Three Reasons Why We Can’t Have An Honest And informative Debate About Immigration Policy

 

You already know Reason 1: both sides of the issue have resorted to the lowest level of debate, appealing to fear, name-calling and emotion as a substitute for general principles of law, ethics and common sense. The pro-illegal immigration forces engage in cynical sentimentality, romanticizing of law-breakers, and false characterizations in order to demonize principled opponents of open-boarders (Hate! Racists! Xenophobes! Children in cages!) Those who believe immigration laws must be enforced resort to fear-mongering, stereotyping illegal immigrants as disproportionately populated by dangerous gang members, felons, killers and rapists.

Reason 2: Nobody reads all the data, and few are interested in the factsA 2016 report by the National Academies of Science (NAS), a generally progressive-biased but fair and non-political organization, since this is the tilt of academics generally,estimated that the cost to American workers. For example, on page 171 of its September 2016 report, the researchers  suggested that immigration, legal and illegal, imposes a 5.2 percent income tax on Americans:

Immigrant labor accounts for 16.5 percent of the total number of hours worked in the United States, which . . . implies that the current stock of immigrants lowered [Americans’] wages by 5.2 percent.

NAS panel member George Borjas, a Harvard economist, calculated the value of the tax at $500 billion a year. The NAS also found that immigrants (legal and illegal) currently create a net fiscal deficit (taxes paid minus services used) that is as large as or larger than the economic benefit to the nation. The immigrants themselves do benefit by coming here. Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, said at the time the study was released, Continue reading

The Word For The Notes On Hillary Clinton’s FBI Interview—And Everything Related To It—Is “Pathetic”

Hillaryshrug

Pathetic, adj.: arousing pity, especially through vulnerability or sadness.
Synonyms: pitiful, pitiable, piteous, moving, touching, poignant, plaintive, distressing, upsetting, heartbreaking, heart-rending, harrowing, wretched, forlorn

This is the word that constantly came to mind and heart as I explored the FBI’s notes (you can too, here) regarding Hillary Clinton’s decisive—at least in terms of saving her from prosecution—interview with the FBI. Everything about them arouses pity–for her, for us, for the nation. Let us count the ways.

1. Over at MSNBC, “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd, a fully committed operative of the Democratic Party, like most of his colleagues, and like them committed through his partisan bias to saving America from Donald Trump, was overcome with an attack of objectivity.  “It bothers me as an American citizen,” he said,  that the FBI didn’t record Hillary’s interview, and left Americans to ponder merely notes taken by one agent as the public tries to assess who it may be electing President in November. “Are you kidding me?!” Todd cried. “We’re releasing notes?!”

We’re releasing notes. It’s pitiable to see one of many prominent journalists who have tried so, so hard for eight years to paper over, minimize and otherwise shrug off the constant, near complete incompetence of the Obama Administration and every agency under it to be suddenly stung by the realization that this has consequences—for trust, for truth, for belief that the government isn’t actively engaged in suppressing it. Pathetic.

2. Some of you will recall that I was collecting the various partisan reactions to  FBI director James Comey’s statement announcing that the FBI would not be recommending Clinton’s indictment to ultimately gauge which party’s reaction was more ridiculous, irresponsible, dishonest and foolish. Democrats were claiming that Comey’s report, despite showing that Clinton had lied outright about her use of the private e-mails server, and that her recklessness had endangered U.S. intelligence, exonerated Hillary. Republicans were claiming that Comey’s statement and the decision not to prosecute was indefensible. I was waiting to learn what Hillary had said in her interview, as I assumed that it would have to be released before the election. To reveal a closely guarded Ethics Alarms secret, I was prepared to declare Republicans the “winner” of the competition, as obviously idiotic as it is to say that a report declaring Clinton incompetent and dishonest could possibly “exonerate” her. Reading the notes, however, and considering the fact that the F.B.I. only has these notes to show us, I am back to, as Bobby Fisher would say, square one. Which is pathetic.

3.  Why? Well, we have just learned that  Clinton had her server “wiped”  after the New York Times, on March 3, 2015, broke the story of the server system’s existence. At the same time, she and her surrogates were telling the news media and us, “I want the public to see my email,” even as she directed her henchmen to destroy it. The FBI knew this, yet still found Clinton’s actions just negligent, and not criminal. Five months later–back in those halcyon days when she actually held press conferences— she feigned ignorance when Fox News’s Ed Henry asked, “Did you wipe the server?” saying, “Like with a cloth or something?” Now we know, vie the FBI notes , that she had the server emptied using a sophisticated software program, BleachBit, that is designed to make purged e-mails virtually unrecoverable, and indeed several thousand of hers were successfully destroyed. Clinton got away with this, her supporters don’t think it matters, and the FBI apparently minimized these efforts to obstruct justice. Pathetic.
Continue reading

Holder Does The Right Thing. Finally.

forfeiture pictureFrom the Washington Post:

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without proving that a crime occurred.Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.Since 2008, thousands of local and state police agencies have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing.The program has enabled local and state police to make seizures and then have them “adopted” by federal agencies, which share in the proceeds. The program allowed police departments and drug task forces to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of the adopted seizures, with the rest going to federal agencies.

I wrote about this outrageous abuse of government and police power in 2012. It is an ethics disgrace of long-standing; why Holder was moved to take this action now (and not his first day on the job), I can’t imagine: maybe he wanted to finally do something as he leaves Justice that makes up in some small measure for his atrocious leadership. It doesn’t matter: seldom has the phrase better late than never been more apt. I’ll attempt to overlook the millions of dollars worth of property stolen from innocent citizens by the government over the last six years and give Holder his due now. He did the right thing.

Finally.

How People Rationalize Being Close-minded: A Case Study

close_minded

For “close-minded,” you can substitute ignorant, knee-jerk partisan, misguided, arrogant, stupid, reckless,naive, easily-manipulated, or just stubbornly wrong.

I owe Ethics Alarms ex-patriot Barry Deutsch for pointing me to this; on weekends I often check out the blogs and websites, and sure enough, on his own blog Alas! Barry was once again discussing the issue that was in part responsible for his contentious departure here—the issue of how comfortable on-line forums should be for participants. Though Barry has his own—typically nuanced, too-equivocal for my tastes—views on the topic, the post I want to feature is one he linked to, a blog called Apophemi. In a post about why the blogger avoids participating on the so-called “rationalist” forum “Less Wrong,” which appears to be a major source for the writers of “Big Bang Theory,” he argues for, as translated by Barry and others—he needs a translator—“safe places,” meaning web forums where certain ideas, topics and positions will not or cannot be discussed. He writes (I warned you, remember);

“I am reasonably confident (insert p value here) that this attitude is self-replicating among people who are accustomed to being at risk in a specific way that generally occurs to marginalized populations. (I cannot speak for people who may have a similar rhetorical roadblock without it being yoked to a line of social marginalization, other than that I suspect they happen.) This would mean that rewarding the “ability” to entertain any argument “no matter how ‘politically incorrect’” (to break out of some jargon, “no matter how likely to hurt people”) results in a system that prizes people who have not been socially marginalized or who have been socially marginalized less than a given other person in the discussion, since they will have (in general) less inbuilt safeguards limiting the topics they can discuss comfortably. In other words, prizing discourse without limitations (I tried to find a convenient analogy for said limitations and failed. Fenders? Safety belts?) will result in an environment in which people are more comfortable speaking the more social privilege they hold. (If you prefer to not have any truck with the word ‘privilege’, substitute ‘the less likelihood of having to anticipate culturally-permissible threats to their personhood they have lived with’, since that’s the specific manifestation of privilege I mean. Sadly, that is a long and unwieldy phrase.) Environments for discourse which do not allow/encourage what I’m calling “discourse without limitations” are frequently (that I have seen) trash-talked in the context of environments which do allow/encourage that type of discourse.”

I guess this would be “trash-talk,” then: Apophemi is rationalizing echo chambers, close-minds and intellectual laziness. Continue reading

The Republicans Devolve

devolutionWhether your party is becoming more ignorant, or whether ignorant people are increasingly drawn to your party, the conclusions to be drawn when over 50% of those who identify as members also proudly admit that they have a 19th Century understanding of the universe cannot be called encouraging. Thus the Pew Research Center’s just released data showing that only 43% of Republicans understand and accept evolution is bad news for that party, and indeed for the nation as a whole.

Democrats have nothing to be proud of, as just two thirds (67%) of them told Pew that they believe in evolution, but at least the members of that party are getting smarter: the last poll, in 2009, showed 64% had absorbed the conclusions of Charles Darwin and Stephen Jay Gould. Republicans, in contrast, have gone backwards, dropping from 54% to the current, pathetic figure. For the American public as a whole, the takeaway is that a full 33% are incompetent at life, for that is what complete confusion about and misunderstanding of the world around us means in practical terms. Continue reading

The Ethics of Ignorance

Jamestown Cannibalism

I don’t know Albert T. Harrison, though he may well be a neighbor: we both live in Alexandria, Virginia. He is probably a good and decent man, in fact, I’m pretty certain of it, and it pains me to take him to task for what he wrote to, and was subsequently published in, the Washington Post’s weekly “Free for All” page. His letter is already on the web, however, and I’m sure other good, and, like Albert, willfully ignorant Americans are reading it and nodding their heads. His is an unethical, irresponsible, cowardly and dangerous position, and it has too many supporters already.

I’m sorry, Mr. Harrison, but you force my hand.

This week, scientists determined with near certainty that rumors of cannibalism in the colony at Jamestown, Virginia, were true. The remains of a 14-year-old girl from an excavation at the site of the settlement showed unmistakable signs of deliberate butchering. From the Post story: Continue reading

The Civil Forfeiture Outrage: American Government At Its Worst, So Naturally We Ignore It

Do progressives and conservatives have the courage to confront the illusion-shattering outrage of civil asset forfeiture in America? Not so far they haven’t. That shouldn’t be too surprising.

There are some things our governments do that are so frightening, wrong and un-American that we tend to look right by them—ignore them, pretend they aren’t happening, focus on other things—because their implications are too confounding to deal with. For fans of big government, who look to central authority to micro-manage our economy, distribute our resources, protect us from every threat and isolate us from the consequences (and often the benefits) of human nature, the fact that government power corrupts as surely as any power is an inconvenient (and undeniable) truth that threatens the foundation of their ideology. How irrational is it to place more responsibility on the government if we can’t trust the government, because we can’t trust the inevitably flawed and conflicted individuals who run it?

The willful blindness is no less insidious with conservatives, whose core belief is the inherent goodness of the American system and way of life, as defined by our founding documents. Accepting that the largest and oldest democracy on earth sometimes targets and plots against law-abiding citizens means accepting the possibility that the system itself doesn’t work, and that its supposedly sacred ideals—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—are a cynical lie. Aiding and abetting the blindness is the traditional media, which is substantially populated by self-important, inadequately-educated, ethically-shaky pseudo-professionals who believe their duty to objectively tell the public what it needs to know should be tempered by what they believe will persuade members of the public to adopt the “right” views, and, of course, by what will pull their attention away from the competition. Better to have features about Michelle Obama’s healthy eating crusade than to tell Americans about government wrong-doing, especially when the journalists support the party in power.

As a result of this toxic mix of bias, self-interest, self-delusion and incompetence, many of the most illuminating examples of how far America can go wrong can take a long, long time to enter into public consciousness. A recent example is insider trading by members of Congress, which had been well-documented for a decade before a “60 Minutes” report combined with the Occupy protest visibility and the widespread distrust of Wall Street suddenly made it a significant public concern. But other equally important issues, like the abuse of U.S. convicts, including the tolerance of prison rape, haven’t broken through the willful blindness yet.

Neither has civil asset forfeiture, despite the efforts of libertarian activists, publications like Reason, websites like Popehat, and organizations like ACLU and  The Institute for Justice, a libertarian, human rights public interest law firm that I have been negligent in not plugging earlier. (I apologize.) Right now, the Institute is going to court in a Massachusetts civil forfeiture case, United States v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Mass, that serves as an excellent introduction to the sinister nature of this institutionalized abuse of power. Here’s the story, from the Institute’s website: Continue reading