2003 October 31 Friday
Berkeley Study: 14 Million Jobs At Risk From Foreign Outsourcing

Offshore outsourcing seen as an even bigger threat than previously predicted.

Berkeley, October 29, 2003 – A ferocious new wave of outsourcing of white-collar jobs is sweeping the United States, according to a new study published by University of California, Berkeley, researchers, who say the trend could leave as many as 14 million service jobs in the United States vulnerable.

Study authors Ashok Deo Bardhan and Cynthia Kroll, both researchers at the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics housed at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, say that not all of the at-risk jobs are likely to be lost. But, they note, jobs remaining in the United States could be subject to pressures to lower wages, and the jobs that leave may slow the nation’s job growth or generate losses in related activities.

Jobs most vulnerable to the new wave of outsourcing, the researchers say, include medical transcriptions services, stock market research for financial firms, customer service call centers, legal online database research, payroll and other “back office” activities. Altogether, the positions feature vulnerability-producing attributes such as a lack of face-to-face customer service, work processes that enable telecommuting and Internet work, high wage differentials between countries, a high information content, low social networking requirements, and low set-up costs.

Bardhan and Kroll say that the widely quoted Forrester Research (an independent technology research company) report issued in 2002 that 3.3 million jobs would be lost to outsourcing by 2015 already seems conservative. They point to the rate of outsourcing over the past few years to India – 25,000 to 30,000 jobs in June 2003 alone.

Even face-to-face customer service will be affected as companies compare the costs of, say, face-to-face customer contacts versus phone contacts and other electronic ways of interacting with customers.

In the face of all this intensifying competition from abroad the United States should not have an immigration policy to bring in millions of unskilled workers with less than 9th grade educations. We need an immigration policy designed with knowledge worker competition in mind. We could improve our educational system in ways that increase the number of sharp knowledge workers we have as well. See the post Accelerate Education To Increase Tax Revenue, Reduce Costs.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 31 03:29 PM  Economics Political
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IDF Officers Challenge Israeli Policy Toward Palestinians

Israeli chief of staff Moshe Yaalon makes public the split between the IDF and other parts of the Israeli government on how to handle the West Bank and Gaza.

In remarks that suggest a dramatic split with the approach of the current government, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, chief of staff of the Israeli armed forces, said that crackdowns, curfews and roadblocks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were crippling the lives of innocent Palestinians and that the military's tactics were now threatening Israel's own interests.

The military chief directed most of his complaints at restrictions imposed on the West Bank four weeks ago, after a suicide bomber from the West Bank city of Jenin killed 21 people in a restaurant in the Israeli port of Haifa. Yaalon said the current curfews and travel restrictions, some of the tightest since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000, were preventing Palestinians from carrying out critical olive and other agricultural harvests, hampering thousands of children from attending school, increasing hatred for Israel and strengthening terrorist organizations.

"In our tactical decisions, we are operating contrary to our strategic interests," Nahum Barnea, columnist for the Yedioth Aharonoth newspaper, quoted Yaalon as telling him.

The restrictions would not even be as tactically valuable if there was a more thorough separation between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Finish the barrier between the West Bank and Israel and withdraw from the remote settlements and then Palestinian movement around the West Bank would not be as much of a concern. It would only matter when and if the Palestinians start shooting mortars or missiles at Israel.

The Shin Bet intelligence agency favors the current policy. So Ariel Sharon's government and Shin Bet are on one side and the Israeli military is on the other.

The barrier is turning out to be more expensive than expected.

The Finance Ministry estimated this week that the barrier would cost about $2.3 billion, more than three times the original estimate.

But is that because of the changes in path of the barrier that are making it longer? What is their cost per mile? Anyone know? The answer is pertinent to the question of how much it would cost to properly secure the southern border of the US with Mexico in order to stop the illegal alien influx.

Yaalon thinks a longer route for the fence would be harder to defend.

The general also was quoted as saying that the proposed route for a security fence that will cut deeply into the West Bank would require too many soldiers to defend, and that threats on the life of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had served only to make him more popular.

A lot of IDF officers think defending the remote settlements is a resource drain they can ill afford and that the remote settlements should be abandoned. This makes sense for the additional reason that doing so more thoroughly separates the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The deeper the barrier cuts into the West Bank the greater the resulting resentment will be among Palestinians. I really think that the Israelis should try to reduce the extent to which there is an "in your face" aspect to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Don't give them annoying reminders of the conflict. Don't give them symbols for their propaganda makers. Increase the odds that tempers could start to cool.

IDF officers are defending Yaalon's position.

Senior IDF officials said Yaalon was correct in raising the army's concern and dilemma regarding the Palestinian population and the affect of government policies. A senior officer said that "maybe in 1973 (on the eve of the surprise Egyptian and Syrian attack that resulted in the Yom Kippur War) there were those who knew and were forced to keep quiet," Army Radio reported.

Meanwhile, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah are cooperating.

JERUSALEM — The Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, with their operatives on the run, have increasingly forged a common front against Israel, and there are signs they are also being guided by Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.

The Israelis made a big mistake by signing the Oslo accord. Allowing the PLO to come back to the West Bank and Gaza allowed the PLO/PA to organize for the terrorist attacks that resulted in the very Israeli responses that Yaalon thinks are ultimately making the situation even worse. On top of that the construction of remote settlements was a strategically dumb move that stretches the IDF, requires disruption of Palestinian life in order to provide security, and provides meat for anti-Israeli propagandists.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 31 03:09 PM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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Brian C. Anderson On The End Of The Liberal Media Monopoly

Writing in the City Journal Brian C. Anderson has written an article for conservatives about the new sources and shapes of media entitled We’re Not Losing the Culture Wars Anymore.

The first and most visible of these three seismic events: the advent of cable TV, especially Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel.

Cable TV has so many channels and each channel is in intense competition for viewers. This inevitably leads to channels that cater to niche interests. Comedy shows that are politically incorrect such as South Park and Tough Crowd and talk shows aimed at conservatives are just another way for media providers to try to appeal to some unaddressed segment. The effect on politics is to provide platforms for points of view that went unheard during the era of the monopoly of a few left-liberal TV networks. This benefits all other points of view at the expense of the liberal left.

Then there are the on-line news sites and the blogs:

It’s hard to overstate the impact that news and opinion websites like the Drudge Report, NewsMax, and Dow Jones’s OpinionJournal are having on politics and culture, as are current-event “blogs”—individual or group web diaries—like AndrewSullivan, InstaPundit, and “The Corner” department of NationalReviewOnline (NRO), where the editors and writers argue, joke around, and call attention to articles elsewhere on the web. This whole universe of web-based discussion has been dubbed the “blogosphere.”

While there are several fine left-of-center sites, the blogosphere currently tilts right, albeit idiosyncratically, reflecting the hard-to-pigeonhole politics of some leading bloggers. Like talk radio and Fox News, the right-leaning sites fill a market void.

Why are there more right-wing blogs? I think the biggest reason is that right-wingers have been tokens on TV news and in newspapers. George Will played token conservative panelist on sunday TV news shows while Bill Safire was the token conservative (and not intensely so) columnist for the New York Times. All the people who have been fuming at the TV news shows and newspapers for decades have finally been given a way to have their voices heard.

One factor that Anderson doesn't mention is that the internet breaks media monopolies in another way: one can read more of the already existing sources. Few could possibly afford to subscribe to even 50 newspapers. But one can go to Google News and search thru hundreds of newspapers and magazines to run down a story. The editing decisions of individual editors suddenly matter much less.

Also, the research resources of, say, the New York Times mean far less. One can go to plain old Google and look for economic data, dates of previous events, details of some scientific facts, and countless other things. One can even find experts in various fields, find their web sites, send them email and sometimes get responses. As the amount of information available to anyone who wants to spend time searching goes up the ability of editors and writers for major publications to shape the public discourse by presenting selective subsets of relevant facts goes down. Not only can each individual do fact checking but the fact checkers can easily share their results with each other and with the larger audience of web readers.

The web also creates a record of what many people have said. It is a lot harder for journalists and politicians to contradict themselves by saying different things at different times to different audiences. It is becoming too easy to dig out the contradictions.

Changes in book publishing and book promotion are breaking the monopoly on ideas as well.

“The rise of Amazon and the chain stores has been tremendously liberating for conservatives, because these stores are very much product-oriented businesses,” observes David Horowitz. “The independent bookstores are all controlled by leftists, and they’re totalitarians—they will not display conservative books, or if they do, they’ll hide them in the back.” Says Marji Ross: “We have experienced our books being buried or kept in the back room when a store manager or owner opposed their message.” She’s a big fan of Amazon and the chains.

Amazon’s Reader Reviews feature—where readers can post their opinions on books they’ve read and rate them—has helped diminish the authority of elite cultural guardians, too, by creating a truly democratic marketplace of ideas.

All these changes feed on each other. Conservative talk radio, Drudge, and blogs can all promote books. Reviewers can make comments on Amazon on books. Bloggers can point their readers to other blogs and to great articles in newspapers from around the world. Blogging becomes easier as the mighty Google News indexes ever more newspapers and magazines and as Google has more useful data out in the growing web to index.

Anderson forecasts a further decline in the power of the old line liberal media.

Here’s what’s likely to happen in the years ahead. Think of the mainstream liberal media as one sphere and the conservative media as another. The liberal sphere, which less than a decade ago was still the media, is still much bigger than the non-liberal one. But the non-liberal sphere is expanding, encroaching into the liberal sphere, which is both shrinking and breaking up into much smaller sectarian spheres—one for blacks, one for Hispanics, one for feminists, and so on.

Well, the Right and the Left are both going to splinter. More factional divisions will be possible when there are more ways to get a hearing for unorthodox opinions.

One thing that is probably happening is that the velocity of idea spread is increasing. The delay between when an article is written and when it appears in a magazine delivered to a physical mailbox is on the order of weeks or months. The letters to the editor in response take more weeks and months. But articles written for the internet can get responses and their authors can respond back again thru several cycles in a single day. People can send emails to experts asking them whether some claimed fact is accurate. Reference sources can be checked. Faster information and more fact checking will speed up debates and accelerate changes in opinion. New memes will propagate more rapidly.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 31 01:57 PM  Media Critique
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2003 October 30 Thursday
Does A Large Trade Deficit Slow Economic Growth?

University of Maryland professor Peter Morici, in testimony at an October 30, 2003 hearing of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, argues that the large US trade deficit is slowing US economic growth.

Given rapid productivity growth and foreign investments in China, we would expect the dollar value of the Chinese currency to rise with its development progress. However, since 1995 the Chinese government has maintained a policy of pegging the yuan at 8.3 per dollar.

Since 1995, the U.S. trade deficit with China has grown from $38 billion to $140 billion, and the overall U.S. current account deficit has grown from $105 billion to $555 billion. In contrast, when China was granted most-favored-nation status by the Congress in 1980, the U.S. bilateral trade and global current accounts were in surplus at $2.8 billion and $2.3 billion, respectively.

Consequently, reduced sales and layoffs in U.S. import-competing industries caused by Chinese competition have not been matched by increased sales and new jobs in U.S. export industries at the scale a market driven outcome would require. The free trade benefits of higher income and consumption to the U.S. economy have been frustrated by currency market intervention.

Morici claims the US economy would be much larger today if the US was not running such a large trade deficit for so many years.

Chronic trade deficits with China, Japan and other countries, which emerged in the 1980s, have reduced U.S. productivity growth and the trend rate of GDP growth by lowering U.S. value added per employee and investments in R&D.

In a nutshell, increased trade with China and other Asian economies should shift U.S. employment from import-competing to export industries. Since the latter create more value added per employee and undertake more R&D, this process would be expected to immediately raise U.S incomes and consumption and boost long-term productivity and GDP growth.

Instead, growing trade deficits with China and other Asian economies have shifted U.S. employment from import-competing and export industries to nontradeable service producing activities. The import-competing and export industries create about 150 percent more value added per employee, and spend more than three times as much R&D per dollar of value added, than the private business sector as a whole.

By reducing investments in R&D, an econometric model constructed for the Economic Strategy Institute indicates the overvalued dollar and resulting trade deficits are reducing U.S. economic growth by at least one percentage point a year—or about 20 percent of potential GDP growth. [1] China accounts for almost half of this lost growth.

Importantly, this one percentage point of growth has not been lost for just one year. The trade deficit has been taxing growth for most of the last two decades, and the cumulative consequences are enormous. Had foreign currency-market intervention and large trade deficits not robbed this growth, U.S. GDP would likely be at least 10 percent greater, and perhaps 20 percent greater, than it is today. GDP and tax revenues would be higher, and the Congress would not be facing large federal deficits. We would not be enduring a crisis in manufacturing and a jobless recovery, and the Congress would not be facing the difficult task of trimming Medicare benefits.

This makes a certain amount of intuitive sense. US companies faced by lower cost competitors are not going to invest in research, development, and capital spending in the United States if they have no chance of competing against such lower cost producers. Also, a deficit represents large amounts of sales not made to companies in the US. Those companies that lost sales to foreign competitors did not pay US salaries and taxes to produce goods and services domestically. Those companies had less revenue to use to develop new products and improvements in manufacturing processes.

Free trade advocates would argue that lower cost imports force domestic producers to innovate. But if the imported products were incredibly successful in making domestic companies more efficient then the importers would not continue to be so successful selling in the United States. Yet, as evidenced by the huge trade deficit, the foreign makers are very successful. Plus, trade conducted with a fixed currency peg is does not constitute free trade anyway. It is trade which is being manipulated by the country maintaining the currency peg.

Clyde Prestowitz, president of the Economic Strategy Institute mentioned above, sees the exchange rates as less important than other factors in explaining the US trade deficit.

As long as the United States runs federal budget deficits and has low domestic savings rates, it will have a current account deficit and will be dependent on capital inflow from abroad, mostly from China and Japan. And that's not to mention the fact that we also want those countries to help us with North Korea and Iraq. Which is why no American treasury secretary or president is going to mean it when he talks about getting tough with either China or Japan.

But the problem with this argument is that the US still had high and rising trade deficits during the later Clinton Administration years when the US federal government was running a large budget surplus. Therefore the argument that a budget deficit causes a trade deficit doesn't seem to work.

In spite of his views about the cause of the US trade deficit Prestowitz still sees a very big reason to make China drop the Renminbi-Dollar currency peg: Latin American economies.

CLYDE PRESTOWITZ: Cheap labor has made China a trade powerhouse. Combine that with an undervalued yaun, kept down by pegging China's currency to the dollar, and you have a magnet for factories that produce everything from toys and tech to textiles. That's been great for China, but it's often been a great cost to other countries struggling to develop. Look at Mexico. Every day now factories that once lined the corridor just south of our border are closing up shop and moving. You guessed it: Off to China.

He is exactly right about this. The US would face less of a problem with illegal alien immigrants if jobs were not getting shipped wholesale from Mexico to China. Those illegal aliens who come to the US looking for pay little in US taxes while generating large costs for citizen taxpayers of the United States.

But to get back to the original issue, the US trade deficit: A long sustained US trade current account deficit has negative effects on the long term health of the US economy. Debts to foreigners have to be paid off some day. When US companies lose sales to foreign companies the domestic companies do not pay American citizens to build capital plant, to make consumer products, or to do design and we are worse off in the long run.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 30 02:07 PM  Economics Political
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Mark Steyn On The Tories And The British Democracy Deficit

Mark Steyn argues the British Consevative Party should come out in favor of decentralization.

Conservatism should be committed to as decentralised a politics as possible. If my town has lousy policing, it’s no skin off my neighbours 15 miles down the road. Conversely, if my town hits on a good idea, my neighbours are happy to borrow it. Decentralisation is the best way to ensure a dynamic political culture, full of low-key field studies. That’s one reason why every good idea Britain’s law-and-order monopoly takes up was started in a local American jurisdiction (the ‘broken window’ theory) and every bad idea was cooked up by the national Home Office bureaucracy (the gun ban).

Decentralisation is also the best way to get new politicians in. London’s Euroleft conventional wisdom disdains not only the rude unlovely electorate at large but also any representatives chosen from without the full-time political class. As the Guardian sniffed, ‘Putting Arnie in charge of the world’s fifth largest economy is like making Benny Hill Chancellor of the Exchequer: quirky but unreal — and not very funny.’ Get a grip, lads. Benny Hill would have made a terrific chancellor. Judging from his frugal lifestyle, he was certainly a fiscal conservative. Unlike British Leyland, he was hugely successful in overseas markets. More to the point, given the people who did become chancellor in his day, how good would he have to be? If it was 1976 and we had a choice between Benny Hill and Denis Healey at the Treasury, I know who I’d take a flier on.

The new Tory leader (Iain Duncan Smith is on the way out) could do his party enormous good if he was to embrace and promote very vigorously the creation of many more lower level elected offices. The national level of Parliament in Britain has too much power and the power that is seeping away to Brussels is making the democracy deficit in Britain even worse. The Tories also ought to make as a central plank of their platform (and do the Brits use "plank" and "platform" as is done in American politics?) the replacement of the appointed and hereditary members of the House of Lords with directly elected members. The Tories could clearly and positively differentiate themselves in the minds of British voters if they came out for more democracy and less centralized power. Says Steyn:

I love the responsiveness of US politics, and the best way to find genuinely British Conservative voices is to introduce American-style localisation. British Conservatism will never have the gun nuts, anti-abortionists, Wall Street types and Christian fundamentalists who make Republican gatherings look like the result of a dating agency run by sadists, but, at a time when Labour, Liberals, Brussels and the media are ossifying into a closed shop of the likeminded, the Tories should be able to recruit far more widely than they do.

Steyn's thinking here is close to my own in a previous post Will Republicans Follow Tories Into Marginal Status? where I argued:

The Republicans have a number of advantages over the Tories. First off, the design of the US constitution allows greater opportunity for two parties to each exercise some power. The larger amount of power in state governments allows Republicans to demonstrate at least parts of their agenda in some states just as is the case with the Democrats as well. Given the regional differences in political leanings in the United States there are always areas where each party gets to be in power. The government of the UK is quite a bit more centralized with little devolved power to lower levels of government in the Conservative heartlands in England proper. The US constitution therefore provides greater room to allow a party that is not in control nationally to still show that it is capable of ruling. Also, with the constitutionally mandated split between the two elected houses of Congress and the elected President the voters can vote to split power at the national level between parties in the US, again allowing each party a better chance of staying viable.

As Steyn points out, the US system has the additional advantage of providing a great deal more latitude for experimentation by elected leaders at the lower levels. So the US produces more policy innovations.

Concentrated mainly in the Western states there is an additional mechanism for policy innovation: state level voter referendums. Politically incorrect policy proposals that elected politicians of both parties find reason to torpedo can be pushed thru via direct voting by the electorate. Though in some cases such as with California's Proposition 187 on the issue of illegal immigrants the elites conspire to defeat the very direct expression of the will of the electorate. Still, the referendum mechanism has produced a lot of policy changes and has forced politicians to accept the will of the voters on a number of issues where they were disinclined to do so. The Tories in Britain could also embrace the requirement for national referendums on constitutional issues as a permanent requirement going forward. The Tories could also advocate the creation of a referendum mechanism at lower levels as well. The local voting on bond issues in the United States is another manifestation of the movement of power more directly to the hands of the voters.

One big argument for direct voting is that elected leaders are chosen to decide too many issues. A person voting Labour into office in Britain over, say, health care or education, also has to accept Labour's decisions on the House of Lords or the ceding of British sovereignty to the EU. The sheer number of decisions made by each level of government today really exceeds what conventional representative democracy can handle well. This leads to poor voter decision-making.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 30 10:57 AM  Politics Anglosphere
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2003 October 29 Wednesday
Theodore Dalrymple On The Embrace Of Lower Class Accents

Theodore Dalrymple reports on a growing phenomenon in Britain where middle and upper class people try to sound lower class in order to sound less elitist.

Not long ago I read the obituary of a pop singer — the only good pop singer being a dead pop singer — who was reported to have come from a middle-class family, but who was so incensed by what he thought was the false gentility of his school that he forever afterwards adopted a South London accent.

This is a modern curiosity, indeed, to adopt in the name of authenticity an accent that is not naturally yours, and that must be learnt and rehearsed. Elocution lessons today are designed to disguise an embarrassingly superior social origin.

None of this would matter very much — after all, only a fool would discount what someone said solely because of the accent in which he said it, or recognise that cultivation in speech is much more than a matter of accent — if it were not of a piece with other manifestations of the very marked downward cultural aspiration in this country. I have noticed, for example, that so great is the bullying ideological pressure on the young to manifest a thoroughly plebeian taste that even highly intelligent students feel constrained to distract themselves in exactly the same way as the semi-literates of their own age. Cultural refinement is suspect precisely because it is by nature elitist; almost no one makes the important distinction between elitism and social exclusivity, which are by no means the same. The one is made to stand for the other.

Dalrymple sees this as egalitarianism taken to harmful excess.

The attack on received pronunciation is only a particular instance of the relativist notion that there is no higher and lower, no better and worse, no correct and incorrect, and therefore nothing to aim at or aspire to.

Attempts to eliminate hierarchies cut against human nature. People arrange themselves into hierarchies every bit as naturally as do packs of wolves. The biggest damage comes when the process of judging and treating people as different - whether in abilities, moral beliefs, religious beliefs, ideological beliefs, conduct, or character - is blocked from operating. When drug dealers and toughs can't be thrown out of public housing or unruly students can't be removed from classes or applicants for positions can not be tested in the most efficient and accurate ways possible society functions less well. When some people make choices in life that impose more or less of a burden on others if that can not be pointed out then we can not encourage the best sorts of behavior and again society as a whole is worse off.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 29 11:55 AM  Civilizations Decay
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Parties Out Of Power Can Be Downright Unpatriotic

When trying to make sense of reflexive criticism of the party in power by the party out of power keep in mind an old quote by the Duke of Wellington from the era of the Napoleonic Wars:

I am very certain that his wishes & efforts for his party very frequently prevent him from doing that which is best for the Country; & induce him to take up the cause of foreign powers against Britain, because the cause of Britain is managed by his opponents.
- Duke of Wellington

Critics who offer constructive alternatives for a policy are too rare. Critics who reflexively oppose, misrepresent, and argue positions that would make conditions even worse are in much greater supply. One big reason for this is the desire for power for their faction.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 29 09:24 AM  Politics American Domestic
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2003 October 28 Tuesday
Resentment, Shame, Humiliation In Iraq

Steven Vincent reports on Iraqi shame and resentment toward the United States.

To offer one example: At a small social gathering in Baghdad recently, a woman expressed great excitement over the freedom in her life occasioned by the fall of Saddam. In the same breath, however, she added, "but I hate the occupation of my country so much I fantasize about shooting a U.S. soldier." When I suggested a link between U.S. soldiers and Saddam's demise, she replied, "I know that — and you can't imagine how it humiliates me."

There, in an Iraqi nutshell, you have it. Underneath the joy these people feel upon their liberation from Saddam runs a countercurrent of shame over the fact that they couldn't do the job themselves. "If you'd only given us more time, we would have risen up and overthrown Saddam," a waiter lectured me. This sense of impotence explains, in part, the ungracious gratitude expressed by many Iraqis toward the U.S. — otherwise known as the "thanks America, now go home" syndrome. It also underscores how naïve we were to think that our invading troops would be wholeheartedly welcomed as liberators.

This is a very difficult problem to deal with. How to encourage Iraqis to feel more responsible for the events that take place in their own country?

The willingness to embrace paranoid conspiracies flows from a belief in the omnipotence of the United States.

since America is all-powerful, they reason, mistakes and mishaps in our actions are really part of some Bush-administration strategy.

For a discussion of the larger problem that the Iraqi resentment illustrates see my post On Globalization And The Psychological Visibility Of America. Also see Robert Koehler's excellent response where he reports on South Korean resentment toward the United States.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 28 03:27 PM  Mideast Iraq
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California Public Angry About Illegal Alien Immigration

Georgie Anne Geyer reports on a California recall exit poll which Frank Luntz of The Luntz Research Companies conducted for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIRUS) in which he discovered mounting public anger at the effects of illegal immigration.

"We found more anger, more fear of the future, more rage than I had seen since the Newt Gingrich campaign in 1994," Frank Luntz began. "People historically went to California to experience something very special. There was always more hope and more future there – except this year. They are so fed up with traffic congestion, and hospitals where they don't get care and everyone coming across the border, that the anger was so great they were actually punching the voting machines.

"There is a rejection of the status quo that may move eastward; it is a rejection of politics and of principles that have failed and that have fundamentally destroyed the state – and immigration is at the top of it all. The public in California has decided it's gone too far, and they want a change."

Since the elected politicians (including, alas, Arnold Schwarzenegger) are going to continue to ignore the will of the majority on immigration the state ballot initiative process is the best way forward. Fortunately, almost half of the states have state ballot initiative processes and two states that border on Mexico (Arizona and California) do. The results of this poll suggest a number of changes that state ballot propositions could bring about with regard to immigration policy including repeal of laws that make it easy for illegals to function in American society and the requirement that state and local law enforcement officials detain for deportation any illegals they encounter. Another attractive option that would pay for itself many times over would be the construction of a border barrier on the border with Mexico.

The detailed results of the Luntz/FAIRUS poll are on-line:

16. Under California state law, voters have the ability to block a law passed by the legislature and signed by the governor through the referendum process. A referendum to block the law allowing illegal immigrants to obtain California driver's licenses has been proposed for the March 2004 ballot. If such a referendum were to appear, would you be very likely, somewhat likely, somewhat unlikely, or very unlikely to support it?

45% VERY LIKELY
17% SOMEWHAT LIKELY
8% NO OPINION
11% SOMEWHAT LESS LIKELY
14% MUCH LESS LIKELY
5% DON'T KNOW/REFUSED

17. State law now allows illegal immigrants who reside in California to be eligible for reduced, in-state tuition rates at the University of California and other state run colleges and universities. In your opinion, should illegal immigrants be eligible for in-state tuition rates?

73% NO
18% YES
9% DON'T KNOW/REFUSED

So voter referendums on revoking driver's licenses for illegals and to take away in-state tuition for illegals would both pass. But those are far from the only illegal alien issues on which referendums could easily pass:

20. The State of California and many jurisdictions throughout California prohibit local police and sheriffs departments from sharing information about suspected illegal immigrants with federal immigration authorities. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose such a measure?

7% STONGLY SUPPORT
12% SOMEWHAT SUPPORT
14% NO OPINION
19% SOMEWHAT OPPOSE
44% STRONGLY OPPOSE
4% DON'T KNOW/REFUSED

21. The State of California and many jurisdictions throughout California prohibit local police and sheriffs departments from detaining suspected illegal immigrants with federal immigration authorities. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose such a measure?

9% STONGLY SUPPORT
14% SOMEWHAT SUPPORT
12% NO OPINION
17% SOMEWHAT OPPOSE
42% STRONGLY OPPOSE
6% DON'T KNOW/REFUSED

The latter two questions cry out for a voter referendum that would order state and local law enforcement authorities to round up illegal aliens. Such a referendum would most likely win.

There are many more legal and policy changes about the handling of illegal aliens that would stand a decent chance of winning on a state-wide ballot in the state of California. For instance, all state and local government agencies which encounter illegal aliens could be required to report them to the policy or to federal authorities. Also, state governments could maintain a database of legal Social Security numbers and require all employers to check potential hires against the database for an illegal Social Security number with the requirement of hiring only those with legal numbers and the requirement that all illegal Social Security numbers and the details about their users should be reported.

More ideas: Allow any employer who loses business to another business that employs lower paid illegals to bring suit for damages against the employer that hires illegals. Require any government contractor found employing illegals to lose their government contract as a result. The state governments could provide a financial reward to anyone who reports an illegal for using Medicaid or some other government service. The financial reward would cost the taxpayers money but would be paid back many times over with the savings in spending for government services.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 28 12:08 PM  Immigration Elites Versus Masses
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2003 October 27 Monday
Henry Rowen: Kim Jong Il Must Go

Henry Rowen has written an absolutely great article in Policy Review on North Korea and US policy toward North Korea and neighboring countries. The title of the article states his conclusion: Kim Jong Il Must Go.

If conditions get bad enough, might someone who understands the need for basic economic change seize power in a way analogous to Park Chung Hee’s takeover in South Korea or Deng Xiaoping’s succession to the Gang of Four in China? Both were dictators who, by opening their countries, produced rapid growth and, as a consequence, increased personal freedoms for their peoples — and for South Korea, democracy. As Deng told George Shultz in July 1988 when asked his opinion of Gorbachev’s reforms in the Soviet Union, “He’s got it backwards. He opened up the political system without a clue about the economy. The result is chaos. I did it the other way around, starting in agriculture and small businesses, where opening up worked, so now I have a demand for more of what succeeds.” What about political opening? “That will come later and will start small, just as in the economy. You have to be patient but you have to get the sequence right.”

While Deng's comments are very intriguing there is no sign as of yet that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il is willing to embark on Deng-style economic reforms.

Rowen was able to talk with former Reagan Administration Secretary of State George Schultz in preparation for writing the article and hence he is able to quote the rather insightful comments the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping made to Schultz.

Perceived and real interests of the US and South Korea have diverged very substantially.

Until circa 1990, one could fairly say that American and South Korean interests were congruent: Both were about the security of the South and its consolidation of democracy. The robustness of Korean democracy is no longer in doubt. The problem is security. Of course both want to avert war, but Americans (and Japanese and apparently Chinese) perceive greater dangers from the North’s missile and nuclear weapons than do South Koreans. Southerners (rightly or wrongly) do not expect the North’s missiles or nuclear weapons to land on them, nor do they see themselves as the target of nuclear-armed terrorists. Americans see themselves as threatened both ways.

The US can not expect any help from South Korea in dealing with the North Korean regime. In fact, the US can expect South Korean policies that help prop up and protect the North Korean regime. South Korea is effectively no longer a US ally even though the US helps to defend the place.

The bottom line for Rowen is very basic: nuclear weapons inspection can not work in a closed society. Therefore Kim Jong-il has to go.

The nuclear inspection task would be formidable, especially for fabricated weapons. The only way to have confidence that they are not present in a country known to have had them (e.g., South Africa) is for the country to be sufficiently open that insiders with knowledge can safely reveal cheating. That condition will not exist in Kim Jong Il’s North Korea. The American effort to round up international support for inspecting and seizing exports of missiles and drugs at least puts pressure on the North in the maneuvering for an agreement. An economic blockade (excepting perhaps some food) might bring Kim down, and might be supported in the Security Council if proposed by the U.S. and China, but that brings us back to how far China is willing to go.

If something like an Agreed Framework Mark II is reached, there will be celebrations over having averted a great danger. One should not be too ready to carp at whatever emerges; this is a problem from hell. But elation would be premature. The inspection requirements for confidence that the fissile material production programs — and any fabricated bombs — are gone are so stringent as to be unlikely to be met, and as Pyongyang demonstrated recently, the inspectors could be thrown out at any time. It is axiomatic that any government headed by Kim Jong Il will have nuclear weapons, despite any agreement signed by his government (unless the Chinese take decisive action).

The Chinese, while claiming to have little influence over the Pyongyang regime, in fact could bring down the regime simply by cutting off food and fuel aid. Also, as Rowen points out, if China was to stop deporting North Korean refugees that would spark a rush for the border by millions of North Koreans. So China's willingness to prop up the regime is the most important external factor keeping Kim Jong Il in power.

Rowen's analysis is weakest in terms of constructive suggestions about how to go about trying to bring a regime change in North Korea. One option Rowen doesn't mention is to make a very large scale effort to get information into North Korea about the outside world. Break the information monopoly that the regime holds over the North Korean people. Large quantities of radios and books could be smuggled in via a number of methods and radio broadcasts into North Korea could be greatly increased. Also, all North Koreans who are outside of North Korea could be reached with reading materials as well.

Max Boot lays out some options for putting pressure on the North Korean regime.

The goals of such a campaign are easy to articulate but hard to accomplish: Cut off food aid to North Korea from various nations. Halt fuel supplies from China and investment from South Korean firms. Do more to intercept North Korean ships carrying illegal goods. Convince neighboring countries to open their doors to North Korean refugees. Finally, try to break Pyongyang's information monopoly. North Koreans' constant diet of outlandish propaganda, reported New Yorker staff writer Philip Gourevitch, includes the claim that the Korean War was caused by capitalist aggression. The truth can set people free.

The Bush Administration and allies are already intensifying law enforcement investigations and intelligence work to reduce North Korean drug smuggling and other sources of revenue for the regime. Another step short of an embargo would be to reduce allowed legitmate trade that North Korea conducts with Japan and other countries.

Jim Hoagland argues that since the North Korean regime survives by use of extortion it will always have an incentive to cheat on any nuclear deal in order to better position itself for future extortion.

Tactics and strategy form a seamless web of survival for Kim, who runs no risk of mistaking one for the other. He is not buying time to experiment with reform communism or gradually open to the global economy. He is buying time "through the methodical export of strategic insecurity," in the words of scholar Nicholas Eberstadt, in a bid to escape change and outside influence.

The decision by the Pyongyang regime against embarking on serious internal reform of the sort Deng implemented in China effectively puts North Korea in a position where it has to find ways to become a security threat in order to be able to extort needed aid.

North Korea does not honor agreements to refrain from nuclear weapons development.

North Korea probably began cheating on the 1994 deal before the ink was dry. Scores of high-explosive tests done in the late 1990s suggest ongoing work to perfect a nuclear detonator. A female scientist who claims to have been in Yongbyon in the 1990s describes schemes concocted to hide covert weapons research. In a transcript allegedly made after she fled into China last year (and obtained by NEWSWEEK through a humanitarian group that arranged her exile in South Korea), she describes deception at the No. 304 Research Institute where she worked, a facility “involved with making both nuclear and chemical weapons.” To dodge IAEA inspections, she says, “we moved all materials and equipment into underground caves.” Eventually, a new plant called the August Facility was constructed. “The place is hidden inside a forest and connected with a new railroad from other facilities,” she added. “It processed uranium for use in other institutes.”

By Randall Parker 2003 October 27 01:50 AM  Korea
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2003 October 25 Saturday
Brains Drains, Brain Gains, And Immigration

Michael Woods has written an excellent article about scientists who leave Europe to work in the United States. (same article here)

Measured in numbers, the trans-Atlantic brain drain is small. Only 4 percent of European scientists -- 400,000 of 11 million -- work in the United States. But they are the creme de la creme, ranging from brilliant young students to world-renowned superstars.

"Real innovation in science depends less on the many 'worker bees' in the enterprise than on the presence of a decent sprinkling of the very best minds," noted William Zumeta and Joyce S. Raveling of the University of Washington in a report they wrote last year for the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology.

The contention that we are preferentially getting Europe's very best scientists is backed up by the fact that while one seventh of German science doctorates end up in the United States three quarters of German Nobelists are here in the US.

Many advocates of very large scale immigration cite immigrant success stories to defend their position that immigrants are a net benefit. But as illustrated by the quote above, differences in ability vary enormously. If the goal of immigration policy is to maximize the benefits for the receiving country then the goal of immigration policy should be to emphasize quality over quantity. In a world in which American industry faces intense and escalating competition from huge numbers of Chinese and other foreign engineers and scientists it makes no sense to have an immigration policy that has resulted in the current condition where twenty-five percent of foreign resident adults who are eligible for US citizenship have less than a ninth-grade education. What we have currently is an incredibly foolish and short-sighted immigration policy that will prevent the United States from successfully competing against China, India, and other emerging competitors.

The United States ought to focus on recruiting highly talented people whose skills are being poorly utilized in their home countries.

Perhaps most galling to young Italian researchers is what many describe as an anachronistic system of distributing jobs in research. It's who you know, not what you know, that counts, say several who have left the country. Applying for research positions abroad comes like a breath of fresh air.

"The most important thing here is that you are considered a good researcher," Bruni says of Britain. If you want to find a position in Italy, he says, you have to take a different approach and adapt to the hierarchical structure. That often means garnering support from a single research director who can make or break a younger scientist's career.

Here is an interesting sampling of foreign academics who moved to Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh which the Pittsburgh Post Gazette trumpets as a "brain gain".

Intel Corp. CEO Craig Barrett says we should stop sending foreign brains home after we train them in our colleges and universities.

The end result of the current educational system was a shortage of US talent and a situation where 50 per cent of all advanced degrees were awarded to foreign nationals, he said. US-funded colleges paid to educate them.

"And then we send them home and the jobs follow them," Barrett said.

To reverse the brain drain, Barrett said the US should "staple a green card to every diploma. [That] would do wonders for the US economy." While he said the ratio of domestic Intel employees has remained constant at 60 per cent during the past decade, increasing competition from US-trained IT professionals in Russia, China and India and the "dwindling number of IT graduates in the US" could change that.

"There is huge competition coming for jobs," he said.

The very smartest scientists and engineers come up with the innovations that lead to new products, new markets, and lots of jobs. A national strategy designed to deal with the competition of cheap smart engineers in China and India should be to increase the number of the very brightest and most productive innovators in the United States.

Barrett's comments follow on the heels of ominous warnings by Intel co-founder and chairman Andrew S. Grove that the United States is going to lose its lead in the software industry to India and China.

He predicted that the software and services industry is about to travel the well-worn path of the steel and semiconductor industries. Steel's market share dropped from about 50 percent to 10 percent in a few decades. U.S. chip companies saw theirs shrink from 90 percent to about 50 percent today. Now the writing is on the wall that software could suffer the same fate, said Grove, whose 1996 bestseller was titled ``Only the Paranoid Survive.''

``It would be a miracle if it didn't happen in the software and services industry,'' said Grove, noting that he was speaking on National Depression Day.

It is great that Andy Grove and Craig Barrett are speaking out on this subject. As Grove points out, US leaders are ignoring the problem.

Grove chided U.S. policymakers for all but ignoring the problem.

"What is the U.S. public policy?" he asked. "I am hard put to find a document" outlining a policy strategy.

He said he had detected no recognition of the problem from any of the presidential candidates.

While European governments are concerned about their own brain drain national governments are not the only level at which brain drain concerns can be heard. In quite a few local communities in the United States "brain drain" as an issue is attracting quite a bit of discussion. Take, for instance, a recent report released by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Boston Foundation which expresses worries that half of higher education graduates from the Boston area leave the state.

The report, "Preventing A Brain Drain: Talent Retention in Greater Boston," indicates that 50 percent of graduates in 2003 who received associate, bachelor's, or graduate degrees from 10 institutions in the metropolitan area left the state.

Where the most skilled and talented people move to will determine which parts of which countries thrive in the future.

The Boston area is losing more youth than the nation as a whole.

  • From 1990 to 2000, metropolitan Boston lost 15.8 percent of its young people between the ages of 20 and 34, at a time when that demographic group declined nationally by just 5.4 percent.  Furthermore, during the same period, Massachusetts – which had been ranked among the leading states in expanding their educated work forces – fell below the national average;
  • Fully half of Greater Boston’s graduates leave the area after receiving their degrees.  Yet four out of five graduates who leave are “avoidable departures,” making a voluntary decision to live elsewhere;
  • Approximately half of these avoidable departures leave the Boston area for cities they have never lived in before.

The full text of the report is available in PDF format.

Other recent examples of brain drain worry editorials in the United States include one from the Chronicle-Tribune of Grant County Indiana entitled Let's turn brain drain into brain gain and another from the Salisbury Maryland newspaper The Daily Times entitled How do we stop the brain drain? and a Christian Science Monitor article on efforts by Iowa's government to stop brain drain. At the local level commentators and business and civic leaders recognize the importance of keeping around the brightest and most skilled workers. If only the national level politicians could be so practical we'd all be a lot better off.

The recognition that smart people are critically important is not translating into smarter policies at the national level. Immigration policy should be shaped toward raising the average level of talent of those who immigrate. Less skilled people should be kept out while we make it easier for the most skilled to come and stay. Another smart policy would be to accelerate the education of the brightest kids and get them into the workforce years sooner than is the current practice. This would result in young bright minds being able to use more years of their youthful brilliance producing new innovations and developing more better designs and ideas over their working lives. It would also reduce the cost of education while simultaneously increasing tax receipts.

For demographic reasons US power has peaked. An aging population is going to require tax increases to support them in retirement and those tax increases will have the effect of robbing the economy of its vibrancy. Increasing numbers of people in other parts of the world are pursuing scientific and engineering training. US industry is going to lose leadership in critical industries. Really wise national policies across a long list of policy areas could reduce the extent of the relative standing of US power and also produce much higher living standards for all Americans.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 25 12:38 PM  Immigration Brain Drain
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2003 October 24 Friday
Rumsfeld Calls For Agency For Battle Of Ideas

In a Washington Times interview US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld calls for the creation of an agency tasked with fighting the battle of ideas.

Mr. Rumsfeld suggested a "21st-century information agency in the government" to help in the international battle of ideas, to limit the teaching of terrorism and extremism, and to provide better education, he said.

His referece to providing better education suggests he wants this agency to have an international aid function in order to funnel money to places like Pakistan to move kids out of madrassah schools and into secular schools.

It is hard to fight a battle of ideas when Western leaders don't want to admit that Islam at its very roots has serious problems. On the other hand, an attempt to convince Muslims to abandon their religion would most likely backfire. When people have conflicting beliefs and values and those beliefs are religiously based it is difficult to try to change their minds.

Rummy also recognizes the obvious fact that current efforts to stop the spread of nuclear and other highly dangerous weapons are not working.

"I think it's pretty clear that the current [weapons control] regimes that exist in the world aren't working," he said. "It is possible and not even difficult in many cases for terrorist states to find ways to get their hands on these technologies."

On the latter point be sure to read my previous post Henry Sokolski: Taking Proliferation Seriously if you haven't already.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 24 10:57 AM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2003 October 23 Thursday
Saudi Arabia May Go Nuclear In Response To Iranian Nuke Program

UPI Editor in Chief Arnaud de Borchgrave reports that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have have just agreed to a secret program for nuclear weapons cooperation. (and see a slightly different version of the article)

"It will be vehemently denied by both countries," added this ranking Pakistani source known to this correspondent for more than a decade as a knowledgeable insider, "but future events will confirm that Pakistan has agreed to provide KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) with the wherewithal for a nuclear deterrent."

...

"Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia," the Pakistani source explained, "see a world that is moving from non-proliferation to proliferation of nuclear weapons."

...

The Sunni Saudis have concluded that nothing will deter Shiite Iran from continuing its quest for nuclear weapons. Pakistan, on the other hand, is openly concerned about the recent armaments agreement between India, its nuclear rival, and Israel, a long-time nuclear power whose inventory is estimated at between 200 and 400 weapons. Iran and India, located on either side of Pakistan, have also signed a strategic agreement whose aim is regarded with suspicion in Islamabad.

Pakistan (justifiably in my view) fears closer Iranian-Indian cooperation. The Saudis fear the Iranians. The Saudis have oil to give to the Pakistanis in exchange for Pakistani nuclear protection while the Pakistanis also gain another location from which to base missiles that will be able to reach India and Iran.

Of course this has been denied by the Saudis and Pakistanis with the Saudis saying the meeting was about Pakistani troops coming to Saudi Arabia. UPI reporter Martin Walker asks the obvious question:

Why would the Saudis want Pakistani troops on their soil anyway -- unless they were guarding something highly important to Pakistan?

And why do the Saudis think they need the Pakistanis to protect them? The Saudis no longer have faith that they can count on Washington DC to protect their perceived interests. On that note see my previous post Without US As Ally Saudi Arabia Could Go Nuclear. Those who have been so intent on the US taking a harder line with Saudi Arabia may not like the result. The Saudis will no doubt continue to fund Pakistani Madrassahs as the Pakistanis continue to spend little government money on schools.

What me worry? The US government is treating the latest rumours as unsubstantiated allegations.

"We've seen them (the reports), we've seen the allegations. We have not seen, however, any information to substantiate what would seem to us to be rather bald assertions," State Department deputy spokesman J Adam Ereli said at his regular briefing in Washington.

He said, "We are confident that Pakistan clearly understands our concerns regarding proliferation of nuclear technology, and we would also note that Saudi Arabia is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), under which it has agreed not to obtain nuclear weapons."

The State Department's continued faith in NPT is unfounded in reality. As Henry Sokolski argues the NPT has major holes and countries are free to leave the NPT anyhow.

An Israeli general has told an Israeli Knesset parliamentary committee that the Saudis are reacting to the increasing likelihood that Iran will become a nuclear power.

The secret Saudi effort is designed to meet the imminent threat from an Iranian atomic arsenal, Israeli Major Gen. Aharon Zeevi told a parliament committee.

You might be thinking that the recent deal between some European countries and Iran to put tighter safeguards on Iran's nuclear program will prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Iran has, after all, tentatively agreed to stop doing uranium enrichment and to allow international inspectors to monitor suspected nuclear weapons development activities. Iran is going to allow more intrusive inspections. But New Scientist reports that Iran could continue enriching uranium clandestinely or it could build a covert underground reactor to produce plutonium for bombs.

Bunn, now at the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, told New Scientist that Iran could still hide a facility to enrich uranium for weapons. And he thinks it could still carry on building the gas centrifuge enrichment plant at Natanz.

James Goodby and Kenneth Weisbrode believe the United States doesn't have the stomach to do what it takes to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power (I certainly agree) and foresee that other Middle Eastern states will follow Iran and become nuclear powers as well.

If Iran joins Israel as a de facto nuclear weapon state, with three other nuclear weapon states — Russia, India and Pakistan — nearby, it is very unlikely that other nations in the vicinity will be able to resist launching or accelerating their own nuclear weapon programs. It is not at all inconceivable that a Middle East with four, five, or six nuclear weapon states — including Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey — will be the reality of the early decades of the 21st century.

The domestic political scene in the United States is such that it seems very unlikely that the US will undertake any major initiatives to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. Brit Hume reports that Democrats in key primary states do not attach much importance to the battle to fight terrorism.

A new poll taken in Iowa -- a key election state because it's hosting the first caucus -- shows that fighting terrorism ranks last among Iowa Democrats' biggest concerns, with one percent of respondents saying it worries them the most.

The thought of fighting nuclear weapons proliferation is probably even lower than terrorism in the ranking of what Democrats see as important.

There was a report a year ago that Saudi Arabia was trying to buy nuclear weapons. See my previous post FrontPage: Saudis Trying To Buy Nukes. Saudi Arabia has been rumoured to have funded the development of Pakistan's nuclear program in the first place: Former DIA Analyst: Saudi Arabia Bankrolled Pak Nukes. The idea of Pakistan maintaining control of nukes placed in Saudi Arabia has also been discussed previously: Henry Sokolski: Iran Watching Bush Handling Of North Korea. Are these continuing rumours indicative of an underlying activity on the part of the Saudis to cooperate with the Pakistanis and to have Saudi Arabia protected by a Pakistani nuclear umbrella? It seems highly plausible.

The world is becoming a more dangerous place. North Korea is helping Iran's nuclear program. China's continued economic growth promises to give China the economic and military might to build alliances with some Muslim countries. But the Muslim countries are divided between Shias and Sunnis. The United States and Europe can ill afford to be split and slow moving in responding to all these developments and yet the EU mandarins are so interested in building a counterweight to the United States that they don't recognize the extent to which the West as a whole is destined for demographic reasons to decline in power relative to the rest of the world. Also, US success on the battlefield is not translating into success in achieving its grand strategic objectives and it seems doubtful that US leaders even have a clear idea what its grand strategic objectives ought to be. It is even more obvious that the Europeans, too jealous of American power to think clearly about their own predicament, do not recognize where their own best interests lie.

See my recent post on the thoughts of William H. McNeill and Samuel P. Huntington on clashes within and between civilizations for a sense of a larger historical context in which to interpret current events.

Thanks to Trent Telenko for the heads up on the latest rounds of rumours about Saudi nuclear intentions.

Update: Hassan Rohani, head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, says Iran is not committing to permanently stop uranium enrichment or other nuclear development efforts. (same article here)

But Rohani was non-committal on how long Iran would maintain the freeze on uranium enrichment.

"We voluntarily chose to do it, which means it could last for one day or one year, it depends on us," he said. "As long as Iran thinks this suspension is beneficial it will continue, and whenever we don't want it we will end it."

The official Iranian news agency later quoted him as saying Iran was not prepared to abandon totally its uranium enrichment programme.

The Iranians are driving to drive a wedge between US officials who realize how little the Iranians conceded and European officials who will claim that the Iranians have made a big concession. The Iranians are playing for time. They are still determined to develop nuclear weapons. The Saudis and the Israelis know what the Europeans don't want to believe.

Besides placating assorted Western governments Iran also gets valuable technology out of the deal.

Hassan Rowhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said in Tehran that the government had decided to sign the protocol so that it could continue its civilian nuclear activities, which it said were for generating electricity. In exchange, Iran would be allowed to buy new nuclear technology kept out of its reach by 20 years of sanctions.

Civilian nuclear technology helps build up the fuel cycle that provides the materials needed for bomb making. It moves the Iranians ever closer to having a bomb. This deal is not progress.

Update II: Iran is already backpedalling on their agreement with the Euros to stop uranium enrichment efforts.

Iran appears to be having second thoughts about its promise to the European Union to suspend its uranium-enrichment effort -- a central part of the international crisis over Iran's suspected nuclear-weapons program. The Foreign Ministry now says Tehran will have to consider the "modalities of a suspension" before taking action, while the arms-control community remains determined that Iran renounce its enrichment activities.

...

Iran's uranium-enrichment effort worries international arms-control experts because it could provide the direct means for developing a nuclear bomb. Iran's enrichment activities first came to light in the summer of last year when an exiled Iranian opposition group reported the existence of a secret pilot enrichment plant at Natanz, south of Tehran. A visit to the site by IAEA inspectors earlier this year revealed Iran had constructed some 160 operational gas centrifuges for enriching uranium in fortified facilities largely being built underground.

Fred Wheling, an arms control expert at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, said the secret nature of the site casts doubt on Tehran's subsequent explanations that it is purely intended to develop fuel for commercial reactors. "If Iran was to develop an indigenous enrichment capacity, it could eventually make its own fuel, which could then be used in [Iran's planned commercial reactor at] Bushehr," Wheling said. "But if that were really the case, then you wouldn't need to go to all the trouble of having a clandestine facility and acquiring uranium under the table to test it and so on."

Only regime change will stop the Iranian nuclear program. Ditto for North Korea.

The Europeans thought they had a diplomatic deal.

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- European Ministers urged Iran on Monday to follow through on its recently announced commitment to suspend uranium enrichment efforts and allow increased international inspections of its nuclear program.

What, we can't make a safer world just by making diplomatic deals?

Update III: Here are more details on the Democracy Corps poll of the Democratic Party primary voters done on October 2-13, 2003 in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The first is an analysis by Byron York.

But what is perhaps more important is that most analysts have ignored what may be the poll's most stunning finding.

The survey focused on Democrats who take part in the nominating process in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. And, Iraq aside, what it found was that Democrats, at least those who are most active in politics, simply don't care about terrorism.

September 11, 2001 had far less impact on public thinking than did December 7, 1941. Terrorists slamming airplanes into skyscrapers just are not seen to be as clear of a threat to a substantial portion of the American population today as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, Guam, and other American Pacific holdings was seen by the American public of 1941. Has the public changed? Or is a terrorist attack harder for the public to see as part of a bigger threat? Probably a combination of both. The bottom line result is that the United States will not execute the strategy of preemption well enough to prevent the threat of catastrophic terrorism from growing.

The full text results of the Democracy Corps Democratic primary voter poll is downloadable in PDF format. It makes for grim reading for those of us who see a very dangerous future ahead for America because the advance and spread of technology will make terrorist groups more capable of acts of what the CIA calls "catastrophic terrorism".

By Randall Parker 2003 October 23 11:36 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control
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One Year Of Illegal Alien Health Care Costs Would Pay For Border Barrier

Non-citizens cost billions per year in uninsured health care.

Non-citizens are putting the hurt on our hospitals. A study by the Florida Hospital Association estimates that uninsured non-citizens cost the state's hospitals an average of $63,612 per patient last year.

The tab is rising as the number of immigrants continues to swell from coast to coast. The American Hospital Association reported that its member facilities provided $21 billion in uncompensated health-care services last year.

While not all those costs can be attributed to undocumented aliens, new Census data show that non-citizens are, by far, this country's largest group of uninsured residents — 43 percent of the total.

The costs of health care are just one way that low skilled low wage immigrant non-citizens cost the US economy and citizens money. Keep in mind that these figures above underestimate even the medical costs of low skilled immigrants because millions of illegals were granted citizenship thru amnesties and a large portion of them are uninsured. Also, the costs above do not include costs at government clinics and private practices or the costs of the US citizen children who are born in the United States to illegal aliens whose parents use Medicaid and other government programs to pay their health care. Even with this narrow definition on the costs of low skilled immigrants for health care the cost for less than a single year of paying the health care of non-citizens would pay for a barrier to keep illegal aliens from crossing into the United States from Mexico. Various cost estimates (see here and here and here) for the West Bank-Israel fence structure , if extrapolated to the longer US border with Mexico, suggest that the US could stop the flow of illegal aliens from Mexico for a cost of between $2 billion and $8 billion dollars. The range of cost estimates reflects the fact that the Israelis are building more and less formidable barriers in different sections depending on perceived risk. If we go for the more deluxe barrier structure for the entire border it would still cost less than a single year of uninsured and unpaid health care bills run up by non-citizens living within the US borders.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 23 11:06 AM  Immigration Economics
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William H. McNeill On Samuel P. Huntington

Back in January 1997 historian William Hardy McNeill wrote a review for the New York Review of Books of Samuel P. Huntington's book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order and made some great points worth pondering today.

It is easy to mock such self-righteousness, and Huntington's rejection of the moral imperialism implicit in such rhetoric seems to me well taken, especially in view of American unreadiness to back up most of our exhortations with potentially costly actions. But Huntington's recipe for adjusting relations between large blocs of nations somewhat loosely defined by the word "civilization" strikes me as no great improvement on naive moral crusading. First, he is persuaded, without showing us quite why, that the decline of the West has begun. To slow down this decline, the United States, he believes, should reaffirm its identity as a Western nation by repudiating multiculturalism at home, while "adopting an Atlanticist policy of close cooperation with its European partners to protect and advance the interests and values of the unique civilization they share." This sounds suspiciously like a bunker mentality, inviting us to hold out as long as we can against other, rising civilizations that are more demographically expansive, socially cohesive, and morally united than the now-decadent West.

I think the neocon project for remaking the world is lacking a coherent grand strategy and is entirely too idealistic. It is based on a naive and dangerous belief in a universalism of values that Huntington and McNeill both correctly reject. But at the same time, like McNeill, I do not see what he describes as the "bunker mentality" as a preferable alternative. Transportation and communications costs are falling even as technology for making powerful weapons advances in ways that drives down costs and lowers the barriers for making weapons of mass destruction. Isolationism is not an option. We have to be very involved with the rest of the world. So far, however, Western elites are not thinking ambitiously or imaginatively enough about how to prevail over the rising threats in large part due to a failure to recognize the sheer scale of the problem.

McNeill sees conflict and consolidation as a recurring theme in human history and he sees this process as moving to a global level due to advances in technology.

As World War II approached, I, too, was fascinated by theories of cyclical repetition in history. When I first read Toynbee in 1940 his tragic model of the human adventure struck me with all the force of a new revelation because his Study of History detected a simple, intelligible pattern in the past, despite a hitherto unimagined multiplicity of civilizations. He saw each of them rising and falling according to the same (or a very similar) pattern. Since then I have become more aware of the importance of two factors that Toynbee neglected. The first is that contemporary civilizations have always interacted with one another, even across long distances. The second is that human skills and ideas, propagated through these encounters between civilizations, have a cumulative character.

Parallels between the history of separate civilizations certainly exist. The most conspicuous such parallel is the way that intensifying conflict among rival, warring states ended up, time and again, in victory for one of the combatants, resulting in imperial consolidation of all the different political entities in the region. This pattern asserted itself in such diverse settings as ancient Mesopotamia, classical China, ancient India, pre-Columbian Peru, Muscovite Russia, and, of course, in the ancient Mediterranean world. In modern times, Western Europe came close to comparable political consolidation under Charles V; and only external intervention by previously marginal powers—first Britain, then Russia, and most recently the US—prevented such would-be conquerors as Louis XIV, Napoleon, and Hitler from establishing a pan-European empire. But of course, involvement of previously marginal powers merely enlarged the theater of political rivalry and prolonged the process of political consolidation without, necessarily, altering its ineluctable dynamics.

In our time, the improvements in the speed and effectiveness of transport and communication that dominate our lives has made this age-old process of political consolidation into a global affair. As Huntington argues with particular force, newly confident and powerful nations like China are sure to challenge existing world balances of power. Conflicts that take place across lines dividing different civilizations are likely to be more intractable than conflicts within civilizations simply because cultural differences multiply occasions for distrust and misunderstanding. It follows that in a world of civilizational blocs, however scrupulously each bloc may be assigned to the sphere of influence of one or more powerful states within the blocs, we may expect the same kinds of conflict that were so often enacted within separate civilizations in the past. The result could conceivably be consolidation of a world empire or the destruction of humankind in a nuclear, biological, and/or chemical holocaust.

Consolidation pressures may force world conflict just as those pressures did in Europe for centuries. This argues for a very bloody 21st century. If major conflict seems avoidable right now keep in mind that the 19th century attempts to balance the power in Europe seemed to work for a while but eventually collapsed into all-out continental war that extended into other theaters as well and then was followed by a second world war of even greater scope. Just because Europe has lost the stomach for a war within Europe does not mean that other parts of the world do not contain people who have the stomach for a far greater war.

One thing that McNeill and Huntington agree upon is that culture matters and cultural differences matter. There are civilizational differences that are a powerful source of conflict. Economic rationalists who want to see man as homo economicus miss this and as a consequence tend to see free trade as a powerful balm that could solve a great many conflicts if we would only, to paraphrase John Lennon, "give trade a chance". But trade and free markets are not a panacea.

Huntington points out that Westernization of less developed societies eventually leads to a form of de-Westernization. One can see this all over the world where the desire to feel a stronger sense of self esteem or self identity leads to the development of hostility toward the United States and in many cases for reasons quite unrelated to any particular US government policy.

Initially, Westernization and modernization are closely linked, with the non-Western society absorbing substantial elements of Western culture and making slow progress towards modernization. As the pace of modernization increases, however, the rate of Westernization declines and the indigenous culture goes through a revival. Further modernization then alters the civilizational balance of power between the West and the non-Western society, bolsters the power and self-confidence of that society, and strengthens commitment to the indigenous culture.

In the early phases of change, Westernization thus promotes modernization. In the later phases, modernization promotes de-Westernization and the resurgence of indigenous culture in two ways. At the societal level, modernization enhances the economic, military and political power of the society as a whole and encourages the people of that society to have confidence in their culture and to become culturally assertive. At the individual level, modernization generates feelings of alienation and anomie as traditional bonds and social relations are broken and leads to crises of identity to which religion provides an answer.

It sounds like Huntington is describing such countries as China, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia to varying extents.

It is not possible to freeze a favorable status quo. The continued economic development of China is going to change the world balance of power in ways unfavorable to the West as China becomes militarily more powerful and also supports Islamic countries which want to challenge the West. At the same time, technological advances are going to have the effect of making increasingly powerful weapons available to smaller countries and non-governmental groups. Advances in computing power and sensor networks will also radically change the nature of human conflict. Demographic changes look set to weaken Europe and the United States. An aging population and large numbers of unskilled immigrants are not recipes for economic dynamism in an economy increasingly driven by very highly skilled knowledge workers. These are just some of the many changes that are working against the development of a sustainable status quo.

McNeill holds out the hope that increasing connections between civilizations will decrease the extent of the conflict between them. That is a real possibility but only to the extent that those connections really do form. If, for instance, mainland Chinese do not come and read Western commentators and bloggers in substantial numbers then the advent of the internet will not do as much to lower cross-cultural misunderstandings as the optimists might hope. There is a contrary argument that can be made: it could be that humans with affinities of ethnicity, language, religious belief, values, and culture will use the advances in communications and transportation technologies to very selectively reach out to bond with like minds. If there are more channels on cable and more virtual channels in the form of web sites on the internet then people will be able to reach out more selectively to read and communicate with those they most agree with.

McNeill is the author of such fun books as The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force and Society Since A.D. 1000 which drives home the extent to which technological advances can change the shape of societies and The Rise of the West which addresses the question of how the West came to be so successful.

Also see my previous posts Stanley Kurtz on Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington, Fukuyama's Critics On Modernizing Islam, and Terrorism and the Assumptions of Classical Liberalism.

Update: James Pinkerton argues that the world is going to be made up of three bloc of influence with the rest of the world up for grabs.

The first bloc is the American Bloc, led by, obviously, the United States.

The second bloc is the Eurasian Bloc, led by France, Germany, and Russia.

The third bloc is the East Asian Bloc, led by China.

As for the rest of the world, it's up for grabs, which means that future advantage will accrue to those who grasp the new dynamics of the three-way world.

From an economic standpoint his division makes a certain amount of sense. The US, Europe, and China look like they are going to be the three biggest economies in the world. So centering blocs around them makes sense. Whether India's economy, growing much more slowly than China's, can make India into a fourth major player remains doubtful at this point. Pinkerton doesn't make the Islamic countries into a bloc and that makes a certain amount of sense because there are serious divisions divisions between them in contrast to the unified US and China and the obviously unifying Europe.

Pinkerton is also correct in thinking that the French want to bring Russian into the European fold. Though it is unclear as to the practicability of doing this if it would entail the incorporation of Russia into the European Union. Putin also sees Realpolitik reasons to stay on friendly terms with the US because the US makes a more useful counterweight to future Chinese designs on Siberia than anything the more militarily timid Europe might have to offer. At the same time, the cost to the EU of incorporating Russia into the EU would be enormous and the political implications of having so many Russians voting in EU elections for parliament would be profound as well.

One wildcard is whether the Muslim lands, and the Arab lands in particular, will undergo consolidation. As McNeill argues, consolidation has been a recurring theme and pressures for consolidation are obviously present.

Update II: Huntington's original Foreign Affairs essay that inspired him to write his book can be found here and here and here.

It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new worldwill not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.

...

These conflicts between princes, nation states and ideologies were primarily conflicts within western civilisation. "Western civil wars," as William Lind has labeled them. This was as true of the cold war as it was of the world wars and the earlier wars of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. With the end of the cold war, international politics moves out of its western phase and its centrepiece becomes the interaction between the West and non-western civilisations and among non-western civilisations. In the politics of civilisations, the peoples and governments of non-western civilisations no longer remain the objects of history as targets of western colonialism but join the West as movers and shapers of history.

One thought struck me while reading Huntington's essay: We can not make the whole world safe for democracy. Attempts to do so are a naive and dangerous overreaching that fails to take account of the depth of the differences that separate the major groupings of people in the world.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 23 02:24 AM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2003 October 22 Wednesday
Rumsfeld Asks: Are We Winning Or Losing The Global War On Terror?

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has written a memo to his top folks Gen. Richard Myers, Paul Wolfowitz, Gen. Pete Pace, and Douglas Feith asking them are we winning or losing the global war on terror? (another copy available here)

Have we fashioned the right mix of rewards, amnesty, protection and confidence in the US?

Does DoD need to think through new ways to organize, train, equip and focus to deal with the global war on terror?

Are the changes we have and are making too modest and incremental? My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?

Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?

Does the US need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists? The US is putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan, but we are putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop terrorists. The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists' costs of millions.

Rumsfeld says they lack the metrics to even know whether the number of terrorists or the size of the threat posed by terrorists is going up or down. How could such metrics be fashioned? Is it difficult to track enrollment in madrassas? Even if that could be done it would seem difficult to track the curricula of those schools to discover whether the curricula are becoming better or worse on average from the standpoint of American and more broadly Western interests. Even harder it seems would be to track the number of people in terrorist training camps or deployed as sleepers or operatives in various countries. How do you measure people who try to blend in?

As for our costs versus the costs for the terrorists: asymmetric warfare really does favor terrorists. The biggest technique the US could try to bring to bear to counter the advantages the terrorists have would be massive information collection. But initiatives such as Total Information Awareness have run up against considerable domestic political opposition. Tighter border control also faces considerable opposition both by general pro-immigrationists and by Muslim groups and diplomats who don't want tougher criteria appled to Muslim applicants for visitation and residency. It is not clear that there exists a politically feasible strategy for countering the advantages enjoyed by the terrorists on the domestic front.

On the international front what should be done? Are madrassas really a big source of terrorists? Could US aid pull a signficant number of students out of madrassa schools in, say, Pakistan? At what yearly cost and with what effect on the total number of terrorists? Are government schools in Saudi Arabia a bigger source of terrorists? What can be done about Saudi Arabia short of invasion?

Rumsfeld is pushing this memo into the public debate.

Three members of Congress who met with Rumsfeld Wednesday morning said the defense secretary gave them copies of the memo and discussed it with them.

"He's asking the tough questions we all need to be asking," said Rep. Jim Turner, D-Texas.

The American political debate has lost sight of a difficult problem as it has drifted more and more toward partisan politics as usual as the 2004 elections approach. This seems like a pretty astute move on Rumsfeld's part.

The United States lacks a grand strategy to deal with the twin threats of terrorism and nuclear proliferation. As Henry Sokolski argues in Taking Proliferation Seriously the international rules and norms governing nuclear power and proliferation are in need of major changes and yet neither the Bush Administration nor its critics in the Democratic Party (which is more of a domestic issues-only party) is making an argument for those changes.

As part of the Grand Strategy that the US doesn't currently have the US also needs an aggressive energy research program to obsolesce fossil fuels.

Update: Turns out that Rumsfeld didn't want his memo released.

"If I wanted it published, I would have written it as a press release, which I didn't," Rumsfeld said after a closed-door meeting with senators on Capitol Hill.

Well, it is great that it was released. We get to hear a more critical internal view of how the war against terrorists is going.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 22 04:08 PM  Terrorists Western Response
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Jonathan Rauch On 14 Year Rule For Reaching Presidency

Very familiar faces can not become President of the United States.

With only one exception since the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, no one has been elected president who took more than 14 years to climb from his first major elective office to election as either president or vice president.

George W. Bush took six years. Bill Clinton, 14. George H.W. Bush, 14 (to the vice presidency). Ronald Reagan, 14. Jimmy Carter, six. Richard Nixon, six (to vice president). John Kennedy, 14. Dwight Eisenhower, zero. Harry Truman, 10 (to vice president). Franklin Roosevelt, four. Herbert Hoover, zero. Calvin Coolidge, four. Warren Harding, six. Woodrow Wilson, two. William Howard Taft, zero. Theodore Roosevelt, two (to vice president). The one exception: Lyndon Johnson's 23 years from his first House victory to the vice presidency.

People don't want to vote for stale familiar faces for President. Rauch says that of the Democratic Party contenders for 2004 only Wesley Clark, John Edwards, and Howard Dean have a chance since the rest of them are too stale.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 22 01:57 AM  Politics American Domestic
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One Seventh Of German Science Doctorates Move To America

The Scientist has an interesting article on the German scientific brain drain to the United States. (requires free registration)

Every seventh person with a doctorate in science leaves Germany for the United States. And three of the four Germans who have won a Nobel Prize are currently working in the United States, noted Markus Albers in Die Welt am Sonntag.

...

“We don't have proper career paths, people are paid according to set bands and not according to their performance. In America, scientists can earn three times as much,” Schwarz said.

This is a strong indicator that the European countries are going to continue to lag the United States in innovation and economic growth. Though it would be beneficial to the general advance of science if they improved salaries, mechanisms for handling out grants, and the general regulatory environment to give their scientists more incentive and resources to work there. All the scientists of Europe would get more work done and not just the ones that move to the United States.

The smaller numbers of more talented immigrants such as these German scientists are often pointed to as examples of the benefits of open immigration policies for the United States. But it would be simple enough to formulate immigration policies that let in these kinds of immigrants in even larger numbers while simultaneously greatly reducing the immigration of less skilled workers who will, on average, contribute far less while costing far more.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 22 01:42 AM  Immigration Brain Drain
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2003 October 21 Tuesday
Derb: Third Party Anti-Illegal Immigration Candidate In 2004?

John Derbyshire says that if a well-funded third party candidate runs in 2004 for the Presidency on a strong platform to control the borders and enforce immigration law he would get at least 20 million votes.

Here is my prediction. Should a candidate come up saying these things, or anything close to them, and should that candidate's campaign not be derailed by the machinations of his opponents or the media, or by some gross blunder of his own, he will get at least 20 million votes next November — more than Ross Perot got in 1992.

Such a candidate would probably take more votes from the Republicans than from the Democrats. But that is by no means a certainty. Many lower income people who don't like competing against lots of low skilled immigrants. The lower income people are experiencing declining wages due to immigrant competition and therefore the low income citizens who might otherwise vote for the Democrats would be tempted to vote for such a candidate.

It is a myth that it is impossible to enforce immigration laws. A large barrier on the border with Mexico would probably cut illegal immigration by about half. Instead of enforcing immigration law our elites want another amnesty. Derb is quite right in pointing out that on the issue of immigration the elites are ignoring the will of the people. Therefore a populist voting booth revolt is possible given a suitable third party candidate. If that revolt cost the Republicans the White House it would be a lesson that would be well worth it for the national Republican leaders to learn the hard way.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 21 03:54 PM  Immigration Border Control
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Peter Maass On Kim Jong-Il, The Last Emperor

In a lengthy New York Times Magazine profile Peter Maass discusses what is known about the nature of the North Korean regime and its ruler. (or if that link doesn't work try this one)

Dictators come in different strains, like poisons. Some are catastrophically toxic; others, less so. Quite often, the harm a dictator will cause is associated with an internal drive to violence or a paranoia that begets violence or a mixture of both. Saddam Hussein is a case in point; his personal viciousness is legendary. Dictators of this sort are easy to read and easy to despise because they are obvious killers.

But what is to be made of a dictator who is charming, as Kim can be, and has never been known personally to raise a weapon or even a hand against anyone? This can be a no-less-dangerous strain of dictator, and in the world today, Kim Jong Il is its most striking example. Though friendly with important visitors, Kim is vicious to his own people. An estimated two million of them died during a preventable famine in the 1990's, and several hundred thousand are in prison and labor camps; many have been executed.

...

Kim's regime is best understood as an imperial court, clouded in intrigue, not unlike the royal households that ruled Japan, China and, throughout most of its existence, Korea itself. Until the 20th century, Korea was led by feudal kings, notably the Yi dynasty. By creating a personal and uncaring regime, Kim Il Sung wasn't stealing a page from only Stalin; he was also stealing it from Korean history, a fact that helps explain its durability.

''North Korea is a semifeudal society that is still based on traditional Korean values,'' says Alexandre Mansourov, a scholar at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies who was a Soviet diplomat based in Pyongyang in the 1980's. ''There are traces of modernity, but if you look at the structure of thinking, it is very traditional, in a medieval sense.''

The article is a fascinating read. His 22 year old son Kim Jong Chul, born to one of his mistresses, is now considered the front runner for succession when he dies.

Update: Maass was on the Charlie Rose show with former US ambassador to China Winston Lord and KEDO executive director Charles Kartman. Maass argued a point that I've made here repeatedly: The United States should focus more on China than on North Korea because China is the country which has the most amount of leverage over North Korea. Where does most of North Korea's energy come from? China. Where does nearly half of North Korea's food come from? China. Kartman tried to argue that China does not have that much leverage over North Korea. But if the Chinese cut off their aid to North Korea the regime would probably fall. That's a lot of leverage. If China and South Korea cut off aid the regime would definitely fall.

By propping up the North Korean regime the Chinese and South Koreans are making the United States much less secure in the future. The United States should hold countries accontable when they behave in ways that make the world a more dangerous place for the United States. We shouldn't call such countries allies or friends. The bottom line results of their policies should be what we measure them by.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 21 01:18 AM  Korea
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Reuel Marc Gerecht On Plame, Wilson And CIA Cover

Reuel Marc Gerecht demystifies the nature of CIA cover when agents work abroad and discusses the significance of Valerie Plame's outing by Robert Novak in an article about her husband Dennis Wilson's trip to Niger to investigate a possible attempt by Saddam Hussein's Iraq to acquire uranium. The value of cover is overstated and often blown on purpose.

CIA officers also often eschew their cover work because it can be quite time-consuming, offers little professional reward inside the Agency, and is frequently more mentally demanding than "operations" (foreign service officers actually have to think more in their cable-writing, note-taking, and demarching than case officers do in arranging clandestine meetings and regurgitating headquarters debriefing notes). Official cover, even when good, often simply doesn't allow a case officer access to a sufficient number of possible targets (believe it or not, most foreign officials and Islamic holy warriors can't be convinced, seduced, or blackmailed into betraying "their" side). Most chiefs of CIA stations would gladly have their officers demolish their cover if by so doing the operatives could have some chance of meeting a target that could conceivably be recruited. Indeed, depending on the foreign target and sensitivity and prowess of the local counterespionage services, case officers regularly jettison their cover entirely, hoping that gossip and the allure of American power and money will work to their advantage.

The Bush administration's critics in the Wilson affair should be commended for worrying about the possible "blowback" on foreign contacts when operatives like Valerie Plame are exposed. The odds that any of her contacts are suffering, however, are small: Casual, even constant, open association with CIA officers isn't necessarily damning even in countries that look dimly upon unauthorized CIA operational activity within their borders. The CIA is an intelligence arm of the United States, not the Soviet Union. The French, the Indians, the Turks, and the Pakistanis--at times troublesome foreigners with first-rate, often adversarial internal-security services--know the difference.

Gerecht says that it was a mistake by someone in the CIA to put Wilson on a mission that would attract public attention and that the spouses of agents should try to maintain a low profile. Gerecht also has some pretty pointed questions about what sorts of efforts the CIA made to run agents in Iraq after 1991 and also against Al Qaeda.

It is worth noting that Gerecht himself used to be a CIA case officer doing work that was in some fashion clandestine. So did he blow his own cover by becoming a public figure?

By Randall Parker 2003 October 21 12:27 AM  Politics American Domestic
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2003 October 19 Sunday
Canada Suffering Medical Brain Drain To United States

Tyler Cowen has linked to an interesting piece in the New York Times on the sorry state of Canadian medicine.

"It's not about the money," said Dr. Sriharan, a 38-year-old immigrant from Sri Lanka. "We can't do our job properly with operating room time so extremely limited here."

Forced to compete for operating room time with other surgeons, he said that he and his colleague could complete only one or two operations on some days, meaning that patients whose cases were not emergencies could go months or even years before completing necessary treatment.

Of course people are going to say that a decision of this sort to move to the US to practice medicine is not about their own income even though prospects of much higher incomes would play a major role in most people's decision-making. However, poor facilities and all sorts of resource limitations have got to seem like the insult added to injury for someone who spent many years training only to be faced with limits on how well they can apply what they know.

Can the last neurosurgeon who leaves please turn off the lights in the last neurosurgery clinic? If it gets bad enough the Canadian government will be forced to raise salaries for high priced specialties and to make some more money available to allow them to carry out their work.

There was a net migration of 49 neurosurgeons from Canada from 1996 to 2002, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, a large loss given that there are only 241 neurosurgeons in the country.

While the NY Times story is mostly anecdotal there are more statistically based arguments that suggest that you are a lot better off getting sick with a serious illness in the United States than in Canada.

Update: Sally Pipes, president of the Pacific Research Institute, has a 4 part series at Tech Central Station about Canadian health care. Canada is lacking in modern diagnostic equipment.

According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, Canada has about half the number of MRI units and CAT scanners as the average for other industrial nations, ranking it in the lower third of the 30 nations for such vital diagnostic tools. It gets lumped in among the former nations of the communist block. Canada is even farther behind in other technology. In 2001, Canada had only two functioning PET (positron emission tomography) scanners for its 31 million people, or one for every 15 million residents versus 250 such machines in the United States, or one for every 1.1 million residents. Such scanners are particularly vital to women suffering from breast cancer as they are 80 percent accurate (and even better than MRIs) in determining whether the disease will recur.

Pipes' second article in the series describes how hospitals try to cut back on the amount of various procedures they perform.

Canada's primary care physicians don't face a lot of hassle from the government in dealing with their patients. But they also aren't given many of the tools American doctors have to heal their patients or save lives. Price controls through global budgets, wherein hospitals are given a lump sum of money each year, make patients liabilities to be avoided. "[I]n Canada, the patient is a source of expense. So it's to the hospitals benefit to reduce costs [by] doing the least amount of operations as possible," Dr. Alfons Pomp, a Canadian laparoscopic surgeon told one writer.

Coupled with government purchasing controls, the arrangement virtually guarantees the unavailability of high-tech diagnostic equipment, modern medical procedures and new and better pharmaceuticals, all because they are considered too expensive.

Canada's system discourages the use of drugs to lower costs.

Also imported would most likely be the waits for new drugs. The median time for drug approvals in Canada is nearly half a year longer than in the United States. Under formulary rules, a new drug place in a category cannot increase the cost of drug treatment for a disease -- even if it reduces the other medical costs associated with the treatment. More effective drugs thus can be kept off the market or made more costly to buy for Canadians for years.

By contrast, in America's freer market health care companies and physicians embrace drug use in order to lower total costs and improve health.

Science writer Ronald Bailey in Reason magazine reported how Humana Hospitals cut the death rate for congestive heart patients from 25 percent to 10 percent through a year-long disease management program. The program increased the use of pharmaceuticals, raising costs for its pharmacy by 60 percent. But hospital costs dropped 78 percent, saving Humana $10 million net. Drug therapy thus was both life saving and cost saving.

In a kind of unintended reverse experiment, proving the same thing, the New Hampshire Medicaid program in 2000 limited the number of prescriptions it would pay in order to save some money. They did for drug costs -- but not for nursing homes. The rate of admission to them doubled.

Indeed, according to research by Columbia University professor Frank Lichtenberg, every $1 of increased spending on new pharmaceuticals reduces other health care expenditures by an average of $7.17.

The Canadian health care single payer system and price controls are things we should avoid like a plague in the United States.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 19 07:43 PM  Socialism, Capitalism
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2003 October 18 Saturday
Henry Sokolski: Taking Proliferation Seriously

Henry Sokolski, the executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, has written an excellent lengthy article in the October issue of Policy Review about current interpretations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), gaps in its coverage, and the inadequacy of current measures for stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The essay (which you should go read in full) is entitled Taking Proliferation Seriously

Instead, Ireland’s original call for a nuclear nonproliferation treaty was premised on the fear that the further spread of nuclear weapons to additional states would make nuclear disarmament and reductions less likely and accidental or catalytic wars — ones instigated by smaller powers to draw the superpowers to their defense — more probable. Against this threat, the Irish representative urged adoption of the most basic restraint: States that had weapons should agree not to share or spread them, and states that lacked them should agree not to acquire them. As for the sharing of nuclear technology for civilian purposes, the Irish recognized that the further spread of such civilian capabilities would actually make the spread of nuclear weapons more likely and that, therefore, the proliferation of such technology had to be controlled. Finally, the Irish downplayed the idea that the superpowers had to disarm themselves before any progress could be made to reduce the spread of nuclear weapons to other states.7

Clearly, this original Irish Resolution view of the npt is the one to which we need to return if we are to keep the NPT as an agreement that will reduce rather than fan further nuclear proliferation. In the first instance this will require that the U.S. and other nuclear technology-exporting states recognize that too much of what they are willing to share is too close to bombmaking to be safeguarded against quick diversion to military ends. Certainly, light water reactors in Iran will bring it dangerously close to having a large arsenal of near-weapons-grade plutonium after only 15 months of operation. The same is true of North Korea if either of the two light water reactors the U.S., Japan, and South Korea are helping to build are completed. It is even clearer that Russia’s, Pakistan’s, and China’s sharing of fuel fabrication, plutonium separation, and uranium enrichment technology and hardware with Iran and North Korea is simply too close to bombmaking ever to allow for any monitoring to be able to afford timely warning of a possible military diversion.

Unfortunately, America is still pushing international cooperation on advanced fuel cycles and reactors that includes cooperation on “proliferation resistant” breeder reactors and reprocessing (because of the addition of several steps that could just as easily be subtracted as not). This cooperation is being proposed for Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, and Argentina — states that only recently gave up nuclear weapons programs of their own.

It is naive to act as if a country that wants nuclear weapons that develops a civilian nuclear power program isn't maneuvering itself to be incredibly close to possessing nuclear weapons. The technology and equipment needed for a civilian nuclear power program brings countries too close to the development of nuclear weapons for the current NPT enforcement practices to be adequate for preventing proliferation.

Absent the development of nuclear reactors that do not use or produce materials useful for making nuclear nuclear weapons the spread of nuclear power for electricity generation is inevitably going to facilitate and accelerate the spread of nuclear weapons. For this reason alone I am a much bigger supporter of basic research into non-nuclear substitutes for Middle Eastern oil such as photovoltaic materials and ways to burn coal without generating pollution.

Sokolski argues for changes in international norms so that activities that have the effect of facilitating nuclear proliferation are

To move away from such a future, then, is worth some effort. But what step should be taken first? Cleary, it would be helpful if the U.S. and its allies backed country-neutral rules that would close some of the worst loopholes in the NPT. These gaps principally consist of the NPT’s non-application to weapons states outside the treaty, the NPT’s lack of any serious enforcement measures, its generous inattention to risky “peaceful” nuclear cooperation, and its allowance of nuclear weapons transfers between states so long as the weapon transferred remains under the control of the exporting nation (e.g., U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Germany).

Current Bush Administration policies toward nuclear proliferation are inadequate to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Current international norms and treaties with regard to nuclear power and nuclear weapons proliferation are similarly inadequate. This ought to be a much bigger issue than is currently the case. Technological advances will only make the development of nuclear weapons increasingly easier throughout the world. Therefore the spread of nuclear weapons and the eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons by terrorist groups may be inevitable. But I for one would like to delay that day by as many years as possible. Much better policies could delay and slow the spread of nuclear weapons for many years.

See also these previous posts that link to articles by Henry Sokolski: Henry Sokolski: Iran Watching Bush Handling Of North Korea, North Korean Uranium Enrichment Program Fairly Advanced, and Melana Zyla Vickers On Clintonite Dominance Lite.

Update: Also see Gabriel Schoenfeld's article The Terror Ahead: A nuclear attack? Be very afraid.

Yet in the absence of airtight verification procedures, the only countries thereby restrained are the law-abiding ones, which are not themselves a menace. In the meantime, determined cheaters like Iraq, Iran and North Korea make use of loopholes to pursue their objectives. Though the NPT appeared to work well in its early years, when the relevant technology was more difficult to acquire, now it serves mostly as a cover for would-be proliferators, offering assurances to the world that everything is fine and encouraging Washington to slumber when it needs most to be alert.

The NPT also exhibits structural defects specific unto itself. IAEA inspectors, of whom there are only several hundred responsible for policing approximately 1,000 nuclear facilities around the world, can barely do their job as it is. They are spread even thinner by the need to devote the same amount of attention to wholly innocuous programs in countries like Canada as they do to suspicious ones in countries like Iran. At the same time, IAEA officials lack the freedom to conduct unfettered inspections of any site they choose; they can only visit sites declared (by the signatory nation) to be under the IAEA's "safeguard." And even if they were granted more sweeping rights, the idea that they could find undeclared facilities on their own in a country attempting to conceal them is a delusion. Finally, a glaring loophole in the treaty exempts states from declaring a nuclear installation until 180 days before introducing radioactive material into it; this is precisely the escape mechanism that Iran has exploited to build the uranium and plutonium facilities it has only now disclosed.

As long as there are closed societies whose governments have the resources and the will to develop nuclear weapons no treaty is going to stop them.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 18 02:15 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control
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2003 October 17 Friday
Queen Elizabeth Afraid Of Loss Of British Sovereignty

The Queen has finally started reacting as if the EU is a threat to her position.

It is believed that the Palace's concerns focus on whether the Queen's supreme authority as the guardian of the British constitution, asserted through the sovereignty of Parliament, could be altered or undermined by article 10 of the draft text.

This states: "The constitution and law adopted by the union's institutions in exercising competences conferred on it shall have primacy over the law of the member states."

Many MPs say that this will rob the House of Commons of its ultimate authority to override decisions and laws made by the EU.

It is crunch time for the development of the EU super-state. The various leaders of EU governments are willing to give up national sovereignty to the European Union. But the Queen knows that she is the Sovereign. What is the point in being the Queen if she is not going to be the Sovereign? If she wants to really try she might be able to make the new EU constitution into a much bigger political issue in Britain. If the constitution was put to a popular vote it is doubtful it would pass in Britain and in some other European countries as well.

The United States ought to alert the various European states that it is thinking of either closing its various embassies in Europe or converting them to consulates. After all, if London is not going to be the home of a sovereign government then what is the point of sending an ambassador to the Court of Saint James? The US also ought to raise the issue on the United Nations Security Council that since the sovereign goverments of France and Great Britain are ceasing to exist they have no sovereignty vested in them with which to even appoint ambassadors to represent them on the Security Council. Also, the US could cease to greet European state leaders as heads of state when they come Washington DC. If the Europeans want to play seriously at the creation of a super-state we ought to start treating them in ways that recognize that they really are doing exactly that.

Update: One sly way the Bush Administration might want to handle the constitutional debate in Britain and Europe is to have some Administration official state off-the-record that the US still views Great Britain as possessing a sovereign government at this point in time and that the Bush Administration has not yet made a determination as to when Britain will cease to have a sovereign government.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 17 01:58 PM  Europe and America
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2003 October 16 Thursday
Mahathir On Jews: We Are Up Against People Who Think

Here is one of those reports which are simultaneously disturbing and hilarious. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad delivered a speech to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) summit meeting in Putrajaya Malaysia that Muslims need to unite and think in order to fight the Jews. IMRA reports that his speech was entitled: Treaty Now - Triumph Later - The Jews Are Making Mistakes

It is surely time that we pause to think. But will this be wasting time? For well over half a century we have fought over Palestine. What have we achieved? Nothing. We are worse off than before. If we had paused to think then we could have devised a plan, a strategy that can win us final victory. Pausing and thinking calmly is not a waste of time. We have a need to make a strategic retreat and to calmly assess our situation.

We are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.

We may not be able to do that. We may not be able to unite all the 1.3 billion Muslims. We may not be able to get all the Muslim Governments to act in concert. But even if we can get a third of the ummah and a third of the Muslim states to act together, we can already do something. Remember that the Prophet did not have many followers when he went to Madinah. But he united the Ansars and the Muhajirins and eventually he became strong enough to defend Islam.

Apart from the partial unity that we need, we must take stock of our assets. I have already mentioned our numbers and our oil wealth. In today's world we wield a lot of political, economic and financial clout, enough to make up for our weakness in military terms.

Mahathir complements his enemy's ability to think:

The enemy will probably welcome these proposals and we will conclude that the promoters are working for the enemy. But think. We are up against a people who think. They survived 2000 years of pogroms not by hitting back, but by thinking. They invented and successfully promoted Socialism, Communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so they may enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power. We cannot fight them through brawn alone. We must use our brains also.

What, persecuting Jews is not suppose to appear to be wrong? Unless Jews are persecuted they will inevitably take over the world? Is that what Mahathir is trying to tell us?

While IMRA's page reads as if it is the entire contents of his speech there are excerpts on other sites that seem to be from the same speech that say more.

He says they should have had a plan.

"For well over half a century, we have fought over Palestine," the Malaysian leader said. "What have we achieved? Nothing. We are worse off than before. If we had paused to think, then we could have devised a plan, a strategy that can win us final victory."

He told the audience of sheiks, emirs, kings and presidents that Muslims had the world's richest civilization during Europe's Dark Ages, but disputes over dogma - instead of embracing technology and science - had left them weak and divided.

"Because we are discouraged from learning of science and mathematics as giving us no merit for the afterlife, today we have no capacity to produce our own weapons for our defence. We have to buy our weapons from our detractors and enemies."

Well Mr. Mahathir, it doesn't exactly encourage critical thinking if kids are sent to Madrassah schools to memorize the Koran in a language that many of them don't even understand. But if they were taught to think critically they might become less religious. So the Muslims face a tough task. They need to get people to think about science and yet uncritically accept their own religion. Now, some people can be convinced to do that. The task facing them is not entirely hopeless and that should be cause for concern on our part. How well they can strike a balance between religious indoctrination on one hand and scientific and technological thinking on the other hand will be a major factor in determining how much of a threat the Islamic countries pose to the rest of the world going forward.

Mahathir says Islam is not just a religion for your ancestors of a hundred generations remove.

"Islam is not just for the seventh century AD. Times have changed. Whether we like it or not we have to change," Mahathir said. "Not our teaching. ... Islam is not wrong, but the interpretations by our scholars can be wrong."

Can be wrong? Or are wrong?

Here's another set of excerpts from the speech. Note that his comments here can also serve as useful advice for the Israelis: Don't make mistakes out of arrogance just because your enemies have been so lame in the past.

"Of late because of their power and their apparent success they have become arrogant. And arrogant people, like angry people will make mistakes, will forget to think. They are already beginning to make mistakes. There may be windows of opportunities for us now and in the future. We must seize these opportunities."

Note as well in these linked-to articles the praise heaped on Mahathir by assorted Muslim country leaders including leaders from Qatar, Egypt, and Afghanistan. Now, some are praising him for his call for more education. But the idea of getting the Muslims together to take on the Jews is exciting them as well.

If anyone finds the complete text of his speech please either post a link to it in the comments or email it to me.

Update: Some people think that if the Muslim countries industrialize and modernize they will become less dangerous with time. The problem with the "if they modernize they will get decadent and forget about Israel" plan is that a number of modernizing societies have been extremely dangerous in the past. I'm thinking of Wilhelmine Germany on up thru WWII. I'm also thinking of imperial Japan.

The problem is that the old attitudes last a few generations before old generations die off and the new kids grow up totally decadent. The transition period is dangerous. Therefore if the Muslims are encouraged to modernize in order to fight the Jews and if they succeed in modernizing then they will probably fight the Jews.

Parabellum provides a link to the full text of the speech here.

Update II: Mahathir is upset by the reaction he's gotten from his speech.

> "In my speech I condemned all violence, even the suicide bombings and I told the Muslims it's about time we stopped all these things and paused to think and do something that is much more productive," he said. "That was the whole tone of my speech, but they picked up one sentence where I said that the Jews control the world."

He feels he is being treated unfairly. There is something comical about the guy. If he didn't want people to focus on a single sentence then he shouldn't have said that single sentence. It was inevitable they were going to do so. But he said that sentence because he saw it worth saying as a way to strengthen his street credibility among Muslims. So he has to pay a price in terms of criticism coming from some commentators. He probably would say the sentence all over again.

Here's what I see best illustrates the absurdity of his claim:: If some group of a few million people really did control the world they'd protect themselves from it a lot better than the Jews in Israel have so far protected themselves against the Palestinian terrorist bombers and from other threats in the region. If Jews controlled the world they've manage to have much greater protection from all sorts of developing trends that are unfavorable to Israel.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 16 02:42 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2003 October 14 Tuesday
US Gains Ground In UN Iraq Negotiations

There has been considerable commentary that the Bush Administration has gone to the UN for help with Iraq as a sign that the US occupation is in trouble and that the US must now go grovelling for help. But the Bushies have continued to stick by their position that they are not going to give the UN a significant governing role in Iraq and the commentary by both worried supporters and gleeful opponents of US occupation in Iraq is looking pretty unjustified by the course of negotiations at the United Nations Security Council

France, Russia and Germany on Tuesday dropped their demands that the United States grant the United Nations a central role in Iraq's reconstruction and yield power to a provisional Iraqi government in the coming months.

The move constituted a major retreat by the Security Council's chief antiwar advocates, and signaled their renewed willingness to consider the merits of a U.S. resolution aimed at conferring greater international legitimacy of its military occupation of Iraq.

Difficulties with Baathist and Islamist resistance fighters have not caused Bush Administration officials who have a deep visceral distrust of the United Nations to suddenly decide that the UN holds the key to get them out of a bind. More likely, the Administration hawks think they have a tough problem on their hands and therefore all the more reason to keep the UN involvement minimal and symbolic. Better to only ask the UN to get involved in situations where the stakes are much lower.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 14 08:46 PM  UN, International Institutions
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Bin Laden Son Protected By Clerics In Iran

Writing for the Washington Post Douglas Farah and Dana Priest report that Osama Bin Laden son Saad bin Laden is one of many al Qaeda members living in and working from Iran.

Like other al Qaeda leaders in Iran, the younger bin Laden, who is believed to be 24 years old, is protected by an elite, radical Iranian security force loyal to the nation's clerics and beyond the control of the central government, according to U.S. and European intelligence officials. The secretive unit, known as the Jerusalem Force, has restricted the al Qaeda group's movements to its bases, mostly along the border with Afghanistan.

Osama Bin Laden has had on-going contacts with Iran spanning years.

Gunaratna said that an analysis of bin Laden's satellite telephone calls from 1996 to 1998 showed that more than 10 percent were placed to Iran, demonstrating the ongoing contacts with Iran during that time.

What is amazing about this story is that Iran's support for terrorists continues even after 9/11 and even after the overthrow of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. So far nothing the United States has done has intimidated the mullahs who rule Iran. To them it is business as usual. The United States still is not openly threatening Iran with a military attack and the Iranians think they can get away with what they are doing both in terms of support for terrorists and in terms of nuclear weapons development.

Once the Iranians manage to build functional nuclear weapons the ability of the US to restrain Iran will decline considerably. The United States will then be in the position of having a nuclear-armed enemy that supports terrorists that have carried out attacks on American soil. It seems likely that more terrorist attacks will have to happen before there is sufficient political will to deal with either North Korea or Iran.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 14 02:22 AM  Axis Of Evil
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Iraqis Resent And Prefer Continued US Troop Presence

Most residents of Baghdad want US troop presence at least in the near term.

The Gallup poll found that 71 percent of the capital city's residents felt U.S. troops should not leave in the next few months. Just 26 percent felt the troops should leave that soon. However, a sizable minority felt that circumstances could occur in which attacks against the troops could be justified. Almost one in five, 19 percent, said attacks could be justified, and an additional 17 percent said they could be in some situations.

What does it say about the residents of Baghdad that only 26 percent of them want the US troops to leave in the next few months while 19 percent plus 17 percent for a total of 36% can see circumstances under which the troops should be attacked? This seems to indicate a resentment of the troops in combination with an acceptance of their necessity.

The remaining elements of the old regime aren't aiming their guns at the broader Iraqi public any more.

"Sure we're afraid of all these guns on the streets," said Mustafa Salman al-Kaisi, 47, a businessman and oil drilling engineer, who sat waiting for an appointment last week with an Iraqi trader to discuss importing new goods. "But in fact, most of the guns are aimed at the Americans moving around in Humvees."

As long as the US troops are there the Baathists and the Islamists will focus on those troops and most ordinary Iraqis will have the luxury of simultaneously resenting the troops while benefitting from the fact that troop presence effectively means that the Islamists and Baathists won't be coming for them.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 14 02:03 AM  MidEast Iraq Opinion Polls
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2003 October 13 Monday
Bush Administration, Israeli Government Negotiating On Barrier

The Israelis continue to push for White House approval for inclusion of remote settlements on the Israeli side of the barrier.

After publicly criticising the fence and wall that Israel is building in the West Bank, the Bush Administration is quietly negotiating with the Israeli Government to change the route of the barrier. Israel has addressed complaints raised by the United States about particular sections of what it calls a security fence, without drastically altering plans that Palestinians say would prevent the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

Many news articles are written every day about Israelis and Palestinians killed and injured in terrorist attacks, Israeli strikes, ambushes, at checkpoints, and in other ways. A barrier separating Israel from the West Bank and Israel would do more to reduce the death toll than anything else that is within the realm of possibility. The problem is that the Israeli government wants to extent tbe barrier into the West Bank to include remote settlements. But doing so will force more Palestinians onto the Israeli side, cut more Palestinains off from their land and, by making the barrier longer, make the amount of Palestinian land taken by the barrier itself greater.

The Bush Administration ought to stand firm against the Israelis on this issue but it isn't that Congress will let the Bush Administration use the threat to withhold aid as a lever.

There isn't going to be a settlement of the conflict between Israel on one side and the Palestinians and the larger Arab world on the other side for decades to come if ever. The best we can hope for is a separation that keeps the casualty rate down and creates clear morally defensible boundaries.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 13 02:44 PM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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Steven Waldman On 7 Myths About The Religious Right

Steven Waldman makes some great points about religion and politics in his Slate article subtitled Debunking myths about the religious right.

Myth 6: Hispanics are conservative. The perception of Hispanics as conservative is misshapen by the political behavior of Florida's Cubans, who are indeed overwhelmingly Republican. But on the question of gay marriage, for instance, Hispanics were at the national average (54 percent opposed). Professor Green has found a big difference between Hispanic Catholics and Hispanic Protestants, with the latter group more conservative than the former. American Hispanic Catholics, it turns out, aren't that religious. Professors Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio put voters into three groups according to religious intensity—"traditionalists," "moderates," and "secularists." Only 10 percent of Hispanics turned out to be traditionalists—this fraction in the African-American community was much larger. So, Republicans shouldn't assume that issues like abortion will lure large numbers of Hispanic Catholics.

It has long been obvious to me that a lot of secular people on the political Left are so scared by and opposed to the politics of religious people on the political Right that the Lefties have created caricatures of those religious folks that have prevented the Lefties from understanding the religious folks on the Right or people motivated by religious feelings (e.g. Islamists) in general. A single article can make only a small dent in the caricatures and stereotypes but every little bit helps.

Of course, myth number 6 excerpted above is one that is more widely believed by Republicans who think the Hispanic immigrants are natural future members of the GOP coalition. That this is so obviously not the case shows that myths about religious beliefs are not only a problem on the Left in America. The rhetoric coming from the Bush Administration about Islam betrays another myth held by some (by no means all) religious folks: that all embrace of any kind of old established religious belief is like some kind of tonic that can only make people better. In reality secular ideologies have no monopoly on bad ideas and religious ideologies can be just as dangerous.

I'm a little suspicious of some of the figures that Waldman cites. Polls that ask people if they are religious, what religion they are, and what political views they have are not terribly useful unless the polls explore the intensity of the religious belief and the extent to which it is practiced. There are plenty of people who will self-identify as, for instance, Catholics who haven't been to a Mass or confession in decades. Even if questions about church attendance are asked a significant portion of the population lies because they think it sounds nice to say that they go to church or they feel guilty to admit they haven't. In the case of Catholics real practicing Catholics vote majority Republican while lapsed Catholics vote majority Democrat. So are the evangelicals that Waldman mentions who vote for the Democrats more or less likely to show up at church on Sunday or to pray than the Evangelicals who vote Republican?

By Randall Parker 2003 October 13 02:07 PM  Religion Secular Ideologies
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Stalin Chose Kim Il-sung To Lead North Korea

As this article in the Washington Post explains, North Korea's first communist leader Kim Il-sung spent World War II in a Soviet training camp and his son Kim Jong-il was born in that camp.

Kim Il-sung was one of the more talented students and was soon put in charge of a battalion of Korean partisans, he said. "But we were not specifically grooming him for leadership then. Stalin decided that much later," said Popov. Another former KGB officer, Park Il Peter Alexandrovich, was assigned to give Kim Il-sung ideological training after his return to Pyongyang in 1945. "Kim was a common man. He did not fight against the Japanese. He simply escaped from the Japanese," Park has said. Moscow was originally grooming another man, Kim Du-bong, as a potential leader, but he failed to meet expectations, he said.

The official story is that Kim Jong-il was born on North Korea's Mount Paekdu while assorted seemingly supernatural things happened around him to indicate that he was somehow blessed and that his father was a heroic resistance fighter against the Japanese in World War II. The reality is that the totalitarian killer Stalin put into power Kim Il-sung, Kim never saw any fighting, his son was born in Siberia near the village of Vyatskoye, and now his son runs a regime that has the deaths of millions of people on its hands as a consequence of decisions made by Stalin in the 1940s.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 13 12:28 PM  Korea
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Europe Seen As Less Religious Due To Lack Of Competition

Frank Bruni has an interesting report in the New York Times about the decline of religious belief in Europe.

But in the United States, to name one country, many of the same dynamics have not prompted a similarly pronounced estrangement. Some experts say that in Europe, suspicion of major denominations may run higher because religious leaders directly wielded political power in the past. Others say the unchallenged supremacy of state-blessed faiths in Europe — like the Lutherans in Scandinavia and Anglicans in Britain — perhaps turned out to be a curse.

"Monopolies damage religion," said Massimo Introvigne, the director of the Center for Studies on New Religions in Turin and a proponent of the relatively new theory of religious economy. "In a free market, people get more interested in the product. It is true for religion just as it is true for cars."

Is it coincidental that Europe has a larger government sector than the United States and also has a history of more monopolistic state religions?

By Randall Parker 2003 October 13 11:12 AM  Religion Secular Ideologies
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2003 October 10 Friday
Mark Krikorian Says Immigration Not Electoral Third Rail Issue

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, says that Arnold Schwarzenegger's victory proves that taking a position critical of illegal immigration does not harm a Republican candidate seeking office.

The very first issue that arose when Arnold entered the race was his past support for Prop. 187 — which he did not back away from. Even worse, the demonic Pete Wilson was cochairman of Arnold's campaign, and most of Arnold's staff were former Wilson people. Also, Arnold immediately denounced the new law granting driver's licenses to illegal aliens, signed by Gov. Davis in a desperate attempt to shore up Hispanic support. And to top it off, Arnold's main opponent to succeed Davis was a well-known Hispanic Democrat who had taken the lead in opposing Prop. 187.

There was obviously a lot more going on in this election than immigration, but if the bipartisan consensus had been correct about illegal immigration being radioactive for Republicans, Arnold could not have won. And yet, not only did he win, but he and the other major candidate who had something critical to say about illegal immigration — State Sen. Tom McClintock — got a combined total of 62 percent of the vote.

While it seems unlikely he will do so, if Schwarzenegger was to pursue the use of state and local law enforcement personnel to round up and deport illegal aliens he could make a substantial impact on the size of the California state budget deficit. Illegal immigrants who work at low wage jobs, pay little in taxes, but who use more social services and generate other costs for state and local government cost the taxpayers of California billions of dollars per year more than they pay in taxes. Their deportation would help balance the budget.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 10 08:40 PM  Immigration Border Control
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2003 October 09 Thursday
Wilson And Bowman Examine Ideological Splits On Iraq War

James Q. Wilson and Karlyn Bowman have a very interesting article in the fall 2003 issue of The Public Interest about public attitudes toward the war in Iraq and larger trends in attitudes in the US populace.

Those who were strongly opposed to our invasion of Iraq were indifferent to the role of the United Nations. About one-fifth opposed our military activity regardless of whether the United States had U.N. support or Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. A Gallup poll taken in early April 2003 showed that 15 percent of the respondents opposed the war "even if the U.S. finds conclusive evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction." One-tenth of all voters said that we should "never" have attacked Iraq. In another poll, about one-tenth of all Americans said that they are "antiwar in general." And in yet another public-opinion survey conducted in March 2003, almost one-fifth said that war is "never morally justified."

The peace party's composition may depend in part on which political party is in power. When we fought in Korea and Vietnam, two wars begun under Democratic presidents, political scientist John Mueller found that Democrats supported the war more than Republicans did. Democratic opponents of the war in Vietnam began to equal or outnumber Republican critics only after Richard Nixon became president in 1969. We have no way of knowing whether Nixon's presence caused this shift (after all, the war had made critics among both Republicans and Democrats by that time), but it is striking that Democratic opposition shot up around the middle of 1969 while Republican opposition remained relatively constant.

People are more likely to be opposed to the same policy if the policy is being implemented by members of the opposing party. Republicans opposed US interventions in the Balkans while most Democrats defended Bill Clinton. The same pattern can be seen with the 1997 Operation Desert Fox airstrikes in Iraq.

Wilson and Bowman argue that a larger pattern is at work as the nation as a whole becomes more partisan.

For one, votes in Congress have become markedly more partisan over the years. In 1970, about one-third of all House and Senate votes pitted the majority of one party against the majority of the other, but by 1998 more than half of the votes were of this sort. In 1970, about 70 percent of each party's congressional members voted on partisan lines when a majority of one party was opposed by a majority of the other. In 1998, that number had risen to 90 percent. When President Clinton was impeached, 98 percent of House Republicans voted for at least one of the four impeachment articles, while 98 percent of House Democrats voted against all four. Even in House districts where most voters opposed impeachment, almost all Republican members voted in favor of it.

Anyone who thinks that the era of mass communications and lowered cost of transportation would reduce the size of differences in belief needs to reconcile that belief with the empirical evidence found all around us to the contrary.

Both Gary Jacobson and fellow political scientist Larry Bartels have produced data suggesting that, in comparison to 20 or 30 years ago, voters today are more comfortable with ideological labels and more ready to identify with a particular party on the basis of its ideology. This is especially true of more educated voters. Anyone who doubts these findings need only listen to radio talk shows or compare Fox News with public-broadcasting news to encounter daily evidence of a profound market segmentation in the media-a segmentation that could only exist if there were large numbers of ideological voters to whom different programs could appeal.

The argument has been made (I think by Virginia Postrel among others) that people are moving around the country in ways that make each region politically more distinctive. If I am recalling a Postrel column (which I haven't managed to find googling but I think was in the NY Times a few years back) correctly she quoted some political scientists to the effect that the average person moving out of the Old South region has political attitudes less like the majority of the Old South than the average person who is moving into that region. So migration is not erasing regional differences, it is accentuating them. People move to be around other people more like themselves. We also see evidence for heavy regional differences even within states. Vinod's post on the Gray Davis recall election leads to links to county level results. While San Francisco went 63.5% for Cruz Bustamante versus 18.9% for Schwarzenegger Kern County went 61.7% for Arnie versus 18.8% for Cruz, and Yuba County went 62.3% Arnie, 16.7% Cruz. There are enormous political differences within the state of California.

There is a larger lesson here: different people want different things from government. The kind of people who move to or from a country or state affects who wins elections, what policies are enacted, how high taxes are, and what governments do. Lower costs of transportation and communications may not bring all people together. A larger variety of choices in types of news programs that are available on radio and TV may simply allow people to tune in to sources of information that match more closely their own preconceptions and prejudices. Just as people migrate in order to be around people who want to live in more similar ways people will also virtually migrate to choose media sources that fit more closely with their predilections. If you don't agree with me I figure you haven't even read this far and have instead clicked to some place where you can read more agreeable arguments. So to all of those who have gotten this far: you have excellent judgement, great taste, and style.

Update: Jim Miller offers some comments on the California Governor Gray Davis recall election results and includes a link to an excellent map of California recall votes by county. The counties most heavily for the recall were Sutter 78%, Kern 76%, Glenn 76%, Lassen Colusa 75%, 75%, Modoc 74%, Orange 73%, and Tehama 73%. At the other extreme against the recall we have San Francisco 80%, Alameda 70%, and Marin 68%. The state average was 54.6% for the recall. That is a huge range and demonstrates large regional divisions.

Steve Sailer reports that a large white GOP turn-out was what swung the vote for the recall.

In each of these elections, according to exit polls, the GOP candidate failed to win a majority of the white vote. On Tuesday, however, the two main Republican candidates combined to win a crushing 65 percent of the non-Hispanic white vote. That's the kind of enthusiasm for Republicans normally seen among whites in the South, not in California.

In Davis' landslide first victory in 1998, whites who voted Republican made up 28 percent of the electorate. In Davis' narrower re-election last year, GOP-voting whites comprised 35 percent. This year, they comprised 45 percent of the voting public.

The Republicans did better among Hispanics than they do on average. But McClintock and Schwarzenegger combined still got only 39% of the Hispanic vote. So the gap in GOP performance between whites and Hispanics was 26 points. That gap is the thing to watch in my view. If the popularity of the GOP has to be so high that 65% of whites vote for them in order for 39% of Hispanics to vote for them then it is clear that the GOP is making no specific gains among Hispanics. Though expect Karl Rove to fantasize otherwise.

Update II: There is one other point to make about the Wilson/Bowman article: for the most implacable opponents of the war in Iraq the debate was not about the size of Saddam's WMD development program or whether the United States and its allies had UN approval. The size of the WMD program could have been bigger or the UN could have approved the war and they still would have disapproved.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 09 03:55 PM  Politics American Domestic
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2003 October 08 Wednesday
Jean Francois Revel On Anti-Americanism

The New Criterion has a very interesting essay by French intellectual Jean Francois Revel adapted from his book Anti-Americanism which is entitled The anti-American obsession.

When, in December 2001, Jean-Marie Messier said that “French-style cultural exceptionalism is dead,” he aroused horrified protests, but he was not going nearly far enough. He could have added: in fact, French cultural exceptionalism has never existed, thank goodness. If it had, it would be French culture itself that would be extinct. Let’s suppose that the sixteenth-century kings of France, instead of inviting Italian artists to their courts, had said to themselves: “This predominance of Italian painting is insufferable. We’ll keep those painters and their pictures out of the country.” The result of this castrating démarche would have been to thwart a renewal of French art. Again: between 1880 and 1914 there were many more French Impressionist paintings in American museums and the homes of private collectors than there were in France, despite which—or because of which—American art was subsequently able to find its own wellsprings, and then influence French art in turn.

These cross-fertilizations are indifferent to political antagonisms. It was during the first half of the seventeenth century, when France and Spain were frequently at war, that the creative influence of Spanish literature on the French was particularly marked. The eighteenth century, which saw repeated conflict between France and England, was also the period when the most active and productive intellectual exchanges between the two countries occurred.

Revel sees the greatest threat to French culture not from American culture or capitalism but from a willful attempt to cut France and Europe off from outside influences and the march of history.

The real danger—conceivably a mortal one—for European culture is that anti-American and antiglobalist phobias might derail progress. Guy Sorman has shown the scientific and technological retreats this obscurantism has led to in his book Le Progrès et ses ennemis. And this isn’t some “right-wing” or “left-wing” thesis; it is a rational one. It is defended alike by the liberal-democrat Sorman and by the socialist Claude Allègre. The latter wages war against the idea that Europe should abandon nuclear energy, genetic engineering and research using embryonic cells. Should the pressure groups that agitate against progress win the day, in twenty years the European states will regress, he writes, “to the level of the underdeveloped countries, in a world that will be dominated by the United States and China” (L’Express, February 7, 2002.) The anti-American fanatics will then have succeeded in making Europe even more dependant on the United States than it is today.

Revel thinks isolation brings on stagnation and that influences from other cultures cause a culture to produce its own innovations and new cultural products and schools of thought.

The original French version of Revel's book was also discussed in this previous post John Vinocur: Why France disdains America.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 08 01:58 PM  Civilizations Decay
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2003 October 07 Tuesday
Tom Tancredo: Ban Racial Caucuses

Colorado Congressional Representative Tom Tancredo wants the US House Of Representatives to abolish ethnic caucuses.

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) plans to introduce a rule to abolish all race-based congressional caucuses. The rule would banish all caucuses created on the basis of ethnicity, such as the Black, Hispanic and Asian Pacific caucuses.

His suggestion, which the congressman said he knows will spark outrage, immediately drew accusations of insensitivity from members of the caucuses he proposes to destroy.

If you happen to have a Congressional representative who belongs to a racial or ethnic caucus and you are not of the same ethnicity as your Congressional representative then basically your representative is not even pretending to represent you by being a member of such a caucus.

Tancredo ties his position on this proposal to his support for a large reduction in immigration. Large scale immigration helps prevent people from assimilating. But there are strong forces working against a change in immigration policy:

“The Democratic Party sees massive immigration as a source of votes, and the Republican Party sees immigration as a source of cheap labor, and the president sees it as a wedge issue,” he said.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 07 02:05 AM  Cultural Wars Western
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Mark Bowden On Coercive Interrogation And Torture

Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down has written an article about coercion and torture in interrogation in The Atlantic Monthly which is not on-line. But he did an interview about the article which is on-line. Bowden thinks coercion is necessary in interrogation in some situations.

You conclude that "coercion should be banned but also quietly practiced," because legalized coercion, even when closely regulated, is the ultimate "slippery slope." Yet if coercion is officially banned, how will Americans come to a consensus about what kind of coercion is and isn't appropriate? It's hard to have a debate about something that officially doesn't happen.

Well, I think that part of the strategy here of the current Administration is not to have a debate on it—not to talk about it. And that's actually a very smart way of handling this. Because this is a realm where a certain amount of two-facedness is called for, unfortunately. I believe that it would be wrong to license all coercion, but by the same token, I believe that it would wrong not to practice it in certain cases. So I agree with Jessica Montell, the very articulate activist I interviewed in Israel, in saying that if the law bans torture, at least those people who are practicing coercion have to face the possibility of being held accountable for their actions. The law acts as a constraint on the use of coercion. But it's also unrealistic under the present circumstances to conclude that anybody is ever going to be brought to justice for violating the spirit of international agreements against torture.

I don't agree with his formulation of how coercive interrogation should be regulated. Interrogators should not have to put themselves legally at risk so that we can derive security benefits from what they learn from interrogation. It seems quite unfair to expect them to do this. It also seems counterproductive. The best interrogators in what is, by Bowden's own admission, basically more an art than a science, shouldn't be discouraged from practicing their craft because the public at large is whimsical and could decide to punish them once the public feels safe again. The public does not deserve to take no risks of its own while forcing those who defend the public safety to place themselves in a position of being punished at some time in the future after the benefits have been gained and the public is feeling more morally self-righteous and less fearful.

The public shouldn't be allowed to morally have it both ways. Ditto for leaders. This is corrupting and unfair to those who protect us and dishonors them.

The interview is worth reading in full.

Update: Bowden's October 2003 Atlantic article on interrogation and torture is available on the web.

We hear a lot these days about America's over powering military technology; about the professionalism of its warriors; about the sophistication of its weaponry, eavesdropping, and telemetry; but right now the most vital weapon in its arsenal may well be the art of interrogation. To counter an enemy who relies on stealth and surprise, the most valuable tool is information, and often the only source of that information is the enemy himself. Men like Sheikh Mohammed who have been taken alive in this war are classic candidates for the most cunning practices of this dark art.

Bowden has another essay which is on whether there are circumstances when torture is justified.

Zubaydah's is a much rarer case. With him, we are talking about using torture to extract valuable, lifesaving information. Here's how Michael Levin, a philosophy professor at City College in New York, makes the argument: Suppose a nuclear device is about to be detonated in a large city. A captured terrorist has information that can prevent this, but he refuses to divulge it. Can we torture him to learn what he knows? Levin argues that under these circumstances, it would be "morally mandatory."

By Randall Parker 2003 October 07 01:25 AM  Terrorists Western Response
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Accelerate Education To Increase Tax Revenue, Reduce Costs

Education costs too much. The costs of education are rising faster than the economy as a whole. This is not sustainable in the long run. At the same time, the economic returns on all this education are questionable because quite a lot of what is taught has little economic value. Plus, time spent in school is time not spent working, saving, and paying taxes.

Costs of education have been rising and are projected to continue to rise at unsustainable rights. (PDF format)

The rise in the burden of education is similar. Education costs per student rose 2.6 percent per year over the past two decades. In addition, the fraction of 18 to 22-year-olds going to college is rising by about two percent per year. The couple’s children’s expected use of educational resources reaches a maximum when she is 44 and he is 46, at $32,000 per year, when their annual incomes are $136,000.

The costs of education at the college level are especially steep.

In 2001, K-12 spending was $8,600 per student and college spending was $31,000.

I propose a straightforward reform: accelerate the education of youth. Get people thru school and out into the job market at an earlier age. A smaller first step incremental reform would be to encourage really bright children to start taking college courses during the summer while they are still in high school. If they do well they should be encouraged to start college a year or two earlier. By spending time in summer college classes and by starting college at a younger age kids could get out of college from one to four years sooner depending on their motivation and level of intelligence.

This reform would reduce the total amount of money spent on education. It would also send youth out into the job market sooner. This would reduce the total costs of child-raising to parents and also turn the kids into taxpayers sooner. An entry into the workforce at an earlier age would, for most people, increase the total number of years spent as taxpayers and so they'd pay more in lifetime taxes while simultaneously reducing the amount they receive in benefits provided by both governments and parents. All-year-round education would also increase the utilization rates of the capital invested in the bricks, mortar, furniture, books, and other physical infrastructure of schools.

The birth dearth and rising life expectancies are combining to create demands on future government spending that are far in excess of what current tax rates can finance. There are political limits to how high taxes can be raised because, well, the vast majority of us quite reasonably don't want to spend most of our lives working for the government. By accelerating the pace of education to move people into the workforce at an earlier age we will simultaneously reduce the cost of child-raising, lower the cost of education, and increase the total amount of revenue generated from taxes while also increasing the total length of working life available in which to save for retirement.

Another likely salutary effect of accelerated education will be to increase the birth rate. Long numbers of years spent in school is selecting against reproduction. Reduce the number of years spent in school and people will have children sooner and they will have more children on average. Those people who delay child-raising because of a longer period spent in school and who therefore have fewer children are also, on average, higher income earners who pay more taxes. Therefore they are the ones who are most able to pay for the raising of their own children without recourse to government programs for medical and other assistance. Those are the people we should want to be having children. High income taxpayers should have more children sooner. But in order for that to happen they need to enter the labor market sooner. In order to make that happen they need to study 12 months of the year when growing up and get thru college years sooner than is current practice.

One objection that can be made to my argument is that people in high school and college often work during summers and so they are partially in the labor market before graduation. Yes, but they work at lower skilled, lower productivity, and lower wage jobs than the kinds of jobs they will do once they graduate from college (and if not then why the heck are we spending so much money on colleges to teach them?). Training that raises economic value of labor should come sooner in a child's life and should come more rapidly.

Train for job skills first: There is an argument to be made for the idea that if, say, a person is going to become an engineer then that person should take the courses specific to the job skill of engineering before taking general education courses. That way, if the student is going to work while in school then at least in the later years of education the part-time job worked at while still in school could pay more and produce more than if the productivity-enhancing classes came more toward the end of the college educational experience.

Note that my proposal does not require legislation or policy decisions by governments to start to be put into practice. People who live near colleges could start seeing about summer course offerings for their early teen children. Courses that are in essential sequences for later courses such as math and science courses would be particularly valuable. Also, the course matter of math and science courses tends to be more objective and a tougher test of a child's ability to handle college-level work. If a 14 or 15 or 16 year old kid does poorly the transcripts don't have to be forwarded to other colleges and the courses can always be retaken. If the kid does well then great. Valuable knowledge and skills will be acquired and time and money saved in the future.

Update: Some object to my proposal by arguing that teachers do not want to teach in the summer. That is not a problem. First off, to accelerate education we must automate education and make it far less labor intensive. Pre-recorded high res videos of college lectures are essential. Have a choice of 1000 different people teaching first year college calculus. Have a choice of another 1000 teachers doing college physics lectures. Ditto for hundreds or even thousands of other courses.

Currently the same courses get taught again and again. Most of the teachers are nowhere near as good as the best of the teachers. But if many get video recorded people will be able to compare notes in online review rating systems on which explanation of, for example, elementary statistics is best. Or who is best at intro macroeconomics? Or who is best at digital logic design?

State university systems could record their classes and then trade lecture series with other state universities. Then these classes could be made viewable by the high school students in each state. How fast you learn will become in large part a function of how many hours you will sit yourself in front of a computer screen to watch lectures and to take practice tests on the web.

Update II: The other essential part of accelerated education is testing for certifications separated from taking of classes. Be able to go into a room to take proctored tests. The test supervisors would have a large assortment of tests available for you to take. You'd say "I want to test for freshman year physics" or "I want to test for organic chemistry" and the proctors would either print out a test or bring it up on a computer screen. Then off you go taking the test while they watch. It should be possible to take hundreds of different tests this way. The tests could be administered at a high school, community college, university, or a rented conference room in a hotel.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 07 12:48 AM  Education
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2003 October 06 Monday
Will Republicans Follow Tories Into Marginal Status?

Peter Hitchens has an interesting essay in the British political magazine The Spectator arguing that the Conservative Party of Britain is paralyzed by deep internal divisions that can not be bridged.

The Tories are an impossible coalition of irreconcilables. No coherent government programme could ever unite them, always assuming they were able to win an election. Euro-enthusiast and Eurosceptic cannot compromise without betraying their deepest beliefs, and should not be expected to do so. Supporters of marriage and supporters of the sexual revolution likewise can have no common ground. Supposedly conservative thinkers such as David Willetts cannot earn the praise of Polly Toynbee, as he recently did, without also attracting the loathing of the many who think that children should have the right to be looked after by their own mothers rather than watch them marched off into wage-slavery. Enthusiasts for mass immigration, on the grounds that it expands the workforce, cannot be reconciled with those who fear that immigration on this scale will damage a good and ancient culture. Those who believe in rehabilitating criminals cannot reach an accommodation with those who believe in punishing them. Those who wish to legalise narcotics cannot make peace with those who wish to imprison drug-users. All parties are coalitions full of conflicts, but they need to have something fundamental that unites them despite their quarrels.

The Tory party have no such something. They are institutionally dead, having lost any serious political presence in many of the great cities of the country. They have ceased to be able to pass on their lore and language to a new generation, so that ‘Young Conservative’ has become either an oxymoron or an unkind way of describing a particular type of desperate eccentric.

Some of the issues that are splitting the Conservative Party also are causing divisions in the Right in the United States. Since Britain has in the past gone thru some changes in advance of the United States it is worth asking whether the Right in the United States will eventually suffer from splits that are as deep as those which have left the Tories unable to present a coherent agenda for governance and unable to get elected to power.

The Republicans have a number of advantages over the Tories. First off, the design of the US constitution allows greater opportunity for two parties to each exercise some power. The larger amount of power in state governments allows Republicans to demonstrate at least parts of their agenda in some states just as is the case with the Democrats as well. Given the regional differences in political leanings in the United States there are always areas where each party gets to be in power. The government of the UK is quite a bit more centralized with little devolved power to lower levels of government in the Conservative heartlands in England proper. The US constitution therefore provides greater room to allow a party that is not in control nationally to still show that it is capable of ruling. Also, with the constitutionally mandated split between the two elected houses of Congress and the elected President the voters can vote to split power at the national level between parties in the US, again allowing each party a better chance of staying viable.

Another advantage the Republicans have is the greater amount of Christian religious belief in America than in Britain. A significant portion of the Republican base are middle and lower income religiously conservative voters who are not going to vote for the party that tries to appeal to them with Robin Hood benefits (i.e. take from the rich to give to the poor) the way that the Labour Party can appeal to their equivalents in England. A left-wing party of the welfare state inevitably has to take positions on moral issues that will cause the religious conservatives in America to spurn them.

Another advantage the Republicans have is that even though the Left largely dominates academia in America just as it does in Britain there is greater intellectual activity and greater institutional support for intellectual activity on the Right in America than there is in Britain. Why the US should have right wing think tanks in such large number while Britain doesn't is a mystery to me (anyone know?). But the consequence is to provide a larger number of intellectuals to develop and articulate conservative policies.

A fourth important advantage is that nationalism is a much stronger force in the United States than in Britain. Partly that is due to the relative size in both and population of Britain versus the United States. Americans can feel like their government is, in a sense, more complete in what it is capable of. But also the appeal of the EU for the Left in the UK is that it is a clever way to use a higher level political entity to force elite will upon the populace from the top down. So the attack on nationalism in Britain is an extension of the Left's attack on anything that stands in the way of the Left's agenda. Americans have a sense of their place in history that makes it harder to undermine their nationalistic sentiment.

The Republican Party does have divisions on some of the same issues that the Tories have split on. Some of those issues (e.g. immigration) look set to grow in importance. But while some of the factions on the Right resent the way elected Republican officials cater to other right-wing factions the politicians on the Right have so far been wise enough to recognize that they need all their major factions. So we can read libertarians comment on their resentment of social and religious conservatives. Also, economic conservatives and libertarians oppose attempts to appeal to old folks with spending proposals aimed at them. Yet politicians recognize that there aren't enough libertarian or economic conservative voters to win elections and hence politicians continue to try to appeal to the various factions on the Right to put together enough support to win elections. Libertarians appear to be the faction least likely to recognize the necessity of these coaltions. But most leading figures in other factions do seem to recognize the necessity of making compromises with other factions on the Right.

Still, in spite of all these advantages is it possible that the Republican Party in the United States is still headed down the same road that the Conservative Party has been travelling in the UK? There is one really big argument for the decline of the Grand Old Party: demographics. In a nutshell, the kinds of people who are most likely to vote as Republicans are shrinking as a percentage of the electorate. Married women are more likely to vote Republican than single women are (economics rather than abortion is the biggest reason). Well, the rate of marriage is declining. Non-Jewish whites are more likely to vote Republican than any other race and, well, whites are declining as a percantage of the population. The largest rapidly growing group is Hispanics and they show no sign of shifting rightward (all Karl Rove and George W. Bush fantasies to the contrary notwithstanding). The aging of the population shifts people from the ranks of the wage earners and taxpayers into the ranks of the recipients of goverrnment social spending. Recipients of government social spending are natural Democratic Party voters. Also, the number of people holding strong Christian religious beliefs may well decline further.

So is the death of the Republican Party inevitable? Well, it might be able to respond to demographics trends by shifting leftward. After all, George Pataki was elected governor of New York and Rudi Giuliani was elected mayor of New York City in the 1990s running as Republicans. But such Republicans have a term used to describe them in Republican circles: Rino or Republican In Name Only. So if Pataki represents the future of the Republican Party then the party's ability to win at least some future elections will require Republican Party politicians to take policy positions that make current complaints of libertarians and economic conservatives about the current crop of elected Republicans and their support for increased spending seem mild in comparison. Demographic trends will most likely result in an unappealing pair of choices for the limited government Republicans: hollow victories or outright electoral defeats.

Update: A recent column by David Broder in the Washington Post provides a brief outline of just how bad the US government fiscal situation looks in future decades.

That sounds like scare talk. But the reality is that after 2013, things will get worse. The first of the baby boomers reach retirement age in 2008, and from that point on, Social Security and Medicare payments will explode, as the number of claimants rises each year. As Pete Peterson, the Republican former secretary of commerce, told the news conference where this report was presented, anyone who thinks those programs are solidly financed ought to think again. "To talk about a Social Security trust fund is a fiscal oxymoron," he said. "It isn't funded and it can't be trusted." Rather, the government faces $25 trillion of unfunded entitlement obligations.

The interesting twist in all this is that for someone who is in their 20s or 30s in the 2010s and 2020s the outlook will be rising taxes and reduction in government services that directly benefit them. The pressure to spend on seniors will tend to squeeze other forms of spending. So an increasing percentage of people in their young working years and middle age will see the government has a heavy burden that gives little back in return. This could push some people in the 20-50 age bracket rightward to embrace politicians who favor reduction in benefits for old folks.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 06 08:25 PM  Politics Anglosphere
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Medicare Drug Benefit Could Lead To Less Drug Research

David Gratzer of the Manhattan Institute argues that if the US federal government starts paying prescription drug costs then price controls and restrictions on which drugs can be used are highly likely outcomes.

At present, Washington plays a modest role in the purchase of prescription drugs. Apart from funding in-hospital prescriptions for VA and Medicare patients, the federal government bears little of the nation's annual $150 billion in prescription drug costs. Yet that's about to change in a major way. If Congress agrees on the prescription drug benefit for Medicare, the federal government will soon pay for about 20-25% of America's pharmaceutics, with influence over another 15-20%. More worrisome, though, is that if Medicare reforms go forward, Washington will become the biggest funder of prescription drug purchases in the world. With such a financial stake, Medicare bureaucrats will be tempted to directly control drug costs.

Experience overseas shows that governments that pay for prescription drugs tend to involve themselves extensively in both pricing and availability.

What is especially frightening about this prospect is that Europe already has lots of drug price controls and as a consequence US consumers effectively pay for the lion's share of money that goes into developing new drugs. The US market generates the profits that are the incentive for new drug development. If price controls come to the US as well then drug development efforts will be cut back and our life expectancies will be lower than they otherwise would be if prices stay unregulated.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 06 03:32 PM  Socialism, Capitalism
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2003 October 05 Sunday
Can Immigration Law Be Enforced?

The Center for Immigration Studies held a panel at the National Press Club on Sept 26, 2003 to discuss whether US immigration laws can actually be enforced. Would it be possible to control immigration if the laws were enforced? The panel shares my view that immigration could be controlled if only our political leaders would make a good faith effort to enforce the relevant laws in the first place. First off, Michael Cutler, former Senior Special Agent at the New York District Office of the INS:

From 1988 until 1992, I was the assigned INS representative to the Unified Intelligence Division of DEA in New York City. In that position I worked in cooperation with law enforcement personnel from virtually every federal law enforcement agency, as well as state, local, and other law enforcement personnel from other countries.

While I was in that assignment, I did an analysis of DEA arrest records. This analysis shows that some 60 percent of all individuals arrested in New York by DEA were identified as foreign-born. Nationwide, about 30 percent of the people arrested by DEA were identified as foreign-born. Those percentages remained constant for about five years, and I suspect they wouldn’t be much different today.

The violence that is attendant with the drug trade leads to the loss of many more people’s lives than the 3,000 people who perished on 9/11, and this is because of the crimes that are carried out within the borders of our country by drug traffickers.

Nearly half of all illegals came in through legals ports of entry. So the construction of a barrier on the border with Mexico would probably cut illegal immigration by about half.

It is the interior enforcement program that has been ignored and neglected for decades. There are currently approximately 10,000 Border Patrol agents working for our government nationwide. Compare that number with the 2,000 special agents who are employed by the government to enforce the immigration laws from within the United States. Consider also the fact that it is currently estimated that of the 8-12 million illegal aliens believed to be living in the United States today, nearly half of them did not run the border but rather entered the United States through ports of entry, as did the terrorists. These aliens could not have been stopped by the Border Patrol because they were lawfully admitted into the United States, meaning that only once they became deportable it was only the special agents who had the authority and the wherewithal to go after them.

Those 2,000 special agents are an even smaller number than first appears because they have a lot of other responsibilities.

We also need to consider another important issue. Border Patrol agents have a specific and narrow focus. They are responsible for the interdiction of aliens attempting to run the border and to attempt to identify, investigate, and apprehend alien smugglers. Special agents have many more missions to carry out under their jurisdictions. They are supposed to seek out and apprehend aliens who have been deported for committing serious felonies and have subsequently illegally re-entered the United States. They are supposed to conduct investigations into immigration fraud. They are supposed to conduct investigations into alien smuggling. And they are also supposed to conduct investigations involving employer sanctions.

Additionally, the special agents are also supposed to work with such organizations as the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, where I spent 10 years of my career, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Now, Congress has additionally mandated that we are supposed to also track foreign students in the United States to make certain that they go to the schools that they’ve been admitted to attend, and to implement a meaningful departure control program to make certain that people that are here for a limited time leave when they’re supposed to.

Now, additionally, it’s been announced that the new Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement will also provide agents to serve as air marshals, and also back up the United States Secret Service protecting the President, the vice president, and visiting foreign dignitaries. And all this is going to be done with what will now become a force of 5,500 agents when we merge Customs in with the immigration agents. The thing that you need to realize also, though, is that when they merge Customs with immigration, you’re going to also be doubling the area of responsibility because now all these agents will need to enforce the customs statutes as well as the immigration statutes.

Politicians respond to their own undermining of immigration law enforcement by trying to undermine it further with additional amnesties.

Today, perhaps in part because of the abysmal track record, and also because of the politicization of the entire immigration system, politicians talk about creating another amnesty as a way to bring the massive illegal alien population out of the shadows, notwithstanding that this approach was tried before. World War I was supposed to have been the war that would end all wars, and the immigration amnesty program of 1986 was supposed to be the best way of getting illegal aliens out of the shadows and restoring a measure of credibility to the thoroughly dysfunctional administration and enforcement of immigration laws. With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, we now know that World War I led to World War II, and we know that the 1986 amnesty led to perhaps one of the largest influxes of illegal aliens into the United States. And yet there are people today calling for yet another amnesty.

George W. Bush would happily sign an immigration amnesty bill if one reached his desk.

Jessica Vaughan, former Foreign Service officer and Senior Policy Analyst at CIS, discusses how an approach developed by a young US State Department Foreign Service officer, worked too well at identifying people ineligible for green cards and other immigration benefits due to illegal use of US social welfare programs. The results were predictable:

This fellow working in Paris realized that he was having a really hard time figuring out whether people were ineligible for reasons like that. So he decided to start calling social service agencies in the United States. He started with California. He found out that the state of California was very happy to provide him with this information, which was very relevant to his adjudication of the application.

Then this person went on in his next tour to serve in Manila, which is a much higher volume post in the Philippines. It’s known as a visa mill because of the number of applications that they process every year, and lots and lots of them are going to California, and lots and lots of the applicants have spent time in California. So he really got a lot of great information from California, MediCal officials in particular. Instead of just using it to do green card applications, he also started checking on people who were applying for temporary visitors’ visas, and uncovered tons and tons of fraud, including one notorious case of a Philippine Airlines pilot who was basically bringing his child over for regular leukemia treatments in the California hospitals, completely free.

So this was working so well that all these other posts found out about the program and thought it was a great idea. There were three posts in Mexico which worked out an arrangement with the state of California to get this information. Then word kind of got out among people who were applying for green cards that the embassy was actually going to check to see if you had access to services to which you were not entitled, and people started deciding to pay back the amount of the services that they’d received, so all these checks started flowing in to the California treasury from all these people who really did want their green card and they didn’t want to be found ineligible. So all this money starts flowing in and California is really loving the program. The governor at the time went and visited the consulate in Manila and went around and shook everybody's hand because he loved it so much.

Then Texas decided that it wanted to sign up because it was working so well for California. At about that time, the front office of Consular Affairs got wind of it and pretty quickly sent out a cable to all posts saying, you’ve got to stop this now. And the reason that they gave was that it was taking too much time to do these checks. This was in spite of the fact that the state of California had actually offered to pay for the positions for people to sit and do the background checks. Then the Department of Health and Human Services got involved and said, you know, this is kind of a violation of people’s privacy to be checking on what services that they’ve obtained. So the program was, as I said, working so well that it ended, even though tens of thousands of people had been found ineligible and all the consular officers really liked it a lot.

I hope that some of the other programs that we’ve instituted recently, like NCRS and SEVIS, where we’re already starting to see some good results, do not go down the same road of being found so effective that they have to be canceled.

Consider the HHS argument: the government can be made to pay medical and other benefits to foreigners who are not eligible but to investigate foreigners to see if they have used services of the government is a violation of the privacy of those same foreigners. This boggles the mind. On the other hand, it seems logical to expect a bunch of leftist bureaucrats who see their mission as handing out as increasing amounts of services and other benefits to look at any policy that would reduce their ability to do so as a threat to their mission to expand the welfare state. Plus, there are powerful interest groups fighting to give immigrants more goods and services and citizenship and those groups are going to seek to undermine any program serves as an impediment to their goals.

Mark Krikorian lists a number of methods that show promise for identifying illegal aliens but notes that as long as political leaders don't want to stop illegal immigation they will just stop any program that starts to effectively identify illegals for deportation.

Another example was just in the newspaper yesterday or the day before. The Internal Revenue Service has announced that it’s looking into sharing information from tax returns, specifically from people who file using what’s called the individual identification number, which is in place of a Social Security number, largely used by illegal aliens, though not necessarily, and sharing that information with the Homeland Security Department.

If past experience is any guide, it will work and then it will be stopped, precisely because it succeeds in deterring illegal aliens from working.

The argument for amnesties is that it is not possible to stop illegal immigration. But the United States government has repeatedly undermined any efforts that started to make serious in-roads against the problem. We have illegal immigration because a majority of our elites want it in spite of the fact that the majority of the populace wants it cut back. Our immigration policy is therefore undemocratic.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 05 09:21 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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2003 October 03 Friday
Arnie Bids For Clinton Feminist Vote

In a transparent attempt to show how much he has in common with Bill Clinton Arnold Schwarzenegger has made a naked appeal to the female voters who have low expectations for male behavior.

"And so what I want to say to you is that, yes, I have behaved badly sometimes", he continued. "Yes, it is true, that I was on rowdy movie sets and I have done things that were not right which I thought then was playful, but now I recognise that I have offended people.

"And those people that I have offended, I want to say to them, 'I am deeply sorry about that and I apologise, because this is not what I'm trying to do'."

As Gwen Stefani of No Doubt has famously asked in a song "Why do the good girls always want the bad boys?" The answer lies somewhere in the realm of human evolutionary biology no doubt. But whatever the explanation for this aspect of female human nature Arnold Schwarzenegger has demonstrated enormous foresight in preparing for his political ascent by spending years going around fondling good girls and probably quite a few not-so-good girls as well. With this latest announcement is there any doubt at all that Arnie has the California governorship sewn up? Arnie already has the steroid users vote and now has moved on toward capturing that portion of the female vote that stayed loyal to Bill Clinton even as Clinton's own bad boy persona became more strongly established.

The only thing odd about Arnie's statement is that it is rather too personal. There is none of the "mistakes were made" or "it depends on what you mean by grope" that you might expect if he was really trying to reach out to fully embrace Clinton supporters. Still, he has put in a first class performance and should be applauded for it.

The beauty of the California governor's race from the media's perspective is that it effectively glamorizes otherwise boring state politics. Purely on the basis of policy issue positions or general ideological attitudes most liberal reporters surely prefer that Bustamante would win the election. But look at the big picture. Sacramento is, politically speaking, not terribly sexy. There's a huge deficit whose development was pretty much engineered by the Democrats who dominate the legislature and by that dull Democratic governor Gray Davis (his first name evokes images of a dull gray winter sky) now in his second term. Sacramento is not near Hollywood or anywhere else especially interesting. But Arnie as governor will change that. Many more revelations about his past are waiting to be dug up. He's good at photo-ops. He physically built back up again to make T3. Plus, other action hero actors will be able to stop by to visit him and pose with him at photo-ops while tossing out some glib lines suitable for use on local news and national network news talkshows. The Terminator is going to terminate the boredom of California state politics and provide material that is good for boosting ratings. Plus, he'll even be able to make otherwise dull meetings of state governors into sources of useful news footage. Arnie knows how to bring people to the theater and we can rest assured that he will continue to bring lots of theater to politics.

Update: Does the above read as too sarcastic and cynical? Too flippant for your tastes? Seriously, California is the biggest state by population in the United States and has very serious problems. Yet state-level politics in California rarely gets the attention it deserves. It is very difficult for a political figure to run for governor because the state is so big and the news organizations in the major cities tend to give more attention to local and national matters than to state matters. Arnie's candidacy has allowed the media to glamorize of the race for the governorship. That has brought more state and national attention to California state finances, the harmful financial and social effects of lots of third world immigration, and other problems that rarely get the attention they merit. I see this as a good thing on balance. That it takes a past (present?) heavy user of testosterone and other steroids to create a media environment that brings attention to serious problems doesn't speak well of the populace and the media but that is the way it is.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 03 01:30 PM  Politics American Domestic
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2003 October 02 Thursday
Medical Uninsurance Rates Especially High Among Immigrants

As the rate of medically uninsured hits a decade high in the United States immigrants stand out as having especially high rates of being uninsured for medical costs.

Texas has the largest number of uninsured people, with one in four (24%) of its population without health care, while the lowest rate (8%) is in Minnesota.

About 30% of those in poverty, and one-third of foreign immigrants, lacked health care coverage.

The large border between Texas and Mexico makes Texas a major destination for illegal immigrants from Mexico. Note that foreign immigrants lack health care insurance at rates even higher than all those who are living in poverty. Now, immigrants make up a substantial portion of those who are in poverty. So there is considerable overlap between the two groups. But it is likely that immigrants in poverty are, on average, poorer than native born who live in poverty.

The figures provided in this report for overall lack of medical insurance seem low. This may be because all seniors have medical insurance thru Medicare and therefore they raise the average rate of those insured. It isn't clear from the report whether they were included in the total. Also, it is not clear whether those who have Medicaid coverage are included in those who are listed as uninsured.

Illegal aliens receive 30% of the money spent on Medicaid. Hispanics are medically uninsured at about two and a half times the rate of whites. It makes no sense to import large numbers of high school and even grade school drop-outs into the most advanced economy in the world. Current US immigration policy is incredibly stupid.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 02 04:20 PM  Immigration Economics
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2003 October 01 Wednesday
China Renminbi Currency Devaluation Seen As Inevitable

Businessweek sees the pressures building on China to devalue its currency.

The G7's Dubai declaration echoed the group's Plaza Accord of Sept. 22, 1985. That agreement also sought to bring the greenback down from its then-lofty heights. And it succeeded beyond the group's wildest expectations, as the dollar lost more than a third of its value vs. major currencies. Dubai suggests that history may be about to repeat itself, albeit to a more muted extent.

George W. Bush wants to get reelected. The job market continues to be weak while China's trade deficit with the United States continues at record highs.

Jasper Becker also sees devaluation of the Renminbi as inevitable because China can't keep buying up US government debt in order to prop up the exchange rate with the US dollar.

In June China had foreign currency reserves of $365bn. In order to keep the renminbi stable at about 8.28 to the dollar, China's central bank has to keep buying up surplus dollars and reinvesting them abroad. In practice this means buying US Treasury bonds. China's holdings of US Treasury bonds rose to a record $122.5bn last month, far more than any other country apart from Japan. Together Japan and China hold 41.9 per cent of the $1.35 trillion debt the US government owes the world.

Of course, a decline in the demand for US government debt combined with a decline in the value of the US dollar could unleash higher prices and higher interest rates in the face of an already weak labor market.

U.S. investors are worried that too rapid a decline in the dollar would kick up interest rates and could spell a sudden end to the recovery

A US dollar decline would boost the demand for US exports and at the same time it will reduce foreign competition for domestically produced goods and services. But that effect takes a while to play out.

The problem with the US economy at this point is that while while layoffs have declined hiring has not picked up.

The new numbers portray an economy stuck in neutral, with workers no longer losing their jobs at the rapid pace of 2001 but with relatively few new job opportunities popping up. In the last three months of 2002, 7.8 million jobs were eliminated, while 7.7 million were created, according to company records studied by the bureau.

My own suspicion is that US corporations are net hirers abroad but not in the US labor market.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 01 12:56 PM  Economics Political
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West Bank Barrier Will Not Be Extended Around Ariel

Here is some good news for the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Israeli government is not going to extend the West Bank border fence 12 miles into the West Bank to incorporate the settlement of Ariel.

The Israeli cabinet decided Wednesday not to build its separation barrier around the Jewish settlement of Ariel, but will instead erect a separate fence around the community, an official said.

A lot of settlers live in the settlements in order to get cheaper housing.

"For me, this is Israel. I live here because the money I spent on my four-bedroom house would only have bought me a parking spot in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem," says Solomon, who works in a shop in the Israeli town of Petah Tikva.

The plan instead appears to be to build barriers just around the remote settlements.

Israeli radio reports said similar barriers also would be erected east of several other settlements in the West Bank heartland, including Efrat, south of Bethlehem.

What is not clear from this report is whether the sections that would have been extended to include settlements will instead be completed but closer to the '67 boundary. If those sections are finished then the number of terrorist attacks into Israel will fall quite dramatically. The barrier that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel has greatly reduced the number of attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip. So a complete barrier between the West Bank and Israel should do the same.

The Bush Administration has leaned heavily on the Israeli government to not extend the barrier around Ariel and to keep the barrier closer to the '67 line. The Bush Administration sees settlement expansion and a barrier that extends into the West Bank as obstacles for a final two-state solution.

Settlement expansion threatens Israel's future as a Jewish state and undermines the prospect of a two-state solution with the Palestinians, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns said Monday.

There isn't going to be real peace between Israel and the Arabs for many decades and perhaps even longer regardless of what Israel does. But a clear boundary that effectively say "this is mine and that is yours" that also prevents terrorist attacks would at least make the on-going conflict take place at a lower level of casualties.

The total cost of the West Bank fence will be about $200 million dollars.

Israel has already constructed 93 miles (150 kilometers) of the barrier in the north. When finished the fence will stretch 217 miles (350 kilometers) at an estimated cost of $200 million.

Since the US border with Mexico is about 2000 miles this suggests the US could stop the flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico for a cost of less than $2 billion dollars plus some yearly additional maintenance costs as well as continued operation of the Border Patrol. That expenditure would repay itself many times over in reduced state-level government spending for Medicaid, schools, prisons, courts, police, and other costs that are generated by illegal aliens.

Update: The Israeli government has not given up on including Ariel on the Israeli side of the barrier. A barrier will be built on three sides of Ariel, north, south, and east of the settlement and then the Israelis will try to get the United States to agree to the inclusion of Ariel on the Israeli side of the main barrier.

However, at that point, Israel plans to consult with the United States about extending the fences westward until they connect with the main barrier that runs near the West Bank boundary. The result would be unbroken barriers jutting into the West Bank for 10 miles or more.

So Israel has basically pushed off the date of reckoning on whether the more distant settlements should be included as part of Israel.

For the Palestinians trapped on the Israeli side life is not much fun. (Daily Telegraph, free registration required)

Along the way, the fence directly affects the lives of some 200,000 Palestinians. It meanders to and fro, seeking to include as many West Bank settlements as possible on the Israeli side.

East of Qalqilya are the settlements of Zufin and Alfe Menashe. To protect their 6,000 Israeli inhabitants, the fence cuts four miles into the West Bank and surrounds the 42,000 Palestinians who live in Qalqilya.

Yes, for the benefit of 6,000 settlers the lives of 42,000 Palestinians are made much more difficult. You can think of it as the price the Palestinians pay for tolerating the terrorist culture they have created. Or you can think of it as a measure of how far the Israeli government will go to support the existence of Jewish settlers on the West Bank.

By Randall Parker 2003 October 01 11:42 AM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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