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April 05, 2011

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Its really quite hard to say honestly, Utah is a strange strange state. I was raised in the northeast for about 90% of my life and only have been in Utah for about a year now. I guess its an outsider's view but this whole state is like a different world to me.

The LDS church in Utah is pretty much monolithic in the state with regards to policy, so for anything to happen it does seem to need to pass muster with them. So for this to happen it would to some degree need to have the blessing of the church.

In my experience the LDS church and its members can be odd in how it deals with/judges certain things. While ethnic difference can be usually overlooked, issues that deal with family and sexuality can definitely render you a persona non grata. I've known people here who while being some of the nicest people I've met, absolutely loathe homosexuals with a passion that seems entirely out of line with the rest of their personality. Even seemingly minor things that wouldn't bat an eye elsewhere in the nation can be the source of gossip and derision. An example would be that our landlord informed us that other tenants in our townhome complex wanted to know how they could rent their house to an unmarried couple. The rest of the neighborhood just tends to ignore us now.

My thought on this bill would be that perhaps the church judges the family and moral structure of most of the migrant workers to be in line with their own and therefore acceptable in the community. A similar religious mindset could go a long way in overcoming a party based policy stand. Church members are Mormons first and republicans second.

This is all just speculation based on casual observation from an admittedly short period of time living here so I could be entirely wrong.

Not all that shocking, I think. We wouldn't have had 3 decades of open door policy in the teeth of public opinion, if it weren't for BOTH party's elites favoring it. Utah Republicans just feel secure enough, with LDS backing, that they don't have to hide it, and engage in border control theatrics to sooth the base while they implement what the base doesn't want. Despite http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700028497/Poll-shows-Utahns-favor-Utah-version-of-Arizona-immigration-law.html>polls showing Utah citizens aren't significantly more thrilled about amnesty than Americans anywhere else.

http://katypundit.com/news/reuters-utahs-republican-governor-under-fire-over-immigration/>Primary challenges are being organized against the amnesty backers, they might not feel this secure for much longer. But this has long been one of those issues where the two parties' elites have more in common with each other than with the voters, leaving democracy somewhat dysfunctional.

Thanks ferry, interesting stuff. I have to think that because of the mission program of the LDS, it helps create the difference between perceptions of ethnic differences (benign) and sexuality (really really bad). I don't know how much Americans are familiar with Mormon missionaries, it is quite astonishing how fluent they get. Several TV tarento (foreigners who appear on Japanese TV who are very fluent in Japanese, who were Mormon missionaries.

Brett, that's an interesting article, but the only local they can get is Ron Mortensen, who is apparently a snowbird with an ax to grind about illegal immigration as well perhaps a co-founder of Citizens for Tax Fairness, which suggests this is not a question of Utah citizens complaining, but national Tea Party folks looking to make their bones (and I'm sorry, but a Deseret News poll of 400 voters doesn't seem solid enough to ground your hopes on). A more interesting poll would be this one, which does show some fractures, but not as many as you would hope, I'm guessing. From that article (emph mine)

He said he’s fine with local police checking the legal status of the undocumented, but he also sees the value of those people here illegally who work hard and contribute to society.

“Those that are here illegally and are not contributing, move them out,” Ashdown said. “But if they are contributing, they ought to be able to apply and stay.”

His conflicted view is reflected in the poll numbers indicating that 56 percent of Utahns support the ability of those living without legal status to have the opportunity to stay and apply for citizenship.

The poll suggested that, among men, women, Republicans, Democrats, independents, LDS and non-LDS, there is broad support for that proposal — with Democrats having the highest support at 67 percent.

The results were virtually unchanged from a Tribune poll last October, though support for the concept declined 10 percentage points among political independents — from 63 percent to 53 percent.

Interesting how independents are the ones whose support has dropped, it might be cause they are the prime audience for Fox?

And the Chaffetz candidacy seems to more a hope of people like yourself rather than Chaffetz himself

The buzz I’ve been hearing increasingly of late is that, instead of running against Sen. Orrin Hatch in 2012, GOP darling Jason Chaffetz might target Gov. Gary Herbert.

...

But Chaffetz told me this week that such a challenge is unlikely.
“I’m not headed in that direction,” he said. “At some point I’d love to run for it, but I don’t know if 2012 is the time for it.”

...

Likewise, Herbert told my D.C. colleague Matt Canham this week that he doesn’t anticipate a Chaffetz challenge.

Also to note it this

The LDS Church stepped from the sidelines on immigration reform and squarely onto the playing field Tuesday by sending Presiding Bishop H. David Burton to attend and speak at Gov. Gary Herbert’s signing ceremony for four bills passed by the Utah Legislature.

“Our presence here testifies to the fact that we are appreciative of what has happened in the Legislature this session,” Burton said at the signing, indicating it was no accident or private decision. “We feel the Legislature has done an incredible job on a very complex issue.”

Burton, who oversees the Utah-based church’s financial affairs, joined key legislators, business leaders, activists and religious figures such as Utah Episcopal Bishop Scott Hayashi and homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson in the Capitol’s Gold Room for the signing.

Burton’s presence was an extraordinarily public endorsement for the LDS Church, which typically prefers to work in the background. And it has supporters and critics from within the faith scrambling to know how to react.

One thing is clear: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has abandoned its claims to neutrality on these bills.

and this

The debate is vital to Utah’s Latino population, many of whom are LDS. Yapias and others estimate that 50 percent to 75 percent of members in Utah’s 100-plus Spanish-speaking congregations are undocumented. That includes many bishops, branch presidents, even stake presidents. The church sends missionaries among undocumented immigrants across the country, baptizing many of them without asking about their status. It also allows them to go to the church’s temples and on missions.

Something to watch, for sure.

It does occur to me to wonder how the LDS' stand on this in Utah will impact Romney's chances in the Republican primaries. No doubt his opponents there will be all over him to say whether he rejects his church's position on the issue or favors "amnesty".

Quite a nasty fix that I'm sure he wishes he didn't have to cope with. Especially has he has so much work to do convincing a lot of fundamentalists that he can be a Mormon and still acceptable.

I wonder if LDS Church is more receptive to immigrants because the Church moved to Utah to get away from being persecuted and demonized as "outsiders".

Great post and great topic LJ.

This Salt Lake Tribune article has a little more detail about the Utah immigration laws (there are four).

Personally, I think the Utah approach is great. I have mixed feelings about the guest-worker idea, because it seems to institutionalize a sort-of-inherently exploitative relationship. I'd rather just let folks become citizens. But then again, it may well be that many of the folks coming here to work would prefer to remain citizens of their own country, and just have access to employment here on a non-permanent basis.

But props to Utah for recognizing the human dimensions (let alone the freaking insanity) of trying to identify, round up, and deport millions of people.

Sane, humane, and maybe it could even work. A trifecta of legal goodness.

I find it hard to characterize my thoughts about churches as a social institution. Even within a single (large) denomination like the Catholic Church, social expression of faith ranges from Opus Dei to the Catholic Worker. More broadly, it ranges from the Mormons to the Quakers to the conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists to the wacky polite niceness of the Unitarian Jihad.

And yes, I know the Unitarian Jihad is a joke, however regrettable I find that fact to be.

IMO the sweet spot for the churches, and in fact for any community of faith and/or conscience, is as a counterweight to political (and probably other) institutions. Their proper and best role is as a witness to what is most real and true.

And like the rest of us, a reasonable measure of success for them will be to always try to, as Gary says, fail better.

IMO the sweet spot for the churches, and in fact for any community of faith and/or conscience, is as a counterweight to political (and probably other) institutions.

That's a wonderful vision. In practice, I've found that it is often in tension with the need to keep people in the pews from bolting. For example, a few years ago, the Episcopal Church's General Convention voted out some legislation that said 'single payer healthcare systems are fairest and most consistent with our principles and we're going to direct our tiny lobbying group to push for them on Capital Hill'. Afterwards, my local church had a little forum where an associate priest talked about what went down at General Convention. He pointed to a book of legislation considered that (IIRC) was 2000 pages long and 4 inches thick.

As an aside, he mentioned the single-payer bit, which no one had ever heard of before. I asked him why no one on Earth knew that the Episcopal church had decided that single payer was a moral issue. He said essentially, 'look, we published it in the book (that is 2000 pages long) and we're holding these one hour meetings in parishes across the country to talk about what's in the book, so we're totally telling people all about it'.

I suggested that perhaps when the elite leadership get together, legislation like this easily passes but doesn't get publicized well because there are lots of people in the pews who don't like it, so maybe we should be doing more outreach and education on these issues. He explained that it was absurd to call people like him an elite because he was only a priest with a PhD who wrote books and was a professor at a prestigious seminary. I suggested that the only way he could become more elite was if he became a bishop. Six months later, he was elected bishop of a neighboring diocese; his consecration as bishop was a beautiful ceremony. Desmond Tutu spoke at it.

The upshot is that the Episcopal church has taken all sorts of strong moral positions that are expressed through its tiny lobbying group but aren't really shared with congregants.

I suggested that the only way he could become more elite was if he became a bishop. Six months later, he was elected bishop of a neighboring diocese

LOL. So, did he ever thank you for making the suggestion?

Yes, I think there is, shall we say, a high degree of lossiness between ideals and realities in pretty much all churches and other religious organizations.

Or maybe any human organization with more than ten people in it.

Fail better is my advice. I'd like to thank Gary for the phrase, because it's become a byword for me, personally.

I'm not in Utah now, so I can't really speak for the mood in Utah but I regularly read the newspapers and knew about these bills, I went to school there and I served a mission for the LDS Church.

IMO, lj largely answered his own question (why church's do the craziest thing). The mission program of the church is a huge part of this. When you go out among people every day, serve them, teach them, you end up loving them. Their issues become your own, at least to a large extent.

I was in Los Angeles in the mid 80's working exclusively with Spanish-speaking people. A high percentage were here illegally. A Salvadoran family we were working with did not qualify for amnesty. Really good people, a young husband, his wife and a child. His father was part of the opposition back in El Salvador, so when my friend went back for his father's funeral he was tortured. He missed the Reagan amnesty cutoff by a few months. His asylum claim was denied. But for the Canadians, he would have been sent back to El Salvador. You bet that informs my opinion of amnesty and immigration.

Just shy of 80% of BYU students speak a foreign language. My niece is currently in Cambodia (speaking Vietnamese). Another went to France. John Huntsman (Ambassador to China) served a mission in Taiwan. But a huge percentage (especially in the past) went to Mexico, Central and South America. If you rule out children of immigrant parents who learn a language at home, the percentage in Utah of USA-born citizens who fluently speak another language has to be the highest or one of the highest in the country. And that is largely from missionary service on other parts of the world.

There is a religious angle too, independent of the missionary program, as the Book of Mormon talks about the early inhabitants of the Americas and Christ's visit to them.

The Church is very internationally focused. It's not as ethnocentric as outward appearances might indicate here in the states. The leadership of the Church is more and more international every year. Plus, there are more members outside North America than in North America. Utah only accounts for around 12% of total Church membership.

Finally, the practical issue of having so many Church members and leaders in the country illegally has to inform the Church's decision. There is a definite tension between immigration status and the Church's teaching to obey the laws of the land. That tension is now diminished in Utah.

Thanks bc, for the info. I, for one, am amazed at the pedagogy involved in getting them up to such a level of fluency. My sister in law was LDS, so many members of her extended family are still in the church, and one of the boys did his mission in Japan when I was living here the first time. In 18 months, he went from no knowledge to able to hold a decent conversation. Did you have Spanish before you went, or did you have to study? I'd also be interested in the process of choosing where you go. As I understand it, the congregation gets together and prays to determine a destination. I imagine things depend on the congregation, but how was the process when you went?

LJ, you're being way too coy. Christmas means more than just KFC in Japan. It's also the ultimate hook-up night at your local love hotel. They rake in some serious yen on Christmas.

lj:

No spanish before I went. Three months in a training center with language training along with general missionary stuff (non-foreign language speakers spend three weeks in the training center). The big thing there is "speak your language," meaning you speak your assigned language 24/7 after one week unless you are interacting with somebody going somewhere else or English speaking. You speak pretty lame after only three weeks, but the mind is now engaged. Then when you arrive you are speaking it all the time.

I went to L.A. By the time I finished I had a pretty good accent, but it was sort of a mixture of Central American with some Mexican, Caribbean and South American thrown in just due to the people we worked with. Nobody mistook me for a native of their own country, but at my best I get this puzzled look and "where did you say you were from?" I don't get that anymore. I remember messing with new missionaries talking extreme Cuban/Dominican. Lots of fun. A lot of missionaries have perfect accents even in the difficult languages. Two years is a lot of time to get good.

As to where you go, the congregation has nothing to do with it. You send in papers that set forth basic qualifications and language skills,etc. to church headquarters and your assignment comes back in about three weeks or so, most times unrelated to your language skills or lack thereof. The persons in charge vary from time to time, but the process involves looking at world wide needs, looking at available missionaries, and making the assignment. It's understood prayer and inspiration is involved by those in Salt Lake, but not at the congregational level. I guess it's somewhat hi-tech too. They put up the missions around the world with their needs on one monitor, your picture on one, and your application on another and make an assignment.

[...] There are a few churches that cater to a foreign population, but the act of gathering to worship in a foreign country seems to make it a lot more serious than it was when everyone else in town was going. I'd personally like to go to a Japanese church but that would be a committment that would again require a lot more faith and belief. Alternatively, you could say that I think it would be too much of a lie to go, whereas in a small Southern town, you don't have the questions that you have to answer.
This all makes sense if you're part of the majority culture/religion in a culture, but not so much if you're in the minority. Which is the situation you find yourself in in Japan.

There aren't actually any places where "everyone else in town" belongs to the same religion; there are just those outsiders who get spoken of as if they don't exist, which is to say, they aren't acknowledged.

Which is generally very uncomfortable making. At the least.

This isn't an anti-Christian thing, I'd like to stress. I wouldn't want to be non-Hassic and live in Kiryas Joel, myself.

Drat. Cat in lap and on left arm. "Non-Hassidic" was what I meant to type before I semi-accidentally hit the "post" button.

KL
As for love hotels in Japan, it wasn't me being coy, it was me thinking of a way explain the whole concept, and giving up. I've threatened to write a post about sex in Japan, every time I try to write something, it seems to require so much of a shift in viewpoints and paradigms as to be untranslatable.

bc
thanks for the explanation, I probably misunderstood the 'everyone prays about it' to mean the congregation rather than LDS Central. But the congregation still puts up a lot (most?) of the money, right?

Gary, that's true, but living in a small town in Mississippi, pretty much "everyone" was either Baptist or Methodist. We had a Catholic church and a tiny Lutheran church, but the number of folks for those were quite small (it has changed a lot since Katrina).

I'm sympathetic to the problem of outsiders, and I didn't mean to pretend that they didn't exist, but when the huge majority of the social gatherings (including softball games, catfish frys (fries?), potluck dinners, etc.) are somehow functions of the church, invisibility is more a personal choice than a choice by the community. (as an aside, in a situation like that, you can't really be sure how fervent a believer other people are, which can be interesting) While there were people who were not involved in a church in any way (my graduating class's salutorian refused to say the prayer, which was the traditional assignment of the salutorian) and they weren't shunned by any means, it's sort of like a place where everyone smokes but you. If you can't stand cigarette smoke, you aren't going to get many chances to talk to folks. Or you being the only one who smokes. Or something like that.

Thanks Sam Beckett, Russell, if you can catch him between time leaps. Worstward Ho (1983):

All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
I don't think he was a lot of fun at parties, though.

I dunno, Beckett apparently loved cricket, so he must have been good for a laugh with his mates. Not rugby quality yuks, but yuks nonetheless.

But the congregation still puts up a lot (most?) of the money, right?

Not really. It's always been that you pay your way if you can. In the past, if you couldn't, then the congregation. Now it's more centralized (local donations go to SLC and then are redistributed). That's because the global need is so much greater than local (US) need. The church has also made the amount you pay the same (global average) so where you are called to serve isn't cost prohibitive. So, in short, the entire church pays your way if you can't pay it yourself.

I don't think he was a lot of fun at parties, though.

I'm a guy who often finds Kafka knee-slappingly funny, so maybe I'd have found dinner with Beckett to be a romp.

This, from the last couple of lines of "Krapp's Last Tape", has become something of a daily meditation for me lately. He speaks of his best years, now gone:

But I wouldn't want them back. Not with the fire in me now.

But "fail better" has become my motto these days.

I'm sympathetic to the problem of outsiders, and I didn't mean to pretend that they didn't exist, but when the huge majority of the social gatherings (including softball games, catfish frys (fries?), potluck dinners, etc.) are somehow functions of the church, invisibility is more a personal choice than a choice by the community.
I have strong opinions about the way majorities can oppress minorities through denial and lack of inclusion, and how invisibility is not more a personal choice than a choice by the community, but later or another time.

Further down that street are lynchings and cross-burnings, though. Just next door is harassment. Exclusion is inherent.

Witness what happens when a Jewish person brings a lawyer or ACLU in to protest that "everyone" is not, in fact, a particular flavor of Christian and someone tries to use government to impose their sect on in fact "everyone."

Old and random due to haste.

Or how about Native American religion?

Minorities just "choose" to be invisible, and it's not because they prefer to avoid hate crimes, or unpleasantness below that level?

And we could talk about how racially diverse the churches were 40 years ago.

I hate to seem rude but it seems that you aren't giving any consideration to people who might want the jobs taken by illegal immigrants -- and might not want to pay their education, medical and retirement costs -- or that of their citizen (under current law) descendants.

The passage of this law seems to me like a big mashup of special interests (religious, ethnic and big business) against the average American, whose interests and desires are utterly ignored.

I have a few questions:

How about letting unemployed Americans have a crack at the jobs held by illegal immigrants? They may not want field work but outside of agriculture, I think you can get Americans to do the work illegal immigrants do -- I know that's true because there's millions of Americans who work in kitchens, in construction and in cleaning and janitorial work ervery day.

How about paying a fair wage to legal workers? Why give people and companies a choice to pay Americans nothing and get illegal workers to do the same job for less? THis is a choice they should not have and do not deserve to have.

Why should the average American taxpayer -- most of whom have their own financial problems -- have to pick up the tab for the true costs of cheap foreign labor?

Is the Mormon Church or anyone else in Utah putting any pressure on Mexico's elite to start paying their fair share of taxes so that the advantages of Mexico's oil money and other wealth finally filters down to the many millions of Mexican who are far poorer than they should be?

When there's 500 million of us around in 100 years or so due to mass migration (legal and illegal), where will the energy, jobs and housing come from for those extra folks? Aren't you glad you won't be here to experience the US with half a billion people? I sure am.

Gary,
I missed your question, but joan's comment pushed it up. You asked

Minorities just "choose" to be invisible, and it's not because they prefer to avoid hate crimes, or unpleasantness below that level?

Again, you seem to be taking me to task for somehow oppressing minorities in my small Mississippi hometown because I was a member of one of the churches there. When put that way, you might see why I see what you are asking might not really be the best way of trying to gain agreement. I am very well aware of how people (and it isn't necessarily 'minorities', which let you define group characteristics, but just people who may not march to the same drummer) can get isolated and become 'invisible'. But how precisely is a church, which could reasonably defined as a group of people who share a particular set of beliefs about one thing, supposed to include people who don't share that particular set of beliefs? It can (and churches often do) invite people to participate, but you can see how some people might be wary of the invitation because it would force them to either come out and say that they don't believe in god, or have them lie and feel uncomfortable. I think it is a particular liberal conundrum that we want inclusiveness, but we want to also respect the right of free-association. We try a balancing act that may not always be satisfactory, but I'm not sure if falling completely on the side of inclusiveness among all groups really works. Freedom of religion does seem to mean freedom to forumulat your groups rules and membership the way you agree on.

I feel that churches are, like every human institution, tools that can be used for good things or for bad things. I wish that there were a way to guarantee that a particular human institution would always generate good outcomes, but I don't think it is possible, and we have examples, such as Westboro Baptist Church, where we know it is bad.

An atheist like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett might argue that the whole structure of faith needs to be rejected because religion is actively harmful and I understand their argument. However, it seems that in a world where constant change and turnover are leading to difficulties, and our supply of social capital is diminishing, I'm not really prepared to argue for that.

jerseycityjoan has sort of the opposite point, which is that the US should remain an exclusive club and we should actively keep out new members. Give that there is not a particular set of beliefs that can define Americans, I think it is a different situation from a church. As far as what will happen in 100 years, all I can say for certain is that everyone reading this now will be dead. That is the extent I would go to on 100 year predictions.

The consequences of borders, laws and citizenship is that all nations are exclusive clubs. Families are also exclusive clubs.

I feel one of my responsibilities, as a US citizen and a member of my family, is to practice good stewardship. Among other things right now that includes protesting when millions of jobless Americans in their own country are idle -- many now without no money coming in because their unemployment ran out -- while foreign workers keep theirs, no questions asked.

As for the future, it's absolutely imperative that we consider the kinds of questions that I ask above to be good stewards of America. They are hard and unpleasant and it's understandable that you don't want to think about them.

Liberal Japonicus, we were handed a great America by the ones that came before us. I want live up to the example set by previous generations and hand over a prosperous and livable America to the ones that are coming after me.

But when we make choices today that will have huge and irreversible impact on future generations, we can't do better than to think about what we're doing will affect America in 25, 50, 100 or more years. Now of course all predictions end up being wrong to some extent but that doesn't mean we shouldn't make them.

Our time on earth is short and we hold America as a sacred trust.

joan, you seem to have decided what you think is important and what you think is not. That's your call, and you are welcome to it. I tend to feel that there is a concept of world citizenship, and that an arbitrary border shouldn't really determine a person's lot in life, though I understand that it does. I generally believe in a notion that there is a class of rights that should be available to all humanity and the US, having presented those rights to us through their efforts, we should try to ensure that we reach a point where all people have and respect those rights.

I also feel, from a strictly selfish viewpoint, that the ill will that the US engenders by moving to a system of the sort that you espouse, where we refuse to part with what we have because we have it now and giving it away means we won't have it in the future, is not worth it in the long run. I also think that with the US population as being less than 5% of the world population, it's a little shortsighted to believe that we are an exclusive club and think that this state of affairs will continue if we adopt the kind of stance you believe.

The America we were 'handed' (with no mention of the folks we took it from) also imagined that the rights that Americans had were not confined solely to Americans, but to all people, which accounts for the power of the preamble of the Declaration of Independence. That the founding fathers felt that all men had particular rights is much more in keeping with the America I was handed, rather than a notion of making sure that foreigners keep their paws off my stuff.

Apart from that, you feel that somehow if a company undergoes restructuring, somehow, the foreigners keep their jobs and Americans lose theirs. This may be true, but it speaks less to something inherent in the foreigners, and more to companies who are pressed to improve their bottom line, and so don't want to pay a living wage to Americans, because they can pay less with foreigners.

It is certainly true that what we're doing will affect not only America but the rest of the world in the long term. I just don't see trying to build a wall and keep out the other 95% of the world as having a good strategy over that period of time.

This is what happens to low-wage American labor when we permit Americans schooled in the Milton Friedman/Ayn Rand ethic to manage companies:

http://www.balloon-juice.com/2011/04/10/when-the-mbas-meet-ikea/

Forgive the cut and paste. Gary, Slart, I have your linking instructions on my favorites list and will get to it eventually.

I have some sympathy for jerseycityjoan's views, but it is naive to believe that any change in immigration policy is going to redound to American labor's advantage.

Not with the viper sadists running corporations and much of government today.

Disallow immigration and watch child labor, minimum wage, and unemployment compensation laws be abolished. All unions will be made illegal, just like the f&cking Soviet Union and China.

As compensation to corporations for eliminating immigration.

America as sacred trust. Crap and more crap. See the speech by the Ned Beatty character in "Network" for the purest explanation of what large corporations hold sacred.

It ain't America.

Speaking of Mexico, I was reading the other day that some ridiculously large percentage of Mexico's annual GDP was laundered through Wachovia Bank and, despite smallish fines, not a single individual at the bank was punished.

Largely drug money, but probably Mexican plutocratic money, too.

Systemic change is required, and political elections, shareholder meetings, and peaceful demonstrations aren't it.

Count, that link is juicy enough for me to do the fiddly stuff.

Speaking of fiddly stuff, I'd be interested to hear what you think of this:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/04/10/965530/-Ishihara-Reelected-Easily:-Tokyo-Voters-Prove-Stupidity-is-Universal

Every culture has its shining-city-on-the-hill Ronald Reagans trickling pittances to those below, and then lying about them.

The entire world should be aflame, not just the Mideast.

I can just see millions of people having their apartments booby-trapped by their respective alter-egos; their apartments spitting flaming Ikea furnishings into the air high above the streets.

morning Count and everyone, a very short comment on a subject that deserves a lot longer one.

Ishihara has a rather unique history, and it's not really clear whether he is a symptom of Japan's sclerotic political culture or a reaction to it. Some quick points
-his brother was an iconic movie star who died young, so think 'brother of Elvis'
-he was a published author of fiction who won the Akutagawa Prize so think 'Pulitzer prize winning'
-he later came to a different sort of fame when he co-authored 'A Japan that can say no' with Akio Morita, founder of Sony, so think Lee Iacocca, perhaps with a dash of Oprah.

Now mix those together into one person and drop him as a candidate in New York city. Would his election be representative of the American political system? or would it be a case of a particular kind of fame overpowering other choices?

Obviously those parallels above can be picked at, but that gives an idea of what you are dealing with. He's been called Japan's Le Pen, but he's always given off a Pat Buchanan or Antonio Scalia vibe, in that it is clear that there is a very active intelligence working there, but it starts from a number of assumptions that most people would really balk at.

I mentioned in an earlier comment that there was some controversy about his wartime memories when he said that as a child, he remembered being strafed by American planes, and careful research suggests that this couldn't have happened to him, but, as a writer of fiction, he is supposed to be a fabulist, and he is already operating in a different realm than people who were arose as politicians.

There is also a relationship between the nature of the city he governs, Tokyo and his popularity. Both New York and London have turned to celebrity mayors. The example of London is particularly noteworthy. One wouldn't make any predictions on UK politics based on the fact that Ken Livingstone was followed by Boris Johnson. In fact, it highlights how, in a urban conglomeration like that, a media figure who draws attention by making broad over weening statements can pull people in.

This isn't to say that I don't think Ishihara has some severe problems and that it is a bad idea to give to the charities that are not necessarily part of the traditional landscape, but it's not like withholding money from the Libyan Red Cross cause you think that it's going to go to Quaddifi's squad of virgin bodyguards. In fact, I think the article would have been much more interesting and on point if it had detailed some of the problems the traditional services are having and how many of the non-traditional ones are more nimble. But to choose to give to one organization over another to send a message that won't even be noticed by the person you are trying to send a message to is a little pointless.

I think I have made my points as best I can, so this will probably be my last comment.

I did want to clear up one thing. You say

"you feel that somehow if a company undergoes restructuring, somehow, the foreigners keep their jobs and Americans lose theirs.

I don't know where you got that impression. I never mentioned restructuring. My complaint is that we aren't even trying to replace foreign workers -- such as people with false documents (illegal immigrants) and people with temporary work visas who do not have a special talent or area of expertise that an American cannot offer -- with our own workers.

For example, I'd like to the Dept. of Labor conduct thousands of Social Security no-match letter investigations, just like the ones that caused hundreds of illegal workers out of their jobs at Chipotle Restaurants and Harvard Maintenance over the past few months.

I would like American workers to receive over $13 an hour from Harvard Maintenance to clean offices instead of illegal workers with fraudulent paperwork.

I would like pressure brought to bear on Mexico, which is a rich country dominated by a heartlessly exploitive and grossly undertaxed elite -- to start taking the responsibilty for providing their own people with a decent life.

I don't want the US to end up like Mexico. That is where we are headed in many ways. Granted it would take us awhile to get there, but if we keep on ignoring the needs of our own citizens, spending hundreds of billions on oursiders and allowing the rich to get richer while everybody else gets poorer, that's where we'll end up eventually.

We have neglected too much here at home for too long and it's time we refocused our attention, energies and resources on our own needs and problems. How will we be able to help others when we are weak and down ourselves?

I'd see everyone on the planet as "us" and "others" as my sisters and brothers, and I'd like people to be free to move and live where they like.

That's a way I help others: believe in that, and not in nationalism, which tends to cause wars and biogotry.

My grandparents moved to this country. Until they did, policies that kept them out would have left me to die with them. I'd be pretty damn hypocritical to want others to not have the freedom my own grandparents had.

I can move from New York to California to North Carolina to Washington. I'd love to be able to move to British Columbia. I have friends all over the world who have trouble moving here, and I'd love to move to Europe.

Freedom to do these things is how I'd like to help others.

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