Sunday, January 28, 2018

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Cracked Pot Story

A Cracked Pot story from (I believe) Chinese folklore...

A water bearer had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years, this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water in his master’s house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you”. The bearer asked, “Why? What are you ashamed of?” The Pot replied, “For these past two years I am able to deliver only half of my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you don’t get full value for your efforts”.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion, he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” As they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it somewhat. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Libertarian and Liberty-Loving Defense of an Open Border

From an article by Javier Hidalgo. I've been wanting to put these notions into words, but he does it quite well...

If you’re a libertarian, you should endorse open borders. Here’s why.

Libertarians prize individual liberty. According to libertarians, we have rights to associate with others as we see fit and engage in economic transactions with them. These rights are constraints on state action. Libertarians think it is unjust for states to infringe on individual rights even in order to bring about socially beneficial outcomes. States certainly can’t violate our rights to protect some of us from economic competition or shield our cultures from change.

These commitments should lead libertarians to oppose immigration restrictions. When states restrict immigration, they stop you from associating with foreigners and engaging in many mutually beneficial economic exchanges with them. Want to hire an unauthorized immigrant? That’s illegal. Suppose you have an uncle who wants to immigrate to your country, and you want to sponsor him. The odds are that your uncle won’t be able to immigrate.

From a libertarian perspective, it’s hard to justify this interference with the rights and liberties of individuals. And libertarianism is a cosmopolitan doctrine. It says that foreigners have rights too. Immigration restrictions seem to abridge the individual rights of both citizens and foreigners.

Some libertarians reject rights-talk. They use more utilitarian reasoning to evaluate public policy. And these libertarians also have a good reason to oppose at least actual immigration restrictions. The same arguments that justify free trade apply to immigration. More immigration increases the division of labor and immigrants help generate more wealth. If you factor in the benefits of more open borders to foreigners, it is hard to think of a public policy that has a bigger payoff than more immigration. When economists crunch the numbers, they conclude that the benefits of open borders are in the trillions of dollars.

Libertarians are okay with some kinds of exclusion. Take private property. If a homeless person wants to sleep in your house, you are within your rights to exclude him. Maybe we should understand a state’s right to exclude in similar terms. Perhaps a state’s territory is the collective property of its citizens and this is reason that states can exclude foreigners. Does this idea make sense?

No. At least, not from a libertarian point of view. It is false that the government or citizens collectively own all of the territory of the United States. Instead, individuals own a large chunk of it. Suppose you wanted to invite some foreigners to cross the border and live in your house. The government will likely say no. That looks like a violation of individual property rights. So, if individuals have rights to private property, then we should reject the view that the United States is the collective property of its government or citizens.

Maybe you’re concerned that immigration will change the national culture in bad ways. Immigrants bring new and occasionally upsetting cultural norms and customs with them. But you lack a right to freeze cultural change. Here’s something else that can cause cultural change: freedom of speech. People use their rights to freedom of speech to persuade people to adopt new cultural norms.
Sometime they succeed and these new norms can be startling and upsetting. Nonetheless, libertarians would firmly reject attempts to restrict freedom of speech to avert cultural change. The same point applies to immigration. Sure, immigration brings about cultural change. Deal with it...

...let’s suppose that expanding immigration really is politically infeasible. Here’s where another key libertarian commitment comes in.

Libertarians are skeptical about state authority. Many libertarians deny that we have duties to obey the law just because it’s the law. Libertarians say that, if it is wrong for you or I to coerce other people, then it is wrong for the state to do this too, and other people are under no duty to assist states by obeying their commands. When states restrict immigration, they don’t merely stop people at the border. States also force private citizens to refrain from hiring, transporting, and renting to unauthorized immigrants. States conscript private citizens in violating the rights of foreigners.

Here’s where libertarians have some practical advice to give: break the law. Ignore immigration laws that try to get you to help the government to achieve its unjust ends. In this way, libertarians’ critique of immigration restrictions matters practically. While open borders may be infeasible, there is something that you as an individual can do: refuse to be complicit in the injustice of immigration restrictions.


Read the whole article here...


OR, here's another excellent article...

that posits the reasonable questions and makes the following rational points, among others...

What moral theory justifies using wire, wall, and weapon to prevent people from moving to opportunity? 

What moral theory justifies using tools of exclusion to prevent people from exercising their right to vote with their feet?

No standard moral framework, be it utilitarian, libertarian, egalitarian, Rawlsian, Christian, or any other well-developed perspective, regards people from foreign lands as less entitled to exercise their rights—or as inherently possessing less moral worth—than people lucky to have been born in the right place at the right time. Nationalism, of course, discounts the rights, interests, and moral value of “the Other," but this disposition is inconsistent with our fundamental moral teachings and beliefs.

Freedom of movement is a basic human right.

Amen and amen.

If anyone who thinks there is some rational and moral grounds for criminalizing immigration, please begin by answering the questions in bold.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Tear Down the Walls

Tear down the walls, tear down the palaces
Whose glory is a memory more sunless than our own.

These are tall shadows on the blighted earth
Spreading and lengthening as the day falls into the night
As we fall into our night, as every one of us
Will fall, and the always taller black
Fall with us.

What ghost knows where he goes
Or when he'll meet his brothers at what midnight?
What shall he say to them among the shadows?
Unhappy spirits squinting at the light,
History's blind and lame, the stunted ones.

Oh, not to them but to the living others
We say:
Tear down these walls, even though the sun
Must still go down and night come on
Wherever any one of us may walk;
Tear down these palaces whose past is lost,
Before they fall and falling crush us...

From the poem, Tear Down the Walls, by T. C. Wilson

Friday, January 12, 2018

Shithole President

The question has been vulgarly asked, "[He] specifically questioned why the U.S. would want to admit more people from Haiti. As for Africa, he asked why more people from “shithole countries” should be allowed into the U.S."

The answers?

10. Because it is MORAL, DECENT and RATIONAL to do so.

9. Because we are a nation of immigrants from "shithole" nations, if you want to look at it that way.

8. Because the ethics of only seeking out those who [we think] will help us is a greed- and self-interest-based ethics, not a moral one. It is, in fact, an immoral option.

7. Because we ought not encourage immoral ideals.

6. Because it is part of our better human legacy ["Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."]

5. Because ALL people contribute to our commonwealth.

4. Because pretending that people from poorer nations with beautiful people who have darker skin will NOT be adding to our commonwealth is racist and class-ist and just wrong.

3. Because the people of Haiti are a beautiful, proud, fierce and strong people and we should be grateful and deeply honored that they'd want to come here. Same for the other nations referenced.

2. Because we should be ashamed that a president of this nation would publicly say something so ugly and awful AND then go on to defend the notion.

and the Number One reason why we should admit more people from these nations?

1. Because, while these are NOT "shithole countries," we clearly have a "shithole" president. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Deported, and Killed

NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with Sarah Stillman, who wrote in The New Yorker about the database she and students from Columbia University created that documents people who were deported and then killed as a result.

ARI SHAPIRO: Many immigrants from El Salvador are also afraid that if they return to their home country, they could be killed. In the latest issue of The New Yorker, Sarah Stillman investigates when deportation is a death sentence. Stillman runs the Global Migration Project at Columbia University's journalism school. Over many months, she and a team of students created a record of people who had been deported to Mexico and Central America and then killed or harmed. Sarah Stillman, welcome to the program.

SARAH STILLMAN: Thanks so much for having me.

SHAPIRO: You begin this article with a story of a 23-year-old woman named Laura who lived in Texas, had a restraining order against her husband in Mexico and was detained in a routine traffic stop. What happened to her?

STILLMAN: So Laura had actually been living in the U.S. for most of her adult life. She had U.S. citizen children. She was living in Texas. And one night, she was driving home from work when she was just pulled over for allegedly driving between two lanes. And the cop, when he stopped her, found out that she was undocumented. And he made the, at the time, unconventional decision to call Border Patrol to the scene.

And she pled for her life saying, I've got this protective order. I've been getting death threats from my ex-spouse who's back in Mexico who has joined a drug cartel. He really will kill me if I'm sent back. Nonetheless, that very same night, she was coerced into signing immediate removal paperwork and was marched across the bridge.

SHAPIRO: She said something really chilling to the border agent who detained her.

STILLMAN: Yes. Her last words actually to the Border Patrol agent who was sending her back across the bridge were, you know,

"when I'm found dead, it will be on your conscience. "

And indeed, that's exactly what transpired. Her body was found in a vehicle incinerated after she had been strangled...


and here is the article written in The New Yorker about this research...

And I will say it again: 
Crossing an international border 
to seek safety, food or relief from oppression 

I repeat and stress:


Not having the "right" documentation is, at worst, a misdemeanor and it should NOT be that and should not be treated like a crime.

We need to change our laws and we need to demand that we stop going beyond our laws, as ICE does now and has for too many years (including under the Obama administration). Of course, it is only getting worse under the current administration.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Fallen Leaves

Yesterday I passed a homeless encampment underneath the expressway in Louisville.

I pass these ladies and gentlemen every day. They have an elaborate array of well-worn tents, dirty blankets and old mattresses and layers upon layers of sheets, clothes and whatever fabrics they can pile up and burrow beneath to keep warm and not die even on the normal cold winter nights in our region.

I have to wonder what they're doing in these subzero temperatures and hope that they have taken to the opportunity (such as it is) to stay inside our warm, if overcrowded, shelters.

Let's say a prayer for these magnificent fallen leaves, our brothers and sisters, and, having prayed, take some action to make the world better for them.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Learn from History: The Evian Conference

Between 1933 and 1941, the Nazis aimed to make Germany judenrein (cleansed of Jews) by making life so difficult for them that they would be forced to leave the country. By 1938, about 150,000 German Jews, one in four, had already fled the country. After Germany annexed Austria in March 1938, however, an additional 185,000 Jews were brought under Nazi rule. Many Jews were unable to find countries willing to take them in.

Many German and Austrian Jews tried to go to the United States but could not obtain the visas needed to enter. Even though news of the violent pogroms of November 1938 was widely reported, Americans remained reluctant to welcome Jewish refugees. In the midst of the Great Depression, many Americans believed that refugees would compete with them for jobs and overburden social programs set up to assist the needy.

Congress had set up immigration quotas in 1924 that limited the number of immigrants and discriminated against groups considered racially and ethnically undesirable...

In the summer of 1938, delegates from thirty-two countries met at the French resort of Evian. Roosevelt chose not to send a high-level official, such as the secretary of state, to Evian; instead, Myron C. Taylor, a businessman and close friend of Roosevelt's, represented the US at the conference. During the nine-day meeting, delegate after delegate rose to express sympathy for the refugees. But most countries, including the United States and Britain, offered excuses for not letting in more refugees.

Responding to Evian, the German government was able to state with great pleasure how "astounding" it was that foreign countries criticized Germany for their treatment of the Jews, but none of them wanted to open the doors to them when "the opportunity offer[ed]."

Even efforts by some Americans to rescue children failed: the Wagner-Rogers bill, an effort to admit 20,000 endangered Jewish refugee children, was not supported by the Senate in 1939 and 1940. Widespread racial prejudices among Americans—including antisemitic attitudes held by the US State Department officials—played a part in the failure to admit more refugees.

The failure to admit more refugees.

The failure to admit more refugees.

Leading up to the horrors of the genocide of Jews, Roma, gay folk and other "undesirables..." leading up to the murder of millions of innocent people, there was, in the US and worldwide, a failure to admit more refugees.

We had the chance to save millions of lives, but there was a failure to admit more refugees.

Let that sink in.

Let us remember our history and learn from it.

Never again should there be a failure to admit more refugees, or, in some sane, responsible fashion, help prevent another holocaust. Even a "small" holocaust where "only" thousands or hundreds of lives are lost.

We must not let fear and apathy stop us this time.

Let's work for a better future. And Lord, let it begin with me.