Cultural Differences, Assimilation and Immigration Policy

Two stories currently in the news are, I think, illuminating. The first comes from Paris:

The incident took place when a veiled woman was spotted on the front row of a performance of La Traviata at the Opera Bastille….

France brought in a law in 2011 banning anyone from wearing clothing that conceals the face in a public space, or face a 150 euro ($190) fine.

The woman was sitting just behind the conductor, visible to monitors, wearing a scarf covering her hair and a veil over her mouth and nose during the performance on October 3.

“I was alerted in the second act,” said Thiellay, adding that “some performers said they did not want to sing” if something was not done. …

The spectator and her companion — tourists from the Gulf, according to MetroNews — were asked to leave by an inspector during the interval.

“He told her that in France there is a ban of this nature, asked her to either uncover her face or leave the room. The man asked the woman to get up, they left,” Thiellay said.

This is not the American way. Personally, I don’t like to see veiled women. It makes me uncomfortable. But my comfort is neither here nor there; it is her face and she can cover it if she wants to. (I am not speaking, obviously, about driver’s license photographs and the like.) Still, we Americans have a right to ask: do we want to have a lot of veiled women going about in public places?

The second story comes from New York City, via Pamela Geller:

A Manhattan man was charged with circumcising his much-younger wife after she refused to have sex, authorities said Tuesday.

Moussa Diarra, 48, wanted to have anal intercourse with the 24-year-old victim and when she said no, he forced himself on her, police said. He sodomized her before performing the horrific circumcision around 9 p.m. Sept. 14, the woman told cops.

The female “circumcision” referred to here means that he cut out her clitoris with a kitchen knife or some such tool. The operation is common in most Muslim countries; more than 96% of the women in Egypt have had their clitorises removed. The perpetrator in this case is being criminally prosecuted, as of course he should be.

When we import Islamic immigrants, we are importing a wide range of mores. The veil is acceptable, but to many, troubling. You might think that clitoridectomy is obviously beyond the pale, but no:

The American Academy of Pediatrics proposed a resolution to begin to practice this barbaric mutilation in a multicultural, dhimmi effort — a “nick,” as it were. Whatever their twisted multi-culti, dhimmi intention, this would have given clitoridectomy the seal of approval by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

There was uniform protest by counter-jihadists and other human rights groups to withdraw the American Pediatric Academy’s FGM resolution. And it withdrew the resolution.

Veils and clitoridectomies are both characteristically Islamic–both mandated, I take it, by Islamic law–but there is a wide gulf between them. The first we can tolerate, the second we cannot. (Beheading, too, falls into the second category.) But given the brain-dead multiculturalism of America’s establishment, we can have no confidence that even the most abhorrent practices of immigrant groups will be stamped out.

Further, Islam is problematic from the standpoint of immigration because it is as much a political movement as a religion. Sharia is intrinsic to Islam. America’s Constitution and traditions recognize a distinction between government and religion; Islam, in most if not all of its manifestations, does not. It seems, therefore, that the most prudent course would be to end immigration from predominantly Muslim countries, with exceptions for adherents of other faiths–Christians, Hindus, and so on–who are fleeing persecution. But, as is true with so many other issues, it is hard to imagine our paralyzed political institutions doing any such thing. So we can expect to ponder news reports of beheadings and amateur clitoridectomies for years to come.

The Democrats Go Back to Their Racist Roots [Updated]

Faced with major electoral losses this year, the Democratic Party is pulling out all the stops. For them, that means descending, again, into racism. As Glenn Reynolds says:

Democrats used to use racial fearmongering to get white voters to turn out. Now they use racial fearmongering to get black voters to turn out. Not much else has changed….

The Democratic Party is trying to use the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri to stimulate black turnout. There is zero reason to believe that the Brown incident had anything to do with race. Is there any evidence that Wilson, if attacked by a 6′ 4″, 292 pound white man, would not have shot him? No. Wilson may or may not have overreacted; we may never know for sure. But connecting the incident to race is sheer political opportunism by the Democrats.

In Georgia, the Democratic Party is circulating a despicable flyer, which doesn’t refer to any particular campaign but likely was intended to stimulate turnout on behalf of Michelle Nunn:




Meanwhile, in Ferguson, a cadre of professional protesters continues to stir the pot in order to keep the Michael Brown story in the news. I wrote here about Ferguson protesters who disrupted a performance of the St. Louis Symphony, where they got a predictably genteel reception. I said I would respect them more if they demonstrated at a St. Louis Cardinals game. Which they did, not long thereafter, with not very happy results.

On Sunday, they protested at the St. Louis Rams game against the Seattle Seahawks. As you might expect, they clashed with Rams fans. A protester slugged a Rams fan for no apparent reason, and another spat at a Rams fan. Two demonstrators were arrested:

Superficially, you might say the demonstrators lost that round, but they achieved their real objective by keeping the Michael Brown story alive. My guess is that we won’t hear much about it after the election–it’s not quite al Qaqaa, but close. But for now, the Democrats are doing all they can to stir racial division because they think it helps them politically. Just as they did in, say, the 1930s.

UPDATE: A reader reminds me of this even more appalling flyer which features a photo of a lynching, refers to impeachment of President Obama, and was distributed in support of Kay Hagan in North Carolina. Hagan denied any knowledge of the flyer:

The Blame America First Liberals Are Back

I wrote here about a hard-hitting ad that Conservative War Chest has produced for the Colorado Senate campaign. Now the War Chest is back with another strong ad, this one directed to national security and called “Blame America First.” The words, of course, are Jeane Kirkpatrick’s, and the ad is a refresher course in liberal foreign policy. I love the continuity of the John Kerry images. First the ad, then some further comments:

That version of the ad features Kay Hagan at the end; it is designed to be run in North Carolina. Conservative War Chest is running the same ad, directed at different Democratic senators, in seven states other than North Carolina–states that are not generally considered to be in play: Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey, Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota and Massachusetts. War Chest spokesman Mike Flynn says:

If they are on the ballot and liberal, they are vulnerable. The uncertainty and anxiety the public feels today is the result of a liberal worldview that “blames America first” in every crisis. The need for “adult supervision” should be a national discussion, not confined to a handful of states that DC politicians deem competitive.

It is hard to disagree with that. But the War Chest doesn’t actually have much of a war chest, so its ad buys are limited. The group is relying on sites like this one, social media, email and so on to spread them around. Don’t hesitate to do your part; the message could hardly be more important.

A Fall Non-classic

The 2014 World Series begins in a few hours. Both teams competing in it — the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals — failed to win 90 games. This therefore will be the first World Series in baseball history (other than in the shortened seasons of 1918 and 1919, and in 1981, the year of the strike) to lack at least one 90 game (or more) winner.

Both teams spent the entire regular season proving that they are not the best team in their division, never mind in their league. The Giants weren’t even the best wild card team in the National League. Had baseball not expanded recently to two wild card teams, the Giants wouldn’t have made the post-season.

As for the Royals, they outscored their opponents during the regular season by only 27 runs. They are a slightly above average team. The Giants, who outscored their opponents by 51 runs, are slightly better than a slightly above average team.

Major League Baseball, assisted by most sportswriters I read, would like to persuade us that the Giants and the Royals made the World Series due to special qualities that manifest themselves only in October. The Giants, winners of two recent Series (with teams that performed better during the regular season), are said to be battle hardened post-season warriors. Kansas City, which hasn’t sniffed the post-season in decades, is said to be withstanding pressure because the players are loose.

The possibility that both teams are simply lucky rarely enters the discussion. Yet, we know from watching baseball during April-September that three to ten games (the range played by the two World Series contestants and their division-winning rivals) don’t present a big enough sample from which to infer excellence. Baseball isn’t basketball.

Baseball has made a trade-off. It has given up the requirement of excellence (more or less) in its champion in exchange for a long, revenue-generating post-season and a regular season in which mediocre teams can dream in September of reaching the playoffs and even the World Series.

To be fair, the trade-off has advantages beyond generating revenue and extra September interest. The lengthy post-season increases the number of exciting games and the likelihood of at least one suspenseful series. (This year there were a large number of great games, though no truly suspenseful series).

But even here, baseball shoots itself in the foot. The combination of four-hour games and television scheduling issues means that much of the excitement occurs around midnight (Eastern time). It is thus missed by a great many fans in the East and Midwest. Some of the additional excitement occurs when folks are at work.

I hope the Giant and the Royals produce a good World Series. There’s no reason why they can’t. Similarly, there is no reason why, say, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Milwaukee Brewers couldn’t have.

But even if this is a great World Series, I doubt that 50 years from now any geeky blogger outside of the two cities involved will be writing “This Day in Baseball History” posts about it.

Mr. Holder doesn’t regret

I want to note the recent New York Times story “Holder decision on Benghazi case reverberates,” addressing the mucked up prosecution of Ahmed Abu Khattala by the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. Khattala is the terrorist apprehended in Libya and charged for the murder of Ambassador Stevens and the others who died trying to protect him. The story is full of suggestive and appalling details on the bureaucratic politics underlying the treatment of the case. We should all be interested and I hope readers will cheek out Michael Schmidt’s story.

I wrote a while back on the absurd protocol adopted by Attorney General Holder to govern the prosecution of Guantanamo detainees in American courts. I dug up the “protocol” and posted a link to it in “Trying KSM: Why? An insane protocol.” It’s still insane and it’s still accessible on the Department of Justice website.

Congressional pushback has prevented the protocol from going anywhere, but Obama and Holder may yet get the last laugh. In the meantime, they have essentially implemented the underlying rationale into the protocol for the treatment of captured terrorists (such as Khattala). This week I called the Department of Justice public affairs office and asked for an explanation why Khattala’s prosecution was proceeding in federal district court rather than in a military commission. I thought I knew why, but I wanted to be sure to get it straight. Public affairs officer Marc Raimondi responded by email (and I am grateful to him for the response):

Guantanamo was never on the table for Khatallah. This administration has not added a single person to the Guantanamo population since President Obama took office, and we have had substantial success delivering swift justice to terrorists through our federal court system.

Since 9/11, successive administrations have used the federal court system to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists. And recent history proves that our courts system is capable of dispensing justice even to some of the most hardened terrorists in the highest-profile cases. Some examples you might recall:

  • In 2010, Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square Bomber, pled guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.
  • In 2012, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called “underwear bomber,” was sentenced to life in prison.
  • In April 2011, the United States captured Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali national and member of al-Shabaab who had close associations with al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). He pled guilty to a range of charges including material support to al-Shabaab and al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula. We acquired very valuable intelligence from Warsame.
  • In October 2013, the United States captured Abu Anas al-Libi and is currently prosecuting him in the Southern District of New York in connection with his alleged role in al-Qa’ida’s conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals and to conduct attacks against U.S. interests worldwide.
  • In March 2014, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a former associate of Usama bin Laden who conspired to kill U.S. nationals, was convicted in the Southern District of New York.

What we have here is an ideologically driven category error. As one can infer from the tone of Raimondi’s message, Holder et al. are proud of it. Like the other byproducts of the Obama regime, we will be living with the damage for some time to come.

Mr. Holder Regrets

Actually, of course, he doesn’t. Holder was asked by an interviewer, what was your biggest failure as Attorney General? He had so many to choose from! Politicizing the Justice Department, Fast and Furious, stonewalling the House of Representatives, allowing the legalization of marijuana contrary to federal law, failure to enforce the immigration laws, and lots more. But naturally, Holder didn’t mention any of those failures:

Holder’s answer makes little sense, in that the Attorney General isn’t responsible for passing legislation, “reasonable gun safety laws” or otherwise. But, as he quickly added, this was really our society’s failure, not his. Holder is an ideologue, so it is natural that his only regret is that he didn’t succeed in pushing the hard-left agenda even farther. Good riddance; the Department of Justice is well rid of him, but the damage he has done to that institution will live on.

Fusion at Last? Not So Fast

One of the easiest scams to pull off in the energy world these days is to get a breathless story planted in the media about a laboratory “breakthrough” on energy from some advanced or unconventional source, like banana peels (when you aren’t smoking them) or unicorn flop sweat. Often these technologies are real, but the “journalists” never think to ask two basic questions: how much does it cost compared to existing energy sources, and can it be scaled up? Usually the answers to these questions is “a LOT,” and No, it can’t be realistically scaled up to our needs.  That’s why we usually never hear another thing about these nifty “breakthroughs.”

That’s why I take all such stories with a big grain of molten salt recycled from an advanced nuclear reactor, and especially when it comes to fusion power. I’ve toured the Princeton Plasma Energy Lab, and also the Max Planck Laboratory which is trying to develop fusion power in Munich, Germany. In both cases the scientists and engineers working there were clear-eyed that feasible fusion power is still a very long way off—maybe 2040 if major technological challenges can be overcome. But we still see a lot of chirpy news stories that fusion power is just 10 years away! Fusion has been 10 years away for the last 40 years.

But I sat up and took notice last week when Lockheed-Martin said they have made a breakthrough in a fusion energy project that could be rolled out commercially in a decade. Lockheed-Martin is no university lab needing to get a good PR plug, so it would seem to be more serious:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Lockheed Martin Corp said on Wednesday it had made a technological breakthrough in developing a power source based on nuclear fusion, and the first reactors, small enough to fit on the back of a truck, could be ready for use in a decade.

Tom McGuire, who heads the project, said he and a small team had been working on fusion energy at Lockheed’s secretive Skunk Works for about four years, but were now going public to find potential partners in industry and government for their work.

Initial work demonstrated the feasibility of building a 100-megawatt reactor measuring seven feet by 10 feet, which could fit on the back of a large truck, and is about 10 times smaller than current reactors, McGuire told reporters.

In a statement, the company, the Pentagon’s largest supplier, said it would build and test a compact fusion reactor in less than a year, and build a prototype in five years.

Once again, nothing here on the cost of the prospective technology.  I’ll start to believe it if the Pentagon orders a couple of early reactors for a major military facility somewhere here in the U.S.  Before anyone gets carried away, Nature magazine throws some suitable skepticism on this story:

Although nearly everybody is pleased to see an industrial giant such as Lockheed Martin jump into the fusion fray, academics remain sceptical. Lockheed has yet to release any data from its initial experiments. And without more details, nobody can work out how this design differs from predecessors that have been tried and abandoned in decades past.

“It’s hard to tell the man on the street anything from a scientific point of view,” says Stewart Prager, director of the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in New Jersey. “It’s not clear what their science claims are.”

Here’s Lockheed’s four-minute video about their project; it doesn’t really explain in any detail why we should think this will work, but it sure looks cool. As Michael Ledeen and Glenn Reynolds like to say, faster please.