes or respect the speed limit? Note that liberal Democrats do not suggest that we overturn immigration law and de jure open the border — only that we continue to do that de facto. Confusion between legal and illegal immigration is essential for the open borders argument, since  a proper distinction between the two makes the present policy  indefensible—especially since it discriminates against those waiting in line to come to America legally (e.g., somehow our attention is turned to the illegal alien’s plight and not the burdensome paperwork and government obstacles that the dutiful legal immigrant must face).

Why Wave the Flag of the Country I Don’t Wish to Return To?

Second, often the protests against enforcement of immigration law are strangely couched within a general climate of anger at the U.S. government (and/or the American people) for some such illiberal transgression (review the placards, flags, etc. at May Day immigration rallies). Fairly or not, the anger at the U.S. and the nostalgia for Mexico distill into the absurd, something like either “I am furious at the country I insist on staying in, and fond of the country I most certainly do not wish to return to” or “I am angry at you so you better let angry me stay with you!” Such mixed messages confuse the electorate. As in the case with the Palestinians, there is an effort to graft a foreign policy issue (protecting an international border) onto domestic identity politics, to inject an inflammatory race/class element into the debate by creating oppressors, victims, and grievances along racial divides.

Big Brother Mexico?

Third, Mexico is no help. Now it weighs in with all sorts of moral censure for Arizonians — this from a corrupt government whose very policies are predicated on exporting a million indigenous people a year, while it seeks to lure wealthy “gringos” to invest in second-homes in Baja. The absence of millions from Oaxaca or Chiapas ensures billions in remittances, less expenditures for social services, and fewer dissident citizens. But the construct of Mexico as the concerned parent of its own lost children is by now so implausible that even its sympathizers do not take it seriously. Mexico has lost all credibility on these issues, expressing concern for its own citizens only when they seem to have crossed the border — and left Mexico.

It’s Not a Race Issue

Fourth, there really is a new popular groundswell to close the borders. Most against illegal immigration, especially in the case of minorities and Mexican-American citizens, keep rather mum about their feelings. But that silence should not be interpreted as antagonism to enforcing the law. Many minorities realize that the greatest hindrance to a natural rise in wages for entry level jobs has been the option for an employer to hire illegal aliens, who, at least in their 20s and 30s, will work harder for less pay with fewer complaints (when sick, or disabled, or elderly, the worker is directed by the employer to the social services agencies and replaced by someone younger as a new cycle of exploitation begins). In this context, the old race card is less effective. The general population is beginning to see not that Americans (of all races who oppose illegal immigration) are racist, but that the open borders movement has itself a racially chauvinistic theme to it, albeit articulated honestly only on university campuses and in Chicano-Latino departments, as a sort of “payback” for the Mexican War, where redress for “lost” land is finally to be had through demography.

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22 Responses to Illegal Immigration: A Winning Issue for Democrats?

  • I’m not aware of anyone who thinks this will erase the Republican advantage in November. But it’s a long-term blow to the GOP. When Tom Tancredo, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush are running from it, it’s safe to say that this isn’t a political winner.

    Gov. Brewer got a boost among whites which widens her lead against Goddard. But Goddard’s lead among Hispanics just jumped 26 points! Rarely in politics do you ever see such a big swing.

    Whites who are leaning Republican because of this issue can be swayed by other issues like abortion or the economy. The Hispanics who are abandoning the GOP because of this issue aren’t coming back. The GOP is losing a generation of Hispanics and Asians.

  • I don’t think that most Hispanics who are legally here restrainedradical are actually much fonder of illegal aliens being allowed to stay in the country than most other Americans. The Democrats will get majority of the Hispanic votes in the Fall, as they usually do outside of Florida with its Cuban-American population. But I predict a fall off from the percentage received by the Democrats in 2008. Hispanics are primarily economic voters like most other Americans, and a lousy economy is always going to be blamed on the party in power.

    As for Marco Rubio, a man who I expect will eventually be the GOP standard bearer for Presidency some day, here is his position on the Arizona law:

    “Our legal immigration system must continue to welcome those who seek to embrace America’s blessings and abide by the legal and orderly system that is in place. The American people have every right to expect the federal government to secure our borders and prevent illegal immigration. It has become all too easy for some in Washington to ignore the desperation and urgency of those like the citizens of Arizona who are disproportionately wrestling with this problem as well as the violence, drug trafficking and lawlessness that spills over from across the border.

    “States certainly have the right to enact policies to protect their citizens, but Arizona’s policy shows the difficulty and limitations of states trying to act piecemeal to solve what is a serious federal problem. From what I have read in news reports, I do have concerns about this legislation. While I don’t believe Arizona’s policy was based on anything other than trying to get a handle on our broken borders, I think aspects of the law, especially that dealing with ‘reasonable suspicion,’ are going to put our law enforcement officers in an incredibly difficult position. It could also unreasonably single out people who are here legally, including many American citizens. Throughout American history and throughout this administration we have seen that when government is given an inch it takes a mile.

    “I hope Congress and the Obama Administration will use the Arizona legislation not as an excuse to try and jam through amnesty legislation, but to finally act on border states’ requests for help with security and fix the things about our immigration system that can be fixed right now – securing the border, reforming the visa and entry process, and cracking down on employers who exploit illegal immigrants.”

    The Arizona law is not going to spur a movement to support amnesty, but rather the reverse.

  • I wonder how the average Arizona policeman feels about this new law- by that I mean he/she may be hung out to dry if what they consider to be ‘reasonable suspicion’ is put to countless legal challenges- I’m just trying to put myself in their shoes- and it could be a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario where they will constantly be asking themselves- “am I racially profiling?” Police are no different from us in that they will have certain stereotypes and even inadvertant prejudices which could lead them into trouble in Federal Courts and so forth- is there something built into the law that would protect the police from lawsuits that will inevitably occur – except in egregious cases of obvious harrassment or abusive treatment?

  • Cops will feel cautious Tim as they do with any law until it has been through the court mill a few times. The first arrests under the law, assuming that enforcement will not be blocked, will probably be cases so obvious that the cops can’t ignore them. Of course a lot of this also depends upon their instructions from their superiors and the attitude of the local district attorney to enforcing the new law.

  • I don’t think that most Hispanics who are legally here restrainedradical are actually much fonder of illegal aliens being allowed to stay in the country than most other Americans.

    Simply not true. Goddard jumped 26 points against Brewer among Arizona’s registered Hispanic voters after this bill was signed. He’s still trailing but has a 46 point advantage among registered Hispanic voters. The Arizona Hispanic Republicans have come out against the law. Arizona had one of the most Republican Hispanic populations before the bill was signed. Overnight Arizona’s Hispanics became as Republican as California’s.

    If I had to guess, less than 20% of Hispanics here legally, are in favor of this law. Probably less than half that among 1st and 2nd generation legal immigrants. There’s an enormous racial divide on this issue.

  • The polls in Arizona are in conflict restrainedradical. Rasmussen is showing Brewer way up after signing the bill with an eight point advantage over Goddard.

  • I would imagine that to the extent this has a long term political effect, it will probably be against the GOP. However, I doubt that (despite the tendency to assume that whatever occupies the news waves at a given moment is the pivotal event in some trend) there will actually be much movement one way or the other in the long term as a result of this particular dust-up.

    However, despite consistent Democratic hopes to the contrary, I can’t see that the Hispanic vote will ever become the uniform and overwhelming Democratic voting bloc that the Black vote has become. Despite the efforts of Latino activists, it’s not an absolutely defining label for most 2nd and 3rd generation Hispanics, and many of us simply stop idenfiying as members of the group consistently after a couple generations anyway. The fact that in the coming decades majorities of the Southwestern states will be Hispanic in origin does not mean that they’ll all act like the self-identified Hispanic voters on polls now.

  • I don’t see the conflict Don. Brewer benefited from this but the bump came entirely from whites.

  • Rasmussen doesn’t break it down by ethnicity restrainedradical. The difference in the polls is that PPP shows Goddard plus three while Rasmussen shows Brewer plus eight.

  • I wonder how the average Arizona policeman feels about this new law

    Well, the Sheriff of Pima County had this to say:

    The state’s sweeping immigration law is a “national embarrassment” that Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said he’ll enforce only if he’s forced to.
    “This law is unwise. This law is stupid, and it’s racist,” Dupnik said Wednesday. “It’s a national embarrassment….”

    It’s probably safe to say he’s not a fan of the law.

  • Last year Dubnik wanted to ask school kids about whether they were in the country illegally. Goodness knows why he was willing to do that and finds this law “stupid and racist”.

    Oh, I understand now. As Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a Republican points out, Dubnik is a Democrat. I am shocked, shocked!

  • If Dubnik was willing to have teachers ask students to prove they are here legally, I don’t think you can explain his opposition to the current law just based on his being a Democrat. Maybe the fact that this law has to do with the police (and thus affects him personally while the education thing does not) has something to do with it?

  • Btw, if Joe Arpaio is any indication of how the Arizona law is going to be enforced, then I’d say the criticism is justified.

  • A man who was willing to have students turn informer on their parents could not possibly have an objection to this mild by comparison law except for partisan purposes.

  • I’ll take Joe Arpaio any day BA over a sheriff who apparently believes that his badge gives him a right not to enforce a law of his state.

  • Don, the problem is that Arpaio isn’t enforcing the law either. By focusing on illegal immigration he has neglected traditional law enforcement, with the result that, to quote the East Valley Tribune, “[r]esponse times, arrest rates, investigations and other routine police work throughout Maricopa County have suffered.”

  • The East Valley Tribune ran the series in the summer of 2008 BA when Arpaio was running for his fifth term as sheriff. He won re-election 55-42. Apparently a majority of the voters in his county are satisfied with how he is doing his job.

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  • Personally I think Arizona’s new law is a great law. We all recognize that we need to allow a better path to citizenship, but since the state can’t grant the citizenship the only way we can protect ourselves is to enforce harsher penalties against all illegal immigrants. We can’t sort the good and the bad until the Federal government acts. Instead of protesting our actions people should be petitioning their congressmen to reform immigration laws. We just want to keep the criminals and drug dealers out of our state.

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  • Most people in America aren’t against immigration; they’re just against illegal immigration. For example, like most of our ancestors, my mother’s parents were immigrants. They came through Ellis Island and followed the various legal steps required in order to establish themselves as true citizens of this country. The immigrants crossing the Mexican border, however, have absolutely no interest in following these legal protocols. Once they cross the border, they change their names and/or purchase social security numbers in an effort to conceal their true identities from the law. It is not uncommon for an illegal immigrant to purchase not one, but two or more social security numbers, just in case one is flagged. I have witnessed this crime with my own eyes. (One day, a supposedly legal immigrant was asked to give their social security card to a receptionist for a job application and an interview. When the receptionist happened to ask to see the card a second time, the immigrant mistakenly handed over a different social security card with the same name on it, but with a completely different set of numbers…)

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against Hispanics. I have many Hispanic friends, but they either have green cards to work in the United States or have become legal citizens. They decided to follow the rule of law and work within the boundaries of our legal system. Unfortunately, many immigrants do not, and it is those particular individuals that we are most concerned about.

    Now it seems that those who sympathize with illegal immigrants wish to hijack the discussion of reform by attacking the law recently imposed by the State of Arizona through protests and boycotts; a state mind you, that has been besieged with crime, drugs and an ever-increasing population of illegal immigrants. Don’t allow them this option. Speak out and take action. This is your country… fight for it.

    In closing, I consider myself to be a bleeding-heart liberal: a Democrat. My ancestor, Roger Williams – the founder of Rhode Island and founder of the First Baptist Church in America, was one too; regarding the acceptance of different nationalities, cultures and religions as the vitality and lifeblood of any country. Nevertheless, I think that he would agree with me; that immigrants wishing to become legal citizens have not only the obligation, but the civil and legal responsibility to follow the rules of law established by any country in which they wish to become authentic citizens, just as our ancestors – both yours and mine – struggled so arduously and righteously to achieve.

Set Me Free (From Ideologies) Part 2

Wednesday, April 28, AD 2010


To follow up on my first installment of “Set Me Free (From Ideologies), I am going to draw again from the rich well of Pope Benedict’s powerful encyclical Caritas In Veritate.  In this case it would seem that in paragraph #25 the Pope is sounding kinda liberal if we would attempt to fit the views expressed into one or another of our American political ideologies.

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7 Responses to Set Me Free (From Ideologies) Part 2

  • It seems a greater threat to social security are underfunded public pensions including Social Security itself which all seem at risk of collapsing. Perhaps someone can comment on this.

  • We’d all do well to remember that we’re Catholic first & American second. We’re in the mess we’re in because we’ve reversed the order for the last 50 yrs.

  • “The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum[60], for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.”

    For me the key phrase is NEW forms.

    I believe the old social welfare state is a failure.

    I believe the old union model is a corrupt failure.

    And I think John Paul II made this point pretty clearly in Centesimus Annus.

    The new forms are worker ownership, or possibly even community/worker ownership of businesses. Most of them are jointly owned by workers and investors.

    The way forward, I believe, is localism and distributism. And in some places it is taking place already with good material results – but it is being guided by secular liberals who have no use for the moral teachings of the Church, by radical campus intellectuals and hippies who believe in the materialist community but reject the spiritual community in favor of atheism or spiritual anarchy.

    It is simply an empirical fact that welfare-statism doesn’t bring an end to poverty. Instead it creates the conditions and the precedents for a secular bureaucracy to further meddle in Christian families, in the education of children, even growing food on one’s own property.

    The dichotomy in politics and morality is not individualism vs. collectivism. Or rather, that is A dichotomy but not the decisive one. It is materialism vs. spirituality. The materialist community has an idea of “justice” that is based on economics and cares nothing for the corruption and pollution of souls. The spiritual community sometimes neglects the details of the material – but with the guidance of the Papal encyclicals there is no excuse for that negligence.

    The vital question is whether or not we ought to accept a full implementation of “material” or economic justice, brought to us by secular liberal hedonists who let the soul rot, who poison it with filth and perversion, or,

    whether we ought to reject it and continue to show those who understand a spiritual reality, who believe in God and especially Christ, that they also have to focus their attention on the material community.

    I opt for the latter. I want nothing from the secular liberal hedonists, from the communist revolutionaries, from the sexual perverts who staff Western governments and the United Nations. They’ve rejected God and they’ll never accept him.

    It’s easier to get good Christians to see the areas they’ve been neglecting than it is to get materialists to see the truth and reality of God and all that follows from him.

    And if you think I’ve gone off topic, you’re wrong, because its secular, atheistic, materialists who manage and administer the welfare bureaucracies of the West, whether they call themselves Democrats, Socialists, or Christian Democrats, or Labour, or whatever.


  • to gb- what I would say is what my favorite professor once said- “the best gift we can give America is our Catholic faith”- I don’t see my citizenship in the U.S. to be a detriment to my faith- America is my homeland, and America needs Catholicism to fulfill her potential as a truly great and lasting nation. We have religious liberty here in our country- that’s all we need- that means the onus is literally “on us”- I have seen first-hand as a candidate that the Catholic community is for the most part so divided up and rendered passive in the political arena- when I see how effective the pro-Israel Jewish community has been in getting organized and mobilizing and lobbying all sectors of our American society in getting their vision and agenda into play- all of this with such a small percentage of the population! And Catholics act as if there is no unifying social doctrine, and fall headlong into the same ideological traps that catch everyone else- and it makes me sick.

    It doesn’t have to be this way- we are our own worst enemy I’m convinced of that- my primary targets are politically-active Catholics who publicly identify themselves as die-hard liberals or conservatives- these folks are the ones who do the most damage- they make it impossible for the whole body of believers to unite under the direction of the entire social doctrine- they want to make every Catholic a narrow liberal or conservative- a Kennedy or a Hannity- and that is something I disagree with vehemently. I will continue to post my complaints- soon I will detail my fallout experience from my participation in an elite Catholic Democrats listserve- that is quite a story to be told another day- I am bent on taking on all loud and proud liberal and conservative Catholic political animals- for I am convinced that the way forward is one that must release the hold that ideologies have over our collective Catholic and American heads.

  • Joe H.- as always so intense and direct in your views- I don’t find your passion for disconnecting from States and Government in the Church’s actual documents such as the above Encyclical. I do think that we should go in every good direction all at once- translation- create more fair trade producer-consumer networks- drawing upon the Catholic Relief Services model, and also the worker-owned business models, and such as you describe above. But I don’t think that abandoning the Government, Trade Unions, and Multinational Corporations to the current corrupt slate of big-wigs is the best solution. I really don’t think our system is rotten, I do think we have really rotten apples floating to the top- which is why I can’t relate to anyone who celebrates a Reagan or an Obama presidency.

    I do believe that Catholics have not yet begun to fight- from my own little campaign experience I saw how wide-open the door is for solid Catholic candidates if only the Catholic community was even a little bit organized to be of some service to her own. As it is we have two types of Catholic activists- the typical political liberal and the typical political conservative- they both seem to have one overriding passion- they hate like satan the Republican or Democratic party- and all that party stands for- pretty much across the board. This reality is something that is causing me to seriously consider dropping my formal affiliation as a Democrat to become an Indy with “Common Good” as my tag- there is just too much baggage associated with the two major parties- it is like a pavlov dog response for most political animals- Catholic or otherwise. What I know is that I am going to stay close to the Church’s actual teaching documents, and Hierarchical speeches/letters and commentary- I have found that the prudential judgments on socio-economic matters coming from the Catholic Hierarchy is truly awesome- it would figure that those who are charged with coming up with the principles that underpin the social doctrine would do well in helping to apply those principles to real life circumstances. I don’t think this is clericalism because I am open to other prudential points-of-view- I just don’t find many ideologically-transcendent points-of-view around town- so I’m sticking close to Mama Church- in my family when mama talks and gives counsel to the kids they better listen up because my wife and I are on the same page- I imagine that it works that way with Christ and His Church as well.

  • “I don’t think that abandoning the Government, Trade Unions, and Multinational Corporations to the current corrupt slate of big-wigs is the best solution”

    They aren’t ours to abandon. But they are ours to reject. We need to get our resources together, make our own proposals to banks and private investors, and build our own local economies. Some have tried, many have failed, few have succeeded – more will succeed if more people rally to the cause.

    Like you, I’m an independent. I don’t care about the Republicans. I don’t care about the Democrats. I’ll vote for the pro-life candidate. Otherwise change comes from us, not from Obama, not from a bureaucracy, not from a social worker.

    “I really don’t think our system is rotten”

    I suppose we’ll have to disagree on that.

Supremes: Mojave Desert Cross Can Stay

Wednesday, April 28, AD 2010

In a tribute to common sense, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a Cross raised in 1934 as a tribute to U.S. soldiers who died in World War I may stay at the Mojave National Preserve.  The depressing part of this news was that the vote was 5-4.  Stevens, who is retiring, voted with the four justices who viewed the Cross as a threat to our constitutional order.

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2 Responses to Supremes: Mojave Desert Cross Can Stay

  • 4 voted that it was a threat to our constitutional order? I don’t feel threatened? I drove past a (huge) Mosque in Ohio (near Maume) and felt uncomfortable but not threatened. I drove past countless synagoges in New York – never felt threatened. There is family in my town in Michigan that has a Budda in their yard with the flags – I think it looks neat and you know what – I am not threatened…

    I pray the people making decisions are God Inspired not fear inspired. I pray the understand the people they represent without hold some kind predeermend intelectual superiority… God bless tham and our GREAT country…

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35 Responses to Catholic Worker View of NAFTA/Immigration

  • Thank you for posting this. God help us.

  • EXCELLENT post! When NAFTA was passed, there were Americans who warned against this very possibility–but they were denounced as alarmists. Supposedly industry migrating to Mexico would provide jobs for all the displaced agricultural laborers. As it turned out, the only opportunities available in adequate numbers were across the border, and Americans at the time were definitely hiring. (Quite a different picture from the one the nativists paint: the one that features hordes of swarthy drug-dealer types bent on satisfying their greed by infiltrating our cities.)

  • NAFTA and Bush destroyed the rural economy in Mexico and points south.

    We daily read and see horrific reports of famine, mass starvation, and pestilence. It’s the Irish Potato Famine being re-played (in HD) in front of our eyes!

    Their cultures, economies and nations are ruined. Let’s wreck the US and our way of life in expiation of our sins!

    Peace and justice! The common good!!!

  • If you want to see how agribusiness has driven them off their land with GM corn, see the last 10 minutes of “The World According to Monsanto”:

    Move the player slider to 1:25:00

  • The proportion of the labor force engaged in agriculture declines as a matter of course in the process of economic development

  • This certainly does a good job of putting human faces on the process of modernization.

    A couple point, though, at the risk of seeming heartlessly capitalist:

    – Although the constitutional reform which allowed ejido privatization was put through around the same time as NAFTA, it wasn’t actually a part of NAFTA, so much at it was part of a broader effort at economic development on the part of Mexico of which NAFTA was also a part.

    – Perverse as it may seem, one of the points of the ejido reform was precisely what is described here: reducing the number of workers employed in agriculture in Mexico. (see this brief piece from 1992 about ejido reform, written by the San Francisco Federal Reserve) Prior to the reform, as the Catholic Worker article also states, 26% of Mexican workers were agricultural workers. However, as the SF Fed article points out, agriculture was responsible for less than 10% of the Mexican GDP. In other words, farmers were among Mexico’s poorer and less productive workers. The belief was that this was that the small plots on communal land of the ejidos caused low productivity and lack of capital investment in improving the land. Mexican authorities believed that allowing privatization and selling or leasing of ejido land would allow larger farms to be established, productivity to increase, and large numbers of former farm workers to go into more productive industries. Usually, having a small percentage of your population engaged in agriculture (while having a large agricultural output) is actually a good thing for your country. For instance, the US has seen steadily increasing agricultural output from 1945 to the present, but has seen the percentage of the population working an agriculture drop from 16% to 2%.

    – Although, as the Catholic Worker article points out, the percentage of Mexican workers employed in agriculture has dropped from 26% to 16% in 20 years, the total agricultural output of Mexico has actually increased steadily throughout that period. That actually means more food, less hunger, and overall improved conditions for Mexicans overall.

    – This kind of drastic societal change always comes at a significant personal cost for those affected. The US went through this same period of increasing agricultural output, but rapidly dropping rural population. We did the 26% to 16% change between 1925 and 1945 — a period which isn’t really remembered fondly. My dad’s mother and her family were directly effected by the US version of this dislocation. They lost their farm in Ryan, Iowa, piled everyone into the Ford, and drove out to California in search of work in the early 30s. Given that Ryan now has a population of only 400, and an average income well under the national average, that may have worked out well in the end. But it was far from fun for the first decade.

  • We did the 26% to 16% change between 1925 and 1945 — a period which isn’t really remembered fondly.

    The banking crises and associated contraction in output during the period running from the fall of 1929 through the spring of 1933 and the aftereffects thereof are why the period is not remembered fondly. These were not a necessary component of the shift from agricultural to non-agricultural employment. (One of the previous generation in my household quit farming in 1949; I cannot recall he ever said it was a wrenching experience).

  • Certainly, the rapid shift from agricultural to city labor wasn’t the only thing going on during the depression, but for a lot of families that “lost the farm” that dislocation was a major part of the story. We even got Grapes of Wrath out of it, for all that’s worth.

    It was also the motive behind some of FDR’s more idiotic policies — like destroying large quantities of food in order to keep prices up.

    After all, for rural banks, one of the main sources of bank failures was when heavily leveraged farmers got hit with falling prices and the dust bowl at the same time, and so starting defaulting on their mortgages and heading out for the coasts. (What made it a lot easier on them than Mexican peasants, however, is that they mostly had at least an 8th grade education, which amounts to rather more than a high school education these days. And they spoke the language.)

  • Darwin,

    You make excellent points. Part of the limits of human understanding is the consequences our actions will produce. Often the consequences are not what we expected and can frequently be for the worse (I think Health Care Reform will be an excellent example.) But one also has to look at what NAFTA has accomplished. There has been a human cost but also a human gain. The whole truth needs to be looked at so that it can be objectively assessed and good maintained and the bad corrected.
    I think such an approach is consistent with Catholic Social teaching. As Benedict XVI noted in Caritas in Veritate, charity must be in accord with the truth. Otherwise it becomes mere sentimentalism. So a detailed, economic analysis of NAFTA along with the personal stories is required by CST so that the truth can lead charity.

  • Yes, and if it wasn’t clear from what I wrote above: I am in favor of NAFTA (and the changes to the Mexican constitution allowing for the privitization of the ejidos) because I think that it will, in the end, be to the common good of Mexicans.

    A demand that people be allowed to remain subsistance farmers has a certain romance for moral tourists, but it’s notable that none of us choose to go be subsistance farmers. The intermediate stages may be misable, and the suffering of people who find themselves displaced against their will is real, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not in fact a road to a better situation. My grandmother’s family, for instance, was much better off as a result of losing the family farm and having to move to California. It took a good ten years or more for them to be better off, but in the end they were — and certainly their descendants are.

  • Three of my four grandparents came here from Mexico. It was very rough in the beginning. My maternal grandparents raised 13 children through the depression. All my aunts and uncles are doing exceptionally well in America. Much better than relatives who stayed in Mexico. Disruptions is sometimes painful, but in the long-term helpful.

  • “Usually, having a small percentage of your population engaged in agriculture (while having a large agricultural output) is actually a good thing for your country.”

    As Peter Maurin put so well, a child is an asset on the land, but a liability in the city. It would be far better if most of us lived on the land, farming and making crafts, engaged in a distributist economy that put people before profits.

  • A child is a gift anywhere.

  • Like most people I’m perfectly willing to go along with Nate’s vision as long as I’m not one of the “most” engaged in farming and craft-making.

  • Not so much into basket weaving, eh? 🙂

  • Well, yeah. I don’t mean to sound like a jerk by putting this so bluntly, but if Maurin was right, why is it that even the vast majority of those involved in the Catholic Worker movement do not in fact live on the land farming and making crafts? I would assume that if this was clearly preferable at a human level, more people would be doing it.

  • Darwin,
    It is, of course, because “other people” should be doing it. It always is. People with advanced degrees in social work, philosophy, etc have more refined vocations, such as organizing and leading a society that successfully requires “most people” to engage in land farming and craft-making, for their own good of course.

  • As Peter Maurin put so well, a child is an asset on the land, but a liability in the city. It would be far better if most of us lived on the land, farming and making crafts, engaged in a distributist economy that put people before profits.

    A child is an asset when there are no child labor laws or Social Security, and a liability when there is (which is not to say that we should do away with Social Security or laws against child labor; it’s just to note that it is those laws, rather than the geographical location in which a child grows up, that are responsible for children being an economic liability vs. an economic asset).

  • I reject what my fiancee and I affectionately call “Shire” Distributism – this reactionary view that we’re all going to go back to the land and till the soil for the good of our souls.

    I support anyone who wants to do that but realistically it is never going to become the dominant economy ever again.

    There’s a reason why the Papacy never advocated such a return to the land either. The Papal view of Distributism is much more realistic, it talks about how the idea can be applied in modern society, in modern businesses and modern economies.

  • @Mike,

    lol, yeah – I think Pol Pot was one of those people.

  • I reject what my fiancee and I affectionately call “Shire” Distributism – this reactionary view that we’re all going to go back to the land and till the soil for the good of our souls.

    Shire Distributism. I may have to steal that.

  • To be fair, Maurin did in fact live on the agricultural Catholic Worker communes, so at least he followed his own advice. But though I’m not deeply read in Catholic Worker history, it doesn’t seem to have been an overall good for many families. I recall reading an interview a while back where Dorothy Day’s daughter talked about how intense trying to live up to that rural ideal was, and said that it was one of the reasons why she’s no longer practicing her faith.

  • Well, friends, there are many Catholic Worker farms, and the Catholic Worker movement is still in its infancy – barely 75 years since its founding. Most Catholic Workers that I know do not have advanced degrees, and try to ‘be the change you want to see in the world’. Of course, there are elements of every movement that do not adhere to its founding vision, but those elements will not last.

    Shire Distributism! I will have to use that phrase. But Joe, have you considered that the dominant economy, that of capitalistic industrialism, will collapse one day? I am convinced that it will. And what then?

  • Peter Maurin used a great phrase too – Agronomic Universities – a place where scholars could be workers, and workers could be scholars. Like living in the Shire, but with a great many books and a great many vocations! Love it! Someone want to donate me some land in Missouri?

  • Actually, I think the brilliant thing about “Shire Distributism” is that both proponents and opponents would like the term.

    To me, I think the thing it points out is that Tolkien’s shire was knowingly an idealized place — one which Tolkien wasn’t trying to write about as a realistic society. Tolkien was evoking an image of the English countryside which even to him was just a distant childhood memory. And so he’s not worrying about topics like: If a farmer has four sons, and just the right amount of land to support the family well, which of his sons gets to marry and have a family and inherit the farm, and which three need to work as unmarried laborer or else go find non-family land somewhere else?

    And indeed, I think the disagreement over Shire Distributism is very much one between idealism and practicality.

  • “I reject what my fiancee and I affectionately call “Shire” Distributism – this reactionary view that we’re all going to go back to the land and till the soil for the good of our souls.”

    Having done a fair amount of agricultural labor in my pre-lawyer incarnation I can guarantee that most people would truly hate earning their living by “working the land”. Additionally there simply wouldn’t be enough land for “city-folk” to make a living doing it, even if they adopted an Amish life style.

    I am pretty familiar with the Amish here in Illinois.

    I admire their way of life, but it is definitely only a way of life for a highly disciplined, extremely hardworking and tightly knit group.

  • “Someone what to donate me some land in Missouri?”

    Work hard for many years. Then buy it yourself. 😉

  • Peter Maurin used a great phrase too – Agronomic Universities – a place where scholars could be workers, and workers could be scholars. Like living in the Shire, but with a great many books and a great many vocations!

    Whenever I hear ideas like this I can’t help but be reminded of Mao’s line about how “knowledgable youth should go to the country, to be educated from living in rural poverty.” Of course Maurin was a fundamentally decent man, and never would have used the methods Mao used to bring his vision about (which may partly explain why Maurin’s views were never put into practice on a large scale).

  • I like the article linked below on shire economics:

    “Take the idea of the Shire as an ideal community. When I first read the book, I thought the Shire was the most realistic part, and that Minas Tirith, a sort of cross between Camelot and Rome on its seven hills, was artificial. But the Shire is a complete fantasy; no subsistence farming community (and as the hobbits don’t manufacture or trade much, they have to be classed as subsistence) have among their ranks people like Frodo or Bilbo. The Shire is a farming community without farmers. Frodo, Bilbo, Pippin, Merry and even the Sackville-Bagginses are all middle class, and middle classes don’t occur in close-knit farming communities. The middle class is a result of trade, surplus, commerce and an administration that needs well-educated people to run it. Middle classes are an urban phenomena.

    Even Sam is not a farmer, he is a gardener; there is a big difference, farmers grow crops, gardeners grow flowers.

    To cite the Shire, therefore, as a model community to counter the ills of modernism is very unwise. Even in the book, Frodo is regarded by the hobbits are eccentric. In a real Shire, he might be driven out as a witch for knowing Elvish. And without Frodo, would we really want to be like the Daddy Two-foots and Ted Sandymans? A community that is close-knit and anti-authoritarian can also be claustrophic and backward.

    The greatest casualty of modernity is the environment, and Tolkien and his writing appeal strongly to people who wish desperately to preserve the natural world. As Tony Shell says, Tolkien can ‘provide an extraordinarily sublime feeling of immanence and essential vitality to the natural world..’

    But would we all want to do without the trappings of modernity, even to save the natural world? I would do without a car, gladly. Even the washing machine, although beating out clothes on the river bank while exchanging gossip with the other village maidens is not really my thing.

    But doing without medicine, basic healthcare, street lighting, accessible education, juries, pcs, cinemas, freedom of speech, that is another. But these, as well as the destruction of the enviroment, are trappings of modernity. My own grandfather was a ploughman in one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland. But he died within 24 hours of pneumonia from sleeping in a damp, if picturesque, cottage. People who advocate such a return to traditional communities and ways of life are often city folk who forget that such an existence was described as ‘nasty, brutish and short’. because it was.”

  • The Shire isn’t exactly a rural society — it’s more an idealized English country village. Think the Highbury of Jane Austen’s Emma. But even more so than in Emma, we only see the members of the essentially idle class. Bilbo (and Frodo later) never had a Baggins estate so far as we can tell, where actual tennant farmers raise crops to produce income. Nor does one get the impression that one can make all one’s money off investments in the Shire (as the Mr. Woodhouse in Emma apparently does) — it’s a country village, with a country village’s upper class, but not London to provide more complex investment for those not actively running an estate or business.

    I’d say that’s probably because Tolkien isn’t attempting to be realistic in his portrayal of the Shire. Minas Tirith and Rohan are portrayed (in the book — unlike in the movie where these cities sit in the middle of totally empty plains) as fairly realistic pre-industrial cities with outlying farmlands and villages. But the Shire (perhaps in part because it very much dates back to The Hobbit, which is more a children’s book in its atmospher; partly because it is an intentional evocation of Tolkien’s childhood memories) isn’t thought out in traditional social structures so much as it draws on traditional characters and institutions without giving much thought to how they’d fit together.

  • Wow look what I started!

    “I’d say that’s probably because Tolkien isn’t attempting to be realistic in his portrayal of the Shire.”

    And neither are some Distributists in their view of politics and economics.


    “But Joe, have you considered that the dominant economy, that of capitalistic industrialism, will collapse one day? I am convinced that it will. And what then?”

    Well, I’m not so sure industry itself will collapse.

    The civilization we have now may very well collapse, though.

    And so I fully support people who want to learn basic survival skills, basic farming skills. I think we should all have some knowledge of these things because we may need them in the future.

    But we should also try to preserve the civilization we have and not give in totally to fatalism. Of course everyone has to make calculations based on what they think the future will hold.

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  • Hello can I quote some of the content from this post if I link back to you?

  • To Lanelle- you have my permission

  • hey adminstrator , i read w/ u blog. Do Your type this posting by your self ? Best regards Admin of n

19 Responses to Another Reason to See Iron Man 2!

  • They better not hurt my Gwyneth!

  • Paltrow getting a movie punch in the face is nothing. Hasn’t anyone seen “Seven”?

  • Mercifully I have not Jay!

  • Paltrow getting a movie punch in the face is nothing. Hasn’t anyone seen “Seven”?

    Nice one. Unfortunately my roommate spoiled the “surprise” for me the day before I saw the movie. Although in a way that made the ending even creepier.

  • The close out headline about Sex In The City 2 is the best.

  • Because of her portrayal of Viola in Shakespeare in Love, she can be forgiven all other transgressions. Now, she’s certainly trying to test those limits….

  • Gwyneth Paltrow’s kind of irritating, but doesn’t fly high enough to show up on my radar. Downey’s the one that gets on my nerves. I wouldn’t mind seeing his character get Sevened in Iron Man 2 (not that I’d actually go see it).

  • Because of her portrayal of Viola in Shakespeare in Love, she can be forgiven all other transgressions

    See, I take the position that her acting in Shakespeare in Love was unforgivable and will forever raise my distaste for her but perhaps that’s b/c I hated that movie so much (in part b/c it stole the Oscar from Saving Private Ryan in one of the bigger “20 years ago they’re going to laugh at how stupid people in the past were” trivia questions)

  • She’s alright, except when she explains how superior she feels when she’s visiting us ‘merickans from England. Apparently pub conversations over in England are much more intellectually stimulating and more important than your run of the mill bar talk.

    Yeah, I go to bars for stimulating conversations.

  • Michael Denton Says:

    See, I take the position that her acting in Shakespeare in Love was unforgivable and will forever raise my distaste for her but perhaps that’s b/c I hated that movie so much (in part b/c it stole the Oscar from Saving Private Ryan in one of the bigger “20 years ago they’re going to laugh at how stupid people in the past were” trivia questions)

    I confess I felt the same way the night those Oscars were awarded. But a few months later I was on deployment in Germany and the base theater was playing Shakespeare in Love so I figured I might as well see it. I was bowled over and moved to tears. I watched it 3 more times the week it was there, own it now and watch it frequently. It is masterful the way the writers wove so much of the life, times, and writings of the Bard into that play that I have come to realize that clearly the Academy made the right choice that night. Private Ryan is a good movie, and the opening 30 minutes and closing 25 minutes are beyond top shelf. But the 1 hour and change in between are pretty stock stuff, not even terribly accurate historically, but I still love that movie. But Shakespeare in Love….Paltrow was hardly the best performance in it, but as a whole….food for the dramatic soul.

  • I’ve never seen Shakespeare in Love. I think that 1998’s The Truman Show was better than Saving Private Ryan.

  • For historical inaccuracy, you can’t beat Shakespeare in Love referring to tobacco plantations in a Virginia colony that wasn’t even founded until 1607.

  • (Guest comment by Don’s wife Cathy): Jay, the film could have been referring to the “lost” Roanoke colony (founded 1585). Although, if they were already “lost” in the year when the film was set (1593, per Wikipedia), how could anyone from England be transported there (as Paltrow’s character apparently does at the end of the film, supposedly thus providing Shakespeare with the inspiration for writing “The Tempest”)?

  • I thought about that, Cathy. But there were no tobacco plantations on Roanoke Island. Tobacco wasn’t successfully harvested commercially until 1613, and the first plantation wasn’t established until that same year – 2 decades after the time period in Shakespeare in Love.

  • Also, you mention another inaccuracy in the movie. “The Tempest” was written following the 1609 wreck of “The Sea Venture” off Bermuda.

    Of course, I suppose only Virginians were keeping score on that account. Folks in the Commonwealth are used to Hollywood getting the history of that particular time period wrong (see, e.g., “Pocahontas” and “The New World”, although, apart from the romance between Pocahontas and John Smith, “The New World” is otherwise quite good and a fairly accurate depiction of the Jamestown Colony).

  • Of course, I suppose only Virginians were keeping score on that account. Folks in the Commonwealth are used to Hollywood getting the history of that particular time period wrong

    It’s not just distant history, either. As a native of the great Commonwealth, I’m frequently surprised by Hollywood’s inaccuracies. For example, in Remember the Titans, the movie opens with a lady with a thick Southern accent saying “Here in Virginia, football is a way of life…” and most of the scenery suggests a somewhat rural setting. However, the team actually played in Alexandria, VA, just across the river from Washington DC and within sight of the national monuments. High school football is not particularly important there and no one talks with a Southern accent. Additionally, I am told that race relations were much better than they were depicted in the move during that time period(both of my parents went to nearby high schools – my dad played football against that team the next year). None of which, of course, ruins the movie; it’s just interesting how movies conform facts to fit certain narratives (the team played in Virginia, that’s ‘southern,’ ergo people talk in southern accents and high school football is really, really important).

  • John, you can run across an occasional Southern accent in northern VA. But football definitely is a way of life in that tight Pennsylvania/Florida/Oklahoma/Idaho corridor.

  • Shakespeare in Love is Romantic Comedy and does not pass itself off as historically accurate, in fact anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the Bard knows the entire movie is a pure flight of fantasy, not unlike the work of the Bard himself, which is one of the greatest ironies of the whole movie.

    Private Ryan on the other hand is Historical Fiction, which was trying to portray a fictitious story in an historical setting, and is, in my opinion anyway, more beholden to maintaining historical accuracy on the back ground story, and in that regard they failed pretty horribly.

    Both are still great movies though, and both sit on my rack and both frequently get viewed.

  • Y’all seem to forget that Virginia is part of the upper South so our Southern accents are slightly different then people from other parts. As for enemy-occupied Northern Virginia, sadly, you’re more likely to hear a Korean or Farsi accent up here than a Southern American-English accent.

    As for Gwenny getting punched – it would do her a lot of good. She’s a smug Hollyweirdo and all of ’em need a swift, loving kick in the rear – for their own good you know.

    As for Hollywood getting things in the Old Dominion wrong – true – but, what exactly does Liberalwood get right?

Rural Ideal, Suburban Compromise

Tuesday, April 27, AD 2010

For those who spend quantities of time philosophizing about lifestyles, suburbia is almost universally reviled. Large tracts of similarly designed homes, each set on its patch of lawn, seem for many people to epitomize the problems of isolation, conformity, mass production, consumerism, or whatever the bugbear of choice may be. And yet, suburban life remains persistently popular.

Having spent the last month building a large raised vegetable bed and putting in this year’s expanded garden, such that I can now look out on the garden with my morning coffee in hand and not with satisfaction the growth of the tomato plants and the strangely obscene orange flowers of the zucchini and butter-stick squash, or go out in the warm evening when I return from work to gauge the progress of the pair of grape vines and the climbing rose bush, the explanation for this does not seem strange to me. There is, it seems to me, a desire that a great many of us have, despite our city-based jobs and cultural tastes, for a home and small plot of land we can call our own.

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15 Responses to Rural Ideal, Suburban Compromise

  • Suburbia is a good solution for those unable to live as God intended us to live: in a small town in a rural area. 🙂

  • Having lived in each of the below scenarios (excluding #6), here is my ranking in order of preference:

    (1) Small-to-midsize town in a rural area (preferably with a mid-size city within a half-hour-to-hour drive).
    (2) Revitalized older neighborhood in small-to-midsize city (preferably with a college or university).
    (3) Rural village.
    (4) Rural homestead.
    (5) Revitalized older urban neighborhood (preferably somewhat artsy-fartsy) in a metropolitan area.
    (6) Hell.
    (7) Suburbia.


  • Agree with number one. Still wonder why I left that. Having said that and having lived on a small farm in the past, it is hard work. You do learn how much a “b” nature can be. Late frost wiping out blossoms on fruit trees. Deer and other critters eating garden. No rain. Too much rain. And those pesky skunks spraying the dogs. Just some of the joys of rural living. Helps you understand how little human efforts can accomplish and how much one depends on God.

  • I recall Russ Roberts (who spent a while working on a Kibbutz) saying something along the lines of, “Most people think that farm life is beautiful and fulfilling. That’s because the closest most people get to farming is gardening.”

    I enjoy growing things as form of recreation, and I enjoy brewing my own beer and baking my own bread, etc. But I certainly recognize that I lead a happier and more fulfilled life because I rely on these as enriching hobbies and not for survival.

  • “Late frost wiping out blossoms on fruit trees. Deer and other critters eating garden. No rain. Too much rain. And those pesky skunks spraying the dogs. Just some of the joys of rural living.”

    Growing up Phillip I did a fair amount of agricultural labor for hire. That tends to whip romantic notions about rural living out of one’s soul. However, whenever I am visiting a large city, I cannot wait until I am leaving it and returning to my home in the Village of Dwight.

  • Jay, your comment about Hell as a place to live reminds me of General Sheridan’s comment about Hell and Texas. He said that if he owned both he would rent out Texas and live in Hell. A Texan hearing this, opined that since Sheridan was a Yankee general, that he heartily approved of Sheridan’s choice of abode.

  • Until the time I was 9, I wanted to live on a horse ranch (must’ve watched too much “Spin and Marty” on the Mickey Mouse Club). When I was 9, my mom remarried and we moved to my stepdad’s ranch with horses and cattle.

    I soon decided that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, but rather was a LOT of hard work with daily chores. Feeding and watering animals, cleaning barns, hauling hay, mowing pastures, building fences, etc.

  • Don,

    As a Texan, and as the former mayor of a town in Virginia that Sheridan raided, I also concur with Sheridan’s choice of abodes (but will decline to speculate on the likelihood of his actually having taken up residence there).


  • As I have gotten older, I’ve grown in appreciation for my small town upbringing. That said, I like being in striking distance of cultural and athletic events, too. Not to mention the opportunities it provides my children. If I can speak up for the older suburbs, I think they have a lot to offer–as opposed to the outer-ring townships where developers have run riot over the past generation. The older ‘burbs still have a certain older charm and organization, at least in their better spots. As well as convenience to big-city amenities. Having lived in one and being (almost certainly) in the process of moving to another, there’s something to be said for the inner ring places. Starting not least with affordability.

  • My family has rural roots. I grew up in the suburbs of Dallas. My parents, though, grew up in a small German Catholic town about 70 miles north of Dallas (Muenster, TX). I still have plenty of family there, and thus ample reasons to visit. In the town’s cemetery, the remains of three generations of my ancestors are buried, from my great great grandparents to my my grandparents. I speculate that even though my parents are still in Dallas, that they will eventually move back and live out their lives in their home town. The history is rich within a small town like this. It has retained some nice customs from the old country, and yet has new American ones as well.

    One such custom, is that they celebrate the feast of St. Joseph each year, treating it as a holy day of obligation. This was the town’s promise from years gone by when tornadoes destroyed one or two previous churches in town. At the completion of Sacred Heart, they dedicated it St. Joseph as the parish’s patron, promising to celebrate his feast annually. Ever since, the church has been protected from disaster, even with a couple close calls.

    My desire is to live there some day. I’ve never lived there, but it is a home of some sort. I imagine that when (if ever) I live there, it will be in my golden years.

    I admit, I have something of a romanticized view of this town. Practically speaking, living there at this point in my life would be a challenge. For one, it would be a long commute. Additionally, we aren’t sure how a town like this would welcome the idea of a home school family. Moreover, I am aware of some of the negative influences that would be difficult to shelter my children from, such as the social/binge underage drinking.

    As for Sheridan… I concur with Jay.

  • It was Davy Crockett who said “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.”

    Incidentally, Texas has plenty of small towns and suburbia.

  • People who dump on suburbia seem to have a lot in common with people who make fun of minivans. I am fatigued by the immaturity displayed by the need to justify one’s choices of where to live, what to drive, etc., by the method of criticising the choice you didn’t make.

    Every choice is made on a sliding scale of factors of varying degrees of importance.

    Be happy with your choices and be done with it.

  • Count me in as an advocate for suburbia, for many of the reasons Darwin and Dale Price cite. True, some of the newest suburban developments show a lack of beauty, but not all are created equal. I live in a “suburb” of Los Angeles (is there such a thing?) in a home built in 1940 that has plenty of charm and character. Joel Kotkin has written well about the appeal of suburbs as well (He goes against the dominant urbanist view.).

  • I grew up in a small town of less than 1,000 people, and spent part of my early married life living in an old farmhouse which was in a perpetual state of remodeling/improvement. It was great to live in when the weather was good, when the garden was thriving and when our vehicles were running properly.

    However, it also required me to make a 40-mile commute to work daily. That was not fun when we had car problems (and the nearest repair shop was 10 miles away), or during snowstorms, or when gas prices approached the then-unconscionable $2 a gallon level, or during cold snaps when the propane tank had to be refilled twice in one month, etc.

    The 2008 gas price spike, which followed several years of having to make a 60-plus mile commute to work every day, pretty much scared us into deciding to live as close as possible to my job. I must admit that while I miss seeing stars at night, the smell of freshly cut grass, etc. the thought of gas going back up over $4 a gallon again or driving through whiteout conditions to get home from work kind of throws a wet blanket on those thoughts.

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Mexifornia: A State of Becoming

Tuesday, April 27, AD 2010

Immigration seems to be a hot topic these days at American Catholic.  The author who best represents my views is Victor Davis Hanson, one of my favorite living historians,  in his book Mexifornia:  A State of Becoming.  In that book Hanson turned his gaze to a subject he is personally familiar with: the transformation of his native California by massive illegal immigration from Mexico. Hanson is not anti-Mexican. He has several Mexican relatives, his daughters are dating Mexican-Americans and most of the people he grew up with are Mexican-American or Mexican. What Hanson is opposed to is our feckless non-policy on immigration which allows steady waves of illegals to flood our border states and does not give us time to allow us to assimilate the Mexican immigrants here. Hanson believes strongly that the vast majority of immigrants, given time and opportunity, will assimilate and become good citizens.   That is my view also.   However it is impossible for this to be accomplished unless we gain control of our southern border and curb most illegal immigration.   A good book on a major issue that both the Republican and Democrat parties have steadfastly ignored, until the passage of the Arizona law. 

 Mexifornia came out in 2003.  Hanson wrote an article in 2007 for City Journal reviewing what had happened in the intervening years, which may be read here.  I find his class analysis of the immigration question interesting:

Since Mexifornia appeared, the debate also no longer splits along liberal/conservative, Republican/Democrat, or even white/brown fault lines. Instead, class considerations more often divide Americans on the issue. The majority of middle-class and poor whites, Asians, African-Americans, and Hispanics wish to close the borders. They see few advantages to cheap service labor, since they are not so likely to need it to mow their lawns, watch their kids, or clean their houses. Because the less well-off eat out less often, use hotels infrequently, and don’t periodically remodel their homes, the advantages to the economy of inexpensive, off-the-books illegal-alien labor again are not so apparent.

But the downside surely is apparent. Truck drivers, carpenters, janitors, and gardeners— unlike lawyers, doctors, actors, writers, and professors—correctly feel that their jobs are threatened, or at least their wages lowered, by cheaper rival workers from Oaxaca or Jalisco. And Americans who live in communities where thousands of illegal aliens have arrived en masse more likely lack the money to move when Spanish-speaking students flood the schools and gangs proliferate. Poorer Americans of all ethnic backgrounds take for granted that poverty provides no exemption from mastering English, so they wonder why the same is not true for incoming Mexican nationals. Less than a mile from my home is a former farmhouse whose new owner moved in several stationary Winnebagos, propane tanks, and outdoor cooking facilities—and apparently four or five entire families rent such facilities right outside his back door. Dozens live where a single family used to—a common sight in rural California that reifies illegal immigration in a way that books and essays do not.

The problem with all this is that our now-spurned laws were originally intended to ensure an (admittedly thin) veneer of civilization over innate chaos—roads full of drivers who have passed a minimum test to ensure that they are not a threat to others; single-family residence zoning to ensure that there are adequate sewer, garbage, and water services for all; periodic county inspections to ensure that untethered dogs are licensed and free of disease and that housing is wired and plumbed properly to prevent mayhem; and a consensus on school taxes to ensure that there are enough teachers and classrooms for such sudden spikes in student populations.

All these now-neglected or forgotten rules proved costly to the taxpayer. In my own experience, the slow progress made in rural California since the 1950s of my youth—in which the county inspected our farm’s rural dwellings, eliminated the once-ubiquitous rural outhouse, shut down substandard housing, and fined violators in hopes of providing a uniform humane standard of residence for all rural residents—has been abandoned in just a few years of laissez-faire policy toward illegal aliens. My own neighborhood is reverting to conditions common about 1950, but with the insult of far higher tax rates added to the injury of nonexistent enforcement of once-comprehensive statutes. The government’s attitude at all levels is to punish the dutiful citizen’s misdemeanors while ignoring the alien’s felony, on the logic that the former will at least comply while the latter either cannot or will not.

Fairness about who is allowed into the United States is another issue that reflects class divides—especially when almost 70 percent of all immigrants, legal and illegal, arrive from Mexico alone. Asians, for example, are puzzled as to why their relatives wait years for official approval to enter the United States, while Mexican nationals come across the border illegally, counting on serial amnesties to obtain citizenship.

These class divisions cut both ways, and they help explain the anomaly of the Wall Street Journal op-ed page mandarins echoing the arguments of the elite Chicano studies professors. Both tend to ridicule the far less affluent Minutemen and English-only activists, in part because they do not experience firsthand the problems associated with illegal immigration but instead find millions of aliens grist for their own contrasting agendas. Indeed, every time an alien crosses the border legally, fluent in English and with a high school diploma, the La Raza industry and the corporate farm or construction company alike most likely lose a constituent.

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38 Responses to Mexifornia: A State of Becoming

  • Perhaps some. My parents, whose parents came from Mexico, are native Californians. They have live in the same house for 50 years and added one room and remodeled the kitchen once during those years. My father was always a blue collar worker and my mother a stay-at-home mom. We were poor. They are not pleased by illegal immigration especially their perceived drain on Califoria’s resources by illegals.
    When I was in college, I had first hand experience with La Raza. Most were third generation Mexican Americans like myself. They were very well educated and living the life at an Ivy League school. They were also quite pro-illegal immigration, in favor of large govt. entitlements to illegal immigrants and against any restrictions on immigration.
    I think there is a real divide amongh Hispanics on illegal immigration that is in part influenced by socio-economic status. Don’t know about other groups.

  • One of my roommates in College was the son of Mexicans who initially came into the country illegally. He used to tell me that the biggest problem for upward mobility in his neighborhood were the new illegals who could be hired for a song by employers.

  • This wouldn’t be a problem except that liberal progressive Catholics have encouraged this situation. To them, it is against social justice NOT to welcome the illgeal alien, and many bishops and priests feel the same way. This kind of nonsense liberal thinking has to be purged. BTW, it’s the rich, well-off liberals like liberal Catholic Nancy Pelosi who encourage this sort of thing.

  • Donald- I believe the 800 lb. gorilla in this debate is “it’s the economy, stupid”, more so than “it’s the unsecured borders, stupid”. But it is a both/and deal to a large degree with these two major factors figuring strongly.

    I know Joe H. has agreed with me that NAFTA needs to be immediately rehauled- my own social doctrine-inspired view is that market theory cannot stand alone, there is a need for direction and intervention on the part of the political authorities to ensure the common good. The proof that NAFTA as currently configured is a bust, is found in the pudding of extreme circumstances of so many Mexicans leaving home to find opportunities as illegal entrants into the U.S. As it is said- the Mexican people have voted on NAFTA with their feet.

    This is my beef with the non-racist “conservatives” when discussion of the problem of illegal immigration comes up- they don’t or won’t acknowledge the huge role that economics has played- and the shared responsibility for this that both the Mexican and the American establishment powers has played in creating such terrible conditions of life for average folk south of the border for the most part. NAFTA was sold to the masses as the cure for illegal immigration pressures- facts on the ground suggest that the problems have grown exponentially since NAFTA.

    Now if we effectively seal the borders and do nothing about the economic relationship between us and Mexico, I would predict some dramatic upheaval to take place inside Mexico- violence, destabilization, perhaps revolution- these could be ultimately curative, but I would like to try to ease out of the crisis with substantial reforms along economic development lines as my first-stroke strategy- if there is a sense of hope that the Mexican-U.S. establishments are going to be working for real on a development model akin to post-war building up of physical infrastructure, ready access to affordable education- all the way through college levels, and family subsidies to make up the short-term difference between what the market supplies as wages, and what people actually require to keep their families intact and progressing by the generations- (I will provide some social doctrine backing for this bit in a later post devoted to freeing ourselves from ideologies part 2).

    In conclusion- we could devote several billion dollars to building up an air-tight, Israel-style wall and checkpoint system for border security- and then sit back and watch the Mexicans tear themselves up for awhile and maybe get sorted out in a way that meets the demands of the majority of families within- or we can be proactive now, admit that the economic relationship and trade agreement is flawed and failing- and re-visit all of it- inviting all the major interests- not just the largest corporate ones- to be part of a transparent process of negotiation- plenty of media openness to ensure the general public in all countries affected- of course Canada is to be included in all this as well- everyone who cares to know will know what is going on and could then take on more trust that the system will be looking out for the common good, and not just the interests of the few in the high-end financial sectors- recall that right after NAFTA passed a really huge bail-out took place to cover the losses of those high-ender speculators who first pumped NAFTA up into a bubble investment, and then begged for and got a massive public bail-out when the bubble predictably burst- sound familiar?

  • That is just economic nonsense. The thread of Mexican prosperity does not hang on an 8% excise on imports.

  • Tim:

    Please make your case: What exactly changed in the law as the result of NAFTA, and by what causative mechanism did these changes make the situation in Mexico worse?

    It seems to me that this connection is largely assumed in your previous post: Not to say that you aren’t correct, but only that the case isn’t made and, as the fellow who brought it up, you ought to make it.

  • To Art Deco- if NAFTA has such a small effect on things- why has everyone made such a big fuss about it- those who advocated it and pushed for it made all sorts of broad claims about how much improvement would come to all with the passage of this trade agreement. I’m not saying that Art Deco was making this claim- but I recall the debate prior to the passage of NAFTA, and I have stood in front of a U.S. Senator a couple of years ago and stated that NAFTA was a failure and needed to be re-negotiated and he unleashed a stream of the highest sounding praise for the NAFTA trade pact- giving it all manner of credit for being one of the greatest things out there- so I’m not sure what to believe when the establishment powers have always been making bold claims as to the power for good that NAFTA held out- and now I’m told by Art Deco that it is pretty insignificant- I know that the bail-out of investors after NAFTA was not insignificant- so I tend to believe that NAFTA has been a powerful shaper of economic conditions- but I’m open to further discussion on that- and even if NAFTA is more small potatoes than I imagined it to be- there is a corresponding relationship between the U.S. and Mexico on economic matters whereupon Mexican prosperity and solidity is important for our border security and for economic and moral considerations. Rich countries can never be smug or self-contented especially with a poor country camped out just outside the gate- think of Lazarus the begger and the rich man parable.

  • Hanson is probably right about the class divide on this issue among whites and blacks but he’s wrong in his belief that it applies also to Asians and Hispanics.

    The best way to determine an Asian or Hispanic’s stance on this issue is to ask whether he has friends and relatives in his native country. That’s a greater divide. It’s an empathy divide. It’s easier to be an America Firster if you aren’t supporting your mother back in Mexico.

    Fairness about who is allowed into the United States is another issue that reflects class divides—especially when almost 70 percent of all immigrants, legal and illegal, arrive from Mexico alone. Asians, for example, are puzzled as to why their relatives wait years for official approval to enter the United States, while Mexican nationals come across the border illegally, counting on serial amnesties to obtain citizenship.

    There’s no puzzle. Poor Asians come illegally. Wealthier Asians aren’t willing to wash dishes so they wait to come legally so they can work for Google or open a business. If you hand immigration policy over to any non-political subgroup of Asians, they’ll throw the doors open. Except maybe poor third and fourth generation Asians working in landscaping. All 3 of them.

  • if NAFTA has such a small effect on things- why has everyone made such a big fuss about it

    If Obama was born in the US, why has everyone made such a big fuss about it? The answer to both questions: Willful ignorance.

  • “A good book on a major issue that both the Republican and Democrat parties have steadfastly ignored, until the passage of the Arizona law.”

    I have to say after living through 2006 and especially 2007 the issue was not ignored I will tell you that

  • From Victor’s article

    ““Anti-immigrant” is also a lie peddled in service to open borders — a lie by virtue that it deliberately blends “immigrant” with “illegal immigrant” to suggest opposition to all legal immigration.”

    I think he undercuts his case complaing about the term anti Immigrant when he uses the term “open borders” which is a term that misused way too much

    Furhter some of the LEAFING VOICES in this debate and one we see on the TV and in fact at the National Review itself are very very anti legal immigration. That is in the mix too

  • Just curious: who at NR is anti-legal immigration?

  • I think that he is right that there is a class divide on support for more immigration — though I don’t think it’s primarily because of the more well-off having illegal immigrant gardeners and maids.

    It’s easier for those who have “made it” to say, “It’s a land of opportunity, we should let more people in like my ancestors were and give them the chance to make it to.” Those who are much less economically secure are more likely to see any influx of additional labor simply as competition — and people who will make the neighborhood seem messier and more chaotic.

  • “Just curious: who at NR is anti-legal immigration?”

    Mark Krikorian is the mnain immigration guy over at the Corner. He belongs and has worked for various John Tanton groups that are all related and basically want to halt legal immigration to a trickle

    For them illegal aliens are a sad issue.

  • Just curious: who at NR is anti-legal immigration?

    Mark Krikorian wrote a book called The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal. Does that count?

  • Ramesh Ponnuru has also argued that problems associated with illegal immigration also apply to legal immigration.

  • Tim,

    It’s hard for me to see how NAFTA is the primary villain in this (or to be honest, even much of a peripheral villain) given that it wasn’t even passed until 1994. At least from a Southern California perspective, there was already a massive illegal immigration from Mexico problem in the 80s and early 90s, before NAFTA was even passed. Nor was Mexico previously in good shape which NAFTA somehow destroyed — it’s been gradually improving over the years, but the main problem is that has been economically far behind the US for 150 years or more.

    NAFTA repealed US tariffs which previously applied to about 50% of Mexican exports to the US and Mexican tariffs which previously applied to about 30% of US exports to Mexico. It also made cross-border investment and business ownership easier. (Which is why, for instance, my current employer is in the midst of closing factories in central Texas and opening factories in Juarez.)

    As for why it’s been so controversial… Honestly, I don’t know, other than that it’s a convenient peg on which to hang one’s opinions about free trade and Mexico, whether one is for or against.

  • “I have to say after living through 2006 and especially 2007 the issue was not ignored I will tell you that”

    Ingnored jh in actually attempting to do something effective about the problem. I think one aspect of the hullabaloo that has arisen in regard to the Arizona law is the fear on one side, and the hope on the other, that this law might prove effective in combating illegal immigration. Attempts to block it in court will of course be fierce, and may be successful, but if it is ever allowed to be implemented, and if it does prove effective, watch it being replicated in quite a few states.

  • Krikorian also borders on being an anti-Catholic bigot:

    Whenever someone starts a sentence with “Unlike this guy, I am not a Catholic-basher” after having quoted said “guy” in suppport of his premise, odds are that he is, indeed, a “Catholic basher”.

  • I think one aspect of the hullabaloo that has arisen in regard to the Arizona law is the fear on one side, and the hope on the other, that this law might prove effective in combating illegal immigration.

    That, or we’re just escalating from sticking our metaphorical finger in the hole in the dike to shoving our head in.

  • NAFTA phased out a lot of the ag restrictions. Mexico was flooded with US corn, and Mexico’s farmers couldn’t compete. A lot of the recent illegal immigrants are former corn farmers.

  • Donald I think the proposals given in 2006 and 2007 in fact were a good way of doing something about it.

    However it appears various factions in this debate on the left and right will not move a inch. In fact they raise holy heck if anyone shows moving a inch.

    Doing something about it is the need to address all the issues here. THe problem is just focusing on Enforcement or just focusing on citizenship and a pathway to it causes problems.

    We have millions of children of illegal aliens that are American citizens right now. What happens to them when all these mass deportations occur? Someone has to take care of them. Does the fact that their parents live in the shawdows in fact causing major future problems for us. I suspect it is. Do they fit in the ewquation anywhere? Or are they acceptable collateral damage that perhaps will come back to haunt us big time in the future

    Now that does not give every illegal with a child a free pass. Under proposals those same folks would have to meet certain requirements to stay and no doubt many would mmet the mark. But at least it will make the afteraffects less severe on the whole.

  • It looks like in regards to agriculture, trade in both directions has more than tripled since 1993, and the US has maintained a $1B trade surplus throughout:

    a brief PDF with government data on the topic

    Primary increases in US agricultural exports to Mexico have been in commodities which the US produces very efficiently in very high volumes: beef and corn.

    The big increases in Mexican exports to the US have been products which can’t be grown in the US or have different growing seasons farther south: coffee, cocoa, fresh vegetable, fresh fruit.

  • There is of course a huge divide between how Mexico wants America to treat its immigrants and how they treat their own:

  • But Phillip that’s different! (Unless you are talking to Central Americans of course.)

  • There is of course a huge divide between how Mexico wants America to treat its immigrants and how they treat their own

    I’m not sure we should be using Mexico as a guide for how our laws should be.

  • Tim:

    No argument that the better off Mexico is internally, the better for everyone.

    Perhaps NAFTA is the disaster you may think it is, perhaps not, perhaps it is indifferent. Without accurate information, changes or overhauls could make things unintentionally worse. Of course, accurate info on just about anything of that nature (legislative/governmental impacts on economics) is hard to come by.

  • Not a guide. Just perspective. I suspect immigrants (illegal or otherwise) to this country will find Arizona’s recent law enlightened compared to most other countries laws on immigration.

  • I read an interesting book a couple of years ago- Global Class War by Jeff Faux- it really tore into the backstory of NAFTA and the bailout that followed- anyone here read the same? I would like to think that Catholic commerce networks could be established to develop fair trade avenues for producers and consumers- I’ve had Catholic Relief Service reps out to my classes to present on their Fair Trade programs and promotions- I like the notion of Catholics linking up across borders and being conscious of the morality bound up in our economic relationships between those who are doing ok and those not. This way we don’t have to rely on big Gov or big corporate interests all the time.

  • That is true. I think Benedict XVI says very much the same thing in Caritas in Veritate.

  • We have immingration laws and regardless of where the illegal entry person is from, they need to be enforced. Many current citizens are children of past immingrants from many different countries who came here became citizens and followed the law and many still do. They assimilated into US society and norms while still holding their cultural backgorund which has made the country great. To see the group of protesters and many illegals and their approach to demonizing the USA is sickening. The refrain from politicians who support these illegals and who are only looking for a vote is also sickening as if they are above the law for strictly a political means. To allow an amnesty is wrong as it would only cause another problem in the future if all illegals are allowed now. They should have to register and be sent back to their homeland and even if it takes ten years for legal entry so be it. Enployers and all others who harbour or utilize illegals for any purpose should face a mandatory very high fine. The people in Arizona were forced to act as our government has not due to politics. If the IRS has records of illegals here or SSN or any shelter with employers of any kind , they should be giving the information to Imingration officials and these persons also face a very steep finanical fine til the lure of employment here and the fact enforcement will be swift and sure would do more than building fences or barriers. If they then still try to enter illegaly , they will be denied legal entry in the future for any reason. They now know they once they get in , if they lay low and keep a quiet profile, they will be able to stay, as laws are being enforced.

  • “Both tend to ridicule the far less affluent Minutemen and English-only activists, in part because they do not experience firsthand the problems associated with illegal immigration but instead find millions of aliens grist for their own contrasting agendas.”

    And that’s why both will be ignored and ultimately rendered irrelevant.

  • This is my beef with the non-racist “conservatives” when discussion of the problem of illegal immigration comes up- they don’t or won’t acknowledge the huge role that economics has played- and the shared responsibility for this that both the Mexican and the American establishment powers has played in creating such terrible conditions of life for average folk south of the border for the most part. NAFTA was sold to the masses as the cure for illegal immigration pressures- facts on the ground suggest that the problems have grown exponentially since NAFTA.

    The liberalization of trade induces small improvements in aggregate welfare and appears to have positive effects on economic dynamism as well. The benefits are general but not necessarily equal between the parties. There may be effects on income distribution within particular parties that are disagreeable and of course there are transition costs. IIRC, Mancur Olson floated a thesis many years ago that there are benefits not captured in econometric models and which might derive from the disruption of domestic cartels. I am not sure if anyone else developmed or tested that idea.

    The NAFTA treaty concerns the regime governing cross-border merchandise trade. There is a section which concerns the regulation of financial services. Mexico did experience a currency crisis some months after the NAFTA treaty was ratified. I suppose it could be Jeff Faux’ thesis that the liberalization in cross-border branch banking somehow exacerbated the currency crisis. I couldn’t tell you as I have not read the book. (I do not think that is the usual diagnosis in cases of financial crisis). It seems to me if you are concerned about the effect of hot money you could address that separately from the question of how to govern trade in merchandise or non-factor services.

    Latin America has some signature problems (dysfunctional labor markets and wretchedly skewed income distribution among them). However, Latin American countries are not, when measured on a global scale, peculiarly impoverished; they are about average, and more affluent than they were a generation ago. I do not know why you should regard it as anomalous that Mexico has not had an experience of economic development like that of South Korea – five decades of smokin’ economic growth which largely erases the difference in standards of living between the country in question and Switzerland. There are only about a half-dozen non-European countries who have managed that since the War.

  • The sales pitches of politicians often turn out to be…imprecise. You expected something else?

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General Motors and "Repaid" Debt

Monday, April 26, AD 2010

I usually don’t go in for thought experiments, but for once I’ll make an exception. Let’s pretend for a moment that I need $50,000 to maintain a struggling business, and you, being the wealthy and charitable individual you are, provide me with $50,000 in the following manner:

1) $30,000 in ownership (a share in future profits, if any)
2) $13,000 for emergency cash (to be repaid at no interest)
3) $7,000 in debt (at an interest rate 7% lower than I could get elsewhere for accepting a similar risk)

Not too many angel investors, venture capital funds, or private equity funds would sign up for such an arrangement, and that, dear reader, is why I am relying on your generosity. After one year, the business still has not made a profit. However, I have managed to “pay back” the initial $7,000 in debt in the following manner:

1) I borrowed an additional $10,000 from you for environmentally friendly investments.
2) I used some of the $13,000 in emergency spending cash to pay back the $7,000.

In other words, at the beginning of the year, you provided me with $50,000. I now owe you $53,000 (plus the emergency spending cash I used and the interest you’ve lost), with no real prospects for paying the money back. However, I am confidently assuring my customers and you(!), of all people, that I have “repaid my loan in full,” by which I mean the $7,000 in debt, not, of course, the $53,000 you provided that has not yet been returned. Change the thousands in the thought experiment to billions and the debtor to

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Inherent Tensions on Nationalism

Monday, April 26, AD 2010

Nationalism, a hydra of a term which in this case I am using in the sense whereby it refers to the idea that “a people” of unified ethnic, cultural and/or religious heritage have a “right” to their own nation state which expresses their identity as a people, is a force which has been at the root of a great deal of suffering since it burst upon the world scene — arguably via the French Revolution followed by Napoleon’s empire. As such, it has a fairly well deserved negative reputation these days. And yet, like many intellectual vices, it is often denounced even by those who hold it dear.

Case in point: Can one seriously claim to be against nationalism if one believes that the Palestinians have a natural and human right to their own nation state in which they are the dominant ethnic and cultural force?

For a couple decades, the “Palestinian” territories were parts of Jordan and Egypt respectively. For the last 50 years, they have been controlled by Israel. If one is truly against nationalism, is either of these situations a problem? Or the the problem only when whatever governing authority controls the West Bank and Gaza Strip fails to provide equal political rights and privileges to the residents of those areas who are Muslim or Christian Arab in background?

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4 Responses to Inherent Tensions on Nationalism

  • DC,

    The operative definition of “nationalism” in this piece is not necessarily the concept that the political left might object to.

    When nationalism involves very strong self-identification with one’s nation, it might include that one’s nation is of primary importance. To be clear, I am primarily interested in human affairs as they relate to America because they affect me, the people I love, and the country I live in. However, without the right moral parameters, patriotism can morph into a nationalism that involves a negative view of other races or cultures based on broad generalizations that are not necessarily rational. I would bet there is an extreme positive correlation between self-identified patriots who believe in “supporting Israel” and who hold the prevalent Republican view on immgiration.

    So, I think there is a question regarding definition of “nationalism.”

    Either way, I don’t think the “left” or “right” are terribly consistent on these issues.

  • Fair point. We are, often, two factions divided by a common language.

    That said, I would argue that the definition of nationalism that I just outlined underlies most of the manifestations of nationalism which the political left decries (as well as some it applauds.)

    After all, the instinct to desire a “pure” Jewish state of Israel is really no different from the desire to have a “pure” Arab state of Palestine — except that the two desire are mutually exclusive, since both groups claim the same land.

    Since one of the things that most Americans admire about the US is that it is a “melting pot” of immigrant groups, I think it’s far too easy for us to forget that in nearly every other part of the world (and certainly in Europe and the Middle East) nationalism is very much connected with the desire (often militant) of cultural/ethnic groups to have a state to themselves.

  • We are patriots. They are nationalists. It brings to mind the old George Carlin quote: “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”

  • One important distinction to consider is the odd monkey-wrench which the United States happens to throw into the usual considerations on nationalism.

    Usually in the history of the world “nationalism” is an expression of some form of racialism. The Germans of the 1930’s weren’t unusual in this regard: They rallied around their German-ness defined by family lines, culture, history, and genotype, and even invented some silly unscientific views of their origins to support it. (Aryan! Ha! The closest things to Aryans the Nazis dealt with were the gypsies, or “Roma,” who they slaughtered with only slightly less gusto than they did Jews! Now if they’d invaded [i]Persia[/i] they could have dealt with some Aryans.) This was all part of German identity, it was who they were.

    The United States, though, takes a very different approach to identity, to self-definition. German-ness may be all about family, but American-ness is centrally about a particular approach to human liberty and its implications about what constitutes good government. Americans have traditionally gone out of their way to emphasize that the “great American melting pot” was held together, not on racial lines, but by that common agreement on a point of [i]ideology[/i]; something with which anyone could potentially embrace, no matter their birthplace.

    Put crudely: When a war occurs between other nation-states and in other centuries, peoples would get worked into a state of frenzy asserting that [i]we[/i] were better than [i]those guys[/i]: A necessary bit of cheerleading, perhaps, but when the only differences between us and them are our genetic heritage and those bits of culture which come as accidents of birthplace rather than from willful adoption of a creed or cult, then…? What? Surely we can’t claim [i]moral[/i] superiority on such a basis. It is hard for most nations to exhibit nationalism without going for some kind of racial superiority angle because that, at heart, is what defines the nation.

    But whenever the United States was involved in a war, nationalism took a different tone: From the revolution onward, an ideology was involved. Thus does American cheerleading differ from the conventional nationalism: It is about freedom and human rights and opposition to tyrants and such.

    The odd thing is that this means the American expression of nationalism — the kinds of things being said and championed — has a better than usual chance of actually being true, of being worth championing.

    Setting aside the issues of justification and the violated ceasefire terms and all that, it is plainly true that Republics with Constitutionally Limited Government by Democratically Elected Representatives with Encouraged Entrepreneurialism, Enforceable Contracts, and Educated Populaces are just plain [i]better[/i] than anything the Taliban, or Al Qaeda, or the sleazeball Saddam & Sons regime, or Russian kleptocrats, or the Soviets before them, could ever offer.

    Don’t misunderstand what I’m claiming, here. I’m not attempting to argue for justification for attacking the Taliban. I’m not saying that the nation with the best ideas about government should go ’round invading all the ones with lesser notions.

    I am putting all that to the side, and focusing on the question: Does American “nationalism,” when expressed, differ in any qualitative way from “nationalism” as usually defined?

    I think it does. I think a person who rallies to the flag in the U.S. isn’t rallying to a race or to a racial culture or to a racial history, as he would be in other countries. He is rallying to a set of abstract moral imperatives embodied in an approach to governance and society-formation.

    And, all things considered, the moral imperatives and the approach to governance and society-formation which are cheered on when an American puts up his flag are [i]good[/i] ones. Quite good, actually.

    That this difference between American nationalism and Xian nationalism is overlooked accounts, I think, for the disconnect about “patriotism” between right and left.

    The fellow on the left sees a bunch of red-staters mounting flags and gets surly and suspicious: Don’t they know how badly white people treated the American Indians? Don’t they know about exploitation by American corporations in Latin America?

    Meanwhile the fellow on the right sees the fellow on the left getting surly and suspicious and feels that limited government, enumerated powers, democratic republicanism, and the Bill of Rights are being dismissed or shown contempt — by someone who enjoys their benefits, no less!

    Now if the fellow on the right thought “America” meant his relatives and their cultural habits and history, he’d agree the guy on the left had a point. But since his idea of America is all tied up with the Revolution and the Constitution, he thinks the guy on the left is merely off-topic, and a bit of an ingrate.

    The guy on the left takes note of the frown of the guy on the right, and shouts, “Don’t question my patriotism!” The guy on the right responds, “Didn’t say a thing, bud…but if the principles I hold dear offend you so much, y’know, there are other places you could live where they hold different ones….”

    And neither side realizes that the other is talking about something entirely different.

Arizona, Immigration, and Moral Panic

Monday, April 26, AD 2010

When I first heard of the controversy swirling around Arizona’s “draconian” new immigration law, I’ll admit I was skeptical. It’s not that I thought I would approve of the Arizona law (I tend to be of the view that immigration is a net benefit to America). But hyperbole is an all too common feature of political discourse, and I had to wonder whether the bill was really as harsh and wrongheaded as its critics were making out.

After reading the text of the bill, however, I have to say that, yes, it really is that bad. The bill would criminalize charitable activities directed at illegal immigrants, would making it a crime for an illegal immigrant to try to get a legitimate job, and, in an Orwellian twist, would make illegal immigrants guilty of trespassing for being on private property even with the owner’s permission.

The law also requires state officials to enforce federal immigration laws, effectively turning every Arizona cop into a part time border patrol agent. Arizona’s politicians may like the idea of having cops enforce the immigration code because it makes them look tough, but actual police tend to hate the idea, as it makes their job more difficult and forces them to take resources away from actual police work. (During the debate on the Bush immigration bill back in 2006, for example, the Major Cities Chiefs Associations came out against a requirement for state police to enforce immigration laws, arguing that doing so “undermines trust and cooperation with immigrant communities, which are essential elements of community oriented policing,” and would require scarce resources to be devoted to immigration enforcement rather than other, higher priorities).

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0 Responses to Arizona, Immigration, and Moral Panic

  • Under the law, any citizen who feels the state or locality isn’t fully enforcing the immigration laws (perhaps because they are spending to much time trying to solve murders instead of raiding soup kitchens)

    Just out of curiousity, do you have an idea of what share of a typical departments man-hours are actually devoted to investigating homicides, and at what point the marginal utility of adding additional officers to such detail falls to zero?

  • The cops in Central Illinois, in my experience as a Defense Attorney, seem to have quite a bit of time to devote to such subjects as low level cannabis arrests, not wearing seat belt arrests, domestic battery arrests where no blows are exchanged, overweight trucks, cars with windows that are tinted too dark, etc. I doubt if checking on the immigrant status of people would take much time away from murders, etc.

  • I don’t think the argument used to justify the law was that the police don’t have anything better to do than look for illegal immigrants.

  • It seems to me that the article from American Conservative basically proves that crime rates for Hispanics, while higher than those for whites, are really close. I don’t really understand how that translates, “illegal aliens don’t break the law.” You do understand our problem isn’t with Hispanics?
    Also, you state “And, mind you, the law doesn’t just empower state officials to enforce immigration laws. It mandates that they do so.” A law that mandates police enforce the law does not fill me with righteous anger.

  • “I don’t think the argument used to justify the law was that the police don’t have anything better to do than look for illegal immigrants.”

    One of your attacks on the law did appear to be BA that it would divert the police from more important functions. I doubt very seriously if this would be the case.

    I think the main arguments in favor of the law would be that Arizona would be better off by stopping or slowing the flow of illegal aliens and that the Federal government has proven both inept and uninterested in stopping illegal border crossings. I have a feeling that the main effect of the law might be that it will cause illegal aliens to head for states that are considered illegal alien friendly like California. I suspect that result will bring broad smiles to the faces of most Arizonans.

  • The cops in Central Illinois, in my experience as a Defense Attorney..

    Well, but you only see the cases that are actually charged. That could represent a small percentage of the activity of the police; also, it could be that Central Illinois law enforcement has different priorities and staffing than Arizona law enforcement; or, it could be that the levels of criminal activity are different between the states. It is instructive, however, that the police in the situation are concerned about these issues, and have said so publicly.

    Even if they are wrong, I don’t think the law should criminalize charitable activities or charge invited guests for trespassing (a law which, one suspects, will simply increase the level of crime appearing in statistics on illegal immigration).

  • “Well, but you only see the cases that are actually charged.”

    Yep. I know that cops waste far more time on inconsequential offenses that are never charged.

    “It is instructive, however, that the police in the situation are concerned about these issues, and have said so publicly.”

    Major City Chiefs tend to be political appointees who are usually far more concerned about politics than policing in my experience and often take stances that bear no relationship to the attitudes expressed by the cops who actually enforce the laws.

  • I think CA Prop 187 is about was far as I’m willing to go on the “I’m peeved the Feds don’t enforce the immigration laws” tack. This seems to me to be going very much too far.

  • Prop 187 made a lot of sense, so naturally a federal judge found it to be unconstitutional:

  • One of your attacks on the law did appear to be BA that it would divert the police from more important functions.

    Well I do think that. However, the law has been justified by some pretty apocalyptic language, invoking drug gangs, murders, kidnappings, etc. If it turns out that crime in Arizona is more akin to the Central Illinois town where you work, then I’d say the bill was passed under false pretenses (what is the murder rate for your town, btw?)

  • A law that mandates police enforce the law does not fill me with righteous anger.

    In that case perhaps we should mandate cops spend their time doing audits for the IRS or spot inspections for the EPA. After all, they’d just be enforcing the law. Which is their job, right?

  • BA,

    Here is one reading of the law:

    You note the law would:

    1. Criminalize charitable activities directed at illegal immigrants

    2. Make it a crime for an illegal immigrant to try to get a legitimate job

    3. Make illegal immigrants guilty of trespassing for being on private property even with the owner’s permission.

    4. Require state officials to enforce federal immigration laws.

    Some notes of mine:

    1. Any such identification must be made pursuant to an otherwise lawful incident (in other words, no searching / stopping / arresting based on suspicion of status alone).

    2. If the US Government gives an indication that such a person is illegal, the AZ police then turn the person over to Federal custody. The Federal law does not give exclusive right to enforcement of Federal law to Federal officers, I do not think, or at the very least, does not prevent state officers who have been informed that an individual is violating Federal law from taking such an individual into custody.

    3. It is already illegal under Federal law for an employer to hire illegal immigrants. Why are you concerned that this law makes it illegal for an illegal immigrant to be hired, when the Federal law does so already?

    4. What charitable functions do you think are affected by this law, and what sections support your claim?

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  • “(what is the murder rate for your town, btw?)”

    Shockingly high for a town of 4000 actually. In 2002 in a case in which I was involved two kids were murdered by their father, for example. My former partner’s great,great grand father was the first recorded murder victim in Dwight. The richest man in town was gunned down in broad daylight by Chicago gangsters in 1933, the rumor in town being that he was keeping time with a mob boss’ moll. I’d say that the town has averaged about one murder every other year since I arrived in town in 85.

  • “In that case perhaps we should mandate cops spend their time doing audits for the IRS…”

    When tax-cheats engage in human trafficking, drug smuggling, murder and mayhem in the streets and in the countryside, then maybe we should.

  • Any such identification must be made pursuant to an otherwise lawful incident (in other words, no searching / stopping / arresting based on suspicion of status alone).

    Outside of traffic stops the police can pretty much always come up and talk to you if they wish, and often they have to in order to do their job. Suppose, for example, that a woman is raped and the police are canvassing the neighborhood to see if their are any witnesses. Everyone they talk to will be via a lawful contact and, under the law, they will have to verify the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect might be an illegal immigrant. Of course if they do that, then illegals won’t ever talk to the police, which will make it more difficult for the police to solve the crime (obviously this is purely hypothetical, as cops in Arizona don’t do anything but arrest people for not wearing seat belts).

    It is already illegal under Federal law for an employer to hire illegal immigrants. Why are you concerned that this law makes it illegal for an illegal immigrant to be hired, when the Federal law does so already?

    I don’t think it makes it a criminal offense to do so.

    What charitable functions do you think are affected by this law, and what sections support your claim?

    Section 13-2929(A)(2). A friend of mine used to work at a homeless shelter in El Paso. Most of the folks there were illegal immigrants. I suspect that this is true for most social services in border areas (fwiw, the local INS head had an agreement with the head of the homeless shelter that he would leave them alone as he didn’t want to interfere with the provision of charitable services; if a state official in Arizona followed a similar course he could be fined $5,000 a day).

  • Btw, Jonathan, the blog post you link to is explicitly limited to arguing that the Arizona law isn’t racist:

    If you want to argue that the law is not sound on civil liberties grounds, do so. If you want to argue that as a matter of public policy local governments should not enforce the immigration laws, then make that argument.

    But the one argument which is not legitimate is that the law is racist.

    As I didn’t argue that the law was racist, I don’t see how the blog post is relevant.

  • Prop 187 made a lot of sense, so naturally a federal judge found it to be unconstitutional

    I think that 187 did indeed make a lot of sense. (I was a Californie at the time, so I was right in the middle of it.) No thanks to the Feds on that one.

    However, I think this law sounds rather overboard.

  • “Everyone they talk to will be via a lawful contact and, under the law, they will have to verify the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect might be an illegal immigrant.”

    They will have to make a reasonable attempt, “when practicable,” to verify immigration status. In the course of an investigation, it would seem to be up to the officer’s discretion as to whether it is practicable at that point to do so.

    It also does not appear that the immigrant may be taken into custody purely on that status alone. There must be some other reason for assessment of criminal status.

    So, you’re more concerned with the criminal status than with the actual illegality of the job seeking? It did not seem so in your original post.

    Finally, section 13-2929(A)(2) states that it is illegal to “conceal…in violation of law” when the person doing the concealment “is in violation of a criminal offense.” So, it would have to mean that the person running the homeless shelter is already committing or has committed some criminal offense, and is attempting to harbor or conceal illegal immigrants in addition. If it were general, the wording would have to be “it is unlawful for a person to:…conceal” without the addition “in violation of a criminal offense.”

  • BA,

    The post I linked to also does a good job analyzing and clarifying some of the things (such as enforcement of federal laws) that you raise as concerns. I was not worried about the consideration of the racist part, as such.


  • BTW,

    It appears that much of this bill is repeating Federal law in places. For instance, a much more intense version of this bill’s language is found at 8 USC 1324 –—-000-.html

  • BA,
    Really, really, bad example. That shelter was not a homeless shelter so much as it was the Catholic Diocese of El Paso’s whistle stop on the underground railroad up to Chicago and other points, north. If you didn’t know, they had facilities on both sides of the border (meaning in what is now the war zone of Juarez)and worked primarily for the purpose of frustrating the enforcement of US immigration law. I don’t know if they are still there, but if they are, they are surely more about violating our immigration law than they are about caring for the needs of the homeless in the community; of which we have plenty.
    As a former officer of the US government, I doubt the local INS chief had the authority to agree not to do his job.

  • I’m not sure why anyone would want to cite Prop 187 as a precedent here. After all, the law (1) did serious damage to the Republican party in California (and, by extension, the nation), and (2) never went into effect. So even if you think the law sounded good in theory, in practice all it did was hurt the Republican party, literally.

    In the other thread Donald cited an article arguing that what happened in California wouldn’t happen in Arizona because voter turnout among Hispanics is low in Arizona. Er, is it not possible that the passage of this bill might change that? As I reflect on the matter, it is increasingly clear to me that this law will never go into effect (there are serious preemption and 4th Amendment problems with it, to say the least). So if there is a backlash and the Dems get another 10 sure thing electoral votes, you won’t even be able to say “well, at least we stuck it to the illegals.”

  • Arizona isn’t California BA just like Texas isn’t California. The demographics and the politics are completely different. Additionally the Democrat dream is that Hispanics will give them a permanent electoral majority, especially if this country continues to essentially have a “Y’all come!” policy to illegal immigration from Mexico. The politics are not so simple. Stop illegal immigration, or simply substantially reduce it, and assimilation and time will lessen the Democrat advantage among Hispanics. Political suicide for the Republicans is to continue to sit by and allow the Federal government to do nothing to stem the flow of illegal aliens.

  • FWIW, I don’t think that 187 hurt the GOP in California particularly. Indeed, 187 was one of the first high profile cases of the California GOP getting behind what proved to be fairly popular populist ballot measures.

    What’s crippled the GOP in California has been a combination of:

    1) The state becoming one of the most liberal in the nation in regards to polled opinion, with much of this centering around the LA and SanFran metropolitan areas (which have seen a huge influx of highly educated urban elite demographics over the last 30 years).

    2) The split within the California GOP between fairly liberal Republicans (as typified by Pete Wilson, Arnold, Meg Whitman, etc.) and hard right candidates from the more rural parts of the state and a few of the affluent suburbs. The state party is pretty well split between those two factions, each one of which is willing to refuse to support candidates put forward by the other.

    3) Some of the strongest public sector unions in the country.

    The state politics of California have become increasingly self-destructive on both sides of the aisle, but I don’t think it accurately reflects the history there to argue that 187 was a key turning point against the GOP. If anything, it underlined the ability of conservative ballot measures to do significantly better than GOP state candidates usually do at the polls. Further examples including the marriage ballot initiative, the marriage amendment, and the Grey Davis recall.

  • That said, while I don’t claim to know anything about the internal political dynamics in Arizona, it’s hard for me to imagine that this kind of stunt (which seems far more punitive and impractical than 187) will do the GOP any good. Even if it’s locally popular, it seems to reinforce an impractical reactionary streak which makes the GOP a bad governing party no matter how good it may be for campaigning.

  • This unmatched chaos caused by decades of unimportance as seen by both political parties over illegal immigration. In this firestorm of an issue we need to enact immediately the following measures to stabilize our nation’s immigration enforcement. This is specifically come to the surface after the bloody murder of Robert Krentz, rancher and landowner, with the upsurge in deaths of border Patrol agents and illegal aliens. 1. Deploy the National Guard permanently–fully armed along the border from San Diego, CA to Brownville, Texas. 2. Make it a felony with prison time for any employer not using the computer application E-Verify, to identify all workers on the payroll. This program will improve nationwide impact of self-deportation by ATTRITION, over the coming years for unlawful labor. 3. To terminate decades of unprecedented billions of dollars of debt for support of illegal immigrants on taxpayers. Read what Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) has to say about what taxpayers are forced to pay for 20 to 30 million illegal immigrants at–THE DAILY CALLER WEBSITE.

    Reestablish the legality of instant citizenship to babies born to an illegal parent or parents in federal court. 4. Make absolutely sure that any incumbent of both parties, starting with Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is thrown out of office this year. Send this searing message to–ALL–pro illegal immigrant, Pro-amnesty politicians that America will not stand any longer lawmakers that are for sale to the highest bidder. 5. Those elected will re-fence the border as two separate barriers, with an open tracking area in between for the movement of National Guardsman accompanying the US Border patrol with full funding. That lawmakers who are supposedly there to represent every citizen and permanent resident possessing a green card, appropriate the money to seal the border from illegal entry. That these same elected officials have already spent $445 Billion dollars in taxpayer’s money in supporting some distant foreign government in Afghanistan; they therefore can easily appropriate funds for the correctly designed border fence.

    As a patriotic people we will voice our vehemence that we will join the war against any type of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. That contains in any shape or form a citizenship path, for those who stole into America. THERE WILL BE NO AMNESTY–NO PARDON FOR CRIMINALS WHO IGNORE OUR LAWS. We are not the financial, free-handout for foreign labor, which cannot support those entering America illegally. Arizona is the first state with a backbone that has been financial crippled by welfare payments to illegal alien families. Its undercurrent caused by the rising crime rate never seen to this extent before. Violence on a grand scale has flowed across the Rio Grande from the illicit drug industry. Exhaustion of the local police in Phoenix and other communities unable to handle the daily homicides, kidnappings, home invasions, predatory smuggling people and the narcotics trade.

    Any state, county city, town or public servant that boycotts the exceptional state of Arizona, should be black-listed. Hopefully–Americans will donate (however small) money to Arizona if the Governor Jan brewer gets sued. Perhaps a good patriotic American will arrange a website for everybody to give money in the immediate future? If and when it happens my check will be waiting…? If that happens Americans will boycott companies that hire illegal immigrants and that I will add–ONE–company hiring foreign labor to my blogs.

    NUMBERSUSA–is the website for the legal people of this country, so you can fight this illegal immigrant epidemic–with over a MILLION–members. We are here to tell the–TRUTH–not lies or well-honed rhetoric as the Far-Left liberals, hidden inside the Democratic Party, not from the Liberal editors of national press at the, Huffington Post, New York Times or the Los Angeles Times and others.

  • An impractical reactionary policy Darwin is thinking that the current policy of de facto open borders with Mexico can continue. This nation cannot continue being a safety valve forever for the failure of Mexican elites to reform their economy to provide economic growth for their citizens. I think most of the country agrees which is why Rasmussen is showing 60% support for the law across the nation.

    As for being a bad governing party, the saving grace for Republicans is that they get to run against Democrats who have amply demonstrated this election cycle just how bad a governing party can be.

  • Joe Hargrave continues to mistakenly believe this law does something to fight drug violence.


    It also does not appear that the immigrant may be taken into custody purely on that status alone. There must be some other reason for assessment of criminal status.

    The law also makes presence in the state a crime.

    13-2929(A) uses some curious phrasing. So I can harbor illegal immigrants but not if I didn’t pay my taxes?

  • The Rasmussen poll is interesting. Most believe the law will violate civil rights but most still support it.

  • As for being a bad governing party, the saving grace for Republicans is that they get to run against Democrats who have amply demonstrated this election cycle just how bad a governing party can be.

    No disagreement from me there.

    I also agree that tough immigration enforcement is broadly popular, at least in concept, throughout the country. And I think that whatever laws we have, we should enforce — though I’d like to see higher immigration quotas and a much simpler immigration process.

    However, at the same time, I think the extent to which heavy immigration from Mexico is hurting the US is in most cases overplayed. The fact that lots of people eager to work are coming into the US and working or starting businesses tends to help us and hurt Mexico, not the other way around.

    It is certainly a big problem when we have cross-border gangs and other criminal organizations — but I’m not clear that’s related to the issue of people simply wanting to come here to work.

  • If Tom Tancredo thinks the law goes too far, it probably goes too far.

  • In 2008, there were candidates that ran for offices in places like Arizona that ran as restrictionists and lost. Immigration polling suffers from a lot of issues polling in that it measures sentiment and not depth. Consensus was that being restrictionist wouldn’t preclude someone from election, but it wasn’t enough to secure them power.

    Right now, there isn’t any real institutional support for Arizona’s law, so it will become more unpopular over time. (As a note, I haven’t reviewed the bill itself.) As for the politics, who know? I know, a rare admission of modesty on my part. I imagine Arizonians aren’t in the habit of sending people to the statehouse to address immigration, so I’m thinking they won’t be evaluated too strongly on that matter. Arizona’s staggering budget deficit and massive cuts to public schools will likely be issues that have an impact.

  • “As I reflect on the matter, it is increasingly clear to me that this law will never go into effect (there are serious preemption and 4th Amendment problems with it, to say the least). So if there is a backlash and the Dems get another 10 sure thing electoral votes, you won’t even be able to say “well, at least we stuck it to the illegals.”

    The real poltical backlash and how it will delay real immigration reform often gets overlooked

  • “that the Federal government has proven both inept and uninterested in stopping illegal border crossings.”

    I think this is a little too braod. Once can say LOOK STATE and Local Govt don’t care about Druck Drivers because they are still on the road

    There has been a lot of effort at the border and some immigration folks are screaming at Obama at the high level of deportations

    The fact is it is not so mucha failure of Federal Govt but a failure of the American people to quit letting the extrmes on either side that want move a inch define the debate and the solutions

    Till that cahnges nothing will happen.

  • However, at the same time, I think the extent to which heavy immigration from Mexico is hurting the US is in most cases overplayed. The fact that lots of people eager to work are coming into the US and working or starting businesses tends to help us and hurt Mexico, not the other way around.

    Common theoretical exercises of the sort published in textbooks tend to demonstrate that trade in factors of production (e.g. labor as manifested in immigration) are beneficial economically. If I am not mistaken, this has been empirically verified, but the benefits are small and collared for the most part by the immigrant populations themselves. The benefit to the extant population is tiny (IIRC, one study put it at <0.1% of domestic product per annum) and sensitive to the public benefits regime (which the judiciary fancies they ought to have discretion over, natch).

    Immigration streams are regulated by a famously incompetent bureaucracy, are in their source severely maldistributed, are modally from a country suffering severe social pathologies at this point in time, are arriving in a society where the dominant faction of the elite is dedicated to the fostering of unassimilable subcultures for its own self-aggrandizement, and tend (to a small degree) to damage the employment prospect of the lower strata of the labor force. In short, mass immigration is a loser as a social (not economic) proposition.

    The thing is, immigration cannot be conducted according to public policy if it is not controlled. It is not controlled if you do not enforce the law. It is not terribly credible that that cannot be done, which makes much discussion of immigration regimes rather exasperating.

  • “There has been a lot of effort at the border and some immigration folks are screaming at Obama at the high level of deportations”

    I disagree jh. What enforcement there is tends to be for show. That is why we have such absurdities as a return to “catch and release”,

    and the abandonment of the virtual fence along the southern border.

    The Obama administration is as serious about curbing illegal immigration as it is about curbing government spending.

  • I am against any law that attempts to stop Mexican Gangs from racially profiling their victims.

  • “13-2929(A) uses some curious phrasing. So I can harbor illegal immigrants but not if I didn’t pay my taxes?”

    As noted over on Volokh, that is one of the ambiguities of the law. However, I suspect that will be worked out in the courts and in further revisions.

  • Here’s an example of moral panic. Cardinal Roger Mahony wrote in a blog post, “I can’t imagine Arizonans now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques.”

    Failed words from a failed prelate.

  • UPDATE: It appears that I may have linked to the wrong version of the bill text (at least, that’s according to Mark Krikorian at the Corner). The actual version of the bill that was passed does not appear to include the provision making it trespassing for an illegal immigrant to be on private property with the owner’s permission, but otherwise appears to the objectionable features of the Senate version. Indeed in at least one case it appears to be worse. Commenter Jonathan, for example, had argued that the bill would not criminalize the provision of charitable services to illegal immigrants because the anti-harboring provision said that it was illegal to “conceal…in violation of law” rather than simply saying “it is unlawful for a person to:…conceal.” The final version of the bill says the latter.

    I apologize for the error.

  • This is funny. Mark Krikorian links to the wrong bill too! It took me a while to track the final final bill down.

    The trespassing language is gone but doesn’t really make a difference. “Trespassing” is replaced with “willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document.” So illegal immigrants can be in the state but not without papers which means they can’t be in the state. Same thing.

    The harboring ambiguity is back. A court looking at the legislative history can’t read the qualifier out since it was removed by the House at one point then put back in. A very good case can be made for voiding the entire section.

  • Don, you may recall that when the mandatory seat belt laws took effect in Illinois everyone was repeatedly assured that police were not going to stop anyone “just” for not wearing a seat belt — they would only ticket if you were caught doing something else like speeding and they noticed that you also were not buckled up. Well, that isn’t the case anymore — seat belt violations can now be treated as a “primary offense.” Plus, we also have the periodic “roadside safety checks” where everyone is stopped and asked for their license, insurance cards, etc.

    Now, if the intent of the law in Arizona is to allow or encourage local police who stop or arrest a suspect on probable cause for ANOTHER crime to also check the suspect’s immigration status while they are at it, that would not be so bad. However, given what has happened with seatbelt laws, drunk driving, insurance laws, etc. I fear that the law as written could very easily devolve into a situation in which either 1) people start getting pulled over for “driving while Hispanic” or 2) in reaction to 1), police start demanding some kind of citizenship documentation from everyone they arrest, including Anglos, to prove that they are not “profiling.”

  • I certainly do remember that Elaine! I recently had a conversation with one of my judge friends where he told me about a jury trial he had over a seat belt case. He was pretty ticked that the State was wasting his time with a prosecution on just a seat belt.

    You raise a legitimate concern in that there can always be overreaching by the police. However, aliens in this country are already required I believe to have their papers allowing them to be in the country on their person at all times. My mother, before she became a naturalized citizen, always kept her papers in her purse. In regard to people who are already citizens, most people I assume would have documents on them to establish citizenship. Looking in my wallet I have my voter registration card, my attorney registration card and various other forms of identification. I wouldn’t consider showing these to the police any more onerous than the showing to them of my driver’s license.

  • I don’t see why leftwingers are getting so angry by this new law. All it does is give police the right to ask people to present their immigration documents. In nearly all places on earth that is thoroughly fine. Why is that some outrage in The USA?


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Mark Steyn On The Comedy Central Capitulation

Monday, April 26, AD 2010

Mark Steyn has a good post on National Review Online in regard to the Comedy Central appeasement of the jihadists that I referred to in this post here:

Meanwhile, Comedy Central — you know, the “hip,” “edgy” network with Jon Stewart, from whom “young” Americans under 53 supposedly get most of their news — just caved in to death threats. From a hateful 83-year-old widow who doesn’t like Obamacare? Why, no! It was a chap called Abu Talhah al Amrikee, who put up a video on the Internet explaining why a South Park episode with a rather tame Mohammed joke was likely to lead to the deaths of the show’s creators. Just to underline the point, he showed some pictures of Theo van Gogh, (the picture at the top of this post) the Dutch film director brutally murdered by (oh, my, talk about unfortunate coincidences) a fellow called Mohammed. Mr. al Amrikee helpfully explained that his video incitement of the murder of Matt Stone and Trey Parker wasn’t really “a threat but just the likely outcome.” All he was doing, he added, was “raising awareness” — you know, like folks do on Earth Day. On Earth Day, lame politicians dig a hole and stick a tree in it. But aggrieved Muslims dig a hole and stick a couple of comedy writers in it. Celebrate diversity!

Faced with this explicit threat of violence, what did Comedy Central do? Why, they folded like a Bedouin tent. They censored South Park, not only cutting all the references to Mohammed but, in an exquisitely postmodern touch, also removing the final speech about the need to stand up to intimidation.

Stone and Parker get what was at stake in the Danish-cartoons crisis and many other ostensibly footling concessions: Imperceptibly, incrementally, remorselessly, the free world is sending the message that it is happy to trade core liberties for the transitory security of a quiet life. That is a dangerous signal to give freedom’s enemies. So the South Park episode is an important cultural pushback.

Yet in the end, in a craven culture, even big Hollywood A-listers can’t get their message over. So the brave, transgressive comedy network was intimidated into caving in and censoring a speech about not being intimidated into caving in. That’s what I call “hip,” “edgy,” “cutting-edge” comedy: They’re so edgy they’re curled up in the fetal position, whimpering at the guy with the cutting edge, “Please. Behead me last. And don’t use the rusty scimitar where you have to saw away for 20 minutes to find the spinal column . . . “

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6 Responses to Mark Steyn On The Comedy Central Capitulation

  • I can’t begin to describe my annoyance at Comedy Central. This is the United States of America. Since when do we let radical muslims dictate what we may and may not talk about?

  • Comedy Central is just following the craven trail blazed by America’s news outlets with respect to the Motoons. I’m less disgusted with an entertainment outlet doing the same.

    The grimly funny thing is that Islam is not uniformly aniconic with respect to depictions of religious figures in general. The ban only applies to figural representations in worship spaces.

    The Shia have a history of illustrations–including the modern era–of Muhammad and Ali. Khomeini had a painting of Muhammad on his desk. In the Sunni world, the Turks (and, IIRC, the Mughals) had miniature paintings of Muhammad and others they hail as prophets. I’m absolutely certain the Mughals had no problem with figural depictions of historical figures–their miniatures are magnificent.

    Speaking of the Turks: the whitewashing of expropriated Christian churches in Constantinople did not happen right away. For example, Hagia Sophia and the Church of the Savior in Chora (now the Kariye museum) did not have their frescos and mosaics covered until the 16th and 17th Centuries. In short, the alleged dogmatic prohibition against figural depictions, even of religious figures, are not universal, and even in the Sunni world are of comparatively recent vintage.

  • Thought this was amusing apropos of our conversation on the other thread, Don. Here’s Douthat’s column today, more or less taking your side:

    Except where Islam is concerned. There, the standards are established under threat of violence, and accepted out of a mix of self-preservation and self-loathing.

    This is what decadence looks like: a frantic coarseness that “bravely” trashes its own values and traditions, and then knuckles under swiftly to totalitarianism and brute force.

    Happily, today’s would-be totalitarians are probably too marginal to take full advantage. This isn’t Weimar Germany, and Islam’s radical fringe is still a fringe, rather than an existential enemy.

    For that, we should be grateful. Because if a violent fringe is capable of inspiring so much cowardice and self-censorship, it suggests that there’s enough rot in our institutions that a stronger foe might be able to bring them crashing down.

    Evidently, he saw the same parallel as you did with Weimar Germany, while acknowledging the identification wasn’t complete.

  • I’m with Steyn 100%.

    “Happily, today’s would-be totalitarians are probably too marginal to take full advantage.”

    Today’s would-be totalitarians have infiltrated the White House.

  • Everybody Draw Mohammed Day will be on May 20.

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Does It Matter How You Tithe?

Sunday, April 25, AD 2010

Our parish is deploying “e-giving”, and asking people to strongly consider setting up a weekly or monthly electronic donation rather than getting envelopes. (If you sign up for the e-giving, they stop mailing you envelopes.)

The benefits for the parish are pretty obvious: the expense of sending out envelopes to nearly a thousand families are pretty high, this regularizes their income and makes it smoother and more predictable, etc. In my case, there’s actually an additional incentive to give electronically — if I have the money deducted directly from my paycheck through my company’s charitable giving campaign, they’ll match my donations, doubling the amount.

I have a certain amount from each paycheck set up to be sent to the parish through the corporate matching program, but up till now I’ve been hesitant to do all our tithing that way. There are two reasons for this:

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15 Responses to Does It Matter How You Tithe?

  • I think your last paragraph analysis is pretty much right. I’d give little weight at all to the first concern. Payroll deduction actually means you are paying your tithe first, which demonstrates proper priorities. The second concern is legitimate, but can be easily addressed by family discussions. Indeed, not paying via basket teaches your children that they should not be motivated by what other parishioners might think, but only by actually fulfilling their obligation. This can be done as part of a family discussion about the importance of a child’s weekly contribution.

  • In many parish schools, one of the conditions for accepting children is that the parents must commit to practice of the faith, including regular Mass attendance. The argument is: Catholic instruction at school must be reinforced by a commitment at home. They are told that collection envelopes may be used to demonstrate this; if unable to contribute, drop an empty envelope in the basket.

    And, of course, every so often someone complains to a newspaper reporter that the school has told them they should withdraw their children because they don’t go to Mass.

  • I would think there’s some value in teaching kids about automatic deductions.

  • Well, DC, I agree with you and Mike P. above, as I seriously doubt that parish envelopes as such will even be used any longer by the time your kids are adults and ready to tithe. Technology may be a bane in many ways, but it leaves behind any and all who don’t adjust to its existence in the long run. I think one way to remind the children is to continue asking them to contribute to the collection basket with their own money, and reminding them each time that mom and dad do it electronically because they don’t get paid an allowance in cash each week like the kids do. Kids are bright, and the lesson won’t be lost on them! 🙂

  • I heard a priest say somewhere, “if you do not feel a slight pit in your stomach after the collection plate comes along, you probably aren’t giving enough.” I agree with this priest, and I think that parish-pay type schemes do make this self-giving almost without challenge. If it’s automatic, you’re not thinking about it. If you’re not thinking about it, it’s probably not that difficult for you.

  • My church now gets a monthly withdrawal from my checking account. I might not feel the pinch when the collection plate comes around, but I definitely feel it when I divvy up the money each month and there isn’t much for frills or entertainment.

    I think I might also start tithing my monthly surplus–the money I have left after all the expenses are paid, either because I spent less or earned more.

  • If your biggest giver gives five dollars in cash, you give five dollars in cash when the basket comes around.

    That balances the good of doubling the funds while still giving an example– make sure the kids know about the auto, too!

    You might even want to talk to them about this, when they’re old enough.

  • While the church I currently belong to does not offer direct withdrawal, the church I grew up in had the option. They still sent envelopes to everyone and you could just check a box that said “automatic withdrawal.” My parents explained it when I was old enough to understand it, and I never thought much of it.

    I wish our parish would get automatic withdrawal, though. We have a lot of parishioners who church-hop between neighboring parishes, and I think this would net us more in the collection overall.

  • “if you do not feel a slight pit in your stomach after the collection plate comes along, you probably aren’t giving enough.”

    I confess to a certain irritation hearing this type of remark from priests who normally have the basics of life provided for them, who do not have offspring to send to college and who do not compete in the market place. From some of the comments I have heard over the years I get the distinct impression that in the view of some priests money simply magically appears and that one can effortlessly contribute large sums from this mystical benefice to the Church. I personally believe that most people, including myself, do not contribute enough. However I also think that too many priests shortchange the effort necessary to produce the money that is contributed, and the sacrifices that such contributions entail for families that do make an effort to do their share.

  • The tithe (tenth) belongs to God and having it automatically withdrawn seems convenient and even beneficial when you have a corporate matching program. However, an additional offering is where the real show of love and sacrifice comes in. I very much believe in the value of showing children the importance of giving each week. Perhaps that can be done by giving an offering (above and beyond the tithe) through the standard envelope. The value is that it allows you to give as you feel led and demonstrate to your children the importance of giving. You can still explain that you tithe electronically.

  • I don’t know how old your kids are, or how much of a bad example it might be to them. But there are enough second collections, spaghetti dinners, poor boxes, rice bowls, and Christmas gift trees that they should be able to see you make contributions even if you’ve got direct payment.

  • THere is no more “first-fruits” than payroll deduction. IT avoids the temptation to “know better”, and you get accustomed to doing without that 10% (or whatever one tithes, though I guess the true definition of a tithe is 10% of gross). Just watching us dump bills into the collection plate doesn’t really teach our children the right thing, I don’t think. A kid has no conceptof the value of a check (or even what a check represents). And I am not sure that seeing your five dollar bill go in (I think it teaches them that $5.00 is a good amount to put into the basket, which is sadly wrong!).

    SO…for what it’s worth, I think Automatic Withdrawal is a great idea!

  • Wow…saw one of the follow-up comments (took too long to post this one!), and had to comment.

    PLee commented above that the contribution *above* the tenth was where the real sacrifice kicks in.

    How many people wouldn’t feel a sting when the Tenth was gone? Except for a few of the very rich in our church, I would submit that oe tenth of our gross income is a large sum to tithe, almost no matter how much one makes.

    Of course we cannopt outgive God… But why would we try to do so by tithing more than the first-fruits as commanded? God said one-tenth. Are we holier because we donate one eighth? Nope.

  • I like Darwin learned from my mom handing me the envelope to put in the collection. I don’t think family discussions are as powerful as the physical act/demonstration an I think it’s real important to if at all possible continue the physical act-not just for your children but also for others. While on the one hand you don’t want to be doing it for your pride (so others can see me), you want others to see that Catholics do give & tithe.

    I would see if you can do a little of both-e-give most of it, and have some left over to physically put in the collection. Of course, that assumes the your means allows you to do that but I think if you can do that balancing act it would be better.

  • GIRM 73:

    “It is well also that money or other gifts for the poor or for the Church, brought by the faithful or collected in the church, should be received. These are to be put in a suitable place but away from the eucharistic table.”

    Interesting that the second priorities are gifts for the Church and a collection and placed near the altar, which is usually how it is done.

    How many parishes offer the primary options here regularly? A collection for the poor, or an opportunity for people to bring these gifts (to that place away from the altar?

    I like the electronic format, but my daughter has participated in other collections our parishes have offered. And even though there’s direct deposit of charitable funds, that doesn’t prevent us from writing the occasional check for a special cause, or when a little extra income has come to us.