2005 May 31 Tuesday
Non-Mexican Illegal Immigrant Surge Underscores Need For Enforcement

Non-Mexican illegal immigration from Mexico is surging.

The U.S. Border Patrol has nabbed 15,195 non-Mexican migrants crossing over the Rio Bravo around Eagle Pass in the past eight months, a rise of almost 240 percent on the same period last year, officials said on Monday.

Agents say what they call "OTMs" -- "other than Mexican migrants" -- now account for 90 percent of all migrant detentions in the sweltering trade and ranching hub of 40,000 people. That is up from the 5 percent to 10 percent nationwide normally recorded by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Mexicans who are caught crossing the border are deported back to Mexico very quickly. But the bulk of Other Than Mexicans (OTMs) are released with orders to appear at a deportation hearing at some future date. Few of those OTMs show up for their hearings. To deport the OTMs the illegal crossers must be held in detention for days or weeks to do legal processing and arrange for transportation (typically flights) back to their countries of origin. But the Border Patrol lack funding to hold all the OTMs for the needed lengths of time. Knowledge of this fact is gradually spreading throughout Latin America and even to more distant places such as the Middle East.

Think about that one year 240% rise of OTMs at Eagle Pass Texas. Effectively the United States now has open borders for non-Mexicans. Unless the Border Patrol's capacity to detain OTMs is greatly increased the flood is going to grow.

Congressman Solomon Ortiz (D-TX), who has served as a sheriff in south Texas, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee - Subcommittee on Immigration on March 3, 2005 says 90% of OTMs never show up for their deportation hearings and organized crime gangs from Central America enter the United States as OTMs.

1. The release of OTMs (other than Mexicans) by the U.S. government. Border law enforcement officers routinely release illegal immigrants into the general population of the U.S. because they do not have sufficient funds and space to detain them at detention facilities. Captured OTMs are released on their own recognizance and are ordered to appear at a deportation hearing weeks after their release. The number of “absconders” – those who never appear for deportation – varies widely, but is said to be 90% of those released, a number now approaching 75,000.

2. The growing number of Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13) gangs, the bloody, violent Central American gangs that are now a serious criminal element in major cities and in states around the country. These gangs are entering the country as OTMs, and gaining easy release.

3. A recent warning to Americans by the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico illustrating the danger of narcotrafficking gangs along the U.S. border directed against Americans in the border area, including kidnapping of American citizens.

Detention facilities and Border Patrol staffing are not keeping pace with the needs.

The Intelligence Reform bill passed by Congress, and signed by the President, mandated 10,000 Border Patrol agents over 10 years, 2,000 annually. The budget received by Congress in early February only funded 210 BP agents. The Border Patrol will lose more than 210 agents to attrition – the strength of the Border Patrol is dwindling. Just this week, 24 more Border Patrol agents were mobilized with the National Guard to the war in Iraq from the McAllen sector alone.

Intelligence Reform mandated an increase of 8,000 beds in detention facilities annually for the next 5 years, still not nearly enough to hold all those coming in to the U.S. Yet, our budget proposal provides for only about 1,900 new detention space beds – over 6,000 beds short of the congressional mandate passed in December 2004.

This is a clear and present danger inside the United States, and the number of released illegal immigrants not returning for deportation grows by the hundreds each week.

Border Patrol agents do not have time to even do background checks on the OTMs to identify and hold the known criminals.

I asked those who stand on our front lines what they would want to say to the U.S. Congress; here’s what they said:
- “Our borders are not secure.”
- “What’s our mission here? We’re spinning our wheels.”
- “The whole system is broken.”
- “We’re releasing OTMs without proper checks due to lack of time and info.”

The Border Patrol caught 39,215 OTMs in 2003 and 65,814 in 2004. The numbers will continue to rise until most OTMs are held for deportation. Terrorists could obviously exploit this route if they got their act together. Middle Easterners enter the US as OTMs from Mexico.

OTM release is just one of the big gaps in immigration law enforcement. Another big gap is the collapse of interior enforcement against employers who hire illegals.

In the Los Angeles area, there are about 400 ICE agents to investigate cases involving narcotics, gangs, port security, criminal immigrants, computer crimes, smuggling and customs violations. They cover seven Southern California counties and part of Nevada.

The last time an employer targeted by the work-site division faced criminal charges here was in 2002, authorities said, when a Pasadena dress shop owner received probation after luring, then imprisoning, an illegal immigrant worker.

"How thin can you stretch roughly 400 employees with all our responsibilities?" Jeffery asked. "Everything is done on a priority basis. That's why the focus may not be the dry cleaners, but rather the power plants."

Any tips that do not involve critical infrastructure, he added, are "put in a file cabinet and filed."

Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies says immigration law enforcement can be improved to deter people from entering the country illegally and to encourage those who are here illegally to leave.

But there is a third way that rejects this false choice, and it is the only approach that can actually work: Shrink the illegal population through consistent, across-the-board enforcement of the immigration law. By deterring the settlement of new illegals, by increasing deportations to the extent possible, and, most importantly, by increasing the number of illegals already here who give up and deport themselves, the United States can bring about an annual decrease in the illegal-alien population, rather than allowing it to continually increase. The point, in other words, is not merely to curtail illegal immigration, but rather to bring about a steady reduction in the total number of illegal immigrants who are living in the United States. The result would be a shrinking of the illegal population to a manageable nuisance, rather than today’s looming crisis.

This is analogous to the approach a corporation might take to downsizing a bloated workforce: a hiring freeze, some layoffs, plus new incentives to encourage excess workers to leave on their own.

It is worth noting that such a strategy of attrition is implicit in many proposals for improved enforcement of the immigration law, such as the recently passed Real ID Act (which, among other things, sought to bars illegals from getting driver’s licenses) and the Clear Act (a bill which, if passed, would systematize the interaction of federal immigration authorities with state and local law enforcement). But however important such specific measures are, they are merely tactics, pieces of a larger puzzle. An overall blueprint for success also needs to be articulated, in order to place such tactics in strategic context for the public, for lawmakers, and for the enforcement personnel assigned to do the job.

Krikorian notes that self-deportation and other means to reducing illegal alien employment have worked in the past. We have precedents for how to make immigration law enforcement work.

During the first several years after the passage of the IRCA, illegal crossings from Mexico fell precipitously, as prospective illegals waited to see if we were serious. Apprehensions of aliens by the Border Patrol – an imperfect measure but the only one available – fell from more than 1.7 million in FY 1986 to under a million in 1989. But then the flow began to increase again as the deterrent effect of the hiring ban dissipated, when word got back that we were not serious about enforcement and that the system could be easily evaded through the use of inexpensive phony documents.

That showed that reducing new illegal immigration is possible; but what about increasing the number of illegals already here who give up and leave? That, too, has already been demonstrated. After the 9/11 attacks, immigration authorities undertook a “Special Registration” program for visitors from Islamic countries. The affected nation with the largest illegal-alien population was Pakistan, with an estimated 26,000 illegals here in 2000. Once it became clear that the government was getting more serious about enforcing the immigration law – at least with regard to Middle Easterners – Pakistani illegals started leaving on their own in large numbers. The Pakistani embassy estimated that more than 15,000 of its illegal aliens left the United States, and the Washington Post reported the “disquieting” fact that in Brooklyn’s Little Pakistan the mosque was one-third empty, business was down, there were fewer want ads in the local Urdu-language paper, and “For Rent” signs sprouted everywhere.6

And in an inadvertent enforcement initiative, the Social Security Administration in 2002 sent out almost a million “no-match” letters to employers who filed W-2s with information that was inconsistent with SSA’s records.7 The intention was to clear up misspellings, name changes, and other mistakes that had caused a large amount of money paid into the system to go uncredited. But, of course, most of the problem was caused by illegal aliens lying to their employers, and thousands of illegals quit or were fired when they were found out. The effort was so successful at denying work to illegals that business and immigrant-rights groups organized to stop it and won a 90 percent reduction in the number of letters to be sent out.8

Americans have to get mad enough about immigration to make politicians enforce immigration laws. Will anger build to a high enough level that elite desires will cease to determine immigration policy?

By Randall Parker 2005 May 31 09:57 AM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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2005 May 29 Sunday
Iraq Aluminum Tubes Intelligence Analysts Rewarded

Two intelligence analysts were very wrong on a question of great importance and were rewarded for their troubles.

Two Army analysts whose work has been cited as part of a key intelligence failure on Iraq -- the claim that aluminum tubes sought by the Baghdad government were most likely meant for a nuclear weapons program rather than for rockets -- have received job performance awards in each of the past three years, officials said.

The civilian analysts, former military men considered experts on foreign and U.S. weaponry, work at the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC), one of three U.S. agencies singled out for particular criticism by President Bush's commission that investigated U.S. intelligence.

The government has failed to punish anyone who carried out the will of George W. Bush.

Despite sharp critiques from the president's commission and the Senate intelligence committee, no major reprimand or penalty has been announced publicly in connection with the intelligence failures, though investigations are still underway at the CIA. George J. Tenet resigned as CIA director but was later awarded the Medal of Freedom by Bush.

Part of the problem here is the normal propensity of government bureaucracies to resist rewarding and punishing based on the quality of work performed. But the Bush Administration places such a high value on loyalty that punishment is unlikely for those who did work which advanced the President's agenda.

My guess: They will find some internal Bush critics and punish them for supposed errors in their analyses. No one loyally serving the President, no matter how incompetently or dishonestly, will be punished.

As for intelligence agencies: We should not expect great performance from them because few of the best minds want to work for the government in general and for intelligence agencies in particular. Plus, their political masters all too often do not want to know the truth.

Update: Back in August 2003 Paul Sperry of World Net Daily reported that the Energy Department official who was put in a powerful position for deciding on Iraq WMD intelligence had no intelligence experience.

The official who represented the Energy Department at a key prewar intelligence meeting on Iraq's alleged new nuclear-weapons program was a human resources manager with no intelligence experience, and was easily swayed by Bush administration hawks, say department insiders.

Though Energy disputed a critical piece of evidence – that Baghdad sought aluminum tubing to make nuclear materials – it nonetheless agreed with the White House's conclusion that Baghdad was reconstituting a nuclear-weapons program. The State Department, in contrast, dissented on both counts.

The conclusion formed the cornerstone of last fall's 90-page Top Secret intelligence report used to justify preemptive war on Iraq.

Ryder overrode energy department analysts who did not think that Saddam was reconstituting his nuclear weapons program.

A former Energy Department intelligence chief who agreed with the White House claim that Iraq had reconstituted its defunct nuclear-arms program was awarded a total of $20,500 in bonuses during the build-up to the war, WorldNetDaily has learned.

Thomas Ryder, as acting director of Energy's intelligence office, overruled senior intelligence officers on his staff in voting for the position at a National Foreign Intelligence Board meeting at CIA headquarters last September.

His officers argued at a pre-briefing at Energy headquarters that there was no hard evidence to support the alarming Iraq nuclear charge, and asked to join State Department's dissenting opinion, Energy officials say.

Ryder ordered them to "shut up and sit down," according to sources familiar with the meeting.

Was he just an incompetent who was accidentally put in charge of something he wasn't qualified to handle? Or did the Bush Administration, having already decided to invade Iraq, fix it so that the Energy Department would give the answer Dubya wanted to hear?

Update: Here's a link to the full text of the Downing Street Memo which shows the Bush Administration decided to overthrow Saddam and then went looking for justiification for their decision. "C" of course is the head of MI6.

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

The decision on the Iraq invasion was not based on real evidence.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 29 03:02 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control
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Nuclear Power Broadly Popular In Iran

Neil MacFarquhar of the New York Times reports from a visit to Iran that the Iranian nuclear development program is very popular with Iranians.

Ehsan Motaghi, a 26-year-old seminary student in Isfahan, cited a parable from Imam Ali, the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law and the inspiration for the Shiite branch of Islam, which most Iranians follow. "They can offer me everything from the earth and heaven, but in exchange if they want me to so much as take the food from an ant's mouth that is his right to eat, I won't do it," he said. "Achieving the peaceful use of technology is really a matter of pride and we will not stop this for anything."

Such passions were echoed in two weeks of conversations with Iranians across all walks of life. Virtually all supported Iran's defying the West and moving ahead with its uranium enrichment program, which carries the threat of further United Nations sanctions.

Note that the Iranians could use nuclear power for electric generators without developing the ability to handle the full nuclear fuel cycle. The development of uranium enrichment technology strikes me as motivated primarily by the desire to build nuclear weapons. Also, for the Iranians natural gas is probably a cheaper source of power for electric generation. Given the development costs the government would be unlikely to pursue nuclear power solely for civilian purposes.

A nuclear power program could be justified as a bargaining chip to use to get international sanctions lifted. But at this point the popularity of the nuclear program would make a complete abandonment of nuclear power difficult to justify to the Iranian people. On one hand part of the public fears the mullahs would use nuclear bombs on missiles to keep themselves in power. On the other hand many of those same Persians feel pride at the notion of the nation possessing nuclear weapons.

Some Iranians want to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes as a matter of national pride. Others want a nuclear deterrent.

But most Iranians, the experts say, fall into two other groups. One believes Iran should use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Another wants Iran to master the nuclear enrichment cycle both to avoid depending on foreign suppliers for nuclear fuel and to be able to move quickly to weapons development if Iran were threatened, either by Israel, the United States or a regional rival. That group sees nuclear power as an insurance policy against a forced change in the government.

The idea that overthrow of the mullahs will stop Iran's nuclear program continues to strike me as naive. Also see my previous posts "Iranian People Not In Pre-Revolutionary Frame Of Mind" and "Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program Seen As Broadly Popular" and Iranians Too Apathetic To Rebel.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 29 12:20 PM  MidEast Iran
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Does China Want To Make The World Safe For Autocracy?

Robert Kagan argues against the conventional wisdom that wise policies can "manage" the rise of China to produce a favorable outcome. Attempts to manage China fly in the face of a historical record of failed attempts "manage" the rise of Germany, Japan, and other powers in the past.

The security structures of East Asia, the Western liberal values that so dominate our thinking, the "liberal world order" we favor -- this is the "international system" into which we would "integrate" China. But isn't it possible that China does not want to be integrated into a political and security system that it had no part in shaping and that conforms neither to its ambitions nor to its own autocratic and hierarchical principles of rule? Might not China, like all rising powers of the past, including the United States, want to reshape the international system to suit its own purposes, commensurate with its new power, and to make the world safe for its autocracy? Yes, the Chinese want the prosperity that comes from integration in the global economy, but might they believe, as the Japanese did a century ago, that the purpose of getting rich is not to join the international system but to change it?

Kagan argues that the Chinese really want to see US influence in Asia to decline and that the values and goals of the Chinese are sufficiently different that US and Chinese interests will inevitably clash. He also argues that the US already has a containment policy toward China even as US policymakers attempt to deny this.

Kagan's essay strikes me as pretty reasonable. Go read the whole thing. China already supports elements of an illiberal world order in North Korea, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere. The extent of China's economic rise will determine the extent of the growth of Chinese influence. If, as I expect, China becomes the wealthiest country in the world illiberal autocracy will gain against liberal democracy.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 29 10:52 AM  China
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Paramilitary Forces Against Iraq Insurgency

Syed Saleem Shahzad, bureau chief for Asia Times in Pakistan, says the United States will use militias to fight against the insurgent militia groups in Iraq.

According to Asia Times Online contacts, these US-backed militias will comprise three main segments - former Kurdish peshmerga (paramilitaries), former members of the Badr Brigade and those former members of the Ba'ath Party and the Iraqi army who were part of the Saddam regime but who have now thrown in their lot with the new Iraqi government.

All three segments have already been equipped with low- and medium-level weapons purchased from various countries, including Pakistan. Military analysts believe the US military in Iraq will use the Kurd and Shi'ite militias to quell the resistance in central and northern Iraq, while in the south the former Ba'athists and old-guard Iraqi soldiers will be used against anti-US Shi'ite groups.

Note the divide and conquer aspect of this. But Kurd and Shia militias operating in the Sunni Triangle lack the ability to collect effective intelligence. Sunnis view Kurds and Shias as outsiders. Kurds and Shias lack ties in local tribal networks.

Paramilitary militias play by more brutal rules. The United States has trained and funded them in El Salvador and other Latin American countries to fight against communists and drug lords. The US government has usually denied funding groups that carry out assassinations and terrorising of civilian populations. Sometimes the US has provided a government with a lot of money and some of that money and probably leaked through to paramilitaries, providing the US with deniability. For example, in Colombia during the early 1990s a paramilitary group called Los Pepes (People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar) conducted assassinations against friends and business associates of Pablo Escobar. Did US special forces and the CIA have direct contact with Los Pepes members? We may never know.

I wonder whether the Asia Times story accurately portrays the division of labor for the paramilitary forces in Iraq. Peter Maass, writing for the New York Times reports that the chief of a 5,000 soldier counter-insurgency force of Special Police Commandos is headed by Adnan Thabit, a Sunni and former Baathist general under Saddam. (same article here)

The template for Iraq today is not Vietnam, to which it has often been compared, but El Salvador, where a rightist government backed by the United States fought a leftist insurgency in a 12-year war beginning in 1980.

The cost there was high - more than 70,000 people were killed, most of them civilians, in a country with a population of just six million. Most of the killing and torturing was done by the army and the rightist death squads affiliated with it.

There are far more Americans in Iraq today - about 140,000 troops in all - than there were in El Salvador, but U.S. soldiers and officers are increasingly moving to a Salvador-style advisory role.

In the process, they are backing up local forces that, like the military in El Salvador, do not shy away from violence. It is no coincidence that this new strategy is most visible in a paramilitary unit that has as its main adviser James Steele, one of the U.S. military's top experts on counterinsurgency. Steele, having been a key participant in the Salvador conflict, knows how to organize a counterinsurgency campaign that is led by local forces.

Maass' article does not provide a religious and ethnic breakdown for the troops under General Adnan's command. Too many Sunnis in such a command and it will be riddled with spies reporting to the opposition. Too few Sunnis and the soldiers will lack the knowledge, contacts, and skills for operating in the Sunni Triangle.

If anyone comes across more detailed information about ethnic and religious identities of the Iraqi paramilitaries supported by the United States please post in the comments or send me an email. If the paramilitaries can not hunt down the bulk of the insurgents then either a partition or a brutal large scale Shia-Sunni civil war or perhaps even reestablishment of a Sunni regime become probable outcomes.

At this point the US military probably has two choices: Try to harness and form Shiite paramilitaries to fight under US supervision or stand by while the Shiites, furious over killings of Shia by Sunnis, exact revenge without US involvement. The Shiites are hitting back against the Sunnis. (same article here)

No one is sure how long Sistani can hold back the Shiite masses from exacting wholesale retribution — in fact many Sunni Arabs fear it has already begun.

Newly emboldened police commando squads have raided Sunni mosques and arrested Sunni religious leaders, who call them Shiite avengers.

A car bomb exploded April 30 outside the Baghdad headquarters of a Sunni political organization, the National Dialogue Council. Members blame the Shiite-dominated security forces or allied paramilitaries, but the bombers may have been Sunni insurgents outraged at the council's perceived collaboration with the new government.

"The definition of civil war is when the Shiites on the ground start to hit back," said Hussein Shahristani, a top Sistani aide and first deputy speaker of the National Assembly.

Whether the Shias, either on their own or under US supervision, can effectively put down the Sunni insurgency remains to be seen. The Shias outnumber the Sunnies over 3 to 1. But the Sunnis could respond to killings of Sunnis by Shias with their own escalating retaliatory killings.

Sunni and Shia organizations are accusing each other of carrying out targetted killings.

In an effort to mitigate escalating sectarian tensions, officials from the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, considered close to some insurgent groups, met with representatives from the Badr Brigades the military wing of Iraq's largest Shiite party, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Organized by the anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the gathering aimed to smother accusations that began earlier this month when the association's leader, Harith al-Dhari, accused the Badr Brigades of killing Sunnis and executing their clerics. A number of Shiite clerics were also killed.

The brigades not only denied the charges, they accused the Sunni association of failing to condemn the insurgency and of trying to ''push Iraq into a sectarian conflict.''

Some Iraqis figure the Americans are omnipotent and hence any violence results from American plots.

"I only want to put this question to you," said Sana Abdul-Kareem, a dentist with four children. "Why can't the U.S., with all its might and capabilities, impose security here? How come with all our oil they cannot provide us with electricity? My son was so happy when the American soldiers first came. But after two years of failure to make good on their promises, he abhors them."

Baghdad resident Ali Jalal said: "The Americans are behind these problems. They don't want the country to be stabilized…. The Iraqi government is like a doll in the hands of the Americans."

Maybe larger scale Shiite retaliations will shock the Sunni leaders out of their support for attacks against Shias. Will the Shiites identify the Sunni insurgents fairly accurately? Will most of the Sunnis killed by Shias really be insurgents? Or will the Sunni insurgents so effectively target Shia leaders and police that increasing portions of Iraq will become effectively ungoverned?

By Randall Parker 2005 May 29 10:26 AM  Mideast Iraq
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2005 May 26 Thursday
Infanticide And The Affordability Of Religious Taboos

Back on April 14, 2005 Razib at the Gene Expresson blog wrote a post arguing that opposition to infanticide couldn't have caused a shift to Roman Catholic Christianity via natural selection because the conversion happened too rapidly for natural selection to play a substantial role.

But there is another layer to this issue, there is often a difference between ideology and practice. Unlike the pagan Gauls the Roman Catholic French of the 18th century opposed infanticide on principle. But in reality the mortality rates were in excess of 90% before the age of five for many of the "foundling" orphanages where parents who could not or would not raise their infants abdicated their responsibility. Though de jure there was no infanticide, the reality is that the morality rate for these foundlings was so high that the reproductive difference attributable solely to the abolishment of infanticide might have been minimal. Additionally, many individuals married extremely late or remained unmarried.

My point is that all the contentions above are "true" to some extent. Fisher's genetical logic is clear. The pro-natalist ideology of early Christianity and Islam in contrast to the more ambivalent attitude of the pagans is also textually attributed. Scholars who study the rates of pre-modern adoption and abandonment also find that the de facto difference between cultures that exist in the same environment3 but espouse different ideologies is far less than one would gather from the official textual sources which address the point specifically.

Think about the last sentence in that excerpt. Here's my approximate guess: Coexisting believers in rival religions will have lives more similar to each other than their religious texts would lead you to expect if they are very poor. But as their living standards rise they will be able to afford to more accurately live according to their doctrinal beliefs and hence forgotten practices for each religion will be dusted off and increasingly obeyed.

For example, Razib's post discusses infanticide. I've read the late John Boswell's The Kindness of Strangers about child abandonment in Europe from the Middle Ages into the 19th century (and I forget the exact time range he covered, but something along that order). The book surprises because he reported child abandonment rates on the order of 20% to 30% in early 19th century France (if memory serves). Well, necessity is a mother. But once living standards rose due to the industrial revolution religious prohibitions against infanticide were translated into law and enforcement of the law. Once necessity ceased to make child abandonment a necessity for most people anyone who still engaged in the practice faced increasingly stiff sanctions.

Similarly, oil rich Saudi Arabia has enough money to afford the construction of facilities that separate men from women. My guess is that the separation of men and women was less thorough back before the modern oil era because people had to work in various capacities just to survive and could not afford to devote as much time and resources to getting work done in ways that separated men and women.

Of course, when industrialization causes a falling away from religious belief then the same rising living standards that make enforcement of more religious rules more affordable also reduce the percentage of the population that believe in the religious rules in the first place. But absent the decline in religious belief I would expect rising living standards to, in effect, fund stricter adherence to religious taboos and customs.

Also, I've also previously argued (not sure where, maybe on GNXP's blog comments) that the influence of religious texts on the nature of how religions are actually practiced has become greater due to falling costs of printing, wider spread literacy, and the rise of electronic means of communication. Therefore differences between written texts and common beliefs about religions found hundreds of years ago do not prove that today any particular religion's practice can diverge as far from the rules in written texts as was possible when reading of those texts was rarer.

To put this in a nutshell: As compared to the distant past people today can more easily afford both to learn and to carry out "correct" religious practices. That does not mean that people will always engage in religious practices that are closer to all the instructions found in original base texts of assorted religions. Some rules may seem a smaller sacrifice to obey and so people will obey them. Other rules which demand sacrifices that cut too heavily against the grain of human desire will have complex rationalizations built up around them explaining why one does not always have to obey them. But many rules will be obeyed when doing so becomes more affordable. The taboo against infanticide provides a good example for this.

Update: On the subject of how much the base texts of a religion determine religious belief also see Razib's post Islam: essential and nominal. On a related note also see his post Ayaan Hirsi Ali interviewed.

Another point of my own: How a religion is interpreted is also a function of the cognitive abilities and the conceptual toolbox of the interpreter. A dummy is going to tend to reach conclusions about the meaning of various passages in a text based on what that dummy can even imagine. If you could poll, say, 1000 IQ 80 adherents to Islam and 1000 IQ 100 adherents and 1000 IQ 120 adherents and ask them all a long list of questions about their religion you'd get substantial differences between the 3 groups. The smarter folks are going to build a more complicated model, consider more factors, notice more patterns and meanings (whether real or imagined) in the texts of the religion. The same would happen if one repeated the same polling with Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians for that matter.

A society with a single unified church will produce a different dominant interpretation than will a society which has a religion split up into a set of sects where people with different levels of status and intellectual ability join different sects.

One final point: In a less developed society back before industrialization where the bulk of the population was illiterate and worked from dawn to dusk those workers literally had no time to study religious matters. Under those circumstances the elites dominated formulation of religious doctrines. If those elites were smarter on average (and they probably were even a thousand years ago) then a religion's character was determined more by smarter elites than by dumber masses. Industrialization, by producing more time for study for the masses effectively shifted the center of religious interpretation toward the masses and away from the elites.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 26 03:51 PM  Culture Compared
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Zimbabwe Government Wants Return Of White Farmers

After seizing the land from over 90% of the white farmers in Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe's government wants the white farmers to come back to lease their former lands to farm.

White farmers may be allowed back on their land in Zimbabwe as part of a plan by the government of Robert Mugabe to solve the country's deepening economic crisis.

The president's key finance aide has called for some of the farmers whose properties were confiscated in a land seizure programme to be allowed to resume growing crops to boost the country's flagging agricultural output.

Gideon Gono, governor of the central bank and Mr Mugabe's main policy maker, made the proposal as he announced a 31% devaluation of the Zimbabwe currency.

With over half the farms seized from whites now lying fallow and the economy down 40% in the last 5 years Zimbabwe's government boldly shows the world where South Africa is headed in perhaps 15 or 20 years. Think I'm exaggerating? In January 2003 the South African labour minister found Mugabe's land program much to his liking.

The South Africa labour minister, Membathisi Mdladlana, said in Zimbabwe yesterday that his country had a lot to learn from President Robert Mugabe's programme of land reform.

"You don't need a weather vane to know which way the wind blows".

Price controls make a resumption of white farming unattractive even if the white farmers thought they could trust the government to uphold their end of a deal.

"The GMB set the buying price of maize but, given rapid inflation, this price was unattractive, so farmers had little incentive to invest in intensified production and generate a surplus of maize," the researchers said.

In the last week the government has arrested over 10,000 people for trading at unregulated prices and in banned markets.

Angry residents of Zimbabwe's capital clashed with police on Wednesday, damaging property and vehicles in the first major protest against a crackdown on illegal traders and hawkers, police said on Thursday.

The government is waging war against the informal economy.

So police have raided flea markets, demolished temporary buildings housing small convenience stores, and set up roadblocks throughout the city. With the formal economy in a tailspin, many people had taken up street vending - selling cellphone recharge cards or loaves of bread - to subsist. And now they're being targeted, with critics noting that urban residents are also supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

This will drive the economy down even further.

The extent of Zimbabwe's decline is breathtaking.

After seven years of unprecedented economic decline, 80 percent of the work force is unemployed and 4 million of Zimbabwe's 16 million people have emigrated. Agriculture, once the mainstay, has been hard hit by Mugabe's seizure of 5,000 white-owned farms for redistribution to blacks.

Mugabe has made a deal to bring in a new Chinese colonial class.

Since western countries imposed sanctions on the Mugabe regime three years ago for failing to uphold democracy, the rule of law, and human rights, the Zimbabwean leader has responded by looking East. Mugabe himself vigorously courted Chinese businessmen to invest in Zimbabwe, who in the last three years have descended on Harare and the country's other major cities, setting up shop at every street corner to sell cheap clothing and electronic goods.

...

One local academic joked that Mugabe had "yellow fever" since he can only see allies in Asia, which he knows will not criticize his oppressive policies. But the academic also raised a more serious point: Mugabe is throwing his own political cronies off tobacco growing land and oppressing street hawkers in towns to make way for the Chinese; and he is selling out his country to the Chinese in order to cling to power.

What does the rise of China translate into? Support for the worst sorts of governments.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 26 11:03 AM  Chaotic Regions
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2005 May 24 Tuesday
Congressional Group Proposes National Guard Deployment On Mexican Border

According to Jerry Seper a new report written by investigators for the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus claims that the National Guard in the US southern border states could stop all illegal immigration across the US-Mexico border.

The deployment of 36,000 National Guard troops or state militia on the U.S.-Mexico border would stop the illegal flow of foreigners into America, says a congressional report that credits the Minuteman Project with proving that additional manpower could "dramatically reduce if not virtually eliminate" illegal immigration.

State militias could also be funded to accomplish the task.

As an alternative to using existing powers and forces, the report said, a $2.5 billion annual initiative coordinated through the states for the issuance of Homeland Security grants could authorize and fund state militia, or state defense forces, to assist the Border Patrol. State militia units already exist in 22 states, including Maryland and Virginia. Militia units also are located in the border states of California, New Mexico and Texas.

We have illegal immigration because effective border control policies are blocked by politicians. Some open borders advocates claim that border control is impossible.

If anyone can find a link to this 33 page report please post it in the comments or send it to me by email.

Putting a large number of National Guard or militia members out on the southern border should be seen as a stop-gap measure before a more formidable barrier is built on the entire length of the almost 2000 mile border.

Estimates for the cost of Israel's barrier fence with the West Bank range upward toward $2 billion dollars with per mile costs ranging from $3 million to $3.5 million to $4.15 million.

Now the government is calling for a total of some 500 miles of fencing by the end of 2005, at an estimated cost of $4.15 million a mile.

Even at $4.15 million per mile a barrier on the US border with Mexico would still be under $10 billion and therefore cost less than one year of illegal alien health care.

Smaller sections the Israeli barrier are concrete walls in order to prevent sniping.

Only a tiny fraction of the barrier (less than 3% or about 15 miles) is actually a 30 foot high concrete wall, and that is being built in specific locations where it will prevent Palestinian snipers from shooting at cars as they have done for the last three years along the Trans-Israel Highway, one of the country's main roads. The remainder is a fence similar to that used throughout the United States, but with a network of barriers, underground and long-range sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles, trenches, land mines and guard paths. Passage through the fence will only be permitted through guarded gates.

I'd really like to know what the cost per mile is for their higher security sections. Also, what is the cost per mile of the thicker barrier section of the San Diego border with Mexico? That section has fences and a concrete wall. Those two numbers would set upper bounds for the cost of a deluxe barrier that would reduce on-going labor costs.

We'd probably want to dispense with the landmines.

Most of the barrier will be a chain-link type fence similar to those used all over the United States combined with underground and long-range sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles, trenches, landmines and guard paths. Manned checkpoints will constitute the only way to travel back and forth through the fence. The barrier is altogether about 160 feet wide in most places.

Layers of fences and other obstacles combined with sensors would slow down any attempted border crossers and give border patrol personnel time to reach illegal border crossers before they could travel far inland. An effective barrier would cause many would-be crossers to give up trying entirely. Others would cross at much slower speeds and be detected before making it through the barrier region. This would reduce the number of border patrol personnel needed for effective border control.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 24 07:52 AM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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2005 May 23 Monday
Texas Standard School Test Results Are Warning On Immigration

The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test which 12th graders must pass to get a high school diploma is flunking almost 1 in 10 of Texas 12th graders. (requires free registration)

AUSTIN – Nearly one of every 10 high school seniors – more than 21,000 students from the Class of '05 – can't get a diploma this month because they couldn't pass some portion of the state graduation test after multiple tries, the Texas Education Agency reported Friday.

Minority failure rates were particularly alarming. Fifteen percent of black students and 14 percent of Hispanics – about one in seven – flunked one or more subject areas of the test. The failure rate for whites was 5 percent.

This is the very same Texas where George W. Bush wanted us to believe back in 2000 that he put blacks and Hispanics in Texas on an accelerated learning track with his educational policy changes. Any politician who claims he has greatly improved the outcomes in some state's educational system is a liar.

The TAKS test failures do not even begin to measure the racial differences in educational outcomes in Texas. Texas already has the nation's highest high school drop-out rate and that rate is of course much higher for blacks and Hispanics. Therefore about half of Hispanics do not even stay in school long enogh to take TAKS in the 12th grade.

The TAKS results are incredibly unsurprising. Racial differences in academic performance are pretty stable and substantial. Stefan and Abigail Thernstrom, in their book America In Black And White, compared races by showing what white equivalent grade level of knowledge Hispanics and blacks have achieved when they are in 12th grade.

"… Blacks nearing the end of their high school education perform a little worse than white eighth-graders in both reading and U.S. history, and a lot worse in math and geography. In math and geography, indeed, they know no more than whites in the seventh grade. Hispanics do only a little better than African-Americans. In reading and U.S. history, their NAEP scores in their senior year of high school are a few points above those of whites in eighth grade. In math and geography, they are a few points lower."

Students in the 3rd and 5th grades can not advance to the following grade unless they pass the TAKS test for their grade level. Imagine what could result from holding back kids multiple times. Instead of 17 year old Hispanic kids starting 12th grade if they get held back 4 times until they manage to achieve the minimum standard in earlier grades they could end up 17 years old and in 8th grade. Sound unbelievable? But the Thernstroms report that the average Hispanic or black 12th grader is at the same level of knowledge as the average with 8th grader.

Steve Sailer found data that allowed him to separate 1st generation Hispanic immigrants from later generations.

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

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

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

Exactly as I predicted!

Here is yet more evidence that the Hispanic-white educational achievement gap does not close in later generations.

What will American politicians do as the years go by and the use of standard tests and tough requirements for advancement between grades does not close the performance gap between the races? Tough standards will further reduce the number of blacks and Hispanics who get high school diplomas. Will politicians continue to support tough standards as that happens?

The United States should stop the massive Hispanic immigrant influx and it is time we deported all the illegal aliens. The US also needs to raise standards for legal immigrants to assure they and their descendants will be able to perform well in US schools and in the job market.

Students who can not perform well enough to pass tougher tests for high school diplomas ought to be given the opportunity to learn economically useful skills which require less intellectual ability. Most of those students who are not going to cut it academically will still enter the labor force and we woud all be better off if they entered the job market with some vocational training. But those kinds of training are not going to be offered widely enough as long as politicians and pundits pretend that everyone can and should aspire to attend college.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 23 09:13 PM  Immigration Societal Decay
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2005 May 22 Sunday
Lessons From The Newsweek Koran Episode

Recently Muslim in several countries rioted in response to a Newsweek article claimings Korans were kicked around and flushed down a toilet by Guantanamo interrogators in order to break down Muslim interrogation subjects. Robert Spencer argues for seeing the Muslim response to the report as the biggest problem.

When in April EBay offered a consecrated host for sale, imagine if Catholics had rioted and seventeen people were killed.

The media would have been full of stories about the dark side of the “Christian Right.”

Imagine if, when Muslims desecrated the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus in 2000, destroying it with hammers, rampaging Jewish mobs had killed dozens of Palestinians.

The establishment media response would again have inundated us with stories about the heroic Palestinians and their Israeli oppressors.

Neither of those things really happened. But seventeen people have been killed and hundreds wounded in riots by Muslims since Newsweek published its story about an American interrogator flushing a Qur’an down the toilet at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

Spencer says the biggest problem here is that Muslims in many countries would respond to the Newsweek article by rioting and killing in the first place.

Spencer argues there have been wrong two main reactions to the Newsweek story: First, on Right some argue that Newsweek was irresponsible for running the story and should be blamed for the result. Some make that argument based on the point that the story might not be true. Others go further and say regardless of whether the story is true Newsweek shouldn't have run it because basically we know how those Muslims would react. In this line of thinking the media have an obligation in the war against terrorist, radical Islamic, or whatever we are fighting to not provide material suitable for propaganada.

The second reaction, coming mostly from the Left, argues that we shouldn't have done stuff like reports of prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo or the invasion of Iraq or support for Israel or assorted other things that have made Muslims feel aggrieved. This argument assumes moral responsibility rests chiefly on the shoulders of white males or America and that anyone non-European, non-white, or culturally non-Western is either not morally rseponsible for what they do or automatically justified due as a result of victimhood from Western white male oppression.

But both of these reactions are misguided. The Muslim reaction to the Newsweek story - like the Muslim reaction to Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses or the Muslims reaction to Theo van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali's movie Submission - is radically different than, say, the reaction to Andres Serrano's Piss Christ. No one killed Serrano. He didn't have to go under 24 hour a day police protection and go into hiding. The Muslim reaction is an assertion of the moral legitimacy of measures to protect their religion from any and all criticism. That assertion is incompatible with classical Western liberalism and that assertion makes Islam incompatible with Western society.

If the critics of the Bush Administration handling of interrogations at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and other sites wanted to state "Well, given that Muslims believe in a religion that asserts its supremancy and demands unversal subservience to Muslim religious claims and given that we need to avoid insulting their illiberal sensitivities in order to fight terrorism we have got to give deference to Islam that it doesn't deserve" then I could see seriously considering their argument. But of course they aren't going to say that.

One Muslim semi-Westernized intellectual claims that mistreatment of the Koran is spiritual torture.

'This is the ultimate spiritual torture,'' said Muqtedar Khan, a non-resident fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution who studies Islam and world politics. ''If this was done, it is the ultimate blow.''

Think about that. Seriously, should all the people in the world be forced to treat some book as sacred just because the adherents of a single religion claim that noone should be able to mistreat it? This sounds like a global equivalent of the push for a constitutional amendment to ban US flag burning.

Often the wiser course may be to avoid insulting a person's or group's beliefs or values. But if we can't insult some group's beliefs without getting marked for death (e.g. Salman Rushdie or Theo van Gogh) then we are less free regardless of whether we insult them or not. I don't want to live in a society like Holland where some elected officials live under police protection due to their criticisms of Islam.

Muslims responded to the Newsweek report on Koran abuse by rioting in several countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indonesia.

By the end of the week, the rioting had spread from Afghanistan throughout much of the Muslim world, from Gaza to Indonesia. Mobs shouting "Protect our Holy Book!" burned down government buildings and ransacked the offices of relief organizations in several Afghan provinces. The violence cost at least 15 lives, injured scores of people and sent a shudder through Washington, where officials worried about the stability of moderate regimes in the region.

Laura Bush states the obvious.

"In the United States, if there's a terrible report, people don't riot and kill other people," she said. "And you can't excuse what they did because of the mistake - you know, you can't blame it all on Newsweek."

Differences in values between different cultures are large and in many cases incompatible. Will Laura Bush learn any lessons about incompatible cultures from this episode? If she does will she try to teach them to George?

Azza Basarudin, a UCLA graduate student in Middle Eastern Studies, recently complained that when she bought a used Koran on Amazon.com from Bellwether books she discovered that someone had written "Death to all Muslims" on the inside cover. She reacted to this as if she were being persecuted and complained to the Muslim Public Affairs Council which proceeded to lodge a series of complaints and draw press attention to the incident. Daniel Pipes sees this as another example of Muslims demanding special rights for their religion at the expense of the freedom of the American public at large.

(5) The idea that a Muslim has the right, without proof, to accuse a non-Muslim of blasphemy, as Basarudin and MPAC have done, brings to mind the notorious anti-blasphemy laws in force in Pakistan. There, as the World Council of Churches explained in 2000, those laws "have become a major tool in the hands of extremists to settle personal scores against members of the religious minorities particularly Christians." In the United States, the blasphemy accusation serves as the basis for a Jesse Jackson-like corporate shakedown (note MPAC's demand for Amazon to fund its programming).

(6) That Amazon suspended Bellwether from selling Korans via Amazon is a symbolic punishment rather than a substantive one, but it matters nonetheless. Can one imagine any other book's defacement leading to such a penalty?

(7) This episode is yet another instance of Islamist organizations relentlessly seeking special privileges for Islam. At a time when American Catholics must endure "art" that consists of the crucifix in urine and a Virgin Mary made in part of elephant dung, why should American Muslims be indulged in their exquisite sensibilities? As Stephen Schwartz keeps repeating, if Islam is to flourish in America, it must adapt to America.

Used book reseller Bellwether Books should not be held responsible for what is written inside a used book. When you buy a used book over the web you are taking a very obvious gamble on ripped pages, scrawed comments, highlighting markets, and all the rest. No groups which attempts to elevate an insult written in a book should be able to demand any sort of restitution or donation to its cause by book sellers (as MPAC has predictably tried to do with Amazon). My attitude: Grow a thicker skin or emigrate. If you don't like freedom of speech then leave.

View from the Right blogger Lawrence Auster, respondng to the Pipes article, argues for an even more drastic response to illiberal Islam: Deportation.

Stories like this need to be covered, but the problem is, we can keep writing about these things forever and it will make no essential difference. The curse of having these fanatics in our face will continue. If we don’t want ourselves and all the generations that come after us to have to keep dealing with this stuff, there’s only one answer: initiate a net out-migration of Muslims from the U.S and the West, year after year, until the numbers of those that remain are tiny, their Muslim identity weak, and their power non-existent.

You, Mr. Pipes, want to manage the Muslim problem, a job that will never end and that leaves them in our face, forever. I and the people who think like me want to solve the Muslim problem.

Whether Auster's preferred response is reasonable depends in large part on the nature of Islam. Auster's response will seem illiberal by many. But if the more pessimistic Western interpretations of Islam are correct then toleration of Islam amounts of toleration of intolerance. In my view the Dutch ought to deport every single Muslim who says Theo van Gogh or Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Rita Verdonk or Job Cohen or Ahmed Aboutaleb deserve to be killed.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalian immigrant to the Netherlands who is an elected member of the Dutch Parliament, has renounced Islam. With the slain Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh she made the film Submission which offers a highly critical view of Islam. Radical Muslims in the Netherlands assassinated van Gogh and Hirsi Ali now lives under constant and mostly secluded guard due to numerous death threats she has received from Muslims in the Netherlands. Hirsi Ali advocates a complete stop of Muslim immigration into Europe and in favor of an intellectual revolution in Islam that is in some respects analogous to the outcome of the Protestant Reformation.

Hirsi Ali argues that there is less a problem with migration in general, than with its Muslim component in particular, and that she should know, because she is herself a Muslim migrant. Hopes for a moderate Islam are only meaningful, she argues, if it is possible to chip away the theological brickwork - constructed, she believes, on a foundation of female oppression - which permeates the structure of the religion. But Islam, she says, is unable to endure criticism or change, and is essentially at odds with European values. With up to 20 million Muslims living in the EU, the journey she has taken in the past 16 years from Africa to Europe, from asylum seeker to politician, and from devotion to apostasy, has come to appear central to the story of the crisis of multiculturalism on the continent. This month, Time magazine selected her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world - an odd but remarkable acknowledgement for a 35-year-old Somali who four years ago was unknown, even in the Netherlands.

Note, however, that the early stages of the Protestant Reformation were highly intolerant of anyone who didn't adhere to the dominant Protestant Chuch in each area of Europe where new non-Catholic Churches developed. The Protestant Reformation took centuries to play out. Changes in beliefs have to take place across generations since many people will not change their beliefs as they get older. Therefore while I wish success to those who are trying to reform Islam as a practical matter we have to accept that as things now stand Islam is not compatible with a free Western liberal society. Also, the basic underlying texts of Islam strike me as more problematic for a reformation than the Bible was for Christianity. Islam's texts just leave less wiggle room for a reinterpretation.

The other problem with the prospects for an Islamic reformation is that the Islamic societies just do not have the general level of intellectual ferment that would support an religious intellectual revolution. While I do not have any statistics handy the figures in the past I've seen appallingly low figures on the rate of new books published in Arabic, for example. The Arab countries are not full of readers and thinkers who are eagerly seeking out new ways to look at life, society, and religion. So I don't see how a serious intellectual revolution in Islam could spread in Muslim countries.

Allowing Muslims to immigrate to the West might be justifiable from the standpoint of grand strategy if those Muslims living in the West would start an intellectual movement that would reform all of Islam along more liberal and tolerant lines. But the number of Muslim living in Western societies is already large enough to allow newer and more liberal intellectual strains of Islam to develop. Further Muslim immigration into the West seems imprudent and may well be folly.

Thanks to Raj for the pointer to the Guardian article on Ayaan Hirsi Ali and thanks to Rochi Ebner for the pointer to the Robert Spencer article.

Update: Writing for the sometimes conservative National Review Online Andrew McCarthy takes on knee jerk right wing partisan attacks on Newsweek as missing the point.

The outpouring of righteous indignation against Newsweek glides past a far more important point. Yes, we're all sick of media bias. But "Newsweek lied and people died" is about as worthy a slogan as the scurrilous "Bush lied and people died" that it parrots. And when we engage in this kind of mindless demagoguery, we become just another opportunistic plaintiff — no better than the people all too ready to blame the CIA because Mohammed Atta steered a hijacked civilian airliner into a big building, and to sue the Port Authority because the building had the audacity to collapse from the blow.

...

Sorry, but I couldn't care less about Newsweek. I'm more worried about the response and our willful avoidance of its examination. Afghanistan has been an American reconstruction project for nearly four years. Pakistan has been a close American "war on terror" ally for just as long. This is what we're getting from the billions spent, the lives lost, and the grand project of exporting nonjudgmental, sharia-friendly democracy? A killing spree? Over this?

I'm surprised that NRO would run an article so critical of thoughtless right wing demagoguery. Good for them.

McCarthy complains about the "soft bigotry of low expectations" coming from right-wingers (I hesitate to call them conservatives) who support democracy building in the Muslim countries. Well, low expectations certainly are at least inconsistent with support for democracy promotion as a key strategy in reduce the risk of terrorism. But what is wrong? The low expectations or the support for democracy building? In my view a realistic realistic appraisal of all the available evidence on the Muslim countries leads logically to low expectations. Therefore the neocon Bush Administration project to export "sharia-friendly democracy" is an exercise in folly.

Yes Andrew, we just got a killing spree, over this. Integrate this evidence into your view of the Muslim countries.

If you are not a long time ParaPundit reader and haven't read all my posts on why democracy is not a panacea check out some of my older posts on democracy: "Prospect Of Democracy Breeding Ethnic Hatred In Iraq" and "Robert Conquest On The Limits And Pitfalls Of Democracy" and "History Of American Interventions Bodes Poorly For Democracy" and "Democracy Requires A Supporting Set Of Beliefs" and "Will Democracy Make Middle East Governments More Anti-American?" and "Low Per Capita Income Countries Never Remain Democracies" and "A Critical Look At Natan Sharanky's Democracy Argument".

By Randall Parker 2005 May 22 04:02 PM  Immigration Culture Clash
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2005 May 19 Thursday
US Officers In Iraq Offer Bleaker Assessment Of War Progress

Eric Schmitt and John Burns of the New York Times say US officers who a few months ago were offering very optimistic assessments of progress in Iraq are now offering much more negative views. (same article here)

In interviews and briefings this week, some of the generals pulled back from recent suggestions, some by the same officers, that positive trends in Iraq could allow a major drawdown in the 138,000 American troops late this year or early in 2006. One officer suggested Wednesday that American military involvement could last "many years."

...

But the officer said that despite Americans' recent successes in disrupting insurgent cells, which have resulted in the arrest of 1,100 suspects in Baghdad alone in the past 80 days, the success of American goals in Iraq was not assured.

"I think that this could still fail," the officer said at the briefing, referring to the American enterprise in Iraq. "It's much more likely to succeed, but it could still fail."

...

"I think it's going to succeed in the long run, even if it takes years, many years," he said.

...

One of starkest revelations by the commanders involved the surge in car bombings, the principal insurgent weapon in attacks over the past three weeks that have killed nearly 500 people across central and northern Iraq, about half of them Iraqi soldiers, police officers and recruits.

...

The senior officer who met with reporters in Baghdad said there had been 21 car bombings in the capital in May, and 126 in the past 80 days. All last year, he said, there were only about 25 car bombings in Baghdad.

The car bombing rate is up by an order of magnitude. Yet, supposedly the US military is making progress against the insurgency. Also, the 500 Iraqi people killed in the last 3 weeks works out to an annual rate of over 8500. Given that half of them are Iraqi security foces the Iraqi security forces are experiencing a death rate of over 4200 per year. But Iraq's population of 26 million is about an eleventh of the US population. So to scale up that death rate to the US population level imagine that we were experiencing about 47,000 military deaths and an equal number of civilian deaths per year from a civil war or rebellion.

Japan looks set to join Honduras, Italy, Ukraine, the Netherlands, Spain, and Poland (and did I miss any country?) in withdrawing their troops from Iraq.

The police are crucial and the police are lagging.

Iraqi army units have slowly become better trained and disciplined. But the police, who make up one-third of Iraq's security forces, have made fewer gains and are more prone to corruption, said Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command.

...

"Ultimately the police become more important in the final stages of the insurgency than the military," Abizaid said.

The Bush administration says the Iraqi police are adequately trained and equipped, a view not shared by U.S. commanders in Iraq.

The statements of the political appointees in the White House and Pentagon can not be trusted. The US officers in Iraq see a very tough situation and believe the war will last for years. These officers obviously do not want to fail. But note that their optimistic assessment is a war that lasts for many years which we eventually win.

Brian Michael Jenkins, a senior advisor to the president of the Rand Corporation, says the pattern in the Middle East is easy conquest followed by much more difficult occupation.

''IT IS EASY to conquer an Arab country," observed the general. But drawing on years of experience in the Middle East, he added that the Arabs' ''natural inclination to rebellion makes it difficult for the invader to maintain his control."

This prescient warning came in 1957 from Sir John Glubb, a British general who fought Iraqi insurgents in the 1920s.

Jenkins says we might make progress and gradually bring the insurgency under control. On the other hand, he also says the whole thing could fall apart.

On the other hand, insurgents could carry out spectacular and costly attacks against US forces, undermining claims of progress and strengthening arguments for prompt withdrawal.

Iraq could collapse into fighting between religious and ethnic groups leading to even more disorder and violence. A tragic error in targeting or new revelations of abuse by coalition forces could intensify hostility in Iraq and cause revulsion in the United States.

The police in Iraq are neutralized by bribes, threats, and killings.

"The US needs to reorganise its intelligence system. Most of the resources - platforms, analysts - are at the national and strategic level. We have to decentralise and get the assets down to the tactical level. We rely on technical means but the insurgency disarms technology. It is mainly a human endeavour."

The US is trying to build Iraq's fledgling security forces and new intelligence bodies but, judging from the insurgents' ability to kill police chiefs and kidnap regional governors, there is evidence that the new Iraqi security apparatus is deeply penetrated by insurgent sympathisers.

There are unconfirmed stories of police chiefs being appointed only to be turned against the coalition within months through bribes and threats.

James Atticus Bowden, a former Army officer who served as a company commander, says Rumsfeld is McNamara.

Additionally, the big shock and awe bombing campaign was a bust. It didn’t collapse the regime. It killed civilians and destroyed records that would be very useful for the nationwide intelligence needed to restore security. Clearly, Rumsfeld thought the war meant defeat Hussein and get out. The plans called for a reduction from about 150,000 U.S. troops rapidly down to 30,000. How could the Sec Def not know there would be an Occupation?

The colonels at the Army War College knew it. The Army Chief of Staff, GEN. Eric Shinseki, who was let go, knew it. Just like they knew, and recommended, to keep the Iraqi Army on the payrolls, intact, and selectively weed out the Baathist bad guys.

Rumsfeld didn’t understand the fundamentals of the war, which war, OIF was. Our forces on the ground did well to overcome the failures of understanding and planning. But, it cost us.

Bowden is quite correct about the occupation. Then Army chief of staff General Eric Shinseki did say a few hundred thousand soldiers would be needed for an occupation. The US Army is hard pressed to even maintain current troop levels. Recruitment is declining. Short of instituting a draft can the US military fight in Iraq for years to come? Also, will US public opinion move so far against the war that continuation of the war will become politically impossible? Any predictions?

To those who support continuation of the US fight against the Iraqi insurgents I have a question: How many more years of war do you think it is worth fighting? 2 years? 5 years? 10 years? If you knew it would take 20 years to defeat the insurgency would you still be for keeping over a hundred thousand US soldiers in Iraq for 20 years? Also, what benefits to US national interests do you expect to see from fighting there many years?

Thanks to Greg Cochran for the first link.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 19 08:39 AM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs
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Native Worker Employment Drops Greatest In High Immigrant States

Steven A. Camarota, Director of Research, Center for Immigration Studies, testifed on May 4, 2005 before the US Congress House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims. Camarota argued that immigrants are displacing Americans from jobs and driving down wages and benefits.

Prior to the economic slowdown that began in 2000, I had generally assumed that the primary impact of immigration would have been to reduce wages and perhaps benefits for native-born workers but not overall employment. An important study published in 2003 in the Quarterly Journal of Economics showed that immigration reduces wages by 4 percent for all workers and 7 percent for those without a high school education.1 A significant effect to be sure.

However, after a careful examination of recent employment data, I have become increasingly concerned that immigration may also be reducing employment as well as wages for American workers. A study by the Center for immigration Studies published last year shows that between March 2000 and March 2004 the number of unemployed adult natives increased by 2.3 million, but at the same time the number of employed immigrants increased by 2.3 million.2 By adults I mean persons 18 and older. About half the growth in immigrant employment was from illegal immigration. And overall the level of new immigration, legal and illegal, does not seem to have slowed appreciably since 2000. By remaining so high at a time when the economy was not creating as many new jobs, immigration almost certainly has reduced job opportunities for natives and immigrants already here.

Native employment is falling in states with high immigrant influxes.

Not only is native unemployment highest in occupations which saw the largest immigrant influx, the available evidence also shows that the employment picture for natives looks worst in those parts of the country that saw the largest increase in immigrants. For example, in states where immigrants increased their share of workers by 5 percentage points or more, the number of native workers actually fell by about 3 percent on average. But in states where the immigrant share of workers increased by less than one percentage point, the number of natives holding a job actually went up by 1.4 percent. This is exactly the kind of pattern we would expect to see if immigration was adversely impacting native employment.

Of course, businesses will continue to say that, "immigrants only take jobs Americans don’t want." But what they really mean is that given what they would like to pay, and how they would like to treat their workers, they cannot find enough Americans. Therefore, employers want the government to continually increase the supply of labor by non-enforcement of immigration laws.

Employers want low labor prices. But the Americans who are displaced from jobs demand more social services such as health care, unemployment benefits, and welfare from government. Also, the lower wage immigrants, legal and illegal alike, end up using medical care and other services paid for by middle and higher income taxpayers. Plus, the illegals are driving down the benefits packages offered by employers and thereby increasing the number of people who have no medical insurance. This, in turn, increases the number of native people who turn to government to pay for medical care. So low priced immigrant labor is effectively subsidized labor for those employers who use it and the rest of us are paying for it through taxes, higher crime rates, and more pollution and crowding.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 19 08:19 AM  Immigration Economics
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2005 May 17 Tuesday
Cheap Immigrant Labor, California Wine, And Australian Vintner Automation

Steve Sailer points to an Across Difficult Country post which (and I hope I don't lose you) points to a Professor Bainbridge post which excerpts a Wine Spectator article arguing that cheap Hispanic laborers are needed in the California wine industry.

Hispanics are the backbone of the wine industry, pure and simple, says Pete Seghesio, CEO of Seghesio Family Vineyards in Sonoma County. Year-round, most of the vineyard work is done by Hispanics—everything from pruning vines in the winter months, to thinning grapes and leaves during the growing season, to the actual harvest.

"We can't do what we do without them," Seghesio says. "California cannot make 90-point wines without the hand care of these individuals. We're not Australia, where many of the [farming operations] are done by machines. It's impossible to make the kind of quality wine we're making in California today without this labor force of hands." ... The bottom line, though, is this, says Seghesio: "If people really knew the percentage [of Hispanics working in California] that's driving our economy, there wouldn't be any of this talk from our government."

The UCLA corporate law professor has got the evidence to understand this whining right there in front of him. But he fails to notice it. I bet all my readers already see the problem. But then, unlike Professor Bainbridge (and did I mention he's a corporate law prof at a prestigious university?) they had the advantage of my bolding. Oh, and think about Down Under in the unlikely chance you haven't figured it out yet.

People who do not get paid much are the backbone of California's wine industry because the labor is plentiful. It is plentiful and therefore it is cheap. If it was not plentiful it would cost more. In my youth high priced labor was considered to be a wondrous thing that made America the envy of the world. Some of you may be too young to remember those times. But they did exist and the Democratic Party of those times even thought that high priced labor was a good thing. Really, I'm not making this up.

What is with the California wine industry? Is it impossible for Californa vintners to use machines? Are the wine company owners all just mechanically incompetent and incapable of installing and running and servicing machines? Are there no people in California (maybe in car repair shops?) who could run those Down Under automated gadgets for processing wine? Or are the vineyards too poor to afford machines? No, it can't be that. A lot of those winers are rich people who took up wine making as a hobby. Or are California's capital markets too unsophisticated to be able to provide funds to buy capital equipment? Nope, that's not it. Look at Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and the biotech start-ups in San Diego. Funds are very obviously available.

Being the kind of guy who thinks automation is the road to higher living standards I see the trailing technological edge of the California whine (er, wine) industry as a sign that something is amiss. One wants to ask the professor whether cheap low skilled immigrant labor is a disincentive to innovation and capital investment? Is the necessity born from high labor costs the mother of invention?

Professor Bainbridge then whines:

Unfortunately, if my hate mail is any indicator, Seghosio's wrong. People know and an awful lot of them don't seem to care. They don't want the illegals here, no matter how much they contribute to our culture and economy.

Poor baby. Bainbridge wants locally grown fine wines. He feels culturally uplifted from refined local wines grown by lots of very poor low wage workers. He can't imagine it any other way. Never mind what getting that wine does to the local schools, pollution from crowding, crime rates, welfare rolls, tax rates (which, er, are kinda anti-business, no?), and jail crowding. He's getting his culture from a wine bottle apparently.

Across Difficult Country blogger C. Van Carter sees a form of the "Let them eat cake" attitude coming from the professor.

Speaking of professors, UCLA professor of law Steven Bainbridge observes that without illegal alien serfs, wealthy gluttons like himself would have to pay more to get drunk on California wine. Bring this up the next time you encounter some pathetic slob who doesn't know Merlot from Pinot Noir complaining about illegal aliens ruining his children’s schools or driving up his costs of buying a home, it should shut him up.

When I was a kid (yeah, back when high wages were considered a virtuous state of affairs and the Democratic Party was the party of the working class) I used to think that college profs must know everything. Now I know better.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 17 02:02 PM  Immigration Economics
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2005 May 16 Monday
Per Pupil Spending In Arizona Public Schools Underreported

Susan Aud of the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation and Vicki Murray of the Goldwater Institute have found that per pupil spending in Arizona public schools is widely unerreported.

Twenty years ago, TurboTax revolutionized income tax preparation.1 This analysis and accompanying database will bring the same simplicity, transparency, and accuracy to Arizona public school finance that Turbo Tax brought to the United States Internal Revenue Code by presenting complex Department of Education financial data in a clear and understandable way. Currently, the state does not synthesize the department’s multiple accounting systems, making it difficult for the public to know how much is actually being spent on students. This also makes it difficult for policymakers to obtain accurate figures to create informed education policy. For instance, the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, says the state spends $5,009 per student, and Education Week’s annual Quality Counts ranking claims Arizona spends $5,487.2 With so many conflicting figures, how can Arizona policymakers and taxpayers know the cost of educating a student in an Arizona public school?

For the first time, with the database accompanying this study (available on the Goldwater Institute website at www.goldwaterinstitute.org), policymakers and the public can readily access the most accurate per-student expenditures—by both student and district type—for all 218 regular Arizona public school districts. This database will also be updated as new information becomes available. This analysis explains Arizona’s base equalization formula funding and suggests an alternative education finance model. It focuses on the state base equalization funding tied to students to determine the net change in district revenue if a student transfers to a school outside the district.

Total per-student funding consists of two types—those that vary according to the number of students in a district and those that are fixed.3 The first type is referred to in Arizona as equalized base funding. This is the amount the state has determined is tied to students when they enter the public school system, when they leave it, or when they change districts. The second type, omitted from most published reports, includes local, county, non-equalized state, and federal funding. This is the portion of perstudent funding that is fixed, or not based on student counts, and remains with school districts if students leave.

This analysis finds that the average state base equalization funding per student ranges between $4,200 and $4,600, and the average per-student portion of nonequalized district funding is $4,309. Thus, the average total spending for an Arizona public school student is between $8,500 and $9,000. These are minimum averages because they apply to students who do not have special educational needs, such as learning or physical disabilities and English language learner status, and who do not attend schools in districts that are small and/or located in rural areas.

Thus, policymakers and the public can now see how much education funding is directly tied to students and how much stays with school districts. The online database breaks down state equalization base funding for students according to four categories and non-equalized district funding into per-student amounts according to local, county, state, and federal funding categories.5 With that data, policymakers can readily calculate the fiscal impact to school districts and the state if students were given education grants to attend private schools. For instance, if five percent of public school students in Arizona, roughly 40,000, transferred to private schools using elementary education grants worth $3,500 and high school education grants worth $4,500—both less than current state base equalization funding—the net savings to the state and local districts would have amounted to $32 million in fiscal year 2003.6 Total funding in half of the school districts would have remained unchanged, and in the other half it would have decreased by less than one percent.

The incorrect low estimates for per pupil spending have been used by political groups to justify increases in government funding of education.

In fact, citing the 2004 Quality Counts per-student spending figure, Arizonans for Voter Rewards and Education Funding, headed by Mark Osterloh of Tucson, filed an initiative mandating “the Legislature to pour nearly $2 billion more into the public school system to bring per-pupil education spending up to the national average. Arizona ranked 49th in spending in the most recent Education Week Quality Counts ranking at $5,487 per pupil. The initiative does not indicate how lawmakers should pay for a spending increase to the national average of $7,524 per student.” See Robbie Sherwood, “Feeling Lucky? Plan Would Reward Voting,” Arizona Republic, July 31, 2003.

If the numbers being bantered around for Arizona's per pupil public schools spending can't be trusted then what about other states? Are per pupil spending levels underreported in other states? Public schools bureaucrats have two incentives to underreport spending. First off, they can point to low per pupil spending and claim that any failures of their students to learn a lot are due to a lack of money. Second, a widespread public image of cash poor schools eases the task of getting more money appropriated for education.

Just as school systems have an incentive to underreport funding they also have an incentive to overreport performance. For example, a recent Harvard/Urban Institute study found much higher Hispanic and black drop-out rates than the school systems have been reporting. Also, standardized test cheating by teachers has been discovered in many school districts.

Standardized test results can not be trusted unless the tests are administered by proctors who are independent of the school system being tested. School financing needs to be made more transparent as well. We shouldn't have to wait for a free market think tank to pour over the books of a state to figure out how much is really being spent. But a big increase in transparency may not have the effect of improving the average quality of education. My guess is greater transparency will have the unintended consequence of segregating students more by cognitive ability. See my post "Housing Prices Increasingly Driven By SAT Scores".

Privatization probably can't improve school performance much either. However, privatization would be more cost effective.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 16 10:58 PM  Education
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A Liberal Argues For Immigration Restriction

Froma Harrop of the Providence Journal-Bulletin makes a liberal argument for immigration restriction.

But this issue does not belong to the right. Or it shouldn't. Illegal immigration hurts most liberal causes. It depresses wages, crushes unions and kills all hope for universal health coverage. Progressives have to understand that there can be little social justice in an unregulated labor market.

“Liberals are so confused on this issue,” says Vernon Briggs, a labor economist at Cornell University and self-described liberal. “Immigration policy has got to be held accountable for its economic consequences.”

Many Democrats used to get it. In 1964, President Johnson abolished the Bracero program, which brought in “temporary” farm workers from Mexico. Its demise let Cesar Chavez organize U.S. farm workers. His union won some battles early on, but a new wave of illegal immigrants in the mid-1970s reversed that progress. The union barely exists today.

Harrop argues that if Hillary Clinton would take a consistent immigration restrictionist line that she could win the Presidency in 2008. Harrop sounds like she'd be very happy with that outcome.

Upper class liberals used to identify much more strongly with working class American interests. But a recent Pew poll showed that 58% of liberals favor a temporary worker permit program while only 36% oppose.. Two other major pillars of the Democratic Party's coaltion (at least as Pew categorize the people they polled) are "Disadvantaged Democrats" (in other words: blacks and Hispanics) and "Conservative Democrats" (in other words, the former heart of the party). The "Disadvantaged Democrats" heavily oppose temporary immigrant worker permits with 63% against to 30% in favor. This result makes sense. Poor lower class blacks are having their wages driven down and their jobs taken away by the huge illegal Hispanic influx. Their salaries and labor market participation rates are declining. The "Conservative Democrats" also understand that the illegal influx works in favor of upper class purchasers of labor and against the interests of the working class.

The Democratic Party's standpoint on immigration demonstrates that upper class liberals are in control of the party. If poor blacks and conservative Democrats had their say the party's immigration policy would be different. Some of those conservative Democrats are swing voters. They'd vote for a Republican who appealed to their interests. If immigration restrictionist Tom Tancredo wins the Republican nomination in 2008 I bet he's get more black and conservative Democrat votes than George W. Bush did.

Check out the full Pew Research Center survey results.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 16 09:04 AM  Immigration Politics
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2005 May 15 Sunday
US Army Recruiting Shortfalls Are Growing

Lowered standards, increased financial incentives, increased recruiter staffs, and improprieties in recruitment can get only so much milk (sweet or sour) from Bessie the recruiting cow. Opposition to the war in Iraq increasingly takes the form of young men who decide they don't want to risk their lives to fight for George W. Bush and the neoconservatives.

The U.S. Army missed its April recruiting goal by a whopping 42 percent and the Army Reserve fell short by 37 percent, officials said on Tuesday, showing the depth of the military's wartime recruiting woes.

Hard to fight a war without soldiers. More robots are needed.

The gap for April is part of a trend toward larger shortfalls

In March the Army had hoped to sign up 6,800 recruits but fell 32 percent short. That was slightly worse than in February, when a goal of 7,050 was missed by 27 percent.

The Marine Corps are coming up short on recruitment as well.

Recruiters missed their contracting goal for April, marking the fourth month in a row the Corps has fallen short.

The Corps missed its April mission by 260 contracts, meeting 91 percent of its goal to enlist 2,971 recruits, according to Maj. Dave Griesmer, a spokesman for Recruiting Command in Quantico Va.

The US Army will hold a 1 day recruiting halt on May 20 in response to complaints about recruiter excesses.

In Houston, a recruiter allegedly threatened to have a wavering would-be recruit arrested if he backed out, according to Army officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. The recruiter has no such authority.

Officials confirmed a second inquiry in Colorado, pointing to news reports about recruiters who allegedly offered information on fake diplomas and ways to get around drug tests and physical fitness requirements.

Recruiters describe systematic circumvention of recruiting rules.

Two hundred miles away, in northern Ohio, another recruiter said the incident hardly surprised him. He has been bending or breaking enlistment rules for months, he said, hiding police records and medical histories of potential recruits. His commanders have encouraged such deception, he said, because they know there is no other way to meet the Army's recruitment quotas.

"The problem is that no one wants to join," the recruiter said. "We have to play fast and loose with the rules just to get by."

In 2004 nearly one in five Army recruiters were involved in substantiated cases of what the Army calls recruitment improprieties. Those were the substantiated cases. What percentage of real violations of recruiting rules are even caught? Half? A tenth?

Check out the rising rate of recruitment improprieties.

Army Recruiting Command spokesman Douglas Smith said the Army is investigating 480 allegations of improper conduct by Army recruiters in fiscal 2005, which began Oct. 1. The Army looked into 473 such allegations in all of 2000, 643 in 2001, 745 in 2002, 955 in 2003 and 957 in 2004, Smith said.

Recruiter false promises, whether of special training or of being able to avoid going to Iraq, seem most likely to be reported. But when recruiters help recruits cheat on entrance qualifications my guess is few of those cases are caught. So the reported allegations are likely the tip of the iceberg.

The shortfalls are even worse than they appear because the US Army has lowered standards and increased financial incentives for enlistment over the last couple of years. The lowering of standards is causing problems out in the field.

The less qualified people cause a lot more problems for officers and NCOs. More time has to be spent on training and supervising these people, and there are more disciplinary problems as well. The standards have been creeping downward for the last two years, and the complaints about the results are starting to come in from the field.

Even the lowered standards are still high enough that recruiters have to help recruits cheat to pass tests.

Financial incentives for enlistment have been increased substantially.

Without patriotism to rely on, the military has continued to increase the financial incentives. This week it announced that new recruits could get up to $US20,000 ($A26,100) in bonuses for signing on.

It is also doing everything it can to make itself more attractive. It halved the time recruits have to sign up for active duty.

And it is offering up to $US70,000 towards a university degree, or repayment of student loans up to $US65,000, plus all-important health and dental care for recruits and their families.

The recruiting problem looks set to worsen. Standards can only be lowered so far. Financial incentives might work but will make the Iraq war even more expensive. The Army and Marines should remember Ben Franklin and make necessity the mother of invention. This means the US military should embrace automation with a vengeance.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 15 06:15 AM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs
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2005 May 13 Friday
Bush Administration Sinks To New Low On Border Control Politics

Jerry Seper reports yet another reason why the Bush Administration is worthy of contempt.

U.S. Border Patrol agents have been ordered not to arrest illegal aliens along the section of the Arizona border where protesters patrolled last month because an increase in apprehensions there would prove the effectiveness of Minuteman volunteers, The Washington Times has learned.

More than a dozen agents, all of whom asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, said orders relayed by Border Patrol supervisors at the Naco, Ariz., station made it clear that arrests were "not to go up" along the 23-mile section of border that the volunteers monitored to protest illegal immigration.

"It was clear to everyone here what was being said and why," said one veteran agent. "The apprehensions were not to increase after the Minuteman volunteers left. It was as simple as that."

I have a suggestion for the Border Patrol agents: Wear hidden microphones and even hidden video cameras and record your bosses giving you such politically calculated orders. Then send the recordings to some TV cable networks. I'm sure Lou Dobbs would love to get this sort of material on CNN and Bill O'Reilly would use it on Fox. The technology exists for doing that sort of thing.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 13 11:47 AM  Immigration Politics
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Hillary Clinton Opposes Real ID, Tougher Asylum Rules

A Newsmax article draws attention to Hillary Clinton's Senate Website where Senator Clinton has a message that calls into question the sincerity of Hillary's earlier tough statements on immigration (more here). Let us take a look at what Hillary is now saying about the "Real ID" legislation and about tightening of asylum requirements.

I'm also deeply concerned that on an emergency supplemental to fund our troops and provide disaster relief for areas devastated by the tsunami we are being asked to vote on the so-called "Real ID" legislation. Its supporters say it is supposed to make our country safer, but how do we know that? We haven't had any committee hearings or any debate about it in the Senate. I had previously joined with my colleague, Senator Feinstein, on her amendment to prevent immigration proposals from being thrown needlessly into the emergency supplemental, and I am outraged that the Republican leadership in both the House and Senate decided to ignore this reasonable request and put this seriously flawed act into a bill to fund our troops. Emergency legislation designed to provide our troops with the resources they need to fight terrorism on the front lines is not the place for broad, sweeping immigration reform.

I am in total agreement with those who argue that we need to address our immigration challenges and we must also recognize that we are still not doing what we should to fulfill the demands of homeland security. And these issues do go hand-in-hand. If we can't secure our borders, we can't secure our homeland. We need a much tougher, much smarter look at these issues. Instead, we're faced with a piece of legislation, passed by the House, jammed into an emergency supplemental bill and my Republican colleagues are going to claim that we've made America safer. Well, that's a false claim.

But physical border security is just one layer of homeland security. We also need better enforcement of immigration laws in the interior. The "Real ID" legislation begins to address that need. Keep in mind that some of the 9/11 attackers had fake IDs that they'd purchased off of Hispanic ID traffickers in Falls Church Virginia. Fake IDs, real IDs granted to people without legal rights to be in the United States, and real IDs granted to people using false identities all need to be made more difficult to obtain and to use.

Hillary is opposed to tougher asylum eligibility rules.

We must continue our American tradition of welcoming immigrants who follow the rules and are trying to build a better life for their families. That's why I am so troubled by the changes in immigration, environmental and privacy laws included in this bill. I also worry about the consequences likely to occur because of changes in the asylum rules in the Real ID Act. I'm proud of the fact that our country has historically welcomed asylum seekers and refugees. Utica, New York is one of the most welcoming places for refugees in the entire country. But, under these new rules, we'll see whether America remains a welcoming place for those who seek refuge from persecution and violence.

The original changes in the asylum eligibility rules were watered down due to lobbying by the Southern Baptist Convention and other religious groups who favor more asylum immigration. Given that literally billions of people live under governments that are in some ways discriminating against believers of particular religions I think the idea that someone some should be eligible to immigrate to the US due to religious persecution is nuts. If every eligible person could come we'd have billions more living here.

I see oppposition to tougher asylum rules as a bad sign in any American politician. Many asylum immigrants are really motivated by the desire for higher living standards. In Britain the asylum problem has gotten so bad that in the recent British election Michael Howard and the Conservatives proposed withdrawing from the UN Refugee Convention so that Britain could adopt much tougher rules for handling asylum applicants.

A Conservative government would set an upper limit on the total number of immigrants and asylum seekers allowed into Britain each year of between 10,000 and 20,000. It would withdraw from the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and adopt an Australian-style "points system" for deciding who should be allowed in.

Asylum applications would no longer be processed in the UK – instead, they would be assessed in British-run centres near the claimants' countries of origin. There would be 24-hour security at all British ports, and the assumption that foreigners who work legally in Britain for more than four years would have an automatic right to settle here would be reversed.

UK opponents to asylum immigration argue that ridiculously huge numbers of people are eligible of asylum.

Part of the problem lies in the 1951 Geneva Convention on the status of Refugees. This, of course, applies to all European countries but its application has been widened by the decisions of British judges. They have, for example, recognised persecution by non state agents - unlike their colleagues in France and Germany. Accordingly, they have granted asylum to homosexuals from Jamaica on the grounds that they would face persecution from their fellow citizens. And, in the Shah case (1999) the Law Lords ruled that women in Pakistan could constitute a persecuted "particular social group" who were entitled to asylum because they were subject to discrimination and inferior status in Pakistan. (There are approximately 65 million women in Pakistan). Furthermore, the Convention itself forbids imposing any penalty on "genuine refugees" who have no documents. This is being exploited by asylum seekers are who are instructed by people traffickers to destroy their documents so as to make their removal more difficult. The Home Office have stated that 80-90% of asylum seekers are found to be without documents. Other difficulties flow from the fact that the document is an International Convention rather than a national law and, is therefore, much vaguer in its drafting.

In September 2004 the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled to award a Chinese woman asylum in the United States because she feared sterilization in China as a result of her violating China's 1 child policy.

In the opinion, Judges Diane P. Wood and Ann Williams, two of the three judges who decided the case, made it clear they weren't finding that every woman of child-bearing age in China automatically would be entitled to asylum because of its coercive family-planning policies.

But Judge Terence Evans wrote, "I think, as a practical matter, we are either doing, or coming close to doing, just that."

Evans went on to say that "the floodgates are probably open."

Dan Stein sees the obvious problem with this ruling.

"We couldn't let everyone [in China] who wants to have 10 kids come here," said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that favors tightening immigration restrictions. "No country can sustain an asylum policy that tries to remedy broad social problems."

In March 2005 the nutty left wing 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that forcibly sterilized people in China have a right to asylum in the United States.

Men whose wives were forcibly sterilised under China's coercive population control policies are entitled to political asylum in the US, the federal appeals court in San Francisco has ruled.

The ruling could greatly increase the number of people able to stay in the US because of persecution under China's population policies.

"Involuntary sterilisation irrevocably strips persons of one of the important liberties we possess as humans: our reproductive freedom," Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote on behalf of the panel of three.

"Therefore, one who has suffered involuntary sterilisation, either directly or because of the sterilisation of a spouse, is entitled [without having to prove anything else, to refuge in this country]."

That is a huge door to open. Suppose you are a fairly callous and amoral Chinese man who wants to come to America. What to do? Get married, have a kid, then get your wife knocked up again. When the Chinese government sterilizes your wife then apply for asylum in the United States.

Heck, a Chinese man and his wife who both happen to want only one child could have the child and then keep starting pregnancies until the Chinese government sterilizes her. Then they both could immigrate to the United States and get asylum.

The United States needs to cancel any treaty memberships that are an obstacle to cutting back on asylum eligibility and asylum eligibility rules should be made much tougher.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 13 09:09 AM  Immigration Politics
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2005 May 11 Wednesday
On Poor Women Putting Motherhood Ahead Of Marriage

A pair of sociologists, Kathryn Edin of University of Pennslyvania and Maria Kefalas of St. Joseph's University, have an article in the Washington Post about their new book Promises I Can Keep : Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage in which they discuss why teenage girls and young women choose to have children outside of marriage.

To understand this rise in unmarried childbearing, we tried to offer women like Lisa an opportunity to answer the question that many middle-class Americans ask about them: Why don't they marry before having children? To find out, we spent five years getting to know 162 white, African American and Puerto Rican single mothers who live in the poorest sections of Philadelphia and its sister city, Camden, N.J., talking with them over kitchen tables and on front stoops.

What we discovered was surprising: Instead of a rejection of marriage, we found a deep respect for it among many young mothers, who told us that getting married was their ultimate life ambition. While they acknowledge that putting children before marriage is not the ideal way of doing things, they're not about to risk going through life childless while waiting for Mr. Right. They build their dreams around children: As one 20-year-old mother explained as she watched her toddler, "I wanted to have a baby. It wasn't, like, because everybody else had a baby. . . . I wanted somebody to take care of."

These girls are putting their own emotional satisfaction ahead of the interests of the children that they want to have.

Who are these girls and young women mating with? That is the scariest part:

Women described to us relationships that were plagued by their partner's drug and alcohol addictions, criminal behavior, frequent run-ins with the law, chronic infidelity and violent behavior.

The guys are good enough for getting pregnant but not good enough to marry.

The women we met wanted to wed, but they insisted on marrying well.

But here is the biggest problem with these women: They place a high standard on who they will marry but not on who they will mate with. They are so eager to have children that they are not choosy enough about who they let knock them up. We'd be better off if these girls waited to try to find better mating material or even if they opted for a sperm bank sperm donor. When school drop-out violent criminal guys reproduce we are all worse off.

Modern liberalism, by breaking down the strong taboo against reproduction outside of marriage and by supporting welfare programs that make single motherhood more affordable, deserves to be blamed for the increase in the national illegitimacy rate from about 4% in 1950 (these figures from the article) to about a third today. Granted, liberalism is not the only cause for this change. Technological advances that changed the relative economic value of male and female labor, still more technological advances that helped to automate household work, and rising affluence combined to make single motherhood more feasible. But legal changes and social policy changes made a big difference and so did a change in attitudes promoted by liberal intellectual elites.

The undermining of useful taboos has an equally destructive flipside: defense of newly created taboos which have harmful effects. For example, by constructing taboos against arguments that genetics influences intelligence, character, and behavioral tendencies modern liberalism has basically replaced older constructive taboos that served society's interest with newer destructive taboos that prevent a full appreciaton of how much damage is being done by the destruction of the old taboos.

This, in a nutshell, is why I am not a liberal. I am opposed to social policy changes and to changes in what is taboo when those changes obviously cause crime waves, illegitimacy, and other harmful consequences. American liberals (as distinct from people in other Western countries who still use "liberal" in its more classical sense) have caused a lot of damage while claiming the moral high ground. When the empirical evidence contradicts a claim of moral high ground my reaction is to reject the moral claim and accept the empirical evidence.

I used to think that American liberals, by breaking down taboos, were at least motivated by a desire to free us from ignorance and superstition. Some of them may even believe that about themselves. But look at what has happened. They've really just tossed out one set of taboos and one moral code to replace it with a different set of taboos and a different and more destructive moral code. Put aside their feelings about why they think they've done what they have done. In empirical effect I think they have been promoting ideas that work against a reduction in ignorance and superstition.

Now, I can hear some of my liberal readers saying "But you are being totally unfair to me." For some of you that is true. Not all liberals are unrealistic about human nature. Some liberals accept that human nature is not a blank slate and that not all social problems can be solved by providing poor people better educations or racial preferences. Not all liberals think the welfare state is a good thing or that taboos against single motherhood should have been tossed out. Not all liberals gang up and engage in character assassination attacks in order to marginalize all discussion of genetic causes of cognitive differences. But the motivation for the destruction of the old taboos and the creation of most of the new harmful replacement taboos came from the Left, not the Right. Also, the Left still opposes the lifting of the new taboos.

Aside: The desire for single young ghetto mothers to have children outside of wedlock is not a new revelation. For example, over 15 years ago Washington Post reporter Leon Dash documented this phenomenon in his book When Children Want Children. As long as these girls are allowed to have children and enabled to have children they will continue to do so and with harmful consequences to us all.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 11 09:01 AM  Civilizations Decay
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2005 May 09 Monday
Obese Workers Paid Less Only When Receiving Employer Provided Medical Insurance

The invisible hand of the market triumphs once again.

STANFORD, Calif. - Studies have consistently shown that obese employees are paid less than normal-weight employees doing similar jobs, leading many people to attribute the gap to prejudice against workers based on their appearance.

But new research from Stanford University health economists adds another wrinkle to understanding these pay differentials: obese workers are paid less only when they have employer-sponsored health insurance.

These findings, just published in a working paper on the Web site of the National Bureau of Economic Research, suggest that employers-recognizing that obese workers are likely to have higher medical costs-compensate with lower pay for them. Given that employment-based health insurance requires that employees in the same plan make the same contributions to premiums, the employers adjust wages to account for the greater expense for obese workers' health care, according to the paper.

"A self-correcting mechanism is at work in the labor market," explained study co-author Kate Bundorf, MPH, PhD, assistant professor of health research and policy at Stanford and a fellow at the university's Center for Health Policy/Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research. The study doesn't address whether the wage disparity is fair, she noted; it simply demonstrates that there are strong economic incentives for employers to adjust for the varying costs of providing medical benefits to different types of workers. "Our findings reinforce that these market forces are powerful," she said.

The findings also shed light on the question of who bears the cost of obesity-related health care. While it is often assumed that obese workers' medical expenses are passed on to their employers and normal-weight co-workers, the Stanford study indicates that obese workers are paying for it themselves through lower wages.

The market is efficient!

One consequence can be inferred from this result: the rapidly rising cost of health insurance is suppressing wage gains for most workers who receive medical benefits from their employers.

Aside from providing insight into the costs of obesity among workers, the study provides perhaps the strongest evidence to date that the costs of employer-sponsored health insurance are, in fact, passed on to workers through lower wages. By implication, insured workers should be just as alarmed by rising health-care costs as their employers are.

One thought: Once DNA sequencing becomes cheap if employees are allowed to volunteer their DNA sequencing results to employers then employers would be able to better ascertain the odds of illness by employees. Then employees with excellent genetic profiles would benefit from revealing their genetic profiles to employers. One can even imagine job hunters with excellent genetic profiles posting them on web sites with some authentication service certifying the accuracy of the sequence data. Then employers looking for employees could examine the DNA sequences of potential hires before having any direct contact with job seekers.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 09 02:01 PM  Economics Health
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Black Unemployment Rate Has Risen During Economic Recovery

The Economic Policy Institute has released a new report stating that black unemployment is rising during an economic recovery.

The first chart shows the change in unemployment rates by race and gender over two time periods: the first 13 quarters of this recovery and the same time period over the early 1990s recovery. While the overall rate (i.e., the rate for all jobseekers) and the white rate specifically both fell by 0.4 percentage points in the first three years of the early 1990s recovery, the rate fell slightly faster, by 0.6 points, for African Americans. This relationship is the long-held historical pattern for minorities, as their employment opportunities tend be more responsive than whites to changes in economic conditions (e.g., minority unemployment rates tend to worsen faster in a downturn and improve more quickly in an expansion, where as white rates tend to be more stable).

Surprisingly, in this recovery, the opposite pattern has prevailed thus far. The overall rate is down slightly, as is the white rate. But the unemployment rate for African Americans is up by 0.8 percentage points overall, driven by the 1.4 point increase for African American men. By the first quarter of 2005, the overall African American unemployment rate was 10.6%, while the overall rate--5.3%--was half that level.

Blacks are doing worse in an economic recovery and so they will do even worse in the next economic downturn.

But conspicuous differences are apparent between the last two business cycles. In the early 1990s, the overall employment rate began to climb by around the 10th quarter, and the African American rate follows the overall rate fairly closely. In the current case, however, employment rates have yet to trend up very convincingly, and African American rates actually have continued to fall. Almost four years after the recession began in March 2001, employment rates remain down by 2 percentage points overall and almost twice that much (3.7 points) for African Americans.

The Economic Policy Institute's writers list a few unlikely causes for this phenomenon including racism. Meanwhile they predictably miss the elephant in the room: Massive amounts of Hispanic immigration. Edward Rubinstein points out why the EPI is wrong.

But if racial discrimination is such a factor, why has Hispanic job growth outpaced that of whites? (For example, Hispanics got 60 percent of the new jobs created in March; in the entire Bush II era Hispanic employment has grown 14.3 percent vs. just 0.3 percent for non-Hispanic employment growth).

In fact, discrimination is the best explanation for persistent Black unemployment - but not the sort of discrimination EPI has in mind.

Arguably the most racist policy in this country for the past quarter century has been immigration policy. The onslaught of poorly educated, mainly Hispanic immigrants has stymied good faith efforts of African Americans to climb up the economic ladder.

Blacks overwhelmingly vote for the Democrats while the Democrats strongly support massive Hispanic immigration that harms blacks economically. The Democrats correctly perceive Hispanics as mostly expanding the lower class and therefore see most Hispanics as future Democrats. The Democrats are willing to sacrifice black interests in order to ensure future Democratic Party majorities. Therefore the Democrats care far more about winning elections than helping the poor people we already have. (and I'm not saying the Republicans are ethically any better)

A new study from the Pew Hispanic Center reports that Hispanic salaries have fallen for the last 2 years in a row.

Washington, DC - Hispanic workers accounted for more than 1 million of the 2.5 million new jobs created by the U.S. economy in 2004. But Hispanics are the only major group of workers to have suffered a two-year decline in wages and they now earn 5 percent less than two years ago, according to a Pew Hispanic Center analysis of latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau. The report is available on the Center's website: www.pewhispanic.org.

Recently arrived Hispanic immigrants were a leading source of new workers to the economy but also among the principal recipients of wage cuts in 2004.

"Despite strong demand for immigrant workers, their growing supply and concentration in certain occupations suggests that the newest arrivals are competing with each other in the labor market to their own detriment," said the report's author, Rakesh Kochhar, a senior research associate at the Center.

The vast majority of new jobs for Hispanic workers were in relatively low-skill occupations calling for little other than a high school education. In contrast, non-Hispanic workers secured large increases in employment in higher-skill occupations requiring at least some college education.

The Hispanic wage decline is accelerating and only Asians are experiencing a wage gain.

• Real weekly earnings for Hispanics declined by 2.2 percent in 2003 and by another 2.6 percent in 2004. Latinos are the only major group of workers whose wages have fallen for two consecutive years.

• Meanwhile, wages of non-Hispanic white and black workers increased in 2003 but declined by 1.8 percent and 1 percent respectively in 2004. Asian workers are the only group to have increased their earnings each of the past two years.

• Recently arrived Latino immigrants saw their wages fall by 2.6 percent in 2004. This was matched by recently arrived non-Hispanic immigrants whose earnings fell by the same amount in 2004.

Edward Rubinstein again says basic economics explains why wages are falling.

The author of the Pew study professes "surprise" that Hispanic wages would fall at a time when they are having such "luck" in getting jobs.

A refresher course in Economics 101 is in order here.

Falling prices denote a surplus. That is a basic principle of economics. Falling Hispanic wages are thus a signal sent by a labor market that is saying what many of us have been saying for years: Immigrant workers are simply not needed. Far from doing the jobs that Americans "won't do," Hispanic immigrants are displacing low wage natives—Hispanic and non-Hispanic alike.

Immigration is growing the size of America's lower class. Why do that? This harms the interests of the vast majority of the American people. More people can not afford to pay for their own medical care. More people do not pay enough taxes to fund the education of their children. More people are criminals. The list of harmful consequences is long. We should stop the illegal influx, deport all the illegals who are here, and raise the standards on who can immigrate legally. We do not need more poorly educated and low skilled workers.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 09 12:18 PM  Immigration Economics
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A Critical Look At Natan Sharanky's Democracy Argument

Gerard Alexander writing for the Claremont Review of Books casts a critical eye on a book by Natan Sharansky and Ron Dermer, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror. Alexander argues that both the main empirical arguments of Sharansky's book are wrong.

The evidence for these claims is mixed at best. Research on the "democratic peace" is easily misunderstood. It shows, for example, that the U.S. has basically never gone to war against a democracy; but this does not suggest that it has waged war against all that many dictatorships. Wars may be more likely between democracies and non-democracies, but these wars aren't especially likely, either. It is true that both the Soviet Union and Palestinian radicals— Sharansky's focus—have highly aggressive agendas. But his claim that non-democratic regimes are "inherently" belligerent is difficult to square with the fact that most dictatorships do not manifest military designs on democratic countries. It is symbolic, in this respect, that America in the 20th century shared its two famously undefended borders with democratic Canada and authoritarian Mexico.

The evidence is even scarcer that non-democratic regimes inevitably generate extremism among their citizens. Some may have, such as Nicaragua and Iran in the 1970s and Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian territories since the 1980s. But in Africa, Latin America, and East Asia, non-democratic regimes have not, as a general rule, generated violent extremism. Most of Western Europe's historic dictatorships incubated more moderation than radicalism, which is why many of them evolved peacefully into today's consolidated democracies. For that matter, well over a dozen substantially Muslim countries in Africa and Central Asia have so far not generated much extremism, despite durable authoritarian rule. Indeed, one of Sharansky's core cases doesn't support his claim: the USSR seems to have incubated apathy, not extremism.

This highlights a fundamental contradiction in the book. Sharansky argues that non-democratic regimes are doomed to see their citizens move increasingly in the direction of freedom. But a few pages away he argues that non-democratic regimes inevitably produce enraged and profoundly illiberal citizens who are easy fodder for radical recruiters. Which is it? If tyrannies produce not only Mohammed Attas but also Natan Sharanskys, then they must have effects far more complex than he suggests. To make matters worse, violent extremism has been bred, and sustained, in democratic Northern Ireland, and jihadis have found ready recruits among Muslims who are lifelong residents and even citizens of democratic Britain, France, and Israel.

If Sharansky's arguments are wrong then the neocon rationale for their attempt to spread democracy is also wrong. The sorry history of US attempts to change other nations with military force argues against the view that democracy is a panacea. Robert Conquest, one of the rare scholars who called the nature of the Soviet Union correctly, argues that the current promotion of democracy by the chattering classes is a form of madness of the crowds. Also, see my partial list of reasons why democratization efforts in the Middle East are naive. The recent Islamic "Golden List' victories in Saudi municipal elections are only the most recent example of why democracy is not a panacea.

Sharansky recently resigned from Ariel Sharon's cabinet due to Sharansky's opposition to the removal of about 7000 Jewish settlement occupants from the Gaza Strip. My cynical view of Sharansky's argument for Palestinian democracy is that he's setting the bar so high on Palestinian behavior precisely so that Israel never has to grant the Palestinians either self rule or firm borders that clearly separate them from Israel.

Update: Steve Sailer, after citing a number of democracies that have fought each other, points out that democracy is more likely a consequence of the same conditions that make a society less likely to want to invade other countries.

I think, though, that the main reason democracies don't fight each other much is because if the objective situation makes war likely, democracy is unlikely too. Notice that Britain simply suspended its constitutional requirement for a General Election in 1940 for the duration of the war to prevent democracy from interfering with the more important business of winning the war.

Similarly, if a country has disputed borders and a restive minority, democracy is unlikely. For example, Croatia was a dictatorship during its war with Serbia over the Serbs who wanted to break away from the Croatian break-away state. It didn't let Serbs, or anybody else, vote. In 1995, however, Croatia won its war and ethnically cleansed the Serbs out of Croatia (with American backing). Once it became a mono-ethnic state with an undisputed border, it rapidly turned into a democracy.

So, democracy is more likely in comfortable countries that don't need to gird their loins for desperate battle, which is why they haven't gotten into wars with each other.

Our problem with the undemocratic countries stems from the qualities that make them undemocratic, not the fact that they are undemocratic.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 09 09:28 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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2005 May 08 Sunday
UK Tories Regret Backing Off Of Immigration Issue In Final Days Of Campaign

The Tories blew it by backing off on immigration toward the end of the recent election campaign in Britain.

Michael Howard is kicking himself that he backed away from a big push on immigration in the final days of the election campaign - a decision which Tories believe may have cost them at least 10 extra seats in parliament.

As the Conservatives embark on a fresh round of soul searching, Mr Howard believes he could have finished off Tony Blair because a further 10 Tory MPs would have cut Labour's majority to below 50, dealing a fatal blow to the prime minister.

Mr Howard, who focused strongly on immigration in the early part of his campaign, abandoned plans to return to the charged issue in the final days because he wanted to present an upbeat message of what he would do as prime minister.

Michael Howard is now the lame duck leader of the Conservatives, having signalled he will step down once a replacement is chosen.

The Tories failed to push the one policy on which large portions of the British public agreed.

John Curtice of the University of Strathclyde, in Scotland, agreed that the Tories had failed to emerge from their electoral ‘black hole’, but said that immigration had been the ‘one and only popular tune’ which seemed to appeal to voters.

“They lost despite their immigration policy, not because of it,” he said.

If the Republican Presidential candidate loses in 2008 it won't be because he strongly supports border control and expulsion of illegal immigrants.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 08 09:49 PM  Immigration Politics
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The New York Times Makes No Sense On Real ID Law

The editors of the New York Times make an intellectually incoherent argument against the Real ID proposal which is heading into law.

Attaching a bad bill to a vital one is a sneaky business, making it nearly impossible for thoughtful members of Congress to vote against it. In this case, in order to provide financial support to American troops doing dangerous service abroad, lawmakers are stuck also supporting a plan that eliminates the chance of doing anything serious about identity security. It also puts a new burden on the states and potentially subverts the real purpose of driver's licenses: safe drivers.

By implication the New York Times would have us believe that airport security drivers license checks are either a generally non-legitimate use of drivers licenses or a purpose that is somehow harmful to the "real" purpose of drivers licenses..

Well, if driver's licenses are just for making drivers safe would the New York Times be content to ban their use for other purposes? Read the last sentence. Sounds like the Times is uncomfortable about having state government employees verify that a driver's license applicant is really who they purport to be.

Once this new driver's license requirement becomes law, licenses from states that do not screen for immigration status will not be accepted as federal identification for things like boarding airplanes or entering federal buildings. Many state officials are understandably concerned about the added cost of this new license because so far there is no federal money attached to Mr. Sensenbrenner's bill. Security-conscious Americans will also be concerned about making state motor vehicle department employees the ultimate authorities on identity security.

Why should the Times complain if some lax states do not want to make their licenses reliable enough to be used for other ID purposes? After all, the Grey Lady says the real purpose of driver's licenses is just to have safe drivers.

Bars use drivers licenses to verify age. Stores and banks use drivers licenses to verify identity. So do airports and many other establishments. What is Congress saying? That a drivers license can not be used in certain circumstances by agents of the federal government to verify identity unless the issuing state for a drivers license adheres to strict standards in issuing that form of ID. In a sense, the federal government is regulating itself. It is unwilling to use the drivers license as a de facto national ID unless each state wants to meet certain standards for issuance.

The Feds are not making any state meet that standard. A state can choose to issue drivers licenses that can not be confidently used for other purposes. In that case the citizens of that state would be free to pursue getting passports or some other form of ID that the feds would accept as more rigorously authenticated when issued. Why should the Grey Lady object to this? If states don't want their drivers licenses to be general IDs they are free to only issue drivers licenses that are not useful for general purposes.

What appears to irk the Grey Lady is that the feds are not allowing states to issue two kinds of drivers licenses: One for illegals and another for everyone else. But the editors of that paper try to dance around that point and end up taking contradictory positions. They simultaneously oppose treating drivers licenses as general purpose IDs and at the same time oppose federal efforts to impose standards on when they will accept drivers licenses as general purpose IDs. Well, by the Grey Lady's logic if the feds simply refused to accept drivers licenses at all that would in some sense protect the purity of purpose of drivers licenses as being solely for safe driving. Yet the Grey Lady would no doubt object to a ban on the use of drivers licenses for passage through federally controlled facilities.

My guess is that the NY Times editors are really opposed to Real ID because they oppose tougher immigration law enforcement and their desire to hide their real motive has resulted in an incoherent argument. Their attempt to make an argument for states rights isn't even appropriate in the case of illegal immigrants because immigration is a federal issue and state granting of drivers licenses to illegals undermines federal immigration law enforcement.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 08 09:25 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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2005 May 07 Saturday
McKinsey Sees Global Wealth Reduction Due To Aging Populations

McKinsey consultants Diana Farrell, Tim Shavers, and Sacha Ghai say economic growth in industrialized countries will decrease due to lower savings rates as a result of aging populations. (site requires free registration)

Finding solutions won't be easy. Raising the retirement age, easing restrictions on immigration, or encouraging families to have more children will have little impact. Boosting economic growth alone is not a solution, nor is the next productivity revolution or technological breakthrough. To fill the coming gap in global savings and financial wealth, households and governments will need to increase their savings rates and to earn higher returns on the assets they already have.

...

As the elderly come to make up a larger share of the population, the total amount of savings available for investment and wealth accumulation will dwindle. The prime earning years for the average worker are roughly from age 30 to 50; thereafter, the savings rate falls. With the onset of retirement, households save even less and, in some cases, begin to spend accumulated assets.

The result is a decline in the prime savers ratio—the number of households in their prime saving years divided by the number of elderly households. This ratio has been falling in Japan and Italy for many years. In Japan, it dropped below one in the mid-1980s, meaning that elderly households now outnumber those in their highest earning and saving years. Japan is often thought to be a frugal nation of supersavers, but its savings rate actually has already fallen from nearly 25 percent in 1975 to less than 5 percent today. That figure is projected to hit 0.2 percent in 2024. In 2000, the prime savers ratios of Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States either joined the declining trend or stabilized at very low levels. This unprecedented confluence of demographic patterns will have significant ramifications for global savings and wealth accumulation.

Countries that have been financing the American current accounts deficit by buying US Treasuries will cease to have the savings available to do so. Less capital will be available.

The rising cost of pensions and health care get all the press attention (and in America perversely pensions get more attention than the far greater problem with health care). But the McKinsey analysts see declining savings as an equal or greater problem.

Most of the public discussion on aging populations has focused on the rapidly escalating cost of pensions and health care. Little attention has been paid to the potentially far more damaging effect that this demographic phenomenon will have on savings, wealth, and economic well being. As more households retire, the decline in savings will slow the growth in household financial wealth in the five countries we studied by more than two-thirds—to 1.3 percent, from the historical level of 4.5 percent. By 2024, total household financial wealth will be 36 percent lower—a drop of $31 trillion—than it would have been if the higher historical growth rates had persisted.

Unlike Merrill Lynch, McKinsey is not bullish on America.

The United States will experience the largest shortfall in household financial wealth in absolute terms—$19 trillion by 2024—because of the size of its economy. The growth rate of the country's household financial wealth will decline to 1.6 percent, from 3.8 percent.

My guess is that George Bush's proposal to reduce the Social Security benefits for middle and higher income workers might boost savings because people would realize they need to save more for their retirements.

Here's a really interesting twist on the higher savings rates of continental Europeans: They save more but get lousier returns on their savings.

UK and US households compensate for their low savings rates by building wealth through high rates of asset appreciation. Their counterparts in Continental Europe and Japan save at much higher rates but ultimately accumulate less wealth, since these savings generate low or negative returns.

My guess is that the trend toward global capital markets will decrease the difference in average returns by investors from different countries.

If a shortage of capital causes possessors of capital to demand a higher rate of return then this would be bearish for stock markets. Why? Think about stocks that issue dividends. The prices of the stocks would have to be lower per dollar of dividend to compensate for higher interests available from bonds. But slower rates of rises of stock prices will compound the problem by lowering household net worths.

McKinsey's report reinforces my belief that the biggest economic problem facing the industrialized countries is their aging populations. But immigration is not a solution because immigrants to both Europe and the United States do more poorly than native born on average. Granted, there are Chinese, Korean, and Indian immigrant engineers who are making far more than the average white guy in America. But in America the Hispanics on average have far lower levels of educational attainment and lower incomes as compared to whites even in later generations. Similarly, in Europe the Arabs do far worse educationally and economically than the natives. Also in America the immigrants are not much younger on average than the native born.

I favor a few policies to address the economic problem caused by aging populations.

  • Stop letting in poorly educated immigrants and immigrants whose jobs pay poorly. Let in only those who will earn salaries that will generate far more tax revenue than they get in benefits and who will raise the national average per capita GDP.
  • Raise retirement ages. People are not as physically worn out at age 65 as they were back in the 1930s. Well, retirement age levels should reflect rising health of those in their 60s.
  • Accelerate education as a means to get people into the workforce at earlier ages. Let high school and college students study 12 months of the year and to advance through courses at faster rates. How? Video recorded high resolution lectures made at multiple camera angles (to include blackboards) to allow kids to learn for as many waking hours as they can handle. Also add in the ability to take tests in testing centers at high schools and universities or via the web.
  • Accelerate biomedical research to develop the means to slow and reverse aging. Then people could work for much longer.
  • Automate medical care with electronic medical records, expert systems for doing diagnosis, and more automated methods of diagnostic testing using nanotech sensors.
  • Implement health savings accounts so that people have incentive to save with pre-tax dollars to treat future health care needs.

The McKinsey analysts point out that corporations could dramatically boost 401k savings enrollment rates by requiring new employees to opt out rather than opt in.

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By Randall Parker 2005 May 07 04:41 PM  Civilizations Decay
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2005 May 05 Thursday
British Conservative Party Makes Gains Running Against Immigration

The Conservative Party in Britain was not able to run against the incumbernt Labour Party on the unpopular Iraq war because the Consevatives supported it as well. However, the Tories made large inroads by campaigning against immigration.

Blair's Labour Party was returned to power with a drastically reduced majority of an estimated 68 seats, down from 160 as the war in Iraq had a telling impact on voters.

...

Its forecast 36 per cent of the vote was the smallest winning share in modern history.

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Labour MP Margaret Beckett said she had "a horrid feeling immigration helped the Conservatives".

Note the winning margin in their Parliamentary system. 64% of the British population voted against the winners.

The Consevatives picked up the largest chunk of Labour's losses.

The main opposition Conservative Party, which ran a pared-down, sharply focused campaign that emphasized law-and-order issues such as restricting immigration and adding police officers, would gain 30 to 44 seats, according to the projections. The third-party Liberal Democrats, the only major party that opposed the war, would gain five to 15.

The Conservatives believe the immigration issue worked in their favor.

In addition to a boost from voters turning against Tony Blair, Conservative canvassers were reporting that the use of the immigration issue had increased support among former Labour working-class voters, despite the widespread criticism that the tactic drew during the campaign.

The British Conservatives are against automatic asylum for anyone who claims to be persecuted.

The Conservatives propose an annual quota for immigrants and want to withdraw from the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention, which obliges countries to take in asylum seekers based on need.

Most asylum claims are motivated by the desire to move to a wealthier country and make more money.

Even some non-whites supported the Conservatives due to immigration.

"Sometimes I think the authorities are too soft," said Dalbir Deol Singh, a Sikh voter in the Ilford North constituency now held by the governing Labour Party. Although he's voting for Labour, he says his children will vote for the Conservatives "because they feel too many immigrants means trouble for all of us."

A substantial minority of Hispanics in America also want less immigration. British Prime Minister Tony Blair had to respond to the Conservatives on immigration during the campaign by proposing tougher policies on immigration and political asylum.

Blair is also promising a tougher stand on immigration. One of his campaign slogans is "Your country's borders protected," and he has vowed to recruit 600 more border guards.

Taking a position in favor of immigration restriction against asylum seekers has worked very well for the ruling right-wing Liberal Party in Australia. British sentiment is building against immigration and the same is happening in the United States. Politicians in both countries are becoming less afraid to openly voice immigration restrictionist positions. Expect to see the immigration debate to play a much bigger role in the US election in 2008.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 05 11:33 PM  Immigration Politics
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2005 May 03 Tuesday
New Iraq Police Force Beats And Kills Prisoners

"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss"

In fact, many of the old members of Saddam Hussein's security forces are filling the ranks of the new police units and security forces. And many of these hardened soldiers practiced in the brutality of his regime initially received no Western-style training, says Robert Perito, an expert on post conflict security at the US Institute of Peace.

"In the long run, with the assistance of the US military unfortunately ... [we are creating] a security force which is very much like the old Saddam security forces," says Perito. "That's not what we set out to do."

But will we get fooled again?

America is fighting for soldiers' democracy.

But Jabbar and Ali say instinct often takes over when they arrest someone whom they are sure is an insurgent. They also say they're concerned that if they don't exact some justice, no one will.

"It's soldiers' democracy," says Jabbar. "The reason we want to kill them is because of rumors that the Americans will release them."

I'm reminded of late great science fiction writer Robert Heinlein and how he proposed a democracy in which only people who have served in the military should have the right to vote. Iraqi special forces soldier Ali Jabbar thinks soldiers engage in democracy by beating suspected terrorists to death. You might think of this as a form of participatory democracy. Each whack with a "donkey stick" on a suspect's body is a vote of sorts.

The whole article is pretty interesting though not surprising. The Iraqi soldiers and police are quite willing to beat suspected terrorists to death. One of the special forces soldiers interviewed for the article took part in beating a few suspected terrorists to death when the suspects were found to have pictures of soldiers stored on their cell phones. That strikes me as strong evidence that the suspects were terrorists. But to an American court that probably wouldn't be convincing evidence. Well, in Iraq that sort of evidence gets you beat to death on the spot by enthusiastic democracy advocates.

On the bright side Saddam's security forces broke the bulk of the resistance to Saddam's regime and therefore these same people might manage to reestablish control and slow the death rate of Iraqi civilians and American soldiers. But they are busily doing things that make the Abu Ghraib abuses seem mild in comparison. The Western press doesn't mind Arabs cracking Arab heads. External pressure will not prevent development of a more effective and brutal police state.

My question about Iraq is pretty simple to state: Will the Iraqi government be able to recruit enough determined and properly incentivized police and special forces to beat the insurgents into submission? The answer to that question will decide the outcome in Iraq.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 03 11:03 PM  MidEast Iraq New Regime Failures
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2005 May 02 Monday
Nurses Could Take Over Many Physician Tasks But Are Slower

Nurses can provide many forms of primary care with adequate quality but they take more time to do it and thereby cancel out much of the cost savings.

“ The findings may be considered controversial by health care professionals and policymakers, as there is a widely held belief that nurses can save physicians’ time and reduce costs,” says lead reviewer Miranda Laurant of Radboud University, Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

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The systematic review included 16 studies totaling more than 25,000 patients in the United Kingdom, United States and Canada. The review appears in the most recent issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

In each study, nurses were responsible for one of the following types of care: first contact and ongoing care for general patients; routine management of patients with chronic conditions; or first contact care for patients seeking urgent attention.

In the first two categories, the reviewers found no appreciable differences between doctors and nurses in health outcomes, process of care, resource utilization or cost.

Patients were happier with nurses. Longer consultations seem the likely cause of this effect.

Among urgent-care patients, health outcomes were similar for nurses and doctors. Moreover, nurses tended to provide longer consultations, offer more information, recall patients more frequently and receive higher patient-satisfaction ratings.

But the longer time spent with patients cancelled out the savings from lower salaries of nurses.

Because nurses spent more time with each patient, however, they saw fewer patients per hour. In four of five studies on nurse-led urgent care, lower salary costs were offset by this so-called “lower productivity” and increased use of resources.

Do male nurses spend less time per patient than female nurses? Is there personality type of female nurse that would be just as efficient who would spend less time per patient? Or are the doctors faster because they are smarter on average and can therefore think their way to diagnoses more quickly? For whatever reason(s), those stereotypical rude abrupt doctors are time efficient.

Perhaps in the United States the savings from nurses is greater because (and I'm guessing) the salary gap between doctors and nurses in the US is larger than in Canada or Britain.

“As salary differentials between nurses and doctors may vary from place to place and over time, the net saving to health care services, if any, will be highly context dependent,” note the reviewers.

The single study that investigated the impact of nurses on doctors’ workload confirmed reductions in demand for doctors when nurses responded to patients needing after-hours care. While such substitution may save time for physicians, note the authors, it is also possible that doctors’ workloads may remain unchanged either because there was previously unmet need or because nurses generate demand for care where previously there was none.

If automated devices and advances in testing technologies can serve up more accurate diagnoses more quickly will people continue to demand just as much face-to-face time with physicians?

Caveats, caveats, caveats:

Laurant cautions, however, that many of the studies had methodological limitations, and follow-ups of less than one year left long-term health outcomes unclear. In addition, most studies included only a few nurses, so the findings may reflect personal variations rather than broad trends.

This study is interesting because health care costs continue to grow more rapidly than the economy as a whole. Shifting more responsibility onto nurses might not help. Researchers need to discover why nurses take more time with patients. Is it because they like spending time with patients? Or because they don't want to be rude by cutting off conversations quickly? Or because they are less efficient at deciding questions to ask to examinations to do? Or because they require more time to think through the information that patients provide?

Also, are there types of illnesses for which nurses are nearly as quick as doctors?

By Randall Parker 2005 May 02 10:52 AM  Economics Health
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2005 May 01 Sunday
Housing Prices Increasingly Driven By SAT Scores

Lauren Meade has an article in The Christian Science Monitor on how the increasing use of SAT scores as a guide to home buying is leading to inflation of home prices in high SAT score areas.

Between the rise of the Internet and new laws that require more standardized testing and easier public access to test results, home-buyers can much more readily compare public schools.

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Cities on the coasts and in Southern states like Florida and Texas have the largest gaps in home prices and test scores. In Brookline, Mass., for instance, an additional $250,000 means the difference between living in a top-notch versus mediocre school district.

The starting price for a three bedroom, two-bath house in Brookline is $700,000, says Kathleen Alexander, a realtor at Century 21 Cityside. But one of the "best-kept secrets," according to Ms. Alexander, is the nearby Melrose-Stoneham area, where a comparable house sells for $450,000.

The difference? The caliber of the schools in the different neighborhoods. Brookline High School scored significantly higher on the 2004 SAT test than Melrose High School. Average scores at Brookline were 578 on the verbal portion of the test, and 598 on the math; at Melrose High they were 519 and 513, respectively.

I would expect to see less segregation of housing tracts by intellectual ability in fast growing areas with lots of new housing because when the housing is first built there is no track record to guide purchasing choices. New schools have no history. But older schools in stable population areas do have records. Differences in performance of neighboring school districts will tend to get amplified with time as upper class parents choose whichever school districts are better and thereby widen the student performance gap between schools.

There is an irony here. Laws such as "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) which require standardized testing of students are claimed by their backers (including one George W. Bush) to help close the gap between low and high performing students. But the data collected to help improve school performance in lower performing schools is being used by brighter middle and upper class parents to more efficiently separate their children from less bright lower class children. Parents of bright kids enrolled in lower performing schools are looking at average school test results to see how bad the students are where they are sending Jill and Johnny. Many are moving to put their kids in better schools. Less bright parents will, on average be less able to afford to make such a move, less knowledgeable about how their school is doing versus other schools, and less motivated to do anything about it.

The other interesting angle here is technology. Technological advances have enabled the rise of the internet which makes it much easier for home buyers to find the information that lets them choose houses based on school performance (and crime rates too). Technological advances are combining with the mania for testing to bring greater transparency to the home buying market. I predict the gaps between the lower and higher performing schools will grow larger as mentally sharper parents increasingly migrate to separate their kids from children born to less bright parents.

The top school districts have high percentages of children with brainy parents. For example, the top school district in North Carolina educates the children of very highly educated faculty and staff at UNC Chapel Hill.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools is one of two public school systems in Orange County, N.C. Located near the flagship campus of the University of North Carolina and the world renowned Research Triangle Park, we serve a community with one of the highest educated populations in America.

The district operates two high schools, four middle schools and nine elementary schools which serve more than 10,000 students.

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Among the 117 school districts in North Carolina, Chapel Hill-Carrboro has:

  • Highest district-wide average SAT score: 1185
  • Highest percentage of students taking the SAT: 92.5 percent of seniors
  • Highest high school End-of-Course tests results
  • Highest ranked high schools on state ABC Program
  • Highest percentage of faculty with master's degrees or doctorates: 56 percent
  • Highest local funding of public education at $3890 per student; one of the highest total funding per student: $8424
  • Highest percentage of graduating students pursuing their education beyond high school: 81 percent to four-year colleges and universities and 9 percent to two-year community colleges
  • Highest percentage of schools achieving exemplary growth on state tests.
  • Lowest high school dropout rate at 1.25 percent.

One of the 14 districts in the US in the Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN).
The district is the fourth largest employer in the county with approximately 900 teachers and other school-based professional staff, and more than half of those hold advanced degrees, including doctorates

The 1.25 percent drop-out rate for Chapel Hill North Carolina should be contrasted with the national 50% drop-out rate of blacks and 47% for Hispanics. In the Los Angeles Unified School District the Hispanic drop-out rate is an incredible 61%. Unfortunately, America's future is trending more toward Los Angeles.

Note that the average SAT score for a school tells only half the story. The students who do not take the SAT would, if they took the SAT, score lower than the students who do take the SAT. To be a primo school the school must have both high scores and high test taking rates.

Segregating one's smart offspring into school districts with similarly gifted offspring makes a lot of sense. In many school districts egalitarian political activists constantly force closure of programs and classes for smarter students. But in school districts dominated by the cognitve elite the classes are geared toward the needs of their on-average smarter children.

Both Chapel Hill High School and East Chapel Hill High are recognized in Newsweek magazine (March, 2001) for being in the top 100 high schools nationally for the participation of students in advanced placement (AP) course work.

...

Over 3500 students, or more than one-third of all students, receive services in gifted education. Each school employs at least one enrichment specialist and uses multiple criteria to identify students as gifted. In fact, in each classroom 40 to 45 percent of the students score at the 97th, 98th or 99th percentiles on state tests.

This is an especially interesting result for Chapel Hill because it is near a university which is of course dominated by overwhelmingly liberal faculty and staff. Highly educated liberals "talk left" in favor of equality for all and most give lip service in favor of racial preferences for other racial groups. But when it comes to their own families they "live right" by choosing to live in high scoring school districts and make sure that accelerated educational tracks are available in case their kids can handle the intellectual fast lane.

Check out a chart of Houston area school districts ranked by average SAT scores. Note that the second ranked school has 100% SAT test taking participation. Does that school require all of its students to take the SAT test?

Note that if you go searching for SAT scores for school districts a lot of the web pages that Google turns up are provided by realtors. For instance, see a realtor's tables for SAT scores in the Portland Oregon area. But state governments are also kind enough to make it easy for the cognitive elite to segregate their neighborhoods by intellectual ability. For example, the Oregon Department of Education kindly makes available downloadable school scorecards.

Note: If anyone can find a nice searchable national database of SAT scores by high school or by school district please post a link in the comments or email me. I'd like to find a web site with forms for searching their SAT scores database. Desirable features include the ability to order results from high to low or low to high, restrict searches to geographic areas, put qualifying ranges on SAT score results, and other similar qualifiers. What would be spectacular would be such a database combined with housing price information or income information. I've tried to find such sites but hit too many search results that were aimed at real estate buyers for particular geographic areas.

By Randall Parker 2005 May 01 01:07 PM  Education
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