Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Immigration Bill is Dead! Long Live the Immigration Bill!

So the Immigration Bill died on the floor of the Senate today. What a great outcome. I feel very strongly about the need for a complete reform of our immigration code and I was furious with many of the provisions in this piece forward by the bipartisan group of Senators. The path to citizenship was not clear at all and provisions such as requiring Z-visa aliens to "touch home base" (i.e. return to their country of origin) or the $500 fee for the visa (processing not included), plus a $2,000 fine, plus 3 years back taxes were self-defeating. What illegal immigrant can afford $2,500+?

I wish the problems with immigration in this country were solved, but I am willing to take a good solution over an immediate one. That is probably even more likely now.

I'm special

As I began to spaz before starting Grad School, I realized the following:
I am smart. I really am. I can think creatively and rigorously. According to my SAT scores I am in the 95 percentile.
Let's assume that is true, and there are only 5% of people who are smarter than I. That leaves roughly 350 million, individual, unique, free and autonomous agents (assuming the population of the world at 7 billion) who are better at whatever it is that I consider myself good at.
I shudder to think how I rank with regards to things I am not particularly good at, like community service, etc. Coming off a week of graduations and people being told they are unique and special, 350 million really puts subjectivity in a different light.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Synthetic Myths

How can one judge a good myth? What makes a myth strong and powerful is very difficult to discretely identify, but the properties of a strong myth would seem to be slightly less vague. A good myth is trafficable such that it does not loose efficacy in a different time or space. The Jeffersonian myth of American federation would appear to be one of those good myths. Whether in a classroom or on a farm, in a courthouse or in battle, Americans internalize the story of their founding, and the values such as liberty, freedom and felicity that it radiates.

For the last half decade I have fervently challenged the notion that Palestinian nationalism was a false (i.e. weak) myth. The fact of the matter is, I would argue, if people say they are Palestinian, they are Palestinian irrespective of historical evidence to the contrary. The events of the past six days in Gaza are leading me to challenge this dogma.

Dennis Ross mentioned
the "three state solution" this week (Israel, the West Bank and Gaza) but dismissed it out of hand. I believe he did this more out of a pragmatic approach to politics than a reasoned one. The factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah reveal a very live and significant rupture between the two societies. The West Bank and Gaza are very different in their social, religious and economic composition, and it is beginning to appear as if they are more different than they are similar. That coupled with the geographic divide between the two stretches of land makes the eventual confluence of these two cultures seem only that much more remote. I agree with Mr. Ross that a two state solution might be more convenient, but I don't know if it should be more possible.

And here is where I feel Palestinian myth wears thin. Its claim is too bold and too recent--many who are alive today still remember when this narrative was being composed. While Palestinians may have self-identified for many years, the ability to forge a national identity, one that is beyond self-identification (meta-self-identification, as it were) only began in the '70's with Yassar Arafat. When this myth is now threatened and forces rise which seek to subvert this story to Egyption-Qutbist ideologies, the people, qua nation, does not rise to combat this perill. When liberty was at risk in America, brother rose up against brother to ensure that a nation constituted of the people and by the people shall not perish from this earth. The fact that American myth was strong enough to sustain the country through the war between the states and narrate history through the waters of national despair is indicative of its fastness. I fear that the synthetic nature of the Palestinian myth is evidence through the wear of this resolve.

Friday, June 08, 2007

NPR on UChicago

David Brooks said of the immigration bill this week:
I agree with E.J. [Dionne] on this, [the immigration bill is] brilliant but not lovely. Sounds like my college classmates. UChicago folks.
It's official.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

For know what is above you...

...a watchful eye, a listening ear and a book in which all your deeds are written. (Avot 2:1, loose translation)

Amnesty International seeks to make literal this mishna when it launched today. The conflict in Darfur is, unfortunately, very complicated with many facets (alot of ins, alot of outs). By posting satellite imagery of troubled hotspots in Darfur, Amnesty hopes to dissuade the Sudanese government's role in genocide by allowing people around the globe to see images of the conflict from above.

While I think there is what to be desired in this technology (I would like to see better resolution and more real time imagery. At this stage the images are still too vague to reconstruct a serious portrait of the real-time conflict) this appears to be a wonderful idea in concept. Offering global transparency to international conflicts allows a method for real oversight (quite literally). Obviously such technologies can be distorted to infringe on privacy, but for now this appears to be a creative solution to an otherwise ongoing mess.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Terrorists of Yester Year

After watching POTC 3 for the second time it occurred to me that pirates of the 18th and 19th centuries might be a close analog to contemporary terrorists. They were rouge bandits, acting in only very loose collaboration with one another, but collectively posing a severe threat to both commercial and passenger vessels. Pirates were known for being ruthless, having no dignity for human life and showing little compassion (although much of that perception is, no doubt, exaggerated). Yet, the pirate threat was all but eradicated in the 20th century. How? If I had more time I might try to look into the historical and political dimensions of the pirate threat, and how it was eventually quashed.