A Washington Post article on Pentagon efforts to better detect roadside bombs (a.k.a. Improvised Explosive Devices or IEDs) in Iraq reveals a more than doubling of the roadside bomb attack rate in the last year.
The Pentagon has made some progress. The number of bombs detected before they detonated has increased, according to the Joint IED office. The office did not provide figures to back up that assertion.
Still, the number of attacks continues to rise and roadside bombs remain the deadliest weapon used against troops. There were 11,242 roadside bomb attacks through June of this year, compared with 5,607 in all of 2004 and 10,953 in all of 2005, according to U.S. Central Command. They are the leading cause of U.S. casualties, accounting for about 33 percent of deaths, according to the Brookings Institution.
So the roadside bombing rate doubled from 2004 to 2005 and more than doubled again so far in 2006.
On the bright side, US/UK/allied (all non-Iraqi) military fatalities have declined for 3 months in a row from 82 in April 2006, 79 in May, 63 in June, to 47 in July. The daily average death rate of 1.52 in June is below the war average of 2.28. Though March 2006 was 1.06 per day. So it is too early to declare this a sustainable trend.
While US and allied casualties are down the same can not be said for Iraqi security forces or Iraqi civilians. Iraqi security forces lost 205 in July as compared to 201 in April. Civilian deaths at 1042 in July 2006 are the highest reported since the 1524 figure for August 2005. I suspect that Iraqi civilian deaths are under-reported. Bodies dumped in remote locations may go unfound and uncounted. Ditto for some vaporized by bombs. Plus, burials might take place without a stop at the morgue on the way. Plus, the government simply might lie about the death toll.
A different method of counting the dead in Iraq puts the death toll at 3149 civilians killed in June 2006. Given the general increase in death squad activity that estimate seems more plausible.
There has been a steady increase in attacks since January and February to a current level of more than 120 daily against U.S. and other foreign troops, U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces and civilians, said Army Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.
Civilians accounted for nearly 70 percent of all casualties, Johnson said.
What accounts for the decline in the death rate then? Better equipment? Better tactics? Are more of the attacks in the form of mortars into now well fortified compounds? Has vehicle quality improved in the last 6 months? Do US soldiers spend less time patrolling and more time in bases?
I've read that instead of patrolling at their own initiative US forces tend to spend more time responding to Iraqi military requests for help. So do they spend more time rather like firemen waiting for the alarm to ring? That might explain the complaints of Sunnis about attacks by death squads into Sunni neighborhoods within hearing distances of US bases with no US help forthcoming. Anyone know what is going on?
My guess (based upon a not-very-nice view of human nature and of Arab nature in particular): The Shia death squads, even though they are arbitrary and capricious in their selection of Sunni victims, might just bring the Sunnis around to a negotiated reduction in hostilities. Brutal unfairness, if sufficiently overwhelming, can work. This could work for the US military except that US domestic opinion would not tolerate it. So if US forces spend less time patrolling and effectively give the Shia militias freeer rein maybe Shia brutality could bring the Sunnis to accept Shia dominance.
Think of the Sunnis as like a horse that needs to broken or a dog that is used to the alpha position in the pack. They either need to be forced to accept a position of submissiveness vis a vis the Shias or they need to break away and form their own country. But the shift of US forces into Baghdad could prevent either of those scenarios from playing out.
Washington’s decision to send an additional 4,000 troops into the capital itself demonstrates the weakness of the Iraqi government, which is widely despised as an instrument of the occupying powers and which would immediately collapse if the American-led troops were withdrawn. The additional forces will join the 9,000 American soldiers and 8,500 Iraqi troops already stationed in Baghdad.
Whereas a few months ago the Bush Administration was trying to decrease the number of US soldiers in Iraq instead the number is going to go up. I'm reminded of Thomas Hobbes writing in the Leviathan in the year 1651: "Hell is truth seen too late". That's the US story in Iraq.
"No one wants to be here, you know, no one is truly enthused about what we do," said Sgt. Christopher Dugger, the squad leader. "We were excited, but then it just wears on you -- there's only so much you can take. Like me, personally, I want to fight in a war like World War II. I want to fight an enemy. And this, out here," he said, motioning around the scorched sand-and-gravel base, the rows of Humvees and barracks, toward the trash-strewn streets of Baghdad outside, "there is no enemy, it's a faceless enemy. He's out there, but he's hiding."
"We're trained as an Army to fight and destroy the enemy and then take over," added Dugger, 26, of Reno, Nev. "But I don't think we're trained enough to push along a country, and that's what we're actually doing out here."
My sympathy is with these poorly led soldiers who are dying and suffering permanent bodily damage.
Denmark is happiest. Next come Switzerland, Austria, and Iceland. Yet more evidence that the people who push for multiculturalism and ethnic diversity are either morons or malicious: Denmark and similar countries have the happiness populations.
A University of Leicester psychologist has produced the first ever ‘world map of happiness.’
Adrian White, an analytic social psychologist at the University’s School of Psychology, analysed data published by UNESCO, the CIA, the New Economics Foundation, the WHO, the Veenhoven Database, the Latinbarometer, the Afrobarometer, and the UNHDR, to create a global projection of subjective well-being: the first world map of happiness.
The projection, which is to be published in a psychology journal this September, will be presented at a conference later in the year. Participants in the various studies were asked questions related to happiness and satisfaction with life. The meta-analysis is based on the findings of over 100 different studies around the world, which questioned 80,000 people worldwide. For this study data has also been analysed in relation to health, wealth and access to education.
"I think there is a parallel between the state of a nation and an individual. If you are very depressed, you are less likely to go out and be ambitious which obviously impacts on the economy, creating a vicious circle of poverty and depression.
"Scandinavian countries have done so well firstly because they are rich with good healthcare and education systems. They also have a sense of collectivity and community because of a strong national identity. Bigger countries are often more fragmented and people there may not feel they are making so much of a difference. While not such a big indicator of happiness, this is also a factor.
"We also found that living in beautiful rural areas increased happiness by a small factor. However countries in Africa are very beautiful but more important factors there that reduce happiness are people dying of preventable diseases and war."
My guess is nationalized health care is not making people happier by keeping them healthier. My guess is that availability of government-provided health care make people feel more secure and that it is this feeling of security rather than objective services provided that causes an increase in happiness. People want security.
Immigration can contribute to lower average levels of happiness in a number of of ways. For example, it makes a population larger and therefore makes each person less important and less influential to the whole. Also, with ethnic diversity comes less trust and less commonly held values. A population that is more diverse in values about how a society should be organised is one where far fewer are likely to be satisfied about the rules and about what governments do and require.
Note that higher IQ enables the affluence needed for high quality health care. Also, a smarter population can become more educated. So a country's level of average intelligence plays a big role in determining how happy its populace will be. Also, an ethnically more diverse country will have a wider distribution of levels of intelligence. Part of the decreased happiness in ethnically more diverse nations may flow from having larger populations of lower IQ groups.
Going back to the first link above, note how many small and ethnically non-diverse countries come out on top in happiness:
The 20 happiest nations in the World are:
1 - Denmark
2 - Switzerland
3 - Austria
4 - Iceland
5 - The Bahamas
6 - Finland
7 - Sweden
8 - Bhutan
9 - Brunei
10 - Canada
11 - Ireland
12 - Luxembourg
13 - Costa Rica
14 - Malta
15 - The Netherlands
16 - Antigua and Barbuda
17 - Malaysia
18 - New Zealand
19 - Norway
20 - The Seychelles
Other notable results include:
23 - USA
35 - Germany
41 - UK
62 - France
82 - China
90 - Japan
125 - India
167 - Russia
The three least happy countries were:
176 - Democratic Republic of the Congo
177 - Zimbabwe
178 - Burundi
Some of the European welfare states rank incredibly high in happiness. How could anything less than a pure laissez fair libertarian free market utopia produce such a high level of happiness? Surely we can not suppose conventional free market economists are promoting theories based on wrong assumptions about human nature. Banish that thought. Keep the homo economicus faith.
One big puzzler here is ethnically homogeneous and affluent Japan. China's low ranking seems less difficult to explain given the rapid rate of change there and the feellings of insecurity that must cause. Also, China still has extensive poverty and the impoverished feel even worse when they look around and see others who are doing far better than them.
TORONTO – The surprise announcement by a prominent Muslim leader here that he was an informant who helped authorities arrest 17 Muslims on terrorism charges has raised questions in the Muslim community over the ethics of informing versus a responsibility to stop violence.
Since outing himself as an informant who infiltrated and trained with the suspects, Mubin Shaikh has come under harsh criticism by some Toronto Muslims and sparked a debate about how far citizens should go in aiding police investigations, even as he has been hailed as a hero in the mainstream media.
Notice the difference in reactions. The Canadian mainstream sees a hero. Muslims see something else. Multiculturalism is a great way to increase distrust and make consensus impossible.
Is he a moderate Muslim perhaps? Depends on what one means by "moderate". He wants Islamic law in Canada.
Before this, Shaikh was a well-known conservative leader in the Muslim community. He runs a shariah arbitration center and is a fierce advocate for Islamic law, in Canada.
Muslims are nature's way of telling us that multiculturalism is a really bad idea.
Some Muslims figure Shaikh must have manipulated the arrested Muslims to take a path toward terrrorism.
Some wonder whether Shaikh couldn't have dissuaded the terrorism suspects, most of whom are younger than he, from violence. Some accuse him of entrapping the suspects. Some question his motivation - Shaikh claims he was paid C$77,000 (US$68,000) for his work and is owed another C$300,000. Others simply scorn him as a betrayer.
"He was not just an informer in terms of ratting out certain people, he was actually fishing," says Aly Hindy, imam of the Salaheddin Islamic Centre, a mosque several of the suspects attended in Scarborough, an eastern suburb of Toronto. Mr. Hindy said Shaikh's deep knowledge of Islam - he studied for two years in Syria - helped him gain sway over the youngsters.
I can imagine the logic: Better a single Muslim who cooperates with the non-Muslim authorities be considered bad than the larger group of Muslims who saw their primary allegiance for Islam against the non-Muslims.
Writing for the German publication Der Spiegel Erich Follath reports on the seeming contradictions in Qatar, made possible by enormous wealth from massive natural gas reserves.
The country's leader, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, 56, and his brother Abdullah, 46, the head of the government, are Washington's staunch allies in its war on terror and have permitted the White House to expand the Udeid air base into the US Air Force's most important base outside the United States. The facility, which doesn't appear on any map of Qatar, is essentially the American's command center for the entire Iraq war.
The ruling family is also a major backer of the Al-Jazeera ("The Island") television network, which has been critical of both Arab feudal governments and the Bush administration. This probably explains why Al-Jazeera is the network of choice for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his associates, whose videos are routinely delivered to Doha, where Al-Jazeera broadcasts them to the rest of the world -- a source of constant irritation for Washington.
Israel is permitted to maintain a trade office in Qatar, and its directors are usually high-ranking retired generals. At the same time, Doha's ruling family has no compunctions about providing some of the funding for Hamas, which has yet to renounce terror. Indeed, Qatar recently gave the Palestinian organization $50 million without tying any conditions to the funding. At the same time, the sheikhs also paid for the construction of a soccer stadium near the northern Israeli city of Haifa.
While Follath claims Qatar has a per capita GDP of $53,000 the CIA World Factbook puts it at $27,400 per capita in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms. Possibly the CIA is including the guest workers in their division of GDP by population whereas perhaps Follath is not. The CIA lists Arabs as only 40% of Qatar's population. Also, perhaps Follath isn't quoting in PPP terms.
The CIA World Factbook puts the Qatari population at 95% Muslim. I suspect they include foreign workers in that figure and that the foreign workers are overwhelmingly Muslim.
The sources said Qatar, which has not signed a peace treaty with Israel but enjoys friendly ties with the Jewish state, had intensified its diplomacy in recent days directly with Israeli officials and also with Hizbollah through Lebanese officials.
"The Qataris are mediating between Israel and Hizbollah to end the current crisis in Lebanon," one senior political source told Reuters. The sources did not give details.
The United States will soon provide Israel with some 100 "bunker buster" bombs to kill the leader of Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrilla group and destroy its trenches, Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported on Monday.
Quoting unidentified informed sources in both Washington and Tel Aviv, the Saudi-owned Arabic daily said the bombs, which can penetrate up to 40 metres under ground, would be shipped to Israel from a U.S. military base in Qatar.
Heavily moneyed elites in Arab countries are more tolerant of non-Muslims than their masses. The Qatari rulers will make deals with Israelis, Western oil companies, and the US government while their population looks at the world in very different terms.
I wonder whether the rising popularity of Muslim fundamentalism will eventually pressure elites in the Persian Gulf oil sheikdoms to distance themselves from the US and become even more supportive of the enemies of Israel in Israel's local environment. I also wonder whether Al-Jazeera is feeding a change in attitudes that will eventually bite the Qatari rulers.
The U.S. House of Representatives early Saturday passed the first increase in the minimum wage in a decade, paired with a cut in inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates. The House bill increases the $5.15 hourly minimum wage to $7.25 in three steps: $5.85 on Jan. 1, $6.55 on June 1, 2008, and $7.25 on June 1, 2009.
The rise to $7.25 has to be considered in inflation adjusted terms. If inflation runs at 3% in the next 3 years then cut about 9.3% from the $7.25 to get to $6.28 in 2006 dollars. If a recession cools down the inflation rate to 2% then the $7.25 becomes $6.81 in 2006 dollars.
Full-time workers at minimum wage make less than $900 a month to pay rent, food, healthcare, gas and everything else. No wonder the U.S. Conference of Mayors Hunger and Homelessness Survey found that 40 percent of adults requesting emergency food assistance were employed, as were 15 percent of the homeless.
So much for the "trickle down" theory:
Today's minimum wage workers have less buying power than minimum wage workers did back in 1950 when Harry Truman was president. The 1950 minimum wage is $6.30 in 2006 dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator. It would take $9.31 today to match the value of the minimum wage of 1968. It takes nearly two minimum wage workers to make what one worker made four decades ago.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities puts forth a different inflation adjustment analysis on wages. CBPP claims the inflation adjusted peak minimum was only at $7.54 per hour.
But their third footnote says they are using a less widely used method of adjusting for inflation and that the more widely used CPI-U series would put the peak of minimum wage at $8.88 in 2005 dollars.
We adjust for inflation using the CPI-RS (research series). The “RS” is a historically consistent series used by many analysts, including the US Bureau of the Census, to adjust for price changes. Relative to the more commonly used CPI-U, the CPI-RS grows more slowly, meaning that the real minimum wage deflated by the CPI-U has a higher peak level: $8.88 in 1968 in today’s dollars.
Why use CPI-RS? Anyone know a reason?
Another site puts the 1968 minimum wage at $9.12 in 2005 dollars. You can see the graph of real inflation adjusted minimum wage as rising pretty rapidly in the 1950s and 1960s and then declining some in the 1970s but most heavily declining in the 1980s.
But inflation adjustment is not the only consideration when looking at the historical minimum wage. Economic output per worker has soared since 1968. How has economic output changed since 1968? One reads many comparisons using per capita GDP. But the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics Office of Productivity and Technology uses the far more interesting (at least to me) measure: Real GDP per Employed Person Converted to U.S. Dollars using PPPs (or Purchasing Power Parities). Click through to that PDF file and go to page 11 for a time series using that measure for the United States and 15 other countries. A comparison of the United States for 1968 and 2005 shows a 69% growth rate during that time. So production per worker soared even as the minimum wage plummeted. So much for "trickle down". Using 2002 dollars in PPP the 1968 per capita GDP of employed people was $47,898 versus 2005 with $81,024.
America's lower class is not doing well. Why swell its size with low skilled immigration? Why not jack up the minimum wage to $10 per hour. That'll raise wages for those who keep their jobs and cut the demand for low skilled illegal immigrants. The average skill level of illegal immigrants will rise as only those who are worth at least $10 per hour will try to come and the lower skilled lower wage illegals will self deport.
A digression from talk about minimum wage: That BLS document also makes for interesting reading for comparisons of output per worker in industrialized countries. If you go to that PDF file also check out table 2 which shows a time series of per capita GDP of 15 other industrialized countries as a fraction of to the United States per capita GDP. Following down each column you can see where each country peaked versus the United States. For example, Canada peaked at 88.5% of US per capita GDP in 1981 and current is at 80.5%. Australia peaked at 81.5% in 1960 and currently is at 76.5%. Japan peaked at 86.2% and currently is at 76.5%.
That document's table 4 repeats the same analysis as table 2 but using per capita GDP per employed person. By that analysis Canada peaks against the United States in 1977 at 89.3%, Australia peaks in 1982 at 82.5% and Japan still peaks in 1991 but at 77.1%. Also using table 4 as of 2005 Norway at 94.6% came closest to equalling the United States. North Sea oil and high oil prices partly account for the strong showing by Norway. Belgium comes next at 93.3%. Part of Belgium's strong showing per worker is in part due to a lower labor market participation rate of 40.3% versus, for example, Denmark at 50.4%. Those who do not work are less talented than those who do. So a lower labor market participation pushes up average productivity per actual worker.
Greg Cochran points me to the news on a poll of Lebanese attitudes about Israel and the Hezbollah. Hezbollah wants to show that Israel is not invincible.
TYRE, LEBANON – The ferocity of Israel's onslaught in southern Lebanon and Hizbullah's stubborn battles against Israeli ground forces may be working in the militant group's favor.
"They want to shatter the myth of Israeli invincibility," says Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a leading Lebanese expert on Hizbullah. "Being victorious means not allowing Israel to achieve their aims, and so far that is the case."
Israel's prowess is now taking a hit just like America's military power is taking a hit due to events in Iraq.
Hezbollah is getting wide support across sectarian lines - even from Christian Lebanese.
The stakes are high for Hizbullah, but it seems it can count on an unprecedented swell of public support that cuts across sectarian lines.According to a poll released by the Beirut Center for Research and Information, 87 percent of Lebanese support Hizbullah's fight with Israel, a rise of 29 percent on a similar poll conducted in February. More striking, however, is the level of support for Hizbullah's resistance from non-Shiite communities. Eighty percent of Christians polled supported Hizbullah along with 80 percent of Druze and 89 percent of Sunnis.
Lebanese no longer blame Hizbullah for sparking the war by kidnapping the Israeli soldiers, but Israel and the US instead.
The latest poll by the Beirut Center found that 8 percent of Lebanese feel the US supports Lebanon, down from 38 percent in January.
The government of Lebanon is elected. Lebanon has a democracy. Yet the people of Lebanon support an organization that carries out terrorist attacks and advocates the destruction of Israel. Bush and the neoconservatives argue that democracy and freedom can end the appeal of terrorism in the Middle East and bring peace. The evidence argues otherwise.
"Some people say, `We saw you beheading, kidnappings and killing. In the end we even started kidnapping women who are our honor,'"al-Mashhadani said."These acts are not the work of Iraqis. I am sure that he who does this is a Jew and the son of a Jew."
My fellow Americans, we helped bring him to power. You see, democratically elected Muslim power brokers are supposed to be better than dictator Arabs. Also, voting Arabs are supposed to be better than Arab subjects of dictators. Really, the democratically elected President of the United States says so.
"The Israeli attacks and airstrikes are completely destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure,” al-Maliki is quoted as saying during a news conference in Baghdad. “I condemn these aggressions and call on the Arab League foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo to take quick action to stop these aggressions. We call on the world to take quick stands to stop the Israeli aggression.”
In contrast to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab countries, Maliki declined to criticize Hezbollah.
That placed Maliki’s US-backed government in the discomfiting company of Algeria and Syria, rejectionist radicals in the Arab world.
Obviously, Israel isn't going to be secure as long as democratic regimes remain in the Middle East. We need to go on a campaign to overthrow democracies.
One of the democracy myths is that democracies will never fight each other. Yet the democratic Israelis are as enthused to kill Hezbollah as the Lebanese are to see Hezbollah hitting at Israel.
A new poll released in Israel confirms that Israelis are united in support of the fight against Hezbollah. 82 percent say the army’s offensive into Lebanon is justified, and 71 percent believe Israel should use even more force in attacking Hezbollah.
Unless a military force from other countries goes into South Lebanon and takes on Hezbollah how will this conflict stop? Can Hezbollah sustain the rocket attacks?
The continued attacks, however, have put a minor dent in American public support for Israel. A recent Gallup Poll found that a large majority of Americans back Israel's military campaign against Hezbollah, although half of those polled thought Israel had gone too far.
Lydia Saad, a senior editor at The Gallup Poll, said the number of civilians killed by the Israeli attacks appeared to be a main reason for that reaction.
The survival of Sheikh Nasrallah is already remarkable. Even more so is the West’s sudden obsession with his leadership — not just of Hezbollah but also, for all practical purposes, of Lebanon and of an upsurge of pan-Arab solidarity potentially more powerful than any since the Yom Kippur war of 1973.
His support on the Arab street will not of itself rebuild Lebanon or destroy Israel, which remains a key Hezbollah goal. But it has made him the new face of jihadism, with an appeal transcending border and sectarian divides. This is why, with stunning swiftness, Sheikh Nasrallah has eclipsed even Osama bin Laden as the West’s most potent enemy in the War on Terror.
“Nasser 1956 — Nasrallah 2006” declare the posters on the streets of Cairo. No al- Qaeda figurehead was ever so honoured. “Oh beloved Nasrallah, strike Tel Aviv,” chant protesters in Bahrain, home of the US 5th Fleet. And his latest televised threat is to do just that, with long-range missiles he has not needed to deploy so far.
To Israel, the story of Sheikh Nasrallah is one of toxic extremism and remorseless killing. To his followers, it is of patient planning and heroic defiance. Until this month his greatest triumph, in their eyes, was Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon six years ago. But by taking on the full might of the Israeli Defence Forces in a war of his own timing — and then holding it at bay — he surpassed himself.
The amount of damage the missiles have done to Israel to date is fairly small. Few Israelis have been killed and the physical destruction is small. The economic damage due to disrupted work is probably larger than the damage to buildings. That is worrisome because Hezbollah might be able to keep this attack up for weeks or even months. Longer range missiles could cause economic disruption over most of the Israeli economy. That's a really big problem for Israel, probably the biggest it has faced in decades.
Events in the Middle East are a challenge to the universalist aspirations of Western liberalism. Democracy in the Middle East does not release anywhere near as many suppressed liberal urges as it releases tribal and religiously based motives.
While many Jewish neoconservatives dream of overthrowing Arab governments that have firm grips on their people and borders Israel hasn't been attacked by such goverments in decades and the attackers who are Israel's biggest headaches operate in territories over which no government exercises firm sovereign control. Israel's strategic problem is how to cause fragmented territories to come under firm control of elites which can exercise sovereign power over their territories. It is not clear that most Israelis understand this. Gideon Lichfield, The Economist's Jerusalem correspondent, explains why Israelis are so supportive of their government's reaction to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
When I discuss such questions with Israelis, as we peel off the layers of reasoning and approach the core, what I most often meet is a kind of crude Pavlovian determinism. The Palestinians, the Lebanese, the Arabs in general—they understand only the language of force. Not showing force is a mistake. Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, summed up the thinking well this week in his speech to the Knesset: "Our enemies misinterpreted our willingness to exercise restraint as a sign of weakness."
And since all of Lebanon, in Israel's eyes, is complicit in letting Hezbollah live unmolested, it won't do any harm for all the Lebanese to feel a little force too. Not too much, of course. Nothing gratuitous. But just enough, as a by-product of actions that might be justified (the two soldiers might be spirited away via the airport, after all), to make them think twice about allowing Hezbollah to flourish in the future. And the civilian casualties—well, that's what you get for letting bad, bearded men with guns live across the hallway.
It is, in fact, the way Israel has kept its enemies at bay since it was born: the notion that force will knock sense into them. Olmert again, in a press conference just before the Lebanon crisis, when asked why Israel had recently gone into Gaza with bombs and tanks after the kidnapping of a soldier there: "These are effective measures and it may take some more time, but I'm hopeful that at the end of the day, the dominant forces within the Palestinian community will impose the end and the cessation of these violent actions by Palestinians."
It worked in the old days, when the equation was simple: one country, one leadership, one army. Defeat the army, and that was that. But now things are messier.
Lebanon is rather like several countries pulled together; its government is a weak and fragile balance of groups, including Hezbollah. Israel's coalition is fractious too, but its groupings are political and fluid. Lebanon's are ethnic-religious and fixed—Hezbollah's supporters are Shia Muslims, the country's biggest religious group—so the balance doesn't just shift with the political winds.
Lebanon is more of a confederacy than a proper modern nation-state. Lebanese fought a bitter civil war from 1975 up to at least 1990. Those non-Shia Lebanese who are "complicit" in allowing Hezbollah to attack Israel tried to bring their civil war to a point where one group or alliance of groups came out on top. But they were too divided and ultimately failed. Syrian troops were required to put an end to the civil war. Now the Israelis want the Lebanese Christians, Druze, and Sunnis to take on the Shias of south Lebanon. Effectively that would restart the Lebanese civil war. Well, doing that would cost those other groups far more than what the Israelis are costing them now. So those groups are unlikely to decide to unite to take on the Shias.
Hezbollah can attack Israel from south Lebanon because the non-Shia Lebanese do not want to take on the Shias. Many non-Shias and more secular Shias do not like what Hezbollah is doing by taking on Israel. But while the non-Shias are unhappy with the situation news accounts do not report on Sunnis or Druze or Christians ready to take up arms against Hezbollah.
The stark physical contrast reflects a deep and growing divide in Lebanese society between the less affluent, more religious Shiite south and the more urban center, largely of Sunni Muslims, Druse and Christians, which has built and benefited from a long-awaited economic boom.
“The country is going in two totally different directions,” said Ghassan Salhab, a Lebanese filmmaker and a middle-class secular Shiite. “One is, ‘We have an enemy and we need to fight it,’ ” he said, referring to Hezbollah’s supporters. “The other is, ‘We want to live and build and go with the world, wherever it goes.’ ”
The secular types do not want to take on the religious people in a war which will mainly benefit Israel. While Hezbollah is costing them in trade and safety a civil war would cost them more. So Hezbollah is free to do what it wants. The Lebanese Army would not get tasked with taking on Hezbollah unless a very large multinational force showed up to help them do it. Even then the Lebanese would have to worry about how long that force would stay, how hard that force would be willing to fight, and what would happen after that force left.
President Jacques Chirac said on Wednesday France could play a major role in an international force for Lebanon under certain circumstances, but insisted the force should not try to disarm Hizbollah guerrillas.
However Chirac added that he did not favor a role for NATO.
Germany also said it was opposed to deploying NATO's reaction force as peacekeepers.
"If such an international stabilization force comes about ... Germany would rule out using the NATO Response Force," government spokesman Thomas Steg told reporters, referring to the force due to be fully operational in October.
"It is clearly unsuitable for this purpose."
Why would any nation want to pay the huge price? US experience in Iraq, Israel's previous experience in Lebanon, and even Israel's current experience in Lebanon all suggest that putting down a Hezbollah insurgency would require a large force and be extremely costly in lives and money. Governments mostly do not see a net benefit from taking on such a job.
Rather than expect the Lebanese non-Shias to take on the Shias why not split up Lebanon? If South Lebanon was split off into a separate country then Hezbollah would rule the new government and Hezbollan soldiers would be the soldiers for that government. Then Hezbollah's actions against Israel would be those of a state actor and Hezbollah would bear all responsibility for what happened.
The Gaza Strip has less of a sovereign government than Lebanon. A New York Times piece examines how the Palestians in Gaza are split into rival factions that fight each other when they are not fighting the Israelis.
Giora Eiland, a former director of Israel’s national security council and a retired major general who led an investigation into the June 25 raid, agreed. “Recently there was the illusion that Hamas, while not a perfect partner, was at least a group that could implement decisions,” he said. “But it has become apparent that the political leadership of Hamas is much less influential than Khaled Meshal and leaders of the military wing.” Mr. Meshal is the chairman of Hamas’s political bureau and lives in exile in Damascus, Syria.
The Qassam Brigades is the Palestinians’ largest and best organized militant group but it is not the only militia operating in the area under Palestinian control. At least six other armed groups field soldiers to fight Israel or, when there are no Israelis to fight — as was the case for nine months after Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza last year — to fight among themselves.
REG: Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People's Front.
FRANCIS: And the Judean Popular People's Front.
P.F.J.: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
LORETTA: And the People's Front of Judea.
P.F.J.: Yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
LORETTA: The People's Front of Judea. Splitters.
REG: We're the People's Front of Judea!
LORETTA: Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.
REG: People's Front! C-huh.
Former Democratic Governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis and Daniel Mitchell, a professor of management and public policy at UCLA, argue that raising the minimum wage would effectively reduce illegal immigration.
There is a simpler alternative. If we are really serious about turning back the tide of illegal immigration, we should start by raising the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to something closer to $8. The Massachusetts legislature recently voted to raise the state minimum to $8 and California may soon set its minimum even higher. Once the minimum wage has been significantly increased, we can begin vigorously enforcing the wage law and other basic labor standards.
Millions of illegal immigrants work for minimum and even sub-minimum wages in workplaces that don’t come close to meeting health and safety standards. It is nonsense to say, as President Bush did recently, that these jobs are filled by illegal immigrants because Americans won’t do them. Before we had mass illegal immigration in this country, hotel beds were made, office floors were cleaned, restaurant dishes were washed and crops were picked — by Americans.
Americans will work at jobs that are risky, dirty or unpleasant so long as they provide decent wages and working conditions, especially if employers also provide health insurance. Plenty of Americans now work in such jobs, from mining coal to picking up garbage. The difference is they are paid a decent wage and provided benefits for their labor.
However, Americans won’t work for peanuts, and these days the national minimum wage is less than peanuts. For full-time work, it doesn’t even come close to the poverty line for an individual, let alone provide a family with a living wage. It hasn’t been raised since 1997 and isn’t enforced even at its currently ridiculous level.
A big rise in the mimimum wage would reduce the incentive for businesses to hire illegals because it would reduce the ability of businesses to reduce labor costs by using illegals.
The economic downside for the economy as a whole would be fairly small. People who are making $6 and $7 an hour receive such a low percentage of total income that doubling their incomes would have little impact on prices of goods and services. Fewer people would have jobs. But that would not make poor people poorer on average. They'd get more money when they did work.
Also, a reduction in the number of illegal aliens would reduce other costs for poor people such as by reducing the number of people making demands on government-funded medical services. Poor American citizens would therefore get better medical care. They'd also be less victimized by criminals.
Update: A rise in the minimum wage would also increase the quality of those who enter and stay in the United States illegally. Those who come would have to have better skills in order to justify their higher hourly wages. Otherwise they would not get hired. So with higher minimum wages less skilled immigrants would be more likely to self-deport and less likely to come in the first place.
Japan’s auto sector now accounts for one-third of U.S. auto market sales. But Japan still depends on exports and, since 2001, has been much more exposed to the Chinese market. Japanese exports to China, which were very small before 2000, make up almost 15% of total Japanese exports, while the U.S. share has declined by nearly the same amount.
Japan’s export base increased at a 20% annual rate between 2002 and 2004, with almost a quarter of this growth coming from China. During this period, Chinese imports were growing at about a 50% annual rate, while Japan’s exports to China were rising at almost a 60% annual rate.
“China’s explosion onto the world economic stage was a huge boon for Japan, which not only benefited in terms of export stimulus, but from a direct source of domestic stimulus to an economy that had struggled to find the momentum to lift itself out of its long-term recession,” says Fosler.
But Fosler says much of the optimism about Japanese economic growth may be a delayed reaction to the better than expected performance of 2004-2005 rather than a hard-nosed appraisal of the future. Recently, Japan’s machinery export orders and industrial activity have been flat, and its profit growth is slowing rapidly and its productivity growth is stagnating. And China’s exports, which have been important to all of Asia, are now rising at only about a 15% annual rate.
My guess: Japanese businesses are less eager than American businesses to move factories from the home country to China. So what would have been US export growth to China instead became US companies making their goods in China for the China market. Mind you, that's just a guess.
Anyone have a source for what percentage of manufacturing of US and Japanese companies takes place in the home countries versus various other countries?
Firas also lived in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad. He left two months ago and says very few of his neighbors are still there. He says he left because he feared for his life. "If you are in a Shi'ite neighborhood and they see your identity is Christian, okay, you will at least suffer or they will kill you, easily. Same in Sunni places," said Firas.
The US should shift aid money toward helping them move.
Sometimes, those who have fled have experienced the worst horrors. A businessman we will call Fouad, to protect him and his family, was kidnapped in Baghdad. He is reluctant to recall his ordeal. "I do not want to remember it. Leave it," he said. "What is the use of this story? Every day hundreds are kidnapped in Baghdad."
Does it bother Bush the Christian that his policies have badly shafted Christians in Iraq?
But Father Tariq from Saint George Church in Ainkawa says it is not just Baghdad Christians who are fleeing the violence. He says families came from Basra, Mosul and Kirkuk, as well as Baghdad. Altogether, about 700 families have come to the area.
Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times reports that bakeries are being forced to close all over Baghdad because the owners are not the right political sect in some cases.
For the past year, Sunni Arab militants have swept through their old neighborhood, a heavily Sunni district in northwest Baghdad that borders a Shiite area, forcing Shiites out of their homes and shutting their shops by killing customers and workers inside. One after another, bakeries, whose workers are overwhelmingly poor and Shiite like Mr. Aaraji, began to close.
Now, out of 11 bakeries in the area, northern Ghazaliya, just one, the Sunni-owned Al Obeidi on Center Street, remains open. The neighborhood, like a mouth with missing teeth, is almost entirely without the simplest of Iraqi needs, freshly baked bread.
Some Iraqis think that the US forces do so little that if the US pulled out the violence wouldn't increase.
The widespread sectarian killings have gone virtually unchecked by authorities of any kind, American or Iraqi. That is one of the bitterest disappointments of the war for Iraqis, rivaled only by the letdown felt when the military did not stop mobs of looters in April 2003, when Saddam Hussein’s government was overthrown. Recently Iraqis have begun to say that an American withdrawal, which they previously feared would result in a bloodbath, might not make any difference.
“Their main task, their whole reason for being here, is to prevent exactly this, but they do nothing,” said an Iraqi mother who lives near Sadr City and strongly supported the Americans as recently as last year. “They just let it go, my God, so easily.”
In all, he said, nearly 27,000 families, about 162,000 people, had registered for relocation aid since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra on Feb. 22, which set off waves of killings, kidnappings and reprisals.
Sattar Nowruz, a spokesman for the Ministry of Displacement and Migration, said 1,117 families abandoned mixed areas for Shiite or Sunni strongholds in the last week alone, an increase since March that analysts described as a conservative snapshot of internal migration.
I'm guessing most do not report to the government that they've had to flee their homes. Think about it this way: At least 100 per week are dying. Given the death rate would you stay in a mixed sect neighborhood in your city?
A day after the United States issued a stern warning to both Shiite and minority Sunni leaders to match talk with action on reining in and reconciling "death squads" and "terrorists" from their respective communities, the migration ministry said more than 30,000 people had registered as refugees this month alone.
That works out to about 10,000 per week or even higher than my calculation of 6600 per week above. 10,000 per week is over a half million a year. Again keep in mind that these are the people who register with the government. The real numbers could be double or triple or higher. The internal migration rate looks high enough to partition the country along ethnic lines within a year or two.
Even those hesitant to call Iraq's ongoing sectarian violence a civil war have begun saying that the only way to diffuse the sectarian killings is nothing short of the international mechanisms used to mediate past ethnic, religious and political conflicts in Central America, the former Yugoslavia and Sri Lanka.
"I start to feel the need to say that there is a civil war," said Salim Abdullah Jabouri, a Sunni politician, "in order to borrow the tools and solutions of past civil wars to apply them here, and to call upon the international community to deal with Iraq's problems on this basis."
Partition the place.
Can we build a handbasket big enough to fit Iraq into? If not, how is it going to hell? The latest killing spree was carried out by Sunnis trying to play catch-up with the Shia killing squads.
BAGHDAD, July 17 -- Masked attackers with heavy machine guns mounted on pickup trucks slaughtered at least 40 people in a crowded market area south of Baghdad on Monday, hurling grenades to blow up merchants at their counters and shooting down mothers as they fled with their children, witnesses and authorities said.
The military-style assault on unarmed civilians in the mostly Shiite city of Mahmudiyah lasted 30 minutes and was vicious even for a country besieged daily by bombs and coldblooded attacks. At one point, the assailants entered a cafe and shot dead seven men -- most of them elderly -- while they were having tea, said Maythan Abdul Zahad, a police officer. He said the gunmen stepped on their victims' heads to keep them still.
Which Shia militia can do the best job exacting revenge? The Mahdis or the Badrs?
Iraqi security forces didn't treat this latest attack as an opportunity to shine.
Survivors said Iraqi soldiers let the heavily armed, highly visible attackers pass through a checkpoint near the marketplace. Witnesses described Iraqi security forces largely leaving the civilians to their fate, although survivors gave conflicting accounts as to whether Iraqi police, soldiers or Shiite militiamen had tried to fight off the attackers.
US forces deny survivor accusations that they saw what was going on and did nothing.
The Sunnis have so many reasons to kill Shias that they can't make up their minds what caused them to go on a killing spree.
In statements, Sunni insurgents gave different explanations for why Mahmudiyah was targeted -- some saying that it was because Sadr's Mahdi Army militia had allegedly driven Sunni vendors from the market a week ago, others saying it was because of the recent killing of a Sunni cleric. A written statement in the name of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq said the attack targeted local leaders of the Mahdi Army.
According to the report, 2,669 civilians were killed in May and 3,149 were killed in June. Those numbers combined two counts: from the Ministry of Health, which records deaths reported by hospitals; and the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad, which tallies the unidentified bodies it receives.
The report charts a month-by-month increase in the number of civilians killed, from 710 in January to 1,129 in April. In the first six months of the year, it said 14,338 people had been killed.
I'm betting the July death toll will surpass June. How about you?
Are all these deaths a necessary prelude to serious negotiations between the factions? Or will the desire for revenge continue the ratcheting up of the civil war?
Gulf War I is starting to look like the mother of all battles. The Turks are ready to cross over into Iraq to hunt down Turkish Kurdish guerillas.
Turkish officials signaled Tuesday they are prepared to send the army into northern Iraq if U.S. and Iraqi forces do not take steps to combat Turkish Kurdish guerrillas there - a move that could put Turkey on a collision course with the United States.
Turkey is facing increasing domestic pressure to act after 15 soldiers, police and guards were killed fighting the guerrillas in southeastern Turkey in the past week.
That's not good.
Iraqi Turkmens, targets of a series of attacks recently, complain their safety in Iraq is not guaranteed, lamenting that Turkey is not sufficiently interested in their grievances.
Amman/Brussels, 18 July 2006: Unless the international community acts soon to resolve mounting tensions in Kirkuk, the result could well be yet another violent communal conflict in Iraq, risking full scale civil war and possibly outside military intervention.Iraq and the Kurds: The Brewing Battle over Kirkuk,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the dangerously neglected looming conflict in and around the northern Iraqi city. The struggle is equal parts street brawl over oil riches; ethnic competition over identity between Kurdish, Turkoman, Arab and Assyrian-Chaldean communities; and titanic clash between two nations, Arab and Kurd.
“Notwithstanding all the other crises on decision-makers’ plates right now, the stakes here are too high for the international community to stand by, allowing yet another element in the Iraq equation to slip into chaos by default”, says Gareth Evans, Crisis Group President.
The U.S. Secretary of Energy says it may take about six months to restore Iraq's oil output to pre-war levels of 2.5 million barrels a day.
We need to develop technologies that will replace and obsolesce oil.
How can the will of the people possibly be wrong? The Arab masses insist that Hizbollah should rain missiles on Israel.
DAMASCUS, Syria — The rapidly escalating conflict in Lebanon has divided the Arab world, deepening the gulf between rulers and ruled and reinforcing in the public's mind the impotence of leaders who for two generations have been unable to produce a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, governments with ties to the United States have guardedly denounced Hezbollah for the attack on Israel that triggered the fighting — even as their citizens began tacking up posters of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the cleric who heads the Shiite Muslim militant group and has vowed to bring "war on every level" to Israel's door.
The disconnect between the broad range of public support for Hezbollah and the unease felt by many Arab leaders is one of the reasons that Arab governments have been largely unable to mount an effective diplomatic response to Israel's 5-day-old bombing campaign.
How frustrating for the neocons. Those democracy-hating Arab dictatorships refuse to act on the will of their populaces. By contrast, the neocons (and liberals who celebrate their faith in the diversity cult) must be excited by the triumph of Arab democracy in Lebanon. The democratically elected government in diverse, divided, and democratic Lebanon has allowed Hezbollah to act on popular Muslim sentiment toward Israel. The sizable presence of elected Hezbollah officials and popular Lebanese Muslim support for hostilities against the hated Jews has prevented the Lebanese government from cracking down on Hezbollah (the Party of God).
The Lebanese people have accomplished much over the past year, but much remains to be done. The United States, and the international community, stand with the Lebanese people as they work to reassert their independence and strengthen their democracy, and we support their call for national dignity, truth, and justice.
We call on the international community to continue to hold the Syrian regime accountable until it responds completely to concerns about its cooperation with the UN International Independent Investigation Commission, interference in Lebanon, insufficient action on the Iraqi border, sponsorship of Palestinian terrorist groups, and harsh crackdown on civil society.
The Syrian withdrawal made Syria less able to control Hezbollah and also simultaneously made the Syrian government less accountable for what Hezbollah does. While the Syrians derive some satisfaction on seeing missiles raining down on Israel the Assad regime probably would have acted to restrain Hezbollah if a large Syrian military contingent remained in Lebanon. Assad would not want Israeli warplanes attacking Syrian troops in Lebanon or Syria proper.
The US government's pressure to get Syria out of Lebanon helped enable Hezbollah to carry out the popular will of Shiite Lebanese. What is the next nutty neoconservative step? Overthrow the undemocratic regimes in Syria, Jordan, and Egypt so that elected populist theocratic leaders can better express the will of the Arab street toward Israel.
Lebanon is too diverse. Imagine breaking Lebanon up into 3 or more countries. Each one could be made so ethnically pure that the populace will accept firm rule from a government they see as of their tribe and therefore legitimate. The Shia country might still try to war with Israel. Or its elite might make the same calculation that Syria, Jordan, and Egypt's elites have made: Israel is too powerful and if they do not challenge Israel they can enjoy the perks of power.
The other alternative: Make Lebanon fully a part of undemocratic Syria. Then no missiles would fly from Lebanon into Israel. Also, Lebanese Christians would enjoy the same protection that they enjoy in Damascus.
RAMADI, Iraq - Their televised graduation was supposed to be a moment of national celebration: A class of 1,000 Sunni Arab soldiers emerging from basic training would show Iraqis that the country's worsening religious divide was not afflicting the national army. Two months later, only about 300 of them have reported for duty, U.S. officials say.
The 1,000 graduates were part of a program to recruit 6,500 Sunnis from restive Anbar province. But with two classes of enlistees trained, only 530 soldiers have been added to the ranks, said Lt. Col. Mike Negard, a spokesman for the U.S. training command.
So the Iraqi Army is heavily weighted toward the Shia. Many of those Shia maintain their loyalty toward Shiite militia groups which they were members of before joining government forces. Even Shia soldiers who haven't been members of militia see the Sunnis as their enemies. The Shia militias in Baghdad are bigger than the Sunni insurgency. Plus, the Shia-dominated army strongly sympathizes with the Shia militias.
Writing for the Daily Telegraph Aqeel Hussein describes how Shia militiamen at a roadblock who were trying to decide whether to kill him killed a Sunni driver. The Iraqi soldiers a half mile away were indifferent to the existence of Shia militia killing Sunnis so close by.
"As they were talking to me I saw a young man dragged out of a BMW car and pushed into the side street," he said.
"He was Sunni, you could tell from his accent. He was forced to kneel on the ground and a Kalashnikov was placed against his head.
"The man was pleading for his life but the fighter, who had his face covered, was shouting 'You are a Sunni, you are a terrorist and you should die. Sit down now'. The next moment I heard the gun go off and there was blood everywhere. It was a few metres away."
After being released he drove to the Iraqi army checkpoint to warn them but his pleas were greeted with indifference by the soldiers on duty.
"I told them the Mahdi army are killing Sunnis in Jihad City. One of the soldiers said 'Oh really' and he was laughing. They didn't move, I couldn't believe it. You could here gunshots as we were talking."
Many of the recruits to Iraq's fledging armed forces are drawn from al-Sadr's militias.
The creation of a national Iraqi army, the Bush Administration's ballyhooed solution to the Iraq war, is feeding the process of ethnic cleansing. The article describes Baghdad's Highway 60 as the first clear conventional front in the civil war. Sunnis and Shias bombard each others' neighborhoods across Highway 60 using mortars. The neighborhoods are now sufficiently ethnically purified to allow them to fire with confidence knowing only members of the opposing group will get killed.
James Hider of the Times of London reports on the rapid decay of Baghdad.
The previous night I had had a similar conversation with my driver, a Shia who lives in another part of west Baghdad. He phoned at 11pm to say that there was a battle raging outside his house and that his family were sheltering in the windowless bathroom.
Marauding Mahdi gunmen, seeking to drive all Sunnis from the area, were fighting Sunni Mujahidin for control of a nearby strategic position. I could hear the gunfire blazing over the phone.
We phoned the US military trainer attached to Iraqi security forces in the area. He said there was nothing to be done: “There’s always shooting at night here. It’s like chasing ghosts.”
In fact the US military generally responds only to request for support from Iraqi security forces. But as many of those forces are at best turning a blind eye to the Shia death squads, and at worst colluding with them, calling the Americans is literally the last thing they do.
West Baghdad is no stranger to bombings and killings, but in the past few days all restraint has vanished in an orgy of ethnic cleansing.
Shia gunmen are seeking to drive out the once-dominant Sunni minority and the Sunnis are forming neighbourhood posses to retaliate. Mosques are being attacked. Scores of innocent civilians have been killed, their bodies left lying in the streets.
How far can the Shia militias go with their drive against the Sunnis? How rapidly will it play out? US forces are too small to do much to slow this process. Could the US military ally itself with the Sunnis to defend the Sunnis? At this point I bet the Sunnis in Baghdad would welcome a powerful ally even if it was the United States. Or would that unleash such a hostile Shia response that the Shia government would teeter?
Some Sunnis think the Shias are trying to drive all Sunnis out of Baghdad. Certainly not a few Shia militiamen would be happy to achieve that outcome.
Most Iraqis believe that it is already here. “There is a campaign to eradicate all Sunnis from Baghdad,” said Sheikh Omar al-Jebouri, of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni parliamentary group. He said that it was organised by the Shia-dominated Interior Ministry and its police special commandos, with Shia militias, and aimed to destroy Mr al-Maliki’s plans to rebuild Iraq’s security forces along national, rather than sectarian, lines.
The article recounts an episode where Iraqi police drive up to a mosque and start blasting away at it with machine guns. The Shias might well succeed in driving the Sunnis out of Baghdad. The Shias have more militia fighters and control of the government's military and more supplies.
The current death rate makes the times of Saddam Hussein look relatively peaceful.
A local journalist told me bitterly this week that Iraqis find it ironic that Saddam Hussein is on trial for killing 148 people 24 years ago, while militias loyal to political parties now in government kill that many people every few days. But it is not an irony that anyone here has time to laugh about. They are too busy packing their bags and wondering how they can get out alive.
Flights from Baghdad to Damascus have gone from 3 to 8 per week while the bus trips to Jordan through dangerous Anbar province have gone from 2 a day to as much as 40 and 50 a day. Keep these facts in mind when the Iraqi government quotes ridiculously low estimates for the number of refugees.
As the ethnic cleansing proceeds and neighborhoods become more purely one ethnic group or another the civil war will take on more of the characteristics of a fight for territory with clearer front lines. The Sunni Al-Karakh neighborhood might get overrun by Shia militia.
Shi'ite groups are trying to "conquer" the Sunni Al-Karakh neighborhood in western Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki said according to the daily online newspaper Al-'Arab.
Figure that the Christians and Kurds are going to continue to flee to northern Iraq. That'll leave the numerically more superior and better equipped Shias to duke it out with the Sunnis for control of Baghdad. If the Shias can capture Sunni neighborhoods then they will be able to purge the Sunnis and gradually make Baghdad into a Shia city.
The compassionate thing for the United States to do is to build housing in the Sunni Triangle for Sunnis who are getting forced out of Baghdad. If we can only admit to how bad the situation is in Iraq and how much worse it is going to get we could respond in ways that alleviate some of the pain and that reduce the death toll.
Peter W. Galbraith, a former US ambassador, has written a book arguing for the break-up of Iraq entitled The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End. The Times of London has an excerpt of Galbraith's book.
How could a divorce be carried through? Arab Iraqi leaders have told me privately that they accept Kurdistan’s right to self-determination. Some seem to prefer that Kurdistan should leave, having grown weary of its refusal to make any concessions to a shared state. With settled borders, the split between Kurdistan and Arab Iraq could be more like Czechoslovakia’s velvet divorce than Yugoslavia’s wars.
Turkey — with many Kurds living within its borders — has long been considered the chief obstacle to Kurdish dreams for an independent state. Turkish attitudes have evolved significantly, however. Some Turkish strategic thinkers, including those within the so-called “deep state” comprising the military and intelligence establishments, see a secular, pro-western and non-Arab Kurdistan as a buffer to an Islamic Arab state to the south.
If the Shi’ite south forms a region, it can set up a theocratic government and establish a regional guard. Iran will be the dominant power and the Bush administration has no ability, and no intention, of countering Iran’s position there.
How much worse will Iraq have to get before the happy talker supporters of the Bush Administration snap out of their dreams? Reality on the ground in Iraq keeps getting uglier.
Over the past two days the conflict between Sunnis and Shias has really come out into the open. It was there before, but more hidden. Many people are leaving Baghdad for neighbouring countries or for the north, Kurdistan. A friend of mine who has a travel agency says at least 10,000 people are leaving the capital every day.
I'd like to know whether a larger proportion of Sunnis or Shias are fleeing Baghdad. 10,000 per week would work out to over a half million a year. In 2003 Baghdad was estimated to have a population of about 5.77 million. So it could lose a tenth of its population by next summer if the 10,000 a week estimate is correct and current trends continue. One estimate puts Shias as a majority in Baghdad. If they are a majority then that majority and their much larger military forces give them the advantage in the battle for Baghdad.
Sunday's massacre in Jihad - three miles from the airport and the US military's sprawling Camp Victory - shows how Baghdad's seemingly random violence is spreading hatred and institutionalizing atrocity.
Tensions in the area - which is mostly Sunni but, unusually for suburbs west of the Tigris, still has many Shiites - have been running high all year. Until recently, the violence had been confined to assassinations of Shiite residents in ones and twos, notes slipped under doors warning Shiite residents to move or else, and roadside bombs.
But, recently, Shiite residents have been getting organized into their own militias, with the help of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, according to two residents of the area - one a Shiite, the other Sunni. Since the Askariya shrine bombing on Feb. 22, locals deemed to be salafiyah - a rigid Sunni ideology that has much in common with the Wahabbism of Saudi Arabia - have been taken away at night and murdered, though not as often as Shiite residents, they say.
After a recent string of explosions at Shiite mosques and Hosseiniya (Shiite prayer halls) to the west of the river, local Shiites have reportedly mounted their own intimidation campaign, with notes slipped under doors and murmured promises of revenge for future attacks.
A trend to watch for: Will the more powerful Shia militias manage to stop the ethnic purging of Shias from any neighborhoods in Western Baghdad? Will the Shias turn the tables on the Sunnis of Western Baghdad and even manage to purge Sunnis from any of those neighborhoods? The al-Jihad neighborhood in the west side of the Tigris River might be the place to watch to look for trends in the fight between Sunni and Shia groups battling for control of Baghdad.
Saleh Muhammed, an Amiriyah resident, told a Post special correspondent that he dialed 130 into his cellphone, Baghdad's emergency number. "The Mahdi Army has attacked Amiriyah," he told the Interior Ministry dispatcher.
"The Mahdi Army are not terrorists like you," said the dispatcher at the ministry, which is controlled by a Shiite party and operates closely with militias. "They are people doing their duty. And how could you know that they are the Mahdi Army? Is it written on their foreheads?" He hung up the phone.
The whole article is worth reading. Both a Sunni and a Shia legislator say the civil war has begun. Says a Sunni legislator ""The parliament cannot reach practical solutions because their minds are concerned only with their sect and not the interests of the nation." Tribalism and consanguineous marriage make Iraq ungovernable by Western style democracy. Unfamiliar with consanguineous marriage's ramifications for politics? See my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq and read the other posts and articles I link to from there.
Update III: I saw this one coming. Edward Wong and Dexter Filkins of the New York Times report that Many Sunnis want the US military to protect them from the Shia militias.
BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 16 — As sectarian violence soars, many Sunni Arab political and religious leaders once staunchly opposed to the American presence here are now saying they need American troops to protect them from the rampages of Shiite militias and Shiite-run government forces.
By accident the US military and the Shia militias have become a more brutal equivalents of the "Good Cop, Bad Cop" routine. Imagine Sunni clerics calling out to not shoot because the Americans are coming.
In Adhamiya, a neighborhood in north Baghdad, Sunni insurgents once fought street to street with American troops. Now, mortars fired by Shiite militias rain down several times a week, and armed watch groups have set up barricades to stop drive-by attacks by black-clad Shiite fighters. So when an American convoy rolled in recently, a remarkable message rang out from the loudspeakers of the Abu Hanifa Mosque, where Saddam Hussein made his last public appearance before the fall of Baghdad in 2003.
“The American Army is coming with the Iraqi Army — do not shoot,” the voice said, echoing through streets still filled with supporters of Mr. Hussein. “They are here to help you.”
Sheik Abdul Wahab al-Adhami, an imam at the mosque, said later in an interview: “Look at what the militias are doing even while we have the American forces here. Imagine what would happen if they left.”
Unfortunately the US military isn't big enough to protect all the Sunnis from the Shia militias. But if the Sunnis were moved to areas further away from the Shias then providing protection wouldn't be as difficult.
The Sunnis are trying to reach an agreement with the central government that all Iraqi government raids on mosques and private homes will be accompanied by American forces. Too many of the raids are conducted by Shia militias on killing sprees.
Sunni Arab leaders in the strife-ridden neighborhood of Dawra recently secured an explicit agreement with Shiite-led commandos based there that says the Iraqi forces will not raid a Sunni mosque or private home without being accompanied by American forces. A new brigade of Iraqi forces has just moved in, and the Sunnis are likely to try to reach the same agreement with them.
The United States is enmeshed in a very complicated web in Iraq. This turn of the Sunnis toward the US for protection might seem like good news. But the Shia militias could respond to US efforts on behalf of Sunnis by launching more attacks on US forces than Sunni insurgents currently carry out.
But in the wake of Syria's withdrawal of its troops from Lebanon in 2005, the disarmament of Hezbollah has emerged as one of the foremost issues in Lebanese politics. Since the fighting with Israel started Wednesday, calls for Hezbollah to relinquish its weapons have gathered urgency. The violence began when Hezbollah fighters captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border incursion, followed by an Israeli attack on roads, bridges, power stations and airports.
Israel's attacks on Lebanon are having salutary effects on Lebanon's rulers.
Lebanese critics as well as allies of Hezbollah insist that the Israeli response was disproportionate. But at the same time, in meetings Thursday, Lebanese officials began to lay the groundwork for an extension of government control to southern Lebanon. Hezbollah largely controls southern Lebanon, where it has built up a network of schools, hospitals and charities.
"To declare war and to make military action must be a decision made by the state and not by a party," said Nabil de Freige, a parliament member. He belongs to the bloc headed by Saad Hariri, whose father, Rafiq, a former prime minister and wealthy businessman, was assassinated in 2005, setting off a sequence of events that forced the Syrian withdrawal. "It's a very simple equation: You have to be a state."
Are the non-Shias in the Lebanese government really serious about taking on Hezbollah? An attempt to suppress Hezbollah runs the risk of starting a civil war in Lebanon. Plus, the Shias in Lebanon are a big voting block and even many non-Shia Lebanese Muslims sympathize with any group that would attack Israel. My guess is the lower classes are not as supportive of a crackdown on Hezbollah as the upper class business interests. The Lebanese government would have a much stronger hand against Hezbollah if a dictatorship ran Lebanon. You do not see the authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Jordan, or Syria letting groups shoot rockets from their territory into Israel. The governments of those countries have the means to maintain control of their factions and their borders.
Lebanon has been bouncing back from their civil war and has reached a per capita GDP of $6200 which compares very favorably with Syria at $3900 per capita GDP and Jordan at $4700 and Lebanon has achieved this in spite of the physical damage and heavy debt burden due to the civil war. The Christian Lebanese (39% of the population) and some of the other factions would like the good times to continue and see the Hezbollah as an obstacle in the way of letting the good times roll.
But can all the non-Shia factions unite to extend sovereignty over the south of Lebanon? They have economic incentive. They do not want the Israelis bombing the Beirut airport and blowing up bridges and other infrastructure. That is bad for business. But the Israeli threat has to be balanced against the problems posed by trying to take on Hezbollah and its Syrian and Iranian backers. Hezbollah could wage an insurgency fight and start attacking into neighborhoods and business districts of Druze, Sunni, and Christian Lebanese. You can bet the Lebanese elites are weighing their options.
The US government seems focused on Syria's and Iran's roles as backers of Hezbollah.
Analysts here say Iranian influence has become ascendant following the Syrian pullout, though foreign policy in the two countries has so far largely overlapped. The United States renewed its call Thursday for those countries to intervene to get the two Israeli soldiers released.
"It's really time for everybody to acknowledge that these two states do have some measure of control over Hezbollah," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington. "And the international community has called upon them to exercise that control, to have these two individuals released."
Neoconservatives fantasize about extending the US invasion of Iraq into invasions of Syria and Iran. But an invasion of Syria would collapse a regime which both fears Israel and which very effectively prevents dissident groups from shooting rockets or doing cross-border attacks into Israel. An overthrow of the Assad family dynasty would put an end to a regime which both prevents attacks on Israel from its territory and which also provides one of the safest and friendliest living environments for Christians in the Middle East. An invasion of Syria would ruin the lives of Christian Syrians as thoroughly as the overthrow of Saddam put Christian Iraqis into the line of fire of Muslim insurgent groups. Such an invasion would also destabilize Israel's border with Syria.
There's talk about how Israel's battles with Hezbollah and Hamas could escalate into a regional conflagration. Well, how exactly? Assad in Syria and his top people know that a direct attack on Israel would be suicidal folly. Ditto the Mubarak family dynasty in Egypt.
The Israelis would benefit if Lebanon became more like Egypt, Syria, and Jordan and less like West Bank and Gaza. I do not know if that is possible. However, a US invasion of Syria is not the way to bring this about.
The Bush administration has few ways of directly pressuring Iran on any of the three fronts. "They have sanctioned themselves out of leverage on Iran," Malley said. "They have cornered themselves out of a lack of influence on any of the parties that are driving this -- Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran. Counseling restraint or condemning actions is pretty meager when you think of the influence the United States should be wielding."
The United States reached out to Arab allies -- Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia -- to weigh in with Syria and, through Damascus, to Iran. In Paris for talks on Iran's nuclear program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on all sides to "act with restraint." She also talked to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Lebanon's problem for Israel and Washington is that it is not united under a single government. Maybe Israel could make some gains here by convincing Syria (e.g. by bombing Syria rather than the Beirut airport) that attacks by Hezbollah will be treated as attacks by Syria. That'd give Syria some incentive to turn against Hezbollah. Not sure if that would work. But the Israelis ought to tell Jewish supporters in Washington DC that a US overthrow of Assad's regime and replacement by a democratically elected Sunni fundamentalist regime would not improve Israel's security in the long run.
Update: The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel's chief goal in its attacks on Lebanon is to force the Lebanese government to take responsibility and assert control over south Lebanon.
Lebanon can be "shut down for years, as long as necessary" a senior military official said over the weekend. He added that the goals of the Israeli blockade of Lebanon were, on a tactical level, to make sure that no rockets could be supplied to Hizbullah, and strategically, to make the government in Beirut take responsibility for its southern border.
The feeling within the IDF General Staff is that the Lebanese government will eventually succumb and deploy its army in the south, but that this decision will be made at the political level, under international pressure.
The senior military official said the current clash with Hizbullah was inevitable, that the "writing had been on the wall." Hizbullah miscalculated Israel's response to the kidnapping of two soldiers on Wednesday, he said.
"Prodi told me that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert informed him of two demands for a cease-fire - handing over the two captive Israeli soldiers and a Hizbullah pullback to behind the Litani River," a government statement quoted Siniora as telling the cabinet.
Most analysts here says that the strong support for Hizbullah from Lebanon's 40 percent Shiite population makes total destruction of the group impossible. Mindful of repercussions, Israel says it is trying to avoid causing irreparable damage to Lebanon.
"We didn't remove the gloves completely," a high ranking military official told reporters over the weekend. "We need to be very careful that we only put enough pressure on the Lebanese government to change the situation but not enough to make it fall."
It is hard to tell whether the outcome the Israelis want is within the realm of possibility.
The reasons the US is watching this crisis from the sidelines are many: The Bush administration has been preoccupied with Iraq, it does not have diplomatic ties with the Middle Eastern countries that matter in this escalation, and it has been unwilling to pressure Israel to avoid military response when Tel Aviv's security is threatened. The US position represents a change from earlier days - such as the administration of the first President Bush, who enlisted diplomats like James Baker and Brent Skowcroft to ease tensions - when America brought pressure to bear on all parties, including Israel, to slam the Pandora's box back shut.
"The US has very little leverage over the situation, and all that does is underline that the US is weak and has lost the kind of influence it once had in the region," says Arthur Hughes, former director general of the Israel-Egypt multinational force and now a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington. "It's frightening to our partners, like Japan and Europe because, as they see it, the only thing worse than a US that is too strong is a US that is too weak."
The United States was eager to get Syrian troops out of Lebanon. But imagine that the Syrians had not pulled out. In that case Hezbollah would have been less able to launch attacks on Israel because the Syrian backing of Hezbollah would have been more overt and Israel would have been in a stronger position to retaliate by attacking Syria. So Syria would have been motivated to restrain Hezbollah to an extent that Syria is not currently motivated to do so.
The US Department of Education's National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) has released a study (carried out under contract by the Educational Testing Service) which finds little advantage of private schools as compared to public schools when the family backgrounds of the kids are adjusted for.
In grades 4 and 8 for both reading and mathematics, students in private schools achieved at higher levels than students in public schools. The average difference in school means ranged from almost 8 points for grade 4 mathematics, to about 18 points for grade 8 reading. The average differences were all statistically significant. Adjusting the comparisons for student characteristics resulted in reductions in all four average differences of approximately 11 to 14 points. Based on adjusted school means, the average for public schools was significantly higher than the average for private schools for grade 4 mathematics, while the average for private schools was significantly higher than the average for public schools for grade 8 reading. The average differences in adjusted school means for both grade 4 reading and grade 8 mathematics were not significantly different from zero.
Comparisons were also carried out with subsets of private schools categorized by sectarian affiliation. After adjusting for student characteristics, raw score average differences were reduced by about 11 to 15 points. In grade 4, Catholic and Lutheran schools were each compared to public schools. For both reading and mathematics, the results were generally similar to those based on all private schools. In grade 8, Catholic, Lutheran, and Conservative Christian schools were each compared to public schools. For Catholic and Lutheran schools for both reading and mathematics, the results were again similar to those based on all private schools. For Conservative Christian schools, the average adjusted school mean in reading was not significantly different from that of public schools. In mathematics, the average adjusted school mean for Conservative Christian schools was significantly lower than that of public schools.
Keep in mind that the kids who go to private schools do score higher than the kids who go to public schools. The adjustment they do for student background amounts to an adjustment for genetic influences. But they aren't going to state the obvious: Kids who go to private schools are genetically smarter on average. In order to substantially raise the performance of public school students we'd need to raise the genetic endowment of the average child born.
To properly test the efficacy schools would require widescale IQ testing. Then comparisons could show how much each school accomplishes with the raw intellectual potential it has to work with in the kids it receives. But the political Left in America rejects IQ testing because it shows racial average differences in intelligence. Their continued defense of their secular faith requires undermining social science by preventing the measurement of the most important variables. So social science becomes quackery. What a tremendous waste.
The authors of the study inject plenty of qualifiers and caveats into its interpretation. They realize that plenty of people on both side of the public/private school debate have a lot invested in defending their positions.
When interpreting the results from any of these analyses, it should be borne in mind that private schools constitute a heterogeneous category and may differ from one another as much as they differ from public schools. Public schools also constitute a heterogeneous category. Consequently, an overall comparison of the two types of schools is of modest utility. The more focused comparisons conducted as part of this study may be of greater value. However, interpretations of the results should take into account the variability due to the relatively small sizes of the samples drawn from each category of private school, as well as the possible bias introduced by the differential participation rates across private school categories.
There are a number of other caveats. First, the conclusions pertain to national estimates. Results based on a survey of schools in a particular jurisdiction may differ. Second, the data are obtained from an observational study rather than a randomized experiment, so the estimated effects should not be interpreted in terms of causal relationships. In particular, private schools are “schools of choice.” Without further information, such as measures of prior achievement, there is no way to determine how patterns of self-selection may have affected the estimates presented. That is, the estimates of the average difference in school mean scores are confounded with average differences in the student populations, which are not fully captured by the selected student characteristics employed in this analysis.
We hear a great deal about how schools do not have enough money. Historical comparisons are useful when evaluating this claim. See the NCES page Total and current expenditure per pupil in public elementary and secondary schools: Selected years, 1919-20 to 2001-02.In the 30 years from 1971 to 2001 the total expenditures per student in inflation adjusted dollars doubled from $4884 to $9614. Going back even further the expenditures tripled from 1963's $3228. This availed us of little improvement in outcomes. But faith springs eternal. The demand for more money for education continues unabated.
This study compares mean 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading and mathematics scores of public and private schools in 4th and 8th grades, statistically controlling for individual student characteristics (such as gender, race/ethnicity, disability status, identification as an English language learner) and school characteristics (such as school size, location, and the composition of the student body).
A lot of those factors are rough proxies for intelligence.
My guess is that the spending per student in public schools has risen so far that public schools, even if they accomplish less per dollar spent, still spend so much that they are accomplishing close to the best we can hope for. The real educational crisis is that the best we can hope for is not all that much. The average IQ in America is declining due to immigration of low IQ groups. Trying to turn all these kids into college bound students represents the triumph of faith over the evidence of our lying eyes.
With low IQ students we should shift more toward development of job skills that let them perform specific lower skilled jobs. They can have some capacity for learning but require a fair amount of repetition of tasks that they can realistically hope to master.
Schools could be customized for the abilities of the smarter teen kids by providing them with access to recordings of college level lectures and with easier ways to take tests (think internet) for college level material. Let them learn at their own faster pace rather than make them sit in courses that advance at the rate needed for the below average student.
The study, along with one of charter schools, was commissioned by the former head of the national Center for Education Statistics, Robert Lerner, an appointee of President Bush, at a time preliminary data suggested that charter schools, which are given public money but are run by private groups, fared no better at educating children than traditional public schools.
Proponents of charter schools had said the data did not take into account the predominance of children in their schools who had already had problems in neighborhood schools.
The two new studies put test scores in context by studying the children’s backgrounds and taking into account factors like race, ethnicity, income and parents’ educational backgrounds to make the comparisons more meaningful. The extended study of charter schools has not been released.
Those who know that environment can not trump genes have to wait for decades as various "solutions" such as more money (and the average spent per student is almost double what the public believes), charter schools, vouchers for private schools, more extensive testing, closing of so-called "failed schools", and still other methods get tried and do not help much. At some point advances in neurobiology combined with the continued decline in DNA sequencing costs will shatter the conventional wisdom of our elites and the truth will enter the public debate on education and social policy.
The University of Maine's College of Education is among only a handful of teacher training programs nationwide cited for failing to achieve more racial diversity among its faculty and students, its national accrediting agency said.
But that does not mean that the program, based at the University of Maine's flagship Orono campus, will not win back its good standing quickly, said Jane Leibbrand, a spokeswoman at the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education in Washington.
Her agency warned the college that it could lose its accreditation if it doesn't achieve more racial diversity among its faculty and students.
Get this: Maine is 97% white. The education school at Orono managed to get 4% non-whites. But since Left likes to pretend that whites just come up short on all scores (unless the whites are Leftists who condescend toward non-Leftist whites as a way to show how superior they are toward other whites) those 96% whites are just not seen as adequate to make a useful university. Think about that. In the mind of Leftists all-white universities can't possibly grant degrees worth having.
While it has been well-known that homebuyers pay attention to schools when considering which house to buy, this research shows how potential buyers are evaluating school quality, said Donald Haurin, co-author of the study and professor of economics at Ohio State University.
The study of Ohio school districts showed that an increase of about 20 percentage points in the proficiency test “pass rate” increased house values in a district about 7 percent, even after taking into account other factors that impact house values.
Higher performance of kids in public schools mean that more affluent parents do not have to spend big money to send Jill and Johnnie to private school to escape the local schools. $10,000 per year in private school tuition counts up year after year and with multiple kids gets incredibly expensive. Paying more for a house makes much more sense. First, you avoid the cost of private school. Plus, the house will probably maintain its value. So the money you put in will come back to you if you sell. Not so with the money you spend on private school tuition. Plus, by living in a more upper class neighborhood you lower your risk of getting victimized by criminals. I wonder if these researchers controlled for crime rates when comparing housing prices.
Parents were not much interested in relatively higher performance of 9th graders versus 4th graders.
Another measure of school quality – how proficiency test pass rates improved between the 4th and 9th grades – didn’t have such a strong impact on house values.
But higher scoring 9th than 4th graders could be a sign that lower IQ people are moving into an area and having more kids.
Home buyers are interested in the bottom line.
The results suggest that, when evaluating school districts, homebuyers are looking at the end result of education – overall test scores – and not a value-added approach that considers how well schools do in improving students, Haurin said.
These findings add another factor to consider in the debate about whether proficiency tests are good for students, schools and communities.
“If parents and residents are paying attention to test outcomes, and not a value-added approach, that means school boards need to pay attention to outcomes too,” Haurin said. “But focusing on test scores may not be the best way to achieve the goal of educating students to the best of their abilities.”
You can understand from this data why the middle and upper classes have so opposed the libertarian dream of school vouchers. What good is the premium the buyers paid for houses in better districts if the rabble can send their kids to schools in good neighborhoods using vouchers? The libertarians are trying to undermine the ability of the middle class to defend their territory. That's just not going to fly politically.
“In Ohio, there are districts with 20 percent pass rates and some with 85 percent pass rates, so based on our findings that would result in about a 23 percent difference in house values solely because of the schools. It is not trivial amount,” he said.
One problem for school districts is that the value-added approach is difficult for researchers to measure, and difficult for the public to understand. Proficiency test scores, however, are readily available and easy to understand, which makes them more influential with the public, Haurin said.
These results suggest that some school boards may have a difficult time convincing residents, as well as potential homebuyers, that they have good schools in their district.
“The disadvantage that some school districts have is that they may be doing very well in terms of adding value to their students’ education, but still may not be among the top scorers in the state. And the reason may not be because of the schools but because their students don’t have the parental advantages that students in other districts have.”
That "parental advantage" translates from dishonest politically correct liberal-speak into English as "genetic advantage".
How much is the Hispanic influx depressing housing prices in some neighborhoods?
Avon Park Florida is very likely to pass an ordinance patterned after that of Hazleton Pennsylvania to fine landlords who rent to illegal aliens and to deny business permits to businesses that hire illegals.
A city up north, Hazleton, Pa., planned to root out and punish landlords who rented to illegal immigrants, fining them $1,000 for every such tenant. Mr. Macklin, whose own small city has swelled with immigrants from Mexico, Haiti and Jamaica over the past decade, swiftly proposed the same for Avon Park.
"It was almost as if I was sitting in church at a revival and he was preaching to me," Mr. Macklin said of Mayor Lou Barletta of Hazleton, whom he heard promoting that city's Illegal Immigration Relief Act on the radio show last month. "If we address the housing issue — make it as difficult as possible for illegals to find safe haven in Avon Park — then they are going to have to find someplace else to go."
Like Hazleton's proposal, Avon Park's would deny business permits to companies that knowingly hired illegal immigrants.
Some of the employers of illegals are orange groves and cattle ranches outside of town. Therefore they may escape the business permit ordinance's reach. But their illegals won't be able to live in Avon Park if this ordinance is passed and enforced.
I can identify with their wistfulness. I miss the days when Hispanic gangs didn't deface my neighborhood with graffiti.
Both mayors, white baby boomers who grew up in the 1960's and 70's, speak wistfully of the days when nuclear families were the only occupants of single-family homes in their towns, every resident paid taxes and English was the only language heard on the streets. Mr. Macklin said the City of Charm, as Avon Park has long called itself, no longer met that description, despite the gazebo and shuffleboard courts on Main Street, several dainty lakes and ubiquitous live oaks.
"When people come to our area," he said, "they see degrading neighborhoods, homes falling down among themselves, four or five vehicles parked in yards. There's a perception for those that come to this area — looking to perhaps expand a business, move here — that it might not necessarily be where they want to be."
Wages are rising more than twice as fast for highly paid workers in the Washington area as they are for low-paid workers, an analysis of federal data by The Washington Post shows.
This is happening right where America's leaders live. The consequences of their policies aren't hidden from them. Policies which exacerbate this trend are causing changes in their towns.
Salaries for lower income workers are not keeping up with inflation.
Such innovations help explain why, from 2003 to 2005, the average wage for people in the lowest pay bracket, with salaries around $20,000, rose only 5.4 percent in the Washington region -- not enough to keep up with rising prices. For the jobs that pay around $60,000, salaries rose 12.4 percent, well ahead of the 6.8 percent inflation in that period.
The market faithful want to believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. But some of the boats have leaks.
The top folks are doing very nicely.
In the highest wage bracket, where chief executives, lawyers and other professionals earn six figures, average wages rose 8.5 percent from 2003 to 2005. The increase in their incomes is probably even higher, because employees at that level also often get better benefits, partnership income, stock options or other compensation.
Nationwide, the wage gap is widening more slowly: The average wage for upper-middle-income jobs rose 5.8 percent, and low-wage jobs saw pay increases of 3.4 percent, from 2003 to 2005.
Technology is cutting down the demand for less skilled workers.
In the 1990s boom, Prising said, there was a shortage of low-skilled as well as high-skilled talent, sending wages up across the board.
What changed? Many new technologies and ways of operating -- often aimed at cutting labor costs -- were in their infancy in the late 1990s. Now they are maturing, tamping demand for low-skilled workers.
The article goes on to give examples such as internet ordering replacing more labor intensive phone ordering and a decline in the ratio of bank tellers to bank deposits as ATMs and internet banking cut the need for face-to-face banking. This trend is going to continue and perhaps even accelerate.
The gap based on ability is also widening across national boundaries. In spite of NAFTA and market reforms in Mexico the US economy has been growing faster than the Mexican economy for decades and the growth gap might even be widening. The higher IQ nations should wall themselves off from the lower IQ nations because the gap in per capita GDPs will only get wider in the future. I can't see this trend changing until genetic engineering provides the ability to enhance offspring intelligence. Even then the wealthier nations will embrace such technology more rapidly than the poorer nations. The problem this poses inside wealthier societies is that humans and other primates resent those who make more. A society with a wider IQ range is going to be a society with greater resentment in the lower classes. That's one of the biggest reasons why America's immigration policy is such a disaster. It is building up resentment.
Iraq is quite the country of extremes. Amir Taheri thinks the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has gotten Shia factions (with the exception of Moqtada al-Sadr) to go along with his efforts to bring the major Sunni insurgency groups into negotiations to stop the fighting.
Far more difficult was to persuade the Arab Sunni minority, some 15 per cent of the population, to come on board. This is because, contrary to common perceptions, the Arab Sunni community is divided into dozens of groups, often based on tribal loyalties, with no overall leadership. One result of that division is that each group, anxious to appear more hard-line than others, contributes to what amounts to an auction on radicalism. Weeks of negotiation, often conducted through tribal intermediaries inside Iraq and in neighboring Jordan were needed before a breakthrough was achieved.
BY LAST week, 22 Arab Sunni armed groups had agreed to join the process initiated by al-Maliki. According to Akram al-Hakim, the minister in charge of national dialogue, the groups that have come on board account for a majority of those who have been fighting in the four Sunni provinces since the autumn of 2003. At the same time a group of 18 senior officers of the former regime's army have met with President Jalal Talabani to seek ways of bringing hundreds of Arab Sunni cashiered officers and NCOs into the new Iraqi army and police.
Well, a thousand points of light as George H.W. Bush would say. Or 22 points anyway. Feel more optimistic about Iraq?
The sweet Sunni neighborhood that lines the exciting drive to the Baghdad airport was the scene of a big Shia militia kill-fest.
BAGHDAD, July 9 -- Shiite Muslim militiamen rampaged through a Sunni Arab neighborhood in Baghdad early Sunday morning, killing more than 50 people and discarding bodies in the streets, according to Iraqi officials and witnesses. Hours later, attackers struck back, detonating two car bombs near a Shiite mosque.
Sunni politicians described the violence against the Sunni residents of the al-Jihad neighborhood in western Baghdad as one of the deadliest waves of murder since the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Get the name: al-Jihad. Well, be careful what you wish for. The Shias are bringing Jihad to al-Jihad.
Iraq is on the edge of civil war?
"We've said it several times that there are people who want to create civil war," Wafiq al-Samarrae, an adviser to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, said on al-Jazeera television. "Today, this country is on the edge of civil war, not sectarian strife."
I'm guessing most Shias and Sunnis are disinclined to sign up for a big civil war. So far the Iraqis have not shown themselves willing to fight on the scale of, for example, the US Civil War. Arabs do not do really large organizations well. They have too many commitments to extended family to join up for larger causes.
The Shia militia guys on the rampage were probably Mahdi Army.
Iraqi officials and residents of the neighborhood identified the gunmen as members of the Mahdi Army, the powerful militia controlled by the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. In the past three days, Iraqi troops, with the support of U.S.-led forces, have raided the homes of militiamen and detained some of their leaders.
Would someone so well connected to top Shias in the Iraqi government send people to kill dozens of Sunnis? Could the elected government of Iraq, product of a democratic process, have such people as cabinet officers? Where's the mythical magic of democracy?
Sadr also holds considerable sway over the political system, with ties to more than 30 members of parliament and several cabinet ministers.
Sadr's people deny they were involved and claim the Sunnis are doing wrong to accuse their meritorious selves. You might be thinking "oh those meanie dominant Shias. They are persecuting those poor suffering Sunnis". Well, the Shias were retaliating.
Residents said the violence stemmed from a car bomb attack on the Shiite al-Zahra mosque Saturday night, expanding into door-to-door pursuit of Sunnis by Shiites.
Can the Sunni insurgency be bribed into stopping their bombings and shootings? Just what would it take to buy them off? Cash alone? Local rule of Sunni areas? Or a large slice of power in the national government that far exceeds what the Shiites would give up?
Even if the major Sunni groups were willing to deal could Prime Minister al-Maliki manage to rein in the Shia militias? Also, will smaller groups and families looking for revenge break down any deal by doing attacks that incite retribution from major groups on either side?
Stephanie Coontz, history and family studies professor at The Evergreen State College and author of Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage, says defenders of a supposedly traditional view of marriage do not appreciate just how much the rules and customs around marriage have changed over the last couple thousand years.
Nor did the early church establish elaborate rules about what made a marriage legitimate. One pope proposed that a marriage ought to take place in church to be valid. But his bishops pointed out that such a change would immediately render most of Europe's children illegitimate. So the church decided that a man and woman were married if they had exchanged "words of consent," even if they had done so out by the haystack, without any witnesses or involvement by a priest.
Not until 1215 did the Catholic Church make marriage a sacrament, and not until 1563 did it begin to enforce rules mandating that certain ceremonies had to be performed to make a marriage legitimate.
Sixteenth-century Protestant reformers had a much more positive attitude toward the blessedness of marriage than Catholics. But Protestant clerics were stricter than Catholics in enforcing the tradition that marriage should be governed by considerations of patriarchal authority and property rather than free choice based on love. In many Protestant regions, authorities forbade impoverished individuals from marrying at all. And Protestant officials often stepped in to dissolve marriages that had been made without parental consent, even if both parties were adult and children had already been born to their union.
It is also not "traditional" to insist that the state should have the final say over what constitutes a valid marriage. In the Roman tradition, which served as the basis for Western European law, the only difference between marriage and unmarried cohabitation was if the partners thought of themselves as married. It wasn't until 1754 that the English state required a license for a marriage to be valid. And even after that, "self-marriage" and "self-divorce" remained commonplace, especially in the early decades of the United States. In 1833, Pennsylvania's chief justice warned that a strict legal interpretation of rules governing marriage validity would render "the vast majority" of births in that state illegitimate.
I've had arguments with people who maintained that marriage is a creation of the state and that therefore the state can define it anyway the state wants to. But marriage as a state-licensed legal institution is a fairly modern invention.
In reaction to the gay marriage debate I question whether government recognition of marriage should even be an option for those who do not have children. What is society's major stake in individual marriages? Marriage is an institution which helps to protect and raise children (at least some of them). Why should we support legal benefits and divorce courts for people who do not have children?
Maybe couples should instead enter legal partnerships for property ownership issues and then only be able to graduate to marriage when they've either given birth to a kid or legally adopted one. With genetic testing becoming so affordable perhaps even birth as a basis for marriage should be dependent on either a genetic test or a formal signed avowal on the man's part that he recognizes a baby as his own.
BERLIN, July 8 -- Ever since their party scored big in Poland's elections last fall, the Kaczynski brothers -- identical twin movie stars with equally big political ambitions -- were widely assumed to be running the country in tandem behind the scenes. Now, it's official.
On Saturday, Poland's governing Law and Justice Party voted to name its party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the country's new prime minister. With his brother, Lech, already holding the Polish presidency, there is no longer any doubt that the 57-year-old, chubby-faced twins are in charge of the eastern European country.
They appear to have forced out a very popular prime minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, so that they could rule jointly.
As party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski had dibs on the prime ministership. But he promised voters he would not take the job if his brother won the upcoming presidential race, saying he realized Poles would be uncomfortable at the prospect of being ruled by twins whom they could barely tell apart.
So they lied in lock step.
Would this work for George W. Bush clones? They could all be supremely confident and intellectually lazy together.
Clones would reduce the extent to which differences in personalities would allow team members to compensate for each others' weaknesses and flaws. On the other hand, if a team was all clones then congenitally lazy and less talented people couldn't as often take credit for the work of the more talented and more conscientious.
But women's rush to employment stopped in 2000 and started to decline, as they began to join their male counterparts in retirement, go out on disability and delay paid employment to get more education. Some economists think the high-water mark of female participation in the labor force was in 2000, when it hit 60.3 percent.
Family responsibilities are declining as a reason for women to offer for why they do not work.
While nonworking women are still much more likely than men to cite "home responsibilities" as their reason for not holding or seeking a job, that's actually less true now than it was in the past. The share of women aged 25 to 54, considered to be in their "prime" working years, who gave that reason for not seeking employment has shrunk for more than a decade. The share of men citing that reason has edged up over the same period, according to a Labor Department analysis of census survey figures from 1990 to 2003.
The female participation rate peaked below the men's, though, because women still take out more time to care for children and other relatives, analysts say and the data show.
People spending time training and retraining.
More younger workers are staying in school longer to juice up their future career prospects in an increasingly information-based economy. Many middle-aged workers have lost industrial jobs and have gone back to school for retraining or have given up looking for new work.
The overall labor force participation rate is declining.
Now, without a growing share of female workers to offset the departing men, the national labor force participation rate dropped to 66.1 percent in May from a peak of 67.3 percent in early 2000.
I'd like to know what is behind this trend. Some sufficiently affluent people do not work because they value leisure time more than additional money. Others, however, have given up getting jobs that pay enough to make legal work worthwhile. More time spent in school is not behind the huge decline in black male labor market participation.
Among 20 to 24 year old black males, employment rates also have declined considerably from their peak values of 77 to 83 percent in the mid to late 1960s to dramatic 50-year lows more recently. During 2003, for example, just 56 percent of such young black men ages 20 to 24 was employed.
High affluence can not explain this result either. Immigration, trade, and automation are all driving down the wages of the least skilled. Millions of black men have given up on making an honest living.
The US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on patterns in labor market participation. A report of theirs suggests to me that perhaps lack of skills might be driving down labor market participation in an economy with a declining demand for less skilled workers.
The sharpest decline in labor force participation between the first quarter of 2001 and the second quarter of 2003 occurred among persons aged 16 to 24. During this period the participation rate for this group fell by 3.6 percentage points, compared with a decline of 0.6 percentage point between the third quarter of 1990 and the third quarter of 1992.
Participation rates during the most recent labor market downturn also declined among both women (from 76.8 to 75.9 percent) and men (from 91.6 to 90.7 percent) aged 25 to 54. By comparison, during the early 1990s, the rate for women in that age group actually continued to rise, increasing from 74.0 to 74.7 percent, while the rate for men was little changed.
Partially offsetting the declines in participation among the other age groups, the labor force participation rate for individuals aged 55 and older rose by 2.8 percentage points over the most recent recession and the year and a half following. The rise in labor force participation rates among older workers may reflect several factors that affect work and retirement decisions such as changes to Social Security regulations, falling stock market prices, and declining interest rates.
The BLS probably reports higher labor market participation than the first article above because the BLS restricts to ages 25 to 54.
The 16-24 population has less skills because they are younger. They also have less skills because that portion of the US population has a much higher Hispanic fraction and Hispanics have low educational attainment. Come a recession demand for younger and less skilled workers might have declined more than the decline for more skilled workers. The labor market participation of women might also have declined due to lower average skills. Since men work more (on average) they probably accumulate more job skills (again, on average). A lessening demand for less skilled workers might fall harder on women.
In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC on US Independence Day, Mr Khalilzad said the death of Zarqawi - the then leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq - had encouraged "other insurgent groups to reach out, because some were intimidated by Zarqawi.
"But on the other hand, in terms of the level of violence, it has not had any impact at this point. As you know, the level of violence is still quite high," he said.
Let us all feign surprise and shock that the killing of Zarqawi by US forces had little or no impact on the death rate and the tempo of insurgent attacks. The spin masters around America's maximal leader proclaimed Zarqawi's death a great success. Surely the US effort "turned a corner" when Zarqawi died. The problem is we don't know what road we were on or what road we turned onto.
The BBC refers to Khalilzad as the "US ambassador to Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad". Not to Iraq? Well, might have been a mistake on their part. Or maybe it is an accurate measure of his position. Certainly, whoever the US ambassador is in Kabul, Afghanistan represents the US to a "national" government which exercises sovereignty over a rather limited area. Similarly, in Iraq the "national" government doesn't have much sway over the Sunni Triangle, Kurdistan, or even Basra for that matter. When will the US appoint its first ambassador to Kurdistan?
Lest you think I ignore the good news from Iraq, oil exports are up.
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq is producing an average of 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, its highest level since the war began in 2003, an oil ministry spokesman said today.
Assem Jihad said 1.6 million barrels are being exported daily from the southern port of Basra, while 300,000 are being pumped from the northern city of Kirkuk to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.
An interesting article in the Boston Globe goes over the cessation of attacks on northern Iraq pipelines that allowed the big increase in Iraq oil exports through Turkey.
BEIJI, Iraq -- For more than two years the attacks came like clockwork. As soon as the military secured and workers repaired the pipelines from Iraq's northern oil fields insurgents would strike.
But roughly three weeks ago they suddenly stopped, letting crude oil flow freely from Iraq's vast reserves near Kirkuk.
Maybe the US military killed or captured some key figures who were coordinating pipeline attacks in order to boost profits from selling refined oil products brought to Turkey from Iraq by trucks.
The 3d Brigade, nicknamed the ``Rakkasans," has studied the intricate web of oil corruption near the refinery in Beiji as part of a renewed effort to restore the oil industry.
Working with other coalition and Iraqi soldiers, they targeted oil smugglers, who they believe are behind many of the attacks on the fuel export lines. The black market truckers buy gasoline or diesel at Iraq's government-subsidized prices and drive to Turkey to sell it for 10 times the amount, so official exports compete and cut into their profits.
Read that whole article. My guess: The insurgents/black marketeers who were profitting from the disruptions probably made a deal with a certain Baghdad insider (think former pal of Washington DC neoconservatives) to get a cut of the revenue that the "government" gets from the oil.
The secret to peace in Iraq: Figure out the identities of all the powerful insurgency leaders and bring them into the pay-off system. Can Ahmad the Thief figure out how to do this? Does he see it as in his best interest to do so?
New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins, who has put his life at risk to get stories in Iraq, says partition of Iraq would be difficult because of the ethnically mixed neighborhoods in cities.
But in Baghdad, Kirkuk and Mosul, there are no clear geographical lines separating the main groups. A breakup into ethnic regions or states would almost certainly increase the pressure on families to flee the mixed neighborhoods to be closer to members of their own group. Shiites to Shiites, Sunnis to Sunnis. Ethnic cleansing is already happening in Iraq, but still at a relatively slow pace.
Iraq's main groups - and even smaller ones, like Christians and Turkomans - now live together in many places. While the Tigris River acts as a broad ethnic boundary in both Baghdad and Mosul - Sunnis on the west and Shiites on the east in Baghdad, and Sunnis on the west and Kurds on the east in Mosul - there are large pockets of each group on both sides of the river.
Trying to divide those cities could result in the expulsion of tens of thousands of people from their homes, maybe more. That is not a pretty process: the neighborhoods around the edges of Baghdad have already experienced a lot of ethnic cleansing - mainly Shiites being forced from their homes.
But unless the inter-ethnic violence abates up that partitioning is going to continue to happen. All the while US policy makers will continue to insist that partition is unthinkable. Baghdad is ethnically purifying into Shiite and Sunni sections along the two sides of the Tigris River that runs through it.
Imad Talib lived in a Shiite-dominated district for many years until threats by Shiite militiamen forced the Sunni Arab to move across town. Ahmed Khazim left a mostly Sunni suburb for Sadr City, where his Shiite sect forms the majority.
Religiously mixed neighborhoods of this sprawling city are gradually disappearing as sectarian tensions are prompting Shiites and Sunnis to move to areas where they are predominant.
The trend is raising concerns that Baghdad is slowly being transformed into a divided city with a Shiite-dominated east and mostly Sunni west, separated by the Tigris River that flows through the heart of the capital.
The rate of populations shifting around is limited by housing. People can't all get up and move simultaneously. Every family of one ethnic group who flee create an opening for a familiy of another group to move in. But this all takes time. Also, construction of housing takes time. The rate of migration would be faster if more housing was available.
Estimates on the number of families that have moved due to the conflict vary. But one part of the Iraqi government puts the number of peopple who have moved at over 23,000.
Since the Samarra bombing, Interior Ministry official Satar Nawrouz estimates that nearly 4,000 families or about 23,670 people have been forced to relocate to other neighborhoods in the Baghdad area due to sectarian tensions.
Since the Al Askari Mosque in Samarra was bombed on February 22, 2006 that works out to over 5000 per month in Baghdad alone. Continued over the course of a year that would add up to 60,000. The Iraqi government has a limited ability to track its own citizens and that estimate may well be too low.
Assyrian writer Rosie Malek-Yonan, author of The Crimson Field, testifying before the House Committee on International Relations on June 30, 2006, claims that just last week 7000 Assyrian Christians fled Baghdad.
We Assyrians are not extraordinary people. But we are caught up in the cross fires of extraordinary events. And yet we don't fight violence with violence. We don't retaliate. Because we just want to live. When our churches are bombed, we don't think of retribution. We walk away as Christians should.
Just this week, 7,000 Assyrians left Baghdad for Northern Iraq. The women and children have taken refuge in other Assyrian homes, while the men sleep in the cemeteries at night. I don't mean figuratively. I mean literally. They sleep in the cemeteries because they have no other shelter. These suffering Assyrians in Iraq depend on our courage in the western world to help them.
A few months ago, I met with Mar Gewargis Sliwa, the Assyrian Archbishop of Iraq from the Assyrian Catholic Church of the East. His account of the lives of Assyrian children in Iraq was appalling and heartbreaking. He said to me, "We can't help our children anymore. They play in fields of blood. We are a poor nation. We need help. Help us."
Lamani said that 3,500 Christian families who had received threats had also fled the capital for the relative safety of Kurdistan.
The sudden influx of Christians to Inkawa has made it increasingly difficult for families of modest means to rent accommodation. A two-room apartment now costs at least 500 dollars a month, with more spacious properties costing double.
Other families share a single apartment, while the demand for even meagre homes from Inkawa estate agents remains high in this town of 30,000, almost all Christians.
"Three to six heads of families come here every day looking for lodging, and it's more and more difficult to find something for them," says estate agent Kameran Matti.
The Christians in Iraq are especially getting shafted by the US invasion. They were safer under Saddam Hussein. Western Christians ought to set up programs to build housing in Iraqi Christian villages in relatively safer areas so that Christians can flee to safer areas.
The number of Iraqis fleeing their homes for safer parts of the country has more than doubled in two weeks to 65,000, the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration said Thursday.
A ministry spokesman reported a twofold jump from the 30,000 internal refugees estimated on March 30. The ministry put the number of families on the move at 10,991.
I doubt that Iraqi government employees are trying to systematically conduct a census with questions that would let them measure the extent of the internal migrations. So these numbers sound like guesses.
"While many were displaced as long ago as the early 1980s, the last four months of increasing violence and relentless sectarian tensions have resulted in the displacement of a further 150,000 individuals."
That's a rate of 450,000 per year. The internal migration rate could accelerate in response to future bombings, killings, and threats by militias. The war could go on for years. De facto partition looks more likely than not.
Update: The partitioning of Baghdad might end up putting some government ministries in Sunni hands and others in Shia hands depending on where they are located. Sunnis and Shias may become unwilling to cross over the river to get to work in areas where the other group dominates. Perhaps the Shiites in government will place more government offices on the Shia side of the Tigris River.
Update: Will the internal migration rate increase? Will ethnic cleansing accelerate. A rise in deaths in Baghdad suggests that the pressure to move to more ethnically pure neighborhoods will increase.
BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 4 — The central morgue said Tuesday that it received 1,595 bodies last month, 16 percent more than in May, in a tally that showed the pace of killing here has increased since the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq.
The more people of one ethnic group move out of a neighrborhood the more that those who remain will think they've got to leave too.
The Washington Post has done an excellent investigation into how the federal farm subsidies work in the United States. The US government pays non-farmers subsidies for land that has not been farmed for many years.
Nationwide, the federal government has paid at least $1.3 billion in subsidies for rice and other crops since 2000 to individuals who do no farming at all, according to an analysis of government records by The Washington Post.
Some of them collect hundreds of thousands of dollars without planting a seed. Mary Anna Hudson, 87, from the River Oaks neighborhood in Houston, has received $191,000 over the past decade. For Houston surgeon Jimmy Frank Howell, the total was $490,709.
"I don't agree with the government's policy," said Matthews, who wanted to give the money back but was told it would just go to other landowners. "They give all of this money to landowners who don't even farm, while real farmers can't afford to get started. It's wrong."
The checks to Matthews and other landowners were intended 10 years ago as a first step toward eventually eliminating costly, decades-old farm subsidies. Instead, the payments have grown into an even larger subsidy that benefits millionaire landowners, foreign speculators and absentee landlords, as well as farmers.
Farms have been split up into 10 acre plots for upscale housing. For each 10 acres 9 can be classified as still available for farming and so owners who just use their land for luxury housing get checks each year for 9 acres of their 10 acre plots.
Farmers and non-farm landowners get more subsidies than welfare recipients but they get far less criticism than do welfare recipients.
What began in the 1930s as a limited safety net for working farmers has swollen into a far-flung infrastructure of entitlements that has cost $172 billion over the past decade. In 2005 alone, when pretax farm profits were at a near-record $72 billion, the federal government handed out more than $25 billion in aid, almost 50 percent more than the amount it pays to families receiving welfare.
It is time to end farm subsidies entirely. Americans should stop seeing farmers as virtuous just because they work the land.
The subsidies serve as an incentive to convert rice fields into cattle grazing land.
In 1998, Zapalac was leasing 2,500 acres, most of it for rice farming. One landlord canceled a lease for 1,400 acres in 1998, he said, and a second cancellation followed for the rest in 2004.
"As soon as they figured they could take the payments, they said, 'I don't need you anymore,' " he said. "They were renting me land for $40 an acre, but they could get $125 an acre from the government."
Some of the rice land he lost has been turned into pasture for cattle, while the landlord continues to receive the rice money.
"You can sell the calves and still stick the rice payment in your pocket," Zapalac said. "It's a hell of a deal."
In the 2010s and 2020s when the huge rise in the retired population causes an explosion in federal spending farm subsidies are one place where spending could get cut without any harm to the economy. But why not cut the subsidies sooner?
The farmers do not have to sell at distressed prices to collect the money. They can bank the government payments and sell when prices are higher.
Since September, the program has cost taxpayers $4.8 billion. Most of that money -- $3.8 billion -- went to farmers such as Richardson who sold at higher prices, according to a Washington Post analysis of USDA payment data.
The subsidy is called the loan deficiency payment. Although it has cost taxpayers $29 billion since 1998, it is virtually unknown outside farm country. But in rural America, the LDP is a topic at backyard barbecues and local diners along with the high school football team and the weather. Despite its name, it is neither a loan nor, in many cases, payment for a deficiency. It is just cash paid to farmers when market prices dip below the government-set minimum, or floor, if only for a single day.
The LDP has become so ingrained in farmland finances that farmers sometimes wish for market prices to drop so they can capture a larger subsidy.
For last year's crop, farmers sold their corn for an average of $1.90 per bushel, only 5 cents below the national floor price. But they received an LDP averaging 44 cents, government payment records show. The difference amounted to $3.8 billion.
These subsidies will have to go on the chopping block when the baby boomers retire. The federal government's financial crisis will bring massive pressure to cut all pork barrel spending including farm subsidies.
Two industrialized and civilized countries with low levels of official corruption can cooperate effectively to crack down on criminals operating across their shared border. But the United States can not hope to do the same with Mexico.
Along the border in Texas, local police departments have claimed to see Mexican army troops protecting drug smugglers, a claim the Mexicans deny. Corruption has been common among some Mexican police. The United States has constructed walls and fences and stationed National Guard troops along the border to keep out illegal immigrants.
Along the Canadian border, there are no plans for fences, and efforts focus on smuggling and terrorism. U.S. and Canadian authorities are patrolling together on the Great Lakes and have plans to operate a joint radio network. In a real-life repeat of the 1990s TV show "Due South" that featured a well-mannered Mountie and a hard-bitten Chicago cop, American agents and their Canadian counterparts have begun to investigate cases on each other's soil.
The article reports on a great scaling up of cross-border cooperation by Canadian and American law enforcement personnel. By contrast, American law enforcement see the Mexican police and military as hopelessly corrupt and criminal:
Border Patrol senior agent Bob Riffle, who worked on the Mexican border for a decade before transferring to Washington state, said the two borders have different cultures and had high praise for his Canadian counterparts. "I trust those guys implicitly," he said. "In Mexico, how can you have serious cooperation on a day-to-day level with guys who might have just robbed a group of illegals? It's a different world down there."
America can not totally isolate itself from Mexico. But we can not fix the place either. A barrier layer of fences and walls built along whole length of the Mexican border would reduce the damage done to the United States by the corruption and backwardness of Mexico.
The problem is any kind of cooperation and sharing of intelligence and communication systems with Mexico could run to the rampant corruption on the other side of the border.
Mexican government, police and military units struggle with corruption and direct links to drug cartels and immigrant smugglers. That creates problems when U.S. or border state officials looking to coordinate efforts. Information and intelligence sharing can often end up in the hands of organized criminal syndicates and cartels.
We are supposed to believe that Mexico is going to rise up and eventually the US problems with Mexican immigration, Mexican corruption, and the like will be solved by economic development. That is the argument you can hear from elements of the Open Borders crowd. But Mexico is not narrowing the economic gap with the United States.
Adjusted for inflation, Mexico's growth in gross domestic product has been flat for more than two decades. The cost to Mexico's people for this dismal performance is staggering. If Mexico's economy had grown at the same pace from 1980 to the present as it did in the period from 1960 to 1980, today it would have the same standard of living as Spain, said economist Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research in Washington. Instead, nearly half of Mexico's 106 million people live in poverty.
In fact, the US-Mexico economic gap is widening. (and economists who ignore the elephant in the room can not explain this)
The Harvard-educated Saracho has analyzed Mexico's post-1980 economic performance. His results are grim.
In constant 2000 dollars, the World Bank reports, Mexican per-capita GDP was $7,758 in 1980. It inched upward to $8,661 in 2003. Over that period, Chile went from trailing to topping Mexico, with its figures rising from $4,620 to $9,706. Former laggard South Korea leapfrogged from $4,556 to $16,977.
In 1980, Mexico's per-capita GDP was 34 percent of America's. By 2003, it had slid to 24 percent. Concurrently, South Korea began behind Mexico, at 20 percent, and then outpaced it to achieve a per-capita GDP 48 percent of America's.
Registering a Mexican business takes 58 days, versus 48 in China, 27 in Chile, 22 in South Korea, and five here. During nearly two months of procedures, Mexican officials have numerous opportunities to encourage "tips" to speed things along. Mexico's Private Sector Center for Economic Studies calculates that, in 2004, 34 percent of businesses paid "extra-official" sums to functionaries and parliamentarians totaling $11.2 billion. As the late Carlos Hank Gonzalez — Mexico City's once-humble, eventually loaded, former mayor — put it: "Show me a politician who is poor, and I will show you a poor politician."
Well-off Mexicans pay almost no taxes and the government only takes in 14 percent of GDP. Welfare and unemployment benefits are unknown and job creation and salaries have stagnated. Mexico's per-capita real GDP has grown at only 0.7 percent annually since the early 1980s.
All else equal, rapid economic growth is easier for a country with lower per capita GDP because it can adopt existing technologies to raise living standards. Whereas the most developed economies must create new technologies in order to raise productivity and living standards. But all else is not equal. The elephant in the room is IQ differences. You won't hear much about that elephant since the left has managed to enforce a vigorous taboo regime against the truth. But the elephant is hard to miss if you use your own lying eyes to see it.
Calderón is promising to maintain the economic status quo of the last 25 years, but Weisbrot and Sandoval note that while Mexico's per capita GDP grew by 99 percent between 1960 and 1980, it grew by only 15 percent from 1980 to 2000. In the first five years of this decade, Mexicans have seen their economy grow by an anemic 2 percent.
By contrast, Richard W. Fisher is president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, provides details of US economic growth from 1980 to 2005 when the US per capita GDP increased by 63.7% in stark contrast to Mexico's own increase of only 15% over the same time period.
From 1980 to 2005, American workers filed 118 million claims for unemployment insurance. Many others lost their jobs, of course, but either didn’t qualify for benefits, were not unemployed long enough to file a claim, or quickly transitioned to new jobs. It is hard to find a figure that would include all the job losses, but it would be more than 150 million, surely. That is the destructive and painful side of the churn.
Yet, despite all these job losses:
Total employment over the period rose by 44 million—net. At annual rates, unemployment fell from 7.2 percent to today’s 4.7 percent. Productivity increased by 72 percent. Per capita real GDP shot up from $26,113 to $42,760. The average workweek fell by nearly two hours to 33.7 hours, and average household real net worth more than doubled to $431,000. That is the creative and restorative side of the churn.
You hear the claim that illegal immigration from Mexico will slow due to faster economic growth in Mexico. But that claim is false! Contrary to claims made by economists and free trade advocates in the early 1990s NAFTA did not set Mexicon on a path toward closing the living standards gap. The gap has continued to widen. I see these results as a consequence of the increasing economic premium on higher IQ. Therefore I predict that the living standards gap between higher and lower IQ countries is going to widen and with it the incentive for immigration from low to high IQ countries.
Given that the IQ premium will continue to grow the living standards gap between low and high IQ countries will continue to grow as well. Therefore the need to erect higher barriers to legal and illegal immigration of low IQ workers will increase. If the United States continues to let in lower IQ immigrants then the gap between the US and Mexico will eventually shrink as as less able American workforce cuts into competency of American businesses, research labs, and government agencies. Since IQ is inversely correlated with corruption a rise in corruption will further cut into the efficiency of the US economy.
I have nothing new to report about Iraq. Just the standard kidnappings, bombings, and assassination attempts motivated by power struggles between ethnic and religious factions. Somebody tell Paul Wolfowitz that the Iraqis are not bleeding hearted liberal Jeffersonian democrats. A Sunni Arab woman and member of the Iraqi legislator was kidnapped along with her bodyguards.
Gunmen kidnapped a Sunni Arab lawmaker and seven of her bodyguards in a mostly Shi'ite Baghdad neighborhood on Saturday, a Sunni leader and police said.
Taiseer Najah al-Mashhadani, a member of the Accordance Front, the largest parliamentary bloc of the Sunni minority, was abducted in northeastern Shaab district after gunmen in two cars cut off her convoy, police said.
An eighth bodyguard managed to escape, they added.
Some reports say that she was kidnapped at a Shia militia checkpoint.
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The largest Sunni Arab bloc in parliament said Sunday it was suspending its participation in the legislature until a kidnapped colleague was released, dealing a blow to efforts to involve the disaffected minority in the political process.
Was she kidnapped (and perhaps killed) more because she is female or more because she is Sunni? The reaction of other female legislators suggests the former possibility:
At least 11 female parliament members from different blocs also held a news conference to denounce the kidnapping and demand the government take action.
I have no new insights to offer on the latest events. My old insights are holding up pretty well though. If you haven't already read some of the reasons why secular democracy with low corruption and rising freedom isn't in the cards for Iraq see my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq and click back from there to additional readings.
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The largest Sunni Arab bloc in parliament said Sunday it was suspending its participation in the legislature until a kidnapped colleague was released, dealing a blow to efforts to involve the disaffected minority in the political process.
Well, suppose her body turns up dead. What will they use as their demand for what will bring them back to Parliament?
The Sunnis are a minority in the Parliament. So the withdrawal of this Sunni party, the Iraqi Accordance Front, probably does not reduce their ability to influence legislation.
The Front holds 44 seats in the 275-member assembly and is part of the national unity government.
After the Saturday July 1 kidnapping of a female Sunni legislator on Sunday July 2 an attempt was made to kidnap a female Sunni legislator and reports conflict on whether the attack succeeded. This is suggestive that female legislators are being singled out for attacks.
One lawmaker told parliament that Leqa Al Yaseen’s cars had been attacked in the violent southern outskirts of Baghdad, between the city’s Dora suburb and the town of Mahmudiya. She said eight of Yaseen’s bodyguards had been abducted and did not make clear whether Yaseen herself was missing or a casualty.
Sources in the Baghdad police and at the Interior Ministry identified Leqa as a doctor and member of the Shia Islamist Alliance bloc who is a senior official in the Health Ministry, controlled by the movement of Shia cleric Moqtada Al Sadr.
There are also conflicting reports of possible kidnappings of 3 deputy ministers from Iraq's Industry Ministry.
BAGHDAD - Iyad Jamalideen, a secular Shi'ite lawmaker, survived an assassination attempt when a roadside bomb went off near his convoy in southern Baghdad, police said. He was unhurt, but two of his guards and four civilians were wounded.
A few things of interest here: Does each legislator move around in convoys? Who funds the convoys? Can a legislator live in a regular home? Or do they have to cluster in specially defended neighborhoods? Also, a "secular" Shia is rare. The religious parties swept the elections. Are secular legislators also targeted more than religious party legislators?
The kidnappings and attempted assassinations of legislators happens against a backdrop of high civilian casualties.A bomb in a Shiite market in Sadr City killed at least 66 people while 100 died in total on Saturday July 1, 2006.
BAGHDAD, Iraq — A suicide car bombing at a crowded open-air market killed 66 people and wounded 114 others Saturday in the deadliest single attack since the Iraqi government was formed six weeks ago. Other violence brought the day's death toll to more than 100 people.
A Sunni block leaves Parliament in reaction to a Shia militia kidnapping of a female Sunni legislator. A Shia legislator almost bites the dust from a bomb. Lots of Shias get killed and Shia militiamen want to kill Sunnis even more. The tragedy continues to play out along the course it has been on for a few years running.
I do not see how this ends well.
Anyone want to hazard any predictions for how the events in Iraq will play out in the next few years? Will the political stalemate on Iraq in the United States keep lots of US troops there? Will the inter-ethnic violence escalate or taper off? Will the internal migrations (ethnic cleansing") accelerate until the Shias and Sunnis are very separated from each other?
The New York Times has an article about why school enrollment is up in Iraq. Reason? More people can afford to send their kids to school. Where are they getting the money? Working for their government. Almost half of working Iraqis work for the government and their salaries have risen by at least one order of magnitude.
Even in provinces that have experienced population declines, for example, school enrollment is still up. In Anbar — the large desert province in western Iraq, where insurgents regularly battle American soldiers, causing residents to flee — enrollment in primary school is up by 15 percent, and in secondary and high school it is up by 37 percent.
Economics is driving much of the rise, officials say. Public sector employees, who make up almost half the work force in Iraq, according to the Ministry of Planning, used to collect the equivalent of several dollars every month under Mr. Hussein. But since the American invasion, Iraq's oil revenue has been earmarked for salaries instead of wars, and millions of Iraqis — doctors, engineers, teachers, soldiers — began to earn several hundred dollars a month.
Income from oil covers more than 90 percent of the Iraqi government's spending, officials say. American money finances investment and reconstruction projects, but no current costs, like salaries.
I wonder whether the Iraqi government will increasingly hire Shias to displace Sunnis in the civil service. I also wonder whether the locations of jobs will get shifted in order to allow Shias and Sunnis to work apart from each other and therefore to live in more ethnically homogeneous neighborhoods.
I wonder how many Iraqis working for the government are funding family members who have fled abroad. Iraqis have doubled rental prices in Amman Jordan.
Dalia Lami, a Baghdad resident who fled to Amman, Jordan, a year ago after her brother was killed, said she has watched as the Jordanian capital has absorbed more and more Iraqis.
She said apartment rents in Jordan had doubled in the last year because of the influx of Iraqis, both vacationers and those on extended stays. She said Iraqis arriving in Jordan often go on spending sprees, buying items not available in Iraq.
"At the malls, you only hear Iraqi accents, not Jordanian, because they are the ones who are spending their money," she said in a telephone interview. "In Iraq, you can't spend money. If you spend too much money you stand out in the crowd and risk kidnapping."
When you read the happy talk stories about how Iraq's economy is growing keep in mind that the higher incomes are due to bigger salaries of government employees and that the money is coming from higher oil prices.
The Washington Post says the US Senate's Republicans are talking about passing an immigration bill that contains only enforcement provisions. Mind you, the Senators are hoping that if the House would enter negotiations then the Senate could manage to slip in some stealth amnesty provisions.
House leaders appeared to be winning the standoff. They announced this month that they would hold field hearings on immigration throughout the summer, all but guaranteeing that a bill could not be completed until after the election.
But in recent days, senators and the White House have dropped hints that they are willing to move closer to the House's position -- perhaps by agreeing to a two-phase plan that would begin with construction of triple-layer walls, deployment of surveillance aircraft and other means of tightening the border with Mexico.
It is time for the House Republicans to pass a bill that calls for a complete wall along the entire US border with Mexico. The Senators are feeling the pressure on immigration. Therefore it is time for the immigration restrictionsts in the House to move the center of the debate even further in the restrictionist direction.
No bill should contain provisions for a second phase where any restrictionist measures get undone. You can't trust the Congress to do real enforcement. Too many of them will wait till attention shifts away from immigration so that they can start undermining enforcement.
Democrats like Senator Charles Schumer of New York claim that the Republicans are at fault for the collapse in immigration law enforcement.
For instance, according to statistics cited by the Democrats, the number of border apprehensions has declined by 31 percent since Bush took office, to an average of 1.05 million cases per year between 2001 and 2004, from an average 1.52 million cases per year during the late 1990s. The number of illegal immigrants caught each year inside the United States also declined by about a third, to about 25,901 on average between 2001 and 2004, from an annual average of 40,193 in the late 1990s.
"That is a joke," Schumer said. "It's also a political billboard."
Schumer helped to create the joke which passes as US immigration law enforcement. In their attempt to blame Republicans on the collapse of immigration law enforcement the Democrat in Washington DC are lying. Congress critters and Presidential Administrations of both parties presided over the collapse in interior immigration law enforcement. Edward Rubinstein published the details in a table showing the frequencies of a few categories of immigration law enforcement from 1992 to 2005 The peak of "Notices of intent to fine" employers for hiring illegals was under Bush Senior in 1992 at 1461 and by the last year of the Democrat Clinton's Administration the "Notices of intent to fine" had declined to 178. This trend continued under Bush Jr collapsing even further to 3 in 2004. Worksite arrests peaked at 17,554 in 1997 and declined under Clinton to 953 in 2000 and further under Bush to 159 in 2004. Again, the two parties both scaled back immigration law enforcement.
US Senators are a deceitful bunch. Do not trust any claims they might make about their intentions on immigration. We need a border barrier wall and vigorous interior enforcement of immigration laws. I expect many Senators to try to build support for the Pence Plan which pretends to be a reasonable compromise between House and Senate immigration bills. The House shouldn't give an inch. The majority of the public wants immigration restriction, not amnesty.