Tuesday, July 20, 2004

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Before everyone gets too excited....

Longtime readers of danieldrezner.com may wonder whether it's possible for me to reconcile my pro-immigration, libertarian perspective with my concerns about homeland security. Annie Jacobsen favors racial profiling over political correctness if it means preventing terrorist attacks; many of the commenters believe a crackdown on immigration is necessary.

My position is as follows:

1) Yes, homeland security is a serious issue that justifies greater expenditures and attention by the government -- but my concerns, like Stephen Flynn, have much less to do with airports and more to do with the critical infrastructures that have received less attention -- railroads, utilities, power stations, etc.

2) I'm far from convinced that techniques like profiling would actually do anything to prevent terrorist attacks (though it might soothe the jitters of travellers like Annie Jacobsen). The problems with profiling come through in this interesting paper by Samidh Chakrabarti and Aaron Strauss (thanks to Doug Merrill from A Fistful of Euros for the link). One key paragraph:

This transparency is the Achilles’ Heel of CAPS; the fact that individuals know their CAPS status enables the system to be reverse engineered. You... know if you’re carryons have been manually inspected. You know if you’ve been questioned. You know if you’re asked to stand in a special line. You know if you’ve been frisked. All of this open scrutiny makes it possible to learn an anti-profile to defeat CAPS, even if the profile itself is always kept secret. We call this the “Carnival Booth Effect” since, like a carnie, it entices terrorists to “Step Right Up! See if you’re a winner!” In this case, the terrorist can step right up and see if he’s been flagged.

The one counterargument to this is that terrorist networks would have difficulty making the necessary adjustment -- i.e., finding someone who didn't fit the pre-set profile. However, if Al Qaeda can recruit a John Walker Lindh, this doesn't strike me as a terribly convincing counterargument.

3) The costs of blocking immigration cannot be lightly dismissed. The National Foundation for American Policy came out this week with an interesting study on how immigration contributes to America's science and technology base. This is from their press release:

60 percent of the nation’s top science students and 65 percent of the top math students are the children of immigrants.

A new study released Monday by NFAP also shows that foreign-born high school students make up 50 percent of the 2004 U.S. Math Olympiad’s top scorers, 38 percent of the U.S. Physics Team, and 25 percent of the Intel Science Talent Search finalists—the United States’ most prestigious awards for young scientists and mathematicians....

If opponents of immigration had succeeded over the past 20 years, two-thirds of the most outstanding future American scientists and mathematicians would not be here today because U.S. policy would have barred their parents from entering the United States,” said Anderson. Anderson made his comments at a news conference at the National Press Club to release the study’s key findings....

Today, more than 50 percent of the engineers with Ph.D.s working in the United States – and 45 percent of math and computer scientists with Ph.D.s – are foreign-born, according to the National Science Foundation.

Here's a link to the .pdf report. This echoes a point made by Richard Monastersky earlier this month in the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required). One highlight:

Last fall the president of the University of Maryland found himself doing something that none of his predecessors would have dreamed of trying. While on a trip to Taiwan, C. Dan Mote Jr. spent part of his time recruiting Taiwanese students to go to the United States for graduate school.

"Can you imagine an American university president doing that?" he asks.

In 1988 Taiwan sent more students to the United States than did any other foreign country, primarily to study science and engineering. But in the past decade, the flow of talented Taiwanese has started to dry up, and graduate enrollment has declined by 25 percent. "This is a new day we're experiencing," says Mr. Mote....

Even critics of the gloomy forecasts, however, say that America's science-and-engineering machine faces significant challenges in a world much altered by global competition and increasing diversity at home. The landscape has changed markedly from the days when a group of technically trained white men put another group of white men on the moon. As the number of those men entering science has declined, national leaders have sought to bring more women and minorities into the enterprise. At the same time, the United States has come to rely on an increasing proportion of foreign talent -- a strategy that could prove shortsighted if current restrictions on obtaining visas force international students and researchers to go elsewhere.

So there.

posted by Dan on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM


The U.S. needs to increase the number of Americans going into science and engineering, but it is going to be difficult as long as all but the top scientists and engineers remain near at the bottom of the food chain at most companies. Realistically I don't think companies can offer more income or job stability in today's hypercompetitive markets exposed to global competition. Increasing the number of science and engineering graduates by offering education assistance isn't going to solve the problem of what happens after school. Though I don't like the idea that much, I think we are going to need occupation specific income tax rates, and low tax rates for scientists and engineers, to create a permanent incentive to join the science and engineering fields. Otherwise the brightest minds will join more lucrative fields like medicine, law, and business.

posted by: Atm on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

Um, ATM I think you should click http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?040119fa_fact

The fact is that science and math majors make the most on their undergraduate degrees over any other majors. That seems like it should be incentive in and of itself.

I do agree with your post in one respect. Math and Science teachers ought to be paid more, specifically because they have better alternatives. Better teachers of math and science will lead to better learning for American students in these areas.

posted by: Joel W on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

bad link

go here


posted by: Joel W on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

I respect your thinking on immigration in general, but this post is a bit unworthy of you. You sound like one of those "what me worry?" critics of Huntington's latest book. The majority of immigrants do great, some of our best and brightest are immigrants, anything critical of our immigration "policy" is racist and counterproductive, yada, yada, yada. Of course, how many of those 95th percentile children of immigrants are Latino? One percent? Two?

An immigration policy that weighed the success rate of various countries' progeny--which you almost seem to be suggesting-- is an interesting concept. I'd love to see someone in Washington trying to sell THAT one. If a certain percentage acquire Ph.D.s in science, your country gets a slightly bigger share of immigration slots. On the darker side of the equation, however, you'd also have to factor in how many don't graduate from high school, end up in gangs, in jail, etc. Those countries would be penalized.

It'd never fly, but it's the only way optimists like yourself will convince more skeptical sorts like me of the greater good to be derived from the current free for all.

posted by: Kelli on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

Let's not kid ourselves. Annie Jacobsen favors publicity for herself and Women's Wallstreet, and perhaps a better, whiter America.

posted by: SomeCallMeTim on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]


Re your point 2 (profiling): Yes, the availability of Lindhs reduces the value of profiling, but not by a great deal. I believe the vast majority of those willing to blow up either themselves or airplanes in the name of Islamism consists of middle-eastern males, aged 17-45 or so. A few may not fit that profile, but we don't have to use just one profile. And if we can screen out 95% of the threat this way, that's a big plus. (Yes, it moves them toward 'softer' targets, but it's still a start.)

Point 3, immigration: As Kelli indicates, the US experiences different impacts from immigrants of different source countries/cultures. The benefits of "developed country" immigrants, along with those of China, are clear. (Call them "Group A".) The advantages of middle-eastern immigrants ("Group B") are, on the whole, less clear, especially in light of the perils of radical Islamism. I leave aside for now the largest share of immigrants ("Group C"), those from Mexico/Central America, whose contributions and needs are more difficult to sort out. Why couldn't we, in principle, have a more relaxed admissions policy for Group A and focus more resources on screening Group B?

den-Bestian caveat: I know there is some fungibility here, and that Islamists coming from (e.g.) Germany can be a bit trickier to identify, but the most problematic ones are those who haven't assimilated to First World culture anyway, so this difficulty is manageable.

posted by: Shelby on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

Well, I'm an immigrant to this country, so you know where my sympathies lie. The press release you cite in your post goes on to give more specifics on the nationality of some of these top math and science students (Indian, Chinese, South Korean, Tiawanese, Turkish, Russian etc). It mentions that many of these children have professional parents who are also scientists. Big surprise.

Anyway, I'm glad to be here, that's for sure.

I think the question is not so much 'blocking immigration' as it is how should immigration to our country proceed: how to improve the INS, make it more efficient and better run, which immigrants to let in, how to deal with illegal immigration and how to deal with Mexican immigration in particular(which represents a very special case due to our continguous borders). The devil is in the details, after all.

posted by: MD on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

Professor Drezner is right.

Could al Qaeda recruit non-Arab terrorists? They already have: Richard Reid and Jose Padilla.

posted by: Arjun on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

The argument is basically straight from the article...

According to the "Indicators" report, the 2000 census showed a sharp rise in the numbers of foreign-born scientists and engineers in the United States. They accounted for 17 percent of bachelor's-degree holders, 29 percent of master's-degree holders, and 38 percent of doctorate holders. A decade earlier, just 24 percent of doctorate holders were born outside the United States.

Although imported overseas talent has long helped America, the report raises concerns about the availability of such skilled people in the future. Policy changes since September 11, 2001, coupled with increasing competition for foreign students, make it less certain that the nation will attract international brainpower, according to the NSF. At the same time, the average age of the science-and-engineering work force in America is rising, auguring a wave of job openings.....

...The science foundation also pointed to other signs that America's technical edge is growing dull. For example, the number of science-and-engineering articles published by authors based in the United States remained flat throughout the 1990s, while authors in other nations significantly increased their output. (See article on Page A13.)

There was an article in Nature this week (or last?) about scientific output from various countries. Although the US is still on the top (35% of World Share) -- the EU as a whole has pulled ahead. The US is primarily on top due to its enormous strength in biotech. It lags behind in math and physics.

posted by: Jor on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

> I believe the vast majority of those willing to
> blow up either themselves or airplanes in the name
> of Islamism consists of middle-eastern males,
> aged 17-45 or so. A few may not fit that profile,
> but we don't have to use just one profile.

Who have spent the last two years living in Mexico, learning English from a native Spanish-speaker, and immersing themselves in Mexican culture. When they fly into the US on business-class tickets they won't be tagged as "middle easterners"

Or similar scenarios that you are free to devise. But it isn't quite right to argue that the a-Q fanatics are both infinitely clever and very stupid.

posted by: Oh no you don't on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

El Al Airlines has successfully managed to prevent terrorists from hijacking and destroying its planes for decades. They don't use racial profiling. They hire people whose job it is to screen possible terrorists and get them before they get on the plane.

When America's airlines decide that it's cost-effective, they'll do the same. Until then, they're willing to take the chance that the government will bail them out of another 9/11 lawsuit. And apparently, the government is willing to take the same risk.

If I seem overly cynical about this issue, it's because I am. Shortly after 9/11, when the people called for the airlines to take measures against this ever happening again, the airlines and airports responded that it would be too expensive to equip airports with the proper technology to prevent another airplane bomb.

We will reap the results of that decision, possibly within the next few months.

posted by: Meryl Yourish on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]


I'm not arguing for either diabolically clever or ludicrously stupid enemies. I just think that my suggested approach would make it much more difficult for them to either immigrate here, or pull off a 9/11-type attack. "More difficult" is a good beginning, and I'd love to force them to go through the contortions you describe. What we do next depends on what we see happen, and what we think our enemies will do in response.

posted by: Shelby on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

If we were serious about preventing / preparing for terrorism (I detest the "homeland security" moniker), we would:

1) Have a national service draft where all 18-20 y.o.s would spend 2 three-month periods learning intensive first aid, heavy rescue techniques, firefighting, and basic military skills and firearm use (w/alternatives for c.o.s). And some percentage truely conscripted into a revived NATIONAL Guard

2) Have instituted a 0.50 - 1.00 gasoline tax

3) Have announced in incrase in CAFE of 25% over 5 years (and yes, the auto companies can do that when they are forced to)

4) Started 100 new nuclear power plants

5) Spent 100 billion on a prototype space power satellite (should be enough to determine if it is feasible)

6) Held a true national discussion on the cost/benefit of "security" vs. civil liberties.

We have done none of those things. So I don't think we are as worried about security as we claim. Until the next time...


posted by: Cranky Observer on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]


I agree. I have yet to see even an attempt to explain whether Norm Mineta has considered importing Israel's approach, and if not, why not. Has anyone else seen anything along these lines?

posted by: Shelby on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

I agree that the vast majority who want to blow us up are middle-eastern mailes age 17-45, but are the vast majority of middle-eastern males 17-45 among them? I think racial profiling is short-sighted and a quick fix to a larger problem. While a majority may be Arab looking, not all are...Jose Padilla and Zacharias Moussaoui case in point. Racial profiling likely would not have stopped them. Furthermore, if we begin profiling, terrorist groups will likely have non-Arab operatives infiltrate and create cells in the U.S. These guys may be vicious and repugnant, but they're not stupid. The best profiling would be to take aside all muslims, but that's 2 billion people with only several hundred thousand terrorists. You'd have better luck finding felons among Christians. What we need is intelligence. GOOD INTELLIGENCE !!

I also want to add that I agree with the general statements on immigration. I am a conservative because conservatism is pro-business. When conservatives stops being so, I will stop being conservative. Anti-immigration measures are a strong step in that direction.

posted by: Raj Shah on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

I'm pro-immigration too! I have a set of simple-minded truisms that I trot out every time any mean-spirited xenophobe wants to eliminate immigration. "America is a land of immigrants (except for Native Americans, who did not come from Central Asia but sprang forth like corn from the Native soil)..." "Diversity is our Strength!" (I even have a poster of that one!)

Oh, wait, that's wrong. You see, I realize that when someone says they're "pro-immigration" it means nothing. Most Americans are "pro-immigration." The question is, how many, from what countries, where are they going, what are they doing, etc. etc. etc.

Right now, we admit over a million legal immigrants each year. And, hundreds of thousands - perhaps even a million - come here illegally. And, most of the latter and many of the former come from "friendly" countries to the south, specifically our "friends" in Mexico.

You know, that country that used to own the U.S. Southwest?

As for the "self-serving remarks" by Mexican politicians, what is Drezner referring to? Perhaps the time Jorge Castaneda, Mexico's former foreign minister, said he was instructing his consulates in the U.S. to being "propagating militant activities" to get a "migration accord."

So, we have a foreign government threatening to encourage their citizens (in our country) to march and protest, and it's waved off with a dismissive nod.

A poll taken in Mexico of Mexicans shows that 58% of them think the U.S. Southwest rightfully belongs to Mexico. Economists might not understand that danger of letting people who think a territory still belongs to them to resettle that territory, but I'm sure any (honest) historian would.

(Putatively) Mexican-American politicians work with their counterparts in Mexico to overturn legislation passed by U.S. citizens; Mexican consuls attend U.S. city council meetings agitating for laws to be passed, bringing a cheering section of illegal aliens; protests from Racial Identity groups, Mexican-"American" politicians, and the Mexican government cause the Bush administration to cancel minor interior sweeps; etc. etc. etc.

Click my name to see my immigration category for supporting information and much more.

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

Yes, I've always found the truly random sampling to be the best way to go, despite most others protesting about how silly it is to search old ladies.

From a terrorist point of view, a random search adds another unknown variable to the likelihood of success. Meanwhile, a profile means the terrorists, with a little more legwork, can completely eliminate the variable by recruiting the right people.

BTW, Dan you forgot to close a blockquote tag.

posted by: fling93 on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

IT's worth mentioning that American universties depend on foreign students for $$$ as well as brainpower, since most of them don't get financial aid.

So we need to figure out a way to solve this problem to everyone's benefit. I think better intelligence is the answer.

posted by: praktike on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

> Longtime readers of danieldrezner.com may
> wonder whether it's possible for me to
> reconcile my pro-immigration, libertarian
> perspective with my concerns about homeland
> security.

Short-term, you probably cannot have both. Long-term, the need for homeland security here as well as in Western Europe would be drastically reduced if the West stopped meddling in Middle Eastern internal affairs. And please, drop the Neville Chamberlain appeasement counterargument... Saddam's Iraq was never and will never be as fearsome to the U.S., Britain & France as Hitler's Germany or Stalin's USSR were. The Arab world has been weak for centuries and will remain economically and militarily weak thanks to its backwards economy. The rest of the world does not need this particular region, anymore than Osama & co. want our "values". If they do, they can overthrow their secular and religious tyrants much like the West did, *without* outside assistance.

We do need their oil, but not much longer. "Cranky Observer" posted some suggestions about that earlier in this thread.


posted by: Marcus Lindroos on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

For a small example, here's what you get when you say you're "pro-immigration" without qualifying it. Over a year ago, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat ran a story that's no longer there. Excerpts here). It discussed how the Napa City Council had approved the use of Mexican ID cards which are only of use for illegal aliens ("Matricula Consular cards").

The City Council vote was met with cheers by the audience of about three dozen people, including San Franciso's consul general of Mexico.

"I always say the hardest part is getting the first one to do it," said Consul General Georgina Lagos Donde, adding that she hopes the Napa vote influences other cities in Wine Country, which relies heavily on Mexican vineyard labor.

"I've already been in touch with the mayors of Sonoma and Petaluma," she said.

At the very least this is a violation of consular protocol. But, of course, it's much more. We're letting a foreign government dictate our policies and agitate their citizens in our country. Once again, any honest historian can see the danger there.

Let them come, indeed.

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

The post mixes apples and oranges [with portion for another day.

This is about our security.
As a smart Independent,I will say that we are long overdue in getting illegals out, restricting those who enter, and troops at north and southern borders of this wonderful country--while we still have it to maintain.

Agree about the problems that massive immigration
and quality of life issues massive of wrong kinds of immigration have caused this country.

I resent the thinking that daddy govt. is going to take care of us.

Also, agree with the comment that national service training [discipline and a toughening to the elements without the military beat you down to a dog training], etc. is necessary for all college age+ citizens and probably on a regular lifetime basis. [Have seen enough, to step into it here and state that Univs are indoctrination and propagandizing of the too young and inexperienced anway.]

posted by: Alex on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

Shelby is correct. Increasing the difficulty for Islamic terrorists reduces their number. Yes, they can find 2, 3, 4 non-Arab looking members. Can they find 19? Do they dare trust their German and American recruits with no Arab A-Q's to supervise them?

Yes they can go to Mexico and learn to act Hispanic. It takes time and it's expensive. And it's a tough sell to young hotheads who want to kill Americans.

As to terrorists breaking our code of who is being pulled aside, that presumes a static profile. We could very easily use some random profiling while keeping the pool of those profiled somewhat fluid: 100% of all Syrians this month, 50% next month. Red herrings can be inserted. Setting up such a program is not difficult.

What makes it difficult is that we do not want to do it. We don't want to pay the cost, and we have a goodly number of people who would love to make money by suing airlines.

posted by: Assistant Village Idiot on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

You can't tighten the borders of this country sufficiently to prevent a dedicated attacker from getting in. There is too much coast and too much Canadian border. It is worth remembering that you can always flank the Maginot Line, no matter how expensive it is. Static defence always yields to dynamic offence over time. The bulk of our security is our ability to project horrific firepower across the globe and burn the house down of any cleric, mullah, or dictator we even suspect might be a threat. Power projection means fighting over there rather than over here.

More generally, extreme emphasis on internal security designed to stop any and all terrorist attacks is wrongheaded. We are not a citizenry defined by our ethnicity, and we don't want to be. There are some measures that can be taken, to be sure, but every additional bit of security you add is directly in opposition to the assumption of living in a free society. Monitoring library habits is a terrible idea.

The problem with immigration is immigrants we don't know anything about. We should broaden legal immigration so that the incidence of illegal immigration is minimized. Immigration is hugely important, not least because we need a higher labor replacement rate to offset the retirement of the boomers. The notion floated above that we only need scientists and engineers, so we don't need no stinkin' Hispanics is not only racist, it is nonsense from an economic perspective.

There is a price to living in a free society, and part of it is decreased ability to pre-empt dangerous acts by people we presume to be innocent, which is supposed to be everyone. The inviolable line for me is citizenship. No citizen can be given unequal treatment under the law period. I am willing to accept careful screening of non citizens or greater ability to follow their activities if we think it will help. Most of internal security pretty much has to be making sure that we can follow a paper trail back to the homeland so we can set it on fire.

posted by: Jason Ligon on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]


The notion floated above that we only need scientists and engineers, so we don't need no stinkin' Hispanics is not only racist, ...

Supporting quote, please.

posted by: Shelby on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

This discussion conflates several issues that really need to be considered separately. For example:

Preventing terrorism

Maintaining American leadership in math and the sciences

Charting a wise course with respect to Mexican immigration

Each of these subjects has some bearing on the others, but for the most part this is true only on the margins. Terrorism is not a good reason for inaction on illegal immigration from Mexico and South America or a good reason to make things difficult for Taiwanese aspiring to study engineering in America. America's shortage of trained young mathematicians is an unpersuasive reason to encourage the immigration of Mexican temporary workers. Difficulties faced by legal immigrants and guests in this country would be substantially less daunting, terrorism or no terrorism, if the Citizenship and Immigration Services agency were not among the very worst run, hidebound agencies in the entire federal government.

The centralization of non-defense policymaking in the White House -- required for President Bush's reelection campaign -- makes it more difficult for the government to deal with more than one or two difficult issues at a time. Such authority as is given to Cabinet officers is most often authority to stop things from being done (for example, Transportation Secretary Mineta's ban on profiling Middle Easterners in airports), not authority to do new things or propose legislation. This means that ultimately discussions like this one are really about what the government might do when it is able to do something, sometime in the indefinite future, rather than what it ought to do now.

posted by: Zathras on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

I don't follow, and I can't pretend to act like I read the preponderance of comments that preceded this one. But, racial profiling, as a policy, has always been implicitly applied; and to pretend like it hasn’t is to be self-deluded.

If a nefarious agent of terror acquires a legitimate passport, which they most often do, all the racial profiling in the world won't stop that person from boarding a plane. It's a false comfort to believe that once every Arab man is cordon, frisked, prodded, and checked, the flight will less likely find its destination in an office tower.

These nefarious agents hiding in plain sight, to the admitted knowledge of the intelligence community, have and are facilitated the ability to travel throughout the United States. They doubtless should be monitored--and apprehend when and before a conspiracy to injure the nation is found out.

What starts to sound suspicious, though, is when particular individuals or groups, with anti-immigration proclivities to begin with, conflate issues like immigration preferences of governmental policy with issues of real national security and terrorism implications. Beware.

posted by: Carleton on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]


Kelli's comment here is what I was thinking of:

"The majority of immigrants do great, some of our best and brightest are immigrants, anything critical of our immigration "policy" is racist and counterproductive, yada, yada, yada. Of course, how many of those 95th percentile children of immigrants are Latino? One percent? Two?"

posted by: Jason Ligon on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

I too would like Jason Ligon to explain himself.

What starts to sound suspicious, though, is when particular individuals or groups, with anti-immigration proclivities to begin with, conflate issues like immigration preferences of governmental policy with issues of real national security and terrorism implications. Beware.

What sounds suspicious to me is when far-left groups that want to build a proletariat downplay the massive negative consequences of their actions. And, when cheap-labor conservatives join with them.

The U.S. has expanded greatly since its founding. We could take in more territory, or we could even lose some territory. We might even lose territory in a de facto rather than de jure manner. Making sure that the U.S. maintains control over all its territory is part of national security. Allowing Mexico to move millions of their citizens into our country so they can have an even greater influence on our policies is something that should be prevented but is not due largely to political correctness and to the influence of the anti-American coalition alluded to above.

For the short term, if only thousands were coming illegally over our borders each year we could much more easily capture the bad guys.

I've already gone into this elsewhere, but our Southwest deserts are tremendous natural defenses. Augmented with drones, cameras, sensors and, most importantly of all, the will to do it, we could prevent the great majority of attempted crossings, at least over the desert.

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]


I can't see anything in your post I would disagree with, though I'm sure that was the intent. And, as for the Strawman you've created, I'm with you: Hang the fu*cker!

posted by: Carleton on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

Carleton: What "Strawman?" And, after identifying said "Strawman," why is it a "Strawman?"

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]


I think there's something to what Kelli said, though it's always dangerous to overgeneralize. "Hispanic" lumps together expat Cubans, well-educated Argentinians, Guatemalan coffee-pickers and mestizos from Mexico City's slums, but I expect each of these examples would produce different effects (positive and negative) as a US immigrant.

That said, there's a much clearer case for the advantages of bringing people from certain backgrounds into the US. We need gardeners, perhaps, but engineers on average produce a greater benefit. And it's easy to see that on a per-capita basis, more Taiwanese immigrants (often coming here for grad school) are likely to be engineers, than Mexican immigrants (usually seeking agricultural work).

This doesn't mean we should bar immigration from any particular source, just that we should think both seriously and honestly about what we want from immigration (legal or illegal) and what we fear from it. We should be much more discriminating in how we handle immigration -- and that will sometimes appear discriminatory.

posted by: Shelby on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

Does anyone know why I suddenly can't get Dan's comments section to remember my info? I expect to be ignored when I freestyle blab on the internet, but when the software does it too, well, that's just insulting.

Anyway. Wacko, you know I didn't write that bit you quoted, right?

The whole notion of who 'we' are and who 'they' are is highly questionable. What in the world is the murky Mexican Agenda? Is this a NAFTA thing? I would suggest that very few immigrants want to make America function like Mexico. They may want to see more faces like theirs and they may want to hear Spanish, but the idea that we would lose territory to Mexico is ludicrous. Mexico sends voting shock troops to retake the Alamo by secession? Lonewacko, thy blog is aptly named.


I agree with the point, and I do take issue with current immigration law to the extent that it actually tips in favor of Latino immigration over other kinds by way of the extended family preference. That said, as long as we have the left screaming that we need higher minimum wages, we will need more immigration that is formally illegal while we pretend that jobs worth less than the minimum don't exist for 'real people'.

More generally, I still believe in the 'give us your needy concept'. Welfare reform has made the price not too high, and we are purchasing possibilities in addition to exporting the virtues of American society to the families back home.

posted by: Jason Ligon on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

Lonewacko may find this amusing. From NYT linked through Kausfiles on July 14 here: http://slate.msn.com/id/2104072/


"The grievances of Bushwick's parents point at an overlooked truth. The foes of bilingual education, at least as practiced in New York, are not Eurocentric nativists but Spanish-speaking immigrants who struggled to reach the United States and struggle still at low-wage jobs to stay here so that their children can acquire and rise with an American education, very much including fluency in English."

Did I mention this was the NYT?

posted by: Jason Ligon on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]


Almost none of our electrcity comes from crude oil, so starting 100 nuclear plants has nothing to do with energy security. Energy independence is a fallacy that will cost umpteen times more than it is worth.

The best way to make oil less expensive, in social terms, is for the US to stop being the stabilizing agent in the Middle East. Being the de facto private security firm for the House of Saud is both unnecessary and has been extrtemely counterproductive. Let the Saudis have their civil war. Whoever wins will still be perfectly happy to sell us their only saleable commidity.


Foreign graduate students get pretty much the same level of financial support as American students. Almost none of them bring money. The percentage of undergrads that are foreign is fairly small - small enough that any shortfall can be covered by admitting more domestic students at most schools.

posted by: Barry P. on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]


Here's a site with some info on US oil use (Union of Concerned Scientists).
By my calculation, using their info, about 13% of US non-transportation energy is provided by oil. (Probably less than either natural gas or coal.)

13% is not trivial. We might not need 100 nuclear plants, but 10 would help nicely. While I'd like to see the US end up less entangled in the Middle East (and have no brief with the House of Saud), I don't think abandoning it right now would be productive.

Everything I've seen indicates that foreign students pay a much larger share of their expenses, using money from overseas. Do you have a data source for your claim?


My present concern with immigration policy is more focused on keeping out as many terrorists as possible. I know our overall policies in this regard need a substantial overhaul, but that's less immediate for me.

posted by: Shelby on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

So how about this as a first step w/r/t people boarding airplanes --

1. EVERY muslim male between the ages of 15 and 60 gets searched; and

2. EVERYONE ELSE gets spot checked.

posted by: Ben on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

What in the world is the murky Mexican Agenda? Is this a NAFTA thing? I would suggest that very few immigrants want to make America function like Mexico. They may want to see more faces like theirs and they may want to hear Spanish, but the idea that we would lose territory to Mexico is ludicrous. Mexico sends voting shock troops to retake the Alamo by secession? Lonewacko, thy blog is aptly named.

Yes it is. It's a "honeypot." When an ijit comments on the name, it's usually the only argument they have.

But, in your case, you do have a little argument. The only problem is you have no idea what you're talking about.

For the rest of you, here's an excerpt from Allan Wall that lays it all out. He 's an American who lives in Mexico and is married to a Mexican, so I'd imagine he has a bit of an inside perspective:

The Mexican government is engaged in a deliberate strategy to influence American immigration policy, increase the population of Mexicans in the United States, slow their assimilation and retain their loyalty to Mexico. This is no secret conspiracy -- Mexican leaders speak openly of it. It is already bearing fruit. If allowed to continue, the inevitable outcome will be effective control of U.S. immigration policy by a foreign power.
Mexico's elite see the United States as a safety valve, where a part of Mexico's population can be exported, to relieve pressure on Mexico's troubled economy. This in turn reduces incentive for real economic reform. Why fix the problems when it's easier to export Mexicans?
The Mexican government works to hinder assimilation of Mexicans in the United States and to retain their loyalty. The goal is to gain control over U.S. immigration policy. And the strategy is working. Notice how U.S. immigration is no longer considered an internal U.S. matter but rather a bilateral issue to be negotiated between the United States and Mexico. Mexican immigration policy, stricter than our own, is off limits from such negotiation, of course.
Some influential Mexicans go even further, speaking openly in terms of a reconquista -- a reconquest of the U.S. Southwest, briefly a part of Mexico in the 19th century...

For a tiny example, recall the recent immigration sweeps a hundred miles or so from the border. As I've already written, protests were held, marches were marched, "guest" editorials from Racial Identity professors were penned, and, apparently most important of all, the Mexican government complained. The pussycats in the Bush administration caved. They just totally caved. (Listen to the Asa Hutchinson interview, and tell me if you want these people running our government.)

If you really want to know what's going on, I'd suggest spending a few days doing some research, lest you end up looking like a knee-jerk, 9/10/01 apologist. I have several links about this in my immigration category, but there are many other sources as well.

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

How many of the hijackers held advanced degrees?

My instinct, and I have no data to back this up, is that people in advanced degree programs pose no threat whatsoever. I find it hard to believe that somebody would spend ten years learning about some esoteric, theoretical, abstract area of science just so that they can blow themselves up. It just wouldn't make sense.

posted by: Josh Yelon on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]


That starting salaries for graduates of science and engineering students are higher than other majors doesn't disprove my point. The problem is those salaries just don't rise that much and that fast. Bright people can make more money over the long term with far less effort and creativity in other professions, particularly those that aren't so directly exposed to hypercompetitive global market for manufactured goods. Moreover, fields like law and medicine offer much better job stability than trade exposed jobs that many science and engineering grads end up in.

posted by: Atm on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]


According to the EIA, about 2-3% of the electricity generated in the US comes from petroleum. I'm not so sure about other non-transport uses.


I've got nothing against nuclear power: if investors want to build, let them build.

As to the foreign student issue, I am simply speaking from experience: I am a foreign student (Canadian), and I get the same stipend and tuition waiver as US students. I have paid almost nothing out-of-pocket for my degree (Energy Economics, Penn State). The same is true for all the foreign students in my department, and almost all of the foreign Ph.D. students in other disciplines I know here at PSU. Of course, foreign undergrads don't get assistance, but to the best of my knowledge, that isn't a major chunk of the foreign student population.

posted by: Barry P. on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

Ben wrote:

"So how about this as a first step w/r/t people boarding airplanes --

1. EVERY muslim male between the ages of 15 and 60 gets searched; and

2. EVERYONE ELSE gets spot checked."

As to point 2, everybody is already "spot checked."

As to point 1, how do you know which people are Moslems? Should we tattoo their forearms? Or maybe everybody should have to carry a national ID card, which includes one's religion (like in Indionesia.) And what if al-Qaeda forms a (not implausible) alliance with their fellow anti-Zionists, the Aryan Nations types? Will we start searching all 20-something white males with short hair?

Or how about internal passports, with checkpoints every 20 miles or so. And everybody has to file travel plans in advance, and get approval from the government (like in China). No DHS internal visa, no travel. Simple enough, right?

posted by: Barry P. on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

The purpose of racial profiling is surely to make it more difficult for attacks to be carried out. The sophistication of the screening system will at once increase the cost and complexity of breaking through it (thus forcing would-be terrorist organisations to channel more resources and more ingenuity into doing s) and also increase the number of enthusiastic economic migrants turned away for reasons which would prove unfounded.

For me, with these kinds of defenses, it's not a matter of 'should we or shouldn't we' so much as 'how should be balance security concerns against economic considerations so that we neither get attacked too easily or choke our economy'. Like Daniel, my leanings are toward liberal on this issue, but I am aware of the possible cost, and it has something changed my thinking.

posted by: Bernard on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]


13% of all non-transportation energy consumption does not mean 13% of electricity; probably the main thing you're missing is heating of homes and buildings by oil. Very, very roughly 30% of US energy consumption is in electricity, and some tiny percentage of _that_ is from oil - maybe 2%, maybe 5%, but I don't recall - at any rate, electricity from oil is strictly a niche thing.

Roughly 20% of US electricity is from nukes. There are 104 nuclear plants. So your 100 plants would make that 40%, but you'd only be getting rid of extremely little oil consumption, and probably none at all, since how come the people who are getting electricity from oil aren't already using what the rest of us are using?

Even if we somehow did replace a lot of our oil consumption, this wouldn't disentangle us from the Middle East, unless the replacement was competitive with oil, in which case the whole world would switch to it. How would that work, anyway? We and the world would be literally flushing huge volumes of gasoline and fuel oil down the drain in order to get jet fuel, plastics etc. We'd be flushing about 65% of crude oil. What kind of zany US or world would do that, and what kind of amazing replacement for oil could compete with simply not flushing the stuff?

If the replacement was not competitive, we'd only destroy ourselves. Other countries wouldn't use it! How would that work, anyway? Would we set up a dictatorship that would say, "OK, my fellow Americans, now we're going to make ourselves poor so we'll be disentangled from the Middle East and the terrorists won't attack us." That doesn't even make sense. As someone said, "They'd probably be pissed off even more."

posted by: Bill on 07.20.04 at 11:48 AM [permalink]

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