2004 October 31 Sunday
National Republican Congressional Committee Supports Free Speech Restriction

Steve Sailer points to an extremely reprehensible attempt by the National Republican Congressional Committee to restrict the freedom of speech of radio talk show hosts.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has filed a seven-page complaint letter with the Federal Elections Commission alleging the hosts of a popular talk radio show have illegally colluded with a Democratic candidate for Congress to oust Rep. David Dreier from office.

According to the complaint, John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou, hosts of the afternoon John and Ken Show'' on KFI, have made unlawful campaign contributions by making repeated on-air appeals for listeners to reject Dreier and elect Cynthia Matthews on Nov. 2.

Then there is the hypocrisy of this move.

Dreier was a top adviser for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in his campaign to replace Davis and appeared on the John and Ken Show several times to promote the recall effort. Now that the tables have been turned and an influential Republican is under attack, the Republican Party wants to pull the plug, Kobylt said.

John and Ken want to wake up Republicans to the problems posed by illegal aliens.

"He's basically complaining that we're picking on him and supporting his opponent," said John Kobylt, who hosts the show with Ken Champiou.

Mr. Dreier, who received a D+ from the Americans for Better Immigration, was targeted for defeat by listeners of the show in August. By taking down a Republican congressman, Mr. Kobylt and Mr. Champiou say they hope to jolt the party into cracking down on the flood of illegal aliens crossing the border from Mexico.

I think the "Fire Dreier" campaign is a great example of populist anger where non-politicians organize their own campaigns to push issues outside of the restricted range of acceptable discourse maintained by the political parties.

John and Ken are motivated by opposition to current immigration policy. They are targetting a Democrat and a Republican in the House of Representatives for defeat based on their immigration voting records.

Congressmen David Dreier (Rep.) and Joe Baca (Dem.) are the choices to be Politically Sacrificed. KFI listeners are encouraged to tell everyone to vote these two hacks out of office. If you want to see their immigration report card and voting records click here. If you missed any of the past interviews, you can listen to them in our Audio Archives section of the website, here.

Aside: While you might think the FreeRepublic web site would be all about preserving freedom some of the FreeRepublic posters do not even see the right to freedom of speech as at stake in this affair. Would the Freepers be more eager to defend John and Ken if John and Ken were only targetting Democrats and the National Democratic Congressional Committee filed a complaint against John and Ken and ClearChannel?

Also, will John McCain stay consistent with his position that political speech needs to be regulated by the government and side with Dreier? This'd be a two-fer for McCain. He can oppose free political speech and support a Republican at the same time.

Also, will Republican or Democratic Party Supreme Court nominees be more likely to side in favor of freedom of speech of radio talk show hosts and to peel back the free speech restrictions in campaign finance law?

The "Fire Dreier campaign emphasizes just how much illegal alien health care costs are making life more dangerous for the rest of us.

As a result of Illegal Immigration, since 2000, 28 emergency rooms in California have closed, including six in Los Angeles County just this year. The report was issued as the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 Tuesday to tentatively approve closing the trauma center at the problem-plagued Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center. They might not be the emergency rooms in your area but it is only a matter of time. Every time an emergency room closes that adds extra burden to the next closest emergency room. This effect is inevitable. Will it take one of your children being in an accident and needing one of these facilities and finding that it has been closed before you see the seriousness of these trauma centers closing?

Update: The growth of the emergency medical care crisis in Los Angeles is accelerating.

More than 65 ERs have closed statewide in the past decade and 28 since 1999. Los Angeles County has seen the number of trauma centers, where the most seriously injured can receive critical care around the clock, dwindle from 23 to 13 in two decades, and another one is set to close by year’s end. In addition, six ERs in the county will have shut in 2004 alone.

If we deported the millions of illegal aliens in Southern California the emergency ward closures could probably be halted and perhaps even reversed.

Update II: It is not just the emergency rooms that are closing. Whole hospitals in LA are closing because they can not afford to serve so many uninsured patients (mostly illegals and children of illegals).

Santa Teresita Hospital, Century City Hospital, Community Hospital of Gardena and Elaster Community Hospital all closed this year because of a lack of finances to serve uninsured clients.

Do you live in an area that is starting to see a surge of illegal immigration? Look forward to losing some of your hospitals.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 31 04:54 PM  Immigration Politics
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Supreme Court Will Move Left Or Right Depending On Election Outcome

Ideologically speaking the Supreme Court is not going to stay put in the next 4 years. The US Supreme Court has moved to the political Left as Sandra Day O'Connor has moved Left. O'Connor has provided the swing vote on just about all close Supreme Court decisions. The other justices were frequently predictable and only O'Connor's decision could not be foreseen (or so I have read on a number of occasions). Many Court watchers expect O'Connor to retire in the next 4 years and therefore whether Bush or Kerry is elected will determine whether the Supreme Court will move Left or Right.

"Sandra Day O'Connor's departure from the Court would provide the next president with an opportunity to remake the Court, and this is especially true if Kerry is elected," says Lee Epstein, study co-author and the Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor of Political Science and Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis.

On the other hand, the study suggests that Rehnquist's departure may not have a dramatic impact on the political composition of the Court.

"Our paper shows that if Rehnquist leaves and Bush is reelected and the Senate stays Republican, the Court will not change very much — won't become more liberal or conservative," Epstein said. "But, if the Democrats regained control of the Senate OR the White House (or both), we predict the Court would move to the left.

"Regardless of the composition of the Senate, the data suggest that Kerry will be in the near-historic position to move the Court—and, crucially, to move the Court in a direction that favors his vision of public policy," she continues. "Bush is in much the same position as Kerry — with one very critical distinction: only with a Republican Senate in play will he, in all likelihood, be able to shape it in a way that reflects his political preferences."

Bush so far has been unable to appoint anyone to the Supreme Court. If Bush gets reelected then any appointments he makes to replace retiring conservative justices will not shift the Court. But any appointments he makes to replace retiring liberals or O'Connor will shift the Court Rightward. Similarly, if any liberals or O'Connor retires and Kerry is elected then Kerry will be able to shift the Court Leftward.

In a nutshell: Bush's invasion of Iraq may cost him his reelection and as a consequence cause a shift of the Court in a Leftward direction. The plaintiff's bar will make out and property rights will be less safe. A more leftward leaning Court will enable more social engineering. Systems of racial preferences to discriminate against white people will be protected and may well expand. But women who want to have a federally recognized right to abortion will get their way.

If Bush gets to choose then maybe he will appoint judges who will restrict the power of the federal government to encroach on matters better decided by state and local governments. But it is not clear that Bush do any better with his picks on racial preferences. Bush may (probably will) a appoint racial preferences favoring Hispanic such as White House lawyer and Texas chum Alberto Gonzales to the Supreme Court. Such an appointment may turn out to be as bad or worse than O'Connor by moving even further Leftward.

Still, once a reelected Bush has made a pseudo-conservative Hispanic appointment he might then appoint a real conservative for a following appointment if a second justice retires.. Whereas with Kerry we will get pure bred left-liberals for each appointment. So as bad as Bush would be on the Supreme Court Kerry would be worse.

The likely effect on the Supreme Court of a Kerry win strikes me as the strongest argument for Bush to win reelection. However, I still think the Republicans would be better off on the long run if Bush and the necons were seen to have pursued policies (immigration amnesty, in favor of racial preferences, big social spending increases, the Iraq Debacle, etc) that so alienated the Republican base that Bush lost. Regardless of whether Bush or Kerry wins America will lose.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 31 11:11 AM  Politics American Constitution
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2004 October 28 Thursday
Asylum Status Still Risk For Terrorists To Get Into United States

Writing for Tech Central Station attorneys Jonathan E. Stern and Michael M. Rosen show that immigration law still contains major holes for terrorists to enter the United States.

Imagine a foreign national who enters the United States via Iraq and Syria; whose niece married one of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers; who once lived with her niece and the bomber in Seattle; and whose husband remained in close contact with the bomber and shepherded an undocumented Egyptian to the Canadian border in a taxicab shortly after the 1993 attack. Do this woman and her family sound like good candidates for asylum in America? The U.S. Court of Appeals apparently thought so in August when it permitted Haifa El Himri and her son Musab, both facing deportation to Kuwait, to remain in the United States.

Aside: Stern and Rosen are probably in favor of illegal immigration. Note the term "undocumented Egyptian" rather than "illegal alien Egyptian". Undocumented? If the Egyptian carried a passport or other ID (as seems likely) then wasn't the Egyptian documented? Also, if an undocumented alien is arrested then doesn't that create a documentation trail? Heck, if all the illegals caught entering the country are put into a database (not sure if this is done on the Mexican border but I am pretty sure it is done in airports when people are turned back) then there is a documentation trail for anyone so caught. Yet those who repeated enter the country are referred to as "undocumented" by those who are not really against illegal alien immigration in principle.

In fact, under current asylum law, national security considerations do not enter into the judicial analysis. While the Attorney General may, under the Patriot Act and other regulations, deny asylum to individuals who have engaged in terrorist activity, skilled applicants can skirt these provisions even in the wake of the September 11th attacks. The 9/11 Commission Report reveals that, even though federal law authorizes the use of classified evidence in deportation cases, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) removed very few individuals linked to terrorist activity, none of whom were associated with Al Qaeda.

Meanwhile the Bush Administration is opposing the implementation of 9/11 Commission recommendations for tougher immigration and asylum law changes. Just because Bush strikes a very hawkish pose does not mean he's aggressively trying to shut down the obvious paths of attack for terrorists who want to strike in America. No, he thinks Hispandering comes before national security.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 28 11:43 AM  Immigration Terrorism
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2004 October 27 Wednesday
Immigration Driving Up Native Unemployment

The Center for Immigration Studies has a new report out on how immigrants are driving down native labor market participation.

The recovery from the recession of 2001 has been described as “jobless.” In fact, an analysis of the latest Census Bureau data shows that between March of 2000 and March of 2004, the number of adults working actually increased, but all of the net change went to immigrant workers. The number of adult immigrants (18 years of age and older) holding a job increased by over two million between 2000 and 2004, while the number of adult natives holding a job is nearly half a million fewer. This Backgrounder also finds that the number of adult natives who are unemployed or who have withdrawn from the labor force is dramatically higher in 2004 than it was in 2000. These findings raise the possibility that immigration has adversely Affected the job prospects of native-born Americans.

Among our findings:

  • Between March of 2000 and 2004, the number of unemployed adult natives increased by 2.3 million, while the number of employed adult immigrants increased by 2.3 million.
  • Half of the 2.3 million increase in immigrant employment since 2000 is estimated to be from illegal immigration.
  • In addition to a growth in unemployment, the number of working age (18 to 64) natives who left the labor force entirely has increased by four million since 2000.
  • Even over the last year the same general pattern holds. Of the 900,000 net increase in jobs between March 2003 and 2004, two-thirds went to immigrant workers, even though they account for only 15 percent of all adult workers.
  • In just the last year, 1.2 million working-age natives left the labor force, and say that they are not even trying to find a job.
  • Immigrant job gains have occurred throughout the labor market, with more than two-thirds of their employment gains among workers who have at least a high school degree.
  • There is little evidence that immigrants take only jobs Americans don’t want. Even those occupations with the highest concentrations of new immigrants still employ millions of native-born workers.
  • The decline in native employment was most pronounced in states where immigrants increased their share of workers the most.
  • Occupations with the largest immigrant influx tended to have the highest unemployment rates among natives.
  • ...

  • Recent immigration has had no significant impact on the nation’s age structure. If the 6.1 million immigrants (in and out of the labor force) who arrived after 2000 had not come, the average age in America would be virtually unchanged at 36 years.

It would be an oversimplification to assume that each job taken by an immigrant is a job lost by a native. What is clear is that the current economic downturn has been accompanied by record levels of immigration. Given the labor market difficulty of many natives, the dramatic increase in the number of immigrants holding jobs certainly calls into question the wisdom of proposals by both presidential candidates to increase immigration levels further. While the findings of this study may seem stark, they are consistent with other research on this subject.

The last bullet point about immigration not lowering average age is very strong evidence that immigration is making the aging population fiscal crisis larger, not smaller.. Immigrants who are as old as the existing population who make less money and pay less in taxes are net liabilities. Immigrants who push natives out of the labor force also drive down the amount of taxes that natives will pay and the amount that natives will save for their retirement. This makes the unfunded retirement liabilities problem bigger still.

The retirement of the baby boomers is going to bring on an enormous US federal government financial crisis. Whether the unfunded liability is $53 trillion (according to the previous link) or $70 trillion and growing it is enormous and it will cause both large tax hikes and benefits cuts. Thehuge sovereign debts due to aging populations are growing.

The scale of the building crisis is being ignored in the US election and in political debates in other countries. George W. Bush and John Kerry compete to make more damaging proposals for immigration policy changes. Bush's half-baked immigrant worker permit proposal will make the plight of lower class Americans even worse and will not decrease illegal immigration. John Kerry wants another illegal alien amnesty. We are in huge financial trouble. We can not afford more stupidity. Low skilled immigrants make our financial situation worse while raising crime rates and increasing a whole assortment of social pathologies. Current immigration policy is lowering the quality of life a growing portion of the American population. We need to reverse course rather than pile on with more business as usual.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 27 12:53 PM  Immigration Economics
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2004 October 26 Tuesday
The Disbanding Of The Old Iraqi Army Was A Turning Point

Michael Gordon has another long article in the New York Times about US policy on Iraq. The latest is on whether it was a mistake to abolish the old Iraqi Army.

"It was absolutely the wrong decision," said Col. Paul Hughes of the Army, who served as an aide to Jay Garner, a retired three-star general and the first civilian administrator of Iraq. "We changed from being a liberator to an occupier with that single decision,'' he said. "By abolishing the army, we destroyed in the Iraqi mind the last symbol of sovereignty they could recognize and as a result created a significant part of the resistance."

I think the disbanding of the old Iraqi Army was clearly a huge mistake.

Here is a surprising instance where a leading neocon figure in the Bush Administration, Douglas Feith who is #3 in the DOD, was actually arguing for the same postion as uniformed officers and against higher level civilians.

At the White House meeting, Mr. Feith made another argument for using the existing army. Iraq was racked by unemployment and taking 350,000 armed men, cutting off their income and, in effect, throwing them out on the street could be disastrous.

American commanders also backed that approach. In a March 2003 meeting with a team of visiting Pentagon officials, General John P. Abizaid, then Gen. Tommy Franks's deputy, expressed concerns that the Americans would arouse resentment if they enforced security in Iraq largely by themselves. He favored a quick turnover of power to an interim Iraqi authority and the use of Iraqi forces to complement and eventually replace the Americans.

"We must in all things be modest," General Abizaid said, according to notes taken by a Pentagon official. "We are an antibody in their culture."

There was a military imperative as well. The American commanders knew they might have sufficient forces to oust Mr. Hussein, but it would be difficult to control a large nation with 25 million people and porous borders with Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kuwait. The V Corps, which oversaw United States Army forces in Iraq, wanted Iraqi Army units to patrol the borders to block terrorists, jihadists and Iranian- sponsored groups from sneaking into the country and to prevent loyalists and possible caches of unconventional weapons from getting out, a former V Corps officer said.

The US could have given a lot of young men supervised paying jobs. Some could have worked in security. Some could have worked doing reconstruction. There would have been less insurgency, bombings, and crime. What a huge opportunity lost.

Update: Note when you read deeper into the article that Feith now defends the disbanding of the Iraqi Army. When he shifted his position is less clear. However, Paul Bremer and his advisor and former Clinton Administration undersecretary of Defense Walter B. Slocombe were big pushers for the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and therefore clearly share a large chunk of the blame for the resulting debacle.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 26 04:40 PM  Mideast Iraq
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Bush Or Kerry Worse On Iraq?

I do not see that the Iraq invasion can yield the United States a net benefit. At this point the best we can do is to hope to limit the extent of the damage to our interests. With that thought in mind here is an intuitive take on George W. Bush versus John Kerry on Iraq.

First of all, Bush gets points against him for what he's done so far. The Bush Administration made many miscalculations and mistakes in deciding to invade Iraq and in how the occupation has been handled. Defenders of Bush can argue that some of those mistakes were made by non-partisan government agencies and the Bush defenders can shift some of the blame onto the CIA, DIA, and other agencies. One can argue (correctly) that Bush had support from many Democrats for the Iraq invasion. So Bush had no monopoly on bad judgements. Yet he has to be judged by the quality of his own decision making and too many of his decisions made about Iraq were wrong. There were even people who foresaw in advance that many of the official judgements and expectations about Iraq were wrong.

Some may accept that Bush had made some huge mistakes and yet take the optimistic position that Bush has had 4 years in office to learn from his mistakes. Therefore we should expect better quality decisions from him in a second term. This might be true. Surely I hope it is true if he gets reelected (which continues to be my expectation). But one problem with this argument is that Bush tends not to learn from his mistakes. The guy isn't curious enough to learn. I do not see him getting substantially wiser. Sure hope I am wrong on that one.

Some of Bush's mistakes fit a pattern. The erroneous assumptions the Bush Administration made about the moldability of Iraq were liberal assumptions. Bush and the neocons did not make conservative mistakes about human nature. Will events in Iraq eventually shake Bush from his liberal views about the appeal of democracy and freedom?

The biggest difference between Bush and the Democrats on Iraq is that the Democrats tend not to see the unilateral exercise of US power as legitimate at all. So for that reason a President Gore probably would not have invaded Iraq. Yet he would likely have believed (or at least professed to believe) that Iraq could be turned into a liberal democracy.

As for the WMD issue: I think the Bush Administration wanted too hard to find the answer they expected to find. On top of that there are competency problems in the CIA and other parts of the government that were involved in intelligence assessments. But it is the government after all. We should expect a limited level of government competence (at least we should if we are real conservatives).

What I hold against Bush most of all is that he has put us in a position in Iraq where we might lose. This would result in the diminution of our own influence combined with a huge increase in the morale and motivation of the jihadists. That would then put us under increased risk of terrorist attacks.

This danger of boosting Jihadist morale is our greatest strategic danger in the Middle East. We are in a position where either we suffer still more damage to our interests when we withdraw from Iraq or the best case is that we manage to get out in a few years with a regime change that sticks. We should avoid the outcome that we invaded, failed to put down the insurgency, and then left to have the government taken over by Jihadists or at least openly anti-American leaders.

Whether we manage to withdraw with a positive spin on the outcome or not, in either case we suffer the damage of allies who think we are too reckless to ally with again in future operations, even more tens or hundreds of billions of dollars spent, lives lost, and soldiers coming back who will never be normal again. Plus, we have incurred the cost of a large shifting of public opinion in Muslim countries such as Indonesia against the United States. This has to help Al Qaeda recruitment.

It is hard to guess at Bush's or Kerry's real intentions. Kerry especially is an unknown quantity in an executive position. He's spent about the last couple of decades as a Senator. But it is necessary to make a guess about each of them and what they would do about Iraq in the next 4 years if we are going to come to any conclusions at all on which will be worse.

Note that I said "which will be worse" and not the more typical "which will be better". To me "better" connotates the ways Sears catalogs would label products "Good", "Better", "Best" (haven't seen a Sears catalog for a long time and so I don't know if this is still the practice) to imply that they are all useful products worthy of buying. But my take on Bush and Kerry is that neither belongs in a Sears special catalog of Presidential Candidate Products.

My guess is that Kerry has less will and less determination to exit Iraq in a way that will not seem like a retreat and strategic defeat. I doubt that Kerry sees as much at stake there in part because he didn't put US forces there in the first place and in part because he probably doesn't worry as much about how the Jihadists see the United States.

But is there anything that can be said in favor of Kerry? Well, he'd come with a new crew and that crew would be less wedded to existing policies. So Kerry might fix some policies currently in place in Iraq. Maybe Kerry would be willing to ask for more resources by arguing that he didn't make the mess but he has to fix it (though I doubt this since he will want to increase domestic social spending). It is at least possible that Kerry will be better than Bush in how the actual occupation is managed.

But my biggest concern with Kerry is over exit strategy. We should try to avoid being seen doing a withdrawal that makes it seem we are retreating out of Iraq. Kerry is more likely to retreat and let the Arab Muslim Jihadists think they have won a victory. We are better off exiting under conditions that seem like a US victory to the Arabs and especially to the Islamic Jihadists (in other words, Al Qaeda terrorists and their allies) and would-be Jihadists.

However, it is by no means certain that a withdrawal that is not a strategic defeat is an attainable goal. Such a withdrawal requires that we succeed in building up at the minimum a new authoritarian dictatorship in Iraq that simulates the outer form of a democracy well enough (or that at least can keep itself in power) that we can declare victory and leave. But it is by no means clear that we can put a government in power that can stay in control after we withdraw. If that is the case then having Kerry in office might actually be an advantage since he'd be more willing to accept the inevitability of the bigger loss and cut our losses sooner.

As I see it at this point we are screwed. If Kerry gets in he has less will to win than Bush does. But if Bush gets reelected will it be any worse? With Bush reelected we will have the idiot who put us in this risky position in the first place by invading and who then was unwilling or unable to build up enough political support to get the resources needed do a proper large scale occupation from the outset.

The other wild card in this analysis is Congress. If Congress undercuts the US occupation in a year or two then a President's own will may not matter. Will Congress be more willing to cut and run if Kerry or Bush is elected? If Congress does pressure for a withdrawal that allows a collapse of the pro-US regime will US interests be more harmed than if we stay longer to try to ensure a friendlier regime after we leave?

On the issue of Iraq as a way to choose between Bush and Kerry ot is hard for me to see who makes the most sense to choose. So I don't have a final answer for you. I would only argue that what is possible for us to accomplish in Iraq is somewhere between modest and disastrous and that Kerry and Bush are a pretty awful pair to choose between.

Note to people who are visiting ParaPundit for the first time: As you can see from the above this is not the place to visit if you want a partisan Panglossian view of politics. There are plenty of cheerleader blogs for Democrats and for Republicans. I lean right. But I have a pretty dismal view of political leaders and the human condition.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 26 02:51 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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2004 October 24 Sunday
Is Bush Smarter Than Kerry?

Steve Sailer looked at their military aptitude test results and says Bush may well be smarter than Kerry.

Most significantly, at the age of 22, both men took the IQ-type tests of candidate military officers. (The U.S. which has studied to intelligence testing.)

...

The two tests aren't perfectly comparable. But they provide no evidence that Kerry is smarter. If anything, Bush is smarter than Kerry.

What is amazing about Steve's article is that it attracted the attention of the New York Times. Our liberal elites try to claim that IQ doesn't matter and profess to believe a sort of Lysenkoist view where intelligence is caused almost entirely by the environment. They entirely ignore the role of natural selection in order to make a place for all environment all the time (and this from people who like to look down on fundamentalist Christians for denying Darwinism - human minds can sustain amazing internal contradictions).

Yet deep down the liberals all know that most of the differences between people in intellectual ability are inherited and they know that intelligence matters a great deal. So many more liberals are reading Steve's article than are writing about it. Still, the Grey Lady stepped up to the plate, unable to resist. John Tierney of the New York Times distills out the basic conclusions of Steve's analysis of the intelligence of George W. Bush and John Kerry.

Mr. Bush's score on the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test at age 22 again suggests that his I.Q was the mid-120's, putting Mr. Bush in about the 95th percentile of the population, according to Mr. Sailer. Mr. Kerry's I.Q. was about 120, in the 91st percentile, according to Mr. Sailer's extrapolation of his score at age 22 on the Navy Officer Qualification Test.

Linda Gottfredson, an I.Q. expert at the University of Delaware, called it a creditable analysis said she was not surprised at the results or that so many people had assumed that Mr. Kerry was smarter. "People will often be misled into thinking someone is brighter if he says something complicated they can't understand," Professor Gottfredson said.

On her web site Linda Gottfredson has many of her research papers on psychometrics available to be read if you want ot learn more about psychometric research on intelligence and IQ.

One problem with a comparison of tests of cognitive ability taken a few decades ago is that Bush has probably done more damage to his mind than Kerry has in the decades since. Bush too much alcohol for too long and alcohol certainly does kill brain cells. Plus, there are the rumors about Bush's cocaine abuse and coke also definitely kills brain cells. (any doubters should see here and here and here and here)

Bush has two other problems on top of likely brain damage. He also lacks curiosity and misunderstands the world as a result. Plus, there is something obviously morally deficient about him.

Of course Kerry has his own set of deficiencies. Some of those deficiencies are obvious enough to voters that Bush is probably going to win the election. Whichever one wins America will lose. About this election I'm increasingly of the attitude of Que Sera Sera.

Steve has some reader emails making interesting comments about the Kerry-Bush comparison. Check out the comments.

BTW, Tierney's career at the Grey Lady might be at risk if anyone noticed, but he's more reality-oriented than the average Times reporter. See my previous post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 24 02:34 AM  Politics American Domestic
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2004 October 22 Friday
Iraqi Insurgency Has Lots of Cash And Members

The insurgency in Iraq has as many as 20,000 members depending on how they are counted.

When foreign fighters and the network of a Jordanian militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, are counted with home-grown insurgents, the hard-core resistance numbers between 8,000 and 12,000 people, a tally that swells to more than 20,000 when active sympathizers or covert accomplices are included, according to the American officials.

...

In recent interviews, military and other government officials in Iraq and Washington said the core of the Iraqi insurgency now consisted of as many as 50 militant cells that draw on "unlimited money'' from an underground financial network run by former Baath Party leaders and Saddam Hussein's relatives.

Their financing is supplemented in great part by wealthy Saudi donors and Islamic charities that funnel large sums of cash through Syria, according to these officials, who have access to detailed intelligence reports.

The government of Saudi Arabia is of course not doing enough to cut off these flows of funds. Saudi Arabia is where the largest portion of Al Qaeda terrorists and money comes from. That is why we invaded Iraq. Make sense?

Foreign money is more important than foreign fighters. But domestic insurgents are the biggest problem.

Despite concerns about foreign fighters, American officials said the most significant challenge to the stabilization effort came from domestic Iraqi insurgents, and not from foreign terrorists, despite the violence of attacks organized or carried out by foreigners.

The foreign fighters, Baathists, and other factions pay criminals to plant bombs and kidnap people. Saddam let 90,000 prisoners go right before his government fell. Many of these are still on the loose and are available for hire. Iyad Allawi's government has been locking up some of them. But US forces clearly would have benefitted had the US systematically tried to round up and lock up all the common criminals soon after the invasion. But it was hard to plan for an insurgency that the Bushies didn't foresee happening in the first place.

Iraqi security services have been infiltrated by insurgents. (same article here)

The defense official described a country where a fearful citizenry doesn't fully accept the concepts of Western law and order and remains unwilling to take their future into their own hands, where police are often corrupt and the security forces are "heavily infiltrated" by insurgents.

In some cases, members of the Iraqi security services have developed sympathies and contacts with the guerrillas; in other cases, infiltrators were sent to join the groups, the official said.

The people of Iraq are reluctant to commit to the American and Iraqi government side because it is dangerous for them to do so. They do not know whether the US-supported faction will come out on top. If the US-supported faction loses power then some day any Iraqis collaborating with the US or the current Iraqi government could end up getting killed by the new regime.

The big wild card continues to be whether the new Iraqi military, police, and intelligence services will become serious threats to the insurgency. As long as that does not happen the insurgency will go on until US troops leave. If you were an Iraqi citizen would you bet your life on the US side prevailing?

By Randall Parker 2004 October 22 03:34 PM  Mideast Iraq Insurgency
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2004 October 21 Thursday
Bush Opposes 9/11 Commission Border Control Recommendations

The Bush Administration does not want to see the 9/11 Commissions recommendations on immigration-related matters put into law.

The White House is increasing pressure on Congress to strike from the final intelligence-reform legislation certain immigration-related provisions that House Republicans had tagged onto their version of the bill.

With a conference on the House and Senate versions of the legislation opening today, the Bush administration has written to Congress, expressing opposition to provisions that would broaden the government's ability to deport aliens and limit the rights of asylum-seekers.

What is being struck out? Provisions that the bipartisan National Comission On Terrorist Attacks Upon The United States (a.k.a. the 9/11 Commission) very explicitly recommended immigration, border control, and visa policies in order to reduce the risk that terrorists will be able to get into and stay in the United States of America. Also see my previous post on the 9/11 Commission and immigration and border control policy.

Dain Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform points out specific 9/11 Commission report pages that called for the legislative provisions that the Bush White House is now opposing in negotiations with Congress.

While the 9/11 Commission report ranks No. 1 on The New York Times nonfiction bestsellers (for the 11th week in a row), open borders advocates are mounting a massive disinformation campaign aimed at convincing Congress and the American public that the reforms included in H.R. 10 were not called for by the Commission. "The immigration provisions of H.R. 10 correspond precisely to the failures noted by the 9/11 Commission and the recommendations they made to rectify the conditions that contributed directly to the ability of the terrorists to attack us on Sept. 11," said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). "To say that the 9/11 Commission did not call for sweeping reforms to U.S. immigration policy and immigration enforcement is an act of sheer audacity and falsehood."

Among the critical immigration policy reforms specifically called for in the 9/11 Commission Report are:

  • Requiring the use of valid passports for all travel within the Western Hemisphere (p. 388).
  • Detention of unauthorized aliens and enhanced interior enforcement (Staff Report p. 95)
  • Improved document security, including uniform standards for driver's license issuance and barring the acceptance of foreign consular IDs (p. 390).
  • Expedited removal of illegal aliens who have been in the U.S. less than five years (p. 384).
  • Denial of asylum claims of individuals suspected of having ties to terrorist organizations (Staff Report pp. 98-99).
  • Limiting judicial review of orders of deportation (Staff Report, p. 95 and p. 143).

FAIR has prepared a comprehensive analysis of each of the immigration reform provisions included in H.R. 10, citing the precise recommendations as they appeared in the Commission's report.

Audacity and falsehood? That's a polite way of saying Bush and his crew are lying on this issue.

George W. Bush is tough on terrorism? Not if it gets in the way of Hispandering.

Bush says he opposes more vigorous measures to totally stop illegal border crossings on the US-Mexico border. Yet border control is a solvable problem. If we use Israel's barrier fence structure between Israel and the West Bank as a source for cost estimates then the cost range for an almost 2000 mile border is between $3.4 billion at $1.7 million per mile and $7 billion at $3.5 million per mile. Also, the hefty fence barrier at the Mexico-San Diego border area is $1.7 million per mile.

In that last link Edward Rubinstein draws parallels with the interstate highway construction project. How about we compare these costs to highway construction costs? The Interstate Highway System is 44,500 miles long. Average construction costs for the combination of rural, suburban, urban interstate highway is over $20 million per mile.

Rural and even some suburban highway construction costs far less than complex urban highways in major cities, particularly since there is little infrastructure displacement and there are typically fewer traffic lanes. Most interstate highways in the United States cost just over $1 million per mile to build (Grossman, 1996). In 1996 dollars, the Federal Highway Administration has calculated the "weighted rural and urban combined" costs per mile of interstate highway to be $20.6 million.(9) Other highway construction normally ranges from $1 million to $5 million per mile, but in mountainous regions, like West Virginia, the costs can be as high as $15 million per mile (Brogan, 1997). The costs per highway mile in the expanding Los Angeles metropolitan area for four Ventura County projects were $1.7 million, $2.1 million, $2.4 million, and $2.9 million respectively (Green, 1996).

At a weighted average of $20 million per mile the total cost works out to almost $900 billion dollars. So the cost of a barrier along the border with Mexico less than one percent of the cost of the interstate highway system and a much much smaller percentage of the cost of all highways, roads, streets, bridges, and tunnels.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 21 07:41 PM  Immigration Terrorism
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2004 October 20 Wednesday
Iraq, Pre-War Intelligence Estimates, Bush, His Advisors

Michael Gordon of the New York Times is working on a book about the Iraq war and is writing a series of articles that are based on material he collected for the book. One article discusses the Bush Administration's naive expectations for invasion and post-invasion Iraq.

Huddling in a drawing room with his top commanders, General Franks told them it was time to make plans to leave. Combat forces should be prepared to start pulling out within 60 days if all went as expected, he said. By September, the more than 140,000 troops in Iraq could be down to little more than a division, about 30,000 troops.

To help bring stability and allow the Americans to exit, President Bush had reviewed a plan the day before seeking four foreign divisions - including Arab and NATO troops - to take on peacekeeping duties.

...

In the debate over the war and its aftermath, the Bush administration has portrayed the insurgency that is still roiling Iraq today as an unfortunate, and unavoidable, accident of history, an enemy that emerged only after melting away during the rapid American advance toward Baghdad. The sole mistake Mr. Bush has acknowledged in the war is in not foreseeing what he termed that "catastrophic success."

But many military officers and civilian officials who served in Iraq in the spring and summer of 2003 say the administration's miscalculations cost the United States valuable momentum - and enabled an insurgency that was in its early phases to intensify and spread.

My take: The insurgency was inevitable. It could have been anticipated and handled better. Post-war reconstruction could have been handled more quickly and better as well. But to handle the insurgency better would have required building up the size of the US military before invasion of Iraq. That would have taken a lot of time (a year or longer) and money (easily in the tens of billions and probably in the hundreds of billions of dollars). Also, even if it had been handled better the insurgency still would have happened.

While the CIA has come under a lot of criticism for not having better Al Qaeda intelligence prior to 9/11 and also for believing that Saddam Hussein had a substantial WMD development program what has been less recognized is the CIA's failure to foresee the post-invasion Iraq insurgency.

In a major misreading of Iraq's strategy, the C.I.A. failed to predict the role played by Saddam Hussein's paramilitary forces, which mounted the main attacks on American troops in southern Iraq and surprised them in bloody battles.

The agency was aware that Iraq was awash in arms but failed to identify the huge caches of weapons that were hidden in mosques and schools to supply enemy fighters.

On postwar Iraq, American intelligence agencies underestimated the decrepit state of Iraq's infrastructure, which became a major challenge in reconstructing the nation, and concluded erroneously that Iraq's police had had extensive professional training.

...

The National Intelligence Council, senior experts from the intelligence community, prepared an analysis in January 2003 on postwar Iraq that discussed the risk of an insurgency in the last paragraph of its 38-page assessment. "There was never a buildup of intelligence that says: 'It's coming. It's coming. It's coming. This is the end you should prepare for,' " said Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the former head of the United States Central Command and now retired, referring to the insurgency. "It did not happen. Never saw it. It was never offered."

Rumsfeld deserves a large fraction of the blame in spite of the CIA's failures. So do his neocon advisors. But I think a focus on which indiividuals in government to blame or what agency is to blame misses a far larger problem: America's intellectual elites are far more ignorant of other cultures, of history, and of human nature than they realize. Jean-Jacques Rousseau's "Noble Savage", communist Russia's "New Soviet Man", and other myths live on in somewhat dilute form when intellectuals examine the Middle East and ask themselves why the place is the way it is. A more realistic assessment of human nature would lead to more realistic foreign policies.

Also in the New York Times Ron Suskind has an article entitled "Without A Doubt on Bush's religious beliefs and how religious faith influences how Bush makes decisions.

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

This White House aide needs to realize that there are other historical actors out there creating historical facts. America is nowhere nearly as powerful as this aide imagines it to be. If we were so powerful we would have accomplished far more (in a positive sense) in the Middle East than we have today. So far the US intervention in Iraq does not appear to have created a net benefit to the United States. So how powerful is our "empire"?

I think Suskind goes too far in his argument. Bush's character is not the product of his religious beliefs. It is more like Bush finds justification for his gut instincts by imagining that God is sending him his fundamental beliefs and judgements. Though Bush's religious beliefs probably make it easier for Bush to feel more certain without learning much about an issue before making a decision.

Pat Robertson says Bush told him before the Iraq invasion that the United States would have no casualties invading Iraq.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The founder of the U.S. Christian Coalition said Tuesday he told President George W. Bush before the invasion of Iraq that he should prepare Americans for the likelihood of casualties, but the president told him, "We're not going to have any casualties."

Pat Robertson, an ardent Bush supporter, said he had that conversation with the president in Nashville, Tennessee, before the March 2003 invasion. He described Bush in the meeting as "the most self-assured man I've ever met in my life."

I see the Iraq debacle as being the product of a sort of "Perfect Storm" effect. Our left-wing intellectuals in academia and the press have an unrealistic view of human nature and few have had a proper education in history. So they were primed to see Iraq as full of people just yearning to be free to create a liberal democracy. The neoconservatives are ideologues who use many of the same left-liberal assumptions about human nature and so were equally prone to delusions on Iraq's people. The neocons also wanted to use US foreign policy to benefit Israel. Then in the Presidency there is George W. Bush. Bush's own ignorance is more a product of his character. But his religious beliefs provide him a rationalization for why his ignorance is not a problem. Bush appointed neocons and some less than stellar non-neocon advisors.

All these players were positioned and then 9/11 happened. 9/11 made the American public far more hawkish and desiring to strike out at some target to get even. At that point the Iraq debacle was inevitable. The only potential upside I can see to the Iraq invasion is that it may contribute to the undermining of widely held false assumptions about human nature. Kinship networks matter. Ethnic loyalties matter. Not everyone holds freedom or democracy as very high values. Not every population group has the intellectual resources and conditions needed to build a Western-style liberal democracy and modern high tech economy.

Thanks to Greg Cochran and Derek Copold for some of the links.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 20 12:10 PM  Mideast Iraq
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2004 October 18 Monday
Wealth Gap Widening Between Whites, Hispanics, Blacks

The wealth gap between the races is widening. (PDF format)

WASHINGTON, DC—(October 18, 2004) —A new study from the Pew Hispanic Center finds that the wealth gap between Hispanic and non-Hispanic White households is bigger now than in the recent past. And the gap in wealth is far greater than the gap in income.

According to the study, the median net worth of Hispanic households in 2002 was $7,932. This was only nine percent of $88,651, the median wealth of non-Hispanic White households at the same time. The net worth of Non-Hispanic Blacks was only $5,988. Thus, the wealth of Latino and Black households is less than one-tenth the wealth of White households even though Census data show their income is two-thirds again as high.

The economic situation is worse now than before the latest recession. A Pew Hispanic Center analysis of data from the Census Bureau finds that the 2001 recession and the jobless recovery that followed were much harder on the net worth of minority households. Between 1999 and 2001, the net worth of Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black households fell by 27 percent each while the net worth of non-Hispanic White households increased by 2 percent.

Whites have 11.17 times as much wealth per household than Hispanics. Whites have an even greater 14.8 times as much wealth per household as blacks. My guess is that white households are smaller on average due to smaller numbers of children born to whites. So the wealth gap per person is probably even wider.

Here are some of the bullet points from the press release:

Twenty-six percent of Hispanic, 32 percent of non-Hispanic Black and 13 percent of non-Hispanic White households had zero or negative net worth in 2002. These proportions are essentially unchanged since 1996.

Fifty-five to 60 percent of Hispanic and Black households had wealth less than one-fourth the national median level of wealth between 1996 and 2002. Fewer than 40 percent have middle-class levels of wealth and this proportion has not changed since 1996. Nearly 75 percent of White households have middle-class or higher levels of wealth.

The wealthiest 25 percent of Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black households own 93 percent of the total wealth of each group. Among non-Hispanic White households, the top 25 percent own 79 percent of total wealth. The percentage of White households who owned homes in 2002 was 74.3 percent. The homeownership rates for Hispanic and non-Hispanic Blacks were 47.3 percent and 47.7 percent respectively.

Hispanic immigrants from Central American and Caribbean countries had a net worth of only $2,508 in 2002. Cuban immigrants led the way for first-generation Hispanics with a net worth of $39,787. Mexican immigrants are in the middle with a net worth of $7,602 in 2002.

You can read the full report in PDF format.

Republican strategists such as George Bush's advisor Karl Rove are spewing utter nonsense when they talk about how Republicans can capture more of the Hispanic vote. Poor non-white people faced with the Democratic Party's offer of racial preferences and Robin Hood taxing for their benefit are not going to vote Republican. Hispanics are going to remain Democrats. The Republicans are going to become the White Party. Racial divisions in America are going to become sharper and racial relations are going to become worse as the fight over money and crime intensifies.

Ethnic groups that do much worse than whites in school and in the job market are growing as a percentage of the US population. This is just one of America's two developing great demographic disasters. The other is the financial disaster which will be precipitated by the retirement of the baby boomers. These negative trends are going to develop into a political and economic "Perfect Storm" in the 2010s and 2020s. An extremely aggressive immigration policy aimed at deporting all the illegal aliens while simultaneously imposing high skills requirements on prospective immigrants could make that coming disaster less severe. But even with wise policies (which few in Washington DC advocate) things are still going to get pretty bad.

Update: What is missing from the above report? Asians. South Asians. East Asians. They live in the United States. But to the leftist intellectuals who write about ethnic groups in America they are largely invisible. Why? They are inconvenient. They do at least as well as whites economically and yet they are not white. How can the failures of blacks and Hispanics be the result of white oppression and white racism if there are non-white groups that have equal or higher average incomes and educational attainments in the United States? How can systematic government sanctioned institutional racism against whites be justified if there are non-white groups in America doing better than whites? How inconvenient. So the intellectuals ignore them and ignore the real reasons different ethnic and racial groups do differently on average.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 18 01:17 PM  Immigration Economics
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Republicans Have Better Sex Lives Than Democrats

The full detailed breakdown of this ABC News "Primetime Lives" poll will not be available until released on a TV news broadcast on Oct. 21, 2004. So one obvious question is arises: given that more males than females are Republicans does this gap represent a greater level of sexual satisfaction among males than females? Or are Democrats just plain less happy with sex and even less happy with life in general? (or do Democrats manage to be happier with life by avoiding sex?)

Of those involved in a committed relationship, who is very satisfied with their relationship?
Republicans — 87 percent; Democrats — 76 percent

Who is very satisfied with their sex life?
Republicans — 56 percent; Democrats — 47 percent

It would be interesting to see these results placed in a larger context. Are Republicans or Democrats more satisfied in general? It is worth noting that Republicans and Democrats have different patterns of reproduction.

Do people who have more children also typically have more satisfying sex lives?

No matter what happens this November, in the very long run, the fate of the two parties will depend on the "battle of the cradle" and on immigration policy. In 2000, Bush carried the 19 states with the highest white birthrates, so the Republican Party will remain heavily white.

The fertility of white Democrats is low: of the 10 states with the lowest white birth rate, all except Florida voted for Gore. The Mexican-American birthrate, however, is quite high, so the Democratic Party, which already received 31 percent of its votes from minorities in 2002, is likely to become nonwhite dominated if immigration continues full speed ahead.

When the Democrats become the Hispanic and Black party will their average level of sexual satisfaction improve? How does sexual satisfaction in America break down by race and sex? Anyone found any polling data on this question?

By Randall Parker 2004 October 18 12:09 PM  Politics American Domestic
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2004 October 17 Sunday
Intellectuals And Christians Flee From Iraq

Professors in Iraq are targetted for killing and kidnapping.

Since the war ended 18 months ago, at least 28 university teachers and administrators have been killed, while 13 professors were kidnapped and released on payments of ransom, according to the Association of University Lecturers. Many others have received death threats.

Look at how well neoconservative strategy is working. US intervention in Iraq has catalyzed changes that are helping to modernize Syria. Somehow, though, I do not these are the kinds of changes the neocons envisioned.

Neighboring Syria, for example, is opening a science and technology university this month, with 70 percent of the teaching staff made up of Iraqi exiles.

Female students are also targetted.

BAGHDAD — Islamist extremists are targeting the city's universities by threatening and even attacking female students who wear Western-style fashions, setting off bombs on campuses and demanding that classes be segregated by sex.

At least 1,000 of an estimated 3,000 women who want to postpone their studies for fear of violence will be granted leaves of absence, a student affairs official here said.

The neocons do not appear to be as good at social engineering as the communists were. Look at how well the Soviet system used terror to suppress Islam. By contrast, those naive bumbling social engineers in the Bush Administration who claim their strategy is to spread democracy in the Middle East obviously are being outbid in the terror department. The Islamists do not shrink from using the force necessary to produce the kind of society they desire.

The neocons subscribe to a universalist fantasy about human nature where the bulk of the world's population yearn to become Western liberal democrats. The evidence of reality continues to indicate that the neocons are dangerously wrong.

Christians were much safer under Saddam. Christians are now terrorized by the Islamists.

BAGHDAD — Predawn explosions yesterday ripped through five empty Christian churches in the Iraqi capital, which by nightfall also was the scene of the crashes of two U.S. helicopters, which killed two soldiers and wounded two others.

...

Thousands of Christians have fled Iraq since the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein. The church bombings, while claiming no casualties, appeared calculated to intimidate the remaining believers, estimated to number about 800,000.

Christians are much safer in Baathist Syria.

Jerry Dykstra from Open Door USA said continued bombings and violence in Iraq have scared believers: “Many Iraqi Christians are not going to church (and) they’re not going out of their homes because of all the violence that is going on.” He also pointed out that many Christians are going to Syria or Jordan so that they can attend a church service without fear.

If the neocons managed to get America to invade Syria for Israel's benefit then the Christians in Syria will have to flee yet again. So will the intellectuals. The Iraqis might be better off fleeing to Jordan.

Lots of Christians are fleeing into exile.

Pascale Isho Warda, a Christian who is the interim government's minister for displacement and migration, estimated as many as 15,000 out of Iraq's nearly 1 million Christians have left the country since August, when four churches in Baghdad and one in Mosul were blown up in a coordinated series of car bombings.

We have made Iraq a safe place for intellectuals, women, and Christians to flee from. All these people can now finally safely live in another country if they can only manage to get out alive.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 17 01:20 PM  Mideast Iraq Exodus
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2004 October 15 Friday
Homeland Security Money Being Wasted On Rural Areas

Homeland security money is going disproportionately to states that are least likely to be targetted by terrorists.

For instance, Alaska has $2 million in homeland security funds it apparently doesn't know what to do with. The state recently proposed buying a jet with the money; the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said no, but was "happy to entertain" other options.

Further, the money that went to Alaska is three times the amount per resident than went to New York - clearly a problem, unless the general consensus is that Alaska poses a greater terror risk than New York.

James Jay Carafano of the Heritage Foundation reports that even within states money is allocated toward rural areas.

Within states, rural, less populated areas often receive a disproportionate amount of money as well. For instance, in Iowa, the capital city of Des Moines, population 199,000, will be receiving $250,000. Sioux County, Iowa, with a population of 31,600, will be receiving $299,000.

Other spending is curious, too. Reportedly, California distributes its federal grants in base-amounts of $5,000 to each county, an amount so small that it is difficult to imagine how it could be used productively.

Even the Urban Area Security Initiative grants, monies targeted at major population areas that are also considered potential targets, produce some strange results. The three criteria used are population density (50 percent of the weight), presence of critical infrastructure (one-third), and finally, credible threats (about one-sixth). Using this formula, San Francisco, with a population of 800,000 and Los Angeles, with a population of 4 million, get about the same amount of money. As Rep Anthony Weiner (D-NY) correctly pointed out in recent Congressional hearings, this formula seriously undervalues actual intelligence and known targets.

It is not hard to figure out where terrorists are most likely to strike. They want to hit places where there are high concentrations of people. They want to hit high profile targets and national symbols. New York City and Washington DC stick out as by far the most likely targets.

Veronique de Rugy reports that there is considerable resistance in Congress to channelling homeland security money to where it will do the most good.

And right at the beginning of the third debate Kerry even insinuated that the current administration had cut homeland security funding. That may seem surprising to some, since proposed funding for homeland security for FY2005 is $47 billion, a staggering 180 percent increase since 2001. But Kerry's instinct to spend more is hardly unusual. Too many politicians focus on the level of spending and too few consider the quality of that spending.

...

While most lawmakers seem content with the status quo, even hoping to increase the cash flows allocated in this manner, Republicans are moving toward a consensus that the allocation of homeland-security spending needs to be based on more rational, cost-benefit analysis. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Chris Cox (R., Calif.) has been fighting to change the criteria used to allocate these funds so that they are based exclusively on the risk of terrorist attacks and the magnitude of potential damages. Democrats are vehemently opposed to this idea. Senator Leahy, for instance (D., Vt.), a member of the powerful Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, argues that dropping the all-state minimum formula would "shortchange rural states." For some, apparently, homeland security is becoming another entitlement program.

We have far too many big buildings, tunnels, subways, airports, and the like to harden and defend them all. The bigger focus ought to be on keeping terrorists away from the homeland in the first place. The homeland security spending ought to be channelled away from aid to states and more toward border control, visa screening, and tracking of higher risk foreigners within the US. Given the massive upcoming fiscal crisis that will hit when the baby boomers start to retire we can not afford to treat the threat of terrorist attacks on US territory as an excuse to waste billions of dollars per year on pork barrel spending.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 15 12:18 PM  Politics American Domestic
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Iceland Doing Well Outside The EU

Iceland, like Norway and Liechtenstein a member of the European Economic Area, but not a member of the Euoprean Union, now has a higher standard of living than any European country and the world's highest life expectancy.

Iceland has few natural advantages: it is cold, treeless and, for much of the year, sunless. It has a population of 285,000 — roughly that of Croydon. Yet this sparse, chilly speck of tundra has just overtaken Norway to become the wealthiest place in Europe. Faced with a small home market, Icelandic entrepreneurs have expanded into neighbouring countries. In Britain alone they have bought, among other things, Hamleys, Somerfield, Oasis and Karen Millen. Icelanders now enjoy the highest life expectancy in the world. And — here’s the thing — they have achieved all this while remaining outside the EU.

Iceland has much more leeway with which to create a more business-friendly environment.

Being outside the EU, Iceland has been able to cut taxes and regulation, and to open up its economy. For 70 years the Althing has been dominated by the splendidly named Independence party, which has pursued the kind of Thatcherite agenda that is off limits to EU members because of the Social Chapter, the euro, the 48-hour week and all the rest of it.

With a population of about 294,000 people Iceland does not benefit from high levels of internal economies of scale. However, they do earn 70% of their export income from fishing. So they have some of the characteristics of a state that is wealthy due to natural resources. However, only 12% of the population works in fishing and most of the economy is not the fishing industry.

Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU or the EEA but which has only EFTA (European Free Trade Association) member, has a higher $32,700 (2003 est.) per capita GDP (as measured by purchasing power parity) than Iceland which has a per capita GDP of $30,900 (2003 est.). Switzerland manages this feat without natural resources to make a major contribution to the Swiss economy.

If the British manage to break free of the European Union at some point in the future I predict their economy will then start growing more rapidly.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 15 02:36 AM  Europe and America
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2004 October 12 Tuesday
Saddam Hussein Bluffed About Weapons To Deter Iran

The Los Angeles Times has an important article about how the US government so monumentally miscalculated Saddam Hussein's intentions and capabilities and why Saddam was bluffing about Iraq's nuclear and other weapons capabilities. (same article is here and here)

The former official said the CIA never understood that Hussein was bluffing about his long-abandoned weapons chiefly to deter Iran, Iraq's longtime enemy. To Hussein, Tehran's alleged push to gain the nuclear arms that he was denied posed an unacceptable danger to his country and a challenge to his rightful place in history.

Saddam Hussein had a more rational view of American national interest than the neoconservatives have.

In Hussein's view, the U.S. priority in the region was to ensure that Iran's Islamic Revolution did not spread to other nations and give radical Shiite clerics a chokehold on global oil supplies. He was convinced that Washington's national interest lay in containing Iran's suspected nuclear arms program, not in toppling his regime.

Indeed, he depended on it.

David Kay, who preceded Duelfer as the chief U.S. weapons sleuth, said he asked Tarik Aziz, Iraq's former deputy prime minister, in an interrogation last year why Hussein didn't keep his illicit weapons if he was so nervous about Iran's effort to build a nuclear bomb. "He said every time they raised it with Saddam, he said, 'Don't worry about Iran because if it turns out to be what we think, the Israelis or the Americans will take care of them,' " Kay said. "In other words, he was relying on us to deal with his enemy."

The article relays the fact that Saddam was willing to become a loyal ally of the United States and repeatedly sent out diplomatic feelers attempting to become the chief US ally. Saddam was willing to assist the US in stopping Iran from from spreading radical Islam and developing nukes. Imagine that. The irony here is that Israel would have benefitted from such an alliance since Iran's nuclear program is a far greater threat to Israel than Saddam's Iraq was.

Oh, and get this: Saddam thought the CIA was so omnipotent that the CIA must have so many spies in the Iraqi government that the CIA just had to know that Saddam was bluffing about WMDs. So Saddam figured the US couldn't really be challenging him over WMDs.

On related notes see the full text of Charles Duelfer's Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD which was produced for the CIA.

On those dangerous neoconservative fools see Steve Sailer's article on the 10th anniversary of The Bell Curve and especially points 6,7, and 8 on how the neocons came to abandon empiricism as well as Steve's post of a friend's commentary on the neocon love of theory over empiricism, Trotskyites, and fascism.

Update: Steve Sailer points out that back in October 2002 physicist and former weapons designer Gregory Cochran predicted no nuclear program would be found in Iraq and Greg explained why. Greg was right in detail. What does it say that one guy can clearly see through to the truth when government agencies and powerful leaders with billions of dollars to spend to investigate the same set of questions can't get it right?

If you want to understand the world a large part of the trick is in figuring out how to choose people to listen to. People who make wrong predictions ought to be listened to less. People who make right predictions ought to be listened to more. We need automated systems for keeping track of past predictions to hold commentators to greater account for their errors and also we need to try harder to point to those who get it right so we know to pay attention to them next time.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 12 12:47 PM  Mideast Iraq
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US Military Sensor Network In Iraq Invasion Performed Poorly

Lt. Col. Ernest “Rock” Marcone was a battalion commander of the 69th Armor of the US Army 3rd ID during the Iraq invasion tasked with seizing the Objective Peach bridge across the Euphrates on the edge of Baghdad, Marcone found that all the modern US military sensor networks provided front line troops little help in finding the enemy.

As night fell, the situation grew threatening. Marcone arrayed his battalion in a defensive position on the far side of the bridge and awaited the arrival of bogged-down reinforcements. One communications intercept did reach him: a single Iraqi brigade was moving south from the airport. But Marcone says no sensors, no network, conveyed the far more dangerous reality, which confronted him at 3:00 a.m. April 3. He faced not one brigade but three: between 25 and 30 tanks, plus 70 to 80 armored personnel carriers, artillery, and between 5,000 and 10,000 Iraqi soldiers coming from three directions. This mass of firepower and soldiers attacked a U.S. force of 1,000 soldiers supported by just 30 tanks and 14 Bradley fighting vehicles. The Iraqi deployment was just the kind of conventional, massed force that’s easiest to detect. Yet “We got nothing until they slammed into us,” Marcone recalls.

Objective Peach was not atypical of dozens of smaller encounters in the war. Portions of a forthcoming, largely classified report on the entire Iraq campaign, under preparation by the Santa Monica, CA, think tank Rand and shared in summary with Technology Review, confirm that in this war, one key node fell off the U.S. intelligence network: the front-line troops. “What we uncovered in general in Iraq is, there appeared to be something I refer to as a ‘digital divide,’” says Walter Perry, a senior researcher at Rand’s Arlington, VA, office and a former army signals officer in Vietnam. “At the division level or above, the view of the battle space was adequate to their needs. They were getting good feeds from the sensors,” Perry says. But among front-line army commanders like Marcone—as well as his counterparts in the U.S. Marines—“Everybody said the same thing. It was a universal comment: ‘We had terrible situational awareness,’” he adds.

The article goes on to state that front line troops found the enemy the way they always have: by running into them. Also, even that quote above paints a rosier picture than the full aricle provides. There were lots of failures of network data flows at the higher levels of the command chain with systems shutting down for 10 and 12 hours at a time.

The US military is even less well equipped to fight an insurgency. Though obviously in the extended battle against the insurgency lots of lessons are being learned and no doubt some high tech equipment is being developed and deployed to better fight an insurgency. Still, whatever the technological advances may have occurred in the last year and a half since the fall of Baghdad those advances have not yet managed to give the US military such a huge advantage over the insurgency that the US military can crush the insurgency the way the US forces can crush a conventional army.

If you think the US military's electronic information systems worked incredibly well in Iraq be sure to read the full and lengthy article and you will be disabused of that notion.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 12 12:01 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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2004 October 11 Monday
Do You Trust Fat People In Politics?

I just got off a phone conversation where in the process of discussing the candidates for the US Presidential election I was told "I distrust people who do not have enough vanity to lose weight".

Context? An ex-girlfriend complaining that the reason she doesn't like Senator John Edwards' wife is because the woman couldn't be bothered to lose a lot of weight for her husband's VP campaign run. She thinks there is something wrong with a pretty boy guy running for VP with a lardo butt wife. Really, I am not making this up. It wouldn't even have occurred to me to make it up. Besides, I didn't know that Mrs. Edwards even had a weight problem since I rarely watch TV political coverage. But thinking about this it dawned on me that her reaction to Mrs. Edwards is surely not an isolated case.

The Kerry-Edwards campaign ought to get Kerry's wife to take a rush trip to Beverly Hills to be treated by Dr. 90210 and get that episode aired before the election. They have little time to film and broadcast Mrs. Edwards' liposuction if they do not want to lose the vote of people whose judgment is no more than skin deep. Best done, it would include Sally Struthers on the good doctor Robert Rey's schedule for the same day. Get the celebrity angle in there to pique viewer interest.

The large voting block of voters making adipose-deep decisions (and that is at least in the millions) are being ignored by the Democrats. This is amazing when you think about it, especially in light of reports that John Kerry gets botox injections. Is Kerry's botox just by chance and unrelated to his run for high office? Also, and more importantly, do the high-paid sharp Democratic Party campaign strategies never watch reality TV shows and hospital documentary shows? Are they too busy cussing at the O'Reilly Factor to notice what is really important to the American people? When hardly a week goes by without the broadcast of at least one liposuction procedure how can these political operatives be so blind to what is clearly of the utmost importance?

Or have these Democratic Party campaign operatives approached Mrs. Edwards about liposuction (or stomach stapling) and been rebuffed? If so, then there was an absolutely huge mistake made by Democratic Party strategists back when Edwards was being vetted for the VP slot or even earlier when he was running in the primaries. Any candidate and spouse of a candidate needs vetting for their willingness to undergo plastic surgery, preferably on live television. Any reticence clearly demonstrates a lack of willingness to go the distance. Plastic surgery is going to become just so de rigeur that by 2016 anyone who hasn't had work done won't even be able to recruit a campaign staff let alone make a run for the Presidency. Young aspiring candidates who are getting work done now ought to film their procedures for future release in the 2016 and 2020 New Hampshire primaries.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 11 03:18 PM  Politics American Domestic
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Europeans Versus Americans On Personal Control Of Destiny

George Will has an interesting essay "Why America Leans Right" where he explores why Americans are more conservative and libertarian than Europeans.

Europe, post-religious and statist, is puzzled -- and alarmed -- by a nation where grace is said at half the family dinner tables. But religiosity, say Micklethwait and Wooldridge, "predisposes Americans to see the world in terms of individual virtue rather than in terms of the vast social forces that so preoccupy Europeans." And: "The percentage of Americans who believe that success is determined by forces outside their control has fallen from 41 percent in 1988 to 32 percent today; by contrast, the percentage of Germans who believe it has risen from 59 percent in 1991 to 68 percent today." In America, conservatives much more than liberals reject the presumption of individual vulnerability and incompetence that gives rise to liberal statism.

It would be very interesting to see results of doing this same survey on people from countries in other parts of the world. I'm going to guess that Middle Easterners hold views closer to those of the Germans than to Americans on the question of whether they have individual control of their destiny. Though the Middle Easterners may cite different reasons than the Germans for why they do not feel in control.

It would also be interesting to see polling by ethnic and racial group in America on this question. My guess is that whites have a stronger belief in their control of their own destiny than blacks and Hispanics. I would especially like to see numbers on Hispanics broken out by how many generations their families have been in the US.

How will American and European attitudes toward their ability control their lives change in the future? Will advances in understanding of genetics and the human brain make people see themselves as more determined by their environment and genes and hence less in control of their lives? Or will the ability to use biotechnology to reshape one's body and brain cause people to think they are in even more control of their destinies? Perhaps popular reactions come in phases with the initial greater understanding of genetic influences and environmental influences decreasing the belief in free wil. But then later the new knowledge will be harnessed to develop technologies to make it possible to improve our physical and cognitive abilities and then these technologies will cause a shift back of the pendulum to reestablish the belief that we are each in control of ourselves.

Will's source for the numbers he is quoting is the new book The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America by Economist writers John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 11 01:48 PM  Europe and America
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2004 October 08 Friday
Most Turks In Favor Of Polygamy

The European Union is on course to add a member state whose majority is in favor of polygamy.

A RECENT poll in a Turkish newspaper included an eye-catching statistic. A substantial majority of the population — 63% — thought it perfectly acceptable for a man to have more than one wife.

It may not seem as surprising as some of the country’s other distinguishing features: in parts of mainly Muslim Turkey, some people still live in cone-shaped mud huts whose design dates from the dawn of history.

Yet Turkey’s penchant for polygamy may well become more of an issue in the debate about where to place the eastern boundary of the western world — and whether to let Turkey become a member of the European Union.

As Steve Sailer recently pointed out even intellectuals in our own elite such as Jonathan Turley are so foolish that they can't see the problems posed by polygamy. Monogamy reduces the amount of rivalry between males because it increases the odds that each male will be able to find a mate. Among males this tends to build support for society as a whole.

Far too many intellectuals seek to ignore the biological factors that influence human behavior. Many intellectuals seem to want to believe that humans can escape their biological nature and that the best way to do so is to deny its relevance. But both consanguineous marriage and polygamy contribute to making societies where there is less trust and less a sense of shared common interests.

We can not safely take for granted that the conditions that have made Western cultures more free and open will always be there no matter what cultural changes take place. Change the ratio of religions and religious beliefs in a society through immigration and differential rates of reproduction or change the laws that govern family formation and the result will be changes in values and cultural practices. If you are living in a Western country care about your country's culture and do not have a desire to see it commit suicide (as the West's intellectuals and political leaders seem intent upon doing) you should oppose immigration and legal changes that will dilute and destroy what makes the West distinct.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 08 04:30 PM  Europe and America
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2004 October 06 Wednesday
Dov Weisglass Says Palestinian State On Indefinite Hold

Dov Weisglass explains the significance of the barrier fence and withdrawal from Gaza Strip.

"The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's senior adviser Dov Weisglass has told Haaretz.

"And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress."

...

"...what I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns. That is the significance of what we did."

Given that the Palestinian Authority is despotic and has degenerated even further into criminality and given Arafat's support for terrorism (which was so not a surprise to anyone who didn't fantasize about Oslo) the so-called "peace process" never made any sense. But I think treating the Palestinians fairly still made sense and that never happened. So I'm not totally sympathetic to the Israelis.

Weisglass tried to backpedal when the reaction to his statements became a problem for the Israelis.

"The paper quoted only the first half of my sentence. What I said is directed at this specific time when there is a non-functional Palestinian Authority, and when terror is raging– if that's the case there should not be, God forbid, a process that would lead to the establishing of a Palestinian State, which would have anarchy as its founding stone."

Israel's ambassador to the United States puts a more positive spin on it while Yossi Beilin says Sharon is not a partner for peace.

"This plan gives Israel some breathing space, to wait until there is a partner with whom it will be able to start negotiations. I think this is the core aims of the plan," Ayalon said.

MK Yossi Beilin (Yahad) said Weisglass's statement was said in "a rare moment of truth and uncover the prime minister's true intentions. The peace camp must join forces and bring the PM down, Beilin said. "Sharon is not a partner for peace," Israel Radio quoted Beilin as saying.

Of course the PLO isn't a partner for peace either and certainly Islamic Jihad and Hamas have no desire for any peace that doesn't involve total victory for their side.

Ariel Sharon is trying to say that Weisglass went too far - except of course Sharon really agrees with him.

Weisglass has been Sharon's point man in dealing with the Bush administration.

Sharon's office later issued a statement, saying the prime minister remains committed to the road map. However, in a newspaper interview last month, Sharon said Israel is no longer following the plan.

So what to make of all this? On the one hand the Israeli Likudists have legitimate fears about a "peace" deal. The demand for refugee return would lead to the end of the state of Israel if it was agreed to. Also, splitting Jerusalem between two sovereign governments strikes me as a recipe for all sorts of mischief and trouble down the road. The Muslim claim to Jerusalem as an important holy city in the Koran is bogus and was dreamt up in the Middle Ages (and I'm too busy to google up the story of how that happened but would appreciate a link from anyone who knows where to find it).

But there is a powerful faction in the Likud which is basically using the "lack of partner for peace" argument against the Palestinians to continue to build and expand remote settlements in the West Bank to ensure the Palestinians never take sovereign control of the West Bank. This faction is a mix of Jewish religious fundamentalist nutcases (like US Defense Department neocon Douglas Feith's former law partner Marc Zell and of course some nut jobs in the Bush Administration) and others who dream of a bigger Israel.

The biggest downside from the construction of the barrier fence around the West Bank is that it reduces the pressure on the Israeli government to do anything to treat the Palestinians better. As long as Israelis are not getting killed daily in terrorist attacks the settlement expansion program can continue apace while the Palestinians endure the various barriers the Israelis will of course maintain for the benefit of the remote settlements.

The remote settlements and the taking of Palestinian land are a real public relations bonanza for anyone in the Middle East who wants to stoke up anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment. Speaking as an American nationalist who wants to protect American interests it is the anti-American sentiment that concerns me most. The Bush Administration could have taken the position on the barrier fence that the Bushies would support it in exchange for evacuation of the remote settlements. But the Bushies didn't do that. They basically took the side of the harder line American and Israeli Likudniks. If I was a Palestinian I'd see this as a bad faith move on America's part.

The barrier fence is still a good idea because it will reduce the death rate on both sides. Also, the pull-out from Gaza is a good idea by itself. But the demographic trend of lower Jewish than Palestinian Muslim birth rates combined with the continued imposition of the remote settlements on the West Bank Palestinian population is storing up bigger troubles for the future.

Also, there is an argument to be made for imposing a sort of de facto sovereignty on the Palestinians. Withdraw back to near the Green Line with barriers. Tell the Palestinians that they now have to find a way to govern themselves. Some rockets might come over the border. The Israelis would have every right to retaliate. But the Palestinians would know that what belongs to them really does belong to them. But as long as settlements are being built on seized land that is not the case.

Update: You might be wondering why Weisglass would publically state Israel's position in a way that would cause a diplomatic flap and criticism. He is trying to tell the Israeli Right that a pull-out from Gaza is part of a bigger process that produces an outcome that they will like.

Mr Weisglass, a lawyer who handles most of the Israeli Prime Minister's contacts with Washington, appeared to be attempting to make the Gaza evacuation more palatable to the Israeli right wing, which opposes the plan.

The Israelis are not going to pull out of the remote settlements unless the US applies a lot of pressure and that pressure is just not going to happen given the reality of American domestic politics. So there is not much to watch with the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. Positions are solidifying. But babies are being born too.

There are web logs that report on the Palestininan-Israeli and Arab-Israeli conflict on a daily basis with each attack, retaliation, and fanatical statement passed along either with approval or disgust. But real changes in the positions of the combatants rarely change. The bigger changes are in attitudes and in demographics. Those changes do not bode well for the future.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 06 03:39 PM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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2004 October 05 Tuesday
Retirement Of Baby Boomers To Bring Enormous Fiscal Crisis

USA Today has an excellent article on the approaching fiscal crisis that will happen when the baby boomers start to retire. (same article here)

A USA TODAY analysis found that the nation's hidden debt — Americans' obligation today as taxpayers — is more than five times the $9.5 trillion they owe on mortgages, car loans, credit cards and other personal debt.

This hidden debt equals $473,456 per household, dwarfing the $84,454 each household owes in personal debt.

The $53 trillion is what federal, state and local governments need immediately — stashed away, earning interest, beyond the $3 trillion in taxes collected last year — to repay debts and honor future benefits promised under Medicare, Social Security and government pensions. And like an unpaid credit card balance accumulating interest, the problem grows by more than $1 trillion every year that action to pay down the debt is delayed.

“As a nation, we may have already made promises to coming generations of retirees that we will be unable to fulfill,” Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told the House Budget Committee last month.

The oldest baby boomers start qualifying for Social Security in 2008 and Medicare in 2011. The need to increase taxes and cut spending will grow very rapidly after that.

Comptroller General David Walker, the government's chief accountant, travels the nation warning of the impending crisis. “I am desperately trying to get people to understand the significance of this for our country, our children, our grandchildren,” Walker says. “How this is resolved could affect not only our economic security but our national security. We're heading to a future where we'll have to double federal taxes or cut federal spending by 50%.”

The sooner people are told they are going to have to delay their retirements the sooner they will be able to start trying to earn more and save more to prepare for delayed old age benefits. But today the emphasis in public discourse is still on how benefits ought to be extended even further. The irresponsibility and audacity of both the politicians and the old people who ask for increased benefits is thoroughly disgusting. Our supposedly Republican President supported the big Medicare drug benefit that now makes the unfunded liability about 15% larger than it otherwise would have been.

The article uses the term "Greatest Generation" in an extemely irritating way:

The heart of the problem is that the Greatest Generation and baby boomers have promised themselves retirement benefits so generous — and have contributed so little to financing them — that even the most prosperous economy in history cannot pay the bill.

Well, since the "Greatest Generation" have been fiscally irresponsible on such a massive scale how can they possibly be considered "Greatest"? Even most of those who served in WWII never came under enemy fire. The size ot the support units was far larger than the size of the front line units.

The old age retirement funding debacle underscores the problem with low skill and low wage immigrants (illegal or otherwise). Anyone who is not earning a very high salary is not paying enough into Social Security and Medicare to pay for their own retirement benefits. Many illegal immigrants even cost more than they pay in taxes while they are still working. So they don't even help to delay the old age funding crisis.

Politicians in Washington DC are going to continue to ignore the unfunded liabilities until an acute funding crisis is upon us. The Democrats will call the Republicans cold hearted meanies if the Republicans try to cut benefits and delay retirement. Old folks will ignore the crisis too and continue to demand more benefits.

So what to do about it? The most cost-effective policy I can see is to start working seriously on treatments to reverse aging. If people could stay younger and work decades longer then there'd be no financial crisis. See my FuturePundit Aging Reversal archive for more on the possibility that focused intense scientific research could save us from fiscal disaster while also making our lives richer, healthier, and longer.

Update: One other point: What is US foreign policy going to be like 5 and 10 years from now? Cheaper. We aren't going to have the money to fund invasions or occupations of countries. Expect to see an end to US support for Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and still other countries. The pressure to cut spending to pay for old folks benefits will be immense. Right now we are witnessing the high point of post-Cold War US power. A second Bush Administration might be able to pull off one more regime change. But I'm betting against it.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 05 03:41 AM  Economics Demographic
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2004 October 04 Monday
Symbolically Vote For Immigration Restriction In Some States

Are you in favor of stopping the influx of illegal aliens into the country? Want to cut out low skilled immigration? Want tough enforcement of immigration laws? If you are a Kerry supporter living in a solid Bush state (a so-called "Red" state) then write in Congressman Tom Tancredo (R CO) for the Presidential ballot. If you are a Bush supporter in a solid Kerry state (a so-called "Blue" state) then, again, write in Tom Tancredo.

Note that I'm not proposing anything that will "waste" your vote in a way that will change the outcome of the election in a way that you disfavor. If you live in a state which is very heavily leaning in a way against your wishes your vote isn't going to change that. But if you are in that category you could use your ballot to send a symbolic message.

My own view is that Bush and Kerry are both so bad in their own ways that it is hard to strongly support either of them. It is hard to tell which will be worse because there are too many factors that will determine what they can manage to do. Perhaps a Republican Congress will prevent Kerry from doing too much damage. Maybe the continuation of the Iraqi Debacle will cause great public opposition to Bush that it will prevent Bush from getting into more misadventures abroad. I'm not sure. Still, you may see things differently and yet still agree with that immigration policy is badly broken and that it is time to stop the illegal alien influx.

If you live in a state that is heavily leaning against your Presidential preference then you really lose nothing by using your ballot to make a protest vote.

For example, suppose you are for Bush but you live in Calfornia. Well, Bush has a snowball's chance in hell of winning California (or Illinois or New York for that matter). A Bush supporter who votes for Bush in California will have no effect on the outcome of the election. So I have a suggestion: write in Tom Tancredo on the ballot. A large count of people writing in Tancredo will be noticed. National politicians need to learn that there are voters out there who want a Presidential candidate who is an immigration restrictionist.

The same advice holds a Kerry supporter in Texas, most of the plains state, Georgia, Alabama or other Bush strongholds. If you are an immigration restrictionist and Kerry supporter and you live in a "Red" state then your vote for Kerry has no chance of helping to close a small margin in the Texas state vote. The Texas, Wyoming, Montana, Alaska, and Oklahoma electoral college votes are going for Bush. You can bet on it.

So where is your state in the polls for Kerry versus Bush? Noah Millman has his own guesses on how the states will go for the electoral college. Also, check out the Rasmussen electoral college predictions by state. If you want to be sure you are not going to waste your vote check out the RealClearPolitics electoral college chart that shows whether each state is leaning or solid for each candidate. Check out where the Presidential candidates stand in the polls in this election. Any immigration restrictionist who is living in a "Solid" state who is opposed to the candidate who is "Solid" in that state ought to use their vote to file a protest. Why not?

Update: If writing in a candidate's name does not appeal then consider voting for Constitution Party candidate and immigration restrictionist Michael Peroutka. Read about Peroutka on immigration. Peroutka is on the ballot in 37 states. But I can not find a list of which states those are. If anyone has a source for such a list please post it in the comments.

Also, surprisingly, while Ralph Nader is not an immigration restrictionist to the extent that Michael Peroutka is Nader wants to cut back on illegal immigration. (more here) However, Nader sends some pretty mixed messages with support for what sounds like a big Mexican work permit guest worker program. Also, see this map for whether Nader is on the ballot in your state.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 04 01:05 AM  Immigration Politics
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2004 October 03 Sunday
Will Bush Invade Iran In His Second Term?

Spengler thinks Bush will partition Iraq and then move on to target the government of Iran.

Washington's strategic position in the Middle East is stronger than it has ever been, contrary to superficial interpretation. With much of central Iraq out of US control and a record level of close to 100 attacks a day against US forces, President George W Bush appears on the defensive. The moment recalls French Marshal Ferdinand Foch's 1914 dispatch from the Marne: "My center is giving way, my right is in retreat; situation excellent. I shall attack." To be specific, the United States will in some form or other attack Iran while it arranges the division of Iraq.

An attack on Iran would open up the possibility of a better partitition of Iraq because there are quite a few Kurds in Iran. A chunk of Kurdish Iran could be broken off and united with Iraqi Kurdistan into a larger and stronger entity (unless the Kurds descend into civil war - which can not entirely be ruled out). This would leave both the Iranian Persians and the Iraqi Arabs in weaker positions. However, there are plenty of reasons to doubt this will come to pass.

Laura Rosen of War And Piece thinks the people in key positions in Washington DC in the Bush Administration have decided that Iran must be stopped from going nuclear.

What is Bush's policy on Iran? The administration hints to neocons, through Bolton's statements, that leave it to them, with a second term, Iran's nuclear program will be taken care of (just don't look at Bush's first term record on Iran for proof.) But Bush won't get reelected by stating clearly that a second term would could likely lead America to a new military engagement in the Persian Gulf, especially after the last one went so disastrously based on the fantasies the Bolton supporters wove about what that would entail, and indeed, about what the very threat Iraq posed was.

The irony of the US invasion of Iraq is that two of the reasons given to justifiy the invasion, nuclear weapons development efforts and support for Al Qaeda (AQ) to carry out terrorism, were pretty bogus against Iraq but as Laura Rozen also points out European intelligence officials see a real case to be made against Iran with regard to support for Al Qaeda. Some of Iran's friendliness toward Al Qaeda is pretty well known such as its past (still present?) practice of not stamping AQ passports on the Iran-Afghanistan border is certainly outright complicity on the part of the Iranians. But can the Bush neocons do anything about it? The Iran hawks in the Bush Administration may lose positions in the Pentagon after the election (assuming Bush wins). Even if Bush wins reelection Iran still looks likely to become a nuclear power because preemption advocates have blown their credibility on Iraq and now look like the boy who cried wolf.

Ms. Rozen says the Iran hawks break up into at least two schools of thought.

The Iran hawks' position is skeptical (to put it kindly) of the realist-dominated CFR recommendation for more direct engagement with Iran. But there's at least two schools of Iran hawks. The Iran hawk realists, who think the US should offer Iran the threat of bigger sticks, and reward of bigger carrots, in focused negotiations on the nuclear issue. And then the "Faster, Please" school, who think we should further isolate the mullahs, and push for regime change, not by the threat of force, but through financial and moral support to opposition groups, independent broadcasters, etc. The irony of course is that the theory advocated by the "Faster" group borrows lock stock and barrel from the nonviolent revolution policy of Peter Ackerman pursued to great success by none other than Madeleine Albright (who the Iran hawks ridicule) and the Clinton administration against Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic, who is now in the midst of his trial on war crimes at the Hague.

My guess is that any set of carrots and sticks presented to Iran is not going to cause them to stop their nuclear weapons development program without the stick of outright invasion made very credible and believable. The Iranians leaders very strongly desire nuclear weapons. It is not even clear that a credible threat of invasion would be enough to make them abandon their nuclear weapons development efforts. But could Bush in his second term put together a credible threat of invasion? I have my doubts. I do not think Kerry would even try. So if Kerry wins I expect Iran to go nuclear.

However, an attack on Iran is highly problematic. One problem (out of many) with an attack on Iran is oil. The price is now as of this writing at about $50 per barrel and may go still higher even without a crisis escalating over Iran. Well, Iran produces 5% of the world's oil. An attempt to bring down the regime may cost far more in terms of higher oil prices (picture $80 or $90 per barrel oil for months and a huge economic downturn ala 1974 perhaps) than it costs in military expenditures to do an invasion. A covert operation to foment a revolution seems like a long shot. But even if it worked it would bring a disruption in oil production as well.

Oil dependence is an Achilles' Heel on the ambitions of the neocons. Even if one accepts the logic and assumptions of the Bush Administration's approach to the Middle East (and I don't) it is hard to see how they can ignore the need for an energy policy designed to lessen the world's dependence on Middle Eastern oil by developing alternatives and using what we use much more efficiently.

Still, the Pentagon is playing lots of war games with Iran as a target. The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reports on Pentagon war-gaming exercises against Iran.

For the past three years the central war game of the U.S. armed forces has been centered on Iran. But what exactly will await them there, even they do not purport to know.

Six divisional task forces of the U.S. armed forces, subordinate to three corps commands arrive simultaneously from six different directions; two airborne expeditionary forces (combat wings, transport, command and control, intelligence, refueling); five aircraft carriers at a distance of up to 1,500 kilometers from their northernmost targets; three Special Forces battalions - all struck at Iran and pushed to seize its capital city.

My gut feeling on this issue is that I do not trust any Muslim country with the bomb. I can hear some Muslims claiming I have a double-standard. Well, cultures and religions differ in important ways and some are far more problematic for civilization and peace than others. However, my guess is I'll have to learn to live with my fears about Muslim terrorists getting nuclear bombs when some Middle Eastern state falls apart or when some government officials mad with religious zeal smuggle some into their hands. Or, at the very least, Iran will treat its status as a nuclear power as a security blanket which will protect it from retribution while it sponsors terrorists.

I think the Bush team has squandered a great many resources and political capital on ill-considered moves and as a consequence I'm still betting on Iran going nuclear. The strategy of preemption has been undermined by incompetent execution.

Update: Note that a wide variety of observers believe that Iran's nuclear weapons development program is widely popular among the Iranian public and with would-be reformers who would like to cut down on the power of the mullahs. Revolutionary upheaval or invasion might delay Iran's development of nuclear weapons. The overthrow of the Shah is seen in some quarters as having substantially delayed Iran's nuclear program. But as long as Iran has the money coming in from oil sales it seems inevitable that sooner or later the country will develop nuclear bombs.

Each country that gains nuclear weapons creates new pressures for additional countries to go nuclear as well. China's nukes created pressure on India to go nuclear which created pressure on Pakistan to go nuclear as well. Iran as a nuclear power might spur Saudi Arabia to buy its way into possession of nuclear weapons. But then Turkey and other countries in the region might then start pursuing the development of nuclear weapons.

My guess is that efforts to stop nuclear proliferation are basically crumbling. Japan and South Korea have got to be thinking about North Korea's suspected nukes and wondering whether they should develop nukes as well. The Taiwanese are looking at the growing power of Chian and some of them have got to be wondering whether going nuclear is the only option they have for maintaining their independence.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 03 05:37 PM  MidEast Iran
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2004 October 02 Saturday
The Iraq Aluminum Tubes Saga In Detail

The New York Times has an excellent, important, and lengthy report on the controversy over whether Iraq's aluminum tubes purchase was part of an effort to restart their nuclear weapons development program.

The agency's ability to assess nuclear intelligence had markedly declined after the cold war, and Joe's appointment was part of an effort to regain lost expertise. He was assigned to a division eventually known as Winpac, for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control. Winpac had hundreds of employees, but only a dozen or so with a technical background in nuclear arms and fuel production. None had Joe's hands-on experience operating centrifuges.

My reaction here is that if the CIA had only a dozen people who had any technical understanding of the nuclear fuels then that says something pretty damning about the CIA. One former Oak Ridge engineer recruited into the CIA was the only guy they had who could evaluate the significance of an Iraqi aluminum tubes purchase? Isn't there something wrong with this picture?

Suddenly, Joe's work was ending up in classified intelligence reports being read in the White House. Indeed, his analysis was the primary basis for one of the agency's first reports on the tubes, which went to senior members of the Bush administration on April 10, 2001. The tubes, the report asserted, "have little use other than for a uranium enrichment program."

This alarming assessment was immediately challenged by the Energy Department, which builds centrifuges and runs the government's nuclear weapons complex.

The next day, Energy Department officials ticked off a long list of reasons why the tubes did not appear well suited for centrifuges. Simply put, the analysis concluded that the tubes were the wrong size - too narrow, too heavy, too long - to be of much practical use in a centrifuge.

What was more, the analysis reasoned, if the tubes were part of a secret, high-risk venture to build a nuclear bomb, why were the Iraqis haggling over prices with suppliers all around the world? And why weren't they shopping for all the other sensitive equipment needed for centrifuges?

All fine questions. But if the tubes were not for a centrifuge, what were they for?

Within weeks, the Energy Department experts had an answer.

It turned out, they reported, that Iraq had for years used high-strength aluminum tubes to make combustion chambers for slim rockets fired from launcher pods. Back in 1996, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency had even examined some of those tubes, also made of 7075-T6 aluminum, at a military complex, the Nasser metal fabrication plant in Baghdad, where the Iraqis acknowledged making rockets. According to the international agency, the rocket tubes, some 66,000 of them, were 900 millimeters in length, with a diameter of 81 millimeters and walls 3.3 millimeters thick.

The tubes now sought by Iraq had precisely the same dimensions - a perfect match.

That finding was published May 9, 2001, in the Daily Intelligence Highlight, a secret Energy Department newsletter published on Intelink, a Web site for the intelligence community and the White House.

"Joe" and his CIA colleagues argued against the Energy Department interpretation. You can read the full article to find out why.

It is important to note that the tubes were probably the strongest argument that the Bush Administration had as evidence for a serious attempt by the Iraqis to restart their nuclear weapons development program. There were many other things that the Iraqis would have been doing that would have been part of such a restart effort that would have been detectable by Western intelligence agencies that the Iraqis were obviously not doing. But the Bush Administration misrepresented the strength of the argument for the tubes. In fact, I would characterize the Bush Administration's position on the tubes as a bright shining lie. Did Cheney deep down believe the lie? Did Bush?

Dick Cheney looked at the intelligence community and saw previous major failures in its attempts to detect activities such as nuclear weapons development efforts. But where Cheney failed is that he didn't understand whether the causes of those previous failures were relevant to analysis of evidence from Iraq in the late 1990s and onward. He obviously and importantly didn't know which supposed experts to trust. His misjudgement has been very harmful to US national interests.

Here is an example of where a lack of scientific education on the part of major politicians and the bulk of the commentariat can lead to absolutely huge mistakes. But ignorance in physics and engineering were not the only contributing factors for the Iraq debacle. Ignorance on matters of culture, religion, history, and human nature contributed as well. The idea that the Iraqis would treat us as liberators for more than a short period of time (and not even that in many cases) was a huge and foreseeable mistake. pessimists on Muslim democracy pointed out why analogies with Japan and Germany are erroneous. Lots of other factors working against secular liberal democracy in Iraq have been explained by a number of commentators. Also see Steve Sailer's Cousin Marriage Conundrum.

Two major stated reasons for invading Iraq were to stop nuclear proliferation and spread democracy to undermine the reasons for grievances among Muslims against the West. Well, invading Iraq didn't stop nuclear proliferation and we have increased Muslim hostility toward the United States and helped Al Qaeda recruiting.

So why did US policy toward Iraq go so badly wrong? (and I'm ignoring people who claim otherwise for about the same reason I ignore people who reject the theory of evolution by natural selection: overwhelming evidence) Over on Gideon's Blog Noah Millman takes up the question by first discussing George Will's savaging of the neocons.

I'm not sure there's another pundit out there with the chops to say what George Will is saying about the neocons. (Steve Sailer directed me to the piece.) I say that because Will is clearly a member in good standing of the new Conservative establishment (he's neither a Buchananite exile nor a Scowcroftian managerial Republican type) and has a strong record of support for Israel. He's not a crank; he's not someone who thinks he lost his job to a neocon; and he's not an Arab-sympathizer. And he's not harping on supposed dual-loyalty (which is mostly a canard and a distraction; there is an *enormous* difference morally between *betraying your country* and being infatuated with a friendly foreign country - as Jefferson was with France, Hamilton with Britain, and various Americans over the decades and centuries have been with Free Cuba, Republican Spain, Nationalist China, Wilhelmine Germany . . . there are probably more instances that I'm not thinking of). He's just saying: these guys are wrong. Badly wrong, dangerously wrong, blindly wrong. He's not hitting below the belt, but he's not pulling his punches. That's a good standard to aspire to, whether one agrees with him or not.

As for whether I agree with him . . . yeah, basically. Do I look forward to a newly dictatorial Russia? No. Do I think America can do much to promote democracy in Russia at this point? No. If there was a window of hope in Russia, that window has closed. Our *best* hope at this point is a cautious, rational dictatorship that bides its time and tries to rebuild the country, and knows that antagonizing America is just a stupid thing to do at this point. *That* Russia I would happily form an alliance with, dictatorship or no. I don't consider that the most-likely outcome. Between the extraordinary power of organized crime, the decrepit condition of the Russian military, the demographic implosion . . . Russia is going to be very, very lucky to avoid chaos and civil war on the one hand, or an ultranationalist, expansionist dictatorship on the other. Putin is very bad. And we could do much, much worse.

Noah sees a failure to examine contrary evidence and arguments as the base cause of the debacle.

And so what's hard to understand is: why did the Administration ignore this stuff? Not why did Rumsfeld listen to Wolfowitz or Bush listen to Rumsfeld - why did Wolfowitz believe this stuff? Why didn't everyone see the sheer unlikelihood of success in our endeavor? Sitting on the outside, I assumed that the Administration had evaluated all this stuff and come to the conclusion that war was necessary, and that we were doing everything we could to assure success. But that's clearly not the case: we did almost *nothing* to assure success. Why?

That's the mystery to me: not how the neocons got Iraq at the top of the foreign policy agenda (that's just inertia from pre 9-11 days speeded up by 9-11-induced urgency) nor why they thought toppling Saddam would be a good thing for America and its allies, most notably Israel, but why and how the decisionmaking process got so broken that contrary argument and evidence couldn't break through? *That's* what's bizarre. And *that's* what Bush hasn't done anything demonstrable to correct. And *that's* the biggest argument against his reelection. Which is why I think Kerry should be making just that argument.

But I do not find that explanation satisfying because he provides no answers to the questions he poses. Are the Bushies dumb? Do they really have conflicting loyalties as many critics of the neocons (I'm nodding YES) claim? Are the neocons really not conservatives and really ideological leftists (I'm nodding YES again) who care less about evidence and more about fighting wars for their ideas? These people need to be explained and analyzed.

Here's a really pedestrian simple explanation for much of what goes wrong in politics: Smarter people tend to study the hard sciences and engineering in college and stay out of politics in their careers. People who have the mental chops to critically sort through claims about nuclear arms proliferation tend not to be the people examining the evidence or trying to judge the level of talent of supposed experts giving conflicting advice. Also, more generally, even outside the hard sciences and engineering in areas like history and religous studies are not the sorts of people who often find their way to positions of advisors to the high and mighty. Plus, making all ths worse, a guy like George W. Bush even wins votes by not appearing to be too intellectual or learned. So I do not see that Washington DC has the talents we need there to make the big calls.

Here's another explanation: It helps to have a lot of money if you run for high office. But most rich people do not want to run for high office. So we are left with the rich people who are not so talented to serve as a pool of contenders for the US Presidency. Look at Bush. He made his money by convincing a bunch of voters to vote for a bond issue to fund the construction of a stadium that made a baseball team worth much more to its owners (of which he was one). Kerry married his money. Neither of these guys are smart on the level of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. Well, Bill and Warren aren't going to take off time from their busy lives to lower themselves down into the political arena. So we get Dubya and to choose among instead.

On a related note about why the neocons in the Bush Administration are such a bunch of dangerous loons Johann Hari has a profile in The Independent (so it is written from a Leftist perspective) of former leftist and now anti-Islamofascist ally of the neocons Christopher Hitchens which shows how much Hitch sees Wolfowitz as an ideological kindred spirit. (same article here)

He believes neoconservatism is a distinctively new strain of thought, preached by ex-leftists, who believed in using US power to spread democracy.

...

With the fine eye for ideological division that comes from a life on the Trotskyite left, Hitch diagnoses the intellectual divisions within the Bush administration. He does not ally himself with the likes of Cheney; he backs the small sliver of pure neocon thought he associates with Wolfowitz. "The thing that would most surprise people about Wolfowitz if they met him is that he's a real bleeding heart. He's from a Polish-Jewish immigrant family. You know the drill - Kennedy Democrats, some of the family got out of Poland in time and some didn't make it, civil rights marchers? He impressed me when he was speaking at a pro-Israel rally in Washington a few years ago and he made a point of talking about Palestinian suffering. He didn't have to do it - at all - and he was booed. He knew he would be booed, and he got it. I've taken time to find out what he thinks about these issues, and it's always interesting."

Hitchens and Wolfowitz still think using Leftist intellectual categories. Neoconservatives are really not consevative. They represent a schism in the Left. In a follow-up in his own blog Hari makes it clear that he sees Islamic terrorism's cause as the standard Leftist explanation for everything: economic oppression by The Man.

I differ with Hitch on two points. Firstly, I do not believe that the Bush method is sufficient for – or very effective at – battling Islamic fundamentalism. There are many occasions when Islamic fundamentalists can only be defeated by force – in Afghanistan, for example – and we need to support those fights when the Bush administration enters into them. But force alone is not sufficient; there needs to be a Marshall Plan for the Arab world (precisely the opposite of the economic misery spread at the moment by the USA’s proxies, the IMF and World Bank) and a determined effort to tackle legitimate Muslim grievances. So far the force has been forthcoming – but nothing else. If you want a real fight against Islamofascism, you have to want much better than Bush

This really gets old. Economic oppression is not the root cause of Islamic anger at the West. Try considering cultural clash between religions combined with ethnic conflict fed by consanguineous cousin marriage and their own deficiencies and feelings of inferiority and you will be a lot closer to the truth of the matter. But such ideas have no place in Leftist ideological theorizing.

A number of left-leaning bloggers have responded to Hari's profile of Hitchens. One leftie blogger demonstrates that even some people who call themselves leftists correctly recognize the neocons as a particular strain of radical internationalists.

Hitchens is right in a way. These are early days yet, but the Neocons are proof that there is today a radical-democratic, internationalist and universalist Right promoting Enlightenment values. People like Wolfowitz and Perle are actually preaching the spreading of these values worldwide. A fairly idealist and radical approach.

Being conservative in a more conventional sense I do not believe the whole world can be transformed into a liberal democratic utopia and I think efforts to bring about that change are more likely to cause problems than produce a happy outcome.

More comments on the HItchens profile can be found here and here and here.

Noah Millman is left wondering what we ought to do.

It is not enough to say that most Iraqis hate the insurgents. *Do they hate them enough to die fighting to keep them out of power?* We don't know the answer to that question, yet. Most South Vietnamese didn't want the Communists to win; 1 million boat people proved that pretty decisively. They lost anyhow. And even if we knew the answer to that question was "yes" that only answers the most pressing question about Iraq. All the other simmering difficulties remain. And remember: I'm not even talking about what it would take for Iraq to be a democracy. I'm talking about what it would take to get out and not leave chaos and civil war behind.

Look: this is not a partisan issue for me. I actually want to figure out what to do. It's readily apparent to me that Bush is winging it, and that the last thing he's going to do is talk straight to the country about how the war is going. It's also readily apparent to me that Kerry has no better clue about what to do. Kerry has taken every position it's possible to take on almost every aspect of the Iraq issue. In 1997 he said was pounding the tub loudly for war to stop Saddam from acquiring WMD and threatening America. In the primaries he said anyone who didn't think deposing Saddam made America safer was unfit to be President. He voted against the Gulf War and for the Iraq war, and then voted not to fund the latter war effort. He defended that vote by saying he really objected that the war effort was funded with debt rather than taxes . . . but then he also said we're (a) not spending nearly enough on the war and reconstruction effort; (b) spending way too much when there are such pressing needs at home. When asked what he'd do differently from Bush he says, "everything" and then lists things the Bush Administration is trying to do right now. He's hopeless. So: what follows?

My choices are summed up here: Unilaterally Withdraw From Iraq Or First Partition? But I realize most people are not ready to admit just how modest our ambitions have to be for Iraq at this point. Well, if you are not willing to admit defeat your only choice that I can see at this point is to cheer on the creation of a new Iraqi Army. But if the desertions and collaboration with the insurgency by Iraqi soldiers do not lessen I do not see how the US can arrange for a graceful face-saving exit.

Update: US National Security Advisor Condoleezza is still claiming there is some chance that the aluminum tubes were purchased for uranium enrichment centrifuges.

"As I understand it, people are still debating this," Rice said on ABC's "This Week" program. "And I'm sure they will continue to debate it."

David Albright says Rice "was grasping at straws". No kidding. The Bush Administration can not be trusted on the subject of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. They do the country a disservice by crying wolf when there is no wolf.

By Randall Parker 2004 October 02 09:18 PM  Mideast Iraq
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