City of Joyful Dread

I caught a fever, a holy fire

Category: West of the West

An Evasive Columnist

Ross Douthat’s recent column on immigration is somewhat, uh, elusive, although to the ideal Ross Douthat reader (who probably resembles, uh, Ross Douthat), it’s perfectly clear.  So maybe I can translate it or at least ask it questions so that it’s less elusive for those of us who may otherwise be denied entrance to a Ross Douthat column because we lack Ross Douthat proficiency.

The last time Gallup asked Americans if they thought immigration to the United States should increase or decrease, 35 percent chose a decrease, 24 percent an increase, and 38 percent preferred the present rate. Support for increasing immigration has been rising for a decade, but it remains relatively low. To the extent that there is a middle-ground position, it is for something like the status quo.

From polling like this you would imagine that recent immigration reform efforts would have worked in that middle space, trying to tweak the mix of new arrivals without increasing the immigration rate.

Logical enough on its own terms, although if a plurality prefers the present rate of immigration, and a successful reform effort would tweak the mix of immigrants, whom exactly should one want to tweak?

But instead, most recent attempts at a “comprehensive” bill have sought not only amnesty for illegal immigrants, but an increase in low-skilled immigration, above the already brisk post-1960s pace.

Are both the amnesty, which 88 percent of Americans don’t reject outright, and the increase supposed to be bad things, or just the increase?  The math is becoming fuzzy here—62 percent of Americans think immigration should either stay the same or increase, and yet 88 percent of Americans are open to the idea of amnesty for undocumented immigrants who are already here.  It’s almost as if Americans become more accepting of immigrants once they actually know them on a personal level.

Bipartisan bills dramatically at odds with the shape of public opinion are generally bad for both parties. And sure enough, the attempts at immigration reform under George W. Bush and Barack Obama helped give us both a much-reduced Democratic Party and a G.O.P. helmed by Donald Trump.

Yes, surely Obama’s 2012 support for DACA is why the Democratic candidate received 65,915,795 popular votes in 2012 but only 65,844,610 popular votes in 2016 running against a rabidly anti-immigration candidate who won 2,864,974 fewer votes (all vote totals excluding undocumented immigrants themselves, who can’t).

They also helped give us the new reform proposal authored by Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia and endorsed by the president. The Cotton-Perdue bill is written for the 35 percent of Americans who want less immigration, which it achieves by creating a points-based system for applications (with points for English proficiency, education, a good job offer, and so on), limiting family-based migration, and cutting the number of legal immigrants we take by roughly half.

I don’t know that the bill was actually written for the 35 percent of Americans who want immigration to decrease (although crowdsourcing legislation would be interesting); however, they may support this bill limiting family-based migration coauthored by the same pro-life, pro-family senator who previously voted to deny $300 million in federal funding to a children’s hospital in his own state.  (To be fair, he also voted against Hurricane Sandy relief.)

The case for such cuts runs as follows. We are nearing our historical peak for the foreign-born share of the population, assimilation looks slower than for prior cohorts and may be stalling, growing diversity may be increasing social distrust, and our partisan landscape is increasingly shaped by ethnic patronage and white-identity politics.

Assimilation looks slower when you look at economic assimilation, which the NAS report did.  Relative wage growth is down from the 1960s, the peak of the Golden Era of High Taxation (© Thomas Piketty), as is English acquisition.  But this is true for all low wage earners, as real wages have been flat since 1973; the poorer immigrants are, the more likely they will be residentially segregated, decreasing their opportunities to integrate economically, linguistically, and in general.

And maybe it’s me, but wouldn’t white-identity politics (previously known as white supremacy, and the oldest historical form of ethnic patronage) create the need for non-white, non-Anglo ethnic patronage?

An immigration slowdown would make assimilation somewhat easier and give American politics time to adjust to the country’s transformation.

Yes, the strategy of allowing white Southerners time to adjust to the concept that black Southerners wanted freedom to vote, attend schools that had books and electricity, and work for a living wage in the 1950s was vastly preferable to federal government intervention.  The moral of the civil rights movement, after all, is that white supremacy has a time limit, and once that time is up, whites will suddenly embrace change with open arms and open borders.  That’s how it always works.

It would also modestly curb the growth of inequality, reduce some strain on social programs, and offer a slight wage boost to less-educated natives, who are presently in dire socioeconomic straits.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could less modestly curb the growth of inequality, fund social programs, and directly boost the wages of less-educated Americans who are already here?  Something like, I don’t know, adding more tax brackets and increasing the top marginal tax rate even to the Reagan era rate of 50%?  But wait, deficit-financed tax cuts for the next ten years would be a much better answer.  We should Just. Cut. Taxes.  I think even Senator Purdue can support this modest proposal.

But of course there are counterarguments. Immigration may hurt the wages of high school dropouts,

See above with regard to “things that could help the wages of high school dropouts.”  (Hint: you could start by just paying them more, or raising the minimum wage, which one of the authors of this bill kinda sorta supports while the other opposes it.)

but it offers modest economic benefits to most natives, and obvious benefits to the immigrants themselves. And some of the trends that worry immigration skeptics have improved over the last decade. Illegal immigration from Mexico and points south has slowed substantially since the mid-2000s. The future of immigration looks more Asian than Latin American.

I’m beginning to figure out what “tweaking the mix” means.

Conservative fears of a disappearing southern border or an ever-expanding Spanish-speaking underclass should be tempered somewhat by these shifts.

Amazing that more immigration from countries that don’t speak Spanish contributes somewhat to white, I mean, conservative fears of being overwhelmed by The Horde.

Moreover, as writers like Robert VerBruggen of National Review and Lyman Stone at The Federalist have pointed out, you can address many of the costs of mass immigration by embracing the new bill’s points system without also making its steep cuts.

That’s because a system that focused more on skills and education and job prospects would automatically put less pressure on wages at the bottom. It would increase immigration’s economic benefits, and reduce its fiscal costs. And it would presumably bring in a more diverse pool of migrants, making balkanization and self-segregation less likely.

Wealthy immigrants from wealthy countries: tweaking the mix to the max!

So that’s probably the immigration compromise we’re waiting for: a version of the Cotton-Perdue points system, the shift to high-skilled recruitment, that keeps the overall immigration rate close to where it is today.

But without increasing it, because only 24 percent of Americans etc. etc., so we would need to tweak down.  No tweaking up!

But there are two obvious impediments.

The fact that a candidate who strongly supported DACA, wanted to expand the ACA to cover all families regardless of immigration status, and provide federal support for naturalization and integration won 2.9 million more votes than the candidate who didn’t, and….I’m stuck on the second impediment.

The first problem is that the Cotton-Perdue proposal is associated with a president whose ascent was darkened by race-baiting, and whose ability to broker any deal is seriously in doubt.

Right, that would be a problem.  Also, it’s a shame that we can’t have an honest and open discussion about eugenics because it is associated with the Holocaust.

By making immigration central to his campaign, Trump helped make this bill possible. But his campaign rhetoric also makes it more polarizing than its substance deserves, and his incompetence makes its legislative prospects dim.

Translation: By making race-baiting and Latino- and Muslim-bashing central to his campaign, Trump helped make yesterday’s anti-immigration right-wingers look moderate.  But by not being subtle about it, his candor makes it more difficult for their proposals to be taken at face value.

The second problem is that mainstream liberalism has gone a little bit insane on immigration, digging into a position that any restrictions are ipso facto racist, and any policy that doesn’t take us closer to open borders is illegitimate and un-American.

True, being opposed to open borders is clearly American—after all, a previous century’s totally non-racist immigration restrictions even have their own federal government website (which is no longer being maintained—fake news!).

That’s how we got the strange spectacle of CNN’s Jim Acosta, ostensibly a nonpartisan reporter, hectoring the White House’s Stephen Miller last week with the claim that Emma Lazarus’s poem about the “huddled masses” means that the U.S. cannot be self-interested in screening new arrivals.

It was a telling moment, as was Acosta’s self-righteousness afterward. Liberalism used to recognize the complexities of immigration; now it sees only a borderless utopia waiting, and miscreants and racists standing in the way.

It’s outrageous to imply that Stephen Miller is a racist miscreant.

As long as these problems persist — a right marred by bigotry, a liberalism maddened by utopianism — it is hard to imagine a reasonable deal.

Utopianism is the new antiracism.  I mean, antibigotry.  It’s even comparable to bigotry, to the extent that they are both obsessed with bigotry (although one supports it and the other maddeningly opposes it).

But as long as a deal eludes us, the chaotic system we have is well designed to make both derangements that much more powerful, both problems that much worse.

Between bigotry and utopian antiracist antibigotry, the odds of reaching any compromise and moving forward are low.   Clearly, we need someone for whom deals are an art form.

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Hippie Ghost

Timothy_Leary's_Dead_(movie_poster).jpg

Timothy Leary’s dead
no I mean he’s
really dead
cold
the way you turn
from me
when you
light up

Timothy Leary’s Dead poster courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Ballad of Billy Chan

the most American guy I ever knew
was a Chinese guy named Billy Chan

moved to Tarzana when he was two
loved In-N-Out Burgers
spent weekends at the mall
wore John Lennon glasses from
Sunglass Hut
all year round

wrote a YA novel about a
serial killer who
took a cheerleader home
to his basement
& tortured her
before the hero rescued her
that no one would read
I told my roommate
who told me
your friend’s psychotic

we went to writers workshops every Wednesday night
in downtown Westwood
run by a screenwriter in his seventies named Bernie
who had never sold a screenplay
and his friend Bob from Brooklyn
who introduced himself every week as
an old friend of Boinie’s
and who never wrote
but just sat there
until eventually we stopped

Billy knew a girl from high school
he called The Shrew
he never told me why
talked about her nonstop
went to Tijuana one weekend & brought back a pair of
brass knuckles & a whip
told me he would use them to Tame The Shrew
I told my girlfriend back East
who was horrified

I went home with him one weekend &
we met The Shrew
at the mall
went to a matinee at the multiplex
“Cape Fear,” the De Niro version
she was scared at one point & went to hold him but
he was scared too
he was weird with her later
maybe he liked her more than he knew or
maybe he hadn’t tamed himself yet

two weeks later he told me he was joining Campus Crusade for Christ
because of a hot blonde
he never mentioned The Shrew again
we met up a few more times
he was becoming serious
about Christ
one night I asked him how many blondes
were in the Bible
to be a jerk
& he started counting

I saw him one more time
when I was moving back East
& he was being baptized
in Catalina that summer
I told him my flight home
was on Sunday at noon
he said, Oh well, I guess
I’ll never see you again

& walked away

God bless Billy Chan
& God bless America

New Year’s Eve, Los Angeles, 2007

800px-Dave_Brock.jpg

we were at the Whiskey on Sunset Strip
with the Doors tribute band
on New Year’s Eve
Wild Child
our child
screaming wild

mock Jim Morrison was the shaman of the night
he’s better than Kilmer,
you told me
& he was

we sang “Auld Lang Syne” when the clock struck twelve
or he did
or maybe it was “Moonlight Drive”
we swam to the moon & climbed through the tide
at midnight
where there were no clocks

when the music was over
we went south on Sunset
down past San Vicente
walked on fallen manzanita
to where our rental car was now missing
TOW ZONE
the words in red I never saw
hours before
now obvious in the new moments
of the new year
& the rage took over

I was shaking
in the cool LA night
with a wild fury
you went to hold me
& I broke away
like a boxer
walked back through the black night
& the sage & the chaparral

my target was the winter prom
at Le Bel Age
rows of limos
well-endowed young women & men of the night in white
who deserved to suffer
the way I suffered

I swore at the Whores
& the Doors
& the Sunset Pigs
from the lobby

called the debutantes sluts
their stud paramours apes
wished them all wonderful venereal
diseases
overturned trash cans
flipped off the bouncers
who called me crazy motherfucker
went running up to Sunset
where you watched or hid
as I danced on the hood of a
Mercedes Benz limo with
tinted windows
grabbed my crotch
& told the New Year’s traffic
both westbound & eastbound
I wanted them to
DIE
DIE
DIE

natural child, terrible child
not your mother’s or your father’s child

eventually I recovered or
you recovered me &
we walked half an hour to the
impoundment lot
where our rental car was waiting for
hundreds of dollars
went back to the Hotel Figueroa at 4 am
& slept until noon
but it wasn’t until brunch at
Millie’s in Silver Lake
on New Year’s Day
tomato juice & tofu scramblers
that it occurred to me
I wouldn’t have made it
two seconds at the Bel Age lobby
without handcuffs
never mind the sluts or the apes or the hood of the Mercedes Benz
if I were black

Photo: Dave Brock of The Doors tribute band Wild Child singing with Ray Manzarek & Robby Krieger of The Doors at the 013 in Tilburg. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Helter Shelter

Sharon_Tate_in_Eye_of_the_Devil_trailer_1.jpg

we don’t need no liberation
my baby’s got it all right here
hanging out in the back of the bus
with the Blacks and us
it’s a family affair
yeah, it’s a family affair

(He loved them.  He is his father–the black man is Charlie’s father.)

we don’t need no crucifixion
Jesus get it on right here
this block is rockin’ all night long
Patty, Susan & Dawn
& the son of man
we’re a family band
yeah, we’re a family band

(Now, this being the Easter season, there is an analogy here between Mr. Manson–this may sound at first blush to be ridiculous, and we are not suggesting that Mr. Manson is the deity or Christlike or anything like that–but how can we know?)

we don’t need no resurrection
salvation’s just a shot away
we ain’t gonna talk about war no more
gonna lay down our arms
we’re the family of man
yeah, we’re the family of man

(I know Charlie.  I know him inside and out.  I became Charlie.  Everything I once was, was Charlie.  There was nothing left of me anymore.)

Photo courtesy of https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sharon_Tate_in_Eye_of_the_Devil_trailer_1.jpg.  Quotes from Leslie Van Houten, Irving Kanarek, and Paul Watkins courtesy of Helter Skelter.

 

West of Here

it wasn’t until I met you that I knew how much

Philadelphia has become Los Angeles

just when I outgrew

Los Angeles

On “Islamofascism” and “Judeo-Bolshevism”

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Recent calls from the usual neofascist suspects to monitor Muslims using databases and ID cards and to only admit Christian refugees (who can prove it because, I mean, they can prove it) have drawn the more obvious Holocaust parallels (the yellow star, the “J” stamp on the passport, etc.). Fewer have noted the parallels between the “menace” represented by Muslim radicalism and that represented by Jewish radicalism in the 1930s. As Lee Fang explains:

During congressional debate in 1940, John B. Trevor, a prominent Capitol Hill lobbyist, argued against a proposal to settle Jewish refugees in Alaska, claiming they would be potential enemies — and charging that Nazi persecution of the Jews had occurred “in very many cases … because of their beliefs in the Marxian philosophy.” Trevor had notably helped author the Immigration Act of 1924, a law designed to curb Jewish migration from Eastern Europe, in part because of anarchist Jewish Americans of Russian descent including Emma Goldman.

Rep. Jacob Thorkelson, a Republican from Montana, warned at the time that Jewish migrants were part of an “invisible government,” an organization he said was tied to the “communistic Jew” and to “Jewish international financiers.”

William Dudley Pelley, a leading anti-Semite and organizer of the “Silver Shirts” nationalist group, claimed that Jewish migration was part of a Jewish-Communist conspiracy to seize control of the United States. Pelley, whose organization routinely used anti-Semitic smears such as “Yidisher Refugees” and “Refugees Kikes,” attracted up to 50,000 to his organization by 1934. James B. True, an anti-communist activist affiliated with the Silver Shirt movement, coined the term “refu-Jew” to mock refugees, according to researcher David S. Wyman, the author of Paper Walls: America and the Refugee Crisis 1938-1941.

Indeed, the Nazi regime’s deployment against what it referred to as “Judeo-Bolshevism” exposes the means by which criticism of “Islamofascism” currently operates.

Arno J. Mayer has characterized “Judeo-Bolshevism” as a “politically contrived charge” that the Jews “invented Marxism” in order to advance their own interests at the expense of European (i.e. Aryan) culture. Opposition to “Judeo-Bolshevism” was an integral, politically necessary element of the Nazi regime’s authority both at home and abroad, since it united those who shared Hitler’s quasi-religious Weltanschauung predicated on the demonization of Jews who lacked the “sacred” elements of Aryan blood and culture with those who were merely passively unsympathetic towards Jews but actively hostile towards Communism and feared the spread of the Bolshevik Revolution beyond Russia’s borders. By conflating Jews with Communists and by extension with those left-wing elements behind the failed Weimar Republic, the Nazi regime was able both to consolidate its political strength domestically and to moderate the most extreme elements of its anti-Semitism for western audiences who shared its anti-Communist outlook. As Saul Friedländer explained:

[T]he world peril as presented by Hitler was not Bolshevism as such, with the Jews acting as its instruments. The Jews were the ultimate threat behind Bolshevism: The Bolshevik peril was being manipulated by the Jews.

Two sets of apparent oppositions nonetheless needed to be reconciled in order for the Nazi regime to effectuate successfully its deployment against “Judeo-Bolshevism”: the oppositions between the Jew as Communist and the Jew as capitalist, and between Jews as a race and Judaism as a religion. It is through the resolution of both of these apparent oppositions outlined by Hitler himself in Mein Kampf that contemporary deployments of “Islamofascism” can most closely be tracked.

1. Jews were equated by the Nazis with Bolshevism and Communism on one hand but also with capitalism and international finance on the other hand.

In his autobiographical manifesto, Hitler argued that the Jew “invented Marxism” in order to gain control over the workers, who would then fight against and eventually overthrow national capital, thus ultimately and unwittingly benefitting international capital. “The internationalization of our German economic system, that is to say, the transference of our productive forces to the control of Jewish international finance, can be completely carried out only in a State that has been politically Bolshevized,” Hitler explained. The common element between the two apparent opposites was internationalism, the threat of a foreign enemy infiltrating Germany from within to which the Nazis opposed their version of “National Socialism.”

In their fear of and mobilization against what Zygmunt Bauman has described as the “unique universality, ex-temporality and ex-territoriality” of the Jewish “race,” the Nazi regime thus foreshadowed current fears of the Islamic Other. To opponents of “Islamofascism,” this modern Other embodies its own set of opposites, namely radical tolerance of difference (for example, grade school curricula that promotes Islam in the name of pluralism) and radical intolerance of differences (the imposition of Sharia law in America in the name of Islamic supremacism). The common element in this case between these contemporary opposites is also foreignness, namely any culture or beliefs falling outside the American comfort zone. As Reza Aslan has suggested, many opponents of President Obama believe he is a Muslim simply because they disagree with him, “because [they] think Islam means other, it means different, it means not us.”

2. Jews as a “race” were opposed to Aryan purity and therefore intolerable to the Nazis, but Jews as a religious group among other religious groups could conceivably be tolerated.

Hitler also noted that “ingenious trick” of “sailing the Jewish ship-of-state under the flag of Religion and thus securing that tolerance which Aryans are always ready to grant to different religious faiths,” when in reality Jews are a race and do not deserve to be tolerated. The apparent paradox—Jew as both racial and religious term—therefore wasn’t a paradox because although Judaism is nominally a religion, the Jews themselves constitute a race.

Perversely, this logic is inverted by contemporary opposition to “Islamofascism,” which argues that tolerance extended to Muslims on the basis of race is both unwarranted and suspect, since Islam is actually a religion and does not deserve to be tolerated. Sam Harris for example has lamented that

[p]olitical correctness and fears of racism have rendered many secular Europeans incapable of opposing the terrifying religious commitments of the extremists in their midst…It is time we realized that the endgame for civilization is not political correctness. It is not respect for the abject religious certainties of the mob. It is reason.

Where the Nazi regime was determined to expose the inherent destructiveness of certain racial differences from beneath a proto-politically correct tolerance of religious pluralism, the contemporary movement against “Islamofascism” is determined to expose the inherent destructiveness of certain religious differences from beneath a politically correct tolerance of racial pluralism. This, it appears, is supposed to represent progress.

By providing broader popular support for his anti-Semitic policies and precipitating Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler’s deployment of “Judeo-Bolshevism” ultimately led to the exterminationist final phase of the Nazi regime. We’re not there yet, of course. We’re only at the reaction phase. And it’s at 48 percent.

Image: “Bilderbuch der ‘Guten alten Zeit’” (Picture Book of the Good Old Times)
from Die Brennessel, January 1934. Available at http://research.calvin.edu/german-propaganda-archive/brenn1.htm.

Paris, Texas

The French have a
saying, Think of it
always– talk of it
never
, but I would rather
talk of it
the way I talk
of it, think
of it
when I want to think
of it,
& when it’s over & done
& we’ve had enough we’re
left with only the
moon at dawn,
cowboy regret

Sharon Tate

Dennis_Wilson_in_1966

I was drunk in December
I was driving the causeway
I was missing my car
I was driving the wrong way
My brothers in arms
were off in Barbados
When you’re hungry for karma
you settle for huevos

My radio was on
tuned to the dial
WELCOME TO THE RESURRECTION
on the Miracle Mile
“Do You Wanna Dance”
always sounds like a coffin
mercy mercy baby
I’m Johnny Rotten

I’m a drummer, a surfer
a Beach Boy, an addict
I’m homeless, I’m hopeless
I’m nowhere, nomadic

& someday I will be buried at sea
they’ll say, he was a man unlike you or me
shooby dooby doo
shooby dooby doo

now I hear the wolf howl
& he rhymes with cocaine
take me back
to where I have no name
Hawthorne, Monterey, Cielo Drive
no one here gets out alive
I know there’s a monster
tragic Hollywood fate
but I’m not afraid
of Sharon Tate
shooby dooby doo
shooby dooby doo

no I’m not afraid
of Sharon Tate
shooby dooby doo
shooby dooby doo

Photo courtesy of http://www.pinkrobert.net/BeachBoys.html.

Tales from Oakland, October 2015

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More photos

Vatos with gold chains, tshirts & jeans talking outside convenience store on Telegraph Avenue: “It’s lactose-free, but it tastes just like real milk.”

tshirts: I found this humerus, Legalize LA, Highagain

Homeless man on Broadway: “…but I ain’t too proud to beg–”

plus a few NLG meeting highlights:

Bankruptcy lawyer describing how he became a Marxist last summer: “Our planet is a bar run by the alcoholics.”

Me receiving Los Angeles labor lawyer’s business card: “Ah, area code 323.”
Him: “Yeah, to show you how insular LA is, I once called a colleague’s office in the 310 area, and when I gave his secretary my number, she said, 323, where’s that?”

Me: “Finally, someone’s at the Labor & Employment Committee booth!”
Her: “I’m just charging my phone.”

Speaker: “As [name redacted] always used to say– a longtime NLG member for decades, bless her, she’s deceased now–”
Several audience members: “No she’s not! She’s here!!”