2004 November 30 Tuesday
Death Rates Of US Soldiers Understate Intensity Of Iraq Fighting

Brian Gifford argues that the reports of death rates of US soldiers in Iraq are a misleading indicator of the intensity of the fighting.

On the other hand, improved body armor, field medical procedures and medevac capabilities are allowing wounded soldiers to survive injuries that would have killed them in earlier wars. In World War II there were 1.7 wounded for every fatality, and 2.6 in Vietnam; in Iraq the ratio of wounded to killed is 7.6. This means that if our wounded today had the same chances of survival as their fathers did in Vietnam, we would probably now have more than 3,500 deaths in the Iraq war.

Moreover, we fought those wars with much larger militaries than we currently field. The United States had 12 million active-duty personnel at the end of World War II and 3.5 million at the height of the Vietnam War, compared with just 1.4 million today. Adjusted for the size of the armed forces, the average daily number of killed and wounded was 4.8 times as many in World War II than in Iraq, but it was only 0.25 times greater in Vietnam -- or one-fourth more.

Even the total casualty rate understates the intensity of the fighting. The US soldiers in Iraq have much better body armor and so they are taking more hits that do not wound than was the case in Vietnam, Korea, WWII, and previous conflicts. So the intensity of combat is obviously much higher for US soldiers in Iraq than was the case in previous conflicts.

That higher intensity of combat is also likely to translate into more cases of post-traumatic stress syndrome. Those stress syndrome cases do not show up in the official figures for this or any other war.

A Vietnam Vet points out what those non-fatal wounds frequently mean: disability and even in some cases a life of pain.

It used to be that you were dead if you got gut shot, though it nearly always took a while for you to die. What was so bad about getting gut shot wasn't just the excruciating pain — the pain wasn't so intense once shock set in, but knowing that you were indisputably dead — that death was dragging you by the feet through the mud and you were helpless.

But getting gut shot doesn't always mean getting killed anymore. In 1968 I spent three and a half months in military hospitals and I saw lots of guys who'd survived getting gut shot. In Letterman Hospital in San Francisco there was an entire ward filled with young Americans boys who'd been partially disemboweled by bullets or shrapnel and then "surgically repaired." In the worst cases they would be incontinent, impotent and in nearly constant pain, forever unable to work or to live actively, but at least they had lives ahead of them.

The great hope of the Bush Administration to provide an exit strategy from Iraq is the build-up of Iraqi forces to take over more of the fight and to provide police protection to the population. But New York Times reporters Richard A. Oppel Jr. and James Glanz provide a bleak assessment of the Iraqi National Guard (I.N.G.) and police.

In the northern city of Mosul, almost the entire police force and large parts of several Iraqi National Guard battalions deserted during an insurgent uprising this month. Iraqi leaders had to use Guard battalions of Kurdish soldiers to secure the city, kindling ethnic tensions with Arabs.

...

Even where there have been apparent successes, there are complications. American officials in Mosul, for example, single out the 106th Iraqi National Guard Battalion as performing with professionalism. But in an interview, the battalion commander said half of his troops were Kurdish, not Arab.

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He said the Iraqi National Guard, known as the I.N.G., has only a "little bit more training." They also have serious problems of loyalty and competence. Just a few months ago, he believes, the local National Guard force was complicit in the abduction and killing of its own battalion commander west of Falluja.

"That's what you get out of the I.N.G.," Colonel Gubler said. "They gave up their battalion commander, laid their weapons down, and 23 cars and trucks and massive amounts of ammunition went to Falluja. It's just pitiful."

Note that the Kurds are the only ethnic group in Iraq that can be depended upon to fight hard alongside US forces.

Read the full article. They report on police and I.N.G. soldiers who do not tell their own families what their real job is out of fear that the information will leak out and insurgents will kill them or their families or both.

Continued attacks on police stations and personnel have left the Iraqi police scared and understaffed.

In attacks that have ranged from execution-style slayings to armed raids on police stations, insurgents have made Iraq's fledgling security forces leading targets. Scores have died in the bloodshed, sapping morale in some cities in the restive regions north and west of Baghdad. In Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, almost the entire 5,000-man police force deserted when insurgents staged an uprising this month.

In the attack in Samarra on Sunday night, gunmen stormed the police station, looted the armory, seized police cars and then fled after facing no resistance, the Associated Press reported. U.S. troops went to the police station Monday morning and arrested two dozen people, the news agency said, quoting police there.

Note though, that the insurgents do not have a problem recruiting enough people to go into fights at high risk of getting injured or killed.

Thanks to Greg Cochran for the tip on the New York Times story.

Update: Retired Lt. General Hal Moore (who Mel Gibson played in the movie adaptation of the biographical Vietnam Ia Drang battle book Moore co-authored: We Were Soldiers Once And Young) says we have no exit strategy for Iraq.

"We had no exit strategy from Vietnam," said Lt. Gen. Harold G. "Hal" Moore, 82, a retired Army commander who lives in Auburn. "And sadly, we had no exit strategy when we went into Iraq."

Moore's 450-member 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, outnumbered five-to-one, suffered heavy casualties but won the first major battle between U.S. and North Vietnamese regulars at Ia Drang in November 1965.

The Panglossian hawks can't dismiss Moore as being a leftist pussy. From the article above Moore comes across as still very much a warrior and a Christian religious conservative who opposes pornography and other signs of moral decline. Yet Moore clearly sees the problem with the US position in Iraq.

Self-styled "War Nerd" Gary Brecher (which is very likely a pseudonym) says unless we do something clever in Iraq like create an independent Kurdistan our involvement is going to become too expensive.

We need to come up with some kind of counterweight that will keep the Shiites off balance. One simple way is creating an independent Kurdistan. That would keep the Iranians busy for the next hundred years or so, because Kurdistan would cover a lot of Western Iran as well as Northern Iraq. No way Iran would let the Kurds get away with taking that territory, and it would be our turn to sit back and enjoy the game while the Kurds and the Iranians bashed each other. The trouble is, Kurdistan also covers most of Eastern Turkey, and the Turks will go totally insane if we destabilize their borders. If there's anybody I really do feel sorry for in this mess, it's the Turks. They deserve better. They've been our only real ally, and we reward them by turning their neighborhood into Compton.

The Brits would do it, and not think twice about betraying their allies. They always were smarter and colder than us. But Bush? No way he'll do something as smart and realistic as back the Kurds. The best bet is that it's going to be more of the same for the next four years, a weird soundtrack of car bombs and press conferences. "Kaboom!" "Democracy!" "WhooOOOOM!" "Freedom!" MTV-style videos of some poor sucker getting his throat sawn in half while that skinny PR general in Baghdad talks about elections.

Kurdistan is doable in my view. Also, I agree with Brecher about the problem of not being able to afford the Iraq misadventure in the long run. The retirement of the baby boomers is going to cause a fiscal crisis that will have Congress and future Presidents looking for any discretionary spending item that can be cut. So the Jihadists will ultimately win in Iraq unless we can find a solution before the US fiscal problem escalates into the huge crisis that it will become in the next decade.

Brecher also makes the excellent point that it is a mistake to create a situation where the events unfold in a way that makes Muslims think they are defeating the West. This only emboldens them to cause trouble. Bin Laden said he saw the US withdrawals from Beirut and Mogadishu as signs of American weakness and decadence and this emboldened him to launch terrorist attacks against the US. This is one really big reason why it was a mistake to invade Iraq. Either we should have gone in with Powell Doctrine overwhelming force (and Powell abandoned his own doctrine!) or we should not have gone in at all. The insurgency controls towns and cities in Iraq today because the US does not have enough forces to conquer and control Fallujah, Ramadi, Mosul, Yusufiyah, Latifiyah and other locations all at once. The need to do so was foreseeable in advance and some analysts and military officers did say the US forces available to occupy Iraq were too small to do the job. The serving officers who said so were silenced by the Bush Administration and the rest were ignored.

Colin Powell did not live up to his own vow.

“Many of my generation, the career captains, majors and lieutenant colonels seasoned in that war, vowed that when our turn came to call the shots, we would not quietly acquiesce in halfhearted warfare for half-baked reasons that the American people could not understand or support. If we could make good on that promise to ourselves, to the civilian leadership, and to the country, then the sacrifices of Vietnam would not have been in vain.”

By Randall Parker 2004 November 30 02:18 AM  Mideast Iraq
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2004 November 29 Monday
NAEP Math Tests Are Too Easy

The NAEP tests for comparing educational progress across schools are too easy.

Washington, D.C., (November 18, 2004) — A new report from the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution finds that math items on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math assessment lack challenging arithmetic, often requiring skills that are several years below grade level. The findings cast a disturbing light on recent highly-publicized math gains as measured by the NAEP assessment.

Despite sharply rising test scores on both the NAEP Math and most state math tests, the Brown Center's analysis of the difficulty of the math items at fourth and eighth grade demonstrates that the NAEP test fails to assess essential arithmetic skills that are required for success in algebra and higher mathematics.

"The good news is that NAEP scores have risen dramatically in mathematics over the past decade," noted Tom Loveless, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy and author of the 2004 Brown Center Report on American Education. "But, given our findings, it is unclear whether this is a significant accomplishment in terms of substantial gains in mathematics skills and knowledge."

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP as it is commonly known, assesses fourth, eighth, and twelfth grade students in math and reading. Scores on the math assessments have risen dramatically over the last 10 years, indicating that U.S. students are becoming more adept at mathematics.

But the Brown Center analysis shows that the NAEP math assessments rely on arithmetic skills that are far below the grade levels of the students being assessed. The analysis finds that almost all problem solving items use whole numbers and avoid fractions, decimals, and percentages – forms of numbers that students must know how to use to tackle higher order mathematics like algebra.

Whenever you see claims that some educational gap between races is closing or that some school has made big progress in improving educational outcomes the question you should immediately ask yourself is whether some educational bureaucracy is trying to lie to you with lousy tests and deceptive statistics. More often than not the answer is "Yes". Really, I'm not exaggerating.

Middle school math teachers may not all know enough math to teach math. (PDF format)

The report also includes a national survey of middle school mathematics teachers and finds that most middle school mathematics teachers did not major in mathematics, do not hold a teaching certificate in the subject, and are not getting the kinds of professional development that will help them gain essential content knowledge.

For this analysis, the Brown Center on Education Policy surveyed a random sample of 252 middle school math teachers nationwide. The survey found that fewer than one-fourth (22%) of the teachers majored in math while in college. Additionally, less than one-half of middle school math teachers – only 41% – hold a teaching certificate in mathematics.

My guess is that teachers unions and the culture of educational bureaucracies prevent more talented math teachers from being paid more. People who teach harder subjects ought to get paid more since it takes more brains to master those subjects well enough to teach them. Otherwise those people smart enough to master hard subjects will decide not to go into teaching in the first place. But that common sense attitude clashes with the socialistic beliefs of the educrats.

Given the lack of financial incentives do not expect the average talent level of middle school or high school math teachers to rise dramatically any time soon. Whether that is a bad thing is hard to say. After all, many smart people who go into industry instead of into teaching will innovate, invent, and competently manage companies to produce wealth that will fund schools and a great many other things. Perhaps a better solution to the deficiencies of teacher skills is filmed lectures of the most talented teachers. Then a single great teacher could teach literally millions of kids.

You can read the full report. (PDF format)

Update: As for my contention that you can't trust the test results: Check out some evidence for teacher cheating on standard student tests.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 29 12:40 PM  Education
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2004 November 26 Friday
Steve Sailer: Total White Fertility Best Predictor Of Bush Vote

White total fertility correlates at an incredibly strong 0.86 with Bush's share of the vote in each state.

States, however, differ significantly in white fertility. The most fecund whites are in heavily Mormon Utah, which, not coincidentally, was the only state where Bush received over 70 percent. White women average 2.45 babies in Utah compared to merely 1.11 babies in Washington D.C., where Bush earned but 9 percent. The three New England states where Bush won less than 40 percent -- Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island -- comprise three of the four states with the lowest white birth rates, with little Rhode Island dipping below 1.5 babies per woman.

Bush carried the 19 states with the highest white fertility (just as he did in 2000), and 25 out of the top 26, with highly unionized Michigan being the one blue exception to the rule...

In sharp contrast, Kerry won the 16 states at the bottom of the list, with the Democrats' anchor states of California (1.65) and New York (1.72) having quite infertile whites.

Among the fifty states plus Washington D.C., white total fertility correlates at a remarkably strong 0.86 level with Bush's percentage of the 2004 vote. (In 2000, the correlation was 0.85). In the social sciences, a correlation of 0.2 is considered "low," 0.4 "medium," and 0.6 "high."

You could predict 74% of the variation in Bush's shares just from knowing each state's white fertility rate. When the average fertility goes up by a tenth of a child, Bush's share normally goes up by 4.5 points.

This result can not be explained away by the effects of lower IQ people having more children than higher IQ people (even though that is really happening). In spite of left-liberal imaginings to the contrary Bush did well in many states that have higher average IQs.

The Democrats do well in less egalitarian states where the middle class is smaller and both the lower and upper classes are larger.

Democrats, however, tend to be more inegalitarian, with higher highs and lower lows than the more middling Republicans.

This is clearly visible in the biggest blue state of them all, California.

Census Bureau figures show that California, traditionally America's trendsetter, is pioneering a new kind of class structure—ominously like that of highly unequal Latin American countries like Brazil or Mexico.

...

The Golden State is now one of only three states with above average percentages both of people who never got past elementary school and of holders of graduate degrees. (The other two are New Mexico and Rhode Island). In California, 10.7 percent of grownups have no more than elementary schooling, compared to only 6.4 percent in the other 49 states.

Of all the states in the Union, California now has the lowest percentage of its population with a midlevel education consisting of at least a high school diploma or some college, but not a bachelor's degree from a four-year college.

California's educational inequality is driven by both foreign immigration and domestic migration. The state has attracted the top and the bottom of the schooling pyramid, while repelling the middle.

These upper-middle-class newcomers tend to be liberal, especially on cultural issues.

In contrast, Mexican immigrants supply much of California's huge number of less-educated people. According to a 2000 Census Bureau survey, 65 percent of America's Mexican immigrants never finished high school versus only 9.6 percent of natives.

Highly egalitarian yet highly Republican Utah is closer to the egalitarian ideals that the Democratic Party quite falsely claims to champion. But unegalitarian California represents the future for America as a whole. The flood of Hispanic lower class immigrants will increase the size of the lower classes and the resulting greater inequality bodes well for the Democratic Party in the voting booth.

Utah, the destination of so many disgruntled ex-Californians, is emerging as the anti-California. It leads the country with only 2.4 percent of its residents never having attended high school.

Paradoxically, this staunchly Republican state, where Bush won 71 percent in 2004, exemplifies some of the supposed egalitarian ideals of the Democratic Party. A 2000 study by the Economic Policy Institute found Utah to have the most equal income distribution of any state.

Still, Utah is more likely to be the anomaly and California the harbinger of the United States' future.

The Republicans are committing political suicide by trying to curry favor with Hispanics by offering amnesty programs, worker permit programs, and lax immigration law enforcement. The United States of America is going to become like Latin America.

Before Steve posted his explanation of total white fertility as an incredibly strong correlation with Bush's vote A gnxp.com post started an interesting list of speculations on what might yield such a strong correlation with a pro-Bush vote. Check it out.

My own thoughts: Is the fertility rate a proxy for something else? For instance, my guess is that white women who have more children tend to be married longer than white women who have fewer children. At the same time, there is a huge gap (which I'm in too much of a rush to find a link for) between voting patterns of single and married women. Married women vote Republican in much larger numbers (the difference is almost 20% - a big swing) than do single women. I would be very curious to know what the correlation is between ratio of white men to white women voting for Republicans versus total Republican vote in each state. Did the Red states swing more Republican because the male-female pro-Republican voting gap is narrower in Blue states than in Red states?

Of course, the kinds of women who have more children have different values on average from women who do not have as many children. For instance, they assign a higher relative value to having children. Either that or they find it easier to find men who they think make suitable partners.

In a related vein divorce rates are an imperfect measure of family values. One reason for this is that marriage rates are higher in Red states. So the Red states have more marriages to be at risk of breaking up in the first place.

Then there is the evolutionary biological angle to the differences in fertility rates of white women in different states: Will white fertility rates eventually start rising as the women who have the strongest genetically-caused instinct to reproduce have more children than women who have weaker instincts to reproduce? A few months ago I was watching a C-Span broadcast from a Washington DC demographics thinktank (and if anyone can find this report I'm about to describe please tell me - dummy me I forgot to write down the thinktank name and I can't find this report after many hours searching). The thinktank had just released a new study where they reported that in some African countries the fertility rate has stopped dropping and has even increased in some cases. My interpretation is that natural selection is selecting for women who will have more children in spite of the influences of modernity. This does not bode well for the optimistic view that problems will come from human population growth will eventually be solved by massive numbers of voluntary individual decisions to have progressively fewer children.

Update Read the full article here. His arguments for why the gap exists between the Red and Blue states is pretty convincing.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 26 03:18 AM  Politics American Domestic
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2004 November 23 Tuesday
Former CIA Case Officer Provides Terrorist Profiles

Marc Sageman, a CIA case officer in Afghanistan between 1987–89 retired from the CIA, a forensic psychiatrist, and author of Understanding Terror Networks, has written a piece for the Foreign Policy Research Institute on 400 terrorists on which he collected biographical information.

The 400 terrorists on whom I’ve collected data were the ones who actually targeted the “far enemy,” the U.S., as opposed to their own governments. I wanted to limit myself for analytical purity to that group, to see if I could identify anything different from other terrorist movements, which were far more nationalistic.

Most people think that terrorism comes from poverty, broken families, ignorance, immaturity, lack of family or occupational responsibilities, weak minds susceptible to brainwashing - the sociopath, the criminals, the religious fanatic, or, in this country, some believe they’re just plain evil.

Taking these perceived root causes in turn, three quarters of my sample came from the upper or middle class. The vast majority—90 percent—came from caring, intact families. Sixty-three percent had gone to college, as compared with the 5-6 percent that’s usual for the third world. These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways.

Jihadists were overwhelmingly educated in sciences and engineering with few receiving religious or humanities educations.

Al Qaeda’s members are not the Palestinian fourteen-year- olds we see on the news, but join the jihad at the average age of 26. Three-quarters were professionals or semi- professionals. They are engineers, architects, and civil engineers, mostly scientists. Very few humanities are represented, and quite surprisingly very few had any background in religion. The natural sciences predominate. Bin Laden himself is a civil engineer, Zawahiri is a physician, Mohammed Atta was, of course, an architect; and a few members are military, such as Mohammed Ibrahim Makawi, who is supposedly the head of the military committee.

So then if we could only raise educational attainments in Muslim countries more of them would try to kill us? This doesn't fit with the modern left-liberal pablum that more education is the solution to just about every problem.

Why are few humanities students represented among terrorists? It could be that few Middle Easterners study humanities subjects. But then why are few religious students represented? Surely there are plenty of students studying Islam in places like Saudi Arabia.

Then there is the American religious conservative exaltation of family values as their alternative cure-all for what ails society. Well, the terrorists are big on families and also big on killing us.

Far from having no family or job responsibilities, 73 percent were married and the vast majority had children. Those who were not married were usually too young to be married. Only 13 percent were madrassa-trained and most of them come from what I call the Southeast Asian sample, the Jemaah Islamiyya (JI). They had gone to schools headed by Sungkar and Bashir. Sungkar was the head of JI; he died in 1999. His successor, Bashir, is the cleric who is being tried for the Jakarta Marriott bombing of August 2003; he is also suspected of planning the October 2002 Bali bombing.

The terrorists also do not provide evidence that mental illness is the root of all evil.

As a psychiatrist, originally I was looking for any characteristic common to these men. But only four of the 400 men had any hint of a disorder. This is below the worldwide base rate for thought disorders. So they are as healthy as the general population. I didn’t find many personality disorders, which makes sense in that people who are antisocial usually don’t cooperate well enough with others to join groups. This is a well-organized type of terrorism: these men are not like Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, loners off planning in the woods. Loners are weeded out early on. Of the nineteen 9-11 terrorists, none had a criminal record. You could almost say that those least likely to cause harm individually are most likely to do so collectively.

France is a substantial source of terrorists.

France happened to generate a lot of my sample, fourth behind Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Morocco. Eighty percent were, in some way, totally excluded from the society they lived in. Sixty-eight percent either had preexisting friendships with people already in the jihad or were part of a group of friends who collectively joined the jihad together: this is typical of the Hamburg group that did 9- 11, the Montreal group that included Ahmed Ressam, the millennial bomber. Another 20 percent had close family bonds to the jihad.

Note that luckily for us and in spite of our dumb immigration policies the United States lacks sufficient concentrations of the right sorts of Muslims to sustain a lot of terrorist cells. Mostly that is due to geography. Muslims can far more easily reach Europe than America.

In order to really sustain your motivation to do terrorism, you need the reinforcement of group dynamics. You need reinforcement from your family, your friends. This social movement was dependent on volunteers, and there are huge gaps worldwide on those volunteers. One of the gaps is the United States. This is one of two reasons we have not had a major terrorist operation in the United States since 9/11. The other is that we are far more vigilant. We have actually made coming to the U.S. far more difficult for potential terrorists since 2001.

France has millions of Muslims in much larger concentrations which are capable of producing functioning terrorist cells. If the United States had a Muslim country where Mexico is at and millions of Muslims were crossing the border into the United States every year then the US would be facing a much larger terrorist threat at present. Even as things stand now the ability of groups of Muslims to just spontaneously organize themselve to make a trip to Mexico and travel illegally over the border poses a real risk as a source of future terrorist attack.

We hear that Al Qaeda plans its attacks for years and years. It may have before 9-11, but not anymore. Operatives in caves simply cannot communicate with people in the field. The network has been fairly well broken by our intelligence services. The network is now self-organized from the bottom up, and is very decentralized. With local initiative and flexibility, it’s very robust. True, two-thirds to three- quarters of the old leaders have been taken out, but that doesn’t mean that we’re home free. The network grows organically, like the Internet. We couldn’t have identified the Madrid culprits, because we wouldn’t have known of them until the first bomb exploded.

So in 2004, Al Qaeda has new leadership. In a way today’s operatives are far more aggressive and senseless than the earlier leaders. The whole network is held together by the vision of creating the Salafi state. A fuzzy, idea-based network really requires an idea-based solution. The war of ideas is very important and this is one we haven’t really started to engage yet.

I had a hard time choosing what to excerpt. Strongly suggest you click through and read the whole article.

Update: Speaking at a conference broadcast on C-Span Sageman said that 10% of the terrorists in his sample were converts to Islam from Christianity. Also, 70% were expatriates. They were "the best and the brightest" sent abroad to study. They were homesick, felt lonely and marginalized, and sought out companions at mosques. They moved in together. That led to feelings of collective identity, and rejection of in-group love and out-group hate.

There is a lesson here that is glaringly obvious: Muslims coming into the West to go to school are at greatest risk of becoming terrorists.

Sageman believes that Al Qaeda is operationally dead. He thinks we are too busy fighting the next war. He thinks the next war is 3/11 (the Madrid attack), Istanbul, and similar attacks. New kinds of networks are going to generate the next wave of attacks. Sageman says that Bin Laden had a monopoly control of the movement from 1996 through 2001. "9/11 was a strategic mistake for Al Qaeda". The environment has changed because now we are looking. The entire population has gotten much more vigilant. This prevents 9/11 style operations. But disconnected locally organised groups can still carry out attacks. Local groups do not need a lot of money.

The social movement is growing. Rapid development of attacks (5-6 weeks for the Madrid attack) prevents detection of groups. The first inkling of the existence of a group will happen when the attack happens. The planning for the assassination of Anwar Sadat was 2 weeks.

Internet: Virtual Ummah. Specific strategy and tactics are posted anonymously on the internet. Sageman's nightmare is that chatrooms will take the place of face-to-face interactions to build up a network and commit to an operation.

Thye challenge is not the existing network, but the future networks. Sageman says that means the real war is a war of ideas. However, I think there are other approaches that will work against this type of threat. For example, keeping young Muslim men from coming to the West to go to school will reduce the incidence of expatriates deciding to become terrorists.

Sageman also says the terrorists are reacting to a feeling of humiliation and get a feeling of dignity by joining terrorist groups. The feeling of humiliation may be due to a feeling of vicarious poverty. The terrorists may feel humiliated by the poverty in their home cultures.

Jessica Stern, a terrorism expert at Harvard University, says that there are groups in prisons and in ex-military communities in the United States who have turned to Islam who are becoming more radicalized. So the US may be faced with a larger amount of natives engaging in terrorism in the future.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 23 01:58 PM  Terrorists Activities
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Most Of Zimbabwe Workforce Have Fled Country

Most Zimbabwean workers have left for neighboring countries.

The South African-based Solidarity Peace Trust said that most of them had crossed the borders into neighbouring countries, with an estimated 1.5 million skilled and able-bodied workers arriving in South Africa to seek work to support families left behind in Zimbabwe.

"An estimated 25 to 30 per cent of the entire Zimbabwean population has left the nation," the Peace Trust reported.

"Out of five million potentially productive adults, 3.4 million are outside Zimbabwe. This is a staggering 60 to 70 per cent of productive adults."

Someone who flees to Botswana or Mozambique isn't exactly headed for streets that are paved with gold.

Historically there have always been about 500 000 Zimbabweans who have come to South Africa to work. But an additional 1,2 million have arrived here in the past 36 months, bringing the total Zimbabwean population in South Africa to close to two million.

...

An estimated 400 000 Zimbabweans live in Mozambique, 200 000 are in Botswana and 300 000 in England.

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He cited three major reasons for the exodus: the breakdown of law and order including torture with impunity; the collapse of the economy; and the shortage and "political abuse" of food.

"Commentators fear the probability of food becoming a political weapon ahead of the 2005 elections is even more likely in a situation where the ruling party effectively controls all food in the country," the trust's report said.

The Zimbabwean government is not satisfied by the rate of decline in Zimbabwean agriculture that has been caused by throwing white farmers off their land. The Zimbabwean government is determined to speed up the land seizures and the Zimbabwean agricultural collapse.

New courts have begun operating in Zimbabwe to help the government speed the confiscation of thousands of white-owned farms. Many lawyers say the new process created by Zimbabwe Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa is unconstitutional.

The special courts have a backlog of up to 5,000 properties taken by the government since 2000, but not processed through the courts. Most white farmers were forced to leave their homes and agricultural businesses, but have challenged the seizure of their properties in the courts.

A Zimbabwean joke now runs "“What did we have before candles?” “Electricity.” Well, not only are ambulances now pulled by oxen and farm fields plowed with animals instead of machines but even city water supplies have become unreliable enough to drive people back to getting water from rivers.

Living conditions in Zimbabwe's urban centres have deteriorated as the country faces its worst economic crisis. Over the past year service delivery in Harare has plummeted and recurrent breaks in the water supply have forced some residents to use river water, raising concerns over possible outbreaks of waterborne diseases.

In the middle of the massive flight of workers, political oppression, lawlessness, and economic decay money from China is buying influence in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe's national airline is to start flying to the Chinese capital Beijing twice a week.

...

As many as 9,000 Chinese are believed to be in Zimbabwe working on a wide range of projects.

In construction, the Chinese are understood to be working on hydro-electric and coal power stations, bridges, airports, and the reconstruction of Zimbabwe's most important border post at Beit Bridge with South Africa.

As China grows to become the most powerful country in the world moralistic Western groups demanding sanctions and other coercive tools to morally improve the world are going to come to be seen as irrelevant relics of a bygone age.

Continued white flight and ethnic south Asian flight from South Africa will eventually drive South Africa down the same road as Zimbabwe.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 23 01:06 AM  Chaotic Regions
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2004 November 21 Sunday
Scenes Of Urban Warfare In Fallujah

Dexter Filkins of the New York Times was embedded with a US Marines company that did a lot of street fighting in the battle for Fallujah and reports on the high casualty rates from a single week's fighting and scenes from the fighting.

The 150 marines with whom I traveled, Bravo Company of the First Battalion, Eighth Marines, had it as tough as any unit in the fight. They moved through the city almost entirely on foot, into the heart of the resistance, rarely protected by tanks or troop carriers, working their way through Falluja's narrow streets with 75-pound packs on their backs.

In eight days of fighting, Bravo Company took 36 casualties, including 6 dead, meaning that the unit's men had about a one-in-four chance of being wounded or killed in little more than a week.

The Marines did the bulk of their fighting without any armored vehicle support. Was this due to terrain or a shortage of such vehicles?

The screams of the marines when one of their comrades, Cpl. Jake Knospler, lost part of his jaw to a hand grenade.

"No, no, no!" the marines shouted as they dragged Corporal Knospler from the darkened house where the bomb went off. It was 2 a.m., the sky dark without a moon. "No, no, no!"

Nothing in the combat I saw even remotely resembled the scenes regularly flashed across movie screens; even so, they often seemed no more real.

Think about that casualty rate. A month of fighting at that intensity would completely wipe out a military unit. The air support and their training and equipment allowed them to give a lot better than they got. But the ratio of killings between US and enemy forces in urban combat is far less advantageous to the US side than is the case on more open ground. Our capital equipment advantage just doesn't help as much in cities.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 21 02:40 PM  Mideast Iraq
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Heather Mac Donald: Opposition To Religious Profiling Hampers Anti-terrorist Defenses

In the City Journal Heather Mac Donald has a long and excellent article about the restrictions on religious and ethnic profiling and how those obstacles are making it difficult for law enforcement personnel to prevent terrorist attacks. Among the many stupid policies of the United States government are legal actions by the US Department of Transportation against airlines for alleged discrimination against Arabs and other Muslims.

The anti-discrimination hammer has hit the airline industry most severely—and with gruesome inappropriateness, given the realities of 9/11 and the Islamists' enduring obsession with airplanes. Department of Transportation lawyers have extracted millions in settlements from four major carriers for alleged discrimination after 9/11, and they have undermined one of the most crucial elements of air safety: a pilot's responsibility for his flight. Because the charges against the airlines were specious but successful, every pilot must worry that his good-faith effort to protect his passengers will trigger federal retaliation.

The DoT action against American Airlines was typical. In the last four months of 2001, American carried 23 million passengers and asked ten of them (.00004 percent of the total) not to board because they raised security concerns that could not be resolved in time for departure. For those ten interventions (and an 11th in 2002), DoT declared American a civil rights pariah, whose discriminatory conduct would "result in irreparable harm to the public" if not stopped.

On its face, the government's charge that American was engaged in a pattern of discriminatory conduct was absurd, given how few passenger removals occurred. But the racism allegation looks all the more unreasonable when put in the context of the government's own actions. Three times between 9/11 and the end of 2001, public officials warned of an imminent terror attack. Transportation officials urged the airlines to be especially vigilant. In such an environment, pilots would have been derelict not to resolve security questions in favor of caution.

Somehow, DoT lawyers failed to include in their complaint one further passenger whom American asked not to board in 2001. On December 22, airline personnel in Paris kept Richard Reid off a flight to Miami. The next day, French authorities insisted that he be cleared to board. During the flight, Reid tried to set off a bomb in his shoe, but a stewardess and passengers foiled him. Had he been kept from flying on both days, he too might have ended up on the government's roster of discrimination victims.

Heather says the government "civil rights" (and I quote that since they aren't really defending civil rights) establishment doesn't want to admit that, hey, Muslim terrorism is commited by (are you ready for this?) Muslims. No, Muslim terrorism is not carried out by Zoroastrians. Nope, it is not perpetrated by worshippers of Kali or Vishnu or even of Mahasamatman (and will anyone even get that reference?). Nor is planned and executed by Mormons. None of those guys. Its the Muslims stupid.

Any discussion about how the government should identify Muslim terror suspects has been couched as a referendum on "racial profiling." But "racial profiling" is irrelevant. What is at issue is religious profiling. By definition—by Usama bin Ladin's own definition when he called on all Muslims to kill Americans wherever they can find them—Muslim terrorists must be Muslim. Because religious identity is not always apparent, however, national origin or ethnic heritage should be available as surrogates. Needless to say, Muslim identity should be at most only one factor in assessing someone's security risk. Unfortunately, the much-heralded 9/11 Commission report, while correctly naming the nation's primary threat as "Islamist terrorism," contains not one word about what the proper role of Muslim identity should be in locating such terrorists, a topic evidently too hot to touch.

Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta and some of Satan's Helpers at the American Civil Liberties Union are major players in the evil quest to prevent Americans from being properly defended against Muslim terrorism. But of course George W. Bush bears the blame for appointing Mineta and allowing him to act like such an evil moron. At the same time, all of Lucifer's minions who donate money to the ACLU help to fund the Devil's work in this realm. So there is a big cast of morally defective supporting characters who will some day take their places in various of Dante's circles in hell.

Transportation Department secretary Norman Mineta bears much of the responsibility for the government's irrationality regarding airline security. He infamously maintained in an interview that a grandmother from Vero Beach, Florida, should receive the same scrutiny at the airport as a young Saudi male, and he constantly warns that domestic internment—as in World War II—may be just around the corner. And behind Mineta stands a permanent civil rights bureaucracy fixated on American racism. The same Transportation Department lawyer, for example, who complained in 1997 that the early prototype of CAPPS I might pull out "too many" people of the same ethnicity—Sam Podberesky—led the recent discrimination actions against the airlines. Without strong intervention from Mineta, DoT's anti-discrimination machine, like most of those in the government, would run on autopilot, even though its priorities have been proved disastrously wrong.

In the government's wake, the private civil rights bar, led by the ACLU, has brought its own airline discrimination suits. An action against Northwest Airlines is seeking government terror watch lists, Northwest's boarding procedures, and its cabin training manual. If these materials got loose, they would be gold to terrorists trying to figure out airline security procedures.

Norm should be interned for dereliction of duty. No, wait, that is not right. He didn't just neglect his duty. He betrayed it and worked against it.

Be sure to read Heather's full article if you want to learn more reasons to be enraged at the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of modern liberalism in both its left-liberal and Trotskyite neocon variants.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 21 02:38 AM  Terrorists Western Response
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Theodore Dalrymple On The Frivolity Of Evil

In the City Journal Theodore Dalrymple, in real life psychiatrist Anthony Daniels who is just now leaving employment for 14 years in a British prison hospital, writes on the amount of evil individuals are committing in Britain even though no dictatorship compels them to do so.

Yet the scale of a man's evil is not entirely to be measured by its practical consequences. Men commit evil within the scope available to them. Some evil geniuses, of course, devote their lives to increasing that scope as widely as possible, but no such character has yet arisen in Britain, and most evildoers merely make the most of their opportunities. They do what they can get away with.

Daniels describes one woman he met in his work whose mother had tossed her out of her home at age 14 in order to satisfy the mother's latest boyfriend and how this girl went on to have 3 babies by 3 different loser men.

She was, of course, a victim of her mother's behavior at a time when she had little control over her destiny. Her mother had thought that her own sexual liaison was more important than the welfare of her child, a common way of thinking in today's welfare Britain. That same day, for example, I was consulted by a young woman whose mother's consort had raped her many times between the ages of eight and 15, with her mother's full knowledge. Her mother had allowed this solely so that her relationship with her consort might continue. It could happen that my patient will one day do the same thing.

Dalrymple notes the total lack of opposition and disapproval in the welfare state toward behavior that is incredibly harmful toward others.

This truly is not so much the banality as the frivolity of evil: the elevation of passing pleasure for oneself over the long-term misery of others to whom one owes a duty. What better phrase than the frivolity of evil describes the conduct of a mother who turns her own 14-year-old child out of doors because her latest boyfriend does not want him or her in the house? And what better phrase describes the attitude of those intellectuals who see in this conduct nothing but an extension of human freedom and choice, another thread in life's rich tapestry?

I'd like to go on record to anyone who isn't one of my regular readers: I am very judgemental. I think one has a moral and practical duty to be judgemental. Any society in which the elites shrink from judging and severely sanctioning irresponsible reproductive and child-raising behavior is a society headed for severe decay.

Here we enter the realm of culture and ideas. For it is necessary not only to believe that it is economically feasible to behave in the irresponsible and egotistical fashion that I have described, but also to believe that it is morally permissible to do so. And this idea has been peddled by the intellectual elite in Britain for many years, more assiduously than anywhere else, to the extent that it is now taken for granted. There has been a long march not only through the institutions but through the minds of the young. When young people want to praise themselves, they describe themselves as "nonjudgmental." For them, the highest form of morality is amorality.

There has been an unholy alliance between those on the Left, who believe that man is endowed with rights but no duties, and libertarians on the Right, who believe that consumer choice is the answer to all social questions, an idea eagerly adopted by the Left in precisely those areas where it does not apply. Thus people have a right to bring forth children any way they like, and the children, of course, have the right not to be deprived of anything, at least anything material. How men and women associate and have children is merely a matter of consumer choice, of no more moral consequence than the choice between dark and milk chocolate, and the state must not discriminate among different forms of association and child rearing, even if such non-discrimination has the same effect as British and French neutrality during the Spanish Civil War.

The consequences to the children and to society do not enter into the matter: for in any case it is the function of the state to ameliorate by redistributive taxation the material effects of individual irresponsibility, and to ameliorate the emotional, educational, and spiritual effects by an army of social workers, psychologists, educators, counselors, and the like, who have themselves come to form a powerful vested interest of dependence on the government.

So while my patients know in their hearts that what they are doing is wrong, and worse than wrong, they are encouraged nevertheless to do it by the strong belief that they have the right to do it, because everything is merely a matter of choice. Almost no one in Britain ever publicly challenges this belief.

The belief goes unchallenged in America in the vast bulk of cases. When is the last time you saw on some TV news show a story about a poor single woman with children and how she deserves our sympathy and support? By contrast, how often have you heard on a TV show about some single woman with children and how it was irresponsible for her to have children out of wedlock by a succession of men, how it was irresponsible to have these men live with her and abuse her children, and how it was irresponsible of these men to knock her up? I think we see about 1000 times more stories about how our hearts should bleed for specific poor folks than we do about how specific poor folks are acting grossly irresponsibly.

Think about modern American liberals. You will hear them go on about, say the urgent need to improve the quality of public education or medical insurance coverage. The pretense of welfare state liberals is that they care more than conservatives do about human suffering. But what is the biggest cause of human suffering in America today? Irresponsible and even quite evil choices made by tens of millions of people about their own reproduction and children. The welfare state and the message delivered by liberal media and liberal academic institutions have encouraged this irresponsible behavior by failing to judge it and failing to punish it. The welfare state can't substitute for responsible individual decision-making and individual ethical behavior.

Modern liberalism has become a secular religion replete with a system of taboos. One of those taboos concerns reproduction. Liberals hold that reproduction is purely a personal choice and that to argue otherwise is fascistic or oppressive. Yet reproduction is not just about the whims and passing desires of the woman who gets pregnant. A birth produces a baby that is entirely helpless and in need of responsible and burdensome care for many years. Even during pregnancy smoking, drug use, alcohol use, and nutritional choices (to say nothing of abusive boyfriends) can all exact heavy tolls on the future baby. So it strikes me as absurd to argue that whether to reproduce is a purely personal decision. Irresponsible reproductive decisions mean that the baby and the rest of society will pay for many years for those decisions.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 21 01:04 AM  Civilizations Decay
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2004 November 19 Friday
Jerry Pournelle: Jacobinism Root Cause Of Iraq Debacle

Jerry Pournelle sees the embrace by American intellectuals of Jacobin assumptions about human nature as providing the flawed rationale for the Iraq Debacle. (go read the whole thing!)

The more I think about the Iraqi campaign, the more I am convinced that the chief cause of this debacle -- I fear that is none too strong a word -- is the pervasiveness of Jacobinism among the intellectual leadership of this country. The notion that "all men are created equal" is a noble concept, and useful when establishing a government by the middle class which has only begun to wrest political control from an aristocracy that controls most of the wealth. It is useful as a legal principle in a nation governed by the rule of law. Objectively, though, it is nonsense. All men -- and women -- are not created equal. Some are smarter than others. Some are so stunted as to be counted human only through religious assumptions and legal definitions. If we expand our horizons beyond our own borders, the notion becomes even more absurd. Be it heredity or be it culture or be it a combination of both, nothing is more clearly false than the assumption of the equality of cultures, societies, and the people who live in them. To say otherwise would be to say that a culture of death and destruction which seeks to enslave as sub-human all those outside that culture; which says that there can be no peace with outsiders, only conquest; is the equal of the liberal democracies that believe in the notion of equality. Carried to extremes, the assumption of general equality states that the only thing the Nazis did wrong was to lose. Of course logic is never the strong suit of the Jacobins.

Jerry gets to the heart of the flawed Jacobin assumption about human nature:

All are equal, and thus all will be reasonable, and thus if given the opportunity all will choose to be like the Jacobins; and make no mistake, this is taught in almost every political science and anthropology class in the nation, and if the enlisted troops have not been forced to act as if they believe it, the officer corps, all of whom have college degrees, most certainly have been required to act that way to get those degrees. Think upon the fate of anyone in our colleges who asserts that some people are born smarter than others, and nothing the society can do will change that; and who asks for the evidence that his view is false. We do not have anything like freedom of thought or rational debate of ideas on our college campuses, and in our credentialed society one cannot become an officer without pretending to believe the current views despite the simple fact that those views are self-evidently nonsense.

It probably comes as no surprise to my long term readers that I think Jerry's analysis is correct. In a way this is the problem of an anti-empirical solipsism among intellectuals who think if they just can stifle all dissent from the modern liberal view of human nature that they can make their view be reflected in the way that all humans behave. The belief in the liberal ideal of man as Jean-Jacques Rousseau's "noble savage" is intellectually not at all far from the belief that the vast majority of Iraqis strongly desire a free and democratic society. Never mind that the Iraqis continue to demonstrate an unwillingness to fight for such a society. Liberalism and its offshoot neoconservatism keep the secular faith with a view of human nature that is inconsistent with a scientific view of what we now know about homo sapiens. What is now wrong with a large range of social policies ranging from education, immigration, racial preferences, and the neoconservative foreign policy agenda is a result of a willful denial of what is now known about human nature.

If you are unfamiliar or insufficiently familiar with the term "Jacobin" as it originated in the French Revolution then the Wikipedia Jacobin entry is a useful starting point. Also the Wikipedia Enlightenment entry has some relevant description:

The Enlightenment idea of rationality as government found its way to the heart of the American Declaration of Independence, and the Jacobin program of the French Revolution, as well as the American Constitution of 1787.

The French Revolution, in particular, represents the Enlightenment philosophy through a violent and messianic lens, particularly during the brief period of Jacobin dictatorship. The desire for rationality in government lead to the attempt to end the Catholic Church, and indeed Christianity, in France, change the calendar, clock, measuring system, monetary system and legal system along lines suggested by what was seen as an orderly rationality. It also took the ideas of social and economic equality further than any other state.

The Iraq Debacle may still serve a useful purpose of helping to undermine Jacobinism in the West. Though expect the growth of a large liberal and even neoconservative critique of Bush's Iraq intervention as something that could have been a smashing success if it had only been executed better. You know, communism failed because it was never tried in its pure form. That sort of nonsense.

Update: Prince Charles holds a very un-French view of human nature:

Charles’s note was read yesterday at a tribunal hearing into former Clarence House personal assistant Elaine Day’s compliant of sexual harassment against a senior member of staff.

In the letter, the Prince complained: “What is wrong with people now? Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities?

“This is to do with the learning culture in schools as a consequence of a child-centred system which admits no failure.

“People seem to think they can all be pop stars, high court judges, brilliant TV personalities or infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary work or having natural ability.

“This is the result of social utopianism which believes humanity can be genetically and socially engineered to contradict the lessons of history.”

The English and Scottish Enlightenments were more practical and empirical. English Burkean Conservatism stands in opposition to Jacobinism.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 19 05:04 PM  Cultural Wars Western
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2004 November 18 Thursday
Death Tolls Show Iraqi Government Troops Did Little Fallujah Fighting

Americans did the bulk of the dying for the new regime.

During a briefing via satellite to the Pentagon from Iraq, Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler reported the death of another Marine in the city. Marines and Iraqi security forces were going house to house, clearing buildings when they came under attack, and the Marine was killed. Another Marine was injured in the incident, and an Iraqi soldier also was killed. The Marines returned fire, and the attackers were "silenced," Sattler said.

The general said he cannot consider the city safe until Marines have gone through every house and purged the town of weapons and insurgents, "who may want to fight to the death."

The battle for the city has claimed the lives of 51 U.S. servicemembers, and 425 have been wounded. Eight Iraqi security force soldiers have died, and 43 have been wounded.

Sattler said it is safe to say that as many as 1,200 insurgents have been killed in the battle, and that the coalition is holding about 1,000 insurgent prisoners.

So we lost about 8 times as many soldiers as the Iraqis did even though our troops have better equipment and training. It seems safe to guess that down on the ground the American troops did an order of magnitude more fighting than the Iraqi troops. Unless the Iraqi troops become willing and able to take on more of the fighting the US could be stuck in Iraq fighting an insurgency for years. Regardless of whether you think that is a price worth paying my guess is that Bush will stick it out in Iraq for the next 4 years. What the next US President will decide to do about Iraq is difficult to guess.

I bet that out of those 8 Iraqi government soldiers killed and 43 wounded that a disproportionate number of them were Kurds. It would be interesting to know whether more Kurds or Shia Arabs died fighting for the government. My guess is more Kurds died even though there are about 3 Shia Arabs for every Kurd in Iraq.

Could a Kurdish Army be built up that would be willing and able to keep the Sunnis down so that the Shias could rule in a fashion that would be at least superficially democratic? Or would the Shias feel so much more loyalty for their fellow Sunni Arabs as Arabs that the Shias would be unwilling to make a political bargain with the Kurds that would induce the Kurds to play mercenary guardians of the new regime? Certainly the US could pay the Kurds for less money than it takes to keep US troops so far from home.

Steve Sailer points to a report that only at most two and half percent of the captured fighters in Fallujah were foreigners.

Col. Michael Regner, operations officer for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Fallujah, told Reuters that at least 1,052 insurgents had been taken prisoner. Only about two dozen were from outside Iraq.

The foreigners might have been more prone to flee while the local Sunni Fallujans stuck it out. But even if that is the case it seems obvious that the vast bulk of the insurgents in Iraq are Iraqis.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 18 04:18 PM  MidEast Iraq New Regime Failures
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US Debt Limit Raised To $8.2 Trillion

This is a huge number.

The mostly party line, 52-44 vote was expected to be followed by House passage Thursday. Enactment would raise the government's borrowing limit to $8.18 trillion - $2.23 trillion higher than when Bush became president in 2001, and more than eight times the debt President Reagan faced when he took office in 1981.

...

Democrats complained that the bill - which will let non-defense, non-domestic security programs grow by about 2 percent next year - was too stingy. They said that clean water grants, the National Science Foundation and federal subsidies for hiring local police officers were all being cut from last year and that funds for education, biomedical research and veterans health care were inadequate.

Local governments can afford to hire their own police officers. Though I would like to see more science funding since I think the money will be paid back by the economic benefits we will get from biomedical advances that will eventually lower the cost of health care while simultaneously allowing people to work longer and therefore to pay more in taxes before becoming financial liabilities.

With an eleven trillion dollar a year economy federal debt is now over two thirds of a year's production.

The federal government hit the $7.384 trillion debt limit on Oct. 14, forcing the Treasury Department to begin taking extraordinary actions to avoid breaching the limit.

But America's financial problem is far larger. The current debt and deficit are nothing compared to the unfunded old age entitlements liabilities.

WASHINGTON - (KRT) - Comptroller General David Walker's most troubling briefing paper shows the federal budget growing progressively larger until spending reaches nearly half the economy's total output in 2040.

...

According to Walker, who heads the Government Accountability Office, the fiscal time bomb awaiting the United States could mean that taxes would have to be raised 250 percent, government programs would have to be sharply curtailed, and the U.S. would turn into a Third World country with enormous debt. If nothing is done, he said, the U.S. economy would be at risk - and in hock to the rest of the world. Interest on the debt alone would total nearly half of all federal spending in 2040. Liberal and conservative economists alike say the United States must address its long-term spending and deficit problems, and that would mean reducing Social Security and Medicare benefits along with raising taxes - all unpopular proposals.

One reason that I'm pessimistic about the prospects of our political system addressing the problem of unfunded old age retirement liabilities is that a lot of Democrats are in denial about the old age retirement entitlements programs. There are some exceptions among the Democrats to that denial, including some smart Democrat economists. But among the politicians and their more ideological supporters the denial is a lot more extensive. For example, The Century Foundation, a liberal democrat thinktank, has just published a report by Bernard Wasow that sees the complaints about Social Security's financial unsoundess as part of a Republican plot to cut back on the size of government. The report is entitled Reality Check: Scare Tactics: Why Social Security Is Not in Crisis. (reminding me of the Supertramp album Crisis? What Crisis?)

Opponents of Social Security have been striving to convince American workers, especially young adults, that Social Security will no longer exist by the time they retire. Phrases such as "imminent crisis" and "unmanageable costs" lace this rhetoric. To a large extent, this alarmism is voiced by those who are hostile to government and therefore favor replacing all or part of one of this nation’s most successful and essential programs with private investment accounts. Bernard Wasow demonstrates why the "crisis" in Social Security is actually quite manageable.

Wasow sees Social Security as stronger than ever. (PDF format)

Social Security is stronger today than it has been at any time in its history.The program had a major boost in 1983,when policies were implemented that had been recommended by a commission appointed by President Ronald Reagan and headed by Alan Greenspan.As result,since 1983,the Social Security trust fund reserves have risen from essentially zero to more than $1.6 trillion.

Wasow ignores that the "Trust Fund" is just money that the federal government has already spent on other things. There is no bank account with a huge balance or a pot of gold worth $1.6 trillion dollars. The federal government will have to raise taxes or cut spending or borrow money from the public to get the $1.6 trillion to pay back the Social Security program the money that it borrowed from Social Security.

Making this picture far worse is Medicare. Medicare's expenses will grow more rapidly and its unfunded liabilities are far larger. So the federal government will not only need to come up with the money to pay back Social Security.

We are in a position where the Democrats are going to demagogue Republican attempts to address the old age retirement funding crisis before the crisis becomes acute. It is just too easy to deny the scale of the problem and label more responsible politicians as cruel, heartless, mean, and selfish and get enough oldsters worked up to vote against anyone who tries to act like a grown-up. Optimistic assumptions about economic growth rates, labor market participation rates, and other factors can be made by the defenders of the status quo direction of the Titanic. Iceberg? That's just moonlight reflecting off the water.

The costs in taxes and benefits cuts are far more immediate than the benefits of addressing the problem now. The benefits flow mostly to younger people and the longer the reforms are put off the more the benefits can flow to the older people. I just do not see the political system coming to grips with the problem and taking the steps necessary to solve it. The economic-demographic perfect storm looks like it will continue to build in strength. Sure hope I'm wrong...

For more on this problem see my previous posts Retirement Of Baby Boomers To Bring Enormous Fiscal Crisis and On The Medicare And Social Security Unfunded Liabilities and Social Security And Medicare Headed For Bankruptcy Sooner and Robert J. Samuelson On The Coming Federal Spending Expansion.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 18 03:03 PM  Economics Demographic
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2004 November 17 Wednesday
Forces In Iraq Need More Armor And Maintenance

The Army doesn't have enough armored Humvees and needs to armor trucks.

AM General responded by increasing production of "up-armored" Humvees (as opposed to "thin skin" Humvees) from 150 to 450 a month.

By this fall, the Army had put 5,000 in Iraq, only to learn a few weeks ago that commanders had upped the need to 8,000.

...

"I'm not sure anybody in the Army ever thought we would start armoring our truck fleet," Mr. Brownlee said. "But that's what we're doing."

There is no front line when battling an insurgency. Or the front line is everywhere.

The official Army statistics show that the supply situation has improved.

Army officials say they are improving their ability to stock parts and equipment, have boosted the readiness rates of tanks and helicopters, and have shortened waits for new supplies. Yet, in some categories, they still fall short of their own goals.

The share of items Army supply depots list as "zero balance" -- or absent from supply shelves -- has dropped from between 25 percent and 40 percent last year, depending on the depot, to an average of 14 percent this year, just above the peacetime goal of 10 percent.

But from the standpoint of the grunts the supply situation looks poor.

Across the country, the brutal conditions can be seen on the Humvees on patrol with smashed or cracked front windshields or punctured doors and fenders where chunks of shrapnel have blown through. Worse, dozens of vehicles have been lost in attacks. Video clips of burning Humvees have become a staple of Iraqi insurgent propaganda DVDs.

In the western town of Qaim, a U.S. Marine complained that his unit lacked vehicles and protection as well as troops to replace those killed and destroyed by roadside bombings, ambushes and anti-tank mine blasts.

"We need more vehicles, more armor, more bodies," said Cpl. Cody King, 20, of Phoenix, Ariz., of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.

Curiously, those reservists in Iraq who refused to go on a resupply mission because their equipment was in such poor shape are going to have safer equipment as a result of their insubordination.

On Sunday, the commanding officer of the 13th Corps Support Command, Brig. Gen. James E. Chambers, ordered the South Carolina Reserve unit that refused the supply run to undergo a two-week "safety-maintenance stand down," during which it will conduct no missions as its vehicles are refurbished and armored.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

The US military now has provisions to refund money spent by soldiers to buy some types of needed equipment.

The current American defense budget provides a provision for reimbursing troops (mainly soldiers and marines) who buy needed military equipment with their own money. Up to $1,100 a year per soldier will be provided, if they can make a case that their expenditure was needed for “protective, safety, or health equipment.”

The US military doesn't have enough soldiers to properly occupy Iraq and it doesn't even have enough armor and other supplies to equip the soldiers who are currently fighting over there.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 17 01:39 PM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs
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2004 November 16 Tuesday
Americans Want To Reduce Reliance On Middle Eastern Oil

The Hudson Institute and pollster Frank Luntz report that the American people want greater efforts to be made to create alternatives to Middle Eastern oil.

The key findings of the poll indicate that:

  • By an almost 3 to 1 margin, Americans prioritize "reducing our reliance on foreign oil" over "cheaper prices for oil and gas."
  • 91% of Americans agreed (74% strongly agree) that "when it comes to energy, we need an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation - not the Saudi royal family."
  • 83% of Americans agree that "reducing our dependence on foreign oil must be a top priority for the next administration."
  • 57% of Americans say that the U.S. government should allow energy companies to explore for oil in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), as well as in many areas off the U.S. coast.

Since September 11th, Americans have become increasingly aware of the link between oil, politics, and terrorism, and they now fear that buying oil from the Middle East means financing terrorism. For this reason, Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. In fact, by an almost 3:1 margin Americans believe that "reducing our reliance on foreign oil and gas" was more important to them than "cheaper prices for oil and gas."

The Bush Administration would not have to convince the American public to support a more aggressive energy policy. The public is well ahead of the politicians on seeing the connection between energy and national security.

An energy policy aimed at developing technologies that reduce US and world reliance on Middle Eastern oil would benefit US national security and also make the environment cleaner. Research and development efforts would eventually produce technologies to produce energy at lower costs and technologies for the use of energy in more efficient ways. Both set of technologies would reduce costs and therefore save money in the long run. For more see my posts China Energy Consumption Growth Complicates Anti-Terrorist Efforts and Luft And Korin On China's Rising Demand For Oil And Saudi Arabia.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 16 11:00 AM  Politics Grand Strategy
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2004 November 15 Monday
Middle Easterners Enter United States Illegally From Mexico

Border Patrol agents will not go on record about Middle Easterners crossing over the border from Mexico.

"People are coming here with bad intentions. I know of 10 that have been detained at my station alone," said a Border Patrol agent whose identity has been withheld at his request. He said this is something that agents have been told not to talk about.

"We know for a fact that people coming from the Middle East are now coming into Mexico and spending a year, even two years in Mexico, to learn how to speak Spanish," the Border Patrol agent told NBC4.

"The key is to pass yourself off as a Mexican," said retired Army Colonel Ben Anderson. He has been following what he calls the terrorist trail and connecting the dots on his website.

While the Border Patrol agents are intimidated into anonymity or silence by the Bush Administration the government's official message is to downplay the threat of terrorists crossing over from Mexico. The official US government line is that no terrorists have passed into the United States through Mexico.

MEXICO CITY - Top U.S. and Mexican authorities said that they have taken significant steps to increase security along their shared border but acknowledged that it is a "very attractive" possible route for terrorists wanting to harm the United States.

...

No terrorists are believed to have crossed into the United States from Mexico, but the U.S. and Mexican security chiefs underscored the importance of not letting down their guard against potential threats.

Hundreds of thousands or millions of people pass over the border illegally every year. Some small fraction who are caught are from the Middle East. As near as I can tell the US government will not release numbers on how many are from the Middle East. If anyone can find information from the government on Middle Easterners caught on the Mexican border please email me or post in the comments. But however many Middle Easterners do cross over the US-Mexican border it seems highly likely that, like the Mexicans who cross, most will not be caught by the Border Patrol.

Back in 2001 one border patrol agent told a reporter that one in ten OTMs (illegal aliens who are "Other Than Mexicans") caught were Middle Easterners.

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

So how many OTMs are being caught in 2004 and what fraction of them are from the Middle East? Has that fraction declined or increased since 2001?

The government claims the vast bulk of illegals are from the Americas.

According to the report, a spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol in Washington, D.C., said 99.4 percent of the 955,310 people apprehended by the agency from Oct. 1, 2001, through Sept. 30, 2002, were from the Americas, which includes Canada, Mexico and other Central and South American nations. The remainder comes from 140 countries.

Here is what is especially infuriating. Not only are Middle Easterners sneaking into the United States undetected. But even many of those caught crossing the border illegally are eventually released with orders to appear voluntarily at a future legal hearing.

Patrol agents told one Arizona newspaper that 77 males "of Middle Eastern descent" were apprehended in June in two separate incidents. All were trekking through the Chiricahua mountains and are believed to have been part of a larger group of illegal immigrants. Many were released pending immigration hearings. According to Solomon Ortiz, the Congressman for Corpus Christi in Texas, similar incidents are "happening all over the place. It's very, very scary".

The two groups of Arab males were discovered by patrol guards from Willcox, Arizona. "These guys didn't speak Spanish," said one field agent, "and they were speaking to each other in Arabic. It's ridiculous that we don't take this more seriously. We're told not to say a thing to the media." A colleague told the paper: "All the men had brand-new clothing and the exact same cut of moustache." Local ranchers have also reported a rise in the sightings of large groups of young males.

Note the theme running through many news reports that quote anonymous Border Patrol agents: The agents are instructed to keep the public from learning about what is going.

The official number of illegals caught from Islamic countries is probably an underestimate of the real number.

To make matters worse, the Department of Homeland Security is so hopelessly overstretched that it has taken to releasing what it calls OTMs (Other Than Mexicans) because it cannot house them until it arranges for deportation hearings.

...

Fewer than 30 per cent of the OTMs released into the US actually show up for their hearings, meaning an estimated 400,000 illegal aliens are currently in the US after being caught and released.

Officially, fewer than 100 border jumpers apprehended along the Mexican borders within the last year were from nations associated with Islamic terrorism.

However, Travis said that few of these people had identification papers, and many lied and said they were from South America in order to evade attention and have a better chance of being released.

'We have heard from border patrol agents that they're being told to let people who look like they're from East Africa and the Middle East go because they say their name is Juan Pablo Garcia from Guatemala - except that they don't speak a word of Spanish,' she said.

Middle Easterner OTMs caught crossing the border are treated the same as Brazilians or Germans.

"The law does not differentiate based on nationality. So enforcement does not differ based on nationality," says Reed Little, Detention and Enforcement Officer for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He added that ICE officials must justify their actions before immigration judges.

Asked if a 25-year-old man from Saudi Arabia would be treated at all differently from other illegal aliens coming across the Mexican border, ICE spokesman Manny Van Pelt said, "No."

Van Pelt said the government's general practice is to release apprehended aliens into the United States without requiring bond pending their deportation hearing, unless they have criminal records, are flagged in a government database as a potential threat, or their interviews with agents reveal a potential threat.

Ethnic profiling would reduce the risk of terrorist attacks.

There really are people out there who would love to get into the United States and cause enormous damage. Egyptian Sharif al-Masri, captured along the Pakistan-Iran border in August 2004, has told interrogators Al Qaeda has considered smuggling nuclear material into the United States through Mexico.

Masri also said al-Qaeda has considered plans to "smuggle nuclear materials to Mexico, then operatives would carry material into the U.S.," according to the report, parts of which were read to TIME. Masri says his family, seeking refuge from al-Qaeda hunters, is now in Iran.

Of course, Al Qaeda would have to acquire such materials. My guess is that at this point the best they could do would be to get the nuclear materials needed for a dirty bomb which would use a conventional chemical explosive to spread radioactive material over a large area. But terrorists can kill a lot of people with well-placed non-nuclear bombs.

One thing is for sure: We are protected more by the limits of Al Qaeda's talents and resources than we are by US government policy toward our borders.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 15 01:44 AM  Immigration Terrorism
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2004 November 12 Friday
7 Retired US Generals And Admirals Speak On Iraq

Rolling Stone has an article with comments by 7 US Generals and Admirals on what they think of the situation in Iraq. I'm including excerpts from just two of them below. Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak, Air Force chief of staff, 1990-94, says our force in Iraq is too small.

We have a force in Iraq that's much too small to stabilize the situation. It's about half the size, or maybe even a third, of what we need. As a consequence, the insurgency seems to be gathering momentum. We are losing people at a fairly steady rate of about two a day; wounded, about four or five times that, and perhaps half of these wounds are very serious. And we are also sustaining gunshot wounds, when, before, we'd mostly been seeing massive trauma from remotely detonated charges. This means the other side is standing and fighting in a way that describes a more dangerous phase of the conflict.

The people in control in the Pentagon and the White House live in a fantasy world. They actually thought everyone would just line up and vote for a new democracy and you would have a sort of Denmark with oil. I blame Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the people behind him -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary Douglas Feith. The vice president himself should probably be included; certainly his wife. These so-called neocons: These people have no real experience in life. They are utopian thinkers, idealists, very smart, and they have the courage of their convictions, so it makes them doubly dangerous.

Former CENTCOM commander General Anthony Zinni says of course our forces in Iraq have been too small from the start and the US military always knew it would need much larger forces to assert firm control of Iraq after an invasion.

When I was commander of CENTCOM, we had a plan for an invasion of Iraq, and it had specific numbers in it. We wanted to go in there with 350,000 to 380,000 troops. You didn't need that many people to defeat the Republican Guard, but you needed them for the aftermath. We knew that we would find ourselves in a situation where we had completely uprooted an authoritarian government and would need to freeze the situation: retain control, retain order, provide security, seal the borders to keep terrorists from coming in.

When I left in 2000, General Franks took over. Franks was my ground-component commander, so he was well aware of the plan. He had participated in it; those were the numbers he wanted. So what happened between him and Rumsfeld and why those numbers got altered, I don't know, because when we went in we used only 140,000 troops, even though General Eric Shinseki, the army commander, asked for the original number.

Some serving officers are also critical of the conduct of the war. See my post US Military Officers Increasingly Critical Of US Strategy In Iraq. The need for a larger invasion force was foreseen in advance by military analysts and officers. From a previous post of mine here are some pointers to research work that shows how many troops are needed for peacekeeping operations.

There were people (eg James Quinlivan) who in advance of the invasion of Iraq said that previous occupations showed that we needed a few times the number of troops to occupy Iraq than the Bush Administration was sending. US Army General Eric Shinseki got a lot of abuse from Rumsfeld for telling a Congressional committee estimates for troop needs for an Iraq occupation that were similar to what you'd expect from Quinlivan's analysis. Other think tank analysts made similar calculations and published similar numbers.

Quinliven's writings on this go back to the 1990s. So these numbers were available before the invasion. See, for example, James T. Quinlivan, “Force Requirements in Stability Operations,” Parameters, 25 (Winter 1995-96), 59-69 which this article references. Rand has that article available here for order if you are interested. Quinliven was delivering briefings around at Washington DC think tanks on troop needs for occupation before the Iraq invasion. See his Summer 2003 Rand article Burden of Victory: The Painful Arithmetic of Stability Operations for an accessible summary of his research.

Also see the report by Rand Corporation researcher James Dobbins and colleagues: America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq. Laura Rozen has excerpted from that study:

THERE HAVE never been more than 160,000 coalition soldiers to control a population of 25 million Iraqis. Even adding in 20,000 private security contractors, that still amounts to only one soldier for every 139 Iraqis. According to a study conducted by James Dobbins and his colleagues at RAND, in most successful occupations, ranging from post-1945 Germany to post-1999 Kosovo, the figure has never been lower than one soldier per 50 people. In Iraq, that would mean 500,000 troops, or three times the number the coalition has today

The Bush Administration's dream for how to get around the problem of a too small American force is to create an Iraqi force that will do the work of putting down the insurgency. The DefenseTech blog has a post on the only Iraqi Batallion that has managed to become a disciplined and motivated fighting force: the Iraqi 36th Commando Battalion's effective fighters are almost all Kurds..

"The 36th was originally known as the 'political battalion,'" he said. That's because it was formed from the militias of five major political groups in Iraq: Iyad Alwai's Iraq National Accord (INA), Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress (INC), the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which backs Ayatollah Ali Sistani, and the two main Kurdish groups, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). About 110 soldiers were originally culled from each group.

Because of the group's diverse roots, it's supposed to be the "most reliable" of the Iraqi forces. But, in reality, only a segment of the 36th has really been trustworthy – the Kurdish fighters known as pesh merga. In an early operation, the U.S. Army officer recalls, about 60 of SCIRI's soldiers fled; so did 30-40 each from the INA and INC. But between the two Kurdish groups, only 11 dropped out, total.

In the recent fighting in Fallujah other battalions experienced high desertion rates. Also, US Marines have claimed that some of the allied Iraqi forces have deliberately fired upon them knowing who they were.

These Iraqi soldiers were fleeing small arms fire from insurgents that was strafing both sides of the road as they approached.

Sergeant Richard Harkleroad waved his unit's flag to signal the Iraqis not to shoot, to no avail.

Finally, the Iraqis drove on, but not before many of the American soldiers took cover. Bullets had smashed the television and shredded a miniature Koran.

Sergeant Sam Kilpatrick, a combat cameraman, swore the Iraqis were looking right at him and the Bradley parked in front of the observation post when they opened fire.

"That crap was deliberate," he said.

The war is not going well.

Note: Thanks to Greg Cochran for pointing to the Rolling Stone article.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 12 02:41 AM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs
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2004 November 10 Wednesday
Steve Sailer On Glaring Errors In Hispanic Exit Poll Data

The published results of exit polls on the Hispanic share of the vote are internally inconsistent.

Here's the background: the NEP exit poll, as reported on CNN and other leading outlets, breaks out Presidential election numbers at three levels: nationally, regionally (East, Midwest, South, and West), and by states.

In each of the regions, not just the South, the sums of the individual states' number of Hispanic votes for Bush add up to less than the exit poll's total regional number of Hispanic votes.

The NEP reports the Hispanic share of the total vote in all states, but it only reports exactly whom Hispanics voted for in those states where there's a statistically significant sample size of Hispanics.

In the South, for example, only four of the fourteen states have enough Latinos for the NEP to break out Bush's and Kerry's shares: Florida, Texas, Georgia, and, last and least, Oklahoma.

By combining the exit poll data with turnout data from the United States Election Project, we can see that the Bush's Hispanic vote totals appear to be systematically inflated.

Steve goes through some calculations (click through to see the details) and then comes up with the bottom line that shows how obviously the Latino vote counts were fabricated:

So, if Hispanics made up 9% of the 38.382 million voters in all 14 states of the South, then there must be 0.474 million Latino voters in the other ten states. And if Bush really carried 64% of Hispanics overall in the South, then he must have won 0.480 million Hispanic votes in those other ten states.

That means he won 101% of these states’ Hispanic vote.

The Midwestern numbers bring to mind the old Chicago political machine saying "vote early, vote often". It would have taken multiple voting per Hispanic Bush supporter in the Midwest to get this result:

Similarly, the exit poll claims that in the West region, Bush took 39% of the Hispanic vote. But in the eight broken-out states, which account for something like 97% of all Hispanic voters in the West, Bush only garnered 34%. So for the unspecified states (Alaska, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and Utah) to raise Bush's regional share from 34% to 39%, their Hispanics would have had to cast about 167% of their votes for Bush. In the Midwest, the exit poll purports that Bush won 0.489 million votes from 1.527 million Hispanics (32%). But in the four broken-out states, he won only 0.216 million out of 0.735 million (29%). So Bush would have had to capture 0.273 million in the unspecified states. The exit poll reports that there were just 0.222 million Hispanic voters in those other states. So Bush must have won a 123% share of them.

So obviously the reported high Bush Hispanic exit poll vote reports are very wrong. Bush and Rove have not made a great breakthough with the growing Hispanic population. The Republican Party is still headed for demographic oblivion and of course the nation as a whole is still headed for demographic disaster.

Long time ParaPundit visitor John S. Bolton provided Steve with the crucial clue that got Steve thinking in the right direction. See this post Steve Sailer: Exit Poll Estimates For Hispanic Vote Not Credible and read John's observations in the comment section.

So how to explain these results? Are staffers of the major news organizations whoe produced these bogus numbers morally corrupt or mathematically illiterate? I tend to favor incompetency as the explanation but it was probably incompetency of a sort that does not reflect well on the character of those who made the mistakes.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 10 11:58 PM  Politics American Domestic
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George W. Bush Gets Rid Of John Ashcroft

Ashcroft thinks he was used by Bush to placate religious conservatives.

Ashcroft, 62, has been one of the most controversial and influential figures of Bush's first term. Ashcroft provided reliable fodder for Democrats on the campaign trail and served as a visible representative of the evangelical Christians who played a crucial role in reelecting the president.

...

A longtime friend of Ashcroft's expressed bitterness that the White House had originally welcomed him as a lightning rod who drew criticism away from Bush, then decided not to stand by him. "He was something to offer to evangelicals," said the friend, who declined to be identified. "They used him, and now they're done with him and he's being tossed aside."

Bush wanted Ashcroft out.

In addition, he never developed a close relationship with Mr. Bush and annoyed some members of the White House staff who thought he was at times a grandstander who was overtly politicizing the Justice Department. One Republican close to the White House said on Tuesday night that Mr. Ashcroft had gotten a "strong signal" from the administration that his resignation would be accepted.

The White House turned down Ashcroft's offer to stay longer.

Sources said Ashcroft submitted his handwritten, five-page resignation letter before Election Day but was "energized" after Bush's victory and told the White House through his aides he was willing to stay on indefinitely as the nation's top cop.

The White House said no. Ashcroft will remain in office only until his successor is chosen.

White House counsel and George W. Bush Texas chum Alberto Gonzales has been chosen to replace Ashcroft at DOJ. Gonzales was the person who rewrote and gutted DOJ Solicitor General Theodore Olson's briefs opposing racial preferences in the Supreme Court University of Michigan cases Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz and Hamacher v. Bollinger. Theodore Olson almost resigned over Bush's abandonment of the conservative base's firm opposition to racial preferences. Now Gonzales is going to be Olson's boss - unless Olson resigns.

The appointment of Gonzales as Attorney General comes at an unfortunate time for the recent victory of Arizona Proposition 200 aimed at preventing non-citizens from voting and at preventing illegal aliens from getting various forms of welfare and other state services. Gonzales may well decide to use the power given to DOJ by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to disapprove Prop. 200.

Even though passed by a clear majority of Arizona voters, there is a possibility that the Arizona Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act will never become law.

Any law that affects voter's rights must be approved by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure it conforms to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Conservatives can expect bad decisions from the Bush Administration when issues involve immigration or racial preferences. My guess is that Gonzales will be worse than Ashcroft on both issues. But on the bright side at least Gonzales' appointment as AG reduces the chances he will be put on the Supreme Court.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 10 03:26 PM  Politics American Domestic
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2004 November 09 Tuesday
High Iraqi Army Defection Rates At Fallujah?

National Public Radio's Anne Garrels says one Iraqi battalion lost two thirds of its troops at Fallujah from mass desertions.

A National Public Radio correspondent embedded with the Marines outside Fallujah reported desertions among the Iraqis. One Iraqi battalion shrunk from over 500 men to 170 over the past two weeks - with 255 members quitting over the weekend, the correspondent said. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld called reports of some Iraqi recruits not showing up to fight ``an isolated problem.''

US military officials acknowledge that at least 200 Iraqis deserted.

U.S. military officials said Monday that at least 200 Iraqi troops had deserted their posts in the American-led offensive on Fallujah, illustrating the predicament faced by men who are torn between orders from commanders and outrage from their countrymen. Another 200 Iraqi troops were estimated to be “on leave.”

“Some people were afraid because they received threats,” said Sgt. Abdul Raheem, an Iraqi soldier. “They were afraid of death.”

A couple hundred more were given permission to just desert temporarily?

The US military and Iraqi commanders estimated that up to 200 Iraqi troops had resigned, with another 200 "on leave".

Here is another desertion report but it is not clear if it overlaps with the previous ones or what the unit size was in question.

An Iraqi captain told a reporter at a staging area earlier in the day that 100 Sunni members of his unit had deserted rather than fight.

Only one Iraqi battalion outside of Fallujah is still substantially intact and it has few Sunni members.

The weekend's desertions reportedly left only one fully intact Iraqi unit deployed with the Marines on the outskirts of Fallujah – the 36th Battalion, whose troops were recruited mostly from Kurdish and Shi'ite militia. "If the 36th turns out to be the 'Iraqi face' of the new government in Fallujah," noted one worried administration official, "it'll be seen as another occupation force."

There might have been 1000 Iraqi soldiers accompanying the US forces into Fallujah.

FALLOUJA, Iraq — Ten thousand U.S. troops and more than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers in tanks and on foot attacked this insurgent stronghold Monday night in a long-planned offensive aimed at ending guerrilla control of the city.

Is this estimate of 2000 Iraqi soldiers at Fallujah based on staffing levels of assigned Iraqi battalions before desertions are factored in?

An estimated 6,000 U.S. troops and 2,000 allied Iraqi soldiers invaded Fallujah from the north Monday night in a swift start to an offensive aimed at re-establishing government control ahead of the elections.

...

Some 10,000-15,000 U.S. troops have surrounded Fallujah, along with allied Iraqi forces, according to the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey. Commanders estimate around 3,000 Sunni fighters are in Fallujah, perhaps around 20 percent of them foreign Islamic militants.

There are 6 Iraqi battalions total at the moment (see below). The figure of 2000 Iraqi soldiers at Fallujah suggests that 4 of those 6 Iraqi battalions were assigned to Fallujah before defections. But probably only one of those battalions did not suffer substantial defections.

Note that even with the probably excessively optimistic estimate of 2000 Iraqi soldiers fighting for the Iraqi government and an assumption that 20% of the insurgents are foreign would still leave 2400 Iraqi insurgents at Fallujah and therefore even without defections there would have been more Iraqis fighting against the government than for it.

Suppose the desertion rate of Iraqi Army soldiers at Fallujah is really as high as the media reports suggest. US Army General George Casey, Commander, Multinational Force Iraq (i.e. he is the top US officer in Iraq) argues that the Iraqi military is in the process of getting so large that the non-defectors will be able to do the job the US would like them to do.

Q General, Jamie McIntyre from CNN. Assuming that Fallujah works out as well as you hope, what more remains to be done between now and January so that elections -- credible elections can be held in Iraq?

GEN. CASEY: Jamie, as you know, we're fighting a counterinsurgency operation here, so there's a range of political, economic and military tasks that need to be accomplished between now and then. The primary thing that we need to do is to continue to generate Iraqi security forces on the -- at the pace that we are -- the plan to generate them on.

Right now, there are -- up until the end of October, there were six Iraqi battalions in the Iraqi army. Now there are 12. By the time that we get to the election, there will be 27.

Right now we have about 40 National Guard units. They're not all fully trained and fully equipped. There will be -- we will have 45 fully trained and equipped by the elections. The police, the border guards, everyone else will continue to grow.

Between the end of September and the election, we are going to add about another 45(,000) or 50,000 Iraqi security forces to the Iraqi theater here. So that -- we will continue to do that. We'll continue to get them seasoned, and that's the first thing.

Can this strategy work? Take the figure of 27 battalions. Suppose when faced with a fight two thirds of them will quit. Suppose, as well that the deserters do not switch sides and make the insurgency even bigger. There'd still be the equivalent of 9 battalions of soldiers left. But would these non-deserting soldiers actually fight the insurgents? Keep an eye out for reports on the Fallujah fighting. Did any of the non-defecting Iraqi soldiers contribute to the fighting in a substantial fashion? Or are they just following the US soldiers into the city to become occupiers once the heavy fighting is over?

Of course, some deserters will defect to the insurgency. In fact, what better way for a would-be insurgent to get trained than to join the Iraqi Army and get trained, paid, fed, and equipped to fight?

Foreign withdrawals from Iraq mean that more of the work has to be done by US troops and hopefully non-defecting Iraqi troops. The countries that have already withdrawn troops include Spain (1300), Dominican Republic (302), Nicaragua (115), Honduras (370), Philippines (41), and Norway (down from 155 to 15). More withdrawals are coming with even Poland pulling the plug at the end of 2005.

Two large contributors to the international force - Britain, with 12,000 troops, and Italy, with more than 3,100 - have insisted they will not withdraw. But Poland, the fourth-largest contributor, with 2,400 troops, says it intends to withdraw by the end of next year, and the Netherlands, with 1,400 troops, said this week that the latest rotation of troops would be its last contribution to Iraq.

New Zealand is withdrawing its 60 engineers and Thailand said it wanted to bring home its 450 troops. Singapore has reduced its contingent to 33, from 191; Moldova has trimmed its force to 12, from 42. On Wednesday Bulgaria's Defense Ministry said it would reduce its 483 troops to 430 next month, Reuters reported.

The US military isn't big enough to substantially increase US force size in Iraq. Lots of foreign contributions are ending? Can so many Iraqis be recruited into the Iraqi military that even after desertions there will be a force big enough to at least substantially help the US military put down the insurgency?

Thanks to Greg Cochran for the tip on the NPR desertion report.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 09 01:30 PM  MidEast Iraq New Regime Failures
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2004 November 08 Monday
France Keeps Former Guantanamo Detainees Locked Up

Hey, the French government has no problem with "do as we say, not as we do".

PARIS -- In many countries of Europe, former inmates of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been relishing their freedom. In Spain, Denmark and Britain, recently released detainees have railed in public about their treatment at Guantanamo, winning sympathy from local politicians and newspapers. In Sweden, the government has agreed to help one Guantanamo veteran sue his American captors for damages.

Not so in France, where four prisoners from the U.S. naval base were arrested as soon as they arrived home in July, and haven't been heard from since. Under French law, they could remain locked up for as long as three years while authorities decide whether to put them on trial -- a legal limbo that their attorneys charge is not much different than what they faced at Guantanamo.

This is the same government that has been so vocal in criticizing the United States for holding Muslim prisoners in Guantanamo. In spite of their hypocrisy I actually admire their pragmatism. They are quite willing to defend their interests and the interests of their own citizens. Good for them.

The US government keeps those detainees in Guantanamo in order to keep them outside of the jurisdiction of US courts, the due process clause of the US constitution, other relevant clauses, and of course the court rulings which have legislated various other rights. This sort of tactic seems necessary for the US government when fighting asymmetric warfare.

The French make heavy use of ethnic profiling. How politically incorrect. And of course how admirable and productive.

France has embraced a law enforcement strategy that relies heavily on preemptive arrests, ethnic profiling and an efficient domestic intelligence-gathering network. French anti-terrorism prosecutors and investigators are among the most powerful in Europe, backed by laws that allow them to interrogate suspects for days without interference from defense attorneys.

The US government uses immigration law to preemptively lock up possible terrorists on immigration law violations since most terrorists in the US are not US citizens. But there are very likely many French citizens of Arab descent who are involved in terrorist activities. So the French government needs to be more blatant (and the French constitution apparently makes this easier to do) in how it runs roughshod over the rights of individuals in order to prevent terrorist attacks. Of course, if the threat becomes large enough in the United States (i.e. if terrorists manage to launch some new attacks that kill thousands of people) Guantanamo and immigration law violations will be seen as insufficient to deal with the threat. Then I predict some way will be found to get around constitutional rights of both US citizens and foreigners here legally.

Update: Also see my related posts Heather Mac Donald: Government Panel Opposes Google Searches By Spies and Privacy Concerns Block Response To Terrorist Threat.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 08 01:48 PM  Terrorists Western Response
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700 Arrested On Immigration Violations To Foil Terrorist Attacks

A major effort was made to arrest people from Muslim countries before the 2004 election in order to foil any terrorist attacks that may have been planned. Vigorous selective enforcement of immigration law is a key tactic used domestically to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks. (same article here and here and here)

For example, ICE agents arrested a 23-year-old Pakistani man in late October who had illegally entered the United States through Mexico in 2000 and was working as a fuel tanker truck driver with access to a major U.S. seaport. The man, who was not further identified, is charged with making false statements about how he entered the country and remains under investigation for any links to terrorism.

He was one of the 237 people arrested in October alone on immigration violations, for a total of over 700 since the enforcement effort began last year, Garcia said. "It was a broad approach that led us to have a very disruptive effect, we believe," he said.

Law enforcement personnel admit they see immigration law enforcement as a valuable way to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks. Someone should tell George W. Bush about this fact. Though even if he understands this I am guessing he doesn't want to accept the implications for national immigration policy.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 08 01:07 PM  Immigration Terrorism
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Steve Sailer: Exit Poll Estimates For Hispanic Vote Not Credible

The claim that George W. Bush nationally won 44% of the Hispanic vote is based on an absolutely huge and unbelievable 59% of Hispanics voting for Bush. Blue/Red voting results by county for 2000 and 2004 show few shifts in Texas. For the Hispanic vote for Bush in Texas to have gone up so much the white vote for Bush would had to have gone down.

The exit poll claims Bush's share of Texas Hispanics leapt from 43 percent to a staggering 59 percent. (My recollection is that this Texas figure was originally something like 52 percent, but in the rejiggering, it was inflated to an unlikely 59 percent in the final numbers.) Texas is what's driving this 44 percent national figure.

This is particularly odd because you would think such a shocking improvement with an important bloc in Texas would lead to a much better overall performance by Bush in his home state. Yet, Bush's growth in his share of the total vote in Texas was only 1.9 percentage points, below his national average of 3.1. The exit poll tries to explain this by claiming that—while Bush's share of the white vote grew by four points nationally—in Texas it shrank by 1 point, which seems odd, to say the least.

If 59% of Texas Hispanics supported Bush, then Bush should have carried just about every county in the state. But most of the heavily Hispanic Rio Grande Valley remained firmly in Kerry's grasp. Of the 15 Texas counties lost by Bush, 13 had Hispanic populations of 75.0% to 94.3%. The other two were Travis County (Austin), a college and government town, and Jefferson County in the East, which is 32% black.

The Hispanic vote in Texas also would have to be almost twice the 32% of California Hispanics that voted for Bush according to exit polling in California. Why would that be the case? How could national polls before the election have Kerry having about a 2-to-1 advantage with Hispanics and then in a short period of time have half that advantage disappear?

The Rove/Bush strategy did not make any remarkable gains with Hispanics in other states. In the rest of the country Bush may not have surpassed Reagan's 1984 share of the Hispanic vote (reported in some places to have been 35%). The Hispanics are going to remain overwhelmingly Democrats and white people are going to continue to shift from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. Eventually America will become politically much more divided based on race. A drastic reduction in the current immigration rate could reduce the depth of that growing split.

Update: Michelle Malkin covers the Hispanic vote question and links to a Mike Tolson piece in the Houston Chronicle on measuring Hispanic voting behavior.

The institute, essentially a wing of the San Antonio-based Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, found itself at odds with the numbers put out by the main national exit poll in the previous two national elections. The problem, Gonzalez said, lies in the way the poll goes about collecting them.

"Network and media surveys are not designed to measure Latinos," Gonzalez said. "They are designed to measure the general market. The Latinos are not suburban. We're the most urban electorate in America. There are not lots of rural or suburban Latinos anywhere. What you get when you have a general market survey is one that shows more Latinos who are Republican."

By Randall Parker 2004 November 08 12:51 AM  Immigration Politics
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2004 November 05 Friday
Paper Of Liberal Record Worse Than Useless On Theo Van Gogh Murder

Filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered by Muslim extremists in the Netherlands and Ayaan Hirsi Ali has to have full-time bodyguards. What does the paper of liberal record have to say? Nothing useful. The Grey Lady is more worried about the safety of Muslims in the Netherlands than the safety and liberty of the Dutch.

The problem is not Muslim immigration, but a failure to plan for a smoother transition to a more diverse society. One very real danger is that the public trauma over the van Gogh murder may lead to a clamor for anti-Muslim policies that could victimize thousands of innocent refugees and immigrants.

The challenge for Dutch political leaders is to find ways to reverse this disturbing trend of politically motivated violence without making it harder to achieve cultural harmony.

Theo Van Gogh was killed because the centralized Dutch planning bureaucracy failed to make better plans! The idea never occurred to me. But then I'm not a left-liberal. Still, I'm willing to get on board with any idea that might help. Maybe the Dutch can hire some retired Soviet Russian government planners to help out. Government planning is the solution. Who would have thought it? Oh, only the editorial board of the New York Times. I applaud the comrades for their insight.

Oh left-liberals look at how far your political movement has decayed. How shameful your most prestigious media outlet, how pathetic, how incredibly invincibly ignorant and foolish. Western culture needs to be defended but you have become its enemies. No wonder Bush was reelected. Middle America knows the liberal elites are their enemies.

The violence by Muslims against Westerners is both politically and religiously motivated. Islam is inherently political. The only "cultural harmony" that the Muslims will accept is one in which all others bow down to Muslim authority. The real danger is that any society that gets a large number of Muslims in its population will become oppressed by Muslim extremists. But the Grey Lady is never going to admit that. There is reality and then there is the world according to the secular religious faithful.

Fervent believers in the secular religious faith do not want to abandon their worship of multiculturalism. The irony here is that these same secular faithful look down on Christian fundamentalists for their beliefs that are purely based on faith. Yet the secular liberal faithful embrace false beliefs about human nature that have been shown to be false in this world.

Pieter Dorsman of the Peak Talk blog grew up in the Netherlands (I think he now lives in America) and he has translated a Dutch report of a poll of Dutch people about the Theo Van Gogh murder.

More than 60% is afraid of riots between Moroccans and Dutch as a result of the murder of Van Gogh. Almost 90% thinks that the Dutch security services should keep a closer eye on fundamentalist Muslims than the 150 that are now being watched. Also, 80% of the interviewed agree with the statement that: “Holland is much too tolerant”. The poll also reveals that 3 out 10 Dutchmen (28%) would leave the country if they were in a position to do so.

The Dutch want to flee their own country. The New York Times is more worried that the Dutch might oppress their oppressors.

Peiter reports that the Dutch government will eventually lull themselves back to sleep so that the problem can continue to worsen.

Well I did that about fifteen years ago and as much as it pains my parents to see their only son with his young children abroad they understand it and often tell me over the phone that Holland just isn’t a great place to grow up these days. I hear that from a lot of Dutch friends. If that many people are ready to bolt and if elections are driven exclusively by how much you can extract from the government and not about the imminent threat that seeks to destroy your society from the inside, then that society is pretty much on the ropes. Yes, the Van Gogh murder will invoke a new spirit of action and determination but no one has the political capital to act on it and if they had, it is bound to fizzle after a few years, which is what happened after Fortuyn.

The West is going to continue to decay as long as its intellectuals are to be counted in the ranks of its enemies.

Update: A 5 page typed letter was stuck into the body of Van Gogh with a knife.

"Dear Mrs Hirshi Ali (sic). Since you stepped into the political arena in the Netherlands you have been constantly busy terrorising Muslims and Islam with your remarks," the letter said, calling Hirsi Ali a "disbeliever fundamentalist".

Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner thinks a larger movement is behind the murder of Van Gogh.

Donner said the five-page letter, which was neatly typed and written in Dutch and Arabic, appears to be "not from one person but a movement."

Titled "Open Letter to Hirsi Ali," it threatens jihad, or Islamic holy war, against "infidels" everywhere, particularly in America, Europe and the Netherlands.

"Saifu Deen alMuwahhied," apparently a signature, is written at the bottom of the last page.

Five politicians are now believed to be targetted for assassination.

The other five names on the list are Somali-born Liberal VVD MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, independent conservative MP Geert Wilders; Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk; and Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen and his deputy Ahmed Aboutaleb.

At least two of the suspected targets have been taken into hiding.

Dutch police now believe that the muder of film maker Theo van Gogh is part of a larger and coordinated action by radical Muslims to public figures that they feel are 'enemies of Islam.' As a result, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders, two politicians critical of Muslims, have been taken to a safe house by Dutch police.

The Dutch have one thing going for them at this point: The Jihadists seem determined to prevent the Dutch government from going back to sleep.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 05 12:08 PM  Immigration Culture Clash
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2004 November 04 Thursday
1965 US Army Deserter Tells Of Life In North Korea

US Army Sergeant Charles Robert Jenkins from North Carolina, age 64, deserted his unit in South Korea and crossed over into North Korea in 1965. He eventually married a Japanese woman there when the government chose her for him and they had two children. He has finally left North Korea after his wife was let go as part of a deal between North Korea and Japan. In a trial that sentenced him to 30 days in a US military jail in Japan Jenkins and his wife described life in North Korea.

The Americans, he said, were forced for 10 hours a day to study and memorize the writings of North Korea's founder, Kim Il Sung, writings that he called "class struggle from the perspective of a crazy man."

Six months ago, while he was still in North Korea, such a statement could have earned Sergeant Jenkins execution. He said here on Wednesday that if he had once criticized Mr. Kim or his son and successor, Kim Jong Il, there would have been no forgiveness. "Go dig your own hole, because you are gone,'' he testified. "I have seen that done."

With no heat or electricity in their Pyongyang house during most of the winter, she said that to sleep in the cold "we would wear everything we owned in terms of clothing when we went to bed." Warm water never flowed from faucets. Warm baths were rare luxuries.

Reading at night was by candlelight. When the candle wick had burned, she said, her husband "would collect the melted wax in a can and use it for a homemade candle." With the food rationing system breaking down, she said, they grew vegetables and raised chickens in their yard, but the family often went to bed hungry.

The family was forbidden to leave the house without their political supervisor. Coils of barbed wire surrounded their house, she told the court.

North Korea is a cold place in winter to not have heat. My guess is their clothing was poor as well.

One can not refuse anything the government in North Korea tells you to do.

Jenkins’s day in court was charged with emotion as he tearfully described his reasons for deserting, the drunken night on which it happened, and his life in Pyongyang, the capital. He was found guilty on the count of aiding the enemy by teaching North Koreans English. “You don’t say no to North Korea. You say one thing bad about Kim Il Sung and you dig your own hole, because you’re gone,” he said.

Jenkins said he realized his mistake within one day of being in North Korea.

His former commanding officer thinks Jenkins should be imprisoned for life but others think he has suffered enough.

"Desertion is a very serious crime, especially in wartime. ... Jenkins ought to be in jail for the rest of his life," said Darrell E Best, now a retired lieutenant colonel.

Others argued that Jenkins had suffered enough by spending most of his life in one of the world's most impoverished and oppressive countries.

"He has done his tour in hell already," said Brendon Carr, a former military intelligence official. "His daily punishment the last 40 years must have been waking up and realising what a fool he had been to defect to North Korea."

...

From 1965 to 1972, Jenkins was put in a one-room house in North Korea with three other former American soldiers.

The men slept on the floor, bathed once a month and more in summer, and were forced to study the teachings of leader Kim Il Sung.

"Each day for the first 15 years I wished I would just die."

I think 40 years in North Korea is such severe punishment that the man has suffered enough for desertion.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 04 01:49 AM  Korea
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2004 November 03 Wednesday
Bush Gained Over 2000 With Women And Old Folks

Check out this CNN chart comparing Bush's takes on various groupings of the population in 2004 versus 2000. Keep in mind that these figures are preliminary. As we learned early election day from preliminary exit polling that showed Kerry ahead 2 percentage points initial statistical sampling and analysis can get things pretty wrong.

I am still digesting this. But a few things leap out.

First, there has been talk in the last couple of years about the idea of "security moms". Well this election shows evidence for this. While Bush gained 2% among males to rise to 55% he gained 5% among females to rise to 49%. So the gender gap shrank 3%.

Second, by age bracket Bush's biggest gains were among oldsters. CNN doesn't have data on 18-29 year olds. Bush gained 4% with 30-44 year olds and only 2% with 30-44 year olds. But Bush gained 7% with age 60 and older. So Rove made the best decision for Bush by supporting the Medicare drug benefit. Of course all the rest of us will have to pay for that for decades to come.

Another point: He gained most among those who had less than a high school education (a full 10% to capture 49% total!) and gained 3% from those with high school degrees and with college education short of bachelors degrees. He made a 1% gain with college grads to tie Kerry at 49% each and made no gains with people who pursued post-grad education.

Also, Bush made gains in all racial groups. His biggest gain was a 9% swing with Hispanics. I find this hard to believe and am looking forward to more detailed analyses by Steve Sailer. But the gain among those with lower education might explain a big part of the Hispanic gain. Or was Bush's worker permit proposal a factor?

There appears to be a mistake in their chart about voting and church attendance. They show huge swings in favor of Bush with those who attend church regularly. How could Bush have gained 25 points to get to 58% among those who attend church weekly? That'd mean that Bush got less than half the regular church attenders in 2000. That is absurd.

The three biggest hot button issues for voters were Moral Values (22%), Economy/Jobs (20%), and Terrorism (19%). For those who thought Moral Values were most important Bush got 80% of the vote. For those who thought Economy/Jobs were most important Kerry got 80%. For those who thought Terrorism was most important Bush got 86%. The terrorist threat definitely worked in Bush's favor. Note that Iraq was in fourth place in ranking at 15% and of those who thought that issue most important Kerry got 73%. That issue was less important and also caused less of a shift than the top 3 issues.

My guess is that absent 9/11 John Kerry would have won. Kerry needed to address the terrorist threat offer a more effective critique of what was deficient about Bush's response to terrorism. But as a very liberal Democrat Kerry wasn't about to stump for better border control and immigration policies or more capabilities for federal agencies to track down terrorists with computers and databases. So Bush wins.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 03 12:56 PM  Politics American Domestic
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Democrats Blew A Huge Opportunity In Ohio

Imagine the Democrats had chosen a popular politician from Ohio as their Vice Presidential nominee. That might have swung enough votes for the Democrats in Ohio to cost Bush a defeat in the Electoral College.

Are any of Ohio's Democrats in Congress popular and at all charismatic?

Of course, the Democrats had a more fundamental problem: John Kerry at the top of the ticket. The Democrats nominated a liberal from Massachusetts who has a lifetime American Conservative Union voting score of 5 out of a possible 100. Great for energizing the Democratic base (though hatred of Bush was the real energizer of the Demos). But not great for winning swing voters in Middle America.

If you are bummed at Bush's apparent victory (and I'm more bummed that either Bush or Kerry had to win than that Bush in particular seems to have won) then perhaps Noah Millman's fairly subdued endorsement of Bush might provide some silver lining to your cloud of gloom. Noah says he understands that Bush doesn't deserve reelection (which is an important point to understand) but Noah still thinks Bush is a better choice than Kerry.

I'm not convinced by Noah's reasoning though. Even if one posits that Bush will be better than Kerry would have been that does not strike me as a decisive reason to vote for Bush. The reason is simple: punishment of Bush by defeat would have been an important lesson to future Republican Presidential wannabes. Bush betrayed his base on spending, racial preferences, immigration, and enough other topics that punishment was needed. But it now looks like he got away with it. Bush reminds me of Clinton. They are both baby boomer politicians who got away with too much.

On the bright side a President in his second term doesn't have the incentive to spend money to pay off voting groups to get himself reelected. So Bush might be more fiscally responsible in his second term. Though part of the fiscal damage Bush did was through entitlement program expansion that will be politically impossible to roll back. Since initial reports are that Bush gained more of 60+ years old crowd he and Rove made a good decision for Bush (though not for America) in locking in a new entitlement that will become increasingly more expensive.

Update: I just came across a pre-election endorsement of George W. Bush over John Kerry written by Jane Galt of Asymmetrical Information. She covers a great deal of ground (go read the whole thing) on Bush and Kerry on a large number of issues and along the way makes an important point on health care that I think I agree with: a candidate who is going to support more government take-over of health care is essentially supporting policies that will cause large numbers of deaths.

Ultimately, I've decided to take the advice of a friend's grandmother, who told me, on her wedding day, that I should never, ever marry a man thinking he'd change. "If you can't live with him exactly the way he is," she told me, "then don't marry him, because he'll say he's going to change, and he might even try to change, but it's one in a million that he actually will."

Kerry's record for the first fifteen years in the senate, before he knew what he needed to say in order to get elected, is not the record of anyone I want within spitting distance of the White House war room. Combine that with his deficits on domestic policy -- Kerry's health care plan would, in my opinon, kill far more people, and cost more, than the Iraq war ever will -- and it's finally clear. For all the administration's screw -ups -- and there have been many -- I'm sticking with the devil I know. George Bush in 2004.

Is Kerry worse than Bush from a rational and well-informed right-wing perspective? Probably. But the value of a Bush defeat would not have been its effect on the next 4 years of governance. The value would have come from a message that the Republican base will punish poor performance by a Republican elected official. Unfortunately that message has not been delivered and this bodes poorly for the Republican base in the longer run.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 03 01:32 AM  Politics American Domestic
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Theo Van Gogh, Filmmaker and Critic Of Islam, Murdered In Amsterdam

Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh has been murdered and most likely by a Muslim angry at Van Gogh's portrayal of Islam.

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands Nov 2, 2004 — A Dutch filmmaker who had received death threats after releasing a movie criticizing the treatment of women under Islam was slain in Amsterdam on Tuesday, police said.

A suspect, a 26-year-old man with dual Dutch-Moroccan nationality, was arrested after a shootout with officers that left him wounded, police said.

Van Gogh's great grandfather also named Theo was the brother of painter Vincent Van Gogh.

The Dutch Prime Minister does not want anyone jumping to the extremely likely conclusion about the motivation for Van Gogh's murder.

AMSTERDAM — Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has led tributes to film director Theo van Gogh, who was assassinated in Amsterdam on Tuesday morning.

Balkenende said he was horrified to hear of Van Gogh's murder. But he also called on the public not to jump to conclusions about the deadly attack.

The conclusion that the Prime Minister doesn't want anyone to jump to is that the murdered acted for Islam.

Authorities said the suspect is a citizen of both Morocco and the Netherlands, although they don't know if he is Muslim.

Volkert Van der Graaf, the murderer of Pim Fortuyn, got off with a sentence that will make him eligible for parole in 2014. Will Theo Van Gogh's murderer get off as lightly?

Van Gogh became the target of many death threats after he released a movie critical of Islam in August 2004.

Van Gogh, a chain-smoking social critic and satirist, received threats after the August television broadcast of his movie "Submission," which he made with a Dutch politician who had renounced the Islamic faith of her birth.

In the fictional story, a veiled Muslim woman spoke about her violent marriage, being raped by a relative and later brutally punished for adultery. In some scenes, the actress' naked body is shown through a transparent gown. One scene shows her body with Quranic verses written on it.

...

The English-language film was written by Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a lawmaker who has outraged Muslims by criticizing Islamic customs and the failure of Muslim families to adopt Dutch ways.

Will Ayaan Hirsi Ali see to it that Van Gogh's two planned sequel movies still get made?

Van Gogh spent 18,000 euros (£12,500) of his own money making the film in secret - and it was to be the first instalment of a three-part series.

The second part was due to look at the issue from Muslim men's points of view.

The murders of Fortuyn and Van Gogh might create a climate of fear that will lead to a decrease in public airings of harsher criticisms of Islam in the Netherlands.

The Van Gogh-Hirsi Ali movie Submission used Koranic verses about the treatment of women painted onto the bodies of actresses.

"All praise to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds," begins the text painted across the actress's throat, which then scrolls down her bare chest. It is taken from the fatiha or opening of the Koran, the lines recited aloud by men, and silently by women, at Muslim prayer five times a day throughout the world.

Four other women act out scenes of torment and repression. One battered victim in a torn dress, exposes her shoulders and arms covered with lash wounds and the text of Verse 34, Chapter 4, The Women.

"Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made them excel and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient. Those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them," it says.

Ms. Hirsi Ali was drawing attention to that verse before she was elected to the Dutch Parliament and well before she collaborated with Van Gogh in creating their mini-movie "Submission". So her use of that verse in the "Submission" short film is a more artistic approach for her on-going efforts to draw attention to the nature of Islam.

"The most important verse, which I still refer to, is in the Koran and it is the verse which says women should obey the male members of their families - their fathers and their husbands - and if they do not do that then the husband may beat his wife," she said.

"That's also a side of Islam and I've pointed to it and I've said there are millions of people who carry out just that simple verse.

"Millions of Muslim women all around the world are oppressed in the name [of] Islam.

"And as a woman who was brought up with the tradition of Islam, I think it's not just my right but also my obligation to call these things by name."

Ayaan Hirsi Ali already required permanent police protection long before the Submission documentary was released.

According to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the emotions incited by her statements, especially among radical Muslims, underscores the state of the Islam. (Radical) Muslims are incapable of self-reflection. Consequently, any critical remark is perceived as an offense.

She believes that the Dutch are insufficiently aware of the threat which a rapidly growing radical Islam poses for the basic values and norms of Dutch society. Because of her outspokenness on these issues she has received death threats and needs permanent personal protection.

Hirsi Ali can't walk the streets by herself.

By "hard work", she refers not to her 11-minute film Submission, which was broadcast on Dutch television and included images of a naked Muslim woman draped with an opaque veil, nor her newspaper columns which criticise Islam; she means dealing with the reaction from the Islamic community in Holland and beyond. Since Submission was broadcast, the threats have intensified rather than died down.

"I don't walk in the streets alone," she says. "Groups of Muslim boys shout out 'whore' and all kinds of sexist remarks and threaten to kill me and so on. They're young men, mostly unemployed, and I don't know how much you can take that seriously but it feels horrible.

"The written threats say 'we will kill you' and they all go to the police. I think most people who kill someone don't ring up first and say they're coming to do it. It's intimidation. They say because I have said I'm not Muslim any more – which I haven't said, I've said I don't believe in God and the hereafter – I have no right to criticise Islam. They don't want discussion."

That she tolerates this daily, while refusing to back down on what she lightheartedly calls her Islam Reformation Project (IRP), has earned her the title of "brave". Admittedly, this is generally among white Dutch people who admire her confidence but don't want to commit themselves on Islam or Dutch multicultural policy, yet it's not without warrant. Hirsi Ali would disagree.

"It started with simply stating some facts," she says. "For example, the position of women in Islam compared to western countries is far worse. That's a fact. You don't have to be brave to say that. In Islam, homosexuals are killed and disowned by their families and in some countries, Egypt for example, they are put in cages. Christians and Jews living in the Netherlands and other western countries are very tolerant towards each other, but Muslims accept only other Muslims and fundamentalists will not even talk to moderate Muslims. These are facts. You don't have to be brave to state these things or discuss them loudly."

In late 2002 Hirsi Ali fled the Netherlands for a while in fear of her life.

To the surprise of many, she became a leading voice condemning the government's support for multiculturalism, programs costing millions of dollars a year that she considers misplaced because they help keep Muslim women isolated from Dutch society.

Then Ms. Hirsi Ali, 32, began receiving hate mail, anonymous messages calling her a traitor to Islam and a slut. On several Web sites, other Muslims said she deserved to be knifed and shot. Explicit death threats by telephone soon followed. The police told her to change homes and the mayor of Amsterdam sent bodyguards. She tried living in hiding. Finally, last month, she became a refugee again, fleeing the Netherlands.

"I had to speak up," she said, in a telephone interview from her hiding place, "because most spokesmen for Muslims are men and they deny or belittle the enormous problems of Muslim women locked up in their Dutch homes."

Ayaan Hirsi Ali says it would be too dangerous for her to return to Somalia.

I am now a member of parliament for the Liberal Party. My subjects - my portfolio - include the migration of non-Western migrants to the Netherlands, the emancipation of women, and development aid to developing countries.

Unfortunately I cannot do this line of work in my country of birth.

Somalia is made up of a population which is 100% Muslim. The radical leanings of a huge number of the population is unfortunately growing, and the position of the Somali woman has never been worse than it is now.

If I were to say the things that I say now in the Dutch Parliament in Somalia, I would be killed.

Hirsi Ali shows guts in the face of threats.

She describes how last Thursday in a bar in The Hague she was tapped on the shoulder and addressed by man of around 24 years that said: “Miss, I really hope with all my heart that the Mujahedeen will get you and kill you.” Confronted with this Hirsi Ali picked up a knife and gave it to the man. The man’s startled reaction was that he didn’t want to do it because he was afraid to go to jail.

Hopefully Hirsi Ali will continue to be given enough bodyguard protection to keep her alive, in the Dutch Parliament, and in the public eye.

Update: Over on Gene Expression Razib thinks the Netherlands might be headed toward an apartheid society.

Well, I talked to a Dutch friend of mine in University, and asked him if he had ever met a person of Moroccan origin in his classes. He thought about it and mentioned one girl, who was rather atypical in many ways (she was a classic nerd). To me, this is a hint that the future is apartheid, if current trends continue. Two killings (first Pim, now Van Gogh) is not a trend, but it is really hard to maintain a sanguine assimilationist perspective in the face of ideologically motivated murders.

Multiculturalism doesn't work in a single society.

Update II: 8 Islamic radicals were arrested for suspected involvement in Van Gogh's murder. 6 are from Morocco, 1 from Algeria, and one has dual Spanish-Moroccan citizenship. Also, last week a man was sentenced to 9 months in jail for threatening to fill Ayaan Hirsi Ali and for publishing her address on the internet.

By Randall Parker 2004 November 03 12:23 AM  Immigration Culture Clash
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2004 November 02 Tuesday
Immigration Law Enforcement In Interior Is Still Meager

The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rarely goes after employers for hiring illegal aliens.

Q. When was the last time an employer in the Phoenix area was fined for hiring undocumented immigrants?

A. The last significant fine was in the summer of 2001. It involved a company that was in fact knowingly employing unauthorized workers. That fine was ultimately paid in the summer of 2001, about $125,000.

Q. Have any employers of undocumented immigrants been fined since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks?

A. Not in Phoenix, and one of the chief reasons for that is because we've shifted our focus to deal with businesses of national interests, such as the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant and Sky Harbor Airport. In our most recent case, we arrested nine undocumented workers at one of Boeing's defense locations in Phoenix, and we are conducting other similar investigations. . . . We haven't found that any of them have been involved in knowing or willful violations.

The necessary focus on the threat of terrorists has shifted limited resources away from the capture of common place illegal aliens.

Even targetting of illegals with criminal records does not go uncriticised by illegal immigrant "rights" activists. Mexican illegal alien Rodrigo Perez Sanchez has been arrested as part of an effort to target illegal aliens who have deportation orders pending against them. Even efforts to arrest the worst behaving illegals brings charges by Hispanic groups of unfair targetting by the government.

Since then, he's worked hard, acquired a house and a few thousand dollars in savings. He's also acquired a long criminal rap sheet, including convictions for first-degree rape, felony assault and two instances of DUI.

...

Since June, arrests of illegal immigrants such as Perez Sanchez around Washington have fueled rumors of wholesale dragnets in which ICE officers indiscriminately arrest any Latino lacking proper papers. But high-level ICE officials say they have neither the interest nor the resources to conduct "sweeps" targeting otherwise law-abiding, undocumented immigrants.

"We never, ever pull anyone over just because we think they might be illegal," said Blake Brown, supervisor of a six-person Detention and Removal squad that covers Washington, Oregon and Alaska. "Our interest is in arresting fugitives."

Note that Perez Sanchez has managed to spend enough time in the United States to commit and be arrested for a whole string of crimes. Amazingly, this time around he is going to be charged with a crime simply for being here illegally. That happens to be a crime. But it is a crime which is rarely prosecuted. An effective way to deter illegals would be to start prosecuting them after they have been caught illegally entering the United States, say, 3 times.

ICE doesn't have enough resources to do sweeps and to go after potential terrorists and to try to catch illegal aliens who have also broken other laws.

Currently in Oklahoma (and many other states as well) when local police accidentally come across large groups of illegals (for example, when pulling over vans - click through on this link) the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) tells the police to let them go because ICE doesn't have enough agents or jail space to go around and collect the illegals and process them for deportation. A group of House Republicans would like to provide more resources for border and interior immigration enforcement.

Led by House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R.-Wis.), House Republicans put strong immigration-enforcement provisions in the House version of this bill. These include:

  • Doubling the Border Patrol from 10,000 to 20,000 agents.
  • Tripling the number of ICE investigations officers, who enforce immigration laws in the interior of the country, from 2,000 to 6,000.
  • Mandating that one-half of the new ICE investigations officers be assigned to enforcing immigration laws in the workplace.
  • Guaranteeing that each state gets at least three new ICE officers.
  • Increasing the authority of the Department of Homeland Security to quickly deport illegal aliens from countries other than Mexico rather than release them into the United States pending protracted immigration-court proceedings.
  • Some of the provisions for better immigration enforcement in H.R. 10 mentioned above are opposed by President Bush. See my previous post Bush Opposes 9/11 Commission Border Control Recommendations for the details.

    By Randall Parker 2004 November 02 05:13 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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    Whoever Loses The Presidential Election Missed An Opportunity

    Bryanna Bevens makes the argument that women care greatly about security and would have been attracted by proposals for better border security.

    The strategic blunder: Homeland Security.

    Not the "Homeland Security" policy that launches a 500 billion dollar war in Iraq that in no way secures our homeland or locates any terrorists.

    Women want a more tangible Homeland Security—that reassures us our children will be safe, and in one piece, when we pick them up from school.

    In short, the Homeland Security that has yet to happen.

    Eric Lustbader, quoted in my epigraph above, is right: Women want stability.

    Shutting America’s borders until we can reform our immigration policy to include effective security measures is the simplest, non-violent approach to terrorism.

    Well, to date Bush has been unwilling to pay a high price in terms of abandoning his Hispandering to pursue proper border security. Kerry shows little sign of a willingness to do much better. Neither candidate has come up with an aggressive set of proposals to defend Americans on the edges and entry points of America. Bush has been willing to spend hundreds of billions in Iraq (though clearly he underestimated what he was getting us into there) which was not a major source of terrorists motivated to attack the United States. But Bush did not try to spend even a tenth that amount on border control and tracking of foreigners here.

    What amazes me about this state of affairs is that even though two New York City skyscrapers were knocked down by terrorists the liberal elite is truly so clueless that it hasn't come around to supporting really effective close-in defense as an alternative to Bush's reckless foreign policy.

    This election is a sign to me that the United States needs a new political party. The two main parties seem like they are hopeless. Maybe some future debacle in the Middle East or on the domestic front will shake one of the parties out of their intellectual rut. But so far 9/11 was clearly not enough to break many loose from their ideological moorings.

    By Randall Parker 2004 November 02 01:52 AM  Politics American Domestic
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    2004 November 01 Monday
    Latest Iraq Civilian Death Toll Estimate Too High?

    Some folks at Johns Hopkins just rushed a report on Iraq death tolls into print in the British medical journal The Lancet so it would reach the public before the US election. Coverage by The New Scientist is typical in citing a very high and shocking estimate of Iraqi deaths as a consequence of the invasion.

    The invasion of Iraq in March 2003 by coalition forces has lead to the death of at least 100,000 civilians, reveals the first scientific study to examine the issue. The majority of these deaths, which are in addition those normally expected from natural causes, illness and accidents, have been among women and children, finds the study, released early by The Lancet on Thursday.

    Reuters offers similar coverage.

    The rise in the death rate was mainly due to violence and much of it was caused by U.S. air strikes on towns and cities. "Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq," said Les Roberts of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in a report published online by The Lancet medical journal.

    But the Reuters report brings up the location of most of these estimated deaths: Fallujah.

    Two-thirds of violent deaths in the study were reported in Falluja, the insurgent held city 50 km (32 miles) west of Baghdad which had been repeatedly hit by U.S. air strikes.

    However, the researchers claim to have left out Fallujah's deaths when calculating their estimate for the total number of deaths.

    "We were shocked at the magnitude but we're quite sure that the estimate of 100,000 is a conservative estimate," said Dr. Gilbert Burnham of the Johns Hopkins team. Dr. Burnham said the team excluded data about deaths in Falluja in making their estimate, because that city was the site of unusually intense violence.

    So what to make of this report? Well, over on Slate Fred Kaplan bothered to look at the report and found the key sentence has a 95% confidence interval that ranges over more than an order of magnitude.

    We estimate there were 98,000 extra deaths (95% CI 8000-194 000) during the post-war period.

    That "CI" stands for Confidence Interval. There is a 95% chance that the real increase in casualties is between 8,000 and 194,000. That range is huge. There is nothing "conservative" about the 100,00 estimate. Kaplan goes on to say a great deal more about many problems with the study. Importantly, he argues that the 5 per 100,000 mortality rate that the researchers assume for Iraq before the war is much too low and the real mortality rate before the war might have been very close to the current mortality rate in Iraq. So this whole report's results may be built on one very unrealistic assumption.

    At least the medical journal does acknowledge there are some serious limitations with this study.

    Lancet Editor Richard Horton adds in an accompanying commentary: "The research we publish today was completed under the most testing of circumstances - an ongoing war. And therefore certain limitations were inevitable and need to be acknowledged right away. The number of population clusters chosen for sampling is small; the confidence intervals around the point estimates of mortality are wide; the Falluja cluster has an especially high mortality and so is atypical of the rest of the sample; and there is clearly the potential for recall bias among those interviewed. This remarkable piece of work represents the efforts of a courageous team of scientists. To have included more clusters would have improved the precision of their findings, but at an enormous and unacceptable risk to the team of interviewers who gathered the primary data. Despite these unusual challenges, the central observation - namely, that civilian mortality since the war has risen due to the effects of aerial weaponry - is convincing. This result requires an urgent political and military response if the confidence of ordinary Iraqis in the mostly American-British occupation is to be restored."

    Will some of the Sunni Iraqis in particular tend to exaggerate the death tolls they experienced Also, how many of the civilian casualties happened during the initial invasion and how many have occurred during the occupation?

    Read Fred Kaplan's full article and post your reactions in the comments here.

    By Randall Parker 2004 November 01 01:09 AM  Mideast Iraq
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