August 2007

A couple months back, I mentioned the real scandal of embryonic stem cell research: its supporters oppose effective, non-controversial stem cell research in favor of the immoral and unproven embryonic research. Now, that circle can welcome at their latest charter member. Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois has recently signed into law a bill making his $15 million in unauthorized grants for embryonic stem cell research, well, authorized. It also sets up an institute to award future grants and (of course) to encourage therapeutic cloning (an essential part of the embryonic research package).

All in all, a great victory for the destruction of human life in the service of nebulous and distant goals. And what an ally the movement has gained in Gov. Blagojevich! Already renowned for his rampant cronyism, absentee governorship, and fiscal irresponsibility, he’s recently added petty partisan sniping against his own party leadership in the legislature. “Blago” as he’s affectionately known to his many detractors, is such a paragon of empty-headed, plastic haired stupidity that he seems utterly unreal. You think he must be a fictional character, at first, until you see all the evidence. Surely, you think, anyone who makes George W. Bush look like the president of MENSA can’t be real.

But, he is, and now he’s a proud member of the illustrious political supporters of embryonic stem cell research. Well, he does join a proud pantheon of idiots. And, of course, some clearly smart people who just hate human life. And, even, a few misguided souls who actually think they’re doing the right thing.

Most importantly, he joins a growing effort to defund research making leaps and bounds for a blind leap of faith. Using human beings for research purposes is, of course, a time-honored tradition—but planning to deliberately produce, grow, and kill them for the sole purpose of research is new. And supporters shouldn’t think they’re fooling anyone with lame protestations about how funding for this research doesn’t reduce funding for other stem cell research. Of course it does. There’s a (really) limited pool of money out there, and it’s obviously pretty tight. If it weren’t, you wouldn’t need Blago’s paltry $15 million, as the embryonic guys would be swimming in cash.

In reality, of course, money is tight, and every million thrown down the homicidal maw of embryonic stem cell and “therapeutic” cloning research is one less million to spend on stem cell research that actually produces results. But that’s by design, because embryonic stem cell research isn’t about achieving short-term results, it’s about research unhindered by current moral or ethical limits. It’s about redefining “medical ethics” and humanity to allow the full range of experimentation on human beings—provided that those human beings are killed before they get too obviously human for our comfort.

Of course, as our comfort zone expands, I’m sure the bounds of “therapeutic” cloning will slide right along with it. All perfectly simple and reasonable once we’ve set ourselves up as the arbiters of which lives are really human. Nice to see all the old ways coming back again, I suppose. “Life unworthy of life” does, after all, have such a fine pedigree in so very many places. But, really, we’re going one better: our mantra won’t be unfit life, it’ll be fully commoditized and packaged life—designed, mass-produced, packaged, and ready for sale on the open market.

Once in our past, we berated the Romans for cruelly exposing their unwanted infants and the Spartans for discarding deformed children deemed unworthy of life. Now, we boldly march into a future where we will calmly grind up our deliberately produced offspring in the service of those lucky enough to get to the magic moment of birth when they somehow suddenly become worthy of life.

And, right there in front, capering in front with the other pied pipers, the empty, empty head of Blago—not a hair out of place.

UPDATED: Belatedly added link to insightful post about Blago from a fellow Angry Man.  Let the shameless site-promotion grow from more to more, and so blogger life be enriched!

The Bush Administration is hemorrhaging people these days, which, of course, is to be expected for a seventh year in an eight year term, especially one in which turnover has been so rare. It’s getting to be like the plot of an Agatha Christie novel.

Rummy got the boot back the day after the election. Rove decided he wanted to go back to Texas to powder his nose. Now Gonzo the Great has—predictably—fallen from his highwire.


Too bad it didn’t happen back in 2005 after the election, when it is quite traditional for a returning administration to let a lot of people go and with good reason. New blood… new ideas… people able to let go of the old fights…. In short, turnover in an administration is generally a healthy thing, and this one has been decidedly odd in how little happened. I’ll make some brief comments on two recent departures.

Rove leaving… well, he was an example of someone who should never have been put in the job he was in. Not because he wasn’t smart or competent at the job he had before he got his post. Like him or not (and people of the Democratic persuasion are unlikely to like him, but come on), he was obviously a bang-up PR man and campaign manager. Not because a sitting president should appoint someone that pleases the opposition. That’s silly. However, politics and policy are not the same thing. Someone who is fundamentally a politics guy is unlikely to be able to see that and, quite evidently, Rove didn’t. Furthermore, the line set by the superiors flows downstream: The people hired in Rove’s own image, e.g., lookalike Kyle Sampson, obviously had a hard time distinguishing this. When politics and policy bumped into each other, guess which won? Worse, I fear he let his press about being the smartest guy in the room go to his head. He’s also poster child for the fact that the White House staff has gotten (a) too large and (b) too powerful. (That’s a conservative position, folks!)

gonzo_small.jpg I wrote about Gonzo a while ago. Gonzo was appointed AG after the departure of John Ashcroft, one of the few people to leave the administration in 2004. At the time we heard it was due to his health but, as we’ve found out later, due also to some serious disagreements about fundamental policy issues. Many people didn’t like Ashcroft because they didn’t like his positions as a perceived hardcore social conservative. However, whatever else you might say about him, Ashcroft was his own man… he’d been Governor of Missouri and later Senator from Missouri (as well as recording a gospel album in the 1970s). He was, whether you disagreed with his policy positions or not, a person who didn’t owe his position entirely to George Bush. Gonzo was wholly a creature of the President and, had he not been attached to him, would have been someone I doubt I would have trusted to write a simple will back in Texas. In essence, he was White House staff sitting in a cabinet department. See previous.

Let’s hope that—now that the White House has to deal with a Democratic Senate, after having four years of a supine Senate unwilling to do careful oversight even though, according to Bob Novak, many Republican Senators thought Gonzo was a schmuck as early as 2001—GWB’s going to pick someone more like his more recent appointments, such as Bob Gates. Nobody’s ever accused Gates of being a disloyal Republican, but he’s first and foremost a public servant, which is what we need now more than ever. Gates has become the Republican analogue to the late Clark Clifford, who showed up in Democratic administrations when they sail dangerously close to the rocks. (Hopefully Gates will stay away from bank scandals, which almost toasted Clifford in his last days.) Glad-handing Texas schmucks with “compelling personal stories” or party hacks like the now mostly forgotten Michael Brown we don’t need and, fortunately, are unlikely to get now. The real tragedy is that the Bob Gates types—hard-nosed professionals—weren’t appointed in the first place.

The real irony is that GWB—elected representative of a party that does not like affirmative action—felt that his good old pal Al just had to get an affirmative action job…. Ah well, affirmative action for the mediocre friend or relative sure is traditional, but there’s a more precise word for it: nepotism. So ultimately, Georgy Porgy got in trouble for a lot of the same reasons Bubba did: bringing the sycophants with from back in the home state. The difference is that Bubba had the smarts to cut them loose sooner rather than later.

8-28-07: It looks like there might be a departure coming soon to a Senate near you. See Brokeback Senator.

8-31-07 This just in: Press secretary Tony Snow has also departed, to “make more money.” In this case, it’s entirely understandable given the fact that he’s got a life-threatening disease (recurrent colon cancer, poor guy) and needs to make sure things are secure for his family in the non-trivial likelihood of his dying in the next few years. Still….

It’s one of the most frightening things imaginable. You’re out one evening, minding your own business, enjoying the night air as the stars begin to poke out from behind some clouds, when you hear a low mumbling near by. “VOTES”, the cry comes, louder this time in a rumbling raspy monotone. You turn, horror filling your eyes as political party members come stumbling out of the bushes, trying their hardest to push their disassociated platform onto you to gain your vote. “VOOOTES!”, they’re closing, hemming you in on all sides, surrounding you. Your pulse quickens and you being to sweat as you realize you’ve made a critical error.

You’ve left your shotgun at home.

As much as this may sound like a scene from a B rated Hollywood thriller, it is unfortunately the state of our political system. I’m sad to say it, but our system has been overrun with political zombies. No, I’m not talking about uncharismatic politicians like John Kerry, nor brainless ones like George W. Bush, I’m talking about the endless droves of politicians and voters who mindlessly follow the drum beat of the nonsensical platforms that dominate our politics.

A quick look at Congress reveals a deep sickness in American politics, the division down the party aisle. At some point we went horribly, terribly wrong, and made politics a game of Republicans vs. Democrats, when in reality it should be an issue of all politicians from a given state working together to meet the needs of the people they represent. While it is fine for Republicans from California and Texas to occasionally rub elbows and work together, in the end representatives and senators from Texas should be sticking together for what their state needs, not what some amorphous mindless party desires.

What amazes me is the number of Americans who become bitten by the political zombie, and become political zombies themselves, mindlessly voting the party line, regardless of the candidate. All they seem to care is which faceless organization controls congress, giving no thought to the actual candidate, or the possible views the candidates might bring. Election day has been reduced to snacking on brains and moaning while mindlessly pushing red or blue for every single possibility.

The disease has affected candidates too. One would expect to see many pro-life, anti-war, anti-death penalty candidates, as the three opinions are not only compatible but complimentary. Why then do we have a glut of pro-life, pro-war, pro-death penalty folks on the right, and pro-choice, anti-war, anti-death penalty on the left? The answer is, of course, the zombified party platforms. You either march to the tune of the party line, or you find yourself unelectable.

This mindless transformation of American politics is damaging our society, our government, and our way of life. It is time we held our representatives and senators accountable for participating in partisan politics by electing some third party candidates to shake up the power structure. The next time you go to the voting booth and think of voting the party line, fight the urge to become a political zombie, vote for the best candidate, and ignore the meaningless “(D)” or “(R)” after their name. Write your politicians, tell them you’re tired of the mindless party politicos, and you demand change.

…and remember to pack a chainsaw. Zombies hate chainsaws.

-Angry Midwesterner

Hola amigos! Angry New Mexican here to talk a bit about the Land of Enchantment, and our neighbors. You see, New Mexico, the land of chile (red or green) and piñon, is a unique place. Granted, we have our problems, like crappy schools, the proliferation of pueblo casinos, and the influx of hippies in Taos and Santa Fe who drive up prices for the honest Joses like me, but overall New Mexico is a great place… except for the neighbors. Que? Let me explain.

First we have Arizona, which is like the dirty old man next door who spends his time staring sketchily out the window and muttering to himself. Like any good little kids, we just avoid him. Arizona is populated almost exclusively by retired Anglos who somehow thought that Phoenix would be paradise. And they’ve diverted enough water from the Colorado River to make their very own garden of Eden in the desert. What about Nuevo Mexico, you might say? Isn’t it a desert too? Si, compadres, but the high desert of New Mexico can actually grow things, like green chile (the non-Anglos in the audience are nodding their heads in agreement, I can tell), while plants would naturally waste away in the fiery hell-hole which is Phoenix. Besides having poor taste in places to settle, the geriatric Arizonans have a tendency to elect politicians who compulsively avoid Latinos who aren’t busy landscaping their freakishly lush yards. Barring the honorable Senior McCain, who (oddly among Arizona politicians) sees Latinos as human beings, many politicians in Arizona are fighting Don Quixote-esque battles against the illegal immigrant boogyman (he’ll deal drugs to your children and seduce your wife; the horror!). Folks like Russell Pearce and JD Hayworth seem to think that nothing screams “America” like oppressing Latinos (evidently it now surpasses both mom and apple pie). With my muchachos y muchachas in mind, I won’t say exactly what I think of these individuals, but rest assured, when they’re hitting up the geritol we’ll still be alive and voting, thank you very much.

Now we have Colorado, who I’d liken to the nice family next door who has a penchant for lavish ski vacations. Lucky for us we’re almost always invited along. Skiing in New Mexico is alright, but it’s worth the drive to Copper, Vail or Snowbird to get the real deal. I only wish that the Coloradans would stop diverting so much water from the Rio Grande (you see, the neighbor is a heavy drinker), which is decidedly not grande, if you know what I mean. Gazing at that sickly little stream which runs through the Land of Enchantment, I wonder, what did it once look like which earned it the name Rio Grande? Perhaps one day we might again know, but Colorado needs to lay off the water for us to find out.

And now we have Texas. Texas is like the neighbor who’s always sitting on his porch, cleaning his gun, minding everyone else’s business. By virtue of having the biggest house on the block, he’s cocky, obnoxious and self-righteous. If there’s a neighbor we’d want our neighborhood association to kick out, it’d be Texas. But thankfully, no matter how much he’s always talking about his gun, he’s not really good at using it. Perhaps he needs more gun control…

Exhibit #1 is the Battle of the Alamo, where the bravest Texans (and their heroic allies) needlessly wasted their lives to accomplish absolutely nothing. I’m sure that Santa Anna was laughing his head off when he found out just who his troops killed there. Heck, the swollen rivers slowed Santa Anna down more than the fools at the Alamo.

Exhibit #2: In addition to being a state full of traitors, they had the cajones to attempt to invade New Mexico. After marching through Los Cruces and bypassing Fort Craig (leaving an American army blocking the traitors’ supply lines), confederate forces took the (almost abandoned) Duke City and pushed up the Santa Fe Trail towards Fort Union. Confronted by American forces under the command of Col. Slough (1st Colorado Volunteers) the confederates fought a pitched battle in Glorietta Pass. Meanwhile, Maj. Chivington (1st Colorado) and New Mexico’s own Lt. Chaves ambushed and captured the entire confederate supply train. Without supplies and cut off from Texas by Maj. Canby (Commander, Dept. of New Mexico) at Fort Craig, the Texans beat a hasty retreat back to their home stomping grounds. The Texans would never again threaten New Mexico.

Well, that’s the neighborhood here in the Southwest… a dirty old man, the nice family next door with a bit of a drinking problem and the gun nut who can’t shoot straight. It’s a wacky place to live, but where else can I get Sopaipillas like this, hombre? It’s home and nobody’s going to take the Land of Enchantment from me. Except maybe the aliens if they show up at Roswell again…

A nation is bound together by many things, but perhaps most of all by its common culture. And a key part of culture is cuisine. Food has always been something that binds human beings together as families, communities, and nations.

So, then, what is the quintessentially American food? Most would say the hamburger, I suppose, and I sympathize with them. Others say the hot dog, and I can understand that too. But for my sake, I have to say: pizza.

“Crazy!” you might reply, “Pizza is hardly American, it wasn’t even invented here!” True enough, but it was—I argue—perfected here. And more than just being perfected in America, it was perfected in true American style: not as a single “perfect type” but as a whole host of totally different types! You don’t really have “American pizza”, you have a host of American pizzas:

And of course, leaving the best for last, the pie de resistance (as it were):

  • Chicago Style, pan, deep-dish, or stuffed, layered with toppings, cheese, and tomatoes, and baked to perfection, as presented by Pizzeria Uno (the inventor), Gino’s East, Edwardo’s, Giordano’s and so many, many more. (A heart-attack on a plate, perhaps, but that would be the Chicago equivalent of a martyr’s death.)

Many Americans, perusing the list above, will probably pick one or two examples, exalt them, and damn the rest. In my case, as with pets and women, so with pizza: quality is king and excellence comes in many forms: I’ve liked examples of every type I’ve tried (and also found atrociously bad examples of each). But whether you view just one kind as the One True Pizza, or are a shameless pizza whore like myself, you can’t deny that they’re all American classics.

Now, if America was Europe, each of these regional favorites would stay confined to its tiny niche and pride itself on its unchanging tradition. But, thank God, this ain’t Europe. So you can get New York style pizza in Melbourne Beach, Florida, and Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. You can get Chicago style pizza sent by Express Mail all over the place. And you can get the better or worse knock-offs of nearly every style from the major chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut. Sure, some of these suck, but that’s fine, they’ll die. And others claim to be “X-style” while really being innovations. That’s fine too, because if the innovations are worth a damn, they deserve to kick butt and take over. And if they aren’t, then they too will simply fade away.

This is America, where innovation and success beat slavish tradition and protectionism any day! And so I claim pizza as the most American of foods, because it embodies the American Dream:

  • it came from a foreign land to make its way in the New World
  • it was forced to adapt to new challenges and cultures but still kept hold of its roots
  • it followed the lure of a quick buck to many crazy ventures and bizarre schemes, most of which went down in flames…
  • …but some latched on to greatness, endured, prospered, and dominated entire cities and regions…
  • …only to spawn off a new generation of upstarts devoted to surpass their parents

And so, as with America, so with American Pizza: there are many American pizzas, and they are a fractious, competitive, quarrelsome bunch who don’t always get along, but they are all, truly, American.

Illinois recently joined the growing ranks of states which are banning smoking in public places. While not the historic milestone it should have been (many states have already gone through with full bans), it is a step in the right direction. Illinois is joining an elite group of states nationwide who have finally stood up for the rights of their citizens. Currently 16 states have full bans of smoking in the workplace, 20 have banned smoking in restaurants, and 14 have banned all smoking in bars. In the Midwest alone, Ohio, Illinois, and Minnesota have banned the dangerous habit, with Michigan and Wisconsin suspected to soon follow suit.

But why ban smoking? Most people view smoking bans as a sort of nanny law— a law designed to protect them from their own choices. But smoking bans aren’t nanny laws. They’re about protecting other people from your irresponsible choices. No laws to date have banned smoking in private residences, or on residential property, just in public places where your choices can adversely affect other individuals. This ban will help to reduce the 65,000 deaths annually that occur as a result of second hand smoke1; help to mitigate the increased 25-35% increase in rate of coronary death caused by second hand smoke1; and the 16-19% increase in risk of lung cancer1. This reduced incidence of health problems will also positively effect our economy. Employers will pay $1,300 less per employee for health insurance due to the decrease in secondhand smoke related effects2. Nationwide, $661 million in taxpayer dollars would be saved every year due to the use of government medical aid.2

But the ban won’t only help the health of citizens and reduce the cost to employers and tax payers, studies in states which have already conducted bans have shown that it will help improve business as well. Studies have shown that 75% percent of bar patrons rated a nonsmoking atmosphere as important to their selection of bars, and 91% said they would go to bars more frequently if smoking was completely banned2. California businesses even saw a total of 8.7% increase in growth for restaurants and bars after smoking bans went into effect2.

In the face of such a mountain of evidence on the problems second hand smoke forces onto others, many smoking supporters try to compare smoking to drinking, and claim that if smoking is banned, drinking should be too. The comparison, however, is a false one. One can drink responsibly with friends without adversely affecting their health. In fact drinking in moderation is actually good for your health. As long as those who have been drinking don’t drive, no one’s health is put in jeopardy. There is no such thing, however, as responsible smoking. Any amount of second hand smoke represents a health risk for those nearby.

It’s time for the rest of the States to take responsibility for public health and help the vast majority of their citizens who support smoking bans. Such a move will improve the quality of life we all enjoy, bring in more business to restaurants and bars, and help to reduce the tax burden we all bear as a result of the poor choices made by others. It is time to ban smoking.

-Angry Midwesterner

1 Secondhand Smoke: The Health Risks, SmokeFree Illinois
2 Secondhand Smoke: Economics, SmokeFree Illinois

When the Wall Street journal editorials have to resort to circumlocutions such as “starts with n and rhymes with ‘jigger'” in order to make reference to a language token something is terribly wrong. We have arrived at a point where language token referents are indistinguishable from the token’s connotation. I personally don’t like the word and think that the English language would be better without it, but it still is in use, primarily by the black community. And as long as its usage is prevalent, scholars and pundits should have the ability to refer to the word, with implicit Quine corners, as a referent without outrage and abuse heaped upon them (assuming the authors are Caucasian), if only in rants such as this. That this is true can been seen in this rant’s title — where WordPress filters on the whole word.

Richard Pryor, in one commentary reflected on a trip he made to Africa. “Hey Rich, look around. Do you see any niggers? (to himself). And I realized that there weren’t any. Only people. And that ‘nigger’ was a description of our own wretchedness. From that day forward I never used the work in my act.”(comment)

Language and thought are intertwined. Without the internal dialog of language, thoughts are meaningless, and the extent and variety of thoughts are controlled by the limitations imposed by language. It is said that Chinese doctors have 27 descriptions of the human pulse—a block of wood floating on the water, as an example,and that the fine gradations of the pulse assists in the diagnosis of disease, whereas a pulse to the Western diagnostician is basically strong, weak or nonexistent. The Western diagnostic thought process is limited by the language.

[Here I have to thank Angryman Mildlypiqued for pointing out that times have changed. The last time I used this argument, that was the case. Apparently, Western Doctors have caught up with the Chinese.]

In the Indonesian language, the simplicity of the structure precludes many thoughts necessary for understanding of Western technology. The hyphenated word ‘pre-position’, meaning to place an object in a certain location, requires a full paragraph in Bahasa Indonesia. Contrariwise, the second person Western word “you” expands into a complex plethora of familial and personal relationships in Indonesian.

If, as Richard Pryor suggests, the word portrays the condition of the black population’s wretchedness, then perhaps the elimination of its use will preclude the mental image of that wretchedness, elevating the black consciousness above that state. The rap and gansta musicians (used with some reserve) would do well to emulate Mr. Pryor. And the Jacksons and Sharptons would do even better not castigating analysts who attempt to point this out.

Your brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage.

Shakespeare, As You Like It

This summer I had the horrible misfortune of attending Christopher Owens’ production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” at the Virginia Shakespeare Festival. This isn’t to say that I dislike “Love’s Labour’s Lost”; I am a fan of all of The Bard’s plays. It isn’t a sign that I abhore Shakespeare Festivals; I’ve attended them in several states and always enjoyed them. It also isn’t an indication of my opinion of the Virginia Shakespeare Festival (though it is not as professional, nor as amazing as the Illinois Shakespeare Festival). No, it is more a reflection of the odious combination of Christopher Owens, the director of the VSF this year, and the previously mentioned ingredients.

You see, for some reason Chrisopher Owens, a show business nobody, thinks he is more brilliant than one of history’s greatest playwrights. Instead of putting on the production as it was intended, Mr. Owens made several monumentally bad alterations to the play. First, and least severe, he decided to “update” the play by setting it in 1910. Ok… I suppose that could work, but why? While Mr. Owens makes some vague limp comments about artistic sentiment and “period of innocence” I can’t help but wonder why he thought his setting was so much better than the original year of 1597? No matter, the worst is yet to come.

Second, and far more severe is the fact that Mr. Owens replaced all of the poetry in the play with songs from the early part of the 20th century, in effect, substituting pop trash for poetic treasures. The changes were jarring, obvious, and utterly ruined the play. To make matters worse, Mr. Owens then went through and cut large sections of the play entirely, declaring them irrelevant. Thank you Mr. Owens, but no thanks. You are not smarter than Shakespeare, so please don’t go butchering the work of a far more successful director and writer.

When asked about his changes by the Daily Press, Mr. Owens had this to say:

I think Shakespeare was trying to show off a bit, with lots of Latin references and different rhyming styles… It’s very verbose

Yes, Mr. Owens, plays by Shakespeare are verbose. He was a master of words and wrote very language driven plays. Most of us don’t think he was “showing off” but that he was attempting to entertain us with clever word choice, diction, and humor. Perhaps Shakespeare is too subtle for you to understand? You seemed to indicate as much in the program for the performance when you called Love’s Labour’s Lost a terrible play. If it was so terrible, why did you produce it? Or were you not aware of Shakespeare’s numerous other works?

Please Mr. Owens, leave Shakespeare alone. I understand that you “artistic” types like to try and justify your self importance by changing everything you can get your hands on but please, for the love of God, and all that is holy, don’t change a Shakespearean play during a freaking Shakespeare Festival! We’re coming to the festival for Shakespeare’s masterful plays, not your amateur drivel. In parting, I leave you with a quote from Shakespeare’s play All’s Well that Ends Well:

Methink’st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee.

-Angry Midwesterner

I can’t help noticing two things: The 24 hour news media , when not reporting on gratutiously stupid topics (Paris Hilton in the slammer), pick an event and salivate over it for weeks — a disappearance of this person, that child, etc. Consider the Aruba disappearance of Natalee Holloway. In this case, the mother, Beth Twitty had a motive for keeping the story alive, given the obfuscation of the Aruban authorities; however the coverage on this event exceeded any conceivable public interest in the story. It certainly generated more coverage than politics, money, sex or war. And this story is far from alone: a person watching US television news would quickly come to the conclusion that the United States is a haven for child molesters, murderers and worse.

Statistics play a role: More people — more to report. I have a hard time believing that things that occur in the modern world are any worse than what has occurred in the past. The Spanish Inquisition and Caligula come to mind. We just report them quicker and more globally. This gives rise to a belief that things are worse now. One example may be child abductions. In the past, abductions were a local matter and people living 100 miles away were never aware of the event. Now each and every one is a national matter. Are more children being abducted by strangers than before? probably not per capita; but the coverage makes it seem that way.

Which brings me to my second point: Virtually every person I have met in the last few years is on anti-anxiety medication (Prozac, Valium, Equanil, Ativan, Ataraz, Chlorazipam, etc. ) or anti-depressive medicine (Effexor, Cymbalta, Lexapro, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, ….) While this may be an exaggeration for me, it seems mostly true for men, and accurate to say this for women. Now it may be that I just hang around with the wrong type of people, but the sales figures of the various Pharmas seem to confirm this.

When the first thing a person does in the morning is to flip on the news, and get bombarded with the latest global nonsense and the completely idiotic Washington beat, one begins to wonder. Given a measure for the ‘intensity’ of the news reported and some measure of its negativity, I ask how that would correlate with anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drug sales. Likely the correlation coefficient would be quite high.

Blasted by the current 24/7 new cycle and neverending torrent of doom and crime, I fondly remember the Huntley-Brinkley report and CBS’s Walter Conkrite — an hour of news covering really important information. Just enough to get you interested in perusing your newspaper for in-depth coverage. Enough to start a conversation in the barber-shop; and enough to keep you informed on really important issues. Probably not enough to make a run to the nearest pharmacy.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“”Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!”” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

“The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus

Now that the “comprehensive immigration reform bill” has gone down in flames (reminding us that “comprehensive” is Congressese for “will piss absolutely everyone off”), it seems a good time to take a moment to think about the deeper issues in immigration. After all, before we can undertake to our immigration problems, we should probably think about what kind of nation we want to be, and what kind of stance we should take towards those who want to come here.

The United States is like no other nation on earth. More than any other nation, even Australia and Canada our colonial brothers, we have transcended ethnicity and culture to become a truly pluralistic society. We are a nation whose culture and citizenry is woven from nearly every culture and race on the planet. That reality has profound meaning for the debate on immigration, and it demands that we treat it with the respect it deserves.

The first step in doing this is to recapture a real sense of why our nation really is not just “a nation of immigrants” but “the Mother of Exiles” in those immortal words honoring the most beloved symbol of American freedom and opportunity. We need to understand why immigrants are central to our identity as a nation, and why the freest possible immigration policy is vital to our future prosperity and even to our survival.

We Americans are not, and have never been, conquerers. We “do” Empire really badly (as we’re proving yet again in Iraq). But we are, and always have been, something far more subversive and dangerous to the tyrants of the world than mere conquerers: we are Dreamers who have managed to make their Dream a reality and who invite the rest of the world to join the Dream. We must recover that central truth and once again shine forth as the beacon which draws to our shores those willing to risk all to gain all.

Our policies of openness and freedom combined with our willingness to welcome those sharing our vision from around the world have led to incredible prosperity and innovation. America is not merely the richest nation the world has ever known, it is also the most innovative. With 4-5% of the world’s population, the United States is responsible for 40% of the world’s Nobel laureates, as good a measure as any for its dominance in science and technology. Even the Internet itself and virtually all the technologies that underlie it are the product of that amazing American engine of progress and prosperity.

And all of it is a consequence—philosophically and practically—of being the Mother of Exiles. Of being not just a nation that welcomes wealthy, talented immigrants, but one that welcomes “the huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” many of whom seem at first glance to deserve being called “wretched refuse.” Why is it vital to our identity and prosperity to welcome poor immigrants coming more for economic opportunity than to escape political or religious oppression? Because it is precisely these immigrants, these poor desperate people willing to leave everything they know for just the chance of a better life, who become the torch bearers of liberty.

As anyone knows who has spoken to one of these new Americans, they know the value and cost of liberty and freedom more than most. And they’re more willing than most to work hard to achieve the American Dream. They are the vital fuel of that great engine of prosperity. And many of them have risen from poverty to the ranks of the mighty. The wealthy, the successful, and the educated should all be welcome, but—in a great paradox—it is precisely those poor and humble who are the most vital to us, because it is only they who truly appreciate the beauty, rarity, and subversive power of the American Dream.

In the months to come, I’ll examine the best arguments for limiting immigration, and explain why immigration is central to our identity as Americans and vital to our national survival. We must move beyond mere “reform” of our immigration laws to a radical revision. Our laws must again reflect the principles of the New Colossus, returning us to our rightful place as the beacon of liberty and prosperity for the world. A beacon which shines not merely to be seen, but to draw those around the world who have the courage and desire to join us in building the land which is—in the timeless words of Abraham Lincoln—the last best hope of earth.