Friday, June 29, 2007

Cloture Fails -- Immigration Bill Really Dead

Cloture has failed and the immigration bill now is really and truly dead. And so goes George Bush's last gasp for a legacy.

I have supported the bill. Generally I thought it gave both sides what they wanted -- a fence, enforcement, amnesty and a guest worker program. But Bush had no political capital remaining, and no one trusted the other side. And bill supporters were too quick to play the race card and not too willing to open up the process. So it failed. So what is next?

Comprehensive immigration reform is dead for now. A Democratic president will be pushing health care while a Republican will not want to go near the issue again. The next president may be able to adopt some half measures. I think we will see an increase in the number of legal immigrants permitted, and the visa process could be stream lined a bit. Instapundit, though, has a set of suggestions for the next time:

(1) Make the process open, transparent, and timely, with hearings, drafts on the
Internet, and no last-minute bills that no one has read;

(2) Earn people's trust, don't demand it, and treat enforcement like it matters;

(3) Respect people who follow the law, and make legal immigration easier, cheaper, and simpler, rather than the Kafkaesque nightmare it is now;

(4) Don't feel you have to be "comprehensive" -- address the problems you can deal with first. The trust needed to deal with other problems will come later, after you've shown some success and some good faith.

All good thoughts.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Immigration Bill Passes Cloture

The immigration bill passed cloture and that sound you heard was the storm getting started on the right side of the blog sphere. While I am a supporter of the bill, I understand the reason for the opposition. A large part of it is that, frankly, no one trusts President Bush any more. The bill was sold as amnesty (without using the word) coupled with enforcement. No one believes that there will be meaningful enforcement (though it could be argued that enforcement at the border has never been better). Furthermore, the behavior of some of the supporters of the bill has been horrendous.

The Daily Kos, the premier left wing blog, which you would think would be interested in the issue, seems not to care. The most recent post on immigration is one from June 25th setting forth a progressive case against the bill. The argument is that it will depress wages.

While current the immigration issue is tearing apart the GOP, the longer it goes, its effects will be felt by the Democrats also. One of the Democrats key constituents, African Americans, may find themselves in competition with recent immigrants and guest workers for jobs. And while the heavily immigrant unions such as the Service Workers support immigration reform, other unions may see immigration as a threat.

Immigration has no easy and good answers. Both parties need this to be over quickly.

Another Reason to Support School Vouchers

The Supreme Court has ruled that a high school can discipline a student who, after being let out from school early to watch the Olympic torch run, held up a sign that said "Bong Hits for Jesus." So for holding up a nonsensical sign at an event only tangentially related to education, high school student Joseph Frederick found himself suspended from school. The school's reasoning apparently was that the message was pro-drug. I do not know what is sillier, (i) the fact that the student unfurled the banner, (ii) the fact that the school suspended him, (iii) the fact that it got to the Supreme Court, or (iv) the fact the court ruled as it did.

It reminds me how I got in trouble once for "disrupting" a field trip to the Whitney Museum by basically telling a tour guide that modern art was dreadful. The highlight was when the guide showed us his favorite piece, basically three metal boxes attached to the wall, signifying, well, something I guess. After he said what a great exhibit it was, I noted that it was three metal boxes attached to the wall. When we got back to school, I was told to write a letter of apology. I was rude I admit, maybe even purposefully disruptive of an actual educational event, as I realized the emperor has no clothes. But it was in a matter of personal opinion and taste. I wrote the apology letter as it seemed silly to fight it.

Ann Coulter is an Embarrassment

For some reason, Ann Coulter has become the "it" girl of conservatives. Why? She is an embarrassment to the right in this country. She is obsessed with John Edwards and not in a good way. There is much to dislike about Edwards. He comes across as an empty suit at times and seems more fluff than substance. I dislike most of his politics and looking at his new home, I think we figured out where the "Second America" went.

Yet this is a man who faced some terrible times with his family, losing a son and dealing with his wife's cancer. He did not run away from his responsibilities I may not want him to be president, but he is by all accounts a great husband and father. In my mind that is the best thing you can say about a man.

So we then come to Ann Coutler. The "faggot" remark to the American Conservative Union and her statements about Edwards dead son -- is she really that callous? Which is why I am glad Elizabeth Edwards called Hardball and had a few words for Coulter. Andrew Sullivan called it a wonderful moment, but I am not so sure. As the father of two small boys, I could not imagine anything wonderful about burying one of them.

I find it sad, that one of conservatism's standard bearers acts as she does. Sullivan thinks of her of as "performance art". I wonder if she is a left wing mole. I mean, has she been sent to infiltrate conservatism to make us look bad? She has replaced intelligent argument with hyperbole and reason with irrationality. She sells lots of books, but does conservatism no favors.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bush's Political Capital

Instapundit thinks President Bush as squandered the last of his political capital on immigration. The immigration fight appears to be the last straw for many conservatives , and those that have not already deserted him, are on their way out. Many of the freshman Democrats are more of the conservative "blue dog" variety -- Senator Webb for example is more of an old time populist/economic nationalist and has little in common with the latte drinking yuppie liberals who dominate the Democrats today. They will not support this bill. But the real question should be did President Bush have any political capital left at all?

President Bush has thrown out a Hail Mary to try and salvage some legacy, and it looks like it will fail. The bill is extremely unpopular and even though I support it I can understand why. If you are a conservative, do you trust this president to follow up on the promised enforcement. Most likely the next president is a Democrat. If it turns out to be a liberal such as Obama or Edwards, will there be the follow through on enforcement? And if it is Hillary Clinton, considering that the Clinton years saw an explosion in the number of illegal immigrants, can she be trusted with enforcement?

For many conservatives, the answer seems to be no -- they believe that enforcement will not occur tomorrow, so they are refusing to support amnesty today.

And Bush has gotten very little for his gamble. The Democrats will not support him on Iraq of course and some Democrats are now calling for a withdrawal from Afghanistan. Considering that Karl Rove is supposed to be some sort of super genius, one wonders if Bush was just lucky for all this time. The tone deafness, even to his own base, continues to be extraordinary.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Soldier Field as a Lesson in Immigration

I was at Soldier Field Sunday to watch the US play Mexico in the Gold Cup Final. It was a great game, and my kids enjoyed themselves, though I do not think are exactly certain what was going on. But as I sat there I actually had a quick thought about the immigration controversy.

Pessimists would note that most of the crowd in Chicago was rooting for Mexico and wearing green. But I also noted Hispanic fans rooting for the US (and by the end yelling things in Spanish at the Mexican fans). I also saw a lot of people with BOTH US/Mexican jersey's or flags or face paint. There also were families where the parents were dressed in green and the kids in red and blue.

What this really says is that the concerns about lack of assimilation are overstated. Yes, it will be difficult. And unlike past waves of immigration, the source of the immigrants is close by and most come from one particular country (i.e. Mexico). Yet the impulse to assimilate is also very strong. And unlike past waves of immigration, the Mexican subculture has always been a part of US culture. There has always been intermarriage and cross culture contacts.

If the current immigration bill is accepted, it will also allow for Mexicans to work here and more easily go home when they wish -- right now, it is so difficult to go home that once an illegal gets to the United States, they stay until caught or dead.

Sitting in Soldier Field may have made me think about how difficult these questions are. One problem with the immigration debate is how quickly insults are thrown. Is you support the bill, you are accuse of supporting amnesty or throwing away American sovereignty. If you oppose the bill, you are a racist. But it is not that easy. It is about parents and children who may end up with very different world views -- a mother who puts up an icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe while her daughter puts up the latest boy band. America is a synthesis and that synthesis takes time, but it will come.

And as usual, we beat Mexico 2-1.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Immigrants We Know

Given my beliefs, I am often accused of being an "open borders" type. And I admit there is some truth to that. I believe we need a combination of enforcement, amnesty and a guest worker program to solve what right now is a huge problem.

But it strikes me that people are opposed to "immigrants" as a concept. Everyone knows immigrants and even the most intractable anti-immigration person can point to an immigrant they either work with, or friendly with or hire for some job. The problem is not the immigrant we know, but those we do not. The nameless, faceless throngs you see at job sites and around town or maybe just read about. A family of five immigrants living down the block from you is not scary. 12 million illegal immigrants are.

Soccer as a Metaphor for America

I am a big soccer fan, which puts me in a small minority of Americans. Soccer is seen as "communist" or "anti-American" and I cannot understand why. If anything, soccer better represents American ideas than does that most American of games "football." In fact, football is closer to totalitarian socialism.

Compare the two:

In football there is a very elaborate set of rules that limit the individual freedom of each player. The coach after consultation with his staff chooses a play which is sent to the huddle. The players stand around for 20 seconds, talk about, then work for about another 30 seconds. Then they start again. This is reminiscent of the old Soviet Union, where the General Secretary, after consultation with his Politburo, came up with a five year plan, that the workers worked a little on, and talked about much more.

In soccer, there are basic rules mostly designed to protect life and limb. There are genera aspirations chosen by the coach., The players then are free to work together but achieve also singularly to reach their goal.

Which is more like America?

Beat Mexico!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


The immigration bill looks back from the dead, and no one seems happy. According to a Zoby poll. only 3% of respondents are happy with Congress's handling of the issue, only 9% are happy with the president's. Only 38% of respondents support the bill (and I am one who does).

The problem ultimately is that no one trusts the government on this issue. The president has mishandled so many issues that his mishandling of this issue has destroyed whatever political capital he had left. Congress looks little better.

But what is to be done? There are 12 million illegals in the United States. You cannot wish them away or deport them overnight. And no matter how strong the fence and is you post the entire Army on the Mexican border, people will still get through.

Jonathan Rauch suggests an alternative in Reason Magazine. Based on the past several years of economic data, he suggests increasing the number of legal immigrants by about 500,000 per year. And do not limit the new visas to highly skilled people, current illegal immigration trends show that the economy needs unskilled and semi-skilled immigrants as much if not more than skilled ones. He makes sense, provided the plan was implemented with stronger enforcement. Of course, the fact that it makes sense means it will get nowhere in Washington.

Trads and Rads

The American conservative movement since World War Two has been described as a fusion between traditional conservatives and libertarians. In the 1950s that made real sense -- liberty was seen as under threat at home by the growing welfare state and abroad by communism. The marriage was an imperfect one but despite skeptics (such as Ayn Rand or Russel Kirk), the coalition lasted. With the destruction of the old liberal consensus by Ronald Reagan and the fall of the Soviet Union, those old ties began to loosen, though the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress temporarily stopped the break. But under the weight of Iraq, increasing spending, and government intervention, the old fissures are showing.

An exchange between my old neighbor Rod Dreher and Andrew Sullivan show the fissure. Dreher is an ex-Catholic self described "crunchy con" -- a real traditional conservative. Andrews Sullivan is a self described libertarian. The two have little in common -- Dreher is very concerned about public morality while Sullivan (though Catholic) tends to call anyone more concerned with public morality than he is a "Christianist." Yet they both consider themselves "conservatives."

Dreher notes that both libertarians and traditional conservatives fear excessive concentration of power in the state. To him, the difference is that libertarians want maximum liberty while traditionalists want "free people living virtuously". Sullivan counters that he wants free people living virtuously too, he just does not want to control them (or more precisely, control their sex lives -- with Sullivan, it usually comes down to sex).

I believe that they both somewhat miss the point. I ask, can someone be virtuous if virtue is enforced? Inherent in Sullivan's beliefs (I believe) is that if you enforce sexual mores, it simply pushes the immoral stuff underground, where it gets really nasty and really immoral. And if I understand Sullivan correctly, I think he has a point there.

But suppose that is wrong. Suppose you could enforce perfect virtue. If the virtue police could go around and really force people to not engage in immoral activities, are those people virtuous or simply scared of the law? Or is virtue really a function of freedom -- that you have the freedom to do something legal but immoral BUT CHOOSE not to do it. For me, that is the measure of virtue.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Can Someone be a Christian AND a Moslem?

This story from Seattle seems to be running around the blogsphere. The Rev. Ann Holmes Redding is an Episcopal priest who also says she is a Muslim. In Islam, she found a spirituality, an emotion of surrender to God, that she says is missing in Christianity.

This raises two questions. First, can someone be both a Christian and a Muslim? I would argue that the answer is no. The Anglican church, while not as rigid in doctrine as the Catholic Church, does include the Nicene Creed in the Book of Common Prayer. As an Anglican you believe:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of
begotten of his Father before all worlds,

You also believe:

and the third day he rose again
according to the Scriptures,and ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of the Father.
And he shall come again with glory
to judge both the quick and the dead:
whose kingdom shall have no end.

Islam believes that Jesus, while a great prophet, was human and that he either did not die on the cross or was rescued from the Crucifixion. The one belief necessarily excludes the other.

Rev. Redding also states that she does not believe in the Trinity as a literal concept and seems to struggle with the divinity of Christ. This would make Rev. Redding an Arian, as opposed to Orthodox.

The second issue though goes to why Rev. Redding felt drawn to Islam. Mostly, it was an question of spiritual yearning. Many western Churches, not just the Anglicans, have moved away from traditional forms of worship, trying to make worship more "relevant" to the times. The Anchoress correctly notes that Western Churches had special services which addressed that those spiritual yearnings, and that those services are being shunted away. I myself am a child of Vatican II, yet I find sometimes the need to attend the Latin Mass occasionally.

The Anglicans especially where in a good position to address those needs. Unlike the Catholic Church, the Anglicans have 450+ years of experience with Liturgical English. I one attended a wedding in an high Anglican church and wondered my we Catholics cannot expropriate more of that language for ourselves. The best English language hymns tend to be those originally written for the Anglican church.

By looking to create a "relevant" church for modern times the yearnings of the faithful are not being satisfied. I think we have all found ourselves in the same place as Rev. Redding occasionally. And considering the power of Islamic belief, I can understand why she looked there to answer her yearnings. I just cannot see how you can reconcile belief in one with the other.

"It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand"

Or so the old book says. It did not really for me. The only Rand book I ever read was Anthem and that was in high school. My teacher saw it as an introduction to "utopias" -- he had a rather negative view about them and all of the books he assigned us were of nightmare utopias, not Saint Thomas More idealized kind. My introduction to libertarianism was through my mother, though she would have rejected the term.

For many people, libertarianism and Ayn Rand are linked. Rand saw government, or rather collectivism sponsored by government, as an evil. This is a central belief of libertarian thought. But Rand also saw religion as a lesser evil. So can one be both libertarian and religious (and Catholic)?

Ultimately, libertarianism is about personal freedom and using that freedom to best of your ability. Does that necessarily contradict Catholicism? I believe not. But a belief in individual liberty means that each individual is supreme and autonomous. For the Catholic libertarian this provides a dilemma. If we are autonomous, how can we also belong to the body of the Church, which is necessarily a collective?

(Rand of course rejected the term libertarian instead considering herself an "Objectivist" -- but the question is still a valid one)


Why start yet another blog. Maybe because I feel that I have something to say and maybe there is one or two people out there who might care.

I had one several years ago, as I felt I had things to say but fatherhood and work got in the way. Work and especially fatherhood is still there, but I still feel that I have things to say. So let's start here and see if I am right.

So what will this blog do. I am Catholic and a believer in liberty. Both of these beliefs are close to my heart and central to who I am. Anti-clericalists have argued for 400 years that Catholicism and liberty are not compatible. I am not a philosopher, a political scientist, an economist or a theologian, but I guess I hope to prove them wrong.