To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
--- George Orwell

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bob Woodward On Washington's 'Secret World': 'A Rat's Nest Of Concealment And Lies'

My candidate for Best Sunday Morning Newsmaker Segment this week was the CBS Face The Nation discussion of Phil Shenon's new book on the "secret history" of the JFK assassination A Cruel and Shocking Truth. During the panel discussion after Shenon's author interview segment, Bob Woodward made reference to Washington's "Secret World' and how huge historical and investigative truths remain obscure in what he said was "a rat's nest of concealment and lies, as ever, then and now."

The phrasing and the cadence really caught my ear: a rat's nest of concealment and lies, as ever, then and now. The words sounded especially resonant in Woodward's flat, honest midwestern accent which sounded even more appealing by counterpoint to Phil Shenon's truly bizarre Count Dracula dye job.

The words should be chiseled somewhere on Woodward's tombstone, though I hope not any time soon. I'd love Woodward to publish a list of the five most compelling government secrets or conspiracy theories which he, as an investigative journalist, thinks are rich for pursuit but for one reason or another might defy his own formidable reportorial powers--- or represent too much trespass.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Peter Beinart Decries Insularity of US Debate On Israel Even As He Underscores His Own: The Limits Of Tribal Discourse And The 'American Jewish Cocoon'

In the year or so since I’ve been monitoring the American debate on Israel, perhaps toward a book on the subject, I think I can safely say that one of the thing that makes that debate so dysfunctional is its intellectual, political and ethnic insularity. This is mostly unconscious, although sometimes it does seem to be a function of political calculation, ethnic defensiveness or cultural self-absorption. In Israel itself, meanwhile, the bandwidth of acceptable discourse is much wider.

One figure trying to widen the Israel debate here is Peter Beinart, author of The Crisis of Zionism and editor of Open Zion, a blog hosted on the Newsweek/Daily Beast website.  Beinart’s recent piece in the New York Review of Books examined some of the reasons behind the debate’s insularity, describing the information deficits toward Palestinians among officials in what could be called the Jewish establishment and among the congressional representatives they influence, as well as the problematically narrow circle of mostly Jewish pundits who have become the go-to guys in media discussions of  political developments in the Middle East. (And in fact they are almost all guys.) The piece is filled with some very insightful reporting.  But in underscoring the blindspots among those living in what his headline calls the “American Jewish Cocoon,” Beinart in fact has shown his own, highlighting a kind of ethnocentricity that he should be trying to move beyond. 

Regarding attitudes toward Palestinians among Israel’s American Jewish supporters Beinart says:

I used to try, clumsily, to answer the assertions about Palestinians that so often consume the American Jewish conversation about Israel. But increasingly I give a terser reply: “Ask them.” That usually ends the conversation because in mainstream American Jewish circles, asking Palestinians to respond to the endless assertions that American Jews make about them is extremely rare. For the most part, Palestinians do not speak in American synagogues or write in the Jewish press. The organization Birthright, which since 1999 has taken almost 350,000 young Diaspora Jews—mostly Americans—to visit Israel, does not venture to Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank. Of the more than two hundred advertised speakers at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) 2013 Policy Conference, two were Palestinians. By American Jewish standards, that’s high. The American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum earlier this year, which advertised sixty-four speakers, did not include a single Palestinian.
Beinart takes aim at self-censorship of the debate on American college campuses and how political red lines drawn around anything bearing on the subject of “delegitimization” of Israel make for “a closed intellectual space:”
Ask American Jewish organizations why they so rarely invite Palestinian speakers and you’ll likely be told that they have nothing against Palestinians per se. They just can’t give a platform to Israel’s enemies. In 2010, Hillel, the organization that oversees Jewish life on America’s college campuses, issued guidelines urging local chapters not to host speakers who “deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders,” “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel,” or “support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel.”
Those standards make it almost impossible for Jewish campus organizations to invite a Palestinian speaker. First, “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard” is so vague that it could bar virtually any Palestinian (or, for that matter, non-Palestinian) critic of Israeli policy. Even supporting a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines would violate the “secure” borders standard, according to Benjamin Netanyahu.
Guidelines like Hillel’s—which codify the de facto restrictions that exist in many establishment American Jewish groups—make the organized American Jewish community a closed intellectual space, isolated from the experiences and perspectives of roughly half the people under Israeli control. And the result is that American Jewish leaders, even those who harbor no animosity toward Palestinians, know little about the reality of their lives.
Beinart then chastises Abe Foxman of the ADL, as well as Elie Wiesel, who have not been able to get outside “the cocoon the organized American Jewish community has built for itself. “
In 2010, for instance, an interviewer asked Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, about nonviolent Palestinian protesters convicted by military courts in the West Bank. It was an important question. While Jewish settlers are Israeli citizens and therefore enjoy the due process afforded by Israel’s civilian courts, West Bank Palestinians are noncitizens and thus fall under the jurisdiction of military courts in which, according to a 2011 investigation by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, more than 99 percent of cases end in conviction. Foxman, who leads an organization that according to its website “defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all,” replied, “I’m not an expert on the judicial system and I don’t intend to be.”

It’s a good bet that Foxman and Wiesel have each traveled to Israel dozens of times. They’ve likely known every Israeli prime minister in recent memory. They’ve probably even repeatedly met Palestinian leaders.
Moreover, during their careers, each has issued eloquent calls for human rights. Yet judging by their statements, they don’t know the degree to which Palestinians are denied those rights in the West Bank. They are unfamiliar with the realities of ordinary Palestinian life because they live inside the cocoon the organized American Jewish community has built for itself.
Beinart also examines the insularity of the US Congress, its skewed view the product of the lobbying “weakness of Palestinian and Arab-American groups” and“ the effectiveness of the American Jewish establishment” adept at controlling impressions on the congressional junkets they arrange. To a “striking degree” the insularity of the debate within “American Jewry” characterizes “debate about Israel in Washington.”
Since 2000, according to the website LegiStorm, members of Congress and their staffs have visited Israel more than one thousand times. That’s almost twice the number of visits to any other foreign country. Roughly three quarters of those trips were sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), AIPAC’s nonprofit arm. And many of the rest were sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, local Jewish Community Relations Councils, local Jewish Federations, and other mainstream Jewish groups. During the summer of 2011 alone, AIEF took 20 percent of House members—and almost half the Republican freshman class—to the Jewish state. Since 2000, the foundation has taken House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer or his staffers to Israel nine times and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor or his staffers eight times.
These trips, whose cost can exceed $10,000 and often include congressional spouses, are extremely popular. They’re also influential, leaving what Hoyer has called an “indelible impression” on legislators. Unfortunately, they largely replicate the cocoon that the American Jewish establishment provides its own members.
Last summer, when I asked a member of Congress about his AIEF-sponsored trip in 2007, he told me, “When we went into Ramallah to meet Fayyad, they put the city under curfew. We drove in an armed convoy. We didn’t drive through Qalandiya checkpoint [through which Palestinians, with some difficulty, often pass in order to travel between Ramallah and Jerusalem], didn’t see garbage, shanties. We saw almost no actual people.” He added, “Most members [of Congress] don’t know that Palestinians live under a different legal system.”
That’s not to say members of Congress don’t learn anything on their Israel trips. They learn why Jews feel so connected to Israel and why they worry so much about its security. And for the most part, they learn to see Palestinians the way the American Jewish establishment does: as a faceless, frightening, undifferentiated mass.
As one “pro-Israel” activist told The New York Times last year, “We call it the Jewish Disneyland trip.”
As for the media, Beinart says establishment Jewish discourse about Israel is, in large measure, American public discourse about Israel:
Watch a discussion of Israel on American TV and what you’ll hear, much of the time, is a liberal American Jew (Thomas Friedman, David Remnick) talking to a centrist American Jew (Dennis Ross, Alan Dershowitz) talking to a hawkish American Jew (William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer), each articulating different Zionist positions. Especially since Edward Said’s death, Palestinian commentators have been hardly visible. Thus Palestinians can’t easily escape hearing the way the other side discusses Israel; American Jews can.
Toward the close of his argument, Beinart quotes a Jewish ethical text, Pirkei Avot which roughly translates into Ethics of the Fathers. “Who is wise?,” asks the text. "He who learns from all people," it answers. “As Jews,” Beinart maintains,“We owe Israel not merely our devotion but our wisdom. And we can’t truly provide it if our isolation from Palestinians keeps us dumb.” (italics, WMcG)
It’s commendable for Beinart to call on American Jews to open up their eyes and hearts to the plight of Palestinians, and that he is taking aim at the reprehensible constraints on official American awareness. But the communalism Beinart gives expression to, only most markedly through the use of the possessive pronouns I've italicized, makes his appeal too ethnically specific. It winds up putting the conversation on the side of the “ethnic wire,” at least for most Americans. There’s an implicit separatism at work here, which regards the debate in an collectively proprietary manner---as a Jewish communal entitlement and not as a part of a broader American national interest where America’s international reputation for backing Israel so unconditionally, as well as the $3 billion a year in annual aid we give to Israel, are at stake. While Beinart wants to widen the focus of the debate, he’s fine with the ethnic constriction of the discussants, leaving the core tribalism of the discourse, at least as it’s currently conducted, alone. Unless and until this tribalism is acknowledged and challenged, the American debate on Israel will remain limited and constrained. The next time Beinart asks American Jews to take a hard look in the ethnic mirror, he himself should try to see beyond it. Right now, the view is kind of “restricted,” as historically ironic as that might sound. Until he goes wider, his vision of the debate on Zion won't be as open as it should be.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

On Immigration, Governor Moonbeam Returns to Planet Earth; 'Enlightenment' Lobby Hopes It's Temporary

A bit of common sense on immigration from an unlikely source. Today’s New York Times:

Veto Halts Bill for Jury Duty by Noncitizens in California
October 7
LOS ANGELES — Breaking with Democrats in the State Legislature, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill on Monday that would have made California the first state to allow immigrants who are not citizens to serve on juries, saying that the responsibility should come only with citizenship.
As leader of a state with 3.5 million noncitizens who are legal permanent residents, Mr. Brown in recent weeks had signed into law numerous measures that put California at the vanguard of expanding immigrant rights, including granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.
On Saturday, he signed several such bills, most prominently legislation stopping local law officers from detaining immigrants and transferring them to federal authorities unless they have committed certain serious crimes. And he agreed in August to let noncitizens monitor polls for elections.
But the governor drew the line at allowing legal immigrants to serve on juries. “Jury service, like voting, is quintessentially a prerogative and responsibility of citizenship,” Mr. Brown said in a brief veto message. “This bill would permit lawful permanent residents who are not citizens to serve on a jury. I don’t think that’s right.”


The bill’s supporters hope for a better tomorrow, however, with the help of “constitutionally enlightened people around the country:”

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, a Democrat from the Bay Area and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which wrote the bill, said he did not plan to ask the Legislature to override the veto, but would introduce similar legislation next year.
“I hope and believe this is just a temporary mistake,” Mr. Wieckowski said of the veto. “He has shown some enlightened thinking — he has just signed a bill that says even if you’re undocumented you can go in front of a jury, so I hope he gets some more thoughts from constitutionally enlightened people around the country, and is convinced this is the right thing to do.” (Italics WMcG)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Who Won The War In Iraq? The ‘New Yorker’ says Iran. Read It And Weep

Over the weekend there was news of the death of Vo Nguyen Giap, “the relentless and charismatic North Vietnamese general whose campaigns drove both France and the United States out of Vietnam,” as the New York Times obituary put it. Giap had been the military mastermind of the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and was the architect of the Tet offensive in 1968, ending the war as the North Vietnamese Minister of Defense as Saigon fell in 1975. According to NPR, Giap “is ranked by historians as among the greatest military leaders of the 20th century.”   

Giap’s death, and its unwanted but necessary reminder that American military power has limits, comes on the heels of a recent New Yorker magazine profile of Qassem Suleimani, the leader of the Iranian revolutionary Quds Forces for the last fifteen years. According to the profile’s author, Dexter Filkins, Suleimani “has built the Quds Force into an organization with extraordinary reach, with branches focused on intelligence, finance, politics, sabotage, and special operations.” It has been a shadow force in the fighting in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria, as well as a central player in a variety of anti American and anti Israeli terrorist attacks.

Filkin’s reporting on Suleimani’s Iraqi operations can’t help but renew questions about what the US accomplished in Iraq, at such considerable cost of blood and treasure. While JFK said, “victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan,” the profile shows that Suleimani’s success in Iraq makes Iran perhaps the only victor there, amidst a wider American policy defeat. According to one frustrated Iraqi politician who was relying on American power, “Iraq is a failed state, an Iranian colony.”  In addition to describing the extent of Suleimani’s control of Iraq, Filkins explains how he has been able to use Iraq as a platform to project Iranian power into the Syrian civil war.  “Suleimani is the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today,” John Maguire, a former C.I.A. officer in Iraq, told Filkins, “and no one’s ever heard of him.”

I don’t wince too much about supporting the decision to attack Iraq in 2003, although I do regret not being more skeptical of the WMD argument and in hindsight wish other options, like containment and covert operations, had been more vigorously aired and debated. What I do wince at though is the Bush administration’s bungling of the war effort at almost every step except for the surge of 2008 and the attendant neoconservative denial of that bungling. “Off the record, Paris is burning,” Coalition spokesman Dan Senor, who went on to become Mitt Romney’s 2012 foreign policy advisor, told reporters. “But on the record, security and stability are returning to Iraq.”) 

But it’s absolutely galling to read how our military and political ineptitude during the Iraqi conflict has handed Iran the advantage there, allowing Suleimani to use the Iraqi banking system and oil industry to generate funds that make his Quds Forces even more immune to international sanctions than they would otherwise be, which has translated into significant Iranian influence in Syria. “Suleimani’s greatest achievement may be persuading his proxies in the Iraqi government to allow Iran to use its airspace to fly men and munitions to Damascus,” writes Filkins. “General James Mattis, who until March was the commander of all American military forces in the Middle East, told me that without this aid the Assad regime would have collapsed months ago.” Below are some of the profile's more revealing, if depressing passages: 
In 2004, the Quds Force began flooding Iraq with lethal roadside bombs that the Americans referred to as E.F.P.s, for “explosively formed projectiles.” The E.F.P.s, which fire a molten copper slug able to penetrate armor, began to wreak havoc on American troops, accounting for nearly twenty per cent of combat deaths. E.F.P.s could be made only by skilled technicians, and they were often triggered by sophisticated motion sensors. “There was zero question where they were coming from,” General Stanley McChrystal, who at the time was the head of the Joint Special Operations Command, told me. “We knew where all the factories were in Iran. The E.F.P.s killed hundreds of Americans.”

Suleimani’s campaign against the United States crossed the Sunni-Shiite divide, which he has always been willing to set aside for a larger purpose. Iraqi and Western officials told me that, early in the war, Suleimani encouraged the head of intelligence for the Assad regime to facilitate the movement of Sunni extremists through Syria to fight the Americans…

…In the years after the invasion, General McChrystal concentrated on defeating Sunni insurgents, and, like other American commanders in Iraq, he largely refrained from pursuing Quds Force agents. Provoking Iran would only exacerbate the conflict, and, in any case, many of the agents operated under the protection of diplomatic cover. But, as the war dragged on, the Iranian-backed militias loomed ever larger. In late 2006, McChrystal told me, he formed a task force to kill and capture Iranian-backed insurgents, as well as Quds Force operatives

…As the covert war with Iran intensified, American officials considered crossing into Iran to attack training camps and bomb factories. “Some of us wanted very badly to hit them,” a senior American officer who was in Iraq at the time told me. Those debates lasted well into 2011, until the last American soldiers left the country. Each time, the Americans decided against crossing the border, figuring that it would be too easy for the Iranians to escalate the fighting.

As the American presence in Iraq was starting to wind down in late 2010, Filkins says that Suleimani played the role of kingmaker in promoting Nuri al-Maliki as Prime Minister in a newly formed government, which contradicts the narrative Americans projected at the time. “The country had been without a government for nine months, after parliamentary elections ended in an impasse,” writes Filkins. “The composition of the government was critical; at the time of the election, there were still nearly a hundred thousand American troops in the country, and U.S. commanders were still hoping to leave a residual force behind. ‘We look forward to working with the new coalition government in furthering our common vision of a democratic Iraq,’ said a note of congratulations to the Iraqi people from James Jeffrey, the American Ambassador to Iraq, and General Lloyd Austin, the top American commander there, after the formation of the new Malaki government was announced.  

What Jeffrey and Austin didn’t say was that the crucial deal that brought the Iraqi government together was made not by them but by Suleimani. In the months before, according to several Iraqi and Western officials, Suleimani invited senior Shiite and Kurdish leaders to meet with him in Tehran and Qom, and extracted from them a promise to support Maliki, his preferred candidate. The deal had a complex array of enticements. Maliki and Assad disliked each other; Suleimani brought them together by forging an agreement to build a lucrative oil pipeline from Iraq to the Syrian border. In order to bring the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in line, Suleimani agreed to place his men in the Iraqi service ministries.

Most remarkable, according to the Iraqi and Western officials, were the two conditions that Suleimani imposed on the Iraqis. The first was that Jalal Talabani, a longtime friend of the Iranian regime, become President. The second was that Maliki and his coalition partners insist that all American troops leave the country. “Suleimani said: no Americans,” the former Iraqi leader told me. “A ten-year relationship, down the drain.”

Iraqi officials told me that, at the time of Jeffrey’s announcement, the Americans knew that Suleimani had pushed them out of the country but were too embarrassed to admit it in public. “We were laughing at the Americans,” the former Iraqi leader told me, growing angry as he recalled the situation. “Fuck it! Fuck it!” he said. “Suleimani completely outmaneuvered them, and in public they were congratulating themselves for putting the government together.”

The deal was a heavy blow to Ayad Allawi, a pro-American secular politician whose party had won the most parliamentary seats in the elections, but who failed to put together a majority coalition. In an interview in Jordan, he said that with U.S. backing he could have built a majority. Instead, the Americans pushed him aside in favor of Maliki. He told me that Vice-President Joe Biden called to tell him to abandon his bid for Prime Minister, saying, “You can’t form a government.”

Allawi said he suspected that the Americans weren’t willing to deal with the trouble the Iranians would have made if he had become Prime Minister. They wanted to stay in Iraq, he said, but only if the effort involved was minimal. “I needed American support,” he said. “But they wanted to leave, and they handed the country to the Iranians. Iraq is a failed state now, an Iranian colony.”

Filkins says that Suleimani’s powers of manipulation and intimidation on display at that critical juncture in 2010 have endured:

According to American and Iraqi former officials, Suleimani exerts leverage over Iraqi politics by paying officials, by subsidizing newspapers and television stations, and, when necessary, by intimidation. Few are immune to his enticements. “I have yet to see one Shia political party not taking money from Qassem Suleimani,” the former senior Iraqi official told me. “He’s the most powerful man in Iraq, without question.”

…Maliki may be amply repaying Suleimani for his efforts to make him Prime Minister. According to the former senior intelligence officer, Maliki’s government is presiding over a number of schemes, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars a year, to help the Iranian regime outwit Western economic sanctions. A prominent Iraqi businessman told me that Iranian-backed agents regularly use the Iraqi banking system to undertake fraudulent transactions that allow them to sell Iraqi currency at a huge profit. “If the banks refuse, they are shut down by the government,” he said.

The other main source of revenue for the Iranians is oil, officials say: Maliki’s government sets aside the equivalent of two hundred thousand barrels of oil a day—about twenty million dollars’ worth, at current prices—and sends the money to Suleimani. In this way, the Quds Force has made itself immune to the economic pressures of Western sanctions. “It’s a self-funding covert-action program,” the former senior intelligence officer said. “Suleimani doesn’t even need the Iranian budget to fund his operations.”


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mickey Kaus Says Current Immigration Reform Bill Will ‘Destroy Social Equality;’ Waning Of Liberal Values To Blame

Back in August, Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam published a New York Times op-ed headlined “Crumbling American Dreams.” The piece focused on the disparity between educated upper middle class winners and the bedraggled working class at the other end of the social spectrum as seen in his Ohio hometown of Port Clinton. According to Putnam, the author of Bowling Alone, the most important book on the subject of "community" in America in the last decade, the disparity reflects our “radically shriveled sense of 'we.'”

David Brooks has also explored the waning of the commonweal, though in a more wonkish fashion, describing a study based on a massive google database that allows you to “type a search word into the database and find out how frequently different words were used at different epochs." This, Brooks said, “can reveal interesting cultural shifts." One social science study based on this database found that in the last fifty years “individualistic words and phrases increasingly overshadowed communal words and phrases.” Words and phrases like “community,” “collective,” “tribe,” “share,” “united,” “band together” and “common good” have receded in use.” According to Brooks, the study tells “a story about the last half-century,” in which the ethos of individualism and personal autonomy has eclipsed our view of the collective.

In fact, the loss of a broad sense of “community,” as well as the very vocabulary needed to articulate it, can be seen in the way the immigration reform debate has denied or downplayed the adverse effects the current reform bill could very well have on the American middle and working classes. Both of these groups, which represent the center of gravity of our society, have already gotten the short end of the political stick after several decades of policies that have generally helped corporate interests and the rich. While immigration reform might improve the economy for the haves, it will do little to arrest trend lines encouraging sharper class stratification, social inequality and the slowing of upward mobility such as the erosion of median family income, the high costs of health care and higher education and outsourcing, among other things.  

America likes to think of itself as a nation where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts: E Pluribus Unum, implicitly at any rate. But in the debate over immigration reform however, there’s a blank space where the broader national interest should be as disaggregated special interests---the GOP, Latino advocacy groups like La Raza, the "Dreamers"--- tell us what would be good for them is good for us. While it’s true the consensus that they’re forged crosses ideological lines as well as the partisan divide, the sum of these positions does not represent what’s best for the nation in total. Their consensus largely dismisses or minimizes what’s best for a significant majority of American citizens, both in the here and now and in the future, where the inexorable forces of globalization are immune from the mythology of Emma Lazarus and the huddled masses, however resonant that mythology may have been in the past. The consensus is an elitist and well-financed projection, one that gives short shrift to the American working class and especially to the working poor---who are often recent legal immigrants, the bulk of them Hispanic--- and ignores downsides to the middle class, even its educated component, some of whom are either still unemployed or underemployed after the recession.   

This class skew is something that has been unacknowledged by both conservative and liberal commentators monitoring the reform effort. One exception is the Times’ Paul Krugman, who has not yet come out for or against the bill, but has not shied away in the recent past from acknowledging the “uncomfortable facts about the economics of modern immigration, and immigration from Mexico in particular.”  In 2006, Krugman stirred quite a bit of controversy when he wrote:

Immigration is an intensely painful topic for a liberal like myself, because it places basic principles in conflict. Should migration from Mexico to the United States be celebrated, because it helps very poor people find a better life? Or should it be condemned, because it drives down the wages of working Americans and threatens to undermine the welfare state? … I wish the economic research on immigration were more favorable than it is. 

The net benefits to the US economy as a whole from immigration were relatively small, Krugman noted, while “many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration -- especially immigration from Mexico. Because Mexican immigrants have much less education than the average U.S. worker, they increase the supply of less-skilled labor, driving down the wages of the worst-paid Americans.”  Krugman further maintained that low-skill immigrants threaten to unravel the safety net, straining budgets for essential healthcare and education for their children. Low-skill immigrants, he argues, “don't pay enough taxes to cover the cost of the benefits they receive.”  In another column, he observed that “open immigration can’t coexist with a strong social safety net; if you’re going to assure health care and a decent income to everyone, you can’t make that offer global.” (More recently, Krugman has held his fire on the current bill, but he has focused on the high rates of native worker unemployment and underemployment in the “jobless recovery,” so it’ll be interesting to see if he finally endorses the bill or not.) 

Another exception the New Republic’s John Judis, who has pointed to the way that the new bill could hurt the employment prospects of American citizens. According to Judis, the “pathway to citizenship,” included in the bill, combined with the employer mandates of Obamacare might encourage business owners to hire currently illegal immigrants over American citizens since business owners wouldn’t have to offer them health insurance until they become permanent residents, which could take anywhere between ten and fifteen years. The irony is that a provision in the new bill that was meant to deny benefits to illegal immigrants could end up depriving American citizens of jobs.

Still another New Republic writer, T.A. Frank, who maintains that high levels of low-skill immigration “are good for wealthy Americans and bad for poor Americans.” Frank goes on to say:

Far more important, high levels of illegal immigration—when you start to get into the millions, as we have—undermines unions and labor standards, lowers wages, heightens social tensions, strains state budgets, widens income inequality, subverts the rule of law, and exacerbates class divides. The effects go far beyond wages, because few undocumented workers earn enough to cover anything close to the cost of government services (such as education for their children) they require, and those services are most important to low-income Americans. In short, it’s an immense blow to America’s working class and poor.

And then there is Mickey Kaus, one more important voice acknowledging the class disparity involved in immigration reform. Kaus has been especially good at pointing out where the real world implementation of immigration reform, which has long been embraced by the progressive Democratic left, actually works against more traditional progressive and Democratic goals of class fairness and the core American ideal of social equality. 
Kaus’s business card has only the job title of “Blogger” under his name and he is that, penultimately in fact, having pioneered the genre of political blogging under the handle “Kausfiles,” first on his own, then at Slate before moving onto to Daily Beast/Newsweek for a very short time and then to the Daily Caller, where his blog now appears. But he’s also a graduate of Harvard Law School, been an editor at the Washington Monthly, Harper’s and the New Republic, and is the author of the important 1992 book, The End of Equality. Following a tradition of direct political engagement among editors of the Washington Monthly, Kaus was a deputy undersecretary in the Department of Labor during the Carter administration and ran as a candidate the California Democratic Senate primary in 2010, producing a short but very funny campaign television commercial that has had a significant viral afterlife. (“Hi. I’m Mickey Kaus. Unlike my opponent, Barbara Boxer I don’t have $10 million, so I have to talk really fast.”)

Kaus gave an interview to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) this summer, discussing some of the ways that Democrats, in embracing the current immigration reform bill are actually working at cross purposes to their working and middle class base---and are selling out the group they have long been associated with protecting: America’s poor. Amnesty and the huge immigration increases in the Senate bill, Kaus says in the interview, "will make it impossible for someone who does basic labor, at the bottom of the labor market ... to make a decent living and live a life of dignity, because you're going to be competing against all the world's poor.” He went on to say “It is crazy that there are no Democrats who wonder about the wisdom of uncontrolled illegal immigration. It has the effect of driving down wages of unskilled Americans especially, but also possibly in the case of importing high-tech people, driving down the wages of middle class people.“ The failure of Democrats to rally behind the interests of one of its traditional constituencies represents the way a politics based on preserving “ethnic identity” has trumped the larger and more important “civic identity.” 

These ideas were part of the presentation Kaus made last week in midtown Manhattan, at an occasional CIS soiree, which allows interested New Yorker to hear important figures in the immigration debate, especially policy analysts, historians and journalists who don’t get the audience they deserve. The presentation was not recorded, so there’s no link for a transcript. My handwritten notes are not in any way complete, though I’m pretty confident that I’ve gotten the thrust and some of the nuances as well.  I’ve largely paraphrased, using quotation marks only where they are exact. Kaus’ overall point is that the current reform bill really is an “amnesty bill” and that it will not strengthen enforcement in any significant way, which means that is basically sets up conditions for de facto “open borders.” This will push us past a “tipping point” (my phrase not his) which will result in a change in the “tenor” of the country altogether. 

According to Kaus:

The pressure behind immigration stems from a huge sense of entitlement on the part of a generation of Mexicans, who have gotten used to the idea that the border should be “open.”  Most Mexicans ---52% believe that they have a right to be in the US if they want, and 67% believe the US has no right to exclude them by enforcing laws or border controls. “If we pass this amnesty bill, we will only be ratifying” this sense of entitlement.

GNP might improve, we will all get servants but social equality will be lost, becoming a luxury of the past.”  Ronald Reagan said we are all equals in the eyes of God but we what we really should be is equal in the eyes of each other. “ While there is no causal connection between high rates of immigration and the erosion of the American middle class, it’s hard not to see some kind of correlation between historical curves that show a strong middle class and low rates of immigration.  

The reason why there is such a blind spot for this is the way the debate has been almost entirely dominated by special interests which joined together into a formidable coalition. “On one side are the banking lobby, the Chamber of Commerce, the GOP, labor unions, and Latino groups. On the other side: the voters.” With no real institutional identity or power. In addition to well-funded lobbyists throwing cash around the Hill, there are think tanks financed by the same pro-immigration groups, biasing the scholarship that comes out of these institutions. “If people are looking for the ill effect of money on politics, this is the example to use.”

The reason why we are not acknowledging that the bill is favoring citizens from other countries who may want to immigrate to the US over American citizens already here is that ethnic politics have trumped old political dynamics based on class or politics based on civic identity. "As I experienced during my Senate run in California, the whole debate is framed in terms of racism and diversity. Politicians can’t cross that line without paying a heavy penalty. Reagan did it but few others can. “

Unfortunately, underlying the indifference to the adverse impact the immigration reform bill will have on less educated Americans is a “scorn for people who go to work everyday but just don’t make a lot of money." This is an attitude found among many in the educated professional classes. “I hear it from people all the time: ‘These people have made bad life choices. You mean they don’t have high school degrees?’ To which I say: ‘yeah, they don’t have high school degrees.’”  
As much as the “scorn” Kaus refers to reflects rank snobbery, it also seems a reflection of the confusion we, as members of a democratic nation, have in determining the moral obligations we have to our fellow citizens, as opposed to citizens of other states. The communitarian view that one's ethical obligations should be imagined as "concentric rings" starting with the individual and moving out through family, community, and nation seems the natural order of progression. While it's fine to view the dilemma of American immigration through the lens of what might be called "humanitarian internationalism," it's morally grandiose to do this while people here are in need and the American Dream is receding right before our eyes. With the middle class so besieged and the machinery of American social mobility seizing up, we could be facing a dystopic future, as William Galston suggested in the Wall Street Journal this week in a book review with the headline “Visions of a Permanent Underclass.” Opening the door wider than the 1 million immigrants we already naturalize legally will only accelerate trends at odds with what’s best for most of the nation, and will only boost the position of an economic elite who are already more dominant than what’s good for an egalitarian democracy.