Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Immigration is Recruiting, Not Charity

This is a message that needs to be repeated more. Pithy summaries: Jim Manzi said "we should reconceptualize immigration as recruiting." Reihan Salam adds urgency: "Incredibly, during a time when we’ve come to appreciate the importance of talent agglomerations and intangible assets, we’re reducing rather than increasing the legal influx of skilled migrants." We're only offering one third the skilled visas today that we did in 2001. Limiting skilled visas and granting amnesty to illegals has the same effect as blocking skilled labor and encouraging low-value labor. Not only are you selecting for low-value labor but you're creating an (ethnically defined!) service sector underclass which - progressive white collar Californians don't like to recognize - we already have. This is not good for the economy, and not good if you want a functioning democracy either.

All I can add here is an entreaty to the national Republican Party to include solutions to this issue in their platform. The GOP is really missing a big win here by ignoring this as a campaign issue and focusing instead on anchor baby idiocy. Refocusing the immigration issue in this way will also repair some of the damage to the GOP brand caused by anti-immigration support coming from open racists who taint the party's image - where as if you're for encouraging smart immigration (which will, by the way, largely be from eastern and southern Asia) you're self-evidently not a racist.

It's possible to find a real issue that has substantial economic and national security impact that can also resonate with voters, and this is one. It is tragically being ignored.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Politicians Speak in Code

"The Vietnamese and the Republicans are - with an intensity - trying to take away this seat..."

That was Loretta Sanchez on Univision, talking about her opponent Van Tran. It's relevant that this quote is translated from Spanish.

It's amazing how often even in 2010 people feel safe using the opacity of a language barrier to (publicly) say things to one community that they wouldn't dare say to a wider audience - and how often the press and the public lets them get away with it. It's the same with Spanish-language radio, which gets away with language that would bring the FCC down on any English-speaking radio host. But this controversy is cause for optimism. The time when public figures could talk out of both sides of their mouths in different languages is now ending.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How Are the Mexican Drug Cartels Fighting Marijuana Legalization?

In November California voters will decide whether to legalize marijuana (Prop 19). I've wondered for some time how the Mexican cartels who stand to lose in a huge way will fight this; after all, you can't directly give money to an American politician who will then stand in front of cameras and say "We should keep marijuana illegal so international drug-and-gun runners can stay in business."

The California Beer and Beverage Distributors group is getting press recently for their vigorous opposition to marijuana legalization. While they do have their own reasons for opposing legalization, I wonder what we'd find if we followed the money very closely.

Monday, September 20, 2010

China in Africa: Senegal

23-minute documentary on Chinese emigration to Senegal, in the context of Chinese economy activity in Africa. Main criticism: it would have been nice to see more about incentives and coordination to emigration from the Chinese government. If you don't like the little window below it's better to watch on a larger screen.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Incentives in Social Engineering

"If we miss the goals, who is going to punish us?" asked Esther Duflo, a development expert (and Macarthur Fellow, and Clark awardee) at M.I.T. "Nobody is going to come from Mars and say, 'You didn’t reach the goals, so we will invade' — there is no onus." The article addresses accountability problems with the U.N.'s approaches to fighting poverty. Maybe we need an X-Prize for measurable, realistic milestones in development?

Oddly, the types of private institutional giving discussed in the second link above (for example, the Gates Foundation) is proving difficult to get off the ground in the rising Number Two economy, China - not just because Chinese billionaires are cheap, but because the Chinese government doesn't want competition, even if it means faster improvement for its citizens.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Quote of the Day

"...it is not a sign of intolerance for us to notice that some cultures and sub-cultures do a terrible job of producing human lives worth living."

- Sam Harris, talking about his forthcoming book The Moral Landscape

Don't Like Chomsky? Then You WILL Like This

And I like this. Here's a great article about Chomsky's pretensions to political expertise. ("Pretensions!?" you huff, "How dare you!") There is an excellent allusion to the concept of horizontal fame. That is, Henry Ford was good at automating and managing production, which led him to believe he was good at everything else, including (oddly enough) politics.

Chomsky and Ford certainly aren't the first to think that because they can win at one game, they're experts at all of them, but it's up to the rest of us to wring the hero-worship out of what we read and not buy into the cult of fame - which, ironically, Chomsky enjoys decrying.

If you want to see some of old Noam's more ambitious claims even within linguistics punctured, for my money, no one is better than Stephen Pinker.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rhetoric Check: Nuclear Disarmament Then and Now

The following reads like a "dark" science fiction scenario, as it might be written by a social conservative author:

In September 2011, the Obama administration decided to deactivate the Minuteman II ICBMs. Over the next few years the missiles were removed from the silos and placed in storage for use in launching satellites. In order to assure the Chinese that the silos were being deactivated according to the SALT III treaty each silo was first stripped of useful equipment and then the top 25 feet of the silo was blown apart using 2,800 pounds of explosives. After being left exposed for several months so the Chinese satellites could verify the destruction the remains were filled in and covered to look as much like the surrounding area as possible. Only one silo escaped destruction to become the Minuteman Missile Museum.

Submission to the Reds! Revelation of the President's true Marxist plan! His desire to destroy America! Right?

Hold on: this is the sign at the preserved nuclear missile silo south of Tucson.

When you can get rid of nuclear weapons in your national interest, that's a very good thing to do.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Painting - Redwoods

Cross-posted to my outdoors and running blog.

This time I actually spent some time mixing paint to get the right hue for redwood. It's a complex color! The second picture of the pair is an attempt to emphasize the three dimensionality of the thick paint in the middle of the trees; I tried to recreate the actual texture of redwoods with my brushwork. This is also the first time I did pre-work of any kind (on my computer) to decide how I would what paint when, and to be sure that I could represent distance using tree size.