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June 22, 2017


Still an open thread, so I just want to excerpt a paragraph from a piece by John Le Carre in today's Observer, taken from a speech he gave at an awards ceremony in Germany, in which he is talking (mainly) about why he has always loved the German language, and also about the importance of language, and precise language, in general. To all those who have sometimes tired of my lame attempts to explain why I think that it is so important to use terms correctly, and to discriminate properly in the language we ourselves use, I give you this topical quotation:

Clear language - lucid, rational language - to a man at war with both truth and reason, is an existential threat. Clear language to such a man is a direct assault on his obfuscations, contradictions and lies. To him, it is the voice of the enemy. To him, it is fake news. Because he knows, if only intuitively, what we know to our cost: that without clear language there is no standard of truth.

Sometimes, it's just too embarrassing.
Let's face it, girls aspiring to education in Afghanistan have it hard. And it's not like these kids fit any kind of terrorist profile. So why the hell not let them come???

at least he didn't go for the old "Democratic Plantation" line.

No need for that since we all know that the Dems all tend their own personal weed plantations and have no use for competition there. ;-)

So why the hell not let them come???

Because, once they're here, they'll release their self-replicating battle bots to take over the country...

Mention of clear language and German in GftNC's 1:30 inspires something less serious but wonderful: something from Mark Twain (IIRC he was accepting an award, though it doesn't say that at the link).

My favorite bits:

I would only some changes effect. I would only the language method - the luxurious, elaborate construction - compress, the eternal parenthesis suppress, do away with, annihilate; the introduction of more than thirteen subjects in one sentence forbid; the verb so far to the front pull that one it without a telescope disc over can.


I might gladly the separable verb also a little bit reform. I might none do let what Schiller did: he has the whole history of the Thirty Years' War between the two members of a separable verb in-pushed. That has even Germany itself aroused, and one has Schiller the permission refused the History of the Hundred Years' War to compose - God be it thanked! After all these reforms established be will, will the German language the noblest and the prettiest on the world be.

Charles, I really wish I could say that your suggestions seems wildly improbable and unrealistic. Unfortunately....

JanieM: Excellent!

The good people of Austin, Texas are armed, are they not?

Use those Second Amendment remedies, people, on republican tyrants.

I love the stench of republican blood in the air.

"Liberals just want to create a dependent underclass so you can seize power forever?
Well, fnck you too, buddy. "

Well, it does suck to be included in a group that you identify yourself with whose national leadership is anything but what you want.

I never speak for you russell, but you can point to lots of middle class polls that agree with what I said.

It also sucks when someone imputes motives that don't exist to the actions and policies of your party/ideology. So the permanent lower class isn't a goal, just an consequence? It isn't part of a grander plan to retain power, getting those poor people and minorities to vote for them while really providing little opportunity or progress?

When I take the same leaps about liberal policy that get made about conservative policy every day it is delusional paranoid ranting. Yes that's what I hear from your side every day.

sometimes 30 or 40 rants a day.

I had a lot more but really, throwing out Mussolini in the context of Trump is absurd. He is an incompetent asshat and he isn't by temperament, ability or desire a dictator much less the next fascist leader.

And the Republican leadership in the Congress is doing what they can to govern.

So the permanent lower class isn't a goal, just an consequence?

I'm not sure I see it as a necessary consequence. I can see where it might be a possible one. Then again, I can see where a decent safety net system (not saying that our current one meets that threshold) could actually improve the ability of the poor to move up.

Decent nutrition in childhood improves brain development. Decent medical care (especially preventative care) also improves children's ability to succeed. Training, re-training, apprenticeship programs, ditto.

Want to say we don't have those now? Sure, in many cases. But I don't see liberals opposing them. Unwilling to waste time and effort pushing for them, perhaps. But not resisting if someone else puts the forward.

He is an incompetent asshat and he isn't by temperament, ability or desire a dictator much less the next fascist leader.

As I said, he is a good impersonator, not the real deal. But imo, if offered, he would take the position of dictator, provided the actual work would be done by someone else and he could limit himself to public grandstanding.
As for the GOP leadership, they lack some key elements of classic fascism and have more in common with the guys who brought the real ones into power in the mistaken belief to be the puppeteers not the useful idiots.

I had a lot more but really, throwing out Mussolini in the context of Trump is absurd.

hey man, you brought up Mussolini, not me.

want to avoid a permanent underclass? pay working people enough to live on, and then some.

all the wealth the US economy generates? give more of it to the people who do the stuff that generates the wealth, and less of it to folks who don't.

and that problem will be solved. see? so freaking simple.

you up for that? I am.

cops,teachers, plumbers, carpenters, milling machine operators, office managers, truck drivers, building maintenance people, home health aides, retail staff.

add whatever you like to the list.

pay them.

like magic, no more underclass.

it's not freaking medicaid that is creating poor people in this country.

Unwilling to waste time and effort pushing for them, perhaps

let's look into this. let's go find all of the people advocating for childhood nutrition, accessible healthcare, and job training and re-training programs.

then let's see where they line up on the american political spectrum.

And the Republican leadership in the Congress is doing what they can to govern.

i think i see the problem. see my bolds.

doing what they can

Well, massive incompetence does limit what one can accomplish....

You think Republicans are massively incompetent, what about the Democrats? For all these years, Marty tells us, they've been running a masterplan to win elections by creating dependency on the federal government. And yet almost all the states which are big net payers vote Democrat, while almost all the states which are big net recipients vote Republican.

Anyway, Marty has made an interesting claim. How many people in the USA are there who "rely completely on the government" for their income? I suppose he doesn't mean the military, nor employees of companies dependent on it. Nor farmers dependent on agricultural subsidies. Nor families like the Bushes who relied on the government to bail out the S&Ls they'd run into the ground. I think he means poor people living almost entirely off state benefits. How many of those are there?

As with many things, incompetence comes with different levels. For instance, take a group which, while having a sufficient majority** in the legislature, manages to pass legislation creating programs -- albeit programs which fail to achieve their (supposed) end. Compare that to a group which, also given a sufficient majority, is unable to pass legislation at all. Which is significantly more incompetent?

** "sufficient majority" meaning a large enough number of members belonging to the group that legislation can be passed, without reference to members outside the group. Whether that requires 50%+1 or 60% depends on the exact piece of legislation and which house. But either way....

Uh, I didnt bring up Mussolini, my comment was really directed at Hartmuts Mussolini reference.

I stand corrected.

You know the GOP tried creating a vast underclass at one time. After some fitful starts, 1873, 1892, and 1903, and some other false starts along the way, they came up with a doozy in 1929.

It didn't turn out so well for them. Those people selling apples on street corners and standing in lines at the soup kitchens soon feasted on government spending, and went on to become the richest bunch of folks in the history of the planet.

What do Republicans bring to the table? Not much. Balanced budget mania (except when they are in charge) and fearmongering about the federal debt.

You should be aware that there has been only one time in US history when the entire federal debt was paid down to zero. Jackson did it. A terrible recession followed.

So it would seem that the Democrats learned something from that lesson. The GOP figured it out during the civil war (greenbacks), but soon thereafter reverted to gold standard mania.

The rest, as they say, is history.

It also sucks when someone imputes motives that don't exist to the actions and policies of your party/ideology.

Sure does.

My response would be something along these lines.

the Republican leadership in the Congress is doing what they can to govern

oh those poor poor set-up Republicans.

they only control every fncking branch of the Federal government and they still can't do anything useful because... i dunno, Obama?

Of course, exactly Obama.

After all, he spent 6 years forcing the Republicans in Congress to do nothing and learn nothing about governing (except how to pass repeal and not replace bils). He did this by . . . magic? Or maybe super-powers? Must have been something like that.

Funny, they are trying to govern because they don't come close to the despicable clones they are made out to be. They disagree on real issues and solutions. Somehow they don't all vote as a bloc.

I find that good not bad.

Somehow they don't all vote as a bloc.

of course not. obama's not president anymore.

Not all voting as a block is indeed a good thing. Provided they are willing to work across party lines in order to get things done. Which does not, so far, appear to be the case.

I expect that, before the year is out, there will be at least a little bit of this. Given the need to do things like increase the debt limit -- which can't be done with just Republican votes. But so far, party line votes appear to be the strong preference.

the need to do things like increase the debt limit

my prediction is that the [email protected] among the (R)'s will take it to the brink to try to wring something out of it, and the adults will somehow manage to kick the can another few monhs don the road with some kind of provisional authorization.

ask me why I think this.

i'm not trying to stick it to anybody, but I seriously think about a third of the nation has lost it's mind. and they are dragging the rest of us down with them.

it's getting old.

I think that the portion which has gone (or perhaps just is) batshit crazy is probably closer to 10%. Then there's the folks who were and are hurting bad enough that they were willing to try something off the wall, to see if it would make the pain go away.

My sense is that the latter are, slowly and grudgingly, coming to the conclusion that it's not helping. That there may even be reason to think/fear that the attempt at an off the wall solution is going to make things worse.

They aren't quite there yet. But if the Obamacare repeal happens, especially without any "replace" at the same time, they'll get real unhappy with a) Trump and b) the Republicans in Congress real fast.

Those Republican members of Congress who aren't totally lost to reality are figuring it out, too. That's why McConnell was so intent on getting his AHCA passed last week -- he had a good idea what the impact of a little time with their constituents was likely to be. Guess we'll see if we were right.

I'm disappointed that Marty hasn't begun to tell us about Macron and how the French example tells us about Obama's perfidy. Vas y! J'attends l'illumination!


Be honest: do you think McConnell really believes that "Obamacare is in a death spiral" and that the "AHCA" will improve health insurance in America? or do you think that he doesn't give a crap about all that, but is merely trying his best to make sure a trillion dollars flows up the income ladder via tax cuts?

I ask because, of the two of us, you're the only one who would even consider voting for a Senator who would vote to elect McConnell as Majority Leader. What makes a Senator "Republican" is who he or she votes to elect Majority Leader, AFAICT. Not his or her place in the liberal-conservative spectrum, or the ideology-reality spectrum, or any other range of opinion. Functionally, if you vote for McConnell to lead the Senate, you're a Republican. If you don't, you can call yourself a "Republican" Senator, but actual Republican Senators won't.


Tony, I'd definitely incline to "doesn't give a crap". Although I think at this point he is even more avid/desperate for a "win" than for the tax cut. Which may color what accommodations he will be willing to make in order to get something, anything, passed.

I would not put it beyond him to go for a surprise action calling a vote when a few Dems happen to be absent from the chamber and to close the vote the moment he has a quorum.
Only as a last resort of course. But, if the situation becomes desperate (those who should not be named going through with their recent open threat to close the donation spigot), I doubt he would hesitate.
Him being not completely insane the debt ceiling deal will have to come first though (bridges should be blown behind not in front of you).

"but is merely trying his best to make sure a trillion dollars flows up the income ladder via tax cuts?"

This is really the whole point. There are 535 (?) people in Congress and I believe not one of them is this cynical or corrupt. Yes, they all are beholden to some moneyed intereststs, all of them. But nothing that they are doing is simply to make rich people richer at the expense of everyone else.

The Republicans get my vote because they are willing to take crap, up to a point of course, to try to make things better in a way that is likely to help everyone. Sustainably.

The ACA was exactly the opposite of that, it was designed to help some people in a way that was not sustainable from the beginning. Not, I'm pretty sure, for any reason other than a bunch of Dems thought doing something was better than doing nothing. They were probably right.

Mow the Republicans are trying to do something better, and will pass something because doing something will be better than doing

...we simply can't imagine a world in which anyone could solve a problem except by spending more money on it.

We know how to provide universal healthcare for much less money than the US spends on non-universal healthcare, because every other advanced nation does it. What you need is a national health insurance scheme. I think something like Germany's would suit you best - it's not even single payer.

If the Republicans were genuinely trying to make things better they would adopt this obvious policy. Shame on the Democrats for not getting there first.

Of course, the insurance companies, generous donors that they are, wouldn't like it, and they'd have to lose some staff. A bit like when the Germans invented the motor car and my great-grandfather's carriage-building business collapsed.

Pro Bono, The only problem, well maybe not the only one, with that idea is it assumes that simply changing to a nationalized system will create price parity. I really think Germany could drive prices down even further and improve quality of care if only they would adopt the ACA.

The Republicans get my vote because they are willing to take crap, up to a point of course, to try to make things better in a way that is likely to help everyone. Sustainably.

conversely, they don't get mine, because the policies they advocate in the name of sustainably making things better for everyone have not made things better for everyone.

But nothing that they are doing is simply to make rich people richer at the expense of everyone else.

Sadly, that does not appear to be the case.

Marty, yes, that assumption is false. But national health insurance is a step in the right direction.

There are three things which stand out about US healthcare compared with other advanced nations:
a) it's massively more expensive
b) it has a unique funding model
c) it doesn't provide universal coverage

The proposition that you can fix (a) by going even further out on a limb on (b) is insane.

But then again bobby, Germany has a unique funding model and a significant private insurance industry, IIRC. So there may be little relationship, causation at least, between 1 and 2.

9:18 is in regard to Pro Bono not bobbyp.

russell: conversely, they don't get mine, because the policies they advocate in the name of sustainably making things better for everyone have not made things better for everyone.

And Republicans don't get MY vote because their arguments are transparently silly. Well, "arguments" may be too generous a word. "Propaganda", or "memes", or "mantras" may be more accurate descriptions of the kind of piffle that Republicans have either swallowed or spewed since at least Saint Ronald's day.

Consider "sustainability", or the lack thereof. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid are not "sustainable" we hear from out-and-proud Republicans like Marty. Ensuring that the old, the sick, the poor live halfway-decent lives can only happen as a byproduct of economic growth, goes the GOP mantra. Because perpetual "growth" IS sustainable, you see.

And don't worry your pretty little head about "sustainable" energy to power this perpetual growth. Neither fossil carbon nor the Earth's CO2 dumping capacity for CO2 will ever run out. Not before Supply-Side Jesus comes again, at any rate.

I won't reprise my rant about the GOP scam w.r.t. the SS Trust Fund here. I won't mount my hobby horse w.r.t. to the GOP meme that "small businesses pay taxes at personal rates" one more time. There's no point: attempting to make the GOP faithful understand some things is not "sustainable".


Marty, this is your republican party and you won't be invited invited either when they shut all of it down and give it to the rich:

What TP said.

Conservatives are giving up on guns precisely as we approach the time when they will need all of them they can get their hands on:

The black man who had the audacity to be President will be the least of their worries.

I tried, really I did, to offer alternatives.

You need to consider more alternatives. For example, we are nearing the end of a major political realignment as the confederate south migrates to the GOP.

And you truly believe "reform" of that house of loons is possible?

I disagree.

When the Whigs disappeared it was because they were trying to straddle the fence over the great moral question of human slavery.

The only thing I see on the horizon remotely similar is the impending doom of global warming.

But I don't see it playing out similarly.

How about the GOP goes into nutty political irrelevance and the Dems take major control? Rest assured, they would find something to fight about that could conceivably lead to two new parties: Center-left and left.

Wouldn't be the end of the world if you ask me.

Germany has a unique funding model and a significant private insurance industry, IIRC

The important thing Germany has in common with every other country with a working healthcare system is a national health insurance scheme. The key point is that premiums in the public scheme are independent of an individual's health status.

The thing that's different in Germany compared with most other countries is that it's not single payer, which makes it a bit more expensive than most other countries, but I think more suited to US tastes.

A conservative's view of what might happen when nutty political irrelevance takes hold:

#3 is the truest of all of his points.

A conservative view of the follies in California regarding single payer (or whatever it's called):

A liberal Californian's view of same:

How about the GOP goes into nutty political irrelevance and the Dems take major control? Rest assured, they would find something to fight about that could conceivably lead to two new parties: Center-left and left.

OK, Bobby, that's another alternative like I asked for. I'd even say that I could see it happening. Although I suspect, based on what I've been seeing in California, that the Democratic split would be left (or center left) and center right. Given the number of center-right politicians** who seem to be Democrats these days around here.

** Cf my state Senator. Who is a Democrat, and who won office initially on what was essentially a single issue platform: opposition to strikes by public employee unions. (We'd just had a transit strike.) So not exactly a poster boy for the center left.

As for the GOP going into nutty political irrelevance, I'd agree the climate change won't be what sinks them.

Instead, I think the likeliest route to their demise will be if they succeed in passing one (either one) of their health care "reform" bills into law. Contra Marty, it won't make things better; quite the contrary.

The GOP base will be among those hurt worst by the disaster. And when they are, all the culture wars in the world won't keep them on board.

You can't sell the German model to people who believe that Otto von Bismarck (who came up with it) was a co-founder of the communist party. Ironically his idea served the dual purpose of luring the workers away from the socialists (he feared) and at the same time torpedoing an employer based system pushed by the (classic) liberal industry leaders (he loathed).
It has its flaws but it works. But I think an important part is that we do not have a major party that sees it working as its main flaw. The guy promoting "socially responsible early departure from life" for those who cannot afford treatment did not actually get applause for his bold vision.

Given the number of center-right politicians** who seem to be Democrats these days around here.

That's to be expected when the party is taken over by lunatics and drive it off the cliff. If we retain our democracy, political monopoly will not happen. Humans will always disagree over who gets what.

Those 'reasonable people' who seek political power will become Democrats. Maybe not flaming New Dealers, but in order to have political influence, they will have to accommodate the left wing of the political spectrum, not the right.


Politicians, like most sensible people, have a tendency to "move where the jobs are." The question in my mind is, how does the presence of an "open primary/top two" primary system interact with that incentive?

Which is, I suppose, a matter of whether they think that voters will react to an increasingly toxic label. Or will actually pay attention to what a candidate's policy positions are. I suspect that that, in turn, depends on the make-up of their district/state's voter pool.

Legislatures have to be organized somewhat more rigidly than blog comment sections. In particular, somebody has to set the agenda. That somebody is generally the Speaker in the House of Representatives and the Majority Leader in the Senate. The agenda-setter is generally elected on a party line vote. That's the first (and arguably the only) requirement for membership in the party: you vote for your party's leaders to be the agenda-setters. Your own "policy positions" are nice talking points, but that's ALL they are unless they line up with the agenda-setter's "policy positions".

To vote for a nice, polite Republican whose first vote in the legislature will be to elect a Mitch McConnell or a Paul Ryan as the agenda setter is quixotic at best.


To vote for a nice, polite Republican whose first vote in the legislature will be to elect a Mitch McConnell or a Paul Ryan as the agenda setter is quixotic at best.

Elementary, my dear Watson. why wj does not appear to grasp this concept is baffling.

You know, we both heard the bs back when that, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, they left me" became a common refrain.

Apparently, this simply cannot (or worse, should not) happen to Republicans, because reasons.

Since this thread is going everywhere, I would tend to agree with this wrt immigration.

Speak up, sensible republicans! your time is now!

Elementary, my dear Watson. why wj does not appear to grasp this concept is baffling.

Perhaps because I see where this leads directly to a party (either party can fall prey to it, of course) which are increasingly far from center. If you want a party to become less extreme (and I think we can agree that a less extreme Republican Party would be a good thing), you can't just refuse to vote for moderate potential legislators from that party.

Why you all can't grasp that concept is baffling. ;-)

wrt immigration:

I read this:

The problem with Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic party in 2016, Beinart argues, is that they were way too pro-immigrant. They celebrated diversity rather than assimilation. They didn’t treat immigration as a threat to working-class prosperity.
and I just can't see how the second sentence fits with the rest.

I think both diversity and assimilation are good things. I also observe that, judging from American history (other countries' experience may differ), assimilation is inevitable. Over and over and over -- despite recurring panics that it might not happen, to the detriment of the nation. So the only problem with the raising the idea of assimilation is the suggestion (common on the anti-immigrant right) that it might not be happening routinely already.

Also, I don't see that recognizing the impact of immigration on working-class prosperity requires opposing immigration. It seems like a better approach is to address the issue of improving working class prosperity in itself. It's not like the issue doesn't exist independent of immigration, after all. So why not address it independently, and continue to get the benefits of immigration?

I also observe that, judging from American history (other countries' experience may differ), assimilation is inevitable.

It's my impression (perhaps wrong) that immigrant groups moving to America have assimilated better than those moving to many parts of Europe, including the UK, especially in the 20th century onwards. Of course you have the nutty ultra-orthodox jews in Williamsburg or wherever they are, who only speak Yiddish and live a far from American life (actually we have some of those too) but certainly the story has always been that most immigrants moving to America are anxious to Americanise, and pretty successful in doing so. We have plenty of areas in the UK (Mr GftNC and I live near one up here) where Pakistani or Bangladeshi communities live what seem to be almost entirely discrete, separate lives, and where many of the older women (i.e. past school age) never learn English (although of course their children do), and reject mainstream English attitudes (e.g. acceptance of homosexual equality). Of course, faith schools (the existence of which I deplore and would immediately ban if ROTU) don't help: it's easy never to question the tenets of your birth religion if all your teachers and schoolmates also subscribe to them. I would hope assimilation is inevitable, but have my doubts here. Is my view of how well it works in the US too influenced by spin?

GftNC -- I don't think there's an easy answer to your question. Sometimes I think it's totally amazing how well it works here (has worked, at least), other times I wonder if the fact that we're a nation built of immigrants isn't one of the roots of our difficulties as well as one of the factors in our prosperity (I hesitate to say "success" under current circumstances. I don't suppose I really believe that being a "melting pot" is root of our troubles (slavery, in the other hand....), but I do think it plays a role in our peculiarities.

I heard a snippet on the radio a few years ago (or maybe I read it online, but I guess I'd have bookmarked it if so) saying that someone did a big study of English language acquisition among native Spanish-speaking immigrants to southern California. Their conclusion was that the process was the same as it has always been: new immigrants (esp. if older) often barely learn English, next generation learns it, next generation after that is pretty much English-speaking (and assimilated?). T

This is obviously a memory of a snippet heard several years ago, but it certainly fits with my family history. My dad's parents were both brought from Italy to the US as children (definitely not infants, but not yet teenagers either) by their parents. I don't know much about my great-g generation's language acquisition, but I do know that my grandma, who grew up mostly in Brooklyn (no doubt in a mostly Italian/Catholic "ghetto"), spoke, read, and wrote perfectly decent English, slightly accented. My dad understood a bit of Italian but I never heard him speak it other than a word here and there. My generation knew nothing but a few Italian cusswords, and we were totally assumulated except that our grandma made better food than non-Italian grandmas did. ;-)

So your older women who never learn English -- I think that's totally typical. Religious schools? I don't know...I was ten when JFK ran for president and a subset of xenophobic Americans thought he was going to let the pope run the country. To me that was nuts: "Catholic" was nothing special, much less scary. (I don't know if I'd say the same today; I'm not 10 anymore.)

This language acquisition thing also runs counter to the current xenophobia about Spanish-speaking immigrants, aka "illegals." The people who did the study said that the impression you get in certain parts of the country (California, Florida, where my sister grumbles because once she had to vote on a Spanish ballot) that we're being overrun with Hispanics is because the numbers are so high, and most definitely *not* because people are refusing to learn English or to assimilate.

I'm going to put a slightly different angle on this topic in a separate comment....

Nativists and white supremacists notwithstanding, I strongly believe that to the extent that our constant stream of immigrants "works" (people do "assimilate" -- but they also of course have an effect on the thing to which they're assimulating -- "Italian" food was still considered sort of "foreign" in my home town when I was growing up :-)
...let me get the thread back. To the extent that it works, I think it works because we're a nation of immigrants. (Yes, I know we took the place away from someone, but this ramble can only be so long.) I'm not surprised if lots of immigration both meets and creates quite different dynamics in places that have been relatively homogeneous and for a very long time.

My son spent five of his first twelve post-high-school years in China. I spent a month with him there in 2010. The biggest thing on my mind for that month was China's homogeneity vs. America's diversity. I think it makes a massive difference in people's mindset, attitudes toward the rest of the world, etc. And I say that even knowing that there are large pockets of the US that are and would prefer to remain mostly white etc. etc.

Long enough....but a fascinating topic that is only going to get more central to our lives on this planet as global warming triggers ever more migration. (As if I know anything about it...but that's what I think is going to continue to happen.)

JHC, if I'd stopped to proofread I'd never have finished, but ... oh well. I think all the typos are decipherable.

we were totally assumulated except that our grandma made better food than non-Italian grandmas did.

Amen to this, all other assimilation issues aside. When I was visiting Israel once at Passover, and being subjected to the horrors of Ashkenazi jewish food (a jewish Frenchwoman I met told me about taking her father to have Friday night dinner with the English jewish family of her intended, and after a couple of courses her father turned to her and asked "Why are these people trying to kill us?"), I read in the food supplement of the Jerusalem Post about the typical dishes of the Italian jewish Passover table (roast goose, artichoke risotto etc) and marvelled at the culinary luck of the Italians generally.

Well, the spin (as opposed to the reality) tends to be that assimilation doesn't happen here. And that therefore we have (or will soon have) a problem. Early on (cf Ben Franklin) the worry was about the Germans. Then the Irish. Then the Italians. Then the Chinese and Japanese. Now the Hispanics.

The reality, as opposed to the spin, is this: The first generation assimilates enough to interact with the people around them -- if only so as to be able to do business. Their English can be problematic (although less so today than in earlier times, when English was less universally taught in the rest of the world). And while they don't necessarily embrace some aspects of American culture, they don't generally fight them either. No more than some of those whose families have been here for generations, anyway.

The second generation, however, barely differs from the folks around them. They retain their parents' language, mostly in order to talk to their parents; but English is really their native language. Culturally, they are pretty much generic Americans, like everybody else. They may keep their family religion (although often less strictly than the first generation). They probably retain the ability to cook their ancestral foods. And, depending on how intent their parents were on assimilation, their given names may be from the old country. But otherwise? Not much.

And the third generation probably only speaks their grandparents' native language if they studied it in school. They retain a few ancestral dishes. But otherwise, no noticeable differences. And lots of intermarriage with the folks around them, which smooths out the differences even more.

All of that working does require something of the larger culture, of course. For openers, a willingness to do business with, and hire, the immigrants. Second, an ability to deal with the second generation like they were just another individual. (And even there, we have had failures over the years. See the Japanese American relocation camps during WW II. But see also the 442 Regimental Combat Team in the same war.) That is helped by the fact that, by this time, it can be really difficult to guess where someone's ancestors were from. Even for them -- which is why ancestral DNA companies have viable businesses.

It is possible to retain bigger chunks of the ancestral culture. Uncommon, but possible. However, I would note that, for example, the (very) orthodox Jews that I know are in the IT industry -- that is, not isolated from the modern world around them, however much of their culture they have kept.

And again, no matter how much of the ancestral culture is retained, they all know the larger culture and how it works. It's not quite complete assimilation. But it's a lot more so than what I perceive to be the situation with the Pakistani or Bangladeshi communities in Britain, or with the Muslims living in the banlieues in France.

Funny you should mention Jewish food...long long ago I saw, in a magazine (remember those?) a light-hearted summery of the salient characteristics of different ethnic groups. (Probably wouldn't be published today, too un-PC.) But one of the memorable ones was that Italians and Jews both express love via food. I have found that to be true, at least given my skimpy experience amongst Jewish families.

Yup, JanieM, I agree with that, but as I mention, to those unbiased by nostalgia I would say it is clear that the Italian recipients of such love are the lucky ones.

wj, that's so interesting, the spin I have experienced (but possibly much longer ago than you are talking) was exactly opposite, and closer to the true situation as you describe it. Perhaps some group has the motivation to spin the current situation as one of non-assimilation (ahem)?

And yes, wj, it was the banlieues in France I was thinking of when I mentioned Europe. Be safe with the fireworks by the way, if it is permissible to cross-thread.

One other thing I meant to say. One huge change that I think may in turn change the way new groups assimilate in the US is the interconnectedness of the modern world. None of the immigrant generation of Italians that I knew (my grandparents and etc.) ever went back to Italy; they didn't have the money, if for no other reason. Telephone calling was too expensive. Letters were the only way of keeping in touch, and some people did.

Now -- there are cell phones and there's Skype and air travel isn't really that expensive. Every time I get into a cab in Boston I have another conversation with someone who was born somewhere else but who still has family back in what my grandma called "the old country." And the cab drivers do go back and visit, unlike in the old days. So a hypothesis is: in the old days, people assimilated in part because their ties to the old country were broken. Now, for many people, the ties aren't and don't need to be broken in the same way. (I know that's not true of everyone who migrates, but it's true for far more people than it used to be.)

I feel like this is true even with names. A hundred years ago, Padraig and Pasquale became Patrick. Luigi became Louis. Giuseppina became Josephine. Etc. etc. I don't think that happens as much anymore. But I don't know what it portends.

In 2015, the 55 million Latinos living and working in the U.S. were responsible for $2.13 trillion -- or 11.8% -- of America's $18.04 trillion gross domestic product, according to a study released Thursday by the Latino Donors Collaborative, a nonpartisan association of Latino business, political and academic leaders.

By 2020, the researchers estimate that Latinos will fuel nearly a quarter of all U.S. GDP growth, and represent 12.7% of the country's total GDP. Helping to power that growth will be the growing number of young Latinos who will be joining the workforce as an older generation of American workers -- the Baby Boomers -- retire.

Latinos key to U.S. economic growth, study finds: Latinos are becoming an increasingly critical engine for America's economic growth, a new report finds.

I think the the interconnectedness of the modern world works both ways. Yes, it's easier to maintain ties to the old country. On the other hand, those arriving have already been exposed to American culture to an extent that previous immigrants were not.

I think it also helps that there has been so much immigration already. The latest immigrants just do not, in most cases, make as visible an impact. And would make even less of one, were it not for a) laws mandating multilingual government documents, and b) businesses with no ties to the immigrant community still finding it good business to advertise in multiple languages.

One example occurs to me of how much immigration we have already had. I was in a two-day meeting, a couple of weeks ago, of a Working Group of an international organization (ICANN). I was the only native speaker of English in the room. But everybody else spoke English, in addition to their native language and mostly one or two others besides.

However, what really struck me, when I stopped to think about it, was the fact that it seemed to me pretty much like a project meeting in any large American corporation. The only noticeable difference was a lack of East Asian faces around the table.

But otherwise, it could have been just another bunch of Americans, instead of folks from Sweden, Germany, Italy, Serbia, Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Senegal, Kiribati, etc. They looked like a bunch of Americans. They sounded like a bunch of Americans -- most of them having spent several years living here, either as students or working. It just didn't seem like I was half way around the world.

On July 4, Monticello will host its 55th annual Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony. Seventy people from more than 30 countries - from Afghanistan to Vietnam – will become U.S. citizens during the Monticello mountaintop event.

Postscript to an article about the excavation of Sally Hemings' quarters at Monticello.

A couple of years ago a middle school class at the school near by house wanted to go to a naturalization ceremony. These are held in Portland and Bangor, and not in venues large enough to fit a big audience. So the naturalization ceremony was brought to the school. I thought that was the coolest thing.....

Now, for many people, the ties aren't and don't need to be broken in the same way.

I think that it has always taken a couple of generations for people to assimilate, and (assuming our country remains true to its history, which is very much in doubt), that it will always be so. Even though people can keep in touch with family from the old country, they form new relationships, businesses, etc., in the US, and think of it as being home. Children have friends here. Grandchildren aren't as close to their distant cousins, although maybe they see them sometimes.

The biggest thing on my mind for that month was China's homogeneity vs. America's diversity.

Most Chinese are Han, but there are many ethnic minorities in China, and lots of distinct languages (dialects?) that are incomprehensible to people who don't speak them.

Of course, faith schools (the existence of which I deplore and would immediately ban if ROTU) don't help: it's easy never to question the tenets of your birth religion if all your teachers and schoolmates also subscribe to them.

Not sure why this is a problem, although I prefer secular schools too. It's kind of interesting to have in one's community people who grew up in the same town but have preserved customs and language that their parents insisted they learn. As an adult, I'm grateful (if sometimes mystified) for knowing people who have stories to tell about their eccentric upbringings.

a lack of East Asian faces around the table.

i work for a pretty large software company, in NC. some days when i need to clear my head, i take a stroll around the building i'm in (takes me 300 steps to go around the outer-most hallway of my floor). last time, i started reading names on office doors. probably 1/2 were either Chinese or Indian or SE-Asian of some kind.

until recently, i had a South African manager. my typical meetings have nobody native to NC in them. many meetings i'm the only native-born American in the room. we have teams all over the world who Skype into meetings - my fav are the Scottish, because i always expect to be able to understand them but still have to concentrate harder on listening to what they're saying than i do most of the Asian people! (there's one Chinese woman that i just can't understand)

also, there are a lot of women. when i hear about the "bro" culture of Silicon Valley tech companies i just shrug - it's definitely not like that at my company.

wj, I totally agree with your 4:47. I just can't figure out your fealty to the Rs. Why don't we all work together to make Dems dominate, then we can split into to rational parties (when either would serve the country's interests, just maybe not to our particular liking to a T). I'm hoping for that with all my heart.

Sapient, I'm not sure my position actually amounts to "fealty." I end up voting for way too many Democrats for that to be a good fit. (I am pretty sure that staunchly tribal Republicans would agree. (RINO is the nicest characterization they are likely to send my way.) And I would agree that the sooner Ryan and McConnell (or their successors) are demoted to Minority Leader, the better.

But that said, I still think that the country will be better off if the Republican Party returns to sanity. I wouldn't say that I'm super-optimistic that it will happen any time soon. (Although Trump's ability to sow chaos in his wake may actually help.) But I think that it's a more likely scenario than a new alternative party arising.

Although Trump's ability to sow chaos in his wake may actually help.


IMO, Trump is a stress-test on nearly every aspect of our politics.

we're failing, terribly.

I was in the military during the Vietnam era. I even have a knife scar from a Vietnamese woman.

But I was never in Vietnam and I got the scar in 2000 from scalpel wielded by a young doctor.

Mome immigration the better. Even illegal immigration is better than none at all.

I think seeing Trump as a stress test is a useful idea.

But while I would say that the Republican Party is failing the test (so far), I don't think you can say that we, as a country, are failing it. We haven't passed with flying colors, or he wouldn't have won. But calling our performance an outright failure is, at the very least, premature.

Charles, it's interesting, is it not, that the only reason that big swaths of Trump supporters have a doctor available locally is . . . immigrants! American-born doctors just don't seem to be willing to go there to set up shop. Must be a bunch of coastal elitists or something. ;-)

The situation in China is a bit different, since more than 90% of the Chinese population is Han. (I suspect that the non-Han tend to be concentrated in particular areas like Tibet and Xinjiang; I don't know how much out-migration there's been from those areas.)

As for languages/dialects: the Chinese government is adamant that Cantonese, Shanghainese, and the rest are dialects, even though by most criteria they are distinct languages. Linguists temporize by using the word "topolect" instead.

Tang poetry rhymes in Cantonese (I think it was) not Mandarin, an erudite young Chinese guy told me many years ago.

I won't have much time to comment til tomorrow night, because driving to the smoke (London - do you have that idiom for "the big city"?), so will explain my dislike and distrust of faith schools then (currently in bed and in no position for a proper post) if it's still relevant. In the meantime, I wish you all a happy and fun Independence Day, with the hope (trust actually) that, regarding your current troubles as with everything else, this too shall pass.

Only familiar with the term from the Kinks song "Big Black Smoke".

as a minor aside, the ultra-orthodox jewish communities in brooklyn (and dutchess county) are not to my knowledge immigrant communities to any significant or unusual degree.

they are not an example of a failure to assimilate, they are an example of an intentionally separatist religious community. more like the amish, or some rastafarians, then like the un-assimilated muslim or other religious or ethnic minority communities in europe.

a lot of them are the grandchildren and great-granchildren (and great-great- and so on) of immigrants who have converted to orthodoxy after an upbringing in more liberal or even secular jewish homes. the lubavitcher community in particular actively proselytizes among secular jews.

more generally, the overwhelmingly typical experience of people coming to the US from distinctly other cultures is first generation settles around folks like themselves, second generation lives the origin culture at home but is american outside the home, third generation is unambiguously american.

the other thing to note is that "assimilation" is a two-way street. immigrant cultures aren't erased, they are absorbed and find new forms of expression here.

which, to me, is of inestimable value.

to the degree that this country actually has been able to remain resilient, resourceful, and vital, it is in no small part due to our openness to immigration and our talent for absorbing rather than isolating new arrivals.

An interesting subcategory of immigrants are people who were adopted as babies by Americans or citizens of other western countries.

In a documentary about Korean adoptees, some of them jokingly referred to themselves as bananas. Yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Some of them don't seem to give their ethnic heritage much thought. Others feel conflicted. They are a part of their adopted culture except for their appearance. The only connection they have to their home countries is their appearance.

Many adoptees have formed/joined associations. They make group trips to their countries of origin. And often try to find their biological relatives.

OK, so very briefly:

In the UK, C of E and Catholic schools do have minorities of students of other faiths, but for example Muslim and Jewish schools have almost no students of other faiths. Religious schools are allowed, in their Religious Education classes, to teach (if they so decide, which Jewish and Muslim schools do) only their own faith. So, particularly in the case of Muslim and Jewish schools, children attend schools where they never encounter other children, or teachers, of other faiths. Accordingly, they usually grow up to mix only within their own communities. I think this ghettoisation is absolutely pernicious. People who grow up never encountering difference are easily indoctrinated with prejudice about other groups, and are much more insular and self- (or own-group-) centred. This produces the opposite of what I consider desirable, for people, citizens, communities or countries.

speaking to CharlesWT's comment

Why would anyone support a party that thinks this is appropriate?

Every year, the U.S. deports thousands of immigrants convicted of crimes after they serve their prison terms, including green card holders and those granted asylum. The policy dates back to the Clinton and Bush administrations as part of their efforts to step up national security.
Deported from U.S., Cambodians fight immigration policy (PBS NewsHour Video)

It is disheartening how many things get done in the name of "national security" which have no discernable relationship to security. Not just that they seem unlikely to improve security, but that they are simply unrelated to it.

It's enough to make a person think that the folks using that justification either know nothing about security or just don't care about it particularly.

The trouble with assuming you know the answer to the (rhetorical?) question you are asking:

The Indiana Republican Party posed a question to Facebook on Monday: "What's your Obamacare horror story? Let us know."

The responses were unexpected.

"My sister finally has access to affordable quality care and treatment for her diabetes."

"My father's small business was able to insure its employees for the first time ever. #thanksObama"

"Love Obamacare!"

"The only horror in the story is that Republicans might take it away."


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