2006 April 30 Sunday
Dennis Dale On Neoconservatives

Dennis Dale, author of the Untethered blog, reacts to a recent David Brooks column where Brooks tried to argue that multiculturalism is dead. Dale says that identity politics is alive and well and the neoconservatives use the language of the leftists.

To be conservative is to seek the conservation of one’s civilization. It was once a given that this meant preserving morality, language, and customs while placing a high value on citizenship; the antithesis of multiculturalism. Conservatives, long ago grown weary of playing the heavy, have by now so completely absorbed the language of the opposition, trying to out-empathize the left, that they no longer recognize a challenge to civil society when they see it; indeed, in their zeal to prove their anti-racist bona fides they now join in its dismantling. The immigrants are more virtuous than the rest of us argument so gracelessly and naively offered by conservatives of Mr. Brooks' type is no less a refutation of American society than the codified cultural self-loathing of the shrillest leftist. Multiculturalism dead? I’d say it’s arrived.

Indeed, Brooks and a shocking number of his fellow “conservatives” are exhibiting many of the same zombie-like symptoms of the insensate left: imperviousness to reason, incommunicability, and inability to sense pain (inflicted on others that is; their own, well). They are gleefully joining the surging mass of walking dead as they besiege the isolated farmhouse of reason that you and I, my friend, are frantically boarding up. Duck for a moment would you? Got him. As I was saying.

He writes very well and his whole essay is worth a read.

Dennis notes the open borders Republicans use a lot of the same language that the left uses to attack those who wish to defend their country from the Hispanic onslaught.

The open-borders Republicans long ago adopted the insinuations and invective of the Left. A popular conservative blog, one that specializes in quoting articles at length and appending a sentence or paragraph of affirmation or ridicule, so regularly mingles the epithets of the left, racist, islamophobe, etc., with the neo/theo-conservatives' own curious inventions, nativist, realist, hyper-rationalist, that if it wasn’t for their pathological to-the-death defense of the slowly unfolding catastrophe that is the Bush Presidency a visitor might think he had wandered into the blog of an earnest young campus radical.

One reason the liberals have a hard time mounting effective critiques of Bush's Iraq debacle is that Bush uses very liberal-left language to defend it. He claims anyone who would argue that the Iraqis don't have what it takes to be Jeffersonian democrats are being racists. He uses the same language when arguing for open borders.

Lots of conservatives who are afraid of being called racist (and I'm clearly not in their ranks) shrink from making an empirical rational argument against this sort of nonsense. My argument to them: If you put your patriotism ahead of your fears you will challenge their assumptions about human nature and use real evidence about human differences to fight against the idiocy of Bush, the neocons, and the Open Borders libertarians. Nothing less than the truth can win the battle.

Hispanics are fighting for the power to become privileged minorities eligible for the same racial preferences blacks get. Every amnestied illegal and every child born in this country to an illegal is a future claimant on racial preferences for jobs, university admissions, and other slots.

Multiculturalism has in fact achieved a great deal; now one need not even be a citizen to feel that he, by virtue of his sense of racial solidarity, is entitled to not only the same rights as a citizen but to special considerations above and beyond that. As Thomas Sowell has pointed out, under current affirmative action policy an illegal immigrant amnestied by something like the Kennedy/McCain Bill will instantly become eligible for preferential treatment as an assumed victim of white American discrimination and its “legacy.” How’s that for dead, Mr. Brooks?

Racial conflict will rise as whites become another one of Amy Chua's "market dominant minorities". Declining living standards and racial conflict are in America's future unless we build a wall, deport the illegals, and cut way back on legal immigration as well.

In an earlier post Dennis quoted from Francis Fukuyama's break with the neoconservatives.

"The End of History," in other words, presented a kind of Marxist argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution, but one that terminates in liberal democracy rather than communism. In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.

Think about that. One neocon splits from the movement because while he finds his own Marxist style of analysis acceptable he thinks his fellow travellers are Leninists and that embracing Leninist modes of thinking amounts to a bridge too far. This has what to do with Burkean conservatism? The mind boggles. On the bright side Fukuyama draws needed attention to the leftist roots of neocon thought.

I think the current neocons deceive and use conventional conservatives for their own purposes. The Democrats have become too anti-militaristic for neocon purposes. Hence the embrace of the Republicans who are much more fond of guns and soldiers. Don't be their tools. Reject these guys.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 30 07:58 PM  Immigration Societal Decay
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Bush Uses Church Story To Lie About Iraq

Does George W. Bush believe his own lie?

Bush briefly noted that he sat in a California church yesterday near a "mother and stepfather" who were "grieving" for their son who had been killed in Iraq.

He went on to say: "I also want to let you know that before you commit troops that you must do everything that you can to solve the problem diplomatically. And I can look you in the eye and tell you I feel I tried to solve the problem diplomatically to the max and would have committed troops both in Afghanistan and Iraq, knowing what I know today."

...

Later, Bush said: "I base a lot of my foreign policy decisions on some things that I think are true. One, I believe there's an Almighty. And, secondly, I believe one of the great gifts of the Almighty is the desire in everybody's soul, regardless of what you look like or where you live, to be free."

Bush is such a brazen liar. He even used a scene in a church and the grieving parents of a soldier who died in Iraq as a setting to make his lie sound more credible. How shameless. He never meant for a diplomatic solution to work with Saddam's Iraq. He wanted a war. For evidence see my post "Bush Never Wanted A Diplomatic Solution With Iraq". Bush started to plan for the war 3 months after the 9/11 attack. Bush put himself in a position where Hans Blix and the UN weapons inspectors couldn't be given much time because Bush had troops nearby he couldn't keep in position for a long period - at least in his thinking. So Bush set in motion events that made war the best option in his mind. George Tenet's "slam dunk" claim about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction makes Tenet one of the worst CIA chiefs since his statement helped make this debacle possible.

What's scary is that he may really believe that everyone has a desire for freedom put there by God Almighty. Never mind the copious quantities of evidence to the contrary. Even never mind the fundamental Christian belief that we are very flawed and sinful creatures. The beliefs he's chosen to make part of his own faith make him immune to mere empirical evidence offered up by the "reality-based community".

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

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

My guess is Bush believes quite a few of his lies.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 30 07:42 AM  Mideast Iraq
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2006 April 29 Saturday
Gasoline Nears 1981 Price In Inflation Adjusted Terms

Using inflation-adjusted comparisons crude oil and gasoline prices are nearing levels last seen in 1981.

Crude prices are approaching the true all-time high of close to $40 seen in the early 1980s, which translates to around $90 in today's dollars. Regular unleaded gasoline prices currently average above $2.91 per gallon at the pump, not far from the record of nearly $3.07 from September 2005. They would need to be above $3.12 in today's dollars to match the more than $1.41 price from 1981, according to U.S. government data.

The big difference between today and 1981 is that back then many oil producing nations excess production capacity and were capable of increasing supplies. Prices could drop dramatically from 1981 levels and do so fairly quickly. But today oil substitutes will take years to bring on line and China's demand for oil continues to grow. But on the supply side it is beginning to look like peak oil.

High gasoline prices hit lower income folks the hardest.

For many of the 39 million households making less than $30,000 a year, the difference between $2 gas and $3 gas is the difference between spending 10% of income on gas and 15%. In a word: Ouch!

The best bet for poor folks is to move to places closer to jobs and choose jobs closer to home.

You have some fairly easy ways to reduce gasoline costs such as slow down, properly inflate tires, and replace dirty air filters.

Driving 65 instead of 75 mph reduces fuel costs 13 percent. Driving 55 mph would save 25 percent.

...

A dirty air filter and under-inflated tires can increase your fuel cost as much as 13 percent

It is worth thinking about the components of the cost of a gallon of gasoline.

The cost of crude oil represents 55 percent of what consumers pay at the pump, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Another 22 percent comes from the cost of refining, 19 percent from taxes (on average, about 44 cents per gallon goes to state, federal and local taxes) and 4 percent from marketing and distribution, according to the administration.

Parenthetically, oil is a rising fraction of gasoline costs. In 2003 oil was only 44% of the cost of a gallon of gasoline.

With fuel costs at the time of this writiing at approximately $3 per gallon and $75 per barrel that suggests each increase of $25 per barrel translates into $0.55 per gallon of gasoline. So $100 per barrel would probably bring about $3.55 per gallon, $150 per barrel would probably bring us $4.65 per gallon, and $200 per barrel would hit us with $5.20 per gallon. This means that the more gloomy projections of "Peak Oil" pessimists would still only send American gasoline prices up to levels that Europeans have been paying for years. A shift toward diesels, smaller vehicles, and hybrids could make such fuel prices affordable.

My calculations above may underestimate the effects of oil price rises on gasoline prices. As oil costs go up the cost of energy used in refining and distribution rise as well. So some of the other costs of gasoline will rise as well when oil prices rise.

Bicycles, mopeds, and motorcycles would gradually become more popular at each step up in oil prices. People would choose jobs and home locations to reduce commuting and choose cars for higher gasoline efficiency. We could adjust to high fuel costs without severe drops in living standards.

Substitutes such as oil shale, coal-to-liquid (CTL) via variations on the Fischer-Tropsch process, and batteries in vehicles effectively put upper limits on the price of oil and gasoline. The biggest question I want answered: What are the real costs for oil shale extraction, CTL, and other oil substitutes?

What about the macroeconomic picture? US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke can not figure out whether the bigger threat from high oil prices is inflation or a cooling of the economy. Money spent on energy that therefore is no longer available to buy other goods and services.

Higher fuel costs potentially could push the rate of overall inflation higher, but Bernanke also noted an opposing risk: that the burden of new costs at the gas pump will take money out of consumer wallets and slow economic growth.

"Our current assessment is that the risks to inflation are perhaps the most significant at the moment," Bernanke said.

For more than a year, the US economy has absorbed the impact of rising oil prices. Consumer spending has not slowed. And the "core" rate of inflation, with food and energy stripped out, has been contained at an annual rate of about 2 percent.

Still, the core price level for consumers rose 0.3 percent in March, the most recent monthly inflation report. That was higher than expected.

The energy price increase is like a big tax hike on earnings. At some point energy price hikes have got to trigger a recession.

While the economy grows rapidly wages and benefits are declining in inflation-adjusted terms.

Shaking off the effects of Hurricane Katrina, the economy grew at an annual inflation-adjusted rate of 4.8% in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said. The burst offset a meager 1.7% growth rate in the last three months of last year after the hurricane struck the Gulf Coast.

Only once in George W. Bush's presidency — when the economy grew at a 7.2% rate in the third quarter of 2003 — has economic growth been more robust than in the first quarter.

...

In a separate report, the Labor Department said total compensation costs — salaries and benefits for all civilian workers — rose 0.6% in the first quarter. That was the slowest pace in seven years. Adjusted for inflation, employment costs fell 0.8% for the first quarter and 0.5% for the year ended in March.

The recent fast economic growth might be rebound from Hurricane Katrina.

Averaged out over the last two quarters, the economy grew somewhat less than the 3.5 percent rate clocked in 2005 and substantially less than the 4.2 percent pace of expansion in 2004.

And despite their spending spree in the first three months of 2006, American consumers are showing some signs of fatigue, as the University of Michigan reported yesterday that its index of consumer expectations declined in April. Wage gains, according to the government report, actually slowed during the first quarter rather than improving with the rising economy.

"A majority of households now expect an economic downturn and bad financial times by the end of this year," said Richard Curtin, the director of the University of Michigan's Surveys of Consumers.

The housing market shows signs of cooling. Demand for housing is shifting toward lower priced homes.

Sales of new homes nationwide shot up in March at the fastest pace in 13 years, reflecting a rebound from bad weather in February, but prices were lower, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Sales of new single-family homes rose 13.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 1.213 million units. The increase represented a recovery from a 10.9 percent plunge in sales in February.

But the median price of homes sold in March dropped to $224,200, down 2.2 percent from what homes were selling for in March 2005. It was the first time home prices dropped over a 12-month period since December 2003.

Higher oil prices will drive down the value of homes that are further away from work locations. The cheapest commute is a walk from the bedroom to a home office. The second cheapest is a walk across the street to an office or factory.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 29 03:31 PM  Economics Energy
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Mexican "Nothing Gringo" Boycott

Now if only the Mexcans would boycott coming to Gringo land.

MEXICO CITY - ``Nothing gringo,'' warns the rallying cry of Mexican activists calling for a May 1 boycott of all U.S. businesses south of the border.

The campaign, aimed at pressuring Congress to legalize undocumented migrants, was timed to coincide with ``The Great American Boycott,'' in which activists are urging migrants in the United States to skip work and avoid spending money to demonstrate their importance to the U.S. economy.

The Mexican boycott was being promoted on Web sites and through e-mail messages, one of which warns that ``people shouldn't buy anything from the interminable list of American businesses in Mexico. . . . That means no Dunkin' Donuts, no McDonald's, Burger King, Starbucks, Sears, Krispy Kreme or Wal-Mart.''

Happy days. Now if they could only decide to boycott our border, our cities, our hospital emergency rooms, our welfare offices, and other institutions we'd be in great shape.

The Mexicans are too dumb to realize that American corporations are on their side against the American people.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico said organizers are risking a backlash and foolishly targeting some of their best allies, since U.S. corporations have actively lobbied Congress for immigration reform including legalization for many of the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants.

Mexicans' refusal to "buy American" on May 1 could further polarize the debate and make reform supporters seem anti-American at the very moment that lobbyists are trying to persuade lawmakers in Washington to pass a bill that would benefit migrants, worries Larry Rubin, the chamber's president.

"This is like shooting oneself in the foot," Rubin said. "U.S. companies have been the first to lobby, launching a huge lobbying effort for immigration reform. … Why hurt something that is helping you?"

Yes, corporate interests who want cheap labor are in favor of illegal aliens and worker permit programs. But these same corporate interests are not in favor of paying for the health care costs, education, and other costs of these "cheap" workers and their families. No, they expect us to do that.

A quarter of Mexicans in Mexico work for gringo companies.

A quarter of Mexico's formal private-sector jobs with regular pay are provided by U.S. firms, according to the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico.

American companies with plants in Mexico ought to notice that all those deportees who get sent back to Mexico will be available for hire at even lower wages in Mexico.

In the United States the leaders of the big May 1, 2006 work boycott and street protest hope to shut down whole cities.

"There will be 2 to 3 million people hitting the streets in Los Angeles alone. We're going to close down Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Tucson, Phoenix, Fresno," said Jorge Rodriguez, a union official who helped organize earlier rallies credited with rattling Congress as it weighs the issue.

I hope they succeed and that they carry plenty of Mexican flags. These protests anger middle America and are good for the immigration restrictionist movement.

Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist predicts the marches and boycott will backfire.

"It's intimidation when a million people march down main streets in our major cities under the Mexican flag," said Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman volunteer border patrol group. "This will backfire," he said.

Some Latinos have also expressed concerns that the boycott and marches could stir up anti-immigrant sentiment.

One person's concern is another person's hope. Yes, by all means, demand legalization and demand the conversion of the American southwest back into a province of Mexico. You'll cut a couple of years off the wait for a full border barrier wall replete with barbed wire. Carry lots of Mexican flags. Shut down streets. Pull your kids out of schools. Draw plenty of attention to yourselves. By all means awaken a sleeping giant.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 29 02:00 PM  Immigration Politics
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Security Declines In Afghanistan As Taliban Make Gains

Writing for the Christian Science Monitor David Montero reports on the worsening security situation in Afghanistan

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – Nearly five years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan's security situation continues to be dragged down by endemic corruption, roving militias, and a growing nexus between narco-warlords and remnants of the Taliban, officials and analysts say.

The melting snows of spring often bring an uptick in violence, as rebels emerge from their mountain redoubts. Yet there are indications of a deepening instability beyond the seasonal surge. More than 70 foreign troops, mostly Americans, have been killed this past year, making it the deadliest period since the conflict began. Violence, meanwhile, seems to be spreading beyond the volatile south, encroaching on areas formerly considered outside the zones of conflict.

Governors and police are in cahoots with drug smugglers and the Taliban.

Many governors and chiefs of police, rather than confronting the Taliban and neutralizing drug lords, are increasingly intertwined with them, either for political or monetary gain, some analysts say. Amid the lawlessness, military intelligence has become a political game, a tool for blackmail or settling old scores, analysts allege.

Lawlessness helps the Taliban.

A few weeks back I came across a TV interview of Christian Parenti who writes for The Nation (a ideologically leftist political magazine - but Parenti knows his subject) on his trips into the Middle East and Afghanistan. Parenti had a number of disturbing things to say about what is going on in Afghanistan. Parenti says that elements of the Pakistani government are still helping the Taliban.

BRANCACCIO: Now, you mention the Taliban. You actually met a bunch of these guys what, on a lonely road?

PARENTI: In a canyon not far from Kandahar in Zabul province. Just off the road, the main road between Kabul and Kandahar, my translator and I managed to hook up with a group of Taliban fighters. The Taliban mostly operate in groups of five or six, and then they come together maybe up to 50 fighters at a time, to do stuff like they did the other day, attack a U.S. base. And they're pretty clearly... according to these guys and then a Taliban spokesperson I spoke with, this western spy, and some Afghan intelligence people, the Taliban is run out of Pakistan with the support of the Pakistani state. They have sort of three main fronts that they operate out of. And they're a coherent, aggressive movement wreaking havoc with the aid of a U.S. ally, Pakistan. And the Bush Administration seems to be putting no pressure on Pakistan to change that policy.

BRANCACCIO: So you have the insurgency, the Taliban. Who really holds the actual power within Afghanistan at this stage?

PARENTI: You know, there is no one group that holds power within that country. Because the country is so broken up into a series of fiefdoms. And local powers are sort of city states around the major cities like Herat or Kandahar. But the government, Karzai's government, is populated by very horrible warlords with abominable human rights records.

And the main problem is that George Bush has used Afghanistan as a prop in his domestic political theater and rushed through the creation of the government there. And so there is now a government made up of really horrible criminal warlords.

One of the people that I interviewed, one of the stories I did out of this trip was with a former Taliban commander who was responsible for the destruction of the Buddhas in Bamiyan; those ancient statues. He's now in the Parliament. That's just one example. You could go on and on.

Those types of people, once in government, turned the ministries and the agencies they control into patronage organizations. They have, even according to the Afghan government, involved in drug running. So you have a government that is incapable of delivering development. And basically just becomes a nepotistic patronage system that's riddled with corruption.

And then in the countryside the local warlords, the big landlords, the leading families control their areas. The independent human rights commission in Afghanistan located and actually managed to close 40 different private detention facilities. But there are many more. So there is no one power. There's just localized power. And in the South, the Taliban are increasing in power.

They've burnt and closed 200 schools this year. They stop traffic and tax it on the roads. They operate with relative impunity. And actually with the support of the very sort of conservative Pashtun villages in the South.

Insufficient US power means the bad guys become more powerful and that stretches US power even more severely.

In March 2006 Parenti wrote a lengthy piece for The Nation about Afghanistan which is worth reading in full. The Taliban have a united leadership headquartered in the United States's supposed anti-terrorist ally Pakistan.

"We are fighting because we won't let the American troops in our land," says the Taliban leader. "If their objectives were to rebuild our country we would not fight against them. But that is not their goal." He thinks America is here to "destroy our country" and "not leave."

How is the Taliban organized? "We are under one leadership. We have several groups, but we work together under one leadership. We have one command, but we have to operate in groups of five or six, because if we gather in groups of fifty we are afraid of the aircrafts. They would destroy us in big groups." This jibes with what an officer in the Afghan National Security Directorate tells me. The NSD officer says the Taliban have three fronts but all answer to one Pakistan-supported and -based leadership.

And what about support from Pakistan? "Yes, Pakistan stands with us," says the leader. "And on that side of the border we have our offices. Pakistan is supporting us, they supply us. Our leaders are there collecting help. The people on this side of the border also support us."

Parenti says Bush is failing to do what is necessary to deal with Afghanistan.

Bush is cutting aid and troops in Afghanistan because he sees it as a sideshow as compared to Iraq. Note that the 9/11 attackers were headquartered in Afghanistan, not Iraq and that Bin Laden and Zawahiri are still somewhere along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

In the face of Afghanistan's deepening troubles, the US government is now slashing its funding for reconstruction from a peak of $1 billion in 2004 to a mere $615 million this year. And thanks to the military's recruitment problems, the United States is drawing down its troops from 19,000 to 16,000. In short, despite Bush's feel-good rhetoric, the United States is giving every impression that it is slowly abandoning sideshow Afghanistan.

So Afghanistan is going to hell in a handbasket, elements of the Pakistani government still support the Taliban, and yet Bush is distracted by attempts to bring Jeffersonian democracy to an Iraq that is very far from fertile ground to such a quixotic project.

Parenti had an interesting chat with a Western intelligence agent.

Toward the end of my stay I meet a European "contractor" who is in fact a Western intelligence agent in charge of several important dossiers pertaining to Afghan security. All of this is confirmed through Afghan intelligence sources. But my "contractor" friend maintains his pretenses and I remain respectful of that, and we proceed with otherwise very frank conversations.

To my surprise, this agent to the great powers, this builder of empire, is the most cynical person I've met my whole trip. Highly intellectual, he talks of Afghanistan as doomed, a hostage to history and to the idiocy, arrogance and Iraq obsession of the Bush clique. He passes me a series of "red gaming papers"--intentionally dissenting analyses of the Afghan situation written by and for the coalition.

The papers paint an arrestingly bleak picture of Afghanistan as a political "fiction," a buffer state that no longer buffers, a collection of fiefdoms run by brutal local warlords. The coalition's mission is portrayed as a fantasy game managed by sheltered careerists. One of the papers is by an American. It ends on this note: Nothing short of an open-ended blank check from the United States will keep Afghanistan from returning to chaos.

I see more chaos and continued growth of Taliban power in Afghanistan. The Bush Administration has overstretched the United States and will not either raise taxes or implement a draft in order to get the resources needed for the scale of commitments and problems that have resulted from the overstretch.

After the Taliban were overthrow the United States was still faced with a very large job to hunt down the Al Qaeda top leaders, hunt down Taliban top leaders, establish a fairly non-corrupt government in Afghanistan, and create an environment in which the people of Afghanistan would see the new regime as worthy of support and beneficial to them. But Bush shifted resources away from Afghanistan to go after Saddam. He took shortcuts whose costs are gradually accumulating. The Taliban was given the breathing space needed to regroup. The US did not have enough intelligence resources to pry apart the threads connecting the Pakistani government with the Taliban. Bush and the neoconservatives are engaged in imperial overstretch which hurts US interests and security.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 29 11:51 AM  MidEast Afghanistan
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2006 April 27 Thursday
Rate Of Medical Uninsurance Rises

Medical insurance is out of reach for a growing portion of the population of the United States.

  • Two of five (41%) working-age Americans with incomes between $20,000 and $40,000 a year were uninsured for at least part of the past year—a dramatic and rapid increase from 2001 when just over one-quarter (28%) of those with moderate incomes were uninsured (Figure ES-1).
  • Adults with incomes under $20,000 were still the most likely to be uninsured: more than half (53%) had spent time uninsured in the past year.
  • Most people who are uninsured are in working families. Of the estimated 48 million American adults who had any time uninsured in the past year, 67 percent were in families where at least one person was working full time.

The web page has a chart showing increases in the rate of medical uninsurance from 2001 to 2005 in all 4 income categories studied. For the low income group lack of insurance at the time of polling went from 33% to 37%. For moderate income lack of medical insurance went from 17% to 28%. For middle income people it went from 6% to 9%. The highest income didn't have a reduction of medical insurance at the time of polling but they did have an increase in the percentage of upper income people saying that at some point in the previous year they had no medical insurance.

Overall at the time of polling the percent without health insurance went from 15% in 2001 to 18% in 2005. The percent who said they went without health insurance at some point in the previous year went from 24% to 28%.

The worsening of this problem feeds on itself. As more people go uninsured hospitals and other providers increase prices for paying customers to make up for money lost on non-paying customers. That, in turn, drives up insurance costs and therefore prices medical insurance out of the range of even more people. Hispanics are medically uninsured at two and a half times the rate of whites. Since Hispanics are the most rapidly growing ethnic group in America they are driving up the rate of medical uninsurance and therefore they are driving up both medical insurance prices and government subsidies for medical services.

What to do about this problem? Deportation of all the illegal aliens would help lower the rate of medical uninsurance by removing uninsured people and also by driving up wages for lower class folks who can not now afford medical insurance. More restrictive legal immigration that let in only people who will earn enough to be net taxpayers (i.e. they pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits) would also help. A shift toward health savings accounts would introduce more market pressure by causing more medical expenses to be paid for out-of-pocket. Also, increased funding to accelerate biomedical research will speed the development of much cheaper ways to cure and prevent diseases.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 27 10:32 PM  Economics Health
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End To Illegal Alien Labor Would Cost Farmers Little

The Utah Farm Federation Bureau tries to argue that a loss of illegal alien labor would cause US farmers big costs.

“Utah will not be immune from the costs if Congress ultimately approves a new immigration law that does not account for agriculture’s needs for guest workers, like the bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last year,” said Leland Hogan, President of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation. “The consequences for American agriculture including Utah’s farmers, ranchers, food processors, nursery industry and landscapers will be dire.”

Failure to include a comprehensive guest-worker provision in any new or reformed immigration law could cause up to $9 billion annually in overall losses to the U.S. agriculture industry and losses of up to $5 billion annually in net farm income, according to the Farm Bureau study.

Referring to the article above a correspondent (who prefers to remain anonymous) says clearly the relatively small amount of money quoted in the study as saved by farmers using illegal aliens show that US agriculture can get along quite easily without cheap illegal workers.

The article below [above] was clearly written to promote guestworkers/Open Borders/illegal immigration/etc. However, the numbers point rather strongly in the other direction. The Farm Bureau estimates total losses of only $9 billion if illegal immigration was controlled/stopped. This is around 0.077% of U.S. GDP. Of course, the costs of illegal immigration dwarf this number. Note that the estimated net losses are even smaller, only $5 billion.

The other useful note is that only one sixth of the farm labor force is illegal (based on the article below [above]). Family members account for two thirds of the workers and lawful laborers another sixth. Obviously the illegal workers could be readily replaced with a few more hired workers and additional mechanization.

Farm subsidies are currently running around $18 billion per year (far less than most people imagine). Raising that amount to $25 billion a year to eliminate illegal aliens would be far cheaper than any of the guestworker programs currently under consideration. I don't advocate this course of action (expanding farm subsidies). However, the numbers show a clear lack of any economic rational for guestworkers/illegal immigration for agriculture.

The United States has a long and honorable tradition of family farms. Within reason it is a tradition that should be promoted, encouraged, and preserved. Stopping illegal immigration and enabling family farms to continue to rely on their own family labor to competitively produce agricultural products would be a net plus for our nation. Certainly we should not allow illegal immigration to drive family farms out of business.

My most fundamental objection to the "we can't get along without cheap foreign labor" argument is that low salaries are a strong indicator that poorly paying jobs have low economic value and loss of foreign workers to do those jobs will cost the US economy very little, if anything. Of course, absent the cheap foreign workers many of the jobs now done by illegals would still get done by Americans, albeit at higher salaries. Also, employers would make bigger use of capital equipment and of production methods that reduce labor needs.

The deportation of illegal aliens would have little impact on prices of agricultural goods because field hands are just one small cost among many costs in the chain of production that brings crops into stores. Farmers spend on fertilizer, tractors, seed, harvesters, fuel, water, insurance, taxes, marketing (big fruit vegetable farms have full time sales forces), and office work to do billing, ordering, and regulatory compliance.

Since illegals create many costs that are not directly paid by farmers (e.g. medical care, crime, education for children, etc) the farmers who hire illegal aliens effectively get subsidized labor which is partially paid for by taxpayers. Cut off that supply of labor and the small cost increases for fruits and vegetables will be more than made up in the system as a whole by reductions in costs to the rest of society in other areas.

A US Department of Agriculture web page puts the $5 billion figure above into perspective. An end to illegal alien labor on farms would reduce net farm income perhaps 7.8% if the Utah study is correct.

In 2005, net farm income is forecast to be $64.4 billion, down $9.2 billion from the record $73.6 billion estimated for 2004. Income is forecast down in 2005 only because in 2004 income rose $14.4 billion over the previous year to reach an unprecedented level. In 2004, both crop and livestock commodities experienced exceptionally favorable market and/or production conditions. Corn production set a new record and harvests of other crops were large. Prices for major crops declined late in the year and are forecast to be lower in 2005.

Most financial indicators for 2005 are forecast to fall between the levels of the two prior successive record years – 2003 and 2004. The value of production in the U.S. farm sector is forecast to be $249.2 billion in 2005, following successive record levels of $240.9 billion in 2003 and $270.5 billion in 2004. Farms are forecast to contribute $109.4 billion in net value-added to the U.S. economy in 2005, following successive record levels of $101.4 billion in 2003 and $118.0 billion in 2004. Farm operators are forecast to earn collective net farm income of $64.4 billion in 2005, following two successive years of record income, $59.2 billion in 2003 and $73.6 billion in 2004.

Net cash income is forecast to exceed the record level of 2004 because farmers postponed sales of portions of the bumper harvests from 2004 into 2005, anticipating that market prices will rise as the markets work through the large quantities. Total crop revenues from cash receipts and government payments are forecast to be a record $128.7 billion in 2005, exceeding the successive records of $127.7 and the $122.1 billion in the 2 prior years. Large crop supplies have dropped market prices low enough to bring government programs into play.

But the people who work for farmers would experience a rise in living standards. Plus, farmeres would adopt labor saving technologies at a faster rate. In the medium to long run farm productivity would rise so much in response to higher labor costs that prices for farm products would drop more rapidly and we'd all be better off.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 27 08:00 PM  Immigration Economics
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2006 April 26 Wednesday
Mexico's Corrupt Elite Pays Itself Well

Writing for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), George W. Grayson, a Professor of Government at the College of William & Mary, reports on how well the corrupt Mexican elite pays itself while they demand that the American people pay for the backwardness of Mexico.

  • President Vicente Fox ($236,693) makes more than the leaders of France ($95,658), the U.K. ($211,434), and Canada ($75,582).
  • Although they are in session only a few months a year, Mexican deputies take home at least $148,000—substantially more than their counterparts in France ($78,000), Germany ($105,000), and congressmen throughout Latin America.
  • At the end of the three-year term, Mexican deputies voted themselves a $28,000 "leaving-office bonus."
  • Members of the 32 state legislatures ($60,632) earn on average twice the amount earned by U.S. state legislators ($28,261). The salaries and bonuses of the lawmakers in Baja California ($158,149), Guerrero ($129,630), and Guanajuato ($111,358) exceed the salaries of legislators in California ($110,880), the District of Columbia ($92,500), Michigan ($79,650), and New York ($79,500).
  • Members of the city council of Saltillo, San Luis Potosí, not only received a salary of $52,778 in 2005, but they awarded themselves a $20,556 end-of-year bonus.
  • Average salaries (plus Christmas stipends known as aguinaldos) place the average compensation of Mexican state executives at $125,759, which exceeds by almost $10,000 the mean earnings of their U.S. counterparts ($115,778). On average, governors received aguinaldos of $14,346 in 2005—a year when 60 percent of Mexicans received no year-end bonuses.

It is noteworthy that the Bush clan has many friends in Mexico's corrupt elite. George W. Bush looks at Mexico's elite and sees kindred spirits.

Returning to the CIS report, Mexico's elite pays itself handsomely while investing little in the education of its people and expecting the American people to pay for the failures of Mexico.

These same politicians turn a blind eye to the fact that, when petroleum earnings are excluded, Mexico collects taxes equivalent to 9.7 percent of GDP—a figure on par with Haiti. In addition, the policy makers (1) spend painfully little on education and health-care programs crucial to spurring social mobility and job opportunities, (2) acquiesce in barriers to opening businesses in their country, and (3) profit from a level of corruption that would have made a Tammany Hall precinct captain blush — with $11.2 billion flowing to lawmakers in 2004 alone.

Many Mexican officials enjoy princely lifestyles, while expecting the United States to solve their social problems by allowing the border to serve as a safety-valve for job seekers.

We should separate and isolate ourselves from Mexico. Otherwise America's racial hierarchy will increasingly come to resemble Mexico's.

Mexico is a very corrupt place.

Corruption. A study by the highly respected Private Sector Center for Economic Studies (Centro de Estudios Económicos del Sector Privado) estimates that 34 percent of businesses made "extra-official" payments to legislators and bureaucrats totaling $11.2 billion in 2004.26 In a similar vein, Transparency International (TI) ranked Mexico as tied for sixty-fifth to sixty-ninth place among 158 countries surveyed for corruption. TI found Mexico to be even more corrupt than nations like South Korea, Bulgaria, Colombia, Cuba, and Brazil.

The United States should build a large wall with Mexico, not only to keep out Mexican immigrants but also to separate the United States from such a corrupt and backward society. We should also stop voting for the Bush dynasty. The Bush ties with corrupt Mexicans and George W. Bush's ambitions to merge the United States with Latin America are reason enough to put an end to the careers of the Bushes as politicians in America. We deserve better.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 26 09:38 PM  Immigration Money Politics
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Bush Approval Rating Drops Below Carter

With Bush's approval rating plummeting to new lows with Fox (which is the most pro-Bush news network in Americ) putting Bush at 33% approval and CNN reporting at 32% I became curious about how his approval rating compares to other modern era US Presidents. Carter left office with a 34% approval rating and Nixon resigned wiith a 24% approval rating. So Bush is now less popular than Carter was when he left office. See the chart at that link. LBJ left office with 49% approval and the rest of the modern presidents starting with Eisenhower and later left office with more than half the populace approving.

Curiously, Clinton comes in at the top at 65% and Reagan at 64% comes in second place after him. The dot com bubble of the late 90s combined with fairly cheap oil had people feeling happy in spite of the scandals and the impeachment. Bush is dogged by Iraq, expensive gasoline, a middle class feeling more pressured by debt and job fears due to globalization, and his own dogged insistence on alienating his Republican base and quite a few others on immigration.

My question: Can Bush descend all the way down to Nixon levels of approval? I figure he has a chance of getting there for a few reasons:

  • People are unhappy with high gasoline prices and those prices will rise even higher in the summer of 2006. At $3.50 per gallon of gasoline people are going to be quite unhappy. Even higher prices are reachable with, say, a bigger rebellion in Nigeria or a bomb in a Saudi refinery or perhaps another Gulf coast hurricane in the fall of 2006.
  • Bush might eventually launch an attack on Iran that will drive oil and gas prices much higher.
  • The high energy prices could push the US economy into a recession and people go even more negative on Presidents when they are in fear of losing their jobs during recessions.
  • Bush is alienating his Republican base and some other elements of the electorate on immigration.
  • The news from Iraq looks to stay bad and even worsen as the ethnic cleansing progresses.

Bush only needs to drop another 8 or 9 points to get down to the level reached by Richard Milhouse Nixon when he resigned. Can Bush achieve such a low level of approval and such a high level of disapproval? I figure he's up to the task. What do you think?

By Randall Parker 2006 April 26 06:38 PM  Politics American Presidency
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2006 April 25 Tuesday
Bush Pushing For Illegal Alien Amnesty And Foreign Worker Program

Not content with his disastrous debacle in Iraq Bush is lobbying Congress to put through a damaging illegal alien amnesty and large scale importation of foreign workers.

IRVINE, Calif., April 24 -- Under pressure from Republicans to play a bigger role in the immigration debate, President Bush will begin meeting key lawmakers Tuesday to help forge a bipartisan agreement by Memorial Day to offer some undocumented workers a path to citizenship.

But White House aides emphasized that Bush has no intention for now of staking clear legislative positions on the immigration bill. He does not want to embrace a proposal, only to see it lose once House and Senate negotiators try to reach a final agreement, whose prospects are still seen as remote on Capitol Hill.

Bush is a really bad President of the United States. If he manages to get his immigration polices through Congress he'll be the worst President at least since World War II.

Bush met with a bunch of pro-amnesty Senators to try to restart a Senate push for amnesty.

WASHINGTON - Seeking to jumpstart an immigration debate that stalled in the Senate three weeks ago, President Bush on Tuesday summoned senators from both parties to the White House to emphasize his support for a comprehensive reform.

"I strongly believe that we have a chance to get an immigration bill that is comprehensive in nature to my desk before the end of this year," Bush said after meeting with 17 senators immersed in the oft-contentious debate.

Some Senators think that Bush has restarted the stalled push for amnesty.

WASHINGTON - A bipartisan group of senators emerged from a meeting with President Bush on Tuesday more optimistic than before about the prospects for creating a national guest-worker program and a permanent residency application process for some of the nation's roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants.

"After this meeting, I'm convinced we'll pass immigration reform this year," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said following an hour-long meeting at the White House with the president and more than a dozen senators involved in the debate. Specter predicted Senate passage of an immigration bill by Memorial Day and a final bill, adopted by both chambers of Congress, by the end of the year.

Bush lies and claims that deportation couldn't work.

''I know this is an emotional debate," Bush said in a speech before the Orange County Business Council in California. ''But one thing we cannot lose sight of is that we're talking about human beings -- decent human beings that need to be treated with respect. Massive deportation of the people here is unrealistic. It's just not going to work."

The Federation for American Immigration Reform has responded to Bush's remarks pointing out that Bush is using a massive deportation as a strawman while ignoring many other options for reducing illegal immigration.

In his Irvine speech, President Bush assiduously ignored viable proposals for enforcing U.S. immigration laws that do not entail mass deportation. Proposals, including one approved by the House of Representatives last December, call for a comprehensive approach to immigration enforcement rather than merely deporting the estimated 12 million illegal aliens in the country. The comprehensive approach includes strict enforcement of laws against employing illegal aliens; removal of business tax deduction and government contracts to employers found to be hiring illegal aliens; limiting illegal immigrants' access to non-essential and non-emergency benefits and services; enhanced border security; greater cooperation between federal and local law enforcement agencies, and other measures that remove the incentives for people to remain in the U.S. unlawfully.

"President Bush is using the mass deportation argument as a political straw man," charged Dan Stein, president of FAIR. "The fact of the matter is that no one has seriously suggested that we deport 12 million people. Nevertheless, the president continues to attack this straw man, while he refuses to exercise any of the powers he already has at his disposal to enforce the nation's immigration laws, protect American workers, and defend the homeland security of this nation."

Illegal aliens can be induced to remove themselves from the United States gradually over several years. See my post "Illegal Aliens Would Self Deport If Immigration Laws Enforced".

FAIR says the costs of an illegal alien amnesty and guest worker program would run into the many tens of billions of dollars per year.

If an illegal alien amnesty and guest worker program similar to the one being contemplated by the United States Senate and supported by President Bush were enacted, the cost burden to state and local governments would be staggering, projects an analysis by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). FAIR estimates that state and local costs associated with illegal immigration for public education, health care and incarceration, now about $36 billion a year, would balloon to $61.5 billion by 2010 a 70 percent increase and increase to $106.3 billion by 2020. “From every possible angle, an illegal alien amnesty and guest worker program would be a fiscal and administrative nightmare,” said Dan Stein, president of FAIR. “Never mind the fact that an illegal alien amnesty is a moral betrayal of the American public and immigrants who played by the rules. It would be an unfunded federal mandate that will bankrupt states, counties and cities all across the United States.”

FAIR also points to a huge increase in the American population as a result of amnesty and lax handling of illegal immigrants.

Depending on what Congress decides to do about immigration — curtail it, expand it — the United States is facing a future population just 45 years away that could vary by more than 135 million residents. Our population is going to be growing in any case, largely because of immigrants who have arrived in the past few generations, but that growth could be limited to about 66 million persons (a 22% increase) if we effectively combat illegal immigration and pare back legal immigration to a moderate level. Alternatively, if current proposals to increase immigration, give legal status to those currently here illegally, and create a new guest worker program were adopted, we likely will be facing the prospect of a population in 2050 of half a billion people. That would be about 200 million more persons than today (a 67% increase). If our policy makers pursue the latter course, our projection is that the country will be on a course to reaching about one billion people by the end of the century.

If Congress should end up ducking the issue of immigration reform and maintaining the status quo of mass legal and illegal immigration, our population is projected to still continue its rapid growth. Our projection is for a population of between 445 and 462 million residents depending on the assumptions used.

I have previously listed all the reasons why so-called guest worker programs would fail to stop illegal immigration and actually make it worse. See my post "Thinking About Bush's Less Than Half-Baked Worker Permit Proposal"

The stakes in the immigration policy fight are absolutely enormous for the future of the United States. If you want to choose a single issue for which to write to Congresscritters or to your newspaper or to argue about with friends immigration is the most important issue to argue today. Read about why massive Hispanic immigration will turn the United States into a less developed country with declining living standards and also see my post "Benthamite Libertarian Collectivists Wrong On Open Borders". A great deal is at stake.

Update: Lawrence Auster says Bush believes in the merger of Latin America and the United States of America. Bush's tendency to embrace faith in whatever he decides he believes as a substitute for reasoning about empirical evidence makes him an especially damaging President.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 25 08:58 PM  Immigration Politics
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2006 April 24 Monday
US Weaker Against Iran Due To Iraq Debacle

After describing how Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gets funding from Iran for his ten thousand militiamen of the Mahdi Army Peter W. Galbraith points out that the US presence in Iraq has severely weakened Washington's ability to influence the actions of Iran's government.

For two months, the Coalition and the Mahdi Army fought pitched battles around Shiite Islam's holiest shrines. Iraq's senior Shiite clerics and politicians, all of whom saw al-Sadr as a threat, assured Bremer of their support and did nothing to help him. Iraq's Shiites were the prime beneficiary of Saddam Hussein's overthrow, but America's stock in Iraq had fallen so low that only Iraq's Kurds were prepared to stand with the United States against al-Sadr. By May 2004, al-Sadr's insurgency so disrupted US supply lines in Iraq that Bremer considered ordering food rationing for the thousands of Americans working in Baghdad's highly fortified Green Zone. A year after liberating Iraq, the world's only superpower was finding it difficult to feed the Americans in charge of the occupation.

Today, Moqtada al-Sadr controls one of the largest factions within the victorious United Iraq Alliance (UIA), the coalition of Shiite religious parties that won the December 2005 national elections. Nor is he the only member of the Alliance likely to side with Iran if war comes. SCIRI—the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq—is Iraq's largest political party. It was founded in Tehran in 1982, and its name gives an accurate idea of its politics. The Iranians also created, trained, and apparently still fund SCIRI's military wing, the Badr Corps, which has over 12,000 troops. Iraq's interior minister, Bayan Jabr, is the former head of the Badr Corps, whose members he has helped place throughout Iraq's national police. Dawa, the third major element in the UIA, also has close relations with Iran.

With the US Army vastly overextended in Iraq and Iran's friends in power in Baghdad, the Iranians apparently feel confident that the United States will take no action to stop them if they try to make a nuclear weapon. This is only one little-noticed consequence of America's failure in Iraq. We invaded Iraq to protect ourselves against nonexistent WMDs and to promote democracy. Democracy in Iraq brought to power Iran's allies, who are in a position to ignite an uprising against American troops that would make the current problems with the Sunni insurgency seem insignificant. Iran, in effect, holds the US hostage in Iraq, and as a consequence we have no good military or nonmilitary options in dealing with the problem of Iran's nuclear facilities. Unlike the 1979 hostage crisis, we did this to ourselves.

This is the irony of Bush and the Jewish neoconservatives who promoted his Iraq debacle: They made the US much weaker in dealing with Iran and yet Iran poses a much more serious threat to Israel than Saddam did.

Galbraith points out that arrogance is not a substitute for competence and sufficient resources to accomplish a task.

In his State of the Union address, President Bush told his Iraq critics, "Hindsight is not wisdom and second-guessing is not a strategy." His comments are understandable. Much of the Iraq fiasco can be directly attributed to Bush's shortcomings as a leader. Having decided to invade Iraq, he failed to make sure there was adequate planning for the postwar period. He never settled bitter policy disputes among his principal aides over how postwar Iraq would be governed; and he allowed competing elements of his administration to pursue diametrically opposed policies at nearly the same time. He used jobs in the Coalition Provisional Authority to reward political loyalists who lacked professional competence, regional expertise, language skills, and, in some cases, common sense. Most serious of all, he conducted his Iraq policy with an arrogance not matched by political will or military power.

These shortcomings have led directly to the current dilemmas of the US both in Iraq and with Iran. Unless the President and his team—abetted by some oversight from Congress— are capable of examining the causes of failure in Iraq, it is hard to believe he will be able to manage the far more serious problem with Iran.

I do not mind arrogance so much when it comes from people who are really good at whatever they are doing. But Bush's major talent is winning elections. His arrogance in foreign policy is completely unjustified. At this point he couldn't even win elections any more. (and see here for more on his approval rating)

Read Galbraith's excellent full article. It is a review of a couple of books about the Iraq war: George Packer's The Assassins' Gate and L. Paul Bremer III's My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope. The material relayed by Galbraith from those books provides insights what decisions were made by the Bushies and reveals a very damaging amateurishness on the part of Bremer, Bush, and other decision makers. Again, read the whole article.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 24 09:11 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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Illegal Aliens Would Self Deport If Immigration Laws Enforced

The Center for Immigration Studies has the goods once again. Driving out the illegal aliens from the United States would be a fairly cheap thing to accomplish since most could be induced to self-deport. Law enforcement would work wonders.

Proponents of mass legalization of the illegal alien population, whether through amnesty or expanded guestworker programs, often justify this radical step by suggesting that the only alternative – a broad campaign to remove illegal aliens by force – is unworkable. One study put the cost of such a deportation strategy at $206 billion over the next five years. But mass forced removal is not the only alternative to mass legalization. This analysis shows that a strategy of attrition through enforcement, in combination with a stronger border security effort such as the administration’s Secure Border Initiative (SBI), will significantly reduce the size of the illegal alien population at a reasonable cost. Reducing the size of the illegal population in turn will reduce the fiscal and social burdens that illegal immigration imposes on communities. In contrast, a policy of mass legalization is likely to increase these costs and prompt more illegal immigration.

Studies of the size and growth of the illegal population show that a borders-oriented strategy like SBI, which aims to improve border security and focuses mainly on removing criminal aliens, will achieve only limited results. If supplemented by attrition through enforcement, which encourages voluntary compliance with immigration laws rather than relying on forced removal, the illegal population could be nearly halved in five years. According to the government’s own cost estimates, such a strategy requires an additional investment of less than $2 billion, or $400 million per year – an increase of less than 1 percent of the President’s 2007 budget request for the Department of Homeland Security ($42.7 billion).

Elements of the attrition through enforcement strategy include: mandatory workplace verification of immigration status; measures to curb misuse of Social Security and IRS identification numbers; partnerships with state and local law enforcement officials; expanded entry-exit recording under US-VISIT; increased non-criminal removals; and state and local laws to discourage illegal settlement.

Pakistani illegals self-deported when US government agents started tracking them down after 9/11. Hispanic illegals would do the same thing if they figured they stood a good chance of eventually getting caught.

  • A strategy of attrition through enforcement could reduce the illegal population by as many as 1.5 million illegal aliens each year. Currently, only about 183,000 illegal aliens per year depart without the intervention of immigration officials, according to DHS statistics.
  • Voluntary compliance works faster and is cheaper than a borders-only approach to immigration law enforcement. For example, under the controversial NSEERS program launched after 9/11, DHS removed roughly 1,500 illegally-resident Pakistanis; over the same time period, in response to the registration requirements, about 15,000 illegal Pakistani immigrants left the country on their own.
  • Requiring employers to verify the status of workers could deny jobs to about three million illegal workers in three years, affecting at least one-third of the illegal population. This measure is a central feature of H.R. 4437, the enforcement measure passed by the House of Representatives in December, and is estimated to cost just over $400 million over five years.
  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) knows the name, address, and place of employment of millions of illegal aliens, and issues hundreds of millions of dollars in tax refunds and tax credits to illegal aliens. Changing the laws to provide for information-sharing would help boost immigration law enforcement at minimal cost.
  • US-VISIT is a critical tool in curbing illegal immigration. Screening must be expanded to include Mexicans and Canadians, and DHS must move forward to deploy an exit-recording system. These steps should be a pre-requisite to adding or expanding any visa program.
  • Less than 10 percent of ICE investigative resources are devoted to fraud, workplace violations, and overstayers. DHS could double non-criminal removals at a cost of roughly $120 million per year, balancing a "broken windows" approach with its current triage approach to interior enforcement.
  • Laws enacted by the state governments of Florida and New York to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses have induced more illegal aliens to leave than have federal enforcement efforts against certain illegal populations in those states, and have come at virtually no cost to the federal government.

This is all doable stuff.

Here are some of the key elements of an attrition strategy.

1) eliminating access to jobs through mandatory employer verification of Social Security numbers and immigration status;

2) ending misuse of Social Security and IRS identification numbers, which illegal immigrants use to secure jobs, bank accounts, drivers licenses, and other privileges, and improved information-sharing among key federal agencies;

3) increasing apprehensions and detention of illegal immigrants through partnerships between federal immigration authorities and state and local law enforcement agencies;

4) reducing visa overstays;

5) doubling the number of non-criminal, non-expedited removals;

6) passing state and local laws to discourage the settlement of illegal aliens and to make it more difficult for illegal aliens to conceal their status.

Immigration laws are enforceable. Claims to the contrary are motivated by the desire to get the public resigned to the increasing hordes of illegals in our midst. But there's no need for that feeling of resignation that the Open Borders crowd wants you to feel. The battle against illegal immigration is winnable.

Update: Enforcement of immigration laws has plummeted in a trend that began in the latter years of the Clinton Administration and continued under Bush. Edwin Rubinstein has the facts. Immigration enforcement plunged by a few orders of magnitude from 1997 to 2004 and today enforcement is truly token. Vigorous enforcement would drive out the illegals. Also see Michelle Malkin on the Bush Administration's failure to enforce immigration law.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 24 08:22 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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2006 April 23 Sunday
Middle Level Officers Join Iraq Debate

The debate isn't about whether Iraq is a mess and a mistake. The debate is over who to blame: senior officers, Rumsfeld, or Bush. Offered anonymity by the New York Times lots of middle level officers vented on Iraq.

"This is about the moral bankruptcy of general officers who lived through the Vietnam era yet refused to advise our civilian leadership properly," said one Army major in the Special Forces who has served two combat tours. "I can only hope that my generation does better someday."

An Army major who is an intelligence specialist said: "The history I will take away from this is that the current crop of generals failed to stand up and say, 'We cannot do this mission.' They confused the cultural can-do attitude with their responsibilities as leaders to delay the start of the war until we had an adequate force. I think the backlash against the general officers will be seen in the resignation of officers" who might otherwise have stayed in uniform.

In some respects it is Vietnam all over again and the officers know it. The war is very unpopular back home. The civilian leadership made big mistakes and are dishonest about it. The soldiers lack sufficient resources to do the job and Bush isn't about to ask for a draft, tax increases, and spending cuts in other areas to put in enough troops to control the place. Plus, why should the war have been started in the first place?

Condi Rice is such a lightweight. Therefore she's perfect for Bush.

The debates are fueled by the desire to mete out blame for the situation in Iraq, a drawn-out war that has taken many military lives and has no clear end in sight. A midgrade officer who has served two tours in Iraq said a number of his cohorts were angered last month when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that "tactical errors, a thousand of them, I am sure," had been made in Iraq.

"We have not lost a single tactical engagement on the ground in Iraq," the officer said, noting that the definition of tactical missions is specific movements against an enemy target. "The mistakes have all been at the strategic and political levels."

But the Bushies do not admit to mistakes.

I love hearing what the officers think because informed expert opinion is invaluable. Before the war the Bush Administration and neocons struck a pose that if we only could see what the secret intelligence showed we'd be convinced that we had to go in and stop Saddam's development of nasty weapons. Well, these officers get to see tons of intelligence information. They have first hand experience in Iraq. They have knowledge and expertise. Plus, they are a pretty conservative bunch of people. Can't fault them for being pacifist lefties. But as Steve Sailer has been reporting the neocons are trying to argue that generals and other officers should either shut up or support the war. One of Steve's readers points out that the neocons are arguing for something strongly reminiscient of the Nazi Fuhrer Principle of blind obedience to leaders.

Do you think that the neocons realize that some of their criticism of the retired generals comes dangerously close to the Nazi's Fuhrer principle? One of the most important steps in the road to disaster for Germany was the requirement that the officer corps swear an oath of allegiance to Hitler instead of to the republic or the nation.

Increasingly, i see the same mistake being made by vocal hawks. Although, in truth, i see the explicit argument made more on warblogs than in newspaper columns. Essentially, they say, retired officers may not voice an opinion that disagrees with the civilian leadership. It is fine, however, for retired officers to support the SecDef, or President. They may even campaign for him.

I do not see why any jerk with a modem is allowed to have an opinion on Iraq or Iran and can even advocate war and more war. But the men who have most knowledge about war, strategy and logistics must be silent. Frankly, I want to hear more from them and less from JPod or Ledeen.

Also see my previous post As Ethnic Cleansing Deaths Escalate In Iraq US Generals Object To War.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 23 06:41 PM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs
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Thinking About The Economics Of High Oil Prices

I just paid $3 a gallon to fill up my car and the price of oil has just hit $75 per barrel. I'm coming across all sorts of doomster survivalist writing in the effects of expensive oil:

John P. is heading for Idaho with his partner, Sultry Susuun, for some low-cost Snake River electricity and a more sustainable lifestyle, more walking, less driving. Says he: "Idaho is the place to be when the Night of the Long Knives comes. Guess you could call us energy refugees."

When the talking heads on TV prattle on about the meaning of Peak Oil, that is exactly what that term means: The cheap oil party is over, no more big fields are out there, economists of all stripes are beginning to agree. And that means $100-a-barrel oil, unemployment and the collapse of auto tourism.

The guy wants to move from sunny warmer Arizona to Idaho to survive declining oil production. Does that make sense? Maybe winds blow hard where he's moving and he expects to build a wind tower to get energy. Or maybe his imagination has taken off into full flight.

As for the writer's claim about a coming collapse in auto tourism: I do not buy it. There'll be a reduction in driving due to higher prices. But a collapse? Suppose the price of gasoline doubles to $6 a gallon. Imagine you want to drive across the United States and back again in a 6000 mile trip and you want to cruise in comfort in a large automobile. A 2006 Lincoln Town Car gets 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. Suppose you get only 20 mpg on the cross country highway trip. That's 300 gallons to do the 6000 mile trip. At $6 per gallon that's $1800. The car costs about $50k and depreciates each year by a lot more than $1800. Even the far more affordable but same mpg Mercury Grand Marquis depreciates by thousands of dollars in its first year of ownership. So I do not expect to see Lincoln drivers all abandon the open road should the price of oil rise to $150 or $200 per barrel.

If the Lincoln driver wanted to economize and still hit the open road in comfort then the Mercury Grand Marquis with same physical size as the Town Car comes at under $30,000 with the same mpg. The cost savings would pay for the gasoline for 10 trips back and forth across the United States.

Of course, given $6 per gallon gasoline people will respond by buying much more fuel efficient cars. A Jetta TDI diesel will get 36/41 mpg city/highway for about $22,000. Your fuel costs cross country with $6 per gallon diesel would probably fall below $1000. For a working couple with dual incomes that's quite affordable for a vacation. Hotel rooms and food during a few week trip will probably cost much more than the gasoline or diesel fuel.

You can go further up the scale in fuel efficiency with a Toyota Prius for about $22,000 and make an even cheaper cross country trip. So life lived on the open road will go on. Given $6 per gallon gasoline more car features that increase fuel efficiency will become cost justified. For example, Chrysler's Multi-Displacement System dynamically turns on and off the use of cylinders for a net gain of 10% to 20% more fuel efficiency and other car makers have similar technologies in the pipeline. So a doubling of gasoline prices will not double the cost of travel per mile at equivalent levels of comfort.

Noted oil prognosticator Jan Lundberg says expect panic buying and huge disruptions.

Global Public Media "When you say Petrocollapse, what do you mean?"

Jan Lundberg: "Petrocollapse is a term I coined to describe the effects of Peak Oil. Peak Oil in itself is a geological phenomenon that affects the market, and how we have depleted the stores of oil in the earth. But the actual process of coping with peak oil and its effects on the economy, on society -- that's a different matter than just a geological theory. So we have to look at the likely effect of the oil market on our supplies of energy and how people intend to keep living their normal lives as consumers and using so much energy.

"So if we have sudden shortage that is exacerbated by the market and people start hoarding -- which is our experience from the 1970s, when we only had a 9% shortfall in 1979 when my firm Lundberg Survey predicted the second oil shock -- I anticipate that we're going to see some very sudden, difficult times that will snowball rather rapidly. Because when prices skyrocket and it's very difficult to get fuel because everybody wants to get it right now so that it won't be more expensive or completely unavailable tomorrow, then the eventual effect of this after a few days is that people cannot get to work, and next we'll see the trucks not rolling into Walmart and Safeway.

"This is probably going to take down the whole economy, and that's because there is no Plan B, as Matthew Simmons has pointed out. When the alternative energies are not online and cannot even be implemented on the scale required, people are going to be without the usual means to get to work or attain food. And then we have to look at the other uses of oil and how we'll be impacted, and then by extension we can look at natural gas, which is a petroleum also. And the natural gas situation is comparable to oil, roughly, in terms of the supply pinch and our dependence on it."

I do not buy this argument. If the government does something stupid like in the 1970s and puts price controls on gasoline then, yes, we could have shortages and lines at pumps. But if prices are allowed to rise then any sudden spike in demand due to panic buying will be met with a spike in prices. People will learn to refrain from buying in a panic because prices will ultimately subside after panics. Panic, what panic? To really mess up our economy in response to "Peak Oil" we'd need to put Jimmy Carter back in the White House and regulate oil distribution through a federal agency. Barring such idiocy panic buying won't bring a collapse of civilization.

Matthew Simmons, a Houston oil investment banker and author of a pessimistic book about the size of Saudi oil reserves (Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy), told an Irish newspaper that peak oil production will not cause an economic collapse.

Global reserves expert Simmons also said expensive oil will not create economic collapse. He said his concern was that a shortage could be created by wasteful overuse of low-cost oil and that yesterday’s $74 a barrel high was good news.

Simmons sees high current oil prices as a needed signal that we need to get serious about increased energy efficiency and the development of alternatives. I agree.

High oil prices lower living standards. But high oil prices do not lower living standards by more than the amount of additional money we pay to buy the fuel. At 21 million barrels a day the United States would spend about $153 billion per year for oil. Quadruple that price to $80 per barrel (and we may be there soon) and the United States would spend about $613 billion per year. On an over $12 trillion per year economy the increase in fuel costs works out to about 5%. So our living standards drop by at most 5%. If the price of oil doubles again then our living standards drop by maybe 11%. But we will adjust to the high prices and gradually living standards will rise up again.

Granted that a 10% drop in living standards is not fun. But it does not rise to the level of "lets go live on a remote mountain in Idaho with lots of traps and gunshells for hunting and for keeping out Mad Max".

I doubt that a rise of oil prices to $160 per barrel is sustainable for long in any case. Such a high price would trigger the development of substitutes such as oil shale and coal-to-liquid (CTL) using variations on the Fischer-Tropsch process. The big question we face at this point is just what are the real costs for oil alternatives? For example, at what price of oil would CTL become cost competitive? What is the real cost today for CTL?

By Randall Parker 2006 April 23 11:52 AM  Economics Energy
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2006 April 22 Saturday
Iraq: Loose Federation Or Partition?

Writing in the UK's Prospect Magazine Gareth Stansfield argues that the best we can hope for in Iraq is a loose federation of three ethnic provinces.

Despite the imminent formation of a government of national unity, Iraq is splintering into its three historic provinces. The break-up can be managed, but it cannot be avoided. The western powers and Iraqi nationalists must now accept that radical federalism is the only alternative to civil war

The British and American governments still take the position that Humpty Dumpty hasn't fallen off the wall yet. Therefore all the King's horses and all the King's men pretend that they are not trying to put the Humpty man back together again.

Stansfield believes (wrongly in my view) that the break-up of Iraq could get molded into a return to the status quo of how Iraq was governed during the Ottoman Empire. My problem with that view: What army will serve the role of the Ottoman Turkish military that maintained control?

The partitioning, or rather radical decentralisation, of Iraq is under way. This should not necessarily be seen as a problem. Historical Iraq was a place of three semi-independent parts—Kurdish north, Sunni centre and Shia south—within the loose framework of the Ottoman empire. It is the centralised Iraq—starting with Britain's creation of the modern state in 1921-23 and reaching its nadir in nearly three decades of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship—that has failed and should be allowed to die.

There are, however, powerful forces refusing to contemplate partition or "hard federalism." The radical Shia movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr, emerging as one of the most powerful groups in Iraq, rejects federalism as a divide-and-rule tactic and defends Iraqi identity in traditional nationalist terms. Opposition among the Arab Sunnis who have traditionally dominated the state is even stronger. Whether radical Islamists, ex-Ba'athists or secularists, Arab Sunnis see federalism as undermining everything they have stood for in nearly a century of Iraqi history.

The "hard federalists" want to control the whole place. But they are divided on which faction should rule. That's a formula for a very intense civil war.

David Goodhart found much to agree about in Stansfield's essay and Goodhart also believes that a loose federalism short of partition is possible for Iraq.

Last year's constitution is full of federal phrases, but there is no real agreement between the centralists (the Sunnis and the more nationalist, anti-Iranian Shias led by Moqtada al-Sadr) and the federalists (the Kurds and the SCIRI-supporting Shias) on the things that matter: oil, the role of the national parliament and the army.

Returning to a looser, federal country based on the three Ottoman provinces of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra does not mean partition - there is still a role for a reduced central state - but it does need very careful management. Stansfield argues that some of the alleged problems with radical federalism, such as an Iranian takeover of the south or a Turkish "veto", are not as serious as they seem. Turkey is heavily involved in the Kurdish north, both politically and economically, and could live with decentralisation. But there are tricky regional border disputes in the north, and many of the biggest cities, particularly Baghdad itself, have very mixed populations. Large Sunni and Shia groups might end up as restive minorities in powerful regions with governments hostile to their interests.

The "careful management" theorists for a confederated set of 3 provinces (Kurdistan, Sunnistan, and Shiastan) based on an Ottoman Empire model face one insurmountable problem: The 3 stans would have no Ottoman Empire with ruthless Turkish soldiers over them to keep them part of a larger state. The only groups in Iraq who want to keep Iraq together want to keep it together so their groups can rule the other groups. The Sunnis want to rule over the Shias as they used to. Shias such as Sadr want to rule over a central Iraqi state. Unlike the Arab factions the Kurds want out of Iraq altogether and already have de facto independence. The only power in Iraq that might serve as forceful maintainer of a loosely federated system is the United States. But the American people do not want to hang around in Iraq enforcing a political settlement that leaves no single internal group in charge for decades to come. A look at the trend in Bush's approval rating makes clear the lack of public enthusiasm for colonialism.

I expect to see continued ethnic cleansing in the Shiastan and Sunnistan zones that will make each zone increasingly more ethnically homogeneous. Only US withdrawal might put an end to the ethnic cleansing. But it is not clear to me that US withdrawal would do the trick at this point. The amount of distrust and animosity between Shias and Sunnis at this point might have reached a point where their mutual hostility perpetuates.

Then is partition an option? The answer depends on whether the Shias will find enough motive to conquer and rule the Sunnis. If the Shias won't put up that big of a fight then the Sunnis might be able to keep control of their area. But the borders between the Shia and Sunni areas - most notably ethnically divided Baghdad - are going to continue to be scenes of a lot of violence.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 22 09:38 PM  MidEast Iraq Partition
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2006 April 20 Thursday
Government To Go After Employers Of Illegals?

The government lies so much about its intent to crack down on illegals that it is hard to take this seriously.

The government plans to crack down ever harder on employers who harbor and hire illegal immigrants, pursuing companies that ignore the law so they can exploit cheap labor.

"We are going to move beyond the current level of activity to a higher level in each month and year to come," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said yesterday. He pledged to "come down as hard as possible" on violators.

Has something changed? The trend in recent years has been toward weaker and weaker enforcement.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), enacted in 1986, requires employers to verify that prospective employees are either US citizens or authorized to work here. But rather than mandate a national identity card - because of privacy reasons - the legislation gives employers wide latitude in determining eligibility. Workers can offer employers at least 25 different documents to prove they are authorized to work in the US.

"The law has been so difficult to enforce that the number of cases brought against employers is about half what it was a decade ago even though the number of unauthorized workers has roughly doubled in that time," a Pew Research Center report concluded last month.

In 2004 3 whole employers were fined for hiring illegal aliens.

Sanctions against violators have dropped steeply, with the feds notifying only three employers of fines in 2004. And hardly anyone's walking the worksite police beat - just 65 federal agents were assigned to worksites in 2004. Considering the roughly 7 million illegal aliens working in the US, that effort isn't laughable, it's a crying shame - and a taint on employers who play this game.

But federal agents just arrested managers of IFCO Systems on criminal charges for hiring large numbers of illegals.

In the IFCO Systems case, federal agents apprehended 1,187 workers on immigration charges in raids on more than 40 plants Wednesday. Seven current and former IFCO Systems managers were arrested on criminal charges, accused of conspiring to harbor illegal immigrants.

Is the IFCO case an aberration or a turn back toward real enforcement?

Fines against employers, which hit $3.7 million in fiscal 1999, dropped to $212,322 in fiscal 2003, the Congressional Research Service reported.

And the Bush administration in fiscal 2004 filed only three notices of intent to fine employers for hiring illegal workers, down from 417 such cases in fiscal 1999, according to the General Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

The Bush Administration is feeling heat from popular radio talk shows, Fox News talking heads, and a rising fraction of the Republican base on immigration. Will their response extend beyond tokenism? Too early to tell. My guess is we have to get a lot madder before they make substantial changes.

Chertoff can ask for the money to increase enforcement but that doesn't mean he'll get it.

To implement the work-site enforcement strategy, the department has requested $41 million in funds and 200 more U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) agents for fiscal 2007, which will increase to about 525 the number of ICE agents assigned to track down more than 11 million illegal aliens now in the United States.

They ought to increase staffing to many thousands of agents in order to create a credible threat to employers. Once employers get scared out of employing illegals it will cost less to maintain credible deterrence. But the cost of getting a handle on such a large problem will be higher initially.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 20 10:35 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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Minutemen To Start Building Mexico Border Barrier Fence

Minuteman founder Chris Simcox answered questions on Hannity & Colmes about Minuteman plans to build a private barrier structure along sections of the US-Mexican border.

CHRIS SIMCOX, PRESIDENT, MINUTEMEN CIVIL DEFENSE CORPS: Yes, we've been contacted by land owners and contractors. This has been in the works for awhile. But basically, I guess at this point, we're going to give the president an ultimatum to declare a state of emergency and deploy the National Guard and military reserves or by the 25th of May or Memorial Day weekend, we're going to break ground and we're going to start helping landowners to build a double layer security fence along their properties, because the federal government refuses to protect them.

The Minutemen have a Minuteman National Blog which has a statement on the proposed Minuteman private border barrier fence.

(PHOENIX, AZ) April 20, 2006 – Chris Simcox, President of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (“MCDC”), today announced plans by the MCDC to work with local Arizona land owners to build border security fencing on private land along the border with Mexico.

At present, six private land owners have partnered with the Minutemen for the commencement of construction of border fencing on their land. Surveillance cameras on the fencing will be monitored via computer by registered Minutemen across the country. We have chosen a fence design that is based on the Israeli fences in Gaza and on the West Bank that have cut terrorist attacks there by 95% or more. In order to be effective, a fence should not be easy to compromise by climbing over it with a ladder, cutting through it with wire cutters, ramming it with a vehicle, or tunneling under it undetected. No fence can be a 100% impenetrable barrier—but a good design will be time-consuming enough to get through that Border Patrol agents can be alerted to get to a point of attempted intrusion before the intrusion can be completed. Our design does this. You can see it at www.WeNeedAFence.com

Two construction companies to date have offered to inaugurate groundbreaking, coordinate volunteer construction crews and donate the use of the necessary heavy construction equipment.

The groundbreaking will begin in Arizona on Memorial Day weekend, unless in the interim President Bush deploys National Guard and reserve troops to immediately secure the out-of-control southern border.

The fencing will be built with privately donated funds, engineering and labor and will be used as an example to educate the public about the feasibility and efficacy of fencing to secure America’s borders from illegal incursion by aliens and international criminal cartels. A non-profit organization dedicated specifically to this purpose will facilitate and administer donations for construction of the fence. Monetary and in-kind contributions for this effort will go directly into building materials for this private, volunteer fencing project.

Says Simcox:

“President Bush and Congress have taxed the wages of the American people to pay for the protection of our country, and expended those dollars to subsidize millions of low-wage illegal workers with housing, education, medical care, and welfare benefits. Yet even the most basic level of national territorial integrity requires that our elected representatives secure the border. Should they continue to refuse to do their Constitutional duty, the Minutemen will again step into the breach and commence building the required border barriers on private land and with private donations.

“Should President Bush and Congress fail to fulfill their oaths of office, and meet their Constitutional obligation to protect these United States from invasion, we, the sovereign people of the United States, having suffered a long train of abuses at the hand of a willfully insolent government, do hereby declare that these States ought, should and will be protected by American Minutemen.”

They have a lot more there. Click through and read the full statement by Chris Simcox and lots of excellent comments with additional news.

The US national government and state governments own large stretches of the US border with Mexico. Obviously the national government will block attempts to build a privately funded barrier on national land. One of the states (Arizona in particular) might consent to private funding of a border barrier on state land. But the Minutemen already have several ranchers who will support putting a barrier on their land. That should not be surprising. Illegal border crossers kill livestock, rob, vandalize, rape, and commit other crimes on private land. A barrier would provide a lot of relief for border residents - relief that should be the responsibility of the federal government in Washington DC.

A private effort is going to be able to build for a much lower cost than a government. funded structure. Check out the WeNeedAFence.com web site for a picture of the proposed barrier. They propose two fences, two barbed wire layers, and two ditches (to prevent fence ramming with cars) running in parallel with sensors and cameras along with an access road. The goal is to allow the sensors to detect crossing attempts and then for the barrier to so slow the crossers that border patrol agents will have the time to get to an area where sensors have detected crossers before the crossers get far.

One advantage of a private effort is that it will allow testing of different design approaches to identify weaknesses and strengths of each approach. While open borders advocates will trumpet each problem found with private barriers these barriers will serve as valuable learning tools and experiments for the eventual national barrier. A privately funded barrier is also going to shame some politicians into shifting toward a more restrictionist stance on immigration.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 20 05:34 PM  Immigration Border Barrier
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2006 April 18 Tuesday
Congress Sets New Spending Earmark Record

The Congressional spending bender continues.

WASHINGTON – Remember Alaska's "bridge to nowhere"? It's about to be topped by what critics call Mississippi's "railroad to nowhere," which is quickly becoming the poster child for excessive spending by the Republican-controlled Congress.

The project, which was added to a $106.5 billion emergency defense spending bill in the Senate, would relocate a Gulf Coast rail line inland, to higher ground. Never mind that the hurricane-battered line was just repaired at a cost of at least $250 million. Or that at $700 million, the project championed by Mississippi's two US senators is being called the largest "earmark" ever.

The Congressional whores of Babylon set a new record.

"There's never been a single earmark anywhere near $700 million," says Ronald Utt, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington. Tuesday he released a report, "Deadly Sin: Larding up Emergency Appropriations," which details the CSX freight line relocation plan. "That's more than twice the size of the [$223 million] bridge to nowhere."

Fiscal prudence, what sort of heretical notion is that?

President George W. Bush requested an emergency appropriation of $92 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and another round of hurricane recovery. The House approved the request, but the Senate Appropriations Committee has loaded the measure with $14 billion in new spending, most unrelated to national security or hurricane recovery. Still not satisfied, Senators are now readying floor amendments to add as much as $10 billion more in spending, which would push the price tag to $24 billion above the President’s request.[1]

This new spending is tremendously irresponsible considering the state of the budget. Congress has already boosted spending by 45 percent since 2001 to a post-war record of $23,760 per household.[2] On top of that, the Senate started this year by adding $16 billion to the President’s discretionary budget request.[3] This is at a time where the new Medicare prescription drug benefit is projected to cost over $1 trillion through 2016. Entitlement programs’ liabilities, public debt, and other liabilities such as veterans’ and federal employee retirement costs already total $375,000 for every full time worker in America. [4] The Senate’s actions show a clear disregard for this huge fiscal burden Americans already face.

But Americans elected these turkeys. What does that say about Americans? Nothing good.

The farmer piggies weren't getting enough already. Oink! Oink!

$4 billion for farm bailouts, which comes on top of the $25 billion that will be spent this year on farm subsidies, even as farm income reaches near-record highs;

The role played by Mississippi in this latest spending splurge is made possible by Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran's replacement of Ted Stevens of Alaska as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee

By Randall Parker 2006 April 18 09:50 PM  Politics Money
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Energy Seen As Warping Diplomacy Of Big Powers

Wondered when the national security types might start noticing what a serious pickle the United States is in due to oil and natural gas? Testifying before the US Senate Foreign Relations Comittee on April 5, 2006 US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that growing appetites for energy are warping diplomacy around the world.

"We do have to do something about the energy problem. I can tell you that nothing has really taken me aback more, as secretary of state, than the way that the politics of energy. I will use the word 'warping' diplomacy around the world. It has given extraordinary power to some states that are using that power in not very good ways for the international system, states that would otherwise have very little power," Rice said.

"It is sending some states that are growing very rapidly in an all-out search for energy states like China, states like India that is really sending them into parts of the world where they've not been seen before, and challenging, I think, for our diplomacy."

She said "We are looking to technological solutions for the energy appetite of growing countries. And, of course, being able to cooperate with India on civil nuclear cooperation would help us to pursue that goal. And finally, I'll just note that we also are looking very hard for good partners in the nonproliferation work," she added.

"On the question of the India nuclear weapons programme, first of all, the Indian programme, we believe, just in terms of what India's incentives or disincentives are to grow its nuclear programme, its strategic programme, are more related to the political-military conditions in the region, than to any quantity of available nuclear material," Rice said.

This is all terribly predictable. Of course China is going to spend big money to compete with the United States for influence among the oil producing countries. The bigger the Chinese economy gets the greater the effort the Chinese government will make with foreign aid, military advisors, military equipment sales, diplomatic support in the United Nations, and in still other ways to curry favor with the oil producers. US influence will decline accordingly.

China does not object to bad human rights records when it courts countries.

China's oil industry has wooed countries that the United States has tried to isolate for political reasons -- such as Sudan, Iran and Burma -- potentially undermining the isolation efforts. Three of China's major oil companies have been aggressively pursuing long-term supply arrangements in such places as Venezuela, Nigeria, Gabon and Angola.

Since US influence will decline in oil producing countries the US ought to reduce its dependence on oil.

See my March 2004 post "Luft And Korin On China's Rising Demand For Oil And Saudi Arabia". I make a different argument in my post "Increased Chinese Demand For Oil Is A Net Loss For The USA". In a nutshell: rising demand from China and other countries forces the United States to pay more for oil. This makes us worse off. We have to make and export more stuff to pay for the oil we use.

American and Western dependence on oil creates environmental, economic, and national security problems. I think the most adaptive response to the heightening competition for dwindling oil reserves is to focus on developing replacements for oil rather than get caught up in a geopolitical Machiavellian "great game" for control of the oil that remains. But as energy prices continue on their upward path and growth in world oil production appears to falter the neocons compound our economic problems by draining America's treasury in Iraq while they prepare to extend their war into Iran.

The US trade deficit, worsened by the high price of oil, is eventually going to cause a decline in the value of the dollar. Since oil is priced in dollars that decline in the dollar will lower the cost of oil in other currencies. That, in turn, will increase demand for oil in other countries which will drive up the price of oil in dollars even higher.

Jane Bryant Quinn's recent essay "The Price of Our Oil Addiction" captures my attitude toward our situation:

Unfortunately, we're investing in war, not in crash projects to develop new energy sources. Maybe there's time to spare. But some events, like true civil war and collapse in Iraq, could change everything in a day. We're running a faith-based energy policy—still addicted to oil. If something goes wrong, it will go wrong big.

The Bush Administration is keen to change everything in a day by launching a strike against Iran. That'd take about 3 million barrels of oil a day off the market. Hello deep recession.

I have very low expectations from Washington DC on energy policy as I do on immigration policy, Middle Eastern policy, and fiscal policy. Hopefully entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and others in the private sector will come up with solutions.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 18 08:46 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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2006 April 17 Monday
Oil Goes Over $70 Per Barrel

How high does oil have to go to throw the US and world economies into a recession? 500,000 barrels a day are off-line due to rebels in Nigeria and the Bush Administration might attack Iran.

U.S. oil climbed to within 10 cents of a record high on Tuesday, extending gains above $70 a barrel as fears grew of possible military action against Iran and a major Nigerian supply outage dragged into a third month.

Picture yourself laid off in a deep recession while gasoline costs $4 per gallon.

Iran might use a cut in oil production as a bargaining chip.

While officials in the Iranian oil ministry have said they will not use oil exports as a bargaining chip, other senior officials have said they may use their country's "oil weapon" in a confrontation with the West.

"The concern," Mr. Bremmer said, "is that we'll move from simple diplomacy to coercive diplomacy against Iran, and Iran will actually play the oil card instead of just mentioning it."

Meanwhile, with most OPEC members producing at full capacity, these producing nations say they are effectively powerless to bring prices down.

There isn't any spare production capacity.

Chad might stop selling oil unless some big oil companies circumvent some sort of UN restrictions on its oil revenue.

Worries over supply from Iran, which pumps about 5 per cent of the world's oil, were compounded by African producer Chad, which demanded that a US-led oil consortium pay it at least $US100 million ($137 million) by Tuesday or else it would halt its output of up to 170,000 barrels a day.

Oil Minister Mahamat Nasser Hassan told Reuters in an interview at the weekend that Chad had asked Exxon Mobil Corp, Petronas and Chevron to put the funds into a state account, circumventing the World Bank's escrow account that was meant to ensure revenues benefit the poor.

In March 2006 Iran produced 3.86 million barrels of oil per day and Iraq produced 1.82 million barrels of oil per day. OPEC produced 160,000 barrels fewer in March than in February 2006. Imagine the world minus a few million barrels a day of Iranian oil. We may well find out what that is like. Now might be the time to switch to a job that has greater job security. Also, avoid taking in more debt. You might need the cash.

In inflation-adjusted terms oil was more expensive at its peak in 1980.

In 2005 dollars, the average price of crude in 1980 was just under $77 a barrel. Even that is somewhat misleading, though, because the economy is much more energy efficient these days, analysts said.

There are some big differences between 1980 and today. One difference is that we appear to be approaching the "Peak Oil" point of peak world oil production. (and I'd be curious to hear your views on those charts) What I want to know: How quickly can Coal-To-Liquid (CTL) technologies come on line to provide an alternative for liquid hydrocarbon fuel? To put it another way: How long do oil prices have to stay high and how long does production have to cease growing before capitalists become convinced the risks are low enough to justify building Fischer-Tropsch CTL plants?

Also, how high do prices have to get before we'll see a halt and even a reversal in demand growth? Can that happen without a recession? Seems unlikely.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 17 10:42 PM  Economics Energy
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2006 April 16 Sunday
Neocons Want To Use Afghan Model In Iran

Been wondering how the neoconservatives intend to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons? Writing in the neoconservative's biggest platform, The Weekly Standard, retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, a former assistant vice chief of staff in the USAF, proposes a massive bombing campaign against Iran combined with a covert operation modelled in Afghanistan to overthrow the Iranian regime using non-Persian minority groups in Iran.

The destruction of Iran's military force structure would create the opportunity for regime change as well, since it would eliminate some or all of Ahmadinejad's and the mullahs' ability to control the population. Simultaneously or prior to the attack, a major covert operation could be launched, utilizing Iranian exiles and dissident forces trained during the period of diplomacy. This effort would be based on the Afghan model that led to the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Not only would the overt and covert attacks weaken the ability of Iran's leaders to carry out offensive operations in retaliation, they would cripple the leaders' power to control their own people.

Iran's diverse population should be fertile ground for a covert operation. Iran is only 51 percent Persian. Azerbaijanis and Kurds comprise nearly 35 percent of the population. Seventy percent are under 30, and the jobless rate hovers near 20 percent.

Can this work? Afghanistan was already in a civil war with Mahsood hanging onto a Tajik area in the north and the country had been at war for decades. Plus, the living standards in Afghanistan were much lower and the central government rather simpler in character. Iran seems less amenable to externally funded civil war.

The neocons absolutely have to propose a cheaper and less manpower intensive way to overthrow the Iranian government if they are to have any chance at all of carrying out their next phase. The US military is too small to handle Iraq, let alone Iran which has about 2 hand a half times more people. Iraq has 26.8 million people. Whereas Iran has 68.8 million people.

There are interesting angles here to the idea of using non-Persian ethnics to overthrow Iran's government. Consider:

  • If people of different ethnicities can be expected to have vastly different levels of loyalty useful for overthrow of governments then it follows that the "Invade the world, Invite the world" neocons want to subject the US to an influx of ethnic and racial groups which willl have vastly different kinds of political loyalties.
  • If the US overthrows the Iranian government using non-Persians the inevitable result will be deep distrust by Persians toward non-Persians within the current boundaries of Iran. The split between Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds in Iraq with ethnic cleansing will be a likely outcome of the strategy proposed by McInerney above.
  • Partition of Iran seems a likely result. A merged Kurdistan that carves out pieces of Iran and Iraq becomes plausible.
  • An extended period of insurgency and civil war in Iran also seems a likely result.
  • Iranian oil production will then suffer from disruptions similar to the disruptions we currently see in Iraq. Oil prices will rise. Prices above $100 a barrel seem quite plausible. Global recession could result.

Bush should have made a huge push for increased energy efficiency in the United States before destabilizing multiple big oil producing countries.

Also see at The Weekly Standard other articles on Iran: To Bomb, or Not to Bomb: That is the Iran question by Reuel Marc Gerecht and Unacceptable? Is the America of 2006 more willing to thwart the unacceptable than the France of 1936? by William Kristol. They are laying it on thick.

I've been paying more attention to the immigration debate than to the Bush Administration's preparations for war against Iran. Bad immigration policy is causing more long term damage to America than bad foreign policy. But the war drums are starting to beat louder on Iran and we've got to start paying more attention to it.

William M. Arkin has an article in the Washington Post on war planning against Iran in the Pentagon.

Various scenarios involving Iran's missile force have also been examined in another study, initiated in 2004 and known as BMD-I (ballistic missile defense -- Iran). In this study, the Center for Army Analysis modeled the performance of U.S. and Iranian weapons systems to determine the number of Iranian missiles expected to leak through a coalition defense.

The day-to-day planning for dealing with Iran's missile force falls to the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha. In June 2004, Rumsfeld alerted the command to be prepared to implement CONPLAN 8022, a global strike plan that includes Iran. CONPLAN 8022 calls for bombers and missiles to be able to act within 12 hours of a presidential order. The new task force, sources have told me, mostly worries that if it were called upon to deliver "prompt" global strikes against certain targets in Iran under some emergency circumstances, the president might have to be told that the only option is a nuclear one.

Here's what I wonder: If Bush is going to attack Iran will he do it before, during, or after the fall 2006 elections?

Also, what is your guess? Will Bush attack Iran? If so, will he succeed in overthrowing the Iranian goverment?

Update: In the comments Razib says the Azeris are highly integrated and prominent in the elite. So peeling off the Azeris to find against the Persians looks like a losing strategy.

Also, to repeat myself: Very high oil prices with reductions in production for an extended period would likely follow from a move on Iran. It sure looks to me like the world is peaking in production of conventional oil. A picture is worth a thousand words. So we already have very constrained oil supplies.

For the price of the Iraq war we could fund both a lot of energy research and the retrofitting of all public buildings for greater energy efficiency. For the cost of an attack on Iran (especially when factoring in the resulting oil price rise) we could build hundreds or thousands of nuclear reactors and insulate lots of houses.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 16 09:15 PM  MidEast Iran
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Iraq Construction Projects Fall Short Of Goals

A good article by John Ward Anderson and Bassam Sebti of the Washington Post Foreign Service outlines the problems and failures trying to rebuild Iraq.

BAGHDAD -- On the southern outskirts of Baghdad, a sewage treatment plant that was repaired with $13.5 million in U.S. funds sits idle while all of the raw waste from the western half of Baghdad is dumped into the Tigris River, where many of the capital's 7 million residents get their drinking water.

Adjacent to the Karkh sewage plant is Iraq's most advanced sanitary landfill, a new, 20-acre, $32 million dump -- also paid for by the United States -- with a liner to prevent groundwater contamination. It has not had a load of garbage dropped off since the manager of the sewer plant was killed four months ago. Iraqis consider the access roads too dangerous, and Iraqi police rarely venture into the area, a haven for insurgents who regularly lob mortar shells across the city into the Green Zone less than six miles away.

Lawlessness causes destruction and enormous amounts of waste.

A quarter of the completed water and sanitation projects are not operating.

For example, the report said, "as of June 2005, approximately $52 million of the $200 million in completed large-scale water and sanitation projects either were not operating or were operating at lower capacity due to looting of key equipment and shortages of reliable power, trained Iraqi staff, and required chemicals and supplies."

What waste.

A reservist in the US Army Corps of Engineers, Lt. Col. Otto Albert Busher III, says that Baghdad easily needs $3 billion in water and sewer repair.

Busher estimated that between 40 percent and 60 percent of the purified water that leaves Baghdad's treatment plants never makes it to city taps because of leaks in the system.

"You're looking at a couple of million dollars of lost water per day," he said. And because the water network was built 25 years ago with brittle cement pipes that have a 20-year life, every time a bomb explodes in Baghdad, the water system is damaged.

Even tanks rumbling on the streets crack the pipes -- and not just water pipes, but sewer pipes that run alongside. Contamination of fresh water by sewage "happens on a daily basis," Busher said.

Just in Baghdad alone that's over $700 million in water lost per year plus sickness caused by the mixing of fresh water with sewage.

Read the whole thing. The Bush Administration underestimated by orders of magnitude the job the United States was taking on by invading Iraq. The US military was and still is too small to handle security properly. Therefore the oil fields are producing less, lots of stuff gets built and then destroyed or stolen or workers get scared away. Projects take longer. The disorder and dysfunction encourages the insurgents and provides them more support.

Meanwhile the neoconservatives want to invade Iran. Imagine the scale of the mess that will result from that. Where will the troops come from? Or will they decide to do a massive air campaign?

By Randall Parker 2006 April 16 06:53 PM  Mideast Iraq
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Jonathan Rauch: Neither Party Has Ruling Majority

Jonathan Rauch argues that neither the Democrats or the Republicans have a governing majority.

For the last couple of decades, America has had, in effect, two minority parties. Both parties are dominated by ideological activists who are more extreme than the electorate. The Democrats are to the left of the average voter; the Republicans, to the right. Neither party can govern except in coalition with a large body of nonideological centrists, who feel (and often are) neglected by both parties. In 2004, both parties held their bases, but the Republicans improved their performance in the center. That won them the election, but it gives them little cause to relax. The center remains in neither party's camp; in the 2004 presidential race, independents split their vote evenly.

I would quibble with Rauch on whether the Republican Party's activists are to the right of the registered Republican electorate. The activists are not to the right when it comes to spending constraint. The activists are not small "c" conservative when it comes to foreign policy. The neoconservative Republican activists in control of Republican Party foreign policy are pursuing what they perceive to be Jewish interests in the Middle East and Europe (and harming Israel's interests in the process - fools).

If the Republican Party's elected officials were really obeying the desires of their conservative base then there would have been no Medicare drug benefit and we'd have a barrier wall on the entire US border with Mexico along with vigorous interior immigration law enforcement. Curiously, such an immigration policy would also appeal to most centrists and quite a few non-elite Democrats.

The Democratic Party has become so unmoored from the interests of what one might think is its working class base that it too isn't serving its base well. This is the bizarreness of American politics today. On key issues the elites of the two parties are closer to each other than they are to their bases.

What Rauch says about parliamentary majorities without a popular majority certainly describes the Republican Party today.

What the Tories then discovered is what ruling parties all too easily forget: There is no position more treacherous than having a parliamentary majority without a popular majority. With undivided power goes undivided credit, but also undivided blame. Worse, the possession of a parliamentary majority may embolden the party's extremists and lull the party away from the center, thus blocking, rather than advancing, progress toward a popular majority.

But my problem with this analysis is that the people in the Bush Administration who Rauch might (correctly) label as extremists are not really on the far right of the Republican Party. They are extremists pursuing ethnic interests of Likudnik Jews in foreign policy or of Hispanics in immigration policy. Or they are pursuing rather narrow economic interests. They aren't pursuing conservative policies for more limited government or more law enforcement. Quite the contrary in fact.

Bush has certainly pursued policies that caused a lot of blame to be heaped on Republicans. The Iraq debacle and the federal government's budget deficit come to mind. But these policies were not implemented to placate the Republican base. That's the tragedy of this situation.

This reminds me that before the 2004 election Tyler Cowen opined that the Republican spending spree was the result of their lack of a strong ruling majority.

I look less at what politicians say, and more at what kind of coalition they would have to build to rule. The high domestic spending of Bush I take as a sign of perceived political weakness ("we need to buy more allies"), rather than a reflection of Bush's ideology.

...

5. If Bush is re-elected, it affirms that a Republican can get away with jacking up domestic spending. Such a precedent is worrying for the longer run, not just for Bush's second term.

Irresponsible government therefore is the result of a need to buy off swing voters. If either party had a larger secure voting block it would have far less need to buy off voters.

Both major political parties in the United States want to get out of the current stalemate where a large center prevents either party from dominating. The Democrats want to return to the level of power they enjoyed during their New Deal golden era of a large governing majority and secure control of Congress. They hope to break the deadlock by use of the growing Hispanic minority. However, Steve Sailer relays from a tax accountant and reader the observation that the Hispanics aren't going to have the same interests and values as the elite Democrats:

One other thing about taxes and illegal aliens. The folks they are letting in, they are not going to be smart enough to actually comply with our complex tax laws and other regulatory obligations. So there is going to be an increase in the flouting of those laws. They also will not see the need of such regulatory burdens - why should they care about the environment, zoning laws, etc.

Most liberal-left Democrats are making a false assumption: Whoever votes for the Democrats will have the same values they do. Wrong-o sleighbell lovers. Half of Hispanics in America drop out of high school. Working class manual labor high school drop-outs aren't going to support the arts or public television or housing growth restrictions or pollution emissions reductions or embryonic stem cell research. They won't care or will see the regulatory state and tax collection agencies as obstacles to circumvent.

When the stalemate in American politics breaks up neither side is going to be happy with the result.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 16 03:10 PM  Politics Factions
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2006 April 15 Saturday
EU Mandarins: Terrorists Who Abusively Invoke Islam

I'm not making up this one. Reality is more absurd than fiction. The European Union's fools in charge want to play word games to avoid admitting that Islam contains beliefs that aren't compatible with Western culture. How about "Individuals with excessively violent impulses who abusively invoke Islam"?

Officials are currently drafting a "non-emotive lexicon for discussing radicalisation" that will be submitted to EU leaders at a summit in June.

“Certainly ‘Islamic terrorism’ is something we will not use … we talk about ‘terrorists who abusively invoke Islam’,” said an official speaking off the record.

Okay readers, get into the spirit of our decayed age. Can you outdo the Mandarins and come up with an even more ridiculous replacement for "Islamic terrorism"?

How about "People with hostility problems who misunderstand Islam"?

Update: Jim Hoagland reports that Bush Administration policymakers are referring to the Global War On Extremism (GWOE) instead of the Global War On Terrorism (GWOT).

Although greatly reduced since Rice replaced Colin Powell at Foggy Bottom, wrangling between the departments of State and Defense continues -- this time over operational details of the National Security Policy Directive that is being pulled together for what some policymakers are starting to call the global war on extremism (GWOE).

Here is where American and European policymakers could work together. "Terrorist" is such a loaded term - as the BBC well knows. Why not replace it with "Extremist"? Then we'd have "Extremists Who Abusively Invoke Islam" or EWAII.

A conservative Republican might be bothered by the use of the term "Extremist" in such a derogatory context. After all, Barry Goldwater once said "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." But the Bushies are a far cry from Goldwater Republicans. They've engineered the fastest rise in federal spending since FDR. It seems only fitting that they are engaged in a global war on extremism.

Update II: The EU is developing a whole politically correct dictionary for referring to Muslims and terrorists.

The European Union is drawing up a lexicon of politically correct language to use when describing terrorists who claim to act in the name of Islam.

The idea was first aired in the EU's counter-terrorism strategy, which was adopted by interior ministers in December. As part of its efforts to combat radicalization and terrorist recruitment, the paper said the Union's 25 member states have to do more to "correct unfair or inaccurate perceptions of Islam and Muslims." It also called on EU officials to draft a "non-emotive lexicon for discussing the issues in order to avoid linking Islam to terrorism."

Diplomats in Brussels are currently working on the handbook, which is expected to be adopted by ministers in June.

The handbook will not cause Muslims to become liberals.

The EU Mandarins do not want to refer to a oppressive, tribal, sexist, intolerant religion using negative terms.

The guidelines, which will be non-binding and aimed at public officials rather than journalists, are likely to advise against using the term "Islamic terrorism." Roscam Abbing said his EU commissioner, who is the rough equivalent of the U.S. homeland security chief, prefers to talk about "those who have an abusive interpretation of Islam," rather than Islamists or Muslim fundamentalists. "The idea is not to use the terms Islam and Muslim in connection to something negative," added the spokesman.

The idea is to be dishonest. War is peace.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 15 05:08 PM  Civilizations Decay
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2006 April 13 Thursday
As Ethnic Cleansing Deaths Escalate In Iraq US Generals Object To War

I can see the positive spin now: Conditions in Iraq causing real estate building boom.

BAGHDAD – For the past nine weeks, Nabil Abdul Hassan has had more business than he can handle. He's a home builder in Chikook, a western suburb of cinder-block houses that is filling up with Shiite Iraqis who are increasingly fleeing sectarian violence in religiously mixed villages.

"I've built 20 houses in the past two weeks, and it's been like that since what happened in Samarra," he says, referring to the attack on the Askariya shrine, one of Shiite Islam's holiest sites, on Feb. 22. "The other builders in this neighborhood say the same. And it is like that in other neighborhoods nearby."

I think the United States government should find ways to help the Shias and Sunnis flee each other. The more separated they become the less violence they will inflict on each other.

Reporting from Baghdad Jonathan Steele reports on the killings by Shia militias, the development of Sunni vigilante groups in response, and the flight of both Sunnis and Shias from areas where they are in danger from each other.

"More Iraqis are dying from militia violence than from the terrorists," Khalilzad said recently. "The militias need to be under control."

His blunt comment came in the wake of over 1,000 abductions and murders in a single month, most of them blamed on Shia militias. Terrified residents of Baghdad's mainly Sunni areas talk of cars roaring up after dark, uninhibited by the police in spite of the curfew. They enter homes and seize people, whose bodies turn up later, often garotted or marked with holes from electric drills - evidence of torture before assassination.

...

In fact Iraq has no history of Balkan-style pogroms where neighbour turns against neighbour, burning homes and shops. But it could develop now. The rampaging by Shia militias and the rise of defensive Sunni vigilantes have launched a low-intensity ethnic cleansing. Up to 30,000 people have left their homes in the last few weeks.

Some Iraqis are changing their names to hide their ethnic affiliations.

The Americans say they are seeking to disband the militias, though they have tried it before without success. Iraqis themselves are not pinning hopes on that; many are applying to change their names so it will be less obvious which sect they belong to.

US Generals are increasingly going public with their objections as the debacle in Iraq escalates. John Batiste wants Rumsfeld replaced.

"I think we need a fresh start" at the top of the Pentagon, retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004-2005, said in an interview. "We need leadership up there that respects the military as they expect the military to respect them. And that leadership needs to understand teamwork."

...

Batiste's comments resonate especially within the Army: It is widely known there that he was offered a promotion to three-star rank to return to Iraq and be the No. 2 U.S. military officer there but he declined because he no longer wished to serve under Rumsfeld. Also, before going to Iraq, he worked at the highest level of the Pentagon, serving as the senior military assistant to Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense.

He's served the neocons up close.

Major General Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military in 2003 and 2004, also ripped on Rumsfeld's leadership. Note that when these guys rip on Rumsfeld they are saying that US strategy and tactics in Iraq are very flawed. Note as well that these guys say what they say from reitrement. Officers serving at high levels can't be as frank. The recent retirees provide an indication of what the serving officers think.

Retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold says in a Time magazine essay entitled "Why Iraq Was A Mistake" that The Who had it wrong when Daltrey sang "We won't get fooled again".

It's 35 years later, and the judgment is in: the Who had it wrong. We have been fooled again.

From 2000 until October 2002, I was a Marine Corps lieutenant general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq--an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat--al-Qaeda. I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy. Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I've been silent long enough.

Some conservatives support the war because of leftist opposition to the war. They figure if the leftists are against something it must be a good idea to support it. Well, US military generals are a rather conservative lot who aren't pacifists and they know a great deal about what is happening in Iraq. They are also very unhappy with the Bush Administration's conduct of the war. Many think the war never should have been started in the first place.

Update: Former US ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke points out that more top US officers may heed Newbold's call and resign in order to protest the war.

This has put President Bush and the administration in a hellish situation, and at a time when the security situation in Iraq and Afghanistan seems to be deteriorating. If Bush yields to the generals' revolt, he will appear to have caved in to pressure from what Rumsfeld disingenuously describes as "two or three retired generals out of thousands." But if he keeps Rumsfeld, he risks more resignations -- perhaps soon, from generals who heed Newbold's stunning call that, as officers, they took an oath to speak up and should now do so on behalf of the troops in the field and the institution that he feels is in danger of falling back into the disarray of the post-Vietnam era.

The serving officers legally are not allowed to speak out. So the retirees provide the best indications we have into the views of the currently serving generals. As more generals retire expect the number of generals who speak out against Rumsfeld, Bush, and the war to grow.

What a tragedy and loss for the United States. The Bush Presidency has been a disaster on foreign policy, immigration, spending, racial preferences, and other areas.

The reason serving officers are not publically critical of Rumsfeld and Bush is that it is against the law for them to make such statements.

In fact, Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice prescribes a court-martial for any commissioned officer who "uses contemptuous words against the president, the vice president, Congress, the secretary of defense" or other federal or state officials.

That prohibition, of course, does not forbid serving officers from speaking candidly in private when asked for advice on military matters. Some of Mr. Rumsfeld's critics also fault General Pace and others for not being more forceful in questioning the guidelines put forward by Pentagon civilians that have kept American forces relatively lean in Iraq and have led to the quick disbanding of the Iraqi army.

Neither does the prohibition on "contemptuous words" apply to retirees. And the propriety of the onslaught of attacks on Mr. Rumsfeld's leadership from recently retired senior military leaders, including some who served in Iraq, is a matter of intense debate.

If these officers didn't speak out they'd be doing the nation a disservice. We need expert and informed advice from the officers about the war because the public ultimately must judge the decisions of the elected civilian leadership.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 13 09:56 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Cleansing
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2006 April 11 Tuesday
Hastert Joins Frist In Immigration Cave In

Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert looks like he wants to follow Senate leader Bill Frist and totally cave on immigration.

In the wake of this week's massive demonstrations, many House Republicans are worried that a tough anti-illegal-immigration bill they thought would please their political base has earned them little benefit while becoming a lightning rod for the fast-growing national movement for immigrant rights.

House Republicans rushed through legislation just before Christmas that would build hundreds of miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, require that businesses verify the legality of all employees' status through a national database, fortify border patrols, and declare illegal immigrants and those who help them to be felons. After more lenient legislation failed in the Senate last week, the House-passed version burst into the public consciousness this week, as hundreds of thousands of protesters across the country turned out to denounce the bill.

Fools. Yes, their base really does want tough legislation to stop illegal immigration. The Republican Party's best hope for maintaining control of Congress in the November 2006 elections is to stop alienating their base and show they give a damn about their base. But these idiots are more impressed by lots of Mexicans marching in US cities carrying Mexican flags and delivering speeches in Spanish. They are ready to cave.

Here is the full text of the joint Hastert-Frist statement.

"America is a nation with borders and borders matter. We are a nation of citizens and citizenship matters. We are also a nation of laws and laws matter. We have an important immigrant heritage and honoring that heritage matters.

"In December, the House of Representatives passed a strong border security bill aimed at securing our borders and preventing illegal immigration.

"However, on December 16, 2005, there were 191 House Democrats who voted to oppose House Republican efforts to reduce the crime of unlawful presence in the United States from a felony to a misdemeanor. Instead, they voted to make felons out of all of those who remain in our country illegally.

"While we are disappointed with the House Democrat's lack of compassion and the continued efforts by Senator Reid to block action on immigration legislation so that Congress can proceed to conference, it remains our intent to produce a strong border security bill that will not make unlawful presence in the United States a felony."

The Republicans in both houses of Congress ought to unite behind Sensenbrenner's tough House bill. It could win them elections.

The Republicans are very unpopular according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey found that 38 percent of the public approve of the job Bush is doing, down three percentage points in the past month and his worst showing in Post-ABC polling since he became president. Sixty percent disapprove of his performance.

With less than seven months remaining before the midterm elections, Bush's political troubles already appear to be casting a long shadow over them. Barely a third of registered voters, 35 percent, approve of the way the Republican-led Congress is doing its job -- the lowest level of support in nine years.

The Democrats are more likely to win if the Republicans continue on the path of totally demoralizing and angering their base (and a majority of the public which wants less immigration).

By Randall Parker 2006 April 11 09:12 PM  Immigration Politics
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2006 April 10 Monday
Afghan Base Workers Steal US Computers With Secrets

It is amazing that the US military is letting this happen.

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — No more than 200 yards from the main gate of the sprawling U.S. base here, stolen computer drives containing classified military assessments of enemy targets, names of corrupt Afghan officials and descriptions of American defenses are on sale in the local bazaar.

Shop owners at the bazaar say Afghan cleaners, garbage collectors and other workers from the base arrive each day offering purloined goods, including knives, watches, refrigerators, packets of Viagra and flash memory drives taken from military laptops. The drives, smaller than a pack of chewing gum, are sold as used equipment.

This is like the free market bazaar version of the Pentagon Papers.

A reporter recently obtained several drives at the bazaar that contained documents marked "Secret." The contents included documents that were potentially embarrassing to Pakistan, a U.S. ally, presentations that named suspected militants targeted for "kill or capture" and discussions of U.S. efforts to "remove" or "marginalize" Afghan government officials whom the military considered "problem makers."

Anyone home at the Pentagon? Hello?

I saw reporter Christian Parenti of The Nation (which is far to the left of ParaPundit) interviewed and he said that US troops in Afghanistan now suffer as much casualties as US troops in Iraq proportionate to the number of soldiers in each place. He also said that elements of the Pakistani government still support the Taliban and that Afghanistan is getting worse.

I'm also coming across an increasing number of stories about Middle Eastern governments deciding that the Bush Administration has run out of steam and the US demands for democratization can be ignored.

Analysts and officials say the political rise of Islamists, the chaos in Iraq, the newfound Shiite power in Iraq with its implication for growing Iranian influence, and the sense among some rulers that they can wait out the end of the Bush administration have put the brakes on democratization.

"It feels like everything is going back to the bad old days, as if we never went through any changes at all," said Sulaiman al-Hattlan, editor in chief of Forbes Arabia and a prominent Saudi columnist and advocate. "Everyone is convinced now that there was no serious or genuine belief in change from the governments. It was just a reaction to pressure by the international media and the U.S."

Bush shot his wad in Iraq and over-extended the US. He put us in a position that made us look less powerful. If he had just overthrown the Taliban and then just threatened other governments the threat would be more terrifying than the actuality of seeing the limits of US power in Iraq.

Amir Taheri captures this mood in his "Last Helicopter" essay about the US in the Middle East and the US helicopters evacuating the US embassy as Saigon fell in Vietnam.

According to this theory, President George W. Bush is an "aberration," a leader out of sync with his nation's character and no more than a brief nightmare for those who oppose the creation of an "American Middle East." Messrs. Abbasi and Ahmadinejad have concluded that there will be no helicopter as long as George W. Bush is in the White House. But they believe that whoever succeeds him, Democrat or Republican, will revive the helicopter image to extricate the U.S. from a complex situation that few Americans appear to understand.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's defiant rhetoric is based on a strategy known in Middle Eastern capitals as "waiting Bush out." "We are sure the U.S. will return to saner policies," says Manuchehr Motakki, Iran's new Foreign Minister.

Some hawks argue this is a reason to stay the course and keep fighting in Iraq. They think a US withdrawal will only embolden terrorists and Islamists. Bush has put us in a position where the insurgency fights mostly because we are there. So the United States fight just to prove that we won't leave and won't give up.

The argument is plausible because Bin Laden saw the US withdrawals from Beirut and Mogadishu as signs the US won't take many casualties before giving up and that the US is decadent and on the decline. Well, we are on the decline, though not due to decadence. We are on the decline for demographic reasons (dumb immigrants, smart people having too few children). But the political debates in the Middle East among Islamists and among America's elite in Washington DC has become too untethered from reality for such observations to carry much weight.

I keep coming back to a basic idea: If the Muslims are so dangerous that we should be extremely concerned at what they think of us then keep them out of the West. If their oil cash makes them even more dangerous then launch a huge effort to obsolesce oil. The Iraq war seems an extremely costly, inefficient, and counter-productive way to prove to the Muslims that they shouldn't try to kill us.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 10 09:50 PM  Elites Betrayal And Incompetence
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2006 April 09 Sunday
Immigration Lowers Home Ownership

Over at Audacious Epigone crush41 continues to crush thru numbers doing economic analyses of immigration. His attention has shifted toward patterns of home ownership. More foreigners means less home ownership.

It's been awhile since President Bush has touted his push for an Ownership Society. Given the intensity of the current immigration debate, it's prudent of him to keep his mouth shut. Why? Because the larger the foreign-born population, the lower the home ownership rate becomes.

Running a regression on the home ownership rate and foreign-born proportion of the population by state yields a significant factor of zero (it's definitely not random) and an r-squared of just over .42 (42% of the home ownership rate of a state can be explained by number of the foreign-born in that state). For each 1% increase in the foreign-born population as a portion of the state's entire population, the home ownership rate correspondingly decreases .65%.

Some parts of the country are filling up. Real estate prices rise because land prices rise. That phenomenon used to be restricted to fairly small areas. But as populations rise the land cost problem is hitting progressively larger areas of America. This is a situation that only a libertarian or an economist could see in a positive light.

But this trend holds appeal to anyone who likes a heavily class-oriented society with lots of social stratification. I guess that is why the Democrats like immigration. Can't have class warfare without a large lower class.

States with high foreign-born populations are beginning to look like manors. I'm going to look at metropolitan areas with high foreign-born populations to try and focus the effect. It seems reasonable that the inverse correlation between foreign-born and affordability will be even higher. Peasants come because the keeps have plenty of menial chores to be done. The peasants have work, but they can't afford to buy part of the manor. This situation is bad for the burghers, who leave because earning power is being pushed down while costs are going up. It's bad news for natives (future voters) that don't already own a home.

Existing home owners do fine but what about later generations?

The correlation between home ownership and house price is .41. Between home ownership and affordability (home price adjusted for income) it is .34 (both statistically significant; the former being higher at least in part due to folks with moderate incomes in high-priced areas taking their savings to plant roots in cheaper places). Land is becoming more expensive in real terms because of an increase in the foreign-born population. This is making home ownership increasingly difficult for those who do not already own a home.

Ever notice when watching 1950s and 1960s movies how much open space California had? The white population of LA from that era has mostly left for other states. The state continues to fill up. The whites continue to leave. Why should we support high levels of immigration? Time to buld a wall.

Large scale immigration is suicide for the Republican Party for a number of reasons. Housing prices are one of those reasons. See Steve Sailer's The GOP’s Third Electoral Secret: Marriage, Fertility…And Cheap Housing.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 09 12:20 PM  Immigration Economics
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Alaska Pork Spending Dips As Stevens Power Decreases

Senator Ted Stevens (R Alaska) has brought home a lot of bacon for Alaska.

Taxpayers for Common Sense calculates that Alaska's earmarks in the 2006 federal spending bills totaled $1.05 billion, a drop of $335 million from last year.

Citizens Against Government Waste, using different criteria, figures that Alaska's per-capita pork fell by half.

Thomas Schatz of Citizens Against Government Waste says Alaska still gets 16 times the earmark dollars per person than the US national average.

Alaska's diminished success in winning federal earmarks reflects Sen. Ted Stevens' reduced dominion over federal spending bills.

Stevens, R-Alaska, had tremendous control of the government purse during the six years he served as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Term limits on chairmen forced him to give up the gavel at the end of 2004, although he remains a member of the committee and retained his chairmanship of the subcommittee over defense spending.

Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi replaced him as chairman and so now earmarks for Mississippi are on the rise.

Oh so poor Alaska? Senator Stevens admits the state for which he's pulled in the federal dollars is flush with funds from oil revenue.

JUNEAU -- Alaska's battered image means state lawmakers must loosen their purse strings if they want congressional aid to move the state's big projects forward, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens told the Alaska Legislature on Wednesday.

The Alaska Republican says the nation is facing an $8 trillion deficit and paying for troops in Iraq while Alaska is enjoying a $1.4 billion surplus and has $34 billion in the bank with the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Never mind that gigantic federal debt and deficit. If Stevens was still committee chairman the total dollars going to Alaska earmarks would be higher.

The people who run the United States seem determined to follow policies that will slowly pull us down. Whether it be immigration to ramp up the size of the population that gets more than it pays in taxes, old age programs such as the Medicare drug benefit enacted a few years ago, or the Iraq debacle the elites seem determined to wreck America.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 09 09:46 AM  Politics Money
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2006 April 08 Saturday
Housing Construction Costs Rising

Flipping through cable TV channels looking for something to watch last night I came across a Fox TV News panel arguing about immigration and housing costs. One lady on the panel claimed that labor alone accounts for 60% of housing costs. She also claimed that union home construction workers make an average of $37 per hour while non-union make $20 per hour. Are these claims true? The 60% for labor costs seems too high to me and definitely wrong in coastal California and other areas where land costs are very high. How can materials plus land cost less than labor?

I found a neat site called Building-Cost.net where I costed out a 3000 square feet house with additional space for basement and attic (put it in Cheyenne Wyoming just for kicks) made with highest quality components, Labor costs came in at 37% of the total and that total did not include land costs or fees. I did another one in Juneau Alaska with 4000 square feet and high quality components and labor was 48% of total cost. Again, that total did not include land costs. Then I backed up a couple of pages in the browser, kept all other settings but changed the locale to Santa Barbara California. The labor costs rose to 51%. Though both the labor and materials costs were higher in Juneau and materials costs dropped more in Californian than labor costs did. Labor costs droppped from $250k to $215k. If that cost drop is due to masses of illegal alien construction workers in Santa Barbara then the savings from cheap illegal alien labor on total housing costs are pretty small.

Anyone else want to go that site and try out a hypothetical housing design to see how your costs break down? Choose the "Start Calculator" button on the first page and follow along making choices for your dream house. You might get a higher percentage of total costs from labor if you choose a different locale or cheaper components.

Materials costs are probably rising faster than labor costs as materials costs have been rising very rapidly.

The price of steel, diesel fuel and concrete, along with such materials as pipes and wiring, has driven up the costs of building a high-rise tower, said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America.

The cost of a cubic yard of concrete rose 10 percent to 15 percent last year and will see a similar increase in 2006, he said. The average cost for diesel fuel used in construction trucks is up 36 cents a gallon from last year. The cost of gypsum, the main ingredient in wall board, rose 42 percent since 2004, and copper used in wiring and fixtures rose about 70 percent in two years, Simonson said.

``We'd have to go back to the '70s to see prices that were rising so rapidly,'' he said, adding that strong demand, shortage of supply and a shift to a global marketplace were responsible for the increases.

Costs are way up in Naple Florida.

In a month — from January to February — the cost of cement went up 3 percent and gypsum 4.6 percent, said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America, which represents more than 3,200 contractors nationwide. In the last year, cement jumped 14.2 percent and gypsum 24.6 percent. Simonson added that he expects cement to continue rising by about 12-15 percent this year.

Cost increases for materials like cement and gypsum — key components in concrete — have a particularly strong impact on Southwest Florida, where the building codes require and encourage the use of concrete in construction because of hurricanes.

...

Over the past 12 months, diesel fuel has gone up 31 percent, asphalt 27 percent, concrete products 9.3 percent and plastic construction products 2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall costs were held down by decline in steel products of 5.5 percent and wood — lumber and plywood — by 2.7 percent.

Costs have risen by more than a quarter in the last year due to Hurricane Katrina, oil price increases, and other causes.

Bottom-line cost increases for projects in the design and construction pipeline, cited anecdotally within the building industry, are running a whopping 25 percent. A project realistically budgeted at $40 million at the end of 2004 today could cost $50 million.

...

But on the supply side, the availability of labor and materials has not kept up with demand. Thus costs have risen just as economic theory predicts.

But material prices also have been exacerbated by other factors, in particular this year's devastating hurricanes that curtailed U.S. petroleum supplies. Energy costs shot up, adding to the costs of manufacturing and transporting construction materials.

Highway construction costs have risen as well.

Until 2004, highway-material costs nationally were fairly steady, with a 12-year average annual increase of 1.8 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But those costs rose 12.5 percent in 2005, the bureau said.

A report from Bradenton Florida shows road construction costs which might have almost doubled.

In 2003, it cost an average of $1.4 million a mile to improve 63rd Avenue between U.S. 41 and 15th Street East. A similar project now underway on 57th Avenue, also between U.S. 41 and 15th Street East, is averaging $2.76 million a mile.

"Every project we've got, we've had to revise cost estimates upward because of escalating prices," said Tim Hochuli, Manatee's project management director.

I doubt that wage increases in construction are to blame.

Did anyone else notice when a tornado recently touched down in Tennessee and injured some construction workers the construction workers interviewed on TV in Tennessee were Mexicans? I suspect blue collar workers are being denied good times from the housing boom as materials costs rise but Mexicans are brought in to keep labor costs down. What's going to happen when the construction boom ends?

Update: What I'd like to know: Which types of building materials are now selling with such high profit margins that we can expect manufacturers to scale up production to the point that prices will fall? Is there an easy way to find out the profit margins for manufacturers for doors, windows, concrete, and other parts? My guess is that wood production has long lag times for scaling up production because trees take a long time to grow.

Also, will China's growth shift up world demand for wood and other products less amenable to production increases? Will we therefore go through an extended period of higher construction costs? Will those costs be furthered worsened for the United States due to a future drop in the value of the dollar? The US trade deficit has to get closed somehow. High costs for housing in the US could be one of the ways that deficit gets closed.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 08 12:03 PM  Economics Industry
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2006 April 06 Thursday
James Pinkerton On Immigration: There Will Be A Wall

In a video interview with Mickey Kaus former Reagan Administration domestic policy adviser James Pinkerton says "There will be a wall" and Jim is all for it. He says the alternative is multiculturalism ala the Balkans and Lebanon and he says that does not work. The interview is 23 minutes long.

Jim says Tom Tancredo, the Minutemen, and similar folks (that would include myself and quite a few of my readers) are winning on immigration.

"Nations don't survive if they become multicultural... So I'm now, I count myself as a hawk on immigration and I see myself as worried by the elite bipartisan consensus about basically unlimited immigration conducted on the one hand by Democrats who think they're going to bring in more Democrats to vote Democratic and having sort of a multicultural vision of the world and Republicans who want cheap labor and want to bust all unions. And I think they have dominated immigration policy making for the last three or four decades. They completely control the intelligentsia on this issue."

"... and yet because this idea of international cosmopolitanism so goes against the grain of I think the good sense ordinary Americans that a rag tag bunch of Tom Tancredo types and Minutemen are actually winning on this issue. I think that effectively there will be a wall between the United States and Mexico in the next 5 or 10 years and I am all for it."

Jim predicts Japan with a billion robots will beat the United States with 600 million people split into ethnicities.

America did not become great by bringing in lots of cheap low productivity labor. It became great because very smart people developed ways to raise the productivity of its citizens. Labor shortages are a far bigger impetus to the development of technological advances than labor surpluses.

To repeat from a previous post this is not a new idea. As Socrates said in Plato's Republic long before Ben Franklin strode this Earth:

" A State, I said, arises, as I conceive, out of the needs of mankind". . ."let us begin and create in idea a State; and yet the true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention."

Some claim that a wall is an impossibility. The people who make this claim are opposed to a wall and want to deceive you. From another post, a border barrier is quite affordable.

A border barrier similar to the Israeli barrier with the West Bank would cost well under $10 billion dollars or less than 2 months costs of the war in Iraq. Or we could look at highway construction for construction costs for a wall. The materials that are used to build sound barriers along highways in populated areas would cost about $3.2 billion for a 5 meter high wall 2000 miles long (see my comment below the original post where I calculate out the numbers). There'd be additional costs for barbed wire, sensors, and additional fencing layers as well as an access road. But we could easily afford all this. It'd be similar scope to building an interstate highway along the border.

The Open Borders advocates who claim we can not stop and reverse the illegal influx are lying. We can and we still stop the illegal influx. We should also at the same time greatly reduce the legal influx and make our criteria for who gets in far more selective. As Jim Pinkerton says, we should go with the first round draft picks.

Mickey Kaus says Republicans could win the 2006 election by running on immigration restriction.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 06 07:12 PM  Immigration Border Barrier
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Senate Democrats Want Felons As Citizens

Reality is worse than fiction. If Tom Wolfe had put this sort of thing in a novel critics would have complained that it was unbelievable and too much of a stretch.

Senate Democrats refused to allow consideration of an amendment yesterday that would bar illegal aliens convicted of felonies from obtaining U.S. citizenship.

Democrats said the amendment would "gut" the immigration bill under consideration in the Senate and refused to allow a vote on it.

"It hurts the bill," said Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. "It hurts the very foundation and what I believe is the spirit" of the legislation.

Yes, Harry Reid, it does hurt the spirit of this legislation. The spirit of this legislation is so bad that trying to make it just the least bit good does undermine it.

Senators Jon Kyl and John Cornyn argued that the amendment is necessary.

Mr. Kyl came to the floor and listed the crimes he said would not be included without his amendment, such as burglary, assault and battery, possession of an unregistered, sawed-off shotgun, kidnapping and alien smuggling.

How about an even better idea? How about no amnesty?

Why does Reid think the Kyl-Cornyn amendment goes against the spirit of Frist's immigration legislation? Restrictions on immigration by criminal record are especially problematic for HIspanics.

Nationally, Hispanics are on average 3.7 times as likely as whites to be imprisoned.

Brenda Walker puts this story in a more grisly context.

Bryanna Bevens reports on Senator Frist's supposed superior replacement for Senate Judiciary's bill:

  • Those who have lived in the country at least five years would be put on a path toward guaranteed citizenship, provided that they remained employed, paid fines and back taxes, and learned English. According to Senator Frist, 60 percent of the illegal aliens fall into this category.
  • Those who have lived here for two to five years would have to leave the country before reporting to an American port of entry, where they would be classified as temporary workers. There are roughly three million in this category. They are allowed to apply for citizenship but if they are denied, they must leave after six years.
  • The remaining one million (roughly), those who have lived in the country less than two years, would be required to leave although they are eligible to apply for a temporary work Visa.

More good coverage at the VDare blog.

Steve Sailer argues that no immigration bill should be passed now and instead immigration should be a 2006 election issue.. Also check out Jorge W. Bush waving a Mexican flag. Here are reconquista advocates protesting US immigration laws with Mexican flags.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 06 06:57 PM  Immigration Politics
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2006 April 04 Tuesday
Senators Want To Double Immigration

Our masters want to replace us.

Some estimate that bills pending in the Senate could double the nearly 1 million green cards handed out yearly, granting legal permanent residence.

The United States, which already welcomes more legal immigrants than any other country, would see major increases in green cards under both immigration proposals being debated in the Senate. The bills also would add tens of thousands of temporary visas for workers, from the high-tech industry to medically underserved areas.

America isn't on a fast enough road to Third World status. The fools in the US Senate want to accelerate the process.

A new poll by the Pew Hispanic Center finds that most Americans want the illegal aliens shipped home.

Overall, 53% say people who are in the U.S. illegally should be required to go home, while 40% say they should be granted some kind of legal status that allows them to stay here.

Of course our elites have contempt for the wishes of the majority when those wishes conflict with the interests of the elites.

Looking at the full report (PDF format) some interesting facts emerge. The percentage of Americans who agree with "Immigrants today are a burden because they take jobs, housing" has risen from 38% in Sept 2000 to 44% in Dec 2005 to 52% in Mar 2006. So the shift in attitudes on immigration is rapidly heading toward restriction even as most of the US Senate tries to put through a massive amnesty and increase in legal immigration. Also, interestingly, when given a list of choices for how to decrease illegal immigration from Mexico the most popular choice (49%) was for tougher penalties for employers. That would work if done vigorously. But Congress and Bush are opposed to interior enforcement against employers because the employers are opposed and the money of the employers talks more powerfully than the public. While the Senate tries to increase immigration only 17% of the public agrees with them.

The public’s divisions over illegal immigration are mirrored in views of legal immigration; 40% say the current level should be decreased, but almost the same number (37%) believe it should be kept at its present level, while 17% prefer to see it increased.

The more educated and more financially secure are least likely to see immigrants as a threat. To lots of smart people dumb immigrants are not direct competitors in jobs and at the same time are cheap sources of labor for gardening, construction, made service, and nannies. So that result is not too surprising. However, it also represents a short-sightedness that ignores the higher crime, crowding, pollution, white flight from decaying schools, taxes, and other costs.

Only a third of the public see Hispanic immigration as a cause of higher crime. Never mind that they commit crime at a rate a few times higher than whites. The truth is hidden from view. Here we see the effect of the deceitful American media, academia, and government. The FBI refuses to break out Hispanic crime figures and deceptively lumps them in with whites. The vast bulk of the press refuses to acknowledge crime rate differences between races. Our masters are corrupt and deeply dishonest.

There is a limit to how much legal equality one can have in a society where the distance between the haves and have nots keeps getting bigger and bigger. Crush41 points out that states with greater ethnic diversity have greater disparities in wealth.

Diversity brings economic disparity. Economic disparity is not good for democracy. The corollary is that diversity is not good for democracy. The optimal situation is one in which wealth disparities are naturally small without having to resort to robin hood wealth transfers.

Yet economic disparity is absolutely correlated with race. Running a regression and correlation analysis on data from the fifty states plus DC, I looked at each state's population of the four major ethnic/racial groups (non-Hispanic white, black, Hispanic, and Asian) and correlated it with the variable "Median income as a percentage of Mean income" which was computed by dividing each state's median income by its mean income. The larger the difference between the two, the greater the economic disparity in the state (think of how much Bill Gates moves the mean while doing no more for the median than Joe accountant in the state of Washington who makes $60,000 a year).

I found that significance factor was virtually zero for whites, blacks, and Asians (in other words, there is a 99.9999999% chance that the correlation between wealth disparity and race is not random). For Hispanics, the significance factor .067, meaning that there is a 6.7% chance that the relationship was due simply to chance. That is due to the substantial differences in the American Hispanic community (Cuban doctors in Florida vs Amerind fruit pickers in California).

Put ethnic groups with big differences in average IQ into the same area and the result will be widening differences in economic outcomes. This is the future our masters want for us. Why do they want it? Have they deceived themselves that they are so wise they could not possibly create such an outcome or do they do this for short term advantage while ignoring the longer term effects?

By Randall Parker 2006 April 04 08:42 PM  Immigration Politics
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2006 April 03 Monday
Some Senate Republicans Push For Illegal Immigrant Amnesty

Republican Senators Chuck Hagel and Mel Martinez want an amnesty for illegals who have been in the United States for at least 5 years.

Under the compromise proposal, still in the early stages, illegal immigrants who could produce pay stubs, billing records or other documentation showing they have lived and worked in the United States for five years would qualify for a work visa and an opportunity to apply for citizenship. They could stay in the country as they apply for a green card.

Those not meeting the requirements would have to return to their native countries. New measures in the larger immigration bill, such as a tamper-proof identification card and sanctions against employers who hire illegal immigrants, would convince recent illegal immigrants they have no choice but to comply, advocates of the compromise said.

I have a simple response to these jerks: The US Congress has had decades of opportunities to show that it will seriously enforce immigration laws and has failed to do so. The Congress has passed bills that purported to toughen immigration law enforcement and then proceeded to gut enforcement by pressuring agencies of the US government to hold back from doing vigorous enforcement. Any time the employer fines or round-ups of illegals began to scale up to a level that would make a difference Congressional committees applied pressure to gut the enforcement initiatives. See past posts from my Immigration Law Enforcement archives for descriptions of how Congress sabotages immigration law enforcement.

In a nutshell: Congress can't be trusted. Unless Congress does enforcement first any supposed compromise that purports to combine an amnesty with enforcement will inevitably become an amnesty only. When people like Martinez and Hagel try to tell us differently they are just flat out lying. I feel insulted by the brazenness of their lying.

Update: John O'Sullivan makes a very similar argument:

Responding to the pressure of corporate America and the White House for cheap labor and to demands from ethnic lobbies and labor unions for cheap recruits, senators now seem likely to insist that any such enforcement law must also amnesty the 12 million illegal immigrants already here and admit more legal immigrants by a "guest-worker" program and higher quotas for legal immigration.

In other words, the Senate will act on the following logic: In order to have fewer immigrants, we must admit more of them. In order to halt illegal immigration, we must legalize it. And in order to enforce the law, we must reward those who have broken it.

As Steve Sailer points out: Time to build a wall. We need a fence. A border barrier similar to the Israeli barrier with the West Bank would cost well under $10 billion dollars or less than 2 months costs of the war in Iraq. Or we could look at highway construction for construction costs for a wall. The materials that are used to build sound barriers along highways in populated areas would cost about $3.2 billion for a 5 meter high wall 2000 miles long (see my comment below the original post where I calculate out the numbers). There'd be additional costs for barbed wire, sensors, and additional fencing layers as well as an access road. But we could easily afford all this. It'd be similar scope to building an interstate highway along the border.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 03 08:55 PM  Immigration Politics
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Americans Driven Out Of Labor Force By Immigrants

The latest bad news report from the Center for Immigration Studies:

Looking first at all workers shows that between March 2000 and March 2005 only 9 percent of the net increase in jobs for adults (18 to 64) went to natives. This is striking because natives accounted for 61 percent of the net increase in the overall size of the 18 to 64 year old population.

• As for the less-educated, between March of 2000 and 2005 the number of adult immigrants (legal and illegal) with only a high school degree or less in the labor force increased by 1.6 million.

• At the same time, unemployment among less-educated adult natives increased by nearly one million, and the number of natives who left the labor force altogether increased by 1.5 million. Persons not in the labor force are neither working nor looking for work.

• In total, there are 11.6 million less-educated adult immigrants in the labor force, nearly half of whom are estimated to be illegal aliens.

• Of perhaps greatest concern, the percentage of adult natives without a high school degree who are in the labor force fell from 59 to 56 percent between March 2000 and 2005, and for adult natives with only a high school degree participation in the labor force fell from 78 to 75 percent.

• Had labor force participation remained the same, there would have been an additional 450,000 adult native dropouts and 1.4 million adult natives with only a high school degree in the labor force.

• Data collected since Hurricane Katrina, in January 2006, show no improvement in labor force participation for less-educated natives. It shows a modest improvement in unemployment only for adult native dropouts, but not for natives with only a high school degree.

• The decline in less-educated adult natives (18 to 64) in the labor market does not seem to be the result of more parents staying home with young children, increased college enrollment, or early retirement.

• There is some direct evidence that immigration has harmed less-educated natives; states with the largest increase in immigrants also saw larger declines in natives working; and in occupational categories that received the most new immigrants, native unemployment averages 10 percent.

• While most natives are more educated, and don’t face competition from less-educated immigrants, detailed analysis of 473 separate occupations shows that 17 million less-educated adult natives work in occupations with a high concentrations of immigrants.

• Some of the occupations most impacted by immigration include maids, construction laborers, dishwashers, janitors, painters, cabbies, grounds keepers, and meat/poultry workers. The overwhelming majority of workers in these occupations are native-born.

• The workers themselves are not the only thing to consider; nearly half of American children (under 18) are dependent on a less-educated worker, and 71 percent of children of the native-born working poor depend on a worker with a high school degree or less.

• Native-born teenagers (15 to 17) also saw their labor force participation fall — from 30 percent in 2000 to 24 percent in 2005.

• Wage data show little evidence of a labor shortage. Wage growth for less-educated natives has generally lagged behind wage increases for more educated workers.

Automation has reduced the demand for manual laborers and manual labor wages have declined as a result. International trade with countries which have very low wages has also decreased demand at the bottom. Given that the native workers with lower levels of intelligence and fewer skills already are taking it in the chin from these factors why pile on them and make their lives even harder by importing millions of low skilled laborers?

Some argue there are jobs Americans just won't do. But in the dwindling number of areas of America not yet hit by the Hispanic immigrant deluge Americans do collect trash, wash dishes, clean hotel rooms, dig ditches, and all the other jobs at the bottom. They already earn very low salaries. Why drive their salaries even lower?

Immigrants from relatively poorer countries find low US manual labor wages a step up from what they were paid in Mexico, Central America, and other less developed countries. But their children who grow up here will see US wages from a vantage point more like that of natives. So if they do not achieve at the level of American whites they are likely to feel some resentment and some sense that the system is not fair.

Some Open Borders advocates point at negative attitudes toward work found in some lower class Americans and justify use of immigrants as a way to avoid dealing with bad attitudes in America's lower classes. But the Open Borders advocates ought to ask themselves whether it is reasonable to expect the children and grandchildren of current immigrants to be immune to the influences which have shaped the descendants of previous generations of immigrants. Given that our current wave of immigrants is expanding the lower classes more rapidly than it expands the middle and upper classes we aren't just demoralizing the lower classes. We are making them a bigger fraction of society.

By Randall Parker 2006 April 03 08:49 PM  Immigration Societal Decay
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2006 April 02 Sunday
Benthamite Libertarian Collectivists Wrong On Open Borders

Many economists find the idea of Open Borders and the free movement of labor appealing in part because they see the influx of poor immigrants as leading to a net increase in total utility which English philosopher Jeremy Bentham described as "the greatest happiness principle". Like the 20th century socialists and communists who pursued collectivist goals these modern day free market collectivsts are promoting policies which will backfire and harm the interests of both natives of Western developed countries and the vast bulk of the poor people in the world. I'm going to argue a few points here:

  • Low IQ immigrants will inevitably lower the living standards of higher IQ natives by lowering incomes, raising taxes, increasing labor market distorting racial preferences, raising crime, and lowering the quality of government.
  • Low IQ immigrants pull higher IQ people away from creative design, engineering, and science work.
  • Therefore one result of an influx of lower IQ immigrants will be to slow the rate of technological advances. This will delay technological advances which are the only hope for that half of humanity that have IQs below 90.
  • One obvious piece of evidence for my argument can be seen from the incomes and occupations of higher IQ people in lower IQ countries. High IQ people earn less on average if they live in low IQ countries. This suggests they are less productive in low IQ countries.
  • Another obvious piece of evidence is found in the steepness of the slope of lines in charts of national per capita GDP versus IQ. The slopes of graphs of per capita GDP versus IQ are even getting steeper with time. The steeper the slope the wronger the Benthamites. Steeper slopes mean lower IQ people lower the productivity of higher IQ people.
  • Higher IQ people have rights too and their well being should not be sacrificed by altruistic collectivist Benthamites.

First off, some basic observations: Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen have observed in their book IQ and the Wealth Of Nations that per capita GDP is strongly correlated with national average IQ (and this is a link to Phil Rushton's review) (also see Steve Sailer's review). This shouldn't be surprising. Higher intellectual ability enables greater feats of engineering, science, management, cooperation, and problem solving.

Building on this idea La Griffe du Lion proposed his Smart Fraction Theory of IQ and the Wealth of Nations and further refined this theory in his Smart Fraction Theory II: Why Asians Lag. Well, look at table 7 of the latter link, which is a graph of per capita GDP versus mean verbal IQ. I argue that table 7 demonstrates why the Benthamite Libertarian Collectivists are wrong - even for achieving the goals they want to achieve. In a nutshell: the steeper the slope of that curve the less it makes sense to mix lower IQ populations with higher IQ populations. Why? Total output and the rate of technological advance will be slowed by mixing higher and lower IQ populations.

I do not share the collectivist goals of the Benthamites and think they are sacrificing my own best interests (and, might I add, the interests of the vast majority of the American people) in the pursuit of their collectivist Benthamite utilitarianism. But so bent are they on their goals that they, like socialists and communists of the 20th century, haven't stopped to notice that their preferred policy prescriptions are counter-productive for their own goals.

Think higher IQ people are better off in lower IQ countries? That's basically the argument that Jane Galt (Megan McArdle in real life) and Bryan Caplan would have you believe. First Caplan:

Suppose we have an isolated society in which everyone is a genius. Let's call them the Brains. Who takes out the garbage? A Brain, obviously. Who does the farming? Again, Brains.

Now what happens if the geniuses come into contact with a society where everyone is of average intelligence at best? Let's call them the Brawns. If the Brains allow the Brawns to join their society, the average genetic quality of the Brains' society plummets. But everyone is better off as a result! Now the Brains can specialize in jobs that require high intelligence, and the Brawns can take over the menial labor. Total production goes up.

Megan is persuaded by this argument.

Make sense? One problem: Show me a country with a low average IQ where 125 IQ computer programmers or electrical engineers make more money than they do in the United States or Japan or Germany. Anyone? Anyone? Show me the low IQ country where smart people earn so much that European and American corporations can't skim off the smart cream with first world job offers. In low IQ countries the smart fraction is not making so much money that they do no want to leave. Now, you can point to elites that own 95% of Mexico or Brazil who are fat and happy. But right below the capitalists who own those countries there is a small layer of smart people who can be hired away for less than the average American techie makes.

Another obvious problem with this argument: Dumber people create needs for services which can only be provided by smarter people. How? Lots of ways: Picture 100 million 90 IQ people added to the US population. Caplan would expect this to be a boon to all concerned. But those 100 million 90 IQ people would need medical doctors. Great, right? After all, more smart people will make the high wages of doctors. Well, not so fast.

The Panglossian view is that dumb people will create demand for services provided by high IQ people and therefore benefit high IQ people. Wrong. First, the 90 IQ people won't be able to afford the medical care provided the doctors, lab technicians, drug company manufacturing facility engineers, hospital administrators, and the many other smart people who provide modern medical care. So that care will be paid for by taxpayers with higher IQs. Second, those smarter people who will be paid to deliver services in the medical industry to lower IQ people will get pulled away from jobs doing more productive work such as designing new energy sources, new cars, new manufacturing equipment designs, and so on. Lots of smarter people will be moved into positions to provide services using existing technologies rather than work to develop newer and better technologies. Those so diverted would otherwise have worked to develop new products for other smarter people who, absent the low IQ influx, would have been taxed less and would have therefore had more after-tax income to buy new products and services.

Taxes reduce incentives to work in paying jobs. The taxes on smarter people levied to pay for the needs and problems of an increasing number of dumber people will reduce the incentives for smarter people to work in industry. Smarter people therefore will do more do-it-yourself work rather than hiring specialists and manual laborers. So the average productivity of smarter people will drop.

Another problem with lower manual labor costs due to the influx of large numbers of low IQ people comes from the incentives in businesses. The short term effect on a single industry of lower labor costs will be to lower production costs of products. Economists of course like lower costs. But lower labor costs also reduce the incentive to develop technology that will increase the productivity of capital. Only increases in knowledge and capital productivity can raise living stanards. As Socrates said in Plato's Republic long before Ben Franklin strode this Earth:

" A State, I said, arises, as I conceive, out of the needs of mankind". . ."let us begin and create in idea a State; and yet the true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention."

Cheap low IQ laborers reduce the necessity to develop new labor-saving technology. Why reduce the necessity to develop labor saving devices? This seems shortsighted folly. Steve Sailer points out how unionization drove up coal miner wages which gave coal mine owners incentives to develop technologies that automated much of a terrible job.

There used to be a huge number of coal miners and a huge number of fatalities, but United Mine Workers leader John L. Lewis led strikes to drive up wages so high that mine owners heavily mechanized the business. When warned that high wages would drive down the number of jobs, Lewis replied, good, it's a crummy job and if my guys make enough money to educate their kids won't have to work in the mines, we all win.

Why should anyone want to keep pulling in more low IQ people to keep wages down in lousy manual labor jobs?

Faced with more needs and demands from less bright populations governments will also shift money away from longer term goals such as medical research. The resources will get shifted toward shorter term goals such as the immediate provision of medical services and policing. So, for example, the United States government's budget for medical research is currently rising more slowly than the inflation rate while medical care spending by government is rising more rapidly than the inflation rate plus economic growth. This shifting of money pulls people away from research and development, thereby slowing the rate of advance of medicine and other fields.

The medical industry won't be the only set of occupations pulling in higher IQ people to deal with problems stemming from a growing portion of lower IQ people. The lower IQ commit crimes at much higher rates. So more people will get pulled into work as police (who pretty much need bachelor's degrees these days), detectives, prosecutors, judges, parole boards, prison administrators, and the like. Other occupations such as social workers will similarly experience a boom. So will teachers and school administrators (for a really lousy return on money spent I might add).

The myriad needs, demands, and costs generated by lower IQ people are one of the reason graphs of per capita GDP versus IQ are so steep. Lower IQ people create more problems for society. Resources spent dealing with those problems are resources diverted away from wealth creation and technological advance. Only technological advances and capital accumulation in the higher IQ countries can solve the problems of perpetual poverty and pathology in the lower IQ countries.

Take Caplan's argument to its logical conclusion. Imagine spreading the smartest people evenly across all the countries of the world. A smaller fraction of those smart people would manage to do science and engineering development. They'd live under governments that can't afford to fund much research. They'd spend time and money trying to avoid getting kidnapped. They'd spend more time defending themselves and their families against criminals. They'd find it harder to come into contact with other smarter people to collaborate.

For more on this issue see TangoMan's post on Jane Galt and Bryan Caplan's argument. In the discussion thread of that post I summarized my argument as follows: (this version has been slightly edited)

1) Lower income people do not earn enough money to pay for the work of smart people for medical care for example or for teachers or detectives or prosecutors. Smarter people have to pay taxes to fund smart people to provide services and otherwise deal with the dummies. Those taxes immediately lower living standards and also lead to decreases in the specialization of labor.

2) When the dummies flood in a larger number of existing smart people have to get shifted toward intellectually demanding occupations which provide services. Doctors are the primary example. Therefore fewer smart people are available to do engineering, scientific research, etc.

3) Smarter people in their own lives - regardless of whether they work in jobs that serve the dummies - have to exert more effort (e.g. hours spent commuting, money spent on private schools and time spent taking the kids to those schools) dealing with the consequences of having so many dummies around.

4) The lower cost of low IQ labor shifts smarter people toward managing that labor. People who spend time managing lots of cheap labor are people who are not spending time figuring out how to use capital to lower production costs.

5) Capital that costs slightly more to do a job than cheap imported labor can fall in cost in successive design generations. The initial higher cost is a temporary thing. Forcing the market to innovate to reduce the need for labor will raise living standards in the longer term.

In short, the Benthamite Libertarians are ignoring longer term effects and indirect effects of low IQ immigration. Their intellectually lazy happy-talk utopianism is doing real damage to both lower and higher IQ societies.

Update: Griffe has charted how a country which lets in a large low IQ population will decline.

"The slope of the line in Figure 2 is -0.7604, which gives us the Fourth Law. That is, each percentage point increase in the third-world immigrant population, will eventually cause the per capita GDP of a Western nation to drop by approximately 0.76 percent of its zero-immigrant value.

"As the third-world component of a Western nation builds, per capita GDP begins to drop. Ultimately, the Western nation will itself become part of the third world. Equation (5) traces its path to le tiers monde."

I do not want that future. Do you?

By Randall Parker 2006 April 02 01:17 AM  Immigration Economics
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