October 17, 2005

A Feast of Talk, and the Law of Barriers

Hatched by Dafydd

Yesterday, Sachi and I attended the KRLA Talkfest at the Alex Theater in Glendale. Glendale is the home of (oddly enough) KRLA, the local conservative talk-radio station; KRLA carries Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, and Mike Gallagher... and they returned the favor Sunday by carrying the show at the Alex.

I had previously met Hugh and Dennis -- though of course Hugh stared blankly at me when I reintroduced myself to him. He recognized Big Lizards, though... so now you know that the way to a Hugh's heart is through a blog. He made the rather outlandish claim that he's been reading Big Lizards, which I took as a charitable white lie, an example of the kindness for which he is renowned in myth and legend.

Larry Marino, who has substituted for each of these gentlemen, was also present as the MC; Sachi had imagined a much older gentleman, but I had envisioned him as about eighteen; so if you average us out, our age estimate was right on the money. The format was simple: Larry would ask questions, and the quadrumvirate would pontificate for several minutes, lolling back on their stools and making lordly pronouncements. It was of course enthralling, though I longed to leap onto the stage and join the talkers (flashbacks of my days on panels at science-fiction conventions!)

Hugh directed every blogger present to go home and, when he blogged about this event, to include the following words: "                                                                     ."

It was actually quite a humorous jape; but being the ornery cuss that I am, I instantly vowed not to quote it... so if you want to find out what the joke was, you'll have to read another blogger's take.

The questions were political and topical, like a tube of Cortizone cream. The best exchange occured over what to do about illegal immigration, and the disputants -- the two Mikes -- battled passionately. Gallagher's simplistic formulation, that we should just "send them all home," met with resounding applause; but Medved utterly stymied him by asking a simple question: how exactly did Gallagher propose doing so?

I pause for a moment. Return with us now to the thrilling days of yesteryear, shortly after the Pentagon and WTC attacks and our overthrow of the Taliban. Bill O'Reilly (I believe) had Phil Donohue as a guest [Sachi believes it could have been Dennis Miller, rather than Bill O'Reilly]. Donohue obstinantly rejected the Afghanistan War, insisting instead that what we really ought to do was just "go right in there and get bin Laden."

The subsequent exchange bordered on the surreal:

O'Reilly: Get him how?

Donohue: Just go right in there and get him.

O'Reilly: But how? How physically would you do it?

Donohue: I would just go right in there.

O'Reilly: Into Afghanistan? When it was still run by the Taliban?

Donohue: Yup... just go right in and get him.

O'Reilly: But how do you get bin Laden? He's surrounded by thousands of al-Qaeda terrorists and tens of thousands of Taliban troops!

Donohue: Right in there. There's no need to kill all those innocent people! We just go right in and get him.

O'Reilly: How many soldiers do you send?

Donohue: I said we didn't need to go to war.

O'Reilly: But how do you get him?

Donohue: Bill, I would just go right in there and get him!

We skip forward four years to yesterday's KRLA Talkfest once more. Karl Marx's wonderful rumination on historical cycles perfectly describes the verbal tennis match between Medved and Gallagher: "History always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, and the second time as farce." (Karl Marx, the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.) But somehow, a repetition of the O'Reilly-Donohue dialog must have skulked past unnoticed, because Gallagher's repeated refrain of "I would just kick them all out" was surely more farcical than tragic! No matter how Medved tried to pin him down on specifics, Gallagher simply kept repeating the phrase over and over, like an audio clip trapped in an infinite loop.

Hugh finally interrupted, playing referee, and offered his own point, which he amplified later during audience Q&A, that it was in fact possible to get all the illegal aliens out of the United States... but only if Congress imposed upon corporate officers a fine so massive or prison time so lengthy that none of them would hire any illegal aliens ever (or possibly any legal ones, either).

Alas, such a draconian "solution" would impact the American economy so drastically that it would throw us into a recession that would fling far more Americans into unemployment that could possibly be displaced by the illegal population itself. In other words, the economic version of exsanguination, a "cure" more deadly than the disease.

However, Hugh added a codicil to the effect that whatever we decide to do about the illegales, the solution must include "building a wall." I take that as synecdoche for strengthening border security in general, which may include a wall (or fence) but also signficantly increasing the Border Patrol, strengthening punishments for aiding and abetting illegal entry or hiring illegals, and so forth.

Here is where I most wished to enter the fray. I longed to quote ab Hugh's Law of Barriers:

There is no wall, no matter how high or thick, that can be secured against a million peasants with pitchforks trying to knock it down.

Before any wall can be built, no matter how metaphorical, we first must sharply reduce the number of pitchforks. The only way to stop people from trying to batter down your wall is to build them a gate. We must drastically reform our entire immigration system to make it much easier for honest, decent, hard-working foreigners of good moral character to enter, work, earn money, and then either stay or leave as they choose.

There are many advantages: first, there is no controversy among economists... we need those migrant workers to pick strawberries and other agricultural crops. We need them to program our computers, clean our buildings, and build our sun decks.

Besides the purely economic need, America needs a constant influx of new blood, new ways of thinking, and new cultures... so long as the immigrants themselves are forced to assimilate. This is a point that Dennis Prager stressed with a great deal of vim (and volume). In a very literal sense, America was built by immigrants, but immigrants who had every intention of becoming Americans -- not living as Poles, Russians, Chinese, or Mexicans in exile.

Our schools should indoctinate both the children of immigrants and the native born in what it means to be an American -- and why the immigrants left their home countries in the first place. Our civic, cultural, and religious institutions should echo, not fight this message. And the government should not merely encourage but require assimilation as a necessary condition to continued guest-worker privileges.

Nobody not born here has the "right" to live here; but we need immigration as much as the immigrants need a country of greatness and opportunity: ours is a symbiosis of spirit... so long as we honor both sides of this voluntarily chosen social contract.

Finally, we cannot, like France, live securely with a permanent fifth column within the city walls. We must completely absorb these people, and that means citizenship. Now, there is a higgledy-piggledy collection of contradictory and opaque immigration laws that nobody is able to follow, not even immigration attorneys -- or the bureaucrats at the INS.

These must be swept away and replaced by a compact, crystaline progression of steps by which a desirable immigrant who truly wants to become an American can traverse the path from guest to citizen. He should be able to check off the steps one by one, like a pawn advancing to the last row, where he finally stands and takes the oath. But the progression should also allow immigration officials to swiftly identify those who do not belong here and swiftly deport them before they have a chance to hurt us

Thus every immigrant, whether guest or nascent naturalized citizen, will be an integral part of the community... in contrast to the European model, where immigrants are virtually indentured servants forced into degraded slums that breed treachery and terrorism. Ask the ghost of Theo Van Gogh.

It may seem we have wandered far afield, but in fact, this was the most significant exchange of the show, which all by itself earned the price of admission ($45 ea. for the good seats). So let me finish my thought.

Security must be of paramount concern at all levels of the immigration cycle:

  • Those who apply must undergo a records and fingerprint/DNA check, just to make sure they're not already wanted.
  • We must develop a "Smart Green Card" encoded with biometrics (fingerprints, face scan) and an immigration number; whenever an immigrant is arrested or convicted -- or receives welfare, requires a Child Protective Services intervention, or is found to be addicted to drugs or alcohol -- that fact is appended to his file; negative events such as these accrue "minus points" on the path to citizenship or even continued guest privileges (make it appealable, in case there are mitigating circumstances). Likewise, positive events -- charitable works, continuing education, professional accreditation, honorable service in the United States military, and suchlike -- earn positive points.
  • You make a gate, and everyone who crosses the border at any of the gates must pass through automated booths that require insertion of the Smart Card; they scan his face and palm print, and if everything checks out, the front doors open in a second or two, admitting the guest. If the immigrants "point total" falls below the security/desirability threshold, the side door opens instead, and he can explain himself to the friendly Border Patrol agents.
  • And with such automatic access to the front door for the law-abiding, anyone trying to cross the border anywhere else can be assumed to be up to no good and treated accordingly. As I said in an earlier post on another blog, if a business allows easy access during business hours through the front door, then anyone entering through the window at night can reasonably be considered a burglar.

Since studies show that 90%+ of all illegal immigrants are not, in fact, criminals in any other aspect than that (and related crimes, such as obtaining false documentation), regularizing and automating the traffic of otherwise law-abiding immigrants would reduce the illegal traffic to a small fraction of what it is today: your wall will no longer need to keep out a million determined immigrants each year, but only a few thousand of the most dangerous... and that, as Israel is proving today, is imminently possible.

The rest of Talkfest was interesting but of less moment than this argument, which is surely one of the two most critical fissures within the conservative community (the other being excess spending, of course).

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 17, 2005, at the time of 4:18 AM

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The following hissed in response by: RBMN

Give Hugh a break. He grew up in Ohio, where there are no big lizards, and he's very old.

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2005 7:21 AM

The following hissed in response by: RBMN

I'd much rather compensate for America's low birth rate with relaxed LEGAL immigration from a place like Mexico than the way Europe compensates for their (even lower) low birth rate. The French now have concentrated and dangerous Islamic enclaves (of their own making) just like Chicago did in the 1970s with the old Robert Taylor Homes and Cabrini-Green. The difference in Europe is that not even the children of immigrants have any investment in the nation. They'll never be French citizens, so they don't care what happens to France. Being in France is just killing time and making money, and that's a dangerous attitude to have about where you live and raise your children.

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2005 7:51 AM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

There is no wall, no matter how high or thick, that can be secured against a million peasants with pitchforks trying to knock it down.

One standing on the wall could call in some serious airstrikes though. Also, Israel has been building a major wall, and apparently the Palestinians have tried to tunnel under it. Still, i agree in most part with ab Hugh's Law of Barriers.

We have thousands of land-miles borders, and thousands of sea-miles borders, so building, operating, manning, and maintaining any type of fence or wall for all borders would quite expensive.

The only way to stop people from trying to batter down your wall is to build them a gate.

We already have fences and walls with gates along the Mexican border, so the gate 'Thang doesn't work either.

i like this next one:

We must drastically reform our entire immigration system to make it much easier for honest, decent, hard-working foreigners of good moral character to enter, work, earn money, and then either stay or leave as they choose.

There are quota lists mixed with quota lists and not-allowed lists for each country on Planet Earth except for America, and these lists are filled years in advance with years of waiting on them. If we increase the quota for Mexicans, then a chorus of other countries cry foul. Doctors, Scientists, top Technicians, etc. can move to the top of all lists, but their kin have long waits.

we need those migrant workers...

i fully agree...and we also need nannies, sod layers, ditch-diggers, construction workers, etc.

Anyway, Dafydd, you have given it a great try here (more than i would attempt), but holes can be punched thru everyone one of your suggestions...well, besides "Our schools should indoctinate both the children of immigrants and the native born in what it means to be an American" and "receives welfare". i may have missed another one or two, and healthcare (free) falls under walfare.

i see immigration and National Security as two separate issues. If i were a Terrorist, then i would have plenty of financial support. If i wanted to strike America, then a squad of well-trained Terrorists could slip in at night along the sea-shore, launched from a ship or luxury boat, a few weeks later slip in a squad of pack-porters loaded with chemicals or biologicals (nuclear stuff is easier to detect)...etc. The methods are numerous. Heck, eight people flying those kit-planes (motor, seat, propeller, and wings) could cause some serious problems on just one football weekend. Since 911, Terrorists have been busy trying to survive in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, but as their losses mount there, along with losing the War, they best try something new in order to get new recruits. That presents a series of more problems for them; unless they act real soon with something beside suicide bombers in a subway...recruitment must be way down, and they need a Home Base.

Humble me has no clue as to how to stop illegal immigration, since so many “honest, decent, hard-working foreigners of good moral character” want to come to America; however, i do have a clue as to how to stop the Terrorists and their Supporters...“stomp a mud-hole” in their arses whilst they are still in their own country or a supportive neighboring country, and don’t stop stomping until they can’t stand the smell of our Stompin’ Boots...so to speak gently.


The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2005 1:48 PM

The following hissed in response by: zeppenwolf

Karmi: >>The only way to stop people from trying to batter down your wall is to build them a gate.

>We already have fences and walls with gates along the Mexican border, so the gate 'Thang doesn't work either.

You completely missed what was meant by building a "gate". Our current system makes it nearly impossible to enter this country *legally*. As mentioned, much, much larger numbers of those who have clean records and want to work, etc, should have a way to come here without going through excruciating amounts of paperwork, delays, and waits. That's what was meant by "building them a gate".

A) Legal immigration: nearly impossible
B) Illegal immigration: easy, and accepted (indeed, encouraged, facilitated, even rewarded)

No solution to the problem exists which doesn't dramatically address both A and B.

The above hissed in response by: zeppenwolf [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2005 3:00 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist


Do you understand how many people want to come to America??? So many, that America needs to put quotas on the amount allowed in each year. That quota allowance then gets broken down into a quota for allowed countries.


puuuUUULEEEEEASE!!! Of course it is impossible to allow all in, and that is why quotas are used. 99.9% of the wanting "have clean records and want to work", so it is not i whom is missing any points here.

Perhaps You and Dafydd are talking about Opening 'Da Flood *GATES*?!?

Immigration Act or Acts...run that through a search engine. We're talking from 1790 until at least 1996, and still no solution. Heck, try finding the new quota lists. Here is a hint as to what i am talking about: How many countries are on the Planet Earth? Now, do the math...

There are already "gates", and they just slow those who want to come here down, so they bypass the "gates".

Schools, hospitals, courts, and welfare are the key in this mess...perhaps, but then the courts become a major problem. What happens to a teacher speaking English to a Mexican student...what happens to a Doctor who refuses to treat a Mexican pregnant non-English speaking patient...who is willing to starve Mexicans to death here in America??? BTW, Mexicans ain't the only ones who illegally enter America.

There is no solution...simple as that.


The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2005 4:19 PM

The following hissed in response by: RBMN

The real problem is not that 10+ million illegal immigrants are in the United States. The real problem is that we don't know who they are, and most, or way too many are employed completely under the table. If they were here legally, then the employers wouldn't be able to take advantage of their fugitive status to pay them less. When they're legal, and can work anywhere, then they're not going to be satisfied with just half a paycheck. And then, American citizens won't have to compete with millions of people making just half a paycheck. If they want to work legally in the US, they'll need a passport from the country they came from, a job lined up, ten fingerprints for their guest worker file, and a photo for their new guest worker photo ID.

Then concentrate law enforcement on all the people not willing to go to the effort of becoming legal.

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2005 5:55 PM

The following hissed in response by: beebop

Before any wall can be built, no matter how metaphorical, we first must sharply reduce the number of pitchforks.

This is the rub -- which comes first the chicken of the egg? I disagree, build the wall first (this should have been the first priority 9/12/01)and let the pressure from economic interests drive a new guest worker bill through Congress. I disagree with the Frank Kapraesque view of the salt of the earth illegals coming into this country; they are a self selected aggressive, dynamic group - self selected on the basis of who is willing to violate inconvenient laws. I do not dispute they envigorate the economy with their "animal spirits" in Shumpeter's phrasing; but discussing the off-the-books costs are as taboo as the Bell Curve issues we touched on a while back.
Living in Florida I personally eyewitnessed two hit-and-run accidents by obvious illegals, but try to get any statistics from any reliable source on this topic. Ditto for credit card fraud, welfare fraud, driving without a license, without car insurance, etc. In the meantime suckers playing by the rules in places like the Philippines are waiting 9 to 12 years for a green card. We need a tamper resistent national ID card for all residents, not just green cards, to get an accounting on who exactly is in the country and who isn't. Then we can set up a very generous guest worker program. If the system were run equitably I think the tidal wave of Mexicans could be usurped in the near future by Chinese and Indian males fleeing their provences where men outnumber woman from 3-to-1 up to 7-to- 1.

The above hissed in response by: beebop [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2005 6:46 PM

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