In “When Assimilation Stalls” The Pasty Little Putz has decided to tell us that there’s an unwarranted optimism in the immigration bill. MoDo has another one of her “special” titles to an op-ed: “The Silver Fox’s Pink Slip.” In this offering she says in the Bush family, one brother is sacrificed on the altar of the other’s misdeeds. Me? I think the whole kit and kaboodle of them ought to head off down to Paraguay. The Moustache of Wisdom, in “Judgment Not Included,” says some theories about the motivations behind the Boston attack and the role the Internet played in shaping them are outrageous. Mr. Bruni, in “The Lesson of Boston,” says in the aftermath of the marathon, there are any number of easy and insufficient answers, but just one inescapable conclusion. Here’s the Putz:
The immigration legislation percolating in the Senate has been pitched as an all-things-to-all-factions compromise. Illegal immigrants will be regularized, but most of them will have to wait at least a decade to gain citizenship. There will be more visas and new guest-worker programs, but also stiffer enforcement on the border and in workplaces.
But the bill’s real priority is to accelerate existing immigration trends. The enforcement mechanisms phase in gradually, with ambiguous prospects for success, while the legislation’s impact on migration would be immediate: more paths to residency for foreigners, instant legal status for the 11 million here illegally, and the implicit promise to future border-crossers that some kind of amnesty always comes to those who come and wait.
Today, almost 25 percent of working-age Americans are first-generation immigrants or their children. That figure is up sharply since the 1960s, and it’s projected to climb to 37 percent by 2050. A vote for the Senate legislation would be a vote for that number to climb faster still.
The bill has been written this way because America’s leadership class, Republicans as well as Democrats, assumes that continued mass immigration is exactly what our economy needs. As America struggles to adapt to an aging population, the bill’s supporters argue, immigrants offer youth, vitality and tax dollars. As we try to escape economic stagnation, mass immigration promises an extra shot of growth.
Is there any reason to be skeptical of this optimistic consensus? Actually, there are two: the assimilation patterns for descendants of Hispanic (particularly Mexican) immigrants and the socioeconomic disarray among the native-born poor and working class.
Conservatives have long worried that recent immigrants from Latin America would assimilate more slowly than previous new arrivals — because of their sheer numbers and shared language, and because the American economy has changed in ways that make it harder for less-educated workers to assimilate and rise.
As my colleague David Leonhardt wrote recently, those fears seem unfounded if you look at second-generation Hispanics, who make clear progress — economic, educational and linguistic — relative to their immigrant parents.
But there’s a substantial body of literature showing that progress stalling out, especially for Mexican-Americans, between the second generation and the third. A 2002 study, for instance, reported that despite “improvements in human capital and earnings” for second-generation Mexican immigrants, the third generation still “trails the education and earnings of the average American,” and shows little sign of catching up. In their 2009 book “Generations of Exclusion,” the sociologists Edward Telles and Vilma Ortiz found similar stagnation and slippage for descendants of Mexican immigrants during the second half of the 20th century.
As National Review’s Reihan Salam points out, even a recent Pew study painting an optimistic portrait of assimilation also shows third-generation (and higher) Hispanics with lower household incomes than the second generation.
This past need not predict the future. Maybe things will turn out better for the descendants of people arriving now.
But it’s pretty easy to see how the third-generation stall-out could continue, given the trends — unemployment, family breakdown, weakening communal ties — already working against social mobility in America.
These trends mean that we’re asking low-skilled immigrants to assimilate into a working class that’s already in crisis. We’re hoping that our dysfunctional educational system can prevent millions more children from assimilating downward into what sociologists have called a “rainbow underclass.” And we’re betting that the growing incomes of second-generation Hispanics will outweigh their retreat from marriage and rising out-of-wedlock birthrates.
All these bets may pay off. But maybe, just maybe, we should be hedging them a bit. If we want to regularize 11 million illegal immigrants, for instance, does it make sense to layer bigger guest-worker programs on top of amnesty? If we care about workplace enforcement, why not phase it in more completely before offering legal status to the undocumented? If we want to increase immigration over all, shouldn’t we consider tilting the balance much, much more toward higher-skilled immigrants than the current legislation does?
On a blackboard in an economics classroom, the case for mass immigration looks airtight. But many of America’s economic difficulties are rooted in social and cultural problems, and a policy that just ignores those problems is a policy that’s likely to make them worse.
In the end, the promise of American life is more than just a bigger paycheck than foreign economies supply. It’s a promise of social equality, intergenerational advancement and fluid lines of class. The fact that so many people around the world still find that promise appealing is a wonderful thing. But it’s also important to be sure, while we decide how many of them to welcome and how fast, that we can still deliver on it.
Social equality and intergenerational advancement? Not any more, sparky… Your crowd put paid to that by gutting the middle class. Here’s MoDo:
Barbara Bush is a word that rhymes with fright.
Asked on the “Today” show whether she thought her son Jeb should run for president in 2016, as W. has urged, the famously candid and caustic Silver Fox offered the most honest assessment of her oldest son’s legacy.
Aside from the cascading disasters that the country is still struggling to recover from, a key W. legacy is derailing the path of the son Poppy and Barbara Bush dearly wanted to be president: Jeb.
For the first time, the 87-year-old former first lady acknowledged, in essence, that W. had worn out the family’s welcome in the White House. “He’s by far the best qualified man, but no, I really don’t,” she said when asked if her second son should aim to be the third Bush in chief. “I think it’s a great country. There are a lot of great families, and it’s not just four families or whatever. There are other people out there that are very qualified and we’ve had enough Bushes.”
Jenna Bush Hager, a “Today” show correspondent who was a participant in the Thursday interview with her grandmother, mother and sister, blurted “Surpri-i-ise!” and threw up her arms. CNN e-mailed Jeb to find out what he thought of his mother’s “priceless” comment and Jeb e-mailed back: “Priceless indeed!”
But Bar, who was also giving the back of the hand to the Clintons, spit out the truth. It is wearying that America, a country that broke away from aristocratic England in a burst of rugged individualism, has spawned so many of its own royal political families, dynasties that feel entitled to inhabit the White House, generation after generation, letting their family competitions and tensions shape policy and history to an alarming degree.
Why does a George P., Chelsea, Beau Biden, Joe Kennedy III presidential sweepstakes feel so inevitable?
There were plenty of other, less perspicacious assessments of the Bush legacy on the occasion of W.’s presidential library opening in Dallas. Josh Bolten, Bush’s chief of staff in the second term, defended 43’s economic record — two off-the-books, badly managed wars and more of the deregulation that led to toxic derivatives, government bailouts and a near collapse of the whole economy — saying it “really wasn’t so bad.”
Former Bush staffers and some on the right defended 43 in the usual debates: Was he the Decider or the Dupe? Was he smart or simplistic? The latter question is really beside the point in Washington, the capital of smart people doing dumb things.
W.’s presidency will go down in infamy because he ignored Katrina and the Constitution and cherry-picked intelligence with Tony Blair to build up a faux case for invading Iraq. That is why the three Democratic presidents who talked at his library’s dedication had to cherry-pick their topics, focusing mostly on W.’s good work on AIDS in Africa.
Though he presents himself as the Batman of anti-terrorism, W. ignored the warning that Osama was going to strike and didn’t catch him dead or alive. He failed to fix the egregious problems of agencies coordinating watch lists and dropping the ball on information about terrorist suspects, which flared again in the Boston bombings.
W. and other Bush officials continue to say they could not possibly have known that Saddam had no W.M.D. But I’m now told that Saddam sent word through the Saudis to the Bushies over and over that he had no W.M.D. and was only blustering to keep his nemesis in the neighborhood, Iran, at bay.
Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld weren’t looking for the truth, and they weren’t hitting the pause button the way President Obama is with Syria right now, sensitive to the quicksand nature of the region. They simply wanted to blast some Arabs and Saddam was a weak target, just as W. was a weak president, easily led wherever Cheney and his co-conspirator Rummy, along with their bellicose band of neocons, wanted to take him.
Obama and others praised 43 last week as “comfortable in his own skin.” That’s absurd. People who are comfortable in their own skin don’t shape their lives and actions so self-consciously, and often self-destructively, on another. W. veered between aping his father and doing the opposite of his father.
Pressed by Charlie Rose on “CBS This Morning,” W. reiterated the unfathomable fact that he went to war with the same dictator that his father did, without ever seeking his dad’s counsel. “He knows,” W. said of his father, “that each presidential decision requires advice from people who have studied an issue.” That’s quite a rationalization. Who, after all, has studied the issue more closely than another president who decided against invading Baghdad?
Sadly, no one in W.’s inner circle studied the issue. As Colin Powell has noted, there was no proper debate or meeting of the National Security Council before the invasion. W. went to war on body language, manipulated by the war-mongering gargoyles who would also bring us torture, domestic spying and secret prisons.
“I can’t remember a specific incident where I called up and said, ‘What do I do?’ ” W. said about getting advice from his level-headed dad.
And that’s the shame of it.
No, MoDo, sweetie, that’s the criminal fcking stupidity of it. He should be in the dock at The Hague. Here’s The Moustache of Wisdom:
As police investigators peel away the layers of the Boston Marathon bombing, there are two aspects of this unfolding story to which I want to react: the mind-set of the alleged bombers and the role of the Internet in shaping it. Important news about both was contained in a single Washington Post article on Tuesday.
“The 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack, according to U.S. officials familiar with the interviews,” The Post reported. The officials said, “Dzhokhar and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev … do not appear to have been directed by a foreign terrorist organization. Rather, the officials said, the evidence so far suggests they were ‘self-radicalized’ through Internet sites and U.S. actions in the Muslim world. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has specifically cited the U.S. war in Iraq, which ended in December 2011 with the removal of the last American forces, and the war in Afghanistan.”
This is a popular meme among radical Muslim groups, and, to be sure, some Muslim youths were deeply angered by the U.S. interventions in the Middle East. The brothers Tsarnaev may have been among them.
But what in God’s name does that have to do with planting a bomb at the Boston Marathon and blowing up innocent people? It is amazing to me how we’ve come to accept this non sequitur and how easily we’ve allowed radical Muslim groups and their apologists to get away with it.
A simple question: If you were upset with U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, why didn’t you go out and build a school in Afghanistan to strengthen that community or get an advanced degree to strengthen yourself or become a math teacher in the Muslim world to help its people be less vulnerable to foreign powers? Dzhokhar claims the Tsarnaev brothers were so upset by something America did in a third country that they just had to go to Boylston Street and blow up people who had nothing to do with it (some of whom could have been Muslims), and too often we just nod our heads rather than asking: What kind of sick madness is this?
It’s a double non sequitur when it comes from Muslim youths who lived and studied in America, where, if you’re upset about something, you have many ways to express your opposition and have an impact — from organizing demonstrations to publishing articles to running for office. In fact, an American guy named Barack, whose grandfather was a Muslim, did just that. And he’s now president of the United States, a job he’s used to unwind the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
Moreover, some 70,000 people, most of them Muslims, have been killed by other Muslims in the Syrian civil war, which the U.S. had nothing to do with — although many Muslims are now begging us to intervene to stop it. And every week innocent Muslims are blown up by Muslim suicide bombers in Pakistan and Iraq — every week. Thousands of them have been maimed and killed in attacks so nihilistic that the bombers don’t even bother to give their names or make demands. Yet this does not appear to have moved the brothers Tsarnaev one iota.
Why is that? We surely must not tar all of Islam in this. Having lived in the Muslim world, I know how unfair that would be. But we must ask a question only Muslims can answer: What is going on in your community that a critical number of your youth believes that every American military action in the Middle East is intolerable and justifies a violent response, and everything Muslim extremists do to other Muslims is ignorable and calls for mostly silence?
As for the role that Web sites apparently played in the “self-radicalization” of the two Chechen brothers, it is yet another reminder that the Internet is a digital river that carries incredible sources of wisdom and hate along the same current. It’s all there together. And our kids and citizens usually interact with this flow nakedly, with no supervision.
So more people are more directly exposed to more raw information and opinion every day from everywhere. As such, it is more important than ever that we build the internal software, the internal filters, into every citizen to sift out fact from fiction in this electronic torrent, which offers so much information that has never been touched by an editor, a censor or a libel lawyer. That’s why, when the Internet first emerged and you had to connect via a modem, I used to urge that modems sold in America come with a warning label from the surgeon general, like cigarettes. It would read: “Attention: Judgment not included.”
And that’s why the faster, more accessible and ultramodern the Internet becomes, the more all the old-fashioned stuff matters: good judgment, respect for others who are different and basic values of right and wrong. Those you can’t download. They have to be uploaded, the old-fashioned way, by parents around the dinner table, by caring but demanding teachers at school and by responsible spiritual leaders in a church, synagogue, temple or mosque. Somewhere, somehow, that did not happen, or stopped happening, with the brothers Tsarnaev.
And last but not least here’s Mr. Bruni:
If only it were as simple as the drones coming home to roost. That would be comforting somehow. In giving us a tidy cause, it would give us a clear remedy: rain less death in distant lands, and worry less about death in our own.
If only it could all be chalked up to immigration leniency or an F.B.I. blunder. We could get tougher on both fronts, turning a warier eye toward anyone aspiring to come here, cracking the whip over at Quantico. And maybe then we could vanquish the worry that blooms darkly inside many of us when we visit a thronged landmark or attend the kind of richly symbolic event, like the Boston Marathon, whose violent disruption carries all the extra horror its disrupters intend.
Last week was one of theories, of hobbyhorses, of political complaints and agendas being hitched like so many train cars to what happened on that brutal afternoon in Boston.
The assailants’ radicalization proved that we must scale back our military campaigns and take a humbler posture in the world. The assailants’ firepower (overstated, it turns out) made a case for gun control.
We had to be more expansive in our embrace of Muslims, who become agents of destruction because they’re targets of suspicion. We had to slough off political correctness and patrol mosques.
Oh, the pitfalls of the amnesty our country grants and the big heart it opens to determined pilgrims from the third world! Oh, the peril of all our aimless, alienated young men! (Are there many other kinds?)
But these broad-brush diagnoses, many of them conveniently tethered to a proposed solution, weren’t entirely or even ultimately about policy, sociology or anything so concrete. They were about something much more nebulous and much less easily mastered.
They were about fear. And they were about the ardent, persistent, poignant hunger to believe that in a society of free information and free movement and clashing ideologies and gaudy dreams that don’t come true — in other words, in this splendid but difficult experiment known as the United States of America — we can somehow prevent disaster, somehow inoculate ourselves. With a sufficiently probing analysis of a suspect’s Twitter feed, with the designation of a broken 19-year-old as an enemy combatant, we could unravel the riddle, then adjust to and obey the truths at its core.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” last weekend, Doris Kearns Goodwin described a celebration that erupted in the bar where she happened to have been when it was reported that the younger of the brothers Tsarnaev was captured: “Everybody was just screaming, ‘Thank God we got him alive,’ because they want the answer to the question, why?”
And over the days that followed they got — we got — many answers. We learned that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was easily swayed by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, a sibling dynamic of an utterly routine stripe.
We learned that the Internet and social media sped one or both of them to wicked influences and let them steep in anger and twisted thoughts, the way the Internet and social media let anyone concentrate on a specific obsession, a single cluster of emotions.
We learned that they’d plucked bomb-making instructions from the Web, in much the way someone else might retrieve a guacamole recipe.
All in all we learned at least as much to amplify our anxieties as to quiet them, because the Tsarnaevs were seemingly inconspicuous, haphazard terrorists, and because the picture that emerged didn’t really yield a set of instructions for staving off the manner of mayhem they allegedly engineered from occurring again. It suggested how easily this can happen in a land of liberty, governed by a compact of trust.
THE brothers had ample reason to love America. More reason, it would seem, than to hate it. When their family, of Chechen heritage, asked for refuge, America said yes. It extended them opportunities, gave them hope. Dzhokhar went to the same high school that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon had attended, and when he graduated, the city of Cambridge, Mass., awarded him a $2,500 scholarship for his future studies.
But college didn’t go well for him, just as Tamerlan’s boxing career — he’d once aspired to represent this country in the Olympics — didn’t pan out. And the big promises of our country no doubt make its disappointments all the more crushing. But the big promises also make us who we are.
The brothers apparently objected to our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. But do we know that they wouldn’t have had some other plaint, some other prompt, if those interventions had never occurred? They postdated 9/11, whose authors had a brimming portfolio of alternate grievances.
Where there’s a capacity for fury, justifications aren’t hard to come by. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, cited the government’s raid on the Branch Davidians in Waco, Tex., as one of his prods. He was neither Muslim nor immigrant, just unhinged, a characterization that also fits Anders Behring Breivik, who blamed Europe’s acquiescence to multiculturalism for his killing of 77 people in Norway in 2011. Terrorism isn’t a scourge we Americans alone endure, and it’s seldom about any one thing, or any two things.
Our insistence on patterns and commonalities and some kind of understanding assumes coherence to the massacres, rationality. But the difference between the aimless, alienated young men who do not plant bombs or open fire on unsuspecting crowds — which is the vast majority of them — and those who do is less likely to be some discrete radicalization process that we can diagram and eradicate than a dose, sometimes a heavy one, of pure madness. And there’s no easy antidote to that. No amulet against it.
There’s also a danger built into the American experiment, the very nature of which leaves us exposed. Our rightly cherished diversity can make the challenge of belonging that much steeper. Our good fortune and leadership mean that we’ll be not just envied in the world, but also reviled.
The F.B.I. averted its gaze from the older Tsarnaev brother after it couldn’t find any conclusive alarms because that’s what the government is supposed to do, absent better information. We don’t want it to go too far in spying on us. That means it will fail to notice things.
While we can and will figure out small ways to be safer, we have to come to terms with the reality that we’ll never be safe, not with unrestricted travel through cyberspace. Not with the Second Amendment. Not with the privacy we expect. Not with the liberty we demand.
That’s the bargain we’ve made. It’s imperfect, but it’s the right one.