Saturday, October 13, 2007

Don't Ask: CA Gov. Schwarzenneger (R) has signed a measure that prohibits landlords from asking about the immigration status of their tenants. The AP reports. The bill in question in AB 976. The measure both prohibits cities and towns from requiring landlords to check the immigration status of individuals and forbids landlords from deciding to check immigration status of tenants on their own. The bill was passed in both the CA Assembly and Senate on basically party-line votes (with R's against). Is signing this another demonstration of a difference between Schwarzenegger and CA Republican legislators?

Friday, October 12, 2007

It seems as though the mayors of some Texas towns are suing to stop a border fence from being built on their lands.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A reader draws my attention to a line buried in Chertoff's response to the "no match" injunction:

Today's ruling is yet another reminder of why we need Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.
I wonder what Kaus would think of that...if Chertoff is trying to "heighten the contradictions," he can't be too disappointed with this injunction: it shows just how "unworkable" the current tools for enforcement are!
Dean Baker doesn't like copyrights:

It's long past time for a little reality check. Copyright dates back to 16th century Venice. It was a mechanism for allowing writers to profit from their work by giving them a state-enforced monopoly. It has continued since that time, with the state-granted monopoly being extended both in scope and duration. Copyrights now cover music, movies, video games, and a wide range of other material. The duration has also been repeatedly extended so that copyrights in the United States now persist for 95 years after the death of the author.

While copyrights do provide an incentive for creative work, they are an extremely inefficient mechanism for this end. It is most efficient when items are sold at their marginal cost. Economists generally get infuriated about the economic distortions that are created when tariffs of 10 percent or 20 percent are placed on items like steel or clothes. In the case of copyrights, material that could otherwise be transferred at zero cost, instead commands prices of $15 for CDs, $30 for movies, and even higher prices for other items, entirely because of the government-granted monopoly. For this reason, the economic distortions created by copyright dwarf the economic damage caused by other forms of trade protection.

There are many other mechanisms for supporting creative work, such as university funding (most professors are expected to publish in addition to their teaching), foundation funding, or direct public support. It is easy to design alternative mechanisms to expand this pool of non-copyright funding, such as the Artistic Freedom Voucher, which would give each person a small tax credit to support creative work of their choosing.

With the entertainment industry getting increasingly out of control, it is important that we start to develop better alternatives to copyright. We need to think of how we should support creative work in the 21st century and not let the entertainment industry drag us back into the 16th century.
Of course, it seems to me that the irony of Baker's approach is that it would encourage a return to 16th-century policy: artists and writers would be even more dependent upon elite patrons for support. We would have traded the Medicis for national foundations. Granted, there's always been a role for the wealthy patron in the arts (the Medicis sponsored some pretty nice stuff), and plenty of productive authors are now based out of universities. It's one thing to complain about the "trade protection" "damage" of copyright and arguing that it distorts the "market," but are vast, institutional structures going to be that much more responsive to the "market"? One would have to wonder what would be more "distorting": having to pay an author some percentage of a book's price as a result of his or her labor in producing this book or having authors fill out grant proposal after grant proposal to apply for funding from some institution (and having this funding be determined by a coterie of people)?
Baker, it seems to me, wants to trade the protections of free-market commerce for the
largesse of institutions. Even if we lay aside any ethical objections to the destruction of copyright in a society, his policy certainly raises some practical concerns about some of the implications of a dissolution of copyright.
Interestingly, Baker omits another way of raising revenue for creative work: advertising. Certainly, advertising helps fund a lot of magazines and newspapers, and I know a few blogs are able to pay the bills (at least partially) through ads.
(Not that I'm against "Open Source" work or anything like that [I'm not charging for this blog! (not that anyone would pay!--ed)]--but there is a difference between forced "Open Source" and that of the voluntary kind. And one can support forced "Open Source" policies even while acknowledging the drawbacks of these policies.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction to stop the Bush administration from enforcing its new "no match" policies. Chertoff says he's still hopeful:

The decision Wednesday was disappointing, said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, but wasn't more than a "bump in the road" in the agency's drive to vigorously enforce laws aimed at keeping illegal immigrants out of the workforce.

The government will evaluate the "modest legal obstacles" presented by the judge, addressing them in litigation or outside court, as it examines its options and determines whether to appeal the decision, Chertoff said.

"I don't think there's anything in the judge's ruling that is insurmountable," Chertoff told The Associated Press by telephone. "The key is to move forward. We're committed to using every tool available to enforce our immigration laws."

Opponents of the measure are pleased with this result:

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security could not go ahead with their plan to send joint letters warning businesses they'll face penalties if they keep workers whose Social Security numbers don't match their names.

Breyer said the new work-site rule would likely impose hardships on businesses and their workers. Employers would incur new costs to comply with the regulation that the government hasn't evaluated, and innocent workers unable to correct mistakes in their records in the given time would lose their jobs, the judge wrote.

"The plaintiffs have demonstrated they will be irreparably harmed if DHS is permitted to enforce the new rule," Breyer wrote.

The so-called "no match" letters, including a Department of Homeland Security warning, were supposed to start going out in September but were held after labor groups and immigrant activists filed a federal lawsuit.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

An amendment (H/T Malkin) proposed by Sen. Boxer (D-CA) would discourage the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau from enforcing immigration law during the time of the 2010 census. Some suspect that this amendment may be motivated by the fact that "undocumented immigrants" are counted in the US Census for purposes of Congressional representation.

Monday, October 8, 2007

ABC News has a poll up about US attitudes toward immigration. However, I think they might be misinterpreting a piece of data. The report on the poll claims:
most, 58 percent, favor a path to citizenship for those here now -- a program giving illegal immigrants the right to legal status if they pay a fine and meet other requirements.
However, the poll question (as released in the polling report) asks nothing about a "path to citizenship":
2. Would you support or oppose a program giving ILLEGAL immigrants now living
in the United States the right to live here LEGALLY if they pay a fine and meet
other requirements?
I thought a "path to citizenship" meant a path to citizenship--not a path to legal permanent residency. "Living here legally" need not imply citizenship.
An interesting WaPo story on sectarian negotiations and suspicions in Iraq. I might wonder, however, if, rather than being an alternative to national "reconciliation" (as this story implies), "streamlining the government bureaucracy, placing experienced technocrats in positions of authority and improving the dismal record of providing basic services" might be a way of arriving at some potential reconciliation. It seems to me that one of the many lingering problems Iraqis face is a lack of trust in each other and a national government. Having an actually functioning national government might help build this trust that would seem so important for national reconciliation. It seems that an Iraqi parliament member would agree with this:

Humam Hamoudi, a prominent Shiite cleric and parliament member, said any future reconciliation would emerge naturally from an efficient, fair government, not through short-term political engineering among Sunnis and Shiites.

"Reconciliation should be a result and not a goal by itself," he said. "You should create the atmosphere for correct relationships, and not wave slogans that 'I want to reconcile with you.' "

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Tension in Switzerland over immigration--and a political party's position on it.