Friday, March 29, 2013

Confusion in California

This week the Supreme Court heard legal arguments on the federal Defense of Marriage Act and on California's Proposition 8, an attempt by California's citizens to confirm their state's policy of granting legal recognition exclusively to heterosexual marriages. Until the Supreme Court rules, Californians will not know if they will continue to exercise the right to define and delimit the practice of marriage.

How did it come to this?

Marriage has been understood traditionally as a union between a man and a woman. So universal is this traditional understanding that many state statutes regulating marriage include no references to gender. Homosexual rights advocates have seized upon this perceived vagueness in state civil or family codes to make their legal cases for same-sex marriage. In 1977, California state assembly removed this vagueness by amending its civil code to confirm the traditional definition of marriage as “ a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman.”

Same-sex marriage developments in other states moved California to further refine its statutes on marriage. Because California law recognized the legal status of marriages conducted in other states, this opened the door for the establishment of same-sex marriages in California through the back door (no pun intended.). Couples who were parties to a legal same-sex marriage as citizens in another state could relocate to California and demand recognition of their marriages. In addition, California citizens could subvert their state’s regulations by marrying in a state that licensed same-sex unions and returning to California.

California voters attempted to close this loophole in 2000 through Proposition 22, called the Defense of Marriage Act. Passed by a 61-39 percent majority, this initiative amended the statutes in the family code to read that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Homosexual rights advocates filed lawsuits in several different jurisdictions challenging its constitutionality. These cases wound their way through the California state appellate system until they reached the California Supreme Court. The Court consolidated and reviewed six of these cases. In May 2005, the court by a 4-3 majority struck down Proposition 22 and other related statutes that maintained the traditional definition of marriage as violating the California state constitution.

To reinstate the traditional understanding of marriage and the state’s statutes on licensing, a petition drive placed another initiative before the voters. Proposition 8, the California Marriage Protection Act, sought to bypass the state’s Supreme Court ruling by amending the state constitution itself. The petition drive secured twice the number of signatures need to be placed on the ballot. On November 5, 2008, voters passed Proposition 8 by a 52-48 majority. Several same-sex couples filed lawsuits challenging even the validity of amending the state constitution. On May 2009, the California Supreme Court rejected these challenges.

Homosexual rights advocates hit the streets in protest and vowed the bring the issue before the voters again. They intended to wear down voters by attrition and exhaust their political will so that same-sex marriage will become state law. Meanwhile, plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that the amendment of California’s state constitution violated the United States Constitution. They retained as their attorneys former Bush administration solicitor general Ted Olsen and attorney David Boies. They squared off against each other earlier in the Supreme Court case about the disputed 2000 presidential election results in Florida. Strange bedfellows, indeed (pun intended).

They argued their case before Judge Vaughn Walker. The state government, in violation of their oaths of office, refused to defend the law. Despite controversy about their legal standing in the case, lawyers representing a private advocacy group defended the proposition. On 10 August, 2010, Walker ruled against Proposition 8, declaring that it violated the United States Constitution's "equal protection" clause.

On appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Walker's ruling.

The defenders of Proposition 8 appealed to the US Supreme Court. With controversy again surrounding the legal standing of the lawyers defending Proposition 8, the justices reheard the case.

In a few month's Californians will learn if they still possess the right to decide which social institutions they can define and recognize.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hillary! Arrives Late to the Wedding Party

In other news . . .

Last week, and a little late,  Hillary! Clinton finally arrived at the same sex wedding party.

This follows her husband Bill's apology for signing the Defense of Marriage Act and, more famously, President Obama's coming out the closet on same sex marriage.

From a religious point of view, the Clintons emit more than just a hint of hypocrisy.   Neither  the Southern Baptist Church nor the United Methodist Church to which they belong recognize same sex marriage. Now some denominations allow for limited autonomy in certain areas. So maybe the particular churches they attend provide vocal support to same sex marriage, even if the denomination restricts them from performing ceremonies. The fact that they remain in religious denominations that officially oppose same sex marriage does not seem to evince  the passion for "human rights" that they claim they have.

From a political point of view, these conversions exemplify the duplicity for the which Democrats have become famous. For decades, the Democratic Party ignored the issue of black civil rights in order to maintain its domination of national politics. As long as Southern Democrats supported the liberal agenda of the Northern wing of the party, it remained silent on the issue of race. Only after the civil rights movement that began in the mid-1950s demonstrated that it was not going away did the party begin to change. And only after the Democrats began losing their traditional stranglehold on the Southern electorate to the Republicans did they begin to support the franchise for black citizens and solicit their support: all in the interest of political power.

Now the Democrats are repeating their opportunist behavior in the case of homosexual "civil rights." Most Democrats in the 1990s seemed to support the traditionalist "push back" against the demand for recognition of same sex marriage. Like Republicans, they supported DOMA. It appeared to be at least partly on "principle." Now that polls indicate a shift in public opinion and a wide margin of support for same sex marriage among voters under thirty, Social Democrats are scrabbling to crash the wedding party.

Now there is no question that it is about power rather than principle.

Friday, March 22, 2013

It was Fifty Years Ago Today . . .

The Beatles released their first album in Britain.

They had experienced modest success with the single  Love Me Do in October 1962 and had reached the top of the charts with  another single,  Please Please Me in January 1963.

 They wrote an additional six songs and recorded six cover songs that they had performing regularly in their live act at the Cavern Club. They completed their recording of  the album on February 11, 1963 in about 10 hours.

The Beatles  released the album on March 22, 1963. It quickly reached the top of the album charts and stayed there at the top for a record thirty weeks.

The album lost its top spot because by then the Beatles released their second album, With the Beatles. They replaced themselves at the top of the charts.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

So What About the Immigrants?

The "American Dream" has been, and is now, a dream shared by millions of people around the globe. Many of these people seek to experience that dream right here in America. Our immigration system, however, is not designed to process and absorb the large number of immigrants. Consequently, our country hosts several million illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico.

This has led many to charge that our immigration system is broken.

It is not.

What is broken?

The countries from which these immigrants originate are broken.

And our border control is broken.

This has allowed about 12 million Mexicans to enter our country illegally.

What are we to make of the immigrants themselves?

On the one hand, we see ambitious, hard working people who have left their friends, families, and familiar cultural surrounding for honest work. They provide for themselves while living in the United States but also send money back to family members in their home countries. One would like to think that we host "the best" that those foreign countries have to offer. Yes, most of these immigrants do not possess higher education or select skills. For the most part, however, they bring with them a healthy work ethic.

One personal anecdote illustrates this. When a contractor arrived to install hardwood floors in our house, I asked him about his all Hispanic (and I assume all legal) work crew. He said he loved them. They worked hard and worked long and considered their jobs to be of high importance. He reflected on other non-Hispanic installation crews he employed in the past. He said they often called out of work, resisted longer hours (thus delaying completion of jobs), and too frequently placed personal affairs ahead of work.

On the other hand, the low wages most illegal immigrants earn from the employers who illegally hire them will not lift them out of poverty. Moreover, the cultural baggage that the immigrants bring across the border presents a host of problems. Mexicans marry younger than the average American and have more children.  In addition, the out of wedlock birthrate for Hispanics is 53%, nearly twice the rate of whites. This has led to a high poverty rate among Hispanics and brings additional pressure on our welfare system. The low esteem that education holds among Hispanics does not bode well for their future.

The prospects for a a high degree of cultural assimilation are bleak as well. Historically, all immigrant groups attempt to preserve their culture. For example, most German immigrant communities in the 19th century attempted to insulate themselves from the surrounding American culture. They maintained German language newspapers and held their Lutheran worship services in German. As additional immigration from Germanic communities in Europe ceased, however, German immigrant communities proved unable to insulate themselves. While they preserved many cultural practices, German immigrants eventually became more Anglicized. They embraced the common language of their host country and many even Anglicized their names (Schmidt to Smith).

The continuing influx of Mexican immigrants, however,  tends to reinforce immigrant cultural practices. Moreover, Spanish language television and radio help maintain at least some level of cultural  insularity. Of course, governments at all levels provide Spanish language accommodations. Even American businesses have joined in:

This reduces pressures to embrace that most fundamental aspect of any nation's culture: language.

Without border control included as part of  so-called comprehensive immigration reform, these problems face by both immigrants and American citizens will only grow worse.

As usual, Heather MacDonald has the facts.

Monday, March 18, 2013

So What Else is Broken?

The two previous posts noted that the "narrative" describing our immigration system as broken is misleading. Our immigration system is not broken. It was never designed to accommodate the millions of people trying to enter our country. THE COUNTRIES OF THE IMMIGRANTS ARRIVING HERE ARE BROKEN. That is why immigrants seek opportunity in the United States.

There is one thing, however, that is broken in this country: border control.

 Every few years we have this "national conversation" about immigration reform. Usually a consensus emerges around the ideas of amnesty for illegal immigrants already in this country accompanied by improved  border control to prevent the entrance of additional illegal immigrants.

The government never seems to get around to effective border control. So we end up engaging in yet another "national conversation" about immigration reform. And each time the problem seems to grow more insurmountable.

(Below, a funny take on an increasingly not so funny problem.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Don't Blame the Immigrants

Despite the media-driven mantra that our immigration system is broken, the previous post suggest that this is not so. Our immigration system is not broken; it is not designed to process and accommodate the several million people who want into our country.

Why do they want into our country? THEIR OWN COUNTRIES ARE BROKEN.

We do not have a massive influx of immigrants from civilized Western European nations attempting to come to America. Those countries provide the rule of law,  basic human rights (especially property rights), and education that enable their citizens to prosper. These people possess the cultural capital to sustain civilization. Those countries which are the source of most of our immigrants--Mexico, China, Viet Nam, the Dominican Republic among others--do not.

One can hardly blame the immigrants for their desire to come to America. For most immigrants it must be a difficult decision to make. Driven by desperation, they deliberate about leaving the land of their birth, including their friends, family, and familiar culture for a new country with plenty of opportunities but no guarantees.

For those who are angry about immigration--legal and illegal--they might direct their animosity to the farms and businesses who hire them. These businesses see the immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, as workers who will perform for much less money than the average American. Moreover, these farms and businesses will not have to contribute social security taxes for illegal workers.

Many government entities enable these farms and businesses to continue hiring illegal aliens. While most of the focus is on the lack of border control, many local associations of county commissioners and municipal associations subvert the law. They oppose the e-verify program because the businesses that contract for county and city projects hire illegal aliens. This helps reduce the cost of those projects for local governments.

Several decades ago, CBS New broadcast a documentary called "Harvest of Shame." It exposed the terrible working conditions of American migrant farm workers. These workers, of course, were uneducated and unskilled people who, without these jobs, produced nothing but more of themselves. 

For the most part, the conditions have changed. But so have the workers. They are now immigrants--many illegal-- who will work for even less.

When I watch this, I wonder where are the Americans that use to do this kind of work? Have they found other kinds of unskilled work? Are they now caught up in the cycle of urban poverty within the welfare state that Lyndon Johnson erected in the decade following this broadcast? And how does NAFTA affect the farms and the workers who must compete with produce picked by low wage agricultural workers in Central and South America and imported into the United States?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Is Our Immigration System Really Broken?

Politicians and pundits repeatedly posit that our "immigration system is broken."

We hear it so often that it brings to mind something else--a broken record.

Several Congresses and Presidential administrations have claimed to address it, but none can boast of any success.

Politico reports that the so-called  Gang of Eight  group of Senators denied any progress as yet on their bipartisan plan for immigration reform. And a few weeks back when the Obama administration leaked part of its own plan as a trial balloon, one of these senators, Marco Rubio, declared it dead in the water.

The number of people trying to get into the United States is staggering. According to the State Department, most of these--over 3,000,000-- seek family-sponsored visas.

Add to these those seeking regular visas and the numbers bulge to over 4,000,000.

Where do these applicants originate?

Mexico         1,311,960
Philippines       423,449
India                306,789
Vietnam           267,067
China               226,921
Dom. Rep.       169,359
Bangladesh       161,731
Others           1,432,359

This means a long wait.

Our immigration system is not broken. Our immigration system is not designed to absorb that many people.

Conversely, a glance at the above list of countries tells us what is really broken.

Of course, we must end this post with a song.

David Crosby and Graham Nash sing Nash's song about his experience entering the United States. Not only did he suffer the "injustice" of producing paperwork, but also during the delay other immigrants actually hounded him for his autograph.

The injustice of it all!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

President Obama's Leadership

During President Obama's first term, political opponents and conservative minded pundits often accused him of “lack of leadership.”

They allege lack of leadership regarding Afghanistan.

They allege lack of leadership regarding Iran.

They allege lack of leadership regarding Syria.

They allege lack of leadership on unemployment.

They allege lack of leadership on the entitlement reform.

They allege lack of leadership on the federal budget.

They are wrong.

Obama is exercising leadership. He just is not leading in the direction his critics want him to go.

He entertains a vision of America more in line with Western Europe. He relentlessly works to achieve that vision in the long run.

To achieve that vision, he must secure victory over the Republican opposition in the short run.

President Obama is involved in a high stakes gamble in which he refuses to compromise with the Republican controlled House and attempts to rally public opinion to his side in campaign style events in anticipation of the next election. With a victory by the Social Democrats in the 2014 midterms, the President will enjoy the freedom to reduce the freedom of others.

Meanwhile, the fluffers in the mainstream media and the President's supporters follow along with no questions asked and a childlike faith in their leader . . .

Friday, March 1, 2013

The End is Near!!!


At last, that is what the Obama administration proclaims.

According to its version of “Judgment Day,” the implementation of the sequester will result in catastrophic consequences for our economy. Even some Republicans, critical of the President's intransigence  agree with him on this point.

And almost everyone agrees that the sequester is no way to approach the national budget

The first point to note, however, it that the sequester originated in the White House. As Bob Woodward demonstrated, the idea was the brainchild of presidential adviser Jack Lew. The White House conceived it as a deterrent against continued stalemates over the budget. The idea was that across the board cuts in domestic programs would move Social Democrats to compromise and that similar cuts in defense spending would move Republicans to compromise. In addition, when President Obama denied this, Woodward in effect called him out as a liar. Only later Jim Carney confirmed Woodward's account.

Second, the sequester proposed to cut only $85 from a $6 trillion budget. Because some of this budget contains future expenditures, the sequester will only reduce spending by $44 billion this fiscal year. That is about two cents on each dollar.

Third, the Obama administration deliberately misrepresents the possible consequences of the sequester the furlough of air traffic controllers and the subsequent paralysis of air travel, laying off of teachers, the closing of Headstart programs, and the return of aircraft carriers to their naval bases. If those are the decisions that the Obama administration makes when it prioritizes spending, then it is more incompetent than we imagined.

Finally, Republicans who agree that the sequester will harm the economy need to step back and ask themselves why this is so. Republicans generally argue that much of government spending—especially that contained in the various stimulus packages—does little to stimulate the economy. If this is so, they why will cutting such spending hurt the economy?