More Guns, Less Crime

In New Jersey as elsewhere, the gun crime rate has declined as gun carry permits have sharply increased.

One point of interest in the NJ report is that black permit applicants nearly tracked their population percentage, which isn't always the case. Often black Americans have felt uncertain about joining America's 'gun culture,' which was presented by the Democratic political party to them as being the sort of place that racists and Klansmen were likely to be found. Progress would come from disarming people, they were told, and good progressives should favor that. 

As we see the chokehold of the party on the black community's vote diminishing, maybe we're seeing some more willingness to try out alternatives. Old ones, as it happens: arming and training Freedmen was one of the NRA's original missions when it was founded right after the Civil War.

Migration and its Challenges

Nearby Asheville is having soaring population growth since COVID taught Americans that (a) some of them could work from anywhere, and (b) the government would lock you down if it wanted, which sucks a lot more in a major city than it does somewhere where there is easy access to outdoor enjoyments. As a consequence -- mirroring areas like Jackson Hole and Denver, but at an even faster pace -- Asheville has had massive migration made up of rich people: the city's median income has soared 36%!

The downside to that is that prices are also soaring, as more dollars chase a more-or-less fixed amount of goods. It now costs more to live in Asheville than in Chicago or Atlanta. Even the homeless can't afford Asheville's cost of living; those who want to own a home, well, good luck with that. One of the big challenges is that the people the rich want to work for them can't afford to live nearby. The rich migrants bring tax revenue, so you can invest in schools and public transit and public safety. Your workers and their families won't profit much from this, because they'll have to live out of town -- and since they're the people you'd need to be your public safety workers and schoolteachers, it'll be hard to draw them even at relatively generous salaries. 

Meanwhile, here in a far-flung and rural county, we have a different kind of migration. My informal survey of car passengers taken whenever we have to direct traffic around accidents or fires and the like indicates that about a third of the population is now non-English-speaking Hispanic. At the last census, just four years ago, the population of Hispanics of all races was about two percent. I don't know how many of these people the census missed -- I'd guess almost none of them have legal status, and while the census is desperate to capture them it's very hard to do so. Still, plainly there has been a massive population change in these four years.

Unlike the rich people moving into Asheville who are driving out the indigenous population that they want to service them, these poor people from Latin America came to work but can't add to the tax base. As a result, a recent survey of the school system shows it under extreme strain -- it suddenly has to serve a much larger number of children than was predicted five years ago, on a tax base that if anything has shrunk due to inflation and economic hardship. 

Nevertheless, we also have a housing crisis, because these people need to live somewhere and various government agencies and charities are willing to pay for that. Thus, the cost of living here has skyrocketed even well outside the city. If you wanted to live here and commute to Asheville, you'd still find it tough to buy a home. 

Asheville gets the better deal: it at least has the ability to plan for the problem and fund those plans with increased taxes on people who can afford to pay them. Here, there's no more money to pay for increased services, but the array of service needed has suddenly increased quite a bit: for example, we need a lot of teachers, nurses, and government workers of all kinds who can speak Spanish. We don't really have any, not to speak of. Students who don't speak English still need to be taught, somehow, but that means that teachers are scrambling to try to figure out how to do that -- to the detriment of those students they were planning to teach, who get much less attention because it has to be divided. Those students were already badly served by the school system even before this crisis. Now it's struggling to feed everyone with its insufficient number of lunchrooms and kitchens. 

I've written about all this before. Notice that while language matters significantly, otherwise many of the challenges of mass migration are the same whether the migrants are rich fellow Americans or poor folk from awa'. Wealth can be a buffer, but it creates its own distortions (and indeed another wave of mass migration as current residents are driven out by rising prices). Mass migration is disruptive in and of itself
It's not really an objection to the people coming in as if they were inferior people: it's an objection to communities and cultures being destroyed, when those things are where we get almost all of the sense of meaning we derive from human life. 

A culture is defined as "a way of life." Ways of life exist among people who live together and share personal connections. You don't know and can't know everyone, but you do know the nice lady at your favorite coffee shop, or library, or bar; you know the people you met at church, or work, or school. You grew up participating in institutions like a church or the Boy Scouts or your town in your home state, with its local sports teams and friends you know from interactions around the place where you live. Together you have built a culture, and it really does depend on the stability of all those things. 

While you get a certain amount of your sense of meaning in life from philosophy or your personal engagement with religion, most of your sense of meaning and being important comes from your interactions with other people. Those are the people who are part of your culture, including your family. When the institutions, including the family, are badly disrupted you lose the connections that make your life meaningful and worth living. 

Publications are run by people who favor migration; Republican ones seem to want us to accept that this is economically rational behavior, and Democratic ones pretend it's about justice when it's really about driving down their political donors' labor costs. Leaving aside talk about crime, or race, all of this is really destructive and imposes vast costs. It's nothing personal. I like the Mexican migrants much better than the rich Yankees.* I would far rather work on my Spanish to converse with the former than have to endure listening to the latter lecturing, in perfectly good English, about how much they're going to need to change things down here so things won't be so backwards and ignorant. 

A little more cultural stability would be a good thing for everybody. I'm not suggesting that people shouldn't be allowed to move, but I am suggesting that we need a new way of thinking about all this that takes this basic human good into account. It doesn't seem to fit anywhere in our national dialogue, but it needs to because it's having significant destructive effects that we don't know how to think about, talk about, plan for, or address. 

UPDATE: A very old post from 2006 on the same topic. There's a lot of harmony in spite of the nearly-twenty years that has passed, though back before the decades of sporadic mass migration I was more open to the idea of it than I have become. The depressive effect on American wages was apparently less clear to me then, too.

* I use the term in the specific sense of 'disagreeable loud-mouthed rich folk from up North who moved down here for the weather even though they hate the South and want very much to abolish it' rather than the more respectable use intended by some of our valued and respected comrades from New England. I gather the term means something honorable there. 

The Border

On his new album, Willie Nelson covers Rodney Crowell's "The Border."

Here's the original.

Getting Past Roman Immigration

 Just in case you need to travel to the Roman empire ...

They Didn't Need Him Around Anyhow

Neil Young comes crawling back to Spotify after his alternatives also pick up the Joe Rogan podcast, which occasioned his departure as he views it as 'disinformation.' 

Pity. I was enjoying his absence. 

Misplaced Priority

Washington Post headline: "Whistleblower death compounds bad news for Boeing."

Ah, yes. "Poor Boeing!" is exactly what we all thought when we read the story of the whistleblower who 'committed suicide' right before his second round of testimony against Boeing. How unfortunate for them!

UPDATE: Whistleblower told family and friends that ‘if anything happens it’s not suicide.’

Definitely not exonerated

The spin on Hur's testimony is not impressing me, except with its gall.
MR. HUR: So during this time when you were living at Chain Bridge Road and there were documents relating to the Penn Biden Center, or the Biden Institute, or the Cancer Moonshot, or your book, where did you keep papers that related to those things that you were actively working on?
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, um .. . I , I, I, I, I don’ t know. This is, what, 2017, 2018, that area?
MR. HUR: Yes, sir.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Remember, in this timeframe, my son is either been deployed or is dying, and, and so it was and by the way, there were still a lot of people at the time when I got out of the Senate that were encouraging me to run in this period, except the President. I’m not — and not a mean thing to say. He just thought that she had a better shot of winning the presidency than I did. And so I hadn’t, I hadn’t, at this point — even though I’m at Penn, I hadn’t walked away from the idea that I may run for office again. But if I ran again, I’d be running for President. And, and so what was happening, though – what month did Beau die? Oh, God, May 30th –
MS. COTTON: 2015.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Was it 2015 he had died?
I don't doubt that the President has a sharp memory of the terrible day his son died. But no one claimed he'd forgotten the death, only that he couldn't accurately place it within a couple of years, not even by considering whether it was before or after 2017, when he stopped being Vice President. Most people can place recent presidential administrations in their proper annual timeframes, even if they weren't actually in the White House at the time. For this reason among others, Hur concluded that, although the evidence of Biden's habitual mishandling classified documents was unmistakeable, it was too much to expect a (biased, DC-based) jury to look past his obvious mental decline. Calling this "exoneration" is appalling, as is the allegation that Hur's extremely soft-pedaled description of Biden's entirely relevant decrepitude was overly harsh. Nor is it possible to argue with a straight face that Hur dragged in Beau Biden's death unnecessarily; Joe Biden popped it into the conversation in his usual manner of changing a dangerous conversational focus to a more sympathetic context. Pure squid ink.

As for Adam Schiff's take on this, if he were capable of shame, I'd say he ought to be ashamed. Even he must know the difference between including information in a special prosecutor's report that might prejudice a potential defendant's to a fair trial, versus information that might prejudice his success in a current or future political campaign. Hur rightly nailed Schiff on this point.

Purity and the Holy Grail

Tom and I were talking about purity and its discontents a while ago in a post on theology. I want to talk about it a little more, in terms of the Quest for the Holy Grail and then in terms of practical societies. The quest for purity seems like a good ethical norm at first, but it reliably leads even very good men to destruction -- and normal men to truly terrible things. 

I'm starting with the Arthurian fiction because that's what I want to think and talk about today, much more than I want to think or talk about the practical societies of today. The Arthurian vision is one that inspired me for much of my life, adding beauty and meaning to existence. The knights of the Round Table were recognizably human, motivated by love and lust, family and kinship bonds that occasionally contested with their bonds of political loyalty or honor, virtues and vices. Yet they were recognizably good men, too, in spite of their flaws. Their society led men to strive for what was good and just, and to sacrifice of themselves to realize that kind of goodness and justice that was capable of being realized in the world. Their adventures nearly always began with an appeal from someone who had been wronged, and involved them striving and sacrificing to bring about a just ending to the adventure. 

So when they were granted a vision of the Holy Grail, most of these knights decided to go on that adventure too. It was a divine vision, one that called them to achieve the very highest things, things that could only be achieved through actual human perfection. As a consequence, the Round Table was destroyed, most of the knights killed or savaged; in Malory the few who proved good enough all died, one of them because he prayed to God to be allowed to die to avoid having to return to the impure world. In other versions Perceval achieves the Grail, but alone and only through tremendous suffering (the name per ce val seems to mean 'through the valley,' i.e. the famous one from the 23rd Psalm). Sometimes he dies afterwards, too.

In later literature partly inspired by all this, Fritz Leiber has a wizard tell his heroes: 

"Never and forever are neither for men/
You'll be returning again and again."

So too perfection and actual purity, which belong in Christian theology only to God. Like "never" and "forever," these perfections exist in the realm of ideas rather than in the real world. The character of Galahad in Malory is a kind of blasphemy because he is an imagination of what Lancelot might have been like if he had been morally perfect. Galahad is Lancelot's son, conceived ironically out of wedlock; but the king's daughter who was Galahad's mother tricked Lancelot by enchantment into thinking she was Guinevere. Now that means that Lancelot didn't conceive his son while intending to commit the sin that he was committing, only a different sin of which he wasn't actually guilty (i.e. adultery with Guinevere); and somehow this is as close as Lancelot can get to a blameless union. His son, who descends on his mother Elaine's side from the lineage, King Pelles', that is associated with the Grail's keeping, is therefore allowed to be perfect. Perceval, more human, does not end up having as good a time in search of the Grail.

Yet all these sinful knights had been having a wonderful time up until this quest for perfection. They went from success to success in their wars, until no more wars needed to be fought. Then they had joyous tournaments and feasts, punctuated by occasional and successful quests for practical justice. The striving appropriate to the human condition -- as opposed to the devotion to true metaphysical perfection that is impossible for men -- brought about Aristotelian flourishing, eudaimonia, happiness.

"Was it something I thought?"

PowerLine asks this question about a City Journal article by Martin Kulldorff, formerly of Harvard University and the CDC, who lost both positions by committing heresy.

What Harvard and the CDC lost was their credibility.

Firefighters and Hussars

There's a commonplace in Russian humor about Hussars, cavalrymen whose lives of adventure and danger -- and livestock -- have given them a straightforward manner of speaking, one that clashes with the sensitivities of the nobility.

This theme culminates in the following joke, sometimes called "the ultimate Hussar joke":

Countess Maria Bolkonskaya celebrates her 50th anniversary, the whole local Hussar regiment is invited, and the Countess boasts about the gifts she has received: "Cornet Obolensky presented me a lovely set of 50 Chinese fragrant candles. I loved them so much that I immediately stuck them into the seven 7-branch candlesticks you see on the table. Such auspicious numbers! Unfortunately there is a single candle left, and I don't know where to stick it..."  
The whole Hussar regiment takes a deep breath... but the Hussar colonel barks out: "Hussars!!! Silence!!!"

Rather a similar situation going on in New York just now. What were those people thinking, putting a vain and sensitive politician in front of a bunch of firefighters?

Imagining LotR as 1950s Hollywood

Here’s a good use of these graphics AIs. What a film this might have been, had the timing been right to make it. 

The Rats are all High

New Orleans police have a rat problem, which has created an evidence problem. 

The Scariest of All

One animal frightens the beasts of Africa even more than lions. 

Small wonder. 

The Numbers Aren't Real

Now this is an interesting argument, with graphs to back it up: the Gaza numbers aren't real.

Even if you take the numbers at face value, they put paid to the idea that this represents a 'genocide' by the Israelis; 30,000 is 0.2% of the Palestinian population, after four months of fairly intense urban warfare. If they really wanted to wipe out the 14MM people, they'd need to be working a lot harder at it than this. 99.8% of them are still alive, even if we accept the Gaza Health Ministry's numbers.

But we shouldn't, as the article lays out. The mathematical anomalies are such that the numbers look invented, not natural.

Brutality in Philosophy: An Appreciation

A columnist named Kathleen Stock has penned a piece on what's wrong with academia, which she summarizes as a failure to replace the kind of professors who would destroy each other's weak arguments. 
In academic publishing too, there was scope to be savagely biting. In battles over theories of mind, one might find Colin McGinn feuding bloodily in the reviews section with Ted Honderich: “This book runs the full gamut from the mediocre to the ludicrous to the merely bad”, began one notorious review...
I also come out of the more spirited tradition of creative destruction in philosophy, which remains in force in some schools. It was once thought crucial to get over the distress of having your ideas savaged by professors with keen wits and tongues alike; you would learn to make better arguments by seeing what was weak in what you already thought. I remember one distraught young woman being approached after such a savaging by the professor, who asked, "If you had argued the other side, I'd have come at you just as hard." It's nothing personal; it was the job. 

I recommend her article for its insight; also this one of hers, which addresses a question we used to argue over quite a lot back in the early days. That question was whether or not there was a 'female brain,' appreciably distinct from a 'male brain,' and what it might mean if there were. Those of you who remember the grand feuds we used to have at Cassandra's place will find that the two pieces line up: she and I used to go hammer-and-tongs at each other's ideas, without ever failing to respect and honor each other personally. That was the spirit of the thing, back in the old days when this blog was headed by a quote from Chesterton's "The Last Hero":
How white their steel, how bright their eyes! I love each laughing knave,
Cry high and bid him welcome to the banquet of the brave.
Yea, I will bless them as they bend and love them where they lie,
When on their skulls the sword I swing falls shattering from the sky.
The hour when death is like a light and blood is like a rose, --
You never loved your friends, my friends, as I shall love my foes.

Perhaps there was wisdom in that.

Tennessee River

We live in the birthplace of headwaters. The creek that runs by my house joins the Tuckasegee river, which flows to the little Tennessee and thus to the Tennessee, Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. Just a few miles away is the headwaters of the Chatooga, which flows to the Savannah and the Atlantic Ocean. Likewise the headwaters of the Pigeon, which joins the mighty French Broad River; and likewise the French Broad itself, which originates in forks within a few miles of my home. 

To love a land is to know its rivers, their origin, course, and rifts. You’ll know a man who loves his country when you meet one who can tell you how its rivers flow.