Monday, April 30, 2012

Unaccompanied child migration

The media and commentators have paid a lot of attention to net zero migration from Mexico. From the Associated Press, here is a troubling downside:

While the issue of unaccompanied minors arriving in the U.S. isn't new, the scale of the recent increase is. From October 2011 through March, 5,252 kids landed in U.S. custody without a parent or guardian — a 93 percent increase from the same period the previous year, according to data released by the Department of Health and Human Services. In March alone, 1,390 kids arrived. 
"The whole community right now is in triage mode," said Wendy Young, executive director of Kids in Need of Defense, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that matches pro bono attorneys with unaccompanied minors navigating the immigration system. "It's important that the resources and the capacity meet the need, and we're not quite there yet."

I spend a lot of time in my Politics of Latino Immigration class discussing incentives and unintended consequences of immigration policy. Both are in evidence here.

This week, the first ladies of Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala spoke at a three-day conference on unaccompanied minors in Washington, D.C. Mexico's first lady, Margarita Zavala, and Honduran counterpart Rosa Elena Bonilla de Lobo noted that tougher U.S. border security made it more difficult for parents working in the U.S. to return for their children, a suggestion as to why parents increasingly would put their children in a smuggler's care.

The "triage" part is indicative of the fact that no one in the Obama administration thought about how greater enforcement might change migrant behavior. No sane person should support an immigration system that produces this outcome. The article mentions a five year old girl. Five! So say all you want about Mexican economic growth, but don't pretend it ends misery.

And as I keep repeating, remember that net zero does not mean zero migration.

h/t my dad


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Uruguay and China

China's state news agency touts its economic ties to Uruguay. Unwittingly, it also provides an excellent summation of dependency theory.

China is now the largest buyer of Uruguay's wood, soy and cellulose. It also imports frozen fish, leather, meat, gemstones and dairy products from Uruguay. 
Meanwhile, Uruguay imports trucks, motor vehicles, computers, screens and telephones from China.

You export primary products and import finished goods. It seems OK when commodity prices are high, not so much when they drop. I've written about the great Chinese commodity grab a number of times before.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Food prices in Latin America

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has a report on food price instability in Latin America. It notes a number of problems, such as interrelation with energy and financial markets, information problems, demand in Asia, climate change, and others. It also notes the problem of oligopolies that not only affect prices but also don't necessarily address the food needs of the population. This latter point is particularly important, since it becomes a source of political instability.

El alza y la volatilidad de los precios internacionales de los alimentos se produce en un contexto de crisis económica que implica menores oportunidades de empleo e ingreso, lo que agudiza el impacto sobre la seguridad alimentaria. Asimismo, el contexto de crisis financiera genera gran incertidumbre y falta de confianza, lo que amplifica la volatilidad y dificulta las medidas de política pública. 

Food inflation is currently higher than general inflation, though there is clear volatility:

It's funny how these days there is a relentless push in the media to portray Latin America in entirely positive economic terms, ignoring issues like this. That follows a previous trend of viewing everything in Latin America as negative and violent.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Supreme Court signals

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments about Arizona's SB 1070, and the MSM has reached consensus that the justice's lines of questioning suggest they are favorable to Arizona. I wonder whether this is true, especially when the questions quoted are cherry picked. There must be research on this, but some digging in Google Scholar didn't bring anything up. To what degree do their questions point to an ultimate decision?


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Marco Rubio on Latin America

Marco Rubio has an L.A. Times op-ed on Latin America, the basic message of which is that we need to tell Latin American governments more about what they should be doing. The United States needs to:

--tell them we need an FTAA, which many governments do not view positively
--tell them they need to be more concerned about Iran, which is not seen by many Latin Americans as a hemispheric threat
--tell them to think differently about Cuba, even though our policy has long been rejected by our allies
--tell them to make sure we have access to their oil

Regardless of what you think about each particular issue, the overall tone is not really one of engagement, as there is virtually no discussion about what Latin American countries want. The irony is that policies intended to demonstrate we "care" (his word) can actually lead to greater isolation.


Net zero and the Mexican economy

The Wall Street Journal notes positive economic news from Mexico, as economic activity expanded in February. With all of the talk about net zero migration, we have to remember how critical immigration remains to the Mexican economy:

Increases in employment and credit in Mexico, and growth in remittances from Mexicans living abroad, have contributed to domestic consumption, while domestic demand is expected to play a bigger role in economic expansion this year.

Overall, remittances to Mexico are increasing as the U.S. economy slowly recovers, up 8.6% in February 2012 versus February 2011, and now bring in more dollars than foreign tourism. People are still leaving Mexico in large numbers, and then sending money home, but there are so many migrants already in the United States that we're seeing equilibrium.

If anything, then, net zero migration is occurring in the context of increased Mexican economic dependence on the United States. It is fine to laud economic growth in Mexico, as long as there is acknowledgment of the increased dependence on Mexican migrants in the United States.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Quote of the day: immigration

“What are you going to say to the people who say that you’re creating a climate of fear?” Hethmon recalled someone asking him recently. “I say, ‘Well, yeah, it’s not great. But it’s the best choice.’ ”

Read more heartless details at the Washington Post. Ironically, this part of the of the Republican Party is going to make itself extinct through measures aimed to protect itself--openly attacking Latinos is not a sustainable political strategy. Much of the demographic change they're trying to stop has already occurred.


Unnamed sources

From Caracas Gringo: a really interesting and thought provoking post about Roger Noriega and the politics of unnamed sources. Who are they, and what are their political goals? This actually has much broader implications than Latin America, because U.S. policy all too often hinges on information peddled to influential people by sources claiming to have insider information (e.g. exiles like Ahmed Chalabi). The information may be true, but it may be intended to influence policy in ways the policy makers do not understand and mistakenly take at face value.

Another takeaway from the post is a reminder of how Venezuelan politics are a mess.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Getting beyond populism

Here's a simplistic article in the Washington Post about populist governments in Latin America. Here's a simplistic response from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. To be fair to the latter, the drumbeat against governments the U.S. doesn't like in Latin America is old and tiresome. In popular parlance, "populist" means "critical of U.S. policy." Lumping them together in any other terms does not bear much scrutiny, since their economic policies diverge greatly. However, it is equally misleading to argue that all of them are doing just great.

It is unfortunate that collectively we still don't scratch under the surface sufficiently, so that public discussions of Latin American politics--which are relatively rare anyway--don't get anywhere, even after years.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Terrorism talk

After Cartagena, everyone and their grandmother has written something about U.S. failure in Latin America. Most of the analysis is overblown. Voice of America, though, pinpoints part of the problem in an article that actually is intended to show U.S. engagement.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta heads to South America as part of Washington’s efforts to build partnerships in the region in the fight against drug trafficking and terrorism.  
Panetta hopes to turn attention back to the issues of drug trafficking and anti-terror efforts.

Terrorism? Even close allies will start rolling their eyes when U.S. officials go on about Iran and Hezbollah. It is perhaps one of the ultimate signs of being out of touch.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Beyond the Border Buildup

I wanted to make sure everyone out there knew about the newly released Beyond the Border Buildup: Security and Migrants Along the U.S.-Mexico Border, written by Adam Isacson and Maureen Meyer from the Washington Office on Latin America. It's an extensive empirical overview of border security, with policy recommendations. I plan on reading and commenting on it, but don't have time now.


Argentina and oil production

Mark Weisbrot, who commonly defends the economic policies of left-leaning governments in Latin America, defends the nationalization of YPF. The crux of his argument is that Argentina needed to do so in order to increase oil production.

There are sound reasons for this move, and the government will most likely be proved right once again. Repsol, the Spanish oil company that currently owns 57% of Argentina's YPF, hasn't produced enough to keep up with Argentina's rapidly growing economy. From 2004 to 2011, Argentina's oil production has actually declined by almost 20% and gas by 13%, with YPF accounting for much of this. And the company's proven reserves of oil and gas have also fallen substantially over the past few years.

However, has anyone made a convincing argument that nationalization will increase production? Steven Bodzin recently wrote that this assumption is wrong:

Oil output and investment were the key issues here, but like Noel, I don’t see anyone stepping in with adequate money to really increase investment. The Chinese might loan some money (Venezuela style) or try to send their own work crews (Sudan-style) but if there’s one thing China likes, it’s stability — and that’s not on order in Argentina. Other companies? Talk to Americas Petrogas, an explorer with big chunks of Argentine shale under license. It’s lost a third of its value in two months as this whole drama has played out. It’s going to be tough for them to get money from the public markets, and the bonds and banks have been shut off since Argentina defaulted a decade ago. I could see a few of import-dependent countries investing, including China and Chile, but with heavy conditions, and not with the kind of money Argentina needs.

See also Boz on distribution problems. Is there reason to believe, as Weisbrot does, that the government "will most likely be proved right once again"? Right now, Argentina is trying to get more investment from Petrobras, which seems lukewarm to the idea:

Brazilian Energy Minister Edison Lobao said during a news conference following the meeting that Petrobras would invest all that it could in Argentina, which he said would amount to roughly $500 million in 2012, unchanged from 2011.
So let's wait and see.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Romney's Latino DREAM

In the L.A. Times Tamar Jacoby (who is in favor of immigration reform) has a good Republican take on the non-citizenship DREAM Act proposed by Marco Rubio. She makes a number of points that echo a discussion I had in my Politics of Latino Immigration class yesterday (a somewhat more sluggish discussion than usual since student papers were due that day as well). She argues that Romney needs to jump on this because he can nail Democrats who claim to be in favor of reform yet oppose this bill in no small part because they do not want to give Republicans a boost on immigration in an election year.

Immigration will not decide this election but softening Romney's stance on immigration will help in a few key swing states with large numbers of eligible Latino voters. Passing this bill could neatly remove immigration from Obama's quiver during the campaign.

This isn't just the right thing to do. It would also help Romney solve his problem communicating with Latino voters. Truth is he has a lot to say that Latinos could find appealing — if they could hear him. But they can't hear him because some of what he says on immigration is so off-putting, many stop listening to the rest of his pitch. 
For many Latinos, immigration is a threshold issue and Romney is stuck on the wrong side of the threshold. That's why he's doing so poorly among Latino voters, winning just 14% to President Obama's 70% in one poll.

However, she omits one critical point, namely that the non-citizenship aspect is ideological. Latinos vote Democratic overwhelmingly, so Republicans do not want to enfranchise a group that will vote against them. She is correct that the proposal does not rule out citizenship, but it does makes it extraordinarily difficult. From an immigrant point of view, however, that may be far preferable to the precarious undocumented status.

This last point is under-analyzed. We don't really know is what potential DREAMers and their families, along with Latino voters more broadly, think about the proposal. Is citizenship a deal breaker? My hunch is that it's not, but I'm sure we'll soon see polls to give us a clue.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

YPF in comparative perspective

I like this article by Joshua Keating in Foreign Policy, which is a quick comparative historical view of the YPF nationalization in Argentina. He notes five steps in the anatomy of a takeover:

1. Choose your moment
2. Build your case
3. Make them an offer they can't refuse
4. Put the boot down
5. Don't get overthrown

Given the stakes involved, the last point deserves more attention. When do governments get overthrown and when do they not? Argentina is less polarized than Venezuela was in the first few years of Hugo Chávez's presidency, and Spain will react differently from the United States. Meanwhile, Iran in 1953 is tightly bound to the Cold War.

Fernández's nationalization of YPF seems like the latest in a series of provocative international gestures, including efforts to reassert control over the Falkland Islands. While she's clearly counting on the political benefits of these bold movements making up for the international backlash, she's entering very dangerous waters.

Dangerous, I suppose, but the backlash is likely to be more economic than political.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Blogs not dead yet

Henry Farrell writes at Crooked Timber about the academic blog wiki he started that is now going to be kept up by the Center for History and New Media. I agree with the following:

However, as best as I can tell from personal browsing, academic blogs appear to be relatively robust. It’s a lot harder than it was nine years ago to create an academic blog that can attract substantial public attention, but if you’re primarily interested in talking to other academics and a few interested bystanders, it’s still relatively easy. Academic blogs, unlike e.g. tech blogs or some political opinion blogs, don’t usually have sufficient potential audience to become commercially viable. But most academics are used to talking to smaller audiences, and as long as blogging technology is cheap or free, there will be some people at least who’ll be interested in doing it.

Just like Fidel Castro and the Concertación in Chile, the death of blogs has been predicted for a long time but hasn't yet happened. After more than six years, I'm still really enjoying and deriving a lot of benefits from it, and in fact UNC Charlotte is working to encourage more faculty to use social media, including but not limited to blogs. Blogs will likely persist as long as there are professors (and now more graduate students as well) interested in using short form writing to discuss their research interests and/or current events.

So when the death cart comes around, don't put blogs on it yet.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Romney and Obama on immigration

It seems clear that the Romney campaign is committed to a strategy of pretending he has a moderate stance on immigration, then accusing Obama of not passing immigration reform.

"We now have a Republican nominee who said that the Arizona laws are a model for the country," Obama said, referring to the state's laws that call on police to check the immigration status of people they suspect of being in the country illegally. 
"Very troublesome," he added. Critics of Arizona's approach say it could lead to ethnic profiling and Obama said it allowed people to be stopped "based on an assumption." 
Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Romney, said the former Massachusetts governor was committed to repairing the U.S. immigration system, "respecting those who are waiting patiently to come here legally, and finally ending illegal immigration in a civil and resolute manner." 
She stressed Obama had also promised in 2008 to tackle immigration reform in his first year in office but failed to do so. "President Obama only talks about immigration reform when he's seeking votes," she said.

There's quite a bit wrong here. First, if you deport record numbers of people then you're not in a position to call anyone's policies "troublesome."

Second, Romney has never explained how he respects those waiting to enter the country. In fact, he has rejected the idea of a temporary worker program for low-skilled labor. He also has never mentioned the insane backlog of immigration cases.

Third, Romney has definitely never advocated a "civil" end to illegal immigration. A "resolute" one, maybe, if by that we mean ramped up law enforcement.

Fourth, oh forget it, as there's really no point in going on. From now until November we will hear all sorts of outlandish comments about immigration, many of them unrooted in reality. I just have to get used to it.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chávez absence

Everyone very interested in Hugo Chávez's decision not to attend the Summit of the Americas, and instead go to Cuba for more cancer treatments. Nelson Bocaranda claimed that Chávez needs to stay there 1-2 weeks, and that seems to be confirmed. Over the next week or two, rumors and news will be mixed together even more.

I'm quoted in this Businessweek article on the topic. The bottom line is that this is not something Chávez wants to miss. There are relatively few opportunities to overcome the power imbalance between him and the U.S. president, but having a summit where both are present is one. International institutions offer that possibility at times. He can say whatever he wants, bring some sort of symbolic gift, etc., and the U.S. president has to deal with it. The fact that he is giving that up says more about his health than any rumor.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Predicting the Latino vote

A student emailed me this article in Time about predicting the influence of the Latino vote in November. It points out accurately that the idea of Republicans needing some particular share of the national vote is misleading since the national vote is irrelevant in U.S. presidential elections. I agree with this assessment:

Latinos are expected to make up about one in ten voters this year, but many of those votes, in big states like Texas, California and New York, will have no impact on the electoral college, since those states are not in play for Romney. But Latinos can have a big impact on the outcomes in Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and Florida, and a marginal impact in states like North Carolina and Ohio, all of which both parties will contest.

One key things missing here is the percentage of the Latino population that is eligible to vote in each state. In states with long-standing Latino communities, of course that will be much higher than places like North Carolina, where it is a relatively newly arrived constituency, has a lower proportion of eligible voters, and a much lower proportion of registered voters. But it is true that the impact will be marginal.

Nonetheless, as the race heats up I expect my phone to start ringing with robo-calls and my mailbox to fill up with fliers.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Latino vote and Latin America

Businessweek has an article with an argument I've heard before and don't really buy, namely that Latinos in the United States will turn out in part because of Obama's visits to Latin America.

“The president desperately needs high voter turnout among Hispanic Americans,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University in Houston. “It doesn’t hurt for him to be in Colombia, and being seen with Latino leaders of the hemisphere is not a bad photo-op in an election year.” 
Obama’s campaign is gearing up for a close election fight against Republican Mitt Romney, putting a premium on gaining an edge with any voting group. Obama is actively courting Hispanics -- who gave him 67 percent of their votes in 2008 -- with a Spanish-language website and by recruiting Spanish-speaking volunteers and using Spanish-language voter registration forms and phone banks. 
“Key swing states that have large Hispanic populations will be extremely attentive” to the trip, said Susan MacManus, professor of political science at the University of South Florida in Tampa. “Many feel that Latin and South America has been ignored.”

I just don't see evidence for this. Check out this December 2011 poll from the Pew Hispanic Center on the most important issues for Latinos:

Latinos are concerned about their lives here, not policy toward their country of origin (Cuba excepted, of course). I can't figure how a visit to Colombia will suddenly prompt a Colombian-American to vote when they otherwise wouldn't have, or vote for Obama when they were thinking of Romney. Or at least there will be so few as to be inconsequential.

Update: The Miami Herald has the same argument. But where's the empirical evidence?


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Michael Lazzara's Luz Arce and Pinochet's Chile

There is a large and still growing literature on traumatic memory in Chile.  Nearly forty years after the coup and over twenty since Augusto Pinochet left power, the powerful psychological effects of political violence remain painfully relevant. The academic literature has gradually though incompletely responded to understand it. In Luz Arce and Pinochet’s Chile:Testimony in the Aftermath of State Violence, Michael Lazzara grapples with some of the most difficult aspects of memory through a series of interviews with Luz Arce.

The case of Luz Arce is unsettling and tragic, not only because of the suffering she depicts but because she forces all of us to ask ourselves uncomfortable questions about how we would react under extreme duress. As she detailed in her book El infierno (published in Chile in 1993, with an English translation, The Inferno, in 2004) she became part of Salvador Allende’s inner circle in 1972 and worked as a militant in the Socialist Party. The military government abducted her in 1974, tortured, raped, and shot her, then worked to make her a collaborator.  She subsequently provided not only details about the structure of leftist organizations, but also specific names. She became a formal employee of the dictatorship’s notorious intelligence agency, the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA), and its successor, the Centro Nacional de Informaciones (CNI). That book is required reading for anyone who wants to understand the depth of repression of the Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship.

Lazzara begins with an abridged version of her statement to the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1990, which is essentially a boiled down version of The Inferno. He follows with seven thematic chapters consisting of interviews he conducted with Arce from 2002 to 2007. It ends with a discussion by a number of participants in a 2008 forum in Santiago based on the based on the book, which was first published in Spanish but then updated and expanded in an English version.

It isn’t easy reading, because of course the interviews probe the very architecture of authoritarian repression in all its naked brutality. When confronted by the reality that her work with the DINA led directly to four deaths, she quickly responses that “as a functionary I bore no responsibility for deaths linked to the detention of people or to torture” and that “I was forced to be a functionary” (p. 80, emphasis in original). She struggles to reconcile her personal need for catharsis by writing the book in the first place with the fact that she worked for the DINA for an extended period of time, an experience she admits was not entirely negative.

What the book demonstrates is the need for a framework within which we can better understand not only memory but also collaboration.  The complexity of Steve Stern’s trilogy on memory in postauthoritarian Chile (TheMemory Box of Pinochet’s Chile) attests to the difficulties inherent in explaining the experiences even of those who did not switch sides. When perpetrator and victim get blurred together, analysis is even harder.  For example, the forum itself demonstrates how problematic the term “collaboration” can be. The discussants—one of whom suffered the loss of her husband because of Luz Arce--differ greatly in their treatment of Arce, and come to no agreement about how to determine where the line can be drawn between victim and active participant. Rather than acting as a real conclusion, the forum is characterized by the raising of multiple and sometimes contradictory questions.  Arce’s testimony reflects the fact that her answers to such questions change over time.  When asked whether she felt that she was a victim, she responds that initially she did not, but then later did, especially after talking to the Rettig Commission (p. 87).

Ultimately, then, this is a book that seeks not to answer questions, but to leave them open intentionally.  In the introduction, Lazzara notes that he hopes the book can serve a pedagogical function (p. 9).  Of that, there is little doubt.  For an instructor, it would be a useful addition to courses on Latin American politics or on authoritarian rule more generally for the issues it forces the reader to contemplate.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New website

For anyone who goes to my academic website, here is the new link. By now the old address should be redirecting automatically. For all the constant work I do online, I had always found website updating to be clunky. Now the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is using WordPress. It took a bit of getting used to, but is much easier than anything else I've used because it is just blogging.


Santos interview

Juan Forero interviews Juan Manuel Santos in the Washington Post. Very rational discussion about drugs, particularly in terms of wanting a broader discussion about strategies without trying to force a particular proposal. Here is a particularly good point about measuring success:

“When I was minister of defense, we were very successful. We took down all the members that were in the list of high-value targets in the drug trafficking, all of them. They are either in jail or dead. We confiscated unprecedented amounts of cocaine. We eradicated unprecedented amounts of hectares of coca, and the DEA director came here and congratulated me and congratulated our people, saying we are doing very well. And you know how success was defined? By the price of cocaine in Los Angeles or in New York or in Washington. And so, because the price went up, we were being successful. But at the same time, if the price goes up, the incentive goes up. So there is a structured sort of contradiction in the whole setup.”

Meanwhile, Moisés Naím recently had a worshipful interview with Alvaro Uribe, who is really mad about Santos' moderation (and also does occasional Twitter rants).


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Net zero migration

It can be frustrating to read stories like this one in the Christian Science Monitor. The topic is "net zero" migration from Mexico, which means the number of Mexicans going to the United States is roughly the same as the number of Mexicans returning from the United States. The problem is that this is too often conflated with a massive exodus, but they are not the same thing.

There remains no evidence of any large scale exodus. Instead, as readers of our book will know, the demographic fit between the United States and Mexico is gradually disappearing. Young Mexican migrants came in large numbers, and now we see not an exodus, but rather a demographic equilibrium. The U.S. economy no longer needs so many young workers, and there are some more economic opportunities in Mexico than there were in the past, which means fewer Mexicans are prompted to emigrate. Of course more Mexicans came back when the economy crashed--the article notes an increase from 2005 to 2010--but there is no tsunami. Even that increase can be attributed in no small part to the Obama administration's commitment to deportation. Between 2005 and 2010, the number of deportations increased by about 150,000.

In short, I am hesitant to proclaim, as is now fashionable, that there is a remarkable transformation going on. If you view the situation from a demographic perspective, it seems more a gradual and inevitable shift. This also means it can last quite a while, but is not permanent.


Monday, April 09, 2012

Measuring the drug war

Tyler Cowen argues that Mexico is winning the drug war because it is experiencing economic growth.

If Mexico keeps on getting richer, and the drug lords keep on killing each other, eventually Mexico will win.  Think rates of return, or think of government revenue as rising over time.  I’m not saying the drug problem will ever disappear there.

I don't believe I've ever seen success defined in this way, and I don't understand the causal logic. Economic growth leads to more government revenue, which leads to...what? More resources to fight the drug war? Maybe, though right now the problem seems more about strategy than funding per se.


Sunday, April 08, 2012

Professors writing stylishly

From the Wall Street Journal, on professors writing "stylishly."

Unfortunately, the myth persists, especially among junior faculty still winding their anxious way up the tenure track, that the gates of academic publishing are guarded by grumpy sentries programmed to reject everything but jargon-laden, impersonal prose. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Nearly everyone, including the editors of academic journals, would much rather read lively, well-written articles than the slow-moving sludge of the typical scholarly paper.

This is an interesting point. Junior scholars feel that they have to prove they understand their particular research niche, which can definitely lead to bad writing. That can persist into senior scholardom as well. And, of course, some people are just bad writers no matter their intention. We fall in love with polysyllabic words, like polysyllabic, and throw them like confetti into article manuscripts.

Unfortunately, she doesn't explain why a professor should bother. If arcane language gets where you want to be, then what's the point of being "stylish"? She does mention that it makes work more accessible, which is true, though she doesn't explain why that is necessary. In some cases, it isn't. In political science, however, I think it is, at least to the extent that professors hope their work spreads as far as possible, including the non-academic world. Not everyone cares about this, to be true, but a lot do.

My opinion is that good--if not necessarily "stylish"--writing also increases your chances at publication. Of course, it cannot overcome a bad analysis, and I don't want to overstate the case, but good writing makes the reader and editor more favorably disposed toward you. And that's always a good thing.


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Alabama's buyer remorse

Prior to passage of the Alabama immigration law, everyone with a modicum of sense knew it would be a disaster. Now after its gone into effect, even people without any sense are realizing it is a disaster, and so are proposing revisions.

Unfortunately, the real lesson is going entirely unlearned. These laws hurt the states that pass them. They will never achieve the goals intended by their authors. What's so strange is how proponents believe that putting immigration reform on the backs of state businesses will create jobs.

It doesn't matter what revisions you make. In fact, they simply may make things more confusing, because constantly changing already complex rules just leaves everyone clueless. The bill will hurt Alabama, as the average Alabaman will pay the price that their elected officials refuse to acknowledge.


Friday, April 06, 2012

More Cuba and the OAS

U.S. News & World Report has a story about Cuba's potential inclusion in the OAS. The article makes it sound like there will be some huge push coming.

The Communist nation has made significant economic policy changes in recent years, but is still far from meeting the political criteria set forth by regional leaders at a previous summit in Quebec in 2001. As a result, according to Piccone, further efforts to push for Cuba's inclusion in the OAS—without the appropriate political changes from the country itself—could be detrimental the idea of democracy in the hemisphere.

The problem here, which I discussed last time the OAS issue came up, is that Cuba has never expressed an interest in joining the OAS. In fact, it has explicitly said it doesn't want to. Until that changes, this is all much ado about nada.


Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Quote of the day: Alabama

On the screw-up that is currently E-Verify from the new Alabama immigration law.

While the law says "every business entity or employer in this state shall enroll in E-Verify," Bentley spokesman Jeremy King wasn't able to say Tuesday which employers must register. 
"That's for the lawyers to figure out," he said.

That is the governor's spokesman talking, and he does not seem unduly concerned. That sums up exactly what I've been saying for months and months. State-level immigration law is primarily about paying lots of lawyers. And creating new paperwork for small businesses to deal with.


Sanity in the South

So some semblance of sanity shines through. In North Carolina, a specially created immigration committee in the legislature decided after a number of hearings that the state will not pursue its own copycat legislation. Meanwhile, Mississippi's copycat legislation died in the senate.

This does not necessarily mean no such legislation will be pursued in the future. In the North Carolina case, there is a clear sense that it is a waste of time and money to push anything before the Supreme Court issues a ruling. Interestingly, though, in Mississippi it seemed the economic impact was more important than the Supreme Court, thus perhaps making it less likely it will pass in the future.

But Laura Hipp, a spokeswoman for Reeves, indicated that not all of the self-proclaimed conservatives in the state were on the same page. 
"Lt. Gov. Reeves believes we need to do something to rid our state of illegal immigrants, but he respects the fact that the chairman listened to concerns expressed by the Mississippi Economic Council, Farm Bureau, the Mississippi Poultry Assn., and local cities, counties, police chiefs and sheriffs, about the potential impact of this bill on taxpayers," Hipp said in a statement.

Either way, a little sanity is nice.


Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Romney and immigration

These comments from Mitt Romney is really something else. He criticizes Barack Obama for failing to pass immigration reform while having Democratic control of Congress, which is an entirely fair criticism. The wee problem, though, is that Romney is dead set against immigration reform and so wouldn't have even bothered pretending to try.

“This has always been a priority for the president he chooses to do nothing about,” Romney said. “Let the immigrant community not forget that while he uses this as a political weapon, he has not taken responsibility for fixing the problems we have.”

So that argument won't take Romney too far. Then he slips straight into the rabbit hole by saying we need to we make it too hard for immigrants with skills we need to get into the country while also saying we need to stop illegal immigration. The uncomfortable truth, so to speak, is that those are the workers we need. The idea that we only need high skilled workers is fantasy.

“My own view is our immigration policies are upside down,” he continued. “We make it very hard for people who have skills that we need — education and English-speaking and workplace skills — make it very hard for those people to come here and to stay here. On the other hand, those that don’t have any of those things are often times able to come either across the border or over-stay their visas and remain in this country indefinitely. So we’ve got it backwards.”

I guess he does not think that a farm, construction site, hotel, etc. represent "workplaces."

In all, these arguments aren't going to do anything for him, good or bad. His views on immigration are well known, and voters will not be thinking much about them when it comes time to choose.


Sunday, April 01, 2012

Terrorism again

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says the Latin American drug routes could become bomb routes.

Dempsey is wary of a dangerous network of drug traffickers, weapons smugglers and organized criminal elements in South and Central America. They have developed transit avenues — by land, sea and air — that one day could be used to move far more dangerous things, like weapons of mass destruction, across the southern U.S. border, he said in an interview with reporters traveling with him.

Framing Latin America in terms of terrorism has an old and essentially unpleasant history. It is particularly unfortunate to lump disparate threats together and serve them up on one undifferentiated plate.

Rhetoric matters, and especially with regard to terrorism can too easily lead to hasty and likely unproductive policies. He was talking off the cuff, so hopefully this does not mean too much. But the threats to U.S. security as well as citizen security in Latin America are quite a lot more complicated than this.

And, incidentally, we don't fight this effectively by trying to regain "lost" jungle skills.

On Wednesday, Dempsey visited the Brazilian city of Manaus, near the confluence of the Amazon river and the Rio Negro. He toured a steamy outpost where Brazilian troops train in jungle warfare, a skill that U.S. soldiers have lost during a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. 


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