More on Immigration and Europe

More on Immigration and Europe:

The National Interest has a piece that suggests that Europe is necessarily becoming more Islamic... but, as a tradeoff, the near Islamic world is becoming more like Europe. (H/t: Arts & Letters Daily).

That is the conclusion; but the argument looks at differences in how the various parts of Europe, especially Britain and France, got where they are today. Here is an interesting passage.

THE IMPERIAL experience serves as a backdrop to the markedly contrasting ways that London and Paris have approached the immigration dilemma. France has created an intermingled culture, which is being forged on a daily basis between the native Gaul and the immigrant Arab and Berber. It revolves around two French obsessions: the bed and the dinner table. Your average young Muslim girl is interested in living and having children with a French gouer, a North-African colloquial term meaning “infidel”—i.e., non-Muslim. (Gouer is itself a corruption of the classical Arabic kuffar, used in immigrant slang to designate a French native. They are also known as fromage, or “cheese”—ironically the same synecdoche that was used in the neocon-coined “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.”) These women would loathe the very idea of an arranged marriage to a fellah (peasant) cousin from the far away bled (North Africa) with his unrefined manners and pedestrian French. By the same token, the most popular national dish of France—the country of gastronomy par excellence—regularly confirmed by opinion polls, is couscous, the semolina-based traditional dish of North Africa, now fully assimilated by French palates.
There's something of the same thing going on with us and Mexico, although that is more to our advantage than this may be to Europe's. Salsa has surpassed ketchup as our favorite condiment. How much does that show that we are becoming more like Mexico? Does it go any distance at all to showing that Mexico is becoming more like us?

Yet read on; there are some interesting arguments about the history of British and French colonialism, and their consequences for how modern Islamic immigration interacts with those states.

Merry Men

Merry Men:

So, did you see it?

There's probably still time to find a theater where it is playing.

RIP Coleman

An Icon Passes:

It would probably be difficult to explain to someone, even a few years younger than I am myself, why Gary Coleman was important. It just happened to be the right moment for someone like him; and he filled it with grace.

Of course, being accompanied by Ms. Erin Gray could only help a man to appear in his best light.

Money Comes From Where?

Where Does the Money Come From?

Say, who's paying for all this stuff that drives up the National Debt?

By the way, where does the government get the money to fund all these immensely useful programs? According to a Fox News poll earlier this year, 65 per cent of Americans understand that the government gets its money from taxpayers, but 24 per cent think the government has “plenty of its own money without using taxpayer dollars.” You can hardly blame them for getting that impression in an age in which there is almost nothing the state won’t pay for.
Thus, it turns out that the answer to this riddle is even more obscure than it seems.
A pocket-hole that grew so large,

A giant couldn't eat it.

A cache of gold that never was,

But nonetheless depleted.
I thought that last line was a well-formed riddle.



What constitutes a wise immigration policy? We normally speak of the issue in terms of illegal immigration, but we also do have the right to choose to admit people lawfully. Every year we do so, and often gain by it.

Today Victor Davis Hanson writes that Europe is hungry for the chance.

If we revised immigration policy and predicated legal entry on education and skill, ten million Europeans would arrive tomorrow, replete with degrees, expertise, and capital. There is a great unease over here, mostly in worry that no one knows the extent of aggregate debt, only that it is larger than let on and will result in higher taxes and fewer benefits without resulting in budget surpluses. It is always difficult for a government to ask its citizens to pay more than ever, receive less than ever, and end up nevertheless with greater debt than ever. We’re next.

Here and there a few Germans seem to wonder what Obama is doing, but they are torn: “We are flattered the U.S. wants to emulate our system” versus “Why would you wish to get yourself into the jam we are in?”
If we revised immigration policy in that way, what would be the benefits and disadvantages? What would we gain, and what would we lose?

Zereldas Ogre

This childhood book of mine probably explains a lot about about my enjoying Grim's Hall so. I was reminded of the book by the photo of Coq au Vin and Grim's sister.  Every couple of days we will have story time. It will not compete with Eric's more erudite selections, but I hope it will hold your attention nonetheless.

Ev & Creativity

"Evolution & Creativity"

An interesting article, which T99 cited over at Cassandra's place, is this one from the Wall Street Journal. Piercello will like it, with its notion that the quality of mental evolution is emergent. Joe will like it, with its positive view of the future! What I find so interesting, though, is this:

Human evolution presents a puzzle. Nothing seems to explain the sudden takeoff of the last 45,000 years—the conversion of just another rare predatory ape into a planet dominator with rapidly progressing technologies. Once "progress" started to produce new tools, different ways of life and burgeoning populations, it accelerated all over the world, culminating in agriculture, cities, literacy and all the rest. Yet all the ingredients of human success—tool making, big brains, culture, fire, even language—seem to have been in place half a million years before and nothing happened. Tools were made to the same monotonous design for hundreds of thousands of years and the ecological impact of people was minimal. Then suddenly—bang!—culture exploded, starting in Africa. Why then, why there?

The answer lies in a new idea, borrowed from economics, known as collective intelligence: the notion that what determines the inventiveness and rate of cultural change of a population is the amount of interaction between individuals.
Yes! And yet, no.

I don't want to downplay the fascinating quality of the idea, which doubtless has a great deal of merit. It is surely right for a vast number of cases. What it isn't is a unified field theory. I'll give you two reasons.

First, it doesn't explain cases like the Black Death. The extraordinary progress that followed the Black Death occurred even though the number of interactions between individuals was sharply reduced -- as, indeed, was the number of individuals. These population cutbacks are not always a disaster for the rate of creativity or inventiveness: it is necessity, not trade, that has normally be called the Mother of Invention. Too, because the Black Death disrupted social structures and allowed for social mobility and better competition among workmen, it opened avenues of creativity that were not available before.

Second, the theory fails to account for the thing it set out to account for: the mystery of human evolution. Taking the theory at its best face, it offers a useful way of thinking about one factor in the rate of human creativity. It doesn't, however, explain why this "warlike ape" experienced evolution and creativity so differently from any other creature -- regardless of that other species' population size, or the length of its generations. "Trade" isn't adequate; other primates, at least, trade both goods and services (or goods for services, as for example food for sex). Why didn't they jump on the exponential ramp to Beethoven's 9th Symphony?

Indeed, the problem with this explanation is that it doesn't explain. It may help to understand why the last 45,000 years went differently than the previous millions, but it doesn't explain why it happened to be the case that trading goods and services suddenly kicked into an entirely different mode at some moment about 45,000 years ago. It also doesn't explain why it did so only for one species.

Finally, it doesn't explain the categorical difference in creativity that was already extant.
Recently at Pinnacle Point in South Africa, Curtis Marean of Arizona State University found evidence of seafood-eating people who made sophisticated "bladelet" stone tools, with small blades less than 10 millimeters wide, and who used ochre pigments to decorate themselves (implying symbolic behavior) as long as 164,000 years ago. They disappeared, but a similar complex culture re-emerged around 80,000 years ago at Blombos cave nearby. Adam Powell of University College, London, and his colleagues have recently modeled human populations and concluded that these flowerings are caused by transiently dense populations: "Variation in regional subpopulation density and/or migratory activity results in spatial structuring of cultural skill accumulation."
What other species engages in "symbolic behavior"? Mankind creates art wherever it goes; if there is a single quality that defines us, it is creativity, that artistic nature. No other species does this. A crow decorates its nest with shiny things it finds, but it does not fashion shiny things in pursuit of some artistic vision. A chimp strips bark from a branch to make a better ant-catching tool, but it doesn't develop pigments meant to paint itself for rituals.

That is the real thing that needs explaining, and we are no closer with "trade" than we were before. That's not to say it's useless; I suspect this adds quite a bit to our understanding of the mechanism. What it doesn't explain is the cause. Telling me that we grew great because we learned to trade goods doesn't explain those species that trade goods without growing great; and telling me it was because we learned to trade art doesn't explain how we ever came to make, or to value, art. When we know that, we'll have learned something.

The Fifth Branch...

[T}he existence of the ‘fifth branch of the Mabinogi’, Amaethon uab Don, was unsuspected until very recently, when a hitherto-unknown medieval Welsh manuscript was discovered in the library of Judas College, Oxford. The MS itself is of a decidedly heterogenous character. It contains a series of verse prayers, a version of the ladymass, and a partial collection of legal triads. Unusually, a significant amount of agricultural material is also found in the MS, in the form of a list of activities to be performed by the farmer according to the months, and a tract on the diseases of livestock.
The earlier-known branches include some of the oldest references to Arthur, Guinevere and the heroics of their warriors.


The Merry Spring:

I remember that once I read a piece by a farmer, who was writing about environmentalists; he said that, in his experience, they failed entirely to understand nature with their focus on preservation. Farming was as close to living with the land as a man could get, and it was all about killing. The land will grow anything. If you want it to grow a particular thing, you spend a small time planting, and a long time killing. You kill the weeds that compete with your crop. You kill the animals that eat your crop. You kill insects, you kill molds and mildews, you kill, kill, kill.

So that's what I spent my day doing. Killing! Today I was mostly killing baby cedar trees, trying to reclaim some land for pasture that had been overtaken by the things. We have one giant cedar, but each cedar puts out millions of seeds; and of these, some hundreds are fruitful. There's a lesson in that mathematics for each of you, in whatever undertaking you care about.

Yet along comes me, and wipes out the few hundred that were fruitful. And perhaps there is a lesson there, as well: the Lord giveth, and some cowboy comes and takes it away.

(But be not too bold, for perhaps it is the other lesson: "And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.")

It was a good day.

The Feast of Pentecost

The Feast of Pentecost:

Today was Pentecost, the 'fiftieth day' after Easter, on which the Holy Spirit was supposed to have descended upon the Apostles. It is the key feast of the year in Arthurian tales, especially in Malory; Arthur is supposed to have required the knights of the round table to reswear their oaths at each feast of Pentecost. I'll render the piece from the Middle English:

[Arthur] charged them never to do outrage nor murder, and always to flee treason; and to give mercy unto him that asked mercy, upon pain of forfeit of their worship and the lordship of king Arthur; and always to do ladies, damsels, and gentlewomen and widows service, to strengthen them in their rights, and never to force them, upon pain of death. Also, that no man fight a duel they knew was wrong, neither for love nor for worldly gain. So unto this were all knights sworn who were of the Table Round, both old and young. "And every yere so were the[y] swome at the high feste of Pentecoste."

So they were sworn; and Tennyson imagines the oath so:
Then the King in low deep tones,
And simple words of great authority,
Bound them by so strait vows to his own self,
That when they rose, knighted from kneeling, some
Were pale as at the passing of a ghost,
Some flush'd, and others dazed, as one who wakes
Half-blinded at the coming of a light.
Yet the company was forgiving. Arthur himself violates this oath on at least one occasion, by taking battle in a quarrel he knows is wrong to obtain his liberty from imprisonment; this is when he fights for Sir Damas, whom he knows to be a false knight and yet who has him in his power. This seems not to have led to any questioning of the king's honor, for he was victorious in combat; his prowess, I suppose, sustained his honor, as did the fact that he enforced justice once he was at liberty and again with sword in hand.

The other feature of the high feast of Pentecost was that Arthur would not go to dine until he had seen some wonder or adventure. That custom is the launching point of several of the greater stories of Le Morte Darthur.

For today's adventure, we spent the morning at the Warrior's Dash, a 5K race coupled with a mild obstacle course. It was a pleasant morning, although I frustrated my running partner, who was also my sister. I didn't realize I was doing it, but she complained afterwards to our mother that we never had any hope of getting a good time, as 'my partner, such a gentleman, was forever stopping to assist women with whatever troubles they were having on the obstacles.' I think it was only three times, and surely couldn't have cost us much time; and anyway, I'm not much of a distance runner anymore, as I warned her before we began. But perhaps she understood this, and was really just using the appearance of a complaint to pay a compliment to our mother.

We finished strong, leaping over the blazing fires at the end of the course. We also feasted, later. It was fun.

Pity about the beer, though. Normally part of the sport is that they have free beer for the runners, but alas! Georgia on a Sunday.

Within Minutes

"Within Minutes"

People sometimes say, "When seconds count, the police are only minutes away." Apparently that's true even if you're already in their jail: