Daniel Henninger is Wrong (Mostly)

Today, in the online WSJ Opinion Journal, Daniel Henninger argues that conservatives who oppose the proposed immigration reform legislation are demoting one bedrock conservative principle (free markets) in order to promote another (respect for the rule of law.)

Henninger argues:

Why, then, would Republican politicians and conservative writers want to run the risk of undermining, perhaps for a long time, their core belief in the broad benefits of free-market economic forces in return for a law that hammers these illegal Mexicans?

If I’m a liberal or progressive Democrat, I’m gleeful to see conservative foes who have preached “the market” at me since the days of FDR now arguing that these millions of workers are an artificial, “unskilled” labor force whose presence merely prevents “the market” from replacing them with machines. . .No matter how principled conservatives may think themselves on this issue, the fact remains that at crunch time they sent the market to the back of the southbound bus.

If only it were that simple. Henninger is right about one thing, conservatives who favor some immigration restrictions (as opposed to open, Ya’ll come! borders as is the WSJ’s editorial position) do find themselves conflicted because of the tension he describes.

However this tension simply isn’t in play when it comes to opposing this bill no matter how much Henninger wishes for grounds to threaten a payback for conservatives who oppose it. Here’s why.

There are more than two bedrock conservative values in play where this legislation is concerned. I’ll list those principles and then grade the legislation–Pass or Fail–on whether it is consistent with those principles.

  1. Respect for the Rule of Law: As Henninger admits, rewarding cheats and scofflaws at the expense of those who have played by the rules is at the heart of what conservatism stands for.
  2. Distrust of Centralized, Bureaucratically-Administered Government Solutions: Almost every facet of this complex legislation calls for and presupposes stunning levels of bureacratic competence and efficiency. Few things distinguish liberals from conservatives more sharply than liberal faith in government bureaucracy and conservative distrust of same. (see here)
  3. National Security and Unpologetic Promotion of American National Interest: Numerous credible conservatives have pointed to the national security vulnerabilities the current bill exacerbates. And subordinating American interests or sovereignty to the interests of internationalists isn’t a conservative tradition. It’s the opposite of one. (see here, or here or here)
  4. Confidence in Free Markets: Just what is it about this current legislation that is market-oriented or market-advancing? Henninger doesn’t tell us. Maintaining the status quo in which workers stream across our borders and find jobs, with little or no attempts to enforce the existing laws is much more laizzes fair than this bill.
  5. American Exceptionalism: Liberals gnash their teeth and tear their clothes when conservatives go on about the uniqueness of America and the things that make it special in the world–our History, traditions, language, common value–yes, our Culture. Immigration is good for America to the degree that those who immigrate want to become, and will become,  a part of this exceptional culture. There are reasons to worry that this bill may make that less likely to happen. (See my posts on Assimilation here and here.)

Henninger presents a ledger with only Free Markets on one side and Law & Order on the other. But as I have argued above, there are numerous other conservative principles on the Law & Order side of the ledger, and the very presence of Free Market issues on the other side is suspect at best.

Finally, when it comes to actual legislation, conservatives rarely are afforded the luxury of remaining true to every tenet of classic conservatism when in support or opposition. Pure Libertarians may be able to say, “Hey, if it calls for the government to do something, I’m against it.” But conservatives must always wrestle for the right priorities. And we are.

Update: NRO’s Mark Levin focuses on the “markets” business, here and here.

Happy 100th, Peter Fleming

Peter Fleming (May 31, 1907 – August 9, 1971) would have been 100 today.

Who, you ask, is Peter Fleming? As his wikipedia entry rightly summarizes, Peter Fleming was “a British adventurer and travel writer.”


Oh, to live in an era in which “adventurer” is a legitimate job description!

You may be more familiar with the work of his kid brother—Ian. My last issue of New Criterion had a great essay on this remarkable and neglected writer to mark his 100th birthday.

Hmmm, I wonder how many degrees of separation there are between me and ‘ol Peter? Well, Peter attended Eton and Oxford just a few years before theologian Derek Prince did, and they definitely would have known of each other at King’s College and interacted there.

Derek Prince’s grandson, Christopher Selby is a good friend and Derek Prince Ministries has been a long-standing client. So there you have it! Happy Birthday ol’ chum!

Table Mountain, Cape Town

As my family and close friends will attest, I am the Mayor of Wannabe-ville and the City Manager of Hacktown, USA. I golf, play the guitar and shoot photographs, all with a clumsy amateurishness they seem to find charming (and a little sad).

Thus, from time to time I’ll post some of my favorite photos I’ve shot in my travels. Below, a view of Table Mountain from outside Cape Town, South Africa—one of the most beautiful and captivating places I’ve ever seen.

[Click the pic for a larger view.]


This Used to Be a Church


I let yesterday come and go without noting an important anniversary—the fall of Constantinople on May 29, 1453. When the city walls were breached by Muslim Turks on that date, the church called Hagia Sophia had stood, looking like this sophia-painting.jpg, on that spot for 1000 years, representing one of the most astonishing architectural achievements of that, or any age.

Why note the anniversary? Because if current cultural, demographic, and immigration policy trends continue in Europe, minarets will begin to rise on the great cathedrals of that continent as well. My grandchildren may very well look at a picture of Notre Dame or St. Paul’s and see minarets rising above the flying buttresses. And they will say:

“This used to be a church.”*

* btw… It’s already begun.

Et tu Linda?

Amnesty March 

I’ve done several tours of duty in the culture wars. I spent a good chunk of the 80s working with conservative and traditional family values organizations in support of President Reagan and in rallying opposition to the agenda of the Tip O’Neill House and the Teddy Kennedy/Robert Byrd Senate. 

So I’m no stranger to having ideological opponents impute the worst possible motives to me and my friends in our public policy stances. For example:

  • When I have expressed concern for the unborn from a human rights and civil rights standpoint, I have been told that I really am only interested in keeping women in thier barefoot-and-pregnant place. (i.e., “You just hate women.”)
  • When I have opposed federal welfare programs on the grounds that they lead to dependency, undermine the family structure and have other unintended negative consequences I have been told that my real reasons are only greed and coldheartedness. (i.e., “You just hate poor people.”)
  • When I have expressed concern that redefining marriage to include same-sex couples will put the culture on a slippery slope toward the complete dissolution of the family structure, carrying with it disastrous long-term effects for our nation, I have told that I really suffer from a mental pathology (homophobia). (i.e., “You just hate gay people.”)

Thus it didn’t come as much of a surprise today to find a syndicated columnist labeling everyone who opposes the current immigration reform boondoggle as racists. What dropped jaws all over the country today was that the accuser wasn’t some lefty nutroots bomb-thrower. It was prominent conservative columnist Linda Chavez.

Chavez pretty much came out and said to everyone who has voiced opposition to the bill, “You just hate brown people.” Think I’m exaggerating? Read it for yourself:

Some people just don’t like Mexicans — or anyone else from south of the border. They think Latinos are freeloaders and welfare cheats who are too lazy to learn English. They think Latinos have too many babies, and that Latino kids will dumb down our schools. They think Latinos are dirty, diseased, indolent and more prone to criminal behavior. They think Latinos are just too different from us ever to become real Americans. . . Stripped bare, this is what the current debate on immigration reform is all about. Fear of “the other”. . .

Earlier today, I sent the following email response to Ms. Chavez in response to her column:

Linda, I thought you should know some mean-spirited liberal prankster has posted an editorial under your name. The lack of intellectual rigor, the straw-mannish caricatures, and the standard attack on the good will and good faith of the huge segment of conservatives who, like me, have qualms about the current immigration reform bill was a dead give away. 

You should alert the Townhall webmaster immediately that someone who thinks like Michael Moore has hacked your blog.

I have not received a reply but, judging by some of the reaction I’ve been reading, she may be a little swamped.

Ahhh, The “Atomic Age!”

In a moment: One of the coolest web sites ever. But first a word of explanation.

I was born in 1959, which makes me a real sucker for the art and the whole vibe of the late fifties and early sixties. The cars were sleek and huge and had tailfins and the tailfins had lights that looked like rocket ships. (This was in all giddy anticipation of the flying cars we’d all be driving by the 1980s at the very latest.)

The picture above was for an ad for the Scripto Satellite. “The first pen designed and engineered for the atomic age!” the ad boasted. That’s another thing I love about the pre-Beatles, pre-Hippie era—the view that “atomic” power was going to make everything either niftier or neato-er, or both.

I love every sub-atomic particle of the Eisenhower era except for Jim Crow laws and segregation. (“Waiter, I’ll have the king-sized portion of the Civil Rights Movement but hold the Sexual Revolution and go very easy on the Great Society. The latter tastes good going down, but gives me gas and destroys the urban black family structure.)

Thus, I about fell out under the power like I’d been hit with Benny Hinn’s Nehru jacket when I found Plan59.com, a web site devoted to late 1950s art, advertising and ephemera.

Poking around in that site makes me feel like a kid watching someone reach for a frozen pot pie. You know. . . like this.

Honor, Gratitude & Remembrance


When a soldier falls, it is obviously a searing event for the spouse, the children, the parents, the community. The death of a combat soldier is a tragedy. But it is a unique tragedy—one deeply infused with meaning, and honor. And yes, glory.

Today the mainstream media and the liberal cultural elites in America will make much of the losses our servicemen have suffered in the conflict in Iraq. They will do so with an agenda and with a near complete inability to grasp the code of honor and sacrifice by which men at arms live. And die.

They don’t get it.

Which makes it all the more vital that the families which produced these fallen heroes and suffered their loss, know that we do.

Each family has in their possession a folded American flag—one that graced the casket that carried their loved one home. So, on this day I’ll raise my flag high above my house. There it will fly as a silent token of my profound respect and thanks.

God bless and comfort you.

Assimilation—Part 2


 As mentioned in the previous post, cheerleaders for this immigration “reform” bill tell us we need to bring millions and millions of people who illegally slipped into this country “out of the shadows” so they can be better assimilated into American culture, just as the waves of immigrants that came through Ellis Island were in the previous century.

This assertion rests upon two unspoken presuppositions, (and therefore stands or falls based upon the their validity). These underlying assumptions are:

  1. A large majority of these illegals want to become flag-waving, tax-paying, English-speaking Americans.
  2. And that a significant number are likely to become such.

 Anyone who asserts the truth of assumption #1 is either dishonest or massively immune to overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The May Day pro-illegal-immigration marches of the last two years have been filled with second and third-generation illegals waving Mexican flags.

Read Victor David Hanson’s excellent though appalling Mexifornia: A State of Becoming, or Pat Buchanan’s State of Emergency and you’ll get a feel for just how delusional this assertion is.

 So how about assumption #2? How likely is it that the past and future waves of illegals streaming across our borders will even take the most basic and vital step in the assimilation process, that is, learning English?

As the facilitators say, “Let’s explore that for a moment.”

I have basic digital cable here at my house. Time-Warner cable currently offers no fewer than 14 Spanish language channels, and for a few bucks more, I could add the Latino tier and get 14 more. Of course almost every channel on the dial offers Spanish laguange captioning. Close to a fourth of the channels on my radio dial here in Dallas are now Spanish language with more converting all the time. 

A lot of public signage now carries both English and Spanish, as does most product packaging. Nearly every commercial voicemail tree I encounter begins by asking me if I prefer English or Spanish. Voting ballots are now offered in Spanish as well.

You get the point. The need or incentive for any Spanish-speaking immigrant (even legal ones) to learn English is rapidly approaching zero. And immigrants that don’t learn English will not assimilate. Period.

I was chatting with a few of my neighbors yesterday at a backyard reception. They had young children in the local public elementary school, all of whom were enrolled in the school’s new “Spanish Immersion Program.” These little kids with Irish and Scottish surnames are now receiving all their core classes in Spanish only. I listened in stunned silence as a question formed in my mind: 

Who is really being assimilated here?

Assimilation—Part 1

One of the arguments constistently put forth by the advocates of large scale, unselective immigration (illegal and otherwise) is that immigrants from Mexico and Central America will eventually assimilate into American culture—just as previous generations of Germans, Irish, Czechs, Chinese, Vietnamese and others have done so willingly and completely.

Poke a pro-immigration “reform” politician with a sharp stick these days and instead of saying “ouch,” they blurt out a story about their tired, poor immigrant grandparents who were part of a huddled mass yearning to breathe free. Invariably, Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, the American Dream and, occasionally, Yentl are invoked. The next sound you hear is an assertion that all today’s smuggled-in, undocumented, law-flouting, Western-Union-money-sending-back-home-to-Mexico, no-income-tax-paying, social-services-straining, huddled masses want is the same thing.

But is that accurate? I’ll address that question in Part 2 of this post, but for now I commend to you (and especially to any recent immigrants reading this) Roger Clegg’s ten practical keys to smooth assimilation“:

  1. Don’t disparage anyone else’s race or ethnicity;
  2. respect women;
  3. learn to speak English;
  4. be polite;
  5. don’t break the law;
  6. don’t have children out of wedlock;
  7. don’t demand anything because of your race, ethnicity, or sex;
  8. don’t view working and studying hard as “acting white”;
  9. don’t hold historical grudges;
  10. and be proud of being an American.

Sure, we all know people whose ancestors probably came over with the Vikings who ignore about half of these rules. But it doesn’t change the fact that any new arrival that follows them will have put him or herself on a fast track to following the example of all those immigrants of yesteryear that are now being invoked with such vigor.

Secure Our Borders (Then We’ll Talk)

A stream of illegal immigrants from “countries of interest” (nations marked as seedbeds of terrorism) are crossing our Southern border. How do they get here?

This interactive presentation graphic has the answers regarding this underground railroad for terrorists. (From an excellent investigative series by Todd Bensman of the San Antonio Express News.

This goes to the heart of what is so maddening about this current immigration bill. It treats legalizing the 12 million+ illegals already in the country as if it is the truly urgent problem, while offering questionable and token and watered-down and begrudging efforts at securing our borders.

Let’s secure the borders then see how things go for, oh, five or six years. Then let’s have a discussion about bringing illegal immigrants “out of the shadows.”