The old labor unions haven't totally rolled over for the elites on how to make the US labor force cheaper. Organized labor opposes Ted Kennedy's plan to bring in massive numbers of low skilled low pay foreign workers.
New economic research that pits native-born workers against low-skilled immigrants in a struggle for jobs and wages has fueled a rift between some of Washington's most liberal lawmakers and their allies in economics and labor, who fear that the Democratic Party is pushing an immigration policy that forsakes the party's working-class mainstay.
The Democratic Party has abandoned its historical concern for working conditions and pay of the lower classes. It sees them as recipients of government programs, not primarily as workers. If lower classes can't be categorized as "oppressed" minorities most of the Democratic Party is just not interested in them.
Increase the supply of labor and the labor cost goes down for owners of capital.
"What immigration really does is redistribute wealth away from workers toward employers," said George J. Borjas, an economist at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Somehow the upper class gatekeepers of the Democratic Party messed up weren't paying attention to North Dakota. They let Byron Dorgan, an old school Democrat, get elected to the Senate. I picture well heeled Democrats at some Westchester New York upper class party sipping wine and complaining to each other that Dorgan could drive up the price of gardeners and nannies if he isn't stopped.
But the work of Borjas and other economists is becoming a wedge in the Democratic Party. Citing Borjas's work, Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) denounced the Senate immigration bill yesterday, saying: "This is clearly a corporate strategy to keep wages low. It clearly will replace the jobs of American workers."
At issue is a guest-worker provision that would allow hundreds of thousands of foreign workers legal access to the U.S. labor market each year and the impact those new low-wage workers would have on stagnant wages.
The number of native born males who are working is actually shrinking.
A Northeastern University study found that nearly 86 percent of all newly employed workers hired from 2000 to 2005 were immigrants. For men, the statistics were more stark. In that time, the labor market for men rose by 2.66 million while 2.77 million foreign-born men found work. In other words, Sum said, immigrants have begun replacing native-born male workers.
"Young guys are being displaced by immigrants," he said. "Some of my good liberal friends take issue, but if you're a young worker under 25, poorly educated, probably African American, the higher the share of new immigrants in your community, the worse your employment prospects are becoming."
Our elites truly are electing a new people. We are going to be swept away as somehow unworthy. Why don't they like us? Why do they want to replace us? I am used to employers replacing workers with other workers. But I'm still trying to get my mind around the idea of elites replacing the masses with a different population. Don't like your majority? Think it is too smart and uppity? Put it in its place by importing a newer, more compliant, and dumber majority. That describes what is happening to a once proud American people in the early 21st century.
Americans need to get mad enough to replace their elites before their elites replace them. It is them or us people. Who's it gonna be? Wake up.
While the US Senate schemes on how to drive wages lower the masses increasingly want immigration cut back.
Immigration and outsourcing American jobs, two areas of international relations identified as major concerns in the first fielding of the Foreign Policy Index last year, continued to resonate exceptionally strongly with the public in this survey.
There is marked dissatisfaction on illegal immigration. Nearly eight in 10 of those surveyed gave the United States a "C" or less in protecting our borders from illegal immigration. And this dissatisfaction is nearly universal. Of all the foreign policy issues that the public was asked to grade, immigration shows the least polarization by political party affiliation. The percentage of Americans rating the nation's efforts at protecting our borders from illegal immigration an "F" has risen (30 percent, from 24 percent) in the last six months.
Finally, the public gives its lowest grades to the government's efforts at protecting their jobs. But this is an issue where the public shows frustration about where to place ultimate responsibility. Close to eight in 10 (78 percent) said that the government could do something or a lot about protecting American jobs. But a majority (52 percent) doesn't think it is realistic to think that the U.S. government will be able to have U.S. companies keep jobs in the United States rather than outsourcing them overseas. And they don't hold American companies responsible either. Close to three-quarters (74 percent) think it is unrealistic to expect that companies will keep jobs in the United States when labor is cheaper elsewhere.
The divisions on immigration is between the elites and the masses. On the bright side the level of popular anger continues to rise and will eventually force the elites to obey public desires. But a great deal of damage will be done before that happens. Will we get another amnesty first?
In my neighborhood the Hispanic gang graffiti has gone from nothing a few years ago to frequent new graffiti. One wooden fence I walk past on dog walks got cleaned and painted over two or three times but the owners just can't keep up with the new scrawlings. A lady with a brand new white Toyota got black graffiti paint on her driver side door and she told me she'd had the car for 3 days when that happened. The mayor of Santa Barbara told me the city used to use a graffiti removal guy one day a week but had to hire the guy full time. Plus, the city bought a vehicle (which a friend tells me costs over $50,000) that sprays out high pressure hot water to clean graffiti. I saw a couple of city workers using it to clean big letter graffiti on a road I walk along daily.
Why am I supposed to welcome these people with open arms? I hate to see a society decay.
WASHINGTON, March 29 — Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said Wednesday that he and other House Republicans recognized the need for a guest worker program, opening the door to a possible compromise with the Senate on fiercely debated immigration legislation.
"We're going to look at all alternatives," Mr. Hastert, an Illinois Republican, said at a news conference. "We're not going to discount anything right now. Our first priority is to protect the border. And we also know there is a need in some sections of the economy for a guest worker program."
"We're looking at all alternatives and we're not going to discount anything right now," Hastert said. "Our first priority is to protect the border. And we also know that there is a need in some sectors of the economy for a guest worker program.
If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
What are you going to believe the repeated lies of our corrupt elites or your lying eyes?
House Majority Leader John A. Boehner refused yesterday to rule out compromising with the Senate to expand the House border security bill to include a guest-worker program or provisions that opponents call "amnesty."
"Let's wait and see what the Senate can produce," he told reporters yesterday when asked whether House Republicans would reject the Senate Judiciary Committee's proposal to allow the estimated 12 million illegal aliens now in the U.S. to seek citizenship after paying a fine.
Mr. Boehner and other House leaders said yesterday they still prefer their border-security-only bill.
"Border security is a huge, huge issue everywhere," said Majority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican. "House members are on the right side of the issue."
Boehner, R-Ohio, gets a voting history score of B- from an immigration restrictionist group. Ohio Republican Senator Mike DeWine, who recently voted for a huge amnesty bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee scores a career voting grade of D- and a recent grade of F- from the same immigration restrictionist group.
A couple of years ago I wrote a post which as far as I can tell still has the most comprehensive list of reasons why a foreigner worker permit program would increase rather than decrease illegal and legal immigration. See my post Thinking About Bush's Less Than Half-Baked Worker Permit Proposal. If someone can find a more comprehensive list of reasons why a worker permit program would not control or slow the illegal immigrant influx please give me a link to it.
WASHINGTON, March 27 — With Republicans deeply divided, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted on Monday to legalize the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants and ultimately to grant them citizenship, provided that they hold jobs, pass criminal background checks, learn English and pay fines and back taxes.
The panel also voted to create a vast temporary worker program that would allow roughly 400,000 foreigners to come to the United States to work each year and would put them on a path to citizenship as well.
The legislation, which the committee sent to the full Senate on a 12-to-6 vote, represents the most sweeping effort by Congress in decades to grant legal status to illegal immigrants.
Those 12 votes for the amnesty represent 8 Democrats and 4 Republicans.
The Republicans who voted for the amnesty are making a huge mistake and not just for their nation (which is not their main concern). They are making a huge mistake for their party. The Iraq war has made Bush and the Republicans very unpopular and as conditions in Iraq continue to deterioate Iraq is going to become an even bigger problem for Republican electoral chances.
Immigration amnesties only increase the influx of immigrants, both legal and illegal. The Senators are not voting for a fix of the problem. They are voting to make the problem worse. This is how great nations decline. Big problems cease to become things to fix. Problems become things to deny and to worsen.
Polls have found that support for the war and expectations about its outcome have reached their lowest level since the invasion. A Pew Research Center poll this week found that 66 percent of respondents said the United States was losing ground in preventing a civil war in Iraq, a jump of 18 percent since January.
The Pew poll also found that 49 percent now believed that the United States would succeed in Iraq, compared with 60 percent last July. A CBS News poll completed two weeks ago found that a majority (54 percent) believed Iraq would never become a stable democracy.
Richard B. Wirthlin, who was the pollster for President Ronald Reagan, says he sees the beginning of a decisive turn in public opinion against the war. "It is hard for me to imagine any set of circumstances that would lead to an enhancement of the public support that we have seen," he said. "It is more likely to go down, and the question is how far and how fast."
This is a really bad time for the Republicans to take a stand on immigration that the overwhelming majority of their base opposes and which even the middle of the road voters oppose.
The Republicans are going to become road kill due to immigration. The future of the Republican Party can be seen in Calfornia and it is grim. But the victory of the Democrats is not going to taste sweet. All the bad things that are happening due to immigration are going to get much worse. They are going to rule over the worsening social pathology.
Update: The Republican US Senators who voted for this amnesty travesty are: Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Sam Brownback of Kansas. Anyone reading this who lives in those states please vote against them the next time they are up for reelection. Also, convince someone to run against them in a primary. They have got to go.
But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.
"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.
Bush and Blair did not expect the Iraqis to start fighting each other.
The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment.
The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.
What are they telling each other now? That the Shias are soon going to stop using their power in the Iraqi government to do killing and ethnic cleansing of Sunnis? That things will get better?
Why did Bush invade Iraq? Just to score what he thought would be an easy political victory to bolster his domestic popularity? He wasn't mainly concerned about the supposed WMD threat.
The January 2003 memo is the latest in a series of secret memos produced by top aides to Mr. Blair that summarize private discussions between the president and the prime minister. Another group of British memos, including the so-called Downing Street memo written in July 2002, showed that some senior British officials had been concerned that the United States was determined to invade Iraq, and that the "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" by the Bush administration to fit its desire to go to war.
The thing that bothers me most about Iraq is that we have to wait and watch the tragedy play out. Too many people do not want to admit how bad things have gotten and therefore we have to watch as things get even worse. The Shias are behaving increasingly worse. Shia religious parties have control of the government and they are in no mood to try to restrain the Shia militias and Shias in the intelligence services who are busy exacting revenge on the Sunnis.
The liberals do not want to say just how bad things are in Iraq because to explain why things are so bad would involve giving up on liberal myths about the universal appeal of liberal democracy and the capacity of every population to have a liberal democracy. On the right too many defend Bush out of partisan loyalty. How sad.
Conditions in Iraq continue to worsen as the Shiites increasingly act in just as unrestrained a manner as the Sunni insurgents do. But the big difference is that the Shiites are more effective as a result of greater numbers, better equipment, and support by their government. The US government now thinks the Shiite militias are a bigger threat than the Sunni insurgents.
American officials are now saying that Shiite militias are the No. 1 problem in Iraq, more dangerous than the Sunni-led insurgents who for nearly the past three years have been branded the gravest security threat.
Earlier on Sunday, a mortar shell nearly hit Mr. Sadr's home in the southern holy city of Najaf. Immediately he accused the Americans of trying to kill him.
American officials have been more overt in the past week than ever in blaming Mr. Sadr's militia for a wave of sectarian bloodshed that seems to have no end.
Why are the Shiite militias a greater threat?
Both Shiites and Sunnis have militias. But the Shiite militias are much bigger, much better organized and, most critically, much better connected to the Iraqi security forces.
Connected to the Iraqi security forces? Connected? The Shiite militias are in the Iraqi govenment security forces.
I'd like to know whether the Shiites are killing more Sunnis or the Sunnis killing more Shiites at this point.
A recent US-Iraqi raid on what some Shiite leaders call a mosque has led many Shiite leaders to condemn US forces.
Senior ministers from the three main Shia factions united yesterday to denounce an American raid on a Baghdad mosque complex in which at least 20 people died, opening the biggest rift between the US and Iraq's majority Shia community since the toppling of Saddam Hussein.
"At evening prayers, American soldiers accompanied by Iraqi troops raided the Mustafa mosque and killed 37 people," said Abd al-Karim al-Enzi, the security minister, who belongs to the Dawa party of the prime minister, Ibrahim al Jaafari. "They [the victims] were unarmed. They went in, tied up the people and shot them all. They did not leave any wounded."
Did the Iraqi or American soldiers do most of the killing? How many of those killed were militiamen shooting at the soldiers?
Exactly what happened on Sunday night is in dispute, but in a political sense it no longer matters. Tension between the Americans and Shia leaders had been rising for weeks, since Washington started pushing for Mr Jabr's replacement as police minister and went on to oppose Mr Jaafari remaining as prime minister.
The Shiites are the majority. They do not want to share power with the Sunnis.
IRAQ'S ruling parties have demanded US forces cede control of security as the government investigated a raid on a Shiite mosque complex that ministers said involved "cold blooded" killings by US-led troops.
US commanders rejected the charges and said their accusers faked evidence by moving bodies of gunmen killed fighting Iraqi troops in an office compound. It was not a mosque, they said.
The problem is that if the US military was to start telling the Iraqi government what operations the US military was planning then the information would leak back to which ever militias the operation was aimed at.
U.S. military officials—who said they thought they were targeting the gathering area for a kidnapping cell and not a mosque—said the U.S. and Iraqi forces were fired upon first and discovered a trove of weapons and roadside bombmaking materials in the complex of buildings.
The incident and subsequent fallout raises questions of who has control of Iraqi security forces—the U.S. military or the fledgling Iraqi government—and has led several prominent Iraqi politicians to call for an investigation into the incident.
Were these security forces Sunni or Shia Arabs?
I wouldn't be surprised if the Shiites are lying about what building was a mosque. Or they put a mosque right next to buildings that were supplying arms to the Mahdi Army. The Shiites are insisting that US troops better not dare to take on the Shiite militias.
Members of the major Shiite slate, the United Iraqi Alliance, warned U.S. officials against fighting Shiite forces.
"I warn them (the U.S.) that a battle with the calm giant Shiite means they are falling into a dangerous swamp," said Kuthair al-Khuzaie, a spokesman of the Shiite Dawa party, at a press conference. "The U.S. is making things more complicated and losing their credibility among the Iraqis."
The raid targeted Shiites, some of whom were affiliated with al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, U.S. officials said. Al-Sadr has called for his followers to remain calm.
Moqtada al-Sadr probably sees the incident as great material for propaganda.
The US military wants to restrain the Shiite militias that are killing lots of Sunnis. When the US tries to do that the Shia leaders will look for ways to paint US actions in the worst light in order to make the US military more reluctant to act against Shia militias.
The US is between a rock and a hard place. The Shiite militias do not want to be restrained from killing Sunnis. The Shiite militias doing the ethnic cleansing are in cahoots with Shiite Iraqi government forces.
What frightens Iraqis most about these gangland-style killings is the impunity. According to reports filed by family members and more than a dozen interviews, many men were taken in daylight, in public, with witnesses all around. Few cases, if any, have been investigated.
Part of the reason may be that most victims are Sunnis, and there is growing suspicion that they were killed by Shiite death squads backed by government forces in a cycle of sectarian revenge. This allegation has been circulating in Baghdad for months, and as more Sunnis turn up dead, more people are inclined to believe it.
"This is sectarian cleansing," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of Parliament, who has maintained a degree of neutrality between Shiites and Sunnis.
Mr. Othman said there were atrocities on each side. "But what is different is when Shiites get killed by suicide bombs, everyone comes together to fight the Sunni terrorists," he said. "When Shiites kill Sunnis, there is no response, because much of this killing is done by militias connected to the government."
The civil war is intensifying. The Shiites do not want to be restrained. The Sunnis are increasingly looking toward the United States asking for protection. I think the US ought to help Sunnis and Shias to move out of areas where they are minorities. Doing that would amount to the US playing the role of ethical ethnic cleansers. But the result would be fewer people killed.
Nir Rosen, a fellow at the New America Foundation and a guy who has spent a fair amount of time in Iraq, says that if the US forces leave that will eliminate the main motivation for the insurgency: revenge.
But if American troops aren't in Baghdad, what's to stop the Sunnis from launching an assault and seizing control of the city?
Sunni forces could not mount such an assault. The preponderance of power now lies with the majority Shiites and the Kurds, and the Sunnis know this. Sunni fighters wield only small arms and explosives, not Saddam's tanks and helicopters, and are very weak compared with the cohesive, better armed, and numerically superior Shiite and Kurdish militias. Most important, Iraqi nationalism—not intramural rivalry—is the chief motivator for both Shiites and Sunnis. Most insurgency groups view themselves as waging a muqawama—a resistance—rather than a jihad. This is evident in their names and in their propaganda. For instance, the units commanded by the Association of Muslim Scholars are named after the 1920 revolt against the British. Others have names such as Iraqi Islamic Army and Flame of Iraq. They display the Iraqi flag rather than a flag of jihad. Insurgent attacks are meant primarily to punish those who have collaborated with the Americans and to deter future collaboration.
Wouldn't a U.S. withdrawal embolden the insurgency?
No. If the occupation were to end, so, too, would the insurgency. After all, what the resistance movement has been resisting is the occupation. Who would the insurgents fight if the enemy left? When I asked Sunni Arab fighters and the clerics who support them why they were fighting, they all gave me the same one-word answer: intiqaam—revenge. Revenge for the destruction of their homes, for the shame they felt when Americans forced them to the ground and stepped on them, for the killing of their friends and relatives by U.S. soldiers either in combat or during raids.
Is Rosen correct? Is the Sunni insurgency aimed mainly at the US troops? Or mainly at the Shias? But the Shias can stick up for themselves if need be. The Mahdi Army could defeat the Sunnis. So why are we still there?
Even though Rosen thinks there is no point in the US continuing to fight in Iraq Rosen is not optimistic about what will follow a US pull-out.
The United States should leave, as Barry Posen and many others now realize, but I am less sanguine than Posen about the likely results of an end to the American occupation. Much damage has been done. Iraq is a failed state. The three governments that have existed since Saddam was removed have been unable to impose themselves outside of the fortified military base they inhabit, the Green Zone, now renamed the International Zone. Iraqi society has suffered yet another blow, after having been destroyed by dictatorship, wars, poverty, and sanctions. The brutal presence of hundreds of thousands of foreign soldiers, the redistribution of power they caused, and the ethnic and religious forces they released have further destroyed Iraqi society. Power was distributed not only from one group, the Sunnis, to others, the Kurds and Shia, but also to everybody, that is, to anybody with a gun. In the absence of any political or civil authority, religious and tribal leaders gained supreme power. In places where there was no religious or tribal authority, criminal gangs took over. Elsewhere, the lines between the three were difficult to distinguish.
I figure the place is going to lack even minimally decent government for many years to come whether the US troops stay or leave.
Rosen talked with an Iraqi Sunni who works in the Ministry of Interior who repeats a claim that keeps popping up: Badr Militia men are joining the Ministry of Interior and from there hunting down and killing suspected Sunni insurgents.
Haidar was concerned about the presence of foreign fighters in the resistance and its growing sectarian violence. He told me that members of his intelligence unit had infiltrated resistance groups, praying with them and participating in their planning. "Some of the resistance are organized gangs like mafias," he said. "They use religion and claim they are the resistance. Some of the resistance has good goals. The real resistance won’t kill Iraqis. They attack the occupier, and they attack them in remote places and don’t use civilians as cover." He explained that the real resistance just wanted the Americans to stay in their bases and not enter houses or cities. "If they get inside my house, what is left for me?" he asked in the voice of the Iraqi resistance. "I can’t even protect my own house."
But—possibly because of the influence of foreigners—Sunnis were killing Shia civilians, and Shia, often under official cover, were retaliating. I asked Haidar if the rumors I’d heard were true—that the Ministry of Interior had been infiltrated and dominated by the Badr Organization Militia, the military forces of the radical Shia Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution, or SCIRI. Yes, he said, and added that Ministry of Interior members affiliated with Badr were assassinating Sunnis throughout Iraq. Sunni officers were being removed and replaced by unknown Shias.
Rosen talks to a large range of Iraqis and goes places most reporters are reluctant to travel when not embedded with US forces. Rosen's full article is worth reading to get a sense of how the various factions see the conflict. The Sunnis and Shias are becoming steadily more distrustful of each other.
Until the Samarra mosque bombing the Shias demonstrated a great deal of restraint toward the Sunnis even as both groups have come to view each other in increasingly negative terms.
Iraq’s Sunnis, unsurprisingly, felt intimidated, and they increasingly came to view Shias as Iranians or Persians, refusing to recognize that Shias were the majority or that Shias had been singled out for persecution under Saddam. Sunnis were the primary victims of American military aggression and viewed Shias as collaborators. As Shias became the primary victims of radical Sunni terror attacks against Iraqi civilians, they came to view Sunnis as Baathists, Saddamists, or Wahhabis. Yet Shias showed restraint amid daily attacks meant to provoke a civil war; they knew the numbers were on their side.
As the ethnic cleansing and bombings continue I think the Shia restraint is evaporating.
Rosen thinks that radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Mahdi Army, might be the only person who can hold Iraq together.
But Sunnis preferred to view Muqtada as "the good Shia," and he was becoming the only bridge between Iraq’s Shias and Sunnis. Muqtada opposed the Baathists but had established an excellent working relationship with radical Sunnis immediately following the war, and like them he demanded a centralized Iraq, in part perhaps because he has so much support in Baghdad. SCIRI, on the other hand, saw no need for compromise, preferring to impose a new order on Iraq that directly clashed with Sunni aspirations and reinforced all their fears. It was fighting an open war with the Association of Muslim Scholars as well as former Baathists and Iraqi military officers, singling out former fighter pilots for retribution.
Muqtada al-Sadr, once the most divisive figure in Iraqi politics, was becoming the only hope for halting the civil war. Muqtada was the only Shia leader respected by Iraq’s Sunnis.
But Mahdi militiamen hunted down and killed a lot of Sunnis after the Samarra mosque bombing and probably continue to do so. Therefore Muqtada is becoming less the uniter every day. Still, Rosen says that Muqtada agrees with the Sunni on many important questions.
On the crucial issues that divide Shiite and Sunni, Muqtada sides with the Sunnis. He opposes federalism, which he believes will lead to the breakup of Iraq, and supports amending the constitution. SCIRI and the other main Shiite party, Dawa, support federalism and refuse to amend the constitution. For Sunnis, federalism means the loss not just of the old Iraq, which they dominated, but also of oil revenue, and they are determined to resist it. Muqtada is their only Shiite ally. Inexperienced in foreign affairs and barely experienced in politics, Muqtada may nonetheless be the only figure capable of halting Iraq's steady descent into a civil war that could ignite the entire region.
Of course the rise of Muqtada to power would make the whole neocon project in Iraq into a complete failure for Israel. He is a Muslim fundamentalist who is vehemently anti-Israeli. If you want to understand why the neocons wanted to invade Iraq then see their document A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm which they wrote (I think in 1996) to try to convince then Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to try to overthrow Saddam back in the 1990s. The rise of anti-Israeli fundamentalist Shia cleric Muqtada into power would make the "Clean Break" strategy into an absolutely complete failure for Israel.
You can read other articles by Rosen on Iraq.
Update: If the bulk of the insurgency's motivation is to get the United States out of Iraq then the longer the US stays the more likely Iraq will be partitioned.
Think about the dynamics at work here. The Sunni insurgency (both foreign and domestic) kills Shias. They kill some Shias for cooperating with US forces or the government. They kill other Shias just to scare them out of cooperation and to show them the Sunnis really are the boss. But in the process the Sunnis create more Shia enemies of the Sunnis and more Shias retaliate. This, in turn, motivates still more Sunnis to kill Shias. The cycle builds up. The ethnic cleansing also accelerates, making a split of the country along ethnic lines easier.
The larger the set of retaliators becomes the more ethnic cleansing will happen and the more the Sunnis and Shias will see each other as totally unaccceptable. Then the only way Iraq could be kept together would be by the Shias building up a highly motivated army, police, and intelligence apparatus to severely repress the Sunnis. Like Saddam but more religious. So what do you want in the non-Kurdish region of Iraq? A highly repressive theocratic Shia regime (whether elected or not)? Or two Arab countries, one for Shias and one for Sunnis?
Robert Kaplan has reported extensively on the US military all over the world. He's spent time with US special forces and other US military units not just in the Middle East but in Latin America, Central Asia, and still other places. He's not one of those who visit for a few weeks and then strike an authoritative pose. After embedding for months with a US military unit in Iraq Kaplan says the old forms of power have more legitimacy in Iraq than the new democratically elected officials.
Judging from your piece, the U.S. military has resorted to working within the tribal Iraqi system, at least for the time being.
Yes, it has. One thing about the U.S. military in Iraq is that it's non-ideological. Making statements in Washington about building democracy is one thing. But on the ground, officers are working with tribal leaders in Mosul and other places. They're going to democratic council meetings but then working behind their backs with the tribal leaders, because it's the only way to make progress. In a crucible of war, you toss out ideas that don't work. Everything is oriented toward what works.
Is it possible that some people are genuinely comfortable living under a hierarchical structure and really don't want democracy at all? One Sunni man you interviewed for this piece asked, "What good is voting if the Shiites and Kurds will vote, too?"? That question has been coming up quite a lot in different forms since the Palestinians elected Hamas.
Everything I've seen in Iraq tells me that tribal sheiks have a lot more legitimacy than newly-elected democratic politicians. The tribal system is something we think of, with our cultural prejudice, as reactionary. But it's a long-standing, venerable tradition in Middle Eastern society. And it is not necessarily repressive. It's a form of order that may not be as enlightened as Western forms of order. But it's a form of order nevertheless, which is still better than chaos.
Tribes are natural to humanity. For most of history, they've been a stabilizing force, a socially organizing force. We shouldn't condemn tribes per se. Tribes form a much more natural means of political development than something like Western democracy, which is very new and has only succeeded in a relatively small geographic portion of the world. We've seen an explosion of democracy around the world since the 1990s. It's not clear yet how well it will succeed.
Note his argument for tribes being basically a part of human nature. If you haven't already read about the very tribal practice of consanguineous (cousin) marriage and the role it plays in Middle Eastern politics then start with my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq and click back from there to what Steve Sailer and others have written about it.
You write in this piece that sergeants are less optimistic than officers are about the future of the Iraqi Army. Why do you think that's the case?
There has been a debate about the training of Iraqi army and police units. One side of the debate says training is going well. Another side says it's not. The recent disturbances in Iraq, following the blowing up of the Samarra Mosque, showed that the Iraqi army units have a mixed record. Some units performed well; some performed badly.
This story brings the debate down to ground level. While I was in Mosul, I actually went out with individual Iraqi Army units. And what I found was that the only people who really know how well the training is going are the U.S. sergeants who go out with them on a daily basis. As you go up the chain of command, knowledge of this issue gets more abstract and unreal. It's almost as if the higher up you go, the more pressure there is to be optimistic.
The basic impression I got was this: The Iraqi units have made tremendous progress. It's gratifying for us. We really see that we're accomplishing something. But these guys are not there yet. If we left tomorrow, they would desert. We're finally doing things right, but all that means is that now we have to wait a long time. It's kind of like watching the grass grow or the paint dry.
Consider his point that the higher up you go in a chain of command the less anyone knows about how things are going. Well, then at the level of the top civilians in the Defense Department they are clueless at best and in the White House they are in fantasy land. The Iraqi military isn't going to work without loyalty. But Kaplan says "If we left tomorrow, they would desert.". Well, suppose we leave 3 years from now. Will they then be any less likely to desert? I doubt it.
Kaplan found the same pattern with Iraqi military unit quality that I've repeatedly posted about from other reporters: the Kurds make up the best Iraqi Army units. (PDF format)
The platoon undertook a foot patrol with an Iraqi army counterpart. You could not but be impressed with these Iraqi troops. Their TOC was as neat and well organized as 4-23's, with flow charts on the walls and satellite maps under table glass. They had strong-looking noncoms with game faces who flooded out of their white pickups and covered corners and fields of fire almost as well as the Americans.
There was only one problem: these troops were all ethnic Kurds, who at their headquarters had pictures of the Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani. Would this unit stay loyal to something called "Iraq"? in the event of a weakening of the state following an American drawdown? Or were the Americans merely helping along the possibility of what some called "creeping Kurdistan"?? And was the possibility of a creeping Kurdistan actually a means of pressuring Sunni Arabs to constructively participate in the political process?
Kaplan's dreaming if he thinks the Kurdish soldiers have even a chance of remaining loyal to "Iraq". The Kurds are gone already. They have de facto independence. They will help the US deal with the Arabs. They'll pretend to act as "Iraqi" soldiers. But in exchange for helping the US with the Arabs they want independence. Oh, and if the US government has a shred of moral decency the US will let them have it.
I was surprised to learn that this Iraqi army platoon was rated near the bottom by American military training teams in terms of its fighting capability. When I asked for an explanation, I was told that the unit was bureaucratically underdeveloped at the battalion level. Although fighting well as a platoon was more important than "battalion ops"? (because counterinsurgency was about small-unit warfare and developing informants), no nationwide unity of military effort was possible without organized battalions and divisions. If this unit was a bad one, the Iraqi army, at least in terms of professional development, was doing a lot better than many supposed - or so I thought. Later, though, I heard of another platoon whose soldiers stole from the places they searched and, as one American captain told me, "shit in the side rooms."?
A Sunni Arab shopkeeper said to me: "When American troops patrol the streets with the Iraqi army, it is so awful and humiliating for us, because we know those Iraqi soldiers are really Kurds. Your occupation has strengthened our enemies."? This young man, the son of a former general in Saddam Hussein's army, engaged me in conversation for more than half an hour. I liked him. He turned out to be uncannily objective in his own way. He had just come back from Syria, upon which he heaped praise. "Syria now is so much better than Iraq,"? he said. "It is under tight control, so people there feel safe and can go about their lives with dignity. You Americans think you have brought freedom; you have just allowed the thugs from the villages to kill and rob from the educated people whom Saddam had protected."?
Law-abiding Iraqis are now free to be victimized by criminals. By failing to provide them sufficient security we've probably persuaded quite a few of them that freedom is synonymous with anarchy, murder, destruction, and suffering.
I say listen to the noncommissioned officers. They do not see the urge to fight in the Iraqi Army.Why? Because the urge isn't there.
While the colonels I met were confident that the Iraqi army and police could bear the burden given to them in a reduction of American forces, the staff sergeants and other noncoms working every day with the new Iraqi security elements were not. "Trust me, sir,"? one staff sergeant confided about an Iraqi army unit with which his platoon had just completed a three-hour patrol, "if we leave, they won't show up again in this neighborhood. They'll never leave their base." On another occasion, while surveying a school slated to be a polling station, the local Iraqi army commander kept demanding that his men be able to camp out at the school overnight. The American captain kept telling him "no."? One of the noncoms quietly remarked, "It's the same old story: all they want to do is hunker down and play defense, but they will not be able to hold off this insurgency unless they play offense."? As for the Iraqi police, the noncoms expressed even less confidence.
A recurring theme in Kaplan's essay is that the unemployment rate in Iraq is very high and therefore lots of young Iraqi men with nothing better to do with their time find the insurgency attractive. Also, older folks look around and see how little is geting rebuilt and how much is getting destroyed and think the US government has over-promised and under-delivered.
Kaplan's worth reading in full. He tries to be optimistic in part because he so obviously likes the people in the US military and does not want to see all their labor and losses to be in vain. But he relays a lot of raw material you need to get a sense of how things are going in Iraq.
One problem with Kaplan's viewpoint is that it definitely oriented around his experience with the US military. He doesn't flesh out the Iraqis as much as he fleshes out the US soldiers and officers and their viewpoints. But, again, he's seen quite a bit in Iraq and is worth your time to read.
I found the full text of Kaplan's article as a PDF on journalist Michael Yon's website. Also see a battle story from Mosul which Yon wrote in August 2005. Note how in that account Lieutenant Colonel Kurilla got shot by people he'd previously captured who'd been let go. This apparently happens quite often in Iraq. The release of enemy soldiers to let them fight again wasn't something that happened during WWI, WWII, the Korean War, or most other wars the US has fought in.
On Monday, the multinational group Reporters Without Borders said 86 journalists and news assistants have been killed in Iraq since U.S. forces crossed the border from Kuwait three years ago. By contrast, the group said, 63 journalists were killed in Vietnam during the 22-year period of the war there. (Related: Read the report)
The reporters in Vietnam took many fewer precautions. Baghdad is far more dangerous than Saigon was in the 60s. That's a real problem. The reporters can't go to places to talk to people to find out the real story in many cases.
The overwhelming majority were men (92 per cent). Seven women journalists have been killed since the start of the war. The average age of those killed was 35.5. The youngest (Ali Abrahim Aissa) was 21 and the oldest (Shinsuke Hashida) was 61.
Iraqis have been the worst hit. 77 per cent of the journalists and media assistants killed in Iraq in the past three years have been of Iraqi nationality. The proportion of Iraqis has risen. They represented 66 per cent of all the journalists killed until May 2005. The visiting foreign reporters to have died in Iraq were nearly all killed in the first days of the war, in March and April 2003. The most recent case was in August 2005, when American freelance writer Steven Vincent was killed in Basra. Since then, all the media professionals killed in Iraq have been of Iraqi nationality.
While 77% of the killed were Iraqs 11% were from other Arab countries, 8% from Europe, and only 5% from the United States.
The higher Iraqi reporter death rate is probably due to less money spent on keeping them alive.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, US and British journalists have not been the worst hit by this war. This has clearly been due to the radical security measures adopted by most of the US and British news media operating in Iraq. As the war progressed, these media have reinforced their security provisions even more.
Armoured vehicles, bodyguards and very few excursions. Journalists have had to adapt their work to these constraints. In the great majority of cases, the only contact with the local population is conducted by Iraqi employees. Large swathes of Iraqi territory are no longer covered by the foreign press.
The international news media would be unable to maintain a presence in Iraq if they did not make these concessions. There were very few privately-owned security companies in Baghdad in 2003 but now they are flourishing. At least 20 are currently operating in Iraq.
Western media rely heavily on Iraqi freelancers for reporting. Some complain that this slants the coverage. But given the splits within Iraqi society it is hard to say how the coverage gets slanted. Are most of the stringers Sunnis or Shias? Related to the old regime or the new regime or to militias?
On the third year anniversary of beginning of America's Iraq misadventure lots of debates are taking place in the United States about the wisdom of the war and whether US forces should stay. George W. Bush expects the US military to stay in Iraq even after he has left office. I'm inclined to agree with that prediction though I'd rather withdraw now.
However, the American mainstream debate on Iraq bores me because it takes place under the same thought crime rules for denying biological factors in human nature that govern debates on American domestic issues. The mainstream debate on Iraq has hit a stalemate as reality has collided with faith (surely everyone has the capacity and desire to support a democracy regardless of what our lying eyes are telling us). As a result I'm more interested in discussing patterns of behavior happening in Iraq. Most notably, the ethnic cleansing in Iraq has accelerated since the Samarra Golden Mosque bombing.
Saeed Haqqi, head of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, said Shiites have fled mainly to Sadr City and to the southern cities of Najaf, Karbala and Basra. Sunnis were headed mostly to Baghdad's Abu Ghraib suburb and to Tarmiyah, where Shiites were recently run out of the town 30 miles north of the capital.
Minister of Migration Suhaila Abed Jaafar said her department has helped 3,705 displaced families nationwide since Feb. 22.
U.S. military engineers working to upgrade the Iraqi electricity grid estimate each Iraqi family at six people. The math, then, shows the known number of displaced at more than 22,000 in the past month alone.
And that figure does not count what must be hundreds, if not thousands, more families who have moved in with relatives, taken shelter in community centers and mosques or occupied partially built homes and those abandoned by displaced members of the other Muslim sect.
Read the full article for anecdotes of killings, threatening notes, sudden flight, and the rest of it.
Now I can just hear some of you: "Oh, this is horrible. Oh, this is a great tragedy." Others who support the war think I'm just doing my regular negative schtick about Iraq. But you would be wrong. The internet being what it is and my mind also being what it is I often find myself clicking around reading many articles in parallel. Well, I clicked over to Adam Lawson's Modern Tribalist and saw a post about how Israel was founded on ethnic cleansing where Adam linked to Geoffrey Wheatcroft arguing that obviously Israel's modern democracy was founded on ethnic cleansing (which is a true statement btw).
And yet those admirers missed some salient truths. That beautiful democratic Israel of 50 years ago was founded on ethnic cleansing. The later expansion of Israel was actually less brutal: after 1967 a number of Palestinians were uprooted, but there was nothing to compare with the wholesale expulsion of three-quarters of a million Palestinians in 1948 - an event to which the right-thinking liberal west closed its eyes at the time.
Then it dawned on me: we are overseeing a civil war that is causing an ethnic cleansing that will lead to the creation of 3 states in Iraq. These states could, like Israel, become sufficiently ethnically pure to function as democracies. "But wait", I hear the human biodiversity realists saying, "the Iraqis still lack sufficient loyalty to the state due to consanguineous marriages, Islam, low average intelligence levels, and perhaps still other cultural and genetic factors". Well true enough. You got me there. Still, the ethnic cleansing is at least a step in the direction of democratic states and Rome wasn't built in a day.
As previously mentioned, one of the reasons that ethnically pure break-away states in Iraq won't turn into liberal democracies is average levels of intelligence that are too low. Well, events in Iraq are making the intelligence deficit worse as the smarties are getting killed and driven abroad.
The growing insecurity has set off a massive brain drain, as more and more Iraqis slip away from the country, perhaps never to return. While the fall of Saddam Hussein opened the door for an earlier generation of Iraqi exiles to go home, now the flow is going the other way again. Kidnap survivors are the lucky ones. Hundreds of Iraqi professionals are being murdered in what some Iraqis see as a deliberate campaign to destroy the country's best and brightest. The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research says that 89 university professors and senior lecturers have been killed since 2003, and police investigations have led to nothing.
Iraqi academics have compiled a longer list of up to 105 names of assassinated colleagues. The most recent was Professor Ali Muhawesh, the dean of the engineering college at Mustansiriya University, one of Baghdad's two main campuses. He was shot this week.
The rate of killing is increasing. Some 311 teachers have been murdered in the past four months alone, according to the Ministry of Education. It is not only Baghdad that is suffering. The medical college in Mosul, a city in northern Iraq, has lost nine senior staff.
Even outside Iraq, fear consumes many exiles. In Jordan's capital, Amman, the first port of call for most refugees, requests for interviews produced repeated rejections. Others would only talk if false names were used and no mention made of where they work or live.
But this flight abroad could be a positive development. If all the smarties get driven out of some countries the clustering of smarties in other countries could jump-start the economic development of the latter countries. Jordan in particular could benefit from an influx of relatively smarter Iraqi Sunnis.
"Always look on the bright side of life."
In an article entitled "Curse of the Young Old: Why Should We Pay For Them" William Saletan argues that the unfunded old age pension liabilities crisis should be solved with tougher benefits eligibility requirements.
To keep the system afloat for the next seven decades, its trustees say the Social Security tax rate will have to reach 19 percent. And if life expectancy keeps rising over that period, academics project a tax rate of 27 to 32 percent.
We are about the enter the age of the battle over tax increases or benefits cuts.
Money for basic living expenses isn't even the biggest problem. Medical care costs are going to cost more than basic expenses like food, utilities, and rent.
Healthy aging is increasing too.
Now for the good news. We're not just living longer; we're staying healthy longer. From 1982 to 1999, the percentage of senior citizens who had chronic disabilities dropped from 26 percent to less than 20. Active-life expectancy at age 65--the average number of additional years a person could expect to live free of chronic functional impairment--rose from fewer than 12 years to nearly 14. That's a five-year gain from what a 65-year-old could expect in 1935, according to Kenneth Manton, a leading scholar of old age. The experience of being 65 to 74 has changed so radically that the Census Bureau now calls this group the "young old."
They could still be working and paying taxes instead of sucking on the teat.
Even as health on old age has improved labor market participation among the elderly has declined. This is clearly not sustainable.
So all these young old folks are working longer, right? Wrong. In 1950, more than 45 percent of men 65 or older were still in the labor force. By 2003, that percentage had plunged below 20. Five years ago, a study showed that men and women were retiring five and six years earlier, respectively, than their predecessors did 45 years earlier. Why? Because they could. Pensions helped, but the bigger factor was Social Security.
By reducing labor market participation Social Security reduces tax revenues needed to pay for the truly old and frail.
Saletan says the most obvious response to the inaffordability of Social Security and the rising number of healthy elderly is to raise the retirement age.
Last year, Manton calculated that if you were designing a system in 1999 for people who could expect as many active years as a 65-year-old could expect in 1935, you'd set the retirement age at 70. And by 2015, you'd raise it to 73.
When the biotech revolution starts to have a large effect on health even these projections will seem too conservative. When will solutions come for how to grow replacement organs? Solutions for cancer and Alzheimer's Disease combined with cheap organ replacements (maybe grown in genetically engineered pigs) will eliminate a lot of causes of death. Crestor will prevent artery plaque build-up. So what's going to kill you? Perhaps infection due to an aged immune system.
Saletan says that since we age at different rates eligibility for Social Security should be based on disability.
The third objection is that people don't age at the same rate. While true, it's not an argument for a low benefits-eligibility age. It's an argument for ending the link between age and benefits. Social Security actually consists of three programs. One pays benefits based on age; another pays if you lose your spouse; a third pays if you become disabled. As of 2002, 70 percent of the money paid out was based on age; only 15 percent was based on disability. That's insane. Inequality of aging means that age is a bad proxy for disability, which is a good proxy for need. If you turn 65 on the same day as your neighbor, but she's disabled and you aren't, we should pay her, not you.
I emphatically agree with Saletan. People could still save their own money if they wanted to retire sooner. But right now Social Security and Medicare are a massive and morally unjustifiable forced wealth transfer from the young to the old.
A larger working population would both reduce the outflow of money to pay for old folks and also increase tax revenues. Plus, this would reduce tax increases. Big tax increases to pay for an old population will reduce labor market participation of younger folks. Faced with higher taxes people will choose leisure time over working and having most of their money go to taxes. Plus, people will do more work for themselves. Rather than hire repairmen or painters they'd do their own repair and painting. This will reduce the efficiency of the economy by causing people to spend less time doing the tasks they are most efficient at doing. A higher tax society means lower living standards for a multitude of reasons.
The share of young black men without jobs has climbed relentlessly, with only a slight pause during the economic peak of the late 1990's. In 2000, 65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless - that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts. Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20's were jobless in 2004, up from 46 percent in 2000.
Incarceration rates climbed in the 1990's and reached historic highs in the past few years. In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20's who did not attend college were in jail or prison; by 2004, 21 percent were incarcerated. By their mid-30's, 6 in 10 black men who had dropped out of school had spent time in prison.
In the inner cities, more than half of all black men do not finish high school.
Parenthetically, half of all Hispanics drop out of high school in America. Imagine the last 30 years of the Hispanic immigration deluge hadn't happened. The pay for lower skilled jobs would be higher and more black high school drop-outs would be employed. The automation of manual labor jobs and the export of jobs to lower wage countries still would have caused a decline in the fortunes of black males. But the decline would not have been as great.
I am amazed at the rationalizing abilities of liberals who support weak immigration restrictions who also bemoan the plight of blacks. They support policies that screw over the least skilled people in our society. Then they move to white flight suburbs while condescendly claiming that white conservative racists are to blame for the social problems of blacks and Hispanics.
Incarceration and child support have contributed to the high black male unemployment rate.
Mr. Holzer of Georgetown and his co-authors cite two factors that have curbed black employment in particular.
First, the high rate of incarceration and attendant flood of former offenders into neighborhoods have become major impediments. Men with criminal records tend to be shunned by employers, and young blacks with clean records suffer by association, studies have found.
...By their mid-30's, 30 percent of black men with no more than a high school education have served time in prison, and 60 percent of dropouts have, Mr. Western said. Among black dropouts in their late 20's, more are in prison on a given day - 34 percent - than are working - 30 percent - according to an analysis of 2000 census data by Steven Raphael of the University of California, Berkeley.
Social policies always have unintended and harmful consequences. Stricter child support enforcement is no exception. The enforcement discourages black men with child support orders from working in legal jobs.
About half of all black men in their late 20's and early 30's who did not go to college are noncustodial fathers, according to Mr. Holzer. From the fathers' viewpoint, support obligations "amount to a tax on earnings," he said.
I'd like to know whether black high school drop-outs have more kids than black high school graduates. My guess is the answer is Yes. If so then yet lower IQ levels are being selected for. But maybe successful black males have so many mating opportunities that they are reproducing at a faster rate. Also, with so many black male high school drop-outs in jail that has to reduce their ability to reproduce. So maybe the high black incarceration rate is selecting for genes for higher intelligence and lower criminality.
Draconian child support policies drive some men to take on false identities or leave the country. An engineer of my acquaintance was forced to live in his car due to a divorce settlement. He didn't have enough money to pay rent after paying for support. Worse, he had the blood types of his 3 kids tested and found that they had 3 different blood types. So at least one of his kids wasn't his. Given that his marriage ended when he came home early and found his wife in bed with someone else that wasn't too surprising. He eventually quit his job and disappeared from town.
For poor men with little earning potential and child support court orders legal jobs have little to offer. With the unemployed blacks I wonder what portion of them do illegal work like drug dealing and what percent have under-the-table jobs. Also, what portion of their support comes from living with girlfriends? Just how do they get by?
I hope all my regular readers are not naive enough to think the US changed Afghanistan into a proto Western liberal secular state. Abdul Rahman might be killed in Afghanistan as punishment for converting to Christianity.
The convert, Abdul Rahman, has been accused of apostasy and jailed, but not formally charged. In the United States this week, Christian talk shows and advocacy groups rallied their supporters, who flooded the White House and the Afghanistan Embassy with complaints.
The embassy released a statement yesterday saying that it was "too early" to draw conclusions, and that a judge was now "evaluating questions raised about the mental fitness of Mr. Rahman." The embassy said the results of that evaluation "may end the proceedings."
"They want to sentence me to death, and I accept it," Rahman told reporters last week, "but I am not a deserter and not an infidel."
The Afghan constitution, which is based on Sharia, or Islamic law, says that apostates can receive the death penalty.
Mr Rahman told a judge at a preliminary hearing last week that he became a Christian while working for an aid group helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
"I'm not an apostate. I'm obedient to God but I'm a Christian, that's my choice," he told the hearing.
Rahman doesn't seem willing to act crazy as a way to save his life.
In Afghanistan whether you are a Christian is not recognized as a legitimate personal choice.
When a Christian believer in a nation wholly dependent on U.S. support faces trial and possibly execution simply for embracing the same faith as the President of the United States, you'd think that country would be read the riot act. Instead, Washington's response to the trial in Afghanistan of Abdul Rahman has been rather muted. President Bush said Wednesday he was deeply troubled by the case and said he expected Afghanistan to "honor the universal principle of freedom."
Bush is hoping Karzai will find some way to get the case droppped.
The trial of a man facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity might be dropped on the grounds of his "mental instability", officials have said, as Afghanistan provoked international criticism over the case.
"He doesn't speak like normal people," Zalmai, the chief prosecutor in the case, who uses only one name, told The Independent. "We are delaying the next hearing for him to be examined by doctors to establish his sanity."
Well, normal people would hide their religious beliefs if they lived in a place that would kill them for what they believed. So I have to side with Zalmai.
My guess is that Hamid Karzai is using what leverage he has (cash, threats, etc) to make sure the Afghan courts declare this Afghan Christian as insane or otherwise mentally ill. Karzai doesn't want the Western criticism. Bush and Karzai will look for some way to make the case go away. Maybe Rahman will be sent abroad for mental treatment and given asylum once he gets to wherever he gets sent.
I would have thought that all the Taliban judges were fired when the regime fell. But judges in Afghanistan sound like they are mostly Taliban hold-overs.
His is thought to be Afghanistan's first such trial, reflecting tensions between conservative clerics and reformists.
Conservatives still dominate the Afghan judiciary, four years after the Taleban were overthrown, and Afghanistan's post-Taleban constitution is based on Sharia law.
What happens once Karzai is replaced? Surely he's the best sort of leader we can hope for in Afhganistan. More disappointments lie in store in Afghanistan for the US in the future.
Get this, his family denounced him as a Christian as part of a custody battle over his two kids. His own parents are battling him in the custody battle. This case has become a means of fighting a larger clash in Afghan politics.
The trial of an Afghan man who is facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity has drawn the battle lines between religious conservatives in the Supreme Court and western diplomats pushing a reformist agenda.
The case comes within days of President Hamid Karzai's unveiling of a new Supreme Court line-up that western donors hope will dilute the power of Islamic hardliners.
Maybe Karzai could approach some major league drug dealers to order their bought-and-paid-for judges to dismiss the case?
More than four years since the fall of the Taliban, the judicial sector remains corrupt, riddled with cronyism linked to the country's $2.8bn (â‚¬2.3bn, Â£1.6bn) drug industry and staffed by ill-educated mullahs tied to illegal militia forces.
Why weren't all the judges dismissed when the Taliban fell?
Italy has troops helping us in both Afghanistan and Iraq (I know, having served for four months as a liaison officer with the Italian Army in Iraq). Italian President Francesco Cossiga has called on his country to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan if Rahman is executed. In the words of the Italian president: "It is not acceptable that our soldiers should put themselves at risk or even sacrifice their lives for a fundamentalist, illiberal regime."
I've done my part in the Middle East. I recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq with my National Guard unit. The troops are doing a great job. But it's disheartening to read of an Afghan Christian facing the death penalty, and persecution of Iraq's indigenous Christian minority.
As British Labour MP Alan Simpson asks of the Rahman case, "What sort of democracy are we defending?"
MP Simpson, do you really need to ask? The answer is obvious enough: An illiberal fundamentalist Islamic democracy.
Allan asks whether Bush, in his quest to remake the Middle East, has failed to consider what Islam is really like. Um, that would be a big Yes!
Our president, portrayed by some opponents as a Christian fanatic, will not speak out in behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
In Bush's eagerness to reform the Middle East, has he failed to take into account the realities of Islam?
Referring to the Rahman case, Bush said, "We expect them to honor the universal principle of freedom."
Well, the idea that freedom is a universal principle is a Western liberal conceit. No, it is not a universal principle. No, there is no universal ideology or universal moral code. As we learned with the Muslim reaction to the Danish cartoons the Muslims have a very different moral code. Wall reports that someone converting to Christianity is seen as an intolerable insult.
In Afghanistan, Rahman's own father defends the government's right to execute his son, with the statement that "This is an Islamic country." A neighbor of the family said, "There is no way we are going to allow an Afghan to insult us by becoming Christian ..." The state prosecutor calls Rahman a "microbe" that must be eliminated.
Eliminate a microbe? Stop an intolerable insult? One can not reason with such people using commonly shared values.
More than a dozen D.C. public school system central office administrators are taking home base salaries of at least $150,000 per year, compared with just one official earning that much two years ago, according to an analysis of payroll records.
The salary information, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, shows 14 central administration officials receiving a base pay of at least $150,000 in fiscal 2006, including five officials making $170,000 or more.
Do I even need to tell you that students in the District of Columbia perform terribly on standardized tests? Now, most of that failure is not the fault of the school administrators. But I doubt they deserve to make the big bucks.
* In 2002-03, the 50 states and the District of Columbia spent an average of $8,044 in current expenditures for every pupil in membership table 5). This represents a 4.0 percent increase in current expenditures per student from the previous school year ($7,734 in unadjusted dollars).
* The median of the state per pupil expenditures was $7,574, indicating that one-half of all states educated students at a cost of less than $7,574 per student (derived from table 5). Three states-New Jersey ($12,568), New York ($11,961), and Connecticut ($11,057)-expended more than $11,000 per pupil. The District of Columbia, which comprises a single urban district, spent $11,847 per pupil. Only one state, Utah, had expenditures of less than $5,000 for each pupil in membership ($4,838).
* On average, for every student in 2002-03, about $4,934 was spent for instructional services. Expenditures per pupil for instruction ranged from $3,103 in Utah to $ 8,213 in New York. Support services expenditures per pupil were highest in the District of Columbia ($5,331) and New Jersey ($4,757), and lowest in Mississippi ($1,966), Tennessee ($1,885), and Utah ($1,461). Expenditures per pupil for noninstructional services such as food services were $329 for the nation.
Either the kids in Utah need less support services because they have married parents with jobs or lots of social workers and administrators are blood-sucking leeches draining the life out of schools in other states. My guess is some of both goes on.
Schools spend fewer dollars per student in Utah than in any other state, but more fourth-graders there improved reading and math scores over the past decade than in more than half of the states.
Maine, for example, spends nearly twice as much on a comparable student population -- $9,300 a student vs. $4,800 in Utah. But fewer Maine fourth-graders improved their math scores -- and their reading scores actually declined in the past decade.
Both states ranked just above the national average on 2005 national reading and math tests, known as the National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP. But Utah stands out for its success in boosting the number of students to pass the tests since 1992, the first year of state-by-state NAEP testing, despite ranking dead last for spending.
Because of lackluster academic gains for the nation as a whole, education analysts increasingly are focusing attention on standout states where test scores show more students passing than a decade ago. The most recent NAEP scores released in October showed that despite strong gains in fourth-grade mathematics since 1992, students aren't reading much better than a decade ago. Nearly two-thirds of fourth- and eighth-graders nationwide still score below grade level -- called "proficient" by NAEP -- in both math and reading.
In Utah, only 19 percent of fourth-graders scored proficient or better on math in 1992, but nearly twice as many -- 38 percent -- passed in 2005.
Utah students' academic success is due in part to the state's lower-than-average population of minority and non-English-speaking students, who historically score lower. But state education officials also credit their efforts to raise state academic standards, such as by aligning classroom curricula with standardized tests and holding schools accountable for student performance.
Note the reference to Utah's low non-white population. The writer refers to "minorities". But of course what is really meant are blacks and Amerind Hispanics. If Utah had a large population of Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, and upper caste Indians Utah's scores would be even higher. But America's media and think tanks have decided they should dissemble about racial differences.
In 1982, per-pupil spending was $5,930; it rose 60% by 2000 to $9,230 (inflation-adjusted). The reduction in student-teacher ratio from 18.6 in 1982 to 15 in 1999 accounts for the greatest proportion of this increase in spending.(Hoxby, Caroline, M. "What Has Changed And What Has Not, in Our Schools and Our Future ...Are We still at Risk, Koret Task Force on K-12 Education, 2003, p.101,103.).
Per-pupil spending increased even more drastically from 1970 till now. But I wasn't able to find a good source for that time length. Anyone know of a good link for American school spending trends per pupil in inflation-adjusted terms?
Unfortunately the increasing percentage of Amerind Hispanics in the US population is going to drive down average academic performance. All the money being thrown at education is getting thrown in the wrong direction. A small fraction of that money diverted to building a high wall on the US-Mexican border would do way more to help schools than hiring more teachers. The education racket is wasting even more money than the Iraq war. The lies from our dishonest elites about why some do poorly in school will continue until cheap DNA sequencing finally settles the issue.
If you want to gaze into America's dismal future see my posts Texas Has Lowest High School Graduation Rates, Texas Standard School Test Results Are Warning On Immigration and Immigrants Do Not Improve Academically In Later Generations.
The old saying that when in Rome, do as the Romans do is disputed by the advocates of diversity and those who remind us that â€œAmerica is a nation of immigrants,â€? as though that were the full story. Some of American immigrant history has had little to do with idealism and lots to do with money. Without denying the enormous contributions made by wave after wave of the new arrivals, past immigration was also fostered by steamship companies, railroads, industrial strike-breakers and land speculators, much as today itâ€™s pushed by corporate agriculture and other business interests who couldnâ€™t care less about the lady lifting her lamp beside the golden door.
However beneficial immigrants may have been and may still be, should immigration be allowed to continue? The population of the United States is approaching one third of a billion people. If we continue to live as we do now, this nation, with another 50 or 60 million inhabitants, could be turned into a very ugly place, ecologically and aesthetically. Another 40 million after that and some American cities might begin to look like Calcutta or Cairo, or some planet whose atmosphere is mostly sulfuric vapor.
Thanks to the triumph of a reactionary individualism, public controls over private property are being kicked over one after another. Given the takeover of the courts by judges representing property interests, restraints governing erosion, water, wildlife and so forth are vanishing. That is bad enough at present population levels, but the imagination is aghast at what America the Unbeautiful will look like with another 10 or 15 percent jump in present population levels.
Immigration of today differs in many important ways from immigration in the 19th century. One important difference is that the United States was sparsely populated in the 19th century. Well, that's no longer the case today. The only sparsely populated places left are considered highly undesirable by the bulk of the population. Increasing numbers of desirable places are filling up. Cruise through Southern California or along the East Coast and see how much these places have filled up. You have to appreciate just how undeveloped many of those areas were even a few decades ago to understand how much has changed. I know a woman who remembers the orchards that used to cover what are now big housing tracts in Santa Barbara. You can see the same sort of change if you look carefully at 1950s and 1960s movies shot in Southen California.
What is un-American? Historically America was a place where land was cheap (and therefore housing was cheap) and people could do what they wanted without upsetting their neighbors. We live in increasingly regulated and constrained environments because we are so close to each other. I prefer the less regulated environments myself.
Von Hoffman asks some important questions worth pondering:
Yet, assuming for the sake of argument that immigration can be closed down and controlled, what would be the effects, immediate and long term? Would some work just go undone? Would we have a permanent labor shortage? Would, as has happened in the past, the high cost of labor stimulate the invention of machines and organizations to do the same work with fewer people? Would wages go up enough so that the educated middle class, which now cannot afford to have children, would at least have enough of them to replenish itself?
I think high labor costs would cause a big push for automation and a resulting rise in living standards.
Cheeky devils. China tells America to keep Chinese illegal aliens.
WASHINGTON (AP) - China is refusing to take back an estimated 39,000 citizens who have been denied immigration to the United States and have clogged detention centers at federal expense, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Tuesday.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Chertoff said that China last year readmitted 800 people. But that made only a small dent in what he described as a backlog of thousands illegally in the U.S.
``The math is pretty easy - at that rate, we wind up with increasing numbers of migrants who, if we're going to detain them, we're going to have to house at enormous expense,'' Chertoff said.
Currently, 687 Chinese are being held in federal detention facilities, at a daily rate of $95 each, while some 38,000 have been released on bond or under a monitoring program...
I think the United States ought to tell China that no Chinese citizens will be allowed into the United States unless the Chinese can assure that they can all return back to China. But China knows the US government are a bunch of wimps when it comes to enforcing immigration laws or controlling borders. This is one of many signs of what happens when credibility of law enforcement severely decays.
The numbers leave little doubt as to the extraordinary contrast between the two economies. Last year China saved about half of its gross domestic product, or some $1.1 trillion. At the same time, the US saved only 13% of its national income, or $1.6 trillion. That's right, the US, whose economy is six times the size of China's, can't manage to save twice as much money.
And that's just looking at national averages that include saving by consumers, businesses, and governments. The contrast is even starker at the household level â€” a personal saving rate in China of about 30% of household income, compared with a US rate that dipped into negative territory last year (-0.4% of after-tax household income).
These are extreme readings by any standard. The US hasn't pushed its personal saving rate this far into negative territory since 1933, in the depths of the Depression. And the Chinese rate is higher than it has been at any point in the past 28 years, since its modern reforms began. Similar extremes show up in the consumption shares of the two economies â€” the mirror image of trends in personal saving rates. US consumption has held at a record 71% of GDP since early 2002, while Chinese consumption appears to have slipped to a record low of about 50% of GDP in 2005.
China's lopsided economy and their manipulation of their currency (the awkwardly named renminbi) are setting the US up for a severe fall should the Chinese go into a depression. Chinese money is keeping US interest rates unnaturally low and is feeding the US housing boom. All that could change very rapidly should the Chinese economy go unstable.
The focus of many economics and free marketeers on tariff trade barriers and their complaints when Bush restricted steel imports strike me as a case of fighting the last war. That the US has incredibly low barriers to foreign goods is demonstrated by America's ridiculously high trade deficit. This is a dangerous situation.
Some say the Chinese have a huge trade surplus because they are rapidly developing. Then by that argument the US should have run a huge trade surplus in the 19th century. Did it? I don't think so. My impression is we were net receivers of foreign investment and that while we had high trade barriers we didn't run a large trade surplus.
United States counties that share a border with Mexico continue to struggle with educational achievement, poverty, access to health care and federal crimes, according to a new study by the University of Texas at El Paso's Institute for Policy and Economic Development.
The study, "At the Cross Roads: U.S./Mexico Border Counties in Transition," was prepared for the U.S./Mexico Border Counties Coalition. The two-year study takes a unique approach by grouping the 24 counties along the border of Mexico as a "51st state" and comparing it to the rest of the country.
The coalition announced the results of the study at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. this week.
Among the findings:
- Border counties would rank No. 1 in federal crime as a 51st state, primarily because of drug and immigration arrests.
- If San Diego County is not included, border counties would rank last in per capita income. With San Diego County, border counties would rank 39th.
- If considered a 51st state, the border counties would rank 50th in percent of residents above the age of 25 who have completed high school.
- As a 51st state, border counties would rank last in the number of health care professionals available for residents.
Coalition officials will use the study to illustrate the problems facing the border when they meet with members of Congress in coming weeks.
The jerks in the US Senate want to deliver even more of this deterioration of American society. America has a lousy elite. Americans need to get a lot more angry at the failure of Washington DC to obey the popular will on immigration. Time to build a wall. Time to deport all the illegal aliens and stop the influx of low IQ legal immigrants as well.
In a Los Angeles Times article about the on-going H-1B visa quota and the desire of American businesses to hire smart people more cheaply abroad a Microsoft executive argues that we should let in more smart people to improve national competitiveness.
Marland Buckner, a senior federal affairs manager for Microsoft Corp., said the company has had "several thousand core technology positions" go unfilled in recent years because of a limited ability to hire qualified foreign workers. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates called last year for the elimination of the H-1B cap.
"We certainly think it's in the best interests of Microsoft and, we believe, in the best interest of national competitiveness from an innovation standpoint to bring as many smart people to the U.S. as possible," Buckner said.
Because the official secular liberal religion of America holds that we are all the same in abilities and fully moldable by environments to make us smarter the claim that we should bring in more smart people really clashes with the publically professed secular religion of liberal intellectuals. Because the believers in this secular faith (and I say "faith" because it is totally at odds with copious quantities of empirical evidence) claim that IQ tests are racist and inaccurate it is rare for business executives to so bluntly speak about smartness in the public sphere.
Sure, smarter people produce more innovations. If we get more smart people (as compared to more average people or, what we are getting now, more dumber people) then the rate of innovation in America will be higher. Of course, there are other considerations that should weigh in immigration policy. Should we bring in more people at all? How smart does someone have to be for that to outweigh ideological and other baggage they might bring along?
But the more interesting point here is that Microsoft's position is that some people are smarter than everyone else. This seems obvious enough. But it takes a company absolutely driven by the need for a large staff of very smart people to cause that company to so explicitly adopt this position in the public sphere. A company that employs a more intellectually average staff would be much more reluctant to take that position. But I'm sure Bill Gates feels a desperate need for ever more smart people.
MM: Last night [at the Fall Comdex 2003 keynote address] you were talking about certain other companies who you think are real competitors, who are doing good work: Sony, Nokia, Google. What about those companies makes them the companies that you admire? What can Microsoft learn from them?
BG: Well, they have high-IQ engineers. We do too. A lot of great things happen when these companies that can take a long-term approach, and have real research, and have good engineers, go after interesting problems.
I only wish that Gates would put his money where his mouth is with his philanthropy. He could greatly speed up the search for genetic variations that boost IQ.
The Bush Administration advocates the spread of democracy in the Middle East as a way to reduce the threat of terrorism. Yet the political Islam tide continues to rise wherever democracy is present in the Middle East.
With national elections less than a month away, parties that represent Israel's Arab population are struggling to maintain their small foothold in the Israeli parliament. As the parties grapple with new legal barriers, fresh competition and a frustrated constituency, at least one coalition is drawing a lesson from Hamas's recent victory in the Palestinian territories: The solution is Islam.
The United Arab List has adopted an explicitly Islamic message in the hopes of inspiring thousands of Arab voters who have boycotted past elections. Using Koranic verse and showcasing religious candidates, Sarsur's party, called the Islamic Movement, and its secular-nationalist partner are seeking to unite Israel's religious Islamic parties, who like their more radical Palestinian counterparts have long disagreed over whether to take part in elections that, in effect, presume the legitimacy of the Jewish state.
Socialist Arab nationalism was the last supposed solution. How long will Islam remain the favored solution? I figure it'll last until genetic engineering allows rising IQ and then rising living standards. (more here) Higher IQs will simultaneously solve the economic problems of Arab countries while also making Muslims smart enough to look more critically at their religion.
WASHINGTON - The Senate’s main immigration bill would enable most illegal immigrants now in the United States to remain indefinitely as long as they stay employed, but it wouldn’t put them on a glide path to U.S. citizenship.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin debating the measure Wednesday under a three-week timetable aimed at producing a final version for the full Senate by March 27.
Sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the committee chairman, the legislation is designed to strike a middle course between a bill passed by the House of Representatives calling for tougher immigration enforcement and pro-immigration advocates who call for permanent legal status - and eventual citizenship - for the estimated 11 million aliens now in the country illegally.
President Bush, defying objections from conservatives, has called for an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws and the creation of a temporary guest-worker program to ensure a steady source of labor for U.S. business. Under Bush’s plan, qualified workers, including residents now here illegally, could stay in jobs for up to six years, then would be required to return home.
Senate Judiciary Committee staff members who explained key provisions of Specter’s bill on Monday said that the measure would create a "gold card" program for illegal immigrants who entered the United States before Jan. 4, 2004. It also would create a guest-worker program to bring in more foreign laborers.
The US government seems intent on making me believe that it lacks legitimacy. They betray us.
What comes after a gold card? A platinum card for illegal aliens who help others enter the country illegally?
In some neighborhoods, they drove minorities away from their homes—the apparent beginning of an ethnic-cleansing process that Iraqis call tahjir, forced emigration.
Some claim this is religious cleansing rather than ethnic cleansing. But the Shias and Sunnis are effectively acting like ethnic groups.
The scariest factor is the rise of militias, particularly evident in the two weeks since the bombing of the Askariya Mosque. All the main political parties have activated their armed groups, and neighborhood outfits have been arming themselves. Insurgents keep stoking the hatred. And moderate Sunnis complain that the Shia-dominated military and police have stood by whenever Shia militias have rampaged in their neighborhoods. Even some Shiites are chagrined. "When we arrest people at the checkpoint, the [Shia] militias from the party come, and say 'Release them'," says Capt. Mahmoud al-Ebady, a Shiite who directs the 21 checkpoints on roads leading into the capital. "They are well connected with the Ministry of Interior and sometimes the minister himself, and usually we have to let them go." A checkpoint commander, Maj. Ammar Zengara, summed up the country's three biggest problems: "Militias, militias, militias. Everyone has one."
The Shia retaliations will probably lead to more Sunni retaliations. These Sunni retaliations will lead to what? Can you guess? Oh, of course you can: More Shia retaliations.
When people can't get along I think the best thing to do is to separate them. We ought to help Sunnis and Shias move back and forth to sort themselves apart.
The International Crisis Group served warning yesterday that the “Sunni-Shiite schism . . . threatens to tear the country apart”.
In a report entitled The Next Iraqi War?, it said that the scenes of mayhem that followed the Samarra bombing were “only the latest and bloodiest indication that Iraq is teetering on the threshold of wholesale disaster”.
“Iraq’s mosaic of communities has begun to fragment along ethnic, confessional and tribal lines, bringing instability and violence to many areas,” it said. “Its most visible manifestation is a dirty war being fought between a small group of insurgents bent on fomenting sectarian strife by killing Shiites, and certain government commando units carrying out reprisals against the Sunni Arab community.”
The ethnic cleansing has already been going on between the Kurds and Sunnis since the initial US invasion. The Kurds have been forcing Sunnis out of cities where the Kurds want to reestablish a majority. The Sunnis have been forcing Kurds out of Sunnis cities such as Fallujah. Now the Shias are firmly into the game of purging and cleansing and internal migrations.
"Iraqi political actors and the international community must act urgently to prevent a low-intensity conflict from escalating into an all-out civil war that could lead to Iraq's disintegration and destabilize the entire region," the document says.
Since "the entire region" includes lots of oil fields this could be bad for the world economy. It sure is a bummer we are spending all that money on Iraq rather than on energy research. We could be researching molten salt reactors, thin film photovoltaics, next generation batteries, and other neat stuff that would provide us with real benefits. Instead we are mired in Iraq not doing any good.
BAGHDAD, Feb. 28 -- Salim Rashid, 34, a Shiite laborer in an overwhelmingly Sunni Arab village 20 miles north of Baghdad, received his eviction notice Friday from a man at the door with a rocket launcher.
"It's 6 p.m.," Rashid recounted the masked man saying then, as retaliatory violence between Shiites and Sunnis exploded across wide swaths of central Iraq. "We want you out of here by 8 p.m. tomorrow. If we find you here, we will kill you."
Walking, hitchhiking and hiring cars, the Rashid clan and many of the 25 other families evicted from the town of Mishada had made their way by Tuesday to a youth center in Baghdad's heavily Shiite neighborhood of Shoula. There, other people forced from their homes were already sharing space on donated mattresses.
The neighboring Arab states have helped shape the perception that Shiite violence directed at Sunnis is somehow different — and more dangerous — than the violence used at first by Saddam and now by Sunni guerrillas, whether they are Baathist remnants, the Wahhabi fanatics of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or a combination of the two.
In this view, Sunni-originated violence can be tolerated or even rewarded; Shiite violence is "civil war" that must be prevented.
The Sunni regimes of these Arab states kept quiet or actively helped in Saddam's long reign of terror over the Kurds and the Shiites.
The burning of thousands of Kurdish villages or the draining of the marshes in the south to inflict death and force huge population movements was not "civil war" to these regimes or to their official and corporate friends in Washington, London and elsewhere.
Basically, if the majority Shias carried on like the minority Sunnis there'd a whole lot more dead bodies. On the other hand, maybe if the Shias had gotten a lot tougher from the very beginning this would have intimidated the Sunnis out of carrying on their insurgency.
Writing from Beirut for The New Republic Annia Ciezadlo says the Shias and Sunnis in Lebanon might be building up toward having another civil war.
n the streets of Beirut, you hear it again and again: Sectarian tensions are higher today than in 1975, when the country plunged into its 15-year nightmare of internecine carnage. "This polarization is much more threatening for me than a frank war where people are killing each other," says Lokman Slim, a founder of Hayyabina ("Let's Go"), a civil society group that promotes a secular Lebanon. "In fact, we are living in what some sociologists call the 'priming period.' Mentally, they are ready to fight.
Tensions have been growing between the Shia and other sects in Lebanon since February 14, 2005, when a massive car bomb killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a Sunni potentate with a large popular following. That most Lebanese Shia were aligned with the country's Syrian occupiers--and Hariri's probable killers--didn't help Sunni-Shia relations. They deteriorated further when Nasrallah held a huge pro-Syrian rally last March in downtown Beirut. A colossal anti-Syrian protest followed on March 14, and the battle lines were drawn. Over the next year, as more bombings and assassinations followed, communal relations just got worse.
Ciezadlo thinks the US is managing to compete with Syria as most hated external force.
The Bush Administration has not set off a flowering of liberal democracy in the Middle East. What democracy comes is distinctly Islamic. In some countries that ends up being the democracy of the majority sect with the power of the state aligned against the minority religious factions. In Lebanon the democracy takes the form of a contrived constitutional balance between religious factions and that balance is not stable.
The US isn't going to make the Middle East a peaceful secular liberal happy place. So far we've yet to improve the place at all and if anything have made it worse while also increasing their hatred and resentment of us. We ought to abandon the notion that these people can be reshaped in an even semi-Western mold. I think the US ought to make a huge technological push to obsolesce oil and then cut back US involvement in the Middle East to a very minimal level.
I've been for Partition of Iraq for about two and a half years now. I agree with William Odom when he says that all the reasons for staying in Iraq have it exactly backward.
But before we all start learning Chinese and marveling at the accomplishments of the Chinese Communist Party, we might want to pause for a moment. Upon close examination, China’s record loses some of its luster. China’s economic performance since 1979, for example, is actually less impressive than that of its East Asian neighbors, such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, during comparable periods of growth. Its banking system, which costs Beijing about 30 percent of annual GDP in bailouts, is saddled with nonperforming loans and is probably the most fragile in Asia. The comparison with India is especially striking. In six major industrial sectors (ranging from autos to telecom), from 1999 to 2003, Indian companies delivered rates of return on investment that were 80 to 200 percent higher than their Chinese counterparts. The often breathless conventional wisdom on China’s economic reform overlooks major flaws that render many predictions about China’s trajectory misleading, if not downright hazardous.
The Chinese state remains deeply entrenched in the economy. According to official data for 2003, the state directly accounted for 38 percent of the country’s GDP and employed 85 million people (about one third of the urban workforce). For its part, the formal private sector in urban areas employed only 67 million people. A research report by the financial firm UBS argues that the private sector in China accounts for no more than 30 percent of the economy. These figures are startling even for Asia, where there is a tradition of heavy state involvement in the economy. State-owned enterprises in most Asian countries contribute about 5 percent of GDP. In India, traditionally considered a socialist economy, state-owned firms generate less than 7 percent of GDP.
The Chinese government still owns most of the economy.
But China’s tentacles are even more securely wrapped around the economy than these figures suggest. First, Beijing continues to own the bulk of capital. In 2003, the state controlled $1.2 trillion worth of capital stock, or 56 percent of the country’s fixed industrial assets. Second, the state remains, as befits a quintessentially Leninist regime, securely in control of the “commanding heights” of the economy: It is either a monopolist or a dominant player in the most important sectors, including financial services, banking, telecommunications, energy, steel, automobiles, natural resources, and transportation. It protects its monopoly profits in these sectors by blocking private domestic firms and foreign companies from entering the market (although in a few sectors, such as steel, telecom, and automobiles, there is competition among state firms). Third, the government maintains tight control over most investment projects through the power to issue long-term bank credit and grant land-use rights.
This strengthens my belief that Western capitalists looking to build up big markets in China are going to come to tears. The Chinese government will prevent any of them from becoming too successful. Meanwhile, China's pursuing a strategy for capital accumulation that has as much in common with Stalin's rapid industrialization of the Soviet Union as it does on Western models of free market capitalism.
Pei sees the state corporations as vast patronage systems that the government depends on to maintain control of the economy as a whole. The thing that strikes me about this is just how little countries change. The Arabs are not about to become liberal democrats. The Russians are sliding back toward the pattern of authoritarian central control that has marked the country for centuries.
More specifically, how about a bone-crunching, bubble-bursting, no soft landing, Chinese auto crash-style depression within the next seven years? This is also my biggest worry for the U.S. economy, I might add.
If you are not convinced, raise your right hand and repeat after me: "China in the 20th century had two major revolutions, a civil war, a World War, The Great Leap Forward [sic], mass starvation, the Cultural Revolution, arguably the most tyrannical dictator ever and he didn't even brush his teeth, and now they will go from rags to riches without even a business cycle burp." I don't think you can do it with a straight face.
While the US industrialization process was marred by some severe economic downturns optimists can argue that our understanding of macroeconomics and monetary policy are much greater now. So the Chinese ought to be able to avoid our past mistakes. However, by that logic they should already have taken steps to avoid huge losses in their banking system. Also, their corruption and government involvement in their economy are both far greater than was the case in 19th and early 20th century US history.
If China goes down I have a hard time seeing how the US will manage to avoid a parallel depression. Picture the Chinese suddenly stopping the purchase of US bonds and instead selling them to use the money to bail out their own collapsed economy. The US would experience very high interest rates, a sharp rise in import prices, and even though the US Dollar might decline export sales would still drop as the whole world economy contracted.
Looked at in this light the lowering of Western trade barriers to Chinese goods may turn out to have been a reckless and irresponsible move because it allowed the major economies of the world to become vulnerable to events in an unstable state. Of course, the same can be said about Western dependence on Middle Eastern oil. The West might be one well placed bomb attack on Saudi Arabia's main oil processing facility away from at least a severe recession. But a severe recession in the West would probably drive China into a depression which would probably then suck the rest of the world even further down.
Here's what I want to know: If the Chinese experience an economic meltdown will they switch to a more private system of capital ownership in response? If they do then they will emerge from their depression more firmly on course to become the most powerful country in the world.
Also, will a future economic crisis catalyze reform demands for democracy? Will the tough times of a depression so reduce the ability of the government to buy off potential opponents that a democratic revolution becomes possible? Or will any revolution just lead back to authoritarianism? Read Pei's whole article and make your guess.
A new survey shows that median incomes fell for householders under 45, even as they rose for older ones, between 2001 and 2004.
Income fell 8 percent, adjusted for inflation, for those under 35 and 9 percent for those aged 35 to 44. The numbers add new weight to longstanding concerns about whether younger generations of Americans will achieve living standards that are better - or at least equal to - those of their parents.
I'd really like to see these numbers broken out by race. The United States is becoming less white. The rising fraction that is Hispanic is causing some of the decline in income. About half of all Hispanics do not even graduate from high school. They aren't going to earn as much as older whites.
From 1970 to 1997 men under 35 experienced a 19% decline in income.
• The median income for men under age 44 was significantly lower in 1997 than in 1970, after adjusting for inflation, according to a long-term analysis by the Census Bureau in the late 1990s. For those over 45, incomes barely held their own during that period.
• The entry of women into the workforce in those decades has helped push median family incomes up over time. But even when men and women are included together, younger workers (age 25-34) are earning well below what they did in 1970. And at all ages, evidence suggests that families are putting in more hours of work to make their household incomes rise.
• Even with extra time at work, median family income has barely budged since 1995 for householders below 45, up about 5 percent after inflation through 2004.
Some libertarians argue that a rising tide lifts all boats. Well, wrong. A large proportion of the boats have leaks and are sitting rather lower in the water. Think of all the technological advances that have boosted productivity since 1970 and then consider these results. Something is going terribly wrong.
Jail time - Initial plans were completed for a $153 million North County Jail to alleviate years of severe overcrowding at the Santa Barbara County Jail near Goleta. The proposal calls for an 808-bed facility between Santa Maria and Guadalupe.
A couple of books, Generation Debt by Anya Kamenetz and Strapped by Tamara Draut, are drawing attention to the intergenerational change in economic outcomes. Another problem is the rising cost of the education racket.
The dropout rate has risen, while those who earn a degree are taking longer to do so. In 1983, 52 percent of students entering college graduated within five years; in 2005, the figure was 39.5 percent.
The average student-loan debt for graduates of four-year colleges is pegged at $17,600 to $23,485, depending on which study you consult. College costs rose an average of 7.3 percent a year from 1979 to 2001, compared with a 4 percent rise in U.S. prices over the period, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Kids are taking longer to get educated in part due to the need to work. But since they make so little when so unskilled their capacity to work through college is less than it used to be when college cost much less in inflation adjusted terms and the minimum wage was higher in inflation adjusted terms. Plus, the kids have to compete with low skilled illegal aliens for the bottom level jobs.
To repeat a suggestion I've made many times: We need a system of standard tests that people could take to earn degrees without ever enrolling in colleges. See my previous posts Accelerate Education To Increase Tax Revenue, Reduce Costs and Walter Russell Mead For Standard National Tests.
The Texas of that jerk George W. Bush shows us the demographic future of America. See my post "Texas Has Lowest High School Graduation Rates" and behold the wonders of open borders libertarian free market immigration policies.