Friday, May 28, 2010
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Czechs go to the polls in a general election.

Filed under: 2010,Europe,elections | Comments Off|
By Steven L. Taylor

Note:  originally written for OTB.

James Joyner’s post on President Obama’s move to send National Guard troops to the US-Mexican border is pretty much spot-on in regards to its criticisms of the policy move.  He specifically notes:

We’re not dealing here with terrorists.   Nor, despite heated rhetoric to the contrary, are we suffering an “invasion.”  The problems we’re dealing with are migrant workers desperate for work and drug cartels fighting for turf.

Further, it should noted that the two problems are different.  Yes, there are some smugglers who traffic both in people and drugs, and yes, they are crossing the same border, but ultimately the situations are different ones that have to be dealt with as distinct policy realms, even if they have overlap.  In simple terms, the solutions for the drug trafficking problem are not the same as the solutions for illegal immigrant problem and we need to understand that fact.  Simplistic cries of “seal of the border” do not amount to actual policy solutions.

There is one way in which both drugs and migrant labor are linked:  both are driven by supply and demand.

Writing on the topic of illegal immigration, Patrick Corcoran rightly observes:

Illegal immigrants respond to the labor market, not an independently existing desire to leave their homeland and, in many cases, their family. When either the labor demand in the US or the labor supply in Mexico dries up, so will Mexican immigration.

It is both that simple and that complex.

He further notes:

One point that gets lost in a lot of the anger about immigration is that, generally speaking, immigration is a mutually beneficial relationship: both the immigrant and the country that receives him win.

I am sure some readers will greatly dispute this fact, but it is nonetheless true.  As problematic as the entire process is, it is clear that the maids, gardeners, fast food workers, fruit pickers, construction workers and the like are serving a purpose in our economy.  Further, despite popular perception in some quarters, they do pay taxes:  sales taxes, property taxes via rent, excise taxes, and frequently payroll taxes.  In regards to said payroll taxes, the irony is that any social security taxes paid by undocumented workers goes to subsidize social security (because the workers in question are using SS numbers not their own and they cannot collect on the system).  As the NYT reported back in 2005:  Illegal Immigrants Are Bolstering Social Security With Billions:

As the debate over Social Security heats up, the estimated seven million or so illegal immigrant workers in the United States are now providing the system with a subsidy of as much as $7 billion a year.

None of this is to argue that there is no cost to illegal immigrants or that they represent an unvarnished good.  However, the situation is far, far more complex than many who get really upset about the situation make it out to be (where it is often painted all all cost and no benefit).  Certainly it should be clear that illegal immigrations is far from only a problem.  Again, the labor demand is there and I have long maintained (for example) the forces of supply and demand are quite powerful and more difficult to contain than many proponents of border control wish to acknowledge.  Indeed, the clear existence of this labor market is a solid argument for comprehensive immigration reform that would include making it far easier for this market to work.

Back to Corocan:

The Arizona ranchers who don’t want their land tramped through every night have a legitimate grievance, but that’s more of an argument for the government establishing a nationwide quota for manual labor roughly in line with what the market demands. Today, however, the quantity of low-skilled immigrant visas stands at about 1 percent of the total undocumented population.

The Arizona law can’t overcome the laws of supply and demand. It may drive immigrants into ranches in New Mexico and Texas, but the national panorama won’t be very different. And any law draconian enough to actually put a dent into illegal immigration will necessarily offend our sensibilities and harm our economy.

It would be nice if we could get a more realistic discussion on this topic.

Also, it should be noted that roughly 40% of illegal immigrants in the US are not border crossers, but rather visa over-stayers.  As such, even if we could totally seal the border between the US and Mexico with a force shield of Trekian proportions, we still wouldn’t have solved the problem.

One of the political observations I would make is that the segment of US politics that is most vehement on the question of border control is also the segment that is most interested (at least rhetorically) in both promoting capitalism and smaller government.  However, on this topic that appear to wish to repeal the laws of supply and demand and to increase the power of the government.

By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Jamaica clashes claimed more than 70 lives, “Most of the dead were young men, some suspected of being armed, while at least three police and soldiers also died, officials said.”  Additionally, over 500 have been arrested.

Meanwhile, regarding the object of the assault:  “It is not clear if Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, who is wanted by the US, is still in Jamaica.”

The attempt to capture Coke and extradite him to the United States lasted four days to date.

It is unclear exactly what sparked the move to extradite Coke at this precise moment in time:

The violence was sparked by a decision by [Prime Minister] Golding to extradite Mr Coke to the US on drugs and weapons trafficking charges – for which he could receive a life sentence.

It reversed nine months of opposition to his extradition, with Mr Golding arguing that the evidence against Mr Coke was obtained illegally by intercepting mobile telephone calls.

But he changed his mind in the face of growing public discontent, and questions about his possible ties to Mr Coke.

Mr Coke, 41, insists he is a legitimate businessman and enjoys the support of many impoverished Kingston residents who see him as a benefactor.

This is all classic drug war developments.  First we have an individual made fabulously wealthy via the drug trade.  Second, said individual uses said wealth to ingratiate himself with large swaths of the poor, to corrupt segments of the government, and to arm himself to the teeth.  Third, all of this makes the drug lord in question into a force able to contest the state itself leading to the only way that he can be taken out is via substantial state action.

The story is quick similar to that of Pablo Escobar, the first (and perhaps greatest) of the cocaine lords.  It is certainly a pattern we are seeing in Mexico at the moment.

Filed under: Criminal Justice,Latin America,War on Drugs | Comments Off|
By Steven L. Taylor

Note to Eric Johnston, primary candidate for the GOP nomination for Place 3 on the Alabama Supreme Court:  getting a robo-call from you at 3:16am is not a good way to create good feelings about your candidacy.

I was awakened this morning by the voice of Mr. Johnston coming over the answering machine by my bed (I had left the phone itself in the other room, so didn’t hear it ring).  At first I thought it was my alarm and I wacked at it sleepily enough that I ended up screwing it up enough that it did not work properly this morning (I knocked it off the radio station so all I got was quiet static), so not only did Mr. Johnston wake me up, he contributed to me over-sleeping this morning.

Since my attention has now been drawn to Mr. Johnston, I note that in his robo-call he notes that he is a “pro-life conservative” (I listened to it again this morning to figure out who the heck it was that had awakened me).  Now, this is Alabama and being a “pro-life conservative” is a good thing in a GOP primary.   While I have heard other judicial candidates make similar claims, they continue to rattle me a bit, as it is pretty close to campaigning for the court on a specific policy issue, which ought to be a no no.  It is especially striking to me for conservative judicial candidates, because they frequently rail against judicial activists.

Indeed, if one looks at Johnston’s web site, one finds:

Eric launched his career at a time when judicial activism was a rapidly rising concern.  Judges removed prayer from public schools during the 1960’s, and in 1973, the Judicial Branch legalized abortion-on-demand.  Soon thereafter, America saw the ravages of the Carter administration.  During this tumultuous time, however, the political and legal philosophy of conservatism was ushered in and eventually embodied by the election of President Ronald Reagan.  Because of this, Eric was moved to make a difference…

So, in other words, it sounds like he wants to be a judicial activists of a conservative stripe.  Indeed, it reminds me very much of the campaign that Tom Parker ran in 2004 (as I noted here (the incumbent that Johnston is seeking to replace).

I must confess that the infusion of politics otherwise unconnected to being a judge in Alabama underscores that elected judges aren’t a very good idea—it does turn it into a ideological contest about policy rather than one about qualifications and judicial philosophy.  Indeed, they often sound like they are running for a legislative body rather than a judicial position.

Filed under: 2010,Alabama Politics,Blogging,elections | Comments Off|
Thursday, May 27, 2010
By Steven L. Taylor

Primary Season 2010

365.147 (5/27/10)

By Steven L. Taylor

In Orbit

365.146 (5/26/10)

Filed under: photoblogging | Comments Off|
By Steven L. Taylor

Takin’ a Bath

365.145 (5/25/10). And in the appropriate locale.

Filed under: photoblogging | Comments Off|
By Steven L. Taylor

A while back I noted the case of Angie Sanclemente Valencia, a Colombian model who was wanted on suspicion of running a drug smuggling ring using model (She Has it All: Looks and a Cocaine Cartel).

She is now in custody.  Via the BBC:  Colombian beauty queen arrested on drug charges:

The Argentine press, who have dubbed her "Narco Queen", say she moved to Mexico in 2005 where she became romantically involved with a well-known drug trafficker known as The Monster.

She is believed to have moved to Argentina in 2009.

An arrest warrant was issued for her after a 21-year-old model was found carrying 55kg of cocaine boarding a flight to Cancun, Mexico.

The woman’s arrest led to six more alleged gang members, who reportedly told police they had been recruited by Ms Sanclemente.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010
By Steven L. Taylor

The Latin American Herald Tribune reports:  Colombian Military Chief Resigns.

The commander of Colombia’s armed forces, Gen. Freddy Padilla de Leon, has resigned less than a week ahead of the country’s presidential election, sources in the army and President Alvaro Uribe’s office told Efe.

The resignation is effective August 7th, which is Uribe’s last day in office.  Padilla otherwise would have held the position until December 31st.

Exactly what the political implications of the timing of this resignation is unclear.  It is interesting that it links Paddy’s tour of duty strictly to Uribe.

As the story noted, Padilla is linked heavily to both Uribe’s successes (such as the rescue of Ingrid Betancourt) and his failings (like the false positives scandal), which is also the case with Santos.  No doubt having Padilla in the news emphasizes both the positive and negative about Uribe, and therefore about Santos. 

Filed under: 2010,Colombia,elections | Comments Off|
By Steven L. Taylor

If the man actually wins the presidency of Colombia will that mean the end of every story about him mentioning that he once mooned an auditorium full of students when he was rector of the National University?  One can but hope.

The latest example is via the Miami HeraldYoungest voters may sway Colombian election.

Filed under: 2010,Colombia,elections | Comments Off|
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