2005 June 30 Thursday
George W. Bush Popularity Decline Continues

A new Zogby poll shows President Bush's popularity continues to decline.

President Bush’s televised address to the nation produced no noticeable bounce in his approval numbers, with his job approval rating slipping a point from a week ago, to 43%, in the latest Zogby International poll. And, in a sign of continuing polarization, more than two-in-five voters (42%) say they would favor impeachment proceedings if it is found the President misled the nation about his reasons for going to war with Iraq.

The Zogby America survey of 905 likely voters, conducted from June 27 through 29, 2005, has a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points.

Just one week ago, President Bush’s job approval stood at a previous low of 44%—but it has now slipped another point to 43%, despite a speech to the nation intended to build support for the Administration and the ongoing Iraq War effort. The Zogby America survey includes calls made both before and after the President’s address, and the results show no discernible “bump” in his job approval, with voter approval of his job performance at 45% in the final day of polling.

If Bush pulled out of Iraq now he might be able to bounce back enough to prevent a big Republican Congressional loss in the November 2006 elections. Otherwise will the Democrats get control of the House in the next election?

Some people want to impeach Bush. But Dick "last throes" Cheney would replace him. Still, the impeachment might serve a useful purpose.

In a sign of the continuing partisan division of the nation, more than two-in-five (42%) voters say that, if it is found that President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should hold him accountable through impeachment. While half (50%) of respondents do not hold this view, supporters of impeachment outweigh opponents in some parts of the country.

Among those living in the Western states, a 52% majority favors Congress using the impeachment mechanism while just 41% are opposed; in Eastern states, 49% are in favor and 45% opposed. In the South, meanwhile, impeachment is opposed by three-in-five voters (60%) and supported by just one-in-three (34%); in the Central/Great Lakes region, 52% are opposed and 38% in favor.

Impeachment is overwhelmingly rejected in the Red States—just 36% say they agree Congress should use it if the President is found to have lied on Iraq, while 55% reject this view; in the “Blue States” that voted for Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry in 2004, meanwhile, a plurality of 48% favors such proceedings while 45% are opposed.

Bush's recent speech at Fort Bragg defending the continuation of the war in Iraq was watched by a small and mostly Republican audience.

The audience was apparently rather small and composed largely of Bush supporters -- 50% of those who tuned in were Republicans, a much higher proportion than exists in the general population but similar to what Gallup has found in polling following other Bush speeches.

Overall, the sample of 323 speech watchers rated Bush's speech in positive terms -- with 46% describing their reaction as "very positive" and an additional 28% "somewhat positive." That is well below average when compared with other major speeches Bush has given, which have averaged a 60% very positive rating in similar flash polls. That includes a 67% very positive rating for the famous "Mission Accomplished" speech he gave aboard an aircraft carrier in May 2003, in which he declared the major fighting phase of the Iraq war to be over.

He's going to have to try a lot harder to reach more people to have any chance of turning public opinion around on the Iraq war. But I don't think he can succeed in that. Unless the Shias decide to start fighting against the Sunnis (basically join a civil war) I don't see how conditions in Iraq can improve. I do not expect the Shias to put their lives on the line in significant numbers as long as American troops will do it for them. So things are going to stay bad or get worse in Iraq.

Thanks to Greg Cochran for the link.

According to a different poll done over the weekend Bush's job performance disapproval has hit new highs.

The number of Americans disapproving of President Bush's job performance has risen to the highest level of his presidency, according to the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday.

According to the poll, 53 percent of respondents said they disapproved of Bush's performance, compared to 45 percent who approved.

Again, I expect the Bush ratings decline to continue as long as the Iraq war goes on. Most people now think the invasion was a mistake. The death and injury rate for American troops shows no signs of declining. The Shias obviously do not want to take up arms to defend democracy. The WMD argument was a deception.

Bush's Social Security proposal is dead as a door nail.

WASHINGTON — Americans disapprove of the way President Bush is handling Social Security by a ratio of more than 2-to-1, a new low for the White House on its top domestic policy issue, according to the latest USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll.

The poll, taken over the weekend, showed a steady erosion in the president's handling of Social Security since early February, when 43% approved. Now, 31% approve and 64% disapprove, the first time disapproval has risen above 60%.

If we are lucky Congress will get it together to pass a law to raise the retirement age for Social Security. But I fear Bush's privatization proposal has poisoned the atmosphere against any Social Security reform.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 30 05:36 PM  Politics American Domestic
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Bush Administration Tried To Cover Up Border Patrol Survey

The Bush Administration tried to cover up a Border Patrol survey of captured illegal aliens which showed the Bush immigration proposal increased illegal entry by aliens.

The Bush administration's guest worker plan has actually helped fuel illegal immigration because some believed President Bush is offering amnesty, according to a watchdog group's analysis of a government poll of immigrants detained by the Border Patrol.

The survey, some of the results of which were obtained, analyzed and released Tuesday by Judicial Watch, found that 63 percent of more than 800 immigrants arrested along the nation's southern border said they had heard from the Mexican government or media that Bush was offering amnesty. Forty-five percent said they attempted to cross the border based on those beliefs. Eighty percent said they wanted to apply for amnesty.

Bush boosted illegal alien entry into the United States by proposing his temporary worker program.

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the public interest group that fights government corruption, today released the results of a previously undisclosed Border Patrol survey of apprehended illegal immigrants demonstrating that President Bush’s “temporary worker proposal,” was broadly interpreted as an illegal immigration amnesty program by illegal immigrants from Mexico, and led to a spike in illegal immigration crossings. Judicial Watch also uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) a Border Patrol document entitled, “White House Approved Talking Points,” directing Border Patrol agents to withhold information on the impact of the Bush amnesty proposal on illegal crossings.

Judicial Watch presented the documents and a report, U.S. Border Patrol Survey Analysis, to House Immigration Reform Chairman Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) at a joint press conference. Among the conclusions of Judicial Watch’s report are:

  1. President Bush’s proposal lured greater numbers of illegal immigrants to violate the law. Approximately 45% of respondents crossed illegally based upon rumors of a Bush amnesty program.
  2. Approximately 63% of the illegal aliens surveyed received Mexican government or media information supporting the notion of a Bush administration amnesty program.
  3. When asked if they would seek amnesty if offered, 80% of apprehended illegal immigrants answered, “yes.”

The “talking points memo” uncovered by Judicial Watch instructs Border Patrol agents to withhold information about the negative impact of the president’s proposal. “Do not talk about amnesty, increase in apprehensions, or give comparisons of past immigration reform proposals…Do not provide statistics on apprehension spikes or past amnesty data,” Border Patrol agents were told.

The Bush Administration does not want the truth getting in the way of the lies they tell.

You can read Judicial Watch's report Border Patrol Survey Analysis (PDF) and a supporting document (PDF).

Tom Tancredo says that of course Bush's immigration proposal is an amnesty and the Mexicans saw it as such.

"This is a bombshell," Tancredo said. "The White House and DHS leadership must immediately address the survey and the way the information request was handled so that the American people know that their government isn't playing politics with national security data.

"I have said all along that the president's immigration plan is amnesty, regardless of what the president calls it. We now have proof that illegal aliens understand that it's amnesty as well, and that it is an enticement to cross the border."

See my previous post "Thinking About Bush's Less Than Half-Baked Worker Permit Proposal".

By Randall Parker 2005 June 30 01:51 PM  Immigration Politics
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Search Raids Done Against Suspected Terrorists In Australia

The Melbourne Stock Exchange, oil refineries, and a bridge were considered as terrorist attack targets by Islamic terrorist cells in Melbourne and Sydney Australia.

Islamic extremists with cells in Melbourne and Sydney carried out reconnaissance missions on the Harbour Bridge and two Sydney oil refineries.

Sources believe an attack on the Melbourne exchange would be aimed at causing major disruption to the country's financial markets.

While details of the planned stock exchange attack are being kept secret by intelligence officials, the revelation comes as ASIO officers - assisted by Victorian and Federal Police - raided at least eight properties in Victoria and NSW this week.

...

Victoria Police started watching the Melbourne cell about 18 months ago after a tip-off that an Islamic extremist was recruiting followers at a mosque in inner-suburban Melbourne.

But since they worship their god by trying to blow things up if we interfere with their bomb planning we interfere with their religious worship.

Maybe they just thought oil refineries were beautiful backdrops for pictures sent home?

Cell members used two small boats to check out the harbour and were also observed filming at the North Sydney and Kurnell oil refineries.

This is nature's way of telling us we shouldn't let in Muslim immigrants. Unless you want "being-hit-on-the-head lessons" why let in Muslim immigrants at all?

The raids were aimed to disrupt terrorism planning rather than to make arrests.

Raids in Melbourne and Sydney yesterday by ASIO and police were part of a co-ordinated strategy to deter a loose group of Muslim extremists from graduating to terrorist activities.

ASIO, along with state and federal police, raided premises in Melbourne and Sydney yesterday after individuals in the group were monitored by state and federal counter-terrorism experts for more than 12 months.

Police say some of the suspects had shown the intent but lacked the expertise to carry out terrorist attacks in Australia.

If the average terrorist was smarter we'd be in a lot more trouble. On the other hand, smarter people are less likely to believe religions. It would be interesting to see how belief rates drop off as a function of IQ for different religions. Is the drop-off rate faster for Islam than for Christianity? My guess is the drop-off rate is faster for Christianity than for Judaism.

The Australians ought to start revoking residency and even citizenship against these kinds of people and then deport them.

Some cell members are friends with a known Australian Muslim terrorist Saleh Jamal.

Sources said a senior member of the cell is an associate of jailed Australian terrorist Saleh Jamal.

Jamal, 29, fled Australia after the 1998 drive-by shooting of Lakemba police station. He was convicted this year in a Lebanese military court of possessing weapons, forging an Australian passport, and planning acts that endangered security.

An intelligence source said: "The Australian group has talked about following Jamal's lead and doing the same thing here."

Melbourne cell members were heard discussing where they might find an explosives expert.

Pakistani born Sydney Australia resident Faheem Khalid Lodhi is charged with planning to commit terrorist attacks in Australia and directing a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.

Fellow Sydney man Faheem Khalid Lodhi, 35, formerly an architect, faces nine charges of planning to commit terrorist acts, including the bombing of Sydney's electricity grid and various defence sites.

In Lodhi's case, the Crown alleged that in October 2001 the accused acted "in an apparent official capacity" at a training camp in Lahore, Pakistan, operated by banned terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba.

In 2003, after returning to Australia, Lodhi allegedly helped set up French terrorist suspect Willie Brigitte in a Sydney home, with a mobile phone registered, like his own, in a false name, the Crown said.

Lodhia and Brigitte are suspected of plotting a terrorist attack.

The prosecution claims Lodhi met Brigitte at the airport, having written his flight number and physical description in his diary.

The two remained in touch for five months, according to police evidence, and by October Lodhi had allegedly obtained images of the electricity grid and inquired about ordering large quantities of chemicals that could be used in bombs.

Lebanese born former Qantas baggage handler Bilal Khazal is to stand trial in Sydney for writing a manual for terrorists.

Yesterday the bizarre and often violent text was handed over to Sydney Central Local Court, where its 35-year-old editor, Bilal Khazal, faced a charge of making documents likely to facilitate terrorist acts.

Dressed in a long navy dish-dasha dress shirt, white prayer cap, socks and sandals, the portly Khazal sat impassively as prosecutor Geoffrey Bellew told the court that almost a third of the offending book was directed to the topic of assassination, including a list of attributes needed to be part of an assassination team - "wit and a quick mind", "a terrorist psychology" and "high physical fitness".

The book concluded with praise for al-Qaeda's "impressive success of the conquest of New York" on September 11, 2001.

At least 5 Muslims in Australia have to be watched 24 hours per day and 7 days a week.

THEY call them 24/7s. In police and intelligence terms they are the kingpins, men whose every movement is watched, recorded and analysed all day, every day.

At least five Sydney residents have received this round-the-clock attention since just before the 2000 Olympics. They are thought to be pressure points in the internecine world of Australian radical Islam: devotees who can rally followers to rise up in the name of jihad or keep a lid on those at odds with the ways of the West.

Of course such surveillance for years on end is incredibly expensive. Why should Western countries inflict such costs on ourselves by letting in Muslim immigrants? The Western countries are not underpopulated. If we let in only the top 1% in intelligence we'd get the benefits of more rapid advances in science and technology and more companies founded to develop innovative new products and services. We don't need to let in dim bulb religious fanatics who hate our civilization and who hate us.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 30 01:03 PM  Immigration Terrorism
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Most Iraq Suicide Bombers From Saudi Arabia

George W. Bush repeatedly and dishonestly tries to link the invason of Iraq to the 9/11 attack and the terrorist threat to the United States. With this in mind it is worth taking a look at the suicide bombers in Iraq. Those suicide bombers serve as a useful reminder of where the real terrorist threat emanates from. A few nights ago C-SPAN broadcast hearings from Washington DC by an organization that is supposed to be the successor to the 9/11 Commission. Former Senators Sam Nunn and Bob Kerrey are among the notables in this organization (whose title escapes me). Well, on one of the discussion panels Juliette Kayyam of the Harvard JFK School of Government noted in passing that 40% of the suicide bombers in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia. This is in the ballpark with other sources that place Saudi suicide bomber participation at 50% and 60%.

In a paper published in March, Reuven Paz, an Israeli expert on terrorism, analyzed the lists of jihadi dead. He found 154 Arabs killed over the previous six months in Iraq, 61 percent of them from Saudi Arabia, with Syrians, Iraqis and Kuwaitis together accounting for another 25 percent. He also found that 70 percent of the suicide bombers named by the Web sites were Saudi. In three cases, Paz found two brothers who carried out suicide attacks. Many of the bombers were married, well educated and in their late twenties, according to postings.

"While incomplete," Paz wrote, the data suggest "the intensive involvement of Saudi volunteers for jihad in Iraq."

In a telephone interview, Paz said his list -- assembled from monitoring a dozen Islamic extremist Web forums -- now had more than 200 names. "Many are students or from wealthy families -- the same sociological characteristics as the Sept. 11 hijackers," he said.

These people who are blowing up American soldiers and Iraqis never would have managed to get to the United States to blow up Americans.

"This is not al Qaeda's first team," said Hammes of the National Defense University. "These are the scrubs who could never get us in the States."

Another researcher estimates Saudis make up over 50% of suicide bombers.

Evan F. Kohlmann, a researcher who monitors Islamic extremist Web sites, has compiled a list of more than 235 names of Iraqi dead gleaned from the Internet since last summer, with more than 50 percent on his tally from Saudi Arabia as well.

Another list puts Saudis at 44% and puts Iraqis at less than 15% of suicide bombers in Iraq.

Saudis were also the leading group on this list, representing 44 percent, followed by Syrians and Iraqis at less than 15 percent each.

Think about that. The Iraqis are all already in Iraq and yet make up less than 15% of the suicide bombers while the Saudis make up about half. Iraq has a population of 26 million. Saudi Arabia also has a population of 26 million. Obviously Iraqis are far less interested in a world religious jihad against Americans than the Saudis are. Now, one could explalin this disparity by pointing out that only about 20% of Iraqis are Sunni Arabs. So only about 5 million are going to fight for Sunni Arab supremacy or join in Sunni Arab jihads. But that still means that fewer Iraqis are interested in joining Al Qaeda or similar organizations that have global aspirations to jihad.

A Saudi who wants to do a suicide bombing against American forces has to travel to Syria, get hooked up with a jihad organization, and then sneak across the border. He probably has to get a passport first. He has to get the money to pay for an airplane ticket and make the trip. Iraqis, by contrast, are right there. Why are Iraqi Sunni Arabs more likely to operate as conventional guerrillas rather than as suicide bombers? Could it be that they simply want the Americans out and don't harbor global Islamic aspirations or martrydom aspirations?

Then there are the Saudis versus all the other Arab countries. Where are the Egyptians? Or Libyans? Suicide bombers in Iraq come from many countries. But the Saudis make up about half even though Egypt at 77 million has almost 3 times the population of Saudi Arabia. Libya has 5.7 miliion. Jordan also has 5.7 million. Morocco has 32 million. Why aren't Egypt, Libya, Jordan, and Morocco together accounting for far more of the suicide bombers than Saudi Arabia? Saudi Arabia is by far the biggest source of global Islamic Jihadists.

The conditions created by the American invasion of Iraq demonstrate once again (as if we didn't already know) that Saudi Arabia poses the biggest threat of terrorism against Americans. While the necons talk about Iraq, Syria, and Iran the elephant is standing in the room. The elephant isn't seen as much of a threat to Israel. That's a shame. If it was then the neocons would shift their attention more in the direction that matters to Americans.

The Iraqi Sunni Arabs are fighting Americans for two reasons:

  1. American troops are in Iraq and they do not want to be ruled by us.
  2. The Iraqi Shia Arabs are not going to fight the Sunnis to establish Shia supremacy because war is dangerous and Americans will do their fighting for them (and maybe the Shias are just not up to it).

If we leave then the Shias might get up the cojones to put down the Sunni Arab rebellion and to hunt down and kill all the foreign Sunni jihadists. Or the Shias might be a bunch of pussies and let the Sunnis once again lord over them. But as long as we stay all we are going to see is a constant reminder that A) a lot of Saudis want to blow us up, B) the Iraqi Sunni Arabs want us out, and C) the Shias do not care enough about having their own government to put their own lives at risk. I've already learned this lesson. Have you? If not, how many more Americans have to die or become injured for life before you learn?

Update: Another estimate puts the Iraqi contribution to suicide bombing at only 10%

Since 2003, less than 10 percent of more than 500 suicide attacks have been carried out by Iraqis, according to one defense official.

As much as 20% of the suicide bombers might be from Algeria.

Up to 20 percent of the bombers might be from Algeria, according to forensic investigations after attacks, senior U.S. military officials have said on condition they not be named for security reasons. Another 5 percent each might be from Morocco and Tunisia, the officials said.

The Sunnis are streaming in to Iraq to fight for their fellow Sunnis against the Shias according to former CIA officer Robert Baer.

Baer said Sunni Arabs who take carry out suicide attacks feel Shiites are attacking Sunnis in Iraq. ``They look at the war in Iraq as an attack on Sunni Islam, not Iraq, not Saddam,'' he said.

In interviews while visiting prisons, terror groups and government officials, he was told that there are so many suicide bombers coming out of the Persian Gulf states that the loose networks that deploy jihadist martyrs - many run through mosques - are turning away potential attackers.

He said the mentality is: ``They have taken what is ours and they will take more if we don't stop them.''

Think about the underlying feeling Sunni entitlement. The Sunnis are killing many more Shias than the other way around. Yet the Sunnis feel they are the ones being attacked.

When the US pulls out of Iraq will the Shias be able to make peace with the Sunnis? Will even more Sunnis flow in from other countries to fight for their Sunni brethren in Iraq?

Also, will the Sunni smuggling network scale up to take in all the Sunnis who want to go to Iraq to fight? Just how many more will volunteer if the smuggling routes expand to handle them?

By Randall Parker 2005 June 30 09:33 AM  Mideast Iraq
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2005 June 28 Tuesday
How Many Troops Returning From Iraq Will Suffer Mental Disabilities?

What portion of soldiers returning from Iraq will suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other emotional illnesses as a result of their military service in a war zone? One estimate for expected PTSD puts it at 20%.

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Almost half of the Vermont National Guard troops returning from combat have claimed some level of physical or psychological disability, and at least 20 percent of all Vermont troops are expected to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, officials at the Veterans Administration Hospital in White River Junction predict.

“What happens is that the vets who come back right now obviously have some readjustment because they’re coming from a hostile area back to a normal sense of life,” said Anselm Beach, a spokesman for the VA hospital. “PTSD, however, is more of a long-term diagnosis. Some of it could be chronic and some of it may not be.”

Some mental health officials say the VA’s estimate of 20 percent may be conservative because PTSD often doesn’t surface for months or even years. State officials say the figure could be as high as 30 percent.

15% of Vietnam vets suffered from PTSD 13 years after the war ended. Of course almost all of them returned well before the fall of Saigon.

The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study calculated that, in 1988, 13 years after the conflict had ended, the prevalence of PTSD in Vietnam veterans was 15 percent, and that 30 percent had experienced the disorder at some point since returning from the war.

Dr. Charles Hoge, a researcher with Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, found that one eighth of returing soldiers from Iraq were reportiing symptoms consistent with PTSD.

Hoge was one of the authors of a study of returning troops published in June 2004 in The New England Journal of Medicine, which found that about one in eight returning soldiers reported symptoms of PTSD, but less than half of those with problems sought help, mostly out of fear of being stigmatized or hurting their careers.

In 2004 161,000 Vietnam vets were receiving compensation for PTSD.

-- 15.2 percent of all male veterans (479,000 out of 3,140,000 who served in Vietnam) and 8.1 percent of women (610 out of 7,200) were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in a 1986-1988 study by the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Survey (NVVRS).

-- Almost half of all male Vietnam veterans suffering from PTSD had been arrested or in jail at least once, 34.2 percent more than once and 11.5 percent had been convicted of a felony, according to the same survey.

-- VA statistics in 2004 showed that 161,000 veterans were still receiving disability compensation for PTSD.

Women soldiers returning from Iraq suffer PTSD at much higher rates than men.

-- According to a 2005 VA study of 168,528 Iraqi veterans, 20 percent were diagnosed with psychological disorders, including 1,641 with PTSD.

-- In an earlier VA study this year, almost 12,500 of nearly 245,000 veterans visited VA counseling centers for readjustment problems and symptoms of PTSD.

-- The Marines and Army were nearly four times more likely to report PTSD than Navy or Air Force because of their greater exposure to combat situations.

-- Enlisted men were twice as likely as officers to report PTSD.

-- 8 percent to 10 percent of active-duty women and retired military women who served in Iraq suffer from PTSD.

Veterans Administration hospitals are seeing more PTSD cases.

At Lexington's VA hospital, 316 veterans with the disorder made 4,550 visits to the outpatient clinic last year, up from 264 veterans who made 3,920 visits in 2002, the year before the war began, said spokeswoman Desti Stimes.

In an article about the suicide of a New Hampshire Air National Guardsman who committed suicide shortly after returning from Iraq some insight is provided about the horror of Iraq convoy operations.

Maj. Chris Hurley, operations officer for the 157th and Guindon's supervisor, was not in Iraq but kept in close contact with the unit. He told police officers that the rules of combat in Iraq are different from those in previous wars. The environment is unpredictable and unimaginably harsh, especially for those involved in convoy operations.

"(Hurley) was saying the Iraqis would actually send children out to blow up truck convoys, so when children were seen in the road, the soldiers were told to actually keep going and run right over them," Hurley's police interview reads, "because if they stopped for the children, as would be the norm, there was a possibility that these children could be armed or wired with explosives."

It was the first time the state's Air Guard members, who tend to specialize in defense tactics, had done anything like it, Hurley said.

One thing to note here: The US Army and Marines are sufficiently short on soldiers that US Air Force National Guardmen are doing convoy guard duties in Iraq. The unit described in this article drove 100,000 miles while in Iraq.

We have better drugs today for treating mental illness. Also, the military makes a greater effort to identify it. But about half of all soldiers avoid complaining either out of pride or in order to avoid being blocked from advancement.

How many soldiers total have served in Iraq so far? 300,000 perhaps? If anyone comes across some numbers please post them in the comments. Also, how many soldiers are being sent to Iraq each year for the first time? Some fraction of each new batch is going to add to the total who will suffer long term mental disorders as a result of their service. Based on the numbers above we could easly end up with 50,000 to 100,000 veterans with various forms of mental illness as a result of their time served in Iraq.

The costs of the mental illnesses resulting from service in Iraq will take forms such as higher rates of divorce, higher rates of abuse of spouses and children, poorer work performance and higher rates of unemployment, institutionalization of severe cases, suicide, murder, and other crimes. We will be paying for the Iraq war for decades to come.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 28 08:20 PM  Mideast Iraq Costs
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Latin American Amerind Anti-White Populism Spreading Northward?

Steve Sailer has written a very interesting article about the rise of Amerind (a.k.a. Indian or indigenous peoples) populist political movements in Latin American countries. An example of this phenomenon which has the Bush Administration upset is Hugo Chavez who as President of Venezuela is waging class warfare against middle class and upper class Spanish (i.e. white) people on behalf of the mostly Amerind lower class. Bush supported a failed coup against democratically elected Chavez, thereby demonstrating the limits to Bush's supposed trust in democracy as the panacea to solve the world's ills. The coup failed because the Amerind masses supported Chavez on the streets.

Steve points out that rising Amerind resentment toward whites in Latin American countries and could (and probably will) eventually translate into a similar resentment in the United States. A rising proportion of Mexican and other Latin American immigrants are Amerinds with bottled up resentment of white middle and upper classes.

This anti-white movement in Latin America will likely make the less white Hispanics more resentful and hostile toward non-Hispanic whites in America.

This could set off massive social change.

Many affluent white supporters of illegal immigration in the U.S. see Hispanics as genetically programmed to be their docile, cheerfully subservient maids and gardeners.

What is often forgotten is that their grandparents viewed blacks the same way. That's why corporations named famous food brands "Uncle Ben" and "Aunt Jemima"—the connotation was that by buying these products, you were virtually partaking of the rich man's luxury of having your own smiling, nodding black cook.

During the Black Pride movement of the 1960s, however, blacks came to resent servant jobs.

And how much can you blame them? There's something that's just not very American about the master-servant relationship.

The downside, of course, was that when blacks turned against their old jobs, many ended up resorting to crime to make money.

Which is why wealthy Americans discovered illegal immigrant Hispanic service workers. They came to assume that it was the natural order of things for whites to command Latinos.

I suspect that the anti-white movements in Latin America will, sooner or later, set off a revulsion among Hispanics in this country against servile jobs roughly similar to the Black Pride reaction of the 1960s.

I wouldn't be terribly surprised if, in a generation, wealthy Americans are smugly assuming that their new Indonesian immigrant servants are naturally deferential—unlike those sullen, crime-prone Latinos they had to let go.

And perhaps in two generations, the rich will tell each other that their new Indian Untouchable immigrant servants are born knowing their place, unlike those uppity Indonesians they had to fire.

Perhaps I'll be proved wrong.

But what if I’m not?

Shouldn't we at least be talking about these possibilities?

As always with American’s post 1965 Immigration Disaster: Why are we taking this risk?

I think the development of a large Hispanic servant class is a recipe for turning the political and social culture of the United States into something far more like Latin America's culture than like America's historical culture. We'd be much better off stopping and reversing the illegal alien influx and placing high skills and education requirements for legal immigrants while simultaneously decreasing the total number of legal immigrants.

Business interests in America focused on short term profits oppose attempts to prevent a demographic shift that will be deeply harmful in the long run. At the same time politicians in both parties are more interested in winning the immigrants over to their party than they are in doing what is best for the American people. While the Democratic Party's leaders are correct in seeing the lower class and less educated non-whites as easy recruits the Republicans around Bush are just plain deluded.

In Bolivia the conflict between the indigenous highlands Amerinds led to an indigenous blockade of La Paz which drove the most recent Bolivian President from office. The white Spanish reaction has taken the form of a movement for regional autonomy and even talk of outright secession among the Spaniards.

SANTA CRUZ, BOLIVIA – If Lorgio Balcazar Arroyo has his way, Bolivia will soon have a system of government like the United States.

Mr. Balcazar, from the industrial eastern part of Bolivia, is general manager of the Pro-Santa Cruz Committee, a key organizer behind a controversial referendum on regional autonomy that is scheduled for Aug. 12. Broad dissatisfaction with the central government has led to an independence movement in this industrial boomtown. Leaders here say autonomy would help buttress the area against such volatility in the west as the month-long protests in May that paralyzed the capital and led to the resignation of Bolivia's second president in less than two years.

...

But as the demands from Santa Cruz gain legitimacy, the rivalry between east and west here is increasingly delineated in racial terms. It's the eastern cambas (European-descended Bolivians) versus the western collas (a term often used to refer to western indigenous people).

At one extreme are groups like the Camba Nation, which calls for independence from the indigenous cultures, described on Camba Nation's website as "slow and miserable" and prone to "conflict and communalism."

62% of Bolivia's population is indigenous Amerinds and Bolvia has gone through 3 Presidents in the last 2 years as the indigenous groups have staged protests.

Bolivia's current crisis was sparked by the resignation of President Carlos Mesa earlier this month. Mr Mesa's political position became untenable after he opposed a hydrocarbon law calling for a tax on foreign energy companies to be increased from 18% to 50%. Foreign investors in Bolivia, including Britain's BP and BG Group, have invested $3.5bn in the country's gas fields since 1997.

Many among Bolivia's indigenous majority, led by Evo Morales, an Aymara Indian, are now demanding the nationalisation of the country's private energy assets as a way out of poverty.

Nearly 75% of Bolivia's 3.9 million indigenous people live below the poverty level, compared to a national average of 53%. Non-indigenous Bolivians, meanwhile, earn more than twice as much as their indigenous compatriots, who collect an average monthly wage of just 513 bolivianos (£35).

Santa Cruz region white Spaniards resent Aymara Indian politician Evo Morales.

Mr. Morales, leader of Bolivia's largest opposition party, the MAS, or Movement Towards Socialism, rose to prominence as the head of Bolivia's coca-growers association, and came a close second in Bolivia's last presidential election in 2002.

In a strange turn, Mr. Morales was himself "blockaded" yesterday, and prevented from entering the city of San Julian in the Santa Cruz region by people still angry at the MAS blockades, which along with achieving their political objectives kept essential supplies from being distributed to ordinary people. The incident ended peacefully.

The United States of America too will develop even deeper splits along ethnic and racial lines if current immigration trends are not stopped. Even if the foreign influx is entirely halted eventually lower class and predominantly Amerind Latin American imimgrants are going to develop greater resentment at their class position in American society. Racial preferences under so-called "Affirmative Action" programs will not make the Amerinds do as well as whites. So America looks set to enter a stage of greater political divisions across racial lines.

As we move further into the 21st century whites may eventually become a market dominant minority ala Amy Chua's World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability. For more on this see my previous posts Identity Politics Building Ethnic Conflicts In Latin America and History Of American Interventions Bodes Poorly For Democracy.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 28 10:54 AM  Immigration Culture Clash
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2005 June 27 Monday
Armored Vehicle Purchases Lagging For US Troops In Iraq

US Defense Department procurement of better armored vehicles for Iraq is lagging.

When Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld visited Iraq last year to tour the Abu Ghraib prison camp, military officials did not rely on a government-issued Humvee to transport him safely on the ground. Instead, they turned to Halliburton, the oil services contractor, which lent the Pentagon a rolling fortress of steel called the Rhino Runner.

State Department officials traveling in Iraq use armored vehicles that are built with V-shaped hulls to better deflect bullets and bombs. Members of Congress favor another model, called the M1117, which can endure 12-pound explosives and .50-caliber armor-piercing rounds.

Unlike the Humvee, the Pentagon's vehicle of choice for American troops, the others were designed from scratch to withstand attacks in battlefields like Iraq with no safe zones. Last fall, for instance, a Rhino traveling the treacherous airport road in Baghdad endured a bomb that left a six-foot-wide crater. The passengers walked away unscathed. "I have no doubt should I have been in any other vehicle," wrote an Army captain, the lone military passenger, "the results would have been catastrophically different."

The article reports that in May and so far in June at least 73 US soldiers have died on Iraqi roads. Well, 80 US troops died total in May and so approximately half the troops dying in Iraq are dying on the roads. Most and perhaps all of those deaths could have been prevented with better vehicles. About half of US Army soldiers and even more Marines riding around in Humvees are driving in less than fully armored Humvees.

Just before the Iraq invasion one of the vehicles superior to the Humvee was unfunded and one of the superior V-shaped vehicles had a production stop while waiting for a contract.

Among other setbacks, the M1117 lost its Pentagon money just before the invasion, and the manufacturer is now scrambling to fill rush orders from the military. The company making one of the V-shaped vehicles, the Cougar, said it had to lay off highly skilled welders last year as it waited for the contract to be completed. Even then it was paid only enough to fill half the order.

And the Rhino could not get through the Army's testing regime because its manufacturer declined to have one of its $250,000 vehicles blown up. The company said it provided the Army with testing data that demonstrate the Rhino's viability, and is using the defense secretary's visit as a seal of approval in its contract pitches to the Defense Department.

Read the whole article. The Pentagon is too slow. Decades of layering of procurement rules onto it (to be fair much of it at the instigation of Congress) has left the military unable to shift to wartime procurement practices when a real shooting war is in progress. Plus, I suspect the DOD doesn't have enough money to buy what would save the most American lives.

Even some of the most armored Humvees are getting totally destroyed by bombs while many Humvees have yet to get up-armored. But the Humvees are obsolete for a war like Iraq where there are no clearly defined front lines. If Congress and the President were serious about protecting American soldiers they'd pass a law authorizing completely different and highly rapid procurement practices for equipment bound for Iraq.

Aside: This report indirectly might explain why the prices quoted for the ride to the Baghdad airport in news reports were very different last fall and early this year: One of the groups offering rides to the airport is using armored vehicles that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each. I thought that was what one news report I read had implied. But that seems clear now. Halliburton uses them. The US State Department uses them. Of course some private group will offer to sell rides in them. Those vehicles are much more expensive taxis.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 27 12:32 AM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs
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2005 June 26 Sunday
Donald Rumsfeld Admits To Meetings With Sunni Insurgency In Iraq

The rumours which have been flying around for weeks or months have finally been acknowledged.

Asked to respond to a report that U.S. military representatives met with several Sunni Iraqi insurgents twice in June, Rumsfeld told Fox News "there have probably been many more than that" and described the contacts as an effort to "split people off and get some people to be supportive" of the political process in Iraq.

Other parts of the U.S. government, including the State Department and CIA, have also been holding secret meetings with Iraqi insurgent factions in an effort to stop the violence and coax them into the political process, according to U.S. government officials and others who have participated in the efforts.

The military plan, approved in August 2004, seeks to make a distinction between Iraqi insurgents who are attacking U.S. troops because they are hostile to their presence, and foreign insurgents responsible for most of the suicide bombings -- which have killed more than 1,200 people in the last couple of months -- and whose larger political aims are unclear.

Hey, maybe they could shift the site of the negotiations to Paris and bring Henry Kissinger back from retirement to conduct them. Just a thought.

Rumsfeld also acknowledged that the United States is not going to beat the insurgency and that the insurgency could even last another 10 years.

Rumsfeld acknowledged there was no military solution to ending the insurgency and that the talks with Iraqi insurgents were part of a search for a political solution to the war. "I mean, foreign troops are not going to beat the insurgency," he said. "It's going to be the Iraqi people that are going to beat the insurgency and Iraqi security forces. That's just the nature of an insurgency."

He also pointed out, on Fox News, that "insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years."

The US will not stick around that long. Will the Sunnis manage to overthrow the government once US forces leave?

Bryan Bender of the Boston Globe (who writes many great reports on Iraq btw) says the inspector general of the US Marine Corps wrote a report claiming that Marines in Iraq are short of a number of types of equipment.

The report, obtained by the Globe, says the estimated 30,000 Marines in Iraq need twice as many heavy machine guns, more fully protected armored vehicles, and more communications equipment to operate in a region the size of Utah.

The Marine Corps leadership has ''understated" the amount and types of ground equipment it needs, according to the investigation, concluding that all of its fighting units in Iraq ''require ground equipment that exceeds" their current supplies, ''particularly in mobility, engineering, communications, and heavy weapons."

Their equipment is worn out.

The report also found that Abrams tanks and other combat vehicles are being so overused that replacements are needed quickly. It found that all of the Marines' battle tanks in Iraq have passed the normal criteria for replacing them.

The Marine Corps says their shortages extend well beyond Iraq.

Marine Corps spokesman Major Douglas Powell said the problems are affecting the entire Marine Corps, not just the 30,000 deployed to Iraq.

''We just don't have enough equipment to provide troops with what we need," he said. But Powell stressed that the Marines in Iraq have been provided more equipment from other units so they can meet their mission.

General Vines in Iraq expect a US troop withdrawal to begin early next year.

Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, the 18th Airborne Corps commander who oversees day-to-day military operations in Iraq...

...

"I think General Casey's assumption probably is still valid," he said. "I suspect we will probably draw down capability after the elections, because Iraqi security forces are more capable."

Asked whether the reductions could involve as many as four or five brigades, from the 17 currently in Iraq, Vines said: "It would probably be somewhere in that range. That would be my guess."

The elections he is referring to are in December. Some news stories put the withdrawal in March 2006. But I can't find an exact quote from Vines to that effect. Vines also doesn't entirely discount a surge in violence that would require more troops. Actually, we already need more troops in Iraq but the official party line of the Bush Administration is that we have troops there to do the job. What exactly is the job? Hang out waiting for the Iraqi military and police to staff up while we lose about 70 or 80 soldiers dead and hundreds injured per month while burning several billion dollars per month (which is not enough since the equipment is in short supply and wearing out).

Meanwhile the war is no longer popular.

A June 8 Gallup poll indicated dwindling support among Americans for the war. Sixty percent of those polled supported either a partial or total withdrawal of troops, and 52 percent said they don't feel any safer after Iraq's invasion. The poll interviewed 1,003 adults and had a margin of error of 3 percent.

Some have drawn comparisons to Vietnam, where President Nixon decided -- after the deaths of 58,000 Americans and some 3 million Vietnamese -- to slowly withdraw U.S. forces. Just as the Gallup poll suggests there is a growing critical mass of Americans who want to see the U.S. withdraw from Iraq, there was also, at the time of the Vietnam war, popular civilian support for a withdrawal.

General John Abizaid told the US Senate that soldiers in Iraq fear the US public no longer supports them.

''I can tell you that when my soldiers ask me the question whether or not they've got support from the American people . . . that worries me," Abizaid told senators. ''And they're starting to do that. And when the people that we're training, Iraqis and Afghans, start asking me whether or not we have the staying power to stick with them, that worries me, too."

He warned lawmakers that ''American soldiers can't win the war without your support, and without the support of our people."

Well, the American people don't support the war in Iraq. But I'm guessing most Americans wish the troops had better and more equipment so that fewer Americans would get wounded and killed.

Bush is trying to convince more Americans to support the war.

Recognizing the flagging support for his Iraq policy, the president will travel to Ft. Bragg, N.C., on Tuesday to deliver a prime-time speech outlining his strategy on the conflict.

This month, in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, a majority for the first time disapproved of Bush's job performance. On his handing of Iraq, 41% approved and 58% disapproved.

How many readers are old enough to remember when LBJ started giving speeches in front of troops because too many people in public audiences were hostile?

Update Steve Sailer opines that the lack of a centralized leadership in the insurgency Iraq makes negotiations with them hard to do.

The Shining Path rebellion in Peru and the Kurdish rebellion in Turkey both ended abruptly with the capture of their respective numero unos. The Afrikaaners could negotiate a deal with Mandela and know that his rebels would abide by it.

We don't know for sure that nobody will eventually emerge from the insurgency as a charismatic leader -- Bonaparte didn't emerge until about six years into the French Revolution -- but we're probably worse off without a centralized command. Lack of centralization means the insurgency could go on irrationally long, with the worst hot-heads keeping it going with more atrocities setting off more reprisals, etc etc.

One of Steve's readers responds more generally that when it comes to Iraq that much like Los Angeles about which maybe Woody Allen once remarked "there's no there there" the same can be said of Middle Eastern governments in general. This reader further claims that the US military presence in Iraq is just stirring up a hornet's nest of clan members angry that our smart bombs killed someone's cousin Ahmed.

In fact Arab states seem more and more like Potemkin polities, just a bunch of soldiers controlling some oil wells who have set up shop to impress international visitors but are not really in control of their people.

Arab societies are much more swarm-like – organized from the bottom-up by clans, rather than top-down by states. That’s why they seem ineffective in mobilizing their populi for war or economic development but good for stuff like weddings, mafias and guerilla war.

So regime change does not really change much, apart from the name on the shingle hanging on the street-front of the Potemkin state.

This brings to mind Charles Glass, a reporter who who famously escaped from his captors in Beirut, who once wrote a book on the Middle East entitled Tribes With Flags.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 26 06:39 PM  Mideast Iraq
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2005 June 24 Friday
Iraqi Insurgency Not Getting Weaker Says General Abizaid

General John Abizaid, commander of US forces in the Middle East, says the insurgency is not getting weaker

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.: "General Abizaid, can you give us your assessment of the strength of the insurgency? Is it less strong, more strong, about the same strength as it was six months ago?"

Gen. John Abizaid, top U.S. commander in the Persian Gulf: "In terms of comparison from six months ago, in terms of foreign fighters, I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago.

"In terms of the overall strength of the insurgency, I'd say it's about the same as it was."

Levin: "So you wouldn't agree with the statement that it's in its last throes?"

Abizaid: "I don't know that I would make any comment about that other than to say there's a lot of work to be done against the insurgency."

Levin: "Well, the vice president has said it's in its last throes, that's the statement the vice president — it doesn't sound to me from your testimony or any other testimony here this morning that it is in its last throes."

Abizaid: "I'm sure you'll forgive me from criticizing the vice president."

Levin: "I just want an honest assessment from you as to whether you agree with a particular statement of his — it's not personal. ...

Abizaid: "I gave you my opinion of where we are."

That is pretty clear.

Vice President Richard Cheney is telling a more optimistic tale.

In a CNN interview last month, Cheney said: “The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.”

Who you going to believe?

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsefld told the Senate that setting a timeline for withdrawal would result in another bad regime coming to power in Iraq.

"Let there be no doubt. If the coalition were to leave before the Iraqi security forces are able to assume responsibility, we would one day have to confront another Iraqi regime perhaps even more dangerous than the last in a region plunged into darkness rather than liberated and free,"

Implicit in the phrase "before the Iraqi security forces are able to assume responsibility" is the idea that at some point in the future the Iraqi security forces will become strong enough to handle the insurgency. Well, what if that never happens? How long should the US stay waiting for this to happen?

Also, suppose the US withdraws and the central government falls apart and the civil war scales up. Will the government that results from that civil war necessarily be any worse than the government which the Bush Administration hopes will result from US military efforts? Suppse the US sticks around for the supposed point in time when the central government's security forces become strong enough to keep the central government in power. Will that produce a better government? Or just a different government?

Iraq is one of those cases where we have to wait for various Panglossians to learn the hard way. Though the bulk of the costs do not fall on the Panglossians and so they don't suffer enough to have an incentive to learn quickly. Servicemen and their families pay and the damaged soldiers will pay the rest of their lives.. So do the taxpayers who also will be paying for the war decades after it is over.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 24 12:48 PM  Mideast Iraq Insurgency
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US Oil Demand Grows Through Price Rise

As prices of oil price keep rising...

It was not the first time the August crude contract traded above $60 a barrel _ that happened back in April and again on Monday, when prices hit $60.02. But Thursday's milestone is significant because August is now the front month contract, meaning it is the next to expire and is generally the most actively traded. The July contract expired Tuesday.

Oil prices are 58 percent higher than a year ago, though still below the inflation-adjusted high above $90 a barrel set in 1980.

...so does demand:

These fears have been exacerbated by rising demand for gasoline and diesel fuel in spite of soaring prices. In the U.S., unleaded gasoline averages $2.16 a gallon at the pump, more than 40 percent above year ago levels, yet consumption has been up by 2.5 percent over the past month, compared with a year ago.

Where is this going? Is the decrease in demand just delayed? Is the demand for gasoline that inelastic? I'd love to see gasoline consumption by income. Are upper class people just buying even bigger vehicles while lower class people retrench? Or is the price of used SUVs dropping so that lower class people can compensate for higher gasoline prices by buying cheaper yet fuel inefficient vehicles?

I came across a post on another blog (Walter's Brain on Sustainable Mobility by car industry economist Walter McManus) with numbers on rebates offered by big car makers on SUVs. McManus argues that the car companies have been compensating buyers for higher gasoline prices by lowering prices enough to pay for a few years of higher gasoline prices.

The surprisingly rapid decline in SUV sales appears to be a real portent of more concern about fuel economy in the future. I have tracked average new vehicle fuel economy versus the price of fuel for several years. I saw very little movement over the last three years and I concluded that the people who buy new vehicles were not affected.

It turns out that what should be called the SUV Price War (that GM initiated in October 2001 and that lasted until about September of last year) more than offset the effects of rising fuel prices. During this period, the Detroit-based manufacturers lowered prices (through cash and cut rate financing to consumers) disproportionately on SUVs.

My examination of the sales and pricing data reveal that SUV sales would have fallen in 2002, 2003, and 2004 had prices not been reduced by the Price War.

In the graph the blue bars show the switch from SUVs (down 0.8 pp.) to passenger cars (up 0.9 pp.) that would have occurred between 2002 and 2004 had the increase in the price of gasoline from $1.54 to $1.96 not been offset by the Price War. The yellow bars show the Price War offset.

Did Detroit win the SUV Price War?

See his May 9, 2005 and May 11, 2005 posts at that link for the details.

The car companies can drop prices only so far to compensate for higher gasoline prices.

Demand for gasoline can be reduced in a number of ways. Why aren't people slowing down to raise their fuel efficiency? McManus also argues that lowering fuel economy by driving fast is cost effective for most people.

Driving 55 miles per hour means that each mile takes 1 minute and 6 seconds. If gasoline costs $2.00 per gallon, and I get the average 1997 fuel economy in the linked table(32.4 mpg), then I will burn just over 6 cents of gas in that 1 minute and 6 seconds. At 55 miles per hour, I would burn about $3.40 worth of fuel per hour.

Now, suppose I speed up to 70 miles per hour. How much more per hour does it cost me in fuel? A paltry $2.65 per hour. I earned $2.65 per hour (which was below the then minimum wage) in the summer of 1974 as a highway construction laborer. So, as long as an hour in a stationary state (at home or work, but NOT A TRAFFIC JAM, at least not until I get my in-car computer installed) is worth more to me than $2.65, it pays to speed.

Note: As someone pointed out in the comments the correct calculation is how much dollars in extra fuel do you have to spend per hour reduced from driving time. But even with that adjustment the cost per hour saved is still less than what a large fraction of the population earns per hour worked. Plus, for someone who is speeding while working the likely benefit is even larger to the employer.

The higher incomes rise and the more fuel efficients cars become the more inelastic demand becomes to price rises.

McManus writes some great posts. McManus also argues that the hybrid Prius is mostly a marketing and public relations gimmick.

Question: Toyota started advertising the Prius recently. Why advertise a car when many shoppers are going to be disappointed to discover they will have to wait for delivery? The wait was the number one complaint about the new Prius in its first year, so why advertise and give more shoppers a reason to complain?

Answer: The Prius has increased showroom traffic. With supply constrained, many Prius shoppers end up buying a Corolla, Camry, or other Toyota model. Some could even end up with a Tundra Pickup that is cheaper than the Prius but gets 16 mpg in the city and 18 on the highway. The equivalent Chevrolet Silverado gets 16/21, so you had better hope the frustrated Prius buyer goes to the Chevrolet store if he decides to go with a pickup. And if you are thinking, "Prius shoppers would never consider a Tundra," I feel your pain. The contra-positive is "Tundra shoppers would never consider a Prius," or, to generalize, "PICKUP shoppers would never consider SMALL CARS." Welcome to my world. People have different needs and wants they are trying to satisfy when they buy vehicles. And not everyone who shops at Toyota, not even everyone who visits the store because of the ads for the Prius, shares your values. Watch out when the Highlander is in the showroom drawing in SUV shoppers. They might just buy a 15 city/18 hwy Sequoia. Pray that they don’t but the 13/17 Land Cruiser. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to find the GM, Ford, and Chrysler equivalents with higher MPG that should make environmentalists wish they had never elevated Toyota to infallibility.

Question: If hybrids were not a good idea then why would the world’s most profitable automobile producer want to be the hybrid leader? Profit is a clear sign that they are smarter than the other companies, so anything they do has to be smart, doesn’t it?

Answer: By selling hybrids, Toyota is given a pass by environmentalists to reduce the fuel economy of their new vehicle fleet relative to GM, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler without protest. I posted data comparing Toyota and GM last week. Have the environmentalists become apologists for Toyota, overlooking their move into gas-hungry SUVs and pickups? Toyota sold twice as many Tundras as Priuses in 2004 and has been building pickups in America for years. Toyota will build hybrid Camrys in Kentucky soon, and some environmentalist should find out whether American taxpayers are being asked to subsidize investment by the world’s most profitable automobile producer to do what is supposed to be a smart thing. Are there grounds for concluding that environmentalists are acting toward Toyota like the mainstream media act toward the Democrat party?

Now, you might be thinking that McManus is too cynical. Well, hear it from the horse's mouth: Kazuo Okamoto, who is taking over as head of Toyota research and development, says that hybrids are just cost justifiable in the US car market.

“When you just use the argument of fuel efficiency, the purchase of a hybrid car is not justified. But this car has other interests, for instance environmental protection.”

Another Toyota executive was more blunt in his analysis: “Buying a hybrid is about political correctness, it is not about the money,” he said.

Hybrids are projected to be about 2% of all the cars on the road in the United States in the year 2011. So don't look to hybrids to have a big impact on total gasoline fuel demand any time soon.

Will a continued rise in oil prices eventually bring on a global recession? How is the rise in oil prices going to play out on the macroeconomic level?

By Randall Parker 2005 June 24 11:04 AM  Economics Energy
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2005 June 23 Thursday
US Supreme Court Rewrites 5th Amendment And Reduces Property Rights

In the matter of Susette Kelo, et al. v. City of New London, Connecticut, et al. the US Supreme Court has decided to reduce property rights even further.

A divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth often is at war with individual property rights.

The 5-4 ruling — assailed by dissenting Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled in America — was a defeat for Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They had argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

This property rights violation is being carried out for the benefit of Pfizer.

In 1997, Pfizer, the giant pharmaceutical firm that makes such drugs as Zoloft, Viagra and Celebrex, began discussions with state and local officials about a $300 million research plant that would bring 2,000 jobs. It was the first time a major manufacturer had expressed interest in moving to New London in more than 100 years.

In a March 1999 letter, George Milne, president of Pfizer's Central Research Division, wrote that the company's New London expansion "requires the world-class redevelopment planned for the adjacent 90 acres," which included Kelo's neighborhood, encompassing about 115 properties. Milne said Pfizer needed a 200-room waterfront hotel, a conference center, a physical-fitness area, extended-stay residential units and 80 units of housing.

While Chief Justice William Rehnquist along with Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented the surprise here is that on this case Sandra Day O'Connor opted not to go over to the Dark Side. But Anthony Kennedy decided to spend some time on the Dark Side so he along with John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer voted for another reduction in property rights. The Supreme Court Legislature thinks governments know better what should be done with our property.

Jusice O'Connor's dissent even shows clarity of reasoning. She says the Court has deleted "for public use" from the Takings Clause. (and that link has the full decision)

Over two centuries ago, just after the Bill of Rights was ratified, Justice Chase wrote:

"An act of the Legislature (for I cannot call it a law) contrary to the great first principles of the social compact, cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority ... . A few instances will suffice to explain what I mean... . [A] law that takes property from A. and gives it to B: It is against all reason and justice, for a people to entrust a Legislature with such powers; and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they have done it." Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386, 388 (1798) (emphasis deleted).

Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded--i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public--in the process. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings "for public use" is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property--and thereby effectively to delete the words "for public use" from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Accordingly I respectfully dissent.

Okay kids, that's clear enough isn't it?

O'Connor knows how this ruling is going to be used: "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process". She thinks the ruling makes a mockery of the intent of the Founding Fathers.

Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result. "[T]hat alone is a just government," wrote James Madison, "which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own." For the National Gazette, Property, (Mar. 29, 1792), reprinted in 14 Papers of James Madison 266 (R. Rutland et al. eds. 1983).

Obviously James Madison and company made a mistake and the Supreme Legislature has taken the needed steps to correct their error. Here we have the uncorrected original 5th Amendment to the US Constitution.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Note that I've italicized the offending phrase. Now, if you have a printed copy of the US constitution, perhaps in some book, get some white-out or dark ink and just cover over the words "for public use". Your new, corrected, and in the minds of the majority of the Supreme Legislature, greatly improved version of the 5th Amendment should read as follows:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken, without just compensation.

That's the 5th Amendment Americans (and legal and illegal aliens in US territory) will henceforth live under.

Another part of the Constitution has been made optional by this and other decisions like it: The Constitutional amendment process. Article V needs to be rewritten to include mention of the ability of a majority of the US Supreme Court to rewrite the US Constitution at will.

Article. V.

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Though I can think of another alternative: Start impeaching Supreme Court judges. Make them defend their actions in trials in the US Senate.

Roger Pilon of the Cato Institute says now the government gets to decide if it can assign a better use to your property.

"With today's decision, no one's property is safe," said Roger Pilon, director of the Center for Constitutional Studies, at the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank. "Any time a government official thinks someone else can make better use of your property than you're doing, he can order it condemned and transferred," Pilon said in a statement.

Note that all the Supreme Court justices appointed by Democrats are firmly on the Dark Side on this decision while the justices chosen by Republican Presidents split on this with only some of them (Souter and Kennedy) going over to the Dark Side. This mirrors the larger role the Democratic and Republican Parties play in contemporary America. On some subjects the Republicans are just as bad as the Democrats.

You can read all the original court papers filed for this case.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 23 10:31 AM  Civilizations Decay
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2005 June 22 Wednesday
Rapidly Growing Portion Of US Population Pays No Income Tax

A new report from The Tax Foundation shows that the portion of the population who are income taxpayers is a shrinking percentage of the total US population.

One of the biggest obstacles facing President Bush’s Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform is the fact that America has become divided between a growing class of people who pay no income taxes and a shrinking class of people who are bearing the lion’s share of the burden.

Despite the charges of critics that the tax cuts enacted in 2001, 2003 and 2004 favored the “rich,” these cuts actually reduced the tax burden of low- and middle-income taxpayers and shifted the tax burden onto wealthier taxpayers. Tax Foundation economists estimate that for tax year 2004, a record 42.5 million Americans who filed a tax return (one-third of the 131 million returns filed last year) had no tax liability after they took advantage of their credits and deductions. Millions more paid next to nothing.

As Figure 1 and Table 1 show, the number of Americans who paid no income taxes because of the preferences in the tax code has varied greatly since 1950. While the number of these “non-payers” has averaged about 22 percent of all filers over the past five decades, it has spiked to record levels in recent years and the trend line does not appear to be slowing.

In addition to these non-payers, roughly 15 million individuals and families earned some income last year but not enough to be required to file a tax return. When these non-filers are added to the non-payers, they add up to 57.5 million income-earning people who will be paying no income taxes.

Even 57.5 million is not the actual number of people because one tax return often represents several people. When all of the dependents of these income-producing people are counted, roughly 120 million Americans – 40 percent of the U.S. population – are outside of the federal income tax system.

A lot of people are eligible for credits that effectively give them negative tax rates. So they get a "refund" check far greater than any tax paid.

In 1997, Congress enacted a new $500 per-child tax credit and expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low-income workers. The 2003 tax cuts increased the value of the child credit to $1,000. These two tax credits – especially the child credit – have had a powerful effect on reducing, and many cases eliminating, the income tax liability for millions of Americans.

These two credits are unique in that a taxpayer can receive the full value of the credit even if they have no tax liability. To see how this works, consider, for example, a family that has three children (and thus should receive $3,000 in tax credits), but only has a tax liability of $1,505. Under the rules of most tax credits, this family would only be allowed $1,505 in tax relief – an amount equal to their tax liability. But a “refundable” tax credit gives this family the full amount they are eligible for -- $1,505 toward their tax liability, and the remaining $1,495 in the form of a refund check. (See Table 2.)

The percentage of non-payers who are white is exaggerated by the inclusion of Hispanics with whites. If I understand this data correctly the 79% of the total non-payers who are listed as white include the 15% who are Hispanic. So really only 64% of the non-payers are white and that is a much lower percentage than they are of the population as a whole.

The racial or ethnic composition of the 42.5 million non-payers roughly mirrors the demographics of American tax filers as a whole. For example, white Americans are 83 percent of total taxpayers, and the percentage of zero-tax filers who are white is 79 percent. African Americans are roughly 13 percent of total taxpayers and 16 percent of zero-tax filers. Asian Americans comprise 3.6 percent of total taxpayers and 3.2 percent of zero-tax filers.

That said, the percentage of non-payers within each ethnic or racial group does vary: 28.6 percent of Asian Americans tax filers get back every dollar withheld, 31.1 percent of white American tax filers will owe nothing, and 41.7 percent of African Americans will file a tax return with no liability.

Absent from these categories are Hispanic Americans. Within Census data, race and ethnic Hispanic origin are not comparable concepts because a Hispanic individual can be of any race. As a result, Hispanics Americans must be considered separately from racial characteristics. Hispanics make up 15 percent of the 42.5 million individuals or households that paid no income taxes in 2004. In contrast, they made up roughly 10 percent of all 131 million taxable American households.

Are they saying that 131 million taxpaying households or 131 million households that in theory could pay taxes? 6.375 million Hispanic households pay no income taxes. What percentage are they of the total number of Hispanic households? Are there 13.1 million total or 13.1 million plus 6.375 million?

These figures understate the size of the problem. Even many of those who pay some taxes pay far less than they cost the government and do not pay enough to fund basic government functions like basic research and defense. Check out a table on the Recipient Class to get an idea of how much money is shifted from higher income earning groups to lower income groups.

The fraction of the US population that does not pay income tax is growing rapidly.

In 2004, a record 42.5 million tax returns – one-third of all returns filed – had no income tax liability because of the available credits and deductions in the tax code. This is a 42 percent increase in the number of zero-tax filers in just four years. In addition to these zero-tax filers are the 15 million individuals or households who do not earn enough to file a tax return. Overall, nearly 58 million taxable households are outside of the income tax system.

A shrinking portion of the population supports the rest of the population. A combination of immigration and aging strongly contribute to this trend. We should stop the flow of low-skilled immigrants both legal and illegal and we should deport all the illegal aliens along with legal aliens who have low skills and low incomes. Also, we should raise the retirement age.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 22 05:10 PM  Economics Demographic
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2005 June 21 Tuesday
Would Democracy Bring Islamic Theocratic Rule In Egypt?

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a speech in Cairo Egypt pressed for greater democracy in Egypt but ignored Egypt's ban on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Her silence on the Muslim Brotherhood's lack of free choices reflected the strong official Egyptian resistance to legalising the organisation. But it also illustrated Washington's larger dilemma in calling for greater Arab democracy while opposing Islamic groups such as Hamas in Palestine and Hizbullah in Lebanon with proven electoral appeal.

Muhammad Mursi, the brotherhood's spokesman, said conditions imposed by Mr Mubarak on the poll meant it would be neither inclusive nor fair. The president is widely expected to win a fifth consecutive term.

Mr Mursi said the organisation would decide soon whether to call for a boycott, and was meanwhile focusing on the parliamentary elections this autumn. The brotherhood currently has 15 MPs, who are officially described as independents.

"In a free election we would have 20% to 25% of the parliament," Mr Mursi told the Guardian last week. "Many more independents would support us. We are known in this society. We are active in the villages, in the universities, in the parliament, in the mosques ... We're organising, building strength."

George W. Bush and Condi Rice want democracy in the Middle East. I think they should be more careful about what they wish for. The fact that they fear the Islamic political parties and groups demonstrates they understand on some level that open elections won't bring automatic Western style liberal democracy. But I suspect they don't understand just how intractable the obstacles are to liberal democracy in the Middle East. They aren't, for example, going to consider low average IQs as an obstacle. Nor are they likely to consider consanguineous marriage or the original texts of the Koran as obstacles. After all, part of the official ideology on the ideological Right (as distinct from the empirical Right) is that the stronger the families the better and that anyone embracing a faith in God has got to be better than people who don't believe. So they are ideologically blinded from forming realistic views of the Arabs, Islam, and chances for liberal democracy to take hold.

Rice dispensed the standard pablum about democracy.

"We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people," Rice said. "As President Bush said in his second inaugural address: 'America will not impose our style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, to attain their own freedom, make their own way.' "

"The people of Egypt should be at the forefront of this great journey, just as you have led this region through the great journeys of the past," she said.

I'm so glad I'm not a Secretary of State who has to make those sorts of speeches. Gag me. Gag me with a spoon.

Irshad Manji has an Op/Ed entitled "Egypt's democracy charade" where she reports that the most liberal political activists get imprisoned in Egypt under laws originally enacted to crack down on Islamists.

But why should the rest of the world care? At this, El Sawaf gets animated. He quotes a fellow Egyptian, the renowned sociologist and democracy champion Saad Eddin Ibrahim: ''Societies that restrict the space for citizens to participate and express dissent will eventually spawn a twisted, angry, and lethal response."

Translation: Wake up, Westerners. Radical Islam gains bloodthirsty adherents when mosques take over for legislatures because fair political representation no longer exists.

And the fact is, it doesn't exist. Egypt's 24-year-old Emergency Law, introduced to crack down on Muslim militants, has been exploited to zap political modernizers too. While letting President Hosni Mubarak hang onto power longer than he promised, the law puts honest-to-goodness democrats behind bars.

Some Egyptian intellectuals claim that failure to liberalize will lead to rule by the Muslim Brotherhood.

At a small party to mark the 60th birthday of Egyptian novelist Gamal Ghaitani on 9 May, Naguib Mahfouz was asked what he expected to happen in Egypt, in view of the rapidly developing events there. "It looks like Egypt wants to try the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood," Mahfouz responded.

The greatest Arab writer was not just expressing a passing fancy, but wanted to warn about what might happen if slow democratic reform leads to a political crisis and radical change. Mahfouz is not alone in imagining "Brotherhood rule" in Egypt; he is joined by many politicians and intellectuals who believe the scenario to be plausible, if the reform process is not handled well in the coming months.

Either reform will expand and embrace change that is already underway in the country politically, guaranteeing a safe and smooth transition to a clearly democratic regime, or it will fail to do so, with the resulting impact taking place outside the political system, which could open the door to the unknown.

The danger appears to be that partial liberalization would provide an opening for the Brotherhood. The populace as a whole (Coptic Christians excepted) probably has little interest in liberal secular politics.

Nina Shea claims the Muslim Brotherhood would sweep to power if open elections were held in Egypt.

Mubarak’s policies have created a situation in which pro-Western democrats like Ramy Lakah are silenced or driven abroad, leaving the Muslim Brotherhood as the only organized opposition within Egypt. If an open election were held this year, few doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood would win. An Islamist group, the Brotherhood has won hearts and minds through charitable work and exploited religion to thrive despite ruthless repression against it. It purportedly renounced violence in the 1970s, but its motto continues to be: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Koran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” Though some of its members disclaim the group’s agenda and promise moderation, its institutional goal is to rule through a form of sharia (Islamic law) that would suppress women, give second-class dhimmi status to Coptic Christians and other minorities, and impose restrictions on Muslims’ rights to freedom of speech, association, and religion.

The liberal democrats are living in exile or in jail or too afraid to speak. If the Islamists come to power then the upper level administrators for the jails will change but the guards will probably remain the same.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 21 01:39 PM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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Does Proliferation Of News Media Improve Quality Of Governance?

Tim Hanrahan and Jason Fry argue that the proliferation of news and entertainment delivery mechanisms are not making people more ignorant.

Moreover, while it's certainly true that the Internet fits perfectly with an age in which our attention is divided into more and more multitasking slivers, the Net also rewards some more-positive traits. Curiosity, for instance: If you need or just want to know something right now and have a Net connection, you can – no need to wait for the evening news or tomorrow's paper. And your hunger for more information is limited only by the amount of time you have – Cronkite was great, but he didn't have time to explain the history of Vietnam or what China, the Soviet Union, France and the U.S. wanted out of the region. And if you were interested then, too bad: The library was closed.

But people by and large aren't curious, you object. True – but then most people never have been; at least today those who are have the tools to have their curiosity rewarded. But what about all the junk that passes for news these days? Also nothing new – today's runaway brides and rumored celebrity pairings are on the same one-way trip down the memory hole, to be remembered by virtually no one a generation hence. (It is possible that Google results from, say, 2045 will be littered with badly designed Omigod-Tom-and-Katie sites and abandoned blogs whose last entry is about same, but it's hard to see this crumbling the republic.)

I agree with the general thrust of the argument. Ignorant, dumb, and uncurious people have ever been such. The dumbing down of the public due to changes in the press is exaggerated.

I do see one problem though: A lot of people find it increasingly easy to follow only celebrity gossip or duck hunting news or other news which does not exactly enhance a person's ability to make wise voting decisions or otherwise good public citizens. Cocooning into subcultural niches is enabled by media streams that are increasingly tunable to the interests of each citizen (or of each illegal alien who can't speak Englsh for that matter).

Back in the days of Walter Cronkite if one had the desire to watch news one had to find out something about the big political news stories of the day. Today one can avoid that stuff and still sate a desire for information. The problem is that some people want to sate their desire for information with junk information the way they sate their desire for food with junk food. The decline in consumption of milk and the increase in consumption of sugary high acid soda drinks surely has a media parallel with at least a portion of the population watching Entertainment Tonight rather than reading a newspaper or watching a news show. Even a lot of people watching news channels pig out on stuff like celebrity trials and scandals.

Still, the internet seems a huge net plus. Got an interest in, say, the demographics and economics of aging? You can find a blog that has a category archive entitled "Economics Demographic" or some Ph.D. economist who links to all the major reports on the subject (and I don't happen to know which econ blog is best at this or I'd tell you). Want to go back to before the Iraq invasion and find out what was known and what has come out since then about the Bush Administration's decision making process to decide whether to invade? (which, parentheticaly can be summed up as "We want to invade Iraq and now 9/11 has given us the conditions to cook up an excuse for doing so")? Well, again, you can find out. Tons of news articles and blogs linking to groups of news articles can be found on this subject if you want to spend some hours doing searches on Google.

I get calls from family and friends who know I'm adept at web searches asking me to find out some fact or other. Sometimes the questions are like "Who played such and such part in the XYZ movie in the late 1940s". But other times the questions are about issues which matter for the good health of the commonwealth. C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb says the level of knowledge of viewers who call in on C-SPAN political talk shows has improved greatly since 10 or 15 years ago. While this is just one indicator my guess is that people who follow political issues have, on average, better quality information on those issues than they did 10 or 20 years ago.

My question is this: Does the increase in the quality and quantity of information consumed by the smarter and more politically informed yield a net benefit in terms of quality of governance that cancels out the ability of less well informed people to shift their attention toward even less politically relevant junk news? I think the net result is positive in part because I find it a lot easier personally to figure out when I'm being lied to by politicians. Also, I find it much easier to find the best minds on any given issue and read what they have to say about it. But I'm open to contrary arguments.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 21 11:36 AM  Media Critique
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2005 June 19 Sunday
Iraq Withdrawal Debate Reaches Mainstream

John Burns of the New York Times reports senior US officers see rising pressures for withdrawal from Iraq.

But whether there are too many American soldiers or too few, a feeling is growing among senior officers in Baghdad and Washington that it is only a matter of time before the Pentagon sets a timetable of its own for withdrawal. These officers point to the effect on American public opinion of the slow disintegration of the 30-nation military coalition that America leads, and to frustration on Capitol Hill with the faltering buildup of Iraqi forces. These officers also cite the recruiting slump and fear the risk is growing that the war, like Vietnam, will do lasting damage to the Army and the Marines.

"I think the drawdown will occur next year, whether the Iraqi security forces are ready or not," a senior Marine officer in Washington said last week. "Look for covering phrases like 'We need to start letting the Iraqis stand on their own feet, and that isn't going to happen until we start drawing down'. "

Here's the part that interests me: When the US withdrawal begins what will the Kurds do? The Kurds might see advantage in allying with the Sunnis in order to prevent the more numerous Shia from establishing complete control. The Kurds could tell the Sunnis that they'll fight alongside the Sunnis in exchange for Sunni acceptance of Kurish autonomy or outright Kurdish secession and independence.

Right now the US military and the Kurds are buddy-buddy. But once the US withdrawal begins in earnest the interests of the Kurds will strongly diverge from those of Washington. Also, once the withdrawal begins expect to see many politicians to take to the field of battle with their own private militias. Military supplies and soldiers from the Iraqi Army trained by US and British soldiers may join up with various private militias and the Iraqi Army may crumble as the country plunges into full scale civil war..

George W. Bush claims that withdrawal from Iraq is not an option.

In Washington, President Bush said Saturday that pulling out of Iraq now is not an option, rejecting calls by some lawmakers and polls indicating that many Americans are growing weary of the war.

"The terrorists and insurgents are trying to get us to retreat. Their goal is to get us to leave before Iraqis have had a chance to show the region what a government that is elected and truly accountable to its citizens can do for its people," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

"We will settle for nothing less than victory" over terrorists there, he said later.

With Bush's approval ratings hitting new lows and the popularity of the war declining as well even some Republican hawks in Congress have begun calling for timetable to withdraw from Iraq.

While the partisan shots from Democrats were to be expected, Bush also drew criticism from several Republicans, suggesting that opposition to the war extended beyond his traditional opponents.

Rep. Walter Jones, a conservative Republican from North Carolina, whose anger at the French for opposing the war two years ago led him to demand that the House cafeterias to rename its French fries as "freedom fries,'' was among those who publicly called on Bush to produce an exit strategy.

Jones wants the withdrawal to begin by October 2006. Not coincidentally all members of the House of Representative will be up for reelection in November 2006. Congresscritters are worried about reelection as polls show support for the war has become the minority view.

WASHINGTON — Nearly six in 10 Americans say the United States should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq, a new Gallup Poll finds, the most downbeat view of the war since it began in 2003.

...

The poll is consistent with other recent surveys that show growing concern about the war. In an ABC News-Washington Post poll last week, two-thirds said the U.S. military was bogged down in Iraq, and nearly three-quarters called the casualty level unacceptable.

I bet a lot of officers in the US Army are thinking they can't believe the US military is left fighting another unpopular war.

One Republican Senator thinks "the White House is completely disconnected from reality."

Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is angry. He's upset about the more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers killed and nearly 13,000 wounded in Iraq. He's also aggravated by the continued string of sunny assessments from the Bush administration, such as Vice President Dick Cheney's recent remark that the insurgency is in its "last throes." "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," Hagel tells U.S. News. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

Bush claims "the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror".

''Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror,'' he said. ''This mission isn't easy, and it will not be accomplished overnight.''

The jihadist entered Iraq because US soldiers are there. If the United States hadn't invaded Iraq the jihadists wouldn't be flowing in as they are now. My guess is that most of the jihadists showing up to fight in Iraq never would have made it to the West to attack "infidels" if they hadn't gone to Iraq. They would have had a hard time getting visas, affording longer flights, or paying for places to live once they arrived in the West. Those who would have gone to the West would have been more likely to end up in Europe than in America.

When we leave we will be leaving Iraqis with a more dangerous and repressive society.

The hall's manager, Bassam Manuel, said his parties are not what they used to be in Saddam Hussein's era, when the streets were more secure.

"Before the war, the parties used to start at 9 in the evening and end at 2 in the morning," Manuel said. "Now the parties start at 3 in the afternoon and end at 8. Alcoholic drinks are forbidden - we don't want any trouble."

...

Abdul Salam, a 38-year-old unemployed Shiite Muslim, had long dreamt of hiring Fouad Salem, a popular singer, to perform at his wedding party.

In the end, a lack of money prevented that. Followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who control the area, forbid music in the district, claiming singing is the voice of Satan.

But will we be leaving them with a civil war? I think so. How will the civil war turn out? Theocracy? A break up of Iraq into 2 or 3 countries? Don't know.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 19 07:24 PM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate
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Trial Of Accused Assassins Leads To Speedy Decision In Iraq

A trial in Iraq for 3 accused assassins includes no meeting between a defense lawyer and his accused clients and also includes no cross examination of witnesses. The trial lasts less than 2 hours.

BAGHDAD, Iraq — The blacksmith, the builder and the laborer were sentenced to death just before noon.

The victim's son cried out, "God is great, God is great." Bowed and unshaven, the murderers were cuffed and silently led away. Someone said they must be guilty: An innocent man would yell in protest until his voice disappeared.

The trial had lasted 1 hour and 58 minutes. It was the third time since the end of Saddam Hussein's regime that the death penalty had been handed down.

They were accused of assassination of Iraqi Interior Ministry intelligence official Gen. Abdulmihsin Ali Abdulsada in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad.

The judge took a small amount of time to question them about their confessions and they indicated under questioning that they were tortured and confessed under duress.

Presiding Judge Luqman Thabit Samiraii prepared papers in his office upstairs. He lives in a tight whirlwind of bodyguards. More than 25 judges have been assassinated in Baghdad since the war ended in 2003.

The case before him represented a complicated intersection of interests. Iraqis live in fear and want murderers executed; the Interior Ministry lost a prized officer; a son wants vengeance; the defendants had confessed but said they did so under torture that included rape with a metal rod.

These guys might be guilty. Who knows how competent the investigators were who fingered them. Who knows what inter tribal vendettas might be involved in either the assassination or the accusation that they did it.

Note that the Abu Ghraib pictures caused outrage because American servicemen carried out the abuse of prisoners. But when Iraqis do it to Iraqis both Arabs and Westerners scarcely lift an eyebrow. That difference in reactions is not going to change and holds a lesson for anyone who supports a wider a neocolonial campaign of conquest and rule in the Middle East.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 19 02:16 PM  Mideast Iraq
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2005 June 16 Thursday
Andy Xie Of Morgan Stanley Foresees Oil Price Collapse

Andy Xie sees oil prices currently being held up by speculation while the fundamentals have shifted toward oversupply.

China’s oil imports declined by 1.2% YoY in the first five months of 2005. US oil inventory increased by 6.4% in the first quarter of 2005. However, oil prices averaged 46% higher in these five months of the year and 50% higher in the first quarter, on a YoY basis. How to bridge the gap between rising prices and weakening demand? The answer, I believe, is that there are too many oil traders engaging in oil price speculation. They will likely keep prices up until an oil market collapse. That day is not too far away, I believe.

The global economic cycle looks to have peaked out, but the deceleration has been modest so far. This is why financial speculation can still bolster the oil price. I expect economic deceleration to deepen in the fourth quarter of this year, such that the oil bubble may then burst. The trigger could be a sharp drop in China’s crude imports.

Xie sees China's oil import surge due in part to a shortage of coal electric generating capacity. As more coal-fired generators come on line oil will become uncompetitive for electric power generation in China (as it already is in America).

As substitutes come on line Xie expects a bear market for oil that will last for many years.

The high oil prices have triggered an investment boom in oil exploration and the production of substitutes. Oil sands, LNG, coal liquification and gasification are competitive against oil at US$20-25/bbl. As fixed investment piles into such alternatives, the energy supply curve has been permanently shifted outward, in my view. The current investment boom and the production capacity to follow may keep a lid on oil prices for many years to come.

Xie also sees businesses around the world responding to the current high oil prices by investing in equipment that raises energy efficiency.

Advances in battery technology would increase the extent to which different energy sources could substitute for each other. With sufficiently cheap and light batteries liquid hydrocarbons would cease to be the only practical energy choice for ground transportation. Nuclear, coal, wind, solar, and natural gas could all power cars by being converted into electricity. Also, the unreliability of wind and solar would pose much less of an obstacle to their use. Therefore in my view the biggest flaw in the US government's energy policy is insufficient money for battery research.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 16 12:31 PM  Economics Energy
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Insurgents Pass Over Syrian Border Into Iraq

Tal Afar, near Iraq's border with Syria, fell back into insurgent control after the 101st Airborne was withdrawn several months ago.

After the battle here in September the military left behind fewer than 500 troops to patrol a region twice the size of Connecticut. With so few troops and the local police force in shambles, insurgents came back and turned Tal Afar, a dusty, agrarian city of about 200,000 people, into a way station for the trafficking of arms and insurgent fighters from nearby Syria - and a ghost town of terrorized residents afraid to open their stores, walk the streets or send their children to school.

It is a cycle that has been repeated in rebellious cities throughout Iraq, and particularly those in the Sunni Arab regions west and north of Baghdad, where the insurgency's roots run deepest.

"We have a finite number of troops," said Maj. Chris Kennedy, executive officer of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, which arrived in Tal Afar several weeks ago. "But if you pull out of an area and don't leave security forces in it, all you're going to do is leave the door open for them to come back. This is what our lack of combat power has done to us throughout the country. In the past, the problem has been we haven't been able to leave sufficient forces in towns where we've cleared the insurgents out."

Iraq is the same old story. The US doesn't have enough troops. The insurgents operate wherever the US soldiers are too thin on the ground.

What the New York Times reports as the Pentagon's new hope is the same hope they've been touting for a couple of years now: Iraqi forces to take over part of the job.

Now, with the pace of insurgent attacks rising across Iraq and scores being killed daily in bombings and mass executions, Tal Afar and the surrounding area is becoming something of a test case for a strategy to try to break the cycle: using battle-hardened American forces working in conjunction with tribal leaders to clear out the insurgents and then leaving behind Iraqi forces to try to keep the peace.

Well, if US soldiers chase most of the insurgents out of Tal Afar again will Iraqi soldiers be able to keep them out? Or will they desert or go on strike or not bother to post guards and come under attacks that kill a bunch of them?

Most of the tribal leaders claim they want the insurgents gone but none of them will finger suspected insurgents.

Real leadership in Tal Afar lies with the 82 tribal leaders. Angered by the attacks and emboldened by the enlarged American military presence here, some sheiks have become outspoken critics of the insurgency. On June 4, at great risk to their own lives, more than 60 attended a security conference at Al Kasik Iraqi Army base near here. To the surprise of Iraqi and American commanders who organized the gathering, many sheiks demanded a Falluja-style military assault to rid Tal Afar of insurgents and complained that American forces do not treat terror suspects roughly enough.

Other sheiks said it was better to pursue a political solution. But sheiks from each point of view accused one another of being unwilling to identify suspected insurgents. American commanders had planned to circulate a list of 1,400 people thought to have potential insurgent connections, seeking verification - or denials - from the sheiks. But they decided against it because few sheiks would openly affirm or deny the status of insurgent suspects in front of other Iraqis, Colonel Hickey said.

Even if some of the sheiks are sincere why aren't members of their tribes catching insurgents in alleyways and knifing them? 200,000 people live in Tal Afar and the article quotes an estimate of 500 insurgents. If people were sincerely opposed to the insurgents and had enough courage and anger they'd kill the insurgents rather quickly. The smaller number of insurgents are willing to put their lives at risk but the masses are not. What to make of that?

US military officers liken the Iraq-Syria border to the US-Mexican border in terms of difficulty to control.

U.S. military intelligence officials believe the Qaim area sits at the crossroads of a major route used by groups such as Abu Musab al Zarqawi's al Qaeda in Iraq to smuggle foreign fighters into the country.

"It's like the Mexican-American border there. There are attempts being made to seal it," a senior U.S. military intelligence official said on condition he remain unnamed for security reasons.

Of course the 1920 mile US-Mexican border could be controlled just as the 376 mile Iraq-Syria border could be controlled. It is a matter of allocating sufficient resources. But the US Border Patrol is starved of sufficient resources by Congress and the President in order to ensure a large influx of cheap illegal alien labor. The Border Patrol could be expanded (and the National Guard could be called out as a stop-gap measure) and a layer of fences and sensors could be built on the entire US border withe Mexico. In the case of the Iraq-Syria border proper control would require instituting a draft in the United States to supply enough soldiers to control Iraq's 605 km (376 miles) border with Syria.

total: 3,650 km
border countries: Iran 1,458 km, Jordan 181 km, Kuwait 240 km, Saudi Arabia 814 km, Syria 605 km, Turkey 352 km

To control all of Iraq's 2268 miles of borders would require a lot more troops. But some of the neighboring countries are more willing and able to prevent the insurgents from using their countries as bases. A lot of the Saudi Arabians going to Iraq find it necessary to go by way of Syria for example.

I don't think a draft and budget to supply soldiers for closing the Iraq-Syria border is worth it because the whole war is not worth it. But we'd derive a large benefit from closing the US border with Mexico.

The Saudi jihadists pass into Iraq from Syria because they want to pass into zones which have lots of Sunnis.

Experts say there is not much the Saudi authorities can do to stop jihadists from leaving Saudi Arabia for Iraq. Most Saudis who go to fight in Iraq enter through Syria, not via the 426-mile-long Saudi-Iraqi border. The desert border area is closer to Shiite communities in southern Iraq than to the Saudis' fellow Sunnis in central Iraq. "When you come in through Syria you are right in the heart of the Sunni area. Just a few miles inside you can get into Sunni urban areas," said Thomas X. Hammes, a counterinsurgency expert with the U.S. Marines, whose book "The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century," prescribes strategies for fighting urban-guerrilla insurgencies.

The Saudi authorities are trying to block the trickle of jihadists crossing the border into Iraq, but that is easier said than done, Hammes said. "People always talk about sealing these borders," he said. "I would first want to see the United States prove its capability to close the Mexican-U.S. border."

The previous article quotes Joseph Biden saying that US military officers in Iraq report an increasing flow of Saudi jihadists into Iraq. Though the vast bulk of the insurgents in Iraq are still locals.

What to make of all this? The US continues to lack sufficient troops to put down the insurgency. The US strategy continues to rely on eventual development of a competent Iraqi Army. Some officers think the development of such a force will take years. Will the new President of the United States elected in 2008 keep US troops in Iraq long enough for that to happen? How many years will that take? Will it ever happen as long as US troops remain or will the Iraqi Shias continue to figure they can just keep their heads down and let the US fight the Sunnis for them? Will Congress shift toward open opposition to a continued US troop presence in Iraq?

By Randall Parker 2005 June 16 11:23 AM  Mideast Iraq Insurgency
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2005 June 14 Tuesday
US Officers See No Military Solution In Iraq

Tom Lasseter of the Knight Ridder Newspapers has written an excellent article on the growing number of US officers who do not think the United States can win militarily in Iraq. (same article here and here and here and here)

BAGHDAD, Iraq - (KRT) - A growing number of senior American military officers in Iraq have concluded that there is no long-term military solution to an insurgency that has killed thousands of Iraqis and more than 1,300 U.S. troops during the past two years.

Instead, officers say, the only way to end the guerilla war is through Iraqi politics - an arena that so far has been crippled by divisions between Shiite Muslims, whose coalition dominated the January elections, and Sunni Muslims, who are a minority in Iraq but form the base of support for the insurgency.

"I think the more accurate way to approach this right now is to concede that ... this insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations," Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said last week, in a comment that echoes what other senior officers say. "It's going to be settled in the political process."

Think George W. Bush can be convinced to this way of thinking? Wouldn't it mean negotiating with terrorists? Watch for changes in language used by Administration spokesmen. Will the Press Secretary start saying that the insurgents are fighting because they do not understand US aims and that the US wants to hold talks with insurgents to clear up misunderstandings? Yeah, that's the ticket. We won't negotiate with terrorists. We'll negotiate with community leaders and influentials who have contact with the terrorists. If the spin starts going that way you will know that the Bush Administration has decided to negotiate with the insurgency.

Gen. George W. Casey, top US commander in Iraq expresses very similar sentiments in the article. Okay panglossian war camp, how you going to pass this off as just negative spin by the mainstream media?

We can't kill them all.

Lt. Col. Frederick P. Wellman, who works with the task force overseeing the training of Iraqi security troops, said the insurgency doesn't seem to be running out of new recruits, a dynamic fueled by tribal members seeking revenge for relatives killed in fighting.

"We can't kill them all," Wellman said. "When I kill one I create three."

Lasseter points out that the Sunnis do not have high religious authorities who are the equivalent of Shiite religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani. Also, the insurgency itself does not have a single unified command structure. Both these facts are highly problematic for reaching a negotiated solution because the sheer number of groups that must be negotiated with might make a negotiated solution impossible to achieve.

Howard Fineman quotes from a letter from an officer stationed in Iraq.

I’m sitting here with a gloomy letter from Iraq, written by a high-ranking officer I cannot name in a branch of service I cannot name in a part of the country I cannot name. But trust me, because I trust him. Iraqis, he says, have no feel for or belief in the democracy we want to create, and our occupation is making them less, not more, capable of self-government.

"Our eventual departure,” he worries, “will leave nothing but cosmetic structure here.” “Every mission,” he writes, “requires a conscious escape from the resignation that there is nothing here to win and every occasion to fail.”

Small miracles do happen—a child is saved, a generator is installed. There remain “possibilities.” But sullen eyes along the roadsides give this officer “the feeling that we have stayed too long but can not leave.”

Writing for the New York Times Sabrina Tavernise and John F. Burns report on the poor state of the Iraqi military.

"I just wish they'd start to pull their own weight without us having to come out and baby-sit them all the time," said Sgt. Joshua Lower, a scout in the Third Brigade of the First Armored Division who has worked with the Iraqis. "Some Iraqi special forces really know what they are doing, but there are some units that scatter like cockroaches with the lights on when there's an attack."

The Iraqi troops' story is one of light and dark, American officers say. Especially in regions sympathetic to the insurgents, they have performed woefully, with Sunni Arab soldiers making little secret of their support for Saddam Hussein and their contempt for the Americans.

Projections for when US troop withdrawals will start keep getting delayed.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon suggested that an initial drawdown of the 140,000 American troops in Iraq might begin by the end of this year. Now, American generals are saying it could be two years, perhaps longer.

Bryan Bender of the Boston Globe reports that the insurgency has developed better tactics and remains just as effective in spite of continued casualties. (same article here)

Two years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, the Iraq conflict has evolved into a classic guerrilla war, they argue.

The insurgency has not been weakened at all.

Despite U.S. estimates that it kills or captures 1,000 to 3,000 insurgents a month, the number of daily attacks is going back up. Down to about 30 to 40 a day in February, attacks are up to at least 70 per day, according to statistics of U.S. Central Command. The insurgency has demonstrated a keen ability to shift its tactics in the face of persistent U.S. and Iraqi battlefield victories.

An internal Army report in April said that rather than what some saw as a drop in the number of daily attacks earlier this year, the insurgents had simply shifted their focus away from U.S. forces to attacks on more vulnerable targets, which were not being fully tallied at the time.

''The insurgency is still mounting an effort comparable to where they were a year ago," said Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer and specialist on counterinsurgency operations who directs the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, an independent think tank in Washington.

"We do something we think will change things, but a month or two later, casualties and the level of violence are back to where they were," Krepinevich added.

So far this year, nearly 1,000 members of Iraq's police and security forces have been killed in attacks, almost as many as the total for the previous year and a half, according to Pentagon figures.

The insurgency has tripled the rate at which it kills Iraqi soldiers and police. At the same time, the US casuality rate is above the average since the war began. I have recently argued that the death tolls among various types of representatives of the Iraqi government are the more important indicators to watch. Well, here we see the insurgents have greatly increased their kill rate of Iraqi police. The insurgents are doing very well.

What are you going to believe? The figures and the US officers? Or the obviously wrong Vice President Dick Cheney?

"I think we may well have some kind of presence there over a period of time," Cheney said. "The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."

Is he so deluded that be believes what he is saying or is he lying?

Thanks to Greg Cochran for tips on the first two articles linked above.

War Nerd Gary Brecher says the insurgency has no single Mr. Big leader.

Which suits the insurgents just fine. That's the most depressing angle of all on Zarqawi: it's not just the Pentagon and Al Q who are happy to keep him in the spotlight. The real bosses of the insurgency must get down on their knees every night and thank Allah for the Z-man, because he keeps the heat off them.

They're not Mr. Big. There is no Mr Big. They're more like a few thousand Mr. Middles, a whole crowd of ex-officers and clan leaders in every Sunni town or village who have some kind of loose control over some of the insurgents. Not all-there are hundreds of insurgent groups fighting, and nobody controls them all.

But it stands to reason that some of the bigger, more professional networks have real leaders. These guys will turn out to be solid, intelligent men, usually young-20s, early 30s-who get respect in the neighborhood. They'll be homegrown Iraqis with real standing in the clan and tribal networks that really run things in Iraq.

To carry out the advice of many top officers in Iraq the US government will have to figure out how many insurgent groups it needs to negotiate with. Just discovering who to try to negotiate with will be difficult at best. But suppose that much can be done. What if most of those groups do not see negotiations as in their best interests?

Nixon and Kissinger famously engaged in a heavy bombing campaign against North Vietnam in order to get the North Vietnamese to sign and respect a deal long enough for US troops to withdraw. But George W. Bush and his neocons lack a lever to use in negotiations and might be unable to bring the relevant Sunni insurgent parties to the negotiating table. A scaling up of US military force in Iraq large enough to apply heavy pressure to the insurgents is simply not in the cards as the American people turn increasingly against the war. So what is Bush going to do? See my post from early May 2004 entitled "Unilaterally Withdraw From Iraq Or First Partition?" Time to consider whether to impose a partition in which we support a Kurdish secession or whether to totally bet on funding the Arab Shias in the civil war which will follow a US withdrawal.

I hope top policymakers do not wait too long before lowering their expectations far enough to the point of considering outcomes far less than they initially hoped to achieve. The longer they wait the weaker the cards will be in the hands they have to play. Even the much less ambitious outcomes will eventually fall out of their reach as popular opinion turns further against the war and the insurgency does greater damage to the Iraqi government.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 14 12:49 PM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs
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Oil Prices Stay High As Iraqi Production Drops Saudi Production Stays Even

Iraq may export only 1.45 million barrels of oil per day in coming months.

Oil exports from Iraq have plummeted since the start of the year, despite the $2billion (£1.1billion) of reconstruction money allocated by the United States.

Last week, the Iraqi state oil marketing organisation (SOMO) cut its export contracts to just over 1.45m barrels a day for the next six months. At the end of last year, SOMO said it hoped it would ramp up exports to 1.9m barrels a day.

Some advocates of the Iraq invasion argued that once Saddam Hussein was overthrown and sanctions lifted that rapid increases in Iraqi oil production could pay for all reconstruction and so lower the world price of oil that the invasion would become a net benefit for the US economy in spite of the military costs. Well, no!

Iraq oil production has declined due to the insurgency. In March 2004 Iraq was producing 2.3 to 2.5 million barrels of oil per day and prewar production was even higher.

A month before the April 1 deadline set by Iraq and American officials for restoring the industry to prewar levels, the country is producing 2.3 million to 2.5 million barrels a day, compared with 2.8 million barrels a day before the war.

Though the CIA puts Iraq's 2002 production at only 2.03 million barrels. So who to believe? The CIA or the New York Times?

The first article also refers to the claim by Houston investment banker Matthew Simmons that Saudi Arabia does not have as much reserves as it claims. Simmons goes so far to argue that Saudi Arabian production has already peaked. (and see the bottom of this post for more on Simmons' argument). Well, this becomes more plausible as the price of oil continues to stay above $50 and Saudi Arabia continues to fail to increase output.

Leading oil producer Saudi Arabia on Tuesday highlighted OPEC's inability to cut crude prices, saying its supplies would not rise despite plans to increase official output limits.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said Riyadh had informed its customers of export allocations for July that mean keeping output steady at 9.5 million barrels a day.

For a small fraction of the cost of the Iraq invasion the United States could have funded most of the academic chemists in America to investigate either photochemistry to look for better and cheaper photovoltaic materials or electrochemistry to look for lighter and cheaper battery technologies to enable cars to run on electricity. For another small fraction of the cost of the Iraq invasion we could have funded very rapid development of fourth generation nuclear power technologies such as the pebble bed modular reactor. The Iraq invasion has been a colossal waste of money.

The Saudis claim oil prices are high due to refinery capacity shortages. This is disingenuous. The only spare oil production capacity in the world happens to be for heavy oil that requires special refining capability.

OPEC is at full capacity bar some Saudi volume of heavy, high-sulphur crude that needs advanced refinery technology to meet Western environmental regulations.

But for more conventional oil the world's capacity is maxed out.

Eventually the United States will withdraw from Iraq and some faction will come out on top and ruthlessly suppress all opposition. At that point oil field investments can boost Iraqi oil production. The general director of Iraq's oil ministry, NK Al-Bayati, claims Iraq will be pumping 6 million barrels of oil by 2015. Even if they pull that off oil prices will stay high as world oil demand growth outstrips that increase. Only development of non-oil energy sources can bring about a sustained substantial decrease in oil prices.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 14 09:37 AM  Economics Energy
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2005 June 13 Monday
US Army Lowers Recruiting Goals As Casualties Mount

Writing for the Washington Post Don Edwards, a retired US Army major general, reports the US Army has lowered recruiting goals and loosened standards and still can't meet the lower goals.

The recruiting problems first became apparent in the late summer of 2003, when the surplus of enlistees disappeared and the Army went into the next fiscal year without any cushion. Since then, recruiting numbers have been declining. An alarming trend -- fewer young people signing up than the Army needs to maintain its strength -- began to develop last fall. Now, the Army has failed to meet its monthly recruiting goals since February. On Friday, it said that in May it reached only 75 percent of a goal it had already reduced from 8,050 to 6,700. The National Guard and Reserve, which provide more than 40 percent of the Army forces in Iraq, are experiencing even more trouble; so far, the National Guard has reached only 76 percent of its recruiting goals for this year.

Historically, recruiters have had to contact more than 100 prospects for every recruit. This year, those numbers are going up daily. The Army added 1,200 recruiters last month, and it has significantly increased its advertising budget and enlistment bonuses, from $6,000 for most recruits to $20,000. At the same time, it has raised the eligible age for the Army National Guard or the Reserve from 35 to 39. Even more telling, the Army is also accepting more recruits who are not high school graduates. This year, the percentage of high school graduates among those enlisting dropped from 92.4 to barely 90 percent, the Army's stated floor for the number of recruits who must have a high school diploma.

Edwards also says that while units get rotated out of Iraq for at least a year that no longer means that individual soldiers get rotated out of Iraq for a year. Some soldiers are transferred to understaffed units and then sent back into Iraq after only a few months back home.

In order to attract a projected 300 more recruits the US Army has raised the maximum age for junior officer recruits to 42.

Some Army officers at the Pentagon who were shown the memo were incredulous that the Army would resort to attracting a 42-year-old to become a second lieutenant, the most junior officer, given the physical requirements to lead troops in the field. The memo said those candidates selected cannot require a "medical waiver" or have a "permanent profile that would prohibit doing push-ups, sit-ups, running and taking the normal" fitness test.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales, Jr., a Vietnam War combat veteran and former commandant of the Army War College, said in an interview that he found it "disturbing" that the Army would waive offenses.

Scales also could not recall a time when the Army tried to attract officer candidates so old, other than during the Civil War. "It is unusual to stretch the upper level that far," he said, referring to the age limit.

Long deployments and high casualty rates make recruitment increasingly difficult. 80 US Soldiers died in Iraq in May 2005. This figure has been equalled or exceeded in only 6 months since the war began: 11/03 (82), 4/04 (135), 5/04 (80), 9/04 (80), 11/04 (137), 1/05 (107). Another way to look at this is by daily average death tolls. For the war as a whole the daily average death toll is 2.31. But for May 2005 it was 2.69. The last time the daily average was below 2 was July 2004. For the 17 month period from March 2003 through July 2004 the daily average was below 2 for 12 of those months. Since then the daily average has been above 2.

Total US deaths in Iraq are now over 1700 with at least 1297 due to hostile action.

BAGHDAD, Iraq — The military announced the killing of four more soldiers over the weekend, pushing the American death toll past 1,700 — more than double what it was a year ago.

Since last June 13 — when 825 members of the U.S. military had died in Iraq — the insurgency that took shape with the fall of Saddam Hussein has increased its toll on American forces and Iraqi soldiers and civilians alike.

Because of advances in medical technology the ratio of deaths to total casualties is much lower among US soldiers in Iraq as compared to previous conflicts. Therefore thousands more are missing limbs, jaws, and other body parts. Others have severed spinal cords or other peripheral nerve damage. Still others have brain damage - not all of which has even been diagnosed. So how many permanently damaged soldiers do we have as a result of the Iraq war? And, yes, I know that perhaps decades from now some of these guys will live long enough to be fixed by advances in biotechnology. They and we are still going to pay a heavy price in the meantime.

Update: The US casualty rates might be a poor measure for the overall level of effort of the insurgents. If, as some news reports suggest, the insurgents have shifted more of their attention toward killing Iraqi government officials, police, and Iraqi military then the tempo of insurgent attacks might be considerably higher than the US military casualty statistics suggest.

War Nerd Gary Brecher sees signs that the Iraqi insurgency is shifting tactics toward killing the locals who cooperate with US forces. (and I strongly urge you to read his full article)

Suicide bombers die smart; they blow themselves up and take a dozen of the enemy with them, and lots of times they penetrate the enemy's most secure areas (GI mess halls, the Green Zone), devastating enemy morale. But dying in a burnt-out house in Fallujah, firing an AK against an M-1 tank, is dying stupid. So we managed, after all, to do our job: we zapped a lot of those romantic suckers last November when we took Fallujah -- by leveling the city, Warsaw-style.

Now comes stage two of the insurgency: the flag-waving fools are gone, and it's the survivors in control -- guerrilla evolution, survival of the practical guys who want to win instead of dying gloriously. You see the same pattern with insurgencies in Algeria, Chechnya, Colombia: the martyrs get killed off, and the cold-blooded guerrilla operatives take over.

These guys know that there's only one way to win a guerrilla war: blinding the enemy by killing his spies, his native police force, anybody who cooperates with him. That's what's been happening in Iraq for months now, and nobody understands it. All they notice is that attacks on US troops are down.

...

Time for Plan B. Plan B is classic guerrilla doctrine: "the long war," where you attack the invaders' local allies, not the foreign troops themselves. The idea is, if you wipe out Iraqi collaborators, the US is just a blind giant. He'll stick around for a while, stumble over the countryside wrecking stuff, but sooner or later he'll get sick of stubbing his toes and go home.

So the insurgents are ignoring the hunkered-down, heavily fortified American bases and hitting the key, soft targets: the Iraqi police. And damn, are they killing a lot of those boys! On one day, May 9, 80 Iraqi police were killed. On average, five cops a day are dying. It's safer selling Bibles door-to-door in Peshawar than strolling through Baghdad in an Iraqi cop suit.

Will the pool of Iraqi people willing to collaborate with US forces shrink or grow in coming months? That strikes me as a key question.

If anyone comes across a good source of death rates over a period of months or even years for Iraqi police, army, and government officials please post it in the comments or email it to me. Casualty rates of Iraqi army, police, government officials, and civilians are the trends we should be watching.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 13 09:29 AM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs
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2005 June 12 Sunday
More British Memos Show No Bush Iraq Post War Planning

More British government documents on the pre-Iraq invasion period are leaking out.

The eight-page memo, written in advance of a July 23, 2002, Downing Street meeting on Iraq, provides new insights into how senior British officials saw a Bush administration decision to go to war as inevitable, and realized more clearly than their American counterparts the potential for the post-invasion instability that continues to plague Iraq.

...

In a section titled "Benefits/Risks," the July 21 memo states, "Even with a legal base and a viable military plan, we would still need to ensure that the benefits of action outweigh the risks."

Saying that "we need to be sure that the outcome of the military action would match our objective," the memo's authors point out, "A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise." The authors add, "As already made clear, the U.S. military plans are virtually silent on this point. Washington could look to us to share a disproportionate share of the burden."

US military plans assumed only a very small occupation force would be necessary and the Iraqi people, so happy to be "liberated", would be dancing with joy every time they saw American soldiers.

Some British Foreign Office officials saw Iraq as more likely to develop WMD if Saddam was overthrown.

Foreign office officials reportedly told the UK Prime Minister that there was a risk of the Iraqi system "reverting to type" after a war, with a future government acquiring the very weapons of mass destruction that an attack would be designed to remove.

...

A Cabinet Office document reveals:

"Even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years. Military operations need clear and compelling military objectives. For Iraq, 'regime change' does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge match between Bush and Saddam."

One thing that strikes me from these documents is the higher quality of the British national security bureaucracy and top civil service. They saw Iraq very clearly. The massive budgets of the CIA, NSA, and other US intelligence agencies ultimately did not buy us good policy.

This latest report follows on the heels of the May 1, 2005 release of the July, 23, 2002 so-called "Downing Street Memo" which shows the top level in the British government saw no WMD justification for an Iraq invasion and no US planning for the post-war aftermath.

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.

Let us travel back to pre-war February 2003 when then deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz asserted the war wouldn't cost more than $100 billion and would not require an occupation force of more than 100,000.

Mr. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, "wildly off the mark." Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops. Mr. Wolfowitz then dismissed articles in several newspapers this week asserting that Pentagon budget specialists put the cost of war and reconstruction at $60 billion to $95 billion in this fiscal year. He said it was impossible to predict accurately a war's duration, its destruction and the extent of rebuilding afterward.

"We have no idea what we will need until we get there on the ground," Mr. Wolfowitz said at a hearing of the House Budget Committee. "Every time we get a briefing on the war plan, it immediately goes down six different branches to see what the scenarios look like. If we costed each and every one, the costs would range from $10 billion to $100 billion." Mr. Wolfowitz's refusal to be pinned down on the costs of war and peace in Iraq infuriated some committee Democrats, who noted that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., the budget director, had briefed President Bush on just such estimates on Tuesday.

US forces in Iraq are well north of 100,000. The US Army is not big enough to supply the number of troops needed. So Shinseki's estimated need has not been met. A combination of opposition to a draft and opposition to withdrawal (particularly on the part of people who do not want to admit the war is a mistake) leaves us stuck in a pointless war that will last for years to come.

Here is a transcript from April 1, 2003 where Wolfowitz claimed the United States wouldn't have to pay for the reconstruction of Iraq.

But when it comes to rebuilding Iraq the important thing to remember is this is not a bill that needs to be paid by the United States. There are a lot of sources of help, and most importantly -- unlike Afghanistan, unlike Somalia, unlike Bosnia and Kosovo and most of the other cases that you can mention -- Iraq has enormous resources of its own. It has natural resources wealth and it has incredible human resources wealth. And ultimately it's a country that will, I think, fund its own reconstruction.

On December 30, 2002 Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., then director of the US government's Office of Management and Budget claimed that the Iraq war would only cost $50 to $60 billion. (same article here)

The administration's top budget official estimated today that the cost of a war with Iraq could be in the range of $50 billion to $60 billion, a figure that is well below earlier estimates from White House officials.

...

Mr. Daniels would not provide specific costs for either a long or a short military campaign against Saddam Hussein. But he said that the administration was budgeting for both, and that earlier estimates of $100 billion to $200 billion in Iraq war costs by Lawrence B. Lindsey, Mr. Bush's former chief economic adviser, were too high.

When the Bush Administration makes claims about future costs and future progress in the war in Iraq keep in mind their ridiculous claims of the past.

Genera Tommy Franks expected no insurgency and a rapid draw down of troops.

Gen. Tommy R. Franks climbed out of a C-130 plane at the Baghdad airport on April 16, 2003, and pumped his fist into the air. American troops had pushed into the capital of liberated Iraq little more than a week before, and it was the war commander's first visit to the city.

Much of the Sunni Triangle was only sparsely patrolled, and Baghdad was still reeling from a spasm of looting. Apache attack helicopters prowled the skies as General Franks headed to the Abu Ghraib North Palace, a retreat for Saddam Hussein that now served as the military's headquarters.

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

Donald Rumsfeld also expected no insurgency and a rapid withdrawal of US forces.

Thomas E. White, then the secretary of the Army, said he had received similar guidance from Mr. Rumsfeld's office. "Our working budgetary assumption was that 90 days after completion of the operation, we would withdraw the first 50,000 and then every 30 days we'd take out another 50,000 until everybody was back," he recalled. "The view was that whatever was left in Iraq would be de minimis."

The delusions here are staggering. They were going to destroy the Iraqi government and military. How did they expect even basic police protection to be delivered? Would a new police force of the Iraqi people magically form in a massive volunteer effort? What were they thinking?

While General Eric Shinseki saw Kosovo and Bosnia as models for how many troops were needed for an occupation Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld saw a large occupation force as a sort of welfare state that fosters dependency.

Neither the Defense Department nor the White House, however, saw the Balkans as a model to be emulated. In a Feb. 14, 2003, speech titled "Beyond Nation Building," which Mr. Rumsfeld delivered in New York, he said the large number of foreign peacekeepers in Kosovo had led to a "culture of dependence" that discouraged local inhabitants from taking responsibility for themselves.

Of course, this sort of ideological nonsense could be taken on its own terms: If we "liberate" some people aren't we encouraging "a culture of dependence"? If people are being ruled by a dictator then shouldn't they find it within themselves to rise up and overthrow him as a way to learn that they really do value freedom? If we allow them to escape from tyranny without doing the work themselves we foster a culture of dependency on foreign liberators. So best we not liberate anyone. Following this logic the fact that we invaded in the first place then becomes the reason why the Iraqis won't defeat the insurgents in Iraq. Or we can twist it around and say that the insurgents learned they had to become liberators when they came to be ruled by foreign conquerors. So our invasion spurred the freedom loving people of Iraq to a realization that they loved freedom and therefore they had to take up arms against US forces.

Of course such arguments are as nonsensical as Rumsfeld's argument. Lots of people don't love freedom. They love ruling and they love power and they have greater loyalty to their religion and their tribe than they do the concept of freedom.

Also see "Iraq Aluminum Tubes Intelligence Analysts Rewarded". For more on why the Bush Administration's expectations for the size of the occupation force were unrealistic see "7 Retired US Generals And Admirals Speak On Iraq".

Thanks to Greg Cochran for the tip on the first link.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 12 11:41 AM  Mideast Iraq
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2005 June 09 Thursday
Saudi Arabia Showing Few Signs Of Change

Political reform is moving along at a snail's pace in Saudia Arabia.

They are the first to say that meaningful change remains a distant prospect because the institutions opposing such change are so powerful. And because there is no real forum to even discuss change, the process of creating open, freer societies is more the sum of individuals chipping away at the traditional order, rather than any organized movement or national discussion.

The three barely know each other, and their lack of contact is emblematic of Saudi Arabia, which ranks among the most closed Arab countries.

Here and elsewhere, Arab reformers tend to be isolated dissidents, sometimes labeled heretics, much like those persecuted under Soviet totalitarianism.

Even those who pursue the mildest forms of protest are slapped with long prison sentences. The right to assemble does not exist, political parties are banned along with nongovernment organizations, and the ruling princes constantly tell editors what they can print. Local television is almost all clerics, all the time.

What country is the biggest source of Al Qaeda terrorists? Saudi Arabia. Which Middle Eastern country is most set in its ways? Saudi Arabia.

Reformists get thrown in jail.

The Sauds were prepared to allow limited discussion in the press, but have come down hard on those who continue to press publicly for reform. A gathering of about 100 reformists from across the country at a hotel near Riyadh airport in February 2004 provoked their wrath.

Three activists - two academics, Matrouk al-Faleh and Abdullah al-Hamid, and the poet Ali al-Domeini - were arrested after circulating a petition supporting a constitutional monarchy. Their lawyer, Abdulrahman al-Lahem, was also jailed last fall.

In May, the three were given heavy jail terms: Mr. Domeini, nine years; Mr. Hamid, seven years and Mr. Faleh, six years. Mr. Lahem has not been charged.

Unless the House of Saud is overthown expect glacially slow changes in Saudi Arabia. Even if the princes get the boot the replacement government might be even more Islamic.

The consequences of elevating extremist thought to the point where it cannot be questioned are grave, Mr. Maleky believes. "If Wahhabism doesn't revise itself," he says, "it will produce more terrorists."

We can't count on Saudi Arabia to change in ways that make its citizens less eager to kill us. we need to defend ourselves from terrorism and to reduce the influence of the Wahhabi brand of Islam in the United States. The United States should stop granting visas to Wahhabi clerics and should look for ways to cut off the flow of money from Saudi Arabia to fund Wahhabi schools and mosques in the United States. The US government should make immigration by Muslims to the United States much harder. The US government should also accelerate energy rearch with the intent of obsolescing oil.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 09 11:45 PM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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Iraqi Army Company Not Ready For Prime Time

Washington Post reporters Anthony Shadid and Steve Fainaru spent a few days with an American Army Company and an Iraqi Army Company that at least in theory are supposed to be working together. The Iraqis do not want to fight and the Americans agree that the Iraqis do not want to fight.

Young Iraqi soldiers, ill-equipped and drawn from a disenchanted Sunni Arab minority, say they are not even sure what they are fighting for. They complain bitterly that their American mentors don't respect them.

In fact, the Americans don't: Frustrated U.S. soldiers question the Iraqis' courage, discipline and dedication and wonder whether they will ever be able to fight on their own, much less reach the U.S. military's goal of operating independently by the fall.

"I know the party line. You know, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, five-star generals, four-star generals, President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld: The Iraqis will be ready in whatever time period," said 1st Lt. Kenrick Cato, 34, of Long Island, N.Y., the executive officer of McGovern's company, who sold his share in a database firm to join the military full time after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "But from the ground, I can say with certainty they won't be ready before I leave. And I know I'll be back in Iraq, probably in three or four years. And I don't think they'll be ready then."

"We don't want to take responsibility; we don't want it," said Amar Mana, 27, an Iraqi private whose forehead was grazed by a bullet during an insurgent attack in November. "Here, no way. The way the situation is, we wouldn't be ready to take responsibility for a thousand years."

Well that's clear enough, isn't it?

Progress in Iraq takes forms that are pathetic.

"They've come a long way in a short period of time," Cato, the Alpha Company executive officer, said of the Iraqi soldiers. "When we first got here, soldiers were going to sleep on the objective. Soldiers were selling their weapons when they went out on patrol. I was on missions when soldiers would get tired, and they would just start dragging their weapons or using them as walking sticks."

Well, if you can get your Iraqi charges to not sell their weapons the sky's the limit. The US Army soldiers refer to their Iraqi counterparts as preschoolers.

The Iraqis just want the money.

Almost to a man, the soldiers said they joined for the money -- a relatively munificent $300 to $400 a month. The military and police forces offered some of the few job opportunities in town. Even then, the soldiers were irate: They wanted more time off, air-conditioned quarters like their American counterparts and, most important, respect. Most frustrating, they said, was the two- or three-hour wait to be searched at the base's gate when they returned from leave.

The soldiers said 17 colleagues had quit in the past few days.

"In 15 days, we're all going to leave," Nawaf declared.

The two-dozen soldiers gathered nodded their heads.

"All of us," Khalaf said. "We'll live by God, but we'll have our respect."

These guys are Sunnis. Are the Iraqi Shia Army Companies any different?

Read the full article.

Thanks to Greg Cochran for the tip.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 09 10:49 PM  MidEast Iraq New Regime Failures
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Milton Friedman Opposes Mission To Spread Democracy

After calling Social Security a big Ponzi Scheme 92 year old Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman says limited government is being threatened by the idea that the United States has a mission to promote democracy.

Progress in his goal of rolling back the role of government, he said, is "being greatly threatened, unfortunately, by this notion that the U.S. has a mission to promote democracy around the world," a big Bush objective.

"War is a friend of the state," Friedman said. It is always expensive, requiring higher taxes, and, "In time of war, government will take powers and do things that it would not ordinarily do."

He also said it was no coincidence that budget surpluses appeared during the Clinton administration, when a Democratic president faced a Republican Congress.

"There were no big spending programs during the Clinton administration," he said. "As a result, government spending tended to stay down, the economy grew like mad, taxes went up, spending did not, and lo and behold, the deficit was turned into a surplus."

The problem now, he said, is that Republicans control both ends of Washington.

"There's no question if we're holding down spending, a Democratic president and a Republican House and Senate is the proper combination."

We'd have been better off overall if Al Gore had won in 2000. The Iraq Debacle would have been avoided and government spending would be much lower.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 09 07:54 PM  Economics Political
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Immigration And Heavy Burden Of Medically Uninsured

The costs we pay for the medically uninsured are high and rising rapidly.

This study quantifies, for the first time, the dollar impact on private health insurance premiums when doctors and hospitals provide health care to uninsured people. In 2005, premium costs for family health insurance coverage provided by private employers will include an extra $922 in premiums due to the cost of care for the uninsured; premiums for individual coverage will cost an extra $341.

Nearly 48 million Americans will be uninsured for the entire year in 2005. What happens when some of these 48 million Americans get sick? Research has shown that the uninsured often put off getting care for health problems—or forgo care altogether.1 When the symptoms can no longer be ignored, the uninsured do see doctors and go to hospitals. Without insurance to pay the tab, the uninsured struggle to pay as much as they can: More than one-third (35 percent) of the total cost of health care services provided to people without health insurance is paid out-of-pocket by the uninsured themselves.2

To find out who pays the remainder of this bill—the portion that the uninsured themselves simply cannot manage to pay—Families USA contracted with Dr. Kenneth Thorpe, Robert W. Woodruff Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, to analyze data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the National Center for Health Statistics, and other data. Through this study, we found that the remaining $43 billion is primarily paid by two sources: Roughly one-third is reimbursed by a number of government programs, and two-thirds is paid through higher premiums for people with health insurance.

As the costs of care for the uninsured are added to health insurance premiums that are already rising steeply, more employers can be expected to drop coverage, leaving even more people without insurance. And as more people lose coverage and the cost of their care is added to premiums for the insured, still more employers will drop coverage. It’s a vicious circle that will not end until we as a nation take steps to solve the underlying problems.

A significant portion of the uninsured are illegal aliens and their children (who in some cases are US citizens). Another significant portion are legal aliens. Higher medical insurance premiums and government support for the uninsured are two more ways that native born American citizens pay for low skilled and low wage immigrants and their children. Hispanics are medically uninsured at two and a half times the rate of whites. The medical uninsurance rate is higher still among illegals and their children. Stop the Hispanic influx and deport all the illegal aliens and the ranks of uninsured would drop by millions and perhaps even by tens of millions.

Some estimates put the ranks of illegals as high as 20 million. Estimates for the rate of increase are around a half million a year. So a lot of the projected increase in medical insurance by 2010 is to support the additional illegal aliens who wll enter the US in the next 5 years and the children who will be born to the illegal aliens who are already here.

The additional costs for medical insurance due to the uninsured will go up much more in just the next 5 years.

Washington, D.C. Premiums for employer-provided family health insurance will cost, on average, an extra $922 in 2005 to cover the unpaid expenses of health care for the uninsured, according to a report released today that quantifies such costs for the first time. These added costs account for one out of every $12 spent for employer-provided health insurance.

The report, issued by the health consumer organization Families USA, projects that these costs will rise to $1,502 in 2010.

According to the report, health insurance premiums for family coverage in six states will be at least $1,500 higher in 2005 due to the unpaid cost of health care for the uninsured. These states are New Mexico ($1,875); West Virginia ($1,796); Oklahoma ($1,781); Montana ($1,578); Texas ($1,551); and Arkansas ($1,514).

“The large and increasing number of uninsured Americans is no longer simply an altruistic concern on behalf of those without health coverage but a matter of self-interest for everyone,” said Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA. “The stakes are high both for businesses and for workers who do have health insurance because they bear the brunt of costs for the uninsured.”

By 2010, there will be 11 states in which employer-provided family health coverage will cost more than $2,000 extra to pay for health services to the uninsured. These states are New Mexico ($3,169); West Virginia ($2,940); Oklahoma ($2,911); Texas ($2,786); Arkansas ($2,748); Florida ($2,248); Alaska ($2,248); Montana ($2,190); Idaho ($2,152); Washington ($2,144); and Arizona ($2,028).

Ouch. So the employers who pay medical insurance are subsidizing the employers who do not pay medical insurance. As more employers drop insurance coverage the burden will fall more heavily on the remaining employers and more of those will drop coverage. This could snowball.

Note that New Mexico, which is getting flooded with illegal aliens will be worst hit in 2010 with family health coverage costing an extra $3169 per year to pay for the uninsured.

We could reverse this trend by deporting all the illegal aliens and stopping more illegals from entering the United States.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 09 12:11 PM  Immigration Economics
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2005 June 07 Tuesday
Congressmen Find Signs Of Building Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

Congressman Peter King (R NY) is hearing increasing amounts of complaints about illegal aliens.

Increasingly, King said, he hears from constituents concerned about stemming illegal immigration. The subject comes up in forums at civic centers, chats with spectators at the West Islip Memorial Day parade and in the pews of his parish church, he said.

"Last Sunday this woman turns to me and says, 'Glad to see you in church, congressman, but close our borders,'" said King, a six-term House member.

Likewise, Democrat Tim Bishop of Southampton attended town-hall meetings from Mastic to Kings Park to Selden, and discussions often developed about how immigration affects jobs, social services and the quality of the life in neighborhoods.

"It depends on where you go, but it's an issue that arises at virtually every town hall meeting I have, to varying levels of intensity," said Bishop, who was often on the receiving end of barbs about the federal government failing to address the issue.

This illustrates why the 2008 election is so important. George W. Bush will block many policy changes aimed at stopping the illegal alien influx. But a more restrictionist President in 2009 can count on a more restrictionst Congress to fashion legislation to stop and even reverse the illegal alien deluge.

Eunice Moscoso of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports on signs that immigration is becoming a more important political issue.

Washington — As gay marriage was in 2004, immigration will be a driving social issue in the next presidential election, some conservatives predict.

In California and Colorado, they have started campaigns for referendums to crack down on illegal immigrants, and groups in other states are considering similar efforts. Some are buoyed by a successful state referendum in Arizona last year requiring immigrants to show proof of legal residence before voting or receiving state welfare services.

Immigration is also becoming an increasingly hot topic on radio and television talk shows as Congress considers various proposals, including one introduced last month by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) that would allow illegal immigrants to apply for temporary work visas.

The amnesty proposal of McCain and Kennedy shows just how contemptuous the elites are toward the masses. A widespread growing desire for a halt to the illegal influx elicits yet another amnesty just as Dubya's foolish immigration amnesty proposal managed to anger the Republican base. As more lower class people become upset by the effects of immigration I expect more Democrats such as Tim Bishop to feel increasing heat on immigration from portions of their base as well.

California State Assembly member Ray Haynes has announced a proposal to create a California Border Police agency to stop the illegal alien influx over the California border.

So why not enforce federal law? Why not set up a state agency that could enforce these laws throughout the state with trained police personnel in a comprehensive and uniform manner throughout the state? At the border. In the jails. At the street corners where everyone sees them standing every day soliciting under-the-table labor for the day. It is too easy. Why didn’t anyone think of it before?

Will it cost too much? It will cost about $200-300 million dollars, but it could save us $5 billion. That is worth the cost. Will it protect us? The public safety danger of not controlling our borders is obvious. The cost of doing nothing is too high. To do this, I have introduced ACA 20, which would establish the California Border Police agency. There is a simultaneous effort to place this idea on the ballot via the initiative process, which you can learn about at www.calborderpolice.com.

Haynes knows the 2/3rds Democrat California state legislature would never enact such a law. His real aim is to win enactment through the state popular initiative process. A victory for this intiative could be a pivotal event in the American immigration battle. A 2006 victory in heavily Hispanic California would be a very loud wake-up call for the entire nation and would generate enormous amounts of publicity. If California stopped illegal immigration over its border with Mexico this would demonstrate that the national government could certainly do the same over the entire border if only it chose to do so.

The creation of a California Border Police agency in 2007 would make immigration an even bigger issue in the 2008 election. Since repeated polls have shown that the majority of the American public favors a more restrictionist immigration policy elevation of immigration as a political issue works for the restrictionist side. The elites are only allowed to thwart the will of the masses because of apathy. Increased media attention mobilize opposition and the elites will be forced to shift to more restrictionist positions.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 07 12:30 PM  Immigration Politics
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Hezbollah Wins Elections In South Lebanon

Pro-Syrian parties swept elections in southern Lebanon.

BEIRUT, June 6 -- Hezbollah and its pro-Syrian allies celebrated their sweep of Sunday's elections in southern Lebanon, while in Damascus, officials of Syria's ruling party gathered Monday for a meeting where President Bashar Assad focused on economic and governance matters rather than broad change in the political system. Politicians from Hezbollah, an armed Shiite Muslim movement that was allied in the election with the mainstream Amal party, sought to portray the election results as a rebuff to international calls for its disarmament. Official results showed candidates on the Shiite parties' list outpolling their nearest opponents by ratios of about 10 to one.

Remember why Syrian troops were in Lebanon in the first place: The various groups in Lebanon fought a many year civil war with each other. In some other parts of Lebanon Hezbollah and Amal couldn't win a single seat. The various groups and regions are deeply divided. Deep divisions are not favorable conditions for successful democracy.

There is a possibility that pro-Syrian parties will get a majority in the Lebanese parliament.

The next two rounds of voting, this Sunday and on June 19, will be more hotly contested than the first two, and will determine whether the anti-Syrian opposition achieves a majority.

Suppose the pro-Syrian faction achieves a majority. Will Condi Rice hail the result as a victory for democracy? Will George W. Bush point to it as beneficial result of the US invasion of Iraq?

This brings to mind Saudi Arabia's April 2005 municipal advisory council elections in which Islamists won the most seats.

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia, April 23 -- Saudi Arabia's limited 10-week experiment with electoral democracy ended here Saturday in a sweeping victory for slates of Islamic activists marketed as the "Golden List," who used grass-roots organizing, digital technology and endorsements from popular religious leaders to defeat their liberal and tribal rivals, even here in Jiddah, for decades Saudi Arabia's most diverse and business-driven city.

Shiites won many of the seats in the Eastern oil region where Shiites are a majority.

Imagine a Saudi Arabia where the monarchy was replaced with a democratically elected government. The Sunni majority's elected leaders might persecute the Shia minority more than the monarchy does. Given an illiberal voting majority dictatorship of the majority will be harsh.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 07 09:22 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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2005 June 06 Monday
Worsening English Language Problem With Immigrant Children

A new report from the United States Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) paints a picture of a worsening problem in the nation's schools with the inability of immigrant children to speak English.

"The number who spoke a language other than English at home and who spoke English with difficulty increased by 124 percent" from 1979 to 2003, the report says.

The report shows 9 percent, or 3.7 million, of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in 1979 spoke a foreign language at home, and more than a third of them "spoke English with difficulty."

But by 2001, the number of immigrant children who did not speak English at home had grown to 19 percent of the national school population, or 9 million students -- of whom 2.4 million spoke English with difficulty.

Why not require some minimal level of English proficiency even for the children of immigrants before they are even allowed to enter the country?

You can read the full report: The Condition of Education 2005.

In another sign that mainstream media are waking up to the immigrant problem Robert Samuelson of Newsweek says the illegal immigrant influx is undermining the assimilation of those who are already here.

Being brutally candid means recognizing that the huge and largely uncontrolled inflow of unskilled Latino workers into the United States is increasingly sabotaging the assimilation process.

...

But no society has a boundless capacity to accept newcomers, especially when many are poor and unskilled. There are now an estimated 34 million immigrants in the United States, about a third of them illegal. About 35 percent lack health insurance and 26 percent receive some sort of federal benefit, reports Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies. To make immigration succeed, we need (paradoxically) to control immigration.

No industrialized modern high tech society has a boundless capacity to undermine the pillars that make it work.

The US Education Department also has some facts and figures about the trend in ethnic mixes in US schools.

Forty-two percent of public school students were considered to be part of a racial or ethnic minority group in 2003, an increase from 22 percent in 1972 (see table 4-1). In comparison, the percentage of public school students who were White decreased from 78 to 58 percent. The minority increase was largely due to the growth in the proportion of students who were Hispanic. In 2003, Hispanic students represented 19 percent of public school enrollment, up from 6 percent in 1972. The proportion of public school students who were Black or who were members of other minority groups increased less over this period than the proportion of students who were Hispanic: Black students made up 16 percent of public school enrollment in 2003, compared with 15 percent in 1972. Other minority groups made up 7 percent in 2003, compared with 1 percent in 1972. Hispanic enrollment surpassed Black enrollment for the first time in 2002.

Keep in mind that the Hispanic portion of public school enrollment understates their portion of school age population because they drop out at high rates. Only 53% of Hispanics graduate from high school and their terrible average academic abilities has placed Texas at the bottom of United States high school graduation rates. The idiot Bush obviously did not pull off an educational miracle while governor of Texas. Lest you might think this is just a Texas problem in the Los Angeles Unified School District 61% of Hispanics drop out. These figures understate the size of the problem. Why? Because people of different races who even manage to graduate from high school graduate knowing drastically different amounts of material. The Thernstroms report that 12 grade Hispanics know little more than 8th grade whites.

"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."

Also see here for more on the Thernstrom data.

I keep harping on the Hispanic education failure and the larger set of problems posed by immigration because demography is destiny and America's destiny is looking grim. Our future is "Dumb and Dumber", at least until cognitive enhancement drugs, genetic testing, and germ line genetic engineering become commonplace. While we wait for that distant day to arrive we should stop and reverse the illegal alien influx and put in place high skills requirements for legal immigrants as a proxy for cognitive ability.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 06 03:25 PM  Immigration Societal Decay
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2005 June 03 Friday
Military Service Increasingly Unpopular With Parents

Parents don't want their kids to join the US Army.

A Department of Defense survey last November, the latest, shows that only 25 percent of parents would recommend military service to their children, down from 42 percent in August 2003.

"Parents," said one recruiter in Ohio who insisted on anonymity because the Army ordered all recruiters not to talk to reporters, "are the biggest hurdle we face."

Recruiters who cold call are getting increasing hostility and a lot more parents hang up.

Recruiters, in interviews over the past six months, said that opposition can be fierce. Three years ago, perhaps 1 or 2 of 10 parents would hang up immediately on a cold call to a potential recruit's home, said a recruiter in New York who, like most others interviewed, insisted on anonymity to protect his career. "Now," he said, "in the past year or two, people hang up all the time. "

The No Child Left Behind law includes a clause that gives military recruiters access to students for the purpose of recruiting. Parents have one way to reduce recruiter access: Ask to have their children's names, addresses, and phone numbers taken off of public lists of students attending a high school.

The US Army Major General in charge of recruiting questions whether the US can stay in Iraq given the growing parental resistance to recruiting.

Military officials are clearly concerned. In an interview last month, Maj. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, commander of Army recruiting, said parental resistance could put the all-volunteer force in jeopardy. When parents and other influential adults dissuade young people from enlisting, he said, "it begs the question of what our national staying power might be for what certainly appears to be a long fight."

One General quoted in the article claims the alternative to a volunteer Army to fight in Iraq is a draft. Well, I can think of another really obvious alternative.

The US Army recruiting shortfall in April was a whopping 42%. How can the US military stay in Iraq with current troop levels? At the same time, given the unpopularity of the war the odds of getting a draft through Congress seem slim. But a US troop reduction would open up parts of Iraq to greater insurgent control.

US officers in Iraq have become more pessimistic. The Bush Admnistration's latest gambit appears to be paramilitary forces modelled after paramilitaries the US has supported in Latin America. Basically, the paramilitaries try to be even more menacing and brutal than the insurgents. This might work. Though only if most of the people the paramilitaries kill are really insurgents and only if most of the familiy members they kidnap to extort insurgent relatives really have insurgent relatives. But competency in the anti-insurgent cause is just so hard to come by in Iraq. Sorry in advance to those innocent civilians who get tortured, raped, and killed. To make a democracy omelette you have to break some civilian eggs. Though perhaps there isn't enough time to try the paramilitary gambit. I'm worried rival militias will destroy the government and plunge the place into civil war. I expect the recruitment shortfall to hasten the shift toward the paramilitary gambit.

The Iraq Debacle continues to unfold.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 03 07:23 AM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs
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2005 June 02 Thursday
Teen Unemployment Rate Higher Due To Immigration

Employers prefer cheap immigrants with work experience over cheap teens.

But the number of adolescents nationwide embarking on that annual rite of passage is abating. Last summer, the teen employment rate was the lowest since 1948, with only 36 percent of those ages 16 to 19 holding jobs, down from 45 percent in 2000. This year, although some economists say an improving economy may boost the prospects of older teens, the latest forecast by Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies in Boston shows no budge in the overall summer employment rate.

...

The teen employment rate typically falls with national recessions, but it is not expected to recover this summer despite an improved economy, according to the Northeastern report. It is attributed, in part, to immigrants and older workers turning to hourly work. Employers often perceive older workers to be more mature or reliable and still available long after teens have returned to school.

Take away the foreign labor supply and suddenly employers want to hire teenagers.

Demand is particularly high in tourist-heavy areas, such as Cape Cod, where employers found themselves shut out of a seasonal worker visa program earlier this year.

What, economics works in the labor market too? You'd never believe it if you listened to open borders advocates who claim foreigners do jobs that Americans do not want to do. No, foreigners do jobs at lower wages and in ways more convenient to employers. But we end up subsidizing those foreigners through health care, social services, and the criminal justice system. Plus, we get lots of unemployed teens about whom my grandmother said it best: "Idle hands are the devil's workshop".

Andrew Sum, Director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, says teens are getting fewer jobs and lousier jobs and he fingers immigration as a cause.

Sum argued that the nation’s youth are still “young, restless, and jobless.” He focused on the labor market experiences of the nation’s teens (16-19) and young adults (20-24) over the past four years: the steep decline in their employment rates and accompanying deterioration in job quality; the adverse affects of the substantial influx of unskilled, immigrant labor and the unprecedented “age twist” in employment rates in the past four years. While the national teen employment rate declined to a new historical low in 2004, the nation experienced continuous growth in payroll employment, and the nation’s overall unemployment rate declined to 5.4 percent. The latter labor market developments normally would have been expected to raise teen employment rates.

Sum uses the employment/population ratio (E/P) as the best available indicator, he asserts, of the overall success of teens in the labor market. The official unemployment rate for teens can be misleading, Sum said, due to the high cyclical sensitivity of teen labor force behavior, and the fact that many teens simply do not enter the labor force when job prospects are negatively perceived. Thus, many jobless teens will not be classified as unemployed in the official labor force statistics.

Since 2000, the E/P ratio of the nation’s teens has fallen by nearly 9 percentage points, a drop more than four times as high as the E/P ratio decline for adults 20 and older. Young adults (20-29), except for those with a bachelor’s or graduate degree, also experienced a sharp decline in their E/P ratios, in contrast to the older segment of the population (55 and over) who experienced job growth between 2000 and 2004. Sum asserted that the magnitude of this “age twist” in the structure of employment rates is historically unprecedented.

Large foreign worker supply decreases demand for teen workers.

Why the huge loss of jobs for teens over the past four years? Sum believes a variety of demand and supply forces are at work, including increased competition from jobless adults, new college graduates, and immigrants. New foreign immigration has remained at high levels, and the influx of many low educated young immigrants over the past four years is an important reason why teens and young adults have found work at much lower rates than before. While there typically is no statistically significant wage difference between native born teens and young immigrants having the same skill sets, Sum said, employers are more likely to hire immigrants for a variety of reasons, such as easier recruitment, ability to work full-time as compared to part-time teenage employees, and a perceived reputation of many immigrants as hardworking and loyal. Moreover, due to the young age structure of the population of new immigrant workers, with 51 percent under the age of 30 and two-thirds under the age of 35, older adults have not faced as much competition for positions as do younger adults and teens. “For example, 70 of every 100 new immigrants between the ages of 25-34 were actively participating in the civilian labor force in 2004 versus only 31 of every 100 new immigrants 55 and older.”

Teen employment provides many benefits to the teens and to society at large.

Teen employment is important for a variety of reasons, including the fact that “early work experience begets more work experience.” Youth who work during their teen years are more likely to work as young adults. Early work experience is even more important for those students who are not planning to continue onto post-secondary education immediately upon graduation. National longitudinal evidence reveals that high school senior year work experience has economic payoffs until youth at least reach their mid-20s. Metropolitan areas with high teen employment rates have significantly higher E/P rates for young adults 5 years later.

Employment in school also can have educational benefits for youth. Economically disadvantaged youth, both men and women, who work during high school, are less likely to drop out of school than their non-working peers. In addition, African American males who work between 21-30 hours a week are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college than their peers with no paid work experience. Sum noted that existing research also shows that metropolitan areas with higher rates of employment for teen females are characterized by significantly lower teen pregnancy rates.

Among Sum's recommended policy changes:

Enforce the immigration laws of the nation and require employers to live up to the spirit as well as the letter of the law;

Also see "Native Worker Employment Drops Greatest In High Immigrant States", "Black Unemployment Rate Has Risen During Economic Recovery", "Hispanics Have Taken Bulk Of New Jobs In Last 4 Years", "Immigrant Population Growth Disconnected From American Economic Cycle", and "Immigration Driving Up Native Unemployment".

By Randall Parker 2005 June 02 10:36 AM  Immigration Economics
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Korans Donated To Libraries Call Jews Apes And Swine

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is distributing free Korans to US libraries that refer to Jews as pigs and apes.

The particular edition, however, "The Meaning of the Holy Quran," previously was banned by the Los Angeles school district because commentary notes accompanying the text were regarded as anti-Semitic.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has included the edition in the Islamic book-package it offers libraries nationwide and now is giving it away to help "improve America's image" through a program called "Explore the Quran."

They aren't trying to improve America's image. They are trying to recruit more believers to Islam.

Ali's rendering of Surah (Chapter) 2:65 of the Quran, which reads like most English versions, says: "And well ye knew those amongst you who transgressed. In the matter of the Sabbath; we said to them: 'Be ye apes, despised and rejected."

In his corresponding note, Ali says: "There must have been a Jewish tradition about a whole fishing community in a seaside town, which persisted in breaking the Sabbath and were turned into apes."

Under the heading "Jews" in the book's index, is a reference to Surah 5:60, which says: " ... Those who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath, those of whom some he transformed into apes and swine ... ."

In the index under "Jews" also are these phrases: "cursed," "enmity of," "greedy of life," "slew prophets," "took usury," "unbelief and blasphemy of" and "work iniquity."

The article goes on to discuss whether the interpretive footnotes in this particular translation are within the mainstream of Muslim Koran interpretation. The problem for Jews is not just in the footnotes. The problem is in the original text and the mainstream interpretations of the original text. A lot of Westerners don't seem to be able to get their minds around the idea that beliefs they hold to be extreme are widely accepted in other cultures and religions.

As MEMRI reports calling Jews descendants of pigs and apes is pretty standard fare in the Middle East.

Introduction 
Depicting Jews – and sometimes also Zionists – as "the descendants of apes and pigs" is extremely widespread today in public discourse in the Arab and Islamic worlds.

For example, in a weekly sermon in April 2002, Al-Azhar Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the highest-ranking cleric in the Sunni Muslim world, called the Jews "the enemies of Allah, descendants of apes and pigs."[1]

In one of his sermons, Saudi sheikh Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudayyis, imam and preacher at the Al-Haraam mosque – the most important mosque in Mecca – beseeched Allah to annihilate the Jews. He also urged the Arabs to give up peace initiatives with them because they are "the scum of the human race, the rats of the world, the violators of pacts and agreements, the murderers of the prophets, and the offspring of apes and pigs."[2]

"Read history," called Al-Sudayyis in another sermon, "and you will understand that the Jews of yesterday are the evil fathers of the Jews of today, who are evil offspring, infidels, distorters of [others'] words, calf-worshippers, prophet-murderers, prophecy-deniers... the scum of the human race 'whom Allah cursed and turned into apes and pigs...' These are the Jews, an ongoing continuum of deceit, obstinacy, licentiousness, evil, and corruption..."[3]

In a sermon at the Said Al-Jandoul mosque in Al-Taif, Saudi sheikh Ba'd bin Abdallah Al-Ajameh Al-Ghamidi explained that "the qualities of the Jews" were present at all times and in all places: "The current behavior of the brothers of apes and pigs, their treachery, violation of agreements, and defiling of holy places... is connected with the deeds of their forefathers during the early period of Islam – which proves the great similarity between all the Jews living today and the Jews who lived at the dawn of Islam."[4]

In an August 2001 sermon, Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi, Palestinian Authority official and imam of the Sheikh Ijlin mosque, Gaza City's main mosque, called on the Palestinian people to forget their internal disagreements and turn all weapons against Jews: "lances must be directed at the Jews, the enemies of Allah, the nation accursed in Allah's book. Allah described [them] as apes and pigs, calf-worshipers, idol-worshippers..."[5]

Seeing Jews as "descendants of apes and pigs" is common also in Shi'ite Islam. Such statements appear, for instance, in a 1998 speech by Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on the occasion of the Shi'ite 'Ashoura holiday. Nasrallah regretted that the holiday fell "on the 50th anniversary of the bitter and distressing historical catastrophe of the establishment of the state of the grandsons of apes and pigs – the Zionist Jews – on the land of Palestine and Jerusalem." He closed his speech with these words: "... We reaffirm the slogan of the struggle against the Great Satan and call, like last year: 'Death to America. To the murderers of the prophets, the grandsons of apes and pigs,' we say: ... 'Death to Israel...'"[6]

These statements are made not only by clerics and preachers. Following their lead, public opinion leaders in the Arab world also call the Jews "the descendants of apes and pigs." The image has pervaded the public consciousness, even in child-rearing. In May 2002, Iqraa, the Saudi-Egyptian satellite television station, which according to its website[7] sets for itself the goals of "highlighting aspects of Arab Islamic culture that inspire respect," "highlighting the true and tolerant picture of Islam and refuting the accusations directed against Islam," and "planting a spirit of mutual understanding and dialogue among members of the nation and opening channels of cultural connection with the cultures of other nations," interviewed a three-and-a-half-year-old "real Muslim girl" about Jews. On "The Muslim Woman Magazine" program, the girl was asked whether she liked Jews; she answered, "no." When asked why she didn't like them, she said that Jews were "apes and pigs." "Who said this?" the moderator asked. The girl answered, "Our God." "Where did He say this?" "In the Koran." At the end of the interview, the pleased moderator said: "No [parents] could wish for Allah to give them a more believing girl than she... May Allah bless her, her father and mother. The next generation of children must be true Muslims. We must educate them now while they are children, so that they will be true Muslims."[8]

These people aren't going to change unless they lose faith in Islam. We should stop all Muslim immigration into the United States and Europe and stop pretending that all the religions and cultures of the world are compatible with each other.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 02 07:50 AM  Immigration Culture Clash
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2005 June 01 Wednesday
Going Down In Basra Southern Iraq

You might think at least in the Shia deep south of Iraq things are looking up. Well, wrong. Basra is ruled by competing militias and police engage in assassinations of opponents.

The chief of police in Basra admitted yesterday that he had effectively lost control of three-quarters of his officers and that sectarian militias had infiltrated the force and were using their posts to assassinate opponents.

Speaking to the Guardian, General Hassan al-Sade said half of his 13,750-strong force was secretly working for political parties in Iraq's second city and that some officers were involved in ambushes.

Other officers were politically neutral but had no interest in policing and did not follow his orders, he told the Guardian.

"I trust 25% of my force, no more."

Appearances are deceiving.

In marked contrast to Baghdad, razor wire and blast walls are uncommon in Basra and instead of cowering indoors after dark families take strolls along the corniche.

But Gen Sade said the tranquillity had been bought by ceding authority to conservative Islamic parties and turning a blind eye to their militias' corruption scams and hit squads.

The militias are knocking off each others' leaders. Maybe that will work out with a single militia coming out on top like with organized crime groups in America. Or maybe the city will Balkanize. Or, hey, to make it more regionally fitting, maybe Basra will Lebanonize into civil war.

Civil war has come to Tal Afar.

With sectarian violence increasing between the nation's Shiite and Sunni Muslims, the figures raise the question of whether Iraq is turning into two battlefields: one of insurgents versus the U.S. military and another of Iraqi sects fighting each other.

In the northern city of Tal Afar, there were reports that militants were in control and that Shiites and Sunnis were fighting in the streets, a day after two car bombs killed at least 20 people.

Police Capt. Ahmed Hashem Taki said Tal Afar was experiencing "civil war." Journalists were blocked from entering the city of 200,000.

President Nixon is keen to show that Vietnamization is working. Oh wait, wrong war. President Bush is keen to show that Iraqization is working.

Turning this trend around, and restoring the atmosphere of optimism, may well have become a top priority for both Washington and Iraq's new leaders. US officials in particular are keen to highlight progress in the development of Iraq's military, as the degree to which Iraq is taking part in its own defense appears to be a crucial determinant of American public attitudes towards the war.

"The US public is looking for success, and success to them means cooperating with the Iraqis," says Christopher Gelpi, a Duke University expert on public opinion about Iraq.

In spite of all this I've found a new reason to be optimistic. I think Iran's mullahs are going to find ways to help their Shiite co-religionists in their civli war against the Sunnis.

One danger of the new crackdown might be increased sectarian violence. The new Iraqi government is dominated by Shiite Muslims with ties to Iran, and its target is an insurgency that despite the presence of Islamist fighters remains overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim.

Obviously the Iranians are in a bind. If they help their fellow Shiites they also might end up helping the United States. Of course, then we are in a bind too. Before the Iraq invasion there was no "Axis of Evil" since there was no alliance between Saddam and the mullahs (someone tell David Frum that he's historically illiterate). But now Bush and the neocons might well have set in motion events that will create a real axis between Iraq and Iran. Darn those unintended consequences.

Immanuel Wallerstein points out that when Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi came to Iraq in May Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari chatted with him in Farsi.

Two days later, the Foreign Minister of Iran, Kamal Khazzeri, arrived for a far more successful four-day visit. He was greeted at the airport by Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, himself a Sunni and a Kurd, who broke into fluent Farsi. After three days, Iraq and Iran signed an agreement to end hostilities between them, in which the new Iraqi government agreed with Iran that the Iraq-Iran war was initiated by Saddam Hussein. The two countries renewed criticisms of Israel. If Bush thinks the new Iraqi government is going to join the U.S. in a crusade against Iran, that other member of the "axis of evil," he clearly has another think coming.

The foreign ministers of Iraq and Iran are personal friends.

As a sign of warming relations, Zebari lapsed into fluent Farsi during the news event, drawing appreciative laughter from Kharrazi, a personal friend. The Iraqi foreign minister is a former Kurdish peshmerga who spent several years in Iran in his youth.

The Iraqi Prime Minister does not want to have unfriendly relations with Iran just because the United States does.

Al-Jaafari and other top Shiite leaders gave Kharrazi a welcome suffused with references to the ties they formed during years of exile in Iran after fleeing the repression of Saddam Hussein.

In his joint appearance with Kharrazi on the steps of the prime minister's office, al-Jaafari focused his remarks on the new government's determination not to allow its relations with Iran or the United States to be prejudiced by the hostility between Tehran and Washington.

Here's my question at this point: Can the US successfully use paramilitary militias against the Sunni insurgents? The Bush Administration is hoping that the success of El Salvador and other Latin American precedents for US support of paramilitary forces can be copied successfully in Iraq. But with so many competing militias organized around tribal ties built on consanguineous marriages Iraq is a very different place.

Update: Thinking about the Vietnam analogy one point comes to mind: The US military tore apart the Viet Cong. Vietnam finally fell to North Vietnamese forces. Well, so far the United States military has not destroyed the Sunni insurgency. The number of Sunnis willing to fight in the insurgency is still far more than the number the US military has killed. In Vietnam the problem was tha the South Vietnamese ARVN weren't as motivated to fight for their government as the communists were. The same holds for the Iraqi Army. Will the Shias become motivated to fight? They have begun to engage in retaliatory killings against the Sunnis. They might not fight for their government. But they might fight for their families against the Sunnis. Of course, if Iraq decays into a large scale civil war blood bath of families killing families across religious and tribal divides then the folly of the neocon project to remake the Middle East will become even more obvious.

Update: An Iraqi lady "river" who writes the "Baghdad Burning" "River Bend" blog provides insight into the Iraqi National Guard's moral code.

The event of the week occurred last Wednesday and I was surprised it wasn’t covered by Western press. It’s not that big a deal, but it enraged people in Baghdad and it can also give a better picture of what has been going on with our *heroic* National Guard. There was an explosion on Wednesday in Baghdad and the wounded were all taken to Yarmuk Hospital, one of the larger hospitals in Baghdad. The number of wounded were around 30- most of them National Guard. In the hospital, it was chaos- patients wounded in this latest explosion, patients from other explosions and various patients from gunshot wounds, etc. The doctors were running around everywhere, trying to be in four different places at once.

Apparently, there weren’t enough beds. Many of the wounded were in the hallways and outside of the rooms. The stories vary. One doctor told me that some of the National Guard began screaming at the doctors, telling them to ignore the civilians and tend to the wounds of the Guard. A nurse said that the National Guard who weren’t wounded began pulling civilians out of the beds and replacing them with wounded National Guard. The gist of it is generally the same; the doctors refused the idea of not treating civilians and preferring the National Guard over them and suddenly a fight broke out. The doctors threatened a strike if the National Guard began pulling the civilians out of beds.

The National Guard decided the solution to the crisis would be the following- they’d gather up some of the doctors and nurses and beat them in front of the patients. So several doctors were rounded up and attacked by several National Guard (someone said there was liberal use of electric batons and the butts of some Klashnikovs).

The doctors decided to go on strike.

It’s difficult to consider National Guardsmen as heroes with the image of them beating doctors in white gowns in ones head. It’s difficult to see them as anything other than expendable Iraqis with their main mission being securing areas and cities for Americans.

It seems that Da’awa Party’s Jaffari is going to be the Prime Minister and Talbani is going to get the decorative position of president. It has been looking like this since the elections. There is talk of giving our token Sunni Ghazi Al Yawir some high-profile position like National Assembly spokesperson. The gesture is meant to appease the Sunni masses but it isn’t going to do that because it’s not about Sunnis and Shia. It’s about occupation and Vichy governments. They all look the same to us.

What it seems policy makers in America don’t get, and what I suspect many Americans themselves *do* get, is that millions of Iraqis feel completely detached from the current people in power. If you don’t have an alliance with one of the political parties (ie under their protection or on their payroll) then it’s difficult to feel any affinity with people like Jaffari, Allawi, Talbani, etc. We watch them on television, tight-lipped and shifty-eyed after a meeting where they quarreled about Kirkuk or Sharia in the constitution and it feels like what I imagine an out-of-body experience should feel like.

In spite of elections, they still feel like puppets. But now, they are high-tech puppets. They were upgraded from your ordinary string puppets to those life-like, battery-powered, talking puppets. It’s almost like we’re doing that whole rotating president thing Bremer did in 2003 all over again. The same faces are getting tedious. The old Iraqi saying sums it up nicely, “Tireed erneb- ukhuth erneb. Tireed ghazal- ukhuth erneb.” The translation for this is, “You want a rabbit? Take a rabbit. You want a deer? Take a rabbit.”

Except we didn’t get any rabbits- we just got an assortment of snakes, weasels and hyenas.

Think about what she says above. Can you imagine US National Guard beating up US doctors and forcing civilians out of hospital beds? Think about the three quarters of the police in Basra who the chief of police does not trust and the militias that rule the place. The neocons were hopelessly naive if they thought they could turn Iraq into a liberal democracy.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 01 07:59 PM  Mideast Iraq
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Aero Contractors Fills The Shoes Of Air America

A New York Times article reports that a company called Aero Contractors now provides the air transport services for the US Central Intelligence Agency that the legendary Air America provided until 1976. Since 9/11 Aero Contractors has expanded.

Behind a surprisingly thin cover of rural hideaways, front companies and shell corporations that share officers who appear to exist only on paper, the C.I.A. has rapidly expanded its air operations since 2001 as it has pursued and questioned terrorism suspects around the world.

An analysis of thousands of flight records, aircraft registrations and corporate documents, as well as interviews with former C.I.A. officers and pilots, show that the agency owns at least 26 planes, 10 of them purchased since 2001. The agency has concealed its ownership behind a web of seven shell corporations that appear to have no employees and no function apart from owning the aircraft.

"When the C.I.A. is given a task, it's usually because national policy makers don't want 'U.S. government' written all over it," said Jim Glerum, a retired C.I.A. officer who spent 18 years with the agency's Air America but says he has no knowledge of current operations. "If you're flying an executive jet into somewhere where there are plenty of executive jets, you can look like any other company."

Some of the C.I.A. planes have been used for carrying out renditions, the legal term for the agency's practice of seizing terrorism suspects in one foreign country and delivering them to be detained in another, including countries that routinely engage in torture. The resulting controversy has breached the secrecy of the agency's flights in the last two years, as plane-spotting hobbyists, activists and journalists in a dozen countries have tracked the mysterious planes' movements.

A jet also arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from Dulles on May 31, 2003, after the killing in Saudi Arabia of Yusuf Bin-Salih al-Ayiri, a propagandist and former close associate of Mr. bin Laden, and the capture of Mr. Ayiri's deputy, Abdullah al-Shabrani.

Flight records sometimes lend support to otherwise unsubstantiated reports. Omar Deghayes, a Libyan-born prisoner in the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has said through his lawyer that four Libyan intelligence service officers appeared in September in an interrogation cell.

Aviation records cannot corroborate his claim that the men questioned him and threatened his life. But they do show that a Gulfstream V registered to one of the C.I.A. shell companies flew from Tripoli, Libya, to Guantánamo on Sept. 8, the day before Mr. Deghayes reported first meeting the Libyan agents. The plane stopped in Jamaica and at Dulles before returning to the Johnston County Airport, flight records show.

The same Gulfstream has been linked - through witness accounts, government inquiries and news reports - to prisoner renditions from Sweden, Pakistan, Indonesia and Gambia.

The NY Times article several of the front companies associated with Aero Contractors: Pegasus Technologies, Tepper Aviation, Premier Executive Transport Services, Crowell Aviation Technologies, and Stevens Express Leasing (and most or all of these companies do not appear to have web sites - unless a reader can find one?). Well guess what? Tepper Aviation needs C-130 pilots.

Comments: Tepper Aviation, Inc is an air cargo company operating 3 L-382G-30 (civilian C-130) aircraft worldwide out of our home base in the panhandle of Florida. We are looking for pilots with C-130 experience for full time employment. Since we recently acquired the third aircraft we are increasing our crew complement. We presently have sufficient Flight Engineers and loadmasters but are looking for pilots and mechanics. Mechanics are required to have C-130 experience and an A&P license. All positions require relocation to the Florida panhandle area. Any interested parties should submit a resume to Tepper Aviation, Inc ATTN: Bobby Owens P.O. Box 100 Crestview, FL 32536.

As the article mentions, just as there are train spotters who watch for various models of trains so there are aircraft spotters. Check out this page of Tepper Aviation aircraft spotted at various commercial and military airports in Europe.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 01 04:05 PM  Terrorists Western Response
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Washington Post Confirms Mark Felt As Watergate Deep Throat

Fpr,er FBI number 2 man Mark Felt was a key informer to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post.

Deep Throat, the secret source whose insider guidance was vital to The Washington Post's groundbreaking coverage of the Watergate scandal, was a pillar of the FBI named W. Mark Felt, The Post confirmed yesterday.

As the bureau's second- and third-ranking official during a period when the FBI was battling for its independence against the administration of President Richard M. Nixon, Felt had the means and the motive to help uncover the web of internal spies, secret surveillance, dirty tricks and coverups that led to Nixon's unprecedented resignation on Aug. 9, 1974, and to prison sentences for some of Nixon's highest-ranking aides.

...

Felt's role places the fact of a disgruntled FBI front and center.

...

Wounded that he was passed over for the top job, furious at Nixon's choice of an outsider, Assistant Attorney General L. Patrick Gray III, as acting FBI director, and determined that the White House not be allowed to steer and stall the bureau's Watergate investigation, Mark Felt slipped into the role that would forever alter his life.

If Felt had been appointed head of the FBI would Felt have still become an informant to Woodward? Or suppose J. Edgar Hoover had lived a few more years and remained in control of the FBI. Would Hoover have shielded the FBI well enough from Nixon that Felt's disgruntlement would not have risen to the point of pushing him to become an informant?

How essential was Felt's role in bringing down Nixon? Would the basic story still have developed, albeit over a longer period of time?

A section from Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's famous book "All the President's Men" reminds me of the Bush Administration:

"On evenings such as these, Deep Throat had talked about how politics had infiltrated every corner of government -- a strong-arm takeover of the agencies by the Nixon White House. . . . He had once called it the 'switchblade mentality' -- and had referred to the willingness of the president's men to fight dirty and for keeps. . . .

The Iraq invasion and the corruption of the integrity of the intelligence agencies that preceded it strike me as a parallel to what happened to law enforcement agencies during the Nixon Administration.

Steve Sailer notes the misplaced attention given to imagined CIA or FBI efforts against JFK.

J. Edgar's Revenge: Hoover Loyalist Brought Down Nixon Administration: For decades, vast controversy swirled around the JFK Assassination, with tens of millions believing the Kennedy Administration was ended by the FBI and/or CIA. In contrast, almost nobody cared about unraveling the mysteries of the end of the Nixon Administration, even though it was always much more plausible that Nixon, rather than Kennedy, was brought down by the FBI and/or CIA.

The liberal media hated Nixon. So they weren't going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Update: Speaking of parallels between Bush and Nixon, the recently deceased David Hackworth, at the time of his death the most decorated living American soldier, said in February 2005 that Bush is trying to copy Nixon's Vietnamization as a way to get out of Iraq.

Now the increasingly flummoxed Bush team is stealing the page on Vietnamization from Nixon’s Exit Primer, coupled with the same deceitful tactics he used to get us out of the almost decade-long Vietnam quagmire: telling lies.

...

More recently, Pentagon hype claimed 140,000 trained and equipped Iraqi troops were set to go toe to toe against an estimated 15,000 insurgents. But when congressional pressure from both Republicans and Democrats lit fires around the feet of both SecDef Rummy’s deputy Paul Wolfowitz and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers, they were quick to admit that only 40,000 Iraqi soldiers were ready to meet the tiger. The rest, according to Myers, “were useful in less-taxing jobs ... in relatively stable southern Iraq.”

The hard truth is that it takes a good 10 years to build an army from the ground up. And the major emphasis must be placed not on numbers such as how many battalions have been fielded or how ready the recruits are, but rather on good, old-fashioned officer training. Until this happens and the corrupt Iraqi officer leadership – from gold bar to four stars – gets a good scrub, our troops are stuck in the tar.

Does the Bush Administration's Iraqization strategy have any better prospects to succeed than Vietnamization? Maybe. I see one big difference: Bush has basically sent in US advisors who used to support paramilitaries in Latin America. Perhaps this plays to Arab strengths. If the paramilitaries start killing and kidnapping relatives of insurgents then maybe sheer terror can put down the insurgency. And then again, maybe not.

By Randall Parker 2005 June 01 06:00 AM  Politics American Domestic
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