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Immigration and jobs

I’ve never understood the belief that allowing immigrants in displaces American workers, at least en masse as I’m sure some here and there do lose jobs.  First off, what can be produced/consumed is not finite.  Having more workers creates more money to be spent, thereby creating more jobs.  Second, Americans don’t want some jobs.  It’s super difficult to find Americans to pick fruit all day long.  Stephen Colbert used his celebrity this summer to make this point.

The recent Business Week has an extended article on this very topic, focusing on Alabama.  Alabama recently enacted HB56, or the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act.  Section2 of the Act opens up by stating “[T]he State of Alabama finds that illegal immigration is causing economic hardship and lawlessness in this state and that illegal immigration is encouraged when public agencies within this state provide public benefits without verifying immigration status.”  Economic hardship is not defined, but can be interpreted to mean a loss of jobs for “natural” Alabamians.  From the article, Randy Rhodes, who works at a processing plant, states ““Somebody has to figure this out. The immigrants aren’t coming back to Alabama—they’re gone . . .  I have 158 jobs, and I need to give them to somebody.”

Now, the plant will be producing less, and despite Alabama having an exceedingly high unemployment rate, these jobs are not being filled.  An argument can be made, and the article does address it, that its not the work that Alabamians object to, but the paltry pay.  And the pay is lousy.  But that’s a different argument.  The pay is lousy because the product can only be sold profitably at a certain price.  The pay is not lousy because immigrants were doing the work.


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So, been meaning to write about this New Statesman article for a few days, and am doing so now because of another post from Feministe regarding the same topic: misogyny of (presumably) men online.  Not being female and having a blog that, currently counting, has 2 comments and less than 100 hits, I certainly do not fear being left absurd, very violent (gang-rape appears to be a favorite topic???), and sexist comments.  The desire to express oneself in such a vile manner baffles me.  What is so threatening to the male ego about a woman blogging? (or succeeding in a corporation, as a scientist, or any other endeavor????) And, even if a guy is threatened, why respond in that manner?

Being a lawyer, and hence going to law school, I’d like to think that this type of behavior mostly exists for the age range of kids playing XBox Live and taunting each other with racist or sexist comments and dies out the higher one goes with education & employment, but that is very far from being true.  I forget the website now, but during law school, there was some message board (I believe the person who ran it had a summer or FT offer rescinded because of the site) filled with anonymous venomous comments against women, or rankings of women based on their attractiveness, etc.  I remember a female classmate asking me about it, and then showing it to me since I’d never seen/heard of it before.  So, presumably I did know some of the posters, as I doubt my school was immune to this.  But again, why behave like this? I’ve never seen, in all my many years of viewing blogs, comments from women threatening men with gang rape.

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A fantastic piece by Mother Jones regarding how Ringling Bros. treats its elephants:

Shirley gave birth on December 5, 2003, at age eight. She was chained by three legs and surrounded by human handlers, who poked her with bullhooks during labor. When the slippery newborn dropped, trainers whisked him away. Riccardo was placed in the care of center training director Jacobson and his wife. His training started at three months, while he was still being bottle-fed. The couple tied ropes to his trunk and feet to get him to climb on the tub or attempt other tricks. By six months, he developed knee problems. “Not laying down, seems to be uncomfortable,” read a notation by the animal care staff for June 15, 2004. “Left rear leg, knee appears to be swollen.” They administered a painkiller and training resumed. On July 9, 2004, another notation said, “Front leg stiff.” He received a painkiller and training resumed.

Four weeks after that entry, the fatal accident occurred. Testimony would later reveal it wasn’t during play, as Feld Entertainment had contended, but during a training exercise while being pulled by a rope tied to his trunk onto a 19-inch-high tub.

Also, the article shows how anemic budgets leads to horrific outcomes:

“You don’t take on an organization like Feld Entertainment without having strong evidence to support it.”

Since the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has a $16M budget and 111 employees, it doesn’t have the institutional support to go after an organization that earns between $500 million and $1 billion annually.  Therefore, elephants get cruelly abused.

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Equatorial Guinea is likely one of the most corrupt countries around.  I’ve just finished reading Fukuyama’s “The Origins of Political Order,” and one of this claims is that for a country to be considered a modern democracy, it must meet three standards: be a “state;” have a rule of law; and accountability.  Many nations have two of three, but hitting the trifecta is rather hard.  Equatorial Guinea has the state part down; it’s the other two requirements that currently elude it.  That’s not to say that those running Equatorial Guinea don’t at least like to pay lip service to those other requirements (emphasis added):

Tang responded that they were not the only African country with a bad reputation. “People have tried to learn the truth of cultures before making accusations. Concerning what you say about diktats of government, let me say again: Equatorial Guinea is trying its best to be a country ruled by law. We are trying to do our best.” He closed the meeting by thanking his visitors for their sincerity.

Just because it says it’s trying does not mean that it is, but Equatorial Guinea is certainly under greater international scrutiny because of its oil wealth, so it pays lip service to the “rule of law” while repressing its citizens.

As an aside, the U.S. government is currently going after Teodorin Obiang, the dictator’s playboy son, in what may be the greatest case name ever: United States vs. One White Crystal-Covered “Bad Tour” Glove And Other Michael Jackson Memorabilia

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Recent readings

The Greatest Show on Earth

It still baffles me that evolution is controversial, but since admittedly, I didn’t know much beyond the basics, I felt I needed to understand the reasoning behind it more.  In this, Richard Dawkins sets forth both some common critiques of evolution as well as the most cited evidence supporting the theory.  Ultimately, the book was convincing, and for many of the main reasons I suspected.  First, the earth is sufficiently old enough to allow for evolution to occur.  We know this from various ways we can date materials, from either radioactive dating, such Carbon 13 (which is renewing), and cessium (?), to dendrochronology, which uses tree rings to link back in time.

Next, Dawkins shows that evolution actually occurs in real time.  He does this by examining certain lizards, though most impressively, detailing the studies on guppies.  Off the coast of South America, a scientist collected and studied guppies.  He sampled guppies from streams that had few predators and from those that had many.  The streams with fewer predators had brighter colors, and vice versa.  Next, he was able to alter the color scheme for guppies depending on how he altered the ratio of predators.  The guppies evolved rather quickly after that.

For further evidence, Dawkins cites how the continents’ structure has changed since the earth began, and how this affected the resulting location for many animals.  He used genetic history as well to show what species were related to each other.  Most interestingly, he addressed the variation between individuals as a species evolved.  Basically, it’s not a bright line mark, which makes sense as the changes are usually not sudden, but rather a slow accumulation of changes over many generations.  This is why scientists often will disagree over what species a fossil will belong to.  This need for classification imposes somewhat artificial distinctions with names when what matters more is the total change over time.

Overall, this books was excellent. The science was straight forward, was more inclusive of other disciplines than I anticipated, and successfully addressed all the arguments creationists use.

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First, I hadn’t realized when I started reading that English translations were an abbreviated version.

Next, when reading books discussing cultures foreign to my own, I’m never sure whether an author consciously tries to convey a theme that my Western mind discerns, or if instead, the author merely conveys common tropes or themes from his/her culture that don’t necessarily resonate beyond that.  Here, specifically, I’m thinking of a character’s ability to interact with other characters through dreams to the point where an actual encounter occurs.  It happened numerous times throughout the novel, e.g.  from Creta’s visiting Mr. Okada, causing the former to feel sexual excitement, to Mr. Okada traversing the separation between his world and the dream world.  Noboru Wataya succumbs to some malady during the novel’s conclusion, and the author leads the reader to associate that event with Mr. Okada’s thrashing of a faceless man during a hotel room brawl in the fantasy world.

Beyond that, the themes that most interested me were: the nature of self; the role that fate/destiny/unseen forces play in regulating and dictating our futures; action/inaction; and violence, whether physical or mental.

The plot had holes, at least character-wise, but I realize now that the creations, when translated, could just be adumbrated versions.  Kumiko, in particular, lacked.  Other than loyalty, she didn’t strike me as a character worth the trouble her husband went through.

Overall, quite happy with the book, and have now started Cloud Atlas, which has begun with great promise.

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I imagine this idea has been broached before, or at least the ideas behind have been. Basically, it involves how to best make Afghanistan stable. I was thinking about this when I was reading Steve Coll’s post Ink Spots. In it, he states “As Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post described recently, McChrystal’s plan is to create a series of “ink spots” centered on large population areas, and then to try to connect some of these ink spots together by taking control of intercity roads.”  He describes it as possibly the best of bad-case scenarios, because even if successful, the Taliban will still control many rural areas throughout Afghanistan.

Independent of the difficulty of successfully completing the strategy, I wonder if Coll is wrong about the potential benefits. In networks, under the “small world theory,” a small number of highly concentrated areas can drastically extend the network’s connections.  Here, if Afghanistan was truly able to have large population centers stable and make the roads safe between, it could start to drastically erode the Taliban’s presence because those outlier towns would each start to connect to other areas which are Taliban controlled. But if the larger nodes are “safe” and Taliban free, and are able to disperse that amongst smaller nodes because of safe travel, the idea that 1) the government can stabilize population centers 2) residents realize this and begin to more forcefully push back against the Taliban may accelerate the Taliban’s decline.

Obviously this is all conjecture, and no doubt securing roads between the more populous areas is exceedingly difficult, but if it can be done, it may very well help establish control beyond those areas to a greater degree than Coll believes.

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