2004 August 31 Tuesday
Visa Rules Still Too Lax For Saudis

Joel Mowbray reports that rules for getting visas are still not as tough for Saudi Arabian nationals as for other Arabs.

Despite supposed reforms implemented by the U.S. State Department, current statistics—obtained exclusively by this columnist—reveal that nearly 90% of all Saudi visa applicants get approved. To put this in perspective, applicants in most other Arab nations—the ones that didn’t send us 15 of 19 9/11 hijackers—are refused visas three to five times more often than Saudis. (State refused multiple requests for comment.)

September 11 mastermind Khaled Sheikh Mohammed reportedly told U.S. interrogators that the reason 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis was because they had by far the easiest time getting visas. According to the 9/11 Commission, KSM personally discovered how true this was when he obtained a visa (using an alias) in July 2001 through a program known as Visa Express, which allowed all Saudis to apply for visas at travel agencies.

Mowbray is the author of a book on this topic: Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security

The world's dependence on oil is harmful to US national security. Oil money spreads Wahhabi Islam and some of the money goes to terrorism. Oil money is powerful and corrupts American politics. We need to obsolesce oil by developing other energy technologies that are cheaper, cleaner, and better for US national security.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 31 03:29 PM  Immigration Terrorism
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2004 August 29 Sunday
More Shiites Seen As Radicalized By Second Round Of Najaf Fighting

Scott Baldauf has another interesting report from Iraq for the Christian Science Monitor about how Shia Iraqis are reacting to the latest round of fighting. Baldauf claims that more Shiites are being radicalized by each round of fighting.

All sides are claiming victory in Najaf - the Americans say they expelled Sadr's forces, the Sadrists say they forced the Americans to withdraw from Najaf - but the momentum may be with Sadr. Interviews with Iraqis since the siege in Najaf ended indicate some of the moderates becoming radical, the radicals becoming suicidally committed, and the average Iraqi Shiite - while discontented with Sadr's methods - showing no sign of uniting in a backlash against him.

There might really be a silent majority still opposed to Sadr. But they aren't willing to pick up rifles to kill Mahdi warriors even as they wish the Mahdists would calm down and not fight American soldiers. There is no extremism for democracy or for liberalism in Iraq. But there is plenty of religious, nationalist, and tribal extremism.

While young impatient and violent extremists join the Mahdi Army to fight to expel American troops Sistani tries to convince the Shias to be patient and to take power through elections.

Ayatollah Sistani believes that the Shiites made a mistake in rebelling against the British in 1920, causing the colonial power to rely on the minority Sunnis, marginalizing Shiites for the rest of the century, says Cole. "Sistani is convinced that if the Shiites will just be patient, they can come to power via the ballot box. And then it will be relatively easy to just insist the Americans leave, without the need for violence."

Will an elected government dominated by Shiites Arabs be seen as sufficiently legitimate to calm all or even most of the young Mahdi fighters? Will an elected government be able to attract enough Shiites to join a government army and to fight hard to put down Sunni rebellions in Fallujah and other Sunni Triangle cities?

Anyone want to hazard a prediction of how Iraq will be 6 months from now? Will an elected government tell the US military to pack it up and leave? Or will Shiite extremists prevent a January 2005 election from being held? Will the Mahdis start round 3 of Najaf fighting in a couple of months? Or will the center of fighting shift to Sadr City?

Update: Also see my previous post Attack Pace Has Not Slackened In Iraq.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 29 08:43 PM  Mideast Iraq
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Schwarzenegger Faced With Almost 800 Bills To Pass Or Veto

The California state legislature is out of control.

Schwarzenegger and his staff have said nearly 800 bills are pending his signature. Margita Thompson, the governor’s spokeswoman, said last week that as the governor goes through the process he will look closely at the economic impacts. "The prism under which legislation is going to be looked at is going to be on job-creating and the economy," she said.

This say something extremely damming about California's legislators. How can a Governor be expected in a relatively short period of time to evaluate the merits of 800 different pieces of legislation? The same holds for the those elected threats to the commonwealth who voted for all these pieces of legislation. How could each of the state legislators of the state of California have possibly read, understood, and considered the implications of the almost 800 bills that the majority of both houses of the legislature sent to the Governor?

Plus, it must be even worse in terms of what the legislators had to read and understand because they were also voting on bills that didn't pass in their house or that didn't pass in the other house of the legislature. These people are committing legislative malpractice.

Arnie wants to cut back the work time of the California state legislators to half time so they do not have as much time to do harm.

California is one of only four states that have a full-time legislature, and Schwarzenegger contends that its members are too likely to create legislative mischief when they spend too much time in Sacramento.

Schwarzenegger won't sign a bill for illegal alien drivers licenses unless the licenses will be marked that they are illegals.

Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would scuttle the bill because it did not require a notation on the license identifying the holder as an illegal immigrant. "This legislation does not address his security concerns," said spokeswoman Margita Thompson.

Why not just deport all the illegal aliens so that there are no illegals here to try to get drivers licenses in the first place?

One proposal made for visitors here in the United States in visas is that their drivers licenses should expire on the same day their visas expire. Then any foreigners with drivers licenses that are marked as tied to a visa who overstay their visa could be caught by police any time they have to show their license for a traffic violation or other purpose. Police could be empowered to take them into custody and hold them for deportation. Had that practice been implemented then 2 of the 9/11 attackers who had overstayed their visas and who were pulled over by the police for speeding could have been deported before they could hijack airplanes. Some lives might have been saved.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 29 08:08 PM  Politics American Domestic
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China Becoming Biggest Economic Player In East Asia

China is becoming the biggest trader in Asia.

American military supremacy remains unquestioned, regional officials say. But the United States appears to be on the losing side of trade patterns. China is now South Korea's biggest trade partner, and two years ago Japan's imports from China surpassed those from the United States. Current trends show China is likely to top American trade with Southeast Asia in just a few years.

I'm sure those regional officials all know that American military supremacy is predicated upon American economic supremacy and that the days of America's role as largest economy in the world will likely end by mid 21st century at the latest.

The ability of the US to use economic power is in decline in Asia. China has more than neutralized the effects of US trade sanctions on Myanmar (a.k.a. Burma).

China has in fact capsized Washington's policy with its own trade deals, which far outweigh the value of the American penalties. The State Department estimates that Myanmar lost about $200 million in the first year of the ban on imports to the United States. At the same time, it said, trade between China and Myanmar amounted to about $1 billion in 2003.

The Chinese expect to increase trade with Myanmar to $1.5 billion by 2005. As China's economy continues to grow its trade with many countries is going to become integer multiples of US trade with those same countries. US economic influence is going to decline as a result.

The United States has peaked as a world power. The US economy will continue to grow. But continued more rapid economic growth in East and South Asia is going to cause the US economy to shrink as a fraction of the total world economy. At some point China's economy is probably going to become larger than the US economy. This means that not only will the US continue to become a relatively less important trading partner but China's economy is going to become so large that China will be able to afford to outspend the United States on military equipment.

Barring some major cataclysmic event such as a Chinese civil war or natural disaster there seems no way for Taiwan to maintain its independence unless it develops nuclear weapons. The Taiwanese would be wise to go nuclear now before China can credibly threaten to launch an attack aross the straits.

There are many things that the United States ought to be doing about the rise of China. The essential insight that ought to drive decision making by US policy makers is the knowledge that the US is going to become relatively less powerful in the future. We ought to ask ourselves what we could do now to better position ourselves once the US is not the undisputed strongest military power in the world.

Energy policy is a key area where we ought to be responding to the rise of China to find ways to prevent our national interests from being as deeply harmed by our loss of influence. We are going to become less influential in the Middle East. This is one of many reasons we should seek to develop technologies that obsolesce oil. If oil becomes obsolesced then we will have less at stake in the Middle East and our interests will be less harmed by the growing influence of a competing power. See my previous posts Saudi Arabia, Terrorism, Democracy Promotion, And Energy Policy, China Energy Consumption Growth Complicates Anti-Terrorist Efforts, and Luft And Korin On China's Rising Demand For Oil And Saudi Arabia.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 29 04:24 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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US Losing Control Of Iraqi Sunni Triangle Cities

John F. Burns and Erik Eckholm have written an excellent article on the failure of US strategy for controlling the Sunni triangle cities. (same article here)

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 28 - While American troops have been battling Islamic militants to an uncertain outcome in Najaf, the Shiite holy city, events in two Sunni Muslim cities that stand astride the crucial western approaches to Baghdad have moved significantly against American plans to build a secular democracy in Iraq.

Both of the cities, Falluja and Ramadi, and much of Anbar Province, are now controlled by fundamentalist militias, with American troops confined mainly to heavily protected forts on the desert's edge. What little influence the Americans have is asserted through wary forays in armored vehicles, and by laser-guided bombs that obliterate enemy safe houses identified by scouts who penetrate militant ranks. Even bombing raids appear to strengthen the fundamentalists, who blame the Americans for scores of civilian deaths.

When US troops pulled out of Fallujah Baathist generals were supposed to take over control of the city. But the Islamic fundamentalists have killed many of the Iraqi government officials and top officers The Baathists and scared the rest into cooperating with them. This is an important turn of events. If the ex-Baathists can not control a Sunni city then Iraq begins to look more and more like Afghanistan. Shiite fundamentalists battle for control in southern Shia cities while Sunni fundamentalists increase their control in the Sunni triangle.

It is hard to see how a central government can rule Iraq. Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is looking more and more like Afghan President Hamid Karzai whose own effective area of control doesn't extend much further than the outskirts of Kabul Afghanistan.

I've argued for partition of Iraq into Sunni Arab, Shia Arab, and Kurdish areas. Well, at this point de facto partition by regional militias appears to be well under way. The leaders who can motivate Iraqi soldiers to fight for them are regional, ethnic, and religious sect leaders. The central government is unable to motivate many people to really go to the mat for it.

Note that the Mahdi Army forms up, fights for a while, and then strikes a deal to end fighting for a while. By contrast, the Sunni fundamentalist fighters have been harder core. They have managed to maintain fairly continuous control over Fallujah and also are bolstered by a continuing influx of Sunni Jihadists (some of whom are notably reported to be Al Qaeda fighters) from the other Arab countries that are majority Sunni. The Arab Shiites, a distinct minority among all Arabs outside of Iraq, have not been able to draw on a larger body of co-religionists for support. Though no doubt Iranian agents are providing money, weapons, and other assistance.

If the Bush Administration had immediately put the old Iraqi Army in control of maintaining order after the invasion then the Iraqi Army might have been able to maintain its legitimacy in the eyes of many Iraqis. But the attempt to create a new Army makes it seem too much like a puppet of the United States rather than an independent entity with nationalistic legitimacy in its own right. The legitimacy now rests with the opponents of US occupation and with opponents of secular democracy.

At this point I am watching to see whether Sistani tries to build up his own Shia militia to oppose Sadr's Mahdi Army or whether Sistani might try to convert the Mahdis to obey him. As long as Sistani does not have his own military forces I think he's going to be in the position the Pope was in when Stalin famously remarked "How many divisions does the Pope have?" (and hundreds of years ago during some periods the Pope did command substantial military forces). Also, I'm watching to see if the Shia and Sunni militias start fighting each other. My guess is that if the US military was to pull back then the Shias and Sunnis might go at it. Perhaps if Kerry gets elected he will draw down US forces and let the Iraqis focus their fighting on each other.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 29 03:58 AM  Mideast Iraq
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On The Latest Pentagon Israel Spy Scandal

If you haven't been following the breaking scandal possibly involving neoconservative Department of Defense civilian officials, the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Israel, and intelligence on Iran then it is time to start. CBS News first broke the story that there is an Israeli spy in the Pentagon being targeted by an FBI investigation.

With ties to top Pentagon officials Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, the analyst was assigned to a unit within the Defense Department tasked with helping develop the Pentagon's Iraq policy.

The first suspected spy identified as a target of this investigation is DIA analyst Larry Franklin.

At the center of the investigation, sources said, is Lawrence A. Franklin, a career analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency who specializes in Iran and has served in the Air Force Reserve, rising to colonel. Early in the Bush administration, Franklin moved from the DIA to the Pentagon's policy branch headed by Undersecretary Douglas J. Feith, where he continued his work on Iranian affairs.

Franklin works under William J. Luti in the heavily criticised Office of Special Plans (OSP). As head of OSP Luti, in turn, is under neoconservative Douglas Feith.

Since many of the neoconservatives are Jewish it helps to keep clear that Franklin is not Jewish.

Franklin is not Jewish, but he works alongside several Jewish officials, including Harold Rhode and Mike Rubin. Doug Feith is Jewish.

The most notable Jewish neoconservatives in the Pentagon are Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and David Wurmser.

Perle, Feith, Wurmser, Shulsky, and Wolfowitz are Jews, while Luti, Hadley, Armitage, Rice, Rove, Card, Scowcroft, Fairbanks, and Powell are not.

Laura Rozen reported the spin on Franklin that Franklin thought he was just passing information to AIPAC to be passed on to the White House. However, that lame spin is seems exceedingly unlikely since the FBI first got interested in Franklin when they spotted him joining a lunch between an AIPAC lobbyist and an Israeli embassy official.

Sept. 6 issue - It was just a Washington lunch—one that the FBI happened to be monitoring. Nearly a year and a half ago, agents were monitoring a conversation between an Israeli Embassy official and a lobbyist for American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, as part of a probe into possible Israeli spying. Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, in the description of one intelligence official, another American "walked in" to the lunch out of the blue. Agents at first didn't know who the man was. They were stunned to discover he was Larry Franklin, a desk officer with the Near East and South Asia office at the Pentagon.

It seems highly likely that Franklin knew who he was dealing with.

One government official says they have a "slam dunk case" against Franklin.

Multiple sources have told CNN that the investigation is well along, and one government official described the evidence against the suspect as a "slam dunk case."

The primary motive Israel has for spying on the United States government at this point is to assess and attempt to change US policy toward Iran and toward Israel's potential actions toward Iran.

Understanding details of the U.S. assessment of Iran's nuclear program or gaining inside knowledge of how America might react to a possible Israeli preemptive military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities would be extremely valuable for the Jewish state, regional experts say.

This investigation is in addition to the investigation of Feith's office for possible passing of US secrets to Chalabi which may have ended up in Iranian hands.

The investigation is the latest embarrassing incident involving Pentagon employees. In June, federal investigators began administering polygraph examinations to civilian Pentagon employees to determine who may have disclosed classified information to Ahmad Chalabi, the former Iraqi exile leader who was once a close ally of the Pentagon.

The Chalabi investigation is also centered around the organization that Feith controls in the Pentagon.

The linkage, if any, between the two leak investigations, remains unclear. But they both center on the office of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, the Pentagon's No. 3 official.

The investigation of Franklin is part of a larger investigation that has supposedly been on-going for two years.

Investigators are trying to establish Whether anyone in the Pentagon knew what Franklin was up to.

The probe also reaches beyond Franklin, including an investigation of whether more senior officials knew of the alleged document transfers, a law enforcement official said.


Franklin also was a key link between the Defense Department and Iraqi National Congress Leader Ahmed Chalabi, according to the officials and Chalabi aides.

Consider the irony here. In dealing with AIPAC and Israeli embassy personnel Franklin may have been motivated in part by his feelings of hostility toward the Iranian government. Yet Franklin also had dealings with the INC and Chalabi and Chalabi or other INC officials may have been passing US secrets on to Iran. What a mess.

Also, if Franklin has been a key link to Chalabi's organization then he was more important in the OSP than some reports are making him out to be.

On a separate but related note Laura Rozen also reports on how well connected Douglas Feith is and how a little knowledge of the history of the Ottoman Empire and of Iraq in the 1920s shows that the neoconservatives were naive to hope for a Hashemite restoration in Iraq. I've previously discussed the delusions of the neoconservative "Clean Break" plan for the Middle East.

Also check out Steve Sailer's coverage on the spy investigation and Laura Rozen's coverage as well.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 29 03:22 AM  Elites Betrayal And Incompetence
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2004 August 27 Friday
Republican Platform Embraces Bush Immigration Amnesty

Bush has brazenly put his stealth immigration amnesty into the Republican Party platform for 2004.

Party conservatives are angry that the GOP's influential platform committee, which decides the party's principles and priorities, is endorsing President Bush's plan to create a nationwide temporary foreign worker program. That program, which the president outlined in January, would legalize the country's 8 million to 10 million illegal immigrants.

I have previously summed many reasons why Bush's immigration temporary work permit and stealth amnesty program would be a disaster. See my post Thinking About Bush's Less Than Half-Baked Worker Permit Proposal.

Having received a great deal of criticism for that proposal Bush is trying to implement it covertly by rule changes that make it easier for Mexicans to stay in the US for longer periods of time. Bush is also undermining immigration law enforcement in other areas as well.

Party operatives fear Bush's immigration position is going to keep Republicans away from the polls.

A longtime party operative confided that, in his view, "Nothing will sap turnout by our voters like amnesty. It's the complaint I hear most from our folks." Another platform delegate used an obscenity to refer to the immigration plank.

Richard Lessner, Executive Director of the American Conservative Union, says the Bush Administration inserted Bush's immigration amnesty into the Republican Party platform in the face of grass roots anger.

You have to give the Bush political operation credit: they badly outflanked the party conservatives. By the time delegates gathered here in New York for the platform committee work, the game was already over. The Bush operation made certain that the committee, selected by state parties, was packed with loyalists. Any chance of a conservative uprising over the platform was DOA. The most controversial plank in the draft platform was on immigration, specifically President Bush's proposal for a guest worker program for illegal aliens, a plan that also would put those who entered America unlawfully on the path to U.S. citizenship. This idea is wildly unpopular with grassroots Republicans and the Bush people know it. So the fix was in. Any effort by the handful of conservatives on the rubber-stamp platform committee to amend or delete the offending plank on immigration were trumped by a series of strong-arm tactics and procedural maneuverings.

Lessner also draws attention to Bush's crushing of attempts to oppose big government conservatism.

While there is much in the platform to please conservatives, there is also plenty to infuriate. Just eight years after the GOP platform called for the abolition of the U.S. Department of Education, the 2004 platform boasts, �President Bush and Congressional Republicans have provided the largest increase in federal education funding in history and the highest percentage gain since the 1960s [only a last-minute amendment deleted a reference to LBJ at this point] . . . Support for elementary and secondary education has had the largest increase in any single Presidential term since the 1960s � an increase of nearly 50 percent since 2001.�

A Texas delegate, introducing an amendment to delete this mind-boggling big government boast, said it sounded like something out of the Democratic Platform rather than anything identifiably Republican. The amendment was overwhelmingly crushed.

The Bushies made sure that Bush opponents were unable to lobby the platform committee.

"Why can't we get a list of the platform committee members?" asked Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum and a veteran conservative who led the efforts to revise the platform planks on immigration, stem cell research and other issues. "What is the big secret? They not only don't want them talking to me, they don't want them talking to each other."

"Why did drafting this political manifesto resemble the Manhattan Project developing the atomic bomb?" the conservative commentator Robert Novak asked in a column published yesterday. "The process fits the Bush White House's authoritarian aura that has tempered enthusiasm within the party on the eve of its national convention."

Bush is big on secrecy, and not only in areas related to national security. So this is pretty typical of what the Bushies do.

The latest Republican Party Presidential platform also tossed out the balanced budget plank.

But there are other significant shifts in the Republican platform compared with four years ago.

Gone is the call of 2000 for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Recession, the Bush tax cuts, and the cost of the war contributed to a record-high budget deficit.

My take on all this is that nothing less than Bush's defeat for reelection will put an end to the leftward drift of the Republican Party's leadership on immigration, government spending, racial preferences, and a great many other subjects. Bush is very obviously working to implement policies that will undermine the Republican Party's base and one of his motives may be dynastic family succession. Bush needs to lose for the good of the party. Only his defeat will set off a debate within the party on which direction it should be heading on immgration, the National Question, foreign policy, and the growth of government.

Update: David Brooks sees the coalition that makes up the Republican Party as unstable.

The 2004 convention is taking place in New York, only 80 miles away from the last one, but in a different universe. All Americans have been forced to pass through the portal marked by Sept. 11. As you look out at the delegates to this year's G.O.P. gathering, remember that these folks have fallen down a chute, and they have no idea where it lets out. When they nominated George Bush in 2000, they had no idea that Mr. Small Acts of Compassion was going to be transformed into Mr. Epic War Against Evil. They had no idea they were nominating a guy who was going to embark on a generational challenge to transform the Middle East. They had no idea they were nominating a guy who would create a huge new cabinet department for homeland security, who would not try to cut even a single government agency, who would be the first president in a generation to create a new entitlement program, the prescription drug benefit, projected to cost $534 billion over the next 10 years. They had no idea that a Republican-led government would spend federal dollars with an alacrity that Clinton never dreamed of, would create large deficits, would significantly increase the federal role in education, would increase farm subsidies, would pass campaign-finance reform and would temporarily impose tariffs on steel.


There used to be a spirit of solidarity binding all the embattled members of the conservative movement. But with conservatism ascendant, that spirit has eroded. Should Bush lose, it will be like a pack of wolves that suddenly turns on itself. The civil war over the future of the party will be ruthless and bloody. The foreign-policy realists will battle the democracy-promoting Reaganites. The immigrant-bashing nativists will battle the free marketeers. The tax-cutting growth wing will battle the fiscally prudent deficit hawks. The social conservatives will war with the social moderates, the biotech skeptics with the biotech enthusiasts, the K Street corporatists with the tariff-loving populists, the civil libertarians with the security-minded Ashcroftians. In short, the Republican Party is unstable.

Brooks' essay is quite long. Toward the end he lays out what he sees as a set of policies around which a new and more stable coalition could be built. One of his planks which I support is more government funding of energy research. Also, he calls for reform of rules for teaching credentials so that more people with relevant skills can teach. An even better reform would be the uncoupling of who lectures from who tests so that people can watch video lectures and then be tested by a credentialed institution to show that one has achieved some level of proficiency in some subject. The cost of lectures could be greatly reduced by eliminating much of the redundancy that comes from thousands of professors teaching basically the same material years after year. Let people learn by watching video lectures in their own time at their own convenience for a small fraction of the cost of live lectures.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 27 06:56 PM  Immigration Politics
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2004 August 26 Thursday
College Students Moving Rightward, Critical Of Bush

Time has an interesting article on signs of increased popularity of conservatism and libertarianism on campus.

But while professors may lean left, many students are tilting right - especially toward that brand of conservatism known as libertarianism. According to a well-regarded annual survey sponsored for the past 38 years by the American Council on Education, only 17% of last year's college freshmen thought it was important to be involved in an environmental program, half the percentage of 1992. A majority of 2003 freshmen--53%--wanted affirmative action abolished, compared with only 43% of all adults. Two-thirds of frosh favored abortion rights in 1992; only 55% did so in last year's survey. Support for gun control has slipped in recent years among the young, and last year 53% of students believed that "wealthy people should pay a larger share of taxes than they do now," compared with 72% 11 years earlier.

Time reports that these young conservatives are great admirers of Ronald Reagan but are highly critical of George W. Bush. Well, if these kids really are conservatives or libertarians their views about Bush and Reagan make perfect sense. Yes, expansion of Medicare and the Department of Education are unconservative and unlibertarian policies. Yes, the failure to enforce immigration law is unconservative (and ultimately increases the fraction of the populace that favors higher taxes and more social spending but the more ideological libertarians refuse to see that).

National Review editor Rich Lowry returned from a conservative Young America's Foundation (YAF) event and found that right wing college students found little difference between Bush and Kerry.

It's always a kick to speak at a YAF events. Any eye-batting aside, what was most notable about this year was just how many smart young conservatives out there seem to think that there are no important differences between Bush and Kerry--whether this election really matters was a question that came up repeatedly. I find it hard to fathom how someone can think that, but there you are...

It says a lot about the National Review that Lowry sees a bigger difference between Bush and Kerry on issues that matter to the Right than college student conservatives see. I think the students, less wedded to being partisan supporters of Republicans in power, have a clearer view of the politicians in Washington DC than do NR staffers. If you want to read conservatives who haven't lost their conservatism then I would suggest you read The American Conservative instead.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 26 01:19 PM  Politics American Domestic
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2004 August 25 Wednesday
Attack Pace Has Not Slackened In Iraq

The Mahdi Army is building a parallel government.

In most cities where the Mahdi Army is present, there are Mahdi Army religious courts for resolving disputes and punishing criminals; Mahdi Army police patrols; and even Mahdi Army town councils for planning social programs.

All of these services pay political dividends, earning the admiration of many Shiites who don't necessarily support Sadr or his militia. And while Sadr's militia has suffered major losses in Najaf, by standing up to the US and Iraqi forces for weeks, Sadr has also raised his stature in the eyes of many Iraqis.

If Sadr can manage to stay alive his influence may eventually eclipse that of Sistani. Besides, Sistani is old. If Sistani dies from old age will some of Sistani's current supporters shift their support to Sadr?

The emergence of a religious government in the Shia area of Iraq is an argument for partition. At least the Sunni and Kurdish areas could be kept free of control by a Shia religious government.

Sovereignty transfer has not provided any security benefit so far.

A USA TODAY database and analysis of unclassified U.S. government security reports, show attacks against U.S. and allied forces have averaged 49 a day since the hand-over of sovereignty June 28, compared with 52 a day in the four weeks leading up to the transfer.

American officials keep making wrong predictons about events in Iraq.

U.S. officials had said they expected the attacks to drop as Iraqis re-established control over their country. Their thinking: Iraqi security forces would be better at gathering intelligence, and support for militants would erode because insurgents would be attacking Iraqis rather than U.S. occupation forces.

One retired Marine Corps officer sees the battle against insurgents as lasting for 10 years if the United States is willing to stay and fight that long. That would put the United States in Iraq until 2014.

“If we have the political will and stamina to stay, I could see this going on for 10 years,” says Randolph Gangle, a retired officer who heads the Marine Corps' Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities in Quantico, Va.

Any of my optimistic hawk readers want to go on record and tell us when the level of attacks will drop to below half the current level? How about when will attacks drop to a quarter and then a tenth of the current level?

By Randall Parker 2004 August 25 03:33 PM  Mideast Iraq
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Illegal Immigrants At Least $10 Billion Net Cost At Federal Level

The Center for Immigration Studies has a new study on the costs to the federal government of illegal aliens written by Steven A. Camarota. The net cost of illegal immigrants to the US government is conservatively at least $10 billion per year.

This study is one of the first to estimate the total impact of illegal immigration on the federal budget. Most previous studies have focused on the state and local level and have examined only costs or tax payments, but not both. Based on Census Bureau data, this study finds that, when all taxes paid (direct and indirect) and all costs are considered, illegal households created a net fiscal deficit at the federal level of more than $10 billion in 2002. We also estimate that, if there was an amnesty for illegal aliens, the net fiscal deficit would grow to nearly $29 billion.

Among the findings:

Households headed by illegal aliens imposed more than $26.3 billion in costs on the federal government in 2002 and paid only $16 billion in taxes, creating a net fiscal deficit of almost $10.4 billion, or $2,700 per illegal household.

• Among the largest costs are Medicaid ($2.5 billion); treatment for the uninsured ($2.2 billion); food assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC, and free school lunches ($1.9 billion); the federal prison and court systems ($1.6 billion); and federal aid to schools ($1.4 billion).

• With nearly two-thirds of illegal aliens lacking a high school degree, the primary reason they create a fiscal deficit is their low education levels and resulting low incomes and tax payments, not their legal status or heavy use of most social services.

• On average, the costs that illegal households impose on federal coffers are less than half that of other households, but their tax payments are only one-fourth that of other households.

• Many of the costs associated with illegals are due to their American-born children, who are awarded U.S. citizenship at birth. Thus, greater efforts at barring illegals from federal programs will not reduce costs because their citizen children can continue to access them.

If illegal aliens were given amnesty and began to pay taxes and use services like households headed by legal immigrants with the same education levels, the estimated annual net fiscal deficit would increase from $2,700 per household to nearly $7,700, for a total net cost of $29 billion.

• Costs increase dramatically because unskilled immigrants with legal status — what most illegal aliens would become — can access government programs, but still tend to make very modest tax payments.

• Although legalization would increase average tax payments by 77 percent, average costs would rise by 118 percent.

A few points to note about this study:

  • They do not appear to have factored in costs and revenues at the state and local levels of government. So, for example, most of the costs of educating the children of illegal aliens are not included. Higher law enforcement costs for the local commuities due to higher crime rates among illegals are similarly not included.
  • The costs that victims pay (emotional, financial and from loss of loved ones) from crime is not factored in.
  • The need to build more public infrastructure such as roads and schools due to immigrant population growth does not appear to be included. Los Angeles is currently in the middle of a $10 billion school building project due to illegal immigrant-caused population growth.
  • The cost of racial preferences is not factored in. The bigger the Hispanic population gets the higher the costs that Caucasians and East Asians and South Asians will have to pay for racial preferences. Businesses and governments will run less efficiency as larger portions of their work forces are hired to satisfy quotas and so-called "diversity" goals.
  • Environmental costs are not considered. The higher the population density gets the higher the costs must be per person to keep total pollution down.

The problem caused by illegal immigration does not last only until descendant generations get educated to American levels. As Steve Sailer points out the Hispanic-white achievement gap is going to prevent Hsipanics as a group from ever rising to white levels of education, income, and tax paying.

Recently, while browsing Tom Wood's new "Right on Race" blog, I had a chance to ask Stefan Thernstrom what the NAEP data actually showed. He graciously provided the following raw data, to which I've added some straightforward calculations. (Number fans click here for table).

Conclusion: overall, the white-immigrant Hispanic achievement gap is actually 14% worse than the notorious white-black disparity.

But for American-born Hispanic children (not just second generation, as many might assume, but the second up through the seventh generation), the gap is 67% as large as the white-black variance.

Exactly as I predicted!

(It’s interesting that the gaps between whites and blacks and native-born and foreign Hispanics are widest among 8th graders and narrowest among 12th graders. Presumably this narrowing is partly caused by differing high school dropout rates, which remove more of the lowest-scoring minorities from the ranks of the test-takers.)

The good news: if we cut off all immigration from Latin America tomorrow, the total white-Hispanic achievement chasm would narrow over the next, say, 30 years, from more than 90% of the white-black difference down to 67%.

Steve's numbers above are consistent with Hispanic high school graduates across generations from first generation immigrants all the way through 4th generation descendants. We pay for the first generation and we keep paying for the later generations.

We should stop the influx of illegal aliens and deport the illegals that are already here. We should also change legal immgration qualifications to make college level education as the minimum required for prospective immgrants.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 25 02:29 PM  Immigration Economics
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2004 August 24 Tuesday
Benny Morris, Israel, and Demographic Trends

David B. Green, editor of the Jerusalem Report, has an interesting essay in the UK's Prospect Magazine on the topic of Israeli leftist historian Benny Morris's abandonment of his belief that the Palestinians can be bargained with. Morris, like many Israelis, has woken up to the fact that their state is threatened by a demographic trend.

That was only the beginning. Earlier this year, Morris gave an interview to Ha'aretz, the Tel-Aviv based daily broadsheet. He explained that his research for a recently revised edition of the Palestinian Refugee Problem had turned up more evidence of murder and rape of Palestinians. In addition, he had found confirmation of numerous cases in which ethnic cleansing of Arabs from territory Jews were trying to consolidate had been policy and not just the by-product of a defensive war. "Transfer," he wrote in the book, "was inevitable and in-built into Zionism - because it sought to transform a land which was 'Arab' into a 'Jewish' state and a Jewish state could not have arisen without a major displacement of the Arab population."

Yet far from wringing his hands over these new revelations, Morris explained that Israelis, at least, would probably have been better off had they completed the expulsion of the Palestinians from the entire land - the Mediterranean to the Jordan river - in 1948. Israel's leader, David Ben-Gurion, he argued, had got cold feet. "If the end of the story turns out to be a gloomy one for the Jews, it will be because Ben-Gurion did not complete the transfer in 1948. Because he left a large and volatile demographic reserve in the West Bank and Gaza and within Israel itself." As a consequence, Israel was burdened not only with some 3.5m Palestinians in the occupied territories, but also with a large minority population of Arab citizens in Israel proper (today 1.2m out of a total population of 6m), and they constitute a "timebomb" and a "potential fifth column." He contemplated (some might say relished) the possibility that some day, if Israel were exposed to an existential threat from, say, Egypt and Syria, it might have no alternative but to complete the expulsion begun more than 50 years earlier.

Demographic trends ran in a direction favorable to the Jews in Palestine and Israel for most of the 20th century. They came to take favorable demographic trends for granted and made some large and damaging miscalculations as a result. Leaving the question of fairness aside, the Israeli Jews were unwise to build settlements on the West Bank because those settlements depended upon a continued favorable demographic environment. But at some point Jews as a percentage of the population west of the Jordan river peaked and began a decline which now looks set to continue for decades to come.

Aside: Does anyone know in what year Jews peaked as a percentage of the total population west of the Jordan River? Also, when did Jews peak as a percentage of the population of Israel proper? It would be interesting to see a chart showing the percentages of Jews, Muslims, Christians, and others west of the Jordan River over the last 100 years.

The demographic trends in Israel and surrounding environs make the security barrier between the West Bank and Israel absolutely necessary for the security of Israel. The only issue that ought to be debated about the barrier is its exact route.

Demographic trends due to immigration and low native birth rates in Europe and the United States are also unfavorable. The West needs to embrace very vigorous border control and restrictive immigration policies or the character of Western societies will experience large changes for the worse.

Morris's books trace the development of his thinking as he delved into history but then also reacted to the second intifada. See The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, and Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 24 01:05 PM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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2004 August 23 Monday
Civil War Brewing In Republican Party?

Pat Buchanan comments on Jack Kemp's demonization of immigration restrictionists.

“A struggle is underway for the soul of the Republican Party between a minority of protectionist xenophobes and those who are pro-trade and pro-immigration.”

Thus does Jack Kemp begin a column in which he jettisons the black conservative running for Congress in North Carolina whom he earlier endorsed. Kemp accuses Vernon Robinson of “running a very negative and aggressive anti-immigration campaign ... contrary to the core values of the party of Lincoln.”

Jack is right about that struggle for the soul of the party. But why is it necessary to demonize disagreement? Webster’s defines xenophobia as “fear and hatred of strangers and foreigners.” What evidence is there that Vernon Robinson is not a man of good heart?

The Open Borders crowd in the Republican Party thinks nothing of demonizing immigration restrictionists. For another example see Tamar Jacoby's demonization of immigration restrictionists as descendants of the Know Nothing Party and the KKK. Though perhaps is Jacoby a Democrat? It is hard to tell party neoconservatives think they are in.

My take on this phenomenon is that if the Open Borders Republicans want to demonize immigration restrictionist Republicans while the Open Borders Republicans hold top leadership spots in Congress and the Bush Administration then the Republican Party should no be able to count on the votes of immigration restrictionists. If the Open Borders crowd want to take the position that we are somehow beyond the pale then I take the hint: I won't vote for them.

You think I'm overreacting? George W. Bush says non-neocon critics of his democracy strategy are racists. This prompted angry retorts from liberal Josh Marshall, conservative George Will, and the Derb. Bush basically says his critics in his own party are morally defective.

Pat Buchanan has a new book coming out: Where the Right Went Wrong : How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency. Drudge has a bunch of snippets from the book.

“There is no conservative party left in Washington. Conservative thinkers and writers who were to be the watchdogs of orthodoxy have been as vigilant in policing party deviations from principle as was Cardinal Law in collaring the predator-priests of the Boston archdiocese.” (Page 9)

“The Beltway Right has entered into a civil union with Big Brother.” (Page 176)

“Under the rubric of conservatism, the Republican party of Bush I and II has been reinventing itself into what conservatives would have once recognized as a Rockefeller party reciting Reaganite rhetoric.” (234)

“[A] civil war is going to break out inside the Republican Party along the old trench lines of the Goldwater-Rockefeller wars of the 1960s, a war for the heart and soul and future of the party for the new century.” (234)

In spite of Buchanan's obvious displeasure with Bush's foreign policy, trade policy, and immigration policy he still sees a silver lining in Bush's second term with judicial appointments. I wish I shared Pat's optimism on that score. If Bush appoints Alberto Gonzales to the US Supreme Court then we will get more racial quotas and other rather unconservative legal edicts from on high.

The Bushes are doing enormous harm to the Republican Party. It is time for Republicans to wake up and take notice.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 23 03:15 AM  Politics American Domestic
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George P. Bush Calls Border Control Paintball Guns "Reprehensible"

George P. Bush is George W. Bush's nephew and son of Florida governor Jeb Bush and his Mexican wife. George P. Bush doesn't want illegal aliens of his race shot by chile powder projectiles.

"If there has been American approval for this policy, that is reprehensible," Bush said of the guns, essentially paintball projectiles filled with chile powder. "It's kind of barbarous."

Speaking in sometimes halting Spanish mixed with English, he said his uncle was not blame for the gun policy, which has angered Mexicans; instead, he blamed it on "some local INS (Immigration) guy who's trying to be tough, act macho."

The Border Patrol has been using pellet guns for a few years with no lasting harm.

The pellet guns, which were approved at the federal level, have been used on a trial basis since 2001 in California and Arizona. Border Patrol agents fired the pepper balls in 81 instances from 2002 to 2003 and reported no deaths or severe injuries

George P. Bush has been saying some reprehensible things for years.

George P. Bush wants to separate his uncle from the rest of the Republican Party.

Dubya has loudly proclaimed that his close ties to Mexican-Americans shows that he is a new kind of Republican.

Confirming this, his nephew George P. Bush told reporters, "Our biggest challenge will be to separate my uncle from the rest of the Republican Party."

This, then, could be why George W. has spent so much effort promoting a wedge issue that can only split his own party. He thinks the long-run fate of his dynasty demands a new, improved Republican Party —and a new, debased America.

Some right-wingers say I shouldn't be so critical of George W. Bush. But read what George P. Bush says above. George P. Bush wants me to let W. escape from any feeling of obligation toward immigration restrictionists. My guess is that W. has already done that without my help. P. wants W. to act as if W. does not represent us. W. is already doing that. Well, okay then. I accept this as a done deal already.

P. Bush obviously wants to change the Republican Party to no longer represent the views of people like the ParaPundit.

"This is a President who represents the diversity of our society, who we can count on to change the Republican Party to represent our views,"


"She told me we have to fight for our race, we have to find the leaders who represent us," he said in fluent Spanish.

P. Bush wants the Republican Party to fight for Hispanics. I'm guessing he wants to do that at the expense of whites. Well, I'm white. I think he wants to change the Republican Party at my expense. Am I mistaken? I also agree with Steve Sailer's analysis that W. is pursuing a wedge issue in his own party by promoting Mexican immigration in order to promote the political futures of his brother Jeb and nephew George P. Well, the Republican Party would be better off without the Bushes. They've caused enough damage as it is. Be gone with them.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 23 02:55 AM  Immigration Politics
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2004 August 20 Friday
European Union To Build Fence Along New Eastern Border

The EU is going to be a fence to prevent illegal movement of people into the EU from Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine.

The fence is being built to separate recently added EU members Poland and Hungary from their new neighbors – Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. The EU said the fence is necessary to "prevent the free movement of migrants seeking to enter" EU territory.

Leaders in the EU have of course repeatedly condemned Israel's construction of a barrier (fence in some sections, concrete wall in others and with sensors, access road, and other support elements) to keep Palestinian terrorists from killing Jews. Part of the opposition to the barrier is its routing. It cuts many miles into the West Bank to take in isolated Jewish settlements and I agree with the critics who argue that the Israelis should not cut up the West Bank in this manner. However, the Israelis definitely should build a barrier to separate themselves from the Palestinians. The only question to debate is its exact routing.

"It's incredible the EU has no problem building a fence just to keep illegal immigrants out, but when the Jewish State builds a security fence as a last resort for the purpose of keeping terrorists out and saving Israeli lives, we are blasted by them and the U.N.," a spokesman for Ariel Sharon told WorldNetDaily. "Makes you think, doesn't it?"

Yes it does make me think. But my thoughts are a bit different than those of the Ariel Sharon spokesman. My thoughts on both the EU and Israeli fences translate into feelings of envy: The United States should emulate Israel and the EU and build our own barrier along our border with Mexico in order to keep out both illegal aliens and terrorists.

A barrier along the US-Mexican border would cost less than $10 billion and would pay for itself just from a reduction of taxpayer expenditures on health care for illegal aliens.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 20 12:32 PM  Immigration Border Barrier
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Whole Iraqi Army Batallion Deserts, More Desertions Predicted

Iraqi Army recruits will not fight for the US side in Najaf.

Sunday's showdown in Najaf was troubled even before the fighting resumed. Officials from the Iraqi defense ministry said that more than 100 Iraqi national guardsmen and a battalion of Iraqi soldiers chose to quit rather than attack fellow Iraqis in a city that includes some of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam. An Iraqi army battalion generally consists of 600 to 900 soldiers. U.S. military officials would not confirm the resignations.

“We received a report that a whole battalion (in Najaf) threw down their rifles,” said one high-ranking defense ministry official. He did not want his name published because he is not an official spokesman. “We expected this, and we expect it again and again,” he said.

The rebels in Lexington and Concord fighting for their freedom from the British and for the right to rule themselves through democratically elected governments did not desert en masse. Where are the Iraqi pro-liberal democracy forces? Why aren't thousands of Najaf residents rising up to shoot down the Mahdi Army fighters in the streets?

The US is responding the lack reliable Iraqi allies by increasingly bringing air power into urban fighting.

Now that significant portions of Iraq, city by city, seem to be blinking off the US map, our military is increasingly releasing air power as the weapon of choice in those heavily populated urban areas. In the past week, we have bombed, missiled or strafed (sometimes a combination of all three) in Sadr City, the Shi'ite slum holding an estimated 2 million of Baghdad's inhabitants, Samarra, Kut, Najaf, Fallujah (more than once) and possibly in Ramadi and Hilla as well among other places.

Of course the civilians losing family members to the air barrages could rise up and kill the Mahdi fighters to rid themselves of the Mahdis. But the Iraqi Shias are not rising up en masse to support the Iraqi government.

Saddam Hussein, lacking American scruples, hit the Shrine of Ali with artillery barrages in order to put down the Shia rebellion of 1991 (which George Bush Sr. helped to foment).

If the Americans and Iraqi Army do end up assaulting the Shrine of Ali, they will not be the first. Hussein threw the full force of his military against the shrine in 1991 after Shiite rebels launched an abortive rebellion. Artillery barrages damaged the shrine complex and special-forces soldiers killed the rebels inside the complex itself. The brutality of this crackdown at such a holy site turned most Shiites against Hussein, even those who had defended him in the past.

As long as the United States can not find any way to appeal to the masses of Iraqi people to get them motivated to fight against the insurgents it is hard to see how the situation in Iraq is oging to turn out as some sort of victory for the US. Eventually US forces will leave. Then civil war will most likely ensue. At least if we partition before departing we could end up with Kurdish allies in control of the north of Iraq. Those Kurdish allies would actually like us. They would definitely want the US to keep bases on their territory to defend them and they would control substantial oil fields.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 20 11:57 AM  MidEast Iraq New Regime Failures
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Will Oil Prices Hit $70 Per Barrel?

The August 19, 2004 oil price peak of $48.70 per barrel may be cheap compared to even higher prices which may be in store.

No market goes up forever. But Philip Verleger, a respected energy economist, warns that over the next several years, the price pressure will probably get worse. "Prices may rise to $50 per barrel, or $60 per barrel, or even $70 per barrel," he writes in a recent report to clients. "They will likely remain there until growth in petroleum demand slows down enough to match available refining, logistical and productive capacity."

Note that in inflation-adjusted terms during the Iranian hostage crisis the price of oil hit $75 per barrel in 2004 dollars.

Higher oil prices cut economic growth.

High Frequency Economics says that every $10 increase in the price of a barrel of oil lowers its GDP growth expectations by six tenths of a percentage point. All of which feeds back into increased nervousness on Wall Street--and perhaps at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Not all economists agree on how much smaller the GDP will be for each additional $10 per barrel increase in oil prices. David Wyss, chief economist for Standard & Poor's, sees the economic threat to the economy from high oil prices as being exaggerated by others.

Every $10-per-barrel hike in oil prices reduces economic growth for the next year by about 0.25% to 0.35%, largely by reducing real consumer disposable income. At S&P, we have lowered our consumer disposable income forecast for 2005 to 3.6% from the 3.9% we projected last month, largely because of costlier oil.


Even if oil rose to $75, it wouldn't cause a recession. It would merely lower growth, to 2.4%, from the 3.6% expected in our baseline projection.

But Stephen Roach thinks just $50 per barrel oil may be sufficient to cause a recession.

"The oil price is firmly in the danger zone," Stephen Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley in New York, wrote in a note to clients. Should prices reach $50 and stay there for several months, this would be "in the ballpark with full-blown oil shocks of the past" that have caused recessions, he said.

Roach doesn't see this economic recovery as being particularly strong and in his writings he repeatedly points to jobs figures, consumer debt, the trade deficit, and the federal deficit as factors that weigh against a robust recovery. So part of his pessimism on the potential effects of higher oil prices may be a consequence of his view of the weakness of the current economic recovery.

Surging demand from China and production cuts caused by fighting in Iraq are contributing to high prices.

China is now the world's second-largest oil consumer, and its imports are up 40 percent year-on-year to the end of July, according to recent data.

Before the latest round of violence in Najaf, Iraq had been exporting roughly 1.7 million barrels of oil per day, although volumes have fallen recently to about 900,000 barrels per day, according to a source within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries who spoke on condition of anonymity.

One of the arguments for the war in Iraq was that it would allow Iraqi oil field production to be scaled up tremendously. Well, even before the latest intensification of fighting in Iraq the Iraqi oil fields were still poducing less than they were in Saddam Hussein's final days. The political stability needed to enable substantial investment in Iraqi oil fields remains a distant prospect.

Energy ecnomist Philip Verleger mentioned above has an article on his web site making his argument that current US energy policy undermines US attempts to stop terrorists. (PDF format)

However, the United States and other countries have taken a different approach to the problem. In lieu of adopting energy policies that support the war on terrorism, they have fallen back on other plans that have been tried before and failed. One of these programs involves attacking terrorist financing. This approach echoes the unsuccessful attempt to cut off funding for Colombian drug lords, where international cash flows were scrutinized, bank deposits seized, and organizations closed down. This kind of effort disrupts but clearly does not stop the flow of funds. In the end, Americans, Europeans, and Asians are as vulnerable as ever to attack.

Meanwhile, the energy policy pursued by the United States has contributed to an increase in world oil prices, likely boosting the cash flow to the terrorists. A policy of aggressive ly acquiring crude for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, directed by the Department of Energy, has raised oil prices by between $3 and $6 per barrel, thus augmenting Saudi Arabia’s income. At the same time, policies that provide tax subsid ies to anyone who buys an SUV weighing more than 6,000 pounds have contributed to the 1.8 percent per annum increase in gasoline consumption. Lastly, in considering the energy bill now awaiting final passage, Congress has refused to adopt any measures that would encourage greater fuel economy in automobiles or SUVs. This situation sends a very clear message to the world : US Energy Policy Supports Terrorists and Opposes the War on Terrorism.

Verleger makes arguments very similar to arguments I've made here repeatedly. For my own arguments on energy policy and terrorism see my previous posts Saudi Arabia, Terrorism, Democracy Promotion, And Energy Policy, China Energy Consumption Growth Complicates Anti-Terrorist Efforts, Energy Policy, Islamic Terrorism, And Grand Strategy, and Luft And Korin On China's Rising Demand For Oil And Saudi Arabia.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 20 02:23 AM  Economics Political
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2004 August 18 Wednesday
Business Economists See Terrorism, Aging Populations Biggest Problems

The National Association of Business Economists (NABE) Economic Policy Survey polled 172 members to rank their views on the most important issues for the US President to address in the next presidential term. The business economists see terrorism as the biggest short term threat to the economy.

Terrorism remains the biggest short-term problem facing the U.S. economy this year, according to 40% of respondents, up from 19% in March. The deficit was chosen by 23% of respondents.

We separated long-term from short-term concerns for this survey. In the longer run, the rising elderly population and related health care costs are the primary problems. The rising elderly population and the concomitant rise in the dependency ratio were the prime long-term worries for 23% of panelists (down from 27%), while 22% focused on health care costs (up from 19%). The federal deficit was chosen by 17% (down from 24%) as a significant long-term problem.

The Bush Administration has failed in their handling of the terrorist threat in an important way: weak border control policy. Far better border control policies must be part of a complete response aimed at reducing the threat to terrorism. If policies make it harder for terrorists to enter the country on visas then the terrorists will just come over land borders from Mexico and Canada illegally or jump off of ships in ports. The border with Mexico is the biggest threat on this score. But Bush's pandering for Hispanic votes prevents him from closing the border. A barrier on the US-Mexico border is affordable and would pay for itself every year just for reduced costs for health care provided by US taxpayers.

Another way of looking at the concerns of the economists is a look at how they think the next US President should spend his time.

The new president should concentrate one-quarter of his time on terrorism. We asked what percentage of his time and energy should be spent on different issues. The panel recommended that 25% of his time be spent on the Middle East and terrorism. He should spend 17% on reducing the deficit, 16% on health-care reform, and 14% on social security reform. Energy policy should account for 11% of his attention, trade 8%, and education 6%. No other problem should account for more than 1% of his time.

I would reduce the amount of time allocated to reducing the immediate deficit and on social security reform to shift more attention to old age health care. The unfunded liabilities for Medicare are in the range of tens of trillions of dollars. In particular, I would look at formulating policies to achieve the following goals:

  • Reduce the cost and time needed to get drugs to market. Allow drugs for all fatal illnesses to be made available for use once Phase II trials have been completed. Do not require sufferers of fatal diseases to wait for Phase III approval.
  • Fund comparative studies of more and less expensive treatment methods with an eye toward finding cheaper ways to treat major diseases.
  • Change how the government spends health care dollars in the Medicare program, Veterans Administration, and with government employee health care programs to create incentives for a migration to electronic medical records keeping and more rapid exchange and comparison of medical tests between doctors and pharmacies dealing with the same patient.
  • Use the VA and military to try out expert systems aimed at diagnosis as a way to reduce doctor visits and diagnostic and treatment mistakes. Interface the expert systems to the medical records systems to catch errors and unoptimal treatments automatically.
  • Accelerate research on disorders that are expensive to treat that also look like they could be more rapidly cured than other diseases. Basically, allocate research funding with the goal of finding cheap ways to treat diseases.
  • Accelerate research on therapies to reverse aging. Once we can slow, stop, and reverse aging we will no longer have a huge financial burden from taking care of old folks.

Science policy could play a much more productive role in reducing unfunded future liabilities. Better science policy and higher research funding would also increase our life expectancies and allow us to enjoy better health for longer periods of time. So it is an especially appealing tool to use in tackling the financial problems posed by an aging population.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 18 04:45 PM  Economics Political
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2004 August 17 Tuesday
Reporter Visits With Civilians Caught On Najaf Frontline Fighting

Writing for the Christian Science Monitor Scott Baldauf was in Najaf covering the fighting between US forces and Sadr's Mahdi Army and had to take refuge in a house with local civilian non-combatants. Baldauf found that the local Shias disliked the Mahdi Army but disliked the US forces even more.

At 10 a.m., the Najafis are in their front guest room. Seated on the floor, a cushion at his elbow, neighbor Ahmed al-Ramahe rues the day he ever heard of the Mahdi Army or its 30-year-old radical Shiite leader, Moqtada al-Sadr. "They say they're fighting for freedom, but they're killing more people than Saddam Hussein," he says, and the other men nod. "They know it's impossible for them to win this war. And we're stuck in the middle. We get most of the casualties. The Mahdi Army are just shooting foolishly, destroying our houses."

Two of the same men who nodded in agreement about their dislike for the Mahdi Army also caught a 15 year old kid spying on the Mahdi fighters and turned the kid over to the Mahdis to almost certainly be killed.

Back inside the courtyard, Ahmed and Sameer tell of their disappointment with the Americans. Originally, they greeted the Americans as liberators from Saddam Hussein, who repressed Iraq's Shiite majority. Now they see the Americans as occupiers. As moderate Shiites who follow the moderate Shiite Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani, they originally condemned the Mahdi Army's hopeless fight against the powerful Americans - and the inevitable death and destruction it will bring - but now they sympathize with the Mahdi Army fighters.

Ahmed tells how he and Sameer discovered a 15-year old boy who had been acting as a spy for the Americans. He had been carrying a GPS (global positioning system) device in his sleeve, marking the positions of all the Mahdi Army units in the neighborhood. Ahmed and Sameer chased the boy down, and handed him over to the Mahdi Army, knowing they would probably torture and kill him.

"We wish the Mahdi Army would defeat the Americans, even though we are not for the Mahdi Army," says Sameer.

Baldauf did a good job of capturing the sensibilities of these people. Their loyalties run to extended family, religious sect, and other places unconducive to the sort of political and social transformation that the proponents of Middle Eastern democratization dream about.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 17 04:07 PM  Mideast Iraq
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Venezuela President Hugo Chavez Wins Against Recall Effort

Hugo Chavez wins.

The leftist president of Venezuela, backed by 58 percent of voters, easily rebuffed a recall referendum on Sunday. In the course of his political career, the 48-year-old former military officer has endured jail time and overcome two well-funded electoral rivals, an abortive military coup, a general strike and, now, a well-funded, internationally supported campaign to end his presidential term early

The opposition claims massive electoral fraud.

The opposition Democratic Coordinator coalition, which said its exit polls showed 60 percent in favor of ousting Chavez and 40 percent against it, demanded a manual recount.

Two opposition-aligned directors of the National Elections Council complained they were not allowed to monitor the tallying of preliminary results, as the three pro-government directors did.

Venezuelan Catholic Cardinal José Castillo Lara joins the chorus of those claiming electoral fraud.

"Exit polls at the ballot boxes showed that there was 65% in favor of 'yes,' that is, of the revocation of the mandate, and only 35% or at most 40% in favor of the president," said the cardinal, who is an expert in juridical questions and president emeritus of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State.

If Chavez didn't win by ballot box fraud he was certainly helped by his use of oil money to buy lower class support.

Chavez might not have committed fraud. However, he did buy the election in a way, spending at least $6 billion on social 'missions' that boosted his favorable ratings from 28 percent to 40 percent in only four months.

Caracas-based analyst Michael Rowan calculates that Chavez won close to 5 million votes at a cost of about $1,200 a vote in a country where two-thirds of the population earn less than $800 a month per capita and the remaining third less than $400 a month.

The white upper class of Venezuela may flee to Florida like the white upper class of Cuba has done.

Analysts had predicted that a Chávez victory could mean more Venezuelan immigration and investment in South Florida.

The Spanish white middle and upper classes in Latin America are losing ground to the lower class Amerinds. Expect to see more populist leftists coming to power in Latin America. For more on this trend see my previous post Identity Politics Building Ethnic Conflicts In Latin America.

The other significant trend is in terms of immigration. The political empowerment of the lower classes in Latin America may make life for the middle and upper classes so difficult that United States may start to pick up a larger upper class flow from Latin America in addition to the overwhelmingly lower class immigrants we now receive. This would be a good opportunity for the United States to put in place skill-based and education-based requirements on immigrants. We could skim the most skilled off the top in Latin America and keep out the less productive and more problematic lower classes.

Update: Chavez has been arresting political opponents and undermining the independence of other institutions of Venezuelan government.

His sorry record of arresting political opponents, stacking Venezuela's courts, undermining the country's civic institutions - and his close relationship with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro - led to violence and schisms at home, and criticism abroad.

Chavez is now going to further reduce freedom of speech and other freedoms.

The day following the vote, the Chavez administration announced plans to extend government control over the judiciary, state and local police, and radio and TV.

If democracy can not even produce a liberal government in Venezuela it is a fantasy to believe that democracy catalyze the political liberalization of the Middle East. Democracy is not a panacea. Given the right circumstances the mechanisms of democracy with elections and mass voting will produce support for authoritarian dictatorships.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 17 09:47 AM  Civilizations Decay
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2004 August 15 Sunday
FDR Policies Prolonged Great Depression For Years

UCLA economists Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian argue that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt drove up wages and prices and extended the length of the 1930s economic downturn by years.

Using data collected in 1929 by the Conference Board and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Cole and Ohanian were able to establish average wages and prices across a range of industries just prior to the Depression. By adjusting for annual increases in productivity, they were able to use the 1929 benchmark to figure out what prices and wages would have been during every year of the Depression had Roosevelt's policies not gone into effect. They then compared those figures with actual prices and wages as reflected in the Conference Board data.

In the three years following the implementation of Roosevelt's policies, wages in 11 key industries averaged 25 percent higher than they otherwise would have done, the economists calculate. But unemployment was also 25 percent higher than it should have been, given gains in productivity.

Meanwhile, prices across 19 industries averaged 23 percent above where they should have been, given the state of the economy. With goods and services that much harder for consumers to afford, demand stalled and the gross national product floundered at 27 percent below where it otherwise might have been.

"High wages and high prices in an economic slump run contrary to everything we know about market forces in economic downturns," Ohanian said. "As we've seen in the past several years, salaries and prices fall when unemployment is high. By artificially inflating both, the New Deal policies short-circuited the market's self-correcting forces."

The policies were contained in the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which exempted industries from antitrust prosecution if they agreed to enter into collective bargaining agreements that significantly raised wages. Because protection from antitrust prosecution all but ensured higher prices for goods and services, a wide range of industries took the bait, Cole and Ohanian found. By 1934 more than 500 industries, which accounted for nearly 80 percent of private, non-agricultural employment, had entered into the collective bargaining agreements called for under NIRA.

Cole and Ohanian calculate that NIRA and its aftermath account for 60 percent of the weak recovery. Without the policies, they contend that the Depression would have ended in 1936 instead of the year when they believe the slump actually ended: 1943.

This is not an original argument. While it has been many years since I read Murray Rothbard's book The Great Depression my memory of it is that he made a very similar argument. The argument seems plausible to me. When the money supply collapsed from widespread bank failures what was needed was a decline in wages and prices to a clearing level point where the amount of money and prices of goods and services matched up. Instead FDR's Administration intervened to prevent the meeting of supply and demand.

The 1930s era was still the economic dark ages. Milton Friedman and Anna Jacobson Schwartz hadn't yet published their epic Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960 (they had to wait till after 1960 to publish it in order for the title to make sense). So economic policy makers didn't have a monetary theory capable of explaining what was happening. FDR's policies were akin to bleeding a patient to help recover from a severe infection. Today of course we look down on the doctors who bled patients. But we still build monuments to honor political leaders who pursued disastrous economic policies based on nothing more than primitive superstitions. The lesson? If you want to be a quack and have a great great reputation decades after you've passed from center stage then you are better off becoming a political quack than a medical or scientific quack.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 15 04:56 PM  Economics History
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Bush Border Control Move Angers United Nations

Long time ParaPundit readers are going to be surprised to learn that this writer can ever find anything positive to say about Bush Administration immigration and border control policy. But somehow the Bush Department of Homeland Security has found the backbone to make an improvement in border area deportation policy effective enough to anger the Lefties who rule the roost at the United Nations.

A confidential report conducted by the United Nations in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security has found that airport inspectors with the power to summarily deport illegal immigrants have sometimes intimidated and handcuffed travelers fleeing persecution, discouraged some from seeking political asylum and often lacked an understanding of asylum law.

Even Bill Clinton improved deportation practices at US airports (albeit, while supporting Al Gore's effective efforts to gut the mechanisms for vetting illegal alien eligibility for US citizenship).

But the United Nations noted that problems remained at American airports - where summary deportations have occurred since 1997 - even after inspectors received training about the importance of protecting asylum seekers.

The Bush Administration is going to empower Border Patrol agents to catch illegals and deport them even if the illegals have been here for a couple of weeks.

Under the new policy, border agents will summarily deport illegal immigrants caught within 100 miles of the Mexican and Canadian borders who have spent up to 14 days within the United States.

There are reasons to think this policy improvement might in some sense be an oversight on Bush's part. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may be taking its responsibility to defend the borders more seriously than Bush intended. After all, Bush DHS Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security Asa Hutchinson can not explain why the Bush Administration stopped illegal alien round-ups inland away from the Border in California. On the John and Ken Show in Los Angeles Hutchinson avoided offering a convincing explanation for why highly effective (a dozen agents rounding up about 500 illegals in a couple of weeks) illegal alien round-ups were stopped. More broadly, reorganization of immigration and border control responsibilites may make it easier for the Bush Administration to shift resources away from efforts to apprehend illegals.

As for the United Nations complaints: We shouldn't care what they think. In fact, if the UN is complaining about the United States far more often than not that is a sign we are doing something right. The United Nations bureaurcrats would like anyone who shows up on the American border and declares themselves as refugees seeking political asylum to be automatically treated as such. Of course, if the United States government accepted at face value all claims of political refugee status then eventually tens and even hundreds of millions of people would show up on America's borders and airports declaring themselves to be worthy of political asylum status.

What I want to know is this: Would the immigration and border control policy of a President Kerry be even worse than that of a 2nd term George W. Bush? Also, would Congress's response to Kerry immigration proposals be worse (i.e. more inclined to let in illegals, give them amnesties, extend them more benefits, hold back from rounding up illegals) than Congress's response to proposals coming from Bush? Another way to put this is: Would a Republican Congress (assuming the Republicans maintain their majority in the House in particular) be more inclined to say no to Bush Hispanic pandering or to Kerry Hispanic pandering?

Update: Writing for the Daily Telegraph Julin Coman reports that the Bush Administration decision to accelerate deportations along the US border with Mexico may be a response to the number of Arabs being intercepted crossing that border.

A string of alarming incidents has convinced Bush administration officials that lax immigration rules, designed to cope with the huge numbers of illegal entrants from Mexico, have become a significant loophole in the war on terror.

Over the past month, border agents from Arizona and Texas have anonymously reported recent encounters with dozens of Arab men, who have made their way across the 2,000-mile Mexican border.

ABC News has also recently reported on greater concern in the US government that Al Qaeda operatives may be using the Mexican border to sneak into the United States.

The 2,000-mile-long border with Mexico is virtually impossible to defend, officials said. And sources tell ABC News there is new intelligence that al Qaeda wants to smuggle terrorists across it.

The national security threat posed by the ease with which terrorists can pass over the US-Mexican border has been apparent for years. J. Zane Walley reported on this back in 2001 when already a large number of Middle Easterners being captured on the border with Mexico.

Another agent, of supervisory rank, stated, "The smuggling traffic of Mexicans has really slowed. We are experiencing a tremendous increase in OTMs" – border lingo for "other than Mexicans." When queried about the ethnic make up of the OTMs, he answered, "Central and South Americans, Orientals and Middle-Easterners." Middle-Easterners? "Yeah, it varies, but about one in every 10 that we catch, is from a country like Yemen or Egypt."

Former United States Attorney Peter Nunez points out that if poor Latin American peasants can cross the border and drug smugglers can bring drugs across then surely terrorists can bring themselves and bomb materials across our borders as well.

It is my belief that you cannot approach the issue of protecting America from future terrorist attacks as an isolated issue, that it is necessary to consider the broader issue of border security to include terrorism, immigration enforcement, and drug trafficking as a whole. Because the same deficiencies that exist - at least along our borders and ports of entry - that would allow a terrorist to gain entry to the U.S. are the same deficiencies that allow for the entry of millions of illegal aliens and many thousands of pounds of illegal drugs every year. After all, if hundreds of thousands of illiterate, unskilled, uneducated peasants from the interior of various Latin American countries can successfully navigate the holes in our borders and ports of entry to successfully take up residence inside the United States and remain here indefinitely, what makes anyone believe that a more sophisticated, better financed, and dedicated member of a terrorist cell could not do the same thing? If international drug traffickers can successfully smuggle hundreds of thousands of pounds of cocaine, marijuana, heroin, amphetamines, and other illegal drugs into the U.S., why is it not equally likely that a terrorist group could successfully smuggle a few pounds or gallons of biological, chemical, or nuclear material into this country? How many illegal aliens stopped by local police for a traffic violation and released under a local policy which provides sanctuary for illegal aliens could be tomorrow’s terrorist? Which student admitted on a temporary visa who overstays that visa, or in fact never shows up for school, will be the next terrorist to kill Americans?

Border control is a national security problem. It is time we started treating it as such.

Also see my previous post Illegal Alien Border Crossing Surge Seen As Terrorism Threat.

Update II: Juan Mann explains why the announcement of expedited deportation for non-Mexicans is really part of a betrayal which involves a stealth amnesty for Mexicans.

Simultaneously, in what bears the stench of a secret deal, Hutchinson announced the federal government will immediately allow what he estimated in the Media Roundtable to be 425,000 Mexican nationals to take up de facto permanent residence in the American Southwest.

They will be able to do this through an unlimited number of visits” of up to thirty-days at a time, using so-called border-crossing cards (BCCs).

Amazingly, Hutchinson also told the same press conference that there are “seven or eight million border crossing card holders.” (My emphasis).

He offered no explanation as to why all of them—not just 425,000—won’t promptly come here.

The Bush Administration continues to be the enemy of immigration restrictionists. The Bush Administration continues to find ways to defeat the will of the majority of the American people who want a decrease in the amount of immigration and a change in the mix of immigrants.

Update III: Mark Krikorian confirms Juan Mann's claim that the Bush Administration did more to facilitate than reduce the flow of illegal immigrants with its latest immigration policy changes.

But the new rules will apply only to non-Mexican and non-Canadian illegals — a minute fraction of the illegal flow. And only to those caught within 100 miles of the border. And only if they've been in the United States for no more than two weeks. And the new procedure will be applied, at first, only in the Tucson and Laredo areas. With all these carve-outs, it will be surprising if this accelerated process is applied to more than a few hundred illegals a year.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
The announcement of the new border-patrol authority was coupled with border-loosening measures. For many years, Mexicans seeking to shop or visit relatives in border areas in the U.S. have been able to get border-crossing cards (informally known as "laser visas"), which are multiple-entry permits good for travel within the border region for visits of less than 72 hours. The new policy will allow visits of up to 30 days at a time — allowing Mexicans, in effect, to live in the U.S. indefinitely, so long as they go home once each month. The motivation for the new rule is clear from the press release: "This decision was closely coordinated between Secretary for Homeland Security Tom Ridge and Mexican Secretary of Government Santiago Creel." No kidding.

George W. Bush deserves to lose in his run for reelection.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 15 03:48 PM  Immigration Terrorism
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Fierce Urban Competition Forcing Urban Hispanic Gangs Into Rural Areas

The murder of El Salvadoran immigrant and MS-13 gang member Brenda Paz in rural Shenandoah Valley Virginia by MS-13 gang members led investigators to a web of connections across rural America. A New York Times article reveals that Hispanic gangs are being forced by an excess of competition in urban areas to expand out into rural America.

Gang activity has traditionally been a function of immigration and labor-migration patterns. Today, with those patterns changing -- with unskilled jobs shifting from cities to rural regions, with sprawl pushing suburbs and exurbs deeper into the countryside -- gangs are cropping up in unexpected places: tiny counties and quaint villages, farming communities and cookie-cutter developments, small towns and tourist resorts. In Toombs County, Ga., for instance, 10 Hispanic gangs roam an area marked by cotton, tobacco and onion fields, according to Art Villegas, who tracks gang activity there for the sheriff's office.


Many rural gang members, however, are not so much drawn to the opportunities of the countryside as they are pushed out of the city. In the crowded and carved-up inner cities, competition among gangs is fierce. One block that I recently visited in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington was being contested by four different groups. In big-city barrios, trespassing on another gang's turf can get you killed. But in the countryside, the territory is wide open. Gangs operate on a franchise model, and as with fast-food outlets, the closer you get to crowded city centers, the smaller the individual turf. (Think how many McDonald's restaurants there are every few blocks downtown.) In less-populated outlying areas, by contrast, a single gang can service an entire neighborhood, town or county. For an ambitious young gang member, it is easiest to move up the ranks by moving to the countryside.


Consider, too, the picture of a far-flung criminal network that emerges from the details disclosed in law-enforcement documents about Paz's murder. Jailhouse recordings of her ex-boyfriend (against whom she was expected to testify) include calls from the detention facility in Virginia where he was held, in which he said that she needed to be ''planted so hard, she would never get up.'' MS-13 members called her in Kansas City, Mo., where United States marshals from the Witness Protection Program had her stashed away in a Marriott hotel, and were presumably able to persuade her to leave the program voluntarily. The white S.U.V. that drove her to the site of her death in Virginia had license plates from Georgia.

There is a surplus of Hispanic gang members. They can't find enough criminal work being gang members in cities and so they are franchising their gang operations into the unexplored virgin territory of rural America.

As the article points out, FBI crime statistics show a spike in murders in smaller cities and rural areas while larger police forces are able to keep the lid on in urban areas. Think about it. Rural areas are going to cease to be safe havens from urban crime if current immigration trends cotinue.

We can't take in any more Hispanic immigrants and continue to naively hope that the problems they bring will remain confined to distant cities that we can avoid visiting. We have exceeded the number we can have and still keep their criminals and gangs isolated from the rest of us. Even our rural areas are now going to be ruined by high crime. Hasn't the problem gotten bad enough that it is time to close the border with Mexico and deport all the illegals? This is doable. We just have to get angry enough in sufficient numbers to demand our politicians crack down and put an end to the current huge influx of immigrants.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 15 11:37 AM  Immigration Societal Decay
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2004 August 13 Friday
What Would Revenue Positive Immigrants Look Like?

The redoubtable Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution has posted a bullet of policy items he's like to see implemented in Bush's second term (assuming Bush gets reelected). One of Tyler's items concerns immigration and, practical economist that he is, Tyler argues for the benefits of immigrants who pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits.

7. Take in more immigrants, but demand higher levels of skills and education. At the very least, take in any revenue-positive immigrant.

A thought occurs to me: We are so far in the hole with tens of bllions of unfunded liabilities that under current entitlements rules most US citizens are currently scheduled to get more in benefits than they paid in taxes in the course of their working lives. Let us leave aside for the moment the fact that this can not work and that a financial train wreck looms in our future.

What I'm wondering is just how high would a native born person's yearly average or total working life income have to be for that person to be truly revenue-positive after retiring and having Social Security and Medicare paid for them until they die? Has anyone ever tried to calculate the answer to that question? Is the average medical doctor revenue-positive? The average lawyer? (leaving aside the externalities some of them cause) The average truck driver? The average welder? You get the idea.

Granted, all sorts of assumptions have to be made. We could assume, for example, that a person was never jailed and never collected welfare. Of course, if someone was jailed for some years they'd have to make much larger sums after release to pay back the cost of jailing plus the lost taxes on wages not collected while they are in jail.

The same question can be asked about immigrants. For immigrants the picture is more complicated. One who arrives at age 18 wasn't educated at taxpayer expense for grade school and high school for example. But the later they arrive in adulthood the less total they will pay in taxes. So there is obviously an ideal age of entry and skill level and type of education.

I can not offer a model and a set of calculations for how to determine who is "Revenue Positive" and who isn't. But think about some basic numbers. One estimate for the size of the unfunded US Social Security and Medicare liabilities is over $70 trillion. Another estimate puts it at $50 trillion. But that estimate probably doesn't take full account of the new drug benefit. That is a huge unfunded liability that is in need of some solutions that will reduce its size. As Alex Tabarrok has pointed out " demographics are the problem not the solution". But could a radical change in immigration policy at least make future immigration part of the solution?

Well, here's a step in the direction of an analysis of who pays more in taxes than they get in benefits. First off, consider the $70 trillion in unfunded liabilities could be divided across about 280 million people in America. The number may he higher than 280 million. But some of those are illegals and are not yet guaranteed to be eligible for Medicare some day. So lets go with 280 is a rough cut on the permanent US population. Well, $70 trillion divided by 280 million is an astounding $250,000 per person. A cool quarter million dollars is needed additional per person to pay current unfunded liabilities.

Any immigrant needs to pay as much as the average American does in taxes over a work career plus an additional $250,000 in taxes in order to be "Revenue Neutral" - and even more in order to be "Revenue Positive". Does that make sense? How much does the average American earn over their lifetime? How much more than that would an immigrant have to earn in order to be "Revenue Positive"?

An immigrant male who brings a foreign non-working spouse with him would have to earn enough and pay enough taxes to pay for both their liabilities. So the working male would need to pay $500,000 more in lifetime taxes than the average American. If that immigrant was taxed an average of 33% on the additional income then the immigrant would have to earn $1.5 million more of lifetime income to pay his and his wife's liabilities. Over a 40 year working career that immigrant would have to have an income that averaged $37,500 more per year than the average American worker. earns. Well, we have millions of immigrants who do not even make that amount total per year, let alone that amount more per year above the average. However a working immigrant couple would have to average only $18,750 each more per year than the average American

Of course tax rates could be raised. But some people never make much money to be taxed in the first place. Even if they worked for 50 years they still couldn't come up with enough extra income to be taxed to yield an additional $5000 per year average in taxes collected. So others will have to pay even more taxes to fund the $250,000 per person in in unfunded liability.

Currently the United States has a per capita GDP of $37,800. If every person could somehow work 7 more years and turn over all the wealth they generated to the government that would be enough to pay the unfunded liabilities. Of course that isn't possible. Aging people become less productive and less able to work. Also, most people are not going to work purely to pay taxes. So delayed retirement. while it would help, would not entirely solve the problem of unfunded liabilities.

General tax rates could be raised. But some people, if taxed at a higher level, would treat the higher taxes as a disincentive to work and would opt to produce less and spend more in leisure time or by performing activities that personally benefit them without generating taxes. For instance, one could work fewer hours at a job, earn less income, and compensate for the lower income by no longer paying for some services. For instance, a person could stop paying a house cleaner and gardener and then do that work one self. This would reduce the amount of taxes collected on activities that used to be performed as a consequence of taxable market transactions. Higher tax rates will reduce the use of services and increase the frequency with which people pursue do-it-yourselfer options.

So how high would the incomes of immigrants have to be in order for those immigrants to pay more in taxes over their working lives than they receive in beneifts while working and after retirement? That is the question we need to answer if we are going to pursue an immigration policy that is a net economic benefit for the American public.

Aside: It occurs to me that it is more expensive for society to jail a high income person (at least if the person has a productive job earning an honest income in addition to whatever got them thrown in jail) than a low income person because the lost of wages and therefore taxes while the person is jailed. For example, what taxes are never collected as a result of putting Martha Stewart in jail? Will we reach a point due to the old age funding crisis that jail sentences will be changed in ways designed to reduce losses from income lost due to incarceration? Will higher income people be given sentences that require them to get out of jail part of the day to go to work and earn taxable income? In the 2010s and 2020s the United States government (like a number of European governments) is going to become desperate for revenue. I would not rule out jail work release programs for high income criminals as one response to the country's financial plight.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 13 02:27 AM  Immigration Economics
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The Fix Is In For Afghanistan Election

The neoconservatives make the argument that if only democracy can be spread to Muslim lands the peoples of those lands would become better governed, have fewer gripes, and would not be angry enough to want to become terrorists. That is the theory. Well, Michael J. Kavanagh reports that the man the Bush Administration picked to run Afghanistan (or at least those rather limited portions of Afghanistan where the central government has any influence at all) will likely win in his first election because the election has been set up to favor only the man who is most well known.

But the way the election rules work, Afghans have little hope of hearing about any contender besides Karzai. The list of candidates wasn't finalized until July 26, and the campaign doesn't legally begin until Sept. 7, barely a month before the election. While short campaigns are not uncommon in many developed democracies, a 30-day campaign without public funding will prevent candidates from reaching a population of mostly illiterate people with little access to broadcast media (especially if they're women).

This means that the incumbent Karzai—who appointed the election management board that made these rules and whose cult-of-personality posters dot much of the dusty Afghan landscape—has more than a slight advantage over his opposition. And that's without mentioning that he has the uncritical support of the most powerful country in the world.

Does this matter? After all, most Afghans are illiterate. Plus, they are poor and split between rival tribes and ethnic groups. They do not even share a single common language. They lack many of the qualities needed for a democracy to work. One could simply say that democracy isn't going to work in Afghanistan and accept that fact.

The problem is that a significant portion of the neoconservatives and not a few liberals believe a universalistic myth that everyone is a natural liberal democrat and that the United States should promote the spread of democracy around the world with messianic zeal. The belief in this myth is getting translated into policy and with results quite harmful to US interests.

The curious thing about the universalistic liberal democracy myth is that its neoconservative promoters have repeatedly shown themselves to be quite willing to manipulate democracies and pull strings inside them to serve what the neocons perceive to be American interests. For instance, Paul Wolfowitz tried (unsuccessfully) to pressure the Turkish government into ignoring the wishes of the majority of Turks to not participate in an invasion of Iraq. Also, the neocons set up an in-house propaganda shop in the form of the Office of Special Plans to produce intelligence findings that would persuade the American public to support the invasion of Iraq.

Granted, America's own Founding Fathers didn't think that simple majority rule would produce enlightened government. The Founding Fathers rightly feared plotting factions and the excesses of majorities whipped into passions by demagogues. The US Constitution has a number of features designed to create obstacles in the way of a rapid change in government policy in response to shifts in popular passions. The very idea of representative government is in part justified by the hope that elected officials will be wiser and better informed than the public as a whole.

But if democracy is problematic even in societies that offer much more fertile ground for its growth then how can democracy possibly be a panacea for what is wrong with large swathes of the world where the conditions are far less favorable for democracy? The basic problem with the neocon vision of the spread of democracy is that societies have to change in ways that create the conditions compatible with democracy before democracy can be put into place. Many of those changes can not be orchestrated from outside and when they occur at all they are a long time coming over a period of many decades or even longer.

Given that the creation of conditions favorable to democracy takes a long time and can not be forced how can the promotion of democracy be the most expeditious way to deal with the threat of terrorism? In a nutshell, it can't. Democracy promotion is a wholly inadequate approach for dealing with the threat of Islamic terrorism.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 13 01:22 AM  MidEast Afghanistan
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2004 August 11 Wednesday
More On The Bush Medicare Drug Benefit Backfire

George W. Bush's prescription drug plan is not helping him politically.

The Medicare prescription drug benefit President Bush signed into law in December has not provided the political boost among seniors that the White House and independent analysts expected, according to a comprehensive survey released yesterday.

The Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health have released a new poll done on old folks which shows the old folks are not happy about the new prescription drug entitlement.

WASHINGTON, DC-(August 10, 2004)- Many more people on Medicare have an unfavorable than a favorable impression of the new law that adds a drug benefit to the program, but most want Congress to fix rather than repeal it, according to a new survey of the opinions of people on Medicare released today. The survey found that, as of July 2004, nearly twice as many people on Medicare have an unfavorable view of the law (47%) as have a favorable view (26%), and one in four (25%) say that they don't know enough to offer an opinion.

Overall, two out of three people on Medicare (66%) say that lawmakers in Washington should work to fix problems in the law. Much smaller numbers favor repealing the law (10%) or leaving the law as is (13%), according to a national survey of 1,223 seniors and people with disabilities who receive Medicare conducted from June 16 to July 21. The survey, Views of the New Medicare Drug Law: A Survey of People On Medicare, was conducted jointly by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health to provide insight into the opinions of the 41 million Americans on Medicare, including the 6 million people on Medicare under age 65 who have permanent disabilities.

"Fifteen months from implementation, seniors are mostly negative and very confused, but there is little evidence of a large scale backlash," said Drew Altman, President and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation. "This survey suggests that there will be big debates in the future about the prescription drug law, but they will be about improving it, not repealing it."

What will a debate about "improving it" entail? I'm sure I do not have to spell it out for you but I will anyway: "improving it" means spending more money to provide more benefits to old folks at the expense of the rest of us. George W. Bush, in one of his bigger follies, has managed to commit the taxpayers to a large increase in entitlements that sets the stage for an even larger increase in entitlments and Bush managed to engineer this large increase in government spending without improving his own electoral prospects. Look, if you are going to buy votes (suppoisedly to maintain his ability to push other policies that right-wing partisans favor - but really only for his own self) then at least get something in return for the spending. Otherwise, what is the point in inflicting this spending splurge and eventual tax burden on the populace?

John Kerry is even worse than Bush on drug policy. Kerry favors importation of price-controlled drugs from Canada and "negotiation" of lower drug prices.

You know what's happening. Your premiums, your co-payments, your deductibles have all gone through the roof.

Our health care plan for a stronger America cracks down on the waste, greed, and abuse in our health care system and will save families up to $1,000 a year on their premiums. You'll get to pick your own doctor — and patients and doctors, not insurance company bureaucrats, will make medical decisions.

Under our plan, Medicare will negotiate lower drug prices for seniors. And all Americans will be able to buy less expensive prescription drugs from countries like Canada.

The story of people struggling for health care is the story of so many Americans. But you know what, it's not the story of senators and members of Congress. Because we give ourselves great health care and you get the bill.

Well, I'm here to say, your family's health care is just as important as any politician's in Washington, D.C.

And when I'm President, America will stop being the only advanced nation in the world which fails to understand that health care is not a privilege for the wealthy, the connected, and the elected — it is a right for all Americans.

Medicare already gets the lowest prices that pharmaceutical makers provide to their other domestic customers.

An extension of price controls into the United States will lower the rate of return for investment in new drugs development and therefore will inevitably lead to a reduction in research and development budgets by pharmaceutical companies as well as a reduction of venture capital funding for biotech start-ups. As a result we will have fewer new treatments and lower life expectancies than would otherwise have been the case..

As bad as Bush is on drug policy a President Kerry would be even worse. Is it worth putting up with Bush's foreign policy folly in order to maintain the incentives of pharma and biotech companies to develop new treatments? That's a hard call.

For more on the drug benefit debacle see my previous post Republican Medicare Drug Benefit Backfires Politically.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 11 03:39 PM  Politics American Domestic
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2004 August 10 Tuesday
Christian Churches Bombed In Iraq

Simultaneous car bombs hit 5 churches in Iraq.

ASSAILANTS triggered co-ordinated explosions outside five churches in Baghdad and Mosul yesterday, killing 11 people and wounding more than 50 in the first major assault on Iraq's Christian minority since the 15-month-old insurgency began.

The attacks against Iraq's 750,000-member Christian community seemed to confirm members' fears they might be targeted as suspected collaborators with US forces amid a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism.

The Assyrian Christian main offices in Baghdad were shelled by mortars.

BAGHDAD, Iraq – The Assyrian Christian compound in Baghdad came under mortar attack yesterday, just over a week after bombers killed up to 15 Christians, news reports and church officials said.

The attacks on Iraqi Christian religious facilities is a new twist in the Iraqi civil war.

Christians, who make up about 3 per cent of Iraq's population of 25 million, have traditionally kept a relatively low profile. A spate of attacks on alcohol sellers fuelled fears that Christians might be singled out for attack, but until Sunday, their places of worship had seemed safe.

Some blame the attacks on attempts to increase distrust and disagreement between the groups.

The US military has warned that guerrillas opposed to the presence of more 160,000 foreign troops may try to deepen divisions between the country’s diverse religious communities in their campaign to destabilise Iraq.

"It is terrible and worrying because it is the first time that Christian churches are being targeted in Iraq," said the Vatican deputy spokesman, Father Ciro Benedettini. "There seems to be an attempt to heighten tensions by trying to affect all social groups, including churches," he said.

I do not totally buy the "heighten tensions" explanations. My guess is that the Sunni radicals from outside of Iraq see Christians as a group that ought to either leave or totally submit to Muslim rule. They are telling the Christians to submit to Muslim rule and to have no ambitions or involvement in the current civil war for control of the country.

As history repeats itself the Assyrian Christians want a protectorate.

This illusory British "protection" proved fatal. In July 1933, a band of armed Assyrians tried to flee into neighboring Syria, and a border skirmish erupted. Iraqi authorities portrayed it as a full-blown insurrection by an Assyrian fifth column trying to bring back their imperialist protectors. That summer, Iraqi troops and armed Kurdish tribesmen led a massacre against Assyrians, culminating in the slaughter of hundreds of helpless Assyrian villagers on August 11. On their return to Baghdad, a cheering populace showered the troops with rose water and pelted them with flowers for their victory in crushing the Assyrian "revolt."

Today, Assyrians are again asking for a protected province in the north, as well as money to fund a hotline and three safe houses for victims of anti-Christian crimes. "If we can get a zone in the north of Iraq, the rest of Iraq is going to go to hell, but we can be safe," says Mr. Joseph. "Otherwise, Chicago and San Diego and Detroit had better get ready for another flood of Assyrian refugees."

Christians probably do need their own zone if they are to be safe in Iraq. But the United States is not yet ready to accept the idea of partition. So expect to see a rising wave of Christians fleeing Iraq for Syria, Canada, Australia, and the United States as fast they can manage to get permission to go to each of these places.

Note that Syria is a desired destination for fleeing Christians because Christians are far safer in Baathist-ruled Syria where most of the top leaders are members of the minority Muslim Alawite sect. I hope the neoconservatives do not manage to get their way and get the United States to overthrow the Alawites (as Richard Perle and David Frum advocate - and some see their advocacy as a sign of insanity - though I mostly attribute it to a mixture of foolishness and divided loyalties). If that happened then Syria would cease to be a safe haven for Arab Christians. At the very least the neocons must be made to agree that the United States should be willing to accept all Christian refugees from Syria if the Syrian government is overthrown. Or the neocons ought to admit to the necessity of partition if the United States is going to overthrow secular regimes in countries that suffer from deep tribal, religious, and ethnic splits. If we are going to destroy safe havens we ought to give people new safe places to live.

Also see my previous post Assyrian Christians Trying To Flee Iraq To Escape Muslim Rule.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 10 11:16 AM  Mideast Iraq Freedom Rights
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2004 August 09 Monday
Will Vehicle Bombers Come To The USA?

An article in the Washington Post discusses various facets of the car and truck bomb threat and how easy it is to make a very powerful vehicle bomb.

On April 19, 1995, disillusioned Persian Gulf War veteran Timothy J. McVeigh and Army washout Terry L. Nichols blew the face off the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City with a 5,000-pound mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, killing 168 people.

The bomb was instructive in its power and ease of assembly. Equivalent to 4,100 pounds of dynamite, the blast damaged 312 buildings, cracked glass as far as two miles away and inflicted 80 percent of its injuries on people outside the building, up to a half-mile away. ATF officials had never studied the effects of a vehicle bomb larger than about 1,200 pounds, an ATF explosives expert said.

The components came largely from a Kansas co-op. Nichols bought two tons of fertilizer in 50-pound sacks starting seven months before the attack. McVeigh also was careful to avoid detection, renting a Ryder truck from a Junction City, Kan., body shop one state away from his target.

Today, it remains difficult to detect similar activity. Nearly 5 million tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer are sold each year in the United States. None of it is regulated, although its explosive properties are used in mining and construction and by armies around the world. Government controls are resisted by farm and chemical lobbies, who say they would burden law-abiding citizens and not thwart terrorists. U.S. law permits farmers to mix it with fuel oil for personal demolition uses.

The US government is erecting blast barriers near a fairly small number of government buildings and is going to place larger spaces between streets and newly constructed buildings in the future. But lots of large buildings already exist that are very close to streets. Also, most buildings have roads leading right up to them for underground parking lots and docks for unloading supplies. So barrier defenses against truck bombs are of fairly limited use.

Note hat McVeigh and Nichols didn't have to commit suicide in order to carry out a deadly attack. If Muslim terrorists can make it inside the United States with sufficient money and training to carry out vehicle bomb attacks they would face pretty favorable odds of succeeding in killing a lot of people. The resulting fear and the ways people would respond to that fear would exact large economic costs beyond the economic and human costs of the actual attacks.

What we do not know at this point is just how effective intelligence and law enforcement agencies are being at disrupting Al Qaeda operations. Only time will tell as to whether the tempo o terrorist attacks is headed upward or downward in Western countries. So it is hard to calculate the cost-benefit ratios of various potential defenses against terrorism.

Should a wave of vehicle bomb attacks begin in the United States then one response to consider would be the implemention of a registry for purchasers of ammonium nitrate with required proof of citizenship or legal residence. Every place that sells fertilizer could install a biometric identifier system to scan retinas or other physical features to verify identity. All purchases could be tracked and large purchasers could be required to seek a permit for making a purchase. There would be real economic costs to such a system. Therefore its implementation seems unlikely in advance of domestic bombing attacks.

In my view it makes sense to implement more effective border control, immigration, and visa policies to make it more difficult for terrorists to enter the United States in the first place. However, at this point the elites still oppose more effective control of who gets into the United States and we are probably going to have to wait until more attacks happen in the United States before public anger forces the hands of the politicians.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 09 01:51 PM  Terrorists Western Response
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2004 August 07 Saturday
Is Employment Keeping Up With Population Growth?

The employer payroll survey shows a smaller than expected increase in the total number of employed workers.

In a stunningly weak performance, the American economy effectively ceased creating jobs last month, the government reported Friday, saying just 32,000 positions were added in July.

Put that in perspective. Imagine that the economy added 12 times that number of jobs in a year. That would be 384,000 jobs. With the econoy employing about 139 million workers that number would lower the unemployment rate by less than three tenths of a percentage point if that growth rate in employment was sustained for a whole year.

Wall Street economists were forecasting much larger jobs growth for July.

Mr Bush's treasury secretary, John Snow, reflected the administration's disappointment that the gain in jobs last month had failed to match Wall Street's 228,000 forecast.

Using the payroll survey measure there are still fewer people working now than at the beginning of Bush's term of office.

Payroll jobs remain 1.5 million short of where last winter the White House said they would be by now. To avoid being the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net job loss, Bush must hope for 372,000 new jobs a month in August, September and October.

The economy has to produce a 150,000 net increase in employment per month just to keep up with population growth.

Analysts with the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal Washington think tank, said that the economy has lost 1.1million jobs since Bush took office in January 2001 and that job growth has not kept pace with the 150,000 new jobs that are needed each month to keep up with growth in the workforce population.

Note, however, that the payroll survey is only one of two major methods used to measure employment. The household survey provides a separate independent way to measure employment and the household survey is also the source of the unemployment rate.

The unemployment rate, based on the household survey paints a rosier picture of declining unemployment rates.

The unemployment rate, however, dipped to 5.5 per cent last month, from 5.6 per cent in June. The new rate was the lowest since October 2001.

The household survey paints a rosier picture.

The Labor Department said its survey of households — which includes agriculture workers and the self-employed — again showed a picture vastly different from the employers' payroll survey, with a whopping 629,000 jobs being added in July, to 139.7 million.

From the standpoint of the Presidential election what is very important is who is getting the new jobs. Are the new jobs going to voters or non-voters? Here the news looks worse for Bush's reelection prospects. See my previous posts Black Male Labor Market Participation Declines In Face Of Immigrant Influx, Non-Citizens And Illegals Getting Over A Quarter Of New Jobs, and Foreign Employment Rises In US As Native Employment Declines.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 07 03:01 PM  Economics Political
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Bush Says He Opposes Legacy Admissions For Universities

A man who has availed himself of the benefits of family connections to powerful institutions comes out against the practice of allowing people born into wealthy families of buying preferences for their kids.

President Bush said yesterday that U.S. colleges and universities should abandon a long-standing, if disputed, practice of giving preference in admissions to students with family connections.

"I think colleges ought to use merit in order for people to get in," Bush said. His remarks, before 7,000 minority journalists, were the first time the White House has addressed the issue of "legacy" admissions, the practice of giving an edge to the children of alumni.

Hypocrite. This very same George W. Bush decided to tear the guts out of Inspector General Theodore Olson's strong anti-affirmative action briefs in the University of Michigan Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz and Hamacher v. Bollinger cases in order to give the Supreme Court room in which to write an opinion supporting "diversity" as a proxy for racial preferences.

Ted Olson (a real conservative as distinct from George W. Bush) was so troubled by Bush's decision that Olson almost resigned over Michigan cases.

Much of the confusion the Bush Administration has (intentionally) engendered stems from the briefs suffering multiple personality disorder. The attacks on the Michigan system were clearly written by Ted Olson's anti-racial preference warriors, but their centerpiece -- the endorsement of phony "race-neutral" techniques that are defended on the grounds that they can reproduce the precise quotas currently in place -- was obviously dreamed up by Bush's political team. (Newsweek reported that Olson considered resigning rather than signing the briefs.)

An argument can be made that private institutions should be able to discriminate for or against any group they choose to treat differently based on a private right to free association. By contrast, government institutions should not be free to discriminate using unjustifiable prejudices because governments should treat all as legally equal in rights. But do not expect to hear either argument from Bush.

Update: Bush's opposition to legacies amounts to an attempt to undermine a valuable technique used by colleges and universities fund-raising among alumni. Well, this brings to mind another recent George W. Bush announcement.

He was in superb form yesterday, offering what may have been his best Bushism ever in a speech at a White House signing ceremony for a $417 billion defense bill.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we," he said. "They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

No argument here Mr. President. Does this mean you are going to admit that your immigration proposals are a bad bundle of ideas? Or are you going to change your mind and admit that the term the "diversity" that you trumpet is actually the label for a set of left-wing ideas that are incompatible with the basic principles of a free socieity? Unfortunately, that would be too much to hope for.

Update: PrestoPundit Greg Ransom draws attention to John Lehman's complaint (which is hardly original) that the lack of willingness to do ethnic and religious profiling on potential terrorists is causing huge amounts of effort to be wasted checking out people who are extremely unlikely to be terrorists. Greg makes the excellent point that George W. Bush has put far more effort into catering to Democrats, illegal aliens, and Arabs than he has to his own base.

In four years George Bush has sought to court and please Ted Kennedy, steel workers, Mexican foreign nationals, The NY Times, Tom Daschle, Vicente Fox, Saudi Arabia, Dan Rather, and American Islamic fundamentalists, among others. I can't think of one thing George Bush has done to seek my vote as a limited government / secure the borders Republican.

If he wants my vote, I say he has to do at least as much for me as he's been willing to do for Ted Kennedy, steel workers and illegal aliens. So here it is: fire Norm Mineta. Do it and you've got my vote. It's as easy as that.

Greg, the first paragraph strikes a strong chord and makes an excellent point. But I have a problem with your follow-on there. No offense intended but I think you are willing to sell your vote too cheaply. Granted, when the choice is between John Kerry and George W. Bush your vote is not able to buy all that much. Still, I think the Republican base gains a long term advantage in dealing with the politicians who purport to believe in our values if we make it clear to them that we will not sell our votes to them cheaply. Better that we expect them to really perform or go down to defeat. Bush has been too big a disaster at this point. The Republican Party's unprincipled pols need to learn a harsh lesson.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 07 01:38 PM  Politics American Domestic
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2004 August 05 Thursday
Dutch To Bribe Rejected Asylum Seekers To Leave

Trying to get rid of over 26,000 foreigners who have been denied asylum the Netherlands is going to bribe them to leave.

The Dutch government this week softened the blow of its tough new immigration law by offering refugee families whose asylum applications are rejected a sum of $7,200 to voluntarily leave the land of windmills, dikes, wooden shoes and Hans Brinker.

Their thinking is that the cost of monthly government benefits is high enough that bribing the illegals to leave will save money. But why can't they just round them up and put them on airplanes to their countries of origin?

As nutty as Dutch immgration policy may seem tighter enforcement and changed immigration laws are having a dramatic effect in reducing the influx of new asylum seekers and applicants for citizenship.

The number of people applying for asylum in the Netherlands fell from 43,500 in 2000 to just 13,400 in 2003. The Immigration Ministry said last week that just 4,832 asylum applications were received in the first half of this year.

And applications for Dutch citizenship are also expected to fall sharply this year, from 32,000 in 2003 to a projected 24,000 this year.

Update: Part of the problem is that, as this report on European Commission negotiations mentions, countries of origin for illegal aliens resist taking back their own nationals.

The Commission has also put forward a communication focusing on the seven re-admission agreements that the Commission is negotiating with Morocco, Russia, Pakistan, Ukraine, Algeria, China and Turkey to get them to take back their illegal immigrants. The communication says these pacts are a key element in fighting illegal immigration. Since September 2000, only four readmission agreements have been signed with Hong Kong, Macao, Sri Lanka and Albania. Finalising such agreements is proving difficult because third countries think they do not get enough in return for their efforts. They are asking the EU to open its labour market to their nationals in return for their efforts.

The Dutch have started to force immigrants to learn Dutch language and culture.

Under the new system, immigrants will be forced to pay for the courses themselves and if they successfully pass the course within three years, they will be refunded part of the costs. If they have not passed a language exam in five years, immigrants will not be issued with a permanent residence permit.

Eventually immigrants to the Netherlands will even be required to pass an integration exam before being allowed to enter the Netherlands.

AMSTERDAM — It will take at least another year before would-be permanent immigrants will be required to complete an integration exam in their country of origin before being allowed entry to the Netherlands.

Imagine the United States carrying out such a program. Millions of Mexicans would have to learn English and American ways before they can even cross the border. Only would-be immigrants motivated enough and smart enough to pass the tests would get in. Immigrant quality and willingness and ability to assimilate would rise and the numbers coming in would fall.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 05 01:16 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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2004 August 04 Wednesday
Identity Politics Building Ethnic Conflicts In Latin America

Mark Falcoff of the American Enterprise Institute surveys the current state and trends in Latin America and finds the Andes is politically in the greatest trouble.

The most troubled region politically is the Andes--Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia. Recent issues of this Outlook have discussed four of the five of these countries in some detail. Colombia has an unusually close relationship with the United States, thanks to a plan inaugurated by the Clinton administration to provide it with economic and military aid to confront the combined menace of a guerrilla insurgency and a movement of narco-gangsters both left and right. So far the U.S. role in that country has enjoyed considerable popular support, despite continual complaints from various human rights organizations. And under President Alvaro Uribe, Colombia has become one of the sturdier allies of the United States within inter-American councils, partly because both countries share an adversary in Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez.

Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador are societies slowly being strangled in the roots of their own history--the exploitation and neglect of indigenous populations is coming home to roost. Identity politics, driven by urbanization of rural folk and often funded by European NGOs, bids fair to replace the traditional class-based electoral left. The U.S. drug eradication program is unwelcome to the Indian peasantry, particularly in Bolivia, all the more so because ordinary folk have not benefited significantly from the larger export industries--minerals, oil, and natural gas. In the case of Bolivia, the political class has cleverly turned popular resentment against the foreign companies who make possible extractive activities, as opposed to the politicians who squander (and steal) the royalties they generate. The fact that many are based in the United States adds a soupçon of “anti-imperialist” flavoring to the ideological stew.

The term "indigenous populations" refers to the Amerinds who have been ruled over for centuries by the Spanish white upper class ever since the Spanish Conquest.

The Spanish white upper class in Venezuela has lost power to President Hugo Chavez becaue the poor people have voted so overwhelmingly for Chavez and his party. Chavez used the strong position of his party in the elected national assembly to rewrite the constitution to give himself more power. The poor Amerinds support Chavez against the upper class Spanish whites.

Immediately after taking office in 1999, Chavez called for the election of a Constitutional Assembly in order to reform the 1961 Constitution of the Republic of Venezuela. His party won more than 90 percent of the assembly's seats; this allowed Chavez to obtain a new, tailor-made constitution. The assembly modified the structure of the three branches of government: dissolving the existing bicameral congress, which had been controlled by the opposition, to create a unicameral congress; reshuffling the judiciary to appoint loyalists in key positions; and extending the presidential term from five to six years while allowing for immediate reelection, which had previously been prohibited. As a result of these constitutional changes, a general election took place in 2000. Chavez again won with 60 percent of the vote. To counterbalance the six-year presidential term, the 1999 constitution included a provision for one recall election following the president's first three years in office and in accordance with the wishes of 20 percent of voters.

Chavez's populist style and his unwillingness to negotiate alienated the middle class, the mainstream media, the trade unions and the business sector. Unable to request a recall election for three years, however, the opposition attempted to illegally remove Chavez from power.

In late 2003, the opposition groups collected nearly 2.5 million signatures requesting the recall of the president and 33 pro-government legislators. After several debates on the verification of signatures presumed to be forged, the National Electoral Council set the date of the referendum for Aug. 15. The question on the ballot reads: "Do you agree with terminating the popular mandate given through legitimate democratic elections to citizen Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias as president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for the current presidential term?"

"The [Chavez] administration now confronts three challenges: the mainstream media is adamantly anti-Chavez; the international public opinion distrusts the current administration; and the Venezuelan middle class, who supported the president in the 1998 election, has abandoned the boat," Perez-Linan explained. "On the other hand, Chavez still has much personal charisma and controls the Venezuelan oil revenues that sustain his education, health, and labor programs for the poor. As a result, the president remains popular among the poorest sectors in the country, which may represent as much as 70 percent of the Venezuelan population."

It says a lot about Venezuela (none of it good) that a Venezuelan President can alienate the middle class, the mainstream press, the trade unions and the business sector and yet still have favorable odds of beating a recall referendum. When the lower class is very large, of a different ethnic group than the upper class, and politically enfranchised with the vote then democracy inevitably becomes a way for the less successful to seize assets from the more successful.

On the one hand the white upper class in Latin America have been too corrupt. This process of corruption inevitably seems to happen when nations have smaller ethnically-based upper classes that are far more successful than than larger lower classes of different ethnicities (in case you were wondering what is in store for the United States in the future). On the other hand the Latin American Spaniards are on average relatively more talented than the Amerinds and so they were more competent to rule. So the loss of power by the Spanish whites and other Latin Americans of European ancestry places into power people who are less able to rule effectively.

This brings to mind Amy Chua's World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability. The market dominant Spanish white minority of Latin America are going to fare poorly under a trend toward democratization as the Spanish whites in Venezeula are learning. Even without the ethnic divisions it is unlikely that a country like Bolivia with $2400 per capita GDP or Ecuador with $3300 per capita GDP would have slim chances of maintaining their democracies for long periods of time because poor countries rarely remain democratic. Peru with $5200 per capita GDP has better odds but the continuation of its democracy is by no means assured. Of course, maintaining a democracy is no guarantee of good government, non-confiscatory taxes, prosperity, or freedom of speech. The winds from Washington DC may continue to blow in support of democracy for some time to come. So my expectation is that we will see the maintenance of the outward appearances of democratic forms of government in Latin America while some countries such as Venezuela become more authoritarian. Though popular dissatisfaction with democracy in many Latin American nations is so high that even the continuation of the outward forms of democracy is by no means certain.

What is happening in Latin America also holds obvious lessons for Iraq and for the demographic future of the United States.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 04 04:44 PM  Civilizations Decay
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2004 August 03 Tuesday
Anger Building Against Bush On Immigration

Valerie Richardson has a report on Republicans who are turning against Bush due to his position on immigration.

The anti-Bush Republicans didn't switch allegiances immediately. Terry Anderson, a conservative Los Angeles radio talk-show host who focuses on immigration issues, said frustration with the party's acceptance of the status quo — in which hundreds of thousands of illegals enter the country each year — has only recently reached the boiling point.

"At first, when I started to, you might say, bash Bush, and say how sorry I was that he was doing this, I got a lot of flak for it. People were saying, 'Well, he's still a good man, he's just getting bad advice from [adviser] Karl Rove,' " said Mr. Anderson, whose KRLA-AM talk show is syndicated in eight markets.

"Then the calls and e-mails started to change, and people were saying, 'Maybe you're right,' " he said. "Now I hear from Republicans all day long who are totally against him. These are staunch, hard-core conservative Republicans who do not like him [Bush] anymore."

Bush has given up promoting his less than half-baked worker permit and amnesty plan because he wants to get reelected. But he is probably going to take up promoting it if he gets reelected. Unless he completely shifts his position on immigration and comes out for closing the Mexican border with a barrier there is no reason to trust him on immigration. This is beginning to sink through the Republican ranks. Bush doesn't realize yet just how far he'd have to shift on immigration to win back his base. At the same time, his current position on immigration is doing nothing to help Bush with Hispanics. Bush would benefit from shifting to a restrictionist position. But I do not expect him to make such a huge shift in his position.

Count me in the ranks of those who are going to vote for a third party candidate as a protest vote. I do not believe that protest votes are wasted. Political parties must periodically be made to understand that they can't take their base for granted. In the longer run the Republican Party will be better off if Bush loses. Immigration will be one of the issues that his loss will be blamed on. We will get double bonus points as the neoconservatives (who, it bears repeating, are not really conservatives) will lose considerable influence as well. The bulk of the neocons are in favor of continued high levels of low skilled immigration anyway. So damage to their standing in the Republican Party will damage the pro-immigration coalition in the party as well.

Some neocons know that they are being hurt by their faction's position on immigration. Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy comes to mind. Though it is hard to tell whether Gaffney opposes high levels of immigration or just opposes the Bush Administration's alienation of its base over immigration. My guess is that Gaffney is not a restrictionist. But he sees immigration policy as something less important than the use of a Republican Administration to pursue neocon foreign policy goals. So he'd sacrifice neocon preferences on immigration in order to be able to have the power to implement neocon foreign policy.

Update: Over on the Claremont Institute's Remedy web log Ken Masugi argues Bush may be able to win back his disgruntled ex-supporters by trumpeting the importance of court appointees.

They are not taking anything for granted, and the campaign will camp out in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Significant conservative defections (on issues ranging from tariffs to spending to failure to veto to, worst of all, immigration) may be won back by mere mention of the courts (unmentioned, as far as I can recall, by the Boston Democrats). Will the same number or more people vote for him in 2004, in the right states, than in 2000?

Note that Masugi recognizes the scale of the damage done by Bush's immigration position. I'd also add Bush's Iraq fiasco along with the Bush Administration position on the University of Michigan racial preferences cases. Bush's placement of the winning of Hispanic votes ahead of principle led even George Will to criticise Bush's embrace of group rights. Well Ken, for myself the argument about court appointees is just not going to fly. First of all, the demographic future of the US is more important than the courts in the long run. Republicans in Congress will be very reluctant to vote for a new amnesty if Bush goes down in defeat this fall. Also, I'm betting that Bush in a second term will appoint a Hispanic who favors racial preferences to the US Supreme Court. A leading candidate is Bush White House lawyer Alberto Gonzales. Gonzales rewrote and gutted Solicitor General Theodore Olson's Supreme Court brief in the University of Michigan cases. Bush may appoint Gonzales to the Supreme Court if reelected.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 03 01:32 PM  Immigration Politics
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Heather Mac Donald: A New Latino Underclass

Another essay by Heather Mac Donald on immigration takes a look at the growing Latino underclass.

Hispanic youths, whether recent arrivals or birthright American citizens, are developing an underclass culture. Hispanic school dropout rates and teen birthrates are now the highest in the nation. Gang crime is exploding nationally - rising 50 percent from 1999 to 2002 - driven by the march of Hispanic immigration east and north across the country. Most worrisome, underclass indicators like crime and single parenthood do not improve over successive generations of Hispanics - they worsen.

Debate has recently heated up over whether Mexican immigration - unique in its scale and in other important ways - will defeat the American tradition of assimilation. The rise of underclass behavior among the progeny of Mexicans and other Central Americans must be part of that debate. There may be assimilation going on, but a significant portion of it is assimilation downward to the worst elements of American life.

So much for the much touted myth of Hispanic family values.

Many cops and youth workers blame the increase in gang appeal on the disintegration of the Hispanic family. The trends are worsening, especially for U.S.-born Hispanics. Nationally, single-parent households constituted 25 percent of all Hispanic households with minor children in 1980; by 2000, the proportion had jumped to 34 percent. The trends in teen parenthood – the marker of underclass behavior - will almost certainly affect the crime and gang rate. Hispanics now outrank blacks for teen births.

Hispanics are failing to get educated.

On the final component of underclass behavior - school failure – Hispanics are in a class by themselves. No other group drops out in greater numbers. In 2000, nearly 30 percent of Hispanics between the ages of 16 and 24 were high school dropouts nationwide, compared with about 13 percent of blacks and about 7 percent of whites.

The constant inflow of barely literate recent Mexican arrivals unquestionably brings down Hispanic education levels. But later American-born generations don't brighten the picture much. Mexican-Americans are assimilating not to the national schooling average, observed the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas this June, but to the dramatically lower "Hispanic average." In educational outcomes, concluded the bank, "Ethnicity matters."

No one knows why this is so. Every parent I spoke to said that she wanted her children to do well in school and go to college. Yet the message is often not getting across. "Hispanic parents are the kind of parents that leave it to others," explains an unwed Salvadoran welfare mother in Santa Ana. "We don't get that involved."

Heather also slams the pro-immigration argument that the Mexicans will retrace the Italian model of eventually rising educational attainment and economic success. The scale of Mexican immigration is too large and the problems span many generations past the initial immigrant generation. Samuel Huntington has pointed out that even into the 4th generation Hispanic educational attainment in America is extremely low. Meanwhile, East Asians are charging through academia with amazing achievements.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 03 12:51 PM  Immigration Societal Decay
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Oil Prices Hit $44 Per Barrel, May Rise To $50 This Winter

Oil futures prices peaked at over $44 per barrel before retreating.

Oil prices reached record levels for the second day in succession as the price of a barrel of crude in New York broke through the $44 (£24) mark to peak at $44.24.


Analysts have forecast that prices are likely to rise further ahead of winter, possibly to a peak of $50 a barrel.

So much for the conspiracy theory that the Saudis were going to cause oil prices to drop in order to help George W. Bush get reelected.

Rising demand from China and the United States combined with fears about supplies have pushed up prices.

The price was fuelled by fears of a terrorist attack in the U.S., concerns about the reliability of oil shipments from Russia - and the realisation that there may not be much that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries can do to stabilize prices.

High energy prices take money from consumers that otherwise would have been spent on other goods. This decreases demand for locally produced goods in oil consuming nations while at the same tine increasing inflation. Higher oil prices may force the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates.

The US may be more directly exposed, however, in that the Federal Reserve has not ruled out a rise in interest rates in the case of increased inflation and has slightly lowered its GDP growth forecast for 2004, now between 4.50 per cent and 4.75 per cent, ahead of a more marked slowdown in 2005 of between 3.5 per cent and 4 per cent.

US consumer spending turned down in June.

U.S. consumer spending in June took its biggest plunge since September 2001 as shoppers, sapped by high energy costs, cut back sharply on car purchases, a government report showed on Tuesday.

Consumer spending might have bounced back in July according to some preliminary reports. But rising energy prices are going to put pressure on consumer spending.

The Saudis are denying that they are having problems pumping oil.

But there is little OPEC can do to relieve the pressure: it is already operating within 5% of capacity. There are even rumours that Saudi Arabia’s state oil company is experiencing production difficulties, suggestions the kingdom strenuously denies.

The Saudis claim they have huge oil reserves. But the information which they use to make their reserve estimates is not available for other parties to examine and verify. Some analysts believe that the Saudis are exaggerating the size of their oil reserves (see the update at the bottom of that post). If the more pessimistic assessments of oil reserves are correct then the current high prices of oil may be the beginning of a trend toward still higher oil prices.

Looked at in inflation-adjusted terms the highest peak in oil prices came in 1981 when oil was almost $60 per barrel when measured in 2004 dollars. An attack on Saudi oil fields could put oil prices up to the level reached in 1981 and perhaps even well above that.

A different kind of bad news could cause oil prices to drop. A big terrorist on an oil consuming nation could lead to a reduction in economic activity that results in lower oil demand and lower oil prices.

However, Tony Nunan at Mitsubishi Corporation in Tokyo, said that should an attack happen, prices would be more likely to fall.

"After 9/11 people stopped consuming because of the uncertainty... If the target is a consuming nation, you would expect an attack to affect the market to the downside," he said.

We need a better energy policy along with better immigration and border control policies to make it harder for terrorists to get into the United States. Rising oil demand from China means more money for the Wahhabis.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 03 12:20 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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2004 August 01 Sunday
US Virgin Islands Mecca Of Immigration Law Enforcement

On the US Department of Justice web site I came across the most curious fact: The US Virgin Islands is the only part of the United States where all illegal immigrants are prosecuted for breaking the law.

The District contains separate customs zones. Unlike Puerto Rico, when persons leave this District they are required to go through U.S. Customs. Goods are duty free up to $1,200. Duties which are paid go to the Territory of the Virgin Islands. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) office in this District is very active. This is the only District which prosecutes all illegal alien cases. Recently, it was noted that the District had the 8th largest number of Immigration cases of all of the nation's 94 districts.

Anyone know the reason for this? I'm guessing that the USVI are probably seen as especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of illlegal immigrants owing their location, small size, and small population. The US government should build upon this example and extend real immigration law enforcement to other parts of the United States.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 01 08:21 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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Rod Liddle: Islam And Democracy Not Compatible

Writing in the UK Spectator Rod Liddle argues Islam and democracy are obviously not compatible. (requires free registration - and it is a site worth registering for)

It is far too early to say that Indonesia is working. Growling Muslim extremists — including the loathsome Jemaah Islamiyah, the boys who brought you the Bali bomb — gained nearly 40 per cent of the vote in the spring elections. The madrasahs continue to spew out their bilge every day, indoctrinating a new generation of Indonesians with monotheistic authoritarianism. Right now, the government is sort of secular. How long will that last?


Malaysia is the only Muslim country in the world with a tradition of democracy, albeit democracy of a somewhat paternalistic kind. However, it is a democracy in spite of Islam rather than because of it. The country has been economically dependent upon the 35 per cent of its population which is not Muslim — notably the Chinese and the Indians and, to a lesser extent, the Christians of Sarawak — and so there are safeguards and concessions to protect this sizeable and vital minority. It is largely these safeguards and, it has to be said, strong and clever leadership from Mahathir Mohamad until last November that have preserved democracy in Kuala Lumpur against every stone-age impulse from the mullahs. Neither of these qualifying conditions exist in the Middle East: there are neither the talented political leaders, nor the moderating influence of a large non-Muslim population.

Some would argue that Turkey has a stronger tradition of democracy than Malaysia. Though in Turkey the military has been playing the role of guard rails that keep the politicians from going too far toward Islamization. If the Turkish attempt to get into the European Union continues to weaken the power of the military then those guard rails will continue to decay and Islamists may eventually push the Turkish government in a far more religious direction.

Liddle relates the recent story of 4 Malays who announced they were no longer Muslims and who were arrested and thrown in jail for not acting like proper Muslims. If you are curious to know more about their case here are some links about their case. These ex-Muslims tried to argue that since they were no longer Muslims the Muslim Syariah court could no longer exercise jurisdiction over them as Muslims. The Federal Court was not amused.

The Federal Court this morning dismissed an appeal by four individuals who had renounced Islam in 1998, for a declaration that they have absolute right and freedom to practise the religion of their choice.

The four - Daud Mamat, 62, Kamariah Ali, 51, her husband, Mohamad Ya, 57 (now deceased) and Mad Yacob Ismail, 62 - had also wanted the court to declare that the Syariah Court had no jurisdiction over them in view of the fact that they had renounced Islam.

For an account of how these people were treated after renouncing Islam see this article.

In Malaysia the ruling party is feeding the trend toward more Islamization in order to compete against a more Islamic PAS.

In some areas, such as Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur, one can find mosques next to churches next to Indian and Buddhist temples. But non-Muslims still live in a country whose new Islamic-themed administrative capital houses a prominent mosque but no other house of worship; a country that since the early 1980s has become increasingly Islamized - inspired first by the Iranian Revolution and Mahathir's former charismatic deputy Anwar Ibrahim, who founded ABIM and joined Malaysia's most powerful political party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) in the 1980s; and then by government attempts to out-Islamize the hardline Parti Islam seMalaysia (PAS).

There is not an Islamic government in the world that has a democracy that looks solid.

By Randall Parker 2004 August 01 02:29 AM  Civilizations Clash Of
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