2006 August 31 Thursday
Iraq Partition An Option?

Michael E. O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution makes an argument for partitioning Iraq.

There is what might be called a "Plan A-" option - facilitating voluntary ethnic relocation within Iraq while retaining a confederal governing structure. We should offer individuals who want to protect themselves and their families the chance to move to an Iraq territory more hospitable to their ethnicity and/or religion.

To a substantial extent this is happening already, but the 100,000 or more internally displaced Iraqis have received scant help or protection to date. With Plan A- as a policy, not an accident, the international community and Iraqi government could help offer housing and jobs to those wishing to move, as well as protection en route. Houses left behind would revert to government ownership, to be offered to individuals of other ethnic groups who wanted them, in what would largely become a program of swapping. Funds for some new home construction would be needed as well.

To help move the Shias and Sunnis away from each other it would not be necessary to state that a big carving up of Iraq was in progress. Just help them do something many already want to do: Get away from the other group in order to be more safe.

The Kurds want independence.

At this crowded market place in the center of the city of Irbil, almost everyone wants to see more than just autonomy within Iraq.

One man says, "For many years we have struggled and died for our freedom."

Another says, "The Iraqi government has not done anything for us."

And still another says, "Iraq should be divided into four or three regions just like Shias and Sunni and Kurdistan."

But the Kurds have been so successful at keeping the Shia Arab-Sunni Arab civil war out of Kurdistan that Arabs are flocking to the peaceful Kurdish region as a safe refuge.

Thousands of Arabs like Hamid have arrived among the ethnic Kurds of the soaring northern mountains, fleeing the violence gripping much of Iraq since the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in February pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

The trend is a stunning reversal for Iraq's Kurdistan, home mainly to non-Arab Kurds. During the 1980s, tens of thousands of Kurds were killed in the region during Saddam Hussein's military campaign, which emptied entire villages.

In June, Hamid set up a private clinic in Sulaimaniya, in partnership with a cardiologist and an orthopaedics specialist -- both of whom are also from Baghdad, 330 km (205 miles) to the south.

The Kurdish majority can maintain order in the Kurdish region only because they are the overwhelming majority. Therefore a small number of Arabs can find safety in the Kurdish region. But should so many Arabs flood in that they become a large minority or majority then the civil war would start up in the Kurdish region as well.

Some observers claim many partitioning efforts have not worked out well.

The critics of partition, on the other hand, see separation as a kind of ethnic cleansing with a human face. In a 2000 statistical study published in World Politics, "Partition as a Solution to Ethnic War," Yale political science professor Nicholas Sambanis found that partitions did not significantly reduce the risk of wars breaking out again. He points to the 1998-2000 war between Ethiopia and Eritrea after a 1993 partition; the violent 1992 collapse of the partition of Somaliland; and the recurring wars between India and Pakistan since partition, including the 1971 partition that sliced Bangladesh from Pakistan -- not to mention the post-partition Arab-Israeli wars of 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982. He warns against carving up warring African countries into many little monoethnic states, which would only replace civil war with international war.

I do not see these examples as proving the anti-partition case. If these countries hadn't been partitioned the result could have been even worse.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 31 10:07 PM  MidEast Iraq Partition
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2006 August 30 Wednesday
We Live In Bio-Electronic Gilded Age?

Once upon a time America went through a Gilded Age. We can see economic parallels between that bygone era and today. Steven Greenhouse and David Leonhardt of the New York Times report that the median hourly wage of American workers has declined even as productivity has risen.

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as “the golden era of profitability.”

Until the last year, stagnating wages were somewhat offset by the rising value of benefits, especially health insurance, which caused overall compensation for most Americans to continue increasing. Since last summer, however, the value of workers’ benefits has also failed to keep pace with inflation, according to government data.

Good for you if you are not in the bottom half.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) reports a big 3.8 percent increase in productivity in just the last 4 quarters.

The 3.8 percent growth in manufacturing productivity and 5.8 percent rise in output over the past four quarters has resulted in expanding employment. Production employment over the last 12 months has increased by 170,000, the largest number of job created over a 12-month period in eight years. The overall increase in the number of jobs rests on 225,000 jobs being created in 11 of the 22 major manufacturing industries, while only 55,000 jobs were lost in the other 11 industries. Job creation has primarily occurred in four industries: computers and electronic products, transportation (excluding motor vehicles), fabricated metals and machinery. Job loss has also been concentrated in four industries, including textile mills, paper products, apparel and textile products. Interestingly, the sectors responsible for job creation also account for a quarter of the U.S. total exports and produce the bulk of equipment purchased by U.S. businesses.

A new dichotomy between production and non-production workers has developed over the last year as well. The rebound in employment has mainly been on the factory floor. Non-production employment has continued to decline, falling 153,000 this past year. Consolidation, efficiency gains and outsourcing are among the many likely reasons for the decline, when combined with the fact that the government only counts employees at establishments that actually produce products as manufacturing employees.

The NAM also sees wage stagnation due to a number of factors.

Despite increases in real compensation, wages are not rising. Higher costs for benefits like health care are partially to blame, however surging energy prices are the main reason wages have not kept pace with inflation, according to the report. In fact, the overall consumer price of energy has increased by 80 percent during the current expansion, eating into worker paychecks and reducing real wages. Overall, real hourly wages have fallen 0.6 percent, while real wages among manufacturing workers are down 1.7 percent.

How unfun.

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post looks back longingly on the by-gone era when rises in productivity were translated into increased living standards for the bulk of the population. "The Age of the Great Upward Redistribution" is a bit too bulky.

The young may be understandably incredulous, but the Great Compression, as economists call it, was the single most important social fact in our country in the decades after World War II. From 1947 through 1973, American productivity rose by a whopping 104 percent, and median family income rose by the very same 104 percent. More Americans bought homes and new cars and sent their kids to college than ever before. In ways more difficult to quantify, the mass prosperity fostered a generosity of spirit: The civil rights revolution and the Marshall Plan both emanated from an America in which most people were imbued with a sense of economic security.

That America is as dead as the dodo. Ours is the age of the Great Upward Redistribution. The median hourly wage for Americans has declined by 2 percent since 2003, though productivity has been rising handsomely. Last year, according to figures released just yesterday by the Census Bureau, wages for men declined by 1.8 percent and for women by 1.3 percent.

His terminology also misses the point that the cognitive elite are producing the increased amount of wealth that is not flowing down to the lower IQ workers. The faster the computers, the fancier the software, and the more powerful the robots the less the masses are needed to make goods or provide services.

The declining prices for lower skilled labor is the market's way of telling us that it does not need as many lower IQ workers. But the US government is more responsive to those who benefit from lots of low priced low skilled labor. So the US government ignores the signals from the wider market and continues to let in lots of low skilled low IQ workers..

Update: Data from the Census Bureau shows median family income rose only because of more people working and investment income.

The nation’s median household income rose slightly faster than inflation last year for the first time in six years, the Census Bureau reported yesterday.

The rise, however, had little to do with bigger paychecks — in fact, both men and women earned less in 2005 than 2004. Rather, census officials said, more family members were taking jobs to make ends meet, and some people made more money from investments and other sources beyond wages.

The bad and not so bad news is geographically clustered.

The 5.9 percent drop in median household income since 1999 was not shared equally around the country. In Michigan, median household income fell 11.9 percent between 1999 and 2005. In North Carolina, it was 11.2 percent, in Utah 10.4 percent and in Indiana 9.5 percent. But in some states, the impact was not nearly so great: a drop of 2.5 percent in New York, 2.4 percent in South Dakota and 1.9 percent in New Hampshire. In the District of Columbia and six states — Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and Virginia — the change was so small that it fell within the survey’s margin of error.

North Carolina makes sense. It has experienced a large influx of illegal Hispanic immigrants. That'll drive down native wages and increase the population of poor outsiders.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 30 09:48 PM  Economics Labor
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2006 August 29 Tuesday
US Federal Workers Better Paid Than Private Sector

Chris Edwards of the libertarian Cato Institute says US federal government workers are very well paid.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis released data this month showing that the average compensation for the 1.8 million federal civilian workers in 2005 was $106,579 -- exactly twice the average compensation paid in the U.S. private sector: $53,289. If you consider wages without benefits, the average federal civilian worker earned $71,114, 62 percent more than the average private-sector worker, who made $43,917.

The high level of federal pay is problematic in and of itself, but so is its rapid growth. Since 1990 average compensation for federal workers has increased by 129 percent, the BEA data show, compared with 74 percent for private-sector workers.

In the last 5 years federal pay has increased at over twice the speed of private sector pay.

The structure of that workforce has also changed over time. There are fewer low-pay typists and more high-pay computer experts in the government today than there were a generation ago. But that doesn't explain why, as the BEA data show, federal wages have risen 38 percent in just the past five years, compared with 14 percent in the private sector.

Federal workers have excellent benefits including very high job security.

Federal workers receive generous health benefits during work and retirement, a pension plan with inflation protection, a retirement savings plan with generous matching contributions, large disability benefits, and union protections. They often have generous holiday and vacation schedules, flexible hours, training options, incentive awards, flexible spending accounts, and a more relaxed pace of work than private-sector workers.

Perhaps the most important benefit of federal employment is extreme job security. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the rate of layoffs and firings in the federal workforce is just one-quarter the rate in the private sector. All these advantages in worker benefits suggest that, in comparable jobs, federal wages ought to be lower than private-sector wages.

Modest proposal: Make most federal jobs have the equivalent of term limits. Work for the federal government? For most jobs you should have to leave after 10 or 12 years. This would bring in new blood that is more experienced with how the private sector does things.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 29 10:46 PM  Economics Government Costs
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2006 August 27 Sunday
Sympathy For The Devil

"Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm a man of wealth and taste". UCLA emeritus professor of English Henry Ansgar Kelly has a new book out, Satan: A Biography says Satan's bad name is a result of a mistake of early church fathers who mistook him for the totally different guy named Lucifer.

He's not the enemy of God, his name really isn't Lucifer and he isn't even evil. And as far as leading Adam and Eve astray, that was a bad rap stemming from a case of mistaken identity.

"There's little or no evidence in the Bible for most of the characteristics and deeds commonly attributed to Satan," insists a UCLA professor with four decades in what he describes as "the devil business."

In "Satan: A Biography" (Cambridge Press), Henry Ansgar Kelly puts forth the most comprehensive case ever made for sympathy for the devil, arguing that the Bible actually provides a kinder, gentler version of the infamous antagonist than typically thought.

"A strict reading of the Bible shows Satan to be less like Darth Vader and more and more like an overzealous prosecutor," said Kelly, a UCLA professor emeritus of English and the former director of the university's Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. "He's not so much the proud and angry figure who turns away from God as [he is] a Joseph McCarthy or J. Edgar Hoover. Satan's basic intention is to uncover wrongdoing and treachery, however overzealous and unscrupulous the means. But he's still part of God's administration."

You mean he didn't ride a tank in the General's rank when the Blitzkrieg raged? He had nothing to do with killing the Kennedy's?

Satan works for the "Big Guy" upstairs.

When it comes to the Old Testament, Kelly insists that Satan's profile is considerably lower than commonly thought and significantly less menacing. By Kelly's count, Satan only appears three times in the 45 books that make up the pre-Christian scriptures, the best known being in the Book of Job. On each occasion, Satan is still firmly part of what Kelly calls "God's administration," and his activities are done at the behest of "the Big Guy." But his actions aren't evil so much as consistent with the translation of "devil" and "satan," which literally mean "adversary" in Greek and Hebrew, respectively.

"His job is to test people's virtue and to report their failures," Kelly said.

I wonder if he also reports the failures of kids to Santa Claus.

Origen of Alexandria got it all wrong.

Perhaps most surprising is not the figure Satan cuts, but his notable absences in the Old Testament. In the Bible's first reference to Lucifer, for instance, Satan doesn't appear — even by implication, Kelly points out. "'Lucifer' is Latin for light-bearer," he said, and was the name given to the morning star, or the planet Venus. Originally written in ancient Hebrew, the passage, on face value, refers to the tyrannical Babylonian king who boasts of his conquests but who is "about to be cast to the ground." Kelly insists there's nothing more to the reference than an apt use of metaphor, but the third-century Christian philosopher Origen of Alexandria argued in his best known work, "On First Things," that the reference applied to Satan.

"Origen says, 'Lucifer is said to have fallen from Heaven,'" Kelly explained. "'This can't refer to a human being, so it must refer to Satan.' Subsequent church fathers found this reasoning persuasive, and so did everyone who followed them."

Ironically, the only mentions of Lucifer in the New Testament — and there are three of them — refer to Jesus, Kelly said. "Jesus is called 'Lucifer' or 'the morning star' because he represents a new beginning."

I have no idea whether Ansgar is right. If you can read ancient Hebrew and Aramaic you could check the original texts and see what words are used in each place.

Anyone know of a web site which has the Bible in the original languages it was written in and with a search engine to boot? Also, does anyone know what the words are in those languages for the Devil and Satan and Lucifer? Are there 3 different words?

By Randall Parker 2006 August 27 09:39 AM  Religion Christianity
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2006 August 26 Saturday
Hispanic Flight For Lower Costs Driving White Flight

Too much crowding of Hispanics and the resulting higher cost of living and lower quality of life is causing Hispanics to move into majority white cites and causing the whites to flee. The leftists, libertarians, and business interests expect us to ignore our own interests and support the immigrant deluge.

An analysis of census data released last week has shown that the white non-Hispanic population in another three of America's 50 largest cities has become a minority. In Phoenix, Tucson and Denver, the white population has recently fallen below 50 percent, according to William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution.

He predicts that another four cities will soon follow. Whites will become a minority in Arlington, Tex.; Charlotte; and Las Vegas within two years and in Austin within four years, he said.

Although these changes were once driven by "white flight," Frey said, something else contributed in the cities that most recently reached the tipping point. While they were still losing some whites, the more dramatic shift was the increase in Hispanics, some of whom were moving from California and elsewhere in the United States in search of a better -- and more affordable -- life.

Why make our towns and neighborhoods less affordable? Why subject ourselves to a higher crime rate?

By Randall Parker 2006 August 26 12:14 PM  Immigration Demographics
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2006 August 25 Friday
Senate Immigration Amnesty Bill Cost Estimate Over $200 Billion

The elites of America think nothing of formulating radical unpopular policy changes that cost us big time.

WASHINGTON – The price tag for comprehensive immigration reform was not a key issue when the Senate passed its bill last May. But it is now.

One reason: It took the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) - the gold standard for determining what a bill will cost - until last week to estimate that federal spending for this vast and complex bill would hit $127 billion over the next 10 years.

At the same time, federal revenues would drop by about $79 billion, according to the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation. If lawmakers fix a tax glitch, that loss would be cut in half, they add.

That is just the first 10 years.

Real immigration reform: Deport the illegals, build a wall, and cut back on legal immigration.

Businesses who use cheap foreign workers do not mind these huge costs. Most of the costs will be paid by other busineses and private citizens. Use of the government to cost shift business expenses onto the rest of us has become a very popular activity for businesses in pursuit of bigger profits.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 25 12:04 AM  Immigration Economics
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2006 August 24 Thursday
Israel To Crack Down On Illegal Immigrants

Aimed at preventing West Bank Palestinians from marrying Arab Israelis and getting residency in Israel a new law will make illegals leave Israel for at least a year before applying for residency.

Meanwhile another law has been taking shape in the Knesset, which is an undeclared revolution in Israel's immigration policy. The concern is that the bill (Amendment 19 of the Entry to Israel Law, known in the vernacular as the shabakhim, or illegal aliens law) will turn into Israel's de facto policy on who gets in and who does not.

The law determines that an illegal alien will be able to receive legal standing in Israel only after he or she leaves the country for a cooling-off period of one to five years. The law passed its first reading on the first day of the Knesset's summer session. It enjoyed wide support, and it is hard to imagine what will prevent its passing in the winter session.

The main reason for the bill's support is the rationale that hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens living in Israel should not be given a prize. However, it cannot be ignored that the law is directed only against non-Jews. Jews cannot become illegal aliens in Israel.

I want a barrier on the US border with Mexico that is as formidable as the barrier Israel built on its border with the West Bank. I also want a law at least as tough as the one discussed above which will require illegals to leave the United States.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 24 11:38 PM  Immigration Policy
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Bush Emphasizes Preventing Iraq From Getting Worse

Peter Baker of the Washington Post says the Bush Administration has shifted their style of talking about Iraq from emphasising supposed improvements toward arguing that we have to focus in not letting Iraq get even worse.

Of all the words that President Bush used at his news conference this week to defend his policies in Iraq, the one that did not pass his lips was "progress."

For three years, the president tried to reassure Americans that more progress was being made in Iraq than they realized. But with Iraq either in civil war or on the brink of it, Bush dropped the unseen-progress argument in favor of the contention that things could be even worse.

Bush is now making the mistake of imagining that bigger losses are avoidable. The longer the denial continues the larger the damage that will be done.

When I was much younger and more naive I used to think that the people who run the United States must be highly competent. Now I think their understanding of reality is highly faulty. If we are to believe this article the Bushies though that that the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi would cut back on the size of the insurgency in Iraq. Never mind that many insurgency groups exist in Iraq and that the US military knows their separate identities. Bush Administration cluelessness seemingly has no bounds.

While still committed to the venture, officials have privately told friends and associates outside government that they have grown discouraged in recent months. Even the death of al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq proved not to be the turning point they expected, they have told associates, and other developments have been relentlessly dispiriting, with fewer signs of hope.

Every time you have an expectation and it turns out to be wrong it is a sign that you have a flawed model of the world. People who have highly flawed models will continue to get it wrong in the future. They should not have as much power or influence. People with wrong track records should have their opinions discounted.

What other supposed "turning point" moments have come and gone with Iraq? The initial invasion that was supposed to usher in Jeffersonian democracy. The capture of Saddam. The capture of Saddam's top lieutenants. The killing of Saddam's sons. The creation of an Iraqi government. Elections. Other turning points that I'm sure I'm forgetting. These other turning points did not live up to their expectations. But the Bushies just moved on to the next fantasy.

Now the Bushies are finding it hard to maintain the full blown delusion. That isn't to say that they have totally ceased being deluded. They've had to scale back the extent of their delusions. But they are still deluded.

Speaking at the New America Foundation former diplomat James Dobbins, Rand Corporation International Security & Defense Policy Director, said many things (worth watching if you can catch a C-SPAN rebroaddcast) about Iraq. One line stands out: "We can either stay and make things bad slowly or leave and make things bad quickly." You can also watch his speech via a video download.

Dobbins thinks the Bush Administration made a conscious choice to deceive themselves (I think he used the term "selective ignorance" to describe that choice) when they made post-WWII Germany and Japan the models for what they hoped to achieve in Iraq. Dobbins thinks far more recent US involvements were better models. Though I think Iraq provides much worse starting material than, for example, Kosovo or Bosnia. He thinks that the Bush Administration ignored the Clinton Administration's experiences with military occupation precisely because it was the Clinton Administration which had those experiences. Can't learn from the opposition when the opposition has been painted as highly mistaken in all things.

The New American Foundation panel was entitled "Moral Clarity and the Middle East". If the Iraq debacle leads to greater clarity about human nature then the war could still provide an important benefit.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 24 11:28 PM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate
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2006 August 23 Wednesday
Americans Disconnect Iraq From Fight Against Terrorists

The American people are slow learners.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 — Americans increasingly see the war in Iraq as distinct from the fight against terrorism, and nearly half believe President Bush has focused too much on Iraq to the exclusion of other threats, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The poll found that 51 percent of those surveyed saw no link between the war in Iraq and the broader antiterror effort, a jump of 10 percentage points since June.

53% say the war was a mistake. An even higher 62% say it is going badly. So then what do the other 38% think? Victory around the corner?

Public approval of Bush's handling of the fight against terrorists (the "Global War On Terror" or GWOT) rose. As the public disconnects Iraq from the terrorist threat it makes sense that the negative of Iraq would weight less on how they evaluate GWOT. What the public still needs to figure out: Keep Muslims out of the West and your risk of getting blown up goes down.

When will this shift in attitude lead to the start of a troop withdrawal? When the withdrawal comes which part of Iraq will first be abandoned to its fate? A Sunni area or a Shia area?

Update: The American public thinks US troops aren't preventing civil war.

The sectarian violence of recent weeks has further soured the American political mood. In Washington, there may be a debate over whether Iraq is engaged in a full-scale civil war - in the nation as a whole, a majority of respondents say a civil conflict is already occurring.

Sixty-three percent of respondents to a recent Pew Research poll say that the US is losing ground in its efforts to prevent civil war in Iraq. That represents a significant rise in pessimism from June's comparable figure of 50 percent.

"The optimism generated by the killing of [insurgent leader Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi in June has largely dissipated, especially with regard to the U.S.'s key objectives," judges a Pew Research report released last week.

The bad news will continue to mount and attitudes will continue to shift in response.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 23 06:10 AM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate
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2006 August 20 Sunday
US Government Deficit Scheduled To Rise

The US government's deficit looks set to start rising again.

A surge of unanticipated tax receipts will push this year's deficit down to $260 billion, a $58 billion improvement on last year's red ink. But the deficit will begin to rise again next year and will improve substantially only if President Bush's tax cuts are allowed to expire, the Congressional Budget Office said yesterday.

Come the 2010s and the retirement of the baby boomers will send the deficit soaring.

The budget office's figures provide ammunition for both sides. This year's deficit is not only projected to be lower than last year's, despite ongoing war expenditures and hurricane relief, but it is also $112 billion lower than the CBO estimated in March when it analyzed the president's budget proposals. Even after successive waves of tax cuts, tax revenue is rising faster than predicted, while spending, especially on Medicare and Medicaid, has been less than initially projected. The near-term budget picture "has improved significantly," analysts with the budget office concluded.

But the longer term outlook -- clouded by baby boomers who will be retiring just as the reach of Bush's tax cuts begins to expand -- has "not changed materially," the report emphasized.

This year's $260 billion deficit is projected to rise to $286 billion next year and $328 billion by 2010, only to plunge when the tax cuts expire in 2011.

Higher taxes? Cuts in retirement entitlements programs?

Update: The US government's financial state is far worse than a cursory glance at the current deficit and current debt would suggest. The reason? Unfunded liabilities. These are promises to pay future benefits using money that exceeds what the government can expect to collect in taxes. See my posts On The Medicare And Social Security Unfunded Liabilities, Social Security And Medicare Headed For Bankruptcy Sooner, Taxes For Aging Population To Trigger Political And Economic Death Spiral?, and Audited Financials Show Larger US Government Debt.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 20 11:55 PM  Economics Government Costs
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British Want Profiling Against Terrorists

The British government is considering using profiling based on ethnicity and religion in order to choose who to scrutinize more closely.

UK transport officials are said to be considering introducing passenger profiling on grounds including ethnic origin and religion.

Supporters say it could cut the delays caused by universal security checks after the uncovering of a possible plot to bring down planes - others say it will cause resentment and improving technology is more important.

A British Muslim high ranking police officer opposes profiling.

Chief Superintendent Ali Dizaei said plans to profile air passengers would create an offence of "travelling while Asian".

Current policy hassles everyone and so we are all guilty of the offense of "travelling while human". The opponents of profiling want to make everyone suffer inconveniences that are necessary for only a small subset of the total population. They expect us to believe the little old Christian lady from Des Moines is just as likely to be a terrorist as a young Muslim from London. This is absurd.

European Union ministers are discussing the idea of using profiling throughout Europe. They ought to use profiling when deciding who to allow in as immigrants.

BRUSSELS, August 18, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Increasing interest in "ethnic profiling" at airports is one of the upshots of a high-level EU antiterror meeting that took place in London on August 15-16.

Although the issue was not formally discussed at the meeting featuring interior ministers from a number of EU countries, ministers and officials in their private comments acknowledged it is considered by some as a promising way to help prevent future terrorist attacks.

Yes, of course it is a promising way to prevent terrorist attacks. Young Muslim males are most likely to carry out terrorist attacks.

A British YouGov survey found that 55% of the British public wants profiling. The question they were asked was "Passenger profiling is a recent term used to describe the process of selecting passengers based on their background or appearance. Would you like to see 'passenger profiling' introduced?"

Profiling seems eminently sensible. A person is orders of magnitude more likely to be a terrorist if young, male, and with Middle Eastern or south Asian appearances. People who attend a mosque are orders of magnitude more likely to be terrorists. Why waste police resources on the vast majority who do not fit terrorist profiles? Those same resources could produce much better results if common sense is applied to sizing up potential threats.

Robert Spencer argues that profiling is necessary.

Profiling, of course, is imperfect. Islam is not a race. Adherents of the jihad ideology can be found among all races: as John Walker Lindh, Jose Padilla, Richard Reid, Ismail Royer, and Hasan Akbar can attest. All those men have in common is that they are converts to Islam -- a phenomenon that doesn't necessarily have any outward signs. Nonetheless, the fact remains that young Middle Eastern males have committed a disproportionate amount of violent terror attacks in recent years. Accordingly, it is simply a waste of resources to subject all airline passengers, from grandmothers to toddlers, to equal scrutiny, while refusing to spend more time investigating passengers who come from the group from which most terrorists spring nowadays.

Over at View From The Right Lawrence Auster points to an article which reports on US officials going so far to oppose profiling that they gave a behind-the-scenes tour of security operations at O'Hare airport in Chicago to members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

In a meeting, Brian Humphrey, Customs and Border Patrol’s executive director of field operations, assured CAIR officials that agents do not single out Muslim passengers for special screening and that they must undergo a mandatory course in Muslim sensitivity training. The course teaches agents that Muslims believe jihad is an “internal struggle against sin” and not holy warfare.

Customs agents involved in the CAIR tour at O’Hare tell WorldNetDaily they were outraged that headquarters would reveal sensitive counterterrorism procedures to an organization that has seen several of its own officials convicted of terror-related charges since 9-11.

How disgusting.

A Sunday Times of London editorial entitled "The enemy within" shows how far along the debate about Muslim terrorism has moved in Britain.

Peter Clarke, deputy assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard, says at least three other serious plots by home-grown terrorists have been disrupted since last year’s July 7 attacks on the London Underground. The danger seems ever present.

It is now self-evident that there is an enemy within Britain who wants to destroy our way of life. Most of this relatively small group of fanatics are British-born Muslims who have been educated here and brought up within our tolerant democracy.

But the Times editorialists come up short in their attempts to explain why so many British Muslims are hostile to the host society.

Why is Britain such a breeding ground for these young men, for that is what most of them are? Much can be ascribed to timidity on behalf of the authorities, wedded as they are to a multiculturalism that isolates many young men in ghettos and a reluctance to espouse British values through our schools and institutions. That appeasement was epitomised by the sanctuary offered to extremist Islamic groups in Britain — “Londonistan” — in the pathetic hope that it might offer some form of immunity from violence.

Appeasement is certainly part of the problem. Multiculturalism is part of the problem. But do the Brits get bombed by Hindus? Why aren't Hindus a threat as a result of multiculturalism? Or Buddhists? Or atheists? Easy answer: They all are not Muslims. Islam is the root problem. Islam and Western civilization are not compatible.

The rest of us should not have to deal with the consequences of Muslim desires to make us all submit to their backward religion.

Mark at Western Survival argues Muslims who come to the West behave as colonists, not immigrants.

An immigrant comes to a new country willing to become part of that country, to adopt its way of life, customs, language, even religion.

A colonist comes to a new land to pursue economic opportunities and/or to escape persecution in his homeland. A colonist is perfectly happy with his people's language, religion, culture, and way of life. He is not coming to become part of the native people, but to establish or expand an outpost for his people in new territory. This was exactly the situation of the pilgrims here in North America.

Steve Sailer argues we should disconnect Western and Muslim societies from each because because the rules that Westerners and Muslims want to live under are incompatible and we just create avoidable animosity by mixing as much as we do.

Perhaps the most quoted social philosopher of our time famously asked:

"Can we all get along?"

Well, when it comes to Muslims and Westerners, the answer is:

No, we can't.

So, deal with it. When we get in each other's faces, we get on each other's nerves. It's time to get out of each other's faces.

Westerners and Muslims don't agree on the basics of social order and don't want to live under the same rules. That shouldn't be a problem because that's what separate countries are for. We should stop occupying their countries and stop letting them move to ours.

Makes sense to me.

Steve also argues for a buyout of citizenship of Western Muslims where Muslims will get cash offers to return to Muslim countries. Good idea.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 20 11:39 PM  Terrorists Western Response
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Iraq Driving Political Right Against Bush

Peter Baker of the Washington Post takes note of increasing criticism of Bush by right wingers and war supporters about the Iraq war and American foreign policy.

For 10 minutes, the talk show host grilled his guests about whether "George Bush's mental weakness is damaging America's credibility at home and abroad." For 10 minutes, the caption across the bottom of the television screen read, "IS BUSH AN 'IDIOT'?"

But the host was no liberal media elitist. It was Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman turned MSNBC political pundit. And his answer to the captioned question was hardly "no." While other presidents have been called stupid, Scarborough said: "I think George Bush is in a league by himself. I don't think he has the intellectual depth as these other people."

The problem with the promoters of the rosy scenarios for Iraq is that they've made so many predictions that are wrong. Generally commentators and pundits can make lots of predictions that turn out to be wrong and they rarely suffer any career setbacks as a result. The general public has little memory for what big name pundits said a year or two ago. But anyone who defends the Bush Administration's Iraq policy has to tout Iraq as a success.The public can detect errors in such arguments without the need for long memories of what each war proponent has said in the past.

Rich Lowry sees Iraq headed on a downward trajectory. Well, better he figures this out late than never.

"Conservatives for a long time were in protective mode, wanting to emphasize the progress in Iraq to contrast what they felt was an unfair attack on the war by the Democrats and media and other sources," Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, said in an interview. "But there's more of a sense now that things are on a downward trajectory, and more of a willingness to acknowledge it and pressure the administration to react to it."

That "protective mode", that knee-jerk reaction of "If the Left is against it then I'm for it" has not served the Right well at all. Mind you, left-leaning commentators play the same game and harm their own side - and more importantly the cause of truth - just as much when they play that game.

I've had people showing up to comment on my blog in past years who assumed that since I'm very critical of Bush I must be a left-wing socialist pacifist appeaser. As the reality of the Iraq Debacle has sunk in with war proponents I've noticed a big drop-off in such commenters. I think it has been months since the Panglossians have told me I'm a pacifist. Any Panglossians reading this who want to defend their faith in Jorge W. Bush?

Lawrence Auster has been documenting increasing doubts and even total flips of Iraq war supporters . Read the extensive commentary by him and his readers. Ralph Peters, John Podhoretz, and Rich Lowry all show signs of feeling the bite of reality sinking in.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 20 10:38 AM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate
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2006 August 19 Saturday
Iraq Government Army Understaffed And AWOL

On the New York Times front page the caption for clicking through on an article by chief military correspondent Michael R. Gordon neatly encapsulates much of what is wrong in Iraq:

Iraqi soldiers are underpaid, underequipped and frequently AWOL. And then there’s the problem of serving a government that hardly exists in a country that’s tearing itself apart.

Aside from that things are going really well over there.

The article itself is long and excellent. The practical way the US Marines see Iraq underscores the depth of the problem.

The rules posted on the wall of the Marine base in Barwana concisely summed up the American predicament in Iraq: Be polite, be professional, have a plan to kill everyone you meet.

That such an attitude is necessary speaks to the scale of the Iraq debacle.

The Iraqi military continues to suffer from soldiers not showing up for work.

In the Haditha triad, Col. Jebbar Abass, a beefy man with a drooping mustache, commanded an Iraqi battalion that started out with about 700 soldiers in the fall of 2005. It was now down to about 400 troops. Since almost a third of his battalion is on leave at any one time, that means that Colonel Abass can field about 270 soldiers on any given day, a useful supplement to the Marine forces in and around Haditha but hardly enough to enable the Americans to draw back.

Lt. Col. Norman Cooling, commander of the Third Battalion, Third Marine Regiment, which has responsibility for the Haditha area, says that the Iraqi Army has been making important strides in terms of tactical proficiency. “The problems that have made that the most challenging are problems with leave, pay — those things that relate to Iraqi government decision-making and execution,” he told me. “Because of that the Iraqi Army throughout Al Anbar has attrited.” Figures provided by American military commanders show that the two Iraqi divisions in Anbar Province are about 5,000 short of their authorized strength, while some 660 soldiers are currently AWOL.

The amount of military resources the US has applied to Iraq has been enough to waste huge amounts of money and lives while still being too little to get control of the insurgency. The US Marines in Anbar province in the heart of the Sunni triangle have enough soldiers to go where they want but not enough to make an appreciable dent in the insurgency. In fact, soldiers in Anbar are getting shifted to try to restore some order in increasingly chaotic Baghdad.

This lethal game would be more manageable if the insurgency were weakening. Instead, it is stronger than ever. In July, 2,625 I.E.D.’s (improvised explosive devices) were found throughout Iraq, almost double the January number and the highest monthly total to date. (Of these, 1,666 exploded, while 959 were discovered before they detonated.) And by now the entire nation is caught in a vicious circle: terrorist attacks have encouraged the development of Shiite militias, which have carried out assaults against Sunnis, who have in turn provided support for insurgents. The Marines have enough combat power in Anbar to operate where they please but not enough to stop the insurgents from intimidating the population, Marine commanders say.

Some of the Marine officers I talked with were frank about the need for more American troops. Lt. Col. Ronald Gridley, executive officer with Regimental Combat Team 7, which has responsibility for a major swath of the province, told me during a visit to the unit’s headquarters at Al Asad that the regiment has recommended that additional troops be allocated to its section of Anbar. A battalion or two, he said, would help a great deal. “What we recommend and what we get is going to be two different things,” Colonel Gridley said. “In our perfect world, we could use some more infantrymen to be able to patrol the streets and partner with the Iraqi Army.”

The US has never had enough troops in Iraq. The Bush Administration has fantasized that the Iraqi government troops would rapidly scale up and take on the job of putting down the Sunni insurgency. But the government is corrupt, doesn't pay the soldiers on time, and does not inspire much loyalty. Also, local governments in places like Basra are under the control of some faction which is putting the screws to other factions. Also, the other factions are upset they are cut out of the corruption that lets government officials skim off money. So of course supposed "government" forces under the control of one tribe will fight "tribal" forces of another tribe.

I do not see how all this is going to get better unless, perhaps, the US government goes on a massive bribery binge among faction leaders in Iraq to try to pay people to act more nicely.

The US government has a hard time opposing the Shiite militas that are wings of parties in Iraq's elected ruling coalition.

Iraq’s elected government is dominated by two Iranian-backed Shiite fundamentalist parties. They are backed on the streets of Baghdad and in the Shiite south by two Hezbollah-like armed militias. In Parliament, their power is reinforced by two Kurdish separatist parties, also with their own militias, which have been allowed to run the Kurdish northeast like an independent state within a state.

Washington doesn’t complain too loudly about these militias, because without them, the Iraqi government would be even weaker than it is now. But so long as they are allowed to enforce their murderous brand of vigilante justice, it is ludicrous to claim that Iraqis enjoy democracy or the rule of law.

Vigilante Shiites and Sunnis keep killing each other in a cycle of revenge. The US government helped make this possible. Your tax dollars at work.

The New York Times reports on factional fighting between Shiite Iraqi factions.

In Basra, a gun battle erupted between Iraqi Army troops and members of the dominant local tribe, the Bani Asad, apparently angered by the killing on Tuesday of a tribal leader, Faisal Raji Al-Asadi, government officials in Basra said.


In Karbala, Wednesday’s violence took on a different hue, as security forces controlled by Shiites who are aligned with the main pro-Iranian bloc, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, fought militiamen loyal to a local Shiite cleric opposed to Iran’s influence in Iraq. The battle led security forces to cordon off the city to most nonresidents and impose a curfew to restore order.

Note that even though the Basra fighting was between government troops and a local tribe the government troops might have been fighting for some other tribe or political party rather than for the abstraction called "Iraq".

By Randall Parker 2006 August 19 09:19 PM  MidEast Iraq New Regime Failures
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Will US Failure In Iraq Lead To Immigration Amnesty?

Will the Iraq debacle lead to a change in the balance of power in Congress that makes immigration amnesty and increased immigration more likely?

Especially worrisome for members of Congress is that the proportion of Americans who approve of their own representative's performance has fallen sharply. Traditionally, voters may express disapproval of Congress as a whole but still vote for their own member, even from the majority party. But 55 percent now approve of their lawmaker, a seven-percentage-point drop over three months and the lowest such finding since 1994, the last time control of the House switched parties.

"That's dramatic," said Republican consultant Ed Rollins, who was White House political director under President Ronald Reagan.

Steve Sailer has summed up the foreign and domestic policies of Bush and the neoconservatives as Invade the world! Invite the world!. Bush's failed "Invade the world" policies in Iraq may cause a loss of Republican control of the House of Representatives. That will bring Open Borders Democrats in control of that part of Congress and remove the House as a brake on efforts to pass a huge amnesty for illegal aliens. So "Invade the world" will lead to "Invite the world".

Washington K Street lobbyists already are making moves in anticipation of the fall of Republicans in Congress.

Washington lobbying firms, trade associations and corporate offices are moving to hire more well-connected Democrats in response to rising prospects that the opposition party will wrest control of at least one chamber of Congress from Republicans in the November elections.

In what lobbyists are calling a harbinger of possible upheaval on Capitol Hill, many who make a living influencing government have gone from mostly shunning Democrats to aggressively recruiting them as lobbyists over the past six months or so.

Immigration restrictionists would be better off if the US Senate fell into the hands of Democrats. The Senators of both parties are already so far gone toward treason against the American people on the National Quest that it doesn't matter much which party controls the Senate. But the majority of House Republicans are taking restrictionist positions on immigration because they fear the wrath of their voters. That majority of Republicans (and not a majority of the total House) is what stands in the way of the ruling class's attempt to replace the American citizenry with a new populace of malleable clients to corrupt upper class patrons.

Fredo Arias-King explains how the ruling class in America see a replacement of the white majority with a Hispanic majority as a way to undermine the restraint that citizens have on the governing class.

Of a handful of motivations, one of the main ones (even if unconscious) of many of these legislators can be found in what the U.S. Founding Fathers called "usurpation." Madison, Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and others devised a system and embedded the Constitution with mechanisms to thwart the "natural" tendency of the political class to usurp power—to become a permanent elite lording over pauperized subjects, as was the norm in Europe at the time. However, the Founding Fathers seem to have based the logic of their entire model on the independent character of the American folk. After reviewing the different mechanisms and how they would work in theory, they wrote in the Federalist Papers that in the end, "If it be asked, what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer: the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America …"4 With all his emphasis on reason and civic virtue as the basis of a functioning and decentralized democratic polity, Jefferson speculated whether Latin American societies could be governed thus.5

While Democratic legislators we spoke with welcomed the Latino vote, they seemed more interested in those immigrants and their offspring as a tool to increase the role of the government in society and the economy. Several of them tended to see Latin American immigrants and even Latino constituents as both more dependent on and accepting of active government programs and the political class guaranteeing those programs, a point they emphasized more than the voting per se. Moreover, they saw Latinos as more loyal and "dependable" in supporting a patron-client system and in building reliable patronage networks to circumvent the exigencies of political life as devised by the Founding Fathers and expected daily by the average American.

Republican lawmakers we spoke with knew that naturalized Latin American immigrants and their offspring vote mostly for the Democratic Party, but still most of them (all except five) were unambiguously in favor of amnesty and of continued mass immigration (at least from Mexico). This seemed paradoxical, and explaining their motivations was more challenging. However, while acknowledging that they may not now receive their votes, they believed that these immigrants are more malleable than the existing American: That with enough care, convincing, and "teaching," they could be converted, be grateful, and become dependent on them. Republicans seemed to idealize the patron-client relation with Hispanics as much as their Democratic competitors did. Curiously, three out of the five lawmakers that declared their opposition to amnesty and increased immigration (all Republicans), were from border states.

Also curiously, the Republican enthusiasm for increased immigration also was not so much about voting in the end, even with "converted" Latinos. Instead, these legislators seemingly believed that they could weaken the restraining and frustrating straightjacket devised by the Founding Fathers and abetted by American norms. In that idealized "new" United States, political uncertainty, demanding constituents, difficult elections, and accountability in general would "go away" after tinkering with the People, who have given lawmakers their privileges but who, like a Sword of Damocles, can also "unfairly" take them away. Hispanics would acquiesce and assist in the "natural progress" of these legislators to remain in power and increase the scope of that power. In this sense, Republicans and Democrats were similar.

Because of the immigration issue I no longer see the ruling class of America as morally legitimate. They are at war with the character of our nation and seek to change it in ways quite hostile the interests and loyalties of the vast majority of Americans.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 19 06:35 PM  Immigration Politics
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2006 August 17 Thursday
Iraq Hits New Records For Bombs And Deaths

The New York Times reports that roadside bombings surged to a record high in July 2006 in Iraq.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 — The number of roadside bombs planted in Iraq rose in July to the highest monthly total of the war, offering more evidence that the anti-American insurgency has continued to strengthen despite the killing of the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Along with a sharp increase in sectarian attacks, the number of daily strikes against American and Iraqi security forces has doubled since January. The deadliest means of attack, roadside bombs, made up much of that increase. In July, of 2,625 explosive devices, 1,666 exploded and 959 were discovered before they went off. In January, 1,454 bombs exploded or were found.

The Times reporters opine that what is going on in Iraq is a dichotomy.

The report’s contents are being widely discussed among Pentagon officials, military commanders and, in particular, on Capitol Hill, where concern among senior lawmakers of both parties is growing over a troubling dichotomy: even as Iraq takes important steps toward democracy — including the election of a permanent government this spring — the violence has gotten worse.

In response to the "dichotomy" remark Lawrence Auster says he fails to see a contradiction between democracy and sectarian violence in Iraq and suggests that the contradiction exists in the minds of those who expected democracy to bring peace to Iraq.

Since it is the essence of a liberal always to be surprised and “troubled” at a real world that does not fit liberal expectations, only liberals could regard the co-existence of “democracy” and violence in Iraq as a “troubling dichotomy.” It’s only a troubling dichotomy if you assume, like the whacked-out Bushites, that having elections and forming some kind of government (a government that depends for its existence on the U.S. military) means that you have “democracy,” and that this “democracy” means that the enemy has been defeated and that all men will now live in peace, each under his own vine and fig tree.

Gotta agree with Larry here. Why would democracy bring peace people among people who are not liberal and who see any election that they lose as an election that will bring to power people who will totally shaft the losers.

Larry points to an essay he wrote in April 2004 where he argued that creation of a monopoly on the use of force is the basic requirement for the establishment of a democracy.

What has gone wrong? As I've been saying since last summer, the erection of a new government in Iraq presupposes the first law of all governments, that it have a monopoly on the use of force. Yet instead of focusing on the need for such a government and on the practical requirements for creating such a government, we've been pouring most of our energy and hopes into creating the mechanisms of democratic elections—imagining, in excited reverie, that the cart of universal rights and democratic proceduralism could pull the horse of sovereign national existence.... Thus we not only lack a policy aimed at victory in Iraq, we have not even had a national debate aimed at formulating such a policy. We have had a parody of a debate, in which the Left mindlessly screams, "Bush lied," and the Right stolidly replies, "Stay the course."

My guess is victory was never an option for the US in Iraq. A strategy that could produce victory would require a level of brutality that the US elites and populace could not stomach. An occupation of Iraq that utlized the level of brutality needed to rule in Iraq is just beyond the pale in the minds of people who live in Western coutries today.

Back to the New York Times article: It ends with a real doozy:

“Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy,” said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.

“Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect,” the expert said, “but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy.”

Wow! Some of the Bushies realize that Iraq may be a lost cause. Hey, there's this guy held in custody in some Iraqi jail who knows how to run a dictatorship in Iraq and who knows how to maintain order. He could stop the sectarian violence very quickly, albeit with a brief period where the killings would surge much higher as he reestablished his previous monopoly on the use of force.

More Iraqis died in July 2006 from the violence than in any other month since the war began over 3 years ago.

July was the deadliest month for civilians since the war started in March 2003, figures show.

During the month, 3,438 Iraqis were killed -- 1,855 because of sectarian or political violence and another 1,583 from bombings and shootings. Nearly 3,600 Iraqis were wounded, the official said.

Turkey and Iran are attacking Kurdish rebels along their borders with Kurdistan (which this article naively refers to as part of Iraq).

Turkey and Iran have dispatched tanks, artillery and thousands of troops to their frontiers with Iraq during the past few weeks in what appears to be a coordinated effort to disrupt the activities of Kurdish rebel bases.

Scores of Kurds have fled their homes in the northern frontier region after four days of shelling by the Iranian army. Local officials said Turkey had also fired a number of shells into Iraqi territory.

Iraq provides a shocking glimpse into that condition which Thomas Hobbes argued was the state of man before government: war of all against all. Iraq has not decayed to that level. Tribal and religious royalties create larger bonds that prevent a complete breakdown of all order in Iraqi society. Yet Iraq's state is a sobering reminder of what man can become absent a higher authority.

Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man. For war consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of war, as it is in the nature of weather. For as the nature of foul weather lieth not in a shower or two of rain, but in an inclination thereto of many days together: so the nature of war consisteth not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is peace.

Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

Iraq also brings to mind another line from Thomas Hobbes: Hell is truth seen too late.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 17 10:11 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Conflict
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US States Balance Sheets Not As Good As They Claim

US states claim they are in great fiscal shape and they are upping spending in response.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Updated 4:30 p.m. - State balance sheets are the best they’ve looked in decades. States closed their fiscal 2006 books with nearly 25 percent more money than the previous year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures' latest survey of states' fiscal conditions.

The extra revenue allowed 20 states to cut personal income taxes by $600 million; 24 states splurged more on K-12 education, and 25 states socked away more in their reserves for the current fiscal 2007 budget year, which for most states began July 1, NCSL said in a preliminary report released here Aug. 15 at the group’s annual meeting.  

In a surprise to some, education -- not Medicaid -- is expected to be the fastest-growing category of state spending in fiscal 2007, reversing a six-year trend. Corina Eckl, director of NCSL’s fiscal affairs programs, said that "most states think that this is an aberration" because of recent Medicaid cost reforms and that she expects health care costs to continue to climb. "This is a temporary situation," she said.

Sound like happy days for the states? Not so fast. The New York Times reports that state and local governments have unfunded pension liabilities that run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

It is hard to know the extent of the problems, because there is no central regulator to gather data on public plans. Nor is the accounting for government pension plans uniform, so comparing one with another can be unreliable.

But by one estimate, state and local governments owe their current and future retirees roughly $375 billion more than they have committed to their pension funds.

And that may well understate the gap: Barclays Global Investments has calculated that if America’s state pension plans were required to use the same methods as corporations, the total value of the benefits they have promised would grow 22 percent, to $2.5 trillion. Only $1.7 trillion has been set aside to pay those benefits.

In this supposedly fat time for state governments their irresponsible elected leaders are letting their unfunded pension liabilities grow even larger.

It was a doomed approach, leaving New Jersey to struggle with a total pension shortfall that has ballooned to $18 billion. Its actuary has recommended a contribution of $1.8 billion for the coming year, but the state has found only $1.1 billion, so it will fall even farther behind.

Illinois also duplicated one of San Diego’s pension mistakes. It tried to make its municipal pension plan cheaper by stretching its funding schedule over 40 years — considerably longer than the 30 years that governmental accounting and actuarial standards permit, and more than five times what companies will get under a pension bill that has just passed Congress.

An attempt by the state of New Jersey to borrow and invest its way out of unfunded pension liabilities backfired spectacularly.

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Back in 1997, New Jersey borrowed $2.7 billion in pension obligation bonds to fill a gap in its plan funding. These bonds –- sometimes called POBs -- are general obligation debt much like any other municipal borrowing, but they're issued in order to put the proceeds into the pension funds, not the general government coffers. The issuing city, county, or state bets that the borrowed money can be invested to earn more than the interest rate that the bonds must pay.


Then came the market bust in 2000, followed by two years of depressing returns that turned what once looked like a winning strategy into a dud. Since 1997, New Jersey's POBs have averaged an annual return well below the 7.6% they owe in interest, according to State Treasurer John E. McCormac. And that's before factoring in whatever the state paid its investment bankers to get the deal done.

New Jersey's unfunded liability is at least $25 billion.

My suggestion: state governments should enact legislation that requires all state local government agreements with unions to have 90 day delays before they take effect. During the early part of the 90 day periods the governments must use independent analysts to calculate and publish on the web detailed future expected pension costs arising from the union agreements. This would give the public time to object to expensive labor agreements.

When SENS technologies start to take off these financial problems will become much worse.

The big stock market boom of the 1990s left city pension funds in great shape in 2000. But large city government pension funds have become underfunded in the last 6 years.

In a report titled "How Big U.S. Cities Are Faring With The Pension Fund Meltdown," Standard & Poor's Ratings Services highlights select pension and debt statistics of the 20 largest cities it rates. This data show that the mean funded ratio (the actuarial value of assets divided by the actuarial accrued liability) of the 20 cities, which had reached nearly 100% in 2000, has since dropped to 84%.

"The degree to which this trend will continue depends on a number of unpredictable variables, including investment performance, actuarial assumption changes, and potential increases in longevity," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Parry Young. "Unfortunately, cities have varying degrees of control over these factors."

Defined benefit pension agreements should have clauses that increase the retirement date as longevity rises. Also, if the rate of longevity increase becomes as fast as time happens (what Aubrey de Grey calls "Actuarial Escape Velocity") then pension fund eligibility should end.

Update: New York City's pension fund isn't in great shape either.

The chief actuary, Robert C. North, has prepared a little-noticed set of alternative calculations showing that the gap in the pension funds could be as wide as $49 billion. That is nearly the size of the city’s entire annual budget and the equivalent of the city’s publicly disclosed outstanding debt.

The existence of a big gap between the city’s future obligations and the resources committed to meet them does not mean the pension funds are about to run out of money. But it does mean that New York City is promising its current employees future benefits it might not be able to provide without big tax increases or major budget cuts. When such a reckoning might occur, if at all, is hard to predict.

Pensions are now one of the city’s fastest-growing expenses. In recent years the city’s required contributions to its pension funds have more than quadrupled, to $4.7 billion this year from $1.1 billion in 2001.


By Randall Parker 2006 August 17 07:15 PM  Economics Government Costs
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Rules Violations Up For Military Recruiters

One of the costs of the war in Iraq is increased criminal conduct in the recruiting of soldiers as teenagers become more reluctant to join the US military.

The number of alleged and substantiated violations by U.S. military recruiters increased by more than 50 percent in one year, a rise that may reflect growing pressure to meet wartime recruiting goals, according to a Government Accountability Office report released yesterday.

Allegations of wrongdoing by military recruitment personnel rose from 4,400 cases in fiscal 2004 to 6,600 cases in fiscal 2005, with substantiated cases increasing from 400 to almost 630, according to the report. The number of cases found to be criminal violations more than doubled, from 33 to 68.

The number of soldiers recruited fell from 250,000 in fiscal 2004 to 215,000 in fiscal 2005.

The article says the US Army is using bigger incentives this year to meet its recruiting goals. So another cost of the Iraq war is the money paid out to get kids to enlist.

The Army signed up an autistic recruit.

Cases of wrongdoing vary widely, ranging from paperwork errors to serious allegations, such as sexual harassment, falsifying documents and concealing serious medical conditions. In May, for instance, The Oregonian reported that the Army had accepted an autistic recruit and signed him up to become a cavalry scout. The recruit has since been discharged.

Equipment gets left in Iraq when units leave and soldiers get kept in Iraq beyond the expiration of their enlistment.

There aren't enough troops in the ranks to staff all the brigades and divisions. So Peter is robbed in those areas of the budget as well.

The consequences are clear. The units leave their equipment behind in Iraq for their replacements to use. When they get home they have to turn loose thousands of troops whose enlistments ended months before and who were press-ganged into another combat tour by what is known as "stop-loss," or involuntary service in an all-volunteer military.

Thousands of other troops are "cross-balanced" or transferred into other units headed back to Iraq or Afghanistan, filling up all those vacancies in those outfits.

How do units that leave their equipment in Iraq do training in the United States?

The US Army has convinced a lot of Defense Department officials that it needs much more money.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense is considering adding tens of billions of dollars to the Army's base budget in the Pentagon's new six-year spending plan in order to address funding shortfalls that service officials say could threaten the viability of U.S. ground forces, according to Defense Department officials.

Pentagon officials say an Army request for an additional $23 billion to its fiscal year 2008 budget -- and further additions on that order each year through 2013 -- are being seriously weighed in a round of highly unusual midsummer budget negotiations.

The Army has too much to do and not enough money to do it all. If the overall Defense Department budget is not increased then the budgets for the other services will get cut to pay for the Iraq war.

A Pentagon consultant involved in the effort to secure more money for the Army said service officials have argued it cannot execute what it has been asked to do. “The global war on terror, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan -- you cannot execute that, much less the training and readiness of your equipment, there's not enough money to do it all,” said the consultant. “That's the fact.”

A lot of Army equipment is getting worn out in Iraq. The Army will find it increasingly hard to ignore the costs getting created by equipment losses and wear.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 17 06:28 PM  Mideast Iraq Costs
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2006 August 16 Wednesday
Steven Camarota On Costs Of Immigrants

Testifying before the US Congress House Ways and Means Committee Steven A. Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies summarized many immigration economics findings.

  • The National Research Council (NRC)1 estimated that immigrant households create a net fiscal burden (taxes paid minus services used) on all levels of government of $20.2 billion annually.
  • The NRC estimated that an immigrant without a high school diploma will create a net lifetime burden of $89,000, an immigrant with only a high school education it is negative $31,000. However, an immigrant with education beyond high school is a fiscal benefit of $105,000.
  • Estimating the impact of immigrants and their descendants, the NRC found that if today’s newcomers do as well as past generations, the average immigrant will be a fiscal drain for his first 22 years after arrival. It takes his children another 18 years to pay back this burden.
  • The NRC also estimated that the average immigrant plus all his descendants over 300 years would create a fiscal benefit, expressed in today’s dollars of $80,000. Some immigration advocates have pointed to this 300-year figure, but the NRC states it would be “absurd” to do so.

Note that the net fiscal burden on government is not the only source of economic costs of immigrants. Immigrant groups that commit crime at higher rates (e.g. Hispanics commit crime at over 3 times the rate of whites) impose economic losses on businesses and private individuals. Also, their higher rate of medical uninsurance imposes costs on hospitals and other health care provides and those costs get passed on those who pay medical insurance in the form of higher medical insurance rates.

Illegal immigrants area net burden on government coffers. If they were legalized the burden they impose would increase substantially.

  • The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) estimates that in 2002 illegal alien households imposed costs of $26 billion on the federal government and paid $16 billion in federal taxes, creating an annual net fiscal deficit of $10.4 billion at the federal level, or $2,700 per household.2
  • Among the largest costs, were Medicaid ($2.5 billion); treatment for the uninsured ($2.2 billion); food assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC, and free school lunches ($1.9 billion); the federal prison/court systems ($1.6 billion); and federal aid to schools ($1.4 billion).
  • If illegal aliens were legalized and began to pay taxes and use services like households headed by legal immigrants with the same education levels, CIS estimates the annual net fiscal deficit would increase to $29 billion, or $7,700, per household.
  • The primary reason illegal aliens create a fiscal deficit is that an estimated 60 percent lack a high school degree and another 20 percent have no education beyond high school. The fiscal drain is not due to their legal status or unwillingness to work.
  • Illegal aliens with little education are a significant fiscal drain, but less-educated immigrants who are legal residents are a much larger fiscal problem because they are eligible for many more programs.
  • Many of the costs associated with illegal aliens are due to their US-born children who have American citizenship. Thus, barring illegal aliens themselves from federal programs will have little impact on costs.
  • Focusing just on Social Security and Medicare, CIS estimates that illegal households create a combined net benefit for these two programs in excess of $7 billion a year. However, they create a net deficit of $17 billion in the rest of the budget, for a total net federal cost of $10 billion.

I've just excerpted from a much longer article. Camarota also explains how immigrants do not help with the unfunded old age pension liabilities. The average age of immigrants is close to the average age of the existing population. Plus, the lower skilled immigrants earn less and therefore pay much less in taxes. They are not going to bail out Social Security and Medicare.

Lots of costs caused by immigrants do not show up in the form of taxes. Higher medical insurance rates are a major way that immigrant costs get shifted onto the middle and upper classes. To get a sense of the size of the costs getting transferred onto natives see my posts Medical Cost Shifting Onto Privately Insured Rises, Illegal Immigration Drives Up Number Of Medically Uninsured, and Immigration And Heavy Burden Of Medically Uninsured.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 16 09:44 PM  Immigration Economics
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2006 August 13 Sunday
Democracy Debate Needs More Realism

A seminar at Stanford showed a clash between academia and those living in the real world.

Shahmahmood Miakhel was polite but adamant after listening to Hoover Senior Fellow Larry Diamond define democracy at the opening session on July 31 of a three-week seminar on democracy and development at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI).

"You have separated the political dimension from the social dimension," said Miakhel, a former deputy minister of interior in Afghanistan and a fellow at the seminar organized by the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at FSI. "In my view, if a democratic society doesn't serve the people, what is the use of it?"

Diamond, an expert in comparative democratic development, agreed that democratic societies should support social criteria but said his definition focused on the minimum political threshold—instituting free and fair elections. "Democracy doesn't ensure that every wrong will be righted," Diamond said. "But democracy gives us the best bet."

We held an election in Afghanistan. Why hasn't the invisible hand of democracy swept away the corruption and forces of reactionary Islam? Why hasn't the result been an Enlightenment featuring local democracy of the sort which characterised small New England towns in the 19th century?

During the program's opening session, Nigerian journalist Sani Aliyu remarked that the concept of peaceful opposition is not well understood by political elites in much of Africa. "Opposition equals enmity, and enmity has to be crushed," he said. "In the West it's different." Diamond replied that democracy requires tolerance and an ability to distinguish between political difficulty and illegitimate condemnation. "In Africa, the problem is not the society but the political leaders who murder and abuse the opposition out of a desire to maintain office," he said.

Larry Diamond belongs to the "blame democracy failure on the elites because otherwise we'll have to admit the masses are seriously lacking" school of Panglossian democracy advocacy. Why do political leaders murder the opposition in Nigeria and not in, say, Norway or Finland or Britain? Could the Brits, Norwegians, and Finns have qualities (whether genetic or taught or both) that make them more inclined to choose leaders who won't murder the opposition?

Diamond served as senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq from January to April 2004. He went on to argue in Foreign Affairs that if only the US had sent more troops and trained them for a different mission then Iraq would have come out much better.

In truth, around 300,000 troops might have been enough to make Iraq largely secure after the war. But doing so would also have required different kinds of troops, with different rules of engagement. The coalition should have deployed vastly more military police and other troops trained for urban patrols, crowd control, civil reconstruction, and peace maintenance and enforcement. Tens of thousands of soldiers with sophisticated monitoring equipment should have been posted along the borders with Syria and Iran to intercept the flows of foreign terrorists, Iranian intelligence agents, money, and weapons.

But Washington failed to take such steps, for the same reasons it decided to occupy Iraq with a relatively light force: hubris and ideology. Contemptuous of the State Department's regional experts who were seen as too "soft" to remake Iraq, a small group of Pentagon officials ignored the elaborate postwar planning the State Department had overseen through its "Future of Iraq" project, which had anticipated many of the problems that emerged after the invasion. Instead of preparing for the worst, Pentagon planners assumed that Iraqis would joyously welcome U.S. and international troops as liberators. With Saddam's military and security apparatus destroyed, the thinking went, Washington could capitalize on the goodwill by handing the country over to Iraqi expatriates such as Ahmed Chalabi, who would quickly create a new democratic state. Not only would fewer U.S. troops be needed at first, but within a year, the troop levels could drop to a few tens of thousands.

That's sounds like the ideological pot calling the ideological kettle black. Nowhere in his long article did he mention that democracy always fails in low per capita income countries or that most US interventions in other countries have failed to create sustainable successful democracies (especially not in poor countries as one would expect from the previous link). Germany and Japan are huge unusual exceptions most notable in that they were so organized and technologically advanced they could cause US military forces to fight a huge war. Nor did Diamond mention that the high rate of consanguineous marriage in Iraq and Arab non-democracies creates conflicting loyalties that work against the development of a civil society and against the attitudes needed in the populace to sustain a healthy democracy. No, Diamond isn't up for even that moderate dose of realism let alone the really strong realism that comes from looking at IQ and wealth of nations.

Prestigious Stanford University flies people in from around the world to spend 3 weeks talking about democracy and yet, as near as I can tell at a distance, some of the biggest and most glaring factors for determining democracy success or failure are out of bounds for discussion. The social sciences in America are pretty intellectually bankrupt for the most part. Greater realism could help us avoid enormously costly debacles such as Iraq. But greater realism would require more honestly and courage about human nature and so far few American social scientists seem up for that.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 13 03:52 PM  Democracy Failure
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More Arrests For Big Cell Phone Purchases

Multiculturalism means having to worry about people who buy large numbers of cell phones.

The three men are described as being of Palestinian descent but live in Texas. Police say the three, ages 19, 22, and 23 appear to be naturalized citizens.

One man was driving while the other two were in the back opening the phone packages with box cutters throwing the phones in one box, batteries in another and the packaging and phone charger in another container. The suspects had 1000 other cell phones in the van. There was also a bag of receipts showing that someone was in Wisconsin the day before.

The phones were Nokia TracFones selling for $20 at Wal-Mart.

These young Texas Palestinians were arrested in Caro Michigan on suspicions of terrorist activity.

Concerned that the Mackinac Bridge may have been a target, prosecutors arraigned three Texas men Saturday in Caro on felony terrorism charges after police found about 1,000 cell phones in their van in the Thumb.

Maruan Muhareb, 18, Adham Othman, 21, and Louai Othman, 23, were charged by Tuscola County prosecutors with providing material support for terrorist acts and terrorism surveillance of a vulnerable target, said Sgt. Curtis Chambers of the Tuscola County Sheriff's Department. They were each being held on $750,000 bond Saturday night.

Apparently they were not intending to use the bulk of these phones in the United States.

Police also noted that the men had thrown away many of the phone chargers, indicating that they may have intended to send the phones out of the country because different outlets are used overseas.

How many US soldiers have died in Iraq as a result of Muslims in the United States sending the supplies needed do make bombs?

In Marietta Ohio 20 year olds Ali Houssaiky and Osama Abulhassan were arrested as a result of their TracFone buys and are suspected of taking the microchips out of the phones to be sent abroad.

Assistant Washington County Prosecutor Susan Vessels said Abulhassan and Houssaiky knew the phones were being used for illegal activity. She said the men were found in possession of a list detailing the specific types of phones to buy, based on the kind of microchips they use.

“Mr. Abulhassan made a statement to officers that he knew what they were doing was wrong and that he knew no one would ever use over 600 phones for legal purposes,” Vessels said. “(He also stated) he did not know for sure, but that he believed the phones and chips were being shipped overseas.”

Terrorists aren't the only people who want untraceable communications. Conventional criminals also buy TracFones for anonymity.

Big TracFone purchases are being investigated across the nation.

In an earlier incident, at a Wal-Mart store in Midland, Texas, on Dec. 18, six individuals attempted to buy about 60 of the phones until store clerks became suspicious and notified the police. A Wal-Mart spokesperson confirmed the incident.

The Midland police report, dated Dec. 18 and obtained by ABC News, states: "Information obtained by MPD [Midland Police Department] dispatch personnel indicated that approximately six individuals of Middle-Eastern origin were attempting to purchase an unusually large quantity of tracfones (disposable cell phones with prepaid minutes attached)." At least one of the suspects was identified as being from Iraq and another from Pakistan, officials said.


In addition, special agents reported that similar incidents centering on the large-scale purchases of tracfones had been reported throughout the nation — identifying individuals of Middle-Eastern descent as the purchasers."

If we did not accept Muslims as immigrants we would not face this problem.

Export of cell phones can be quite profitable.

But the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are as concerned about phones being resold to finance criminal or terrorist operations, said Kirk Whitworth, Homeland Security spokesman.

Cell phones that can be bought for $20 in the U.S. can bring $200 to $300 in China and Iraq, said Rich Rawlins, deputy director of the Ohio Division of Homeland Security.

The phones also can be reconfigured, by those with the know-how, to make an unlimited amount of free calls from a phone that is difficult to trace, Rawlins said.

I'm surprised by the profit margins. Why can't they buy cell phones more cheaply from Taiwan or Hong Kong?

Sometimes I think the Open Borders advocates defend the transformation of our society because they just want to relieve their boredom. America is full of small towns where nothing much ever happens. Letting in Muslim immigrants allows boring towns like Caro Michigan to become exciting national news stories.

CARO - Taking a break between customers at her family's ice cream parlor on S. State Street, Andrea Downing tried to make sense of news that terrorism suspects were operating in Caro.

"It's just so weird," said Downing, 17. "Nothing ever, ever happens in Caro."

Why live safely when you can create challenges by importing people who hate you? Some members of our society just can't stand to look around and see millions of people living in relative safety and freedom. They want to upset our society and force us to experience scares, ordeals, and injustice.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 13 08:18 AM  Immigration Terrorism
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Baghdad Death Toll Hits New High

Another record breaking month in Baghdad.

BAGHDAD, Aug. 9 -- Figures compiled by the city morgue indicated Wednesday that the number of killings in the Iraqi capital reached a new high last month, and the U.S. military said a new effort to bring security to Baghdad will succeed only if Iraqis "want it to work."

The Baghdad morgue took in 1,815 bodies during July, news services quoted the facility's assistant manager, Abdul Razzaq al-Obeidi, as saying. The previous month's tally was 1,595. Obeidi estimated that as many as 90 percent of the total died violent deaths.

Will the big shift of US forces into Baghdad and the increased tempo of patrols for the forces already there decrease the August death toll? Or will the Shias and Sunnis figure out how to sneak and around and kill each in spite of more US troops on the streets?

By Randall Parker 2006 August 13 07:04 AM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Conflict
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2006 August 10 Thursday
Terrorist Suspects Arrested In Britain, USA

The British authorities just broke up a big airplane bombing plot.

British authorities said Thursday they had thwarted a terrorist plot to simultaneously blow up several aircraft heading to the U.S. using explosives smuggled in hand luggage, averting what police described as "mass murder on an unimaginable scale."

The Muslim terrorists planned to use liquid explosives that wouldn't have been detected in x-rays.

One report had 20 airplanes targetted but other reports put the number at 6 to 10 airplanes.

Unconfirmed media reports said anywhere from six to 10 US commercial airliners had been targeted in the plot.

21 people of mostly Pakistani origin were arrested.

British police hinted that more arrests were likely after 21 people, most of them of Pakistani origin, were detained over an alleged plot to simultaneously blow up US-bound aircraft.

Pre-dawn raids were carried out in London, the west central English city of Birmingham and the Thames Valley area of southeast England after intelligence of what one officer described as a bid to cause 'untold death and destruction

News reports indicate that some were born in Britain to parents of Pakistani descent. Obviously they were able to maintain their Pakistani and Muslim identities to create a more multicultural Britain. Leftist multiculturalists should be pleased.

UK government home secretary John Reid complains British law makes it too hard to stop terrorists.

Mr Reid said: "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."

He complained that as home secretary he was "in a very difficult position", unable to always prosecute individuals due to the difficulty of obtaining "sufficiently cogent admissible evidence for a criminal trial", while facing legal bars against deporting or detaining them.

Reid sees mass migrations of humans as highly problematic.

As leaked to the weekend papers, Mr Reid also said that mass migration in a globalised world was the "greatest challenge facing European governments".

While the mass movement of people provided the potential for greater wealth and opportunity, it also brought insecurity into the heart of communities, he claimed.

The home secretary said that the cold war "froze" the world into a static state in which migration was minimal, ethnic and religious tensions suppressed and national borders inviolable.

Twenty years after its end, Britons were now faced with a world in which insecurity had become "one of the highest concerns of daily living".

"That momentous scale of transition from static to mobile populations makes mass migration and the management of immigration the greatest challenge facing European governments, in my view," he said.

America' elites reject the challenge posed by immigration. They see no evil, hear no evil. It all looks like roses to them.

A couple of Arab guys from the heavily Arab town of Dearborn Michigan were also arrested as terrorist suspects.

MARIETTA, Ohio — Investigators in southeast Ohio said they were working to unravel how two Michigan men charged with supporting terrorism came to have airplane passenger lists and airport security information.

Osama Sabhi Abulhassan, 20, and Ali Houssaiky, 20, both of the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, were being held at the Washington County jail on $200,000 bond each, which could be raised at an afternoon court hearing. Each was charged Wednesday with money laundering in support of terrorism.

They also admitted to buying 600 phones and selling the phones to someone in Dearborn. They bought pre-paid phones which are favored by cirminals and terrorists since they are less traceable to their owners.

Muslim terrorists are nature's way of telling us that not all cultures and religions are the same, not all are compatible, and not all belong within our borders.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 10 06:18 AM  Immigration Terrorism
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2006 August 09 Wednesday
Israel Refuses Neocon Game Plan Against Syria

Tom Regan of the Christian Science Monitor has put together a collection of links to stories about how Bush Administration members and neocon supporters want Israel to attack Syria but Israel's government and commentators think the neocons are nuts. In one sense this isn't really news. The neocons have advocated the overthrow the Alawite Assad government in Damascus for years. But in another sense the continued neocon embrace of this proposal is worth noting: The neoconservatives have not learned anything about reality from the Iraq debacle. They still think panacea solutions are waiting to be had if we would only act boldly enough and pay the price to enter utopia.

Neoconservatism is utopian and therefore is not a form of conservatism. People who advocate panaceas and use abstractions that are disconnected from empirical evidence are not thinking like classical Burkean conservatives. One shouldn't be anti-conceptual and anti-abstraction. But one should recognize that abstractions are usually simplifications of reality and that abstractions should be developed from empirical evidence and not built from one's fantasies and desires.

Noah Millman of Gideon's Blog offers a more conservative analysis of Israel's problems with Syria and Hezbollah. Millman does not believe overthrow of the Syrian government would solve anything or that Israel can achieve a huge lasting gain in Lebanon. (my bold emphasis added)

- Similarly, after the withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, I presumed that Israel would have to return. Israel had no territorial claims on Lebanon; its presence was entirely security-driven. Yes, the long occupation produced Hezbollah. But there was no reason to think that withdrawal would result in Hezbollah withering away, as indeed it has not. So now Israel has had to launch a full-scale war merely to "degrade" Hezbollah's capabilities - capabilities that can be rapidly rebuilt, at a fraction of the cost for Israel to degrade them. Israel's stated objectives are to make it possible for the Lebanese army and some unspecified international force to come in and "control" the region in which Hezbollah operates. But Hezbollah is more popular than ever in Lebanon, and it is inconceivable that an international force will actually use, well, force. In terms of restraining Israeli action any such force will be worse than Israeli settlements, and in terms of restraining Hezbollah they will be inferior to the Syrians who, if they chose to, certainly could force some restraint.

- Which brings us to Syria. Various hawkish voices have called for Israel to take the war to the source - that is to say: to Damascus, which never seems to suffer adequately for the wars it provokes (see, e.g., 1967, 1973). But there is no mystery about why Israel has declined to take any action against Syria directly: because the Assad regime is the best Israel could plausibly expect in that country. Were the Syrian regime to fall, it would be replaced not by a friendly Arab democracy but by one of three possibilities: a new military dictatorship (not obviously better than the current regime), a radical Sunni Islamist regime (obviously worse), or a state of anarchy such as obtains in Iraq (also obviously worse). If Israel were certain that the Syrian regime could survive a direct Israeli attack, then, perhaps, Israel might launch such an attack, which would make the Assad regime *fear* collapse and take the necessary actions to prevent it, even if these meant acceding to Israeli objectives such as reining in Hezbollah. The fact that Israel is being very careful with Syria is a testament not to Israeli weakness but to their perceptions of Syrian weakness, and their recognition that the fall of the Assad regime would be unlikely to benefit Israel. Israel will not turn decisively against Damascus until such time as it appears that Assad has been "captured" by Hezbollah, and has forgotten who is the patron and who is the client. That doesn't appear to have happened yet.

The problem with overthrowing the Assad regime is so incredibly simple: A replacement government will be as bad or even much worse for Israel. Why? Because it would be made up of Syrians and the majority of people in Syria have no affection for Israel. Israel's problem is not the particular regimes in power in Arab countries. Israel's problem is that Arab Muslims are predisposed for deep seated reasons to feel hostile toward Israel.

The US overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq has not made the Iraqis any better disposed toward Israel. A US or Israeli overthrow of the Syrian regime would similarly not make the Syrians any more friendly toward Israel and very likely would have the opposite effect. Currently Israel benefits when neighboring countries are not ruled by majority groups. The overall trend in human affairs in the last century has been toward rule by members of native elites. When the ruling elites are not representatives the majority group (e.g. minority Alawites rather than majority Sunnis rule Syria) for each country the regimes have to tread more carefully. Forcing the Middle East to move even further toward the global trend is likely to produce governments that even more strongly see Jewish Israelis as minority outsiders who should be booted from the region.

Noah Millman says serious thinkers do not believe the US can impose a better regime on Syria.

- (Side note: some*might* think it in Israel's interests for there to be an *American* effort to topple the Syrian regime, on the assumption that America can simply *impose* a more friendly government on that country. I think that since the Iraq campaign, no one serious in America or Israel still believes that America has that ability.)

If no one serious believes the US or Israel can impose a better regime on Syria then a lot of unserious people are setting policy in the United States and writing articles for neoconservative journals and think tanks.

A conservative analysis of the Middle East should start with the insights that humans are not perfectible, that human cultures differ from each other in important ways, and that the habits and beliefs of other peoples are at best extremely difficult to change. As Mick Jagger pointed out, "you can't always get what you want". Even worse, you can't even always get what you need (e.g. get a diagnosis of advanced liver cancer and the need for a cure will not magically cause a cure to be produced). A rational empirical analysis of the Middle East that attempted to determine what policymakers could hope to accomplish should consider the role of consanguineous marriage (marrying cousins) and tribalism in determining the nature of Arab governments and societies. An emprical analysis would consider how Islam and a cultire which sees all relationships as based on submission and dominance pose extremely intractable obstacles for liberalizers. A conservative approach to the Middle East would also eschew a set of assumptions and a logic that leads toward genocide as the solution when neocon utopian schemes inevitably fail.

Some Israelis will continue to die every year due to Arab terrorists. Wanting that to change will not make it change. Bold utopian schemes to stop this are more likely to make the problem worse than better. What Israeli policy change in recent years has done the most to decrease Israeli deaths at the hands of Palestinian terrorists? The construction of a border barrier between the West Bank Palestinians and Israel. Walls and fences are not utopian. They do not produce ultimate solutions which totally eliminate a problem. Yet they do provide real substantial benefits.

The gap between reality and US Middle Eastern policy has reached a point of creating splits within the Bush Administration. Condi Rice wants to take a more moderate position in the Middle East but Bush has begun to overrule her.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has become increasingly dismayed over President Bush's support for Israel to continue its war with Hezbollah.

State Department sources said Ms. Rice has been repeatedly stymied in her attempts to pressure Israel to end strikes against Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon. The sources said the secretary's trip to the Middle East last week was torpedoed by the Israeli air strike of a Lebanese village in which 25 people were killed.

"I've never seen her so angry," an aide said.

The splits within the Bush Administration bring to mind the famous comment by a Bush aide that people who want to use empirical evidence to make policy are part of the "reality-based community". That's the community I belong to but that's not the community that Bush and the neocons belong to.

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

Now we get to study the debacle in Iraq. We get to study the decay in American communities hard hit by massive Hispanic immigrants. The Bush policy makers are making new realities. Unfortunately, those realities are more nightmares than utopias.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 09 06:54 PM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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2006 August 08 Tuesday
Bush Administration Stalls Local Immigration Law Enforcement

Heather Mac Donald says the Bush Administration refuses to grant Orange County California sheriff's deputies the right to enforce immigration law.

President Bush claims he’s serious about immigration enforcement. Here’s one way he could show it. The Orange County, Ca., sheriff has asked the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to train and deputize his detectives in immigration law and to authorize them to enforce it. That way, when a sheriff’s detective comes across an illegal-alien gang suspect, he can get him off the street immediately on an immigration charge. ICE has sat on Sheriff Michael Corona’s request (which conforms to a 1996 federal law) for ten months. If President Bush wants to demonstrate that he is willing to protect the country against illegal-alien criminals, he should order ICE to approve Orange County’s request without further delay.

But President Bush does not want to protect the country against illegal alien criminals as much as he wants to flood the country with tens of millions more illegal aliens.

Orange County spends $18 million holding illegals who already are wanted for immigration law violations. That's just one county in one state.

Orange County, Ca., spends nearly $18 million a year incarcerating just those illegal aliens who already have immigration holds on them — over ten percent of its jail population; that number leaves out the many other illegal-alien criminals who have escaped ICE detection entirely.

In contrast to most of the existing local immigration agreements, the Orange County plan tries to nab illegal-alien criminals before they end up in jail. Unlike state highway troopers, sheriff’s detectives work in the most crime-prone, often immigrant-heavy, neighborhoods every day; they actively seek out criminals rather than waiting for a law-breaker to come to them. In these gang-saturated neighborhoods, illegal-alien criminals prey on law-abiding immigrants; their law-abiding victims are usually reluctant to provide evidence against them. The only tool that a law-enforcement officer may have for getting an illegal gang-banger off the street is his immigration status; trying to build a case for armed robbery, say, may be futile. Moreover, if an investigator has only enough evidence to detain someone briefly for questioning about a crime, but not yet probable cause to arrest him, a quick check of the immigration database may provide grounds to arrest him rather than let him get away.

We should not have to live with the consequences of Hispanic gangs in our neighborhoods. We should not have to live in a decaying society. We should not have to be governed by lying elites that work to harm our interests.

Due to objections from illegal immigrant advocacy organizations and the Bush Administration illegal immigrant appeasers Orange County has had to water down their proposal.

Orange County’s original proposal would have given sheriffs deputies on routine patrol access to the ICE immigration-crime databases — not just detectives. ICE and immigrant advocates rejected this reasonable idea and also sharply reduced the number of detectives who would be given clearance to check immigration databases.

The Bushies pretend they want to enforce immigration laws. But the Bushies reject any proposal that would be effective. You can't trust them.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 08 10:43 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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2006 August 07 Monday
New York Times Monty Python Players

The New York Times editorial board sounds like actors in a Monty Python skit. The editors have written a skit called "A Truce For Lebanon".

It is now 26 days since Hezbollah and Israel began their latest combat — a very long time for the world to allow such a deadly conflict to rage in the Middle East powder keg. Yet the fighting still continues. Diplomats still dither over cease-fire details. Innocent people still keep dying.

Enough. This is the week that the international community must impose a truce, to be followed, in short order, by a political settlement and the dispatch of a robust international force to patrol Lebanon’s oft-violated border with Israel.

26 days is a long time for this sort of thing. The UN can simply declare enough is enough. It is as simple as just saying so. Great. I did not know that. At least we can declare that if we've managed to become members of the New York Times editorial board. Great! So we all ought to become members of the New York Times editorial board. Right! Then when we propose obvious solutions for all the problems of the world people will listen to us.

Time to negotiate a comprehensive solution.

Efforts must therefore quickly turn toward negotiating a comprehensive and lasting political settlement. This needs to go beyond immediate issues like returning the kidnapped Israeli soldiers, releasing Lebanese prisoners and determining the size of the zone to be patrolled by the international force.

Great! Why didn't I think of that? Anything we do not resolve now will just cause new fighting later. So we should resolve everything now. Of course! Why didn't someone think of this sooner? Great.

It also needs to address such festering issues as Hezbollah’s refusal to heed U.N. requests to disarm, and Hezbollah’s claim, contrary to U.N. findings, that some of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights is not part of Syria, but really belongs to Lebanon. Anything not resolved now risks setting off new fighting in the future.

Of course! Line up troops for an international security force. It just takes the decision that we want this to happen and that decision will make it happen. Why hasn't someone already lined up those soldiers? Who forgot to tell NATO countries to line up their troops? NATO nations will resist. Easy solution: Just do not take "no" for an answer. We just have to be haughty enough and the problem will be solved.

Troops must also be lined up for the international security force. The idea is to draw them from NATO countries like France, Italy and Turkey, along with perhaps Australia. None of these countries want to send soldiers if either Israel or Hezbollah is going to keep shooting. Therefore the political settlement has to be packaged so that both sides can claim some sort of victory.

These guys are funny. But they are so good at playing straight men (never mind that they are not straight men) that few notice. They've got to be thinking their editorials are big insider jokes. Does the NY Times have editorialists named Alan and Jackie?

Alan: Well, last week we showed you how to be a gynaecologist, and this week on "How to do it", we're gonna learn how to play the flute, how to split the atom, how to construct box-girder bridges...

Jackie: Super!

Alan: ...and how to irrigate the Sahara and make vast new areas cultivatable, but first here's Jackie to tell you how to rid the world of all known diseases.

Jackie: Hello Alan!

Alan: Hello Jackie!

Jackie: Well first of all, become a doctor and discover a marvellous cure for something and then, when the medical world really starts to take notice of you, you can jolly well tell them what to do and make sure they get everything right, so that there'll never be diseases anymore.

Alan: Thanks Jackie, that was great!

GC: Fantastic!

Alan: Now, how to play the flute. Well, you blow in one end and move your fingers up and down the outside.

GC: Great Alan! Well, next week we'll be showing you how black and white people can live together in peace and harmony and Alan will be over in Moscow showing you how to reconcile the Russians and the Chinese. Till then, cheerio!

Alan: Bye!

Jackie: Bye bye!

GC: Bye!


By Randall Parker 2006 August 07 09:36 PM  Media Critique
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2006 August 06 Sunday
Civil War Seen In Iraq As Villages Empty

The Bush Administration's claimed strategy for Iraq was that Iraqi police and soldiers would gradually take over the insurgency suppression task from US soldiers and then US forces could get drawn down. This supposed "strategy" always struck me as a fantasy. Compounding the unrealistic expectations of Iraqi security forces has been the ratcheting up of cycles of retaliations between Sunnis and Shias. Elements of the Sunni insurgency killed enough Shias, blew up a Shia mosque, and managed to send Shia militias on a killing spree against Sunnis. This led to more Sunni reprisals and so on. At the same time, the Shia-dominated government has tilted so heavily in favor of the Shias that the Sunnis are correct to see the government as their enemy.

I've been wondering whether the US forces cut back on patrols as the Iraqi government forces were deployed as substitutes. I suspected this was the case but until now haven't come across any quantitative measure of the change in US forces activities. Now Dexter Filkins of the New York Times has the details. US forces in Baghdad cut back their patrol rate as Iraqi military forces were deployed.

In mid-June 2005, Americans conducted an average of 360 patrols a day, according to statistics released by the military. By the middle of February this year, the patrols ran about 92 a day — a drop of more than 70 percent. The first Iraqi brigade took over a small piece of Baghdad early last year. Now, Iraqi soldiers or police officers take the leading role in securing more than 70 percent of the city, including its most violent neighborhoods. They control all of Baghdad’s 6,000 checkpoints.

At some checkpoints Sunnis get taken from their cars and killed. Given the chaos of Baghdad it is hard to tell whether checkpoints where this happens are manned by government soldiers or Shia militias. However, I've posted about an incident where a Shia militia checkpoint was killing Sunnis and government forces were uninterested in doing anything about it.

The rate of violent attacks in Baghad has gone up.

Thirteen months ago, Baghdad had about 19 daily violent events, like killings. Today, the daily average is 25 — an increase of more than 30 percent. Many of these attacks cause more than one death; some cause many more, like the rampage by Shiite gunmen in western Baghdad last month that left as many as 40 people dead.

The shift of US forces into Baghdad and an increase in the tempo of patrols might lower the attack rate. But suppose the attack rate goes back down to the level of a year ago. That will only be progress as compared to the current attack rate. Unless a combination of more US forces and more Iraqi forces can lower the attack rate down well below the level of a year ago the outlook will be very grim.

The ethnic cleansing ought to cause a lowering of the attack rate because as the ethnic groups become better separated from each other they'll be at less risk of attack from members of the opposing group.

Ann Scott Tyson of the Washington Post reports that some villages in Diyala province are being emptied due to fighting between Shias and Sunnis.

In mixed areas like Diyala, the primary job for U.S. troops is no longer to battle insurgents, but to try to stave off civil war.

"When we got here, our chief focus was Sunni insurgent groups," said Turner, who arrived in Diyala in December as part of the 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. But today, he said, "there's a definite trend toward sectarian violence. That's our big focus now, trying to stem it."


"It was 5 in the afternoon and the Sunnis started the fight," said Yasim Muhammed Hussein, 35, a Shiite resident. "While we were praying at the mosque they shouted 'God is great' and starting firing on the mosque," he said. "They burned my home and killed my relative." In all, Hussein said, 10 people were killed "from the two sides" -- meaning Sunni and Shiite. He said three-quarters of the 200 families in the village had abandoned their homes.

That region had 3 times as many American troops a year ago. But the troops have been shifted elsewhere to meet even more urgent needs.

Tom Lasseter of the McClatchy newspaper chain (he writes great stuff btw) reports that off the record US officials know they do not have enough troops in Iraq even as the official lie is that there are enough troops there.

Casey "can get any forces anytime he wants to ask for them. Gen. Casey has never been limited by the secretary of defense," said Maj. Gen. William Caldwell IV, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq. "To accomplish the missions that we are attempting to achieve, we do have the force structure that we need."

But the American defense official in Iraq said officers were discouraged from making such requests, and officers in Washington and at the military's Central Command confirmed that.

"They're not allowed to ask for more troops," the U.S. defense official in Iraq said. "If you say something you're gone, you're relieved, you're not in the Army anymore."

A number of senior military officials in the United States agreed.

"There's an overall feeling that if you ask for more you're going to get hammered," one said.

The official lie was bolstered by the claim that Iraqi forces were taking over and therefore additional US forces were not needed. Officers are expected to defend that lie by pretending the lie is not in effect.

Tom Lasseter points out the Iraqi security forces have grown and yet so has the violence.

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Despite the addition of almost 100,000 U.S.-trained Iraqi troops in the past year, American efforts to pacify central Iraq and the capital appear to be failing, challenging a central assumption behind the U.S. strategy: that training more Iraqi security forces will allow American troops to start going home.

The number of trained Iraqi soldiers and police grew from an estimated 168,670 in June 2005 to some 264,600 this June. Yet Baghdad's morgue is receiving nearly twice as many dead Iraqis each day as it did last year. The number of bombings that cause multiple fatalities has risen steadily. Attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops last month grew 44 percent from June 2005.

The increase in Iraqi security forces also increases the number of people who use their government positions to brutalize and kill people in opposing groups.

I can understand why some American officials have a lot emotionally invested and do not want to admit to the scale of the fiasco.

"I keep hope up -- it's misguided, perhaps -- that cooler heads will prevail," said an American defense official in Iraq, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. "I have to believe that; otherwise, all of this has been a tremendous, tremendous fiasco."

But, yes, it really has been a tremendous, tremendous fiasco. Cooler heads? Iraq has tribal heads, not cooler heads.The Shias and Sunnis both believe Islam and Islam is highly problematic when it comes to toleration of anyone who is seen as heretical or non-Muslim. Well, Shias and Sunnis see each other as following false versions of Islam. On top of that, they have little loyalty to anything beyond the tribe.

Tom Lasseter reports on all the officers in Iraq who think they are in a civil war but know they are not supposed to call it that.

"I hate to use the word `purify,' because it sounds very bad, but they are trying to force Shiites into Shiite areas and Sunnis into Sunni areas," said Lt. Col. Craig Osborne, who commands a 4th Infantry Division battalion on the western edge of Baghdad, a hotspot of sectarian violence.

Osborne, 39, of Decatur, Ill., compared Iraq to Rwanda, where hundreds of thousands of people were killed in an orgy of inter-tribal violence in 1994. "That was without doubt a civil war - the same thing is happening here.

"But it's not called a civil war - there's such a negative connotation to that word and it suggests failure," he said.

We ought to send trucks and convoy escorts to help the Sunnis and Shias move away from each other. The sooner they get separated the less they will get killed for being in each others' villages and neighborhoods.

Read that article for examples of towns that have been emptied out. Ghost towns are popping up in Iraq.

What to do about the poor behavior of Iraqi government security forces? Maybe all the US forces in Baghdad should deploy with Iraqi forces so that more Iraqi forces are under adult moral supervision.

Expect an uptick of US casualties as US troops conduct many more patrols in Baghdad.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 06 10:57 PM  MidEast Iraq New Regime Failures
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Muslims Have Stopped Integrating In Britain

Jon Snow of the Times of London toured around Britain and found that Muslims increasingly live as a separate community. The Muslims hold very unliberal beliefs such as that free speech rights should not extend fully to religious matters. Immigration of Muslims to Britain has created growing separate, deluded, and hostile society.

A sizeable number of British Muslims to whom I talked were convinced that Princess Diana was killed because of her relationship with a Muslim, a view reflected in our survey of 1,000 Muslims — not just angry young men, but the elderly, women, the poor and wealthy businessmen. Half of those polled believe 9/11 was a conspiracy by the US and Israel, while one in four think Diana was murdered to stop her marrying a Muslim.

The evidence that integration has stopped comes from comparing our survey with previous studies, most notably one conducted in 1993 by Tariq Modood, professor of sociology at Bristol University, who says political identification with Islam has grown disproportionately among the young since then.

It is generally assumed potential radicals come only from deprived areas, but Modood confirms that the well-off and educated are drawing away just as much. Many youngsters from Bradford are going to university and in a sense having it both ways — benefiting from this country’s facilities but taking with them core beliefs that sometimes lead to separateness.

Indeed, a 19-year-old Muslim studying biomedicine at a London university explained that the very fact of his education had led him to think the way he does. At one point I asked him and his two friends: “You’d like me to become a Muslim, wouldn’t you?” They said I’d be much better for it, and talked about the positive aspects of converting.

An overwhelming number of British Muslims believe free speech should not extend to insulting their religion, and one-third would rather live under sharia law, as laid down by the Koran. A 29-year-old of Turkish Cypriot origin told me: “I feel that democracy altogether isn’t working as a system. I believe that man-made laws aren’t really the answer.”

But the liberal chattering classes still attempt (quite successfully) to convince the natives that Muslims pose little threat to their way of life.

At Audacious Epigone crush41 reports on a Pew Global Attitudes Survey which found most surveyed Europeans still think immigration from the Middle East and North Africa is a good thing.

A couple of the findings are bemusing. The percentage of people in the following countries who think continued immigration from the Middle East and North Africa is a good thing: Spain - 62%, France - 58%, Great Britain - 57%, Germany - 34%. This even though an overwhelming majority of people in each country are concerned about rising Islamic extremism. And more people in each of these countries believe an Islamic identity distinct from a national identity is growing: Spain - 46% (compared to 36% holding a contrary view), France - 68%, Britain - 69%, Germany - 72%. The public in these places that feel a Muslim identity is growing firmly believe that this trend is a bad thing: Spain - 82%, France - 87%, Britain - 59%, Germany - 83%.

So at least 38% of the Spanish, 59% of the French, 41% of the British, and 60% of the Germans feel that what is happening in the Muslim community in their home countries is a bad thing (assuming, likely in error, that all respondents ambivalent toward or disagreeing with the assertion that Islamic identity is growing at home approve of the way the Muslim community conducts itself in their home countries). Why the French anomaly? A majority feels continued Islamic immigration is good but a similar majority believes what is happening in the French Islamic community is bad.

It says something about the intellectual decline of the West that so many Europeans are intent upon taking being-hit-on-the-head lessons in the form of mass Muslim immigration. Yet the Germans have seen through it and turned back from the multicultural diversity folly. Well good for them!

Human minds tend to underestimate just how differently other people think. I see an element of "surely the Muslims can't honestly mean what they are saying" in the reaction of the general public of Western nations toward what the Muslims in their midst actually say. But media talking heads and editors make this problem worse by underreporting the extremists and going out of their way to find seeming moderates who will mouth the proper liberal pieties while claiming to represent the vast majority of their ethnic and religious brethren.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 06 01:05 PM  Immigration Culture Clash
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Saudi Wahhabi Clerics Denounce Hezbollah

The Sunni Muslims see Shiites as heretics. The Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia especially take that position. Sheik Safar al-Hawali has denounced Hezbollah even as Hezbollah battles the Jews of Israel.

A top Saudi Sunni cleric, whose ideas inspired Osama bin Laden, issued a religious edict Saturday disavowing the Shi'ite guerrilla group Hizbullah, evidence that a rift remained among Muslims over the fighting in Lebanon.

Hizbullah, which translates as "the party of God," is actually "the party of the devil," said Sheik Safar al-Hawali, whose radical views made the al-Qaida leader one of his followers in the past.

"Don't pray for Hizbullah," he said in the fatwa posted on his Web site.

Sheik al-Hawali, you'll be happy to know that I'm going to follow your suggestion. No praying to Hizbullah. Got that everybody? Remove Hizbullah from your prayer list.

Saudi Wahhabi cleric Abdullah bin Jibreen also has denounced Hezbollah.

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia, July 23 -- The war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon has created widespread public support for the militant Shiite group among people across the Arab world, but leaders appear uneasy about the conflict and fear it could boost the influence of Hezbollah's patron Iran, analysts say.


A leading Saudi Wahhabi cleric, Abdullah bin Jibreen, this week issued a fatwa, or edict, saying it was a sin to support or pray for Hezbollah, which strict Wahhabis view as an infidel group because it is Shiite. Bin Jibreen, a member of Saudi Arabia's higher religious council, said that he viewed Hezbollah as an enemy doing bidding for Iran, and that through it Tehran was trying to extend its influence in the region.

Saudi writer Yousef al-Dayni said the reaction of most Saudis has been confused and blurred by the government's position on Hezbollah and bin Jibreen's fatwa. "Some activists and intellectuals want to follow the government line and blame Hezbollah. Some believe this is a war between Iran and Syria and Israel, through Hezbollah by proxy. Some have called for the support of Hezbollah, and others just want to support the Lebanese people," he said. "The extremists influenced by bin Jibreen's fatwa believe this is a fight between Jews and Shiites and the rest of us should not get involved."

A report from 2003 suggests Jibreen is a supporter of Bin Laden.

"Jibreen, who is to speak via video hookup from Saudi Arabia, is an influential cleric whose Web site is linked to the IIASA site. Ahmed said Jibreen praised bin Laden in a speech recorded in Saudi Arabia as recently as two months ago. 'Osama is a man who fought in the path of God for a long time,' Jibreen said, according to a translation provided by the Saudi Institute. 'May God aid him and bring victory to him and by him.'"

So Jibreen sees Jews, Christians, and Shiites all as enemies.

In 2004 Jibreen called on Saudis to go to Iraq to attack Coalition troops (that'd be Americans, Brits, etc).

Another cleric, Sheikh Allamah Ibn Jibreen, was advertised to address the Houston gathering via satellite. On his Web site, linked to that of IIASA as a recommended source of Islamic teaching, Jibreen called on Saudis to go north of the Iraqi border to attack Coalition troops.

Jibreen also praised Osama bin Laden only months ago, calling on God to "aid him and bring victory to him and by him."

I wonder if he hates Shiites or Christian more. Now that the Shiites have the upper hand in Iraq and are killing Sunnis does he argue to hold off on attacking Coalition troops and a shift toward attacking Shia soldiers?

A New York Times article reports on upper class Sunni hostility toward Hezbollah and Shiites.

DAMASCUS, Syria, Aug. 3 — To one Damascus University professor, the faint echo of Israeli bombs exploding in the lower Bekaa Valley brings two fears. He recoils at the destruction he imagines across the border, less than 10 miles from his village home, but deeper down he worries that any Hezbollah triumph will come at the expense of his own Sunni branch of Islam.

“Since the Americans invaded Iraq we have all become aware of the danger from the Shiites,” said the professor, who asked not to be identified by name because discussing sectarian rivalry is taboo in Syria, an authoritarian state run by a religious minority. “Ordinary people only think of Hezbollah as fighting against Israeli aggression. But the educated classes think that if Hezbollah controls the region, then the Sunnis will be abused.”

A December 8, 2004 interview of King Abdullah II of Jordan by Chris Matthews encapsulates the elite Arab view of Hezbollah and Iran as a threat to Sunni Arab states. The Sunni elites fear an alliance of Shia-dominated states running from Iran to Lebanon.

MATTHEWS: Do you think that would be a danger to the region, an alliance between a Shia-led Iraq and Iran?

HIS MAJESTY: If it was a Shia-led Iraq that had a special relationship with Iran and you look at that relationship with Syria and Hezbollah and Lebanon, then we have this now crescent that appears that will be very destabilizing for the Gulf countries and for the whole region.http://www.mfa.gov.jo/interviews_details.php?id=93&menu_id=35

Since the Arab masses mostly just see virtuous Muslims fighting perfidious Jews in Lebanon and Israel the elites of Arab states are frustrated. In their view Israel's approach to conduct of the war against Hezbollah makes it hard for them to tilt against Hezbollah.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 06 07:42 AM  Cultural Wars Religious
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2006 August 04 Friday
Shiites March In Baghdad For Hezbollah

Even as dozens die in sectarian violence in Iraq every day the Shia Arabs in Sadr City Baghdad could organize and make a march to the city center without anyone getting killed. American soldiers helped provide security so that Iraqi Shia Muslims could march in support of Lebanese Shia Muslims against Israel and against America.

BAGHDAD, Aug. 4 -- Thousands of Shiite Muslims marched though the Iraqi capital on Friday in support of Hezbollah guerrillas battling Israeli forces in Lebanon, answering a call by radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to rally to the cause of their fellow Shiites.

Throngs of Shiite men, most clad in white burial shrouds that symbolized their willingness to die, gathered in the northeast Baghdad slum known as Sadr City. Then they marched toward the center of the capital, chanting: "We will step over America. We are Hezbollah" and "How can we sleep tonight? We have a quarrel with Israel."

They did not march for freedom of press or freedom of religion or democracy. If they had bothered to march about women's rights they would have marched for less rights, not more.

The United States helped bring to power a Shia Muslim government in Baghdad and empowered the Shia majority in Iraq.

The large turnout, along with the absence of any reported violence, also suggested that Sadr's ability to rally legions of disciplined followers remains strong at a time when factional militias dominate Baghdad.

Only 14,000 marched according to the US military.

But the U.S. military said in a news release that calculations based on pictures taken from unmanned surveillance aircraft put the crowd at 14,000.

In the intense heat of August and with the threat of car bomb attacks by Sunni insurgents that's still a decent turn-out.

The Sunnis in Sunni Arab countries fielded smaller crowds in support of Shia Arabs.

In the most violent demonstration, about 100 people threw stones and a firebomb at the British Embassy in Tehran, damaging the building but harming nobody as they accused Britain and the United States of being accomplices in Israel's fight against Hezbollah, a Shiite group in Lebanon that is backed by Persian Iran.

Even Sunni Muslim demonstrators took to the streets of Damascus, Cairo and Amman. But their numbers were dwarfed by the huge Shiite turnout in Baghdad, organized by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

An article in Time magazine claims that Shia Arabs in Iraq trust Shia militias more than they trust the Shia dominated government.

But disarming Sadr's army may prove, if anything, even more difficult than disarming Hizballah in Lebanon. That's because the three-year campaign of terror against Shi'ite civilians by Sunni insurgents has led the community to see its militias, rather than the central government, as its only protection. As that violence escalates, the likelihood diminishes that these communities will support any effort to forcefully dismantle the militias. Nor can an agreement to disarm be easily orchestrated by removing the insurgent threat, since the branch of the insurgency responsible for targeting the Shi'ites is led by al-Qaeda in Iraq, the faction most implacably opposed to any reconciliation with the elected government.

If the Madhi Army decides to take on US forces with urban warfare in Baghdad the US forces in Baghdad might need to ally themselves with a Sunni militia. Do you suppose we could restore Sunnis to power? We should exempt Saddam Hussein from capital punishment. We might need him.

Update: Lawrence Auster notes the same neoconservative Jewish intellectual activists whose role was crucial in putting the Shiites in power in Iraq also support an immigration policy that brings hostile Muslims to America to kill Jews.

The neoconservatives, a predominantly Jewish group of Cold War liberals, have been the principal promoters of President Bush’s Muslim democratization campaign, as a direct result of which hundreds of thousands of Shi’ites in the U.S.-liberated, U.S.-occupied, and U.S.-empowered country of Iraq are now freely marching under the slogans “Death to Israel,” “Death to America.” Those same Jewish neoconservatives have also been the chief promoters of America’s post-1965 non-discriminatory immigration policy, as a direct result of which every Jewish institution in this country must now be surrounded by layers of security to prevent Muslims who are in this country solely due to that immigration policy from murdering Jews, as happened in Seattle last week.

The Arabs do not believe in the equality of man. Liberalism is not a universal philosophy for all of humanity. Liberals who support mass immigration are supporting suicide of their own culture. If I could separate myself and other non-liberals from them I would. But I'm stuck going down with them and I heavily resent them for doing this to the rest of us.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 04 09:08 PM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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2006 August 03 Thursday
US Senate Reverses And Votes Border Barrier Funding

The US Senate feels the pressure of angry Americans who want a stop to the huge Hispanic influx.

The Senate did an abrupt about-face yesterday, voting overwhelmingly to begin paying for 370 miles of fencing and 500 miles of vehicle barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border, just three weeks after voting against the same spending.

The amendment's sponsor said senators were so embarrassed by that July 13 vote that most felt they had to reverse course and vote for it this time -- especially after so many were on record in May voting to build the fence in the first place. The amendment, which provides nearly $2 billion for the project, passed 94-3, with 66 senators switching from "no" to "yes" votes since last month.

370 miles is not long enough. A formidable barrier should get built along the entire length of the US-Mexican border. It will pay for itself by cutting back on the influx of people who cost us far more than they pay in taxes.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 03 09:45 PM  Immigration Border Barrier
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Steve Sailer: Why Not Bribe The Lebanese?

Steve Sailer thinks surely the Lebanese could be bought off if we could figure out who to bribe.

But the nutty thing is that the annual Iranian subsidy of Hezbollah, which we are constantly told is a world-historical crisis, turns out to be about $100 million.

For 28 years, the U.S. has paid Egypt $2 billion annually not to blunder into another war with Israel. This has been a good deal for all concerned, but it's pretty expensive because it's public. I would imagine you could rent most of the important people in Egypt for a lot less, if you did it surreptitiously with deposits in the right Swiss bank accounts.

Lebanon is a tiny country compared to Egypt with less than 4 million people, which is why Iran's $100 million seems so vast to them.

Surely, the friends of Israel could outbid Iran for influence in Lebanon? There's always the problem of making sure the VIPs you buy stay bought, but the people who have the money to spend on this problem are often geniuses at structuring deals, so that doesn't seem insurmountable.

The bribery deals would need to have incentive plans for performance.

What I wonder: What would it cost to buy south Lebanon and turn it into a park? Have no land there for houses. Hezbollah would try to kilr sellers to make people. Some Hezbollah followers would refuse to sell. So this might not work.

Consider how many things could merit bribery payments: Know when and where some trucks or an aircraft will deliver missiles from Iran? A group could even be bribed to capture trucks delivering missiles. Know where Nasrallah is at some moment? Know the locations of arms stashes? Know how to get some Shiite faction shooting at another Shiite faction? Bribes are best offered for confirmable information. A bribe for, say, "who in this village is a trained Hezbollah fighter" doesn't work because the bribee could finger those who hate Hezbollah rather than the members in good standing.

I've made a similar argument on Iraq. The place is full of factions and sub-factions. Would some of the factions accept bribes in exchange for not fighting or even in exchange for betraying information about other factions and fighting those factions that create the biggest problems?

Bribery is way cheaper than fighting a war:

The cost of the war in U.S. fatalities has declined this year, but the cost in treasure continues to rise, from $48 billion in 2003 to $59 billion in 2004 to $81 billion in 2005 to an anticipated $94 billion in 2006, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The U.S. government is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from $8.2 billion a year ago, a new Congressional Research Service report found.

Those costs do not include the long term care of tens of thousands of permanently injured soldiers and their lost earnings. These costs also do not include the cost of replacing much of the equipment which is wearing out more quickly. Nor do these costs include the interest in the debt for the money borrowed to finance the war. Nor do the costs include income not earned by Reservists and National Guard called up and taken from their civilian jobs.

To be worth doing bribery wouldn't have to totally solve the problems Israel faces with Lebanon or the US faces with Iraq. The United States could just withdraw from Iraq. But since the Bush Administration is intent upon staying we ought to use more unconventional means to deal with the enemies we face.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 03 09:41 PM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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Audited Financials Show Larger US Government Debt

A set of books maintained by the US federal government to more closely match how corporations are required to account for costs and liabilities shows a deficit twice as large as the more widely used deficit measure.

The federal government keeps two sets of books.

The set the government promotes to the public has a healthier bottom line: a $318 billion deficit in 2005.

The set the government doesn't talk about is the audited financial statement produced by the government's accountants following standard accounting rules. It reports a more ominous financial picture: a $760 billion deficit for 2005. If Social Security and Medicare were included — as the board that sets accounting rules is considering — the federal deficit would have been $3.5 trillion.

Congress has written its own accounting rules — which would be illegal for a corporation to use because they ignore important costs such as the growing expense of retirement benefits for civil servants and military personnel.

Last year, the audited statement produced by the accountants said the government ran a deficit equal to $6,700 for every American household. The number given to the public put the deficit at $2,800 per household.

The unfunded liabilities are going to start showing up in cash flows as the baby boomers retire. In the 2010s and 2020s the US government will try to cut back on retirement benefits.

Federal law requires that companies and institutions that have revenue of $1 million or more use accrual accounting. Microsoft used accrual accounting when it reported $12 billion in net income last year. The American Red Cross used accrual accounting when it reported a $445 million net gain.

Congress used cash accounting when it reported the $318 billion deficit last year.

Social Security chief actuary Stephen Goss says it would be a mistake to apply accrual accounting to Social Security and Medicare. These programs are not pensions or legally binding federal obligations, although many people view them that way, he says.

It is only a mistake to apply accrual accounting if the government does not intend to fulfill the obligations it has taken on. If the government does not intend to deliver on its promises (and it can not do so) then Congress should start passing legislation to retract some of those promises. The big political battle for the 2010s and 2020s is going to be over how much of the unfunded liabilities will be paid for by tax increases versus by benefits cuts. I'm predicting a big rise in the age of eligibility for many retirement entitlement programs..

You can read the 2005 Financial Report of the United States Government if you want the bad news in detail.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 03 09:41 PM  Economics Government Costs
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Generals And Ambassador On Iraq Civil War Possibility

In public testimony before Congress the top two US generals in the Middle East consider civil war in Iraq a strong possibility.

WASHINGTON - Two senior U.S. generals told Congress on Thursday that growing sectarian violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims threatens to plunge Iraq into civil war.

"I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it, in Baghdad in particular, and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war," said Gen. John Abizaid, the chief of U.S. Central Command. The top American military officer in the Middle East was testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff and thus the top general at the Pentagon, agreed with the assessment.

"I believe that we do have the possibility of that devolving to a civil war, but that does not have to be a fact," Pace said.

You have to figure their private assessments could be even more bleak.

"We can provide support, we can help provide security, but they must now decide about their sectarian violence," Pace said. "Shia and Sunni are going to have to love their children more than they hate each other."

I'm counting on them to hate each other more.

I get the sense that the Bush Administration is trying to lower expectations far enough that if civil war breaks out people won't be shocked.

Asked about the generals invoking the specter of "civil war," White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said aboard Air Force One: "I don't think the president is going to quibble with his generals on their characterizations."

A leak of the final diplomatic cable of the outgoing UK Ambassador to Iraq, William Patey, shows that Patey thinks civil war in Iraq more likely than not.

Mr Patey wrote: "The prospect of a low intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy.

"Even the lowered expectation of President Bush for Iraq - a government that can sustain itself, defend itself and govern itself and is an ally in the war on terror - must remain in doubt."

Talking about the Shia militias blamed for many killings, Mr Patey added: "If we are to avoid a descent into civil war and anarchy then preventing the Jaish al-Mahdi (the Mahdi Army) from developing into a state within a state, as Hezbollah has done in Lebanon, will be a priority."

Lawrence Auster has pointed to the significance of the huge shift in position of war hawk Ralph Peters toward the view that Iraq is going to slide into full civil war. The hawks are starting to worry about what happens to their reputations should the decay in Iraq continue. Things aren't going to plan and defense of what Hillary Rodham Clinton just referred to as "happy talk and rosy scenarios" has gotten embarrassing.

Update: Nancy A. Youssef of the McClatchy Newspapers says the Iraqi workers at the Baghdad bureau agree Iraq is already in a civil war.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The top U.S. military commander for the Middle East, Gen. John Abizaid, told Congress on Thursday that the violence in Baghdad "is probably as bad as I have ever seen it," and went on to say that the country could be headed toward civil war.

Nearly all of the dozen Iraqis who work for McClatchy Newspapers' Baghdad bureau - evenly split between Shiite and Sunni Muslims - reached that conclusion long ago.

Their observations have trickled out day by day in the scores of conversations colleagues have with one another about their lives and difficulties.

Read the full article for stories of killings and ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 03 07:46 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Conflict
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2006 August 02 Wednesday
Bush Ups Immigration Law Enforcement As Ploy

We can not trust the President of the United States. Jorge W. Bush feels pressured to pretend that he wants immigration laws strictly enforced.

CINCINNATI, July 30 — Immigration agents had prepared a nasty surprise for the Garcia Labor Company, a temporary worker contractor, when they moved against it on charges of hiring illegal immigrants. They brought a 40-count federal indictment, part of a new nationwide strategy by immigration officials to clamp down on employers of illegal immigrant laborers.

Bush thinks he has a better chance of getting what he wants from Congress on immigration if the US government carries out some high profile immigration law enforcement prosecutions.

The White House is hoping the increased enforcement will strengthen Mr. Bush’s hand in the battle over immigration reform, Homeland Security Department officials said, by pre-empting House Republicans who are pressing a bill they passed in December that centers on enforcement and border security but does not provide a way for illegal immigrants to become legal.

The Bush Administration spent its early years in office gutting what was left of immigration enforcement.

For years, workplace raids were a low priority for immigration authorities. Testifying in June before a Senate immigration subcommittee, Richard M. Stana, a director in the Government Accountability Office, reported that civil fine notices issued to employers dropped to 3 in 2003, from 417 in 1999.


While the old immigration agency brought 25 criminal charges against employers in 2002, this year Immigration and Customs Enforcement has already made 445 criminal arrests of employers, officials said. Some 2,700 immigrant workers were caught up in those operations, and most were deported, the officials said.

Bush continued a trend toward decreased enforcement that started back in the mid 1990s. Now he's pursuing an enforcement policy that he personally does not like. Why? He hopes that by temporarily pretending that he wants to enforce immgration laws he can get Congress to pass a massive amnesty and guest worker program.

We need a very tough enforcement-only immigration bill from Congress. Both Congress and Bush will quickly backslide and oppose enforcement once the amnesty people get what they want. Our elites can not be trusted.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 02 09:55 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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Declining Fraction Of Adult Men Work

About 3 times as many men age 30 to 54 are not working and not looking for a job than are listed as unemployed.

About 13 percent of American men in this age group are not working, up from 5 percent in the late 1960’s. The difference represents 4 million men who would be working today if the employment rate had remained where it was in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Most of these missing men are, like Mr. Beggerow, former blue-collar workers with no more than a high school education. But their ranks are growing at all education and income levels. Refugees of failed Internet businesses have spent years out of work during their 30’s, while former managers in their late 40’s are trying to stretch severance packages and savings all the way to retirement.

What percentage of the officially non-working are earning a living with under-the-table work? Is that percentage rising or dropping? The rise in the number of illegals and of men who are not officially working has created a glut of those who are willing to do work off the books. So I would expect off-the-books jobs to be in short supply.

Government has served as an enabler of some of this trend toward not working. About a quarter of the men who aren't working and not looking for a job collect disability benefits from the US government's Social Security program.

But the fastest growing source of help is a patchwork system of government support, the main one being federal disability insurance, which is financed by Social Security payroll taxes. The disability stipends range up to $1,000 a month and, after the first two years, Medicare kicks in, giving access to health insurance that for many missing men no longer comes with the low-wage jobs available to them.

No federal entitlement program is growing as quickly, with more than 6.5 million men and women now receiving monthly disability payments, up from 3 million in 1990. About 25 percent of the missing men are collecting this insurance.

The ailments that qualify them are usually real, like back pain, heart trouble or mental illness. But in some cases, the illnesses are not so serious that they would prevent people from working if a well-paying job with benefits were an option.

The disability program, in turn, is an obstacle to working again. Taking a job holds the risk of demonstrating that one can earn a living and is thus no longer entitled to the monthly payments. But staying out of work has consequences. Skills deteriorate, along with the desire for a paying job and the habits that it requires.

The decline in availability of well paying blue collar jobs leaves a lot of men feeling that work brings in too little money to be worth it. But how are they surviving?

Non-working men have become less likely to be married.

The missing men are also more likely to live alone. Nearly 60 percent are divorced, separated, widowed or never married, up from 50 percent a decade earlier, the Census Bureau reports.

By contrast, only 30% of the working men are not married.

Non-working men sleep too much.

He also gets more sleep, regularly more than nine hours, a characteristic of men without work. As the months pass, they average almost nine-and-a-half hours a night, about 80 minutes more than working men, according to an analysis of time-use surveys by Harley Frazis and Jay Stewart, economists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Those non-working men are not going to live as long as the ones who are working.

The best survival rates were found among those who slept 7 hours per night. The study showed that a group sleeping 8 hours were 12 percent more likely to die within the six-year period than those sleeping 7 hours, other factors being equal. Even those with as little as 5 hours sleep lived longer than participants with 8 hours or more per night.

Stay busy. It is good for your health.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 02 09:42 PM  Economics Demographic
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2006 August 01 Tuesday
Cognitive Declines In Iraq Veterans

Iraq war veterans in the United States show poorer memory, reduced ability to pay attention, and other cognitive changes.

Jennifer J. Vasterling, Ph.D., of the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System and Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans and colleagues conducted a study to examine neuropsychological outcomes following Iraq deployment. The study included 961 male and female active-duty Army Soldiers. Deploying Army Soldiers (n = 654) were examined prior to deployment to Iraq (April-December 2003) and shortly after return (within an average of 73 days; January-May 2005) from Iraq deployment. There was also a comparison group of soldiers (n = 307) similar in military characteristics but not deploying overseas. Participants were individually administered performance-based neuropsychological tasks.

The researchers found that Iraq deployment, compared with nondeployment, was associated with mild neuropsychological compromise on tasks of sustained attention, verbal learning, and visual-spatial memory. Iraq deployment was also associated with increased negative effects on measures of confusion and tension. In contrast, deployment was associated with improved simple reaction time and no changes on other neuropsychological tasks. Deployment effects remained statistically significant after taking into account deployment-related head injury and stress and depression symptoms. The researchers interpret their findings as the carry-over into the home environment of what was likely an adaptive brain-based survival response in the combat zone.

If the changes were due to an adaptive response back in a home environment the changes might eventually dissipate. But even if the changes are not due to neuronal damage (and we do not know if that is the case) the possibility exists that their brains will not revert back to configurations more like what they had before they left.

The unanswered question is how much of these changes are permanent?

In an editorial accompanying the study, medical psychiatrists Matthew Hotopf, PhD, and Simon Wessely, FMedSci, weighed in on the issue. Both have done extensive research on post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) among soldiers.

They wrote that while the subtle mental changes outlined in the study bear some similarities to PTSD, they might also be considered perfectly normal coping behaviors. Longer follow-up of the soldiers in the study should help determine if the reactions are normal or cause for concern, they concluded.

Double digit percentages of returning war veterans show signs of post-traumatic stress.

A Pentagon study in JAMA earlier this year found that 35 percent of Iraq vets received psychological counseling shortly after returning, and earlier research found that about 17 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq had symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

About 11 percent of the vets Vasterling studied reported such symptoms upon their return, she said.

War is hell.

Advances in neural stem cell research will eventually lead to methods to repair some of the brain damage in soldiers under heavy sustained stress. Also, the potential exists that drugs could be found that would reduce the stress response and provide protection for neurons. Also, genetic studies will probably eventually turn up tests that show which people are most at risk of post traumatic stress disorder and other undesirable cognitive changes from combat.

By Randall Parker 2006 August 01 04:53 PM  Mideast Iraq Costs
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