2006 September 30 Saturday
Pope Benedict Sees Islam Incompatible With Western Societies

Pope Benedict's September 12, 2006 speech at the University of Regensburg in which he made some comments about Islam ignited Muslim fury as the followers of the so-called "religion of peace" took violent exception to the idea that their religion is anything less than perfect and supreme. The Pope sees the same incompatibility between the West and Islam that ParaPundit has repeatedly pointed out.

Benedict has studied Islam extensively and, in a 1997 interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, dealt generously with the religion.

"There is a noble Islam, embodied, for example, by the King of Morocco, and there is also the extremist, terrorist Islam, which, again, one must not identify with Islam as a whole, which would do it an injustice," the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said.

Still, he added, Islam does not fit in with Western civilization.

"Islam has a total organization of life that is completely different from ours; it embraces simply everything," he said. "There is a very marked subordination of woman to man; there is a very tightly knit criminal law, indeed, a law regulating all areas of life, that is opposed to our modern ideas about society. One has to have a clear understanding that it is not simply a denomination that can be included in the free realm of a pluralistic society."

That article has excerpts from comments that the Pope has made at other times about Islam and is worth reading in full.

That 1997 book-length interview of the Pope (before he became Pope and hence more constrained in his public utterances) and the section about Islam sounds especially interesting. So I did some web digging and came up with a longer excerpt.

I think that first we must recognize that Islam is not a uniform thing. In fact, there is no single authority for all Muslims, and for this reason, dialogue with Islam is always dialogue with certain groups. No one can speak for Islam as a whole; it has, as it were, no commonly regarded orthodoxy.... There is a noble Islam, embodied, for example, by the King of Morocco, and there is also the extremist, terrorist Islam, which, again, one must not identify with Islam as a whole, which would do it an injustice.

An important point, however, is ... that the interplay of society, politics and religion has a completely different structure in Islam as a whole. Today's discussion in the West about the possibility of Islamic theological faculties, or about the idea of Islam as a legal entity, resupposes that all religions have basically the same structure, that they all fit into a democratic system with its regulations and the possibilities provided by these regulations. In itself, however, this necessarily contradicts the essence of Islam, which simply does not have the separation of the political and religious sphere, which Christianity has had from the beginning. The Quran is a total religious law, which regulates the whole of political and social life and insists that the whole order of life be Islamic....

These comments are far more important and profound than the Regensburg remarks that caused the huge recent flap with Muslims burning churches and Muslim governments lodging diplomatic protests.

The European race has shrunk as a percentage of the total world population going from about a quarter to a tenth. The Muslims sense weakness on our part. At the same time, they still feel threatened by us. The combination has awakened them.

In the cultural situation of the 19th and early 20th centuries, until the 1960s, the superiority of the Christian countries was industrially, culturally, politically and militarily so great that Islam was really forced into the second rank. Christianity--at any rate, civilizations with a Christian foundation--could present themselves as the victorious power in world history. But then the great moral crisis of the Western world, which appears to be the Christian world, broke out. In the face of the deep moral contradictions of the West and of its internal helplessness ... the Islamic soul reawakened. We are somebody too; we know who we are; our religion is holding its ground; you don't have one any longer....

Pope Benedict has a great sense of history. Yes, that is exactly what has happened. The West has a problem of an existential nature. The Muslims are out-reproducing us while also asserting their religious superiority. Our secular leftists would have us believe Muslim anger is our fault. Too many of our religious (e.g. George W. Bush with his Islam as "religion of peace") want to believe that they have a greater bond with Muslims who share a faith in God than with secular Westerns who share values like freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Muslims now believe they have the more vigorous religion. Truth enough. Vigorous Jihadists seek to kill us while within their own societies and they keep women in line by being willing to do things like throw acid on the faces of women who do not stay under covers.

So the Muslims now have the consciousness that in reality Islam has remained in the end as the more vigorous religion and that they have something to say to the world, indeed, are the essential religious force of the future.

Here's my very politically incorrect view of why Islam seems more "vigorous": First off, Middle Eastern Muslims are dumber on average than Europeans. So most lack the intellectual capacity for introspection with lots of critical thoughts about their own religion. An intellectually driven reformation is not in the cards. At the same time, lower IQ people have more babies in the modern world. So the Muslims are out-reproducing people of European descent. On top of all that, smarter Europeans have used their smarts to make themselves much more economically successful and powerful. Their greater success and power causes resentment and a burning anger among Muslim males who do not want to compete for women.

Islam codified a version of Middle Eastern desert tribal norms which was enligthened for its time. But those norms and the practice of consanguineous (cousin) marriage are not compatible with Western societies and Western values. Christianity and secular values of the West have far more in common with each other than they do with Islam.

The West should separate itself from Muslim lands and Muslim peoples to a large extent. Do not let Muslims move into the West. For Muslims who have citizenship or residency offer them cash to leave. People in bad marriages get divorced. Cultures and religions that are incompatible should get divorced as well. We can get along better by staying out of each others' lives.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 30 08:57 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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Two Thirds Of Swiss Vote For Tough Immigration Law

Popular demands for cut-back in Third World immigration continue to drive changes in immigration policy in Western countries.

GENEVA, Sept. 24 -- Swiss voters ratified new asylum and immigration laws Sunday that make it more difficult for refugees to receive assistance and effectively block non-European unskilled workers from entering the country.

More than 67 percent voted in favor of the stricter asylum rules, originally approved by the Swiss government in December. The proposal was overwhelmingly accepted in all of Switzerland's 26 cantons, according to results released by the federal government.

The Republican groundswell of demand for tougher immigration policies and immigration cut-back is not an isolated phenomenon. Immigration restriction is on the rise in Europe and multiculturalism is looking pretty discredited.

When Spain's justice minister Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar recently asked the European Union for money to pay the costs of Spain's immigration amnesty and weak immigration law enforcement Europe's other states roundly critised Spain for allowing the problem to develop.

However, he got short shrift from Germany, Austria and the Netherlands who criticised both the request for money and a decision by Madrid in 2005 to legalise the status of around 600,000 illegal immigrants already in Spain.

"Those who want to solve problems must stop asking for the money of others," German interior minister Wolfgang Schauble is quoted as saying in German newspapers.

Austria's Karin Gastinger said "It's no solution to legalize people, as was done by Spain, because it gives some kind of pull factor to the people in Africa, as we unfortunately saw in the last months," she said. "It sends the wrong signal."

She was backed up by the Dutch Rita Verdonk saying "the traffickers, the smugglers, see very well what is happening: they won't miss an opportunity to send illegal immigrants."

Rita Verdonk has much more sense than George W. Bush or Ted Kennedy.

The Danish Muslim cartoon flap has helped catalyze a shift rightward in European politics.

Denmark has now drifted to the right - as has neighbouring Sweden, which last week booted out its Social Democrat government. The chill hand of pragmatism has even arrived in Christiania, the Danish capital's hippy commune, as the government announced last week it intended to charge the hairy denizens rent.

At the moment the assimilationists - who insist immigrants should become more Danish - are in the ascendant. The government is considering Danish language tests for foreigners applying for a passport. If anything, the cartoon row has forced Europeans to reconsider what it is that makes them European.

"It provoked a debate here in Denmark about what are we really and what is our identity," Hans-Henrik Holm, a professor of international relations at Denmark's College of Journalism at Aarhus University said. "A lot of Danes know more today about Islam and religion. We have to wake up to the fact that we don't live in a Hans Christian Andersen quiet provincial country any more."

The Danes would be better off if they paid all their Muslim residents to leave.

A small anti-immigration party has doubled its vote in Sweden.

STOCKHOLM, Sweden A small anti-immigration party doubled its support in Sweden's elections and won dozens of seats on local councils but failed to break the 4 percent barrier to enter Parliament, official results showed Wednesday.

The rise of the far-right Sweden Democrats has raised concerns that the anti-immigration tide seen in much of Europe has spilled over into Sweden, where about 12 percent of residents are foreign-born.

Muslims have become a big enough problem in many European countries that the nature of the threat they pose is undeniable.

The Danes have sent a policeman to permanent station at Malta and want to help in a larger effort to defend Europe's southern frontier against illegal entrants.

The prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has pledged to devote more resources to shoring up the European Union's southern frontier, reported daily newspaper Politiken.

The oh so tolerant Dutch are cracking down.

Taking up the fight against illegal immigrants, the Cabinet resolved on 23 April to boost the capacity of the foreign police and double the cells at deportation centres to about 3,000.

Rental contracts can be dissolved if inquiries indicate that landlords have rented homes out to illegal immigrants. In the case of illegal subletting, the official tenant might also lose his or her home.

Employers will be threatened with stiffer fines if they employ illegal workers. The average fine of EUR 980 will be increased to EUR 3,500 per illegal worker.

More raids will thus be carried out and employers will also be forced to pay retrospective social security premiums and taxes if the illegal immigrant has worked there for six months. That bill could reportedly amount to EUR 6,000.

The US Senate's 80-19 vote for a dual fence barrier on the US-Mexico border is in step with a larger trend in Western countries: Keep out the non-Western lower classes and keep out the Muslims.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 30 12:24 PM  Immigration Politics
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2006 September 29 Friday
US Senate Passes Border Fence Bill 80-19

The American people just won an important battle for better border enforcement. I have been watching the live C-SPAN broadcast of the US Senate vote on the 700 mile 2 layer border fence bill (HR 6061 Secure Fence Act) that the US House of Representatives already passed with an overwhelming 283-138. Debbie Stabanow voted for it. Byron Dorgan (D ND) was among the Democrats who voted for it. Some other Ayes: Shelby, Graham, McCain, Baucus, Wyden, Murkowski, Nelson of Nebraska, Roberts, Elizabeth Dole, Lott, Hatch, Mary Landrieu (D LA), Rockefeller (D WV), Richard Lugar, Mary Hutchison, Tom Harkin, Santorum (R PA), Specter (R PA), Sam Brownback, Dianne Feinstein (D CA). Warner, Voinovich, Chuck Hagel, Byrd (D WV), Lincoln, Martinez, Barack Obama, Biden, Olympia Snowe, Hillary Clinton (D NY), Chuck Schumer (D NY), George Allen (R VA), Cole, Bill Frist, and Thad Cochran. Not surprisingly Lieberman voted no. Other nos: Kerry, Sarbannes, Chafee, Levin, Lautenberg, Akaka. I tuned in late and missed some names.

Lots of those 80 Ayes voted earlier this year for the massive amnesty and temporary worker program, the Senate bill CIRA S.2611. That bill passed the Senate by 62-36. Senator Jeff Sessions (R AL) revealed many of the flaws of that bill. House members heard such overwhelming demands from their constituents for tougher immigration and border policies that the House leadership refused to consider reconciling the House strong immigration law enforcement bill HR 4437 bill with the Senate amnesty. HR 6061 appears to be a subset of HR 4437 but a very valuable subset. We bypassed the vast bulk of the Open Borders Senate bill and got a strong enforcement bill instead.

Bush has indicated he will sign this border fence and immigration law enforcement bill. So it looks like we are going to get a border barrier for over a third of the 1951 mile US border with Mexico.

We still need another 1200 miles of barriers and more equipment for catching illegal crossers. We also need more interior enforcement of immigration laws. But we are headed in the right direction.

A note to my regular pessimistic commenters on immigration (and you know who you are): Our cause is far from lost. 80-19 is an amazing vote in the US Senate. Popular anger works. It just has to build really high before it breaks through the influence of the treasonous special interests.

Update: The Department of Homeland Security is getting more money for internal immigration law enforcement and to hold "Other Than Mexican" (OTM) illegal border crossers who usually are let go due to lack of facilities to hold them for deportation.

The $33.7-billion spending bill also significantly boosts funding for border security and enforcement of immigration laws at work sites and elsewhere.

The bill will enable the Department of Homeland Security to hire an additional 1,500 border patrol agents and buy 6,700 more beds at detention centers for illegal immigrants. In the past, the lack of enough beds at these facilities has caused authorities to release some of the illegal immigrants they apprehended.

The bill also provides $1.2 billion to pay for border fencing, vehicle barriers and improved sensor equipment at border crossings.

It is surprising to find out what is not yet illegal. The spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security criminalizes tunnels for illegal border crossings.

The broad spending bill also criminalizes the construction of tunnels that could be secret passageways from Mexico or Canada for drug smugglers, illegal aliens or terrorists.

The border barrier will be stronger in some areas.

The fence will be a reinforced physical barrier in some areas, while other areas will be secured solely by powerful lighting, sensors, and cameras. When completed, the border fence would include a 20-mile patch around Tecate, Calif., segments of the Mexico-California border, nearly all of Arizona's southern border, the area between Columbus, N.M ., and El Paso, and two other stretches of southern Texas.

The Israelis do something similar. They build high concrete walls along some border sections of the West Bank. The concrete walls prevent snipers from shooting into more populated areas.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 29 07:20 PM  Immigration Border Barrier
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2006 September 28 Thursday
Iraq War Costs Up While 2007 Looks Worse

The burn rate of money on the war in Iraq has risen 20% since 2005.

WASHINGTON -- A new congressional analysis shows the Iraq war is now costing taxpayers almost $2 billion a week -- nearly twice as much as in the first year of the conflict three years ago and 20 percent more than last year -- as the Pentagon spends more on establishing regional bases to support the extended deployment and scrambles to fix or replace equipment damaged in combat.

But the larger amounts of money being spent are still not enough to keep the Third Infantry Division and other divisions in fighting shape.

Col. Tom James, who commands the division’s Second Brigade, acknowledged that his unit’s equipment levels had fallen so low that it now had no tanks or other armored vehicles to use in training and that his soldiers were rated as largely untrained in attack and defense.

The rest of the division, which helped lead the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and conducted the first probes into Baghdad, is moving back to full strength after many months of being a shell of its former self.

But at a time when Pentagon officials are saying the Army is stretched so thin that it may be forced to go back on its pledge to limit National Guard deployment overseas, the division’s situation is symptomatic of how the shortages are playing out on the ground.

Bob Woodward says US forces are now attacked in Iraq every 15 minutes, the Bush Administration is lying about how bad things are in Iraq and in 2007 Iraq is going to get much worse.

The situation is getting much worse, says Woodward, despite what the White House and the Pentagon are saying in public. "The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon [saying], 'Oh, no, things are going to get better,'" he tells Wallace. "Now there’s public, and then there’s private. But what did they do with the private? They stamp it secret. No one is supposed to know," says Woodward.

US forces are getting hit by 800 to 900 attacks per week.

"It's getting to the point now where there are eight, 900 attacks a week. That's more than a hundred a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces," Woodward said in excerpts of the interview released on Thursday before the release of his book on the administration, called "State of Denial."

Most Iraqis support attacks on US troops.

About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and slightly more than that want their government to ask U.S. troops to leave within a year.

That's what a poll found that was done for the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes.

Are we fighting to help people who want us dead? Sure looks that way.

The approval rating of Iraqis for attacks on US troops has gone from 47% in January to 61% now. Most of the shift in opinion came from Shiites. Almost four fifths of Iraqis believe the presence of US troops increases the violence. I say we should trust the Iraqis on this score and leave.

Some experts think staying and leaving both make things worse.

"The predicament the United States faces right now is that we are basically bogged down in the shifting sand of Iraq, and the longer we stay, the more we provide ammunition to the jihadist leaders," said Fawaz Gerges, a visiting scholar at the University of Cairo and the author of "Journey of the Jihadist."

"But if we ... retreat from Iraq, the militants will be empowered," he said.

The Iraqis want us gone. I say we organize a national voter referendum in Iraq where the Iraqis get to vote whether our troops should stay. Respect the will of the democratic majority.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 28 10:21 PM  Mideast Iraq Costs
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Mexico Decaying As Drug Cartels Grow In Power

The Mexican Los Zetas drug cartel is undergoing a resurgence after assurances from US authorities that the group was in decline.

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico - For all the beefed-up enforcement along the border, the militialike group of drug cartel enforcers known as the Zetas appears stronger than ever, a result of better training, successful recruiting in Central America and continued desertions from the Mexican military, U.S. intelligence officials say.

The Zetas have again become entrenched in Nuevo Laredo, and they practically control the movement of people through an intricate web of spies, checkpoints and skillful use of technology, provoking an extraordinary cross-border human exodus, U.S. and Mexican authorities say.

Last year, U.S. and Mexican authorities reported that the number of Zetas was falling rapidly, the result of both government pressure and ongoing warfare with rival cartels. But the shadowy group of elite former military officers, soldiers and others has now grown to more than 500 nationwide, with hundreds more in a support network throughout the country, U.S. officials said. Some of those networks are deepening their ties to Texas cities, including Houston and Dallas, with the help of Texas gang members.

The fighting in Iraq - er, I mean Mexico - is going great. We'll have those insurgents - um, I mean drug lords - defeated in no time at all.

One recent battle in Nuevo Laredo featured a bazooka!

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico — A wild, 30-minute shootout reportedly involving bazookas and a grenade invaded the streets of an upscale neighborhood here, though details were few.

Mexican and U.S. sources familiar with the incident Friday night said three people were killed and four injured, but neither local nor federal officials would give an official version of events.

No newspaper in Nuevo Laredo printed an article about the incident, which according to sources involved a bazooka, a grenade and assault rifles.

What gives? Surely the Sinoloa and Gulf cartels can afford RPGs. The Zetas work for the Gulf cartel. So the Zetas can afford the best.

The drug cartels are killing officials who were previously immune.

The historic level of drug violence not only threatens Mexican judges and politicians, who once were immune, but also American tourists and U.S. investors, as the cartels move into vacation corridors such as Acapulco-Zihuatanejo on the Pacific Coast, and Morelia-Uruapan in the central state of Michoacan.

A Dallas businessman recently pulled out of a $40 million project near the Zihuatanejo resort.

"We didn't think this was the right moment," said Carol Davenport, a real estate agent from Arlington, Texas, now working in Mexico, who represented the businessman. "The dire situation didn't exactly inspire investor confidence," she added, referring to a rash of killings in the area.

On the bright side, one narco group is killing the corrupt government officials who work for a rival group.

The bloody turf war in Nuevo Laredo is being waged to gain control of the market, because it is considered a key transportation node in the drug-trafficking business. Guzman has moved in big for that reason, and his organization is allegedly responsible for the murders of numerous Mexican law enforcers who are on the payroll of the Cardenas organization, according to U.S. law enforcement sources.

"Always look on the bright side of life".

The US military doesn't need to send troops to Mexico. We can just send military trainers. Help the Mexican government stand on their own two feet so they can put down the insurgent drug lord fighters. Yeah, that's the ticket.

You might be asking: Why is it important to have the US military train the Mexican military to fight the drug cartels? Fair question. Easy answer: The Mexican military has to fight the Los Zetas and the Zetas are such a menace because many are former Mexican special forces who were trained at Fort Benning Georgia. We need to make the current Mexican military competent enough to fight the former Mexican military that we trained. It seems only fair. Make sense?

You object? Oh come on. Yes, if we train more Mexicans to fight well then more will leave the Mexican military to fight for the cartels which probably pay much better. But there's an easy solution to that problem which any Bush Administration civilian military strategist will see: Just train the Mexican military faster than they desert. Look at how well this policy works in Iraq.

The Iraqi - oh sorry, I keep getting confused - Mexican elected officials won't stand up to the insurgent drug fighters because they derive key support from the drug insurgencies.

Jorge Fernandez Menendez, co-author of the new book, "From the Maras to the Zetas: the Secrets of Drug Trafficking from Colombia to Chicago," said politicians who control 90 percent of the country's police are more reluctant than ever to take on the cartels.

"There are local and state politicians whose intention is not to participate in the drug fight either because they are complicit, in some cases, or they are scared, or because they simply don't want trouble," Fernandez said.

"If the state and local governments don't get involved, the situation is going to become very complicated ... and destabilizing."

How far down will Mexico go?

The killing of al-Zarqawi was supposed to be a key turning point for the US fight against insurgents in Iraq. But maybe someone forgot which way to turn since now the place is going to hell. Similarly, capture of a drug lord in Tijuana has not brought any peace.

TIJUANA – A string of killings is plaguing Tijuana a month after U.S. authorities detained suspected drug kingpin Francisco Javier Arellano Félix, and some authorities are taking the violence so seriously that they have called on the Mexican army to help restore order.

The latest victim was a city police assistant chief, Arturo Rivas Vaca, who was in his patrol car when he was gunned down about 8 a.m. yesterday. Jorge Eduardo Ledezma Magallon, a police officer who was Rivas' bodyguard, and Luis Francisco de Santiago Ferrer, a bystander, were injured in the attack, according to Luis Javier Algorri Franco, the city's secretary of public security.

Looking at the worsening mess in Mexico and the dangers it creates for Americans we can learn from Israel. Faced with violence coming from the West Bank the response of Israel was to build a barrier wall and fence along the entire Israel-West Bank border. This cut suicide bombings down to a rare trickle. America can build a barrier and improve air space control as well as improve Coast Guard defenses to insulate ourselves from the worsening security situation south of the border. It is clear that NAFTA and immigration law non-enforcement have not brought us border peace or political stability in Mexico. We need to take more drastic steps.

We need to physically isolate ourselves from Mexico and the Middle East. In the case of Mexico great border control systems will also cut down on the drug flow northward and therefore will reduce the amount of money the drug lords have to buy politicians and run private armies.

The use of decapitation illustrates how Mexican drug cartels are acting more like Middle Eastern terrorists.

MEXICO CITY - To send a chilling message to their underworld rivals, Mexican drug cartels are adopting a method of intimidation made notorious by Middle Eastern terrorist groups.

At least 26 people have been decapitated in Mexico this year, with heads stuck on fences, dumped in trash piles and -- most recently -- tossed onto a nightclub dance floor.

Mexico's political system is failing. We need to build a barrier along the entire US-Mexican border and stop immigration from Mexico. We need to deport all illegals and take legal residency and citizenship away from Mexican and Central American immgrants who are involved in Los Zetas, MS-13, and other organized crime gangs.

Think I'm exaggerating? The President-elect of Mexico says governments in Mexico are overwhelmed by the drug lords.

Felipe Calderon said the wave of bloodshed knows no politics; it is ravaging state governments controlled by each of Mexico's three major parties. He singled out Mexico City, the northern states of Sinaloa and Tamaulipas, the southern state of Guerrero and his home state of Michoacan, as being especially hard-hit.

"It seems to me that drug violence has overwhelmed the governments of the PAN, the PRI and the PRD," Calderon said in a radio interview.

This is a country on the US border.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 28 07:37 PM  Immigration Societal Decay
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2006 September 27 Wednesday
Leaders In Iraq Protect Shiite Militias From Army

The Iraqi Army continues to be lame.

The plan was simple: Iraqi troops would block escape routes while U.S. soldiers searched for weapons house-by-house. But the Iraqi troops didn't show up on time.

When they finally did appear, the Iraqis ignored U.S. orders and let dozens of cars pass through the checkpoints in eastern Baghdad -- including an ambulance full of armed militiamen, according to U.S. soldiers interviewed recently.

Senior U.S. military officers may have hailed the performance of Iraqi forces in the ongoing security crackdown against militias and insurgents in Baghdad.

But some American soldiers working the streets of Baghdad's flashpoint Shiite neighborhoods say the Iraqi troops serving alongside them are among the worst they've ever seen -- particularly disappointing in this must-win battle.

The Kurds in the Iraqi Army perform better. But Kurdistan is de facto independent from the rest of Iraq and the Kurds see themselves as fighting alongside Americans who helped them realise their dreams. Meanwhile, the Shia Arab soldiers are at least as loyal to religious leaders as they are to the Iraqi government.

"From my perspective, you can't make a distinction between Iraq army Shiites and the religious militias. You have a lot of soldiers and family members swayed and persuaded by the religious leadership," said Col. Greg Watt, who advises one of two Iraqi divisions here.

The idea that we have to negotiate with Shiite religious leader Moktada al-Sadr in order to bring a ceasefire to Iraq is based on the assumption that he controls his own militia and has the power to make a deal. Sadr's militia is breaking up into rival groups which are less keen to make nice with America.

BAGHDAD, Sept. 27 — The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has lost control of portions of his Mahdi Army militia that are splintering off into freelance death squads and criminal gangs, a senior coalition intelligence official said Wednesday.

As Sadr has tried to restrain his militia for political reasons a third has broken off. They'd rather fight than switch to politics

But as Mr. Sadr has taken a more active role in the government, as many as a third of his militiamen have grown frustrated with the constraints of compromise and have broken off, often selling their services to the highest bidders, said the official, who spoke to reporters in Baghdad on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak publicly on intelligence issues.

The Iraqi government doesn't want the Iraqi Army fighting against Shia militias.

A series of unprecedented comments by US officers indicated a growing anxiety over whether Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, would confront his two biggest Shia coalition partners, including the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Both have been linked to death squad killings.

...

A high-ranking Iraqi security official told The Times that pressure from Shia politicians had forced the Iraqi Army to stop fighting the al-Madhi Army this month in the southern city of Diwaniyah. Such political pressure had also stopped Iraqi Army operations against militias elsewhere, he said.

The longer the fighting goes on the more the Shias and Sunnis will feel the desire to seek revenge against each other.

Shiites in the Iraqi government protect the Sadr City haven of militias that attack US troops.

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- U.S. soldiers trying to calm Baghdad say the sprawling Sadr City slum has once again become a haven for anti-American militants - and the source of most of the gunfire and mortars directed at them.

In the last two weeks, U.S. forces have suffered several casualties from dozens of shootings, mortar attacks and roadside bombings that American troops believe originated from Sadr City.

The Maliki government lets US troops enter Sadr City when the targets are militia groups which Sadr sees as renegades who have left Sadr's organization.

Humpty Dumpty is falling apart.

Across the capital, mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods have become battlegrounds of sectarian hostilities. West of the Tigris River, hundreds of Shiite families have fled mostly Sunni neighborhoods such as Amiriyah and Ghazaliya. In the east, hundreds of Sunni families have fled mostly Shiite areas such as Amin and Shaab. Increasingly, the strife is spreading into central Baghdad. In still-mixed neighborhoods such as Tobji, nestled in north-central Baghdad, political and militant Islam is clashing with tribal customs and a shared Arab and Muslim identity that have bonded Sunnis and Shiites for decades.

Can the US stop the trend toward more sectarian violence? Will splinter factions of the Mahdi Army scale up and launch even bigger attacks against US forces? Can Machiavellian statecraft somehow produce a settlement that will greatly dampen down the violence? So far I see no signs that the US government has the competence needed to cook up ways to change the incentives of all the Sunni and Shia fighting groups so thee stop trying to kill each other and American troops.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 27 11:10 PM  MidEast Iraq New Regime Failures
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2006 September 26 Tuesday
Most Military Reservists Make More When Called Up

Most US reservists make more in the military than they do in the private sector.

Most U.S. military reservists see their earnings increase when they are called to active duty, contrary to the common belief that the earnings of reservists fall when they are activated, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today.

The study by the nonprofit research organization, titled “Activation and the Earnings of Reservists,” examined reservists who served less than 30 days on active duty in 2000 and more than 30 days in 2002 and 2003. It found that:

  • 83 percent of reservists did not lose earnings when activated. Only 17 percent experienced a drop in earnings.
  • The average earnings of the activated reservists increased by 32 percent – amounting to $13,539.
  • 6 percent of activated reservists had an earnings loss of more than $10,000. A total of 11 percent had an earnings loss of more than 10 percent of their previous year's earnings.

“Typically, these reservists are people in their mid 20s to mid 30s, with some college but not necessarily a bachelor's degree,” said David Loughran, a RAND economist and lead author of the study. “Generally, military pay is quite good for this group. Moreover, reservists receive additional special pay when activated and their earnings are not subject to federal taxes.”

The study also finds that 40 percent of reservists who were not activated in the period studied experienced an earnings loss as civilians. Since only 17 percent of activated reservists experienced an earnings loss during the study period, this finding suggests that being activated actually reduces the likelihood a reservist will experience an earnings loss.

“We tend to think of the civilian labor market as relatively static, but it's incredibly dynamic,” said Jacob Klerman, a RAND senior economist and co-author of the study. “Sometimes people earn more from one year to the next, but sometimes people see their earnings drop from one year to another.”

The preliminary version of this study does not accout for higher costs due to being sent abroad. A woman whose husband gets sent to Iraq can't use him to babysit the kids while she works or to get him to fix things around the house. So his absence creates additional costs. Still, I find these results surprising. Does the average reservist make more or less than the average non-military person of the same age in the private sector?

By Randall Parker 2006 September 26 10:31 PM  Military War Costs
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2006 September 25 Monday
US Housing Prices Fall First Time In 11 Years

The housing bubble that replaced the dot com bubble is popping too.

Prices of existing homes fell for the first time in 11 years and the backlog of available homes for sale was at its highest since current measures began, underlining the significant slowdown in the housing market.

Existing-home sales slipped 0.5 per cent to an annual rate of 6.30m units in August from a level of 6.33m July, according to the National Association of Realtors. They were 12.6 per cent down on the year before

A large supply of houses on the market make additional price cuts likely.

Washington — Prices of existing houses in the U.S. fell last month for the first time in 11 years as sales declined to the lowest level since early 2004. Despite the August decline, the National Association of Realtors still expects housing prices to rise slightly this year.

The median price of a previously owned house dropped 1.7 percent in August from the same month last year, the National Association of Realtors said Monday. Purchases dropped 0.5 percent to an annual rate of 6.3 million.

Sellers may have to keep lowering prices after the supply of houses on the market jumped to the highest in more than 13 years.

There's a half-empty, half-full aspect of the housing market at this point.

First, although existing-home sales have fallen more than 10% since last year, they remain comfortably above 2003 levels. And in the long-term context of the data series, the figures represent only a correction to the overall upward trend. This fact, however, is a double-edged sword: You could conclude that the housing market is still healthy because it's still at relatively high levels, but you could also conclude that the housing market has a lot further to fall if the economy falters significantly. Similarly, although median resale prices have reached a plateau over the past year and may be starting to fall, they remain fully 25% higher than they were in 2003 -- not the triple-digit growth that some areas of the country have come to take for granted, but a reasonable return on investment, nevertheless.

Rising inventories, on the other hand, are more unusual. The current backlog of inventory on the market, representing about seven months of sales activity, represents the highest level of inventory since the mid-1990s. In the context of regular businesses that produce goods, high levels of inventory generally indicate falling demand, which can cause sharp reductions in cash flow for a given business, threatening its ongoing operations and often requiring substantial shifts in business strategy in order to survive.

The supply of homes for sale is the largest in 13 years.

The National Association of Realtors said sales fell for the fifth month in a row to an annualized rate of 6.3 million units. Sales are down 12.6 per cent from the same month in 2005.

The supply of homes for sale grew to 3.92 million, the highest number of listings in more than 13 years.

"We've been anticipating a price correction, and now it's here,'' said the realtors association's chief economist, David Lereah.

This will cut into consumer spending since people with declining home values will become more reluctant to borrow against their houses or run up other forms of debt.

Luckily energy prices are declining rapidly and that'll put more cash into people's pockets to spend on other things. The oil price decline might cancel out the effects of the housing price decline and prevent a recession.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 25 11:23 PM  Economics Housing
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More National Guard To Iraq After US Elections

The Bush Administration doesn't want to upset the electorate before the election.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 — Strains on the Army from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have become so severe that Army officials say they may be forced to make greater use of the National Guard to provide enough troops for overseas deployments.

Senior Army officers have discussed that analysis — and described the possible need to use more members of the National Guard — with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s senior adviser on personnel, David S. C. Chu, according to Pentagon officials.

While no decision has been made to mobilize more Guard forces, and may not need to be before midterm elections, the prospect presents the Bush administration with a politically vexing problem: how, without expanding the Army, to balance the pressing need for troops in the field against promises to limit overseas deployments for the Guard.

How to balance these needs? Oh, let us see. We could withdraw from Iraq. Or we could withdraw just from parts of Iraq. Or we could institute a draft. Okay, we can't institute a draft because the electorate (at least those adolescent and young adult sons) would become even more angry than they are on immigration.

How's this for an idea? If our President is going to continue to fool enough people to keep the US involved in the Iraq fighting then why not pay a cheap foreign legion to fight for us? We could hire a couple million Third Worlders for a fraction of what the US soldiers cost.

My ultimate modest proposal for solving the Iraq problem? Pay millions of third worlders to immigrate to Iraq and make Arab Muslims a small minority in the country.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 25 10:52 PM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs
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Modest Proposal To Stop North Korea Nuclear Program

At Audacious Epigone crush41 has an interesting post arguing for a withdrawal of US troops in South Korea.

South Korea was on the road to nuclear weapons in the seventies, but the US applied pressure and it stopped. The North's only way to best the South is through the use of the nuclear weapons it has that the South does not. Let's speed up the removal of an American presence (slated to decrease by 5,000 by 2008) and allow South Korea (as well as Japan, which has an acrimonious relationship with Korea, especially the North) to go nuclear. Currently our personnel is little more than potential WMD fodder. The ruling liberals want us out anyway. Why not oblige them?

Sure, I say. Pull out. Let the South Koreans defend themselves. North Korea is a basket case. We do not need to subsidize South Korea's defense.

But reading that paragraph a thought struck me: If the United States really did stop South Korea from going nuclear back in the 1970s the United States could always flirt with reversing position on that issue. We should tell Kim Jong Il, fairly disgusting ruler of the poor, hungry, and stunted people of North Korea, that if he explodes a nuclear bomb in testing then we'll help South Korea build some highly excellent nuclear weapons. I figure that ought to get his attention. Go nuclear? Then your cousins south of the border go very nuclear with far better hardware. We could say we'll extend that offer to Japan as well. That ought to get the attention of Beijing and Pyongyang.

In a way the United States tries too hard in foreign policy. We station troops all over and build huge amounts of hardware and engage in expensive (in lives, money, and influence) fights in places where fighting hurts our interests. We have lots of supposed experts and supposed learned commentators debating and advocating all sorts of new misadventures (e.g. bomb Iran). This heavy handed approach isn't working for us. Why not take a far more minimalistic approach where we play cards (or threaten to play cards) that require orders of magnitude less effort?

We could yank Kim Jong Il's chain rather cheaply. How about spending some money to send lots of free cell phones into North Korea? Or tell him we'll offer a $500 million reward for his death if he doesn't stop counterfeiting US currency? We wouldn't even have to offer the reward to rattle him. We'd just have to tell him we're ready to do it. We ought to use more bribery and rewards to accomplish whatever we want done and do less with military hardware and less with our troops.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 25 10:00 PM  Korea
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Major General John Batiste Denounces Donald Rumsfeld

How can the Panglossian war supporters denounce Major General Batiste? As a pacifist leftist? Doesn't work. As a partisan Democrat? Doesn't work either. As someone without military experience? He's got a great military resume and comes from a multi-generation military family. Batiste wants to win in Iraq but thinks under the current (incompetent) leadership that is impossible.

My name is John Batiste. I left the military on principle on November 1, 2005, after more than 31 years of service. I walked away from promotion and a promising future serving our country. I hung up my uniform because I came to the gut-wrenching realization that I could do more good for my soldiers and their families out of uniform. I am a West Point graduate, the son and son-in-law of veteran career soldiers, a two-time combat veteran with extensive service in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq, and a life-long Republican. Bottom line, our nation is in peril, our Department of Defense’s leadership is extraordinarily bad, and our Congress is only today, more than five years into this war, beginning to exercise its oversight responsibilities. This is all about accountability and setting our nation on the path to victory. There is no substitute for victory and I believe we must complete what we started in Iraq and Afghanistan

Bush, Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz sold us an orders of magnitude easier job in Iraq as compared to what it turned out to be. Either they are incompetent for not foreseeing just how far off they were or they were lying.

Batiste says Rumsfeld's plan has been a disaster.

Donald Rumsfeld is not a competent wartime leader. He knows everything, except “how to win.” He surrounds himself with like-minded and compliant subordinates who do not grasp the importance of the principles of war, the complexities of Iraq, or the human dimension of warfare. Secretary Rumsfeld ignored 12 years of U.S. Central Command deliberate planning and strategy, dismissed honest dissent, and browbeat subordinates to build “his plan,” which did not address the hard work to crush the insurgency, secure a post-Saddam Iraq, build the peace, and set Iraq up for self-reliance. He refused to acknowledge and even ignored the potential for the insurgency, which was an absolute certainty. Bottom line, his plan allowed the insurgency to take root and metastasize to where it is today. Our great military lost a critical window of opportunity to secure Iraq because of inadequate troop levels and capability required to impose security, crush a budding insurgency, and set the conditions for the rule of law in Iraq. We were undermanned from the beginning, lost an early opportunity to secure the country, and have yet to regain the initiative. To compensate for the shortage of troops, commanders are routinely forced to manage shortages and shift coalition and Iraqi security forces from one contentious area to another in places like Baghdad, An Najaf, Tal Afar, Samarra, Ramadi, Fallujah, and many others. This shifting of forces is generally successful in the short term, but the minute a mission is complete and troops are redeployed back to the region where they came from, insurgents reoccupy the vacuum and the cycle repeats itself. Troops returning to familiar territory find themselves fighting to reoccupy ground which was once secure. We are all witnessing this in Baghdad and the Al Anbar Province today. I am reminded of the myth of Sisyphus. This is no way to fight a counter-insurgency. Secretary Rumsfeld’s plan did not set our military up for success.

To be fair, Bush appointed Rumsfeld and has failed to go get the force level needed to prevail in Iraq. I happen to think that prevailing in Iraq is not worth the cost. But staying without enough force and with lame strategy is worse than either leaving or changing to a better strategy. But Rumsfeld really is a disaster as a US Secretary of Defense. He's clueless.

Here's another excerpt. It is all good:

Secretary Rumsfeld built his team by systematically removing dissension. America went to war with “his plan” and to say that he listens to his generals is disingenuous. We are fighting with his strategy. He reduced force levels to unacceptable levels, micromanaged the war, and caused delays in the approval of troop requirements and the deployment process, which tied the hands of commanders while our troops were in contact with the enemy. At critical junctures, commanders were forced to focus on managing shortages rather than leading, planning, and anticipating opportunity. Through all of this, our Congressional oversight committees were all but silent and not asking the tough questions, as was done routinely during both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam. Our Congress shares responsibility for what is and is not happening in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yes. Congress has performed miserably. Few of the Democrats know much about the military. Same is true for most of the Republicans. They've also invested too much in defending a fellow Republican in the White House rather than offer sorely needed constructive criticism.

Batiste's making his own mistake though: He thinks Iraq is worth winning. Worth winning for which faction of religious parties and militias? The Prime Minister of Iraq can't manage the religious parties/militias that are in his governing coalition while they raise hell in the streets. Does this mean he doesn't get to be the George Washington of his country?

Four months into his tenure, Mr. Maliki has failed to take aggressive steps to end the country’s sectarian strife because they would alienate fundamentalist Shiite leaders inside his fractious government who have large followings and private armies, senior Iraqi politicians and Western officials say. He is also constrained by the need to woo militant Sunni Arabs connected to the insurgency.

Bush thinks the Prime Minister of Iraq isn't up to the job. Well, such an important shared characteristic could serve as the basis of a friendship between them.

But diplomats who deal with the Bush administration on Iraq issues, and recently departed officials who stay in contact with their colleagues in the government, say the president’s top advisers have a far more pessimistic view.

“The thing you hear the most is that he never makes any decisions,” said a former senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations. “And that drives Bush crazy. He doesn’t take well to anyone who talks about getting something accomplished and then refuses to take the first step.”

But the Iraqi government is a coalition of Shiite religious parties that have their own militias. How can a prime minister rule them?

Mr. Maliki has little obvious leverage over Mr. Sadr, who controls at least 30 seats in Parliament and six ministries, making him one of the most powerful figures in the government. Mr. Sadr has no intention of disbanding the Mahdi Army, because it is now part of the government, said Bahaa al-Aaraji, a senior legislator allied with him.

“They are just volunteers defending their country,” Mr. Aaraji said.

Mr. Maliki is also tiptoeing around other powerful Shiite leaders with militias. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Parliament’s Shiite bloc, has ignited a political firestorm by calling for the legislature to approve a mechanism to create autonomous regions. Many are opposed, and the move threatens to splinter the government. But rather than rein Mr. Hakim in, Mr. Maliki has kept quiet.

Iraq's democracy is a failure.

Retired officers aren't the only ones disgusted with the Bush Administration. Army Chief of Staff General Pete Schoomaker has refused to submit a budget because the Army can't afford to carry out all its assigned tasks.

WASHINGTON — The Army's top officer withheld a required 2008 budget plan from Pentagon leaders last month after protesting to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the service could not maintain its current level of activity in Iraq plus its other global commitments without billions in additional funding.

The decision by Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, is believed to be unprecedented and signals a widespread belief within the Army that in the absence of significant troop withdrawals from Iraq, funding assumptions must be completely reworked, say current and former Pentagon officials.

Schoomaker wants another $25 billion for the Army. Makes sense. The equipment is wearing out. Forces are too small. But Bush wants to hide the real cost of the war.

Bush does not question his original decision to invade Iraq.

Yet the private Bush comes across differently in the accounts of aides, friends, relatives and military family members who have met with him, including some who do not support him, such as Halley. The first question Bush usually asks national security briefers in the Oval Office each morning is about overnight casualties, aides say, and those who show up for the next round of meetings often find him still stewing about bad news from Iraq.

Bush seems to separate these aspects of war in his mind, advisers say. He expresses no regret even in private for his decision to invade Iraq, they say, while taking seriously the continuing consequences of doing so. "Removing Saddam, he never revisits that in his mind or his heart," said one adviser, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because Bush does not want them to discuss his feelings. "Sending troops into harm's way, that's something that weighs on him."

He apparently also does not question his decision to fight a half-assed war which harms US national interests. Soldiers are dying so that he does not have to admit to himself or to us that he has made massive mistakes.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 25 09:46 PM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs
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2006 September 24 Sunday
Schools Forced Closed By Taliban In Afghanistan

In Afghanistan many secret schools located in homes have been set up in order to avoid attacks by the Taliban. Public schools have been forced closed by Taliban attacks.

Within two years of the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban, an extremist Islamic movement that banned girls' education and emphasized Islamic studies for boys, officials boasted that 5.1 million children of both sexes were enrolled in public schools. These included hundreds of village tent-schools erected by UNICEF.

...

President Hamid Karzai told audiences in New York this week that about 200,000 Afghan children had been forced out of school this year by threats and physical attacks.

According to UNICEF, 106 attacks or threats against schools occurred from January to August, with incidents in 31 Afghan provinces. They included one missile attack, 11 explosions, 50 burnings and 37 threats. In the four southern provinces under serious assault by Taliban forces, UNICEF said, nearly half of the 748 schools have stopped operating.

Many parents want their sons and even their daughters to receive educations. But the Taliban is opposed to education for girls and want the boys to receive religious instruction only. The US has not paid enough attention to Afghanistan because Iraq has become such a drain and a distraction. But Afghanistan is so backward and so split by tribal divisions that even with more effort by foreigners its future is something less than bright.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 24 09:36 PM  MidEast Afghanistan
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Wal-Mart Offers $4 Prescriptions On 300 Generic Drugs

Wal-Mart's new price for a one month supply of a few hundred generics is less than for some over-the-counter drugs.

Retailing giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc., known for forcing prices down to dominate nearly every market it enters, said yesterday that it would sell nearly 300 generic drugs for $4 per prescription, whether or not a customer has insurance.

Using its might as the nation's largest retailer and its legendary ability to force suppliers to cut prices to the bone, the company will begin the $4 price program in its 65 stores in the Tampa area today, in all of Florida in January, and in as many other states as possible by the end of 2007. The $4 is for a typical monthly supply of medicine, and included on the Wal-Mart list are generic versions of many popular prescription drugs, including the antibiotic amoxicillin and the heart and blood-pressure treatment lisinopril, sold under the brand names Prinivil and Zestril.

Wal-Mart might be doing this as a loss leader They aren't going to discount most generics or drugs that are still under patent. People who get all their prescriptions filled at once will pay for non-discount drugs as well. Plus, Wal-Mart gets people to walk all the way to the back of their stores to get the prescriptions. So they can sell people as they pass through other departments.

If you want to see the list of drugs go to the Wal-Mart press release and then page down to the bottom where you'll see a "List of available $4 generic drugs" which is a pop-up to select a PDF file to view or download. You'll need Adobe Acrobat Reader (a free download) to view the list.

Shares of generic drug makers took hits in the stock market.

Shares of generic-drugmaker stocks also sank on Sept. 21. Barr Pharmaceuticals (BRL) lost 1.1%, to trade at $51.95 per share, Watson Pharmaceuticals (WPI) fell 1.4%, to $26.22, and Mylan Laboratories (MYL) declined by 2%, to $20.15. Dr. Reddy's Laboratories (RDY) edged slightly lower, to $16.24 per share.

"Although this program, if spread nationwide, would exert pressure on generic pricing trends, we think its overall impact would likely be limited, since it would probably affect less than 20% of all generic drugs sold, and impact mostly older, already deeply discounted products," says S&P equity analyst Herman Saftlas.

Wal-Mart gets absolutely great publicity from this move.

Target quickly said "me too".

Quickest on the draw after Wal-Mart's bombshell was Target Inc., which announced early Friday that it would match Wal-Mart's dramatic price cuts at all its pharmacies in the Tampa Bay area, including Sarasota and Manatee counties.

That is the precise battleground that Wal-Mart established this week for its rollout.

If you use prescription drugs do not assume just because Wal-Mart is cheap on these 300 that it will be cheapest on other drugs. Shop around. Use the internet to compare prices.

Expect more uniform drug pricing as a result.

"I think you're going to see very simplified pricing for generics in most places now," said Richard D. Hastings, an analyst with New York-based Bernard Sands. "You're not going to be seeing $10 here and $16 there and $20 over there" for the same generic drug -- a pricing spread that frequently occurs now.

Although the pilot program, involving mostly heart, diabetes and asthma medications, will be limited initially to the Tampa, Fla. area, Wal-Mart officials say they plan to expand to "as many states as possible" next year.

These are older generics and so do not include some of the better newer generic drugs.

"It is not as significant as it first seems, in our opinion," Joseph Agnese, an analyst at Standard & Poors, told the Times.

Most of the drugs on Wal-Mart's list are older generics that are relatively inexpensive already, Stephen Schondelmeyer, professor of pharmaceutical economics at the University of Minnesota, told the Chicago Tribune.

But this will exert pricing pressure on some of the generics which are not on Wal-Mart's list.

Every year more drug patents expire and the drugs go generic. The size of the super cheap list will probably expand beyond this initial 300. At such low prices a lot of health plans are going to push the cheapest drugs on their patients.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 24 06:43 PM  Economics Health
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Boeing Wins Border Virtual Fence Contract

Boeing has won an over $2 billon dollar contract to build towers along both the southern and northern US borders to detect illegal crossers.

Aerospace and defense giant Boeing Co. has won a multibillion-dollar contract to revamp how the United States guards about 6,000 miles of border in an attempt to curb illegal immigration, congressional sources said yesterday.

Boeing's proposal relied heavily on a network of 1,800 towers, most of which would need to be erected along the borders with Mexico and Canada. Each tower would be equipped with a variety of sensors, including cameras and heat and motion detectors.

...

The contract, part of the Secure Border Initiative and known as SBInet, will again test the ability of technology to solve a problem that lawmakers have called a critical national security concern.

This will help. But we still need a barrier layer built along the entire length of the US border with Mexico.

But interior enforcement to capture and deport the visa overstayers and existing illegal entrants is crucial.

They also must acknowledge that as much as half of the illegal-immigration problem is driven by the hiring of people who enter the United States through official border points but use fraudulent documents or overstay visas to become part of the estimated population of 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, former immigration officials and members of Congress said.

We need real immigration law enforcement at the borders, in the interior, at workplaces, and at legal points of entry.

The track record of existing border sensor systems is abysmal.

The Department of Homeland Security and the former Immigration and Naturalization Service spent $429 million since 1998 on video and remote surveillance on the borders. But nearly half of 489 planned cameras were never installed, 60 percent of sensor alerts are never investigated, 90 percent of the rest are false alarms, and only 1 percent overall resulted in arrests, the Homeland Security inspector general reported in December.

This is why we should build a wall with barbed wire and supporting fences and ditches along the entire border. Rather than try to detect illegal crossers make it so hard to cross they do not try to do so in the first place. Also, for those who do try make the barrier zone so formidable that they trigger multiple sensors and have to spend a lot of time crossing. That'll give Border Patrol agents time to get to a crossing point before the crossers succeed.

More advanced sensor systems could greatly reduce the number of false alarms. The use of video cameras tied to image processing software strikes me as the best longer term sensor solution. Image processor tentative matches on humans could get routed to human operators to view the images to check whether real human crossers were detected.

The House of Representatives has passed a bill to build a barrier along over a third of the US border with Mexico. The Senate might be close to passing a similar bill and President Bush will sign it if it passes.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 24 05:19 PM  Immigration Border Barrier
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2006 September 23 Saturday
Iraq Invasion Increased Terrorist Threat

Mark Mazzetti of thef New York Times reports that a classified intelligence assessment entitled "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States" reports the Iraq invasion has increased the terrorist threat to the United States and other countries.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

Read the full article for all the details.

Bush calls Iraq a front in a war on terror. If so then it is a front we created that spurs Muslims all over the world to take up Jihad against the West.

Bush is sort of like the Manchurian Candidate. Maybe we should call him the Mecca Candidate.

Update: The Washington Post also has gotten access to people who are familiar with the document. Our Iraq invasion has inspired Muslims toward Jihad, not democracy.

The war in Iraq has become a primary recruitment vehicle for violent Islamic extremists, motivating a new generation of potential terrorists around the world whose numbers may be increasing faster than the United States and its allies can reduce the threat, U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded.

A 30-page National Intelligence Estimate completed in April cites the "centrality" of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the insurgency that has followed, as the leading inspiration for new Islamic extremist networks and cells that are united by little more than an anti-Western agenda. It concludes that, rather than contributing to eventual victory in the global counterterrorism struggle, the situation in Iraq has worsened the U.S. position, according to officials familiar with the classified document.

We are going to need far better border security and tougher visa policies as the threat grows. It is time to put an end to the policies of Immigration, Imperialism, and Insolvency as Daniel Larison calls them.

Here's the Los Angeles Times coverage. I am expecting some reader to take me to task for using very harsh rhetoric about George W. Bush. But Duby and Cheney are either lying or deluded when they claim the Iraq invasion has made Americans safer.

The Bush administration has made the case that a democratic government in the Middle East would serve as a beacon to other nations, providing new hope to populations of disaffected Muslims.

"The world is safer because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power," Bush said in his speech to the nation on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad." He also said that Americans were "safer, but we are not yet safe" from terrorism.

Bush and Cheney frequently have dismissed suggestions that the U.S. presence in Iraq has inflamed anger toward the United States, arguing that U.S. forces were not in Baghdad on Sept. 11, 2001.

My optimistic hope: We will so enrage the Muslims that when they do things against us that are really bad this will rouse our masses to demand an end to Muslim immigration. That'd put a really big plus in the ledger to weigh against the costs of the Iraq Debacle.

Update II: Greg Cochran comments:

What we're doing makes things worse - big surprise - but we can't quit, because we're effectively nuts. On the other hand, even if you magnify the islamic-terrorist threat tenfold, it still isn't very big as strategic threats go. I guess that the positive way of looking at it is that we've tapped a rich vein of violent insanity that would have undoubtedly broken loose in some other, maybe worse way if we hadn't invaded Iraq. Indeed, this _is_ the best of all possible worlds.

I think we are better off if their anger and resentment toward us intensifies sooner rather than later. If it happens sooner then we can react and isolate them from us before they become a much bigger demographic presence in the West.

But Greg corrects me in my interpretation of what he said: The "rich vein of violent insanity" is something he sees in us.

Update III: Daniel Larison comments:

But remember Bin Laden said that Iraq was vital to their global jihad (Michael Novak has just told us so), so no matter what you do you must not make any kind of rational judgement about this information that would seek to weaken or reduce the jihadi threat.  Under no circumstances should we consider concluding the war in Iraq, even though it daily works to the enemy’s advantage for us to remain.  We must have resolve.  After all, it’s 1938 and the fascists are coming, aiee!

We have to stay in Iraq because to leave would be a sign of weakness. Never mind that we help our enemies by staying. If we leave then Nazi tanks (with modern 1970s technology) will roll in blitzkrieg across Arabia with the Sunni Arabs (or Shia Arabs? or maybe the Persians?) singing "Deutscheland Uber Alles" as they break the back of the French (er, Sunni Arab?) defense.

The Middle East has become the theater of the absurd. Washington DC has become either the theater of the deluded nuts or the theater of the pathological liars. Probably some of each.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 23 10:04 PM  Mideast Iraq Costs
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2006 September 22 Friday
US Military Too Small For Iraq

The US military is overstretched in Iraq.

WASHINGTON – In recent days, US military commanders have delivered a bleak message about Iraq: The number of American troops there is not likely to be substantially reduced anytime soon.

Yet the current force may have been strained near the breaking point by frequent deployments to the region, say experts. That means in the months to come, the Pentagon could face increased pressure to expand the size of the active-duty Army, or rely even more heavily on call-ups of National Guard and Reserve units.

The inadequate size of the US military for Iraq isn't new news. Bush does not want to admit he got the US into a war that is a big overstretch. But events are making this fact harder to ignore.

Currently, about 144,000 US troops are in Iraq, said Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, chief US military spokesman in Iraq, at an operational briefing in Baghdad this week.

The US has only one brigade in the US for every brigade deployed. Normally the US military wants 2 in the US for every 1 deployed. Due to the overstretch each brigade is getting only 1 year off from combat for every year in Iraq. All non-deployed brigades are rated as not ready.

Uh, oh. The Iraq invasion might cause more immigration to the United States in the form of foreigner serving as soldiers to get US citizenship.

Short of obligatory national service, moves such as opening the US military to foreigners with no US ties, but who wish to move toward US residence or citizenship, might be necessary for the Army to grow in a reasonable amount of time.

US policy in Iraq might go beyond "Invade the world" and even grow to include the second part of Steve Sailer's formulation "Invite the world". Throw in his "In hock to the world" since Iraq is getting paid for with deficit spending. "Invade the world, invite the world, in hock to the world" is increasing the risk of terrorism, lowering the quality of life in the United States, and saddling us with debts that'll harm our living standards even more in the longer run.

All Italian troops have left Iraq.

NASIRIYA, Iraq — Italy, the last major Western European ally of the United States and Britain in Iraq, ended its mission Thursday, handing the province under its control over to Iraqi troops.

So long and thanks for all the pasta.

Even the Brits are cutting down.

Britain may reduce the number of troops in Iraq by around half, after handing over control in Basra to Iraqis within the next nine months, a senior British commander has said.

The Brits are going to about half of the current 7000. By next summer they'll have only 3000 to 4000 troops left in Iraq. The US effectively will be on its own. But maybe the Brits will maintain a token force so that those who wish to delude themselves and others can pretend we still have an ally in Iraq.

The US has now lost more people in Iraq than we lost on 9/11. The Iraqis are losing more than one 9/11 worth of deaths per month due to sectarian violence and insurgency activities.

U.S. military deaths from Iraq and Afghanistan now surpass those of the most devastating terrorist attack in America's history, the trigger for what came next.

The latest milestone for a country at war came Friday without commemoration. It came without the precision of knowing who was the 2,974th to die in conflict. The terrorist attacks killed 2,973 victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Invasion of Iraq did not protect the American people from terrorists. Tough policies on immigration and visas could provide far more protection than anything the US could do militarily in the Middle East.

Aren't we forgetting some military? Who could I be thinking of? It is on the tip of my tongue. Why can't I remember them? Oh, right the Iraqi Army. Tribal Iraqi soldiers do not want to leave their home regions to go to Baghdad.

The U.S. needs 3,000 more Iraqi forces to join the battle in Baghdad, but requests have not been met because Iraqi soldiers are reluctant to leave their home regions, the commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad said Friday.

Maj. Gen. James Thurman said that while the U.S. has 15,000 troops in Baghdad _ which military leaders say is the priority battlefront in Iraq _ only about 9,000 Iraqi soldiers are there. That is just a fraction of the 128,000 Iraqi Army troops that the U.S. says are now trained and equipped.

Okay, our allies are all leaving. The Iraqis? Well, don't be fooled into thinking of "Iraqis" the way we might think of, say, "Dutch" or "Italians" or "Germans". The cousin marrying Iraqis aren't keen to fight away from home and extended tribal family. They focus on more local and family matters. In Bush-speak, the Iraqis have "family values".

One expert thinks the rate of torture in Iraq is now higher than it was under Saddam Hussein.

Manfred Nowak, the UN's chief anti-torture expert, captured the headlines round the world when he suggested that torture could be worse in Iraq now than it was under Saddam Hussein.

Torture is indeed at appalling levels in Iraq. Everyone, it seems, from the Iraqi forces to the militias to the anti-US insurgents, now routinely use torture on the people they kill.

Most bodies brought to the Baghdad morgue show signs of torture.

According to the report, bodies sent to the capital’s morgue habitually bore signs of severe torture, including acid-induced injuries, burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones, backs, hands and legs, missing eyes and teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails.

The Iraqi authorities confirmed that most of the bodies that were found in the past six months bore signs of serious torture.

“Unfortunately, the information released by UNAMI in its report is true and reflects the reality of Iraq today. Most of the bodies found were tortured and were sometimes even impossible to recognise,” said Dr Fa'aq Amin, director of the Institute for Forensic Medicine at the Ministry of Health.

The Sunnis turned against the US in Iraq due to Fallujah.

The US Department of Defense has now provided another measure of the problem it faces. Its latest opinion poll carried out in Iraq indicates that, among the five million Sunni Muslims there, about 75% now support the armed insurgency against the coalition.

This compares with 14% in the first opinion poll the Defense Department carried out back in 2003. It is a catastrophic loss of support, and there is no sign whatever that it can be effectively reversed.

The rise in hostility to the US forces is clearly linked to the onslaught against the town of Falluja in 2004.

This, we are told, was ordered directly by the White House and the Department of Defense after the bodies of four American defence contractors were hung from a bridge in April 2004.

Bush does not ride the clue train.

The shift of US forces into Baghdad has ceased to cut back on the killings. To celebrate the run-up to Muslim Ramadan the Islamic insurgents are killing more people in Baghdad.

"If you historically look at this time period just before and going into Ramadan, there has unfortunately been an increase in violence. That, in fact, is occurring within the city," said U.S. Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the senior military spokesman in Iraq.

Pray together and then kill together.

The Shiite side of the civil war is being funded by crime revenues that are about 4 times what the Iranians give Hezbollah every year.

SHIITE militias behind the sectarian killings in Baghdad are earning at least $US1 million ($1.3 million) a day through criminal enterprises, the US military believes.

The groups, which are accused of operating death squads to terrorise the city's Sunni population, are able to spend freely on weapons, pay salaries to the militiamen who carry out the killings and buy the loyalty of the Shiite population by funding social welfare programs.

...

The money came from "kidnappings, extortion, blackmarketeering and blackmail", Colonel Brown said.

The Mahdi Army control gasoline (petrol) stations and makes big money selling above the regulated price. Deregulating the price would cut back funding of militias.

The Iraqis have responded by going on drugs.

Psychopharmaceuticals, by contrast, are in good supply. Tranquilizers and antidepressants feature on most prescriptions, even for patients with sprained joints. "A large portion of Baghdad's adult population is on tranquilizers. Valium and Lorazepam are the most common," he says. "We lie awake every night, with the same thought running through our minds: no matter how bad today was, tomorrow is sure to be worse."

The Iraqis can no longer turn to alcohol for distraction.

Six months after the American invasion, the last store to sell beer in Amiriya closed its doors. Selling alcohol is a mortal sin - as even the district's warring gangs of Shiites and Sunnis agree. Barbershops have disappeared as well, because cutting hair is considered the ultimate in secular depravity. Some barbers have tried their luck in the cell-phone market. But that, too, is a risky business. Cell phones can play music and music is "haram" - immoral and forbidden according to the militias' religious code.

The American people are on a slow learning curve with Iraq. I really wish they'd get on the clue train.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 22 11:14 PM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs
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Will Middle East Start Nuclear Arms Race?

Stanley Kurtz worries Iran's getting nuclear weapons will set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that will lead to nuclear terrorism with untraceable bombs. Is this a realistic fear?

I found Time's latest cover story on "What War With Iran Would Look Like (and how to avoid it)," much less slanted against the military option, than I'd expected. True, the story was weak on explaining the actual dangers of a nuclear Iran. Time warned of a nuclear arms race between Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, but didn't explain how this would greatly increase the prospects of Muslim terrorists getting a bomb to plant on U.S. soil. Once many Muslim states have the bomb, the state source can no longer be traced, and it becomes a relatively simple matter to hand a nuke off to terrorists. Nor was there much here on the huge damage Iran could do by blackmailing itself into de facto control of the world's oil resources.

Yet Time acknowledged that a raid would have "a decent chance of succeeding," if at a "staggering" cost. Time also noted that the real "red line" (the ability to enrich enough uranium for a bomb) could be crossed in just a year. The biggest surprise of all was that Time rightly put little stock in the likelihood of a negotiated settlement. Time called the diplomatic approach "as much like a prayer as a strategy," and quoted an ex-CIA director saying "I don't think I've ever met an Iranian moderate." (Read that Michael Rubin piece and you'll see what he means.)

Sure, Time also covers those "staggering" costs: a huge and economically damaging oil price spike, the prospect of escalation from air raids to a major land war (at a moment when our military is already stretched to the limit) and the danger that after all the trouble and world condemnation, the raid won't even succeed. But all this is quite right.

One the one hand, we are faced with a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, nuclear blackmail and terrorist chaos at the heart of the world's Persian Gulf oil supply, and terrorist-planted nuclear weapons in America's cities. On the other hand, we can choose an economically disruptive war with Iran that will alienate us from the world, push us to and beyond our military limits, and that even then may not even succeed. The by now stock phrase, "there are no good options" doesn't quite do justice to the awful choice we face.

My guess is that Muslim states can't be trusted with nukes. I'm afraid people who have more loyalty to something other than a ruling government will turn nukes over to other groups. Is that reasonable fear? I'm very curious to hear sharp and well-informed arguments on why Arab or Iranian governments will control their nukes. Will the possession of nukes by a large number of Muslim states lead to untracable nuclear terrorist bombings? Or theft of nukes?

Without the fear of nukes getting out of the hands of sovereign governments I think the use of nukes by Muslim governments has very low odds. The elites have shown a willingness to avoid confrontations that might knock them out of power - let alone get them killed. Assad of Syria and Mubarak of Egypt do not want to launch attacks on Israel since they like being at the top of their national status and power pyramids.

Hosni Mubarak's son Gamal wants Egypt to develop nuclear energy.

CAIRO, Egypt -- The son of Egypt's president urged the nation to consider developing nuclear energy, a proposal that could help establish his own credentials as a serious politician and publicly distance him from the United States.

...

"We will continue using our natural energy resources, but we should conserve these resources for our future generations. The whole world is looking at alternative energy - so should Egypt - including nuclear," Mubarak told the gathering in Cairo.

The Mubarak dynasty wants to propagate itself, not get destroyed in mushroom clouds.

Gamal Mubarak appears to be in line to succeed his father and become the next King of Egypt (though as a sop to international and perhaps domestic opinion Kings in Egypt pretend they are really Western-style Presidents).

CAIRO -- It was back in May that many feel Gamal Mubarak was anointed the next president of Egypt.

...

In May, Gamal flew to Washington on what was supposed to be a secret visit, until details were leaked to the media. While in the U.S. capital, the 43-year-old got startling access for a private citizen who holds no official government position: a meeting with Vice-President Dick Cheney and another attended by Ms. Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

I'm sure some eager beaver blogger somewhere can explain how it is part of the brilliant Bush Administration democratization program for the Middle East to support the dynastic succession.

Does the United States need Egypt to behave nicely toward Israel so much that the US would continue to pay Egypt protection money for Israel's benefit even as Egypt developed nuclear power and eventually nuclear weapons?

The carefully crafted political speech raised the prospect of two potentially embarrassing developments for the White House at a time when the region is awash in crisis: a nuclear program in Egypt, recipient of about $2 billion a year in military and development aid from the United States, and Mr. Mubarak succeeding his father, Hosni Mubarak, as president without substantial political challenge.

Simply raising the topic of Egypt’s nuclear ambitions at a time of heightened tensions over Iran’s nuclear activity was received as a calculated effort to raise the younger Mr. Mubarak’s profile and to build public support through a show of defiance toward Washington, political analysts and foreign affairs experts said.

The United States is seen as the world's market dominant minority. This breeds resentment and the need of some to defy the US to demonstrate their masculine independent leader bona fides. We'd be better off if we were less visible in the Middle East since then Middle Easterners would spend less time reacting to us. We should protect ourselves by preventing them from coming here and by doing less stuff over there.

Update: There'd be a chain of causation that would lead to a Western city getting nuked by Muslim terrorists. Do each of the links in the chain work? I just wrote this up in an email trying to explain the specific components of my fear of Muslim state nuclear proliferation might lead to terrorists getting nukes:

My fear of transfer of Muslim nuclear weapons into the hands of non-state actors (i.e. terrorists) stems from my view that Arab countries are full of people who have less loyalty to the state. They have tribal and family loyalties and loyalties to Islam.

Was A.Q. Khan operating on his own in doing deals about nuclear technology or with the blessings of his superiors?

We certainly have examples of disloyalty to a state in order to help another state with nuclear technology. Americans have done it. Is it really that big of a jump from that to disloyalty in order to help a private group? The disloyalty hurdle for a single person doesn't seem so big.

But the next hurdle seems quite a bit bigger. Nukes are under guard. They are in (presumably) facilities that are hard to get access to. The number of people who have to either be disloyal or fooled would hopefully have to be very large. But I have no idea, for example, what security Pakistan has around their nukes or what security Iran will have around their's.

How big are these hurdles?

By Randall Parker 2006 September 22 04:54 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control
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2006 September 20 Wednesday
Bush Will Sign Border Fence Bill If Senate Passes It

Recently House Republicans revived the an enforcement-only approach to immigration with about a third of the House Democrats joining them to support 700 miles of border barrier on the US-Mexico border. This has put anti-borders pro-cheap immigrant labor Senators in a difficult spot. The US Senate has taken up the House proposal and may just pass it before the November 2006 elections.

The Senate continues debate today on a bill to construct 700 miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexican border. The House passed the bill last week. Today in the House, lawmakers will consider three measures to increase penalties on illegal immigrants and speed deportations.

Some Republicans expressed concern that passing the border enforcement bills now will slow momentum for broader immigration legislation, which the Senate passed in May. The House passed a bill emphasizing border security in December. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, who favors expanding opportunities for foreign agricultural workers, said crops are rotting in the field "because we in Congress haven't gotten our act together."

The phrase "broader immigration legislation" is code for an immigration amnesty and relaxation of enforcement that would gut any efforts to stop the Hispanic immigrant deluge. The crops are not going to rot in the field. If we do not have enough food the prices will rise slightly and that will increase supply. But of course the supermarkets are very well stocked and food prices haven't soared. Senator Craig is lying.

Faced with the need to satisfy voters the Democrats (and not a few cheap labor Republicans) are having a hard time finding a way to vote the way they want to vote.

For Democrats, the legislation presents a political dilemma. They must either support legislation that many consider inadequate or cast a vote that could be portrayed during fall campaigns as anti-border security. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the deputy Democratic leader, said his party members haven't decided how they will vote on the border fence bill. "We'll wait and see how this unfolds."

Senate Democrats may fail to block it.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said Democrats would try to force another vote on the broader Senate bill, which passed 62-36 in May, though he said Democrats expect Frist to use parliamentary tactics to block the move.

The narrower bill sets a May 2008 deadline for building the first 361 miles (581 kilometers) of fencing — along the border between California, and Arizona — and also requires 30 miles (50 kilometers) of fencing along the Laredo, Texas, border crossing.

This bill will cover over a third of the border. That'll free up Border Patrol officers to concentrate on the remaining areas. We need to keep pressure on Congress to extend the barrier along the entire US-Mexico border.

Republican politicians who want immigration amnesty and a guest worker program feel pressured by constituents into supporting more border barriers. George W. Bush says he'll sign a fence-only bill if Congress passes it.

Bush, in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, said he would sign a fencebuilding bill as part of efforts to strengthen the border. But he added, “I would view this as an interim step. I don't view this as the final product. And I will keep urging people to have a comprehensive reform.”

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said, “While I've made it clear that I prefer a comprehensive solution, I have always said we need an enforcement-first approach to immigration reform.”

The immigration restrictionist cause is gaining ground. Washington DC politicians are being forced to do what they do not want to do. Popular anger is being felt inside the beltway. Radio talk shows, blogs, other web sites, the Minutemen, and a few restrictionist TV commentatorys such as Lou Dobbs on CNN have together helped push the immigration debate far from where the elites want it to go. We are winning.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 20 10:17 PM  Immigration Border Barrier
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US Border Virtual Barrier Contract Up For Bid

Defense contractors and a cell phone company are competing to win a big US Department of Homeland Security $2.2+ billion contract to make difficult illegal entry into the US from Mexico.

If Northrop Grumman Corp. gets the multibillion-dollar contract to secure America's borders, the sky above the Rio Grande would be thick with drones.

Cellphone maker Ericsson Inc. thinks drones are largely a waste and would focus instead on giving Border Patrol agents wireless devices capable of receiving live video.

Boeing Co. would build high-tech towers, lining the borders with 1,800 of them.

For Lockheed Martin Corp., blimps are a big part of the solution. And for Raytheon Co., the key is letting agents watch incidents unfold on Google Earth.

Political support for better border control is going to make crossing increasingly harder every year going forward. Sensors and computers will become cheaper. More wall sections will get built. But we could do all this sooner, faster, and more extensively.

One big question is where to put the sensors.

All companies, for instance, offer an array of sensors, including infrared, motion and seismic. But they are divided over where to place them -- whether to bury them, mount them on towers, or send them airborne attached to planes, helicopters or unmanned aerial vehicles.

I think we should build a full multi-layer border barrier of fences, ditches, barbed wire, and walls for about $6 billion to $8 billion. Then the sensors could add an extra layer of protection to detect anyone who is trying to cross through the layers. The barrier would slow down the crossers long enough for the Border Patrol agents to reach a spot while illegal crossers are still in the barrier area.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 20 07:11 AM  Immigration Border Barrier
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2006 September 18 Monday
Video Game Brings In Army Recruits

Never mind the general public's souring on the war in Iraq. The US Army has hit upon a high tech fun solution to soldier recruitment problems. Video games have a far more powerful effect on the teen male mind than television news casts.

With more than 3,000 US soldier deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, the use of a video game and incentives such as free iPods to recruit replacements is a strategy that critics call misguided, even abhorrent. But for the Pentagon, "America's Army" is proving a potent way to communicate military values directly to the messy bedrooms where teens hang out.

"America's Army" is "a sort of virtual test drive," says its creator, Col. Casey Wardynski. "What we are looking to communicate is the ethos of being a soldier ... leadership, teamwork, values, structure."

In a recent informal survey of recruits at Fort Benning, Ga., which was conducted by the Army's video-game development team, about 60 percent of recruits said they've played "America's Army" more than five times a week. Four out of 100 said they'd joined the Army specifically because of the game. Nationwide, the game counts some 7.5 million registered users, making it one of the Top 5 online PC games.

The Army announced earlier this month it expects to exceed its 80,000 recruiting quota this year after missing it in 2005 for the first time since 1999, and officials say a range of recruitment tweaks - including easing up on the tattoo policy and up to $40,000 signing bonuses - have played a role. But few other ideas have been as effective in galvanizing potential recruits as "America's Army."

If you click through on one of the links and as a result you enlist and end up geting your legs blown off by some Muj in Anbar Province, Iraq do not blame me. I'm telling you right now: If you can't handle it then don't click on it!

I'm betting the games are not doing much to increase female recruitment. Violent video games are far more appealing to boys than to girls. Maybe the Army should come up with a game where female Army civil affairs officers work with poor families in civil war hell holes to get drinking water clear of dysentery and to rebuild the local kindergartens after terrorists blow up schools.

The US Army is really getting its money's worth on this game.

On July 4, 2002, the United States' Independence Day, the first version of America's Army, named Recon, was released after three years of development and production costs of US $7.5 million. Distributed as a free download or CD it quickly became one of the ten most often-played online first-person shooters. The game was easily available, the gameplay was similar to Counter-Strike, and it had the then brand-new Unreal Engine as well as free servers sponsored by the U.S. Army. The Army currently spends US $3 million a year to develop future versions of the game and US $1.5 million annually for server support

Anyway, what to make of this? Teenage boys are a bunch of naive fools. Nothing new here. They can be sucked in by a game. They want to blow things up and shoot things. Their left-liberal teachers keep knowledge of gritty war away from them (gotta spent that precious class time reading feminist fiction about how men are the scourge of the Earth and how women are all Earth mother Gaia protecting trees, birds, and babies). So when they come across a war game on the web they are too unsophistcated to interpret it. I say teach the boys in high school using John Keegan's The Face Of Battle and then they won't be quite so naive about what they are getting themselves into.

The US Marines have their own game but made the mistake of releasing it for commercial sale.

U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Command, Norfolk, Va. (October 6, 2004) – The Marines move with quickness and agility through the old, abandoned building in Beirut. It is not long before the Devil Dogs encounter resistance from enemy forces. The battle is fierce, but is over in mere moments, with the Marines emerging victorious. These Marines, however, never really fought this battle. The Leathernecks are virtual representations of Marines placed in a video game.

“Close Combat: First to Fight,” created by Destineer Studios, in association with Headquarters, Marine Corps, the 1st Marine Division and Atomic Games, is a new training tool to help Marines learn about combat, and show civilians the type of work Marine infantrymen do during combat missions.

“First to Fight” will be used as a learning tool to teach Marines about close combat in urban terrain. The player leads a four-man fire team in close quarters urban combat in the streets of Beirut. The game incorporates many doctrines that are currently in use by infantry units deployed around the world. More than 40 active-duty U.S. Marines, ranking from privates to colonels, who recently returned from frontline fighting in the Middle East assisted in the creation of the game, according the game’s official website.

The Marines ought to buy back full rights and give it away. US Marines recruitment would rise as a result.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 18 08:12 PM  Military Warrior Culture
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2006 September 17 Sunday
Muslims Bomb Churches In Anger At Pope Benedict

If someone told you that your religion advocates violence or spreads itself using violence would you react by blowing up houses of worship of other religions? Muslims are attacking churches in Gaza Strip and West Bank in protest at Catholic Pope Benedict's comments about Islam.

Churches in the West Bank and Gaza were damaged in several shooting and fire bomb attacks over the weekend, in response to the words of Pope Benedict XVI criticizing the Muslim religion. Thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Gaza to protest.

On Saturday, a Greek Orthodox Church in the Zeitoun neighborhood in Gaza City and four other churches in Nablus were attacked by Palestinians wielding guns, fire bombs and lighter fluid. At least five fire bombs hit the Anglican Church and its door was later set ablaze. Smoke billowed from the church as firefighters put out the flames. The fire bombings left black scorch marks on the walls and windows. No injuries were reported from those incidents.

On Sunday two more West Bank churches were set on fire as the wave of Muslim anger over the Pope’s comments continued. A small church in the village of Tubas was hit with fire bombs and was partially burned. In Tulkarm a stone church built over 170 years ago was torched, completely destroying the inside. According to local officials, neither were Catholic churches.

Writing in the Sunday Times of the UK Rod Liddle notes Muslims think they have the religion of peace but think they have the right to respond violently to anyone who denies their claim.

You can bet your life that by the time you read this, some Catholic priest toiling away in a godforsaken, dusty hellhole — Sudan, perhaps, or Turkey — will have been smacked about a bit, or had his church burnt down or been arrested without charge. The Pope should have been aware that Islam always reacts to western allegations that it is not a peaceful religion by mass outbreaks of vituperation, denunciation and acts of jihadic violence.

That this is a paradox seems not to be even remotely recognised by many Muslims. Commenting on the Pope’s speech, Tasnim Aslam, a spokeswoman for the Pakistani foreign ministry, came out with this little piece of doublethink beauty: “Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence.”

We should keep these people out of the West.

Some of the Muslims demanding an apology from the Pope are hardly examples of moderation and tolerance.

The murderous Muslim Brotherhood was the first out of the blocks, demanding that all Islamic countries cut their ties with the Vatican. The “liberal and moderate” Islamic scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (pro death penalty for homosexuals, female circumcision, suicide bombings against Jews and other similarly tolerant stuff) has insisted the Pope must apologise. Soon the placards will be out, the effigies, the foam-flecked demonstrators and attacks by adolescent suicidal nutters.

The Pope's forthcoming trip to Turkey may be cancelled by the Turks. Liddle suggests the Pope should demand the Turks stop mistreating Christians and also allow Muslims to convert to other religions. I agree.

A subtle and astute politician, perhaps Benedict should apologise for having caused offence — and then demand by way of reciprocation that Turkey — Islam’s democratic representative in the West — return to Christian denominations the land it has confiscated from them, allow the Christian churches to open seminaries (which they are barred from doing), make it easier to build new churches, and lock up Turks who terrorise priests. And maybe allow Turks to convert from Islam to Christianity without fear of official or unofficial reprisal. A fair exchange?

The Muslims do not deserve apologies from Westerners who speak their minds.

The Pope made the mistake of trying to appease the Muslims with an apology. But let us take a look at what he originally said that got the Muslims so bent out of shape. If Islam is a religion of peace then the Muslims who laid seige to Constantinople were bad Muslims.

I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on - perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was presumably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than those of his Persian interlocutor. The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between - as they were called - three "Laws" or "rules of life": the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur'an. It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point - itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole - which, in the context of the issue of "faith and reason", I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

So the Pontiff is talking about the thoughts of a Byzantine emperor whose city was under seize by obviously non-peaceful Muslims. The Muslims of course wanted peace to come to Constantinople by forcing the Christian inhabitants of the city to submit to Muslim rule and pay a higher rate of taxes than Muslims pay. That submission is what Islam expects of non-believers who at least are of "the book" (Jews and Christians). Of course, for other non-believers the Muslims can follow the instructions of their Koran and dole out even much harsher treatment such as death.

In the seventh conversation (*4V8,>4H - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached". The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (F×< 8`(T) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...".

Islam was spread by the sword by Mohammed, the founder of Islam. It was also spread by the sword by other Muslim leaders.

A Palestinian Muslim group may try to blow up all the Christian buildings in their territories.

A hitherto unknown group calling itself the Swords of Islamic Right on Saturday threatened to blow up all churches and Christian institutions in the Gaza Strip to protest remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

The group, which claimed responsibility for a shooting attack on the facade of a Greek Orthodox church in the Zeitoun neighborhood in Gaza City on Saturday, said it would not accept an apology from the pope.

On Saturday, four other churches in Nablus were also attacked by Palestinians wielding guns, firebombs and lighter fluid.

They'll peacefully destroy churches.

Some Italian conservatives are happy that the Pope aired an issue that most public figures shrink from discussing: whether Islam is violent toward non-believers who do not submit to Muslim rule.

And for many conservatives here, fearful of terrorist attacks in the name of Islam and rising Muslim immigration in Europe, the remarks of the pope — despite his own denial that he meant to criticize — amounted to a rare public airing of a delicate concern many of them share: whether, in fact, Islam is at the moment especially prone to violence.

Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister, said Saturday that the comments amounted to “an opening, a positive provocation, and so for this reason he is a great pope, with a great intelligence.”

I'd love to see the Europeans and Americans have a more honest discussion about the nature of Islam.

Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci recently died. Fallaci was not shy about speaking her mind on the nature of Islam and for this European governments persecuted her.

For four years I’ve been repeating to the wind the truth about the Monster and its accomplices; that is, the accomplices of the Monster who, in good or bad faith, open wide the doors–who, like [those] in the Apocalypse of John the Evangelist, throw themselves at his feet and allow themselves to be stamped with the mark of shame.

I began with “The Rage and the Pride.“ I continued with “The Force of Reason.“ I followed [those] with “Oriana Fallaci Interviews Oriana Fallaci,” and “The Apocalypse.” And in each one I preached, “Wake up, West! Wake up!“ The books, the ideas, for which in France they tried me in 2002, accusing me of religious racism and xenophobia. For which Switzerland asked our Minister of Justice to extradite me in handcuffs. For which in Italy I will be tried for vilifying Islam; that is, for an offense of opinion. (An offense that carries a sentence of three years in prison; none of which will be served by the Islamist caught with explosives in his cantina). Books, ideas, for which the “Caviar” left, the “Fois Gras” right, and even the “Prosciutto” Center have denigrated and vilified me, putting me in the stocks together with all who think as I do. That is, together with the sensible and unprotected people who are defined by the radical-chic in their frivolous talk as “the riff-raff of the Right.”

Fallaci felt passionately for Italy and the West and spoke out against our enemies who she was not afraid to name. That puts her above most of our politicians. She will be missed.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 17 09:58 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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False Analogies Between Islam And Western Ideologies

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey of registered voters from September 8-11, 2006 found most people do not buy George W. Bush's attempt to draw an analogy between terrorism and fascism.

President Bush has compared the war against terrorism to the fight against the Nazis and fascism. Do you believe that this is an appropriate comparison that reflects the danger of the current situation, or an inappropriate comparison that is only being made to justify the Bush policy in the war against terrorism?

Only 35% chose "Appropriate comparison/reflects the current danger". 59% chose "Inappropriate comparison/made to justify the Bush policy". 6% were unsure. So most people aren't gullible rubes on this one. That's gratifying. But 35% are still fooled.

In a recent speech Bush incorrectly painted terrorists and Iraqi insurgents as successors to Western totalitarian ideologies.

The enemies of liberty come from different parts of the world, and they take inspiration from different sources. Some are radicalized followers of the Sunni tradition, who swear allegiance to terrorist organizations like al Qaeda. Others are radicalized followers of the Shia tradition, who join groups like Hezbollah and take guidance from state sponsors like Syria and Iran. Still others are "homegrown" terrorists -- fanatics who live quietly in free societies they dream to destroy. Despite their differences, these groups from -- form the outlines of a single movement, a worldwide network of radicals that use terror to kill those who stand in the way of their totalitarian ideology. And the unifying feature of this movement, the link that spans sectarian divisions and local grievances, is the rigid conviction that free societies are a threat to their twisted view of Islam.

The war we fight today is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. (Applause.) On one side are those who believe in the values of freedom and moderation -- the right of all people to speak, and worship, and live in liberty. And on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremism -- the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest. As veterans, you have seen this kind of enemy before. They're successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to Communists, and other totalitarians of the 20th century. And history shows what the outcome will be: This war will be difficult; this war will be long; and this war will end in the defeat of the terrorists and totalitarians, and a victory for the cause of freedom and liberty. (Applause.)

I hope he does not believe what he's saying. I'd prefer that he's just lying to justify the Iraq Debacle in order to save his political hide. But I fear he really does believe his rhetoric.

The big mistake made by Bush and by "Islamo-fascism" label creator Christopher Hitchens is to try to fit Middle Eastern Arab Muslim political beliefs and behavior into a Western ideological framework. Yet another totalitarian ideology? I see this foolishness as due in part to a left-liberal and neoconservative liberal desire to see liberalism as the universal aspiration of all humanity. There is afoot a belief in a form of Liberal Manifest Destiny where it is the destiny of the world for every society to become liberal in character. This is an appealing vision for hardcore liberals because it allows those most liberal to picture themselves as a vanguard. In the univeralist version of liberalism higher status comes from imagining oneself as further along on the same trail that almost everyone else is travelling on. The more people that can be imagined as on the same trail (no matter how far behind most of them are) then the more people one can be ahead of in development. Therefore "advanced" liberals can look down on the less developed from a vantage point of higher status.

But the people who label Muslims (or subsets of Muslims) as fascists do so by ignoring evidence that undermines their own belief in the universalism of liberal values. The result is that the liberals and neocons attempt to place other civilizations into Western categories that obviously do not fit. I argued back in November 2002, Middle Eastern political factions are not motivated by ideology and their behavior is based on ties of blood and faith.

Racially and tribally based regimes predate the creation of modern fascism. Absent a European intellectual influence the Middle East would still have regimes that were centered around powerful families and clan loyalty with identification extending further out into ethnic group and religious identity. Consanguinity is the biggest underappreciated factor in Western analyses of Middle Eastern politics. Most Western political theorists seem blind to the importance of pre-ideological kinship-based political bonds in large part because those bonds are not derived from embrace of abstract Western ideological models of how societies and political systems should be organized. Samuel P. Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations argument is therefore demonstrated by the Western inability to understand societies that do not fit into any recognizeable modern Western ideological political category.

Lawrence Auster quibbles with my labelling of consanguinity as the most important underappreciated factor for understanding the Middle East and he argues that Islam is underappreciated by intellectuals willfully trying to ignore the Muslim elephant in the room (my terminology, not his). Well, at the time I wrote the quote above I naively expected the shock of 9/11 to cause intellectuals to become more honest about Islam. I was wrong. The intellectuals refuse to see the obvious because to admit to the obvious would require admitting that some key tenets of secular liberal faith are wrong.

I see the cousin marriage practice and Islam as mutually supporting. Islam essentially codified the beliefs and values of an Arab tribe of the 7th century. The cousin marriage practiced in Muslim lands today finds a supporting moral code in Islam. The practice is even maintained in urban environments in Western countries with large Muslim populations - see my post Over Half Of Pakistanis In Britain Married To First Cousins.

As for the belief of Bush that we can transform Muslim societies: Over a year ago Larry Auster dug up a quote from a British writer writing in the mid 1930s about the British occupation of Iraq. The Bush Administration is mouthing the same foolishness that was written about the British occupation of Iraq over 80 years ago. Iraq was supposedly firmly on the road to political and social modernity in 1935.

Iraq is moving steadily forward towards the modern conception of the State, with a single judicial and administrative system, unaffected by considerations of religion or nationality. The Millet system [i.e., dhimmitude—not reflected by this ridiculous euphemism!] still survives, but its scope is definitely limited. Even the Assyrian tragedy of 1933 does not shake our faith in the essential progress that has been made. The Government is endeavoring to carry out faithfully the undertakings it has given, even when these run directly counter to the long-cherished provisions of the Sharia Law. But it is not easy; it cannot be easy in the very nature of the case, for the common people quickly to adjust their minds to the new legal situation, and to eradicate from their outlook the results covering many centuries of a system which implies the superiority of Islam over the non-Moslem minority groups. The legal guarantees of liberty and equality represent the goal towards which the country is moving, rather than the expression of the present thoughts and wishes of the population. [Emphasis added.] The movement, however, is in the right direction, and it may yet prove possible for Islam to disentangle religious faith from political status and privilege. [S.A. Morrison, ‘Religious Liberty in Iraq’, Moslem World, 1935, p. 128]

Hope springs eternal.

Why did Sayyid Qutb and other Muslim intellectuals find so much about Western mating practices to get upset about? A reader of Steve Sailer writing to him from Istanbul says the idea of romantic love threatens Muslim men with the need to compete for women with higher status European males and they see this competition as deeply threatening. So ignore all their rhetoric which seeks to dress up their anger in a supernaturally derived code of ethics and look at them as males competing for status and women.

It is no coincidence that the so-called "romantic" norm has evolved among the European Caucasian demography because of the specific workings of the incest taboo. For the Eastern male, the female is not someone endowed with the legal status of having "sexual desire," or being the subject of desire. That is because in his social reality, females are assigned, by familial authority and fiat, their partners, period. Only in a social environment where the daughter is to be married to non-family (a stranger) can the question of she having a say on with whom she's coupled gain prominence. And that quite naturally, through the dynamic of parenthood. If you, as a parent, are simply wedding your daughter to your brother's son, there's no "emotions" to discuss: he's family. If, however, it is Mr. X, then you'll ponder, "Heck, is he worthy of our daughter?" And "Does our beloved girl consent?"

And it is only in such an environment that romance, and with it the intra-gender rivalry, can come to the fore.

In the East, the male doesn't know anything like having to "earn" a girl: sooner or later he's assigned one. In the West, he has to *get* the girl - attract her attention, be able to flirt with her, seduce her, etc.

This drives the Eastern male crazy.

The whole high-falutin' rhetoric of "morals" is just a blanket over this arrogance. Women who both dress so immodestly (since they, too, have to compete for the attention of desirable males) who then show the insolence of having a say in whom they are paired with. Unthinkable and unacceptable for the Eastern male...

Click through and read the whole thing.

Is there a solution to this problem? The obvious one is to separate ourselves from the Muslims so that they do not compete in the same status hierarchy as we do. Also, physical separation avoids the proximity that Muslim terrorists need to attack us.

This idea of attempting to physically separate Westerners and Muslims would put them into separate status and dominance hierarchies. We need to do this. The problem of resentment between races and religions and the resulting competition over dominance hierarchies reminds me of the writings of Amy Chua. In her book World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability she argues that market dominant minorities (e.g. Jews in Europe, Chinese in Southeast Asia) end up the targets of hatred of less successful lower status majority populations (though she ignores differences in average IQ as an obvious explanation for the differences in levels of success). Chua made one salient comment about the world as a whole and America's place in it: Chua says America is, in a sense, the world's market dominant minority. The difference is that Americans are more a nationality than an ethnicity. But the reactions of others effectively lump all Americans together as a sort of tribe.

Chua is not an anti-globalist but argues that the USA is, on a global scale, itself a 'market-dominant minority' and is now facing the backlash that her thesis indicates.

Sorry Amy, you have to place some limits on globalism or the resentments between ethnicities and tribes will increase. There are limits in human nature to how much globalism humans can handle. Some are especially likely to fill up with resentment and anger. We should formulate foreign and trade policies which account for the status needs of humans.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 17 05:08 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2006 September 16 Saturday
Iraq Economy Suffers High Inflation

Living standards are declining in Iraq because disruptions caused by the insurgencies are raising the costs of trade and transportation.

But Iraq's economy is weaker than at any point since the US invasion. Some estimate joblessness at 60 percent (the CIA shows a 30 percent rate for 2005), and prices for foodstuffs and basic goods have doubled - and in some cases tripled - since 2003.

Earlier this month, Iraq's planning minister, Ali Baban, said the rise in the consumer price index (CPI) - the basket of goods and services used to measure inflation - increased by nearly 70 percent in July compared with 12 months earlier. In July 2005, the CPI rose by 30 percent.

While the daily death toll frightens Iraqis - it topped 100 in the past two days alone - the country's economic grind is eroding the standards of living of millions of Iraqis and leading to mounting frustration in a country where the average monthly wage is less than $200.

Hunger is a problem. The higher the prices go the more people won't be able to feed their kids or themselves.

The violence in Iraq is cutting into the demand for labor and cutting output.

Usually when wages are flat and unemployment high, prices are stable, because consumption also stays flat. In developed economies like the US, inflation walks hand-in-hand with economic growth and job creation. But in Iraq, violence is driving the price increases, destroying jobs and testing a social net that was already weak before the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Economic despair, in turn, generates new recruits for the sectarian militias most responsible for the economic decline.

Corruption and the violence both are weighing down the Iraqi economy.

Corruption is another major problem. An audit sponsored by the United Nations last week found hundreds of millions of dollars of Iraq's oil revenue had been wrongly tallied last year or had gone missing altogether. Business is being done, but it isn't often very productive in nature. "There is a lot of activity in terms of trade and finance but there is not much activity in terms of production and that is not very healthy," said the central bank's Shabibi.

The financial corruption is probably filling a lot of Swiss bank accounts.

The Los Angeles Times reports that some Bush Administration officials have begun to think that Iraq would be better off under a strongman dictator. Um, you know, like Saddam Hussein.

Should a second government fail, it would not only raise questions about Maliki's effectiveness but might indicate that anyone would have difficulty leading Iraq. Few in the U.S. government so far have suggested anything as drastic as another change in the leadership, although some, frustrated by the lack of progress, have voiced a private view in recent weeks that Iraq might be better off under a traditional Middle Eastern strongman.

"But that's not the policy," said the second senior U.S. official, discussing the idea of changing governments again. "The policy is to prevent that from happening by making this government succeed."

Putting a Sunni dictator in charge would also yield strategic bonus points for neoconservatives who want to make Iran less of a potential future threat to Israel. An Iraq run by Sunni Arabs would make the Iranians think more about their own neighborhood and less about more distant countries that the Mullahs despise. The neocons really messed up by making Shias powerful in Iraq.

It is no wonder some Bush Administration officials are thinking about a dictator for Iraq. Democracy is not working - at least one in ways that people with Western values would want it to work. Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki can not crack down on the Shia death squads because democratically elected Shia political parties in his coalition support the death squads.

Despite their growing desire for action, U.S. officials say they recognize the difficulty Maliki faces in trying to lead a fractious government with only the narrowest base of public support. For example, though a top goal of both the Bush administration and the Maliki government is suppressing sectarian violence, it is difficult for the prime minister to try to bring pressure on groups associated with Sadr.

"People here recognize that it's a political reality that he depends on the votes of groups which, while not all dirty, have some ties to Shia death squads," the second senior official said. "He's a decent man, a serious person, but there are realities."

I wonder whether George W. Bush knows that democratically elected Shia political parties are supporting Shia death squads that are killing not just insurgents but just people who have Sunni-sounding names. A recent Bush speech on Iraq and terrorism is full of the same myths and delusions that characterised Bush Administration rhetoric on Iraq and terrorism a few years ago. Is he sincere when he makes ridiculous speeches or is he just trying to cover up the ways that the Iraq invasion was a mistake?

Update: The majority Shia Iraqi people elected leaders who support the infiltration of the government by Shia militiamen.

BAGHDAD, Sept. 16 — Shiite militiamen and criminals entrenched throughout Iraq’s police and internal security forces are blocking recent efforts by some Iraqi leaders and the American military to root them out, a step critical to winning the trust of skeptical Sunni Arabs and quelling the sectarian conflict, Iraqi and Western officials say. The new interior minister, Jawad al-Bolani, who oversees the police, lacks the political support to purge many of the worst offenders, including senior managers who tolerated or encouraged the infiltration of Shiite militias into the police under the previous government, according to interviews with more than a dozen officials who work with the ministry and the police.

This is democracy at work in Iraq.

The ministry recently discovered that more than 1,200 policemen and other employees had been convicted years ago of murder, rape and other violent crimes, said a Western diplomat who has close contact with the ministry. Some were even on death row. Few have been fired.

Shiite interior minister Jawad al-Bolani has to weigh reform against the risk of getting himself killed.

Mr. Bolani, a Shiite engineer appointed last May, sincerely wants to purge the ministry of Shiite partisans brought in by his predecessor, the officials interviewed said. But his independence from powerful Shiite political leaders — the very quality that earned him the job — also means Mr. Bolani has limited power to remove politically connected subordinates and enact changes.

“He’s got to be careful about what he does, just to stay alive,” the Western diplomat said.

His democratically elected colleagues will put out a hit on him if he goes too far and makes substantial reforms.

But deluded man of irrational faith George W. Bush still holds that democracy is a panacea.

"We believe that freedom is a gift from an almighty God, beyond any power on earth to take away," Bush said. "And we also know, by history and by logic, that promoting democracy is the surest way to build security."

Democracy in Mexico has built Nuevo Laredo into a shooting gallery between drug gangs, corrupt police, and corrupt soldiers (with considerable overlap between the soldiers and the drug gangs). Democracy in Iraq has fueled ethnic hatred. See my post from over two and a half years ago: Prospect Of Democracy Breeding Ethnic Hatred In Iraq. As for why too many liberals and neoconservatives (which I view as a type of liberal) can not see the implications of Iraq for their own beliefs see my comments on another site about how the desire to see liberalism as a universal aspiration of all humans blinds many intellectuals from admitting the obvious lessons that Iraq drives home.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 16 11:07 PM  Mideast Iraq Economics
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2006 September 13 Wednesday
Pope Benedict Criticises Muslim Holy War

The Pope takes a dim view of the Muslim embrace of holy war.

In his speech at Regensburg University, the German-born pontiff explored the historical and philosophical differences between Islam and Christianity and the relationship between violence and faith.

Stressing that they were not his own words, he quoted Emperor Manual II Paleologos of the Byzantine Empire, the Orthodox Christian empire which had its capital in what is now the Turkish city of Istanbul.

The emperors words were, he said: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Benedict said "I quote" twice to stress the words were not his and added that violence was "incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul".

Islam is not compatible with Western democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.

Muslims are angered by the Pope's remarks.

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI did not intend to offend Muslims with remarks about holy war, the Vatican said Thursday, scrambling to defend the pontiff as anger built in the Islamic world over his comments during a trip to Germany.

“It certainly wasn't the intention of the pope to carry out a deep examination of jihad (holy war) and on Muslim thought on it, much less to offend the sensibility of Muslim believers,” said Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

No doubt some Muslims want to wage holy war against the Catholic Church in response to the Popes' comments. Then again, some Muslims want to wage hoy war against the Catholic Church for promoting Christianity instead of Islam.

Benedict's unwillingness to call Islam a religion of peace puts Pontiff Benedict ahead of George W. Bush in public honesty.

Pope Benedict XVI yesterday refused to declare Islam "a religion of peace."

Asked by reporters whether Islam could be considered a religion of peace shortly before entering a meeting with priests and deacons of Valle d'Aosta in northwest Italy where he is spending a brief holiday, the pontiff refused to reply positively.

"I would not like to use big words to apply generic labels," he replied. "It certainly contains elements that can favor peace, it also has other elements: We must always seek the best elements."

Islam was founded by a Military leader and dictator. It was not a religion of peace at conception.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 13 04:35 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2006 September 12 Tuesday
Housing Foreclosures Rise In United States

Michigan and other "auto-wreck states" are leading the pack in foreclosures as auto industry lay-offs prevent auto workers from making their monthly mortgage payments.

More than 92,000 homes entered into some stage of foreclosure nationwide this July - up about 5 percent from June and 18 percent higher than in July 2005, according to RealtyTrac, an on-line marketplace for foreclosed properties.

Michigan was one of the hardest hit of all the states, with a 25 percent spike from a year earlier.

Dave Webb, owner of the Hudson & Marshall, reports that the majority of the 250 Michigan properties primed for auction, about 150 in all, lie within 60 miles of Detroit.

Now is a cheap time to move to Michigan.

California housing sales have dropped by almost a third.

Statewide, house sales dropped by 29.9 percent from a year ago, according to the California Association of Realtors.

That translates to an unsold inventory index statewide of 7.5 months, compared to an index of 2.9 a year ago. The California Association of Realtors uses the index to measure the number of months it would take to deplete the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate.

For Monterey County, July's unsold inventory index was 14 months; Salinas was 15. Last year in July, Monterey County had an unsold inventory index of just under 4, according to Sandy Haney, chief executive officer of the Monterey County Association of Realtors.

Business is booming for a web company that deals in housing foreclosures.

RealtyTrac, an online marketplace for foreclosure properties, said Wednesday it has been listed in the top 500 fastest-growing private U.S. companies by Inc. magazine.

In recent years rising consumer demand was driven by rising housing prices. People were willing to spend on a wide range of goods because they felt more affluent as the prices of their houses and condominiums rose in a bull real estate market. The national savings rate went negative in the United States. But now with the real estate bubble bursting in most parts of the US we run the real risk of a recession in 2007. That recession would likely turn into a world recession.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 12 09:42 PM  Economics Housing
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US Marine Intelligence Report Portrays Anbar In Iraq As Lost

Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post has gotten wind of a military report from the western Sunni Anbar province of Iraq which paints a very dismal picture of the war there. Col. Pete Devlin of the US Marines Corps serving in Anbar provice since February says we have lost Anbar.

The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.

He thinks Al Qaeda is the biggest political force in Anbar. If we had not overthrown Saddam Hussein then Saddam - and not Al Qaeda - would be the biggest force in Anbar and every potential rival group would be miniscule in size.

The US military has pulled a lot of troops out of Anbar and deployed them into Baghdad in order to head off the building civil war in Baghdad. Anbar is easier in some respects because few Shias are left in Anbar and so the Shias and Sunnis can't battle each other much in Anbar the way they can in Baghdad.

I doubt the US can maintain the current number of soldiers in Iraq. So local warlords and international groups will have a field day.

Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province's most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.

Devlin offers a series of reasons for the situation, including a lack of U.S. and Iraqi troops, a problem that has dogged commanders since the fall of Baghdad more than three years ago, said people who have read it. These people said he reported that not only are military operations facing a stalemate, unable to extend and sustain security beyond the perimeters of their bases, but also local governments in the province have collapsed and the weak central government has almost no presence.

Think about that. Anbar has little government left that derives power from the supposed central government in Baghdad.

The Sunnis fear (correctly in my view) that confederation will cut them out of oil revenue.

Feeling marginalized in the new Iraq, the Sunnis in Anbar have generally lost faith in the new government in Baghdad. The Sunnis' "greatest fears have been realized," the report notes.

The Sunnis' suspicion of the central government makes the task of forging a political reconciliation more difficult. It has also complicated one policy option that some critics of Bush administration's strategy have proposed as an alternative means of stabilizing Iraq: dividing the country into Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni enclaves.

Such a plan would not be welcomed by Sunnis, since they would not trust the central government to share proceeds from oil sales, the assessment notes.

As the situation has deteriorated, insurgent attacks have increased. The report describes Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as an "integral part of the social fabric" of Anbar. The organization, which is predominantly made up of fighters who are native Iraqis, is flush with cash, much of it earned from black market or criminal activity.

Okay, the terminology here is confusing. Al Qaeda is this international terrorist group which aims to blow up Westerners in the West if they can manage and they want to force everyone to convert to Islam. These "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia" are locals fighting for their tribes and sect of Islam (and for oil money!) against other tribes in a different sect that have all the oil money. Also, they are fighting American soldiers because those soldiers are in their neighborhood helping those other tribes in the other sect get the political power and oil.

But if Iraq was formally divided the Sunnis wouldn't get any oil revenue at all. If the Sunnis were left in charge of their own Sunni country they'd be helpless to do much about it.

Devlin's boss says his job is not to defeat the insurgency.

Marine Maj. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer told reporters in a telephone interview from his headquarters in Fallujah that he has enough U.S. troops — about 30,000 — to accomplish what he called his main mission: training Iraqi security forces.

"For what we are trying to achieve out here I think our force levels are about right," he said. Even so, he said the training of Iraqi soldiers and police had not progressed as quickly as once expected.

His job is not to defeat the insurgency because the US government would have to implement a draft to field a military force big enough to do the job. Either that or the US would have to use far more brutal and ruthless tactics such as kidnapping family members of tribes fighting in the insurgency and kill a subset of the people they capture. Neither of those options is in the cards.

Zilmer wants a political and economic solution.

What is needed, he said, is progress on the economic and political fronts that will undercut support for the insurgency.

Good luck on getting progress on economic and political fronts. The price of oil is already a multiple of what it was when the US invaded. No further help for the Iraqi economy can be expected on that front. Inflation is raging and the economy is hampered by the security situation. So it is hard for better economic times to improve security when the insurgency is keeping the security situation dismal and the economy throttled.

How about progress on the political front? Well, many powerful Shias in the central government are supporting death squads against Sunnis. The Sunnis wouldn't reconcile themselves to Shia rule under much better circumstances than these.

Zilmer the boss agrees with Devlin his intelligence chief.

Pentagon officials hastily arranged the interview with Zilmer in response to a series of news reports about a classified report by the chief of intelligence for the Marines in western Anbar province, Col. Pete Devlin. Zilmer said he agreed with the assessment by Devlin, who works for Zilmer, and he did not dispute news reports that characterized it as depicting Anbar as locked in a military stalemate with inadequate political progress.

What I want to know: When US forces pull out will the Shias become willing to put down the Sunni insurgency with utter ruthlessness? Or will they reach a deal to confederate or even to split apart entirely?

The invasion of Iraq was a massive miscalculation by incompetent people. To protect the West from terrorism we should isolate ourselves from Muslims. Imperialism combined with immigration is absolutely the wrong response.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 12 05:39 PM  Mideast Iraq Decay
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2006 September 10 Sunday
Hezbollah Beat Israel At Electronic Warfare?

An article in the Asia Times reports a variety of ways in which Hezbollah fighters, using technical help from Iran and Syria, were able to glean important battlefield information from Israeli forces in Lebanon while blocking Israeli attempts to block Hezbollah communications.

"Israeli EW [electronic warfare] systems were unable to jam the systems at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, they proved unable to jam Hezbollah's command and control links from Lebanon to Iranian facilities in Syria, they blocked the Barak ship anti-missile systems, and they hacked into Israeli operations communications in the field," Richard Sale, the longtime intelligence editor for United Press International, who was alerted to this intelligence failure by current and former CIA officials, told Asia Times Online.

In the next Arab-Israeli conflict will the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) take way the cell phones of Israeli soldiers going into battle?

Part of the reason for Hezbollah's decisive battlefield performance was that it was gleaning valuable information by monitoring telephone conversations in Hebrew between Israeli reservists and their families on their personal mobile phones.

We do not see much (or at least I haven't) about electronic warfare in Iraq where the insurgents use electronic measures to monitor or block communications of US forces. The insurgents use cell phones to set off bombs. Do they do anything more with electronics and communications?

By Randall Parker 2006 September 10 12:56 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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2006 September 08 Friday
August Baghdad Death Toll Revised To Tripled

You might ask how the city government in Iraq could announce a death toll for a month and then announce a new number that is 3 times bigger?

It turns out the official toll of violent deaths in August was just revised upwards to 1535 from 550, tripling the total. Now, we’re depressingly used to hearing about deaths here, so much so that the numbers can be numbing. But this means that a much-publicized drop-off in violence in August – heralded by both the Iraqi government and the US military as a sign that a new security effort in Baghdad was working -- apparently didn’t exist.

How often do Iraqi authorities understate the death toll?

The US military has developed a curious scoring system for progress where car bombings and mortar attacks do not count.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. officials, seeking a way to measure the results of a program aimed at decreasing violence in Baghdad, aren't counting scores of dead killed in car bombings and mortar attacks as victims of the country's sectarian violence.

In a distinction previously undisclosed, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said Friday that the United States is including in its tabulations of sectarian violence only deaths of individuals killed in drive-by shootings or by torture and execution.

That has allowed U.S. officials to boast that the number of deaths from sectarian violence in Baghdad declined by more than 52 percent in August over July.

We are doing great in Iraq. We have everything under control. We are making steady progress. Oh, and our war against Muslim terrorists is the same as our war in Iraq. Ooops, I slipped. The rah rah brigade around Bush wouldn't use "Muslim" in front of the word "terrorists". In fact, rather than have a war on an identifiable group they prefer a war on terrorism. Battle against an activity. Better to separate the terror from the terrorists. We don't want to offend anyone because deep inside even Jihadists are all liberal democrats waiting to get out.

The US military greatly exaggerated the decline in deaths.

Violent deaths for August, a morgue official told McClatchy Newspapers on Friday, totaled 1,526, a 17.7 percent decline from July and about the same as died violently in June.

I think we can count on governments to lie.

The issue of civilian casualties has been politically charged since the start of the Iraq war. Soon after the invasion, U.S. and Iraqi officials for a time forbade Baghdad's medical officials to release morgue counts.

About a week after the bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine in Samarra in February this year, a Baghdad morgue official, a Health Ministry official and an Interior Ministry official -- all of whom oversaw the morgue's body counts -- said 1,000 or more people had been killed as Shiite militias rolled openly across Baghdad to carry out retaliatory killings. Iraqi officials and Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, called that figure exaggerated, saying only about 350 people were killed. An international official in Baghdad said Health Ministry officials had cited the higher toll before lowering it in response to what he said was political pressure.

Baghdad health officials want to buy more refrigerators so they can process as many as 250 bodies a day. I commend their foresight in planning for civil war. They aren't just reacting to events. They are trying to get ahead of the curve.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 08 09:57 PM  MidEast Iraq New Regime Failures
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2006 September 06 Wednesday
US Housing Market Boom Ending

The party is over.

Home prices were 10 percent higher in the three months ended June 30, compared with the corresponding period last year. The quarterly appreciation rate of 1.17 percent, however, was the slowest since the fourth quarter of 1999, according to the analysis by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.

In contrast, in the second quarter of last year -- which many analysts describe as the height of the recent boom -- the quarterly rate was 3.65 percent. The change in the rate between those two quarters was the sharpest decline since the agency began tracking the data in 1975.

The housing boom replaced the dot com boom. What's going to be the next boom?

The full text of the report is online (PDF format).

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. home prices continued to rise in the second quarter of this year but the rate of increase fell sharply. Home prices were 10.06 percent higher in the second quarter of 2006 than they were one year earlier. Appreciation for the most recent quarter was 1.17 percent, or an annualized rate of 4.68 percent. The quarterly rate reflects a sharp decline of more than one percentage point from the previous quarter and is the lowest rate of appreciation since the fourth quarter of 1999. The decline in the quarterly rate over the past year is the sharpest since the beginning of OFHEO’s House Price Index (HPI) in 1975. The figures were released today by OFHEO Director James B. Lockhart, as part of the HPI, a quarterly report analyzing housing price appreciation trends.

“These data are a strong indication that the housing market is cooling in a very significant way,” said Lockhart. “Indeed, the deceleration appears in almost every region of the country.”

Possible causes of the decrease in appreciation rates include higher interest rates, a drop in speculative activity, and rising inventories of homes. “The very high appreciation rates we’ve seen in recent years spurred increased construction,” said OFHEO Chief Economist Patrick Lawler. “That coupled with slower sales has led to higher inventories and these inventories will continue to constrain future appreciation rates,” Lawler said.

House prices grew faster over the past year than did prices of non-housing goods and services reflected in the Consumer Price Index. While house prices rose 10.06 percent, prices of other goods and services rose only 4.41 percent. The pace of house price appreciation in the most recent quarter more closely resembles the non-housing inflation rate.

Will housing price rises drop below the overall inflation rate?

Will the retirement of the baby boomers make the housing bust long lasting?

The downturn in housing is overlapping with the retirement of the baby boom generation, which starts officially in 2008, when the first of 77 million boomers become eligible for Social Security. Most of them are homeowners, and many of them will presumably want to sell their homes, extracting some cash for retirement in the process.

Some analysts think both the stock and housing markets will go bearish when the huge post WWII cohort passes into retirement.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 06 09:59 PM  Economics Housing
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2006 September 05 Tuesday
Younger Workers Making Less

Young workers are getting paid less.

Census Bureau data released last week underlined the difficulties for young workers, showing that median income for families with at least one parent age 25 to 34 fell $3,009 from 2000 to 2005, sliding to $48,405, a 5.9 percent drop, after having jumped 12 percent in the late 1990’s.

The good times rolled in the 1990s. But globalization and the pop of the dot com boom have been hard for many American workers.

Debts for college graduates have soared even as starting salaries have dropped.

In 2004, 50 percent of graduating seniors borrowed some money for college, with their debt load averaging $19,000, Dr. Rouse said. That was a sharp increase from 1993, when 35 percent of seniors borrowed for college and their debt averaged $12,500, in today’s dollars.

Even though the economy has grown strongly in recent years, wages for young workers, especially college graduates, have been depressed by several factors, including the end of the high-tech boom and the trend of sending jobs overseas. From 2001 to 2005, entry-level wages for male college graduates fell by 7.3 percent, to $19.72 an hour, while wages for female graduates declined 3.5 percent, to $17.08, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group.

What I wonder: Have students responded to higher college tuition and lower starting salaries by choosing majors which provide more and better job skills? If they have shifted toward better paying training then the drop in college graduate wages understates the decline in demand for people with college degrees.

Health care coverage is down for jobs college graduates take.

In a steep drop over a short time, 64 percent of college graduates received health coverage in entry-level jobs in 2005, down from 71 percent five years earlier.

College has become too expensive. Time to make lectures available on DVDs and automate education.

Yet recently the demand for labor has begun to cause a big increase in compensation.

John Lonski, chief economist at Moody's Investors Service, points to the gross domestic product report, the broadest measure of the economy. Wage and salary costs of nonfinancial corporations were up 9.7 percent from a year ago, according to the GDP report released Wednesday. That's the biggest increase since the fourth quarter of 1984. Total compensation grew by 9.3 percent year over year, also the steepest increase since 1984's fourth quarter.

But this increase in demand is coming years into an economic recovery which probably does not have a lot of time left to run.

Since 2000 the amount of mortgage debt has increased 97% and lots of adjustable rate mortgage monthly payments are heading up due to higher interest rates.

Among the most exposed are those who bought into one of the great fads in mortgage lending in recent years -- adjustable rates. Next year, $1 trillion worth of adjustable-rate mortgages -- about 11 percent of all outstanding mortgage debt -- is scheduled to readjust to a higher interest rate for the first time, according to LoanPerformance, a research company. This will come after more than $400 billion of readjustments this year. That means millions of homeowners will either have to refinance or shoulder an increase of perhaps 25 percent in their monthly payments.

The higher payments for mortgages will cut demand for a wide variety of goods and services. The political fallout of wage trends, higher interest rates, and higher fuel costs works against Republican candidates.

"Republicans are worried," added R. Bruce Josten, an executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a significant backer of pro-business -- and therefore predominantly Republican -- congressional candidates. "You have a portion of the middle class that doesn't believe it's benefiting from good economic news, and, in fact, it's not. . . . All the blame doesn't go to Congress, but voters are going to take it out on Congress anyway."

The Republicans should have hiked the minimum wage and deported all the illegal aliens. Their lower class voters would be more inclined to vote Republican.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 05 09:30 PM  Economics Labor
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2006 September 04 Monday
Shia Insurgents Killing Sunnis In Iraqi Hospitals

I do not want to write about Iraq. It is a tragedy. It is a debacle. It is a horror. But we should not ignore it or simply listen to whatever politicians are saying about it. We need to watch the events in Iraq. The hospitals are no longer safe for Sunnis to use.

In Baghdad these days, not even the hospitals are safe. In growing numbers, sick and wounded Sunnis have been abducted from public hospitals operated by Iraq's Shiite-run Health Ministry and later killed, according to patients, families of victims, doctors and government officials.

As a result, more and more Iraqis are avoiding hospitals, making it even harder to preserve life in a city where death is seemingly everywhere. Gunshot victims are now being treated by nurses in makeshift emergency rooms set up in homes. Women giving birth are smuggled out of Baghdad and into clinics in safer provinces.

These women who are giving birth outside of hospitals aren't doing that because they are insurgents. The Shia death squads are obviously not discriminating enough to only target real Sunni insurgents.

People in the democratically elected Iraqi government (which is of course an ally of the US government against the insurgencies) are probably involved in killing the hospital patients.

According to patients and families of victims, the primary group kidnapping Sunnis from hospitals is the Mahdi Army, a militia controlled by anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr that has infiltrated the Iraqi security forces and several government ministries. The minister of health, Ali al-Shimari, is a member of Sadr's political movement. In Baghdad today, it is often impossible to tell whether someone is a government official, a militia member or, as is often the case, both.

If you are American or British your tax dollars support that regime. People world over support it when they buy gasoline.

The Mahdists claim they are killing people who are themselves killers. But I suspect they are not so discriminating.

Before Feb. 22, when the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra unleashed a wave of sectarian killing and retribution, U.S. authorities and others believed the primary force behind Shiite death squads was the Badr Brigade, the militia of another large Shiite organization, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. But since the bombing, the Mahdi Army appears to have taken the lead in extrajudicial trials and executions, according to Joost Hiltermann, a project director in Jordan for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

For suspected enemies taken by the Mahdi Army, the outcome is swift, with guilt and punishment already determined, the commanders said.

"If we catch any of them, the takfiris, Saddamists, bombers, we don't hand them over to police. He could be freed the next day," the Sheik said.

Bush pretended (or was he deluded) that Iraq has something to do with the war on terrorists who want to attack Westerners. But Osama Bin Laden was supported by wealthy Wahhabi Sunni Arabs from Saudi Arabia, not from Iraq. Bin Laden got his recruits from many countries but mainly Saudi Arabia. Bush still wants us to believe we are fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. But mostly we are fighting Sunni and Shia groups that hate each other even more than they hate us.

Iraqis who do not die in sectarian violence have to figure out how to afford food.

Fuel and electricity prices are up more than 270 percent from last year’s, according to Iraqi government figures. Tea in some markets has quadrupled, egg prices have doubled, and all over the country the daily routine now includes a new question: What can be done without?

Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll, who was held captive by Sunni insurgents before finally being freed, reports that the Sunni insurgents see Shiites as greater enemies than the Americans and they didn't even see the Shias as Muslims.

could also see that Shiites were high on their list of enemies. Once, when attempting to explain the historical split between Sunnis and Shiites, Abu Nour, the leader of my captors, stopped himself after he referred to "Shiite Muslims."

"No, they are not Muslims," Ink Eyes said. "Anyone who asks for things from people that are dead, and not [from] Allah, he is not a Muslim."

He was referring to Shiites appealing to long-dead Islamic leaders to intercede with God, asking for miracles such as curing the sick. It's a practice similar to that of Catholics praying to saints.

But after the Feb. 22 bombing of the Askariya Shrine, and rampant Sunni-Shiite killing, nearly every captor I came into contact with would tell me about their hate for Shiites first. Abu Nour now simply referred to them as "dogs."

The Shias and Sunnis need a divorce. They distrust and hate each other too much at this point. Separate them. It is the most humane thing we could do. Then leave. Or leave now.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 04 10:56 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Conflict
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Muslims In America Turning Away From Assimilation

Writing for the Washington Post Geneive Abdo reports on what she found talking to Muslims in America. They are turning away from assimilation.

If only the Muslims in Europe -- with their hearts focused on the Islamic world and their carry-on liquids poised for destruction in the West -- could behave like the well-educated, secular and Americanizing Muslims in the United States, no one would have to worry. So runs the comforting media narrative that has developed around the approximately 6 million Muslims in the United States, who are often portrayed as well-assimilated and willing to leave their religion and culture behind in pursuit of American values and lifestyle. But over the past two years, I have traveled the country, visiting mosques, interviewing Muslim leaders and speaking to Muslim youths in universities and Islamic centers from New York to Michigan to California -- and I have encountered a different truth. I found few signs of London-style radicalism among Muslims in the United States. At the same time, the real story of American Muslims is one of accelerating alienation from the mainstream of U.S. life, with Muslims in this country choosing their Islamic identity over their American one.

The basic tenets of Islam are incompatible with assimilation. Therefore Muslims who come to Western countries are settlers, not immigrants. They do not come to join our societies. They come to recreate their own societies side-by-side with ours. British Muslims when polled put their Muslim identities and loyalties ahead of their British ones. Abdo reports on the same process happening in supposed melting pot America. So much for the neoconservative claim of the mythical uniqueness of America that supposedly makes us immune to the problems of Old Europe.

A Muslim woman proudly proclaims her right to not assimilate to American culture.

Ismahan recalled similar experiences. In elementary school, she had tried to fit in. As an adult, though, "I know I don't have to fit in," she said. "I don't think Muslims have to assimilate. We are not treated like Americans. At work, I get up from my desk and go to pray. I thought I would face opposition from my boss. Even before I realized he didn't mind, I thought, 'I have a right to be a Muslim, and I don't have to assimilate.' "

We are going to have an alien nation, a balkanized nation. Why do this to ourselves?

Also see my post Over Half Of Pakistanis In Britain Married To First Cousins. Also see Larry Auster's posts Muslim Miss England Turns On England and From "peaceful" conversion to jihadist mass destruction, Islam is a single continuum.

Update: Some conservative Muslim groups in the United States advocate the creation of completely self-sufficient Muslim communities to allow Muslims to separate themselves from non-Muslims.

Twelve girls sat in rows at the front of the community room in Silver Spring's Muslim Community Center, calming their nerves with giggles and girl talk. In their sweaty hands, they held prepared speeches. On their heads, they wore scarves in a rainbow of colors: pink, brown, gold, white and lavender.

The seventh- and eighth-graders were competing in a debate on this question: Is a segregated, all-Islamic upbringing key to protecting your Muslim identity?

Eight of the dozen argued yes, using variants of the theme offered by Fatimah Waseem. Young Muslims "join with the non-Muslims, copy them and look up to them. This is hurting our identity. . . . Sometimes, we turn way from Islam," she said. "In conclusion, . . . we cannot sway in the wind and become weak. We need to be protected . . . by segregation."

The kids want to segregate.

If Western culture is alien to Muslims values then doesn't Muslim immigration bring in people whose values are incompatible with Western values?

Dar-us-Salaam, whose Friday prayer services draw 500 to 700 worshipers, describes on its Web site its plan to create an Islamic enclave as a way to sustain its members' Muslim identity and spread Islam by example. Besides a mosque and school, "such an Islamic environment would include . . . businesses and shops for employment and basic needs, housing, medical and financial institutions."

This dream reflects the strict Salafi approach of Saudi-trained Safi Khan, Dar-us-Salaam's imam, who believes that Muslims in this country need close-knit communities to cope with pressures from law enforcement officials and a Western culture alien to Islamic values.

All cultures and religions do not promote the same values or beliefs. All cultures and religions are not compatible. We ignore these basic facts at our peril.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 04 10:31 PM  Immigration Culture Clash
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States Cheat On Standardized Tests

The call is rising to take away from states the ability to define their own school testing standards. Currently the law gives unethical politicians (under pressure to maintain liberal myths and dogmas about human nature) to cheat by using easy standard tests to fake student progress. States use tests that make their children look brighter and more educated than they really are.

Maryland recently reported that 82 percent of fourth-graders scored proficient or better in reading on the state's test. The latest data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as "the nation's report card," show 32 percent of Maryland fourth-graders at or above proficiency in reading.

Virginia announced last week that 86 percent of fourth-graders reached that level on its reading test, but the NAEP data show 37 percent at or above proficiency.

The No Child Left Behind legislation is better termed No Lie Left Behind. It was designed to allow cheating by states and local schools so that the Dogma of Zero Group Differences (DZGD) can go unchallenged - at least while currently elected members of Congress and other current elected officials remain in office. Push the truth out into the future. It is so inconvenient.

The emphasis on testing was supposed to increase accountability of schools and perhaps to spur some competition. But standardized testing can not change the fact that America is not Lake Woebegone where all children are above average. Nor can testing change the racial gaps in school achievement. But a move to national standard tests is the next logical step so that politicians can pretend they are finally making the move that'll fix things. But the next logical move will make the contradictions in the dogma harder to deny. I'm curious to see what the our lying elites will do when national standardized tests do not help.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 04 09:05 PM  Education
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Real Estate Commissions Under Pressure From Internet

The internet ought to reduce the labor and cost involved in buying and selling homes. But the real estate industry fights to protect the 6% commission.

The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission have fought these tactics in Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma, among other states, and the department is suing the National Association of Realtors, the powerful trade group of agents and brokers, over what it calls anticompetitive rules.

...

Some economists wonder why agents fight so hard to maintain this pricing system when it is making so few of them rich. In every housing boom, the number of new agents entering the market tracks the climb in home prices. As a result, the average agent sells far fewer homes and makes less money. On average, agents earn $49,300 a year, according to the National Association of Realtors, and that is before paying for their own health insurance and retirement benefits.

“It’s a case where nobody wins,” Chang-Tai Hsieh, an associate professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, said of the current system. Mr. Hsieh, who has studied real estate commissions, said that they did not vary much from 6 percent and did not generally change in good times or bad. He said it was a form of price fixing, but an odd one. “Consumers pay a lot of money, and even the people who do the price fixing don’t win,” he said. “So it is a colossal waste.”

Realtors spend most of their time trying to get and keep listings. Therefore real estate sales is a colossal waste of labor. When sales and prices rise more people become realtors and so more labor is wasted by too many realtors chasing too few listings. An end to the price fixing would reduce the cost of home selling and also drive a lot of people out of real estate sales into more productive forms of work.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 04 06:21 AM  Economics Industry
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2006 September 03 Sunday
Wyoming Teens Big Alcohol Abusers

Kids in Wyoming are bored out of their minds by the desolation and get wasted on alcoholic beverages.

A federal government survey recently confirmed what residents of Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas already knew: people there drink to excess, at very early ages, well above the national average.

The survey, conducted over three years by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said south-central Wyoming led the nation with the highest rate of alcohol abuse by people age 12 and older. In Albany and Carbon counties, more than 30 percent of people under age 20 binge drink — 50 percent above the national average.

In examining behavior in 340 regions of the country, the survey found that 7 of the top 10 areas for under-age binge drinking — defined as five or more drinks at a time — were in Wyoming, Montana and North and South Dakota.

What I find curious about this: Video games, text messaging phones, and the internet have not become big enough sources of teen entertainment to stop kids in rural areas from getting blotto. How to keep teenagers in rural areas sufficiently distracted to prevent them from dying behind the wheel drunk out of their skulls?

Parents who think cities are poisonous influences on their kids with drugs and gangs ought to consider the threat of going too far in the other direction.

I'm thinking some day when DNA testing is really cheap and lots of genetic risk factors for drug and alcohol abuse are known parents will want to check for genetic risk factors for alcoholism before deciding to move their families out into the sticks. Given the wrong variation on alcohol dehydrogenase the prudent parent might want to consider raising their kids in a town where the local culture frowns on alcohol consumption. Anyone know which parts of America have very low levels of alcohol consumption?

By Randall Parker 2006 September 03 08:37 PM  Human Nature
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British Arrest More Muslim Terrorist Suspects

Britain is harvesting the bitter fruits of multiculturalism and Muslim immigration.

LONDON, Sept. 2 -- Authorities arrested 16 people early Saturday in two unrelated anti-terrorism operations in London and Manchester, reflecting growing concern over the threat of homegrown Islamic extremism in Britain.

The larger operation, in London, resulted in the arrests of 14 suspects, including some who were seized when police raided a Chinese restaurant south of the Thames River. Scores of police officers backed by helicopters also searched the 54-acre grounds of an Islamic school in a village southeast of London.

The authroies say the groups in London and Manchester are unrelated to each other and unrelated to the group arrested for plotting to blow up passenger airplanes with liquid explosives.

The guy in charge of Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorist Branch in London, Peter Clarke, told a BBC interviewer that British authorities are watching thousands of Muslims as potential supporters of terrorism.

Asked roughly how many people in the UK police were looking at in the belief that they may be involved directly or indirectly in terrorism, Mr Clarke said: "I don't want to go down the numbers game, I don't think it's helpful.

"All I can say is that our knowledge is increasing and certainly in terms of broad description, the numbers of people who we have to be interested in are into the thousands."

When pressed further on the figure, he added: "As I say, that includes a whole range of people, not just terrorists, not just attackers, but the people who might be tempted to support or encourage or to assist."

The United Kingdom is looking more like the Divided Kingdom.

Mr Clarke, interviewed for BBC Two’s Al-Qaeda: Time to Talk?, added: “What we’ve learnt since 9/11 is that the threat is not something that’s simply coming from overseas. What we’ve seen all too graphically and all too murderously is that we have a threat which is being generated here within the United Kingdom.”

The figures provided by Mr Clarke are the highest that any investigator has been prepared to reveal in public, and indicate the pressure faced by police and MI5.

His estimates of possible suspects include not only activists prepared to carry out attacks but the extremist recruiters who find and encourage them and the supporters who house them, raise cash and help them.

Watching that many people has got to be fairly expensive.

The 54 acre grounds of the Jameah Islameah Islamic school at Mark Cross, near Crowborough is suspected as the training site used by terrorist recruiters to radicalize potential recruits.

It used the school grounds, which include a lake and an area of woodland, for survivalist exercises. Young recruits had to listen to extremist lectures on religion and politics.

Police are believed to have intervened after intelligence reports indicated a discernible change in the nature of the rhetoric and language of the alleged recruiters.

Detectives believe that while the group was still being radicalised, no targets had been identified and any possible terrorist attack was a long way off.

An Imam from London bought the school and 54 acres of grounds to enroll all of 9 children.

According to its Ofsted report last year, the school in Mark Cross had only nine boys on its roll, aged from 12 to 15, and inspectors found it failed to provide a satisfactory education.

George W. Bush would have us believe that faith-based educational institutions are automatically institutions for good because they are, well, faith-based. He would also have us believe that Islam is a religion of peace. Never mind that Islam's founder was a military leader and dictator who expanded his religion by conquest and mass murder. Never mind that Muslims are taught all should submit to Islam.

The root problem is Islam and isolation of Muslims from the West is the best defense. No, we can not reform the Muslim religion. No, we can not change its base texts. It is what it is. We should accept it and be honest about its nature when we talk about it. Pretending or hoping that it is something that it is not will not help us any.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 03 06:06 PM  Immigration Terrorism
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Bush Policies Leading To Republican Electoral Disaster

Bush is a disaster for the Republican Party.

Facing the most difficult political environment since they took control of Congress in 1994, Republicans begin the final two months of the midterm campaign in growing danger of losing the House while fighting to preserve at best a slim majority in the Senate, according to strategists and officials in both parties.

Over the summer, the political battlefield has expanded well beyond the roughly 20 GOP House seats originally thought to be vulnerable. Now some Republicans concede there may be almost twice as many districts from which Democrats could wrest the 15 additional seats they need to take control.

President Bush's low approval ratings, the sharp divisions over the war in Iraq, dissatisfaction with Congress, and economic anxiety caused by high gasoline prices and stagnant wages have alienated independent voters, energized the Democratic base and thrown once-safe Republican incumbents on the defensive.

Go back to when Bush first took office in 2001 and consider decisions he could have made to avoid damaging Republican popularity with the electorate.

First off, Bush could have passed on invading Iraq as colossal waste of time, money, lives, security, and US influence in the world. Iraq would have pumped more oil with Saddam Hussein firmly in control and the US could have allowed him to up production. This would have slightly reduced the run-up in oil prices.

Second, could have cracked down on illegal immigration and supported a reduction in legal immigration - especially of the less skilled. That would have reduced housing costs, improved wages for the lower classes, and even reduced domestic oil demand. Plus, the reduction in low skilled low wage immigrants would have reduced pressures on state and local governments to pay for the services and prisons to deal with the immigrants.

Lower class people hardest hit by immigration would have been far more supportive of the Republicans if the Republicans had come down on firmly on their side.

Bush also could have formulated a more aggressive energy policy designed to reduce demand for oil from Muslim oil sheikdoms. Conservation measures and greater funding for research and development into alternative energy sources would have positioned the Republican party as working to reduce our need to buy increasingly expensive oil.

Republicans, your leader's decisions have shafted the party.

Some Republican candidates know that George W. Bush and Karl Rove are monumentally wrong on the issues of immigration and Iraq.

Mr. Rove remains a dominant adviser to President Bush, administration officials say. But outside the White House, as Mr. Bush’s popularity has waned, and as questions have arisen among Republicans about the White House’s political acumen, the party’s candidates are going their own way in this difficult election season far more than they have in any other campaign Mr. Rove has overseen.

Some are disregarding Mr. Rove’s advice, despite his reputation as the nation’s premier strategist. They are criticizing Mr. Bush or his policies. They are avoiding public events with the president and Mr. Rove.

Influential conservative commentators have openly broken with the White House, calling into question the continued enthusiasm of evangelicals, economic conservatives and other groups that Mr. Rove has counted on to win elections. Some Republicans are ignoring Mr. Rove’s efforts to hold the party together on issues like immigration and Iraq.

Rove is spending big time on Republican get-out-the-vote campaigns. That'll help the Repubs.

Bush could spend the next 2 years under investigations by Democrat-controlled Congressional committees.

Mr. Rove has warned associates that a Democratic takeover in Congress would mean an end to Mr. Bush’s legislative hopes and invite two years of potentially crippling investigations into the administration.

Yet Bush refuses to shift position on immigration. He refuses to acknowledge the obvious on Iraq. Maybe he (and, more importantly, the nation) needs having him whacked up side the head by Congress for a couple of years.

My nightmare scenario is that Bush will make an immigration deal with a Democrat-controlled Congress and bring on a massive wave of immigration that makes the current problems small by comparison. He'd be willing to do it. I think the Democrats in Congress would too. What would stop them? Popular opinion? I figure they think they can get away with ignoring it.

One policy the Democrats would push through is a big increase in the minimum wage. That would reduce the demand for low skilled Hispanic immigrants. I think the Democrats should hike the minimum wage to $12 per hour. They could do it believing that no reduction in demand for labor would result. I'm happy to have them act on their delusions on this issue. But I'd rather they didn't act on their delusions on immigration policy.

Update: Also see Lawrence Auster's post We dodged immigration catastrophe this year—but what about next year? Larry argues that Republicans in the Congress need to run on immigration restriction if they are to have any chance of keeping control of houses of Congress. I agree.

By Randall Parker 2006 September 03 10:12 AM  Politics American Domestic
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