Our Way of Life

"You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done." - Ronald Reagan

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

More on Ideology

Yesterday I wrote a post concerning ideology, and why it is important find or create an ideology in order to fight an ideology. I wanted to add some additional random thoughts about ideology.

First, many people, especially conservatives, are troubled by the word "ideology". From dictionary.com, ideology is defined as:

A set of doctrines or beliefs that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system.
What some people find disturbing about ideology is the idea that it requires a dogmatic, theoretical view of the world, rather than an empirical one. However, the belief that the world should be viewed empirically is itself an ideological position, so the term itself should not be feared.

Ideology has been called "an action-oriented system of beliefs", which is a definition which I believe is quite useful. Wikipedia points out the similarity between ideology and Weltanschauung ("look onto the world").

With respect to Weltenschauung, it says:

This expression refers to the 'wide worldview' or 'wide world perception' of a people. The Weltanschauung of a people originates from the unique world experience of a people, which they experience over several millennia.
This is an important point. If one reads the Jacksonian Tradition, this definition becomes very clear. While the American weltenschauung may be divided into four sub-categories, the largest and most powerful of thess weltenschauung is most definitely the Jacksonian. The Jacksonian culture reflects not just a value system and a proper way to behave, but it also clearly links to centuries of collective memory and tradition which are key to its robustness.

It is not clear what equivalent, if any, that other Western countries have which might be similar to the Jacksonian tradition in America. However, there probably are similar dominant weltenschauungs which fall in parallel with respect to the critical points. It is rather clear however that, in the US, any successful ideology requires that it be compatible with, and build on, the basic Jacksonian world view if it is to be a true "action-oriented system of beliefs". This may explain, partially at least, why Socialism never caught on in the US.

An important aspect (and weakness) of ideology which is not included in the action-oriented definition, is the requirement for an ideology to be able to explain or predict the world. For example, communism failed, in large part, when it was unable to explain why capitalism was better able to provide a high standard of living over the long term than communism.

This is a major part of why ideology tend to eventually fail. In a way though, it may be wrong to say that an ideology necessarily "fails". Any ideology which is specific enough to be readily applied to fixing or challenging a problem is based on a specific set of information and assumptions which are of limit shelf life. Thus, it seems natural that over time, new ideologies would form based on new or different information and assumptions, or the fact that previous ideologies might have either failed or in fact been so successful that are no longer needed. On the other hand, any ideology which might be capable of being eternal (say, empirical conservatism) would need to be abstract enough that it would be of little direct use to solving a problem.

Possibly tomorrow I will post some thoughts on how new ideologies step in to fill the void.

Hispanic Supremacists

Dostrick over at Enlightenment Reactionary has a good post on Hispanic extremism.

Things have been slow here in the blogosphere, so I took the time to do some reading up on all things immigration. I spent hours on it in fact. I checked out the American Patrol Report and spent some time cruising MEChA's web site. My reading took me from one extreme to the other, from laughter at the lunacy of their positions to gut-wrenching concern that so many people believe the tripe they're spewing.

My calling them Hispano-Fascists isn't just a ploy to annoy them or make them angry. They generate plenty of those emotions on their own. No, I call them that because the hatred and bile that spews out of their mouths reminds me ever so much of the words of other fascists from the past. I'm certain of one thing if nothing else. If it walks like a fascist, talks like a fascist, thinks like a fascist, and acts like a fascist, then it's a damn fascist!


For those not familiar with Hispanic extremist groups and ideologies, here are some good links to start one off in the right direction.


http://www.usefulwork.com/shark/archives/001029.html

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=12141

http://aztlan.net/

MEChA is hardly the only such organization or group with strong racist tones. A good look at the aztlan website demonstrate some of their other obsessions, including anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism and supporting secession.

It goes without saying that most Hispanics, even those who are foreign nationals here illegally, are not extremist. Still, extremists which promote self-respect and opportunistic gain are always dangerous sparks which can quickly consume a poor, unassimilated underclass.

Hispanics Struggle with State Testing Scores

Here is a disturbing news article on Hispanic school test scores in Oregon. One aspect which is so remarkable is just how frank and politically incorrect the article is:

Hispanic students at Central High School take the same classes their non-Hispanic classmates do. But there, the similarity seems to end.

Of 200 Hispanic students, just 5 percent passed annual statewide tests last year, the raw statistics show. The situation is as bad — or worse — across Oregon. All but about 35 of the 278 secondary schools failed to teach their Hispanic students up to federal standards in reading and math.
Naturally, more resources are spent on the low performing students:

Central High translates the notes that are sent home to Spanish-speaking parents, but the papers don't always arrive home.

Central tried to forge a closer relationship with parents by holding monthly parents' nights, complete with Spanish-language interpreters. But that was scrapped after four years when few people attended.

"What we have found is not all Hispanic parents value education,'' Principal Sylvia Warren said.

"The kids are taken out of school to be used as translators. They're taken out of school to baby-sit younger brothers and sisters. Attendance of a lot of our Hispanic kids is bad.

"Some of it's just cultural: the extended family where you take care of the young ones.

"That's not a cultural fact in the Anglo community. You get a baby sitter,'' she said.

"Going to Mexico to visit family is more important than being in school.
More steps are being taken to try to being the scores up:

Central will face state-sanctioned change that could mean even a state take-over in the fall if the spring student test scores don't improve.

District administrators have prepared a plan. The high school, for example, will offer summer school for free this year. Next year, Spanish-speaking students will be able to earn credit by completing self-study packets written in Spanish.
Does allowing some students (the Spanish-speaking ones) a different way to earn credit constitute discrimination? Probably not, still it should be watched when schools start offering parallel opportunities to some students bases effectively on ethnicity.

The bigger problem however, is how can we realistically assimilate this many individuals if they are hard pressed to achieve a basic education? This may be beneficial to those who gain from building an underclass of cheap labor; however the rest of us should be very concerned.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Ideology vs. Ideology

Instapundit links to this post on Belmont Club regarding the EU non. Regardless of one's view of the EU, Wretchard makes a point which needs to be kept in mind.

Despite the French rejection of the proposed Constitution, there is no institutional equivalent of the Brussels bureaucracy advocating an alternative EU vision or the vision of no EU at all. In other words, the European 'process' remains a one-party show and the French rejection has no more significance than Kim Il Sung's failure to get a certain percentage of votes. Interesting but irrelevant if he is the only candidate.

One axiom from the Watergate years was that it was "the coverup that gets you". In this case, it is not the rejection by the French voters that is most significant but the failure of the rejection to have any significance at all. The cavalier dismissal of the French vote describes the 'process' for what it is: a project in the hands of an elite. The real challenge for Europeans, especially Eastern Europeans and the British, is to articulate an alternative vision for the Continent. The European vision needs a second party in order to make up a debate.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the EU has not been the fact that most of the politicians and bureaucrats have supported it (they are only looking after their own interests, after all). Rather, what is so remarkable is how far the pro-EU position has been able to go without anyone generating a true "alternative vision" or ideology to counter it. True, there has been a fairly organized resistance in a number of member countries. However merely pointing out the flaws in one's opponent's argument may be a necessary step, but it is not sufficient; it is being a reactionary, not providing an ideology so as to realistically fight another ideology. The non vote has just bought the anti-EU side some time; let's see if they make the most of it.

What Wretchard is saying is hardly limited to the EU however. In fact, it is primarily of importance to other realms. Many of us standing up for our way of life, be that our own national character or more generally Western civilization, have long been guilty of believing that being correct was enough, that logic would win the day when suddenly everyone realized how flawed the other side's arguments were. This rarely works.

I believe it is something biologically wired into humans. Being a reactionary may not put one "outside" of the tribe, however it most certainly puts one in the weaker one. Strong tribes are not static, they advance; maybe by war, maybe by trade, but they always grow. When the tribe ceases to grow, it starts to die, and a dying tribe's resources are invariably positioned to be overtaken by the strong. The strong either advance over the weak, or they become weak and the weak become the strong; there is no parity over the long term.

What makes an ideology useful is not just that it provides a basis for what one is, rather than what one is not. Rather, it provides a set of ideas which can replace the weaker ideas, and a belief that, hopefully, one's ideology will eventually triumph over the others.

It also provides a framework in which one's objections to the opponent's ideas can be couched. Rather than merely pointing out that one's opponent's ideas are bad for British interests, or Dutch interests, these objections can be hung from a broader framework of why this is. This can then be done in such a way as to allow fellow travelers to work together in areas of common interests, rather than in random directions which may be counter productive. Communism and globalism have both been successful in large part because they were defined abstractly and broadly enough that so many people could find a way to benefit their interests from the ideologies.

For example, in the case of the EU, we see that the French object to the constitution because it is too Anglo-Saxon, and (many) of the British object because it is too continental (French). Obviously these objections contradict one another, which makes it rather easy for Brussels to eventually divide and conquer the continent. There has been some, but much too little, effort in exploring why in terms of a competing ideology independent nations and sovereignty are a good thing, why decentralization is in (almost) everyone's interest, etc, while at the same time specifying what positive steps should be taken (free trade, immigration, regulations, etc) on an individual country by country basis to fix current problems.

If there has been one area which the left has been truly challenged, even defeated on, it has probably been in the area of trade, tax, and business. While it is true that there are plenty of left wing economic policies still in practice, generally speaking, the left has become a reactionary in terms of economic matters. Another area which might qualify is the left versus the neoconservatives. While the left has generally stayed course with respect to their tradition of opposing war, they have done so only by loosing almost all pretenses of the self-righteous moral superiority which they claim to hold, by effectively opposing freedom, democracy, human rights, etc. Now one may detect problems in both these new advancing ideologies (there always are), but what is remarkable is that the left has been so horribly caught off guard by them.

There is however huge areas in which the anti-Western left still is allowed to run free. We are still a long way away from an unified ideological basis for opposing, say, illegal immigration when compared to free trade or neoconservativism. Other areas where individuals who believe in preserving the West need to work is in defining an ideological basis for countering and defeating political correctness (wounded, but still very much in power) and multiculturism.

Steve Sailer: UK vs. US White Working Class

This article by Steve Sailer is about seven weeks old, but I just ran across it. In it he looks at the differences and possible causes of crime and other problems in the white working class in the UK, which appears to be much worse than in the US.

He makes some interesting and very plausible observations.
The ongoing collapse of Britain's white males into neo-Hogarthian laddishness points out the importance of country music in persuading white working class American males to stay on the straight and narrow. A remarkable fraction of country lyrics are devoted to making guys with fairly crummy jobs, like truckdrivers, feel proud that they work hard to bring home the bacon to their wife and kids. Likewise, many country love songs are about being married, which helps make that crucial institution seem cool to young country fans.
I am not a huge country listener myself, none the less one simply can't ignore the importance of country music in terms of American culture.

Anyway, read the article - it's a warning of what can go wrong.

Memorial Day

For Memorial Day, here is an excellent post on the Battle of Midway.

"Midway was far more than a decisive naval victory. It was far more than the turning of the tide in the Pacific war. In a strategic sense, Midway represents one of the turning points of world history--and in that role it remains under-appreciated."-- James R. Schlesinger, former US Secretary of Defense
Hat tip, Michelle Malkin.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Interesting Read

American Kernel posts on this article by Jim Kalb.

Wow, American Kernal nails it here:

Here, I have to point out that there is, most certainly, a unique American culture that must be preserved; our culture, its symbols, values and idiosyncrasies are at the core of who we are and why we became a great nation. The rest of the world knows next to nothing about our true culture. They may think they do, but they know only a false "pop culture" that really does not exist. Pop culture has no soul, no permanance, no concreteness; it is ultimately ephemeral. It is too easily morphed by the next passing phase or fad created for profit.

This needs to be repeated again and again. I recall telling a friend from Europe much the same thing, specifically that what he thought he knew about America was really international corporations, pop culture, McDonalds, etc, but certainly not our "real" culture. What is worse is that I fear some Americans, especially those growing up in urban, rootless surroundings, are not much better informed. (I recommend reading the The Jacksonian Tradition to anyone interested in learning more.)

Anyway, regarding Kalb's article, it is a long, long article, but worth reading. I am not sure that I agree with some of the other stuff that I have seen from Kalb, but this article is worth reading at least for one perspective on things.

Utopianistic Globalization

Ralph Peters has an excellent article on globalization here. It's a good reminder, that while globalization has its benefits, it also has its down side.

History: Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben


Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben


As a part of the theme of this blog, I am planning to occasionally post about an important historical person or event which played a part in creating our way of life.

I suspect that many Americans are at least somewhat familiar with Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben from their schooldays. He was born in Prussian and later rose in ranks to becoming an officer in the Prussian Army. Eventually, he became a member of the staff at Frederick the Great's headquarters, which provided him with an exceptional overview of how to run and organize a successful army. Eventually, he ended up coming the America to fight against the British. Despite having to lie about his rank, he proved play a tremendous role in shaping up the infant US Army. After the war, he became a US citizen and ultimately died in New York.

Wikipedia has a good summery of his life:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baron_von_Steuben

Some of the military details of what he did are covered better here:
http://www.ushistory.org/valleyforge/served/steuben.html

Saturday, May 28, 2005

How to Increase Engineering Enrolment

A few days ago I posted my observation regarding international students in engineering. I mentioned that we should be able to find far more Americans to enter engineering with the right incentives, but I did not make any suggestions for how this might be done. In this post, I wanted to make a few more observations and offer some suggestions about how we might increase enrolment in engineering.

Diversity. Given the huge number of international students in engineering (and computer science) one would think that they could easily pass as the most diverse college departments. The reality, however, is that the "correct" kind of diversity that academia is looking for is somewhat different. Engineering generally lacks women (though there are still quite a few), Hispanics (few) and blacks (almost none at all). My observations have been that the recruitment programs which I am familiar with are overwhelmingly targeted at these groups. The problem is that they do not seem to produce much if any results.

Now if one is willing to be slightly cynical, and assume that the amount of "correct" diversity is essentially fixed or saturated, then one can see why limiting (or at least not trying very hard to recruit) anyone not a part of the "correct" diversity group would be the only way left to control the lopsided statistics.

Now I am not going to go too far down this road; personally I have always found the engineering counselors/"priests of diversity" to be nothing but helpful to me. But I still think that the diversity problem is likely to have an effect on academic recruitment efforts.

The fact of the matter is that we know very well just what groups of people are most likely to become engineers: specifically white and Asian males who are middle class (not upper class, and generally not lower class). If we were really interested in increasing the number of engineering students in the US, we would so what any company would do and target our message specifically to the audience/demographic which we expect to be the most interested in what we have to offer.

Obviously this is politically incorrect, but that is the key point. As long as we are obsessed with some kind of artificial, dogmatic "correct" diversity, we are going in a direction entirely different from maximizing enrolment. The two goals are practically mutually exclusive.

Another factor which is important to increasing the incentive for enrolment is letting the labor market, and not industry, set the going rate of compensation. What I mean by this is that H-1B visas are being used to control the supply, and thereby the salaries for engineers (I have no such general complaint against outsourcing). Companies and industry in general like to complain that the wages have gotten too high for them to hire engineers; however the law of supply and demand dictates that (generally speaking) there is no such thing as prices/wages getting too high. Rather, demands for price-setting is either the result of buyers which are not willing to pay the fair (market) rate, or for buyers which are trying to use resources (labor) for a less than efficient purposes (in other words, businesses/industries/products which deserve some creative destruction).

I realize that some people may think that engineers already get huge salaries, but I would point out two misconceptions. First, the high salaries which people tend to hear about are generally on the high end of the scale, and do not reflect the average starting pay. Secondly, many engineers and computer scientists are employed in areas with very high costs of living, which seriously distorts their actual compensation.

Please Support the Minuteman Project

Just a quick post about the Minuteman Project. It seems that work is being done in two primary directions right now, Friends of the Border Patrol which will be working on the California border, and United States Border Patrol Auxiliary which is focusing on the other southern border states.

If you can't donate time, they also need monetary donations. Remember, this is not a left or a right-wing issue. Regardless of if your concern is environmental damage, wage suppression, terrorism, economic damage, crime, or just plain 'ol believing that the law should be enforced, please do your part.

Here are some pictures from Desert Invasion which give a quick view of the situation.


Foreign nationals illegally entering the US.


Found on the border, probably left behind by Other Than Mexican (OTM). Postcard: The Citadel and Mohamed Aly Mosque, Egypt.


Trash left by illegal aliens.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Arab Mind

Today quite by accident I ran across a book called The Arab Mind by Ralphael Patai. The book was first written in 1976 I believe, so in some ways it may be dated. Some of it has been quite interesting however. The chapter on child-rearing was especially insightful. Anyway, if anyone has access to it in their library, I would recommend giving it a look.

Oscillation of Extremes

This post on Modern Tribalist about the rise of neo-Nazism in Germany is disturbing, yet not entirely surprising. One of the behaviors which is common in political systems is oscillation from one side or extreme to the other. The governmental structure, in addition to other factors, can play a role in determining just how much oscillation takes place.

Often it seems that one extreme tends to eventually spark the swing to the other extreme. This is kind of like someone trying to learn to walk on a tight rope, who sways violently from side to side to keep from falling off. In other words, there does seem to be a human tendency to balance one extreme by taking the other extreme. However, the problem is that this situation can spiral out of control, much like the tight rope walker which eventually falls off despite attempts to stay centered.

Ideally, a political system should be stable, i.e. it should dissipate energy rather than add it. In other words, a political system should try to find a middle ground, a compromise between the two extremes.

What we see in Germany (as well as other places) seems to be one extreme (the '68 generation as they are called) with a firm grip on power (ideologically if not necessarily politically), and no desire to allow compromises. In fact, even mentioning anything that goes against the politically correct orthodox can get one labeled a racist monster. What they have failed to appreciate, in their arrogance, is that they cannot control human nature. The reality is, that despite their pressures to enforce "correct" thinking, some people still will reject it when they see that the theory is clearly not matching with the empirical. And when people reject one extreme, some will invariably go to the other extreme.

Now it should be pointed out that these neo-Nazis are not simply victims of run-away political correctness; there are other factors involved, not the least of which is wounded national pride and genuine racism and bigotry.

What needs to be done in Germany, Europe, the US, and the West generally is find the true "third way" between these two extremes. I would propose that conservatism (in the broadest sense) is that "third way". Politicians need to have frank and honest discussions about many of the things that political correctness has taken off the limits of discussion. These discussions need to be inclusive and fair, but ultimately must be about rational, enlightened national self-interests because any other basis for decision making ultimately leads to precisely the extremes that we are seeing today.

Wolfgang Bruno

I highly recommend anyone who has not yet found Wolfgang Bruno to check out his blog here.

I think I have read all of his articles, and have found them to be of the highest quality. Obviously, his views/opinions are just one possibility of how things may play out, but they do seem quite reasonable and well thought out. One thing I like particularly about his writing is its cold analytical style, which reminds me somewhat of DenBeste.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Illegal Immigration Heating Up

There are a couple good posts on the Immigration Blog which highlight precisely the problem with multiculturalism and runaway illegal immigration.

First, reports are that the Illegal Immigration Conference in Las Vegas is going to be protested.

There is a fine line between protesting an opponent's ideas and actions, and protesting their constitutional right to freely congregate and speak. From the AP:

"We feel like they are attacking our community and trying to change the mentality of the people against us," said Alan Torres, who is planning a protest outside the conference in Las Vegas.
Does this mean that Torres is opposing people's right to talk about enforcing the laws regarding illegal immigration? Its starting to look like that fine line has been crossed about as much as our southern border. In addition, rumor has it that the protesters are threatening to get the latinos that work at the hotel to poison the conference goers' food.

In another post, reports are that three people had to be taken to the hospital after they were injured by "protesters" at a Minutemen Project related meeting in California. These types of incidents are bound to increase, all the more so when people realize that the MSM won't make a big deal out of them.

UPDATE: I could not find the link regarding the rumor about poisoning the conference food last night, but here it is. Also, I suggest reading the Modern Tribalist everyday, if you can handle it.

Observations on International Students

Just a quick post here. I wanted to note some of the observations that I have made about international students, which indirectly relates to the H-1B visa issues.

First, I would note that I am not necessarily opposed to outsourcing. I don't have a strong opinion either way right now, but I generally do believe that there is a lot of "busy work" in engineering and computer science which probably is worth outsourcing.

I am not so tolerant of the H-1B visa farce however, partly because of the political excuse that the tech industry "can't find enough workers" is so demonstrability false. However, I wanted to focus on the international students which I have meet, worked with, and even graded. There seems to be quite a lot of confusion and downright misinformation about this issue. Some have even gone as far as suggesting that anyone who graduates with an engineering or computer science degree at a US university should automatically receive a green card.

Here is my experience, which may vary from other universities and departments. But I think its a fairly good first-order approximation.

In my observation the overwhelming majority of international students in the technical fields come from one of two places, in about equal numbers, either India, or East Asia.

Those from India are almost exclusively from southern India, though there are also some from Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Indian students generally speak English natively, so they generally are good in communicating. Generally they fall into two groups, those which are very urbanized/Westernized, and those which are rural, even somewhat primitive. The East Asian students are generally much more urbanized/Western, and somewhat more individualistic. English often seems to be somewhat more of a problem, though some do quite well.

Now what I primarily wanted to focus on was academic performance. There are a lot of people which think that international students are somehow exceptional genius-level students, especially when one considers the fact that we are selecting the best and brightest out of approximately 2.5 BILLION people just in India and East Asia alone.

My experience, however, is that our international student population is much more mediocre than most realize. I am not suggesting that the students are unintelligent; in most fields of study they would likely be considered quite bright. Also, there are a very few, primarily from Japan and S. Korea it seems, which are genuinely exceptional. However, again and again my experience has been that international students are very much around average.

In practice, there seems to be some which do well, come to class on time prepared, and generally perform at or above average. What sticks out however is that there is a significant number belonging to a second category which do not seem to be hacking it as well. If this is a question of ability or simply the culture shock of suddenly being out on one's own without supervision, I do not know. However this group is quite distinctive. Typically they come to class late (especially if it is an early class), disorganized, try to turn in projects late, copy one another's HW or projects, ask/beg other students questions about the HW/projects or lectures which they do not understand, make profuse excuses, etc. Of this second group, I would have to say, in my experience, that it is much more Indian students than East Asia. Again, in my experience, those students from the Middle East, though smaller in number, tend to fall into this category overwhelmingly.

Now two points: first, I do not have access to any statistics which show international student performance versus native US students, either locally or nation wide. Secondly, it is a fair question of how much other factors, like culture shock, being personally organized, time management skills, etc, are not the more dominant factors in any performance differences between international and native students.

Also, it is worth pointing out that grades are only one, and possibly a fairly poor, measure of long term success in the technological fields. There are a lot of skills, such as interpersonal, language, communication, time management, nonlinear/creative thinking, etc, which are very hard to quantify.

One observation however, which I believe is exceptionally strong and distinct, is that US students seem to be much more creative, out-of-the-box type thinkers than the international students. The international students seem to be much more book-learned, and more comfortable with hierarchical (social/management) structures and conformity.

Ok, now for the fun part. Lets assume that intelligence/talent is approximated by a normal distribution, as shown in Figure 1. In other words, most people are grouped tightly around the average. A few people fall to either extreme tail, those on the left are severely lacking intelligence/talent, and those on the left are exceptional.




Figure 1: Normal distribution.

However, even though the chances of being on the far right part of the tail (like very high IQ's) is quite small, that does not mean that the difference with someone nearer the average is especially large. For example, the difference in actual ability between someone with an IQ in the top 0.1% (1:1000), and the top 1% (1:100) may only be a few percent despite the much lower probability, or rareness of the first individual.

Figure 2 shows how that both low and high intelligence/talent seem to "saturate" at some point, assuming one leaves out extreme probabilities.




Figure 2: Actual intelligence/skill

Now what does this all mean? Well I believe that what we can draw from this is that, if we as a nation want to bring the brightest, most exceptional students to the US to study (and often eventually to work in the ever growing H-1B program), we need to appreciate that the truly brightest, most exceptional international students are quite few in number. If we select those which are in the far right tail, I don't think that it is necessarily a bad thing, nor will it present any strain on our educational system or force out other qualified US students.

Right now however, despite the hysterical cries of academia and industry that we are loosing too many prospective students to other countries, or that they are leaving the US after graduation, we are no where near selecting only the far right tail of the bell curve. Wither you believe that the size of the international student population is motivated by the need for cheap RA's, keeping small departments alive, or for the out-of-state tuition received, it does not seem to have much to do with inviting genius-level minds to the US.

We need to do much more to get more native US students to go into engineering and computer science; however there should be no doubt that we have a long, long way to go before we tap out our base of students which are intellectually capable of competing with their global peers.

UPDATE: This article is somewhat related to this post.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Power of Blogs

Since the growing influence of blogs has brought them to considerable (old) media attention lately, I wanted to look at just what blogs are likely to be good at, and what not.

This winter I read Linked by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, which is about scale-free networks. It was a very interesting book, but not so technical that anyone with basic math skills would have trouble reading it. (I think I only saw three equations in the book, and two were in the footnotes.)

By scale-free networks, it should be pointed out that this is not "networks" in the sense of computers, the internet, etc. Networks, in this case, is used in the mathematical case, and is related to graph theory (vertices and edges). A network is defined as a set node and a set of connections between nodes. Some nodes are connected to others, some are not. The shortest average number of connections which one must follow to go from one node to another is called the degree of a network. This is where the idea of "six degrees of separation" comes from. On average, everyone in the US in connected to everyone else by an average of six people who know each other (finding who these people are, however, is the hard part).

Anyway, the two "extreme" kind of networks are random networks and centralized networks. Random networks have about the same number of connections between different nodes. In other words, no nodes are that much more connected than any other. Centralized networks, on the other hand are kind of like a wheel and spoke pattern. One node may be highly connected, and the other nodes may have few connections except to the highly connected node.

Scale-free networks are kind of in between these two extremes. Here is a good example of a scale-free network you can look at to get a better idea. One of the thing you will note is the "clumps" or modularity, in that there are a lot of nodes with an above average number of connections, but no single node dominates.

The technical definition of a scale-free network is that connectivity follows a power-low distribution. In other words, a few of the networks have an extremely high connectivity, some have a moderate degree of connectivity, but most have low to very low connectivity. If you look at the number of hits per day that a large list of blogs gets, you will see this distribution. Instapundit would be one of the extremely highly connected nodes. Myself and the overwhelming majority of other bloggers would fit somewhere on the "long tail" of the distribution.


Ok, that's enough of the technical part. Again, I recommend the book, it's got a lot more in it.

Now how does this relate to blogs? Well, if you are blogging about your cat, it probably does not. But for blogs about ideas, specifically political/social/cultural ideas, this is important. Blogging about ideas are of course really trying to get influence or to make themselves heard. So the question then becomes, where do they fit in the information-sphere, and what are the best strategies for gaining influence?

This article provides some hard numbers about the number of blog readers in the US. According to it, about one in ten internet users read political blogs currently.

Here is where I have to make an assumption. Of those ten percent which read political blogs, they are likely to be generally the most politically interested members of the population. Also, because of this, they are likely to be influencers to those around them. There is a good chance that they initiate many conversations about politics, or at least participate in them, be it at work, home, etc. Also, while they may be viewed by others as being farther to either the left or right as most, they are still likely to use facts, figures, stories, and arguments which they read on blogs in their arguments. In this way, ideas can be disseminated far outside the blog reading population.

Now with this assumption in mind, the following figure presents a very simplified model of the news and information network.



From the bottom up, the black dots, or nodes, represent the least connected individuals. They never read blogs, and only receive their news and information from the MSM. They likely however do come in frequent contact with individuals who are more politically interested and read blogs, represented by the green dots. These blog readers in turn receive the MSM news and information, but also rely political blogs for news and analysis. The bloggers are represented by the yellow dots and receive their news from the MSM (represented by the red dots), other blogs, and likely their own sources. Note, for clarity only the connections between the MSM and the blog writers were shown. In reality, the MSM should be connected to all nodes.

For review:

Black: non-blog readers
Green: blog readers
Yellow: blog writers
Red: MSM

As I have mentioned, this model is quite simplified. Many small blogs have very low connectivity, and could just as easily be considered green dots on the diagram. Likewise, some blogs, like Instapundit, could almost be considered their own MSM source, given their popularity. Also, this model fails to take into account other information sources, such as AM radio. However, based on the number of listeners they could also be fitted into this model fairly easily.

Now given this very simple model, there is one thing which is very striking. The separation distance of any individual and the MSM is approximately degree one. The separation distance between most individuals and blogs is of degree two.

What should we conclude from this? I believe that this shows that blogs have very limited "face time" allowing them to get their message out directly. Instead, their power (or weakness) lies in shaping opinion, providing facts, figure, and arguments for influencers. This contrasts with the MSM which has tremendous "face time" (degree one), but which is famous for shallow analysis and sound bites.

I would note one obvious weakness of this model is that blogs to process a much greater share of face time with high level influencers, be that in government office, think tanks, or the media.

Another implication of the scale-free network topology, which is not necessarily clear at first, is the information filtering or amplification aspects of blogs. As others have pointed out, as long as the MSN was the only source of information, what we had was a centralized, "wheel and spokes" type of network topology. With the introduction of blogs and other alternative news and information sources however, and the interconnectivity between them, a form of distributed, evolutionary intelligence has emerged. Rather than the static one way communication of the MSN, blogs act to filter information, and amplify things which otherwise would get lost in the nose (Rathergate is a good example of this).

However the key point which I believe this shows is that blogs have much more potential when they "empower" their readers with the best tools (be that facts, arguments, news, etc) needed to influence others.

Challenges to Muslim Integration and Assimilation

For anyone reading the news for the past four or so years, the subject of Muslim integration or assimilation has been a hot topic. Mikkel at Enough! has a post about this problem from his neck of the woods. He points out that what "we" in the West might consider integration, and what many Muslims might is often two very different things. Now, I think it should be pointed out that the there are significant differences between the Muslims and Arabs in the US and Europe; however, I think some common observations can still be drawn.

This article, just out, shows that Arabs in the US have an above average family income. This concurs with what I have generally observed, that Arabs (and Muslims generally) seem to do well for themselves financially. However, I think that this economic integration is generally as far as it goes. Despite their success, they are very keen on keeping separate, parallel existences. Whenever possible, they have their own schools, shops, communities, etc.

I drive by a mosque every day going to the university, so I sometimes dwell on the subject of Islam when I am driving by. It occurred to me one day however, what really separates Islam from Christianity and Judaism. I think this point has been made before on the blogsphere, but it really hit me then.

The key difference is that our traditional western religion(s) post-reformation have been about a system of belief, inter-peace, how to live our daily inter-lives, etc. Islam, on the other hand, is a system for how to organize a society. From my understanding of it, there is little or no instruction on how to live a moral life as an individual (if there is, it has completely failed). Instead, it is about defining and defending morality in the collective.

Put another way, Islam has no "glue" which makes it possible for individuals to go about their own way, and still feel and be members of something bigger. Rather, when the external pressures are removed, the individuals tend to melt into whatever they are surrounded by (though not necessarily in a single generation).

This contrasts with Christians and Jews which are much more able to assimilate into a culture while still having a strong sense of what they belief and how this influences the decisions they make.

The sum of all this points to why there is such a strong correlation between Muslim immigration/Westernization and extremism. The extremism that we see among Muslims in places like France is at least partly a result of their need to create a stronger sense of "us" and "them" and keep their members from leaving the collective social and moral order.

This is why assimilation and immigration is such a challenge for Muslims: assimilation, for all practical purposes, leads to the death of their religion in the long run.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Fortress Left: A Look at the Term "Red State America"

ABSTRACT: The recent popularity of the term "red/blue state America" with the left seems to be associated with their desire for safety and belonging. Further, it seems to be being deployed to stem the bleeding of the left to the center and right; to form a sense of "us" vs. "them" in other words, or an allegiance to the values of the left.

One of the outcomes of the Presidential election was the elevation of the term "red" or "blue" state, or more generally "red America", "blue America", etc, to a common household term. It took me about six months to be able to finally remember which one "we" were (memory is not my strong point), but I finally got it down by remembering that "we" somehow got tagged with the commie color (har har har). Anyway, I am not one to see a conspiracy behind the choice of who to name who; I don't know how the decision was made, but I will assume someone rolled a pair of dice.

What I did want to do though was to look at why the term(s) have become so popular, and what implications that they have.

First, why has this meme become so popular so fast? I think that a lot of it has to do with what I have mentioned previously, specifically the ability to name something is extremely powerful. Just like the left used the term "McCarthyism" to stigmatize anyone looking too carefully at the far left, the left has been hard at work trying to associate the term "red America" with everything negative that they can think of. Here is a good post from Say Anything which shows this in very stark terms.

The New York Times article quoted on Say Anything is about stock car racing. However, they manage to fit this much in:

stock-car racing represents all that’s unsavory about red-state America: fossil-fuel bingeing; lust for violence; racial segregation; run-away Republicanism; anti-intellectualism (how much brain matter is required to go fast and turn left, ad infinitum?); the corn-pone memes of God and guns and guts; crass corporatization; Toby Keith anthems; and, of course, exquisitely bad fashion sense.


This then allows leftists to attach their own negative set of ideas to the term "red state" America, then use it as short hand while maintaining deniability.

Another reason I think is that "red" and "blue" have their own sub-conscious connotations which favor the leftists.

When we say "red, white, and blue", we often say "red, white, and bluuuuuue". Words at the end of a sentence or phrase often are remembered more than those in the middle or even the beginning. Also, we tend to hold a longer emphasis on the vowel in blue because it is the last word. Other common phrases we use: "true blue", "blue blooded" also suggest a sense of honor, belonging, or loyalty. Also, those of Nordic decent (in the widest sense) generally have blue eyes, a very distinguishing feature. All this seems to coincide with the observed tendency of liberals to emphasize their patriotism, loyalty, or "belonging" very explicitly. They are much more likely (refer to the Kerry campaign) to refer to them selves as "true Americans", and their opponents as unpatriotic, or "un-American", or to question if their opponent has attacked their patriotism at the slightest criticism.

I do not purport to know what these observations mean, or to suggest what is really going on inside the left's collective head. All I can do is point out what seems to be common patterns. Thus, I believe that the word "blue" is extremely comforting to the left.

The word "red" on the other hand is associated with blood, rage, panic, emotion, danger, and fire. While many (those with mothers with blue eyes) probably made their first connection between a color and an emotion (safety) with the color blue, red is meant to produce feelings of fear, or basically the "fight or flight" response. I believe that I read somewhere once that this association with red is hardwired in, biologically, but I am not sure of that.

Also, it is important to point out that the terms "red" and "blue" America seem to be much more widely used by the left than the right or even center. This fact is important to appreciate.

I believe that the ideas layed out above may at least partially explain why the left (possibly subconsciously) associated themselves so quickly with the meme when others might have existed with could have also been suitable for defining "us" and "them".

The second key point which I wanted to answer is: what implications might the use of this meme have? It seems likely that one important aspect of the use of the idea of "red" and "blue" America is to essentially circle the wagon train, so to speak. In other words, create a "fortress left". The reason for this is the decline of the left and the need to try to stop the bleeding. Of course, in reality there is no "red" or "blue" state. The difference between a so-called "red" state and a "blue" state in many cases is simply a matter of a couple percent of the population. However this is precisely why the left needs the "red"/"blue" meme. Without the ability to define "us" and "them" (often when little or no real difference exist), they know that the drift to the right could cause massive damage.

Thus, by creating an allegiance, or sense of pride in belonging to "blue" America (the part of America which is not racist, as the New York Times might point out), the left has a distinct advantage in keeping people from stepping across the line.

There does not seem to be the same benefit for the right. The right is on the march (generally) so there is much more of a desire (even self-interest) in being inclusive and trying to work together.

What should those concerned about the policy of the left do to stop or attenuate this trend? There are probably a lot of good ideas that many people could think of; my view is that being inclusive and avoiding the usage of "red" or "blue" state America is important. Instead, we should develop our own meme, something like "working class America", "American brotherhood", etc, to counter. Suggestions welcome.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Picking Cotton?

Here is an excellent example of the intellectual and political laziness and dishonesty which passes for debate about illegal immigration among the post-American left and right.

Who will take the worst U.S. jobs?

Navarrette's main point of the piece seems to be being an apologist for Fox's recent comments regarding blacks. He tries to spin a yarn about how Fox's comments were derived from a Mexican saying about blacks which praises their work ethic. In other words, Mexico is just another multi-cultural enlightened, tolerant society like our own. Granted, this requires a certain suspense of rational thought and of any knowledge that one might have of Mexico's much more, how shall we say, more "nuanced" view towards minorities.

Anyway, two points should be made.

First, the concept of "worst jobs". This flies in the face of what many Americans have believed, and what we should really be promoting. Specifically, that all honest work is honorable, if one works hard. Now that's not to say that some jobs are not physically harder, or better in terms of pay and work environment. But what we are seeing from the open border advocates is more than that, its about implying that these low pay jobs are somehow shameful. Just look at the words they use: "worst US jobs", jobs "American's won't do" (President Bush), or "work that not even blacks want to do" (President Fox).

To point out that the jobs that "American's won't do" pay very low wages is a fair point. But from the law of supply and demand we know that a huge influx of unskilled labor is going to drive down wages; all the more so when combined with a black market economy, specifically cash-paid day laborers, etc.

There is a second point which should be made.

Navarrette tries to make a point about how these illegal immigrants take jobs that no one else wants by pointing out that picking cotton is a job that American's don't want to do. Navarrette admits that this is a poor example, since cotton is picked by machine; but this example actually serves to do far more damage to his argument than he intended.

As I think everyone knows, slaves were imported from Africa to the US south and used largely for picking cotton in what was as that time a booming, yet very labor intensive crop. For those not familiar with cotton however, here is a short history of the crop, especially with respect to the labor saving devices which made it less labor intensive over time. What should be notes, is that after the civil war, in 1871 in fact, the first stripper was invented, making it possible to harvest the cotton bolls in a more automated fashion. By 1930, it was possible for one cotton picker to pick as much cotton in a day as about 16 laborers.

What's the moral of this story? It's that when slave or very cheap labor is removed, businesses adapts. More specifically, human inventiveness makes ways to make us more productive. (Now I would point out that manual cotton picking did continue with share-croppers (both white and black) in many parts of the south into the 1930's at least. However, this supports the previous point when one appreciates the level of poverty (both white and black), and thus cheap labor, in much of the south until rather recently).

Another historical example is child labor in the textile industry. When child labor was outlawed by President Roosevelt around the turn of the century, did the textile industry collapse as the cheap labor required to do many of the mundane tasks (like rethreading) disappeared? No, once again business adapted. (I hope to do some historical research on this situation and present a more detailed analysis of the situation sometime soon).

The key point here is that there is something of a dynamic equilibrium between cheap labor on one side, and investing in productivity on the other. Those claiming that somehow removing the cheap labor would cause whole sectors of the economy to collapse are being anti-historical. The choice is not between illegal aliens doing the jobs that "American's won't do" and having them not done at all. The choice is between illegal aliens and investing in productivity while paying fewer people more money to do the same thing.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Zero Effect

I watched the Zero Effect tonight on DVD. Actually quite good, I am rather surprised. Two quotes/cool ideas in it. Really nothing very profound or that I had not thought of in some form before, but points worth repeating.

The first was regarding finding something: "When you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad, because of all the things in the world, you're looking for only one of them. When you go looking for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good, because of all the things in the world, you're sure to find some of them. " Both funny and profoundly true. A much more powerful concept than one would at first think it to be.

Secondly, from the title of the movie, the Zero Effect: "...solve a problem, first by observation, then by careful intervention - in other words, the Zero Effect." That is a pretty good description of conservatism in general.

Ok, actually a third good quote now that I remember: "Passion is the enemy of precision". Quite good.

How to Change a System, or "How to Make Every Shot Count" Part I

ABSTRACT: Multi-part series looking at how to change, alter, fix, or destroy a system, specifically applied to social/political/cultural situations. Focuses on the use of emergence to facilitate this. These concepts expand the concept of "root cause" to much more realistic, complex systems, and suggest tools and methods which might be used for analysis and design of strategies to achieve objectives.


According to dictionary.com, the word emergent can be defined as "Arising or occurring unexpectedly: money laid aside for emergent contingencies" or "Occurring as a consequence; resultant: economic problems emergent from the restriction of credit".

According to Philosophy of Mind emergence is defined as "Properties of a complex physical system are emergent just in case they are neither (i) properties had by any parts of the system taken in isolation nor (ii) resultant of a mere summation of properties of parts of the system".

My experience with emergent properties and behaviors is from an engineering perspective, however the use of these concepts is broad and interdisciplinary. The key aspect of emergence is that complex systems often have unexpected properties and behaviors which are a result of the complex, dynamic interaction of various rules or parts of the system.



The emergence may support the system's behavior (stability), act against it (instability), or have no effect (marginal stability).

Attempting to suppress the emergent behavior will not ultimately stop it; the system will continue to produce this emergent behavior as soon as one stops suppressing it. On the other hand, suppressing a part of the system which is producing the emergent behavior will stop the emergent behavior as well. In this way emergence is dependant on the system, but not the other way around, generally. (In other words, we are assuming that while emergent behavior may be self-reinforcing, it is not a recursive precondition for its own existence).

This calls to mind the situation where a boat is sinking because it has a hole in it. The decision then is to either try to plug the hole (assuming this is possible), or to bail out the water.

The point which I am getting at, is that from a political/social/cultural perspective, when one is trying to change a given situation, not everything is equally important to attack or try to change. Of course, I don't think I am saying anything beyond just common sense at this point; we normally call this idea the "root cause", or something similar. But the theory of emergence can give us a better, more conscious understanding and set of tools to analyze what is important, what should be changed, and what will take care of itself.

What is interesting to note however is that emergence is related to complexity; simple systems rarely exhibit emergence. Yet "society" is probably the most complex (human made) system, and because of this emergence is all around us. Emergent behaviors and properties may produce more emergence, which in turn produces another set of emergence, etc, which may be a dependency of previous emergence, creating a feedback loop, etc. Because emergence is both a product of complexity, and further creates complexity, it is incredibly hard to manage. This is one (the?) reason why centralized economies do not work.

Identifying what is emergent and what is not is of course quite difficult, especially for society. The best tools what we have are history, a set of heuristics and analogies derived from the study of simple systems, the powers of observation, and cause and effect (though emergence is often very indirect in terms of cause and effect, making this tool of much less use than in simple systems).

Assuming that one can sort out an aspect of a system enough to identify the parts, what are some heuristics which might be used to change that system?

Of course, I should point out at this point that society is so complex and interconnected that defining an isolated subsystem is almost impossible. Defining the whole system (the physical universe) is too large and complex to be useful. We might be prudent to find natural (emergent) barriers though, which tend to reduce connections in and out and treat the internal system as a black box, concentrating on the interconnection, input/output. For example, the English speaking world might be defined as a system in this sense, since those people, ideas, institutions, etc inside are likely to be much more connected to nodes inside the English speaking world than those outside.

I will continue this in part II.

The "Others"

I wanted to comment on the last post. Generally the first step before any violent confrontation (war) between two groups is to define "them" in negative, monolithic, black and white terms. To create a view of "them" as being uniformly or at least overwhelmingly evil, or diametrically opposite to "our" own interests, rights, freedoms, etc. Once this is accomplished, especially in democratic nations, confrontation takes on a life of its own, and may be impossible to stop. In other words, most of the effort is involved in defining "them" vs.. "us"; after this, the process becomes self-sustaining (example: US opinion before and after Perl Harbor).

One should not be morally equivalent about this however; it seems to just be an artifact of human group behavior. Even while the Germans were famously defining the Jews, Poles, etc as the "others", Germans were being defined as the "others" in the US, and the UK in preparation for WWII.

The point I am getting at is just how strange the situations of the Islamists and Arabs is. Even despite tremendous Western media self-censure, so many Islamists are presenting almost a caricature of themselves as uniform and almost without internal dissent. Further, like in the picture below, they are most arrogant in their sense of confidence, destiny even.

There are hopeful signs in places like Iraq and Indonesia. Lets hope that they can reform themselves, and that the West does its part to stand up to their arrogance.


Remember: Only the strong survive.
 Posted by Hello

Friday, May 20, 2005

Star Wars Personality Test



Ok, I am not really a Star Wars fan, but could not resist. Not sure who this guy is really...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Post-American

This article in the National Review by Mark Krikorian is quite good. I rather like the term "post-American" and the definition which Krikorain gives. The ability to name a phenomenon or a set of beliefs and ideas is incredibly powerful in combating it.

"Post-Americanism" does not mean one is anti-American, just that one has "moved on". Its kind of like when people start to think like their own little global, multi-national cooperation. But I think its also a kind of weak nihilism fostered by an equality weak, cocooned, often urban culture which is not allowed to be proud of itself, except in the most weak terms or extreme cases. A part of this is what can only be described as wholesale propaganda (I am not being alarmist here) by many corporations and advertising campaigns which promote multi-culturism almost militantly. (I hope to post more on this subject soon).

Even more abstractly, its a result of living in a civilization which has tremendously damaged human connectedness, community, family, tradition, patriotism, etc, and instead reduced life to an economic system where almost everything can be justified in dollar terms. For example, its amazing how often typical people, with no strong views one way or the other, dismiss the issue of illegal immigration by saying "its good for the economy". Never mind if that is true or if most people have the slightest idea where they even heard that meme, the point is that by saying something is good for the economy, they don't have to so much as give it a second though.

But if one is living a life with little sense of community, and is ignorant or afraid to consider how an issue like illegal immigration is affecting ones family, friends, etc, for fear of looking like a bigot, what is one left to measure ideas by, if not money? I don't think that this makes most people very happy though, but its all that many see.

Anyway, I think I got a bit off-track. I think that the term "post-American" is a powerful term and idea. To say that those open-border advocates are post-American is powerful, dangerous even, because it is so true. Because it cuts right though the moralistic garbage, charges of bigotry, racism, xenophobia, right down to their flawed assumptions and outlook.

A Realist Perspective on Promoting Democracy

Many people have been critical of efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East, believing it to be unrealistic to expect the Arab world, and Muslims generally, to be able to foster a democratic tradition in the long term.

Personally, I hope that it does work, and I am not entirely skeptical. However, in this post I want to look at it from a more cynical look at the situation, specifically, is there any logical reason for a campaign for democracy even if we don't expect it to work?

What are some ways in which, in both the short and mid-term, that the tactic of promoting democracy has been beneficial?

- Its been said that one must fight ideas with ideas. Democracy is as good an idea as any, its been successfully demonstration, and yet its big enough to keep them busy for awhile.

- It has done wonders for putting the focus on Muslim countries and their political systems instead of ours.

- As a concept, it is hard for even the politically correct and the Europeans to criticize. Thus, the retoric of fighting for democracy gives us leverage to go into places and kick people in the can when they need it. Europe may not have liked us going into Iraq, but it would have caused a far larger international wave if we had stated (honestly?) that we were doing it for a show of American military force and determination in the Muslim world.

- It gives us a "soft" weapon against two-faced "friendly" regimes in the region which promote anti-Americanism at our expense. Now we can return the favor, and point out how bad it might be if some dangerous ideas, like say democracy, were to afflict their own citizens.

- By showing concern for people's political condition in the Muslim world, it has improved our image in that part of the world.

I suspect that there are quite a few other benefits which could be added to the list above. The more I think about it though, I am starting to think that democracy is a pretty smart tool for realist geopolitics. I am surprised if anything that so many realists have failed to appreciate how beneficial promoting democracy could be even in the short and mid-term. And even if democracy ultimately fails, it will have given us a number of years of relative freedom to effect the Middle East in ways to root out terrorism, as well as teach them some lessons about the futility of engaging the US in military contact.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Immigration as an American Value

I hope to get around to writing about something other than immigration soon; I think that I have been somewhat stuck on the topic right now. Anyway...

One thing which strikes me as strange and even wrong is how open border advocates always are quick to talk about how much immigration is a key part of America, an American value really. To a degree of course they are right. Almost everyone in America came here from somewhere else (which could be equally said about people of almost any other country in the world). There is no question that unlike many strictly ethnic-based countries with ancient roots, America has been very open to immigrants.

But at the same time, those that propose that immigration is as much a part of America as mom and apple pie are being demonstrability fictitious. There is nothing wrong or unamerican about raising questions about immigration.

Just as much as mass immigration has been a part of America, so have huge spans of very restricted immigration and anti-immigration sentiments. Also worth noting is that historically immigration has been very much favored towards those from cultures with strong shared values as ours. Now, its fair to criticize some of the past with respect to the treatment of immigrants, etc. But one can not simply rewrite history as one big, long, happy story of anyone and everyone streaming across open boarders as they choose. Nor should the danger and sacrifice that many early immigrants made be degraded or forgot. For centuries, those that came to America (or Canada, Australia, etc) from Europe were making a decision which would separate them permanently from their extended family, save for potentially a few letters. Add to this the danger of transpiration, costs (including at times indentured servitude) and often learning a new language.

What is more, it would be pointed out that immigration is not the only, or even the most important aspect of America and our way of life. Those that advocate immigration above all else, even when it comes at a cost to our other values, are making a dangerous bargain.

One feature of American immigration is that there have often been spikes and then huge valleys, or drying out periods where immigration was restricted, during which integration and assimilation where accelerated. I don't think that this pattern was necessarily designed, but rather a natural political reaction to often unsustainable levels of immigration.

It might be prudent for us to point out just how much of an American tradition it would be to have a bit of a drying out period from illegal immigration, and to some extend legal immigration of those with no real skills or economic viability.

Am I advocating stopping immigration? No, but we need to differentiate between immigration from poor countries (economic refugees if you will, who need to focus on reforming their own countries) from those from "peer economies", were wages are similar, and the immigrants are more than likely to bring with them important skills, trades, or an advanced education. Its about stability and sustainability as a system for immigration and the American economic and political future.

About the Title

I wanted to comment on the reason I selected the title of the blog to be "Our Way of Life", and what I meant by it. At first, I was not sure if I wanted to use it, because I was afraid that it might sound too much like "us vs. them". In the end though, I went for it (obviously). Part of what this blog promotes is getting over the fear or guilt of just thinking about "us" or our interests in a respectful manner. The title is not "Our Way of Life Uber Alles", after all.

Who am I referring to by "our way of life"? There are really three meanings, kind of one inside of each other, like one of those wooden Russian egg dolls (whatever they are called). Innermost, I am referring to the traditional American way of life: politically incorrect as it is to say it, primarily protestant, anglo-saxon, enlightenment era people and ideas which founded and developed the country for most of its history.

The middle layer is more broad, and it includes the wide diversity of America, politically, ethnically, our pop-culture, etc. I would note though, that this does not necessarily include those sub-cultures or groups which are not integrating into American life or are pre-enlightenment in outlook.

Finally though, the outer layer, which I am referring to by "our way of life" is very broad, but not all inclusive. Specifically, Western, civilized culture, be that Europe, the US or even Japan.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Guilty by Association


One of the interesting aspects of any attempt to discuss immigration, specifically illegal immigrations, is the little rhetorical trick which leftists use to associate the moderate voices with the most extreme. According to this logic, those opposing or even questioning illegal immigration belong to a monolithic group, such that they are only as strong as their weakest, or most extreme, link. This has proven to be a powerful weapon for the left (and the open border right), because it has allowed them to intimidate anyone who would speak up.

It has also made organizing very difficult, as the Minuteman project showed. Early on, there were few politicians which wanted to be associated with the project, for fear that one bad apple would immediately get the whole approximately 900 individuals involved with the project tarred as racists, vigilantes, extremist, etc. Near or by the end of the project however, there where more big names (including Schwarzenegger) which commended them.

It's important to remember, that even though one may not agree with one's political opponents, there is still much which can be learned from them. I have been thinking about how those on the left avoided (largely) being associated with Communism during the Cold War. In fact, much of the period of the Cold War was in fact something of the high-point for liberalism.

Now of course it should be pointed out that many Democrats of that era were committed strongly against Communism, so that helped a little no doubt. Still, there was defiantly a non-trivial number of individuals, often in academia, arts, journalism, etc, which certainly did have sympathies for Communism. And yet, this far left fridge did not prevent the left from gaining tremendous ground for decades.

Why? I think that the "Red Scare" and "McCarthyism" is the answer. Whatever one thinks of McCarthy, he gave the left the ability to give anyone looking at the far left too hard both a name and a negative connotation, which was tremendously valuable for the them.

Before this, it was hard to give a name to looking at the far left with a critical view towards Communism. But once the left could simply shout "McCarthyism", they could successfully avoid the key issue, and instead focus on their opponent.

Now I guess I should point out that I am not necessarily saying that painting the whole Democratic party as Communist sympathizers, or even punishing them for what the far left believed was right. None the less, from a political point of view, its something which has potential for us today.

As long as opponents to illegal immigration continue to fight against an opponent which tried to hold moderate voices guilty by association with the same issues as extremist (that is, even mentioning illegal immigration at all), we are bound to be at best just treading water.

What we need is a word, like Political Correctness, McCarthyism, which encapsulates their entire set of ideas, insinuations, etc, so that it can be dealt with at the meta-level.

I don't have a word for this, but if anyone does, let me know.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Sinking Globalization

Since I mentioned Sinking Globalization by Niall Ferguson in the previous post, I thought I would expound on it some. I can't say that I wanted to leave that impression that I am necessarily in agreement with Niall Ferguson, either in the specific article, or more generally. I have never quite gotten him, though he is an interesting speaker, from what I have seen on CSPAN. I think he is the classic Tory with wounded pride, intelligent enough to not be explicitly anti-American, but unable to see history as anything but a repeat of the British experience.

That said, Sinking Globalization is interesting, if primarily in the meta-sense. Another article which is quite interesting, on this same topic is The End of Globalism by John Ralston Saul. Saul has his own agenda as well (I belief he is involved in some way with the Canadian government), but he does present some very good points and is generally reserved. Its interesting however, as what I can best discern of his view of "the end of globalism" is a return to the nice 'ol days before globalism. Specifically, 1960's command and control economies, liberalism on the march, etc.

It seems that predicting the end of globalism seems to bring out those that would like to return to the past. But I fear for both Ferguson and Saul, the future is not Victorian Britain or centrally planed economies. What is harder to predict is what might be next.

I don't presume to answer this question, but I believe it is valid. As Saul points out, globalism is often spoken of as inevitable, as some great historical force blowing in which can no more be stopped than the sun. But Globalism, like Keynesian economics before it, is just one economic paradigm. And Globalize, like Keynesian economics, starts to fade when it can't answer the questions which it raises.

More later.

Welcome

If you are like me, you probably like to go back and look at the first post on a blog just to get the story of why someone first started blogging, or at least their initial excuse. I think that blogging is probably a uniquely American past-time, in the sense that we all love to have our own opinion and voice it often.

The goal of this blog is towards, as the tag line states, "a critical analysis of American culture, immigration, and globalism from a systems approach". More specifically, I am planning to post my thoughts on culture, immigration, globalism, and whatever else is related, but primarily from a big picture point of view. I am especially interested in the collision, if you will, of American culture, globalism, and immigration, and how it effects American life. Also, I find looking at the cyclic swings of history both fascinating, and critically important. Sinking Globalization by Niall Ferguson in the recent issue of Foreign Affairs is a good example of what I am referring too.

I don't especially like talking about myself generally, and since I expect this blog to be fairly politically incorrect I will be remaining anonymous. All I can really say about myself is that I am an Engineer by education (currently a graduate student actually). My outlook is very empirical, and with that comes the belief that (positive aspects of) systems should be stable and sustainable, in other words, robustness over perfection. I would probably be considered a social (as opposed to religious) conservative for this reason.