On immigration reform
From the Dec. 11 The New York Daily News:
The immigration reform debate is over. The nativists lost.
That’s the undeniable conclusion to be drawn from a new Politico/George Washington University poll, and it means there ought to be a stiff wind at President Barack Obama’s back should he embark on a new push to overhaul immigration laws next year.
Fully 62 percent of those surveyed want to give illegal immigrants an eventual path to citizenship as part of comprehensive reform. Perhaps most surprising, even Republicans favored a path to citizenship — with 48 percent saying yes and 45 percent no.
On allowing younger illegal Americans to get permanent residency status if they earn a college degree or serve in the military — the contours of the DREAM Act — support is even more overwhelming: 77 percent back it, 19 percent oppose.
The numbers represent a tidal shift and suggest the country would also welcome residency permits for students who earn advanced degrees in science, technology, math and engineering — and upping the number of H-1B high-tech visas.
Obama must finally go all out for immigration reform, as he has long promised and never done.
For their part, members of Congress — Republicans especially — should remember the November election. Obama won the Latino vote overwhelmingly, in no small part because of his pro-immigrant stances. Those include suspending deportations for many children of the illegal immigrants.
It is rare that the courage to do the right thing also happens to be relatively easy politics. ...
On cellphones on planes
From the Dec. 9 The Express-Times, Easton, Pa.:
You’re a businessperson on a tight schedule who can’t afford much down time.
You’re a mother trying to keep a bored and active 6-year-old occupied.
You’re a son rushing home to visit — perhaps for the last time — a seriously sick parent.
All these situations — and more — would be easier to handle in the confines of an airplane if passengers could use cellphones, tablets, laptops and other mobile devices during takeoff and landing.
Now, the Federal Communications Commission is pushing for that to happen. ...
The FAA announced in August that it would take another look at its policy banning the use of electronic devices. The review with the Aviation Rulemaking Committee — which includes the FCC, pilot and flight attendant groups, airlines and passengers associations — is expected to take six months. ...
Allowing broader use of personal electronic devices on commercial airlines is overdue. As long as they pass critical safety tests, the FAA should allow use of these devices in a world where most people are lost without them.
However, even if the FAA changes its policy, don’t expect it to happen soon. The experts estimate it could take up to two years to adequately test each personal electronic device on each type of plane to ensure safety is not at stake. ...
On automobile ‘black boxes’
From the Dec. 10 Enterprise-Journal, McComb, Miss.:
You’ve heard of those “black boxes” on airplanes that record data used to determine the cause of a crash.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to soon propose regulations requiring automobile manufacturers to install similar equipment on all new cars and light trucks.
What most motorists don’t know is that automakers on their own have been quietly installing data-recording devices in some vehicles for years. The devices can record the actions of drivers and the responses of their cars and pickup trucks.
When a car equipped with such devices “is involved in a crash or when its airbags deploy, inputs from the vehicle’s sensors during the five to 10 seconds before impact are automatically preserved. That’s usually enough to record things like how fast the car was traveling and whether the driver applied the brake, was steering erratically or had a seat belt on.”
Sounds like a good thing — especially when it comes to lawsuits involving both drivers and manufacturers. Such equipment can be useful in placing blame where it belongs. Also, the recorders can help identify defects in automobiles, showing manufacturers things they need to correct.
But such devices are not without controversy. Already privacy advocates are insisting on rules and limits on how much information can be gathered and how it can be used. ...
In our view, the benefits of using reliable data to produce safer vehicles, as well as helping establish accurate blame for crashes, outweigh privacy concerns.