Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Startup hopes to hack the immigration system with a floating incubator"

In which bad immigration policy breathes new life into the seasteading movement:

Some of the Silicon Valley's most important companies, including Intel, Google, and Yahoo, were cofounded by immigrants. Yet America's creaky immigration system makes it difficult for talented young people born outside of the United States to come to the Bay Area. There have been various proposals to make it easier for immigrant entrepreneurs to come to the United States, but they've made no progress in Congress.

So a new company called Blueseed is seeking to bypass the political process and solve the problem directly. Blueseed plans to buy a ship and turn it into a floating incubator anchored in international waters off the coast of California.

Ars talked to Blueseed founder Max Marty. He acknowledged that it would be better for America to reform immigration laws and thereby make his company unnecessary. But in the meantime, Marty and his team are hard at work tackling the practical obstacles to making their vision of a floating, year-round hack-a-thon a reality. Within the next year, they're hoping to raise a venture capital round large enough to lease or buy a ship with space for around a thousand passengers. If Blueseed's audacious hack of the immigration system is successful, it will not only open up Silicon Valley to a broader range of entrepreneurs, it will also shine a spotlight on the barriers American law places in the way of immigrants seeking to start businesses in the United States.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"...a deadpan understatement that demonstrates just how often (the right kind of) politics goes unnoted on shopping bags."

Popular high-end yoga equipment brand Lulemon has incorporated an Ayn Rand quote into its merchandising. Virginia Postrel is http://www.deepglamour.net/deep_glamour/2011/11/ayn-rand-at-lululemon-and-bloomingdales-individualism-inspiration-and-self-improvement.html>right: plenty of Rand, taken out of context, can sound banal in an Oprah-esque way. I also love the line from the Postrel piece that forms the title of this blog post. Finally, despite my ambivalence about Rand as the semi-grown-up that I am (see tag at sidebar), this post does leave me with a hankering for expensive new yoga pants, if only to spite some of the sillier people quoted in both Postrel and the NYT.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The GOP and Immigration

Nate Silver offers analysis that dyspeptic libertarians might find comforting:

Newt Gingrich was having what seemed to be a pretty strong debate on Tuesday night before being asked a question about immigration policy. He suggested that illegal immigrants should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and that some who have been in the United States for a long time should be allowed to stay, while others should be deported.

Following the exchange, Mr. Gingrich’s stock at Intrade, the political betting market that we frequently track, declined to about 14 percent from 16 percent, erasing gains he had made earlier in the day.

It was not the “flash crash” that proceeded Rick Perry’s “oops” moment during the Nov. 9 debate, but my view is that the markets probably overreacted in this case and that Mr. Gingrich’s answer will not be all that harmful to him.

One reason is simply that Mr. Gingrich’s views on immigration are not all that far out of step with those of Republican voters. Although I can’t find a survey that catalogs Republican responses to Mr. Gingrich’s proposal exactly, a New York Times/CBS News poll from May 2010 on a broad range of immigration-related issues provides some evidence about an analogous proposal.

In that survey, voters were given a choice of three options for handling illegal immigrants who currently hold jobs in the United States:

Which comes closest to your view about illegal immigrants who are currently working in the U.S.? They should be allowed to stay in their jobs and to eventually apply for U.S. citizenship. OR, They should be allowed to stay in their jobs only as guest workers, but not to apply for U.S. citizenship. OR, They should be required to leave their jobs and leave the U.S.
Among Republican respondents to the survey, 42 percent said the immigrants should be required to leave. But 31 percent said they should be able to stay and apply for citizenship. An additional 23 percent picked the middle option: the immigrants should be allowed to stay, but as guest workers rather than citizens.

One lesson from this is that no stance on immigration will make everyone happy. The partisan divides on immigration policy are not as stark as they are on issues like the welfare state. But the intraparty disagreement can be pretty bad, as George W. Bush discovered when he tried to push a moderate bill on immigration.

Still, Mr. Gingrich’s position — which would allow some illegal immigrants to stay but not grant them citizenship — seems to come as close as anything to a middle ground. Yes, he might be a little further away from that middle ground in Iowa and South Carolina and candidates like Michele Bachmann are smart to search for any way to exploit that. But Republican views on immigration are not monolithic and should not be portrayed as such.

The rest of the piece is also good.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thoughts on law schools and practical training

Yes, I suppose I agree with the general thrust of this much discussed NYT article that it is probably good for law schools to teach people how to be lawyers. On the other hand, it's woefully vague about how schools are supposed to do this better. Consider:

For bar passage reasons, for the first year and a half or so, it's probably in the interest of most schools to have students spend most of their time in traditional doctrinal courses. Departing too much from the standard platter of Contracts, Torts, Property, etc. would send many schools' bar passage rates down significantly. Even at the highest-ranked schools, where vast majorities of students now have little trouble with the exam, Barbri would turn into (even more of?) a stressful nightmare if the ratio of new material vs. review of 1L plus Evidence and a couple other 2L/3L core courses. It's possible that the right answer is that the organized bar should get rid of the exam, which I wouldn't necessarily oppose. But if that's what Segal thinks, then he ought to discuss this possibility more openly.

Second, how much in common do very different kinds of law jobs really have? Is learning the practicalities of how to be a lawyer in solo or small firm practice really a lot like learning how to be an associate at a big firm like Drinker Biddle (the large firm profiled in Segal's article)? How much is either of those jobs really like being a prosecutor in state court? I've never been any of those things, but I suspect "not very." And if they're not very much alike, how should people sort themselves into tracks? Would you have a system where the top 25% of the class based on grades at my law school would've spent the next two years on pre-Biglaw vocational training, while people nearer the bottom spent their next two years regarding how to operate a solo practice.

I'm not sure how well it would work to run law schools with multiple "tracks" based on 1L grades. It's more likely that you'd get a few highly selective schools that really specialized in preparing people for Biglaw and a mass of less selective ones that really push training for the traditionally lower-prestige law jobs. But that would mean that the very top people at the lower schools might have a harder time cracking elite firms than they do now. So you'd wind up getting an (even more?) stratified legal profession. Is this really something that Segal et al. are comfortable with?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Common Ground

Here is a list of things on which I agree with Occupy Wall Street:

1) Open the borders to all immigrants, legal or illegal. Offer immediate, unconditional amnesty, to all undocumented residents of the US.

Not entirely; I'm okay with screening would-be immigrants for infectious disease, criminal history, links to terrorism, and a few other things like that. But if one adjusts this to read something like "Significant liberalization of current immigration law," that would be just splendid.

2)Institute a negative income tax, and tax the very rich at rates up to 90%.

I'm good with the first part of that. See also MIlton Friedman, though note that the headline of this piece calling him a conservative makes me want to throw things.

3)Strengthen separation of church and state.

I'm not entirely sure what specifically they're exercised about; the Supreme Court precedent in this area is actually pretty good. Occasionally social conservatives say silly things about wanting to use the government to promote religion, but fortunately Rick Santorum remains an even more marginal figure in American politics than Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich. Still, if they just mean strong separation of church and state, then fine.

4)End the 'War on Drugs'.

Please see relevant tag along the sidebar.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I think I am on record here saying that anyone who harms a golden retriever deserves the death penalty, and that no, this does not violate the Eighth Amendment. Yet another day, another police officer shoots a Golden Retriever. The positive side of this is that at least the retriever belonged to a lawyer who has been successful at convincing the relevant police department to adopt more humane practices toward animals. Also, Professor Bainbridge, please call your office.

Trivia: Willow's great-grandfather's name was also Boomer.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Notes on fashion

Via Phoebe, an article on college fashion staples. This is wrong, however; the point of collegiate fashion is to immerse oneself in the fantasy that one is actually a WASP aristocrat. WASP aristocrat fashion has never actually been interesting: looking blandly sporty like everyone else from the country club has always been kind of the point. Also, Refinery29's proffered alternatives to the Longchamp bag are hideous, and in particular, what the h--- is up with that fringe?

Never again in your life will you be in a setting so enamored of WASP tradition so as to enshrine legacy preferences. (Somehow, the thought of a large law firm announcing a policy for favoritism of their attorneys' children just seems comical. Under the table and in borderline cases, maybe, but officially?) Never again in your life will you be surrounded by buildings with ridiculous names like the Ada Merriweather Pennypacker '15 Memorial Conservatory. Indeed, if I hadn't found a blond conservative WASP to fall wildly in love with by the end of senior year, I might well have had to invent one. In time, one will live in the real world. Even if one's day job frequently entails working with Republicans, bowties and seersucker on 25-year-olds will look far more ridiculous than they do in the shade of the Ada Merriweather Pennypacker '15 Memorial Conservatory.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Very good sentences

"The practice of witch-burning had, in its heyday, a much longer history in western politics than the home mortgage interest tax deduction and yet over time people’s minds changed."

-- Matthew Yglesias

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fed Soc in Review

Well, I'm back from the annual three day extravaganza that sometimes can feel entirely too much like a not-entirely-functional family reunion. Unpleasant altercations with ex-boyfriends were safely avoided! Only one friend told me that I'd inadvertently inspired her to commit a federal felony! Mike Mukasey avoided keeling over mid-speech! Good times all around...

More seriously, for those who weren't able to attend the panels, there are videos online. It's impossible for any one person to see everything, but I recommend in particular Showcase Panels II and IV (video not yet online, but should be in a few days' time at the link above.) Re: Panel II, Richard Epstein in particular is always worth the price of admission. In some ways, though, the individual parts are better than the whole. It might've worked better as two separate panels-- one on the Epstein book and one on co-panelist John Tomasi's book - since some of the panelists did seem to be talking past each other. But the individual speeches should nonetheless be of interest to people interested generally in classical liberalism.

The ideas presented on Panel IV were new to me, and I'm still not sure what I think of sunset laws generally. Nonetheless, the panelists were all exceptionally clear and coherent in presenting both the cases for and against them, and I felt like I came away with a good grasp of both pros and cons. Special bonus for any ex-Yalies out there: Bill Eskridge's Guido Calabresi imitation is hilarious.

I also recommend the bullying panel. I spent about four or five months in my day job thinking over these issues, and I might be too mentally and morally exhausted to ever write anything about them again. But if you're interested in these issues, that panel offers a solid overview.

I am meh about the Mukasey address. I'm well aware that libertarians are split on foreign policy generally. I feel nervous and tentative writing about issues about which my intellectual heroes disagree passionately. Plus, the more I read about them, the more I'm convinced I don't know. That's probably why I almost never write about them here. Nonetheless, caveats about my lack of real knowledge of these issues aside, parts of Mukasey's speech sat ill with me. I'm uncomfortable saying that non-Muslims ought to think that there is only one true Islam -- the ugly and radical kind. The point ought to be that there are many different manifestations of Islam, some more friendly to small-l Western liberalism and some not. Regardless of what's most consistent with original text, we ought to pick the more liberal-friendly varieties and encourage them.

Monday, November 7, 2011

books read lately

1. Amber's right: this is a good novel, and fans of George R.R. Martin are likely to enjoy it. Also, not sure if this is idiosyncratic, but Cithrin bel Sarcour reminds me slightly of Daggy Taggart. Maybe that's just because I have trouble thinking of many other novels that showcase a strong female character working in free enterprise.

2. Roy Jenkins's Gladstone. It's well-written, particularly if you enjoy a slightly over-the-top, self-consciously erudite British style. It's probably too pretentious by half if you don't. Also, while I can follow along *okay,* the book sorely lacks context on period history and the structure of British politics that most Americans would appreciate. Read: I knew Jenkins had to be British a few chapters in, even before I looked him up on the Internet and confirmed this to be true. Be forewarned.

3. Retriever Gun Dogs, published 1948 (sorry, it's out of print, so no link.) Facts learned: back in 1937, a black Labrador with call name "Nigger" won a field championship. Fortunately, retriever naming humor has evolved for the better. My personal favorite I've seen recently is [Kennel's Name] "Whale of a Tail," call name "Jonah."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Very good sentences

"Wanting to blame George Bush, or try Dick Cheney for war crimes, is a kind of individual responsibility, but in a very particular political context. "

-- Tyler Cowen in a very good post, about which I don't have much to say, other than nodding in agreement.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Disjointed thoughts from a hard-core systemizer on Asperger's

I found myself nodding when I read Phoebe's post commenting on this Nature article suggesting that parents with milder, autistic-like traits may be more likely to have children with full-blown autism. I scored something frighteningly high on systemizing quotient when I took an internet version of Baron-Cohen's systemizing/empathizing scale, and it wouldn't surprise me much if my husband's test results looked similar. Note also that people stopped comparing me to Daria only when I started wearing contact lenses and experimenting with blonde highlights.

The Nature article makes it clear that the science is very much up in the air, and I'm somewhat inclined to agree. When I took the empathizing/systemizing test, I was struck by how uncomfortable I felt being asked to agree or disagree with statements like "My friends all think that I am empathetic and a great listener." How many really socially skilled people are comfortable answering "Strongly agree" to a dozen questions like one? Aren't most genuinely empathetic people a little humbler than that? Of course there must be some correlation between being socially skilled and being socially self-confident, and too much nervousness about one's social skills can itself be socially disabling. On the other hand, I felt much more comfortable answering "Strongly agree" to systemizer questions like "I enjoy looking at subway maps." They felt much less value-laden.

For what little it's worth, as a kid, I knew plenty of geeky adults married to other ex-geeks and just one child with full-blown autism, whom I'll call C. C.'s father was an electrical engineer, yes, and I can't recall his mother's background. She'd gone to college and was apparently a member of Mensa, which at the time seemed vastly more impressive than it does now. C was not the kind of mild eccentric Asperger-y type described lovingly by Tyler Cowen. At age eight, I'd go over to knock on the door of C.'s house and begin a conversation along the lines of, "Hi, C. Is your mom or dad home? My mom wanted to give your mom back her plates from the picnic." C would then laugh, yell "Bus driver!", make some hand signals that indicated that he was pretending to drive a bus, and then run away shrieking with laughter... while I stood there holding his mother's brownie platter.

Eventually, C outgrew the fascination with the phrase "bus driver. " When he was a little older, at about 14 or so, a grad student from the local college would come over and help tutor him in social interaction. This mainly seemed to consist of watching Family Matters episodes and asking C. questions like, "What is Laura feeling right now?" I can assure readers who are not children of the late 80s/early 90s that the show was sufficiently non-nuanced that it is difficult to get such questions wrong. Yet C. struggled. Eventually, though, he did seem to catch on... and eventually graduated high school... and then college... and today still lives with his parents, but has been holding down a steady job as an accountant since shortly after graduation. Perhaps ironically, C's neurotypical younger brother and sister both took longer and had more difficulty finishing college degrees.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Things I Have Read Recently and Not Liked

This Above the Law column on a cert petition in a First Amendment case, in which plaintiff is a teenager who couldn't run for student council secretary because she referred to administrators at her school as "douchebags" on her LiveJournal blog. Your humble correspondent's initial knee-jerk reaction was, "Exhibit 2,114 of why I am a libertarian and not a conservative."

And then my immediate post knee jerk reaction was... it's interesting that a post at a law blog would hit the theme of professionalism so hard. You'll notice that plaintiff Ms. Doninger's sin, in this columnist's eye, was that this behavior would be inappropriate in many professional environments. Indeed it would be, and I doubt that anybody seriously disputes that the loss of the school secretary position is important in the greater scheme of things. But the actual doctrine regarding how schools may regulate off-campus speech in the Internet age is far from settled, and untangling the relevant precedent is actually quite interesting. Yet the ATL columnist opts to wave that inside instead for snark along the lines of "Bet she's going to grow up to be the kind of lawyer who wears ballet flats when pumps are really called for." It reminds me of much of what I disliked about law school: the near obsession with the mannes and mores of becoming a Professional coupled with low levels of interest in the law itself.

Things I Have Read Recently And Liked

Kenneth Anderson's post on OWS, fragmenting elites, and downward mobility. The rhetoric is a little grand in places for my taste, but I find the basic argument compelling. See also Megan McArdle.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Meet Willow

So, is anyone out there still reading? If yes... I figured this ought to be a moment as good as any to introduce Willow, the now nearly five month old Golden Retriever whom I've been chasing around after work in the evenings during what was previously in part blogging time. She's actually in temporary exile to the north, in my Red State hometown, hanging out with my parents for the next week to come. This is because (another lame partial excuse for the lack of writing) the ceiling in the living room started to fall in, and there are a team of guys at the house trying to repair it for the next week. We've had to move Willow's crate and all of her toys, in addition to all of our furniture and two bookcases full of books, out of there, letting her stay here was not such an attractive option. Not to mention what all the banging would do to her daily nap schedule...

No, Willow is not a rescue. She came from this breeder; here's her daddy (who is even handsomer in person), mommy, and sister who stayed with the breeder who might grow up to be a show dog. Willow not being a rescue dog hasn't been so much an issue when we walk her around the neighborhood or have taken her other places in the greater D.C. area, but yes, rescue sanctimony is alive and well, perhaps especially on the Internet. I've seen it mostly in places like unrelated Facebook threads and in a few randomly moralistic comments to my husband's blog post about a different dog-related topic. (Then again, there was the random moralizing comment about why we shouldn't get a golden retriever because Labs are totally better hunting companions, to which Ilya was all like, no thanks, actually we live in a suburb, so maybe the real lesson is that Volokh commenters are an unruly lot who like to ramble about their own preoccupations even when this is irrelevant or rude.)

Yes, of course rescuing animals is wonderful and lovely and noble. At the same time... subsidizing responsible breeders does help to diminish the supply of animals who end up in rescue. So many dogs wind up in rescue due to behavior or health problems that stem directly from an irresponsible breeder's bad choices. It's important to give the good guys financial incentives to keep trying to get things right.

Also... my parents and I had a wonderful golden retriever when I was growing up named Sasha. Sasha came from a small hobby breeder outside of Philadelphia. Sash had her mischievous moments, sure, but she was a sweet-tempered, easygoing girl who had almost no serious health problems until the day she died of hemangiosarcoma at ten years of age. Two or three years after Sasha died, I'd since finished school and moved out, and my parents felt that they were too old for another puppy. So they were applied to the local golden retriever rescue and (as a pair of retired schoolteachers with a fenced-in backyard and previous golden experience) they were apparently among the chosen few who were approved to rescue. China, a golden who was picked up off the streets of Philadelphia. China was... nothing like Sasha. Aggressive. Destructive. All manner of issues. They called the rescue association back, who recommended that they hire an expensive "animal behaviorist" who could deal with such aggression. The nearest one had offices in Philadelphia, more than an hour's drive away from them. They ultimately realized that the dog was too much for them and had to return her to the specialty breed rescue. This experience indicates that there are at least some dog owners capable of raising a pup from a good breeder who has no behavioral issues, but who might be overwhelmed by a rescue dog's needs.

Meantime, I promise I'll try to be around more often.