The poll found that 63% of all Britons had a favourable opinion of Muslims, down slightly from 67% in 2004, suggesting last year's London bombings did not trigger a significant rise in prejudice. Attitudes in Britain were more positive than in the US, Germany and Spain (where the popularity of Muslims has plummeted to 29%), and about the same as in France.
Less than a third of British non-Muslims said they viewed Muslims as violent, significantly fewer than non-Muslims in Spain (60%), Germany (52%), the US (45%) and France (41%).
By contrast, the poll found that British Muslims represented a "notable exception" in Europe, with far more negative views of westerners than Islamic minorities elsewhere on the continent. A significant majority viewed western populations as selfish, arrogant, greedy and immoral. Just over half said westerners were violent. While the overwhelming majority of European Muslims said westerners were respectful of women, fewer than half British Muslims agreed. Another startling result found that only 32% of Muslims in Britain had a favourable opinion of Jews, compared with 71% of French Muslims.
Across the board, Muslim attitudes in Britain more resembled public opinion in Islamic countries in the Middle East and Asia than elsewhere in Europe. And on the whole, British Muslims were more pessimistic than those in Germany, France and Spain about the feasibility of living in a modern society while remaining devout.
The Pew poll found that British Muslims are far more likely than their European counterparts to harbour conspiracy theories about the September 11 attacks. Only 17% believed that Arabs were involved, compared with 48% in France.
My theory to explain these results: If your society goes out of its way to show Muslims respect and approval then they will interpret this as appeasement by a timid and unconfident majority. They will respond by demanding more and telling each other they have every right to anger at the non-Muslims who are illegitimate as rulers.
By contrast, a society whose elites consider their own culture superior (and the French fit this bill) and who look down on other cultures sends a powerful message to Muslims: You are in a society that sees any demands you make for special treatment as illegitimate. To the extent that a society self confidently asserts the superiority of its values it provides itself some degree of protection from Muslim fundamentalists.
You can read the full Pew report: Islamic Extremism: Common Concern for Muslim and Western Publics.
There's an obvious lesson in the full report for pro-Open Borders Jews: The Muslims hate you. You really should oppose loose immigration laws that let Muslims move into Western countries.
Update: Also see The Great Divide: How Westerners and Muslims View Each Other.
Writing in The American Conservative, former US Army officer Joe W. Guthrie relates his experiences in a training team for the Iraqi Army.
Army doctrine and training have not accounted for a unit in combat having both to fight an insurgency and train indigenous peoples to assist in the fight. I started out as a one-man operation that grew into a cell of 60 people who rotated in for a week to a couple of months at a time. That infusion of manpower would seem to bolster the notion that Iraqi training was a priority. In reality, our leadership sent soldiers with suicidal tendencies, weight problems, and disillusionment. In a year’s time, we received only one visit from the battalion commander, only one visit from our battalion’s operations officer, and only one visit from the battalion executive officer.
This isolation set us up for failure with the Iraqis. Meetings with the Iraqi colonel in our partner Iraqi army battalion were conducted by a master sergeant and me, and almost always a problem arose in these meetings beyond our authority to control. When asked to meet with our Iraqi army colonel, our battalion commander refused.
He relays many examples of fraud in the Iraqi military and society.
The US military does not want the Iraqi military operating on its own.
From October 2004 to June 2005, the prevailing attitude of our battalion—including my own at first—was that the Iraqis were incapable of conducting operations independently. However, after speaking with locals and Iraqi army officers, I reached a different conclusion. The locals asked me why Iraqis were not doing more on missions. Iraqi officers told me that they conducted company-level operations on their own nearly a year prior to our arrival. Did our higher command know and simply not choose to use this information? Or was it a ploy to prolong a state of perpetual war?
I decided to test the theory. In March 2005, I began to send Iraqis out on missions into Mosul, usually unbeknownst to my battalion, and found them capable of conducting missions on their own except when they were hampered by our military values and horrible perception of the local area. When I sent Iraqis out alone, they found evidence and insurgents that we never were able to, though they were none too careful about complying with the Geneva Conventions. Once battalion discovered these missions, they quickly reeled them, and me, in. All Iraqi missions would thereafter be dictated by our U.S. battalion, and I would make sure that the Iraqis performed these missions in the exact manner in which they were dictated.
How can the US military tell the Iraqi military what to do? Simple really: The US military holds the purse strings that fund the Iraqi military.
Each month, along with our cell’s master sergeant, I handed a minimum payment of $100,000 to the Iraqi army battalion. $50,000 covered their monthly operational budget—facilities upgrades, maintenance parts, etc. The other $50,000 went toward the battalion’s subsistence budget, which allowed each soldier $90 a month for food. The problem was that the Iraqis said they had 556 soldiers, and we never counted more than 350 at any given time. Yet we were ordered to pay on the basis of the numbers they declared, with the remainder going directly into the Iraqi leadership’s pockets.The operational budget proved to be an even worse disaster. Each month we handed over $50,000, yet no money was ever spent on tools for the mechanics, no improvements were made to the buildings, no new vehicles were ever purchased. So why did we continue to give $50,000 each month? The Iraqi army officers would not perform for anything less. We were bribing them to keep up the appearance of a workable fighting force. Our receipts for these transactions were cleared back through the comptrollers who tracked what U.S. battalions were spending. When it was learned that we were spending $100,000 a month, we were told that we were not spending enough and were accused of not supporting the mission. The message was clear: the more money we gave the Iraqis, the greater chance of keeping the Iraqi unit together.
Of course the Iraqi officers are corrupt. Would you expect anything different? But, hey, why not use those cash payments more constructively? Hasn't the US military ever heard of Pay For Performance? Where are the McKinsey management consultants and other business consulting gurus when we need them? How about Management By Objective? What would it cost to pay Iraqi officers to, say, defeat the insurgency in Ramadi? But maybe Bush doesn't want to win on those terms or even to win at all?
$100,000 per batallion per month is chicken feed.Just for equipment the US will spend $17 billion next year.
The annual cost of replacing, repairing and upgrading Army equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to more than triple next year to more than $17 billion, according to Army documents obtained by the Associated Press.
Imagine offering Iraqi batallions money for achieving various objectives. A few hundred thousand dollars or even a couple million dollars per objective would cost little compared to the over $100 billion the US is now spending on Iraq and Afghanistan this year.
Guthrie suspects the Bush Administration does not want the Iraqi military to become effective and that the real plan is to establish permanent US bases there to control Middle Eastern oil. Could they be that foolish? It seems plausible at least. After all, they have made so many other colossal mistakes in handling Iraq.
For the cost of the Iraq Debacle we could buy every driver in the United States a Prius (really, do the math). We could fund construction of hundreds of nuclear power plants. We could insulate millions of buildings. We could fund large numbers of research labs pursuing breakthroughs in photovoltaics and batteries.
Click through and read the full article. It has lots of insights.
LOS ANGELES, June 26 -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reversed a decade of California policy on Monday, calling for the construction of at least two more prisons and the addition of thousands of beds in existing facilities to deal with what he called "dangerously overcrowded" prisons.
As California's Hispanic population continues to grow California will hit limits in its ability to finance prison expansion. Crime rates will rise as higher crime rate Hispanics grow as a percentage of the population. Races that commit crime at lower rates and that earn more and pay more in taxes will flee the state and California will lose them as tax revenue sources.
California's prisons are overcrowded.
California houses more than 171,000 inmates, including, Schwarzenegger said, 16,300 placed in prison gyms and day rooms, making it the most overcrowded prison system in the nation.
The governor noted that California's recidivism rate is 70 percent, the highest in the nation.
People who commit crimes again at such high rates should not get released from prisons.
California has about 36 million people. So the state prison system incarcerates about 475 people per 100,000. Note that the local prisons probably aren't counted in that number and Californians in federal prisons are also not counted.
More than 10% of California's prisoners are illegal aliens.
In addition to building more prisons, California is considering paying other states to house the thousands of illegal immigrants in its prisons, according to a statement from the governor's office. More than 10 percent of California's prison population is in the United States illegally.
If the United States built a wall on the entire US-Mexico border and started serious internal enforcement of immigration laws in the United States the Californa prison population would shrink and the crime rate would go down. Check out Steve Sailer's color-coded maps on crime rates by race across the United States.
As a sense of insecurity spreads, a rift is growing between the president and some of the foreign civilian and military establishments whose money and firepower have helped rebuild and defend the country for nearly five years. While the U.S. commitment to Karzai appears solid, several European governments are expressing serious concerns about his leadership.
"This is a crucial time, and there is frustration and finger-pointing on all sides," the official said. "President Karzai is the only alternative for this country, but if he attacks us, we can't help him project his vision. And if he goes down, we all go down with him."
My sense of listening to Karzai: he is not ruthless enough or Machiavellian enough to govern a place like Afghanistan. But are Western criticisms of Karzai correct? Maybe he needs to do more things that they find objectionable such as making more deals with leaders of criminal gangs or tribal leaders. The Euros and the US aren't going to provide a non-corrupt foreign police force. Maybe there's no way to give Afghanistan non-corrupt government because so few can resist the pressures of tribal family politics..
The Taliban have grown in power.
Hamida, 32, waited on a bench for alterations. She said she was visiting from Zabol province in the south. "My husband was a school principal, but the Taliban threatened to kill him, so he quit and now he is sitting at home," she said. "We women cannot leave our houses. The police come under attack at night, and we only see foreign soldiers once in a while. There is no one to protect us."
It's not clear whether any leader could have lived up to the expectations of Afghans and the world. But the accomplishments in Afghanistan have been considerable. Five years ago the Taliban ruled and al-Qaida leaders had a haven. Now the country has an elected president, an elected parliament, a constitution, a national army.
"It's a necessity to have Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan now," said parliament member Mohammad Mohaqiq, a former warlord who lost to Karzai in the 2004 presidential election. "There is no way except the way Hamid Karzai does things, by being soft toward powerful people. It's not the best way, but there's no other way."
Well, there is another way: Karzai could ruthlessly consolidate power by having rivals killed. Worked for Saddam Hussein.
Karzai is trapped between his need for support from both foreigners and powerful and ruthless natives.
Observers say Karzai has been trapped by bad advice and by the people around him. They complain about some of his allies, especially the man he reportedly backed for speaker of the lower house of parliament, a warlord accused of atrocities. They describe the president as increasingly isolated, master of the palace but not the country.
"Hamid Karzai is a good man," said Hamidullah Tokhi, a parliament member from southern Zabul province. "He doesn't hold grudges. He's kind to all Afghans. But there are some advisers who have circled Karzai and given him bad advice. They have almost taken Hamid Karzai hostage. He cannot do anything independently."
From the very beginning Karzai has been dependent on the support of foreigners and on compromises among Afghans. He still needs foreign troops and foreign-aid dollars. He still needs the support of former warlords.
Karzai's position in Afghanistan is a lot like the US's position in Iraq. He does not have enough resources and power and ability to behave ruthlessly to accomplish anything and so things get worse. Will he flee from Afghanistan before the US withdraws from Iraq?
The US had trouble enough trying to handle Afghanistan while hunting down Bin Laden. The invasion of Iraq shifting resources away from Afghanistan. Special forces and intelligence assets got shifted toward Iraq. Criminal gangs and the Taliban expanded into the power vacuum.
The Supreme Court endorsed a tough application of immigration law to certain longtime illegal immigrants, clearing the way for summary deportations of perhaps thousands who have been living in the United States for a decade or more.
By a vote of 8 to 1, the court ruled that the U.S. government properly sent Utah truck driver Humberto Fernandez-Vargas back to Mexico in 2004 because he returned to the U.S. illegally in 1982 after having been previously deported.
A new local court ruling in Arizona also makes immigration law enforcement easier. Maricopa County Arizona (encompasses Phoenix) Superior Court Judge Thomas O'Toole ruled that Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas's practice of prosecuting illegal immigrants for engaging in a conspiracy to violate US immigration laws is constitutional.
PHOENIX -- A judge upheld an Arizona law Friday that created the state crime of immigrant smuggling, rejecting arguments that it was an unconstitutional attempt by the state to regulate immigration.
The ruling was a victory for a prosecutor who has used the 9-month-old law to target not only smugglers but also their customers as conspirators to the crime.
The interpretation led to scores of prosecutions against immigrants in Maricopa County and drew a sharp response from immigrant advocates and the law's author, who said it was intended to apply only to smugglers.
He said state law makes it clear that when two or more people are involved in a plan to break the law, that constitutes a conspiracy.
The judge also said federal immigration laws do not pre-empt states from imposing their own regulations.
That part of the ruling has potential implications beyond the specific questions of the law in question. It also goes to the ongoing fight at the Capitol over whether the state has the power to enact various laws dealing with illegal entrants — and specifically whether it can punish companies that hire undocumented workers.
Following the legal advice of Maricopa County's tough on crime prosecutor Andrew Thomas, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio began arresting illegal immigrants under the new law and referring them for prosecution. Since the enforcement began, 272 illegal immigrants have been arrested and charged. Twenty-three illegal immigrants and one coyote have pled guilty, and will serve jail-time before being deported. With a felony on their record, they will have a slim chance at ever entering the U.S. legally or obtaining U.S. citizenship.
National and local level enforcement of immigration laws has the potential to send the illegals running back to their countries of origin.
Governor Mitt Romney is seeking an agreement with federal authorities that would allow Massachusetts state troopers to arrest undocumented immigrants for being in the country illegally.
If the proposal is approved, Massachusetts would join a handful of states and localities that have entered into such pacts since they were first authorized in 1996. That list includes Florida, Alabama, and a few counties in California and North Carolina, where a limited number of officers have been trained to enforce immigration laws.
The US Senate and President are out of step with the rest of the country on immigration.
It is hard to unseat a sitting member of Congress. Congressional representatives rarely lose in reelection attempts and even more rarely lose in primaries. But that might happen in Utah and if it does the public demand for tougher immigration policies will be the cause. If you are in the Utah district of House Representative Chris Cannon you can strike a blow for immigration control by voting for John Jacob and against Cannon in the primary on June 27, 2006.
The survey of 400 likely voters, conducted Monday through Thursday, found Eagle Mountain businessman Jacob and five-term congressman Cannon in a dead heat with 44 percent of voters favoring Cannon to 41 percent for Jacob, leaving enough voters on the fence to throw the race either way.
Among those who insist they are "definite" about turning out Tuesday to vote, Jacob holds a slight edge: 45 percent to 44 percent. And among voters in Utah County, the conservative heart of the district that stretches from Salt Lake County to Beaver County, the lead is even more pronounced, with Jacob at 45 percent to Cannon's 40 percent.
A defeat of Cannon would be a huge victory against George W. Bush's immigration amnesty plans and stiffen the spines of the House opponents of the Senate's plan to drastically increase immigration.
In the last poll, two weeks ago, Cannon had a 48-28 lead, but 25% said they are undecided.
Jacob has closed almost all that gap in a short period of time.
"There's no question (the national attention on immigration) helps me, and for the nation it's a one-issue race," Jacob said. "But for Utahns, there are many issues."
He listed education, energy, the Second Amendment and fighting pornography as issues that interest 3rd District voters, based on poll results, but illegal immigration led the list — with 25 percent saying it is the most important issue. And Jacob acknowledged the possible national fallout should he upset Cannon in the June 27 primary.
"There's no question this is bigger than Chris Cannon and John Jacob," Jacob said. "This race could go a long way toward determining whether we have illegal immigration and amnesty or whether we'll send (illegal immigrants) back or invite them to go back and secure our borders."
Congress critters who see opposition to border control and opposition to immigration law enforcement as political liabilities are Congress critters who are a lot more likely to listen to demands from constituents.
Joe Guzzardi says the American Immigration Lawyers Association are the big force behind Senate bill S.2611 (which would add 66+ million immigrants in 20 years) and he points to an AILA email claiming that immigration restrictionists overwhelmingly outnumber open borders folks in calls to Congress.
Restrictionists are flooding Congressional phone lines and email inboxes with angry demands that their Senators and Representatives vote against any legislation that provides a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Their calls for an enforcement-only immigration policy are louder and more aggressive than ever and there are 400 of them for every 1 call from us.
The 400 to 1 intensity of the opposition to comprehensive immigration reform is expected to crescendo into the November elections, making it a likely voting issue at the polls. We cannot stop fighting now. We cannot let the restrictionists hijack this national debate by painting the Senate compromise as amnesty. We cannot be silent while they scream.
If that intensity of support for immigration restriction tosses an open borders Republican Congressman out of office in the Utah primary then S.2611 will be dead.
WASHINGTON, DC—In sharp contrast to other professionals, physicians' net income from the practice of medicine declined about 7 percent between 1995 and 2003 after adjusting for inflation, according to a national study released today by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC).
"The downward trend in real incomes since the mid-1990s likely is an important driver of growing physician unwillingness to provide such pro bono work as charity care and serving on hospital committees," said Paul B. Ginsburg, Ph.D., coauthor of the study and president of HSC, a nonpartisan policy research organization funded principally by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The decline in physicians' real income stands in sharp contrast to the wage trends for other professionals who saw about a 7 percent increase between 1995 and 2003 after adjusting for inflation, the study found.
Among different types of physicians, primary care physicians fared the worst with a 10.2 percent decline in real income between 1995 and 2003, while surgeons' real income declined by 8.2 percent. But medical specialists' real income essentially remained unchanged.
Actually, the specialists saw a decline of 2.1% according the full report linked below.
Despite the downward trend in real incomes, medicine overall remains one of the most well-paid professions in the United States: At least half of all patient care physicians earned more than $170,000 in 2003, and physician average net income was about $203,000, the study found. Although surgical specialists have lost ground to inflation since the mid-1990s, they remain the highest earning of all physicians, with average incomes of $272,000 in 2003—29 percent higher than medical specialists and 86 percent higher than primary care physicians.
Physicians work long hours. But how many weeks do they take off per year? Or how many hours do they work totally per year? I want to calculate their hourly income. Hard to do without that information.
This result is inconvenient for socialists. Doctors aren't the big beneficiaries of increases in medical spending.
From the body of the report (which, btw, has some neat graphs and tables worth looking at):
Flat or declining fees from both public and private payers appear to be a major factor underlying declining or stagnating real incomes for physicians. Medicare payment rate increases for physician services amounted to 13 percent from 1995 to 2003,4 lagging substantially behind inflation, which totaled 21 percent during this eight-year period.
While Medicare fees have declined in real terms since the mid-1990s, the trend for private insurer payments to physicians has lagged even more: In 1995, commercial fees were 1.43 times Medicare fees on average; by 2003 this fee ratio had fallen to 1.23.5 And Medicaid fees have always been much lower than Medicare fees, so despite the fact that Medicaid payment rates rose relative to Medicare and grew faster than inflation from 1998 to 2003, increased Medicaid fees would not have been enough to produce substantial income gains for most physicians.6 One likely exception would be primary care physicians with substantial Medicaid patient panels, especially those practicing in states—such as New York and South Carolina—that started with low Medicaid fee levels and increased them the most aggressively.
In the report's figure 1 they show "Professional/Technical Workers" gaining 6.9% in income from 1995 to 2003. So the decline in income for physicians is even more dramatic when compared to incomes of other knowledge workers.
Total medical spending in inflation-adjusted dollars is growing quite rapidly. But that money is not going toward higher physician incomes. At the same time, US federal, state, and local governments are shifting the costs of the uninsured onto the backs of the insured. Physicians are less inclined to treat people for free because they have to do more paying treatments to make up for lower payments per treatment.
The medically uninsured portion of the population is rising. The biggest cause of this trend is the importation of large numbers of low skilled Hispanics. Hispanics are medically uninsured at two and a half times the rate of whites. You pay for this in two ways: more in taxes to fund government health care programs and more for medical insuranance to pay for the cost-shifiting that governments force on hospitals.
The New York Times reports that many doctors are trying to make their services more customer friendly - it is a about time!
Professional societies for family doctors and internists are urging their members to break with tradition by making it easier to schedule appointments — or even making appointments unnecessary in the case of walk-in patients who need immediate attention.
"It's a big trend," said Amanda Denning, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Family Physicians, which has about 94,000 members.
The academy is spending $8 million on consultants who visit doctors nationwide to suggest improvements in patient care. The advice is meant to "keep them from going to an in-store clinic," Ms. Denning said, while also benefiting doctors by making office procedures more efficient.
The rise in co-pay requirements in medical plans has people looking harder for cheap physicians.
According to various polls, cost is a high priority for most patients. "People will change physicians for differentials of $10 or $15 in a co-pay," said Dr. Anne B. Francis, a pediatrician in Rochester and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
But convenience also ranks high. That is one reason about 20,000 of the 59,000 actively practicing members of the American Academy of Family Physicians now use electronic health records. Being highly computerized can let doctors offer Web-based scheduling that enables patients to book their own appointments.
The decline in physician income does not appear to be due to a drop in demand. A new report by the CDC National Center for Health Statistics finds that in a 10 year period ending in 2004 the frequency of visits to physicians increased by 19% per person.
Americans made more than 1.1 billion visits a year to doctors' offices and hospital emergency and outpatient departments in 2004, up by 31% in the last 10 years. A portion of this increase is due to an 11% rise in population during that period. This was accompanied by a 19% increase in utilization per person. The increase in the visit rate per person among persons 65 years and over (26%) was higher than among persons under age 65 years (16%).
That averages out to 3.8 visits per person.
This article has some neat charts at the bottom. Suggest you click thru and give them a look. Note that visits for diabetes are the biggest increase with 117% more visits. This could be due to more treatment options and an aging population increasing the incidence of type II age-associated insulin resistant diabetes. Also, visits for spinal cord problems are up 94%. How come?
People wait over three quarters of an hour on average in emergency rooms. This is the result of the uninsured going to emergency rooms for care. The wait times amount to rationing by queue line length.
There was no change in the average time a patient spent face-to-face with a physician in office settings (Figure 4). The amount of time a patient waited before seeing a physician in the emergency department increased from 38.0 minutes in 1997 (first year collected) to 47.4 minutes in 2004.
How much of the increase in visits to doctor's offices is due to an aging population? How much is due to rising affluence? How much due to increased numbers of treatments available? Oh, and how much due to more plastic surgery and other treatments that enhance appearances?
INDIANAPOLIS -- Middle-class neighborhoods, long regarded as incubators for the American dream, are losing ground in cities across the country, shrinking at more than twice the rate of the middle class itself.
In their place, poor and rich neighborhoods are both on the rise, as cities and suburbs have become increasingly segregated by income, according to a Brookings Institution study released Thursday. It found that as a share of all urban and suburban neighborhoods, middle-income neighborhoods in the nation's 100 largest metro areas have declined from 58 percent in 1970 to 41 percent in 2000.
We have less and less in common.
The analysis attributed the shrinking number of middle-income communities to, among other factors, gentrification of more marginal neighborhoods and a bunching of high-income families in more homogenous surroundings.
"It sounds like it's a function of changing income distribution," said John H. Mollenkopf, director of the Center for Urban Research at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. "What happened between 1990 and 2000 in metropolitan New York and especially New York City was that the number of really high-income households went up, and low-income went up and the middle shrank."
"What looks like a shrinking middle is partly an upgrading of income," he added.
The hollowing out was most pronounced in Manhattan, where 51 percent of neighborhoods were identified as high-income, 40 percent as low-income and only 8 percent as middle-income. Long Island ranked second only to Scranton with the highest proportion, 65 percent, of middle-income neighborhoods of any metropolitan areas in the nation.
People are more likely to live in homogeneous neighborhoods. All this talk about diversity is just babbling. People are living near people more like themselves.
This sorting of society by class reminds me of The Bell Curve book's observations about cognitive sorting. The Brookings writers observe that neighborhoods are becoming less middle class even more rapidly than the middle class is shrinking. This is a very important observation.
Although middle-income families have declined considerably as a share of the overall family income distribution, it is noteworthy that middle-class neighborhoods have disappeared even faster in metropolitan areas, especially in cities. This trend suggests increased sorting of high- and low-income families into neighborhoods that reflect their own economic profiles, and increased vulnerability of middle-class neighborhoods "tipping" towards higher- or lower-income status. The resulting disparities among neighborhoods create new challenges for policies to enhance household mobility, improve the delivery of key public services, and promote private-sector investment in struggling locales.
The increase on racial heterogeneity of the United States is contributing to the shrinking of the portion that is middle class. Instead of a single bell curve of abilities with a center representing the majority we now have an increasing number of separate bell curves by racial and ethnic groups with each curve for number of people on the y axis peaking at a different point for IQ on the x axis.
Also the differences between the races contributes to a flight into neighborhoods of more economically similar residents as people react to not just cognitive but racial differences between themselves and people of other economic classes. America is becoming less and less like Mayberry RFD.
Update: An article in The Economist about income trends paints a bleak picture. While most Americans still believe that poor people can strike it big the rising tide in productivity growth no longer lifts the salaries of most workers.
Eight out of ten, more than anywhere else, believe that though you may start poor, if you work hard, you can make pots of money. It is a central part of the American Dream.
The political consensus, therefore, has sought to pursue economic growth rather than the redistribution of income, in keeping with John Kennedy's adage that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” The tide has been rising fast recently. Thanks to a jump in productivity growth after 1995, America's economy has outpaced other rich countries' for a decade. Its workers now produce over 30% more each hour they work than ten years ago. In the late 1990s everybody shared in this boom. Though incomes were rising fastest at the top, all workers' wages far outpaced inflation.
But after 2000 something changed. The pace of productivity growth has been rising again, but now it seems to be lifting fewer boats. After you adjust for inflation, the wages of the typical American worker—the one at the very middle of the income distribution—have risen less than 1% since 2000. In the previous five years, they rose over 6%. If you take into account the value of employee benefits, such as health care, the contrast is a little less stark. But, whatever the measure, it seems clear that only the most skilled workers have seen their pay packets swell much in the current economic expansion. The fruits of productivity gains have been skewed towards the highest earners, and towards companies, whose profits have reached record levels as a share of GDP.
Lots of Americans have noticed their stagnant incomes and are not happy about it.
According to the latest Gallup survey, fewer than four out of ten think it is in “excellent” or “good” shape, compared with almost seven out of ten when George Bush took office.
More of wealth comes from paid work as compared to almost a century ago.
In 1916 the richest 1% got only a fifth of their income from paid work, whereas the figure in 2004 was over 60%.
But I wonder how much of this trend is due to CEOs getting paid well by boards of directors who they chose.
The federal minimum wage has been $5.15 an hour since 1997. On a procedural measure Wednesday, senators voted 52 to 46 in favor of raising the wage to $7.25 in three steps, but 60 votes were needed to move the legislation forward.
By historical standards the inflation-adjusted minimum wage is very low.
The federal minimum wage is the lowest it has been in more than 50 years relative to the cost of living, according to a study by the liberal Economic Policy Institute. The average full-time minimum wage worker earns $10,712 a year, about $900 more than the federal poverty level for one person and $2,500 less than the poverty level for a couple.
In inflation-adjusted terms the minimum wage peaked in 1968 at $9.12 per hour in 2005 dollars. Check out the chart at that link. Note that once upon a time the minimum wage trended upward. Then it peaked and incomes for those at the bottom have been trending downward for decades in spite of big advances in labor productivity. A rising tide does not lift all boats.
But whether the fortunes of these 8 million Americans, earning less than $7.25 an hour, would rise or falter under the first government-ordered wage hike in 10 years is the broader debate spreading from restaurant kitchens on Capitol Hill to the grocery store aisles of Atlanta.
Some 48 percent, or 3.5 million, are between 25 and 64 years old who, on average, contribute more than half of the income in their households, experts say. Raising the minimum wage is a $18.4 billion proposition that is supported by 83 percent of Americans, according to the Pew Center for the People and the Press.
Of Americans making less than $7.25 an hour, half are over 24 years old, and about half are primary household earners. Sixty-two percent are white, 16 percent are black, and 17 percent are Hispanic. Nearly twice as many are women than men.
Check out these pie charts on who make the minimum wage. Only 30% of them are teenagers.
An April survey by the Pew Research Center shows 83 percent of the public favors raising the minimum wage by $2. That figure includes 72 percent of Republicans, and 76 percent of people with household incomes of $75,000 or higher.
If we stopped the influx of low skilled Hispanics then salaries would rise at the bottom. Businesses would respond by investing more in labor-saving technologies and the rate of increase in productivity would rise.
Clinton Administration era secretary of defense William Perry and assistant secretary of defense Ashton Carter say attack and destroy North Korea's Taepodong missile which is getting prepped for a test launch.
Should the United States allow a country openly hostile to it and armed with nuclear weapons to perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons to U.S. soil? We believe not. The Bush administration has unwisely ballyhooed the doctrine of "preemption," which all previous presidents have sustained as an option rather than a dogma. It has applied the doctrine to Iraq, where the intelligence pointed to a threat from weapons of mass destruction that was much smaller than the risk North Korea poses. (The actual threat from Saddam Hussein was, we now know, even smaller than believed at the time of the invasion.) But intervening before mortal threats to U.S. security can develop is surely a prudent policy.
Therefore, if North Korea persists in its launch preparations, the United States should immediately make clear its intention to strike and destroy the North Korean Taepodong missile before it can be launched. This could be accomplished, for example, by a cruise missile launched from a submarine carrying a high-explosive warhead. The blast would be similar to the one that killed terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. But the effect on the Taepodong would be devastating. The multi-story, thin-skinned missile filled with high-energy fuel is itself explosive -- the U.S. airstrike would puncture the missile and probably cause it to explode. The carefully engineered test bed for North Korea's nascent nuclear missile force would be destroyed, and its attempt to retrogress to Cold War threats thwarted. There would be no damage to North Korea outside the immediate vicinity of the missile gantry.
I think the case for North Korea as a potential threat to the United States is and was much stronger than the case was for Iraq before the war. But Iraq is much closer to Israel and Saddam was seen by the neocons as an enemy of Israel. My guess is that Iran is at much greater risk of a strike by the Bush Administration than is North Korea.
The continuing Iraq Debacle is a distraction from the battle against Islamic terrorists. It is also a distraction from efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation.
Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post goes over a recent Pew poll on George W. Bush approval ratings and finds interesting facts about the decline of approval among elements of the Republican base.
The president's job-approval rating has dropped in every region of the country, level of income, education level, and age group, but the slippage is particularly pronounced among self-identified moderate Republicans. Eighty-one percent of this group gave the president positive marks in December, while just 56 percent did the same in May -- a precipitous 25-point decline that outpaced the 20-point drop (89 percent in December '04, 69 percent now) among Republicans overall.
The numbers are less stark when it comes to President Bush's conservative base, but perhaps even more worrisome for Republicans hoping to hold the House and Senate in the fall. The president's job approval among self-identifying conservatives has slipped from 93 percent in December 2004 to 78 percent in May. But Courtney Kennedy and Michael Dimock, authors of Pew's own analysis, pointed out that the smaller dropoff is somewhat misleading.
"There are far more conservatives than moderates in the GOP; as many as two-thirds of Republicans identify themselves as conservatives," the duo wrote. "Translated into real numbers, just as many conservative Republicans as moderate and liberal Republicans have grown frustrated with the president's leadership over the past year and a half."
As evidence of the erosion in what has long been considered Bush's base, take a look at his job-approval numbers among white evangelical protestants. In December 2004, 77 percent of this voting bloc approved of how the president was handling his job; the numbers was down to just 55 percent in May. Among Southern voters, Bush's job approval has dropped twenty points (56 percent in December 2004, 36 percent in May 2006); among those who attend church weekly or more often it has slipped 17 (58 percent to 41 percent.)
The drop in approval among white evangelical protestants has been greater than the drop among self-identified conservatives. I suspect a substantial portion of the latter support Bush because the liberals are highly critical of Bush.
President George W. Bush's job approval rating is at 37 percent, up 1 percentage point, in a NBC News and the Wall Street Journal poll taken after the death of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the formation of a new government in Iraq.
The new government in Iraq might be able to bribe some Sunnis into switching into an alliance with the government. It all might depend on how much oil money Ahmad Chalabi makes available for bribery of Sunni tribes. Perhaps Bush ought to send some of Chalabi's old neocon friends to Iraq to try to find ways to get Chalabi to funnel oil money toward bribing Sunnis.
But the president last week decided to keep Iraq on the front pages by convening a meeting of his senior intelligence and military advisers at Camp David and then sneaking out of the presidential retreat for a secret trip to Baghdad. To make sure the press stayed on Iraq, he invited reporters to the Rose Garden to fire questions at him -- all but a few were on the war.
The gambit paid off. A USA Today-Gallup poll taken from June 9 to 11 found that 48 percent of Americans think the U.S. will probably or definitely win the Iraq war, up from 39 percent in April. The poll showed Mr. Bush's approval rating at 38 percent, up from 31 percent in May.
I do not see how his bounce from the Zarqawi killing can last. Where in Iraq can the US military achieve some goal that would provide opportunity for Bush's people to spin it as a great success? Here's a long shot: The Bush White House could build up the images of some other insurgency leaders as the new bad guys. Then those leaders could be hunted down and killed with a benefit in the sphere of domestic US public approval.
A successful terrorist attack in the United States is the only scenario I can see that would substantially reverse Bush's approval ratings. People rally around their leaders when they feel threatened. So Bush would get a really big bounce from a terrorist attack.
The news from Iraq will remain bad overall. If you want to understand what is really happening in Iraq then the transcript of a recent US embassy cable from Baghdad is a great place to start. Also see my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq. Given that Iraq's insurgency can't be subdued with a small military force the continuing bad news will eventually make the Zarqawi killing fade in the public's memory (along with Saddam's capture and the killings of Saddam's sons) and the bad news will drive down Bush's approval ratings once again.
Over the last two years, Iraqi political values have become more secular and nationalistic, even though attitudes toward Americans have deteriorated, according to surveys of nationally representative samples of the population conducted in November 2004 and April 2006.
The Iraqi surveys, part of the ongoing World Values Surveys, are a collaborative project between the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and Eastern Michigan University.
The percentage of Iraqis who said they would not want to have Americans as neighbors rose from 87 percent in 2004 to 90 percent in 2006. When asked what they thought were the three main reasons why the United States invaded Iraq, 76 percent gave "to control Iraqi oil" as their first choice.
They do not like us. So why should our soldiers die for them?
Support for separation of religion and government has risen. But in elections Iraqis overwhelmingly vote for religious parties.
But at the same time, significantly more Iraqis support democratic values, including the separation of religion and politics.
In 2004, 27 percent of the 2,325 Iraqi adults surveyed strongly agreed that Iraq would be a better place if religion and politics were separated. In 2006, 41 percent of 2,701 adults surveyed strongly agreed.
The increase in those who see themselves as Muslims rather than Sunnis or Shias still leaves only a small percentage who see themselves that way.
In one indication of a possible lessening of sectarian conflict, the proportion of Iraqis who identified themselves as Muslim Arabs rather than as Shi'a or Sunni Arabs increased from 6 percent in 2004 to 14 percent in 2006.
The percentage of those surveyed who agreed with the statement "I am an Iraqi above all" rose from 23 percent in 2004 to 28 percent in 2006 in the country as a whole, from 23 percent to 33 percent in urban areas, and from 30 percent to 62 percent among Baghdad residents.
Maybe the Kurds and Sunnis will form an alliance against the majority Shiites and the Shia death squads will increase the perception among Sunni Arabs that they need to make common cause with the Kurds for mutual protection and better leverage.
Despite increased political violence between the Shi'as and the Sunnis, the researchers found no significant change in the overall level of inter-ethnic trust among Iraqis. While trust between the Shi'as and the Sunnis declined, trust between the Sunnis and the Kurds increased between 2004 and 2006.
Along with an increase in xenophobia, the survey found a growing sense of powerlessness, pessimism about the future and insecurity. Among Iraqis as a whole, 59 percent of those surveyed in 2006 strongly agreed with the following statement: "In Iraq these days life is unpredictable and dangerous." That compares to 46 percent who strongly agreed in 2004.
"This change varied among ethnic groups, with the biggest change among Kurds," Moaddel said. "Only 17 percent strongly agreed that life was unpredictable and dangerous in 2004, but 54 percent strongly agreed in 2006."
This change was from 41 percent to 48 percent among Shi'as, 77 percent to 84 percent among Sunnis and 67 percent to 79 percent among Muslims.
My guess is that if the United States pulled out then the Shia and Sunni Arabs would shift more toward seeing themselves primarily as Shias and Sunnis.
Update: We should ask the Iraqi government to hold a referendum on whether our troops should stay. Then we could leave in responses to the popular will of the democracy lovers of Iraq.
Japan will withdraw its 600 troops from Iraq because they have succeeded in their mission, Junichiro Koizumi, Japan's prime minister, has announced.
The mission, which helped reconstruct the relatively peaceful area around the southern city of Samawa, is the first of its kind since the end of Second World War, when America forced Japan to renounce war.
The number of countries contributing troops to Iraq keeps dropping.
Japan deployed about 600 troops to Iraq in January 2004, but because of the country's pacifist constitution they were prevented from taking a combat role. As a result, the contingent was stationed in an isolated camp on the outskirts of the southern city of Samawah where, protected first by Dutch and then Australian troops, they rebuilt roads and schools.
The prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, said Japanese troops would end their humanitarian mission in Samawa, southern Iraq, as soon as British and Australian troops in the area handed over responsibility for security to Iraqi forces.
If the Iraqis do not want to fight their own insurgents why should we?
WASHINGTON -- In a move that could sound the death knell for immigration-reform legislation in Congress this year, House Republican leaders said Tuesday they plan to hold numerous hearings on the issue this summer and only then start talks with the Senate that might lead to a final bill.
The delay raises the likelihood that Congress will end the year without passing major immigration legislation that President Bush has supported. That would be a signal defeat for the president, who has urged Congress to approve comprehensive legislation along the lines of the Senate-passed bill, which included a path to citizenship for many of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. and the creation of a guest-worker program.
A defeat for Bush on immigration would be a great victory for the American people.
House leaders insisted Tuesday that they still hope to negotiate with the Senate. But the schedule for the hearings, set for July and August, make it unlikely that the two chambers can reach a final agreement before the November elections. When Congress reconvenes in September, most lawmakers will be preoccupied with their campaigns; traditionally, little important business is done at that point.
Failure to produce a bill would be a huge setback for Bush, who has prodded lawmakers to pass immigration legislation that -- like the Senate legislation -- would toughen border enforcement but also create a guest worker program and offer millions of illegal immigrants a way to gain legal status.
Democrats on Tuesday interpreted the House decision to hold town-hall style meetings as an effort to stop the Senate legislation altogether.
"The Republican House wants to defeat the immigration bill," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "This is a stall."
House Republicans want to barnstorm the country to pick apart the moderate Senate plan that Bush supports.
Letting in 66+ million people in just 20 years, substantially increasing welfare costs, and radically altering the political make-up of the United States is moderate? The mainstream media does not hesitate to lie repeatedly about immigration.
Not only does immigration increase the welfare state it also makes the welfare state even less beneficial per dollar spent. The amount of money spent on benefits for non-citizen elderly is growing rapidly. Why should Americans pay retirement benefits for foreigners?
ouse leaders and senior staff members said the hearings will be aimed specifically at eliciting public reaction to the Senate bill, which emerged from legislation originally proposed by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. Committee chairmen will also use the forums to reinforce House Republicans' call for strong border security, said Bonjean.
``We want to have a very clear idea of what is in the Senate bill and what people think of some of the provisions in the Senate bill,'' said House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. Asked if he realistically believes that Congress can pass a bill before the November elections, Boehner replied, ``Maybe.''
The vast bulk of calls to Congress critters are against an increase in immigration and against the current high levels of legal and illegal immigration. So if Congress members go around holding hearings they are going to hear great anger at Congress's failure to crack down. Taking the time to shine a lot of light on the Senate S.2611 CIRA bill will work against the provisions in that bill. The public will oppose amnesty and a large increase in legal immigration combined with an increase in illegal immigration as well.
To understand why a so-called "guest" worker program will not decrease illegal immigration see my post Thinking About Bush's Less Than Half-Baked Worker Permit Proposal.
Writing for the Washington Post Anthony Shahid finds increased Jihadist sentiments in Lebanon.
Men like Shaaban, of the Islamic Unity Movement, praise the insurgency in Iraq but deny any hand in subversion. At the same time, the growing reach of their groups in the poor neighborhoods of Tripoli -- through newspapers, radio stations, mosques and social welfare, the bread and butter of Islamic groups -- has gone far in transforming a predominantly Sunni city that was traditionally home to a vibrant mix of Arab nationalism and leftist and Islamic politics.
Even longtime residents are struck by the shift in social mores over the past few years: the proliferation of women's veils and men's beards, the flourishing of religion classes and the number of youths joining groups such as Shaaban's. On balconies, interspersed among flags for residents' favorite World Cup soccer teams, are black banners with religious inscriptions usually associated with holy war. In squares of Tripoli, particularly its most religious neighborhoods such as Abu Samra, civic art is often a stark representation of God's name.
It is worth noting that the 9/11 attacks also fed the growth of militant Jihadist Islam. Many Muslims feel emboldened when some of their own hit their enemies hard.
Grievances against the United States are nothing new in a city like Tripoli. For a generation, activists across the spectrum have bitterly criticized U.S. policy. What has shifted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the U.S. invasion of Iraq is the perception of that policy. The critique is no longer about perceived double standards -- of excessive support for Israel, of backing Arab dictatorships. Today, it is more generalized, universal and uncompromising. Popular sentiment here and elsewhere holds that U.S. policy amounts to a war on Islam, and in the language of Abu Haritha and others, the conflict is framed as one between the faithful and infidels, justice and injustice.
"The targeting of Iraq can be considered the first step in targeting the entire Middle East to impose a new order in the region," said Fathi Yakan, a founder of the Islamic Association and head of an umbrella group known as the Islamic Action Forces.
What is the biggest downside of the US invasion of Iraq? Probably that we seem inefficacious against the Muslim insurgents and this emboldens Muslims to support Jihad and terrorism.
Fighters like Abu Haritha and activists like Shaaban and Yakan speak in almost mythical tones about what they call the resistance in Iraq. In nearly every conversation, they make the assertion that the United States has, at this point, lost the war.
"We already consider it a success. It has already led to the failure of the American project in Iraq," Yakan said with a shrug that suggested the obvious. "I think the Americans realize that, and they are looking for an exit to wash their hands of it."
If the US is going to use force somewhere it really should be overwhelming. It hurts us to use force incompetently as Jorge W. Bush has done.
The irony here is that the Bush Administration might by accident accomplish something that some Arabs see as a clever Machiavellian design: to increase sectarian conflict and hatred between Shias and Sunnis in order to pit Muslims against each other and weaken Musliims politically.
Some see an American hand in Iraq's entropy; in their analysis, the United States and Israel are fanning the flames of sectarianism as a way to further divide the Arab world and create a region even more balkanized than today's. Others see a more deep-seated hostility in U.S. actions, a scorched-earth campaign to hasten an apocalyptic battle or, in Salih's words, the "politics of chaos."
"America is with the Shiites in Iraq and against the Shiites in Lebanon, with the Sunnis in Lebanon and against the Sunnis in Iraq and Palestine. It is against the Shiites in Iran. Where is America?" Shaaban asked. "It needs Einstein to resolve it."
My guess is the increase in hostilty toward the United States due to the Iraq invasion outweighs the increase in hostility between Shias and Sunnis. But if the US pursued a break-up of Iraq into Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and Shia Arab nations the US might be able to exit Iraq in a way that will cause the Jihadis to see the US intervention as a success for the US.
The Washington Post got hold of a cable sent by US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad to Washington describing how bad things are getting in Baghdad. It is a PDF image file which I've partially (now fully) transcribed below:
This cable, marked "sensitive" and obtained by The Washington Post, outlines in spare prose the daily-worsening conditions for those who live outside the heavily guarded international zone: harassment, threats and the employees' constant fears that their neighbors will discover they work for the U.S. government.
Oops. We aren't supposed to know what our government knows. Our rulers know what is best for us. Show proper deference and your faith and refrain from reading the forbidden knowledge.
Here is the first quarter of the document:
R 121430Z 06
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 5042
INFO IRAQ COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS BAGHDAD 001992
E.O. 122956: N/A
TAGS: PHUM, PREL, ASEC, AMGT, IZ
SUBJECT: Snapshots from the Office: Public
Affairs Staff Show Strains of Social Discord
1. (SBU) Beginning in March, and picking up in mid-May, Iraqi staff in the Public Affairs section have complained that Islamist and/or militia groups have been negatively affecting their daily routine. Harassment over proper dress and habits has been increasingly pervasive. They also report that power cuts and fuel prices have diminished their quality of life. Conditions vary by neighborhood, but even upscale neighborhoods such as Mansur have visibly deteriorated.
2. (SBU) The Public Affairs Office has 9 local Iraqi employees. Two of our female employees report stepped up harassment beginning in mid-May. One, a Shiite who favors Western clothing, was advised by an unknown woman in her upscale Shiite/Christian Baghdad neighborhood to wear a veil and not to drive her own car. Indeed, she said, some groups are pushing women to cover even their faces, a step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative.
3. (SBU) Another, a Sunni, said that people in her middle-class neighborhood are harassing women and telling them to cover up and stop using cell phones (suspected channel to licentious relationships with men). She said that the taxi driver who brings her every day to the green zone checkpoint has told her he cannot let her ride unless she wears a headcover. A female in the PAS cultural section is now wearing a full abaya after receiving direct threats in May. She says her neighborhood, Adhamiya, is no longer permissive if she is not clad so modestly.
4. (SBU) These women say they cannot identify the groups that are pressuring them; many times, the cautions come from other women, sometimes from men who they say could be Sunni or Shiite, but appear conservative.They also tell us that some ministries, notably the Sadrist controlled Ministry of Transportation, have been forcing females to wear the hijab at work.
Dress Code for All?
5. (SBU) Staff members have reported that it is now dangerous for men to wear shorts in public; they no longer allow their children to play outside in shorts. People who wear jeans in public have come under attack from what staff members describe as Wahabis and Sadrists.
By noon Sunday I will transcribe the rest of this document image and do updates to this post with the rest of it.
Thanks to Greg Cochran for the heads-up.
Update: This first update takes us through the second third of the document.
6. (SBU) One colleague beseeched us to weigh in to help a neighbor who was uprooted in May from her home of 30 years, on the pretense of application of some long-disused law that allows owners to evict tenants after 14 years. The woman, who is a Fayli Kurd, says she has nowhere to go, no other home, but the courts give them no recourse to this assertion of power. Such uprootings may be a response by new Shiite government authorities to similar actions against Arabs by Kurds in other parts of Iraq. (NOTE: An Arab newspaper editor told us he is preparing an extensive survey of ethnic cleansing, which he said is taking place in almost every Iraqi province, as political parties and their militias are seemingly engaged in tit-for-tat reprisals all over Iraq. One editor told us that the KDP is now planning to set up tent cities in Irbil, to house Kurds being evicted from Baghdad.)
Power Cuts and Fuel Shortages
a Drain on Society
7. Temperatures in Baghdad have already reached 115 degrees. Employees all confirm that by the last week of May, they were getting one hour of power for every six hours without. That was only about four hours of power a day for the city. By early June, the situation had improved slightly. In Hai al Shaab, power has recently improved from one in six to one in three hours. Other staff report similar variances. Central Baghdad neighborhood Bab al Mu'atham has had no city power for over a month. Areas near hospitals, political party headquarters, and the green zone have the best supply, in some cases reaching 24 hours. One staff member reported that a friend lives in a building that houses a new minister; within 24 hours of his appointment, her building had city power 24 hours a day.
8. (SBU) All employees supplement city power with service contracted with neighborhood generator hookups that they pay for monthly. One employee pays 6500 ID per ampere to get 10 amperes per month (75,000 ID = USD 50/month). For this, her family gets 6 hours power per day, with service ending at 2 am. Another employee pays 9000 ID per ampere to get 10 amperes per month (90,000 = USD 60). For this, his family gets 8 hours per day, with service running until 5 am.
9. (SBU) Fuel lines have also taxed our staff. One employee told us May 29 that he had spent 12 hours on his day off (Saturday) waiting to get gas. Another staff member confirmed that shortages were so dire, prices on the black market in much of Baghdad were now above 1,000 Iraqi dinars per liter (the official, subsidized price is 250 ID).
Kidnappings, and Threats of Worse
10. (SBU) One employee informed us in March that his brother in law had been kidnapped. The man was eventually released, but this caused enormous emotional distress to the entire family. One employee, a Sunni Kurd, received an indirect threat to her life in April. She took extended leave, and by May, relocated abroad with her family.
Security Forces Mistrusted
11. (SBU) In April, employees began reporting a change in demeanor of guards at the green zone checkpoints. They seemed to be more militia-like, in some cases seemingly taunting. One employee asked us to explore getting her press credentials because guards had held her embassy badge up and proclaimed loudly to nearby passers-by "Embassy" as she entered. Such information is a death sentence if overheard by the wrong people.
Supervising a Staff At High Risk
12. (SBU) Employees all share a common tale of their lives: of nine employees in March, only four had family members who knew they worked at the embassy. That makes it difficult for them, and for us. Iraqi colleagues called after hours often speak Arabic as an indication they cannot speak openly in English.
13. (SBU) We cannot call employees in on weekends or holidays without blowing their "cover." Likewise, they have been unavailable during multiple security closures imposed by the government since February. A Sunni Arab female employee tells us that family pressures and the inability to share details of her employment is very tough; she told her family she was in Jordan when we sent her on training to the U.S. in February. Mounting criticisms of the U.S. at home among family members also makes her life difficult. She told us in mid-June that most of her family believes the U.S. -- which is widely perceived as fully controlling the country and tolerating the malaise -- is punishing populations as Saddam did (but with Sunnis and very poor Shiites now at the bottom of the list). Otherwise, she says, the allocation of power and security would not be so arbitrary.
14. (SBU) Some of our staff do not take home their American cell phones, as this makes them a target. Planning for their own possible abduction, they use code names for friends and colleagues and contacts entered into Iraq cell phones. For at least six months, we have not been able to use any local staff members for translation at on-camera press events.
15. (SBU) More recently, we have begun shredding documents printed out that show local staff surnames. In March, a few staff members approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we evacuate.
Sectarian Tensions Within Families
16. Ethnic and sectarian faultlines are also becoming part of the daily media fare in the country. One Shiite employee told us in late May that she can no longer watch TV news with her mother, who is a Sunni, because her mother blamed all government failings on the fact that Shiites are in charge. Many of the employee's immediate family members, including her father, one sister, and a brother, left Iraq years ago. This month, another sister is departing for Egypt, as she imagines the future here is too bleak.
The US invasion of Iraq is a total debacle. The happy talk blogs would have you believe that the good news is being ignored by liberal main stream media. Well, here's a diplomatic cable from the US embassy that confirms all the worst problems I've been posting about. Ethnic cleansing is happening throughout Iraq. People are fleeing the country. Militias rule and the central government has no presence in whole neighborhoods. People live in fear.
Update II: Here is the rest of the cable.
Many Baghdad neighborhoods have self-selected local governments centered around militias that control the people in each neighborhood. People do not trust their neighbors. They do not know the identity of many of the people who are enforcing codes of conduct and dress.
Frayed Nerves and Mistrust in the Office
17. (SBU) Against this backdrop of frayed social networks, tension and moodiness have risen. One Shiite made disparaging comments about the Sunni caliph Othman which angered a Kurd. A Sunni Arab female apparently insulted a Shiite female colleague by criticizing her overly liberal dress. One colleague told us he feels "defeated" by circumstances, citing the example of being unable to help his two year old son who has asthma and cannot sleep in the stifling heat.
18. (SBU) Another employee tells us that life outside the Green Zone has become "emotionally draining." He lives in a mostly Shiite area and claims to attend a funeral "every evening." He, like other local employees, is financially responsible for his immediate and extended families. He revealed that "the burden of responsibility; new stress coming from social circles who increasingl disapprove of the coalition presence, and everyday threats weigh very heavily." This employee became extremely agitated in late May at website reports of an abduction of an Iraqi working with MNFI, whose expired Embassy and MNFI badges were posted on the website.
Staying Straight with Neighborhood
Governments and the 'Alasa'
19. (SBU) Staff members say they daily assess how to move safely in public. Often, if they must travel outside their own neighborhoods, they adopt the clothing, language, and traits of the area. In Jadriya, for example, one needs to conform to the SCIRI/Badr ethic; in Yusufiya, a strict Sunni conservative dress code has taken hold. Adhamiya and Salihiya, controlled by the secular Ministry of Defense, are not conservative. Moving inconspicuously in Sadr City requires Shiite conservative dress and a particular lingo. Once-upscale Mansur district, near the Green Zone, according to one employee, by early June was an "unrecognizable ghost town."
20. (SBU) Since Samarra, Baghdadis have honed these survival skills. Vocabulary has shifted to reflect new behavior. Our staff -- and our contacts -- have become adept in modifying behavior to avoid "Alasas," informants who keep an eye out for "outsiders" in neighborhoods. The Alasa mentality is becoming entrenched as Iraqi security forces fail to gain public confidence.
21. (SBU) Our staff report that security and services are being rerouted through "local providers" whose affiliations are vague. As noted above, those who are admonishing citizens on their dress are not known to the residents. Neighborhood power providers are not well known either, nor is it clear how they avoid robbery or targeting. Personal safety depends on good relations with the "neighborhood" governments, who barricade streets and ward off outsiders. The central government, our staff says, is not relevant; even local mukhtars have been displaced or coopted by militias. People no longer trust most neighbors.
22. (SBU) A resident of upscale Shiite/Christian Karrada district told us that "outsiders" have moved in and now control the local mukhtars, one of whom now has cows and goats grazing in the streets. When she expressed her concern at the dereliction, he told her to butt out.
23. (SBU) Although our staff retain a professional demeanor, strains are apparent. We see that their personal fears are reinforcing divisive sectarian or ethnic channels, despite talk of reconciliation by officials. Employees are apprehensive enough that we fear they may exaggerate developments or steer us towards news that comports with their own worldview. Objectivity, civility, and logic that make for a functional workplace may falter if social pressures outside the Green Zone don't abate.
Will the ethnic cleansing eventually lead to a decrease in the extent of the inter-ethnic killings as the groups become more separated from each other? Will another mosque bombing like Samarra lead to much higher scale warfare? How is this going to play out?
Short of upping and leaving does the United States have any real cards to play in Iraq aside from just keeping on fighting with an inadequately sized force? My guess is that since we obviously aren't going to rule with the brutality of an Arab dictator we can't rule the place. At the same time our very presence motivates a substantial portion of the insurgency to fight.
Update III: Read the New York Times editorial "A Long Road Ahead in Iraq".
Take the police. It is meaningless to talk about Iraq's taking charge of its own security when the police forces that patrol its cities and run its prisons are rife with sectarian militias and death squads that would sooner wage a civil war than prevent one. While Mr. Bush holds out visions of Iraqi security forces standing up so that Americans can stand down, Iraq's deputy justice minister more candidly told The Washington Post last week that "we cannot control the prisons; it's as simple as that." He added that "our jails are infiltrated by the militias from top to bottom, from Basra to Baghdad."
I do not find it worth my time to read or listen to speeches about Iraq by major figures in the Bush Administration. They are in their own reality distortion zone. Meanwhile reality plays out tragically in Iraq.
The Times editors point to indicators that show things getting worse, not better.
Consider also the level of sectarian violence, a clear indicator of whether Iraq is moving toward national unity or sectarian conflict. In May 2003, there were five recorded incidents of sectarian violence. In May 2004, there were 10. In May 2005, there were 20. Last month there were 250. This is a very discouraging trend, as is the predictable response: thousands of families fleeing their homes.
The Times says that for the last couple of years electric power production has stayed flat and, as outlined in the diplomatic cable above, most of the time people do not have electric power. On Iraq the Times rejects solipsism.
Pretending things are better than they are will not make them so.
The Times says we face a number of questions on Iraq including whether to take on the death squads or try to cut down on the ethnic cleansing.
Should the United States resign itself to slow-motion "ethnic cleansing" in some mixed areas or try to stop it by pouring more American troops into zones around Baghdad and Basra where the threat seems most acute?
First off, unless the Times wants to start editorializing for a draft I do not see where the troops would come from to fight death squads or prevent ethnic cleansing. We need 4 times more troops to properly occupy Iraq. That isn't going to happen.
We are trying to swim upstream against the current in Iraq. I'd prefer we just pull out and let them sort it out. But Bush insists we stay and even many liberals shrink from the idea of pulling out and letting the Iraqis duke it out on their own. Well, there's a solution to the sectarian violence under these circumstances: Accelerate the ethnic cleansing by helping minorities in each neighborhood and region to move places where they are majorities. Protect their movement. Provide some money to help them move. Build tent cities. Bring in prefabricated homes.
At each step of the way the Bush Administration and the war supporters have refused to admit how much less can be accomplished in Iraq. At each step the amount we can accomplish goes down even further. The best case outcome gets even worse. Unless we admit how lousy the best case has become we will not take the steps necessary to accomplish even those very low objectives. We need to admit we can't stop the ethnic cleansing and find ways to make it happen with far fewer killed and less animosity between the major groups in Iraq.
The "Other Than Mexicans" who are caught on one section of the US border with Mexico are all held, prosecuted for breaking the law, and then deported.
But this year, a 190-mile stretch of riverbank that includes the small border cities of Eagle Pass and Del Rio became a "zero-tolerance zone." If apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol, illegal immigrants are prosecuted by federal authorities for a misdemeanor, sent to jail for 15 to 180 days and then deported. If they are caught illegally entering the country a second time, they are eligible for a felony charge of illegal entry and as much as two years in federal prison.
"Catch and release" -- in which Mexican citizens are returned promptly to Mexico, but citizens of other countries are given a notice to appear in immigration court at a later date, set free and never tracked down by authorities -- would end here, said Department of Homeland Security officials at a Washington news conference this year. "Catch and remove" would start. And, officials predicted, as this tough policy became known, immigrants would be discouraged from crossing through this slice of southwest Texas.
This is the way it should work on the entire border.
The Border Patrol agents have so much extra time that they are catching many more drug smugglers.
As of June 5, apprehensions of illegal immigrants in Eagle Pass, where Operation Streamline II began Dec. 6, were down 51 percent, and they were down 32 percent in Del Rio, compared with the same period a year ago. Apprehensions of drug smugglers increased substantially between Dec. 6 and June 5, because agents were no longer tied up processing illegal immigrants, Clark said. Since the program began, the value of narcotics seizures has increased 309 percent to $13 million in Eagle Pass and by 176 percent to almost $40 million in Del Rio, he said.
Some of the crossers have shifted to other sections of the border. But this same program could be implemented along the entire border. At first the prisons along the border would be flooded with people. But as word got out the news would deter a substantial fraction of potential illegal crossers.
Border enforcement is possible. We just need the political will to do it.
"The increase is largely due to 650,000 more Iraqi refugees who have fled to Jordan and Syria," said USCRI's president, Lavinia Limon. "Although some Iraqis may be fleeing generalised violence, individuals and groups are targeted on the basis of political affiliation, professions, ethnic, or religious differences -- the definition of a refugee."
Moreover, she said that protections for fleeing Iraqis appear to be deteriorating, as Syria has begun to require residency permits, forcing many refugees to live underground, while Jordan has failed to so far to grant refugee status to Iraqis and is turning many back at the border.
WASHINGTON -- More than 650,000 Iraqis fled their homeland for Jordan and Syria since the beginning of 2005, according to a refugee survey released on Wednesday.The violence has forced over 40 percent of Iraqi professionals to leave, according to the survey, published by the Washington-based U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.
The figure, provided by the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, a nongovernmental group based in Washington, is equal to about 2.5 percent of Iraq's population, and substantiates the overwhelming evidence of an exodus that has been accumulating in Iraqi passport offices and airline waiting rooms in recent months.
It was part of a survey of refugees around the world that was conducted by the committee and was scheduled for release on Wednesday. The number includes Iraqis who have been in Syria and Jordan since the invasion in 2003 but had not previously been counted as refugees, and those who arrived over the course of 2005.
The committee has counted Iraqi refugees in the past, but the most recent figure is by far the largest to date — more than triple the 213,000 recorded in 2004 — and the first big surge since the American invasion. At first, Iraqis living abroad began returning home. But as the war became increasingly deadly, more Iraqis chose to leave.
In all, as of the end of 2005, 889,000 Iraqis have moved abroad as refugees since 2003, according to the group's tally, more than double the 366,000 counted at the end of 2004.
Keep in mind that not everyone who wants to leave can leave. Probably far more want to leave than can manage to do so.
So hundreds of thousands are leaving per year. But with Jordan and Syria making it tough perhaps the outflux will slow.
Residents of the city of Ramadi are fleeing to escape a worsening security situation as the United States military steps up operations against insurgents there.
People in Ramadi, capital of the western Iraqi province of Anbar, estimate that about 70 per cent of the city’s population have fled in the last week, many of them holding white flags for fear of being shot at by Marine snipers.
Residents reported that US troops blasted messages through loudspeakers on June 13, telling them to leave and warning of house-to-house searches for weapons and militants.
The ongoing violence between US Marines and the insurgents, air strikes, and outages in the water, electricity and phone networks have already made life untenable. Ramadi residents say US troops regularly take over houses to fight the insurgents, and combatants on both sides have been seen using rooftops as sniper positions.
Bush and the neocons want to spread democracy to the Middle East. Well, the Iraqis are voting with their feet. They are voting for authoritarian governments that maintain order.
Sabrina Tavernise and Qais Mizher of the New York Times report on the brutal battle for power and oil in Basra Iraq.
BASRA, Iraq — Politics, once seen as a solution to the problems of a society broken by years of brutal single-party rule, has paralyzed the heart of Iraq's south.
This once-quiet city of riverside promenades was among the most receptive to the American invasion. Now, three years later, it is being pulled apart by Shiite political parties that want to control the region and its biggest prize, oil. But in today's Iraq, politics and power flow from the guns of militias, and negotiating has been a bloody process.
"We're into political porridge, that's what's changed," said Brig. James Everard, commander of the British forces in Basra. "It's mafia-type politics down here."
Basra is deep in the Shia heartland. The Sunnis and Zarqawi can not be blamed for its descent into Hobbesian barbarity.
Some local people say British actions have helped to fuel the violence. But others say the British have not been tough enough, allowing criminal and factional elements to thrive.
"They should have moved against these people earlier," said Hassan, a teacher. "Now it's too late."
British commanders disagree. They say those behind the recent attacks on their troops are on the back-foot now, after a series of raids netted major finds of weapons and bomb-making materials. The main threat, these officers say, comes from "rogue elements" in local Shia militia groups - particularly from the Mehdi Army, loyal to the radical cleric Moqtada Sadr.
Saddam Hussein would have taken family members of trouble makers captive and killed some of them. Then the troublemakers would have had to ask themselves whether they wanted to see their whole families wiped out.
Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund For Peace have published a an international failed states ranking. They place Iraq at number 4 behind Sudan, the so-called Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ivory Coast. Iraq comes out worse than number 5 Zimbabwe on a 10 point scale (higher is worse) by the indicators "Group Grievance" (9.8 versus 8.5), "Human Flight" (9.1 versus 9.0), "Human Rights" (9.7 versus 9.5), Security Apparatus (9.8 versus 9.4), "Factionalized Elites" (9.7 to 8.5), and "External Intervention (10.0 versus 8.0). Though Zimbabwe scores worse on several indicators including "Demographic Pressures", "Uneven Development" (guess they are referring to Chinese investments), "Economy", "Delegitimization of State", and "Public Services".
The full list of failed states shows nuclear and Muslim Pakistan at a worrisome number 10. Can you say "thermonuclear war"? Sure.
The situation in Basra raises a question: Does it make more sense to stay to try to quell increasing sectarian and terrorist violence, or leave and let Iraqis fight it out? British officials have talked of drawing down troops soon - while insisting that their mission has been more success than failure.
Their decision is likely to foreshadow the U.S. endgame in Iraq. Perhaps some uneasy calm can first be achieved. But right now, Basra seems more to reinforce Lawrence of Arabia's cautionary words in 1920 about British involvement in Iraq. Mesopotamia (as Iraq used to be known) was, Lawrence said, "a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor."
Yes, too late to escape with dignity. Not too late to escape though.
University professors, army officers, Muslim clerics, and community leaders have been targeted in assassinations in recent months. While some of the attacks are on Sunni Arabs and former Baath party members, others appear to involved internecine strife between militias aligned with rival factions and political groups.
As a result of the violence, security has been left in tatters, and even the presence of 8,000 British troops has not stopped the violence.
The violence increased rather than decreased after the new Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki declared a month-long state of emergency on 31 May. Within days of his announcement, at least 35 people were killed and dozens more injured in a bloody attack in the city public market and a shooting at a Sunni mosque.
Brigadier James Everard, the commander of British forces in Iraq's four southeastern provinces, says the Iraqis are not interested in freedom of speech.
To a large degree, the violence has resulted from a power grab by Shiite factions that had been left practically on their own to run the region while American and Iraqi officials in Baghdad have fought insurgents elsewhere."Freedom of speech, freedom of expression: it just hasn't quite worked out the way it was planned," Everard said. "They're not prepared to debate. They tend to do things at the end of a gun."
Liberalism doesn't hold much appeal in Iraq and the people aren't willing to fight for freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of religion. In fact, they are far more inclined to fight against than for those very Western ideals.
Conservative columnist John Derbyshire says he was mistaken for supporting the war.
We are not controlling events in Iraq. Events in Iraq are controlling us. We are the puppet; the street gangs of Baghdad and Basra are the puppet-masters, aided and abetted by an unsavory assortment of confidence men, bazaar traders, scheming clerics, ethnic front men, and Iranian agents. With all our wealth and power and idealism, we have submitted to become the plaything of a rabble, and a Middle Eastern rabble at that. Instead of rubbling, we have ourselves been rabbled. The lazy-minded evangelico-romanticism of George W. Bush, the bureaucratic will to power of Donald Rumsfeld, the avuncular condescension of Dick Cheney, and the reflexive military deference of Colin Powell combined to get us into a situation we never wanted to be in, a situation no self-respecting nation ought to be in, a situation we don’t know how to get out of. It’s not inconceivable that, with a run of sheer good luck, we might yet escape without too much egg on our faces, but it’s not likely. The place we are at is surely not a place anyone in 2003 wanted us to be at—not even Vic Davis Hanson.
Since the Iraq war was obviously a gross blunder, is it time for those of us who cheered on the war to offer some kind of apology? Here we are—we, the United States—in our fourth year of occupying that sinkhole, and it looks pretty much like the third year, or the second. Will the eighth year of our occupation, or our twelfth, look any better? I know people who will say yes, but I no longer know any who will say it with real conviction. It’s a tough thing, to admit you were wrong. It’s way tough if you’re a big-name pundit with a reputation to preserve. For those of us down at the bottom of the pundit pecking order, the stakes aren’t so high. I, at any rate, am willing to eat some crow and say: I wish I had never given any support to this fool war.
Read his full essay.
The biggest tragedy of Iraq that gets the least press attention is the extreme loss of rights by women. Basra women claim they've lost the most.
BASRA - The women of Basra have disappeared. Three years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, women's secular freedoms - once the envy of women across the Middle East - have been snatched away because militant Islam is rising across the country.
Our supposed allies the Shiites are terrible in their treatment of women.
In the British-occupied south, where Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army retains a stranglehold, women insist the situation is at its worst.
Here they are forced to live behind closed doors only to emerge, concealed behind scarves, hidden behind husbands and fathers. Even wearing a pair of trousers is considered an act of defiance, punishable by death.
One Basra woman, known only as Dr Kefaya, was working in the women and children's hospital unit at the city university when she started receiving threats from extremists. She defied them. Then, one day a man walked into the building and murdered her.
We opened Pandora's Box. The lives of Iraqi women are worse for it.
The Future Looks Dumberer: The 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress scores are now out for eighth grade Science, and the cutting edge state of California, home of Silicon Valley and Cal Tech but also of millions of illegal aliens, ranks second worst out of the 44 states measured, ahead of only Mississippi. In California, only 18% of eighth graders scored at the Proficient or Advanced levels, versus 27% nationwide.
Hawaii was third worst, and then came Alabama, New Mexico, Nevada, Louisiana, Arizona, Florida, and Texas.
The highest scoring state was North Dakota (with 43% scoring Proficient or Advanced), followed by Montana, Vermont, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
The very white states score quite high. But eventually the Hispanic deluge will drive down scores on those states. Liberals and many neoconservatives will be so happy to see the states become more equal even if that means becoming more equally stupid. Besides, as stupidity becomes more widespread the human tendency to judge oneself relative to those around one will allow smarter people to feel like they have higher status.
Whites also do poorly in California.
The NAEP also reports the scores broken down by ethnicity. California's non-Hispanic whites don't do terribly well either, coming in 8th worst out of 44 states. The bottom of the white barrel is West Virginia, followed by Nevada, Mississippi, Hawaii, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, and California.
The top scoring whites are found in Massachusetts, Colorado, North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Lower white scores in California could be due to several causes:
We really need a big study where the same kids in several states would be given both NAEP tests and IQ tests. Then we could find out which circumstances cause kids to not learn up to their potential. But our corrupt and damaging liberal elites would probably prevent funding of such a study. It'd produce all sorts of answers that they do not want us or them to know.
Audacious Epigone has done an analysis on national average IQ data which strongly suggests that declining average IQ portends a rise in corruption is in store in America's future.
Lynn and Vanhanen spotlighted the relationship between IQ and the purchasing power parity of nations. It was a groundbreaking new way of understanding prosperity in the world. But PPP's relationship with IQ (contemporary correlation of .60) is actually weak in comparison to IQ's relationship to a host of other quantifiables (Economic transparency/corruption index: .68, Distance from the equator: .67, Births per woman: -.81, Life expectancy: .85). When economic transparency/corruption is taken into account, the effect of IQ on PPP completely disappears, while controlling for a host of variables (IQ, distance from the equator, births per woman, net migration rate, life expectancy, and economic freedom) only mildly moderates the effect of economic transparency/corruption while rendering all the other variables statistically insignificant except for the migration rate (positive net migration being correlated with higher PPP).
We should be seriously worried about a rise in corruption due to immigration. But Europe faces an even bigger problem on that score due to the tendency for consanguineous (cousin) marriage among Muslim immigrants. Steve Sailer found a report in the British Guardian which got hold of a police report that claims Muslim police officers are 10 times more likely to be corrupt than white officers.
A secret high-level Metropolitan police report has concluded that Muslim officers are more likely to become corrupt than white officers because of their cultural and family backgrounds. The document, which has been seen by the Guardian, has caused outrage among ethnic minorities within the force, who have labelled it racist and proof that there is a gulf in understanding between the police force and the wider Muslim community. The document was written as an attempt to investigate why complaints of misconduct and corruption against Asian officers are 10 times higher than against their white colleagues.
The main conclusions of the study, commissioned by the Directorate of Professional Standards and written by an Asian detective chief inspector, stated: "Asian officers and in particular Pakistani Muslim officers are under greater pressure from the family, the extended family ... and their community against that of their white colleagues to engage in activity that might lead to misconduct or criminality."
Just who lives in a society greatly matters. Libertarian economists might want you to believe that all we have to do is lower barriers to the free market and all will be well. But that is nonsense. For a great starting point in reading posts about consanguineous marriage and how extended family bonds weaken larger community bonds see my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq and click back and read all links.
La Griffe du Lion responded to some inquiries I made about the NAEP results with the following in email:
Certainly food for thought. Here are some facts that need to be thrown into the mix:
1. The NAEP data apply to public schools. Bright white students in CA may be hiding in private schools. California mean SAT's, for example, are about the same as the national means.
2. If we disaggregate NAEP 8th grade math scores by race/ethnicity, additional facts emerge:
a. For whites only, California ranks 33/50 among the states and Mississippi 43/50 -- neither distinguished but nevertheless a clear difference.
b. CA blacks rank 31/40 and Mississippi blacks 33/40 (10 states with not enough blacks to establish significant means).
c. Perhaps most interesting is that CA Hispanics rank next to last among Hispanics nationally (36/37). Only Hispanics in Rhode Island fared worse on the 8th grade math test. CA Hispanics are among the least able Hispanics in the nation -- a sure bet to have economic impact down the road if immigration goes unchecked.
3. Despite CA's undistinguished NAEP performance, the fundamental law of sociology remains intact in CA as in the nation. According to my estimates the CA white - black mean difference for 8th grade math is 1.01 SD; nationally it is 0.99 SD. The national white - Hispanic mean difference is 0.81 SD in more-or-less aggreement with the recent finding of Hartmann, Kruuse and Nyborg. The CA white - Hispanic difference is 0.85 SD.
Griffe has explained a great deal about racial differences using his standard deviations approach. The standard deviations differences show up across a large range of measures with very similar standard deviations.
Children as young as six are being brought to Britain in their hundreds every year to be used as "slave labour" in sweatshops, private homes and cannabis factories.
Importing children to work in cannabis factories?
What sort of people want to use African children as domestic servant slaves?
Children from China, Vietnam and Malaysia, have been found in sweatshops, restaurants and suburban cannabis factories. African children are often put into domestic servitude, working long hours for little or no reward.
Eastern European children tend to be used to beg and steal - and many more are likely to arrive next year when Romania and Bulgaria are expected to join the European Union.
Charities and police believe most trafficked children are used for slave labour rather than prostitution, but the report says they are "sexually exploited in informal locations, such as private flats, where they are expected to have sex with groups of men".
Not all people believe in the idea of individual rights.
Statistics from the Supreme Motherhood Council 2002 Report, state that Sana’a alone contained about 29,000 street children. According to some sources, the number of children involved in the market place reached nearly 2 million.
The US State Department has just released the sixth annual 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report which provides a number of insights into the purposes of human trafficking. One of the reasons children are shipped into some Arab countries is to serve as child camel jockeys.
“For victims not located in Islamabad, the government provided victim assistance in 276 temporary shelters where victims received medical treatment, limited legal representation and vocational training.”
In Lahore, it adds, the Child Protection Welfare Bureau assisted in the repatriation and reintegration of 325 child camel jockeys.
The annual "Trafficking in Persons" (TIP) report examines trafficking problems in 150 countries. The report is focused on raising public awareness of the global trafficking problem and encouraging governments to combat the problem. This year's TIP Report includes more coverage of labor slavery, especially internal labor trafficking, forced labor, and involuntary servitude. Regarding Vietnam, the TIP report states “Women from Vietnam are trafficked to Taiwan through fraudulent marriages for sexual exploitation and labor.” It also states that “the government of Vietnam does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” and that “Vietnam has not made sufficient efforts to combat trafficking.”
Guess which country is not in the US State Department's report on human trafficking? Iraq. How come? Iraq does have a serfdom/slavery problem with imported workers after all.
Oh, and the United States does not rate itself on human trafficking either. Makes sense. We make so little effort to control illegal entries that human traffickers have an easy time bringing people in. But a negative report by the State Department would lead to demands that the US Senate go in the opposite direction than they want to go.
In a bizarre example of Iraq's creeping "Talibanisation", militants visited falafel vendors a fortnight ago, telling them to pack up their stalls by today or be killed.
The ultimatum seemed so odd that, at first, most laughed it off - until two of them were shot dead as they plied their trade.
"They came telling us, 'You have 14 days to end this job' and I asked them what was the problem," said Abu Zeinab, 32, who was packing up his stall for good yesterday in the suburb of al Dora, a hardline Sunni neighbourhood.
"I said I was just feeding the people, but they said there were no falafels in Mohammed the prophet's time, so we shouldn't have them either.
"I felt like telling them there were no Kalashnikovs in Mohammed's time either, but I wanted to keep my life."
This brings to mind a great scene in the movie Lawrence Of Arabia. Right after Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) kills the guide Talas in response Peter O'Toole as TE Lawrence says.
"Sherif Ali! So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they remain a little people. A silly people! Greedy, barbarous, and cruel-as you are!"
Some of those dull minds in Iraq are banning falafel stands. How little and silly can you get?
I do not expect that the death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi will make the falafel stand killers any more reasonable.
Such is the life of a lawyer in a nearly lawless society. Iraq's legal system, once one of the most secular in the Middle East, is a shambles. If a "Law and Order" spinoff were set in Baghdad, it would feature police who are afraid to investigate sectarian murders (or are complicit in them, many say), lawyers afraid to take either side of a case and risk the wrath of powerful militias or well-armed gangs, judges assassinated for the decisions they have handed down, and the occasional car bombing at the courthouse.
These events probably have little or nothing to do with the foreign fighters who were under Zarqawi. Criminal gangs and militias will continue to kidnap, kill, and rob.
Now, many of the best-educated have fled the country, and yet life goes on in the lawyers' union, Iraq's equivalent of a bar association, which has 42,000 members nationwide. Well-dressed attorneys flitted in and out of Hamdoun's office quietly, asking the union leader to sign papers. Downstairs, they met in the dark, cigarette smoke-filled cafeteria below Hamdoun's office, where they talked shop with each other or their clients. Their sentiment was unanimous: They preferred the dictator's law to none at all.
"We were waiting for the day when Saddam was gone," said one lawyer, Ali Gatie al-Jubouri, who spent nine years studying engineering in Michigan, only to become a lawyer after he inherited a fortune in property from his father. "But now we feel sorry that Saddam's days are over. It's a tragedy."
These lawyers are right about the lawlessness. A recent kidnapping group rounded up 56 people in one fell swoop.
Many people, like Shamaa's friend, believe the kidnappers are actually police. Usually the hostages are held for ransom. Sometimes they are killed because of their faith or ethnicity.
The fate of the 56 people was unknown Monday night. But the scale and audacity of the operation were unusual even by the capital's lawless standards.
The gunmen seized workers from several bus companies that offer transport to Syria and Jordan, witnesses and police said. Others of those taken were passengers aboard the buses: Syrian businessmen going home, a handful of Palestinians, Iraqis. Many Iraqis are leaving their own country precisely because it is the sort of place where a trip to the bus stop can end with being led away at gunpoint.
The US invasion - and insufficient US soldiers to maintain order - shattered Iraq. Humpty Dumpty had a big fall. All King George's horse and all King George's men can't put Iraq back together again.
People are afraid to report kidnappings to the police.
Abduction statistics are unreliable because many families do not report crimes, fearing the police as much as they do the kidnapping gangs.
Imagine living in a country where you would be afraid to report a kidnapping. We can't trust official figures on the number killed since many of the kidnapped and killed never even get reported as kidnapped, let alone killed.
Many US soldiers want to succeed in their mission and some insist on going back even after serious injuries. (and see this chart of the rate of wounding of US soldiers in Iraq) But Iraq's biggest problem is the Iraqi people. Too many Iraqis are willing to join criminal gangs and insurgencies and too few feel much motivation to personally fight against the lure of factional loyalty, the insurgents, the criminal gangs, and the fundamentalist Muslims.
June 6, 2006 — The Texas government is installing hundreds of cameras along the Mexican border and enlisting Americans who use the Internet to monitor illegal activity.
Within 30 days, the Texas Department of Homeland Security will enable citizens and law enforcement officials to watch alleged crimes through the Internet as they occur, using surveillance cameras along the 1,200-mile border with Mexico. Texas officials expect the cameras to capture images of drug trafficking, trespassing, theft, rape and kidnapping, all common to border areas.
If anyone has a good source for exactly how many cameras they are installing with the distance between cameras please post in the comments. I'd like to get an idea of how much it would cost to install cameras along the entire border.
I can imagine a software system where cameras with few people watching them can be identified so that volunteers can know which cameras to watch. Also, motion detectors could alert to the need for humans to watch particular cameras. Though wind blowing bushes and trees as well as animals would generate a lot of alerts.
Texans, as well as those in other states, will be able to watch real-time video streams on the Internet to monitor the borders. The cameras will run 24 hours a day and will have night-vision capabilities.
If these border watchers see something suspicious taking place, they can call an 800 number that will be routed to the appropriate law-enforcement agency.
SAN ANTONIO – Gov. Rick Perry joined his fellow Texas Republicans in railing against illegal immigration Friday, telling the GOP faithful the Bush administration has failed to control a "porous and unsecured border."
"There is no homeland security without border security," Mr. Perry told thousands of delegates to the party's state convention.
The delegates cheered, but the party was at the same time striking a defiant tone against the policies of its leadership in Washington and, in some cases, Mr. Perry himself.
In addition, the delegates object to a state law allowing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, a bill that Mr. Perry signed into law. Republicans also want federal funds withdrawn from colleges that provide such tuition discounts.
Perry might be in the process of shifting toward a more restrictionist position due to popular anger over illegal immigration.
Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar, talking to reporters Wednesday in Mission, suggested the state camera plan was devised separately from the federal camera network.
“It’s important that we take the opportunity to align our forces,” Aguilar said in Spanish. “Regarding the proposal by Governor Perry, we are looking forward to the opportunity to sit down and discuss it with him to ensure that whatever is done will be aligned with the efforts of the Border Patrol.”
Luis Figueroa, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, warned that the cameras could lead to racial profiling and vigilanteism.
“This leaves the door open to anyone who has a vindictive state of mind or a racial motive,” Figueroa said. “Anyone down there could easily be mistaken and falsely accused of something they didn’t do.”
MALDEF wants Americans to pay for even more Hispanic immigrants. Me, I don't want to take on the "white man's burden" "To seek another's profit, And work another's gain." and I deeply resent the desire of our elites to make me do so.
A Border Patrol union president does not think the Border Patrol has enough agents to respond to all the calls that will come in.
And T.J. Bonner, president of the union that represents nearly all Border Patrol agents, said the plan could further strain the overworked agency.
“At first blush, it sounds like just another crazy idea that is going to overwhelm the capabilities of the federal government to be able to respond to the number of calls coming in and to the number of reports,” Bonner said. “But there is a silver lining: It might just make legislators aware.”
Bonner said it won’t take smugglers long to figure out where the cameras are.
But cameras placed densely along the entire border and watched by people at home could eliminate the need for patrols. The Border Patrol could spend all their time just responding to calls to go exactly to where illegals are crossing. More funds for local law enforcement to do border enforcement could provide the people needed to catch the illegal crossers.
The border is only 2000 miles long and there's 5280 feet to a mile. So how many feet (or meters if you prefer) between cameras would be acceptable to get good coverage?
Combine the cameras with a barrier layer of fences and walls along the entire length and the number of illegal crossers to even report would go down by orders of magnitude.
"A stronger border is what Americans want and it's what our security demands and that is what Texas is going to deliver," Mr Perry said.
The cameras will cost $5m (£2.7m) to install and will be trained on sections of the 1,000-mile (1,600km) border known to be favoured by illegal immigrants.
Web users who spot an apparently illegal crossing will be able to alert the authorities by telephoning a number free of charge.
Mr Perry, a Republican, is running for re-election in November.
I like the idea of states operating the cameras rather than the federal government. The states can move more quickly without federal regulations and without federal level lobbyist organizations trying to torpedo immigration enforcement initiatives.
Governor Perry's Virtual Border Watch Program is part of a larger initiative to put more local law enforcement officers along the border.
Drug smuggling and general crime will also go down as a result of a system of cameras combined with many more officers available to catch crossers.
ATLANTA – America has a freeway problem.
It needs to spend an extra $118.9 billion - above and beyond current state and federal highway funding - to upgrade its roads and bridges through 2022, the Federal Highway Administration estimates. But motorists, already distraught over rising fuel prices, don't want to foot the bill with higher gasoline taxes. So politicians from Oregon to South Carolina are reviving an old solution: the toll road.
The financial positions of state governments will worsen as the percentage of the medical uninsured rises. Therefore I expect states to grow more enthusiastic about toll roads.
Gasoline taxes haven't kept up with overall inflation. Plus, cars get more miles per gallon. Hence states are not collecting as much money to pay for roads.
Politicians are scrambling for new highway funding options because traditional ones are dwindling. Gas taxes raised per mile of interstate highway, for example, have fallen by about half since the 1960s, after accounting for inflation, says the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank in Los Angeles.
States are leasing roads out to private operators.
Moreover, states are increasingly looking at an option already popular in Europe and Australia: leasing to a company the right to collect tolls on roads that it maintains. Illinois last week signed legislation that would allow such public-private partnerships. New Jersey is considering leasing out the New Jersey Turnpike. Texas has gone one better, partnering with Spain's Cintra to build a new highway - the $6 billion, 316-mile Trans-Texas Corridor 35 - expected to open in 2014.
Technological advances are decreasing the transaction costs associated with toll roads. Automated reading devices can scan appropriately outfitted carss to record their passing. This avoids the need for stopping to pay tolls. Also, if toll roads are given sufficient leeway in setting prices then the roads can raise prices during rush hours as a way to limit road usage. This can reduce time wasted in traffic jams.
Libertarian and free market advocates of privatizing public services will cheer this development. But I'm less enthusiastic. Why? Government will not shrink if it sheds some costs. See my post Do Tax Cuts Increase Government Spending? Higher taxes make people want government spending cuts. But the tolls won't be taxes. Governments will take the money saved by road privatization and just spend it on other things.We'll pay as much in taxes plus pay money to ride on toll roads.
Remember the Pepsi Generation? In Western countries young radical Muslims are embracing a different way to be hip. The police in Canada have a special term for these politically active and energetic young Muslims. Meet the Jihad Generation.
Such home-grown terrorism is a growing concern, says security analyst John Thompson.
"The cops have a nickname for it - the jihad generation," says Mr. Thompson, president of the Mackenzie Institute, a Toronto think tank.
So what is this exciting and hip Jihad Generation up to? In Canada the Jihad Generation want to make a big bang.
Jack Hooper, deputy director of operations for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said the greatest security threat our country now faces comes from within — from homegrown, made-in-Canada terrorists. Now we know why.
On Friday, following the largest Canadian anti-terrorism investigation since 9/11, police arrested 12 adults (aged 19 to 43) and five minors, charging them with “terrorism-related offences” they said were “inspired by al-Qaida.” Chillingly, all are residents of Canada and most are Canadian citizens. Of the 12 men accused, six are from Mississauga, four Toronto and two from Kingston.
Authorities said they recovered three tonnes of ammonium nitrate — triple the amount used by a homegrown American terrorist in the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168. The intended targets? Police wouldn’t say. Speculation includes Parliament Hill, other government offices and the CN Tower.
These are not boring youth. They are ambitious. They aim to make names for themselves.
Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star delivers very bad news to Canadians: Cowering while letting in large numbers of Muslims is not a successful formula for avoiding attacks by evil men. Who'da thunk it?
For everyone who thought Canada could cower in a corner of the planet, unnoticed and unthreatened by evil men — even when the most menacing of a very bad lot has twice referenced this country as a target for attack — take a good, hard look at what's been presented and what's being alleged.
Three tonnes of ammonium nitrate, thrice the amount used by Timothy McVeigh to demolish a government building in Oklahoma City. Cellphone detonators. Switches. Computer hard drive. A 9-mm pistol. Soldering gun. Camouflage gear.
And 17 males — born here or reared here, certainly settled here, some of them little more than children — formally remanded yesterday on terrorism-related charges.
This is all just the beauty of cultures mixing and intermingling But you'll always find those nay sayers who think that letting in large numbers of people from incompatible cultures is going to cause trouble.
Canada's shrinking native population has prompted the country to encourage robust immigration. Canada touts the relative harmony within its society, sometimes in contrast to tensions over immigration in the United States.
Public figures treat references to distinct ethnicities or religions as anathema; police statements on the arrests Friday did not use the word Muslim. But while Canada trumpets this diversity, the arrests supported the warnings of some that the growing ethnic communities can be a source of hidden passions and underground politics.
Canadian multicultural leftistists will surely be happy to learn that the Jihad Generation bombers are very multicultural, hailing from several diverse Muslim countries.
Information that has emerged about the men portrays them as typical of the Toronto metropolitan area, where more than 40 percent of the population is foreign-born, and many born here of immigrant parents. Those charged came from a variety of Muslim countries, including Somalia, Egypt and Pakistan.
The Jihad Generation obviously embraces globalism and multicultural theocracy.
Little except that most of them appeared to be typical Canadian residents from a variety of Middle Eastern backgrounds, with loving families, who kept very much to themselves.
"Some are students, some are employed, some are unemployed," RCMP Assistant Commissioner Mike McDonell said Saturday. "They're all residents of Canada and for the most part, they're all citizens," he said.
"They represent the broad strata of our community."
The Jihad Generation of Canada represent a "broad strata" of Canadians. I think I'm out of date with my images of Canada. It doesn't appear to be like the MacKenzie brothers any more. Eh? Check out what the family members of the "broad strata" look like.
We haven't heard the last from the Canadian Jihad Generation. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is watching hundreds of hostile Muslims.
CSIS admitted this week it couldn't track down many domestic terror suspects and warned the country faced an increasing threat from "home-grown terrorists" who had been assimilated into society.
Jack Hooper, deputy director of operations at the CSIS, said the service was trying to keep track of "350 high-level targets" as well as 50 to 60 organizations thought to be linked to groups such as al-Qaeda.
Canada isn't all alone with the Jihad hipness thing going on. Great Britain also has a Jihad Generation.
The terrorist threat facing Britain has developed into a "covert conspiracy" involving hundreds of men and women living ordinary lives in the nation's suburbs, security sources have revealed.
Unbeknown to their families and friends, they form a silent 1,200-strong "army" of terrorists. They are believed to be involved in at least 20 major plots that they hope will bring death and destruction to Britain
Disaffected by Western ways of living and inspired by Bin Laden's 9/11 attack young Muslims are becoming more devout. But we are not supposed to feel suspicious about it.
Mohammed Abdul Kahar, 23, and Abul Koyair, 20, the two brothers arrested after the dawn raid may, according to MI5, be typical of other young Asian men who have become disaffected with the Western way of life and have been radicalised by militant Islamists who support a global Jihad.
According to neighbours, the brothers underwent a transformation after the September 11 attacks on America in 2001, adopting beards and more traditional Muslim dress. "Lots of young Muslims these days are getting more religious, especially after 9/11," said one neighbour. "It's nothing to be suspicious about."
In response to a massive Muslim terrorist attack on non-Muslims lots of Muslims become more religious and we are not supposed to get suspicious about this reaction! A religion whose terrorists inspire greater faith isn't something we are supposed to react to?
Deportation is the solution. Lawrence Auster says the problem isn't so much the Muslims as it is our foolish willingness to let them into Western nations. Our first hurdle? We need to call Muslim terrorists Muslims.
The Inductivist blogger Ron Guhname digs through the results of the National Opinion Research Center General Social Surveys (GSS) and finds facts about groups that go against the conventional wisdom. He's been digging for info in the last couple of months about Mexicans compared to other immigrants and has dug up a lot of facts that do not support immigration myths widely promoted by the "Open Borders" crowd. I've collected up many of his posts on this topic and excerpted them below.
Some happy talkers argue that Mexicans come to the United States for freedom. I think they come to make more money. If they come for freedom you'd expect they'd be keen on becoming American citizens. Nope. Most Mexican immigrants do not place much value on American citizenship.
Mexican immigrants do not value American citizenship: An iSteve.com reader wrote that illegals don't want to be citizens, but "Mexicans with benefits." What do the data say? GSS respondents were asked how important is it to them to be an American citizen. Only one-third of Mexican immigrants said this was important. Almost twice as many immigrants from all the other countries felt this way (60%). Eighty percent of native-born Americans value their citizenship.
They don't come here for freedom. If they did they'd want to become citizens. They come here to make more money.
Mexicans are the most race conscious, after blacks: The General Social Survey asks which social identity is most important to the respondent, then lists the following: current occupation, race/ethnicity, gender, age, religion, political party, nationality, family or marital status, social class, and region of the country. I was interested in how many Mexicans consider ethnicity to be their most important identity compared with other groups. Fifteen percent of blacks list this as being most important. For whites, it is 2 percent. For Mexican immigrants, it is 12%, and for native-borns of Mexican ancestry, it is 8%. Except for blacks, no ethnic group has numbers that high, whether we are looking at immigrants or those born in this country.
In America, which ethnic group is most ethnocentric? The General Social Survey asked respondents if they think about social and political issues as Americans or as members of an ethnic group. The obvious choice is blacks, right? Well yeah, there's no news there. Listed below are the percent who answered ethnic group:
1. Blacks 43.5%
2. Mexicans 21.9
3. Jews 15.8
4. Italians 12.0
5. American Indians 7.8
6. Irish 5.1
7. Scots 4.8
8. English/Welsh 2.5
9. Germans .9
With massive Mexican illegal immigration, we might be creating yet another nation within a nation. It surprises me that Jews and Italians are more ethnocentric than American Indians! But for most white groups, just about all sense of ethnicity has vanished.
Whites will eventually become more ethnocentric in response. Do the advocates of large scale immigration want to make Americans less individualistic? Or are they just indifferent on this question?
Says Steve Sailer in the comments:
What's funny is that this list is in almost perfect inverse order from how the media stereotypically portrays these groups in terms of ethnocentricity and bias: the Germans want to conquer the world, the WASPs are super snooty and exclusive, etc. etc.
Truant 4+ days last semester
Ever tried cocaine
Ever carry weapon
Hey there white liberals: Mexicans are worse that blacks by some measures. Take note.
For American political values, I looked for a free speech question. Respondents were asked if they agreed that a racist should have the right to give a speech in their community. The numbers (just for immigrants this time):1. Filipinos 66.7%
2. English/Welsh 66.3
3. Germans 60.7
4. Africans 58.4
5. Italians 56.9
6. Chinese 50.7
7. Indians 50.0
8. Spain 43.9
9. Mexicans 40.8
My guess is that economic libertarians will attach little importance to these results because they attach more importance to the free movement of labor than to free speech.
Some of you may have noticed from events over in Iraq (among other places) that not all people support basic human rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion. If you are keen to have such rights then you ought to support immigration policies designed to keep out people who attach less importance to basic rights.
Liberals are making a mistake by supporting mass Hispanic immigration. Hispanics vote for the Democrats because the Democrats are more inclined to deliver government spending for the benefit of Hispanics. But on some other matters dear to the hearts of liberals Mexicans oppose Democratic Party positions and as Mexicans become a larger fraction of the Democratic Party's base they will push the party away from positions that white liberals hold dear. Not surprisingly, lower income Mexicans are less supportive of spending on the environment. Environmentalism is an upper class cause. People who have satisfied their basic needs are more inclined to want to clean up the environment. Poorer people just want more money.
Mexicans are not assimilating: My friends tell me to not worry about illegal immigration because, while we see certain problems now, they are temporary because America has always successfully assimilated new people. Well, one good indicator of assimilation is less and less involvement in crime. But the General Social Survey tells us that recent cohorts of immigrants from Mexico have been differentiating away from mainstream America. Eleven percent of first generation male immigrants admitted that they had been arrested before. Fine, that rate is not high. (They may be underreporting for fear of being deported). But the percent of men of Mexican descent born in this country who say they have been arrested is 35 percent--a huge increase! Studies put the country's number of Hispanic gang members at close to half a million, and most of them were born here.
I never used to see graffiti in my neighborhood. Now I see lots of it. I bet economic models on the effects of immigration do not have graffiti included on the cost side. Nor do I suspect those models include the costs of private schooling and driving costs for taking kids to private schools for those who pull their kids out of schools which are more dangerous and less conducive to learning due to increasing numbers of Hispanic kids in the schools.
To a libertarian predisposed for ideological reasons to see no problem with Mexican immigration my guess is this evidence can pretty easily be ignored. But those who are more empirically minded should consider the empirical evidence on immigration.
Very strongly agree that government should reduce income differences
All Americans 18%
Very strongly agree that government should help pay for medical care
All Americans 29%
You might think that economic libertarians or the Wall Street Journal Open Borders crowd would be disturbed by these results. But, again, I think they can rationalize away all of this.
The immigration debate is between restrictionsts who marshal large amounts of evidence and large scale immigration advocates who offer myths and unrealistic models.
While the government denies it and high oil prices mask it, analysts say Venezuelan oil production is declining. Since Chávez took over in 1999, production in the state-run oil fields has fallen almost 50 percent, say analysts at PFC Energy, a global energy consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., who spoke on condition of anonymity rather than risk the wrath of the Venezuelan government.
The article reports that high oil prices mask the decline in production because the price rise has been so great that it swamps the effect of declining production. I do not expect Venezuela's government to allocate enough money to invest in their oil fields. Also, the nationalization is going to scare away private sector money.
Outside experts think the Venezuelan government is exaggerating national oil production.
That Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, is moving backwards is not clear to everyone.
The state oil company, PDVSA, reports production of 3.3 million barrels a day. There is no way to independently confirm this, and most outside analysts, including the International Energy Agency, say PDVSA's numbers are inflated and production is closer to 2.6 million barrels per day. The Financial Times reported this month that Venezuela's shortfall in production is such that it was actually forced to strike a $2 billion deal to buy about 100,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Russia to avoid defaulting on contracts - a claim the Chávez government says is false.
I look around the world and can't figure out where additional oil could come from that would allow world oil consumption to rise substantially. The number of countries experiencing declining oil production keeps getting longer.
Check out a recent report for the National Energy Technology Laboratory, Economic Impacts Of Liquid Fuel Mitigation Options (PDF) (and an associated interview of report co-author Roger Bedzek) which discusses alternatives to oil for liquid fuels. They claim that technologies to make vehicles radically more efficient are more expensive than coal-to-liquid (CTL) or oil shale extraction. My guess is that oil prices will remain high enough for long enough that we'll start seeing new CTL plants getting constructed in 2 or 3 years. But eventually the cost of hybrids will fall and so making cars more energy efficient will become cheaper as well.
Bush does not want to give in to his (former) base on immigration. So how to help the Republicans retain control of both houses of Congress? Make a big deal about gay marriage in hopes that the Rubes can be fooled again.
With just five months to go before the midterm elections, President Bush, whose once-faithful base has abandoned him in droves, is turning to the same conservative hot-button issues that won him re-election in 2004 -- homosexual "marriage" and judicial nominees.
The president, now fully aware that his plummeting approval ratings could cost the Republicans control of one or both congressional chambers in November, will use his radio address today and a speech Monday to push a constitutional amendment banning same-sex "marriage," just as the Senate prepares to vote on the issue.
Bush wants to combine homosexual marriage and nomination of conservative judges into a single election issue.
The crux of his argument is simple: A majority of Americans support the idea that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman, and activist judges across the country are thwarting the will of the people. While 45 states have either a state constitutional amendment or a statute defining marriage as heterosexual, judges in Washington state, California, Maryland, New York and Nebraska have overturned those laws.
Thus, there is a White House strategy to move swiftly to nominate more conservative judicial nominees, which political guru and top Bush political strategist Karl Rove sees as a decisive issue in elections -- an issue Mr. Bush effectively exploited in 2002 and 2004.
He could win back a big chunk of his base by calling for internal enforcement of immigration laws (which he's systematically undermined) and construction of a border wall. But he doesn't want his party to win elections as much as he wants to turn the United States into Latin America. So that's not going to happen. Hence the attempt to use a symbolic issue important to Christians to manipulate them to vote in spite of their dissatisfaction with him on other issues.
WASHINGTON -- President Bush pressed a passionately divided Congress on Thursday to reach election-year compromise on immigration legislation that provides a chance at citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants already in the country.
With his speech before business leaders and members of a government-sponsored civilian volunteer group, Bush hoped to build momentum for Senate and House negotiators to resolve difficult disputes. The two houses have passed sharply different versions of the legislation. To achieve one of his top domestic priorities of the year, Bush will have to bring around conservatives in his own party.
Republicans are overwhelmingly against Bush's position on immigration. If he was going to put the Republican party first in order to mobilize Republican voters he would not right now be pressuring Republican Congressmen to vote for something that will reduce their reelection chances.
Bush is pushing House Republicans to support immigration policy changes that would endanger their reelection. As Joe Guzzardi reports calls to House members are overwhelmingly against amnesty and guest workers.
News reports repeatedly emphasize that House Republicans are bombarded with irate calls demanding a border security approach only…no amnesty, no guest workers. [Immigration Deal At Risk As House GOP Looks To Voters, Jim VandeHei and Zachary A. Goldfarb, Washington Post, May 26, 2006]
A Congressional aide representing a border state told me that over 90% of the calls his office receives are adamantly opposed to amnesty. According to the aide, so that at least some non-immigration related work would be done during the day, his staff will only accept phone messages from his district’s residents
Contact your US House Representative and tell your rep you expect his or her strenuous opposition to the US Senate's massive immigration amnesty and guest workers program, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act (CIRA, S.2611).
Mountlake Terrace, WA. (May 31, 2006) – On top of their own employees' growing healthcare costs, Washington employers paid more than $1 billion in 2004 to cover shortfalls incurred by hospitals and physicians serving Medicare and Medicaid patients, according to an analysis released today by Premera Blue Cross.
“Some call it Medicare and Medicaid cost-shifting; others call it a hidden tax,” said Gubby Barlow, Premera CEO. “By any name, it’s a billion-dollar burden for Washington employers and policyholders, and that burden is growing every year. It threatens to undermine efforts by employers, employees and health care providers to moderate the growing costs of medical care.”
In 2004, this hidden tax cost Washington employers an average of $902 per family health insurance contract -- 13 percent of all commercial hospital and physician costs.
Nearly a third of medical insurance price increases comes from cost shifting.
Premera estimates that Medicare and Medicaid cost-shifting, not employees’ medical care, accounted for 29.9 percent of the increase in employee hospital costs paid by Washington employers in 2004.
“This growing trend has serious implications for the affordability of private insurance, and employee wages,” said Steve Leahy, president of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, which employs about 32 people and represents 2500 businesses in the Puget Sound area. “We simply cannot sustain this cost-shift without serious long-term repercussions.”
If you are an employee who gets medical insurance from your employer you see some of this cost shifting in the form of rising deductibles and a reduced set of covered conditions. But some of the costs come in the form of smaller salary increases. These are all forms of hidden taxes. Governments require hospitals and other health care providers to provide care and then make you pay for it.
This trend is being driven by a few factors:
The cost shifting feeds on itself. As medical insurance costs rise in reaction to cost shifting more people go without medical insurance. Therefore their medical care ends up showing up as costs for those still insured, raising rates still higher, and driving still more off of paid private medical insurance. Could this trend progress so far that purchase of medical insurance becomes rare? Health care costs have already reached 16% of GDP and continue to rise much faster than overall inflation. Medical costs are projected to reach 18.7% of the US economy by 2014.
Premera commissioned the May 2006 report, titled Payment Level Comparison between Public Programs and Commercial Health Plans for Washington State Hospitals and Physicians, from Milliman Inc., an internationally recognized consulting and actuarial firm.
The analysis shows that employers have faced increasing impact from government program hospital losses since 1997 when hospital profit margins on Medicare business began declining.
Washington patient related hospital margins on Medicare business fell from a 2.9 percent gain in 1997 to a 15.4 percent loss in 2004. During the same period, Washington hospitals increased their profit margins on the commercial (employer-provided) segment of their business from just over 5 percent to 16.4 percent.
Economic analyses of the long term viability of Medicare and Medicaid paint an overly rosy picture. Costs of these programs have been reduced by cost shfiting in recent years. But while governments can manage to do some cost shifting they will reach a point where the shifting does not work any more. Too many people will abandon private insurance. Some will travel abroad to receive medical care from facilities that do not have to accept underpaying patients.
In 2004, Washington hospitals lost $622 million for care delivered to patients with Medicare and Medicaid coverage. In contrast, the same hospitals earned $845 million for care delivered to patients with employer-provided health care coverage. The overall patient-related gain for Washington hospitals was $222 million, or about 2.4 percent.
Washington physicians experience a significant payment gap between Medicare/Medicaid and private sector patient care as well.
According to the Milliman study, Medicare pays physicians 20 to 26 percent less than commercial insurers in King County, and 25 to 31 percent less elsewhere in the state. Medicaid pays 31 to 36 percent less than commercial insurers for children's office visits; 50 to 54 percent less for adult office visits; 11 to 18 percent less for maternity services; and 55 to 58 percent less for other medical services.
In all, Premera estimates nearly $1.4 billion in medical care costs -- $738 million in hospital costs and $620 million in physician costs -- were shifted to Washington employers and other commercial customers in 2004 as physicians and hospitals charged higher commercial rates to offset payment shortfalls from Medicaid and Medicare.
What is scary about this situation is that it is a trend and the trend looks set to continue for decades to come. The aging and dumbing down of the population will both continue. The aged and lower classes will vote for making the productive pay more.
You can read the full report: Payment Level Comparison Between Public Programs and Commercial Health Plans for Washington State Hospitals and Physicians" (PDF).
A previous study I linked to reported that costs of the medically uninsured per insured family will rise to about $1500 per year by 2010. It will get even worse further out. Immigration of the low IQ, low skilled, and low income will make the rate of uninsurance and underinsurance cost shifting rise even as governments spend more on health care. Hispanics are medically uninsured at two and a half times the rate of whites (Open Borders libertarians are promoting the growth of big government and inefficient markets - ideology trumps empirical evidence). A few years ago one year of illegal alien health care costs would pay for a border barrier. Since the medical costs continue to rise we could build a barrier and fund extensive efforts to deport the illegals for less than what we spend on their medical care.
About one third of all immigrants are uninsured. Why not require all employers of immigrants on H1-B visas and other permits to provide medical insurance for all immigrants and their families? Why not require immigrants who want to bring in their relatives to pay for medical insurance for the relatives? How about upping the fines on employers of illegal immigrants so that the fines can pay for some of the costs generated by illegals? Shift the costs onto the people who generate the costs.
America is well on the road toward becoming a declining superpower. In the face of rising problems our political class is willing to make the problems even worse. Witness the US Senate passage of the absolutely terrible CIRA legislation to greatly boost immigration. Our Iraq Debacle may come to be seen as the point of overreach where the US political class became totally unhinged and irresponsible.
Now, Basra is the only city in Iraq under emergency rule, evidence of how far the city has careened off course. Locals say death squads openly patrol the streets and a police official reached by phone reports that at least 400 assassinations in the past two months.
Residents describe a political climate that is a cross between Al Capone's Chicago and Medici Florence. Politicians, corrupt policemen, and gangs are all vying with one another to determine who will come out on top. Some Shiite politicians there - as well as US and British officers - also allege that some of the groups are being provided money and arms by Iran, whose border is just 10 miles away.
While death squads have been trolling the city for over a year, the pace of the killing has picked up, and the target lists appear to have expanded, residents say.
"It made more sense when it started out. They were killing Baathists and officers from Saddam's army,'' says Ghazi, a long-haul trucker who makes regular trips to Basra, and asked that his full named not be used. "Now they kill Shiites, Sunnis, tribal leaders, doctors, engineers - just about anyone who opposes them politically."
The whole article is full of more insights.
Democracy in Iraq leads to the winners handing out contracts to their allies while the defeated factions take up arms to fight against a corrupt spoils system that doesn't give them a cut of the action.
This official also alleges that a lot of the city's government contracts are being steered to tribes that backed Waili for the governorship, and that other tribes that haven't been getting the business have been taking up arms.
American soldiers died to make this possible.
The proportion of Sunni Muslims in Basra has declined from 40% to 15%, after three years of forced immigration, said the chairman of a religious authority in Iraq.
The chairman of the official Sunni Endowment in Southern Iraq said militias had targeted Sunnis in the country's second-largest city.
Once all the Sunnis have left the Shias will focus more of their ambitions trying to force each other to submit.
With some factions in Basra threatening to cut off oil shipments to the nearby port the central government sees real money at stake in the fight for Basra and therefore the Iraqi central government has decided to try to take control of Basra.
BAGHDAD, Iraq — Police set up roadblocks Thursday around the oil-rich southern city of Basra as a monthlong state of emergency declared by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki went into effect.
Basra Gov. Mohammed al-Waeli said army troops and police fanned out around Iraq's second-largest city as part of a crackdown on rampant violence that has increased in recent weeks as rival Shiite militias fight each other for power.
Think those army troops represent a neutral fair force that stands against all militias and death squads? That seems unlikely. Probably officers in the Iraqi army have allies among one or more of the competing militias. So the Iraqi army's intervention is going to help some factions and hurt others.
Remember when the Bush Administration was talking about how the US military would start to pull down troop levels in Iraq in 2006? All that talk has fallen by the wayside as the violence has escalated. The rest of the US Army's 3500 reserves in Kuwait have gotten shifted to Anbar Province in order to try to take back Ramadi from Zarqawi's followers who control the city.
Recently about 1,500 soldiers of the Army's 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, deployed from Kuwait into western Iraq to conduct operations. This is precisely why this force has been stationed in Kuwait -- to provide General Casey and General Chiarelli with a flexible force that could be employed when the tactical situations so dictate.
RAMADI, Iraq - Whole neighborhoods are lawless, too dangerous for police. Some roads are so bomb-laden that U.S. troops won't use them. Guerrillas attack U.S. troops nearly every time they venture out - and hit their bases with gunfire, rockets or mortars when they don't.
Though not powerful enough to overrun U.S. positions, insurgents here in the heart of the Sunni Muslim triangle have fought undermanned U.S. and Iraqi forces to a virtual stalemate.
"It's out of control," says Army Sgt. 1st Class Britt Ruble, behind the sandbags of an observation post in the capital of Anbar province. "We don't have control of this ... we just don't have enough boots on the ground."
Bush doesn't want to admit that the US military isn't big enough to control Iraq. To fix that problem would reduce domestic spending cuts, tax hikes, and a huge admission of error. Not going to happen. He doesn't want to admit to mistakes on such an enormous scale.
Bryan Bender of the Boston Globe reports that the US military has not weakened the Iraqi insurgency.
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon reported Tuesday that the frequency of insurgent attacks against troops and civilians is at its highest level since American commanders began tracking such figures two years ago, an ominous sign that, despite three years of combat, the US-led coalition forces haven't significantly weakened the Iraq insurgency.
In its quarterly update to Congress, the Pentagon reported that from Feb. 11 to May 12, as the new Iraqi unity government was being established, insurgents staged an average of more than 600 attacks per week nationwide. From August 2005 to early February, when Iraqis elected a Parliament, insurgent attacks averaged about 550 per week; at its lowest point, before the United States handed over sovereignty in the spring of 2004, the attacks averaged about 400 per week.
If you get depressed by reality and not like to read sad and tragic news presented in unvarnished form then my advice is to seek out the "Happy Talk" blogs. You probably can still find bloggers who see reasons for optimism in spite of the US military's belief that the insurgency is undiminished. Never mind that the Shias are forcing all the Sunnis to leave Basra. Never mind that Basra is under control of rival religious parties and organized crime groups. You can find happy talkers who will assure you that things are looking pretty rosy.
Last week, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad conceded, in answer to a question about Ramadi in an interview with CNN, that parts of Anbar were under insurgent control. Ramadi is the capital of the overwhelmingly Sunni province. The difficulties facing stretched-thin U.S. Marines in Ramadi suggest the continuing obstacles to a reduction of American forces in Iraq.
"We hope to get rid of al-Qaeda, which is a huge burden on the city. Unfortunately, Zarqawi's fist is stronger than the Americans'," said one Sunni sheik, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of insurgent retaliation. He was referring to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, an umbrella group for many of the foreign and local resistance fighters in Iraq. Local Sunni leaders often insist that the most violent insurgent attacks are by foreign fighters, not Iraqi Sunnis.
In Ramadi, "Zarqawi is the one who is in control," the sheik said, speaking to a Washington Post special correspondent in Ramadi. "He kills anyone who goes in and out of the U.S. base. We have stopped meetings with the Americans, because, frankly speaking, we have lost confidence in the U.S. side, as they can't protect us."
Some of the sheiks who tried cooperating with US forces are now dead.
I say we leave and let the Iraqis fight it out among themselves. The neocons need to reconceptualize. What we are seeing is street democracy. Hurray! We've established a teeming and vibrant democracy in the Middle East.
Update: Want to understand why the US intervention in Iraq is doomed to failure? See my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq and click back and read the posts and articles linked to there. In a later post I listed a number of reasons why attempts to establish democracy won't work in the Middle East and in Iraq in particular. All those posts and linked articles are far more useful for understanding Iraq than the latest media reports. On top of all those reasons Iraq has an average IQ of 87. They are too dumb to make representative democracy work well. Liberal myths about human nature are costing us terribly in Iraq. We need to abandon the myths. The myths have gotten too costly abroad and at home.
Update II: The Rand Corporation analysts James Quinliven and James Dobbins and a variety of retired generals agree that to properly occupy Iraq would require forces at least 3 or probably 4 times larger than the current US forces there. Bush clearly doesn't want to try to pay the price to make our will prevail in Iraq. The US people wouldn't want to either if he tried. So what is the point in staying? Also see my post "History Of American Interventions Bodes Poorly For Democracy".