An email about the deteriorating conditions in Iraq is being circulated (see below) which is reported to be from Wall Street Journal reporter Farnaz Fassihi in Baghdad. So is it real? Yes, Fassihi really did write this rather grim email.
A lengthy letter from Baghdad she recently sent to friends "has rapidly become a global chain mail," Fassihi told Jim Romenesko on Wednesday after it was finally posted at the Poynter Institute's Web site. She confirmed writing the letter.
September 30, 2004 -- Wall Street Journal Editor Paul Steiger has come to the defense of his beleaguered Baghdad correspondent, who blasted the war in Iraq as a "disaster" that has deteriorated "into a raging barbaric guerilla war" that will haunt the United States for decades.
Here is the Farnaz Fassihi email as I received it from Greg Cochran. If anyone else has received it can you verify that this is the full correct version?
From: [Wall Street Journal reporter] Farnaz Fassihi Subject: From Baghdad
Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual house arrest. Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their ways and tell stories that could make a difference.
Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons. I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling. And can't and can't. There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second.
It's hard to pinpoint when the 'turning point' exactly began. Was it April when the Fallujah fell out of the grasp of the Americans? Was it when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on the U.S. military? Was it when Sadr City, home to ten percent of Iraq's population, became a nightly battlefield for the Americans? Or was it when the insurgency began spreading from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq? Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come.
Iraqis like to call this mess 'the situation.' When asked 'how are thing?' they reply: 'the situation is very bad."
What they mean by situation is this: the Iraqi government doesn't control most Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each day around the country killing and injuring scores of innocent people, the country's roads are becoming impassable and littered by hundreds of landmines and explosive devices aimed to kill American soldiers, there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings. The situation, basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war. In four days, 110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdad alone. The numbers are so shocking that the ministry of health -- which was attempting an exercise of public transparency by releasing the numbers -- has now stopped disclosing them.
Insurgents now attack Americans 87 times a day.
A friend drove thru the Shiite slum of Sadr City yesterday. He said young men were openly placing improvised explosive devices into the ground. They melt a shallow hole into the asphalt, dig the explosive, cover it with dirt and put an old tire or plastic can over it to signal to the locals this is booby-trapped. He said on the main roads of Sadr City, there were a dozen landmines per every ten yards. His car snaked and swirled to avoid driving over them. Behind the walls sits an angry Iraqi ready to detonate them as soon as an American convoy gets near. This is in Shiite land, the population that was supposed to love America for liberating Iraq.
For journalists the significant turning point came with the wave of abduction and kidnappings. Only two weeks ago we felt safe around Baghdad because foreigners were being abducted on the roads and highways between towns. Then came a frantic phone call from a journalist female friend at 11 p.m. telling me two Italian women had been abducted from their homes in broad daylight. Then the two Americans, who got beheaded this week and the Brit, were abducted from their homes in a residential neighborhood. They were supplying the entire block with round the clock electricity from their generator to win friends. The abductors grabbed one of them at 6 a.m. when he came out to switch on the generator; his beheaded body was thrown back near the neighborhoods.
WSJ reporter Fassahi's e-mail to friends /2
9/29/2004 2:47:12 PM
The insurgency, we are told, is rampant with no signs of calming down. If any thing, it is growing stronger, organized and more sophisticated every day. The various elements within it-baathists, criminals, nationalists and Al Qaeda-are cooperating and coordinating.
I went to an emergency meeting for foreign correspondents with the military and embassy to discuss the kidnappings. We were somberly told our fate would largely depend on where we were in the kidnapping chain once it was determined we were missing. Here is how it goes: criminal gangs grab you and sell you up to Baathists in Fallujah, who will in turn sell you to Al Qaeda. In turn, cash and weapons flow the other way from Al Qaeda to the Baathisst to the criminals. My friend Georges, the French journalist snatched on the road to Najaf, has been missing for a month with no word on release or whether he is still alive.
America's last hope for a quick exit? The Iraqi police and National Guard units we are spending billions of dollars to train. The cops are being murdered by the dozens every day-over 700 to date -- and the insurgents are infiltrating their ranks. The problem is so serious that the U.S. military has allocated $6 million dollars to buy out 30,000 cops they just trained to get rid of them quietly.
As for reconstruction: firstly it's so unsafe for foreigners to operate that almost all projects have come to a halt. After two years, of the $18 billion Congress appropriated for Iraq reconstruction only about $1 billion or so has been spent and a chuck has now been reallocated for improving security, a sign of just how bad things are going here.
Oil dreams? Insurgents disrupt oil flow routinely as a result of sabotage and oil prices have hit record high of $49 a barrel. Who did this war exactly benefit? Was it worth it? Are we safer because Saddam is holed up and Al Qaeda is running around in Iraq?
Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for insecurity. Guess what? They say they'd take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler.
I heard an educated Iraqi say today that if Saddam Hussein were allowed to run for elections he would get the majority of the vote. This is truly sad.
Then I went to see an Iraqi scholar this week to talk to him about elections here. He has been trying to educate the public on the importance of voting. He said, "President Bush wanted to turn Iraq into a democracy that would be an example for the Middle East. Forget about democracy, forget about being a model for the region, we have to salvage Iraq before all is lost."
One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it's hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle.
The Iraqi government is talking about having elections in three months while half of the country remains a 'no go zone'-out of the hands of the government and the Americans and out of reach of journalists. In the other half, the disenchanted population is too terrified to show up at polling stations. The Sunnis have already said they'd boycott elections, leaving the stage open for polarized government of Kurds and Shiites that will not be deemed as legitimate and will most certainly lead to civil war.
I asked a 28-year-old engineer if he and his family would participate in the Iraqi elections since it was the first time Iraqis could to some degree elect a leadership. His response summed it all: "Go and vote and risk being blown into pieces or followed by the insurgents and murdered for cooperating with the Americans? For what? To practice democracy? Are you joking?"
My advice to this lady is to leave Iraq. I do not want to see her get her head cut off. The escape of her email into the public domain has made her whole trip there worthwhile. She doesn't have anything else to prove or to do that will accomplish as much as this one frank email.
The Bush administration, battling negative perceptions of the Iraq war, is sending Iraqi Americans to deliver what the Pentagon calls "good news" about Iraq to U.S. military bases, and has curtailed distribution of reports showing increasing violence in that country.
On other Iraq news a US Army Reserve staff sergeant serving in Iraq, Al Lorentz, may be prosecuted for disloyalty and sentenced to as much as 20 years for an article critical of the war entitled "Why We Cannot Win" he wrote for LewRockwell.com. Meanwhile, the Bush Administration is taking steps to restrict the circulation of Kroll Security International reports on Iraq that quantify the deteriorating situation there. Another report by Special Operations Consulting-Security Management Group claims the attack rate by the insurgency has risen to 80 per day.
Will the Iraqi government continue to release casualty figures? Ayad al-Dahwy of the Iraqi Health Ministry says the Iraqi Health Ministry will no longer release civilian casualty figures. Supposedly the figures will still be available but from a higher level. Will that higher level massage the figures? When you do see figures keep in mind that civilian deaths are far more likely to be reported than insurgent fighter deaths.
The ministry is convinced that nearly all of those reported dead are civilians, not insurgents. Most often, a family member wouldn't report it if his or her relative died fighting for rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia or another insurgent force, and the relative would be buried immediately, said Dr. Shihab Ahmed Jassim, another member of the ministry's operations section.
"People who participate in the conflict don't come to the hospital. Their families are afraid they will be punished," said Dr. Yasin Mustaf, the assistant manager of al Kimdi Hospital near Baghdad's poor Sadr City neighborhood. "Usually, the innocent people come to the hospital. That is what the numbers show."
The numbers also exclude those whose bodies were too mutilated to be recovered at car bombings or other attacks, the ministry said.
The Iraqi Health Ministry began tabulating civilian deaths in April. The ministry's statistics show 2,956 civilians, including 125 children, died across the country "as the result of a military act" between April 5 and Aug. 31. Of those, 829 were in Baghdad, the ministry figures indicate.
Sadr City alone contains a tenth of Iraq's population. So the status of Sadr City as a "no-go" zone consigns a tenth of Iraq's population to rebel control.
As for what we should do about the mess in Iraq, it comes down to what I see as the basic question: Unilaterally Withdraw From Iraq Or First Partition? If you click through on that link you will also find links to a set of arguments on why democracy isn't going to succeed in Iraq or other Middle Eastern countries.
Under Saddam, Beytool's school was only allowed to teach the strict, state-approved curriculum. But now, it's a private school and they are free to teach whatever they like. And in a sign of the changing times here, the focus is now overwhelmingly on Islamic education. Instead of teaching the alphabet, the goal in Beytool's class is to memorize 28 basic verses from the Koran, and learn how to wash before prayers.
Hundreds of religious seminaries have popped up.
And the government has no control over hundreds of Shiite religious seminaries — known as the Howza — teaching Islamic theory and law once banned under Saddam.
George W. Bush is in favor of "faith-based initiatives" and has spoken of Islam as "a religion of peace". So does he look on approvingly at the Islamization of Iraq which the US invasion has made possible? Will all the Iraqi students coming out of Islamic schools be more or less inclined to plant bombs along roadsides or to shoot rockets and mortars at US military bases? Will Iraqi children be more or less inclined to join Al Qaeda once they have been educated in the transformed Iraqi schools?
This trend toward a more Islamic and radical education is happening in some other Muslim countries as well such as Indonesia (which is the fourth most populous country in the world after China, India, and the United States) and Dagestan. Even though the secular Baathists in Syria haven't been overthrown by the United States and the secularists still control school curricula Syria is experiencing an Islamic religious revival.
While General Abizaid and other official military spokesmen are now touting the official Bush Administration line that Iraqi government military forces are approaching the point where they can take over the job of putting down the insurgency some US Army officers speaking anonymously say they think the new government forces are collaborating with the insurgents.
Reports from Iraq have made one Army staff officer question whether adequate progress is being made there.
"They keep telling us that Iraqi security forces are the exit strategy, but what I hear from the ground is that they aren't working," he said. "There's a feeling that Iraqi security forces are in cahoots with the insurgents and the general public to get the occupiers out."
The invasion of Iraq has clearly backfired. We are worse off for having invaded. We have set off the radicalization of a population that was previously under the tight control of a fairly secular (my Middle Eastern standards) dictator. We now know this mess was predicted in advance by the National Intelligence Council in a report they provided to the Bush Administration in January 2003.
The estimate came in two classified reports prepared for President Bush in January 2003 by the National Intelligence Council, an independent group that advises the director of central intelligence. The assessments predicted that an American-led invasion of Iraq would increase support for political Islam and would result in a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict.
It is highly questionable whether continued US presence in Iraq serves any useful purpose. But Bush doesn't want to admit to making a huge and incredibly costly mistake. At the same time, the Democrats are reluctant to advocate withdrawal since they don't want to appear weak. So the debacle will continue.
What is the bottom line of these bad trends? The United States can not defend itself from terrorists by secularizing and democratizing the Middle East. The neocon dream of American transformation of the Middle East is an unrealistic fantasy. We need better policies to protect us closer to home such as much more effective border control, vigorous immigration law enforcement, and tougher visa application screening. Keep the people with deadly intent away from us. Stop letting Muslims immigrate. Also, do a big push to develop alternatives to obsolesce oil and thereby at least partially defund the jihadists and defund the Muslim Wahhabi missionaries of Saudi Arabia.
Writing in the UK Spectator Richard Beeston, stationed in Iraq for the Times of London reports on the growing popularity of beheading DVDs in Iraq, the widespread hostility toward foreigners, and the death toll.
So why is it that the snuff movies, which are being deliberately distributed by the killers, are being snapped up in their thousands on DVDs across Iraq? A year ago Iraqis liked nothing better than buying illicit pornography or video footage of Saddam Hussein’s henchmen torturing and killing their victims. It was assumed that this lurid fascination would wear off now that, after 40 years of state television, Iraqis have access to 24-hour satellite television. But no, something more disturbing is at work here.
What is amazing is the death toll from car bombs.
The car bombs, which explode almost daily and have killed more than 100 Iraqis in the past week, are barely worth a mention unless the death toll climbs into double figures.
Think about the death rate from bombs exploding along roads. If this killing rate continues then times 52 weeks in a year then that is a death rate of over 5,000 per year. Iraq has a population of about 25 million people. This compares with 293 million people in the United States of America. If America was losing that many people per year to car bombs we'd be experiencing 58,600 deaths per year from what are basically acts of terrorism.
In Baqouba, north of Baghdad, another roadside bomb reportedly wounded four police officers and a civilian.
The attacks brought the death toll in and around Baghdad to 150 in the past four days, in a campaign by insurgents to destabilize the interim government
Attacks over the past two weeks have killed more than 250 Iraqis and 29 U.S. military personnel, according to figures released by Iraq's Health Ministry and the Pentagon. A sampling of daily reports produced during that period by Kroll Security International for the U.S. Agency for International Development shows that such attacks typically number about 70 each day. In contrast, 40 to 50 hostile incidents occurred daily during the weeks preceding the handover of political authority to an interim Iraqi government on June 28, according to military officials.
If that rate of deaths for Americans continues then we will lose another 1,500 soldiers in Iraq in the next 12 months. The article also quotes a US Marines officer near Fallujah claiming that attacks on US Marines are lower because the Marines do not patrol as much and hence are not as vulnerable to attacks. I see this as part of Bush's attempt to keep casualty rates down until after the US elections. Once the elections are over with expect to see US forces go on a broad offensive into the current "no-go" zones in order to create more areas where elections can be held in January.
OAKLAND -- Oakland police officers have stopped setting up roadblocks to check whether drivers are under the influence because of a rash of complaints from the Latino community and City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente.
The checkpoints, which allow officers to demand licenses and proof of insurance, are an effective way to get drunken drivers off Oakland's streets, city leaders agree. But the checks also have ensnared dozens of illegal immigrants who are not licensed to drive yet otherwise obey the law.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol is dangerous. Drunk drivers kill people every day (excuse me for stating the obvious). The mind boggles. But the police do not want to catch people who are driving without a legal driver's license since most of those are illegal aliens. Of course the police ought to be arresting those illegals and holding them for deportation. But our worthless elites are determined to continue undermining the enforcement of immigration law.
“It’s absolutely insane to stop these checkpoints,” Councilman Larry Reid told the Oakland Tribune. “I would not want to explain to a mother why we stopped doing these checkpoints when we know they work and her son or daughter was killed.”
Update: Former California Governor and now mayor of Oakland Jerry Brown has ordered the resumption of DUI traffic stops.
Oakland police officers will restart the roadblocks next week, despite complaints from the Latino community and City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale). The last checkpoint happened more than a month ago.
"The so-called moratorium is hereby terminated," Brown said Monday. "The whole thing was a dumb idea."
Jerry Brown has been showing other signs of common sense of late with his recently stated opposition to loosening the "three strikes" law for convicted felons.
Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown told a legislative committee Monday that passage of a ballot measure to modify the state's "threestrikes" law would "wreak havoc" in his city and in communities all over the state.
"Under this law, you're going to cut loose thousands of people who the prosecutors of this state - all 58 of them - think should be locked up for the rest of their lives," Brown told the hearing on the upcoming Proposition 66 measure.
Brown, mayor of a poor lower class city, knows he needs every tool of law enforcement he can get in maintain the peace and keep the law-abiding people safe from law-breakers. If only most of our political elites could adopt a similar attitude we'd be a lot better off.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as part of his efforts to assure the acceptance of Turkey into the European Union has backed off plans to criminalize adultery in Turkey.
All references to proposals to outlaw adultery, which were inserted into the legislation by conservative members of the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), would be dropped.
"No item which is not already included in the draft of the Turkish criminal code will be included and I mean by that the issue of adultery," Mr Erdogan told a news conference.
The European Union is now widely expected to give Turkey approval to begin formal talks for Turkey's entry into the EU. Once the approval for those talks has begun it is unlikely that the EU would back out of accepting Turkey as a member.
Newspapers said Erdogan had taken the side of conservatives in his Justice and Development Party, a conservative group with Islamist roots which was deeply divided over outlawing adultery.
Diplomats say Erdogan's face-off with Brussels, which roiled Turkish financial markets this month, has raised doubts about Erdogan's political judgment and his real intentions.
These diplomats are slow learners.
The European Parliament's conservative faction even suspects that Erdogan will hold back controversial laws until EU membership negotiations actually begin next year.
Only then, when there is no turning back for the EU, will the Prime Minister show his true face and put the brakes on societal reforms: Erdogan as an Islamic submarine, so to speak.
Well duh guys. Do you really think you can change Turkey into a secular European country by making it part of the EU? Snap out of your dreams. The real world doesn't work that way.
French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin publically supports Tukey's membership in the EU and yet Raffarin sounds very unenthusiastic and worried about the idea of a Muslim state joining formerly Christian now secular states in a political union. (same article here)
"We don't think we should tell Turkey that the doors of Europe are forever closed to it," Raffarin told the newspaper, but then said: "Do we want the river of Islam to enter the riverbed of secularism?"
I think it darkly humourous that the European elites saw the US invasion of Iraq as a really bad idea that the US should have refrained from and yet the EU mandarins are intent on going down a road with another Muslim country that they have deep doubts about. The elites of the Western nations all seek to commit cultural suicide with their choice of folly while pointing fingers at the follies of others.
The European peoples may yet save their elites from elite follow. The one distinct possibility for stopping Turkey's accession into the EU is the prospect that the majority in many EU member states may vote against the new EU federal constitution.
The EU's new constitution represents another effort to preserve and deepen European unity, but it too could backfire. For the constitution to come into force, it must be approved by all 25 EU countries. At least 11 of them are likely to hold referendums, and in a few of those, notably Britain, the verdict is likely to be negative. Such an outcome could well provoke a crisis within the Union.
This survey will conclude that the EU may indeed split. But a split need not be a disaster. It could lead to a multi-layered EU in which different countries adopt different levels of political integration and experiment with different economic models. If the EU were preserved as an over-arching framework, it could actually benefit from such diversity. But there is also a darker, if less likely possibility. A split in the EU could cause Europe once again to divide into rival power blocks. That could threaten what most agree is the Union's central achievement: peace in Europe.
The EU could break up into pieces before Turkey manages to join. That is the best hope for Europe at this point. The editors of The Economist who wrote that previous excerpt see an EU break-up as a dark possibility. But I see that possibility as a ray of hope for the survival of Western liberal democracy in the gathering gloom.
MICHAEL HOWARD: We will start by cracking down hard on illegal immigration.
LISA MILLAR: If he manages to defy the opinion polls and oust Tony Blair's Labour Government, Michael Howard says he will pull the UK out of the international convention on refugees, set an annual upper limit for immigration and shake up the work permit system.
The bulk of the claims for political refugee status are pretty bogus. Most of the world is poorly ruled. Most of the world is poor. The bulk of the poor people who want to escape poverty, corrupt cops, and lawlessness are not suffering from persecution aimed specifically at them. They just happen to live in societies that are failures when compared to Western societies. If they are eligible for asylumn then so are a few billion other people. But letting them all in is crazy. Britain's rate of asylum immigration has grown literally by orders of magnitude in the last couple of decades and could grow by orders of magnitude more unless the government cracks down and puts a stop to it.
The anti-immigration position of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and its significant gains in elections have put pressure on the UK Conservative Party to accommodate the demands of its base for a crack-down on immigration.
Tory strategists also believe that immigration is a key issue for many voters who deserted the party for the UK Independence Party in the European elections in June and whom the Conservatives must win back before the next general election.
Robert Kilroy-Silk, a UKIP member of the European Parliament, said Mr Howard had "plagiarised" one of his speeches earlier this month when he called for immigration to be capped at 100,000 people each year and pledged to withdraw from the UN convention.
"He is actually parroting virtually what I said," Mr Kilroy-Silk told Radio Four. "He has got to steal UKIP’s clothes because we are stealing their votes."
There is a lesson here for the United States: A third party focused on immigration and the National Question could potentially force the two major US parties to shift their positions on immigration in a restrictionist direction.
Well, it has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Though one can doubt whether Michael Howard sincerely likes his own newly adopted policy position on immigration.
For his part, Home Secretary David Blunkett last year nailed his colours to the mast when he declared he saw "no obvious upper limit to legal [economic] immigration".
The British now have the luxury of choosing between 5 parties with three for differing levels of immigration restriction (Tories, UKIP, BNP), one trying to have it both ways (Labour), and fifth (Lib-Dems) probably in favor of continued high levels of immigration. Whereas Americans have a choice between two parties whose top leaders compete with each other for the honor of helping an influx of illiterate peasants ruin the country.
Moeletsi Mbeki, brother of South African President Thabo Mbeki, states the obvious when he argues that Africa was better governed under colonial rule than it is today.
The average African is worse off now than during the colonial era, the brother of South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has said.
Moeletsi Mbeki accused African elites of stealing money and keeping it abroad, while colonial rulers planted crops and built roads and cities.
Of course, no Western nation wants to take on the burden of ruling Africa. It would be a totally thankless job. Therefore conditions in Africa will continue to deteriorate.
Addressing the local branch of the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) here last night, SAIIA board member Moeletsi Mbeki said in his view African leaders were not serious about the economic welfare of their own people and South Africa had to guard that it did not become another Burundi.
Mbeki pointed out, however, that he was not arguing for a return to colonial rule.
The decay is going to continue and South Africa will eventually become as bad off as some of its neighbors.
Moeletsi Mbeki appears to be a free market kind of guy. He opposes what are called Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) deals in South Africa where powerful connnected blacks are granted shares in white-owned business enterprises. Moeletsi Mbeki says South African blacks ought to be more focused on wealth creation instead of wealth redistribution.
MINEWEB: Handicaps it?
MOELETSI MBEKI: Yes, because it takes – and I have lots of friends who were involved in black economic empowerment deals – it takes the brightest among the black people who -- instead of devoting their energies to creating new companies, to creating new products, to providing and creating employment -- tend to spend most of their time, if not all of their time, looking for redistributing mechanisms to get shares in pre-existing companies. So what you are actually getting is that the brightest among the black people in this country, instead of creating wealth, building up their own companies, are becoming secondary fiddle players to the existing companies – and that in my view is not what is going to save our country.
Mbeki said: "Zanu PF have also so destroyed the core of their own economy, which was commercial agriculture and peasant agriculture. They have destroyed that part of the economy. I was reading that the tobacco crop is only a quarter of what it was in 2000, so in a way Zimbabwe is finished, it is almost dead and the people who are in power are determined to stay in power."
Of course this is true. But what is interesting in all this is that a wealthy and well-connected South African black man is saying it.
Mr Mbeki's analysis of Africa's history and of its predicament today differs fundamentally from that of his brother. Thabo Mbeki has pointedly refrained from criticising Mr Mugabe's excesses. Instead, he opposed Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth and he blames the legacy of British colonialism for the country's crisis.
Eventually biotechnology will advance to the point where Western nations will be able to supply Africa with treatments to cure its major diseases. Also, genetically engineered agriculture ought to be able to reduce and even eliminate hunger if only populations would stabilize.
But some African countries are not experiencing a decline in fertility to replacement levels and so Malthus may yet be proven right in Africa. Niger has a mind-boggling 8 children born per woman and has a fertilty rate as high as it was in the 1970s. Many African countries have high absolute levels of fertility with either only slow declines in fertility or even stagnant or rising fertility. (and that link has some great world demography graphics) More recent research (which I learned about a few months ago watching a think tank seminar on population on C-SPAN but now can't find after hours of googling and would welcome relevant links) argues against the inevitability of fertility declines toward replacement rates. Fertility rate declines in some instances are halting and reversing. The poorest countries in Africa may maintain high levels of fertility for decades to come. If Africa's total basket case countries maintain high levels of fertility the result will be disastrous for Africa both in human suffering and in environmental damage (say good bye to some big cat species, primates, and other species). This will also create environmental, political, and economic problems for the rest of the world.
Update: For $3.9 billion per year Western nations could prevent 23 million births of incredibly poor people per year. That'd reduce poverty for those who are born, reduce pollution, and reduce damage to the environment. It would cost a couple of percent of what we are spending deconstructing Iraq. Seems like a bargain.
Here's my weird conclusion before I present the argument for it: The Iraq War debacle is benefitting Bush. Why? Because Kerry looks weak on foreign policy and national security. Democrats generally look weak on foreign policy and the military to most American voters and Kerry is no exception. The mess in Iraq is accurately recognized by the American people as being a serious problem. Here is where the Iraq mess works to George W. Bush's benefit: The American people know the United States is in a serious military and political mess in Iraq and therefore want a strong aggressive masculine figure in the White House. A clear majority see Bush as possessing more of the masculine and aggressive qualities than Kerry. You don't win a US Presidential election based on perceived higher intelligence.
An Associated Press/Ipsos poll asked registered voters to assess the character of each nominee. Nearly 75 percent said Bush was "strong"; only 54 percent said that of Kerry. Three-quarters called Bush "decisive"; a measly 37 percent applied that term to Kerry. Bush was seen as more likeable. The only character face-off in which Kerry led Bush was intelligence. Eighty-four percent considered Kerry smart; 63 percent reported they believe Bush is "intelligent."
Kerry is hobbled by all sorts of things. First of all, he has a voting record in the Senate that is not pro-military spending or even pro-military action in conflicts such as the first Gulf War that the American people supported. He has his record of early 1970s anti-Vietnam War and anti-US soldier (supposed war criminals) rhetoric weighing against him. Plus, and this is a subtle point that most commentators miss, Kerry is wealthy because he married wealthy. That is just not a masculine real man way to riches in America. Whereas Bush made his money in baseball (never mind that he did it through politics and a bond issue for a sports stadium). Baseball is for real men.
Fifty per cent had "a lot" of confidence Bush could protect the United States from terrorism, up from 43 per cent last month. Just 26 per cent expressed such confidence in Kerry, down from 32 per cent in August.
Never mind that Bush is not pursuing many different border control and visa policies that would reduce the ability of terrorists to get to the United States in the first place. Never mind that the second Iraq war has increased Muslim anger toward the United States and probably made Al Qaeda recruitment easier even while it drew US forces away from the Afghan-Pakistan border where there are plenty of Al Qaeda members. Most people are not thinking thoughts that complex.
In CNN/USA Today/Gallup Polls conducted this month, Bush moved ahead in Ohio and several other key swing states, though voters favored Kerry by major margins on the economy, health care and Iraq. But on the issue of terrorism, Bush was ahead by stunning margins, including by 87 percent to 9 percent among registered Ohio voters who cited that issue as key.
Kerry might be able to do a better job of explaining Bush's Iraq mistakes. But he is not going to offer a convincing and honest case of what he'd do instead (not that Bush is being honest about his own intentions in Iraq at this point - Bush might be getting ready for a US withdrawal from Iraq next year). Also, Kerry is not going to come out and advocate more effective policies against terrorism on the home front because ethnic immigration lobbies would object and privacy rights advocates would oppose more effective use of information systems against terrorists.
If Bush wins reelection it will be because the American people are more focused on foreign poilicy than on domestic policy. They will vote for Bush in spite of his big foreign policy and domestic security mistakes. Personally, I think Bush has a 65:35 chance of winning reelection. He will manage to win reelection in spite of a failure of his immigration policies to pull any more Hispanics to the Republican ticket and in spite of the degree to which he has angered his base on immigration.
It's simply not in America's economic interest to encourage Turkey to submerge into a trading bloc designed to maximize trade within the EU while penalizing imports from America.
Nor is it in America's strategic interest to make more feasible Brussels' dream of a European military force separate from NATO. So far, such plans have largely foundered on the anti-martial feelings of Europeans unwilling to sacrifice their precious 1.3 children. But Turkey would make a separate EU strike force much more feasible by providing cheap, brave cannon fodder.
Objective hardball points about American interests are too often ignored while attention is given to unrealistic and idealistic imaginings about how some policy proposal will promote freedom or democracy. Enough such unrealistic imaginings have blown up in our faces that we ought to be more willing to make more hard-headed realpolitik calculations of our interests. The recognition that a single united EU covering all NATO countries is going to obsolesce NATO is certainly a realpolitik acknowledgement of the obvious.
By analogy imagine the United States forming a political merger with Mexico and allowing Mexicans to legally travel across the border in unlimited numbers. The EU has a lower per capita income than the United States but Turkey has a lower living standard than Mexico. Measured in purchasing power parity Mexico's per capita GDP is $9000 whereas Turkey is even lower at $6,700. The EU will have to spend large amounts of money on Turkey and also on increased levels of social spending on all the Turks who would flood into Europe.
If Turkey is really capable of rising to Western European levels of productivity and living standards (and I do not believe it can - see Steve's article for some arguments why) then it should be able to accomplish that economic rise without joining the EU. After all, even some small countries that are not part of large trading blocs have managed to achieve absolutely amazing standards of living without the help of highly valuable natural resources. Located right in the heart of Europe and without EU membership Switzerland has managed to achieve a very impressive $32,000 per capita GDP.
Some people argue that if the EU "turns its back on Turkey" then the Turks will turn toward Islamism. Well, if the Turks are that easily offended into going down that path the Europeans should be very reluctant to take the risk that the Turks may go down that path even as part of the EU. There is no reason that the EU's mandarins should feel rushed to decide the Turkey question. Let the Turks show that they can raise their living standards, that they are not going to join the rest of the Muslim world in the increasing trend toward embrace of fundamentalist Islam, and that they really have settled their internal problem with the Kurds.
Update: What I find ironic about the EU mandarin push for Turkey's membership in the EU is that those same mandarins tend to look down on Christian fundamentalism in the United States. The EU elites generally despise and distrust Americans with strongly held religious beliefs and do not like to see religiously devout people in high positions in the US government. Yet what is the EU embracing by entertaining political union with Turkey? A country that will become politically more Islamically fundamentalist once the soldiers are told they have to permanently butt out of politics. In fact, this is already happening. The effect of Turkey's entry into the EU will be to undermine the Turkish military's role as guardian of the secular nature of Turkey's government. American Christian fundamentalism poses very little threat to the EU and yet it is that fundamentalism that attracts critical elite European commentary even as the elites in Europe are probably too foolish to avoid letting a far more dangerous fundamentalism become a much larger presence in Europe. What folly.
Ambulances are drawn by oxen. Hand-guided cattle plows have replaced farm machinery. The state railroad uses gunpowder charges on the tracks to warn trains of danger ahead.
The often-violent seizure of thousands of white-owned farms for reallocation to black Zimbabweans, coupled with erratic rains, has decimated Zimbabwe's agriculture-based economy. President Robert Mugabe argues that the land seizures have corrected ownership imbalances from British colonial days that left one-third of the country's farmland in the hands of about 5 000 white farmers.
Many seized farms went to Mugabe's cronies and lie fallow.
The decay takes many forms.
Doctors say midwives are now sealing off the umbilical protrusion of newborns with string, and dentists say many of their patients are using salt instead of toothpaste.
This all reminds me of an argument some comment posters have made on this blog about low skilled immigration: Their argument is that if we let the welfare state become big enough then supposedly it will eventually collapse. The reasoning is that letting matters get worse will somehow automatically bring on the correction or (if you want a more historical analogy) a Thermidorian Reaction that will fix things and usher in a libertarian golden age. But Zimbabwe is just one of many historical examples that demonstrate that in politics some changes are just plain bad and produce no opposing response big enough to yield a net benefit. Another example is the Russian Revolution and such low points of Soviet rule such as the famines of early 1930s in Ukraine and Russia under Stalin. Even today Russia is still a dysfunctional place that has clearly suffered from having its more successful classes and brighter people systematically killed off. So some political disasters are just that: disasters. At best they can serve the purpose of teaching a historical lesson. But what lesson needs to be learned today that doesn't already have lots of historical examples to illustrate it?
Rhodesia under white minority rule was a better place for both blacks and whites than Zimbabwe is today under black majority rule. South Africa, having a much larger portion of whites, has a longer road to go down into decay, corruption, and despotism. But it surely is going down that road.
The United States for the first time named Saudi Arabia yesterday as a country that severely violates religious freedom, potentially subjecting the close U.S. ally to sanctions.
"Freedom of religion does not exist" in Saudi Arabia, the State Department said in its annual report on international religious freedom. "Freedom of religion is not recognized or protected under the country's laws and basic religious freedoms are denied to all but those who adhere to the state-sanctioned version of Sunni Islam," the report said, adding that "non-Muslim worshippers risk arrest, imprisonment, lashing, deportation and sometimes torture."
Did Saudi Arabia suddenly take a turn for the worse in the religious freedom department? Or has the place been a repressive Wahabbi Islamic theocracy since its creation?
More fundamentally, why should anyone take seriously any US State Department report on religious freedom by country?
President George W. Bush, a man who professes to believe that the spread of democracy is the cure needed to stop terrorism, looks at Vladimir Putin, a man who is systematically disassembling democracy and press freedom in Russia and sees a man to admire.
On Sunday, President Bush visited the Russian Embassy to pay his respects to the victims of last week's terrorist attack at a Russian school and to express his admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Please pass on my very best wishes to President Vladimir Putin, a man who I admire," Bush told the Russian ambassador.
It is worth noting that Russia is one of the biggest oil exporting countries and that it has more energy reserves in the form of natural gas than Saudi Arabia has in the form of oil. Plus, the US military finds it helpful to be able to ship stuff across Russia to get to Central Asia and Afghanistan.
I've argued a lot for a great increase of the scale of federal funding for energy research in order to improve national security. Look at US policy toward Saudi Arabia (and to a lesser extent Russia as well) and see how much US policy has been bent by concerns about energy supplies. It took the 9/11 attack plus 3 years just to get the State Department to admit a glaringly obvious truth which it would not refrain from admitting about some country deemed less important to American interests. The world's dependence on oil is creating a distortion in US policy toward the Middle East that continues to damage US national interests.
Steve Fainaru reports for the Washington Post about the fighting around the Sunni Arab insurgency stronghold of Tal Afar (a.k.a. Talafar or Tall Afar). Tribalism makes whole villages into the insurgency.
"The village. He wants you to arrest all the men in the village," the interpreter told Army Capt. Eric Beaty, commander of Company C, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment.
"They're all bad?" Beaty asked.
The interpreter consulted The Source. "Yes, all bad," he said.
"Well, what we'll do is we'll put you up on the top of the Stryker, and you can tell us where to go left or go right, okay?" Beaty said.
Reading the article I didn't feel much confidence that the Iraqi informant had such a firm grasp on who the insurgents were. Was he just eager to get paid money for sketchy intelligence he had accumulated? How'd he know who to pick out of groups? Had he seen these people before?
The fact that US soldiers have to use interpreters to communicate with dubious informants try to identify insurgents in villages shows just how futlie US efforts are at this point. Identification of just who is active in the resistance is an extremely difficult job and requires a large amount of local language and cultural skills and local knowledge of the sort that police investigators accumulate. The US military is not trained for counter-insurgency at the level it would need to be done in order to be done well.
Pfc. Mario Rutigliano, 19, of Clifton, N.J understands something that the neocons in the Bush Administration are too ideologically dense to figure out.
"We need to get some music in here," Rutigliano said as the Stryker rolled toward the village.
"Yeah, we do," Cate agreed.
"You lose your mind if you take this stuff too seriously," Rutigliano said.
Rutigliano said he thought the Stryker Brigade had defeated local insurgents, but he predicted they'd be back. "It doesn't matter how many we kill, they'll always keep coming back," he said. "They've all got cousins, brothers. They have an endless supply."
See also Insurgency In Iraq Like Self-Replicating Virus and John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq and Steve Sailer's Cousin Marriage Conundrum.
Last night ABC News showed footage from within Najaf. Najaf was seriously trashed. Lots of multi-story buildings are torn to shreds. The Iraq post-war deconstruction is making a lot of progress in Najaf. To slightly paraphrase a Vietnam War quote, we have to destroy the city in order to save it. Except of course it hasn't been saved. There are plenty of insurgent Mahdists ready to fight another day. A couple of ABC reporters had embedded with the US military and gone around Najaf with them during fighting. The lady reporter (whose name escapes me) said that at this point there are few opportunities for reporters in Iraq to go into the field because it is too dangerous. So they have to embed.
The brothers and cousins are unemployed and the continued war is damaging the economy still further. Little money has been spent on reconstruction. Idle hands are the devil's workshop. The devil is busy. Saddam, not Chris, has Satan's ear on Iraq (anyone get the ref?). The Bush Administration wants to shift $3.5 billion in reconstruction aid toward security.
Including previous reallocations, the administration hopes to redirect more than 20 percent of $18.4 billion in reconstruction funds to cope with an escalating insurgency and the glacial pace of rebuilding. With two weeks left in the fiscal year, and 11 months after Congress approved the money, only $1.1 billion of it has been spent, because of attacks, contracting problems and other unforeseen issues, according to figures released by the State Department.
John Derbyshire (who continues to support the original decision to invade btw) has written a speech for George W. Bush to deliver after the election to announce US withdrawal from Iraq.
I do not believe anyone could say that we have stinted in these efforts to help restore Iraq's ability to function as an independent nation. If, following our withdrawal, Iraq proves unable so to function, I do not believe the U.S. could be fairly blamed, nor do I believe the American people will blame their government. We have done our best for Iraq.
There is, however, a limit to what we can do, and a limit to the patience of our own people. If Iraqis cherish their nation, they must themselves be willing to sacrifice for it. If Iraqis wish to be citizens of a peaceful and prosperous country, they must themselves work hard to those ends. Many Iraqis, of course, are so willing, and indeed many have sacrificed their lives to those ends in this past year and a half. However, Iraq will only be a single nation, and at peace, if the overwhelming majority of Iraqis sink their differences and join together in a spirit of patriotic solidarity to preserve this nation. If Iraqis are not willing to do that, then there is no hope for Iraq, either under occupation or free from it.
We do not hear "Give me liberty or give me death" uttered by Iraqi fighters rushing to oppose tribal rule and theocracy. Instead we hear something that sounds more like "Give me victory over the infidels and revenge for the death of cousins Abdul and Akmed or give me martyrdom."
Seymour Hersh has a new book coming out Chain of Command : The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib
But the interrogations at Guantánamo were a bust. Very little useful intelligence had been gathered, while prisoners from around the world continued to flow into the base, and the facility constantly expanded. The CIA analyst had been sent there to find out what was going wrong. He was fluent in Arabic and familiar with the Islamic world. He was held in high respect within the agency, and was capable of reporting directly, if he chose, to George Tenet, the CIA director. The analyst did more than just visit and inspect. He interviewed at least 30 prisoners to find out who they were and how they ended up in Guantánamo. Some of his findings, he later confided to a former CIA colleague, were devastating.
"He came back convinced that we were committing war crimes in Guantánamo," the colleague told me. "Based on his sample, more than half the people there didn't belong there. He found people lying in their own faeces," including two captives, perhaps in their 80s, who were clearly suffering from dementia. "He thought what was going on was an outrage," the CIA colleague added. There was no rational system for determining who was important.
Two former administration officials who read the analyst's highly classified report told me that its message was grim. According to a former White House official, the analyst's disturbing conclusion was that "if we captured some people who weren't terrorists when we got them, they are now".
Mark Bowden (of Black Hawk Down fame) has written that experts on interrogation say that infliction of pain can be counter-productive and should be resorted to only as a last resort. One reason for this is that subjects of torture fear the threat of pain but that once they actually experience the pain manyfind they can handle it better than expected. Another reason to hold back on delivering pain is that patient and talented interrogators sometimes manage to turn the interrogatee to shift his loyalties so that he begins to provide accurate information voluntarily. Read all his links at that post of mine. One conclusion I reached from reading them is that if some facility is inflicting pain on large numbers of its inmates then it is a very unprofessonal operation. Well, that is what Donald Rumsfeld has set up and defended in Guantanamo Bay.
I am disgusted by the Bush Administration because they are more interested in inflicting pain out of a macho desire to get even than they are in actually defending us from future attacks. Take the most expert and experienced advice on how to set up professional interrogation facilities? That just doesn't feel tough enough to them - and who wants to do all the mental work required to think through complex arguments anyway? Or seal the Mexican border to prevent entry of terrorists? That flies in the face of Bush's quixotic and foolish gambit to get Hispanic voters.
Bush is not acting in our interests. I don't know that John Kerry would be any better. But even if you are a very partisan Republican for the sake of your country recognize just how many ways the Bush Administration's policies are harmful for our country and our security.
The 9/11 Commission's recommendations on visa and immigation policy represent a good starting point for a rational and effective response to the terrorist threat. Better immigration and border control policies would not only reduce the risk of future attacks but reduce the crime rate, reduce the demands for social spending, raise living standards for America's poorest, and reduce crowding and pollution.
There are two sorts of people in the information-age elite, spreadsheet people and paragraph people. Spreadsheet people work with numbers, wear loafers and support Republicans. Paragraph people work with prose, don't shine their shoes as often as they should and back Democrats.
Brooks used data from the Center for Responsive Politics (probably from their opensecrets.org web site) to look at which occupations and industries give to Republicans and Democrats. Brooks provides a buch of examples of occupations which are heavily oriented toward the written word that lean heavily toward the Democrats.
Professors, on the other hand, are classic paragraph people and lean Democratic. Eleven academics gave to the Kerry campaign for every 1 who gave to Bush's. Actors like paragraphs, too, albeit short ones. Almost 18 actors gave to Kerry for every 1 who gave to Bush. For self-described authors, the ratio was about 36 to 1. Among journalists, there were 93 Kerry donors for every Bush donor. For librarians, who must like Faulknerian, sprawling paragraphs, the ratio of Kerry to Bush donations was a whopping 223 to 1.
Brooks doesn't provide as many data points for his "spreadsheet Republican" side of the argument. Though he notes that accountants lean heavily Republican and of course analytical numbers-oriented engineers lean Republican as well. But do academic physicists donate to Republicans or Democrats?
Brooks argues that humanities majors in college start to develop resentment toward majors in economics, accounting, engineering, and other "hard subject" majors. This resentment then causes the resenters to join a political party that is opposed to whatever these "hard subject" types favor. Perhaps resentment plays some role in this split. But a more likely explanation is that people who can apply mathematical techniques to what they learn process data about the world differently than those who are limited to verbal reasoning. Hence mathematically skilled people tend to come to conclusions that the verbally oriented people are not even going to understand, let alone agree with.
The opensecrets.org web site has per industry giving to Republicans and Democrats over a period of years. Accountants gave 52% of their donations to Democrats in 1990 but now in 2004 give 66% to Republicans. Why is that? Pharmaeceuticals shifted from 54% Republican in 1990 to 65% Republican in 2004. Part of that shift can be accounted for by the fact that the Democrats controlled the US Senate and House of Representatives in 1990 whereas the Republicans control both houses today. To have influence donors organized by industry tend to donate to incumbents who almost always win reelection. One has to be donating more out of ideological fervor (e.g. college profs or even most of the entertainment industry actors) rather than out desire to bolster an industry lobby in order for one's donations to reflect one's true beliefs. To what extend are donations in each industry made due to firm convictions versus a naked attempt to buy influence?
Check out some of the other industries. Note that computers/internet donations have shifted from a Republican dominance to about a tie. I suspect this is in part due to a heavy media industry presence on the internet. The electrical engineers and computer programmers are probably a shrinking portion of that industry sector.
Update: Mathematical ability is just one component of a larger set of cognitive differences that are likely to be the cause of diffferent political affiliations. People are attracted to political parties because they are attracted to people who share their sensibilities and emotional reactions. (PDF format)
But a recent study by Paul Goren at Arizona State found that voters typically formed their party affiliations before developing specific political values. They become Democrats first and then decide that they, say, oppose capital punishment and support trade unions. But how do they make that initial decision to be a Democrat?
Those M.R.I. scans suggest an explanation. Perhaps we form political affiliations by semiconsciously detecting commonalities with other people, commonalities that ultimately reflect a shared pattern of brain function. In the mid-1960's, the social psychologist Donn Byrne conducted a series of experiments in which the participants were given a description of several hypothetical strangers' attitudes and beliefs. They were then asked which stranger they would most enjoy having as a co-worker. The subjects consistently preferred the company of strangers with attitudes similar to their own. Opposites repel.
Occupations that experience a shift in the average personality types in them will show a change in political affiliations as a result. It is not just the ability of a person to do the tasks in an occupation or their economic interests as a result of being in an occupation that determines their political affiliations. Very instinctive innate tendencies are going to steer them toward the donkeys or the elephants.
Update II: Part of the split between the people who are more mathematical and those who are more verbal is a split between the masculine and the feminine. Women, on average lean further left and men further right. Verbally able men are probably more feminine in their processes and hence do not lean as rightward as men with more mathematical and spatial abilities. But of course a politically correct New York Times columnist is unlikely to bring up average biological differences between groups to explain inter-group differences in political views.
Also, another factor at work with university faculty is that so many of them have tenure and insulation from market forces that they can afford to look down on capitalism and hold more left-wing views. Plus, as Peter Drucker observed many years ago the very ability to become tenured and be secure for life is going to attract more left-leaning people to academic positions in the first place.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has released their Employer Health Benefits 2004 Annual Survey. The survey shows that lower income people (a large and increasing fraction of which are immigrants) can not afford health care insurance. (same press release here)
Washington, DC – Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums increased an average of 11.2% in 2004 -- less than last year’s 13.9% increase, but still the fourth consecutive year of double-digit growth, according to the 2004 Annual Employer Health Benefits Survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust (HRET). Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose at about five times the rate of inflation (2.3%) and workers’ earnings (2.2%).
In 2004, premiums reached an average of $9,950 annually for family coverage ($829 per month) and $3,695 ($308 per month) for single coverage, according to the new survey. Family premiums for PPOs, which cover most workers, rose to $10,217 annually ($851 per month) in 2004, up significantly from $9,317 annually ($776 per month) in 2003. Since 2000, premiums for family coverage have risen 59%.
The survey also found that the percentage of all workers receiving health coverage from their employer in 2004 is 61%, about the same as in 2003 (62%) but down significantly from the recent peak of 65% in 2001. As a consequence, there are at least 5 million fewer jobs providing health insurance in 2004 than 2001. A likely contributing factor is a decline in the percentage of small employers (three to 199 workers) offering health insurance over this period. In 2004, 63% of all small firms offer health benefits to their workers, down from 68% in 2001.
“The cost of family health insurance is rapidly approaching the gross earnings of a full-time minimum wage worker,” said Drew Altman, President and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “If these trends continue, workers and employers will find it increasingly difficult to pay for family health coverage and every year the share of Americans who have employer-sponsored health coverage will fall.”
“Since 2000, the cost of health insurance has risen 59 percent, while workers wages have increased only 12 percent. Since 2001, employee contributions increased 57 percent for single coverage and 49 percent for family coverage, while workers wages have increased only 12 percent. This is why fewer small employers are offering coverage, and why fewer workers are taking-up coverage,” said Jon Gabel, vice president for Health Systems Studies at the Health Research and Educational Trust.
When people can not afford their own medical insurance then they join the Recipient Class who get more than they pay. Taxpayers who pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits end up footing the bill. Demographic trends worsened by immigration are increasing the size of the Recipient Class (see second table on that page in particular). But rising costs for medical care also do so because higher medical costs raise the level of income one has to earn in order to reach the break even point where one pays as much in taxes as one receives in government-provided (i.e. taxpayer-provided) benefits.
High levels of Hispanic immigration, Staggering Hispanic immigrant illiteracy rates, and sustained poor academic performance even into the 4th generation descendants of Hispanic immigrants already are producing a growing recipient class. But the higher costs for medical care will increase the amount that taxpayers will pay to subsidise "cheap" immigrant labor. On top of that we get the burden of higher rates of Hispanic criminality and the spread of Hispanic criminal gangs.
If crowding, pollution, crime, and higher taxes aren't all reasons enough to do something about this huge and growing problem then perhaps the threat of terrorists coming across the border will eventually force effective border control. Though I suspect we will have to wait till a bunch of Americans are dead before the anger of the public becomes large enough to overrule the desires of the elites.
Drudge has an excerpt of a new Time magazine report on the rapidly growing influx on illegal aliens on the US border with Mexico. (Update: Here is the full article: Who Left the Door Open?)
The U.S.’s borders, rather than become more secure since 9/11, have grown even more porous and the trend has accelerated in the past year. Based on a TIME investigation, it’s fair to estimate that the number of illegal aliens flooding into the U.S. this year will total 3 million, enough to fill 22,000 Boeing 737-700 airliners, or 60 flights every day. It will be the largest wave since 2001 and roughly triple the number of immigrants who will come to America by legal means, TIME reports in its cover story , "Who Left the Door Open?" (on newsstands Monday, Sept. 13th).
The category "Other Than Mexicans" or "OTMs" is rapidly growing.
From Oct. 1 of last year until Aug. 25, the border patrol estimates, it apprehended along the southwest border 55,890 people who fall into the category described officially as other than Mexicans, or OTMS. With five weeks remaining in the fiscal year, the number is nearly double the 28,048 apprehended in all of 2002. But that’s just how many were caught.
Based on longtime government formulas for calculating how many elude capture, TIME estimates that as many as 190,000 illegals from countries other than Mexico have melted into the U.S. population so far this year. The border patrol, which is run by the Department of Homeland Security, refuses to break down OTMS by country. But local law officers, ranchers and others who daily confront the issue tell TIME they have encountered not only a wide variety of Latin Americans (from Guatemala, El Salvador, Brazil, Nicaragua and Venezuela) but also intruders from Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Russia and China, as well as people who said they were from Egypt, Iran and Iraq.
Any guesses out there on whether Al Qaeda operatives know that the US border with Mexico is an easy route for sneaking into the United States? Some of those people sneaking in from Middle Eastern countries are probably coming for higher salaries. But if the poor immigrants looking for higher paying work know about our undefended southern border then surely Al Qaeda's intelligence gatherers have figured this out as well. So do not be surprised if the next terrorist attack in the United States is carried out by people who crossed the border from Mexico.
Time also has an excerpt for non-subscribers.
Update: Here is the full article: Who Left the Door Open?
The department's inspector general, Clark Kent Ervin, said nine of the 10 temporary employees sent to Riyadh and Jidda neither spoke nor read Arabic, the language in which many documents they review are written and the sole language spoken by many applicants.
US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Clark Kent Ervin demonstrates what are super man qualities in the Bush Administration (sorry, couldn't resist) when he points out that Arabic language skills are essential for detecting terrorists in Arab countries.
"The officers have to be language proficient," Mr. Ervin said in the interview. "They need to be versed in the culture and country conditions. They have to be trained in interview techniques and fraud detection. And generally this was not the case with the officers that were sent."
The program for providing these officers has no permanent funding as of yet. Therefore there was no money available to provide the officers formal training before sending them off to Saudi Arabia. We have just marked the 3 year anniversary of the original 9/11 attack and funding for homeland security officers to review visa applications in Saudi Arabia will not be in the official budget until the fiscal year 2005. Then a whole $10 million will be provided and 5 more Arab countries will eventually get DHS screeners to supplement State Department screeners. We can only guess when sufficiently qualified DHS visa screeners will be sent to Saudi Arabia. How long will it take to recruit or train screeners fluent in Arabic and sufficiently knowledgeable about Saudi Arabia to detect implausible claims on visa applications?
The Bush Administration has managed to find the time and money to spend well over $100 billion dollars (and rising) in Iraq and to send about 140,000 (at the moment) soldiers there. But adequate staffing of visa screening personnel in the country that sent 15 out of the 19 9/11 attackers to the United States is not viewed as a priority.
Visa screening can keep out bad guys. The National Commision on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (a.k.a. The 9/11 Commission) notes in their final report that one potential hijacker was kept out of the United States by repeated rejections of visa applications.
Jarrah was supposed to be joined at FFTC by Ramzi Binalshibh, who even sent the school a deposit. But Binalshibh could not obtain a U.S. visa. His first applications in May and June 2000 were denied because he lacked established ties in Germany ensuring his return from a trip to the United States. In September, he went home to Yemen to apply for a visa from there, but was denied on grounds that he also lacked sufficient ties to Yemen. In October, he tried one last time, in Berlin, applying for a student visa to attend "aviation language school," but the prior denials were noted and this application was denied as well, as incomplete.52
Unable to participate directly in the operation, Binalshibh instead took on the role of coordinating between KSM and the operatives in the United States. Apart from sending a total of about $10,000 in wire transfers to Atta and Shehhi during the summer of 2000, one of Binalshibh's first tasks in his new role as plot coordinator was to assist another possible pilot, Zacarias Moussaoui.53
The final report of the 9/11 Commission has a fairly detailed and lengthy list of visa and immigration policy recommendations.
In the decade before September 11, 2001, border security-encompassing travel, entry, and immigration-was not seen as a national security matter. Public figures voiced concern about the "war on drugs," the right level and kind of immigration, problems along the southwest border, migration crises originating in the Caribbean and elsewhere, or the growing criminal traffic in humans. The immigration system as a whole was widely viewed as increasingly dysfunctional and badly in need of reform. In national security circles, however, only smuggling of weapons of mass destruction carried weight, not the entry of terrorists who might use such weapons or the presence of associated foreign-born terrorists.
For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons. Terrorists must travel clandestinely to meet, train, plan, case targets, and gain access to attack. To them, international travel presents great danger, because they must surface to pass through regulated channels, present themselves to border security officials, or attempt to circumvent inspection points.
In their travels, terrorists use evasive methods, such as altered and counterfeit passports and visas, specific travel methods and routes, liaisons with corrupt government officials, human smuggling networks, supportive travel agencies, and immigration and identity fraud. These can sometimes be detected.
Before 9/11, no agency of the U.S. government systematically analyzed terrorists' travel strategies. Had they done so, they could have discovered the ways in which the terrorist predecessors to al Qaeda had been systematically but detectably exploiting weaknesses in our border security since the early 1990s.
We found that as many as 15 of the 19 hijackers were potentially vulnerable to interception by border authorities. Analyzing their characteristic travel documents and travel patterns could have allowed authorities to intercept 4 to 15 hijackers and more effective use of information available in U.S. government databases could have identified up to 3 hijackers.32
Looking back, we can also see that the routine operations of our immigration laws-that is, aspects of those laws not specifically aimed at protecting against terrorism-inevitably shaped al Qaeda's planning and opportunities. Because they were deemed not to be bona fide tourists or students as they claimed, five conspirators that we know of tried to get visas and failed, and one was denied entry by an inspector. We also found that had the immigration system set a higher bar for determining whether individuals are who or what they claim to be-and ensuring routine consequences for violations-it could potentially have excluded, removed, or come into further contact with several hijackers who did not appear to meet the terms for admitting short-term visitors.33
Our investigation showed that two systemic weaknesses came together in our border system's inability to contribute to an effective defense against the 9/11 attacks: a lack of well-developed counterterrorism measures as a part of border security and an immigration system not able to deliver on its basic commitments, much less support counterterrorism. These weaknesses have been reduced but are far from being overcome.
Recommendation: Targeting travel is at least as powerful a weapon against terrorists as targeting their money. The United States should combine terrorist travel intelligence, operations, and law enforcement in a strategy to intercept terrorists, find terrorist travel facilitators, and constrain terrorist mobility.
Click through and read the many immigration, border control, and visa policy recommendations of the commission. Note that many of these recommendations are intuitively obvious and a presidency that was willing to place a higher priority on homeland security than on Hispanic pandering or Saudi relations would already be well along the way toward implementing most or all of them.
Update: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has revealed why Saudis were chosen for the 9/11 attack: Most people in Al Qaeda training camps were Saudi nationals and Saudis had an easier time getting into the United States.
KSM, for instance, denies that Saudis were chosen for the 9/11 plot to drive a wedge between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and stresses practical reasons for considering ethnic background when selecting operatives. He says that so many were Saudi because Saudis comprised the largest portion of the pool of recruits in the al Qaeda training camps. KSM estimates that in any given camp, 70 percent of the mujahideen were Saudi, 20 percent were Yemeni, and 10 percent were from elsewhere. Although Saudi and Yemeni trainees were most often willing to volunteer for suicide operations, prior to 9/11 it was easier for Saudi operatives to get into the United States.91
We need to be especially vigilant with Saudi nationals and Yemeni nationals applying for visas to the United States because they are most likely to be Al Qaeda terrorists.
After months of creeping withdrawal from a growing number of towns in the north and west, the American military confirmed that major operations were under way to regain lost territory.
The American military's biggest success of the day was the recapture of Samarra, one of the three most important Sunni cities that have been under effective insurgent control since April, apparently without a shot being fired.
Joint US and Iraqi forces began a seven-hour bombardment of Talafar at 0200 local time (2200 GMT Wednesday).
Fierce fighting around the town of Tal Afar, a suspected haven for foreign fighters about 100km east of the Syrian border in northern Iraq, left 45 dead and more than 80 wounded, a local government health official said.
Some Iraqi government forces are involved in the Sunni Triangle offensive and at least part of the Iraqi government supports the offensive.
"Fallujah and Ramadi have not been dealt with," said Sabah Kadahim, a Ministry of Interior spokesman. "It's time to start."
The Americans cannot reduce the size of their forces for fear that the rebels would make greater advances against the Iraqi forces; the number of American troops is up from 115,000 in February to some 140,000 today, while only 95,000 members of Iraq's security forces, the Americans now say, are ready to take up the slack—a sharp downward revision of the previously cited figure of 200,000. By contrast, the Americans' estimate of 5,000 rebels last year has jumped to 20,000. Plainly there is no light yet at the end of Mr Allawi's tunnel to normality.
In my view the big unknown at this point is whether the central government can develop and field a large army that will stay loyal to it. If the government's military can't develop a substantial fighting capability then the United States has to either stay and fight for years or withdraw and let a civil war between the existing factions settle the question of which strongman will be Iraq's new ruler or even whether Iraq will stay as a single country.
Among those who died were 24 women--as many women as were killed in service during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, Vietnam and Korea combined.
The nature of this war is different, said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught, president of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation.
"I was in Vietnam after the Tet offensive," she said. "Never was Saigon as dangerous a place as Baghdad is today. In Iraq, you can be at risk anywhere."
Consider the comparison to Vietnam. Granted, the death rate of US troops is lower than it was in Vietnam. But that is partly a function of terrain. The Iraqi insurgents do not have jungles to hide in - except for the concrete jungles in cities. The insurgents have Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) that can be exploded remotely. But overall the technological advantage enjoyed by US soldiers today is greater than the technological advantage of US soldiers in Vietnam against the VC. Among the technological advantages of US forces today are highly accurate air support with JDAM bombs, GPS navigation, signal processing gadgets that process gunshot sounds to quickly locate the direction of sniper fire, fancier flak jackets and armor protection of vehicles, and remotely controlled robotic devices. Also, in the post-Vietnam War era the volunteer US Army and Marines have gone through a huge internal cultural change caused in large part by the embrace of evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity by officers and enlisted men alike.
The greater capability of the US military to protect itself in Iraq is, in my view, causing many observers to underestimate the size of the insurgency in Iraq. Had the US military of the Vietnam era gone into Iraq the US casualty rates would be greater by some multiple of today's casualty rate. Note that I'm not arguing that the main reason the casualty rate of the US military is lower because the US military is doing such a bang up job of killing the insurgents. The insurgency has grown in size. The insurgency's growth has happened in spite of the fact that the US military is much more able to learn lessons from battlefield events than the Vietnam era military. The US military is bringing all sorts of new technology to Iraq as the war progresses and yet still their casualty rates are rising.
Will Bush now let the US military fight its way into every single Sunni Triangle city and town? Will the Iraqi government's military grow in size while staying loyal to the civilian leaders who are officially supposed to control it? Can large enough portions of Iraq be made secure enough to make elections feasible in January?
Update: Note that the initial retaking of Samarra was done supposedly without firing a shot. At first that might seem like a great success. But if no shots were fired then all the insurgents in Samarra are still alive to plant bombs and snipe from hidden locations. On the other hand, if US forces killed insurgents then that would just motivate their relatives to seek revenge. The US probably can't stop the insurgency without acting far more brutally than the American public would find acceptable.
But commanders acknowledge that as many as 500 insurgents remain in the city. The guerrillas' preference is to strike at smaller U.S. or Iraqi units. In classic guerrilla style, they tend to hide their weapons and blend in among residents when faced with larger forces.
U.S. troops pulled out at the end of the day for lack of a secure base at which to spend the night.
The US forces selected new civilian leaders for Samarra during their day trip. But did those civilian leaders survive the night?
Steve Sailer has an article in The American Spectator arguing his belief that legalization of marijuana would make teenagers even lazier and fattier than they already are today.
The problem with marijuana is not that it's some wild and crazy thing, but that it's middle-age-in-a-bong. Smoking dope saps the energy from youth, turning them into sedentary couch potatoes.
The parents of America already have a hard enough time getting their teenagers -- and, increasingly, their adult children who have come back home to live -- off the TV room floor when they are perfectly straight. Parents understand that changing laws to make marijuana more readily available -- and, let's not kid ourselves, that's what these "reforms" would do -- would create an even more inert and obese generation of young people.
Legalization would lower costs, increase ease of access, and make it easier to get away with smoking pot. It therefore seems reasonable to expect usage to go up and drive and ambition to go down. Quite a few recreational drugs cause brain damage. So the short term effect of drug use is not the only effect. See my FuturePundit web log's Brain Addiction archives for posts on what has been discovered via brain scans of how various drugs damage different parts of the brain.
I do not personally buy the libertarian argument for legalization. My problem with it is that I see society as a kind of contract. We have a contractual obligation to our fellow citizens to not impair out ability to take care of ourselves and to respect the rights of others. Also, as a purely practical matter the more people who are impaired the more the rest of us will have to pay taxes to support them. Libertarian arguments against the welfare state are irrelevant because the majority of the public support the welfare state. Higher levels of irresponsible behavior by some people will always cause costs for the rest of us.
On a kinda related note the Rand Corporation think tank has just released a study providing evidence that TV watching leads to earlier sexual activity by teenagers.
Adolescents who watch large amounts of television containing sexual content are twice as likely to begin engaging in sexual intercourse in the following year as their peers who watch little such TV, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today.
In addition, the study found that youths who watch large amounts of TV with sexual content are more likely to initiate sexual activities other than intercourse, such as “making out” and oral sex. These adolescents behaved sexually like youths who were 9 to 17 months older, but watched only average amounts of TV with sexual content, according to the study published in the September electronic edition of the journal Pediatrics.
“This is the strongest evidence yet that the sexual content of television programs encourages adolescents to initiate sexual intercourse and other sexual activities,” said Rebecca Collins, a RAND psychologist who headed the study. “The impact of television viewing is so large that even a moderate shift in the sexual content of adolescent TV watching could have a substantial effect on their sexual behavior.”
“Television habits predicted whether adolescents went to ‘second or third base,’ as well as whether they had sex for the first time,” Collins said. “The 12-year-olds who watched a lot of television with sexual content behaved like the 14- or 15-years-olds who watched the least amount of sexual television. The advancement in sexual behavior we saw among kids who watched a lot of sexual television was striking.”
Researchers from RAND Health found that television shows that included only talk about sex had just as much impact on adolescent behavior as shows that depicted sexual behavior.
“We found little difference whether a TV show presents people talking about whether they have sex or portrays them having sex,” Collins said. “Both affect adolescents’ perceptions of what is normal sexual behavior and propels their own sexual behavior.”
On a positive note, the study found that one group — African American youth — that watched more depictions of sexual risks or safety measures was less likely to begin engaging in sexual intercourse in the subsequent year.
Why are black kids different in their reaction to TV? Does TV sex provide some feeling of satiation for them? If so, why? If that is not the explanation for their different reaction then what is? Or is the difference more in the kids who do not watch much TV? Are the kids black kids who do not watch TV different than the white kids who do not watch TV in some way that accounts for the difference?
Another question: Are boys who watch more TV different on average in personalities from boys who play more video games? Also, are boys who spend more time on the internet on average smarter or different in personality than the boys who spend either more time watching TV or playing games or outside playing sports?
Also, different youthful subcultures developing around TV, games, internet, and outdoors activities?
Want a handy way to watch the progress of the war in Iraq? Search Google News using the terms no-go iraq. This turns up all sorts of stories about where US forces can't go in Iraq (except in large numbers while under fire) and where foreigners can't go. See, for example, this article on how Samarra has joined the list of "no-go" areas in Iraq. (same article here)
"It's true that we can't go into Samarra very often," said U.S. Army Capt. Scott Synowiez, an intelligence officer at a 1st Infantry Division base on the outskirts of the city. "Whenever we go into Samarra we do get attacked, without a doubt."
500 insurgents in 3 Sunni Muslim groups control a city of 250,000.
The insurgents have destroyed police stations and government buildings. The police chief and mayor still live in Samarra, but have lost all authority. The city council president resigned last week after insurgents blew up the council building.
Note that the so-called central government has no control of some (probably all) no-go zones and there are competing militias in the no-go zones. Iraq has become balkanized. Or Lebanonized if you prefer.
How many no-go zones are there for US and allied forces in Iraq? It depends on how you count. So far only Najaf and Fallujah are officially US military no-go zones as a result of agreements made with insurgent forces.
In a further embarrassment, Thursday's peace agreement calls for Najaf to become Iraq's second no-go zone for U.S. troops, after Marines withdrew from the western city of Fallujah in May.
But there are lots of other effective no-go zones. Latifiya is referred to in news reports as a no-go zone for the US military.
Iraqi police and national guardsmen, assisted by US forces, raided the town of Latifiya, 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of Baghdad, marking the first time the interim government had taken decisive action against Sunni insurgents since it took full powers in late June.
The town is part of a virtual no-go zone for US troops, Iraqi police and foreigners and has earned the name "Fallujah's second head" after the Sunni rebel strongold west of Baghdad.
Reporting for the New York Times Dexter Filkins says US forces may pull out of even more cities in Iraq.
In Iraq, the list of places from which American soldiers have either withdrawn or decided to visit only rarely is growing: Falluja, where a Taliban-like regime has imposed a rigid theocracy; Ramadi, where the Sunni insurgents appear to have the run of the city; and the holy Shiite cities of Karbala and Najaf to the south, where the Americans agreed last month to keep their distance from the sacred shrines of Ali and Hussein.
The calls are rising for the Americans to pull out of even more areas, notably Sadr City, the sprawling neighborhood in eastern Baghdad that is the main base for the rebel cleric Moktada al-Sadr.
Note the creeping withdrawal of American forces.
Some of the competing factions are local tribal militia. But one of the competing factions is the resurgent Baath Party.
Even with Saddam under lock and key, the Baath Party is back in business.
The pan-Arab socialist movement is going strong with sophisticated computer technology, high-level infiltration of the new government and plenty of recruits in thousands of disenchanted, impoverished Sunni Muslim Iraqis, according to interviews with current and former members, Iraqi government officials and groups trying to root out former Baathists.
Will the Sunni Baathists eventually regain complete control? Or can Sistani orchestrate an effective Shia Arab opposition to the Sunni Arab forces? Also, will the Shias or Sunnis each try to cut deals with the Kurds for autonomy in exchange for help against the other major Arab faction? Or will the civil war become 3-way or maybe 4 or 5 or 6-way?
Nationwide, U.S. forces are being attacked 60 times per day on average, up 20% from the three-month period before the hand-over.
BAGHDAD, Iraq – A U.S. assault on one or more of Iraq’s three main “no-go” areas – including Fallujah – is likely in the next four months as the Iraqi government prepares to extend control before elections set for January, the U.S. land forces commander said Sunday.
Army Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz’s announcement came after a month that saw attacks on U.S. forces reach an average of almost 100 per day – the highest level since the end of major combat last year.
There are still plenty of blogs painting a rosy picture of how things are going in Iraq. I can't figure out how they manage to do this.
The US has a number of problems here. How can it insist on the holding of elections in January in cities which neither US forces nor the nominal central government control? Will any local militias allow elections to take place?
Also, how can US forces hope to defeat all these insurgencies? Where is the US military going to get enough soldiers to use to fight so many urban battles? Could US forces fight their way into a succession of towns and cities occupy each one for a week, hold elections in that town, and then withdraw to transfer troops to fight into the next town to hold the next election? What exactly would be the point of doing so? To elect a "national" parliament for a federal government that controlled some federal government administration buildings?
Some people advocate unilateral withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Well, in a sense US withdrawal is happening piecemeal as US forces withdraw from cities that are under insurgent control. Others, myself included, argue for partition of Iraq. Again, partition is happening piecemeal as different local militias and factions take over different towns and portions of cities. However, this piecemeal approach is likely to yield a far worse outcome than we could have gotten had the Bush Administration been willing to admit the scale of their error months ago. But the need for Bush to win reelection precludes such an admission of error as does the unwillingness of he and his advisors to abandon a very flawed set of assumptions about human nature.
Update: David Rieff argues that whoever wins election in November faces a dilemma in Iraq.
Whatever happens in Najaf or Falluja, United States officials continue to face a considerable difficulty: how to reconcile what an effective counterinsurgency strategy requires with what is politically acceptable to an interim regime whose continued political legitimacy and viability is also a strategic necessity for the United States. Use too much force and you alienate the very people you want to win over to the side of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's government. Use too little force and you allow Shiite and Sunni insurgents alike to become more powerful, and more of a threat to the Allawi regime.
My guess is that there is not some optimal level of force that will stop the insurgents while allowing the Iraqi government to appear legitimate in the eyes of most Iraqis.
Rieff also argues that a large scale construction effort in Iraq would pull enough unemployed youth into jobs that the incentive for joining the Mahdi Army would decline considerably. But can enough young males be employed in construction projects to make a very large dent in the size of the insurgency? I am skeptical.
Update II: A car bomb outside Fallujah just killed 7 US Marines. Can US forces afford to wait until after the US election before doing something about the insurgents in Fallujah? What say you hawks? Let US soldiers continue to die from bombs every day and put off a major offensive until after Bush gets reelected? Is that a price you are willing to pay?
Update III: After examining the attack rate, casualty rate, and death rate Steve Sailer shows that John Kerry and George W. Bush are both not offering any sensible strategy for Iraq.
What do the candidates say about this? Sen. Kerry announced on Labor Day that he'd like to get America's troops home within four years. (Let's see, 38 casualties per day times 365 days per year times 4 years equals ... 55,000 additional casualties under President Kerry, on top of the nearly 8,000 already. Time to build some more VA hospitals.) In response, Pres. Bush denounced Kerry for "flip-flopping" and refused to set any kind of deadline. (Let's see, 38 casualties per day times 365 days per year times infinity years equals ... )
We're all agreed now that in Vietnam the only two sensible choices were Win or Get Out. Right now in Iraq, we're headed toward the Defeat of a Thousand Cuts. Don't believe me? Then tell me what those nearly 1200 casualties during August accomplished strategically. Every month, we lose control of a larger portion of Iraqi territory because whenever push comes to shove in Iraq, Bush backs down.
If US troops are going to stay in Iraq then my suggestion is to start doing urban invasions that do not stop short. Do complete conquest. It would be most sensible to invade Sunni stronghold cities such as Fallujah first. The Sunni cities do not have as much in the way of shrines since the most important Sunni holy sites are in Saudi Arabia. Also, there are fewer Sunnis in Iraq. Plus, the Sunnis have more foreign Arabs fighting for them and probably including fellow Sunni Al Qaeda.
Another alternative would be to continue to withdraw. This could be done in conjunction with arming factions that seem like better bets to back according to some Machiavellian calculation. My advice is to arm the Kurds since we could stay on good terms with them. Does it make sense to side with the Sunnis or the Shias? That's a harder call. Also, which Sunnis to side with? The Baathists? If the more religious Sunnis come out on top they are more likely to provide a welcoming environment for Al Qaeda operatives and then finally Iraq really would become a serious supporter for Al Qaeda terrorism.
In a funny line uttered at the Republican National Convention California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger accused pessimists of being economic girlie men.
To those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say: Don’t be economic girlie men! The U.S. economy remains the envy of the world. We have the highest economic growth of any of the world’s major industrialized nations.
Of course we have a much lower economic growth rate than China. But the Chinese are playing catch-up and that is easier to do than it is to develop new technology that raises maximum possible productivity even higher.
Morgan Stanley chief economist Stephen Roach defends the pessimistic views of the "economic girlie men".
By depicting those of us who worry about the state of the US economy as “economic girlie-men,” the Governor offered new meaning to the debate that is currently raging in financial markets. Far be it for me to take this characterization personally. But in the interest of fair play, it deserves a response.
Forget about politics -- at least for the moment -- and consider the facts: This economic recovery, by most conventional measures, has been amazingly lousy. Annualized growth in real GDP has averaged 3.4% over the first ten quarters of this upturn, far below the 5% norm of the previous six business cycles. Nonfarm payroll employment is up only 0.1%, on average, over the past ten quarters -- hugely deficient when compared with the 2.7% record of the past six recoveries. Real wage and salary disbursements -- the essence of the economy’s organic, or internal, income-generating capacity -- is up at only a 0.8% average annual rate over the past ten quarters versus the 3.9% norm of the previous six upturns. The federal government budget is out of control, having swung from surplus to deficit by six percentage points of GDP from 2000 to 2003. This was key in pushing the net national saving rate down to its all time low of 0.4% of GNP in early 2003. Lacking in domestic saving, the US has had to import foreign saving in order to keep the economy growing; that has given rise to a record current account deficit of 5.1% of GDP. All this speaks of a vulnerable and exceedingly low-quality recovery in the US. If that makes me an economic girlie boy, so be it.
Roach makes a convincing argument that the US economy has structural problems (e.g. a large trade deficit, a low domestic savings rate, and unfunded retirement liabilities) of long standing that are not the cause of any one politician's or party's policies. He thinks the blame game in Washington DC prevents the underlying problems from being rationally discussed and addressed.
I am concerned that low interest rates have been used to entice the American consumer to clean up a recession borne by an irresponsible corporate spending binge by going on one of his own. I'm afraid that the $200 billion-plus that Americans have cashed out of their houses has been spent, and the next drop in interest rates won't be concomitant with a rise in prices; rather, it will be because of a full-fledged financial emergency
Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson cites Brookings Institution economist Charles Schultze to argue that the biggest reason for slow jobs growth during the economic recovery is higher than typical productivity growth.
From late 1995 to late 2000, productivity (output per hour worked) grew 2.6 percent annually. During the next three years, annual growth averaged 4.1 percent. If it had stayed at the lower level, there'd be 2 million more jobs, Schultze estimates. Unemployment would be about 5 percent.
Rapid productivity growth would be a better cause of high unemployment than other possible causes. Though if that is a major cause it brings with it the possibility that the economy is going to become so productive that an growing fraction of the population will beome permanently unemployed.
Another less frequently mentioned cause of the current unemployment rate is immigration. Count on leading figures in both political parties to avoid mentioning that in the election debates.
The economy is not in George W. Bush's favor for reelection. But he's not running on its economic record. He is running on attacks on Kerry's character and ability. Plus, he's wrapping the war in Iraq together with the war against terrorists to argue that the Iraq war was necessary in spite of the aftermath. His argument doesn't sound reasonable to me.
But I'm guessing at this point that Bush's argument is going to convince a majority of voters. One reason for this is that John Kerry is a weak candidate. Bush only has to seem better than Kerry to a lot of voters who do not understand the fallacies at the base of in Bush's foreign policy. Kerry is not going to try to argue against those fallacies (e.g. the supposedly universal desire for liberal democracy) because some of those fallacies are part of liberal mythology as well.
To meet compliance requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act schools must test 95% of their students including 95% of the students of each ethnicity and in special education due to learning disabilities. This requirement leads to top schools being rated as poorly performing.
In Westport, Conn., the Bedford Middle School, where test scores are often among Connecticut's highest, was called low-performing because the school failed to meet the 95 percent standard for testing for the disabled by one student.
"It really bugs me that we got a black eye for a mechanical reason rather than for anything legitimate," said Dr. Elliott Landon, Westport's superintendent.
Montgomery High School in Skillman, N.J., was honored by the federal Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 1993, and last year its mean SAT score of 1220 was 194 points above the national average. But Montgomery, too, failed to meet federal targets last year because one student's absence brought the school afoul of the rule requiring that 95 percent of students take standardized tests.
Imagine a grade in a small school that has, say, 20 students. Well, if one kid misses the testing day then 5% of the students did not get tested. Or if the test is administered on a day when the flu hits the absence rate could be that high.
Then there is the testing requirement per ethnicity and for the retarded kids (how politically incorrect of me not to say "learning challenged"). If a grade has 5 Hispanics then just 1 Hispanic is 20% of the Hispanics. Or if it has 4 retarded kids then 1 retarded kid is 25% of the retards.
The bigger problem with NCLB is it is basically a denial of human nature. Some kids are dumb. Some are super fast smarties. Most are in between. A school in an upper class neighborhood is going to have smarter kids on average than a school in a lower class neighborhood. It is not the fault of the teachers or administrators or even of the parents (who didn't choose their own genes after all) that the kids in the lower class school are mostly not too bright. Granted, there are drug and alcohol using and cigarette smoking moms whose treatment of their own bodies lowered their kids intelligence. But surely the cause of most low intelligence in the United States is not due to irresponsible parenting.
Teachers and schools ought to be measured on how well they do with the raw material they are given. Are the kids at an average of, say, 87 IQ? Then if the teachers manage to get the kids reading at the 9th grade level by the end of 12th grade the teachers ought to be given cash awards, medals, and congratulated by notable dignitaries. If the kids have an average IQ of 130 then the kids ought to be reading at 12th grade level by the end of 8th or 9th grade or else there is something wrong that needs fixing.
The failure to consider differences in innate cognitive abilities means the whole NCLB debate is based on a massive lie. You won't see "IQ" or "intelligence" mentioned in the vast bulk of articles about failed schools and low student test scores. The elephant is in the room, it is in plain sight, and the vast bulk of our commentariat will not mention it. What passes for education policy debate in America is intellectually bankrupt. What would Orwell make of this?
Writing for the Jerusalem Post Barry Rubin examines the active support by Syria and Iran for the insurgency in Iraq, America's inability to halt that support, and the harm to US interests that surely flows from the Iraq invasion.
First, it is overextended in Iraq, spending vast amounts of money and using pretty much all the available military forces.
Second, support for its presence in Iraq is already falling rapidly. There would be no domestic backing or international support for engaging in a wider war.
Third, after having been so criticized for going into Iraq in the first place, the administration would not have much credibility in charging that Iran and Syria are engaged in aggressive activities.
Arguably, any gain in the "fear factor" brought about by the US overthrow of Saddam is being eroded. Those who argue, in the words of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini two decades ago, that the US cannot do a "damn thing" are having that feeling reinforced today.The Iraq war's outcome has undermined the credibility of US power no matter how long American forces remain in Iraq. Indeed, one could argue that the longer they remain, the worse the problem will become.
I expect some readers to take issue with Rubin's contentions. But if the Iranians and Syrians feel intimidated by the power of the US military then why are both regimes allowing active recruiting of fighters and passage of fighters through their territories into Iraq? Why are the Mullahs in Iran still busy working to develop nuclear weapons? Where is the sign that the Iranian and Syrian governments have been intimidated into changing their policies in directions more in US interests? Where is the gain?
Having America look weak provides an incentive for angry Muslims to join the ranks of active terrorists or to donate to terrorist organizations. At the same time US involvement in Iraq is also turning Muslim public opinion against America. It is hard to see where there is a net benefit for the United States in US Middle Eastern policy.
But the biggest question about the United States—whether its response to 9/11 has made it safer or more vulnerable—can begin to be answered. Over the past two years I have been talking with a group of people at the working level of America's anti-terrorism efforts. Most are in the military, the intelligence agencies, and the diplomatic service; some are in think tanks and nongovernmental agencies. I have come to trust them, because most of them have no partisan ax to grind with the Administration (in the nature of things, soldiers and spies are mainly Republicans), and because they have so far been proved right. In the year before combat started in Iraq, they warned that occupying the country would be far harder than conquering it. As the occupation began, they pointed out the existence of plans and warnings the Administration seemed determined to ignore.
As a political matter, whether the United States is now safer or more vulnerable is of course ferociously controversial. That the war was necessary—and beneficial—is the Bush Administration's central claim. That it was not is the central claim of its critics. But among national-security professionals there is surprisingly little controversy. Except for those in government and in the opinion industries whose job it is to defend the Administration's record, they tend to see America's response to 9/11 as a catastrophe. I have sat through arguments among soldiers and scholars about whether the invasion of Iraq should be considered the worst strategic error in American history—or only the worst since Vietnam. Some of these people argue that the United States had no choice but to fight, given a pre-war consensus among its intelligence agencies that Iraq actually had WMD supplies. Many say that things in Iraq will eventually look much better than they do now. But about the conduct and effect of the war in Iraq one view prevails: it has increased the threats America faces, and has reduced the military, financial, and diplomatic tools with which we can respond.
"Let me tell you my gut feeling," a senior figure at one of America's military-sponsored think tanks told me recently, after we had talked for twenty minutes about details of the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. "If I can be blunt, the Administration is full of s---. In my view we are much, much worse off now than when we went into Iraq. That is not a partisan position. I voted for these guys. But I think they are incompetent, and I have had a very close perspective on what is happening. Certainly in the long run we have harmed ourselves. We are playing to the enemy's political advantage. Whatever tactical victories we may gain along the way, this will prove to be a strategic blunder."...
Yet in spite of all this Bush is probably going to get reelected. My guess is that most Americans are not paying enough attention to draw a distinction between the war against terrorists and the war in Iraq (though there are small signs of improvement in public understanding). Certanly the rhetoric from speakers at the Republican convention suggests that the Bush reelection strategists believe they can blur that distinction to their advantage. My guess is that they are correct.
There is one upside to Bush's reelection: Bush will have to deal with the consequences of his own decisions. However, that upside of Bush's reelection hardly makes 4 more years of Dubya worth it in my estimation.
If you are wondering why two groups are fighting in Sudan this time around it is not a battle between black Christians and Arab Muslims. Both groups are Muslims. But as David S. Hauck of the Christian Science Monitor explains, the Arabs are pastoralists who have been raiding the (almost same in skin color) ethnic African farmers.
According to Human Rights Watch, an international monitoring group, the farmers are generally non-Arabs, or ethnic Africans. They live and farm in the central part of the region. The pastoralists, who reside in the north, are largely of Arab descent. They are nomadic and seminomadic and herd camels by trade.
Spats have periodically flared between the two groups, as migrating camel herders in search of water during the dry season would graze on the farmers' land. Disputes over lost crops would be settled by tribal leaders, with the nomadic tribes reimbursing the farmers. Recent droughts, however, have exacerbated the tension. The pastoralists began raiding farms to restock their decimated herds, and with the introduction of automatic weapons in the 1980s, banditry increased and the clashes became more violent.
The Arab-dominated government has been siding with the Arab pastoralists. Why? Perhaps simple racism in favor of their genetically closer Arab brethren. Or are the top leaders of Sudan from herding families? Has anyone come across an article which provides a convincing explanation of the Sudan government's motives?
On the Gene Expression blog Godless Capitalist argues that a defeat of Bush will lay the groundwork for a big shift in the Republican Party's position on immigration, more fiscal responsibility, and other needed reforms.
We must move to a revenue-positive or merit-based scheme as soon as possible to prevent the tripling of the underclass (it has already doubled) - and this will only be possible if Bushism is thoroughly repudiated. The party must look within to find out why it lost this election, and the answer must come back from the base loud and clear: Bush's proposed amnesty for 20 million illegal aliens cost him the election.A Republican civil war is the only hope for a fiscally rightist party that stops illegal immigration, faces the diversity cult down in favor of individualism, and defenestrates the neocons.
PS: If only Arnold was an immigration reformer, he'd be perfect....
Aside: I don't know what exactly Arnie was trying to say at the Republican Convention but I just loved his line "Don't be economic girlie men".
Godless follows up in the comments of that post by arguing that Republicans are not going to change their policies as long as they think they have to be good soldiers lining up to follow commands of a Republican President.
a) if Bush is not defeated the immigration amnesty will become a permanent part of the party platform. It will be seen as something that did not cost Bush the election, even though Bush knows it's highly unpopular with his base. Failing a Mexican 9/11, at that point it will only be a matter of time before some kind of open-borders legislation.
b) a rightist Congress will gridlock Kerry for four years. The big problem now is that Republicans are good soldiers and are toeing the party line...which has been drawn FAR to the left by Bush on the aforementioned issues (esp. immigration & spending). With Kerry in office, partisan feeling *and* ideology will be free to reassert themselves.
In other words, the rightist Republicans are now being pulled to the left by Bush. But under Kerry, the leftist Republicans would be pushed to the right. THAT is the big difference, and it's really big.
Yes, think back to 1993 and 1994 and Newt Gingrich's aggressive leadership of opposition to Clinton. The Republicans will accept policies from Bush that would make them all up in arms if the same policies were proposed by a Democrat sitting in the Oval Office.
In that same comment thread Razib, while doing an annoying e.e. cummings impression, makes the excellent point that not only is Bush not a Burkean conservative but Bush has made such serious mistakes that the electorate needs to hold him accountable.
on paper kerry is really, really, bad. in real life, he is really, really, bad. i don't agree with most of his pap and i am repulsed by his personality. the problem is that bush is really bad (at least), but the republicans don't seem to want to ancknowledge it. they will acknowledge that kerry is really, really bad.
i think bush has the superficial aspects of right-wing presidency down pat, explaining the leftish rage and fury at him. but, i fear that he'll never really internalize the long view. as burke would say, " it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born. . . ."
of course, if you think kerry would endanger the safety of the united states, and that bush is the only alternative on foreign policy, i can see why people would have to stand by him. i just happen to think he's made too many mistakes, and accountability is something that is important.
My problem with Bush is that not only has he made big mistakes but he shows every sign of not believing that any of his mistakes really are mistakes.
Over on the Marginal Revolution blog Alex Tabarrok and Tyler Cowen have made a number of posts on the question of whether fiscal and economic policies will be worse under Bush or Kerry. The question can't be answered simply by looking at each candidate's spending proposals. While Kerry has made proposals that would cause huge spending increases there are, as Tyler points out, a number of reasons why Kerry might not be as bad as Bush on spending.
2. The Republicans become more fiscally conservative in opposition.
4. Kerry would be under constant pressure to show that he is "tough" on foreign policy. This will limit his ability to make domestic spending commitments. And if he does well on foreign policy, and appears suitably in charge, he could get reelected without much using spending to buy domestic support. If he is weak on foreign policy, will lots of spending really help him?
Also, the next presidential term is not the only thing at stake. Just as I've argued that the Republican leaders need to learn that there is a price to be paid for defying their base on immigration Tyler argues that voters, by their choice of whether to vote for or against Bush after Bush has greatly increased spending, will teach the Republicans a lesson about whether they can get away with fiscal irresponsibility.
5. If Bush is re-elected, it affirms that a Republican can get away with jacking up domestic spending. Such a precedent is worrying for the longer run, not just for Bush's second term.
I am of the school of thought that politicians need to be punished. A vote should not be made based simply on a decision on which candidate is worse but also on what message will be sent about past behavior and about what sorts of behavior the electorate will punish or allow in the future. Also, one needs to consider the argument that divided government produces the best conditions for preventing policy makers from implementing bad policies.
As for the argument that Bush will be better at doing what is necessary to fight the war on terror: Bush falls short in a number of areas on the terror front. Bush will not allow serious religious and ethnic profiling of airline passengers. Bush Administration visa policy toward Saudi Arabia is still too lax. Bush refuses to close the Mexican border to prevent Al Qaeda infiltration that way. Bush shifted special forces and intelligence agents away from Pakistan and Afghanistan to do the Iraq invasion. Just where is the biggest concentration of Al Qaeda? The answer to that question is either Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, certainly not Iraq. I could go on. The point is that Bush is no great shakes when it comes to fighting Al Qaeda. He obviously treats a number of other issues (e.g. pandering to Hispanics, pandering to Muslims, following neocon goals for Israel) as higher priorities.
Kerry is such a lame candidate that Bush still might lose after all that Bush has messed up and failed to do. But if Bush loses it will be just as important what his loss is blamed upon as the fact that he will have lost. The mainstream press is going to ignore the extent to which Bush's immigration policy has angered his base. I expect Iraq will get the biggest share of the blame in the big media. Though when Kerry is unable to fulfill his own spending promises expect to hear a lot of spin about how Bush left the country in such a terrible fiscal state that Kerry has to wait before implementing his own social programs.
If Kerry wins one reason he might not be so bad from the Right's perspective is that he's not as talented as Bill Clinton. His ability to sell his programs is probably going to be much less. Though Kerry's knowledge of the Senate might make his Congressional relations much better than Clinton's. So that is a hard one to call.
Education: Get big cement trucks, fill them with linoleum cement mixed with potassium cyanide and maybe thumb tacks. Dump this salutary porridge into the faculty lounges of the teachers colleges, being sure that the scoundrels are still inside. Put up signs all around saying "Mutant Radioactive Cholera Site. Go Away."
Fred also suggests declaring deer hunting season on employees of the Department of Education. Certainly the "professionalization" of education has been a disaster and the teachers unions and teachers credentials should be banned. But as with so many of the other solution Fred offers they are solutions that are opposed by too large a portion of the population. We can't get government that is any better than the fools deserve.
On immigration Fred suggests using the Army to close the border with Mexico and offering financial incentives for turning in illegals.
Immigration: Bring the military back from Iraq, where it doesn't belong, and put it along the Mexican border, where it does. According to taste, decide to keep the illegals already in the US, or put a ten thousand dollar fine on hiring an illegal, half of it to go to the person reporting the hiring. Restrict welfare and public services to citizens and legal residents.
The use of financial rewards for turning in illegals is something I've argued for in the past. I do not think it would take even $5000 to get a lot of illegals turned in. A lot of people could earn high incomes turning in illegals for $500 a pop. In Los Angeles one could earn a 6 or 7 figure yearly income turning in illegals at $50 a pop. Since the Border Patrol and like agencies are not big enough to process all the illegals that would be caught we could use the military to serve as jailers and to do transport for deportation.
Fred offers many other solutions that would be quite beneficial. The whole column is pretty entertaining. The underlying (and I think correct) point of the column is that we have a lot of solvable problems that we simply won't solve.