Archive for April, 2012

More on Mohammed

April 30, 2012
Muhammad riding the Buraq; a 16th-century Pers...

Was he real?

I see that Robert Spencer‘s new book, Did Mohammed Exist?, is now available for the Kindle. That’s great! I will get it as soon as I can. Meanwhile I thought it might be interesting to have a look at the one-starred reviews. As I mentioned once before, the best way to judge the quality of a book on a controversial subject is to take a look at how hysterical the one-starred reviews by liberals who haven’t actually read the book get. By that criterion, Did Mohammed Exist? is really good.

As of this writing there are seven one-starred reviews. Here are the first two.

This is pure garbage from some Islamaphobic ignorant moron!
Throw as much BS out there and hopefully the layman or even better an uneducated hate spewing follower will believe this trash..

SPENCER go back to your hole and the rest of the new generation on Nazism

There is no merit to a book about the Prophet Muhammad unless it’s written by a serious objective scholar that has been peer-reviewed. Mr. Spencer has no such qualifications. He purports to use the works of other scholars to support his claims, so he provides no original sourcing or research. Rather, he cherry-picks scholars to support his own biases and prejudices, and then markets the book as the “best-selling book on Islam on Amazon.com.” After reading this distinctly amateur effort, I discovered that I, too, can write a book on a subject that I have no expertise and have it marketed on Amazon.com as the “best-selling book on Widgets.” There are people who want to read about Islam to justify their hatred of specific religions and there are people who want to learn about specific religions for a better understanding of the world they live in. Mr. Spencer’s book appeals to the former. Read Esposito or Armstrong for the latter.

Notice that neither reviewer actually refutes anything Spencer had to say. I don’t know who Esposito is but Karen Armstrong is somewhat notorious for white washing many of the more unpleasant aspects of Islam. I would say then, that if you want to learn more about a theological and politic system that is a threat to our freedom, read Spencer. If you want to read comforting lies, read the other two.

I’ll go on with the next two.

This book was written by a layman. The author purports to be an Islamic scholar but has no academic credentials to claim scholarship. In fact, Mr. Spencer has no university degree whatsoever in Islamic studies. His writings have never been peer-reviewed. Mr. Spencer does not read Arabic, which is a basic requirement for Islamic studies. Yet here is a writer who takes a provocative position on the existence of the Prophet Muhammad and we are suppose to believe his work. This book was written solely for readers who are seeking to reinforce their prejudices and bigotry against Muslims. It will satisfy and justify those individuals’ bigotry. A cursory inspection of Mr. Spencer’s website clearly demonstrates his own bigotry and utter lack of respect for the Muslim community. If you like what he writes on his website, you will love the book. If you want serious scholarship with an objective view of Islam, try an established Muslim or non-Muslim scholar.

Robert Spencer is an islamophobe and a long-time ally of anti-Muslim mainstay Pamela Geller. He spends all of his time spewing hate messaging and compares Muslims to the Nazis. This book is pure rubbish and doesn’t even try to logically refute some of the historical facts noted in history. Don’t waste your time or money on this one.

Spencer may well have a lack of respect for the Muslim community (he would disagree), but where exactly is he wrong? No he does not read Arabic, but he knows those who can and translations of Moslem scriptures are available. I gather that, for this book, he uses historical accounts from the peoples the early Moslems conquered. Did he have to learn to read Byzantine Greek, Persian, and Syriac as well?

As for the second reviewer here, perhaps he is unaware of the connections between the Nazis and Arab nationalists before and during the Second World War. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem happened to be a good friend of Hitler’s regime. The theme of the book is to question whether the person known as Mohammed happened to exist. The historical facts seem to suggest that there is a good chance he did not. If the reviewer knows better, he should write his own book refuting Spencer’s thesis without name calling.

Here are some more.

The book is not even worth reading because the title itself proclaims the author’s ignorance.

What is your next book? How about: “Is the earth flat?”

Or, “Did Christ exist?”

Or, “Did Moses exist?”

And, no, I am not a Muslim.

And, no, I did not read the book. The title is enough.

And, yes, I support the author’s right to freedom of expression, even if it is based upon ignorance.

And, yes, I am very familiar with the author and his views and his Web site.

And, yes, I have heard the author summarize his book on the radio.

At least he is honest. He hasn’t bothered to read it but he can review it. As it happens, the questions of whether Jesus or Moses existed has been much discussed by scholars. Why shouldn’t the question of whether Mohammed existed be discussed? Why is that question automatically a sign of ignorance and hate?

The last two.

THE FOLLOWING EXCERPT IS TAKEN FROM LOONWATCH: “Spencer is hawking his new book, which he is pushing as a “scholarly work” about how Muhammad didn’t exist. His home page boasts that Robert Spencer is “[t]he acclaimed scholar of Islam”, “[a] serious scholar”, and “a brilliant scholar.”

I have pointed out in the past that Spencer is not a scholar of any sort-especially not on anything related to Islam. He simply does not have the academic qualifications to claim this. What other “scholar” do you know of that doesn’t even have a master’s or PhD degree on the subject he claims to be a “scholar” of? He only has a one-year master’s degree in “the field of early Christianity”. How does that make him an “acclaimed scholar of Islam”?”

INDEED, SPENCER HAS NO FORMAL EDUCATION IN ISLAMIC STUDIES. HE CANNOT SPEAK, WRITE, READ NOR UNDERSTAND ARABIC!!! YET HE IS A SCHOLAR?

I PUT IT TO YOU… SINCE WHEN DID A SCHOLAR OR ACADEMIC OF CLASSICS NOT REQUIRE TO BE FLUENT IN THE GREEK LANGUAGE? IN THE ABOVE LINK YOU WILL SEE HOW SERIOUSLY FLAWED SPENCER’S SO CALLED ‘SCHOLARLY’ WORK IS. A COMPLETE JOKE!

ENJOY!

The twisted, completely uneducated, culling of material from sources, and patching it up to support a hate theses, shouldn’t even qualify this to be a book. Can’t understand how someone with absolutely no credentials on this topic can be seen as an authority.

The blind leading the blind.

There is no more to be said about them. They don’t refute anything Spencer said. They only indulge in name calling and irrelevancies. I don’t think that any of these reviewers, except perhaps the last, are actually Moslems. They probably think they are being liberal and tolerant and politically correct. The irony here is that is any country under Sharia they would be among the first to get their throats cut.

Cleaning Up the Mess

April 30, 2012

I am getting more fund-raising e-mails from the Democrats. It seems that every month there is a new deadline from the FEC that the Democrats have to meet. Will, I am certainly willing to do my part. Here is the latest message.

David –

Sometimes it seems like the other side thinks Americans are dumb.

Their message right now is: You didn’t clean up our mess fast enough.

Mitt Romney and the Republicans want to take our country back to tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires and let Wall Street write the rules.

We’ve seen that movie before, we know how it ends, and none of us wants a sequel.

Will you chip in $3 or more before tonight’s midnight deadline?

https://my.democrats.org/April-Deadline

Thanks,

Robert Gibbs

No, we certainly don’t want a growing economy with low unemployment, do we? I liked that last recession, or is it funcession, so much I want another so I am surely going to make my contribution.

They’re Back!

April 30, 2012

The Occupiers are planning on coming back this spring after spending the winter in a hole, or under a rock, or something. I read this article in Bloomberg via Drudge.

Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, whose anti-greed message spread worldwide during an eight-week encampment in Lower Manhattan last year, plan marches across the globe tomorrow calling attention to what they say are abuses of power and wealth.

Organizers say they hope the coordinated events will mark a spring resurgence of the movement after a quiet winter. Calls for a general strike with no work, no school, no banking and no shopping have sprung up on websites in Toronto, Barcelona, London, Kuala Lumpur and Sydney, among hundreds of cities in North America, Europe and Asia.

In New York, Occupy Wall Street will join scores of labor organizations observing May 1, traditionally recognized as International Workers’ Day. They plan marches from Union Square to Lower Manhattan and a “pop-up occupation” of Bryant Park on Sixth Avenue, across the street from Bank of America’s Corp.’s 55-story tower.

“We call upon people to refrain from shopping, walk out of class, take the day off of work and other creative forms of resistance disrupting the status quo,” organizers said in an April 26 e-mail.

Occupy groups across the U.S. have protested economic disparity, decrying high foreclosure and unemployment rates that hurt average Americans while bankers and financial executives received bonuses and taxpayer-funded bailouts. In the past six months, similar groups, using social media and other tools, have sprung up in Europe, Asia and Latin America

I really love that “anti-greed” description of their message. I might have described their message as anti property-rights (for other people), anti-intelligence or anti-sanitation. I am sure they will win a lot of support from New Yorkers and others after a whole day spent disrupting traffic and harassing people.

Meanwhile, Zombie reported on the efforts of some misguided fools to occupy a farm.

Are you ready for the most ridiculous and pointless Occupation ever?

Last week, on Earth Day, the Occupy movement illegally took over an entire farm and transformed it into…a farm!

So proud are they of this revolutionary act that they showed off the farm to the media yesterday, so naturally I had to check it out.

There are a lot more pictures. The farm is question is a research farm in which agricultural scientists study ways to increase crop yields while reducing the impact on the environment. By “occupying” this farm, these people may ruin years of research.

The problem that these people are going to run into is that farming is not a lot of fun and games. You have to be willing to work long and hard day after day. If these people were interested in actually working and not just playing at being revolutionaries, they would actually have jobs and be productive members of our society. As it is, I think it would be an interesting experiment to lock them into that farm and make them live off whatever crops they manage to grow.

Courier Journal Endorses Lugar

April 29, 2012
Official photo of Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN).

Time for Lugar to go home

The Louisville Courier-Journal endorsed Senator Richard Lugar for the upcoming primary. This is no surprise since they always endorse the Democratic candidate in the general elections while endorsing the most Democratic minded Republican for the primaries. Actually, the editors unintentionally make a good case for supporting Lugar’s opponent Richard Mourdock.

During 36 years in the U.S. Senate, Republican Richard Lugar has built an impressive career as a conservative but rational member of Congress, respected for his knowledge on foreign policy and as the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Though he considers himself conservative, Mr. Lugar, 80, has developed a reputation for being willing to work with Senate Democrats. And he is the only member of Indiana’s Republican Congressional delegation with enough courage to refuse to sign Grover Norquist’s mindless anti-tax pledge, saying it ties lawmakers’ hands and adds to congressional gridlock.

Now Mr. Lugar is facing perhaps his toughest election challenge ever in Indiana’s May 8 primary from Republican Richard Mourdock, backed by tea party extremists who argue that the Senator is just not conservative enough. Observers are billing the race as one of several around the country where tea party activists are seeking to prove their movement is still politically potent.

Extremists are those people who believe that it is dangerous to spend $1 trillion more than we have every year and who believe in limited government. Real wackos there. I do not believe Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge is mindless. We did not get into our current mess because the American people are not taxed enough. We got into our mess because our leaders refuse to stop the government’s reckless spending.

Mr. Mourdock, 60, in his second term as Indiana state treasurer, offers little to inspire. His campaign provides a predictable laundry list of his stances on issues likely to appeal to the rightest wing of his party. He hates Obamacare, runaway federal spending, liberal U.S. Supreme Court justices and abortion. He loves the notion of securing U.S. borders and the right to bear arms.

That laundry list happens to be the opinions of a large percentage of the American people. I suspect the majority of my fellow Hoosiers would support every item on that list. I guess we’re a whole state full of extremists. I guess the editors of the Courier Journal support runaway federal spending and oppose securing our borders.

Haven’t voters learned anything from the last round of elections where tea party-backed candidates flocked to Congress and promptly jammed up the works with their arrogant refusal to compromise?

When you are in a car that is heading toward a cliff at 100 miles per hour and driver wants to keep going while you want to put on the brakes, slowing down to 50 miles per hour may be a compromise, but it is not a very good idea. The United States is heading toward a fiscal train wreck at warp speed and neither President Obama nor the Democrats in Congress are even willing to admit we have a problem, much less come up with any solutions. The Democrat-controlled Senate can’t even get around to making out a budget. What is there to compromise about? The Tea party backed candidates want to save the country. the Democrats want to fiddle while the country burns.

Hoosiers should value Mr. Lugar’s maturity and experience and select him over his GOP primary opponent.

On the contrary, Hoosiers should send Senator Lugar to a well-earned retirement.

Obama Keeps His Promises

April 28, 2012

I got an update from the Truth Team today. Among the other talking points, they wanted me to be sure to remind everyone that Obama is doing his best to protect the environment.

Five steps President Obama has taken to protect our environment
Earth Day was this past weekend, which was a good time to note some of steps the President has taken to help protect the environment. Show others the environmental progress we’ve made over the past few years by sharing this post:

Here is the post.

Here are five firsts in environmental policy that President Obama has put in place to protect our environment and promote clean energy:

  1. Created the first-ever standard to limit greenhouse gases from new fossil-fuel-fired power plants, America’s largest individual sources of carbon pollution. [Source: EPA]
  2. Established the first fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty trucks, which will prevent 270 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from polluting the air. [Source: The Hill]
  3. Put into place the first-ever national standard for mercury and toxic air pollution from power plants, which will prevent up to 130,000 cases of asthma symptoms every year. [Source: EPA]
  4. Approved the nation’s first-ever offshore wind farm, which will produce enough clean electricity to power over more than 200,000 homes. [Source: UPI]
  5. Approved dozens of renewable energy projects, including 16 utility-scale solar projects—the first ever on public lands. [Source: Department of Interior]

I’ll be sure and remember these firsts when rolling blackouts become a way of life because it is uneconomical to build any new power plants and when the next Solyndra type scandal hits the news.

Did Mohammed Exist?

April 27, 2012

Although skeptics and scholars have been exploring the concept of the “historical Jesus”, that is the “real” Jesus behind the figure in the Gospels, for some time now, few have been willing to examine the “historical Mohammed“. Most likely the reason for this has been a combination of fear and the simple lack of solid historical information on the early years of Islam. The investigator of early Christianity has the advantage, first that no church will issue a fatwa calling for his death, no matter how skeptical he is, and second, although historical information about Jesus of Nazareth outside the New Testament is rather scanty, we actually know quite a lot about first century Judea. The early Christians lived in a relatively literate culture and the earliest writings about Jesus were produced within a generation of his death. The same cannot be said of the early Moslems, who lived in a largely illiterate backwater. As far as anyone can tell, the Koran did not take shape until several decades after Mohammed’s death. The earliest writings about Mohammed were not written until more than a century later. The first biography of Mohammed was written by Ibn Ishaq about 130 years after his death. The Hadiths were not written down until about 200 years after his death. So, there is not much information available to confirm or reject the tradition Islam view of Mohammed’s life and teachings. Added to that, scholars who inquire too closely or skeptically about such matters are apt to find their lives in danger, and the Saudi government seems determined to see that no archaeological evidence of Mohammed’s time survives.

Therefore, Robert Spencer, is doing us all a great service by peeling back the layers of legend and tradition to get at the historical Mohammed, in his latest book, Did Mohammed Exist?. As the title suggests, Spencer has good reason to suspect that Mohammed, at least the supposed founder of Islam, did not, in fact, exist. I hope that Spencer has the very best security personnel working for him.

I have not yet read this book since it is not available on the Kindle. I hope it will be very soon. If not, I might have to order the hardback edition. Since I have not read it, I will have to refer you to Zombie’s excellent review on PJMedia. I’ll quote a few excerpts but you really have to read the whole thing, then go and get Did Mohammed Exist?

The Evidence

To tackle such a big subject, Spencer focuses on five potential sources of information about Muhammad:

1. Documents from the era (7th and 8th centuries) written by independent (i.e. non-Muslim) outside observers;
2. Documents from the era written or created by Arabs/Muslims themselves;
3. The Qur’an itself;
4. The Hadiths, Islamic commentaries and sayings collected in the 8th and 9th centuries; and
5. The first biography of Muhammad, written by Ibn Ishaq over a century after Muhammed’s lifetime, on which all subsequent biographies are based.

Over the course of 200 pages, each category is carefully examined for solid evidence of Muhammad’s historicity, and each category is found wanting.

Of particular interest to a skeptic like me is the first category, because it is the only one that counts as a truly independent source. I simply assume that Islam, like most religions, boasts sacred texts which are self-referential and self-confirming (turns out I was wrong, but more about that later).

So: What did non-Muslims have to say about Muhammad and Islam, during his lifetime, and for 60 years afterward?

Nothing.

They made no mention of Muhammad or Muslims or Islam at all, at least until around the start of the 8th century. In case you’re thinking that there’d be no reason for outsiders to mention the religion of some obscure far-off tribe, remember that starting with the date of Muhammad’s purported death in 632, Arabs galloped out of the desert and conquered or captured almost the entirety of the Near East, the Middle East and North Africa in just a few decades. They encountered many cultures and civilizations, but none of those conquered peoples seem even to have heard of Islam or Muhammad.

Now remember, Tacitus refers to the Christians being persecuted by Nero in the 60’s AD, within 30 years of the death of Jesus. Josephus mentions Jesus in his Antiquities of the Jews, written around AD 94. The passages are disputed and almost certainly in part an interpolation, still most scholars believe they are, in part, genuine. The fact that there is no written mention of Mohammed 60 years after his death is suspicious.

Here is some more.

There are many puzzling details which tend to cast doubt on the standard narrative of Islam’s early years — that is, Muhammad’s life, and the decades immediately after his death when Arabs conquered the Middle East under the banner of their new religion, Islam. For example, a record exists of what was essentially a religious debate between a Christian in Antioch and an Arab commander at the height of the Arab conquest of the region, but, as Spencer notes,

In it the author refers to the Arabians not as Muslims but as “Hagarians” (mhaggraye) — that is, the people of Hagar, Abraham’s concubine and the mother of Ishmael. The Arabic interlocutor denies the divinity of Christ, in accord with Islamic teaching, but neither side makes any mention of the Qur’an, Islam, or Muhammad.

Imagine debating a “Christian” about religion, and he never mentions the Bible, Christianity, or Jesus. You might begin to doubt that he was a Christian at all.

And, jumping to the book’s conclusion, that’s exactly what Spencer posits: That the 7th century Arabs may have practiced a sort of nonspecific monotheism, loosely syncretized from pre-existing Judaic and Christian beliefs; but this new religion at first did not have a name, did not have a supposed “founder,” did not have a sacred text, and did not have rigid rituals. All of those were added much later, but fashioned in such as way as to retroactively assert their own 7th-century origins.

Surprising even for me was the book’s revelation that even among Arabic documents and artifacts, there is no mention of or example of any Qur’anic text until the year 691, a full 80 years after Muhammad supposedly started dictating it, and 60 years after it was completed and purportedly became the central text of Arab society. And even that 691 appearance — an inscription on the Dome of the Rock — may not have been a copy of Qur’anic text. From Spencer’s book:

This Qur’anic material is the earliest direct attestation to the existence of the book — sixty years after the Arab armies that had presumably been inspired by it began conquering neighboring lands. … Given the seamlessly mixed Qur’anic / non-Qur’anic nature of the inscription and the way the Qur’an passages are pulled together from all over the book, some scholars, including Christoph Luxenberg, have posited that whoever wrote this inscription was not quoting from a Qur’an that already existed. Rather, they suggest, most of this material was added to the Qur’an only later, as the book was compiled. … It may be that both the Dome of the Rock and the Qur’an incorporated material from earlier sources that contained similar material in different forms.”

Did Muhammad Exist? is essentially one big hoisting of Islam by its own petard. A religion that purports to be “revealed,” and perfect and unchanging from its inception, has a serious burden of proof; but as Spencer shows, Islam fails to supply that proof.

While the book goes into great detail about the literary and philological evidence for and against Muhammad’s existence, some readers may ask themselves, “But what about the archaeological evidence?” Unfortunately, Spencer does not address that side of the argument, primarily because there’s basically nothing to say: The Saudi government (as well as the Islamic Waqf controlling the Temple Mount in Jerusalem) has gone to great lengths to suppress or destroy any archaeological remains which might shed light on Islam’s earliest days. All the legendary sites associated with Muhammad in and around Mecca and Medina have been intentionally and irretrievably disturbed, eradicated and/or built over, so any rigorous archaeological investigations confirming or undermining Islam’s origins are now impossible. One suspects that the Saudis have obliterated Mecca’s history intentionally, fearful that impartial evidence may undermine Islam’s various historical claims. While this is not a significant omission, the book’s argument would have been slightly strengthened if this confirming detail had been discussed, if even for just a paragraph or two.

Did Muhammad Exist? is a popular book for a popular audience. Put another way: Spencer makes no claim to have uncovered original research. All he has done, yet done quite effectively, is marshall the findings of dozens of scholars from the last hundred years, including people like Günter Lüling, David Margoliouth, Patricia Crone, and most notably Christoph Luxenberg, the philologist whose recent work challenging the very linguistic basis of the Qur’an as an Arabic document has caused such a sensation that for his own safety he must work under a pseudonym. Spencer draws all these threads together to make a convincing case that, when one examines all the evidence these experts have uncovered and ponders all the theories which might explain that evidence, the currently dominant theory (that Muhammad existed) is the least likely to be true. Much more in line with the known facts is the theory that Islam slowly coalesced from earlier monotheistic Judeo-Christian beliefs, and that most of the historical details about the evolution — including and especially the existence of a prophet from Mecca — were later concocted to retroactively give a veneer of official sanctity to the new religion.

There is no controversy when scholars examine the historicity of Jesus. Biblical archaeologists work freely, with no danger to their persons or their careers. Even if some literalist Christians find the scholarly conclusions distressing, no death threats are issued. Christianity has survived all critiques of its origins, relying on the strength of its message and not the provability of historical details. One would hope that Islam reacts similarly.

They won’t.

I am going to have to get this book.

Dog Wedding

April 26, 2012

I like dogs as much as the next guy, but this is just dumb.

In this canine love story, ring around the collar was the intended effect.

Scruffy Rubin and Snickers Carter had a wedding many couples dream of, featuring 100 guests, a wedding cake, open bar, receptionist and even security. But while the newlyweds are reportedly happy together, that are not actually human.

The Desert Sun reports that actual humans Ernie Rubin and Ann Carter got together to throw Scruffy and Snickers a $5,000 wedding at the Palm Desert Resort Country Club in Palm Desert, Calif., on Sunday.

“I’m not losing a son, I’m gaining a daughter-in-law,” Carter told the paper.

The ceremony was officiated by “priest” Harry Farber, who wore a black collar featuring novelty dog bones.

As the two dogsdressed in custom couture dress and doggie tuxedowalked down a faux grass carpet aisle , they were accompanied by a ring bearer, flower boy, groomsman and usher. However, it’s worth noting that the groomsman was a Pug named Max.

 

Actually, the humans involved did make it a charity event with guests being asked to contribute to the Orphan Pet Oasis Humane Society of the Desert in North Palm Springs. Still, I think they might have been able to do something for animals that didn’t involve spending $5000 on a wedding the dogs neither understood or appreciated. As I said, I like dogs, but dogs are not human. They do not think like humans. In particular, dogs do not usually get married.

Jon Lovitz Rants

April 25, 2012
Jon Lovitz

Jon Lovitz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I saw this on Yahoo News, though I gather it has gotten all over the Internet.

The former “Saturday Night Live” star delivered some choice words for the president on his podcast, “The ABCs of SNL.” The show is co-hosted by Kevin Smith and calls itself “Live from the Jon Lovitz Podcast Theater.”

The actor said he’s a Democrat and voted for Obama, but now he’s mad as hell at the president’s plan to raise taxes on the rich — and his rant has the Web buzzing.

The comic called Obama a “[bleep]ing a-hole… for saying the rich don’t pay their taxes.” Lovitz delivered his invective after assuring the audience “I voted for the guy” and even expressed admiration for Obama’s rise from “nothing.” “He had no father — he is mixed-race, which is a burden… and the guy ends up going to Harvard, and he’s the president of the United States.”

Lovitz gave Obama no slack for turning against his fellow millionaires, however. “This whole thing with Obama saying the rich don’t pay their taxes is f—ing bulls—,” he said. “First they say to you… ‘The United States of America, you can do anything you want — go for it! So then you go for it and you make it and everyone’s like, ‘[Bleep] you!’”

Well, I agree with Lovitz about Obama, but I have to wonder just what he thought he was voting for in 2008. For those of us who paid attention to what Barack Obama was actually saying, and who took the trouble to learn something about his background, there really have been no surprises regarding Obama’s actual policies. The only thing that took me by surprise has been just how incompetent a president Obama actually is.

Zero Net Migration

April 25, 2012

Walter Russel Mead has some interesting things to say about the declining immigration rates from Mexico.

Via Meadia has long considered fears that America would be overrun by waves of immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America to be overblown. As with previous waves, immigration from Mexico will peak and then begin to fall.

Now a new report from the Pew Hispanic Center finds that over the past five years, immigration from Mexico has fallen to a net zero—migrants are returning to Mexico at the same rate that they are arriving in the U.S. Among the report’s findings:

  • In the five-year period from 2005 to 2010, about 1.4 million Mexicans immigrated to the United States and about 1.4 million Mexican immigrants and their U.S.-born children moved from the United States to Mexico.
  • In the five-year period a decade earlier (1995 to 2000), about 3 million Mexicans had immigrated to the U.S. and fewer than 700,000 Mexicans and their U.S. born-children had moved from the U.S. to Mexico.
  • This sharp downward trend in net migration has led to the first significant decrease in at least two decades in the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants living in the U.S.—to 6.1 million in 2011, down from a peak of nearly 7 million in 2007. Over the same period the number of authorized Mexican immigrants rose modestly, from 5.6 million in 2007 to 5.8 million in 2011.

This is an important shift, but it’s still too soon to foresee an end to mass migration from Mexico. As the US economy improves, immigration is likely to pick up again. The recession was deepest in the construction industry, which hired a lot of unskilled immigrants, legal and illegal. It’s not surprising that many of these immigrants have chosen to return home, but as that industry returns, many of these immigrants will return with it.

Nonetheless, those who think a fragile America is about to be overwhelmed by a human tsunami from Mexico need to take a deep breath and calm down. Yes, the US needs to control its borders, and yes, illegal immigration needs to be stopped. But in the medium to long term, Mexican immigration to the US is on a downward path.’

It’s hard to know what the medium to long term will bring us and we can be sure there will be surprises. I hope that Mead is right though. It is not good for either the US or Mexico to have large numbers of people crossing the border and going north. We have been having difficulties assimilating large numbers of illegal immigrants and the refusal of both parties to actually enforce immigration laws contributes to the decline of the rule of law here. Mexico has been losing a lot of the very people they need to grow their economy.

I think Mead is right though. There have been some positive developments in Mexico over the last decade or so. Despite the troubles with drug cartels, Mexico’s economy has been doing fairly well. They have had solid growth rates since 2010 and an unemployment rate lower than ours. Mexico’s GDP is actually the fourteenth highest in the world, between Australia’s and South Korea’s.  Mexico’s birth rate is dropping and there is a growing middle class, which I hope will have less tolerance for the traditional corruption in Mexico’s politics. If these trends continue, always a big if, then an increasingly prosperous Mexico will be good for both our countries.

$100 a Pack

April 24, 2012

I don’t smoke and I can’t stand the smell of tobacco smoke in any form, so I suppose I should be thrilled at this story  from NBC News that I found on Drudge.

New Zealand’s Health Ministry has reportedly considered boosting the price of a pack of cigarettes as high as $100 ($81 U.S.) in a bid to make the country smoke free by 2025.

An internal government working paper raised the possibility of upping the cost of a 20-cigarette pack by 30 to 60 percent and tacking on yearly increases of 30 percent, Sky News reported.

With cigarettes now priced at about $16 to $17, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the $100 suggestion seemed like “an awful lot” and could encourage a black market, Fairfax NZ News reported.

Anti-tobacco activist Ben Youdan said it would be more “realistic” to price smokes at “$30 to $40 a pack” over the course of 10 to 15 years as part of a comprehensive campaign to reduce the number of smokers in the country, now around 650,000, according to Fairfax NZ News.

The problem is that while such a policy would certainly reduce the number of smokers in New Zealand, it would also create a black market of untaxed cigarettes. I imagine that if the costs of trying to crack down on illicit cigarettes are considered the savings in health costs created by the reduction in the number of smokers wouldn’t be all that much.


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