Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Whack Fight! Lionesses of the Right Scratch It Out Over Immigration


Today's Brooks blather goes paw-to-paw with Ross's recent piece on immigration reform. It's a battle of obscure social science references! Meowwwww!

It's an obvious rebuttal to Ross, but for some reason Brooks is unwilling or unable to say something like, "Notwithstanding the arguments of my protege and lunatic-fringe colleague Ross Douthat ..."

Take That! Or Not.

C'mon! You guys are supposed to be fighters, scrappers. Let's mix it up a bit!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Deep Down, Douthat Is Pretty Shallow

Ross Douthat must be a David Brooks protege. He's certainly adopted Brooks's penchant for making broad, provocative, icky ideological assertions unsupported by evidence beyond references to research that he doesn't seem to have read.

This technique is on display in his latest piece for the NYTimes, in which he argues, more or less, that Mexican immigrants are incapable of assimilating, so we shouldn't let any more of them in, and while we're at it, let's put the kibosh on Hispanic immigration in general.

It's Them Mexercans

He says the main immigration-reform proposal in Congress misapprehends two key points: "the assimilation patterns for descendants of Hispanic (particularly Mexican) immigrants and the socioeconomic disarray among the native-born poor and working class."

"Conservatives," he continues, "have long worried that recent immigrants from Latin America would assimilate more slowly than previous new arrivals — because of their sheer numbers and shared language, and because the American economy has changed in ways that make it harder for less-educated workers to assimilate and rise."

He Don't Need No Stinkin' Data

Douthat refers to, but doesn't actually cite, an 11-year-old study by the Public Policy Institute of California, Falling Behind or Moving Up? The Intergenerational Progress of Mexican Americans, and a more recent book by two UCLA sociologists, Generations of Exclusion (2009), to make the case that Mexicans just aren't getting with the American program, so let's just slooooow this immigration-reform train down.

He breezily pins the blame on the old standards: In addition to all that "socioeconomic disarray among the native-born poor and working class," there's "family breakdown [and] weakening communal ties" in the U.S. generally, and Mexican-Americans' "shared language" in particular, the ironically unspoken implication of this latter point being that because they're speaking Spanish and not English at home, the Mexican-American children are at a disadvantaged in an English-speaking economy and society.

If Only

That would be a good point, but it's not supported at all in the research Douthat cites. The 2002 study is focused almost exclusively on the links between educational attainment and economic progress and virtually nothing about "socioeconomic disarray," "family breakdown" or "weakening communal ties."

Instead, "Consistent with prior findings on minority-white attainment differentials, we find that family income plays an important role, explaining as much as 75 percent of the white-Mexican graduation gap."

It says the language spoken at home is an "insignificant" factor in high school graduation rates for Mexican American students; for "U.S.-born and near-native students ... speaking Spanish at home appears to confer no particular disadvantage on Mexican Americans."

Yeah, But ...

As for the 2009 book by the UCLA sociologists, Douthat says almost nothing other than that they discovered "stagnation and slippage for descendants of Mexican immigrants during the second half of the 20th century."

True. But they also found, according to the publisher's description, that "institutional barriers [are] a major source of Mexican American disadvantage. Chronic under-funding in school systems predominately serving Mexican Americans severely restrains progress. Persistent discrimination, punitive immigration policies, and reliance on cheap Mexican labor in the southwestern states all make integration more difficult."

Their prescription? Tighter immigration requirements? Stronger communal ties? Less Spanish and more English at the dinner table?

Nyet, Nyet, Nyet and Nyet

Instead, they authors call for "providing Mexican American children with the educational opportunities that European immigrants in previous generations enjoyed. The Mexican American trajectory is distinct -- but so is the extent to which this group has been excluded from the American mainstream."

If Now Them, Then Whom?

We know a few things:

  • Native-born birthrates are insufficient to keep our workforce competitive, so we either bring in more people from elsewhere or accept that we're screwed.
  • Education is the key to long-term economic and social success for individuals, communities, economies and societies, particularly pluralistic, democratic societies.
  • Higher rates of educational attainment are associated with lower rates of infant mortality, better personal health, cleaner environments, happier people, and more peaceful and prosperous societies.
  • The earlier kids start school, the better they do in school and life, and that the best way to achieve this is universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

A smart guy like Ross Douthat might want to read some of those studies. Or just read the studies he cites a little more closely.

Postscript: Brooks has a rebuttal today that conflicts with Douthat on just about all the key assertions, including language and generational progress. Oooh! Whack Fight!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ron Who?

Ah, the depth and brilliance of our Republican senators is on such wonderful display in this story.

There's Kelly Ayotte, with this penetrating, clear-eyed Yankee insight: “This is obviously an important issue."

And the ever puzzling Climate Hoax Inhofe, seen here fulminating against the parents of Newtown's slaughtered children for having the temerity to participate in the process when, after all, this gun debate thing "has nothing to do with them and they know that."

Kudos to Ron Johnson -- I know: Who? -- for defiantly asserting that he "took an oath to uphold the Constitution." Perhaps one day he'll take an oath to read the thing, too.

And of course, we are elevated by the meditations of that profile in courage Rob Portman, he who changed his position on gay marriage only after his son came out. Senator Portman remains wracked and undecided on this issue that has been debated for, oh, 50 years. Presumably, his vote will depend on whether a family member is shot by a nut with a gun before the roll is called.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Brooks Gives Wall Street a Hand Up

In his column on Obama's second inaugural address, Brooks writes the following absurdity:

"I am not a liberal like Obama, so I was struck by what he left out in his tour through American history. I, too, would celebrate Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall, but I’d also mention Wall Street, State Street, Menlo Park and Silicon Valley. I’d emphasize that America has prospered because we have a decentralizing genius."

It's so hard to take David Brooks seriously. Does he really think that Wall Street and Silicon Valley haven't gotten enough attention and public benefit over the past 12 years or, in the case of Wall Street, over the past 200 years? Our economy and public policy are built around Wall Street's needs.

Out of whack

The whole point of Obama's focus on things other than Wall Street, etc., is that public policy has been so disastrously weighted toward Wall Street for so long that we need a determined, sustained effort to recalibrate. Wall Street and Silicon Valley are doing just fine. They don't need marquis treatment in a presidential inaugural address. The rest of society could use a little attention.

Who are you?

It's not clear that David Brooks knows, himself, what he believes. His intellectual conflict is on full display in this column, which is really two columns. The first half is praise for progressivism; the second half is an attack on progressivism.

David, please settle your internal conflicts before dragging readers through your inability to decide who you are and what you believe. Right now, you're everything and nothing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Oh, Please

Of course, none of these rational, reasonable, nonthreatening views were expressed by any Republican with a platform over the past 2 years.

Look at Me! Look at Me! Ain't I Smart?

Anyway, the important point is that David Brooks reads a lot and is a really smart guy. Zzzzzz.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Big Announcement

We have a big announcement today: We are now adding Ross Douthat as an honorary fool. In today's column, Douthat asserts that

  • Hispanics aren't assimilating into American culture or society or something else undefined, "or worse, [they] are assimilating downward, and that Democrats swoop in like vultures with government support -- those Romney gifts that buy votes

  • single women live "insecure and chaotic" lives, and that Democrats swoop in like vultures with government support -- those Romney gifts that buy votes

  • the typical "non-churchgoing" American is "often an underemployed working-class man whose secularism is ... a symptom of his disconnection from community in general," which presumably makes him vulnerable to the Democrats, who swoop in like vultures with government support -- those Romney gifts that buy votes
Blame the Infidels

Even assuming those fellatious arguments are true, what are Republicans doing for all those insecure, underemployed, undereducated, disconnected women, minorities and laborers? Apparently not as much as the Democratic vultures who swoop in to help them with that creepy thing called the social safety net. Douthat's solution, of course, is to return to the 1950s and send everyone to church, got molested, hitched, then divorced and alienated from their kids, whom they sent to Vietnam, where it all went to shit.

What an Asshole

"Democrats assume their newly emerged majority is a sign of progress rather than decline." Read: Anyone who doesn't vote Republican is for social degeneracy.

If this keeps up, we'll have to change the brand to BrooksandDouthatAreFools.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cognitive Dissonance, Cognitive Disorder

Today's column is perhaps the fullest expression of the sloppiness and inconsistency of Brooks's political thinking. He applauds

  • "the scale of his ambitions, the scope of his grand plans"
  • his call for “an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics"
  • "the scale of his ambitions, the scope of his grand plans
He even acknowledges that "[i]n some ways, President Obama has lived up to the promise of that day. In office, he has generally behaved with integrity and in a way befitting a man with his admirable character."

"In moral terms, he hasn’t let us down. If he’s re-elected, his administration would probably remain scandal-free. Given the history of second terms, that is no small thing."

Hold Your Neck. Here Comes the Whiplash

But he's voting for Romney.


Oh, because Obama had to trim his ambitions to meet the treasonous obstinacy of the Republicans, who would rather sink the economy and the country than see the nigger succeed.

Brooks has the chutzpah to accuse Obama of running "one of the most negative campaigns in history, aimed at disqualifying his opponent." Has Brooks not noticed that Romney is a psychopathic liar? Name your issue: auto bailout, RomenyCare, taxes, abortion, coal plants, Medicare, Iran.

It would be impossible to predict what policies you could reasonably expect to get with Romney other than all of them, because he's taken every side on every issue.

But he's your guy?

Have You No Shame? At Long Last, Have You No Shame?

Brooks is as empty and intellectually dishonest as his candidate. And that's saying a lot.

Evidently, it's Obama's own fault that he's judged by a higher standard because "his innate ability justifies that high standard. These are the standards he properly set for himself."

Please, NYTimes, dump this empty suit.