Published: Tue, 28 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Last Build Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2017 07:43:50 -0400
Thu, 09 Mar 2017 00:01:00 -0500When rocker Tom Petty found out Republican George W. Bush was blaring his song "I Won't Back Down" at campaign rallies in 2000, he sent a cease-and-desist letter. Maybe the reason Donald Trump avoided the song in his campaign is that he didn't want similar trouble. Or maybe it's because he will, in fact, back down. After a federal court blocked his February travel ban, Trump tweeted, "See you in court, the security of our nation is at stake!" From that bold declaration, you would expect him to fight all the way to the Supreme Court. But he didn't. On Monday, he caved in and issued a new travel ban designed to appease the judiciary. Backing down is not a departure from his usual style. It is his usual style. Trump is not a guy who can be counted on to stand his ground. Often, he crumbles under the slightest pressure. Ask the Chinese. Shortly after he was elected, he took a call from the president of Taiwan, in defiance of the long-standing U.S. policy of recognizing only one China. Then, when the Beijing government took offense, he snapped back on Twitter, asking, "Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency?" Conservatives applauded his manly bravado. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said Trump was alerting the Chinese that "nobody in Beijing gets to dictate who we talk to." Actually, somebody in Beijing does. His name is Xi Jinping. He's the president of China, and he refused to speak with Trump on the phone until he agreed to eat his words. As China's government media reported, Trump tamely assured Xi that "the U.S. government adheres to the One China policy." Sean Spicer did his best to mask the humiliating retreat. Asked whether the president had gotten anything in return, the press secretary insisted, "The president always gets something." Of course he does. In this instance, he got a lesson in the ancient Chinese art of kowtowing. The surrender came as no surprise to anyone who watched him during the campaign, or after. After months of promising his supporters that he would build a border wall at Mexico's expense, he paid a visit to President Enrique Pena Nieto in Mexico City and, at a news conference afterward, admitted he didn't even raise the topic: "We didn't discuss payment of the wall." In fact, Pena Nieto said later that during their session, he informed his guest that Mexico would not pay for it. Only when he was safely back across the Rio Grande did Trump dare to repeat that our neighbor will foot the bill. During his second debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump informed her, "If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception." He hasn't. After his boast about grabbing women by the genitals came out on video, several women came forward to accuse him of groping or kissing them without their consent. He denied it and announced, "All of these liars will be sued after the election is over." When is that lawsuit going to be filed? Probably right after he finishes fighting the lawsuit against Trump University. Oh, wait—he has already finished that fight, by capitulating. "I don't settle cases," he said last year about the dispute. "Watch how we win it." But in the end, Trump agreed to pay $25 million to the people accusing him of fraud. Idle threats are his specialty. Last year, he pledged to "immediately terminate President Obama's two illegal executive amnesties," one of which allowed unauthorized immigrants brought here as children to stay and work. But that order is still in place, to the disgust of anti-immigration groups. "His thinking is: 'We don't have to deal with this right now,'" explained Spicer in February. Oh, you thought "immediately" meant "right now"? On torture, NATO, seizing Iraq's oil and the Iranian nuclear deal, Trump's Cabinet officers have contradicted him—and he has let them. When confronted by people with sturdy backbones, Trump has real trouble backing up his fierce words. And he is finding it harder to intimidate political opponents and foreign leader[...]
Tue, 14 Feb 2017 14:55:00 -0500
(image) The United States is currently the largest producer and exporter of corn, but that title may take a hit if Guerrero Sen. Armando Rios Piter gets his way. CNN reports that the Mexican lawmaker will introduce a bill that would require all of that country's corn imports to come from Brazil or Argentina rather than the U.S.
The move is political: Piter explained to CNN that it's a "good way to tell them that [President Donald Trump's] hostile relationship has consequences, hope that it changes."
Trump has been vocal about his views on Mexico, insisting that the neighboring country will pay for a wall along the U.S.'s southern border and threatening to impose a hefty import tax on Mexican goods if the country doesn't comply. Trump has also lambasted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which he blames for U.S. jobs going to Mexico.
The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service released a report in 2015 that contradicts Trump's claims about the trade deal. "In reality, NAFTA did not cause the huge job losses feared by the critics or the large economic gains predicted by supporters," the authors of the report wrote. "The net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest."
Trump has criticized NAFTA as being one-sided, but the numbers suggest otherwise. A study commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2012 found that "trade with Canada and Mexico supports nearly 14 million U.S. jobs, and nearly 5 million of these net jobs are supported by the increase in trade generated by NAFTA."
U.S. farmers also benefitted from NAFTA, with CNN reporting that corn exports to Mexico rose from $391 million in 1995 to $2.4 billion in 2015.
"Prior to NAFTA, Mexico's tariffs were highest for agricultural products," the Chamber of Commerce report explains. "NAFTA allowed American farmers and ranchers to get past those barriers. As a result, U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico have quintupled since NAFTA entered into force, and the United States today supplies three-quarters of Mexico's agri-food imports."
Piter's corn bill threatens this boon to U.S. farmers.
Economic protectionism comes with a price tag, and it will be the United States who ends up footing the bill. While Trump may argue that his policies will bolster the U.S. economy and its workers, he's far more likely to start a trade war, which in turn will hurt those he claims to want to help the most.
Update 2/14/17: Mexico is, of course, not in Central America.
Fri, 03 Feb 2017 09:48:00 -0500A crucial part of President Donald Trump's rationale for building a wall along the United State's border with Mexico is that it would help to stop the trade of illegal drugs, including marijuana. "I want to build the wall. We need the wall," Trump said at one of the presidential debates last year. "We stop the drugs. We shore up the border." There's other reasons for building the wall, of course. It would help to staunch what Trump sees as a flood of illegal, migrant workers from Mexico and would serve a symbol of the Trump administration's protectionist, America-first policies on trade—the physical embodiment of Trump's efforts to undo NAFTA. Beyond that, it would be a big, expensive building project and Trump likes big, expensive building projects. Still, the idea of stopping the flow of illegal drugs from Mexico remains central to the border wall's function. Kellyanne Conway, Trump's White House counsel, said as much last week in an interview with CBS. Mexico doesn't want to pay for the well, Conway told CBS News' Gayle King, "because they want to continue to allow people and I assume drugs, since they're not doing much to stop that, pouring over our borders." If the Trump administration wants to stop the flow of drugs over the border, though, building a wall might not be the most effective policy, says David Bienenstock, the head of content at High Times and a reporter with 15 years of experience covering marijuana markets and the federal government's war on those markets. Instead of increasingly militant and expensive measures designed to stop the flow of drugs, Bienenstock told Reason in an email interview this week, Trump should be backing the legalization of marijuana, which has already begun to cut into the drug cartels' profits while creating American jobs. "It's important to understand that the Drug War created the cartels, not the other way around," says Bienenstock. "We've been wasting trillions of dollars for nearly 50 years on wholly ineffective, and even counterproductive, efforts to stop the flow of drugs into the United States, and those efforts have only made the cartels bigger, stronger, and more dangerous." Even by the wasteful standards of the War on Drugs, Trump's wall looks like a boondoggle. Reason's Shikha Dalmia did the math on The Wall this week, and the numbers are sobering. "Just a single-layer fence—not a wall—on the 1,300 miles of the open Southern border will cost upwards of $6 billion—assuming, as per a CBO study, pedestrian fencing costs of $6.5 million per mile and vehicle fencing costs of $1.7 million per mile," she wrote. "A single Border Patrol agent costs about $171,400 annually. So tripling that force would add up to a whopping $7 billion or so more a year, according to the CBO. Annual maintenance costs would be hundreds of millions of dollars. In short, the total hit if cost projections don't balloon—a big if, assuming that Trump won't use illegal Mexican workers and will use only American steel—would be somewhere close to $15 billion upfront." Trump says Mexico is going to pay for the wall, but slapping higher taxes on imports will force American consumers to bear most of the cost. And for what? If Trump actually builds the wall, the cartels will only build more and better tunnels, as the New York Times reported in September, citing Border Patrol agents who have worked to find and destroy drug tunnels for years. Trump says the wall will include technology to detect tunnels, but that technology doesn't exist yet and would only add to the project's price tag. Securing the full length of the 1,900-mile southern border is virtually impossible. "No amount of enforcement, even military-level, can remove the financial incentive of the black market," says Bienenstock, the author of How To Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High. "In fact, every increase in enforcement only makes the black market more lucrative, and the fight to control this illicit trade more deadly and destructive." The less expensive, mo[...]
Wed, 01 Feb 2017 00:01:00 -0500Give Donald Trump credit where it's due: He promised an irrational crackdown on immigrants, and he delivered it the first week of his administration. Trump began his presidential campaign with a speech in which he described most Mexican immigrants as rapists, drug dealers, and other criminals, adding that "some, I assume, are good people." During his campaign, he repeatedly said that as president he would deport all 11 million people who live in the United States without the government's permission. Last August, Trump signaled what he described as a "softening" of that position. "We are not looking to hurt people," he told Sean Hannity on Fox News. "We have some great people in this country." Trump suggested he was open to legalizing unauthorized immigrants, a policy supported by most Americans. If they "pay back taxes," he said, he would be willing to "work with them," although there would be "no citizenship" and "no amnesty as such." Less than a week after he was elected president, Trump again indicated he did not plan to carry out the sort of mass deportation he had advocated during the campaign. "After the border is secured and after everything gets normalized," he told Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes, "we're going to make a determination on the people that you're talking about, who are terrific people." An executive order that Trump signed last week contradicts these assurances. The order instructs the Department of Homeland Security to "prioritize for removal" not only unauthorized residents who "have been convicted of any criminal offense" (including misdemeanors and nonviolent drug offenses) but also those who "have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense" (meaning a conviction is not required) and those who "have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency." That last category includes anyone who has falsely claimed to be a legal resident on an official form or used a fake Social Security number to obtain a job. For good measure, the order also approves removal of anyone else whom an immigration officer deems "a risk to public safety or national security." The order thus lays the ground for ejecting virtually all illegal residents, regardless of how long they have lived in the United States, how peaceful and productive they have been, or how much they have paid in taxes. Trump seems bent on deporting millions of "terrific people." Another immigration-related executive order that Trump signed last week suspended admission of all refugees for 120 days, blocked Syrian refugees indefinitely, cut this year's refugee cap in half, and banned travelers with passports from any of seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days. It fell short of Trump's 2015 recommendation urging "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." But what the order lacked in scope it made up for in casual cruelty, arbitrarily disrupting and endangering thousands of lives. It separated parents from children, kept students from returning to school, put the kibosh to new jobs, stopped patients from obtaining treatment, and blocked war refugees from settling in the United States. It even prevented legal permanent residents from returning to their homes, until the Trump administration reversed that part of the policy. The official justification for Trump's half-baked order—protecting Americans from terrorists—is hard to take seriously. Refugees and green-card holders are already subject to extensive screening, refugees very rarely carry out terrorist attacks in the United States, and since 2001 no American has been killed in the U.S. by a terrorist from any of the seven countries covered by Trump's order. As in the speech that launched his presidential bid, Trump is scapegoating people based on their national origin (and, implicitly, their religion). Given the weakness of the s[...]
Tue, 31 Jan 2017 13:35:00 -0500
As president Trump's immigration crackdown prompts nationwide protests, Reason Foundation convened three policy experts in Washington, D.C., to discuss the moral and economic case for reform.
The experts' conclusions are startling. Left unchanged, the current immigration system is likely to prevent the president from reaching his four percent economic growth target. Further tightening of immigration regulations could provoke a recession. Foreseeable consequences of a continued crackdown against immigration include the loss of entrepreneurship, a major financial blow to American higher education, and the creation of a police state.
Panelists differed on whether Trump's so-called "Muslim ban" was motivated by incompetence or malice.
Shikha Dalmia - Senior Analyst, Reason Foundation.
Produced by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Krainin and Ian Keyser.
Click below for full text, links, and downloadable versions.
Mon, 30 Jan 2017 00:01:00 -0500Government failures come in two basic forms. The first kind is not achieving the intended result—say job training that leads to no jobs or a Marine recruiting campaign that gets few takers. The second kind is doing damage that wouldn't have been done otherwise. It's roughly the difference between a cigar that fails to light and one that explodes. The immigration measures announced Wednesday by President Donald Trump fall in the latter category. The consequences will mostly be more or less the opposite of what he and his supporters imagine. His promised wall is supposed to stop the flow of unauthorized immigrants and reduce the number of undocumented foreigners living here. But it's not likely to do either. Stop the flow? Even if you assume smugglers won't find ways to breach the wall or tunnel below it, it will continue. On a typical day, more than a half-million people stream over the border from Mexico with the required documents. Some 40 percent of undocumented foreigners living in the United States came legally and overstayed their visas. Putting up a wall won't keep out people we knowingly admit—and it won't help find those who decline to leave. It will merely encourage more people to drive or fly in on a tourist visa rather than swim the Rio Grande. If past measures to fortify the border shut some unauthorized foreigners out, they also kept millions of others in. Princeton sociologist Douglas Massey notes that in 1986, nearly half of the Mexicans here without permission eventually went back to Mexico, knowing that they could always change their minds. But when enforcement was stepped up, they learned a lesson: Once you're here, you had better stay. The number choosing permanent residence rose. How's that for a solution? One complaint about people sneaking over the border comes from ranchers whose lands they cross and befoul. But the migrants are there because of tight enforcement. In the old days, they sneaked across in border cities. "It used to be that you could literally sit at a bar in Tijuana, Mexico, look across the border into San Diego, wait for the Border Patrol to drive in the other direction and make a run for it,'' Steve Atkiss, a former chief of staff of Customs and Border Protection, told The Washington Post in 2015. When security improved at major ports of entry, it pushed illicit migrants into areas with more rattlesnakes than people, which are harder to police. That phenomenon would persist if the 653 miles of fencing now in place were extended, because filling in the other 1,300 miles would take years. In the meantime, landowners who have rarely, if ever, seen migrants before may play host to a steady procession of furtive skulkers. Trump also wants to punish sanctuary cities—whose policies bar police from making arrests for immigration violations or asking people about their immigration status. He decries these accommodations as a threat to public safety. In fact, they enhance it—by encouraging the 11 million undocumented foreigners living here to cooperate with cops. The Major County Sheriffs' Association warned in 2015 that cutting off funds to these cities would "prevent law enforcement from effectively protecting their communities and themselves." Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told USA Today, "If people are afraid to come to the police, that domestic violence incident today will be a homicide tomorrow, and that's in no one's interest." Most of what Trump says on this topic is lacking evidence. During his campaign, he accused undocumented immigrants of "taking our jobs." But if he expects tougher enforcement to create jobs and raise wages for American workers, he's in for a crushing disappointment. A report last year commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences detected "little evidence that immigration significantly affects the overall employment levels of native-born workers" and found it has only a min[...]
Fri, 27 Jan 2017 10:52:00 -0500
Today at noon eastern I am once again guest-hosting The Dean Obeidallah Show on SiriusXM Insight, channel 121, and we will be engaging in some mixture between TGIF and ICBIOBOW (I Can't Believe it's Only Been One Week). In the second half of the program I will be joined by the invaluable trade attorney/commentator Scott Lincicome, to sort through the confusing bluster surrounding Donald Trump's feud with Mexico, his plans for a 20 percent "border tax," and what other euphemisms for tariff we can expect.
And for the duration of the show I'll be joined by the provocative and original thinker/doer James Poulos, author of the brand new The Art of Being Free: How Alexis de Tocqueville Can Save Us from Ourselves. We shall certainly apply his insights to the dawning Age of Trump. Please call the program any time (at least while I'm on it), at 1-877-974-7487.
Poulos two weeks ago was interviewed by Nick Gillespie for the Reason podcast. Listen to that below:
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Fri, 06 Jan 2017 10:45:00 -0500God bless President-elect Donald Trump, who hath already saved hundreds, perhaps thousands, of jobs from running to Mexico like desperadoes fleeing south from the scene of a crime! That's swell, but even he can't repeal the law of uninteded consequences, can he? And the fact of the matter is that if you build jobs here explictly at the cost of jobs in Mexico, you will start to see Mexicans migrating northwards for...jobs. That's the way immigration works for most people. They go to where the jobs are and they stop coming when the jobs dry up. In an open society, you can either have a whiz-bang economy or little-to-no immigration. Even Donald Trump can't have it all. In recent weeks, Trump has taken credit for keeping 700 or 800 jobs at an Indiana plant for Carrier and some more at a ball-bearing factory in the Hoosier State (needless to say, taxpayer-supplied sweeteners were part of the deals). After railing against GM and threatening punitive tariffs on autos made in Mexico and sold here, the car maker changed plans to placate Trump. Ford Motors proactively announced it was keeping a plant open in Michigan, earning this badge of honor: Thank you to Ford for scrapping a new plant in Mexico and creating 700 new jobs in the U.S. This is just the beginning - much more to follow — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2017 This is just the beginning, vows Trump, much more to follow! Who knows where next he'll strike, but if his twitterhea is any indication, it'll be against another car maker: Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2017 Actions have consequences, though, and not always the ones people expect or want. Consider what is likely to happen if U.S. investment in Mexico slows down or stops completely. America is Mexico's biggest trading partner and we get a bunch of stuff from them—trade isn't a one-way street, which is one of the great things about it. From the New York Post: Ford's announcement sent shockwaves across Mexico, which has become tightly meshed with the U.S. economy since the advent of the North American Free Trade Agreement, sending 80 percent of its $532 billion in exports across the border in 2015. The U.S. government says $100 billion of that was in vehicles and parts, making Mexico the biggest exporter of automotive products to the United States. Mexico's auto plants now account for 20 percent of all light vehicles built in North America, industry figures say.... Four clustered states in central Mexico — San Luis Potosi, Queretaro, Aguascalientes and Guanajuato — have seven auto assembly plants that are operating or will be within the next two years. Around them are nearly 800 auto parts suppliers, Puente said. In San Luis Potosi alone, between 50,000 and 60,000 jobs depend on the auto industry. An average worker in Mexico costs automakers $8 an hour, including wages and benefits, compared to the $60 an hour that Ford said it was spending on an auto worker in the U.S. at the end of 2015. In Villa de Reyes' town square, residents said the younger generation would be hurt most by the cancellation. Retiree Ignacio Segura Rocha said fewer people from town are migrating to the U.S. now because the crossing has gotten harder than when he went in 1977 and 1978. He said the auto industry offers good alternatives for kids growing up on the region's isolated ranches. "They were already dreaming of going there (to Ford), and at the last minute there's nothing," he said. Read more here. Two things to consider: How much more expensive will cars (and other products) become once Trump has made all the calls to CEOs he's threatened to make? If labor costs jack up from $8 an hour to $60, that's going to cause sticker shock, isn't it? More important, perhaps, [...]
Mon, 19 Dec 2016 16:15:00 -0500
"In Texas, the Mexicans have always been there.... There's not this sense that Mexicans are foreigners," says Avik Roy, Forbes opinion editor and the co-founder and president of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP).
Roy believes Texas, a majority-minority state, offers a good counter-example for libertarians and conservatives anxious about immigrants and non-Europeans changing American political culture. The Lone Star State is not only doing very well economically, says Roy, there's a sense of inclusion that doesn't exist in many other states.
"It's not just a free state in the sense of policy, but there really is a sense that everyone feels, whether Anglo or Latino, that freedom has made their lives better," Roy tells Reason's Nick Gillespie. "This indigenous thing called Tex-Mex has been around for a very long time. It's simply not treating the others as if they were others...that attitude makes a huge difference."
According to Roy, who has advised politicians such as Rick Perry and Marco Rubio, one of the goals of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity is to challenge the conservative view that holds racial and ethnic minority groups can only be appeased through more statism and redistribution and should thus be written off when it comes to building political and economic coalitions.
"Free markets have lifted more people out of poverty than anything that has been invented by man," says Roy, "We don't usually talk about free markets in that way."
Edited by Mark McDaniel. Cameras by Austin Bragg and Meredith Bragg. Music by Simon Mathewson.
Tue, 01 Nov 2016 12:25:00 -0400
Almost a thousand miles south of Houston, the Mexican town of Cheran was once afflicted by gangsters who had branched into the timber trade. They killed, they kidnapped, and they kept cutting down trees that they didn't have a right to take. And so, the BBC reports,
(image) on Friday 15 April 2011, Cheran's levantamiento, or uprising, began. On the road coming down from the forest outside Margarita's home, the women blockaded the loggers' pick-ups and took some of them hostage. As the church bells of El Calvario rang out and fireworks exploded in the dawn sky alerting the community to danger, the people of Cheran came running to help. It was tense—hotheads had to be persuaded by the women not to string up the hostages from an ancient tree outside the church....
The municipal police arrived with the mayor, and armed men came to free their hostage-friends. There was an uneasy stand-off between the townspeople, the loggers and the police. It ended after two loggers were injured by a young man who shot a firework directly at them....
The police and local politicians were quickly driven out of town because the people suspected they were collaborating with the criminal networks. Political parties were banned—and still are—because they were deemed to have caused divisions between people....
Meanwhile armed checkpoints were established on the three main roads coming in to town.
Today, five years later, those checkpoints still exist. They are guarded by members of the Ronda Comunitaria—a militia or local police force made up of men and women from Cheran.
Now that the gangsters are no longer raiding the forest, the locals manage the resource, in what sounds like the sort of community-based system that the late Elinor Ostrom frequently wrote about. Meanwhile, the BBC's writer notes that "in the last year there have been no murders, kidnaps or disappearances" in Cheran, even as such crimes are common in communities just a few kilometers away. The place hasn't declared independence—various sorts of government funding are still flowing, and when serious crimes do occur the attorney general can prosecute them—but the town of 20,000 has achieved a remarkable level of autonomy.
To read the whole thing, go here. To read about some other efforts in the area to battle the cartels outside the state, go here—and to see how the state eventually absorbed those efforts, go here. And even further south, to read about a village in Colombia that kicked out all armed groups, from right-wing paramilitaries to left-wing guerrillas to officially sanctioned soldiers and cops, go here.
Wed, 28 Sep 2016 09:30:00 -0400Great news! American fertility specialists replaced defective mitochondria in a embryo resulting in the birth of a healthy baby boy five months ago. The bad news is that due to a fifteen year Food and Drug Administration ban, the procedure had to be performed in Mexico. Mitochondria are the energy producing organelles in each of our cells which carry their own small genomes and are passed down to children from their mothers. Broken mitochondrial genes cause a wide variety of illnesses from which about 1 in 4,000 people suffer (that is about the same rate as cystic fibrosis among European-descended Americans). In this specific case, the mother carries a mitochondrial mutation associated with Leigh's Disease that causes brain lesions and which killed her first two children. The cure was achieved, as the New Scientist explains: [New Hope Fertility Center specialist John] Zhang ... removed the nucleus from one of the mother's eggs and inserted it into a donor egg that had had its own nucleus removed. The resulting egg – with nuclear DNA from the mother and mitochondrial DNA from a donor – was then fertilised with the father's sperm. Zhang's team used this approach to create five embryos, only one of which developed normally. This embryo was implanted in the mother and the child was born nine months later. Hearty congratulations are in order to the parents, the baby, and the team that made it possible! Well, not everyone actually agrees with that sentiment. CNN reports: "It's unfortunate to have people decide they're just going to quite willingly engage in this kind of reproductive tourism -- to go outside of a system that is in place to create the safest, most scientifically reproducible way forward," said Lori P. Knowles, assistant professor, adjunct, at the University of Alberta School of Public Health. "That's the precedent then, that if you think you can do it, then let's just hop the border and see what happens, hope for the best." Cannot bioethicists hear themselves! Having endured four miscarriages and two dead children, this mother had already seen "what happens," so of course, she was hoping for best. So should we all. The parents in this case obviously felt forced to engage in reproductive tourism because the "system that is in place to create the safest ... way forward" has, in fact, blocked all progress in this field for a decade and a half. While headlines around the world hailed this achievement as the first three-parent baby, that's actually not the case. Back in 2000, researchers at St. Barnabas Hospital in New Jersey developed the same technique that Zhang used. As I reported earlier: Researchers hit on the idea of curing mitochondrial diseases by replacing defective mitochondria with healthy ones derived from eggs donated by other women. Back in 2001, fertility specialist Jacques Cohen and his colleagues at St. Barnabas Hospital in New Jersey transferred ooplasm containing mitochondria from healthy donor eggs to the eggs of women experiencing infertility. The experiments resulted in the births of 15 healthy babies. ... When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) got wind of the new development, the agency asserted that it had jurisdiction over the treatments and promptly banned them. And that is where matters have ever since stood, as women continued to endure infertility and more babies were born suffering from mitochondrial diseases. Very ethical. The "safest system" is evidently the system that says take no risks at all. Better more babies born naturally with dread diseases than allowing parents to try to have healthy children by availing themselves of the unnatural methods of science. If regulators and bioethicists don't want "reproductive tourism," then stop banning research here. Instead of better safe than sorry, we will [...]
Fri, 16 Sep 2016 17:30:00 -0400Marking the occasion of Mexican Independence Day (which is not Cinco de Mayo but is actually celebrated today, September 16), David Frum of The Atlantic has an interesting look at the successes and problems plaguing the Mexican people and their government as the country enters its 207th year as an independent state. Frum has a point to make here—which I'll get to in a moment—but libertarians and anyone who takes an interest in comparative analyses of government will find that the most interesting part of the piece has to do with how Mexico and the United States took divergent courses in the two-ish centuries since their respective tossing-offs of European powers. The Mexican Revolution was nothing like the American one. It failed, at least as a populist movement. The agitators of the revolution—Mexico's equivalent of Sam Adams, Thomas Jefferson and the rest—were captured and executed shortly after the September 16, 1810, uprisings that are celebrated today. Mexico actually achieved its independence from Spain more than a decade later after a long process of colonial reforms were approved by the imperial government in Madrid. Suppose there had never been a Declaration of Independence drafted in the summer of 1776, but that the 13 colonies had gained independence by an act of Parliament sometime in the late 1780s—perhaps our national myth would be built around the armed uprisings in Concord and Lexington and we'd celebrate our Independence Day on each April 19. That's basically what Mexico does. In Mexico, ties with Spain were finally severed because Mexican aristocrats—think the bad guys in any Zorro flick—decided to rebel against the Spanish throne rather than risk losing their high economic and social status as liberalizing reforms spread across the Atlantic from a post-French-Revolution era Europe. A decade after putting down a populist revolution, they became the revolutionaries—not for high-minded ideals like many of the revolutionaries of that era, but rather to preserve their system of cronyism built atop an imperial edifice that subjugated native Mexicans (and many of their fellow settlers too)—and then constructed a founding myth that eulogized the failed 1810 rebellion. As Frum puts it: "Imagine that it had been Benedict Arnold who achieved American independence, pronouncing himself Emperor Benedict I, banning all religions except the Church of England, and concentrating land ownership in the hands of a few grand Tory families." The differences in the two nations' origins are reflected in the last two centuries, during which Mexico has struggled to shake-off the control of crony elites. Frum takes note of how that dynamic has prevented Mexico from taking the same path towards freedom and prosperity followed by the United State and Canada. Even after the last 50 years, when Mexico began to loosen state controls over the economy, it's still burdened by disincentives to competition that benefit a handful of ultra-rich at the expense of the rest of the country. "Overcharges by the country's telecommunications monopoly are estimated to cost 2 percent of Mexico's total economic output. That monopoly earns profits almost double those of its U.S. and Canadian counterparts," Frum writes. "Unsurprisingly, the monopoly's owner, Carlos Slim, ranks among the world's richest men. The Mexican state-dominated energy industry also remains staggeringly inefficient, paralyzed by privileged labor unions and starved of investment by a Mexican government that demanded the energy monopoly Pemex pay its profits into the national treasury, rather than use them to maintain fields and modernize equipment." Those aristocrats who rebelled against Spain to maintain their high standing in Mexican society never really went away. [...]
Fri, 09 Sep 2016 07:00:00 -0400
Thu, 01 Sep 2016 15:50:00 -0400Donald Trump's hard-line immigration speech on Wednesday night included plans for hiring more border patrol agents, deploying bio-metric scanners to catch illegal immigrants and establishing a new "deportation force" to round-up and eject many of the estimated 11 million people in the United States without documentation. Of course there will also be a wall. An "impenetrable, physical, tall, beautiful, southern border wall" that would be paid for by Mexico, as Reason's Ed Krayewski reported. Cracking down on illegal immigration is the central plank of Trump's campaign, but if he's serious about shutting down the flow of undocumented workers across America's southern border, he might want to consider an idea more radical than giant walls and an expanding immigration police force: letting more people into the country legally. As David Bier, an immigration policy analyst for the Cato Institute, notes in a blog post this week: historically the best way to reduce illegal immigration has been to increase legal immigration. That's because one of the biggest impediments to legal immigration is the federal government's quotas on certain categories of workers. Those quotas are arbitrary totals completely disconnected from the economic forces that drive immigrants to seek work in the United States. Those quotas "are the definition of an unreasonable immigration policy," writes Bier. "They are no different than Soviet manufacturing quotas, and they have the exact same effect: discord in the free market—surpluses where workers are unneeded, shortages where they are needed, and black markets that inevitably results when government makes movement illegal." For example: the federal government issues about 150,000 visas annually for temporary farm workers — a number that doesn't even come close to the estimated 2 million seasonal workers on U.S. farms and ranches. When government policy allows more lesser-skilled guest workers in the country, there are fewer illegal immigrants, Bier argues with this graphic: In an op-ed for CNN on Wednesday, Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson explained why this approach would do a better job of reducing illegal immigration than Trump's proposals (or current U.S. policy). "Our politicians, both right and left, have created a system for legal immigration that simply doesn't work. We have artificial quotas. We have 'caps' on certain categories of workers that have no real relationship to the realities of the free market," Johnson wrote. Instead, Johnson favors a system with no caps, no categories and no quotas. "Just a straightforward background check, the proper paperwork to obtain a real Social Security number and work legally," he wrote, calling that "a reliable system to know who is coming and who is going." Note that he isn't calling for open borders or amnesty for illegal immigrants. People coming to the country still have to follow the rules, but he says the government should make it easier for them to do that. Under Trump's plan (and current U.S. policy) there are essentially two groups of people coming across the border: legal immigrant and illegal immigrants. The first group is fine, but the second group consists of de facto criminals because they are breaking the law to enter the country, the argument goes. Immigration policy requires a bit more nuance than that. Let's assume there are actually three groups of people coming across the border: legal immigrants, illegal immigrants who want to come here legally but cannot because of quotas and actual criminals who are coming to the United States to traffic drugs or fulfill any of the other fevered nightmares of the so-called Alt-Right. Current immigration policy forces the second and th[...]
Wed, 31 Aug 2016 22:55:00 -0400Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump visited Mexico today, in a trip his campaign described as a "relationship builder," before speaking at a rally in Phoenix in the evening, where he talked about his immigration plans, largely involving the border wall, deportations, and other police state measures. The speech was reportedly written by Stephen Bannon, formerly of Breitbart.com, and Stephen Miller, a former aide to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) who has taken a hard-line on immigration. In Arizona, Trump told the crowd that immigration reform meant "amnesty, open borders, lower wages" and that the "fundamental problem with the immigration system" was that "it serves the needs of wealthy donors, political activists, and powerful, powerful politicians." At the rally, Trump painted a grim picture about immigrants overwhelming government services and contributing to higher crime rates (not true). Trump also noted the attention paid to his immigration plans in recent weeks and said he'd make his plans clear to the crowd. "We will build a great wall along the southern border," Trump said to great applause and chants of build the wall, "and Mexico will pay for the wall, 100 percent." He said the wall would be "impenetrable, physical, tall, beautiful, southern border wall." Trump said his ten-point plan also included an end to "catch and release" (praising Dwight Eisenhower's Operation Wetback) , "zero tolerance for criminal aliens," two bills named after victims, hiring 5,000 new border patrol agents (the number of border patrol agents has doubled since 2004), President Obama did), establishing a deportation task force ("maybe they'll be able to deport" Hillary Clinton, he said), ending the acceptance of refugees from Syria and the Middle East, stricter screenings, "ideological certification," turning off "the jobs and benefits magnet," and a litany of other severe measures that will require an expansion of government power and government spending. Trump insisted his plan would earn a "peace dividend" that could be spent on other government programs. Earlier in the day, at a joint news conference with Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto, Trump claimed he and Peña Nieto discussed the border wall but that "we didn't discuss payment of the wall." Peña Nieto tweeted afterward that he had made clear his position that Mexico would not pay for a wall across the U.S. border. The Trump campaign said the meeting was not a negotiation, which would have been "inappropriate." Trump and Sessions and Rudy Giuliani, former New York City mayor, met with Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto for about an hour before the joint press conference. In Mexico City, Trump pointed to five "shared goals" that would increase "prosperity and happiness" in both countries: stopping illegal immigration to the U.S. and to Mexico, a secure border, which he called a "sovereign right and mutually beneficial," dismantling drug cartels and "ending the movement of illegal drugs, weapons and funds across oru border," which would require "cooperation, intelligence and intelligence sharing, and joint operations between our two countries," improving the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), "a 22 year old agreement that must be updated to reflect the realities of today," and keeping "manufacturing wealth" in the Western hemisphere. Trump called the migrant routes from Central America to the U.S. a "humanitarian disaster" that had to be solved. "It must be solved, it must be solved quickly," Trump said, "not fair to the people anywhere worldwide you could truly say, but certainly not fair to the people of Mexico or the people of the United States." Deportations by the United States[...]