Thursday, June 28, 2007
Announcer: Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to the Main Event of the evening!
In this corner, weighing in at a sloppy 25,000 pounds; with swollen noses and wearing brown-stained Armani trunks are the 100 Senators of the United States…Senators! [boo, hiss, grumble]
In the opposing corner, weighing in at 300 million votes; carrying the rule of law, reason, and a well-defined sense of fair play upon their shoulders; and wearing Red, White, and Blue Trunks are the Citizens of the United States…Citizens! [yea!]
Referee: Alright gentlemen, I want a fair fight. No ad hominem arguments or name calling—just go out there and debate the issue at hand and do what’s right for the country.
Citizens: Hey…the Senator's boxing gloves are stuffed with cash and rolled coins.
Referee: Those are campaign contributions, questionable book deal revenues, and consulting contract income.
Citizens: Is that fair?
Referee: No,…what’s your point? At the sound of the Liberty Bell, come out swinging.
Announcer: And the Senators make the first move!
Senators: It’s not really “Amnesty,” It’s more like a “Pardon!”
Citizens: That makes no sense.
Senators: What we have now is “De-facto Amnesty!”
Citizens: So we should go from “De-facto Amnesty” to “Actual Amnesty?”
Senators: It’s actually “Earned Citizenship!” Quick—someone get me a Thesaurus!!
Citizens: You’re not fooling anyone.
Senators: You're a Racist! You want to break up families! Hamburgers will be $20 each! Who’s going to pick my lettuce?? You just don't understand the issues! If we legalize them then they will vote for us!!!!!!
Announcer: A large cut has opened up in the Senators' position—the audience gasps as the Citizens come charging back!
Citizens: We tried the legalization thing before and you guys did nothing to enforce the laws. You passed a bill to build a border fence and then play political games with it so it won’t get built.
Announcer: Body-Blow! Body-Blow!
Senators: This is all the fault of talk-radio fear-mongers who have to be stopped!
Citizens: You mean those guys who helped you all get elected last time?
Announcer: The Senators are realing—bearly able to stand on their own two feet!
Citizens: Your plan doesn’t make economic, legal, or moral sense at all.
Senators: It’s the best deal we could make! It’s even Bi-partisan and everything!!
Citizens: You are running this thing like a game of Three-Card-Monte. No matter what we choose, we lose, because you are the guys dealing the cards and deciding what the choices are. I’ve had enough of this—we’re going to vote your deal-making, double-talking, legacy seeking, self-centered butts right out of office!
Senators: So you do not like this immigration bill? Why didn’t you just say so?
Announcer: The Senators have just run out of the ring and are sprinting for the door!
Referee: The winner, defender of liberty, and still champion of Constitutional Republican governance…The Citizens! [yea!]
Well, the good guys took this round with the defeat of the terrible Immigration bill in the Senate. But don’t forget, friends—the Senators will be back for another round of Sophistry and Mayhem. Let’s make sure that we are ready for them.
Monday, June 25, 2007
In fact, they begin right here! (With a little Milton Friedman wisdom thrown in for good measure.)
And it begins with the truth that we are still talking about illegal immigration--not "immigrants" or "migrants" or any others who might legally lay claim to opportunity in this country. Let's dispense will all the talk of racism, nativism, and the rest. We have all seen, heard, and read the dribbling rants of those who are racists out there. We know them when we see them. There are elements of that everywhere and on both sides of this debate. They are the fringe, the out-landers to the American Dream--but they are a noisy lot at times and ultimately cowards. Let us set the misanthropes aside as history undoubtedly will do and get ourselves on to the business at hand.
Arizona is the Huckleberry State
I am a native Arizonan (not of the "Native-American Tribal" variety, but still enough of a rarity) and have witnessed a great deal regarding illegal immigration first-hand. I have seen illegal immigrants who work exceedingly hard and generally within the context of legality (of course, excepting their immigration status) and I have been the victim of crime at the hands of....how do we now say this...."doubly illegals?" Again, I am not shocked by the fact that a societal subset contains elements of both. Any random set of humanity with sufficient scope would do the same.
Ideas--At Least I Know Where to Start
Only you can determine if you believe that 'Ol Huck has something constructive to offer on this matter, but let me give you a taste. It is my contention that:
- The most important elements in any solution to illegal immigration are sequence, measure, and pacing. (Think of how the Fed manages interest rates to avoid "shocking" the economy.)
- The most fearful aspects of the current legislation are that it was quickly negotiated in secret and, in fact, the most current version is unavailable for public review. (Never a good sign. The Heritage Foundation managed to review an early summary before they published their scathing account.)
- It is vital to remember that any solution must take into account the relative incompetence of the Federal government in administrating such programs. (Milton Friedman once said, "If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand.").
- It is also important to view the current proposal in the context of the failures of the previous attempt in 1986 and to not repeat those errors (Milton Friedman also said, "Governments never learn. Only people learn.").
- Finally, incentives must be in place to induce lawfulness. It is clear to me that the Senators do not have a firm enough grasp of Economics to place these incentives in the correct locations. I would argue that the incentives, as I understand them, contained in the current bill encourage lawlessness. (one last Milton Friedman quote, "Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it." He was a pretty bright guy, eh?)
But What About the Families and the Children, etc.?
With regards to this issue it is also plain that many are leading from their heart. I do not fault them too much for this. Grace, mercy, and compassion are the hallmarks of my faith--political and theological. But we do not benefit those who wish to come to our country under noble goals and lofty aspirations if, by doing so, we lessen the quality or value of that which they seek to achieve. In so doing, the "economy" of Freedom is put into Recession and the sum total of "good" is diminished. If the mechanism is properly in place and the "market" for such remains governed by the rule of law, only then does each transaction (of immigration) add value to the whole. This is true of every system designed by the hand of man.
Before I sign off, I would also offer that the majority of opponents to the bill (excepting a few) are not necessarily "pro-enforcement-only" as is commonly inferred. Rather, they are largely "Pro-enforcement-first" (not the same thing) and that any government unwilling to enforce current laws cannot be trusted to enforce any.
We keep hearing John McCain and other politicians parroting the party-line:
"Those who oppose this legislation have a duty to propose an alternative."
I would have hoped that the legislators involved might have asked this same question of us prior to their first, clandestine Drafting sessions. I assure you that I would have spoken up. Now, each attempt that I and my philosophical brethren make to contact our representatives is met with disdain, slander, and silence.
"You want solutions and alternatives?
Here I am John, but it appears that you will not take my call."
Friday, June 22, 2007
“Truth, that’s it! For when a man lies he murders some part of the world...you should know that!” (1)
Good ‘Ol Huck is starting to get in a bad way about this whole mess—refering to the mis-named Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act. It’s getting awfully lonely out here on the Intellectual Conservative front. Our evidence today comes from those previously claiming to profess Conservative Principles.
Did They Really Say That?
Is Huckleberry willing to name names? Why sure he is:
- Trent Lott (You should hear some of the tragic interviews he has been giving—this will likely end his chances at further Republican Leadership. And did he really say that “Talk Radio is a problem” that needs to be addressed? Yes he did, to his lasting shame.)
- Senator Jon Kyl (I am very sorry to include this fine man in this list of shame, but he has boxed himself into a rather ugly corner on this one. If he comes up with another “it’s more like a pardon, not amnesty” comment I may become ill.)
- President Bush (Don’t get me started. When he is right, he is mostly right, though fumbling a bit. When he is wrong, he can be tragically, horribly wrong. Is it correct to say logarithmically wrong? Hurling accusations and name calling at your political base--one that is shrinking fast do to other concerns--because they disagree with you qualifies as being just that wrong.)
- The Goldwater Institute (My email exchange with Clint Bolick, a staff member at the Institute, was equal parts enlightening, comic, and horrific. Did he really suggest in an Arizona Republic editorial that Republicans prostitute themselves upon this bill in order to improve their election chances? Yes he did; thus lowering the term “craven” to new depths and debasing the name of the Senator his employer is named for. By the way, ‘Ol Huck ain’t done with the Goldwater Institute just yet. They have done a bit of good work over the years and, if they can be saved from themselves, I will give them that chance.)
- John McCain (Perhaps someone whispered in his ear that his support for this bill would augment his Presidential aspirations…and perhaps that person was James Carville…and perhaps even he didn’t think McCain would take him seriously.)
- Almost all of Conservative Talk Radio that I have heard (see: Trent Lott above)
- The Heritage Foundation (Bucking the trend, they have attempted some scholarly research on the costs involved. By the way, pocket change won’t do it.)
- National Review and the online incarnation of this relatively steady and philosophically sound magazine.
- I cannot think of anyone else right now, but I felt compelled to add a fourth bullet so that it does not look like reasoned Conservativism is so greatly outnumbered—though that appears to be the case.
Come to think of it, this isn’t really a Conservative or Liberal issue at all. In anything near its current form this bill violates sound economic principles, denies human nature, ignores the concept of the rule of law, twists the US Constitution into some pretty bizarre shapes, caters to a few special interests and select industries, incentivizes criminal behavior, and plays a shell game with the various extended implications (Health care, Social Security, and so much more). Is it any wonder that a signifcant number of us are outraged?
But perhaps worst of all it is causing the Republican leadership--who have been duped into supporting this travesty--to lie, twist, mangle, and dance the Sophistry Shuffle as they spit into the wind and tell us it’s raining.
(1) Quote from the character Merlin in the movie Excalibur, 1981, Orion Pictures Corporation
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Snow, Cement, and Ivory Young Towers (1)
Some eons ago mankind spoke one language. One may differ on which root language that was and whether the several “branch” languages were the result of geographic isolation after tribal migrations or the result of divine intervention into human hubris at—you guessed it—The Tower of Babel. It is interesting and instructive to note that modern linguistic science points rather decisively to a “Mother Tongue” for humanity and that a quorum of historical traditions and religions do so as well. So let us refer back, if we may, to our favorite Neolithic ancestor, Cousin Og. (2)
Good Cousin Og is sitting in his mud hut one day when the local leader walks up to him and says, “Hey buddy, can you make bricks?” Or one imagines such an exchange taking place (Cousin Og is a bit fuzzy on the conversation now, seeing as he is 10,000 years old and his memory is not quite what it used to be). The point being that by this time in human history, it seems we could all communicate with each other in one, unified language—Let’s call this language "Basic Rock." (3) Anyway, the request is made and appropriations allocated for another public works construction project.
So make bricks they do and up goes a tower. Now the story gets tangled a bit, but it appears their prehistoric intent was to (literally and metaphorically) build a tower so high that the locals could poke a stick into God’s eye. The Hucklebberry Legal Team tells me that I must warn you not to try this at home. Such impertinence is likely to anger deities from any and all religious traditions that I am aware of and—if you are an atheist—it makes you look like a jerk anyway.
You know how the story ends. Cut to the present day and we now have six-billion people in the world (more or less) who speak a couple-hundred different languages and one is left to wonder what could be accomplished if that were not the case.
Now, this author is a professional communicator by trade and I can assure you that I am the only one on the planet who speaks clearly, concisely, effectively, and correctly. If you do not understand me, then there is something wrong with you.
My point is that I would tend to argue that what we really have today are six-billion-odd humans speaking six-billion-odd dialects of a couple hundred languages. I speak, well, "Huckleberry English" and you speak "Whatever-English." Some words, concepts, inflections, and idiomatic expressions hold subtly different “meaning" for you than they do for me. I am reminded daily of the difficulties of being understood experienced by family members and close associates, let alone co-workers and complete strangers. Even people related by blood and raised in the same households come to each conversation with their own completely unique set of agendas, biases, conceptions, and linguistic relationships that compound the burden of clear intent. It is a wonder that we can understand each other at all. Communication is hard!
But did the pre-Babel folks have a more perfect system? Did they literally speak with the tongues of angels and understand each other perfectly? If so, I am jealous and would gladly trade my Ipod and plasma screen TV for a few happy days in mutual comprehensive bliss. That local leader who recruited Cousin Og to make bricks may have been able to communicate the request with a level of purpose, precision, and brevity that would astound us (please avoid the temptation at this point to contrast such linguistic efficiency with this blog entry). Imagine, a few words that not only communicated the desire to have bricks made, but detailed their composition, physical dimensions, method of construction, where they needed to go, and--perhaps--even their purpose and reason better than any set of architectural drawings. Cousin Og would have related to him the completeness of meaning distilled down to its most efficient form.
This idea of Babel and it's antecedent potentially "prefect" communication has stimulated many thoughts on my part and I have started referring to this concept as "singularity of meaning" (the irony of ‘Ol Huck venturing to coin a term in an attempt to define this is not lost on me). It is, if you will, the natural horizon of communications--the vanishing point at which the injection of one additional word, inflection, pause, or guttural sound would add nothing to the understanding. Conversely, the removal of any single element would bring loss. Unfortunately, this may be unattainable for us today. For us it is a mathematical limit--like the speed of light. With great effort and energy we can approach it ever closer, but we can never reach that pinnacle of meaning singularity. Ah, but the effort has given us some wonderful art, has it not?
On the more mushy side on the concept is the notion of the tortured artist--being so tortured by his or her inability to properly or fully express the desired "meaning." Just like an infant fusses at times due to his inability to communicate the specificity of his wants and needs, the artist storms about in frustration at the inadequacy of his medium, vocabulary, and talent to express the intended meaning. Thus art is often described as being "felt" and we defer to our "sense" of it.
Taken to its edges, one may find perfect communication--perfect language--to therefore define perfect art. But this is a bit of a digression. For the moment let's turn our attention to the concept of "language as repression" and step in to gently correct Sigmund Freud by suggesting that language is better understood as not the point of repression, but rather the point of limitation (not the same thing). Repression may be thought of as the internalized result of our frustration at our limitations. Repression is the humanistic and flawed response of man (the spoiled and frustrated child) straining at his/her own limits. That which we cannot express en veritas toto we either repress, transfer, or act out upon unproductively.
Returning to the singularity of meaning, we discover then that there is one more example that begs our address--Epiphany. Epiphany is the rare moment when meaning crystallizes for us in a brilliant flash of comprehension. We rush about looking for a note pad because even the act of starting up our computer would take too long. The "meaning" and comprehension are flying by us and we get but a glimpse of it. We are then limited by our ability to record such moments effectively and, ultimately, some portion of each Epiphany is lost to us every time.
Who could communicate so quickly, beautifully, and with such full and complete meaning....standing, if you will, at the point of singularity and...perhpas...at the speed of light? It is only God who speaks in such ways and can do no less.
(1) First line of the song “Tower of Babel” by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, from the album “
Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy,” 1975. This post has nothing to do with the religio-phobic and self-aggrandized homosexual diaspora intended by the song—but it is a solid cultural reference point for “Babel.”
(2) Yes, I know that I have referred to Cousin Og in previous posts as “Paleolithic.” He called me last week from his condo in South Boca to correct me and remind me that he is “not THAT old.”
(3) I stand on the shoulders of Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks (2000 Year Old Man)
* The graphic used in this post is that of a woodcut image by M. C. Esher titled “Tower of Babel
Saturday, June 02, 2007
An Open Letter to President George Bush
Mr. President -
It is relatively easy for me to understand and accept political disagreement. I am accustomed to such as I am sure you are. I also understand that my President may not, on occasion, completely agree with me on every position--this is one of the realities I am content to live with.
It is quite another thing for my President--and ostensibly the leader of my party--to lecture me on my need to accept diversity. Please understand, sir, that I do not intend to lecture you and I intend no disrespect. But I cannot support the current (and terribly mis-named) Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act in anywhere near its current form. I would further say that my reasoning's have nothing to do with fear of diversity or racism and that I have not been manipulated by fear-mongers. Quite frankly, sir, I resent your saying so. In rhetorical arguments, the first one to defer to ad homonyms and non sequiturs is usually the one with the weaker case. I am left to assume that this implies my arguments against this legislation are stronger indeed.
The current bill is mis-guided from the perspectives of economics (monetary and incentive), our established concept of justice, the establishment of unwarranted precedent, and quite frankly our American sense of fair play. Your support and defense of this bill should be abandoned and I have equally communicated this sentiment to my state Senators--Kyle and McCain. I will continue my resistance in the form of my vote, communications (my blog, letters, and related articles), and the withholding of financial and moral support from my Republican Party, you sir, and my Senators to make my position known.
Friday, June 01, 2007
Recent discussions have recalled one of the oldest controversies since the dawn of the scientific age—are odds of our success in any endeavor more dictated by the genetic blueprint that forms the mortal coil (nature); or more by the conditioning and training of the environment we are dropped into.
The debate has raged for centuries and inspired the literati (novels and scientific papers proliferate) as well other media (theatrical productions and cinematic efforts included). In these, the debate is carried alternately by one side of the argument or the other, and sometimes the result is a draw. Ultimately, it seems, each of us is left to determine for ourselves that which is more formative in the development of the human animal.
Human Animal, eh?
There is certainly fodder for both camps. Statistics can be found that variously suggest that simple DNA and its vagaries control our destinies or that education, social status, poverty (or lack thereof), or some other environmental influence has a greater impact. The problem for both sides of the debate arises in the exceptions. All of us know of some personal story of success where an individual springs forth from hardship or poverty to reach the pinnacles of prosperity and status. We even cherish such stories and revere them enough to make more movies and books in celebration of their biography. It is equally true that as many (if not more) who are born to wealth, position, status, and fame have floundered and squandered such advantageous positioning unto nothingness and sometimes criminal acts. The exception, it is said, proves the rule. But there must come a point where the exceptions are so numerous as to make the rule moot.
Will You….Or Will You Not?
In such cases, it is incumbent upon those seeking truth to consider that the premise itself is flawed or that all options are not yet considered. Could it be that Nature and Nurture are not the only options and, further, that perhaps they are the lesser of the totality?
The Great Bluff
Let's imagine life as a great card game that comes down to the final hand—poker, it is. The players have their chips and sit at the appointed table across from a set of other players they had never met before, within a casino owned and operated by others, and playing a game whose rules were laid down centuries before this day dawned. The environment—Nuture—is so defined. The dealer taps the table and, with an experience flick of the wrist, deals the cards to each player in turn, thus granting a random set of attributes to each player's hand. Nature is equally blind and chaotic in its dealings, is it not. You? You are the great humanistic scientist who is given access to “see” each player's cards, examine the table and chips in play, and determine who will win the hand before the first bet is made or the first card is revealed. You have been trained that you can do this, but now you are not so sure.
Any reasonably good card player will tell you that this is a fool’s errand. Because, in the end, the winner is not always the one who has the most chips at the start, nor is it the person who is dealt the best cards—almost always, the winner is the one who does the best job of playing the game. The greatest influence is neither Nature nor Nurture, but what is done with them by……what unknown force?
That force is a part of what puts lie to the term “Human Animal.” For we understand that even animals have Nature and Nurture. What we do, or do not, is the Human part of it all—the want and the will of it.