Sunday, October 17, 2010

Joe Miller: "If East Germany could, we could."

I went to the Joe Miller town hall this afternoon at Central Middle School.  It was an interesting session, about 175 people, and I was impressed with how courteous, for the most part, the audience was with several questions from people who were clearly not Miller supporters.

Most of what he said, he's said before.  I'll try to post more on this later.  But the comment that caught my attention most was one he made was in response to a question on illegal immigration. 

Miller replied:  "The first thing that has to be done is secure the border. . .  East Germany was very, very able to reduce the flow.  Now, obviously, other things were involved.  We have the capacity to, as a great nation, secure the border.  If East Germany could, we could."

Back in 1887, Woodrow Wilson published what many claim to be the seminal article on the field of public administration.  He argued in it that we should borrow the civil service systems of Europe.  But he knew there was a strong anti-Europe sentiment, so he made several references to being able to borrow good ideas from countries without also taking their negative features.  
"We borrowed rice, but we do not eat it with chopsticks."

And, "If we see a murderous fellow sharpening a knife cleverly, I can borrow his way of sharpening the knife without borrowing his probable intention to commit murder with it . . ."
I'm not sure Wilson is one of Joe Miller's heroes.  And despite Wilson's reassurances, I would hope Miller could come up with a better role model than East Germany.  Their guards' orders were shoot to kill.

[Note: I've cut out some after the question because it was about getting out to vote, not answering the question.]

And I have to admit that when I told my neighbor, who has a McAdams sign up, his response was to build a fence too.  For the record,  Wikipedia reports the East German border fence at 1,381 kilometres (858 miles) long and it ran from the Baltic Sea to Czechoslovakia.  That doesn't include the Berlin wall since Berlin is well inside East Germany.

The US border with Mexico, again according to Wikipedia is 3,169 km (1,969 miles).

A fence along the border might slow things down a bit, but it won't stop illegal immigration.  We need to help Mexico build its economy so coming to the US isn't necessary for a decent life.  As it it, people risk their lives to get to the US and that won't stop with a border fence.  And it's not like we don't have a role in Mexico's problems.  Their horrendous drug wars result from our appetite for illegal drugs.

Besides, I'm not sure that the costs of staffing a 2,000 mile border tightly enough to keep out illegal aliens wouldn't come to more than the costs the US bears now - which we don't really know - for schooling and health of illegal aliens.  But maybe we could hire cheap labor from Mexico to make it affordable. Besides, Miller also makes reducing the deficit his main priority.  Building and staffing such a border isn't going to help there. 

It's a long way from the Statue of Liberty as the symbol of the United States to an East German style barbed wire fence with mined no-man's land, guard towers, machine guns, and German shepherds.  I know what that looked like.  When I was a student in Göttingen, Germany, the border was just a few miles east of where I lived and we rode out there now and then.  It wasn't pretty.  But it certainly cut down the flow of people escaping to the West.


  1. Great clip Steve. I've posted links to it at my essays at firedoglake and Daily Kos.

  2. Of course this is not a new idea, Steve. It's been floating around for decades. It was over thirty years ago, someone I knew in US Immigration (tasked with returning illegals to home countries) said the US should build a US-Mexico border wall, with land mines, motion-tracking machine guns and hungry dogs.

    I laughed nervously as it reminded me of what television character Archie Bunker quipped about stopping sky-jackings to Cuba, "Give guns to all the passengers!"

    That Joe Miller appeals to anyone in Alaska is sad proof that some people shouldn't play with democracy as everyone might get burned.

  3. Well, if I was a Mexican I wouldn't support US intervention. Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, the Philippines from a century ago ... I can't really see the benefits of the interraction with the US.

    A few days ago I read an article in English about the recent Hungarian red mud catastrophe which stated that the head of the company which caused the disaster was arrested and the article showed Hungary as a positive example. It was a new thing to me. We are usually "the bads". So you could comment their and some of your fellow citizens made coments like we ruin capitalism and your army should make order here blah blah. It is not likely that it would happen but I wouldn't be glad if the US intervened in our lives in any way.

  4. "Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man."

    or the unverified alternative:

    "Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man. Anything built by man, can be destroyed by him."

    Some clown named George S. Patton made the first and perhaps the second statement.

    Probably some Commie-Socialist-Fascist that Patton. Definitely anti-American.

    Not logging in because I neither want nor need another blog name and/or password.


  5. For those of us who have personal knowledge, the wall was not to keep people from coming in, it was to imprison people wanting to leave.

    It seems that some walls should be put around Miller and his ilk so they may be able to comprehend the world they apparently aren't living in.

  6. Mexico might support the fence if it will keep Joe in. Nice post,Steve.


  7. You are without personal knowledge what is going on down here in the border states. As someone who has spent last 40+ years combined living in San Diego and Dallas TX. I will tell you that it has been until recently a "cake walk " to enter the U.S. illegally. I an Anglo who speaks fluent spanish and have had numerous coversations and understand the plight of those seeking work in the U.S. That being said, I will take Miller's comments as an indication that the process to protect the borders is possible given the capabilities of U.S.. The contrast of using East Germany may not have been the best example as Miller noted"other things were involved", but keep the "commie/facist" rhetoric out of it. The border area is increasingly dangerous and could be and possibly the portal for those who would choose to harm our way of life. Border security and the migrant workers..Miller never used that Wall, just a small country enforced their border with 40's tech. I am sure as a nation, the U.S. has the ability also without building a 2k mile long fence.Not going to happen. Just getting politicians off the "fence" and commit to something...Blog about that

  8. They're coming for you, Tim. Be ready.

    Tell 'em they don't need none of that fluoridation in their drinkin' water.

  9. Nice point about the Mexican economy. But it's not just a US appetite for drugs. Farm subsidies have made US corn so cheap to export, and the high overhead for Mexicans planting US hybrids has meant that many Mexican farmers have lost their livelihoods. These are some of the same people coming into the US.

  10. Uh, Mr. Miller does understand that East Germany was trying to keep its own citizens IN, doesn't he. Mexico is an original signatory to the Universal Charter of Human Rights (as is the United States) which specifically mentions the right to emigrate. What is Mr. Miller saying... that we in Mexico should shoot our own people. You are already propping up our gangsters (through your out of control narcotics habits, ridiculous inability to control your firearms sales and lax financial controls) who kill enough of our people as it is.

  11. What was the groups reaction to his statment?

  12. This just shows the mind set and the intelligence of the Tea Party Movement God help us of these people with single digit IQ's get elected to office.

  13. 1. Nobody was trying to get East from the Fulda Gap, so the "East Germany was able to reduce the flow" comment is at best a poor analogy, at worst pure ignorance.

    2. If he meant to say "WEST Germany", that makes only slighty better sense, since there was some effort on the East side to escape the miserable conditions there, an extraordinarily weak comparison of the two situations. So his slip of tongue is a MONUMENTAL and laughable error.

    3. Either way, he's dopey.

  14. Miller's Reagan Redux: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall... and send it to the USA."

  15. Actually East Germany always claimed that it was trying to keep people out, not in! This summer we visited Berlin and saw a clip from a training film for East German border guards. Two vigilant soldiers were patrolling the cemetery at night. Look! A man hiding behind a gravestone – sic the dogs on him! The dogs got him by the wrist, the guards ran over to arrest him! And so, the narrator intoned, a happy end to the story of another Western spy trying to infiltrate the communist paradise.

  16. Thanks for the interesting comments all of you. This video has gotten more play than anything I've posted - Daily Kos, TPM, Huffington Post,Poitico,CrooksandLians, Washington Post, even the Guardian. For some reason, the links feature isn't capturing most of them. And we were out enjoying why people live in Alaska yesterday when it was all going on.

    I would say to the people here and all the other sites who pointed out that the East/West German barrier was erected to keep people in, not out (Thanks Kathy for you gem on this topic): Miller knows that. My understanding was that he was pointing out that such a barrier could be effective whatever direction people were going.

    Tim, I've been listening to the reports of problems in border areas and understand - to the extent I can from far away - it's not easy.

    But a 'wall' is a band aid that doesn't stop the source of he bleeding. It may have some short term benefit to individual areas. As I mentioned and Rafi expanded on, the problems won't go away until Mexicans can earn a living in Mexico (not to mention other Central American countries whose citizens are coming north). After all, we have people smuggled into the US by ship from China and other places all the time. The problem will just move somewhere else.

    Anon 1:41am: There was no visible or audible response from the audience. No gasps, no applause.

    Anon 8:06am: The London Bridge is now in Lake Havasu, Arizona. It's a tourist attraction. But the East/West border has already been torn down and I don't think they stored the parts in a shed anywhere. There are probably a few guard towers still left.

  17. Greetings from Dresden - East Germany - former german democratic republic

    Joe Miller and Sarah Palin are sucks :)

  18. Vulgar an mindless, Mr. Miller.

    Germans will love you ...

    Greetings from Nuremburg, Germany

  19. As a german citizen, born in East Germany and all to well remembering the loss of life along the wall and how it was to be imprisoned in ones own country by its own government (!), i can't understand what mindset Mr. Miller was or possibly still is in! Especially if he fully understands the true purpose of the wall which I highly doubt, because a knowledgeable person, would have never used such poorly a constructed example/comparison as this one.

    Yours deeply shocked and insulted

    Matthias Lubner

  20. It would be understandable, if the American public were not too shocked by Mr. Miller's comparison with the East German border regime, even though his remarks could be viewed as insensitive to the victims of state communism in the former East Germany. Germany is far away. Reversely, Mr. Miller hit the headlines here in Germany. For the German public it was already surprising when in the past representatives of the Republican Tea Party attacked the American President as "Communist". With Joe Miller's recent remarks things seem to get even more awkward in the upcoming American congressional elections: First Tea Party representatives attack Mr. Obama as "Communist", and now an Alaskan Tea Party candidate for the US Senate tivialises a particularily inhume instrument of Communist rule and power. I wonder, wether Mr. Miller is fully aware of what really happened at the German-German border, including the firing order for border guards and the many East Germans who were murdered while trying to cross the border. Was his remark caused by a lack of historical knowledge, or was it a verbal lapse displaying the truth about his political personality? Does Mr. Miller really mean to say that Mexicans should be shot, if they attempt to cross the border to the United States? Do Communists and Tea Party have more in common then one would expect? It is a bit worrying to see how a group of radical extremists threatens to hijack an American election, but I don't believe for a second that a majority of Americans would follow Mr. Miller's thinking.

  21. Well, so Joe Miller is a fan of the Berlin wall and said in an interview that "East Germany was succesful in reduce the influx of foreigners (...) When East Germany can do that, we can do that", he said. I think this comment proves how little knowledge this guy has. First of all, East Germany didn't build the wall to reduce the inlux of foreigners, but to prevent its own people from fleeing to the West. Secondly, he didn't mentioned the "firing order" of the East German border troops. Is that what he wants? The U.S. army on the border to Mexico shooting everyone coming close? Another example of an I-have-no-idea-what-i'm-talking-about-but-still-talk "politician". Well, politics is not for everyone...

  22. This statement is cynical and mindless. In fact, there was the free world in the west and communist dictatorship in the east. It was communist east Germany that built the wall, not to prevent people from joining it but preventing its own people from escaping from it. Have you forgotten how it came to an end? It was a huge refuge via Czechoslovakia and Hungary that blew the communists away from power. It is really strange to me to see that American Republicans adopt the method of a communist dictatorship. To my understanding you guys belonged to the free part of the word so far. So whats's going wrong here?

    Chris from Berlin

  23. Just on a sidenote, I fear that Joe Miller doesn't really realize that the idea of the Berlin Wall came finally from Krushchev, communist leader of the Soviet Union at that time. I've never heard a republican say before that Communists have great ideas. As a European, I am highly insulted and not amused at all.

    Come on, how would you feel if somebody claimed that "all white busses were a great idea to prevent interracial mixing! If the Americans could do it..."

  24. I also don't think any of the other Republican candidates are going to channel the ghost of Ronald Reagan saying "Mr. Miller, tear down the wall."

  25. What about the responsibility of the MEXICAN government and populace for their OWN is interesting to me that those who say the US is so bad are the first to offer to spend more of our money fixing problems that are not ours...the Mexican governmental and political system, tolerated by the people because of tradition, is riddled with graft and corruption. Try sneaking into Mexico and try out their jails and $10K per day fine...and be sure to ask about being sick or having a baby while you're there! You'll die in the street. Why don't we enact an immigration policy that mirrors Mexico's and enforce the same remedies on those who try to sneak into the US as they enforce upon their neighbors who try to "emigrate"?

    Try living in Dallas county and paying taxes...the lifetime earnings of a Mexican hod carrier with 6-7 children does not equal the amount we will spend to educate, supplement income and provide healthcare for his family...try some reality. If you work in healthcare, as I do, you already know this...if not, don't comment about what you don't understand --because I do live in the real world. People are responsible for their circumstances. Those who want to come to the U.S. need to come legally and become citizens.


Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.