An Exchange on Immigration and Terrorism

The person quoted below found me in a Facebook post by a right-winger I know. After some back and forth, I finally convinced him to discuss the topic at hand. He wrote a very nice essay explaining his view in rebuttal to my assertion that 'borders are mainly useful for deciding who to hate'. (He is not a native english speaker and included no paragraph breaks. I separated the sentences in the quotation below for readability.)

Says he.

"This all idea is upsetting to me.

"I grew up in Germany during a time when we did have a wall to keep people in! Any wall works both way...

"But we must have people respect the laws that will protected them once they are in the country.

"From my perspective the reason for illegal immigration is a lack of opportunity in their own countries.

"The best answer would be to create more jobs in Central America.

"I am involved in a project in Tanzania where we provide loans to farmers and educate them in financial management and farming techniques.

"The project has been going on for 10 years and has grown to 40 villages now.

"Most exciting to me is that we have save several thousand children from malnutrition and death and that the life expectancy of people in villages we are active in has grown from 51 to over 60 years!! That is bring in hope and a future for people.

"That is what we need to do an a larger scale in Central America.

"That will stop the problem.

"The terror issue to me is an issue of the conflict of civilizations - there is a book by that same title by a navy strategic think tank guy from back in the late nineties.

"He predicted the great powers to be the christian north west and the islamic east.

"Turkey being the leading power in the islamic bloc.

"I have spend a good deal of time in the middle east and Africa and done a fair amount of business in with Muslims and people of other religious groups.

"You have to understand that as a Christian in the Middle East, you are at fault, regardless of what happened, because you should not be here and if you were not here, what ever happened would not have happened.

"Logical! These civilizations are not compatible and living in the same place is very difficult, because you do need a common set of laws and that means you need to have a common set of fundamental values - and we don't.

"Singapore does a good job of creating a multi religious environment, but they are brutal enforces of law and order; the rest of the world is not good at making this work.

"And as long as we have a competition between the believes living in the same country will lead to conflict.

"Don't get me wrong, I have gained a number of very good friends in the Arab world who are muslims, but the best way for us to live is that they live where they live and I live where I live and we get to gather every so often and enjoy each other and discuss our differences.

"It would be foolish to live in the same place, because we would not be able to agree on who's rules to follow.

"I like them they like me, but let's not move in together."

To which I replied.

"I deeply appreciate your notes here. It is, I think, the first time a person from the right has actually responded to the idea, rather than calling me names. THank you.

"We agree on immigration, at least I think we do. I would expand on your observation to include legal immigration as well. People rarely leave their home if they are comfortable there.

"Your perspective on terrorism is illuminating. I suppose the difference between us is that I do not accept the notion that people with different values cannot live together. I don't disagree entirely. I cannot share space with an ax murderer. But, I am inclined to think that there are values that are intrinsic to being human that can serve as a foundation for sharing a society.

"I note, for example, that the American melting pot easily contains lots of Moslems, Jews and Christians in close proximity. In many places, environmentalists living next to oil barens. Here in Minnesota, we have a large contingent of Hmong people mostly living comfortably among big, blond people of Scandinavian descent. (The office suite next to mine at work has just such a group of tiny people. No problems at all.)

"But there certainly are value systems that seek to dominate in ways that make it difficult for others to cohabit. Fundamentally, our disagreement lies in the response to that fact. Yours is that "it would be foolish to live in the same place". Mine is that we must live in the same place and find a way. This is, at its foundation, where you and I differ.

"But I do not to disagree with the problems of unlike value systems sharing a society. In France, they are having terrible problems, substantially, in my opinion, because their value system requires submission to French culture. But in America, the problem is different and it doesn't have anything to do with Moslems. Moslems in America live with the American value system perfectly well. In American, the value system that is aggressive and intolerant is Christianity.

"And that brings me back around to the topic of immigration. America is not troubled by immigrants. Mexican immigrants, with and without papers, are great people. In general, they work hard, take care of their families, and contribute to society in a thousand ways. I literally do not know of an immigrant population that, generally speaking, fits your concern about disparate values.

"The one group that I argue is causing a problem in your context comprises native born Americans, the Christian right-wing. They are the people who want to pass laws based on their religion, who want to ignore the American value of inclusiveness by refusing to do business with people that see things differently, etc. The problem that you worry about is not immigration or borders, it is people with different values and they show up without immigrating.

"So, what do borders do for this problem. We started, after all, with my claim that borders are a way to decide who to hate. I think you have made a good case that I overgeneralize about right-wing people. Clearly your view of borders is to protect you from those nasty, middle-eastern Moslems based on a legitimate theory that their value system and ours cannot share the same society, not because you hate them.

"But, I also think that I am right for many (I believe almost all) of your co-right-wingers. Almost always, the conversation about immigration on the right starts with Mexicans and they do not, in any way, fit your theory. Their value systems are 100% compatible with ours. Without you theory of incompatible cultures, I cannot see any reason except racial hatred."

Noam Chomsky on Lesser Evil Voting

Voting according to your conscience is an unconscionable thing to do. Act according to your conscience when there are not bad consequences for other people. A pacifist who allows many people to be murdered because he won't kill is a monster. A voter who votes against Hillary in principle knowing that Trump will abuse millions of Moslems is a monster.

Says Noam Chomskey, political philsopher,

"Voting should not be viewed as a form of personal self-expression or moral judgement directed in retaliation towards major party candidates who fail to reflect our values, or of a corrupt system designed to limit choices to those acceptable to corporate elites. [...]

"[B]y dismissing a “lesser evil” electoral logic and thereby increasing the potential for Clinton’s defeat the left will undermine what should be at the core of what it claims to be attempting to achieve."

Leave the Primaries Alone

I see people talking about reforming the primary process to be "simpler and more accountable", "uniform primaries", etc. I disagree. These people want to turn an interesting process that tests the abilities of the candidates and their organizations on many levels into the equivalent of education's high stakes testing.

Contrary to the opinion of the losers, the Nevada process showed us, for example, that Hillary runs a team that covers the details and plans carefully. It showed that Bernie and his campaign were not up to the task. That's important information for voters.

Caucuses show a campaign's ability to reach out in a small-ball, emotional context. The sequence of conventions and their negotiations show the power and savvy of the candidate. These are all important.

Primaries replace this complexity with a single, uniform (and fairly boring) test. Money plays an outsize role because of advertising. So do special interest organizations who can muster volunteers. They, too, have their place but to change it all into a monoculture would be bad.

Super delegates enrich the situation, too. They actually represent one more primary challenge for the candidates. It takes entirely different skills and characteristics to appeal to professional politicians. The stated purpose is to prevent a Trumpian disaster, but they also represent the judgment of the seasoned people who really know how politics works.

I do not think the primary system is broken at all. It fulfills many needs.

Distracted driving is "Pure Death"

No. Pure death is a bullet to the head. Drinking cyanide.

Distracted driving is highly diluted death. I know because I know of millions of people who are not dead yet and probably never will be.

They say it is as bad as drunk driving, another activity that is wildly overrated as deadly. Though I assiduously avoid it, my few experiences with staggering home in a car have resulted in zero deaths. My old friend and desperate alcoholic Al Spinnabella only drove drunk. To the best of my knowledge, he never killed or hurt himself or anyone else.

To be clear, I do not drive drunk and I do not text while driving. Both clearly increase risk for little reward.

But, talking on the phone is almost as bad. I do that all the time. I know it increases risk but the reward is high. You might feel that way about listening to music. I do about listening to books.

Everything lives on a spectrum of risk. Driving a car is extremely dangerous compared to watching television. But the reward for driving is high.

I am in favor of analyzing risks so that they can be mitigated but I am not in favor of trying to control behavior. Not only doesn’t it never work but the unintended consequences are usually appalling. Making cars safer has had infinitely more benefit that all of the reductions in blood alcohol level, increases in penalties and social opprobrium put together. It will be the same for distracted driving.

Here’s the other thing. It’s so not-close to “pure death” that people continue to do it. In fact, everyone who’s not a nanny-state advocate knows it's not even terribly dangerous. I have been hearing about this for years and am still alive and so is just about everyone else.

The annual death rate for automobiles is 10.7 per 100k (about 33k per year, less than unintentional poisoning) and the number of people admitted to the hospital for auto injuries is 50 per 100k. To accumulate those injuries and deaths, Americans drove three trillion miles in 2015 (it’s up almost six percent so far for ’16).

Which is to say that 350 million people spent (apparently) all day every day in a car and only .0005 of them (.05%) were hurt more than a sprain (non-hospital injury). Those ~90k that got killed or hospitalized represent 1.2 billion (13.7k/driver, I leave out the fact that not all were drivers) miles of driving. That means that we got over 2.99 trillion miles without death despite all the distracted and drunken driving.

Again, I’m not saying that people should do things in cars to increase the risk to themselves or anyone else. What I’m saying is that the alarm presented on the Diane Rehm show is overblown. I read today that New York is working on an implied consent law that would force you to show your phone to a cop to prove you weren’t texting (the article calls it a ‘textalizer’) in the same way that getting a drivers license obligates you to blow for the cop if they want.

Given the level of hysteria that goodie-goodies are working up, we can imagine (and why not?) roadblocks that check both your drunk status but also your phone.

And all this for activities that I believe with perfect certainty are much less dangerous than having a couple of kids in the car between the ages of two and five. There, of course, the benefit of allowing the risky activity is very high so we don’t care.

UC Davis Pepper Spray Campus Police

It was one of the nastiest events of its period. A bunch of students hosed down with pepper spray at University of California in Davis.

It was an appalling event. Anyone who is trying to figure out if they would allow their child or student to attend the place should consider it. It was an obviously peaceful protest and the campus police were obviously out of control. This suggests a world of irresponsible management at UC Davis.

Take a look and see if you don't agree that the campus police were doing being abusive when they pepper sprayed these peaceful protesters.


Personally I don't like the dichotomy being expressed by some Hillary fans claiming to support "evolutionary" over "revolutionary". It supports the Bernie Bros claim that she's into the status quo and "incrementalism." It's counterproductive.

It's also not true that Bernie promises something fundamentally different than Hillary does. They both seek to achieve the same goals. She wants to remove money from politics. She wants college to be affordable. She wants to prevent the financial industry from harming society or the people in it. I cannot think of a single Bernie goal she doesn't hope to pursue.

What she doesn't do is call people enemies and frauds. She doesn't speak in language of destruction and anger. She talks about planning, information and thoughtful policy. Considering where our country is today, that is the real revolution.

Bernie is, in fact, moving in the direction of the main political perspective. The entire Republican party speaks of enemies and destruction. They talk about groups of people who are bad. For the R's it's Moslems and Mexicans. For Bernie, it's "the business of Wall Street is fraud." Like theirs, his entire political strategy is dogma. The same five ideas repeated again and again and again and again. If you don't buy into them as expressed, you are reviled.

Viewed from the meta-perspective of how they want to operate to address the country's problems, Bernie and the R's have much the same strategy, albeit with very different goals. Hillary, different from the mainstream politicians and talking heads, is the revolutionary. She's the one who proposes respect. Respect for knowledge, expertise, collaboration and the political process.

So, this idea that Hillary represents a marginal, incremental approach is just wrong. She emphatically rejects the dogmatic, ideological and bitter strategy of the past - of Bernie and the R's.

She presents a new way of doing things - being smart, adaptable and collaborative. That's my kind of revolution.

Does a woman have the right to control her body?

If not, she is a slave. Like a black person in the 1800's who was not allowed to refuse sex and was forced to breed additional slaves, a woman would be forced to create a child at someone else's demand. She would be prohibited from having medical procedures she deems appropriate.

The justification of "life beginning" is a fraud. It doesn't matter. No one doubts the legitimacy of killing in self-defense. Few doubt the legitimacy of killing on the battle field. Few doubt the legitimacy of killing vile criminals. Killing is an accepted tactic for making a person's life, or society work better.

The focus on the "innocent baby" is simply a propaganda way of shaming women and controlling them. It is a way of making sure that no woman can be secure in her future. It is a way of making sure that a slut (any sexual woman) pays, and pays dearly. It is a way of making sure that women cannot survive without bring under the control of a man.

We do have to live together but only because I do not have the balls to raise an army to murder every motherfucker who talks about interfering with the lives of women.

My Choice is Hillary

Bernie partisans will tell you that he's passionate and committed. Hillary's fans (I am one) will tell you that she's brilliant, experienced and has well thought out policies. Contrary to what the Bernie partisans will say, their values, the overarching goals they will support, are almost identical.

I started the primary season as a long time fan of Bernie but convinced that Hillary had a huge advantage, in addition to the above, of having spent the last ten years building a political organization and otherwise preparing for the Presidency.

Then I witnessed the Bernie phenomenon. It turns out that passion is another word for emotion. Commitment is another word for intolerance. His strategy from the start has been to denigrate Hillary as a corrupt tool of the right wing corporations, to imbue his followers with a clear understanding of who the enemies are and to encourage them to be angry.

I have a lot of arguments with Bernie partisans on Facebook. I have had them tell me that Hillary, a person I have followed fairly closely for over twenty years, is no better than Dick Cheney. That she is a war criminal. That she disgusts them. This is what Bernie's leadership inspires. Irrational hatred for one of the most intelligent and reliable liberals I have ever seen. I think Bernie is a bad influence on America.

By contrast, Hillary is clearly all about being thoughtful and rational. She gets dinged for it all the time but her response is always a plan, well thought out, broken down into workable steps. That is, her main message is that we have problems and the way to solve them is to do things. People complain that she is unemotional because she doesn't think about who is at fault or who is bad or who she doesn't like. She thinks about what can be done to improve the situation.

I am often frustrated because I actually see real emotion in her. When she is explaining what she wants to do, I see a powerful version of the earnest girl with the thick glasses looking at a long-haired Bill. I imagine her screwing up her courage to investigate that racist school when she was twenty. It breaks my heart that people can't perceive her value.

But most of all, I think that she is brilliantly well qualified. Hillary already knows the personalities of the leaders of the world. She already knows how security works in the White House. How to operate the situation room. How to organize a policy organization. She has run the State Department, one of the largest and most important governmental organizations on Earth.

The question, though, comes down to emotion vs rationality. We are in an era where people are angry and disatisfied. The question is how to respond. There are a lot of Bernie people who think the way to do so is to encourage passion, ie, anger at the status quo, to break up things, to revolt, to condemn the enemies. In my opinion, these are people who think that emotion is the most productive way to make things better.

I am not one of them. I believe in thinking and planning. I believe in negotiating and cooperating. I think that negativity and enemies are a counterproductive distraction. I do not really think that emotion is a useful component of governance.

One other thing. The 'woman' thing.

I do not think anyone should vote for a woman because she's a woman. Carly FIorina couldn't get my vote if she was the last person on Earth. But, I do believe that there are differences in the perspectives of men and women and I do believe that this is a moment when that is apparent and important.

We are in a time when the inclination to violence is everywhere. When muscle flexing and intransigence and harsh judgements are rendered enthusiastically throughout society and government. It is my opinion that this is a consequence of a testosterone laden governing class. I believe that the Republicans are exhibiting dominance behavior more than any other thing. I think that we have become a country that is focused on the wrong things.

Hillary has made clear, for her whole life, that she is focused on helping people. From her early days as a student, through her time as First Lady, to her Senate period and even as Secretary of State, human rights, poverty, economic security and a host of other human oriented issues have been the center of her career.

I think we need that now. Families are in trouble. Human rights are under siege. Women rights, especially, are threatened in America, but so are other, non-white-male rights. I think it is time for a woman to give it a try.

I think that Hillary's lifelong interest in working on problems whose solution has nothing to do with kicking ass, assembling great armies or otherwise dominating people would be really helpful now. I think that her inclination to work across the aisle, her female inclination to collaborate and socialize, would be a breath of fresh air. I think the men have held power too long. We need to break up the pattern.

I have always like Bernie. But watching him in the debates has revealed a classic male dominance person. Seeing him shout, gesticulating in large aggressive movements, hearing him talk over Hillary again and again, watching him dancing and waving and upstaging her, all make me think that he is, contrary to his assertion, more of the same.

Boehner talks about "taking back" the country. Trump talking about "kicking people out". I just don't think we need another person to get into government with the same mindset and strategy.

If Hillary gets elected, I believe (and now I have studied on this some) that she will be the most qualified person ever to sit in the Oval Office. She has extraordinary amounts of applicable experience. She is clearly the most intelligent person in public life today. Her plans are thorough, well thought out and intended to achieve goals that any liberal should love.

Hillary is the right person for the job. I encourage you to vote for her.


The Democratic decision is actually about the basic male/female question.
Hillary has, all her life, been concerned with taking care of people. Concern for women. Concern for healthcare. Concern about issues identified by the people whose injury she would remedy.

Bernie is going to break things and lead a revolution. He shouts about principles and enemies and the grand armies that he will lead to victory over evil. He talks about the millions he will lead to victory to provide him the ability to make everything different. He. He. He. He.

Ask any decent family man and he will tell you that the heart and backbone of his family is his wife, the mother of his children. The one who remembers birthdays and takes care of sick kids. The one who knows where things are, how to make the phone calls to get the repairs done, to solve the problem with the kid's school, to focus on the facts of the people around her.
When men are dominated by their masculinity, they are more inclined to seek glory, to be filled with pride in themselves and their accomplishments. They are inclined toward hard applications of principle. Consequently, they are the priests, the captains of industry, the generals - to ex-communicate, exploit and kill.

I support Hillary because I see in her the female sensibility that getting stuff done is more important than starting a revolution. That violence and arguing and pushing people around are less likely to make the world better. That the things that are important to other people, their problems and needs and issues that will bring them into a collaborative spirit, are important. I see the opposite of a bully, the opposite of a revolution. I see We, We, We. I hear, "I will work with..."

I see sincerity, caring and a steely determination to make things better for people. I'm not supporting Hillary because she's a woman. I'm supporting her because I think we've had enough confrontation. I want someone who cares enough about our country to cooperate.

A Squalid Bit of Dishonesty

He says it's a challenge and he says it's questions but, in fact, it's a list of insinuations that would make Darrell Issa proud.

(Original article here:

Though the article is contemptible and deserves to be reviled, my rage forces me to answer. 

1. Why is Clinton more capable of leading our nation than Sanders, if it was Vermont’s senator who voted against Iraq and predicted its outcome, while Clinton calls her vote a “mistake”?

Implicit in this argument is that everything Bernie has done is perfect. That all disagreement and every error disqualifies. It is a fascist view of intolerance.

Why is Clinton more capable? Because she has been in the crucible. She has made mistakes, understands their consequences and takes her responsibility. Bernie criticizes. One is the voice of experience. The other, a complaint.

2. Why are supporters of Clinton willing to move the Democratic Party and America dangerously to the right with Clinton’s neoconservative foreign policy?

The use of prejudicial language doesn't make it true. In fact it emphasizes the fallacy of the statement. Were there substance behind this assertion, the supposedly dangerous ideas could be stated and we would see their evil.

Instead, we have rhetoric. Like the Tea Party, we have accusations of sin. The Syrians are dangerous. So is Hillary. In both cases, they are baseless, coward's propaganda.

3. Without claiming Republicans are worse, how is Clinton going to fulfill her promise of ending mass incarceration, when her campaign has accepted $133,246 from two major prison lobbyists?

The premise of this question is that everyone is as dishonest and self-serving as the author and people who support this notion. The surveys tell me that Bernie has increasing support among Tea Party activists because of his hatred of bankers. Are we to think that he will also turn against women's reproductive freedom because he has taken their money?

Politics is a business as much as it is a calling. Hillary has chosen a strategy that requires money. Hillary believes that she cannot prevail against a moneyed, Republican opponent on individual contributions alone.

It is a reflection of the corruption of the opposition that this point is ignored. There is nothing in Hillary's background to suggest that she supports injustice. It is a notion that reveals the internal views of her detractors that they can be so certain that everyone can be bought.

4. Why has Clinton evolved on so many issues, when Bernie Sanders remains true to his principles?

Because Hillary is an intelligent person. Because Hillary is not dogmatic and trapped by her previous viewpoints. Because Hillary has reached beyond her limitations and sought to do great things.

Republicans and, apparently, Bernie supporters require faithful adherence to a single dogma. Hillary has rejected the roles foisted on her as a woman, as a liberal and as politician. She has changed and grown. This author might consider Bernie to be extra virtuous for not having learned anything in the last thirty years. It is a narrow, conservative conception of the human experience.

5. How is Hillary Clinton better for African Americans and Latinos than Bernie Sanders, in light of the fact she utilized Republican strategies (race, Islamophobia in order to defeat a political opponent) against Obama in 2008?

Race-baiting is another way to demonstrate a craven spirit. Announcing the policies she proposes would not support a sneaky accusation of racism. Reaching into the bowels of political speech to emphasize passing ideas and pretend they are representative is another rhetorical devise of the bigot. 

This author could as easily wonder how fabulous it would be to have a President that whose history included so many brilliant and supportive racial statements. That would not support this greasy effort to smear Hillary.

6. Who is more trustworthy?

And so we come to it. She can't be trusted. She's a 'clinton'. She's 'other'.

Why not just say it? She's also a 'woman'. She's a liar. Only Bernie is lovely and virtuous.

It's another right-wing emphasis on faith and character. The kind that can't be refuted and has no meaning but somehow denigrates the accused.

Neither is more trustworthy. Neither is more corrupt. Both are politicians. Both have said things that are reprehensible. Both have lied. Nobody is perfect and people who are working for the salvation of society sometimes have to dance with the devil. The implication that only Bernie is perfect is offensive.

7. Who is more likely to have a scandal-free presidency?

Who is more likely to fly? Who is more likely to learn to sing. Who is more likely to have diarrhea or get a venereal disease? Who is more likely to make love to a Republican?

Who is more likely to succeed?

That last, of course, is the only question that matters yet is the one left unasked. That is, of course, because Hillary has a much stronger chance of actually winning the game of politics. Bernie has been a mayor and a Senator. His policies are simplistic. She's done more and her policies are fully explained and subtle.

We don't talk about policies. Here we talk about virtue, character, faith. Why? Because this author is a Tea Party, emotional, faith-based right-winger in liberal clothing.

Questions 8-19 provide no new perspective and are not really worth discussing.

The real import of this series of 'questions' (irony quotes are appropriate since the questions are all really accusations) is to imply that Hillary can't be trusted. 

It's the same tactic, expressed in almost the same language, as that used by the Republicans against Obama. He's shady. He's dishonest. He's allied with the wrong kind of people. While we are at it, shouldn't we wonder why he won't use the precise language we prefer? Doesn't that make him unqualified? Doesn't that mean he's an imposter.

The only question in the remaining list worth answering is the last one. 

The reason that Clinton supporters question the motives of people who 'critique' Hillary is that the critique is always about her personality and her virtue. The critique never seems to focus on issues, or electability, or intelligence, or capability, or experience.

Instead, we always hear that she's dishonest, corrupt, can't be trusted. These are criticisms that, as they do when uttered by Republicans, say more about the questioner than the subject of the question.

Talking about these points reveals the speaker to be a person who believes that people are corrupt. Focusing on character, personality, family and faith are tricks used by those who do not have real evidence. 

In fact, it is probably right to say that there is no question about the motives of the people who are critiquing Hillary in this way. They are speaking for themselves. their motivations are obvious and never have anything to do with seeking truth.

For the record, here are the questions that were not specifically commented on:

8. Will Clinton continue to oppose Keystone and the TPP as president?

9. How did Clinton evolve on gay marriage?

10. Why did it take Clinton so long to evolve on gay marriage?

11. Does Hillary Clinton really believe wiping a computer server means with a cloth?

12. Does Clinton’s experience translate to good judgment and decision making?

13. Was the Libya bombing a wise decision on the part of Secretary of State Clinton?

14. Why didn’t Clinton mention Sandra Bland, like Sanders, in the debates?

15. If gun violence is a tragedy, then is gun violence also a travesty in Iraq and Libya, if Clinton’s foreign policy decisions helped lead to this violence?

16. Who’s more likely to be influenced by factors other than progressive principles?

17. If Hillary Clinton didn’t have name recognition, but still held the same prior positions and subsequent flip flops, would you still vote for her?

18. If you fear future Supreme Court nominees, then in the future would you vote for someone even more conservative than Clinton on foreign policy, or would you take a stand against the DNC?

19. Which candidate inspires voters?

20. Why do Clinton supporters always question the motives of anyone critiquing Hillary Clinton?