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2003 September 30 Tuesday
Iranian Agents In Iraq And The Divisions In Iran

Writing for The Christian Science Monitor Scott Peterson reports the view of Western diplomats in Teheran that Iran does not want to make the occupation of Iraq more difficult for the United States.

"Iran has no interest in creating, or being linked to, any kind of problems the Americans are facing in Iraq," says a Western diplomat. "They understand the price to be paid for doing that.

"If in some circles, [Iranians] are happy when Americans are killed in Iraq, the government and many conservatives don't share that joy," the diplomat adds. "Every setback for the Americans is bad news, because it lengthens the occupation and delays the moment when the Shiite [majority] will take control."

Peterson claims that the Iranian leaders want to make deals with the United States and improve relations.

By contrast, Philip Sherwell of the London Sunday Telegraph reports that Iran is planting agents and fomenting unrest in Iraq. (or same article here)

NAJAF, Iraq — Iran has dispatched hundreds of agents posing as pilgrims and traders to Iraq to foment unrest in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, and the lawless frontier areas.

Paul Bremer suspects Iranian involvement in attacks in Iraq.

Their activities included "support for various people, some of whom have taken violent action against both Iraqis and against the coalition". Asked whether Iranians were suspected of possible involvement in shooting and bomb attacks, he replied: "There's certainly some indication of that, yes."

The Iranians must surely be sending agents into Iraq. The mullahs are going to try to increase their influence now that Saddam is gone regardless of whether they want to encourage attacks. What exactly they see as being in their best interests is hard to say. But the mullahs are not friends of the American occupation. While they probably want to see US forces capture or destroy the last of the Baathists they may be testing whether they could stir up a much larger amount of trouble for the US using Shiites since a Shiite uprising would probably be religious in nature and would decrease the odds that Iraq would become a popular democracy.

It is important to understand what is going on in Iran if we are to have a better chance of guessing what the Iranian government is doing in Iraq. Writing for the Daily Telegraph John Casey has written an excellent account of his travels and conversations during a two week trip to Iran. (free registration required)

And unpopular it certainly is. I was often told that so disliked are the mullahs that people in the ''shared taxis'' of Teheran will never allow the driver to stop to pick up one of the clergy, and even that mullahs will take off their turbans when riding in taxis, lest people shout abuse at them through the windows.

I was also told confidently that one never sees a mullah walking through the Teheran streets for the same reason - although I did see two or three. There is an impasse - a well-educated, assertive clergy, confident in their right to guide the country, and a discontented majority who will hear nothing good about them at all. I felt torn. I liked these men.

Iran itself is torn. The majority wants a change. The ruling minority is willing to be ruthless to maintain their power and the majority knows this. As long as the rulers remain united the prospects for change seem remote. For the US this poses a big problem since the rulers are probably within 2 or 3 years of building working nuclear weapons.

Casey's article is the best of the articles linked to in this post. He talks to a variety of clergymen who are outside of government, ordinary citizens who are very pro-American and pro-British, and manages to have some encounters with what can only be described as thoughtful working class intellectuals of a sort that would be hard to find any more in the West. I strongly urge reading it in full.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 30 01:58 PM  MidEast Iran
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Details Of 1996 Assassination Attempt On Uday Hussein

Writing for The Christian Science Monitor Peter Ford has interviewed surviving members of the team that almost killed Uday Hussein on Dec. 12, 1996.

It was not long, Sharif says, before he heard of Uday's regular Thursday night trawls for pretty girls in Mansour, an upscale part of town where he was notorious for forcing young women to accompany him back to one of his palaces.

The news intrigued him. "It seemed like a golden opportunity," he says, so for the next two months Sharif strolled the crowded streets of Mansour each Thursday evening, the night before the Muslim weekend, to see what he could see.

Sure enough, every Thursday round about seven, Uday would curb crawl along Mansour's main drag, sometimes with bodyguards in a motorcade, sometimes not.

They put 17 bullets into Uday's body and left him with some serious permanent damage of a sort that probably saved quite a few Iraqi women from future rape by Uday. They were Shia marsh Arabs and hid in the southern Iraqi marshes after carrying out their attack. Saddam didn't figure out for months what group was behind it. This is an interesting story.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 30 11:04 AM  Mideast Iraq
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2003 September 29 Monday
Why Dennis Miller Moved Rightward

The American Enterprise has an interesting interview with comedian Dennis Miller.

TAE: You’ve become more conservative over the years. How do you explain this shift?

MILLER: I’m not as sure of my guesswork anymore. To be on the Left, you have to be amazingly certain about things you’re guessing at, and I felt like a phony. I was looking for ideas, and all I was getting from liberals was, “We’d like a little more of your money, and we’re kind of reticent to protect you from bad guys.” Really? That’s all you’re offering? I gotta go! I can’t stay anymore. Also, when I kept hearing liberals equating Giuliani with Hitler—that’s when I really left the reservation. Even before 9/11, I’d travel to New York and say, “Wow, this city certainly seems to be running better.” Giuliani is the kind of leader I admire. When it’s five degrees below zero and you arrest somebody to get him inside and off the street—that’s not something Hitler would do. It made me realize that I was with the wrong group if that’s what Hitler looked like to them.

Intellectually the Left looks like it is becoming loonier and more vacuous. The empirical evidence really runs counter to ideologies that leftists embrace. But does that mean the appeal of the leftward-leaning parties will decline? I think not for a simple reason: the Robin Hood voters. People who feel poor will vote for hand-outs.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 29 08:06 PM  Religion Secular Ideologies
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Europeans Need To Work Longer And Have More Babies

The Economist says immigration will not solve the birth dearth problem in Europe.

If Europeans want to retain their public schemes—and most seem to want this—then it seems inevitable that they will have to work longer, probably at least five years, possibly as much as ten years longer.

...

Even with more immigration, increasing the domestic supply of younger workers—ie, having more babies—could also be desirable and, if current trends continue, probably necessary.

Imagine that. The Economist is coming out in favor of Europeans having more babies. The editors of The Economist still need to expand their analysis further to precisely pinpoint who should have babies. The problem is not just the lack of babies. What the Western countries really need is more people who are net surplus taxpayers. By "net surplus taxpayers" I mean people who pay more in taxes than they create in costs (if anyone has a more accurate phrasing for this term please post in the comments). People of different educational and occupational backgrounds are not equally likely to have net surplus taxpayer children. What we need is more children from people whose children are most likely to pay a lot of taxes and to generate fewer costs that governments end up paying for.

Someone who, for instance, commits a long string of destructive crimes at a fairly young age and then spends the rest of his life in jail generates enormous costs that the rest of us pay for. Someone who is lazy, never tries to develop any skills, lives in subsidized housing, makes very little money, and pays little in taxes is also effectively a net cost to society. It may sound harsh to describe people as net surplus or net deficit taxpayers. But we face real long term financial problems due to both an aging population and growing segments of populations that are not net surplus taxpayers even before they reach retirement. We need solutions for these problems.

Most analyses I see of immigration and the aging of Western countries do not try to factor in the net tax revenue effect of various kinds of immigrants. For example, most illiterate peasants from Mexico do not make enough money to pay the government of the United States as much in taxes as they cost in Medicaid, education for kids, welfare, housing subsidies, and other services. To put some statistical meat on this argument, Hispanics in the United States are two and a half times more likely to lack medical insurance than whites and hence do generate a lot of medical costs that "net surplus taxpayers" pay for. By contrast, a graduate of an IIT school in India who arrives to take a fairly high paying engineering job at Intel is probably going to pay much more in taxes and cost much less in government services. While individual exceptions can be found in any large group we can still find ways to classify potential imimgrants that will, on average, yield more net revenue taxpayers and fewer net deficit taxpayers than is now the case.

Someone who immigrates later in life and yet manages to naturalize and become a citizen eligible for government retirement benefits such as medical care is particularly unlikely to be a net surplus taxpayer. A person who immigrates at an earlier stage and who has a lot of skills is far more likely to be a net surplus taxpayer. Immigration policy should be changed with the goal in mind of choosing immigrants who are far more likely to become net surplus taxpayers.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 29 02:51 PM  Immigration Demographics
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2003 September 27 Saturday
John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq

The New York Times has an important article by their reporter John Tierney on the practice of cousin marriage and how it poses an obstacle to any attempt to try to create a civic democratic culture in Iraq. (free registration required) (or find it here, here, or here)

"Americans just don't understand what a different world Iraq is because of these highly unusual cousin marriages," said Robin Fox of Rutgers University, the author of "Kinship and Marriage," a widely used anthropology textbook. "Liberal democracy is based on the Western idea of autonomous individuals committed to a public good, but that's not how members of these tight and bounded kin groups see the world. Their world is divided into two groups: kin and strangers."

Iraqis frequently describe nepotism not as a civic problem but as a moral duty. The notion that Iraq's next leader would put public service ahead of family obligations drew a smile from Iqbal's uncle and father-in-law, Sheik Yousif Sayel, the patriarch in charge of the clan's farm on the Tigris River south of Baghdad.

This is an important article. Be sure to go read it in full. It is great that the Times is publicising this problem to such a large and relatively influential readership.

Tierney quotes from Steve Sailer's January 2003 article (same article here) in The American Conservative which describes the problem that cousin marriage poses for American ambitions to reform Iraq. For more on consanguineous marriage and the problem that consanguinity poses for any attempts to create a liberal democracy in the Middle East see my previous posts and their links to relevant articles by Stanley Kurtz (who Tierney also quotes) and others: Consanguinity prevents Middle Eastern political development, Consanguineous Marriage Perpetuates Violence In Muslim Mindanao, Stanley Kurtz on Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington, Stanley Kurtz: After the War, and Iraq Reconstruction, Neocolonialism, Political Beliefs.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 27 03:00 PM  Mideast Iraq Human Nature
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2003 September 26 Friday
US Leads Europe In Cancer Survival Rates

Don't get cancer in Poland.

The largest international cancer survival study to date, it found the chances of surviving for at least five years after being diagnosed with cancer ranged from a low of 25.2 percent for men in Poland to 57.9 percent for women in France. Regionally, Scandinavia came out best and Eastern Europe worst.

That compares with a survival rate of 62 percent for men and 63.5 percent for women in the United States. Comparable statistics for other areas of the world were not immediately available.

For a more detailed breakdown of the European results see this chart. Unfortunately, that chart does not include the United States. For data on how far ahead the US is of Canada for cancer survival rates (hint: half the US states are ahead of Canada's best province BC) see here for a comparison of American states and Canadian provinces.

The sheer amount of money spent makes a difference.

Germany spent 10.6 per cent of gross domestic product on healthcare, France spends 9.5 per cent. Britain, by contrast, spends 7.6 per cent.

The United States, by contrast, spends substantially more (about 14% and rising in 2002) as a percentage of GDP on health care than any European country.

A more rapid adoption of new approaches seems to characterize the American system. (my bold emphasis added)

Between 1990 and 2000, US prostate cancer mortality fell by one third at ages 50-74, and it fell by one quarter at ages 75-84. Definite decreases are also beginning to be seen in the UK, France and some other European countries.

Early detection, prompt surgery and hormonal treatments are all contributing, according to Professor Sir Richard Peto, from the University of Oxford, UK

By Randall Parker 2003 September 26 05:07 PM  Socialism, Capitalism
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2003 September 25 Thursday
Windows Into North Korea's Economy

Small signs of market forces growing in North Korea.

Official sanction: Still, evidence is mounting that the economic lives of ordinary North Koreans are radically changing. Another aid worker who visits North Korea frequently said he was impressed by the number of bicycles in cities on the poor, industrial east coast, most of them made in Japan. “There were bicycles everywhere. To me, that’s an indicator of some kind of progress,” he said. “Something is happening.” Small-scale commercial activity had picked up and people were making economic choices for the first time in their lives. “Along the roadsides you would see these ladies with basins full of fruits and vegetables” for sale, he said. On previous trips they would scurry away when foreigners passed, but not this time, he said. “Clearly, this had some kind of official sanction,” he said.

Meanwhile the Los Angeles Times has a report from a trade fair in North Korea where the sales representatives from other countries describe how North Korean government organizations routinely buy expensive things that are inappropriate for their economy. (LA Times, free reg. req'd)

Gianpiero Foddis, a technician for an Italian tile company, Longinotti, said he was surprised that last year the North Koreans bought more than $1-million worth of equipment for making luxury tiles.

"What they bought is one of the most expensive [tile-making] machines in the world. But the electricity is not stable. The people are not professionals and the quality of the material is not good," Foddis said. "It might fail after a few months."

The North Koreans couldn't be talked out of eel growing equipment even though their weather isn't suitable for raising eels.

The bulk of the economy is still in government hands but small amounts of private enterprise are being tolerated around the edges. These conditions might continue for many years to come.

The booming market for mobile phones in Pyongyang has grown to 200 Motorola and Nokia mobile phones sold per month.

According to the tourism administration's Web site (www.dprknta.com), it costs as much as 1,110 euros or $1,295 to purchase a mobile phone, which includes the cost of activation.

Hey Marmot, can you have a peek at that site and tell us whether that is what the site reports (in what I'm guessing is in Korean language) about mobile phone prices? Is that a cost for tourists to pay? Do locals who are well-connected perhaps pay a special lower price as a reward being heroes of the glorious communist state?

By Randall Parker 2003 September 25 04:50 PM  Korea
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Ann Coulter On Mount Athos And The European Parliament

The Mt. Athos Orthodox monastery in Greece (see it in context here) does not allow females to enter and hasn't for centuries. But, as Ann Coulter reports, the European Parliament is not happy with this state of affairs.

Who could object to such an arrangement? The European Parliament, that’s who. You see Mt. Athos is all male. Only males who are monks can reside there. Only males can visit.

That violates today’s extremist ideology. That ideology demands that there never be separation between the sexes. No all-boy schools. Not even boys’ choirs. Even in athletics there is a challenge to the male domination of some sports.

What makes this ideology capable of being exercised in the first place? We need to look at what basic right is at stake. What is violated here is not just freedom of religion. The violation of freedom of religion is a side-effect of a more fundamental violation of the basic right of freedom of association. This is a right that is rarely defended in the current era.

They propose to violate a fundamental right of association in order to defend human rights.

This followed the Strasbourg Parliament’s adoption of its annual report on human rights in the EU, which called on Greece to abolish legislation that imposes 2 to 12-month jail terms on women caught entering the easternmost leg of the Halkidiki peninsula, from which all women have been banned for over 1,000 years.

The report also urged Athens to allow the construction of mosques and Muslim cemeteries, to legalize proselytism and to ease draft terms for conscientious objectors.

Fodo Sylla is leading the fight to end the right of free association.

The Greek Orthodox Church, in its latest Ecclesia Report, announced that "the plenary session of the Euro-Parliament passed a proposal-report prepared by French Euro-deputy Fode Sylla concerning the EU Fundamental Rights situation for 2002, which includes, among others, a reference to the special status enjoyed by the monastic community of Mount Athos, in northern Greece."

According to the Euro-deputies, the controversial point is that the isles of Athos do not allow entry to women. The Euro-deputies see this prohibition as an infringement on women's human rights, so they asked the Greek government to revise the prohibition.

But what about female birds that land on the roofs or trees?

· In the Greek monastery of Mount Athos, nothing female is allowed. Men can enter but not women; roosters but no hens; horses but no mares; bulls but no cows. The border is patrolled by armed guards to ensure that nothing feminine passes the gates. It has been this way for more than 700 years.

To repeat myself, why is there so little recognition today of a right to free association? Granted, it was not mentioned as a fundamental right in the US Bill Of Rights. But I suspect if James Madison had been able to see the future he would have written one in. Imagine that you wanted to give a dinner party and you sent out a guest list and the government found out about it and insisted that you couldn't restrict who could come to your house for the party. Wouldn't you think that was a moral outrage? Why is this any different? Why can't a church choir be able to be all boys if that is what the church wanted? Why shouldn't a country club be able to be all males or all South Carolinians or all people with green eyes, or all people with double joints if that is their preference? Why shouldn't we have total control over who we associate with outside of the corridors of government?

By Randall Parker 2003 September 25 03:06 PM  Cultural Wars Western
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2003 September 24 Wednesday
Adam Garfinkle Challenges Convention Wisdom On Foreign Policy Mistakes

In an essay entitled "Foreign Policy Immaculately Conceived" in Policy Review Adam Garfinkle challenges a number of popular criticisms of US foreign policy in the post-World War II period.

The immaculate conception theory of U.S. foreign policy operates from three central premises. The first is that foreign policy decisions always involve one and only one major interest or principle at a time. The second is that it is always possible to know the direct and peripheral impact of crisis-driven decisions several months or years into the future. The third is that U.S. foreign policy decisions are always taken with all principals in agreement and are implemented down the line as those principals intend — in short, they are logically coherent.

Garfinkle delves into the US alliance with the Shah of Iran and argues that the US intervention and the Shah's own decisions as ruler of Iran yielded many benefits to Iran and to the US and that some of those benefits are surprisingly long-lasting.

More than that, though the immaculate conceptionists tend not to know it, the shah granted the vote to women in 1964. It was this act that first galvanized clerical opposition to the regime and was the catalyst for the first occasion upon which Ruhollah Khomeini went out and got himself arrested. We know how the story turned sad in 1978, but the success of the shah’s reforms went so deep in Iranian society that the rule of the Islamic Republic will, in the end, not stick. Perhaps the best illustration of this is that the mullahs have not dared suggest that the vote be taken away from women, though this is precisely what their theology would mandate. The clerical regime’s reticence on this score defines a significant limit, a social red line, that leaves open a dynamic in which the empowerment of women may well drive Iranian society toward pluralism, the flowering of liberal constitutionalism, and eventually democracy.

Even that is not quite all. Immaculate conception theorists hold that once the shah was restored, his repressive misrule made the Ayatollah Khomeini inevitable. Not only is the shah’s repression distorted and exaggerated in their telling of it, but it was the bungling of the Carter administration that allowed the clerics to seize power. Illustrating the difference between an ignoramus and a fool, some of that administration’s cabinet members not merely believed — they actually said it publicly — that Ayatollah Khomeini was a “saint” who would soon retire from politics. Worse, the administration actively dissuaded the Iranian military, via the infamous Huyser mission among other modalities, from preventing the mullahs from taking power. Supporting the shah was good policy. Failure to adjust when the shah’s touch slipped was unfortunate but not fatal. The mismanagement of the endgame was disastrous, but it was also entirely avoidable.

Garfinkle cites a number of examples of past US foreign policy positions which are criticised today by people who ignore the context in which those decisions were made. Many such criticisms show a fundamental ignorance of what was at stake during the Cold War that made those decisions so compelling at the time.

Read the essay in full. His views of the decisions taken by the Bush Sr Administration during and immediately after Gulf War I and the reasons for those decisions are particularly interesting.

Update: To illustrate Garfinkle's first point about how foreign policy critics will argue that the US is doing something in foreign affairs for just a single reason: There are many people who argue that the US overthrew Saddam Hussein just for oil. Then there are others who say the US did it to protect Israel. Then there are others who say the US did it just to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. But in reality the US government weighs a long list of factors and typically has many reasons to take any one action and many other reasons not to do so. Among the arguments for overthrowing Saddam Hussein was the desire to stop the US from being blamed for the continued poverty in Iraq that was at least partially a product of the UN sanctions for which the US was seen as the main promoter and enforcer. Another reason was to see if democracy introduced in one Arab country might spur reforms in other Arab countries that made terrorism less likely. Still other motives can be listed that were certainly weighed by the Bush Administration.

Even when an interest is listed (e.g. oil) one still needs to think thru what exactly that means if we are to understand exactly is the US national interest. In the case of oil a rather simplistic argument has been made in some quarters that the US just wants to pump the oil and make a big profit off it. In this extreme view the assumption is that the US will make more from controlling the oil fields and producing and selling the oil than it costs to seize and hold the country that has the oil. As we can see from the recent Bush Administration budget request for rebuilding Iraq that argument is not credible.

While the most severe critics of US policy with regards to Middle Eastern oil are obviously wrong in their statement of American interests the US really does have a large national security interest in Middle Eastern oil and politics. But many defenders of the US government Middle Eastern policy tend to argue that oil does not serve as a motivation for US actions in the Middle East because they don't want to admit to any selfish interest on the part of the US in setting US policy toward the Middle East. These defenders of US policy are essentially trying to argue that the US has no interest in who controls the oil fields. But oil is obviously a very big factor in US decision-making and this denial is unconvincing and leads to conspiratorial theories about what motivates US policy. Yet the real motives in US policy are obvious. During the Cold War the US long sought to keep Middle Eastern oil fields out of the control of the USSR. The US has also sought to block the rise of a regional hegemon whether it was Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini or Iraq under Saddam. The main US interest in Middle Eastern oil is that no one power controls it or is in a position to prevent it from being developed and sold. That interest is shared by a great many other countries. But the bulk of them are willing to stay silent about it and let the US do the dirty work and to take the criticisms for interventions in pursuit of that interest.

While there were many motives for fighting both Gulf wars there was an obvious oil-related US motive in both cases: The first war sought to prevent Saddam from keeping Kuwait's oil and eventually threatening Saudi Arabia's oil fields. The second war allowed Iraq to safely (at least hopefully) come out from under UN sanctions and to have large amounts of money invested in the development of its oil fields. This is not to say that the second Gulf war was fought solely to increase Iraqi oil production. But that was certainly one of the many motives for it.

One unfortunate outcome of the debate about US foreign policy toward the Middle East is that interests are misrepesented and denied and therefore policy debates do not converge toward the best policy choices for dealing with the interests at stake. This is seen most clearly in the case of oil because American and world dependence on Middle Eastern oil combined with the conditions in the Middle East make energy policy an important US national security issue. The simplistic postures taken by too many debate participants ("it is all about oil" vs "no, it is all about stopping terrorism and WMD proliferation") prevent a proper consideration of what the US ought to do about energy as a national security problem. We spend a lot of money for military purposes and in foreign aid in part (though not solely - the US has many interests after all) due to that dependence on Middle Eastern oil. In my view the amount that we spend for national security due to our oil dependence is enough to fully justify the expenditure of tens of billions per year on basic research in a Manhattan Project effort to develop cost-competitive replacements for Middle Eastern oil.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 24 03:22 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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Will Schwarzenegger And McClintock Hand California To Bustamante?

Arnold takes up the fight against Governor Gray Davis in California.

Schwarzenegger's assault on Davis makes sense. With the other recall committees out of money and off the air, the governor has gone unchallenged in making the case against the first question on the ballot--his ouster. Indeed, Davis has made the most of that situation by running anti-recall ads day and night. Not surprisingly, Davis's numbers have improved over the past month, though not as dramatically as he'd like (recall still leads, 53 percent to 42 percent, in the latest survey by the Progressive Policy Institute of California; a month ago it was 58 percent to 36 percent). Arnold, by tapping into his Total Recall Committee to underwrite the cost of the anti-Davis ad, changes that dynamic by putting the governor back on the defensive.

The irony here is that while Arnold may assure that Davis is recalled the Democrats stand a good chance of keeping control of the governorship. The split of the vote on the Right between Arnold and Tom McClintock may end up giving the governorship to Cruz Bustamante. Then the white majority (and, for that matter, the blacks and people of other ethnicities as well) will be ruled by a guy who won't disassociate himself from MeCHA and the ethnic separatists who want to split the American southwest from the United States.

I have no idea how this election turns out. But I'm guessing that regardless of whether Schwarzenegger or Bustamante is elected the tax burden in California will remain at least as high as it is now. Under Bustamante it will be worse than under Schwarzenegger but the two thirds control of the state legislature by the Democrats combined with the continued influx of low skill illegal and legal immigrants assures California will remain a high tax state. Even the unlikely outcome of a McClintock victory wouldn't result in a substantial reduction in the size of the state government.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 24 01:56 PM  Politics American Domestic
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2003 September 23 Tuesday
US Combat Troops Quit Saudi Arabia

US forces have quietly left Prince Sultan Air Base.

The drastically reduced American profile could simplify the government's position among Saudis who espouse Osama bin Laden's contention that the American military foothold was an affront to the kingdom's sovereignty. For years, the American presence not far from Islam's two holiest sites, at Mecca and Medina, has provided Al Qaeda with an important rallying cry.

The US Air Force has completed its shift of operations to Al Udeid Air Base which has been undergoing expansion in Qatar.The only remaining US soldiers are 500 advisors training Saudi National Guard.

The US kept forces in Saudi Arabia for too long after the first war was fought against Saddam to kick his forces out of Kuwait. But the logic for keeping them was to contain Saddam since he was left in power. Half measures require continued management of a problem. Now that Saddam is gone so is the rationale for the US troop presence in Saudi Arabia.

In part, Pentagon officials say, the shift is a logical outgrowth of the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq. Thirteen years after it began, the officials say, the American base's original Iraqi mission had been accomplished.

Critics can rightly claim that the US now has to intervene in Iraq in a way that creates even bigger effects than the effects created by the presence US forces in Saudi Arabia. But previous policy was not sustainable. The presence of US forces in the country which contains the two holiest cities in Islam presented an on-going propaganda tool for extremists to appeal to the Muslim masses. Iraq at least is less important to Sunni Islam.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 23 11:49 AM  Politics Grand Strategy
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2003 September 22 Monday
South Korea Undergoing Rapid Social Transformation

The divorce rate in South Korea is rapidly rising.

Still anchored in Confucian values of family and patriarchy, South Korea is fast becoming an open, Westernized society — with the world's highest concentration of Internet broadband users, a pop culture that has recently been breaking taboos left and right, and living patterns increasingly focusing on individual satisfaction.

Social changes that took decades in the West or Japan, sociologists here like to point out, are occurring here in a matter of years. In the last decade, South Korea's divorce rate swelled 250 percent, in keeping with women's rising social status.

A country that industrializes rapidly will be affected by the changing incentives that industrialization creates. At the same time, the people will absorb ideas from already industrialized countries more rapidly because of movies and other means of transmitting mass culture. Absent theocratic rule that suppresses social changes the changes which are occurring in South Korea seem inevitable for any country that fully industrializes.

South Korea has a higher divorce rate than the European Union. However, lumping all the countries of the EU together all too frequently obscures a wide range of variations. Also, the EU might have a lower divorce rate due to higher rates of unmarried cohabitation.

In 2001, the rate was 2.8, which was above the European Union's average of 1.8 and Japan's 2.3, though below the United States' rate of 4.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 22 12:39 PM  Korea
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Increasing Portion Of Potential US Citizens Less Educated

The Urban Institute has released a new study on immigrants to the United States who are becoming eligible to apply for US citizenship entitled The Changing Face of Naturalization.

Compared to recently naturalized citizens, the eligible population has more limited English skills, less education, and lower incomes:

- Sixty percent of the eligible group and 67 percent of those approaching eligibility are limited English proficient, versus 52 percent of the recently naturalized.

- Twenty-five percent of eligible adults have less than a ninth-grade education, compared with only 9 percent of the recently naturalized population.

- Forty-one percent of those eligible to naturalize have incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($36,200 for a family of 4 in 2002), compared with 28 percent of the recently naturalized.

The more educated and the Asians are more likely to naturalize than the less educated and the Mexicans.

National Origins. The national origins of the currently eligible pool differ from those of the recently naturalized. Mexico is perhaps the most striking case. There were 2.3 million Mexicans eligible to naturalize as of 2001—10 times the number from any other sending country.9 While Mexicans are 28 percent of all currently eligible immigrants, they represent only 9 percent of recently naturalized citizens. In a sharp contrast, Asians represent 27 percent of the eligible pool but 43 percent of recently naturalized citizens. Expressed differently, only 21 percent of eligible Mexicans entering in the past 20 years have naturalized while 57 percent of Asians have done so.

You can read the full report as a PDF file.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 22 12:34 AM  Immigration Dumbing Down
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2003 September 21 Sunday
Primitive Legal System In Afghanistan Fuels Land Grabs

A scandal currently receiving attention in Kabul involves government ministers being accused of building mansions on land given to them by the government. The land has existing primitive dwellings of poor people who have been living there in some cases for as long as decades. This is part of a larger pattern in Afghanistan of the more powerful using a weak legal system to take land from the poorer and the weaker.

Further heat was added to the issue by Miloon Kothari, an independent consultant who spent a fortnight travelling around Afghanistan to compile a report on land and housing issues for the UN's Human Rights Commission. He found widespread evidence that provincial warlords and government officials - exploiting the lack of a judiciary or land registries - are grabbing land illegally, forcing people to sell, and driving up property prices to levels well beyond the means of the poor by land speculation, sometimes to launder drugs money.

This is a very familiar story for those who have read Peruvian writer Hernando de Soto on the problem of legal systems in poor countries that effectively shut out a large fraction of the populace from access the means to register and protect property rights and contracts. He has a lot of good ideas on how to go about setting up a property rights system that is widely accessible. I read and liked his earlier book The Other Path (before it got the more contemporary subtitle "The Economic Answer To Terrorism") but haven't read his more recent The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. Since Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are not exactly Western culturally this title is a bit of a stretch. More generally he's probably attributing too much of the differences in economic outcome to his own hobbyhorse as experts in narrow specialties tend to do (Jared Diamond being another example of this phenomenon). But certainly a lack of broad public access to a general property rights enforcement system is going to hold back economic growth.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 21 10:27 PM  Chaotic Regions
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Immigration Increasing Supply Of Least Skilled Workers

Rich Lowry reports on the skill levels of recent immigrants.

The dynamic at work is simple: supply and demand. Immigration floods the country with unskilled workers, as most new arrivals come from Mexico and other poor countries in Latin America. According to Steven Camarota of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies, immigration increased the supply of people without a high-school education during the past decade by 21 percent. It increased the supply of all other workers only by roughly 4 percent.

That's an astounding figure. The United States has one of the most developed economies in the world. The automation and export of factory jobs is continuing to cause lots of long-time factory workers to lose their jobs with no prospect of getting jobs that pay as well. Salaries paid to less skilled workers are dropping because the demand for less skilled work is declining while the supply of less skilled workers is increasing. In the face of this trend it makes not the slightest bit of sense to bring in millions of workers who have less than a high school education. Some have gotten no farther than grade school. Current American immigration policy is ridiculously stupid.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 21 05:34 PM  Immigration Brain Drain
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Many Drugs Available In United States Not Available In Canada

Sally Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, has written an excellent article in the Washington Post on the reduced availability of drugs in Canada due to price controls and the bureaucratic barriers to availability of drugs in Canada. The Patented Medicines Prices Review Board (PMPRB) and provincial drug approval boards prevent many drugs from becoming available in Canada.

In addition, each of Canada's 10 provinces also maintains a government-approved formulary, which determines which drugs will be available to Canadians. Once approved by the PMPRB, medication must then get the nod from each of the provincial formularies. Many provinces approve fewer than half of all the new drugs the board has okayed.

Faced with the combination of price controls and the uncertain prospects of various provinces ever approving each drug for some drugs the pharmaceutical companies never even seek permission to sell them in Canada. But for the drugs whose makers do seek approval not all get approved by the PMPRB and of those that do then at the next step not all get approved by each province.

One hundred new drugs were launched in the United States from 1997 through 1999. Only 43 made it to market in Canada in that same period. Canadians are still waiting for many of them.

But since some provinces approve less than half the drugs that first receive PMPRB approval the net result is that less than a quarter of the new drugs that make it to market in the US are available in those provinces. Think about that. Some politicians and left-leaning political commentators in the United States hold Canada up as a shining example due to lower prices for some drugs. Well, the Canadians have taken their desire to avoid spending as much on drugs to the point where individual Canadians can't even get many of the drugs that cost us so much money to buy in the United States. So the governments are saving money big time. But what if you happen to be a Canadian who would benefit from one of those prohibited drugs? Well bummer dude.

Leave aside, for the moment, the effects on individuals in terms of increases in suffering and death. Even from the government's standpoint what the Canadians are doing may be counterproductive. If people could function more efficiently on some some drug then the effect of not having that drug reduces that person's economic output and hence that person's generated income and taxes collected by their government.

Why should Americans care about this? Self interest. Americans would have longer life expectancies if the governments of other governments were not able to force price controls on pharmaceutical companies. The resulting much reduced profit margins reduce the incentive for pharma cos to develop new drugs and hence the total amount of new drug development is lower than it otherwise would be. The US government ought to make the elimination of drug price controls a goal in international trade talks.

See my previous post which links to data on relative cancer case fatality rates in US states and Canadian provinces. The best Canadian province, British Columbia, has higher cancer case fatality rates than half of all US states. This is not an example we should want to emulate.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 21 02:22 PM  Socialism, Capitalism
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Will Democratic Base Bond With Wesley Clark?

The New York Times has a not very confidence inspiring profile of retired 4 star General Wesley Clark.

On Thursday, the day after he announced his candidacy, he said, "I probably would have voted for" the resolution. On Friday, he backtracked, saying, "I never would have voted for war." But last October, according to The Associated Press, he said he supported a Congressional resolution to give President Bush authority to use military force against Iraq. He then spent months as a television commentator criticizing the president's action.

His real preference has got to be his first answer when he said he was for the war resolution. But then someone reminded him that he has to win in the Democratic Party primary before he can move to the right for the general election.

He sounds like he's for war except when being against it will help in self-promotion either as a TV commentator or when running in a Democratic Party primary trying to appeal to the left-leaning base of the party. He comes across as one of those self-promoters that lower level officers with more conviction love to hate. He'd be better suited for the US Senate where the disconnect between power and responsibility would work well with his personal style.

Update: I think Mark Steyn's takedown on Clark sums up the problem with Clark's candidacy:

The only rationale for his candidacy is that he is the soldier for the party that doesn't like soldiering. He supposedly neutralises the Democrats' national security problem: they can say, hey, sure, we're anti-war, but that's because our guy is a four-star general who knows a thing or two about it . . . That's all they need him for: cover.

It is not going to work. All General Jello does is remind voters of what they dislike about the Dems on this war: their weaselly evasive oppositionism. All his military background does is keep military matters at the forefront of the campaign.

Could Clark swing any marginal southern states if he was Dean's VP pick? If he's the VP candidate then he doesn't have to have so many issue positions of his own but might sway a few people into believing that the Democratic Party isn't as wobbly as it otherwise appears to be.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 21 12:51 PM  Politics American Domestic
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US Aid To Iraq Proportionately Much Bigger Than Marshall Plan

Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution looks at US aid plans for Iraq and compares Iraq aid with Marshall Plan aid as a percentage of target country GDP.

According to some estimates, we will spend $20 billion on Iraqi infrastructure over the next year, half of Iraqi gdp (don't take Iraqi gdp statistics too seriously!). Andrew Sullivan has been asking how our assistance to Iraq compares to the Marshall Plan of postwar Europe. Here are some answers, drawn from a 1985 piece I wrote "The Marshall Plan: Myths and Realities," click here for an on-line summary, the piece appeared in Doug Bandow's U.S. Aid to the Developing World.

The Marshall Plan did not ever exceed 5 percent of the gross national product of the recipient nations. In the case of Germany, note that we were taking more out of Germany, in the forms of reparations and occupation cost reimbursements (11 to 15 percent of West German gnp), than we were ever putting in. Then throughout the mid-1950s, Bonn repaid half of the aid it had received. Note that German economic recovery followed from liberalization and reforms, which predated Marshall Plan aid.

The important thing to realize about Iraq is that it was not a country which had broadly gone thru a process of industrialization the way Europe had before WWII. Europe had the trained workforces, industrial firms, management know-how, financial expertise, and a recent memory of what civil societies were like. Iraq is much harder to reform even though the percentage of destruction of the economies of European countries was much higher. Also, as Cowen implies, the Marshall Plan has been given more credit for the recovery of Western Europe than it deserves.

It is instructive to read Stanley Kurtz's essays on Iraq, the British Raj and the postwar construction of Japan to appreciate just how much more difficult it will be for the US to succeed in Iraq.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 21 01:15 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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Thomas Friedman: French Opposition On Iraq Hurts France

Thomas Friedman says France wants the US to fail in Iraq.

What is so amazing to me about the French campaign — "Operation America Must Fail" — is that France seems to have given no thought as to how this would affect France. Let me spell it out in simple English: if America is defeated in Iraq by a coalition of Saddamists and Islamists, radical Muslim groups — from Baghdad to the Muslim slums of Paris — will all be energized, and the forces of modernism and tolerance within these Muslim communities will be on the run. To think that France, with its large Muslim minority, where radicals are already gaining strength, would not see its own social fabric affected by this is fanciful.

If the US fails then the radical Muslims will be emboldened and the drive to turn Europe into Eurabia will intensify. John Chipman says Europe wants America out of what Europe sees as its backyard while Europe refuses to tend to it in our place.

Says John Chipman, director of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies: "What the Europeans are saying about Iraq is that this is our backyard, we're not going to let you meddle in it, but we're not going to tend it ourselves."

Heck, the European countries won't even tend to the Balkans without US help. Why can't the vaunted EU of the Euro-enthusiasts dreams at least take care of Bosnia and Kosovo without US help?

By Randall Parker 2003 September 21 01:04 AM  Europe and America
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2003 September 20 Saturday
US State Budgets And Immigration

David Ignatius has a column in the Washington Post which has a general thrust aimed at attacking Bush on the federal budget and economics. While the column reads like a predictable partisan liberal Democrat's slam on a Republcan president (yawn) it does bring up an interesting quote from Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee about his state budget:

Huckabee illustrates how the fiscal crunch is playing out across the country. He says that 91 percent of his budget now goes for education, Medicaid and prisons. These amount to fixed costs. Because of declining revenues, he had to cut his budget 11 percent over the past two years -- despite raising the state's tobacco tax last May.

Here's what is interesting about it from an immigration standpoint: illegal immigrants generate more in costs for education, Medicaid and prisons than do native born citizens because the illegals are less educated, have larger families that have to be educated, pay less in taxes, most don't have medical insurance, and commit crimes at a higher rate. Well, if 91% of a state's budget is in spending categories that illegal immigrants (and, for that matter, low-skilled legal immigrants) drive up while the immigrants pay less in taxes then that illustrates why another state, California, has been so heavily impacted by its millions of illegal immigrants and their children.

California has been lucky to have large high tech industries with a lot of highly skilled and highly paid workers to provide a tax base for funding the costs incurred by the state and local governments for millions of low skilled immigrants. In spite of this California now has high income and sales taxes and yet it finds itself saddled with a large state budget deficit. By contrast, a poor state like Arkansas could not afford a large influx of illegals. As illegals have begun to spread more widely across the US this is going to exacerbate state government budget burdens in states that are already having a tough time making ends meet.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 20 08:33 PM  Immigration Welfare State
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2003 September 19 Friday
Afghanistan Rebuilds Slowly, Taliban Influence Spreads

BusinessWeek Bombay bureau chief Manjeet Kripalani took a trip thru Afghanistan and wrote a two-part article on her experiences. Little aid money is being spent.

Afghanistan became a sideshow. So now the warlords are back, vicious and rapacious. The Taliban is back, too, terrorizing the area. The Pakistanis are back to their old game of wanting to make an even poorer Afghanistan their colony, many Afghans feel. And the West's promise to reconstruct the country hasn't been kept.

Of the $5.1 billion that was promised to Afghanistan after the Taliban's ouster, to be spread over five years, only about $2 billion has come through. Afghan officials tell me that hardly any of that funding -- a pittance next to the $87 billion President George Bush wants to spend in Iraq -- has found its way to the formal rebuilding of the country. Most seems not to have gone much beyond Kabul, the capital. Kandahar, certainly, shows little evidence of that cash.

Bush is pushing for a tripling of aid to Afghanistan in part ot help Karzai to be relected as President in next year's election. Meanwhile most other countries that have promised aid are providing very little of it.

The Taliban are regaining control of parts of Afghanistan.

The next night, a woman who worked at the house where we were staying whispered that she had seen the dead or wounded bodies of young Afghan boys being brought into the city in the dark. It was a fight between Afghan tribes, but these skirmishes, I'm told, are instigated by the Taliban, trying to reassert their rule. Bit by bit, they are crossing the Pakistani border and coming into the southern flank of Afghanistan, capturing village by village, then district by district.

A former mujahideen fighter recognizes the strategy. It's what they themselves did with the Soviets, he declares. In Zabul province, adjoining Afghanistan, I'm told the Taliban have appointed their own governor and their own police chief. It's only a matter of time before they move into Kandahar.

What the US, the West and rest of the world is doing in Afghanistan is even less than half-measures. A larger portion of it ought to be secured and modernized.

One disappointing point that she mentions is the use of Pakistani laborers to build the roads instead of training local Afghans in the necessary skills. This reduces the amount of aid money that stays in the local economy and seems dumb.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 19 12:47 PM  Chaotic Regions
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Local Wahhabi Terrorists In Sunni Iraq Region

Scott Peterson has an interesting article about a Wahhabi cleric in a Iraq who has taught his followers to oppose the American occupation of Iraq.

BAGHDAD – To his followers, Sheikh Tahma Aboud Khalif is a loving father of four; a poor and harmless Islamic ideologue whose only fault is his "temper."

But for the American soldiers who caught the sheikh red-handed attempting to ambush their convoy, early one June morning south of Baghdad, the sheikh is a Wahhabi terrorist - and deserves to be sent to Guantánamo Bay.

They can't be reasoned with.

"These guys, you can't change their minds - you have to kill them, and squash them like an ant," says a senior US officer familiar with Tahma's case. "He's a terrorist."

Other non-Wahhabi clerics in the same area have initiated a dialog with US forces in an attempt to dispel mutual misunderstandings and to show them that not all the Sunnis think like those who engage in attacks on US soldiers. What would be interesting to know is for some group of villages how many of the mosques have radical preachers and how many attend each radical or non-radical mosque. Anecdotal accounts such as Peterson's are interesting but provide no clear indication of the scope of the problem.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 19 09:45 AM  Mideast Iraq Insurgency
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2003 September 18 Thursday
European Cold War Dissidents Call For Democracy In Cuba

Vaclav Havel, Former President of the Czech Republic, Arpad Göncz, Former President of Hungary, Lech Walesa, Former President of Poland all served time in prison as political dissidents while communist regimes still ruled Eastern Europe. They have just written a letter to The Daily Telegraph and other newspapers calling for united American and European support for democracy in Cuba.

It is time to put aside transatlantic disputes about the embargo of Cuba and to concentrate on direct support for Cuban dissidents, prisoners of conscience and their families.

Europe ought to make it unambiguously clear that Castro is a dictator, and that for democratic countries a dictatorship cannot become a partner until it commences a process of political liberalisation.

At the same time, European countries should establish a "Cuban Democracy Fund" to support the emergence of a civil society in Cuba. Such a fund would be ready for instant use in the case of political changes on the island.

While Castro is throwing dissidents in jail the dissident movement in Cuba continues to work for basic political freedoms.

The letter comes at a difficult time for the Cuban authorities. The island is suffering harsh economic downturn and growing discontent.

Last year, "Project Varela" drew 11,000 signatures seeking to activate a provision in the Cuban constitution allowing a referendum on the introduction of political freedoms. It was one of the biggest popular acts of dissent since the communists took power in 1958. Despite the regime's fierce response, the anti-Castro movement continues to thrive. Earlier this week, a coalition of dissident groups unveiled a proposal seeking broad human and economic freedoms after consulting more than 35,000 Cubans across the island.

It seems unlikely anything in Cuba will change before Castro's death unless he goes senile and effectively loses control. Though expansion of the Cuban tourism industry is giving Cubans an appreciation of just how poor they are.

In its economic desperation, Cuba embraced another low-tech business: tourism. Fidel Castro wanted to confine tourism to seashore resorts, but it soon spread deeply into the heartland and now accounts for 10 percent of the Cuban economy. These tourists are polluting the ideology of the Cuban regime. Their wealth presents a culture shock to the citizenry. One Cuban told me a heart-wrenching story that appeared in a Havana newspaper, before Castro arrested the editor. A young girl in Havana was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her touching answer: a tourista.

Would a lowering of US sanctions against Cuba that allowed US tourists to travel there accelerate the demise of the regime or would the revenue from tourism help prop up the regime?

By Randall Parker 2003 September 18 01:37 AM  Culture Open Versus Closed Societies
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2003 September 16 Tuesday
An International Education Spending Study Is Misleading

The US spends more per student for education.

Among more than 25 industrialized nations, no country spends more public and private money to educate each student than the United States, according to an annual review by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

But American 15-year-olds scored in the middle of the pack in math, reading and science in 2000, and the nation's high-school graduation rate was below the world average in 2001.

Why is this misleading? Think about it. Salaries make up most of the costs of operating schools. The physical structure and the books and other materials do not cost as much as teachers, janitorial staff, administrators, and all the others who work in schools and in assorted higher level offices that manage the schools. Well, countries that have higher per capita incomes are going to have generally higher salaries. Therefore, to get the same level of talent it will cost more in a country that is wealthier per person. So this study managed to show that the US has a higher per capita income than assorted other countries. The countries that came closest to the US in per student schools spending (e.g. Switzerland and Germany) also are closer to the US in per capita income. The countries that spend around $3000 per student (e.g. Mexico and Poland) have much lower living standards.

What would be more useful would be to rank countries by a ratio of spending per student divided by per capita income. Such an analysis might turn up some insights.

What else is dumb about these international student spending rankings? Well, among the countries listed in the analysis were Denmark with a population of 5.3 million and Slovakia with 5.4 million. Together those two countries have less than a third the number of people in California (about 33 million give or take a few millon illegal aliens who, btw, mostly have less than high school educations). Given that the US does not have a single educational system why compare all the US with such small countries? Why not break out the US into various parts and compare them to assorted similar sized places elsewhere? Why not include comparisons of just how much the various states differ in average per pupil spending and how much the various states differ in educational performance? Are there US states that surpass Denmark, Norway, and Austria in the performance of their students? I'm guessing probably this is so. It would be interesting to know that and to know the suspected reasons why before trying to draw conclusions from international comparisons of per student spending.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 16 07:31 PM  Education
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NY Times Reporter John Burns On Corrupt Reporters In Baghdad

New York Times reporter John Burns was reporting from Baghdad while Saddam Hussein was in power. What he has to say about the other reporters who were there and how those reporters tried to curry favor with Saddam's regime while failing to report on what the regime was doing to the Iraqi people is an extremely damning look at major newspaper and TV reporters.

There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives. This was the ministry of information, and particularly the director of the ministry. By taking him out for long candlelit dinners, plying him with sweet cakes, plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars. Senior members of the information ministry took hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from these television correspondents who then behaved as if they were in Belgium. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror.

In one case, a correspondent actually went to the Internet Center at the Al-Rashid Hotel and printed out copies of his and other people's stories -- mine included -- specifically in order to be able to show the difference between himself and the others. He wanted to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state. He was with a major American newspaper.

Burns believes in the power of the truth and the existence of absolute evil.

Now left with the residue of all of this, I would say there are serious lessons to be learned. Editors of great newspapers, and small newspapers, and editors of great television networks should exact from their correspondents the obligation of telling the truth about these places. It's not impossible to tell the truth. I have a conviction about closed societies, that they're actually much easier to report on than they seem, because the act of closure is itself revealing. Every lie tells you a truth. If you just leave your eyes and ears open, it's extremely revealing.

We now know that this place was a lot more terrible than even people like me had thought. There is such a thing as absolute evil. I think people just simply didn't recognize it. They rationalized it away.

Read the whole article. It is moving and quite informative.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 16 11:54 AM  Media Critique
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2003 September 15 Monday
Robert Kagan: Situation In Iraq Dire, US Military Too Small

Robert Kagan has a very gloomy view of what is going on in Iraq.

There are good reasons why the administration is not sending more troops to Iraq, of course. But they are not the reasons outlined by U.S. commanders. Those generals are saying we have enough troops in Iraq chiefly because they know full well they dare not ask for more. The price of putting another division or more of American troops into Iraq will be high. It means mobilizing more reserves and using more National Guard forces. It either means pushing the Army to the breaking point or making the very expensive but necessary decision to increase the overall size of the American military, and fast. Right now administration officials don't want to think the unthinkable. Unfortunately, they may be forced to in a month or two. And, unfortunately, by then it may be too late.

Many opponents of the war are now crowing "I told you so" in light of the continuing attacks in Iraq. Well, the anti-war camp seems not to notice this but not all us hawks expected Iraq to be easy to handle post-war. While Kagan was an advocate of the war it is worth noting that back in July 2002 he cleared showed that he saw the post-war challenge of ruling Iraq as difficult.

But Iraq is no "window." It is a historical pivot. Whether a post-Hussein Iraq succeeds or fails will shape the course of Middle Eastern politics, and therefore world politics, both now and for the remainder of this century.

Europeans worry about that, and they're right to do so. If it's true that an invasion may be only six months off, this would be a good time to start thinking about D-Day plus 1. Not only Europeans but Americans, too, ought to know the kind of task they're about to undertake. For if the Bush administration is serious, then the United States is on the verge of making a huge commitment in Iraq and the Middle East, not unlike the commitment it made in Japan more than a half-century ago.

These are not the words of a triumphalist.

I'm firmly in the ranks of those who are pessimists on Muslim democracy and back in October 2002 was already arguing a pessimistic post-war view on Iraq in the post Hardest Part Of Iraq War Is Reconstruction.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 15 11:42 AM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs
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2003 September 14 Sunday
Reason For Optimism About Iraqi Pipeline Protection

Jim Hoagland reports that by replicating the economic incentives that Saddam Hussein employed to ensure security the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) may succeed in protecting the pipelines in Iraq.

For one thing, the tribes were given regular payments if the pipelines in their territories encountered no problems. Sabotage or other security problems in a tribe's area brought an immediate cutoff of those payments from Baghdad.

The protection funds ceased with the invasion -- and sabotage suddenly erupted. Now payments to the tribes are being restored by CPA officials, who are silently testing the theory that Sunni sheiks looking for a renewal of their customary meal ticket may have been negligent about, if not responsible for, damage to the national pipeline system.

The real challenge in Iraq is far more of an intelligence and social problem than it is a conventional military problem. The Iraqis have far more eyes to use to watch what is going on there and if they can be co-opted to look for and report on what the opposition is doing and who the opponents are that will accomplish far more than an increase in the number of fighting troops could accomplish.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 14 11:33 PM  Mideast Iraq
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So-Called Progressives Take Over NYC Schools

Sol Stern of the City Journal is understandably upset that New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has appointed a leftist ideologue named Diana Lam to run New York City schools as head of the newly created Department of Education.

During the summer recess, almost all of the system's principals and thousands of teachers were coerced or bribed into seminars for some more brainwashing. In these sessions (run by professors at progressive-education bastions such as Columbia University's Teachers College), it was made clear that every single literacy and math class in the city must hew to the same topics and utilize the exact same teaching methods.

Phonics and other common sense approaches to teaching are being tossed out unceremoniously.

Existing literacy programs stressing phonics that were previously working well in low performing schools (such as "Success for All") were dumped by Lam without so much as a hearing. The new preferred curriculum and methodology are being imposed across the board; principals and teachers will raise objections at their professional peril.

It is sad to see someone given the authority to basically run a big school system into the ground by using all the bad ideas that regularly come out of university education departments. But if the frauds that staff the nation's academic education departments make New York City's school system even worse than it already is then is this a bad thing in the bigger scheme of things? It is certainly bad for the kids attending public schools in New York City. But this will have some small positive benefits by, for instance, driving more parents to send their children to private schools. The bigger upside is that the left-liberal elite in New York City will have front-row seats to the consequences of the intellectual bankruptcy of what passes for the discipline of education in modern day American academe. It is possible they might figure out just how stupid "progressive" education really is. Though it seems more likely they will just claim that the problem is insufficient funding and that there needs to be even greater ideological indoctrination of the teachers. If the lefties in New York City don't clue in (and their failure to learn seems the more likely outcome given past experience) then at least New York City's school system will serve as an example to the rest the nation of why professional educators can not be trusted with something as important as the education of youth.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 14 12:49 PM  Civilizations Decay
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2003 September 12 Friday
Corruption Is Rife In South Africa

A series of charges of corruption of South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma and his supposed puppet master Schabir Shaik and the apparent willingness of the elites of South Africa's government to protect Zuma have to be seen in light of a wider growing pattern of corruption in South Africa.

Personally, the current row takes me back to a conversation I had with one of the editors of the Weekly Mail (as it then was) in early 1994. Had he not noticed, I inquired, how many leading ANC figures had quickly acquired godfathers who were paying their way? Mandela had been provided with a palatial mansion by Douw Steyn. Sol Kerzner was making free with lavish hospitality for the whole ANC leadership so much so that the Mafikeng ANC branch had passed a motion criticising Thabo Mbeki for his "perceived over-closeness" to Kerzner.

Mbeki himself had acquired a BMW almost as soon as he returned to SA. Cyril Ramaphosa was being taken through upmarket fly-fishing resorts by Sidney Frankel. A number of ANC leaders already had children in expensive private schools. And so on.

...

I recall another conversation at that time with a leading trade unionist. He explained to me that he and his comrades had always taken it for granted that they would be poorer than their peers and that this was part of the struggle. Then, however, they had met the returning exile ANC leadership and realised with shock that many of them were well off and intending to become seriously rich.

"The effect was explosive. From that moment on all the comrades wanted the same. Corruption within the unions really took off," he told me.

Of course, this has to mean that South Africa is going down the tubes. Racism against non-blacks will reduce the number of competent people in key positions in government and industry. Corruption is just another reason why poor decision-making will cause a general deterioration. This puts the whites still left in South Africa in a difficult position. The whites are not allowed to take any property when they leave. So the older ones would have to leave with no retirement savings and the younger ones with fewer skills will find it hard to find nations that will accept them.

By Randall Parker 2003 September 12 05:51 PM  Civilizations Decay
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Europe Produces More Scientists But Employs Fewer Researchers

The European Commission (EC) of the European Union (EU) is worried that Europe produces more scientists but has fewer researchers.

In relative terms the EU produces more science graduates (PhDs) than the United States but has fewer researchers (5.36 per thousand of the working population in the EU compared with 8.66 in the USA and 9.72 in Japan). In order to achieve the objective of raising Europe's investment in research to 3% of gross domestic product (GDP), as decided at the Barcelona European Council meeting in March 2002, the EU will need 700 000 extra researchers.

There is therefore an urgent need to improve the image of researchers within society, attract more young people to scientific careers and foster researchers' mobility across Europe and back from other regions in the world. There are still some major obstacles to overcome, including in particular difficulties in cross-sector mobility such as moving from university to private business careers, and in addition the problems encountered by researchers attempting to embark on careers in universities outside their own countries.

The European Commission lays out a series of recommendations:

  • the launch of a “European Researcher's Charter”, for the career management of human resources in R&D;
  • a “Code of conduct for the recruitment of researchers” at European level;
  • the development of a framework for recording and recognising the professional achievements of researchers throughout their careers, including the identification of tools aimed at increasing the transparency of qualifications and competencies acquired in different settings;
  • the development of a platform for the social dialogue of researchers;
  • the designing of appropriate instruments in order to take into account the necessary evolution of the content of research training and
  • the development of mechanisms to ensure that doctoral candidates have access to adequate funding and minimum social security benefits.
  • But there is no indication that these recommendations address the question of why the difference exists in the first place. Increased funding for basic researchers will probably help. But while the United States government spends a great deal on basic research a lot of R&D workers in the United States are employed in private industry and the same holds true in Japan. The EC recommendations provide no indication that the EC bureaucrats have bothered to figure out the relative importance of the various reasons why the United States and Japan have more R&D workers as a proportion of their populations. Lots of obvious questions could be asked. Here are a few of them:

    • What industries employ most of the researchers? Is there a structure to European universities that works against a greater amount of research being done?
    • Are there important differences in how grant applications are judged?
    • Does America's larger amount of venture capital make a key difference?
    • If so, then why does Japan employ even more researchers as a percentage of the population than the US by the measure they are using?
    By Randall Parker 2003 September 12 01:02 PM  Europe and America
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    2003 September 10 Wednesday
    AEI Releases Poll Of Iraqi Political Views

    Karl Zinsmeister of the American Enterprise Institute reports on a poll conducted by Zogby International and American Enterprise magazine on the political views of people in Iraq.

    Conducted in August, our survey was necessarily limited in scope, but it reflects a nationally representative sample of Iraqi views, as captured in four disparate cities: Basra (Iraq's second largest, home to 1.7 million people, in the far south), Mosul (third largest, far north), Kirkuk (Kurdish-influenced oil city, fourth largest) and Ramadi (a resistance hotbed in the Sunni triangle). The results show that the Iraqi public is more sensible, stable and moderate than commonly portrayed, and that Iraq is not so fanatical, or resentful of the U.S., after all.

    • Iraqis are optimistic. Seven out of 10 say they expect their country and their personal lives will be better five years from now. On both fronts, 32 percent say things will become much better.
    • The toughest part of reconstructing their nation, Iraqis say by 3 to 1, will be politics, not economics. They are nervous about democracy. Asked which is closer to their own view--"Democracy can work well in Iraq," or "Democracy is a Western way of doing things"--five out of 10 said democracy is Western and won't work in Iraq. One in 10 wasn't sure. And four out of 10 said democracy can work in Iraq. There were interesting divergences. Sunnis were negative on democracy by more than 2 to 1; but, critically, the majority Shiites were as likely to say democracy would work for Iraqis as not. People age 18-29 are much more rosy about democracy than other Iraqis, and women are significantly more positive than men.
    • Asked to name one country they would most like Iraq to model its new government on from five possibilities--neighboring, Baathist Syria; neighbor and Islamic monarchy Saudi Arabia; neighbor and Islamist republic Iran; Arab lodestar Egypt; or the U.S.--the most popular model by far was the U.S. The U.S. was preferred as a model by 37 percent of Iraqis selecting from those five--more than Syria, Iran and Egypt put together. Saudi Arabia was in second place at 28 percent. Again, there were important demographic splits. Younger adults are especially favorable toward the U.S., and Shiites are more admiring than Sunnis. Interestingly, Iraqi Shiites, coreligionists with Iranians, do not admire Iran's Islamist government; the U.S. is six times as popular with them as a model for governance.
    • Our interviewers inquired whether Iraq should have an Islamic government, or instead let all people practice their own religion. Only 33 percent want an Islamic government; a solid 60 percent say no. A vital detail: Shiites (whom Western reporters frequently portray as self-flagellating maniacs) are least receptive to the idea of an Islamic government, saying no by 66 percent to 27 percent. It is only among the minority Sunnis that there is interest in a religious state, and they are split evenly on the question.

    Click thru to read the rest of the report. The news is encouraging overall. However, there were parts of the poll that were more worrying to me than they were to Zinsmeister. For instance, while 57% of the Iraqi public have an unfavorable view of Osama Bin Laden that implies that a rather large minority of the population likes Bin Laden. Also, even if most rarely if ever attend mosque it is important to keep in mind the threat posed by small highly motivated minorities of religious extremists.

    By Randall Parker 2003 September 10 04:22 PM  MidEast Iraq Opinion Polls
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    2003 September 09 Tuesday
    Health Care Costs Rapidly Rising, Bush Declining In Polls

    Health insurance premium costs are rising rapidly.

    Health insurance premiums for American employees rose 13.9 percent during the past year, the biggest annual jump since 1990, according to a survey of employers released today in Washington.

    As employers cut medical benefits in response to cost increases people are more worried about becoming uninsured than being attacked by terrorists.

    The poll found that 33 percent of the insured worry that their income might not keep up with health premiums, while just 8 percent said they fear being a victim of a terror attack.

    Dick Morris explains George W. Bush's declining approval rating in polls as a result of a declining concern about terrorism along with a rising concern about other issues.

    Why is Bush falling so badly? The superficial reasons are the Iraq casualties, the failure to find WMDs and the continuing inability to round up Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. But the real reason is that terror is receding as an issue, largely due to Bush's success.

    While the terrorist issue is receding people are continuing to feel bad for economic reasons. Discouraged workers are abandoning the job search and causing a lower reported unemployment rate.

    Nonfarm business payrolls declined by 93,000 last month, raising the total of job losses since the start of the year to 431,000. The job cuts were the deepest in five months. Still, the unemployment rate fell a tenth of a percentage point to 6.1% as more discouraged workers dropped out of the labor force.

    Probably the biggest threat to George W. Bush's reelection is the so-far jobless economic recovery caused in part by rapidly rising productivity.

    Production is rising even faster this quarter than last, according to many forecasters, while yesterday's report showed that the number of hours worked nationally fell at a faster rate in July and August than it did in the April-June period. That combination points to another huge gain in productivity, several analysts said.

    Whether personal economic assessments will remain as important as they are now come the date of the November 2004 vote is hard to say. A big terrorist attack could shift people's thinking away from economics even as a large attack would have enormous costs. But at this point Bush really needs an economic recovery that starts generating jobs.

    If Bush wasn't so intent upon his foolish and futile pursuit of the Hispanic vote he could strengthen his support among lower class blacks and whites by reducing the competition they face in the labor market from illegal immigrants. If he announced support for a massive fence to keep out illegals and initiated mass deportations of illegal aliens this would decrease the amount of competition that low income Americans face in the labor market. Doing that alone would probably get him reelected. The Steve Sailer strategy for California could work nationally.

    By Randall Parker 2003 September 09 02:27 PM  Economics Political
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    Winning Basketball Teams Lead To College Drop-Outs

    Successful college and university basketball teams have the effect of reducing graduation rates by distracting students from their studies.

    University of Arkansas researchers report that universities with highly successful basketball programs experience reduced graduation rates as a direct result of their team's athletic prowess. This means that even as teams battle to win the championship title, their home institutions may be suffering a significant loss.

    UA sociology professor Doug Adams and professor emeritus William Mangold have conducted a statistical analysis of 97 major Division IA universities. Their research examines the impact of intercollegiate athletic success on overall institutional graduation rates and appears in the September/October issue of The Journal of Higher Education.

    Numerous studies have analyzed the graduation rates of student athletes and debated the emphasis placed on academic and athletic success. However, the University of Arkansas study represents the first detailed examination of how specific sports - football and basketball - each impact overall graduation rates.

    "Current student retention theories tell us that a strong athletic program brings students together, that it fosters school spirit, pride and solidarity in the institution and that this leads to greater retention and higher graduation rates. That's not what our results showed," Adams said.

    While football appeared to have a slight positive impact on overall graduation rates, the data showed a much stronger negative correlation to successful basketball programs. As teams scored more and more victories, net graduation rates dropped.

    Why is basketball worse? It uses up more time of undergrads.

    According to the researchers, football attracts a larger alumni crowd while basketball games are more popular among the students. In addition, basketball teams play more games during the season, and games are more likely to be held during the school week. As basketball continues to gain popularity, its impact on academics grows.

    If some school wanted to get more serious about academics (the supposed reason that institutions of higher education exist) they'd drop their basketball program. But it seems pretty safe to bet against that happening.

    By Randall Parker 2003 September 09 02:09 PM  Human Nature
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    China Blames US For Failure Of North Korea Talks

    A cheeky statement from Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi reveals that he has a low assessment of the Bush Administration's ability to recognize obvious rivals and enemies who seek to undermine US attempts stop North Korean WMD proliferation.

    BEIJING, Sept. 3 -- China expressed dissatisfaction today with the U.S. position on North Korea's nuclear weapons program taken at last week's six-party talks in Beijing and said the next round of negotiations would depend on the United States.

    A Chinese official elaborated on statements made by Wang Yi, China's vice foreign minister and the host of last week's talks, who told reporters Monday in Manila that he considered the United States the "main obstacle" to settling the nuclear issue peacefully.

    Attempts to stop North Korea's nuclear weapons program peacefully face two main obstacles: China and South Korea. Both countries prop up North Korea economically. Both operate to protect North Korea from American diplomatic and economic pressure. If the Bush Administration had any guts we'd see the White House Press Secretary reading out a statement that "China is the main obstacle for settling the North Korean nuclear weapons program issue peacefuly". But that is too much to expect from the Bush Administration.

    Between China and South Korea China is obviously the worse obstacle to US ambitions to rein in North Korea as China uses North Korea to defeat general American anti-proliferation efforts.

    U.S. officials said the intelligence community has determined that China and North Korea have cooperated in the production and delivery of components for missile and WMD programs to a range of Middle East clients. They said in many cases China, which last year announced export controls on military and dual-use technologies, has produced the components and exported them through North Korea to avoid U.S. sanctions.

    Now, wouldn't it be great for the US leadership to state the obvious and to tell the American public that China is a promoter of nuclear, missile, and other forms of weapons proliferation? That is too much to expect of the hapless Bush Administration. In the face of all this America's clueless Secretary of State Colin Powell thinks US relations with China are just great.

    Citing shared concerns about North Korea's nuclear weapons programs and other issues, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday U.S. relations with China are at their highest point in more than 30 years.

    Statements like Powell's are one of the sources of my pessimism with regard to efforts to stop North Korea's nuclear program.

    On the bright side, there is one way this crisis will not get worse: at least former president Jimmy Carter is going to stay out of it.

    Traveling on an agenda promoting aid to Africa, he said he had no plan to repeat his 1994 trip to Pyongyang, which opened paths to the first nuclear agreement with North Korea.

    By Randall Parker 2003 September 09 09:34 AM  Korea
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