2006 October 29 Sunday
About A Fifth Of South African Men Have Committed Rape

Modern Tribalist Adam Lawson points to reports of a study which found about a fifth of South African men have committed rape.

Johannesburg- One in five South African men has committed rape at least once, according to a study reported Tuesday. The figures, described as shocking in news reports, were compiled by the Gender Health Research unit of the country's Medical Research Council.

Of the 1,370 males between the ages of 15 and 26 years that were interviewed, about 8 per cent admitted to sexually violent behaviour towards their intimate partners, while 16,3 per cent said they had raped a non-partner or participated in some form of gang rape.

Note: The "16,3" is 16.3 percent but with a continental style of denoting a decimal point. The figure reported might underestimate the portion that has raped. Consider that they interviewed males between 15 and 26. Some might eventually commit a first rape even if they haven't done so yet. Some might not even commit their first rape until after the age of 26. Some might not admit to having raped or might not consider a past sexual encounter as rape even though in Western countries what they did would be considered rape.

Add in the men who rape intimate partners with those who rape strangers and the result gets up to pretty close to a fifth of all African men.

Also noted was an overlap of 44 percent of men raping non-partners and intimate partners. The mean age at which respondents first raped a woman was 17.

What percentage of all South African women have been raped? Is it more or less than half?

Women in particular should seriously reconsider if you have any thoughts of visiting South Africa. It is a very dangerous place.

Speaking of reconsideration, the political Left is always slow to learn - kinda like George W. Bush. Anti-apartheid South African novelist Andre P Brink has lost faith in the post-apartheid black regime of South Africa.

In his latest article, Brink wrote in answer to ambassador Noma-sonto Sibanda-Thusa, that "during the first 12 years after our first democratic election, I tried to convince everybody inside and outside the country who doubted the new South Africa, that the negative aspects of the transition were only temporarily and superficial coincidences. Today I cannot say that any more".

On August 24 he strongly criticised South Africa's "new elite" in the same daily, saying their actions were "directly related to the increase in violence in the country". "Their first priority is apparently to fill their own pockets and those of family and friends and to abuse their positions, even if they have to step on the victims of murder, rape and violence and telling those who dare protest to shut up or leave," wrote Brink.

Given the choice between shutting up and leaving I suggest to South African whites that they leave. In fact, even if they can keep talking they ought to leave. Start working on what you need to do to establish yourself somewhere else. For South African farmers Brazil is a good option. Some South Africans (and not a few Americans) have profitably set up farming operations in Brazil.

World Cup fans probably shouldn't plan on attending the World Cup in 2010 - unless it gets moved.

THE distinguished anti-apartheid novelist André Brink has shocked many of his politically correct countrymen by warning that football’s World Cup, coming to South Africa in 2010, threatens a “potential massacre which could make the Munich Olympics of a few decades ago look like a picnic outing”.

Brink, whose novels were banned by apartheid governments and who has twice been nominated for the Booker Prize and shortlisted several times for the Nobel Prize for Literature, is no everyday scaremonger.

Looks like the 2010 World Cup will be educational for many.

When the whites are driven off the farms South Africa will know hunger like Zimbabwe does.

Since 1994 well over 1,600 white farmers have been killed. Sources inside SA tell The Zimbabwean that while the government blames criminal elements for their deaths it is doing next to nothing to implement badly needed land reforms that meet black aspirations without destroying the agricultural sector.

Last year, a leading South African businessman said: "In Zimbabwe, it was government policy that created the conditions in which 10 farmers were killed. In South Africa lack of government policy has led to the conditions in which 1,600 white farmers have been killed. It is part of the same movement."

But in Zimbabwe, the infinitely smaller number of white farmer deaths created uproar all over the world. About South Africa there has been no such outcry.

Black anger is growing and armed gangs carry the message to the stoeps of European owned farms.

Twelve years after Nelson Mandela was made SA President, some 40,000 whites dominate all aspects of food production. They still own the best land.

1600 white farmers have been killed. But only 40,000 whites are running food production. That death rate ought to be high enough to start a serious stampede of the 40,000. When that happens watch for starvation on the scale in which it is seen in Zimbabwe.

Update: Rian Malan is another white novelist who opposed the apartheid regime. Malan thinks South Africa is going down and whites are finished in South Africa.

Malan's memoir of growing up in the apartheid, My Traitor's Heart, painted a devastating picture of the brutalities of the regime and, only two years ago, he was hailing the first country as a veritable "paradise".

Sliding towards decay

But in the latest edition of Britain's The Spectator magazine, Malan concluded the country was now sliding towards decay.

"We thought our table was fairly solid and that we would sit at it indefinitely, quaffing that old Rainbow Nation Ambrosia," he wrote.

"Now, almost overnight, we have come to the dismaying realisation that much around us is rotten."

Malan identified what he calls the purging of whites from the ranks of civil service as the root cause of the decay.

"There won't be a civil war. Whites are finished. According to a recent study, one in six of us has left since the ANC took over and those who remain know their place."

People like Malan were foolish and deluded themselves about what black rule would be like.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 29 06:10 PM  Civilizations Decay
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Immigrant Advocacy Groups Oppose Citizenship Fee Hike

Some groups which want more fellow members of their ethnicities to become US citizens oppose a fee hike for processing citizenship applications.

Immigrant advocacy groups are decrying an array of proposed federal measures, including application fee increases and online filing requirements, that they fear will sharply reduce the ability of some legal immigrants to become U.S. citizens.

As President Bush signed a controversial bill last week authorizing 700 miles of new fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, immigrant rights groups charge that the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services is erecting a virtual "second wall" that would disproportionately hurt Mexican immigrants, who tend to be less educated and earn lower incomes than others.

We should want to let in people who are less educated, who earn less, produce less, pay less in taxes, and use more taxpayer-funded services such as medical treatments? I don't think so.

The demand for easy entrance and easy path to citizenship is an entitlements mentality. They think they are entitled at our expense. Wrong.

Another way of thinking about this is that these people do not think US citizenship is worth $800.

Last week, a coalition of more than 230 religious, labor and immigrant rights groups delivered a letter to citizenship bureau Director Emilio Gonzalez, expressing strong concern about application fee increases that could double to $800, a "digital barrier" of a mandatory online filing system, extensive new paperwork and a revised history and civics test they fear could be more difficult.

"Together they appear to us a clear strategy pursued through administrative fiat to make the dream of American citizenship unattainable for many lower-income, less-educated immigrants," said the letter, which was initiated by the Chicago-based Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

I want nothing better than to make citizenship unattainable for lower-income, less-educated immigrants. Great idea. How about raising the cost of citizenship to, say, $25,000? Too low? How high would you suggest?

While I'm at it: Even residency permits should cost much more. Anyone who can't afford to pay, say, $10,000 a year to live here as a non-citizen isn't doing something important enough to be here.

Another approach: Sell at auction a relatively small (say 100,000) fixed number of citizenship slots per year. DItto for technical worker permits.

I can see one exception: Academic researchers make big contributions which the market does not do a good job of pricing. Market failure effectively prevents the vast bulk of research results from being sellable. So we could grant an exemption to worker permit fees for academic resarchers.

I'd also like the citizenship bureau to be required to do a search on each citizenship applicant to identify all uses of government-funded medical services by the applicant and the applicants dependents. In order to gain citizenship a person should be requiired to pay back all taxpayer-funded medical treatments and also to pay into an account to buy medical insurance for the applicant's family for, say, 10 years.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 29 02:57 PM  Immigration Policy
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More US Soldiers Deeper In Debt

Accumulating debts are making a rising number of US soldiers into security risks barred from overseas duty.

Data supplied by the Navy, Marines and Air Force show that the number of clearances revoked for financial reasons rose every year between 2002 and 2005, climbing ninefold from 284 at the start of the period to 2,654 last year. Partial numbers from this year suggest that the trend continues.

More than 6,300 troops in the three branches lost their clearances during that four-year period. Roughly 900,000 people are serving in the three branches, though not all need clearances.

The Army -- which employs 500,000 people and accounts for the vast majority of the 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan -- rejected repeated requests to supply its data, saying such information is confidential.

Among the causes? High interest rate payday lending businesses located next to military bases. They prey on young soldiers. I worry that the US financial industry has become far too effective at preying on innate weaknesses in human character. The ability to satisfy desires for instant gratification is becoming too automated. The marketing pitches are becoming more sophisticated. As a result the upper class makes a lot of money and the lower class piles up debt rather than accumulating assets and investments.

Maj. Gen. Michael Lehnert of the US Marine Corps says soldiers returning from fighting have been shifted so far into living for the moment by the experiences on battlefields that they are more susceptible to pitches to buy on credit.

Some personnel fall into debt after returning from combat. "It can be hard to cut that sense of elation and desire to live for the moment," Lehnert said. "Some tend to get themselves overextended financially."

Debt is a huge problem probably bigger than drug abuse. But wealthy powerful legal businesses protect it just as the gambling industry protects their own ability to peddle vices to the susceptible.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 29 10:58 AM  Economics Family
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Parents Spending More Time With Children

A new study argues that time spent by mothers and fathers with their children has increased in the last few decades.

“We might have expected mothers to curtail the time spent caring for their children, but they do not seem to have done so,” said one of the researchers, Suzanne M. Bianchi, chairwoman of the department of sociology at the University of Maryland. “They certainly did curtail the time they spent on housework.”

The researchers found that “women still do twice as much housework and child care as men” in two-parent families. But they said that total hours of work by mothers and fathers were roughly equal, when they counted paid and unpaid work.

Using this measure, the researchers found “remarkable gender equality in total workloads,” averaging nearly 65 hours a week.

The findings are set forth in a new book, “Changing Rhythms of American Family Life,” published by the Russell Sage Foundation and the American Sociological Association. The research builds on work that Ms. Bianchi did in 16 years as a demographer at the Census Bureau.

At first, the authors say, “it seems reasonable to expect that parental investment in child-rearing would have declined” since 1965, when 60 percent of all children lived in families with a breadwinner father and a stay-at-home mother. Only about 30 percent of children now live in such families. With more mothers in paid jobs, many policy makers have assumed that parents must have less time to interact with their children.

But, the researchers say, the conventional wisdom is not borne out by the data they collected from families asked to account for their time. The researchers found, to their surprise, that married and single parents spent more time teaching, playing with and caring for their children than parents did 40 years ago.

I took a graphic from the article and translated it into the tables shown below for how mothers and fathers spend their hours. I suspect 65 hours per week total time spent that the study finds for mothers and fathers includes time not captured in the table below. I suspect commuting time and shopping time might account for the rest of the 65 hours per week not captured in the tables.

Mothers hours spent per week:

YearChild careHouseworkPaid workTotal
19651032850
19759241548
19858201947
199510192352
200013192354

What caused the increase in time spent in child care? Are parents more afraid to let their kids play unsupervised? Or did automation of household cleaning simply allow mothers to spend more time with their kids and so they are exercising a previously frustrated desire? Or do mothers feel a need to spend more time helping with homework? Mothers I know spend a lot of time driving their kids around to events that mothers around my neighborhood didn't spend when I was a kid.

Now compare it to the hours spent by fathers. Note that the trend toward a shorter work week has stopped and even reversed.

Fathers hours spent per week:

YearChild careHouseworkPaid workTotal
1965344249
1975364150
19853103649
19954103549
20007103754

From 1995 to 2000 the fathers took on more child care and more job work responsibilities. How has time worked changed since 2000? I bet the last 6 years have gotten even worse on the job front.

Note that the kids are seeing more time with both mom and dad, going from 13 hours total to 20 hours total. This time does not include time spent together while the parents are doing other things such as cleaning and shopping. Have the kids just shifted from time spent while mom vacuums to time where mom talks to them about their homework?

Another thing I'd like to know: Have households become more difficult to clean due to carpeting as compared to wooden floors? My guess is that back 100 years ago the standards for cleanliness for kids' clothing were not as high and the kids wore clothing longer between washings. Can any old readers comment on how often their clothes were washed in the 1930s or 1920s?

I'd also like to know how much time spent commuting has increased. The figures above do not appear to capture commuting time. I also suspect the figures do not capture shopping time.

I'd also like to know what made possible the decrease in hours doing housework. Are homes dirtier? Or did automation save that much time? Consumption of take-out food and restaurant meals has certainly increased. How much has the use of maid services contributed to a decrease in hours spent cleaning? No-iron clothing has reduced the need for time laboring over the ironing board (and I buy only non-iron shirts and pants)..

Marie Cocco argues that the much maligned working mothers sacrifice everything in their lives but time with their kids.

Now the research makes the stereotypes that pit selfish careerists against virtuous stay-at-home moms seem meaner than ever. Especially since the researchers found that women who work haven't only given up housework, they've given up big parts of themselves. Employed mothers sleep fewer hours per week and have much less discretionary time than mothers who don't work. They spend less time with their spouses and friends, the time diaries showed.

What drove these changes in the allocation of time by mothers and fathers? Any insights?

Oh, and how much time does the Roomba save?

By Randall Parker 2006 October 29 06:40 AM  Economics Family
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2006 October 28 Saturday
Tax Revenues Outpace Medicaid Costs First Time Since 1998

US state tax revenues managed to grow faster than the Medicaid program costs for the poor medically uninsured for the first time since 1998.

WASHINGTON, DC – State revenues increased faster than Medicaid spending for the first time since 1998, according to a new 50-state survey released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured (KCMU). The survey finds that an improved economy combined with the implementation of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit has contributed to a 2.8 percent growth rate in Medicaid spending for state fiscal year (FY) 2006 – the lowest rate of growth in a decade and the fourth consecutive year in which Medicaid spending growth has slowed. (See Figure 1 below.)

There's an interesting graph at the URL showing that in 2002 Medicaid costs grew 12.4% while state revenues declined 7.8%. State revenues also declined in 2003. Hard years for the states.

Medicaid is one of the government programs that subsidize employers who use low skilled imimgrants - both illegal and legal - as well as the children and grandchildren of those immigrants. The market price of labor understates the real cost of low priced labor for this and other reasons (e.g. schools, prisons, police).

Growth in employment helped reduce the growth in demand for Medicaid.

Positive economic conditions also contributed to a slowdown in Medicaid enrollment growth, which in turn helped reduce spending growth. The 1.6 percent enrollment growth for FY 2006 is the lowest rate since 1999 – nearly half the 3 percent growth predicted by Medicaid officials for the year. “When the economy improves, it is natural for Medicaid spending and enrollment growth to subside because fewer people turn to the program for assistance,” said Diane Rowland, executive vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation and executive director of KCMU. “But with the continued growth in the uninsured population, Medicaid remains on the frontlines for coverage for low-income children and adults.” Looking forward to FY 2007, the survey finds a handful of states (5) plan to restrict eligibility while over half (26) plan to restore cuts from previous years, expand to new populations, or make positive changes to Medicaid’s application and enrollment process. Additionally, states are contemplating new options and implementing new requirements created by the passage of the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) this year, although few have used the flexibility to change benefits and cost sharing requirements for FY 2007.

Medicaid is one of the unfunded entitlements that the US federal government forces on the states. Part of the Medicare drug benefit cost was also foisted on the states. I'm amazed I've never read this before.

The budget survey of state officials, conducted by KCMU and Health Management Associates for the sixth consecutive year, found that the spending growth of 2.8 percent would have been even lower (1.7 percent) had states not been required to finance a portion of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit via what is known as a clawback payment.

In 2007 Medicaid costs will grow more rapidly and likely once again outpace state tax revenue growth.

Despite the slowed growth, state Medicaid officials indicate that growing health care costs and the erosion of employer-sponsored health coverage are two reasons that overall pressure to constrain Medicaid spending has not subsided. In fact, based on budgets states adopted for FY 2007, Medicaid spending growth is projected to increase to 5 percent next year.

When the US goes into its next recession the gap between Medicaid cost growth and revenue growth will probably match the 2002 pattern. A downturn will lead employers both to lay off and also to cut medical benefits for those employees they keep. The trend of medical costs rising faster than inflation is going to end up hollowing out other functions of government while also driving up taxes.

The rise in the number of medically uninsured does not just increase the cost of government programs for the poor. Medical uninsurance also causes rising cost shifts onto the medically insured. This is one reason why raises haven't kept up with inflation for many workers. Employers are instead spending more on medical insurance. Immigrants have especially high rates of medical uninsurance. The lower skill level of illegal immigrants especially drives up the number of medically uninsured. We pay for this while a small fraction of the business owners derive big benefits at our expense.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 28 08:14 PM  Economics Health
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North Korean Regime Grip Weakens

New York Times reporter Norimitsu Onishi interviewed 20 North Koreans in Bangkok along with Christian missionaries, government officials, and others with knowledge about North Korea in both Thailand and North Korea. He finds that away from Pyongyang the grip of the central government is weakening and cash has become a more powerful force than ideology. (great article worth reading in full)

The increasing ease with which people are able to buy their way out of North Korea suggests that, beneath the images of goose-stepping soldiers in Pyongyang, the capital, the government’s still considerable ability to control its citizens is diminishing, according to North Korean defectors, brokers, South Korean Christian missionaries and other experts on the subject. Defectors with relatives outside the country are tapping into a sophisticated, underground network of human smugglers operating inside North and South Korea, China and Southeast Asia.

North Koreans who have gotten out pay smugglers to get relatives out. You can imagine how this cycle could feed on itself as more people escape and earn the money to buy the way for still more to leave. A US government program to loan the North Koreans in South Korea money to finance the flight of relatives could speed up this process.

We should think about this. Fully featured smuggling services get a North Korean out of North Korea, provide passport and other documents and a flight to South Korea within a few days for $10,400. A smuggling trip out of North Korea to Mongolia or Southeast Asia costs about $3000.

In a country whose borders were sealed until a decade ago, defectors once risked not only their own lives but those of the family members they left behind, who were often thrown into harsh prison camps as retribution. Today, state security is no longer the main obstacle to fleeing, according to defectors, North Korean brokers, South Korean Christian missionaries and other experts. Now, it is cash.

“Money now trumps ideology for an increasing number of North Koreans, and that has allowed this underground railroad to flourish,” said Peter M. Beck, the Northeast Asia project director in Seoul, South Korea, of the International Crisis Group, which has extensively researched the subject in several Asian countries and is publishing a report. “The biggest barrier to leaving North Korea is just money. If you have enough money, you can get out quite easily. It speaks to the marketization of North Korea, especially since economic reforms were implemented in 2002. Anything can be bought in the North now.”

“The state’s control is weakening at the periphery,” Mr. Beck said, explaining that most refugees came out of the North’s rural areas but few from around Pyongyang, where the state’s grip remained strong.

The United States could probably afford to collapse the North Korean regime just by paying to smuggle out a large number of people. In particular, the US could offer to smuggle out those people most essential to the regime. Electric power plant operators for example. Or, hey, get a lead on all the people working on the North Korean nuclear program and offer them a fast trip out and large cash prizes once they get to South Korea. We are spending $2 billion a week on Iraq. Suppose the US withdrew from Iraq. Imagine what that money could money buy by removal of valuable workers vital to the survival of the Pyongyang regime.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 28 07:22 PM  Korea
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Medical Cost Of Dying Varies Regionally

Dying is expensive but how expensive depends on where you live.

If you are dying in Miami, the last six months of your life might well look like this: You'll see doctors, mostly specialists, 46 times; spend more than six days in an intensive care unit and stand a 27% chance of dying in a hospital ICU. The tab for your doctor and hospital care will run just over $23,000.

But spend those last six months in Portland, Ore., and you'll go to the doctor 18 times, half of those visits with your primary care doctor, spend one day in intensive care and stand a 13% chance of dying in an ICU. You'll likely die at home, with the support of a hospice program. Total tab: slightly more than $14,000.

Why do some people spend a lot of time in an ICU dying? I had an example of how this happens explained to me by a hospice nurse (and my meeting with her was not the least bit casual or accidental either): If you have relative who has, say, metastatic bone cancer and they have a heart attack you might think to call for paramedics. Mistake. What will the paramedics do? Cardiopulmonary resuscitation. That'll break some rib bones (brittle from the cancer) and then they'll rush your elderly injured dying relative to the hospital to be treated for heart and bone breaks. But recovery is not possible. Once on life support they'll last maybe days or even weeks or months longer. Tens of thousands of dollars will flow from the US Treasury into coffers of the hospital and various consulting physicians of an assortment of specialties. Your relative will end life with lots of inserted tubes and a respirator and surrounded by strangers.

People worry about the cost of health care. Well, is the three and a half times higher cost of final days in New York City buying anything over the costs of Wichita Falls?

Portland and Miami reflect that tremendous variation among regions. The most expensive city out of 309 hospital referral regions is Manhattan, at a cost of $35,838 for the last six months; the least expensive is Wichita Falls, Texas, at $10,913.

Estimates show that about 27% of Medicare's annual $327 billion budget goes to care for patients in their final year of life.

That $88 billion spent in the final year of life is about three times what the US National Institutes of Health spend on research to find real effective cures that will some day prevent those killer diseases from making those final years into final years. Effective cures will be far cheaper than ineffective treatments too. Stem cell therapy will be cheaper than open heart surgery and nursing care for stroke victims. Gene therapy and immunotherapy that cure cancer will be cheaper than radiation, chemo, and surgery for cancer.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 28 02:16 PM  Economics Health
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2006 October 26 Thursday
Voters Upset By Mandatory School Testing Results

Lots of voters do not like to be told their kid is below average.

LAUDERHILL, Fla. -- School exams may be detested by students everywhere, but in this state at the forefront of the testing and accountability movement in the United States, the backlash against them has become far broader, and politically potent.

The role of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT, has become central to the race to succeed Gov. Jeb Bush (R), with polls showing a growing discontent over the exams, which he has championed and which are used to determine many aspects of the school system, including teacher pay, budgets and who flunks third grade.

Republican Charlie Crist is offering to push forward with the testing regime, but Democrat Jim Davis has condemned what he calls its "punitive" nature, arguing that exam pressures have transformed schools into "dreary test-taking factories."

"Couple years ago one of my sons brought this quiz home, and the first question was 'What does the FCAT stand for?' " Davis told a meeting of clergy here Saturday. "I won't repeat to you what I said because I used words I'm teaching my boys not to use. . . . We're going to stop using the FCAT to punish children, teachers and schools."

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation which has caused the states to institute mandatory testing is better called No Lie Left Behind. In obedience to the dictates of the leftist commissars about what is permissible to believe about human nature the legislation assume that all children are bright enough to learn topics which require IQs well over 100 to master. But since the real world is not the mythical Lake Woebegone where all children are above average the myths embodied in the legislation have collided with the reality of a growing proportion of dim bulbs in the class rooms (thanks Open Borders advocates) and the kids aren't measuring up to the feigned expectations of the leftists.

In other states voters are also upset to be told their kids are dumb.

A similar exam revolt has become a key issue in the race for governor in Texas, another state in the vanguard of the testing movement, and the issue has roiled the Ohio gubernatorial contest as well.

America's domestic policy political debate is conducted under the rubric of a set of lies. Until that changes most of the resulting policies will remain either useless or destructive.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 26 07:22 AM  Education
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2006 October 25 Wednesday
Big Drop In Home Sales For September 2006

The National Association of Realtors reports a big drop in home sales for September 2006.

WASHINGTON, October 25, 2006 -

Existing-home sales eased last month, as did the number of homes available for sale – indicating the housing market is stabilizing, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Total existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – dipped 1.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of 6.18 million units in September from a level of 6.30 million in August, and were 14.2 percent below the 7.20 million-unit pace in September 2005, which was the third strongest month on record.

David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, said stabilizing sales should build confidence in the housing market. “Considering that existing-home sales are based on closed transactions, this is a lagging indicator and the worst is behind us as far as a market correction – this is likely the trough for sales,” he said. “When consumers recognize that home sales are stabilizing, we’ll see the buyers who’ve been on the sidelines get back into the market, and sales will be at more normal levels in the wake of the unsustainable boom that we saw last year.” He noted sales already are improving in some areas.

Total housing inventory levels fell 2.4 percent at the end of September to 3.75 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 7.3-month supply at the current sales pace.

The year-on-year price drop was the biggest since 1968.

The median price of a home sold in September fell 2.2 percent to $220,000 from $225,000 a year ago. It was the biggest year-over-year drop since the trade group began tracking median home prices in 1968.

California home sales tanked.

Statewide, home sales decreased 31.7 percent in September, the association reported, while the median price of an existing house increased 1.8 percent.

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting discussion between housing economists Celia Chen, Christopher Mayer, and Susan Wachter about the likely macroeconomic effcts of the housing market correction. Mayer expects declining interest rates and construction costs to limit the extent of the drop. They have a spirited and well informed discussion on whether adjustable rate mortgages increase the sizes of both housing booms and busts. Chen's estimate for the GDP impact of the housing correction is too small to kick the US economy into a recession.

The bad news is that the correction will take about one half of one percentage point off of GDP growth this year and another three quarters of a percentage point off of growth next year, as the slowing in housing hurts employment, construction activity and reverses the wealth effect.

The good news is that the market is correcting, not crashing -- and other economic drivers are strong enough to withstand the hit.

They also argue that regional differences in the housing market are so large that you have to to look at your own region closely rather than just look at national aggregate numbers.

A recession at this point would amplify the housing price drop and increase the number of mortgage foreclosures. New Jersey is seeing early indications of problems with mortgage payments.

According to statistics compiled by the state's leading real estate foreclosure data service, SheriffSalesOnline.com -- http://sheriffsalesonline.com -- the number of lis pendens filed in the state of New Jersey has risen from 967 in September of 2005 to 1649 in September of 2006 – a breathtaking rise of 71%.

And a year-to-year third quarter comparison for the state of New Jersey reveals an equally dramatic increase of 44% -- from 2486 New Jersey lis pendens filed in the third quarter of 2005, to 3577 filed in the third quarter of 2006.

"Lis pendens court filings are the first legal step taken in the home foreclosure process that indicate a homeowner is behind in his or her payments and headed for foreclosure," says Jeffrey Posner, president of the Fairlawn-based SheriffSalesOnline.com, which provides comprehensive and timely advance notice of such troubled properties in the Lis Pendens, Public Notice and Sheriff List stages to his subscribers.

Still, a few thousand mortgages with late payments is small stuff for a state with millions of people.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 25 08:53 PM  Economics Housing
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2006 October 23 Monday
Christians Flee Iraq When They Can

The Islamic fundamentalist attacks on Christians in Iraq have intensified after Pope Benedicts critical (but accurate) remarks about Islam.

"Their leader [the Pope] has verbally abused and offended our religion and the Prophet. Unfortunately, he did not analyse the consequences of his speech. Our country is an Islamic land and they [Christians] will have to rely on the Pope's charity from now on," said Abu Jaffar, an Islamic extremist from Muhammad's Army, a Sunni insurgent group.

Carlo and her family have lost three of their relatives over the past two weeks and she received a threat on Monday.

Probably the only section of Iraq where Iraqi Christians have a chance is in Kurdistan. But I'm guessing ultimately the US government will exit Iraq in a way that shafts the Kurds. That'll make life even worse for Iraqi Christians in Kurdistan.

Two thirds of the Christians in Baghdad's Al Dora district have fled.

Up to a dozen centres of Catholic life and worship, including a seminary, a monastery, several religious houses and at least five churches have been closed in Baghdad's Al Dora district, known as 'The Vatican of Iraq'.

About two-thirds of the 900 Christian families living there have been forced to leave as a result of Sunni militants taking control of the district and carrying out ethnic cleansing along strict religious lines.

Estimates for the number of Christians who have left Iraq since the US invasion run as high as over 100,000.

Estimates of the resulting Christian exodus vary from the tens of thousands to more than 100,000, with most heading for Syria, Jordan and Turkey.

The number of Christians who remain is also uncertain. The last Iraqi census, in 1987, counted 1.4 million Christians, but many left during the 1990’s when sanctions squeezed the country. Yonadam Kanna, the lone Christian member of the Iraqi Parliament, estimated the current Christian population at roughly 800,000, or about 3 percent of the population. A Chaldean Catholic auxiliary bishop, Andreos Abouna, told a British charity over the summer that there were just 600,000 Christians left, according to the Catholic News Service.

At the Church of the Virgin Mary, Father Khossaba showed a visitor the baptism forms for parishioners leaving the country who need proof of their religious affiliation for visas. Some weeks he has filled out 50 of the forms, he said, and some weeks more.

A town in the Kurdish zone is considered to be one of the safer places of refuge for Christians fleeing Arab cities in Iraq.

About a thousand Christian families, from Mosul, Baghdad, Basra and elsewhere, have taken refuge in Ain Kawa, a small town outside the Kurdish city of Erbil, which has become an oasis for Christians, said the Rev. Yusuf Sabri, a priest at St. Joseph’s Chaldean Catholic Church there.

The US ought to set up a Christian safe zone in Iraq and help the Iraqi Christians to move to it. The safe zone probably ought to be in Kurdistan.

Christians in Kurdistan would like autonomy for Christian areas.

Christian members of Iraq’s Kurdistan province parliament are calling for autonomy for Christian areas in the north of the country, according to the London-based daily Al-Hayyat.

It is a democratic necessity that areas inhabited by a Christian majority should be autonomous, MP Kalawiz Ilda said.

Iraqi Christians in Jordan aren't allowed to work or get public benefits.

Conditions for Iraqi Christians in Jordan are poor. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has documented the Assyrian Christians' plight in Jordan as among the worst in the country: Refugees can't work, get educated or receive any other public benefit.

"Iraqi forced migrants have created inside Jordan a group of deprived, invisible migrants," the 2002 reports states. "And the country is unwilling to target any international aid for Iraq refugees," adding that, "they probably fear a relief program would improve the migrants' social condition, attracting other Iraqis."

Jordan, acting against the policy of the United Nations, "offers Iraqis no potential for long-term residency, forbids them to work and returns some back to Iraq, against their will."

Some Christian Iraqis in Jordan have been trying to get into the US for months and even years. I say we deport non-citizen Muslims from the US and let in Iraqi Christians in their place.

Unlike other ethnic groups in Iraq the Christians have no militias to protect them.

Other ethnic and minority groups in the region often have militias to protect them from attacks, but the Christians are known to be exposed to attacks freely, reports the Barnabas Fund.

Christians are persecuted throughout the Middle East.

Sadly, the plight of Iraq's Christians is not an isolated one in the Middle East. Iran's population has nearly doubled since the 1979 revolution, but, under a hostile regime, the number of Christians in the country has fallen from roughly 300,000 to 100,000. In 1948, Christians accounted for roughly 20 percent of the population of what was then Palestine; now, they are about 1.6 percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

In Egypt, emigration among Coptic Christians is disproportionately high; many convert to Islam under pressure, and over the last few years, violence against the Christian community has taken many lives. Saudi Arabia's Wahabbi regime prohibits any form of Christian worship.

Curiously, the best destination for Iraqi Christians in the Middle East appears to be Syria. You know Syria. It is one of the other Middle Eastern countries which the neocons want to invade supposedly for Israel's benefit (though I suspect the Israelis realize that Assad's regime is the preferred lesser evil). Of course, if the US did invade that'd ruin the lives of Syrian and Iraqi Christians in Syria and many Christians in Syria would get killed when Muslim fundamentalists ceased to be restrained by the Assad family dictatorship.

Why should US soldiers get killed by Shias and Sunnis when the US soldiers are trying to protect Shias and Sunnis from each other? Why should the US help keep in power an Iraqi government whose militias kill Christians?

By Randall Parker 2006 October 23 10:01 PM  Mideast Iraq Exodus
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2006 October 22 Sunday
Average IQ Of American States

Read Steve Sailer's latest: Average IQ by State: Honest Numbers at Last. He reports on a new study by Michael McDaniel, a researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University. Here is an IQ table for the American states. New England and the northern plains states have the smarter people. One question: What are the North Dakotans doing with their brains?

Immigration is driving national IQ downward. This is a national disaster that far outstrips the Iraq Debacle in importance.

Update: Note that the method of measure for state-level IQ involved testing children using other types of tests. (in contrast to more rigorous IQ tests used in international IQ comparisons). But the correlation between some other tests (e.g. SAT tests) and IQ tests are high enough for this to be useful. But since children were used and the ethnic mix of children is different than the ethnic mix of adults (due to immigration and different rates of fertility) the results understate the current adult IQ of those states that have seen a large influx of lower IQ ethnic groups. But as the older whites die off some states are going to lose economic ground and become more corrupt as a result of increasing proportions of lower IQ workers and voters and ethnic group politics where people vote for their ethnic group rather than for the best candidate for the whole.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 22 11:21 PM  Human Nature
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Iraq Exit Debate Outcome Predictable?

Is the Iraq exit debate really already over? Will the increasing public unhappiness about Iraq force Washington DC to act to cut the US commitment to Iraq? George Will thinks the US is going to get out of Iraq because Congress critters do not want to go down in electoral flames in 2008.

Today the policy of "staying the course" means Americans dying to prevent Shiites and Sunnis from killing each other. If in January 2009 more than 100,000 U.S. forces remain in Iraq, there might be 100 fewer Republicans in Congress. So "stay the course" is a policy stamped with an expiration date.

Yes, I think he's right. Every month that goes by the public becomes less supportive and more opposed to the war. Why should US soldiers die to prevent the Sunnis and Shiites from going at it?

Also, we aren't fighting for democracy. Will noticed a very telling use of the term "representative" in an answer James Baker (he of the Iraq Study Group, former Bush Sr Secretary of State and Bush family fixer) gave in an interview with Charlie Rose:

Hence, a fourth question: In a perhaps intentionally opaque statement on "The Charlie Rose Show" on Oct. 6, Baker said: "If we are able to promote representative -- representative government, not necessarily democracy, in a number of nations in the Middle East and bring more freedom to the people of that part of the world, [Iraq] will have been a success." Can President Bush's "freedom agenda," which Iraq has shredded, be recast by the Study Group's showing that there is more than semantic sleight of hand in the distinction between democracy and representation?

Get that "not necessarily democracy" action. He's looking for a newer definition of success that is based on much lower expectations. Can he get President George W. Bush to go along with him to shoot for a much less ambitious outcome in Iraq? If Bush doesn't then after this election Congress is going to rebel.

Bush is a lame duck. Congressional Republicans want to still be in office after Bush leaves. Their loyalties are going to shift much more toward saving their own political skins. Bush's Iraq policy is thoroughly discredited.

Rational arguments for why we can't convert Iraq into a Jeffersonian democracy didn't convince the war's supporters they were wrong. But continued fighting with escalating civil war and fighting even among the Shias make the failures of US policy undeniable.

But even if Baker can persuade Bush to make a big change in strategy and even if Baker can come up with a way to allow Bush to do it while still saving face I do not see what the US can do short of withdrawal that'll solve the problem that Iraq poses. Bush might dig in his heels and refuse to make any policy change that can be construed as a recognition that he made big mistakes with Iraq. If he does that then Congress will force a withdrawal. Might take a year or so. But it'll happen.

The Mahdi Army captured control of 750,000 population Amarah for a while last week.

Fighting in the past week indicates that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's efforts to disarm militias could be leading Iraq toward an intersectarian war between the Shiites in the government and the Shiites in the street.

Last week's battles in Amarah, capital of the southern Maysan Province, are emblematic of a widening Iraqi conflict to one where factions from the same sect vie for power.

Trouble there began with the assassination of Qassim al-Tamimi, a senior police officer in the city. He was part of the Badr Brigade, a militia loyal to the Supreme Council for the Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) whose members have taken a larger role recently in the police forces there. Local SCIRI officials blamed the Mahdi Army and arrested five Sadrists.

That touched off a massive show of strength by the Sadr supporters, who overran police stations. Fighting followed leaving at least 30 dead. Though the city is now under government control, residents say it remains tense.

Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki needs the 30 seats that Sadr controls in the Council of Representatives.

But the two-day offensive by the Al Mahdi army highlighted how difficult it has become for the central government and its security forces to rein in Shiite Muslim militias, both in the capital and in the south.

The militias fired mortar rounds at police stations where officers had barricaded themselves. When police ran out of ammunition and fled, Al Mahdi militiamen blew up at least two of the stations. During 48 hours of ferocious street battles in the oil-rich city of 300,000, 22 people were killed and almost 100 were injured.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki visited Sadr this week in the holy city of Najaf to ask for his support in clamping down on bands of militiamen who kill with impunity. But Maliki also depends for political support on Sadr, who controls 30 seats in the Council or Representatives, or parliament. And despite Sadr's intermittent calls for calm, violence has continued unabated.

You are clear on this, right? A Shiite militia battles the Iraqi government which relies on the leader of that militia to support the government.

Withdrawal of British troops from Amarah set it up for takeover by the Mahdi Army.

Since British troops left Amarah in August, residents say the militia, which is one of the country's largest unofficial armies, has been involved in a series of killings in the city. They include slayings of merchants suspected of selling alcohol and women alleged to have engaged in behaviour deemed immoral by the militia members.

"We see here a paradigm for when U.S. and coalition forces withdraw from an area," New York Times reporter John Burns told CBC News Friday from Baghdad.

"We could see down the line a serious threat to the Iraqi government."

Why doesn't the Iraqi government have so many more troops than the militias so that it could easily put down the militias? I suspect that most Iraqi youths support the Shiite militias or the Sunni insurgent groups more than they support the government in the Green Zone of Baghdad.

Iraq might have 3.1 million internal and external refugees at this point.

Out of the population of 26 million, 1.6 million Iraqis have fled the country and a further 1.5 million are displaced within Iraq, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. In Jordan alone there are 500,000 Iraqi refugees and a further 450,000 in Syria. In Syria alone they are arriving at the rate of 40,000 a month.

Here are some details on which groups are fleeing from which areas of Iraq:

Former pilots who are Sunni and served in the air force believed they were being singled out by Shia death squads because they might once have bombed Iran; many have fled to Jordan. Jordanian immigration authorities are more welcoming to Sunni than Shia Iraqis. The latter find it easier to go to Syria. Every day heavily laden buses leave Baghdad for Damascus.

All sorts of Iraqis are on the run. But the Christian minorities from Karada and Doura in Baghdad are also fast disappearing. Most of their churches are closed. Many leave the country while the better off try to rent expensive houses in Ain Kawa, a Christian neighbourhood in Arbil.

Nobody feels safe. Some 70,000 Kurds have taken flight from the largely Sunni Arab city of Mosul.

...

The worst slaughter is happening in the towns on the outskirts of Baghdad where Sunnis and Shias live side by side. Shias are fleeing from Mahmoudiyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad, to Suwaira and Kut. The Iraqi army does little to help, and Shias complain that the US is more intent on attacking the Mehdi Army than rescuing villagers.

Massive displacements of refugees, killer groups hunting down Sunnis, Shias, Kurds, and Christians, militias battling the government while also in the government. splintering of militias into factions that are not under control of the major militia leaders. It is hard to see how this can get better in the foreseeable future. Seems likely to get worse. The US military is way overstretched. Shia-Sunni fighting and fighting between Shias seem set to further reduce the US military's ability to control the situation.

Short of withdrawal I have two practical suggestions:

  • Bribery on a massive scale. Offer big cash rewards for Iraqi groups and individuals to do what we want them to do. But how to measures compliance?
  • Help the refugees and would-be refugees (i.e. those in danger where they are) to move more rapidly around to safer and more ethnically homogeneous towns and regions. Accelerate the ethnic cleansing with free truck transportation and housing construction to give the displaced newer and safer places to live.
By Randall Parker 2006 October 22 11:14 PM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate
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Campaign Donations Show Who Would Lose If Democrats Win

Jeffrey Birnbaum reports on how K Street lobbyists and PACs are handing out money in the current election and which groups will lose if the Democrats win control of one or both houses of Congress.

Democratic leaders have signaled, in campaign commercials and elsewhere, that they intend to attack pharmaceutical and oil companies in a variety of ways when Congress reconvenes. That isn't a surprise; neither industry has been very supportive of Democrats in recent years. Since 2002, drug firms have given about two-thirds of their donations and energy companies have given roughly three quarters of theirs to Republicans, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).

Other industries that would be wise to watch their backs if Democrats take over include insurers, electric utilities, manufacturers, chemical makers, home builders, general contractors, food processors, railroads and building material producers -- all of which gave 60 percent or more of their contributions to Republicans since 2002, according to the CRP's statistics.

Democrats are likely to play favorites as well. If they win, they will almost surely give high priority to the wishes of labor unions and trial lawyers, which have generally been dismissed by Republicans.

Lawyers and unions? Doesn't any productive group win? Who else will gain if the Democrats come to power? Film studios and record companies? Big media companies? I am thinking it will be a win for illegal aliens - unless public anger on immigration prevents the Democrats from doing what they want to do.

The corporate shift of money from Republican to Democratic candidates has been noticable but small. One reason why: Political Action Committees give most of their money to incumbents.

That's why 80 percent of the money donated by PACs to federal candidates go to people who are already in office. They are, after all, the people who can vote in Congress. What's more, they also usually win reelection -- 90 percent of the time or better. Some PACs are actually prohibited from contributing to non-incumbents for these reasons.

Once the Democrats win a house of Congress then the money will shift more in their favor in the following election.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 22 07:26 PM  Politics American Congress
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People Do Not Lock Their Cars In Kilmarnock Virginia

A Washington Times piece about Wal-Mart coming to Kilmarnock Virginia says fairly predictable things about the reactions for and against a big chain coming to a small town. But this town of 1,244 two hours south of Washington DC strikes me as far more interesting for another rreason: People in the town do not need to lock their cars on main street - what a luxury!

In this town of 1,244 about two hours south of the Beltway, folks are used to walking in the unlocked back door of a neighbor's home, sometimes without knocking.

...

The lower Northern Neck was largely inaccessible, except by ferry or a long drive north, until the Robert O. Norris Bridge connected it to Route 3 and the mainland in 1957. It slowly has grown as Northern Virginians discover the area, but even today only a few stoplights dot the streets of Kilmarnock.

A drive down Main Street after 7 p.m. is quiet. Most shops close two hours earlier and there's no traffic, let alone congestion. The few streetlights are shaded downward to preserve the view of the stars at night.

Sunday mornings are spent at church. Antique galleries are the few businesses in Kilmarnock with Sunday hours.

Most of the cars parked along Main Street are unlocked and the keys sit on the front seat -- unless, of course, the owner is a "come here" who can't break the habit.

"You can tell who has moved here because they press the button when they get out of the car," Mr. Gulbranson says.

"We're a small community," says Joe Hudnall, president of the Noblett Inc. appliance store on Main Street and a resident since 1978. "You go out to eat or go to church and you know everybody there. I could walk down the street and know 19 out of 20 people by name."

I am surprised this is still possible anywhere in America. Can you point to other towns where crime is so rare that you do not have to lock your car or your house?

Think about this: Your rights are violated because you have to lock your car or lock your house. You are being forced to do something by criminals. Never mind that they are not there in front of you. Their willingness to violate your rights forces you do to things to defend yourself and your property. That fact of being forced is itself a violation of your rights.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 22 06:15 PM  Culture Compared
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Ethnic Pride Helps Teens Stay Happy

When under stress Chinese and Mexican adolescent ethnics feel better about themselves if they feel good about their ethnicity.

Ethnic pride can help teenagers maintain happiness when faced with stress, according to a new study by a Wake Forest University psychologist published in the October issue of Child Development.

Adolescents with positive feelings toward their ethnic group say they are happier on a daily basis than those who have a more negative attitude about their ethnic identity, said Lisa Kiang, assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest and lead author of the study.

The study, involving 415 ninth-graders from Chinese and Mexican backgrounds, shows the protective effects of ethnic identity on daily psychological well-being, Kiang said.

Each participant completed a brief questionnaire regarding their feelings about their ethnic identity. Then, for two weeks, the students filled out a three-page checklist at the end of each day indicating the kinds of stresses they experienced that day. For example, the students would mark whether they had a lot of schoolwork to complete or if they had a lot of demands made by their family.

Finally, the students were asked to rate their daily emotional states on a scale from zero to four, including how happy they felt that day and how nervous they felt that day.

Those with higher ethnic regard rated their daily happiness level higher.

Adolescents with a high ethnic regard maintained a generally positive and happy attitude in the face of daily stressors and despite their anxious feelings,” Kiang said. “So, having positive feelings about one’s ethnic group appeared to provide an extra boost of positivity in individuals’ daily lives.”

Although the experience of more daily stressors predicted less daily happiness in individuals with a low to moderate ethnic regard, individuals with a high ethnic regard were protected from these negative effects, said Kiang, who teaches courses in developmental psychology.

The researchers focused on adolescents because that is when identity issues are at the forefront. Kiang said the positive effects of ethnic pride found in this study could suggest that parents and society in general should encourage strong ethnic identity in families.

Imagine researchers conducting this same study but with white teens. The teens would be afraid to answer the questions of the researchers, knowing that to say they feel ethnic pride would reveal a thought crime.

If you are white and want to feel better about yourself then commit thought crimes. But don't let the commissars know what you are doing in the privacy of your own mind.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 22 03:13 PM  Human Nature
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Republican House Districts Getting Most Illegal Immigrants

Why the Republican Party is going to die unless illegal immigration is stopped and reversed:

Of the 50 House districts nationwide with the fastest-growing immigrant communities, 45 are represented by Republicans. All but three of those lawmakers voted for a bill that would make illegal immigrants felons.

Overall, GOP districts added about 3 million immigrants from 2000 to 2005, nearly twice the number that settled in districts represented by Democrats, according to an Associated Press analysis of census data.

The numbers help explain why illegal immigration is such a big issue in rural Georgia, eastern Pennsylvania and in suburbs throughout the United States.

They also help explain why House Republicans passed five bills on border security in the weeks before Congress recessed for the Nov. 7 elections. Only one measure, calling for a border fence, has become law.

The AP wire service that did the analysis above also has a PDF file of immigration data which you can download and read.

You might be indifferent to the fate of the Republican Party or even hostile toward it. Fine. But if these Republican districts go Democrat because of Hispanic immigration they'll also go high poverty, high crime, high white flight into expensive enclaves, high crowding, low trust, more expensive to live in, worse places to be. So will go the rest of the country.

Steve Sailer says the poor illegals rush into the places that are most affluent and ruin them.

It's one of those natural processes, like the locust. Illegal immigrants go to prosperous places, raise the cost of living, lower wages, drive out the Republicans, increase the number of government jobs needed to take care of their social traumas, and then, when the place is Democratic voting, crowded, unattractive, and electing lots of corrupt anti-business Democrats so jobs are scarce, they move on to new Republican districts. Rinse and repeat.

I hear the Eagles singing about California "Call some place paradise and kiss it good bye" and "There is no new frontier, we have got to make it here". But the problem is that we are ruining here - or letting other people ruin here. Once the demographic changes happen there's no turning back the clock to get rid of the high crime, high political corruption, low trust, low IQ immigrants and the crowding, taxes, less productivity-raising and safety-increasing innovation, and other bad things they bring.

Some people are lackadaisical about the demographic changes wrought by immigration. They think they can go to some other place that hasn't been ruined yet. But the places you most want to go to are the places that are most likely to get ruined. Want to flee to the West? Denver, Tucson, and Phoenix are now white minority cities. Where you going to go? Not to the top Republican districts. They are too affluent with too many high paying jobs. So all the Hispanics are flooding in to work in construction, wash dishes in restaurants, mow lawns, and clean houses.

We absolutely must stop all illegal immigration and greatly decrease legal immigration. We absolutely must deport all the illegals. If we make these moves now some parts of the country can still be saved.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 22 10:29 AM  Immigration Demographics
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2006 October 19 Thursday
Worsening Conditions To Force Iraq Strategy Change

Only desperation can force the Bush Administration to make a major course change in Iraq. Any course change based on the idea that Iraqis aren't all Jeffersonian Democrats who believe in the equality of humans is opposed until it becomes impossible to oppose it. Worsening conditions are bringing partition and withdrawal to the top of the heap for consideraion.

The escalating violence raking Baghdad and other Iraqi cities is pushing that nation's leaders, neighboring Arab countries and U.S. advisers to consider a dramatic change of direction in the conduct of the war.

Leaks from a U.S. task force headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III are contributing to the widespread sense that the Bush administration is preparing for a "course correction" in the coming months.

The options cited most frequently in Washington include the partition of Iraq into three ethnic- or faith-based regions, and a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops, with some remaining in neighboring countries to deal with major threats.

I like the term "faith-based regions". It ties in nicely with George W. Bush's rhetoric about "faith-based initiatives". Then Iraq isn't a debacle. It is an effort to build faith-based communities.

How about a military coup with US blessing? But how to spin it? Military democracy? Direct action democracy?

Another scenario is being discussed -- and taken seriously in Iraq -- by many of Iraq's leading political players, under which the U.S.-trained army would overthrow struggling Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and replace him with a strongman who would restore order while Washington looks the other way.

Hey, the only man alive who has a demonstrated proven track record as a ruthless maintainer of order in Iraq - a man we have since learned would have loved an alliance with America while he was still in power - is none other than Saddam Hussein. Before some Iraqi court sentences him to death we ought to consider a sequel - Saddam Part II - The American Alliance. He'd have Teheran's mullah's quaking in their boots and as part of a deal to restore him to power I'm sure he'd be happy to pressure Syria into cutting off Iranian supplies to Hezbollah.

Which radical departure from current strategy will be chosen?

Few officials in either party are talking about an immediate pullout of U.S. combat troops. But interest appears to be growing in several broad ideas. One would be some kind of effort to divide the country along regional lines. Another, favored by many Democrats, is a gradual withdrawal of troops over a set period of time. A third would be a dramatic scaling-back of U.S. ambitions in Iraq, giving up on democracy and focusing only on stability.

Many senior Republicans with close ties to the administration also believe that essential to a successful strategy in Iraq are an aggressive new diplomatic initiative to secure a Middle East peace settlement and a new effort to engage Iraq's neighbors, such as Syria and Iran, in helping stabilize the country -- perhaps through an international conference.

This effort to secure a Middle Eastern peace settlement probably refers to Israel. The more the US gets entangled with Arab countries the more pressure the US government will feel to apply pressure to Israel to make concessions to Arabs. For this reason the neocon promotion of the Iraq fiasco has damaged the interests of the one country they most want to protect in the Middle East: Israel.

As of this writing the October death rate of coalition casualties is running at 4 a day which is the highest since the January 2005 rate of 4.1 and the November 2004 rate of 4.7. The latter high was due to fighting in Fallujah.

US Army Major General William Caldwell acknowledged that the big shift of US troops into Baghdad has not halted the rise in violence.

Violence and progress do coexist in Iraq. You can be making progress and have violence. The violence continues against security forces and innocent Iraqis during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Traditionally a time of great celebration, it has instead been a period of increased violence, not just this year, but during the past two years, as well. The violence is, indeed, disheartening. In Baghdad alone we've seen a 22-percent increase in attacks during the first three weeks of Ramadan, compared to the three weeks preceding in the preceding Ramadan. And Baghdad Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas, but has not met our overall expectations of sustaining a reduction in the levels of violence. We are working very closely with the government of Iraq to determine how best to refocus our efforts

Maybe the Muslims will not kill each other as quickly once they have finished their month of celebrating their violent religion.

The US military is overstretched in Iraq. Divisions spend only one year out for every year in country. There's not much room left for increasing the size of the deployed force. Any attempt to shore up forces in one part of the country comes at the expensive of drawing down forces in other parts of the country.

Movement of US troops out of the Sunni Triangle to fight in Baghdad has helped the Sunni insurgents to operate more openly.

Dozens of al Qaeda-linked gunmen took to the streets of Ramadi on Wednesday in a show of force to announce the city was joining an Islamic state comprising Iraq's mostly Sunni Arab provinces, Islamists and witnesses said.

Witnesses in Ramadi, the capital of western Anbar province, said gunmen dressed in white marched through the city as mosque loudspeakers broadcast the statement by the Mujahideen Shura Council, a Sunni militant group led by al Qaeda in Iraq.

Caldwell's comments made a big splash in the Western media but their real target may have been top officials in the Iraqi government.

Gen Caldwell did not specify how security methods might be refocused, but the unusually grim assessment seems in part intended to put pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to take political steps that US officers have long said need to accompany military operations.

Most of the attacks against US forces are made by Shiite militias that are protected and supported by the Iraqi government.

Privately, U.S. officers say Shiite militias -- some affiliated with Iraqi government security forces -- are responsible for most of the attacks against U.S. troops as well as on Sunni civilians. But commanders on the ground often find themselves stymied when going after Shiite militias, especially those affiliated with anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose political bloc controls 30 seats in parliament.

Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, ordered the release of Sheikh Mazen Saedi, a leading member of al-Sadr's organization, who had been arrested by U.S. troops on suspicion of "illegal activity," Caldwell confirmed Thursday. He did not specify what crimes Saedi was suspected of committing.

We are fighting for a government formed by parties which have militias fighting against us. Is that crazy or what?

Some argue that a solution to the Iraq civil war lies in getting more groups involved in the political process. The idea is to get more factional leaders into negotiations and give them slices of power so that they have a stake in the system. Moqtada al-Sadr has been pulled into negotiations and some of his people have been put into the government..But when al-Sadr responded by trying to restrain his militia parts of the militia splintered off and kept carrying out attacks. The splintering of the militias makes it harder to do negotiations.

In the void forged by the sectarian tensions gripping Baghdad, militias are further splintering into smaller, more radicalized cells, signifying a new and potentially more volatile phase in the struggle for the capital. Iraqis and U.S. officials blame militias for mass kidnappings and slayings, for setting up unauthorized checkpoints and for causing much of the recent carnage. Senior U.S. military and intelligence officials say they have identified at least 23 militias -- some are Sunni, but most are Shiite. Some are paramilitary offshoots of the Mahdi Army or have broken away entirely from Sadr's command structure. Others seem inspired by Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah guerrilla movement.

More splinter groups means more leaders of splinter groups that must be enticed into negotiations and offered power. Given that the splinter groups are less inclined to negotiate and more inclined to kill this strategy of negotiated peace looks doomed to fail. Maybe if we let the civil war scale up to a much higher level some groups would defeat other groups and the number of groups that must be brought to the table to arrange power sharing would shrink.

The US military claims to be reexamining their strategy in Baghdad with an eye toward changing it somehow. But what options do they have? Pull more troops out of other areas of Iraq and shift them to Baghdad? Start killing militia leaders in defiance of Maliki's government? Pull troops out of Baghdad and let nature take its course?

A Shiite town and Sunni town on opposite sides of the Tigris River are duking it out.

The violence around Balad, a Shiite enclave in a largely Sunni region, began Friday with the kidnapping and beheading of 17 Shiite farmworkers from Duluiyah, a predominantly Sunni town. Taysser Musawi, a Shiite cleric in Balad, said Shiite leaders in the town appealed to a Baghdad office of Moqtada al-Sadr, an influential Shiite cleric, to send militiamen to defend local Shiites and to take revenge. Sadr's political party is a member of a Shiite religious alliance that governs Iraq.

Shiite fighters responded in force, local police said. Witnesses said Shiite fighters began hunting down Sunnis, allegedly setting up checkpoints in the area to stop travelers and demand whether they were Shiite or Sunni.

By Sunday afternoon, 80 bodies were stacked in the morgue of the Balad hospital, the only sizable medical center in the region, physician Kamal al-Haidari said by telephone.

Here once again is my practical suggestion for cutting down the sectarian violence: the US military should help Sunnis move out of predominately Shia areas and vice versa. Get these people away from each other so they can't so easily kill each other. Money spent on moving vans and to construct housing could reduce the scale of civil war violence.

Another alternative: Partial withdrawal. Then in some regions the groups could duke it out and some groups would get defeated and the number of groups might go down. That'd make it easier to negotiate a settlement.

My preferred alternative: Total withdrawal. It'd save the US taxpayers money and save lots of American lives. But total withdrawal requires admission that the Iraq invasion was a total waste and a huge mistake. The need for such an admission pretty much rules out this this option in the foreseeable future.

Lawrence Auster argues we can not persuade Muslims to support a form of democracy that has the characteristics that cause Westerners to support democracy in the first place.

To democratize a Muslim country requires that we persuade the Muslims to agree with democracy. To win the Muslims’ agreement we must to a large extent accede to their wishes. But their wishes include sharia, war against infidels, death to apostates, and much more that precludes anything we might consider a meaningful, pro-Western democracy. Thus our unstinting effort to win Muslims to our democratic ideals (the effort must be unstinting because we’ve convinced ourselves that democratizing Muslims is the ONLY way we can defeat terrorism) means that we end up betraying our democratic ideals and acceding to Islamic ideals.

There is no escape from this reality, for the simple reason that Islam is incompatible with democracy—a fundamental truth we have never acknowledged.

Well, Larry and I have acknowledged the incompatibility of Islam with the West. The Pope sees the truth as well. But like with some other obvious truths to speak or write about the core political characteristics of Islam requires violation of liberal taboos.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 19 09:32 PM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate
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2006 October 18 Wednesday
What Will A Democratic Majority In Congress Do?

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post speculates on the legislative priorities should the Democrats win control of the US House or Senate.

In the House, the Democrats have made clear that there's a first tier of legislation they mean to bring to a vote almost immediately after the new Congress convenes. It includes raising the minimum wage, repealing the Medicare legislation that forbids the government from negotiating with drug companies for lower prices, replenishing student loan programs, funding stem cell research and implementing those recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission that have thus far languished.

Drug price controls would reduce the incentives and therefore the funding for new drug development. An increase in the minimum wage would reduce the illegal immigrant influx and also probably reduce the crime rate by pulling more black men into the labor market.

There's a limit on what a Democratic Congress could do on the spending side. The deficit is already too large and will likely grow in the next two years regardless of which party controls either house of Congress.

Cognizant that they will owe their victory in part to the public's revulsion at the way Congress does (or avoids) business, the Democrats also plan to revise House rules to enable the opposition party to introduce amendments and to sit on conference committees, from which Republicans have routinely excluded them since Tom DeLay became majority leader. They also will ban members from accepting gifts and paid trips from lobbyists.

By bringing such measures to a vote in the House, and conceivably in the Senate as well, the Democrats will be in the enviable position of doing both good and well: promoting long-overdue policy shifts that the public supports and putting their Republican colleagues in a pickle. Confronted with an up-or-down vote on raising the minimum wage or making medication for seniors more affordable, many Republicans will side with the Democrats.

The Democrats will make progress on the issue of ethics of Congress reps for maybe a few months before their majority position becomes just as attractive to them as a means to sell influence as it has become for too many Republicans. I remember Jim Wright and Dan Rostenkowski. I'm sure a younger generation of House Democrats are eager to follow in the footsteps of an earlier generation of Democratic Party office abusers.

Aside on stem cells: He's probably referring to human embryonic stem cells. The eventual future benefit of stem cell therapies is in the tens or hundreds of trillions of dollars. But total funding for all types of stem cell research (including the human adult stem cells that fundamentalist Christians do not object to) was only $604 million in 2005. It is a common and unfortunate mistake to assume the only issue worth debate about stem cell funding is how much to fund human embryonic stem cells. Yet many stem cell questions can get figured out using animal models. Also, research on adult human stem cells can yield valuable data and therapies. In my view people who want stem cell therapies should focus on the total amount allocated to all stem cell research rather than focus solely on human embryonic stem cells. Even human adult stem cell research is not funded well enough. Even animal model research is not funded well enough. Six hundred or so million dollars per year for all stem cell research is not enough.

Update: How much will the Democrats raise taxes.

A major domestic-policy plank in the Democrats' agenda is a rollback of the tax cuts, which has become the party's campaign mantra. But there is division within the party's ranks over how far they should go in attempting to repeal the across-the-board tax cuts that lowered tax rates for low-to-moderate income workers and doubled the child-tax credit that affects mostly middle-income families.

Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, who likely would become chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee if the Democrats win the House back, has said that he could not think of a single Bush tax cut that he supported and suggested that all of them should be repealed. But Mrs. Pelosi, who would be in line to become speaker, said last week that the tax-cut rollback would only affect people earning $250,000 a year or more.

I'm less worried about the prospect for a tax increase because Bush will likely veto tax increases. The far bigger worry? Immigration. Likely future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has the most Open Borders voting record in the House of Representatives. She could block funding for border fence construction and internal immigration enforcement efforts. Plus, she could push the House toward support for the Senate's amnesty and guest worker legislation. Scary. If Pelosi gets placed into a position to influence US immigration policy it will be in large part because George W. Bush though he'd have a very easy time occupying Iraq.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 18 08:47 PM  Politics American Congress
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US Trade Deficit Hits New Record

The American people should not be so blase about the size of the trade deficit. We are living far beyond our means.

The U.S. trade deficit rose to a record $69.9 billion in August, driven by high oil prices, a growing trade gap with China and rising consumer demand for imported goods from antiques to appliances, the government said yesterday.

The trade deficit was 2.8 percent bigger than in July, despite strong growth in exports, led by sales of agricultural products and aircraft, the Commerce Department reported. American companies sold $122.4 billion worth of goods and services overseas in August, an increase of $2.7 billion over the previous month.

Even if we could somehow magically replace oil with another energy source that would eliminate only $20.8 billion of the $69.9 billion August 2006 deficit.

Our yearly deficit with China will be over twice as much as the cost of the Iraq war - and the Iraq war won't last as long.

The total value of imports rose by 2.4% to $192.3bn in August, while exports rose by 2.3% to $122.4bn.

During August, the politically charged trade deficit with China rose by 12.2% to a monthly high of $22bn. The is on course to top last year's record figure of $202bn.

The $22 billion deficit with China represents over 31% of the total trade deficit. Take it away and the US would still have a trade deficit that is far too large. But part of that is due to other East Asian countries trying to keep their currencies just as weak as the Chinese Renminbi currency so that they are not overwhelmed by Chinese imports. But they also keep their currencies weaker so that they can export to the US.

Exports to China actually dropped.

The politically sensitive deficit with China widened to $22 billion, exceeding the previous record of $20.5 billion reached in October 2005. Thursday's report showed that imports from China increased to an all-time high of $26.7 billion in August. U.S. exports to the Asian nation fell to $4.8 billion.

Remember when all of America's business leaders converged on Congress en masse in May 2000 to argue for granting China status as a Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) trade partner? This was supposed to open up a massive market for US goods. All it did was allow capitalists (e.g. Wal-Mart's bosses) to automate and speed up the indebting of America to the world.

Why are people living so far beyond their means? Does the influx of foreign money drive down the cost of borrowed money so much that people run up more debt? Or has the development of mechanisms to aggressively market credit cards and other debt instruments worked on human weaknesses to buy now and worry later to lure an increasing percentage of the populace to live beyond their means? Has capitalism become the enemy of prudent living and sound personal economics?

Democrats claim they could do a better job of closing the US trade deficit.

Democrats, hoping to take control of the House and Senate from Republicans, contended the August deficit figure underscored the need for a change in trade policies being pursued by President Bush and the Republican Party.

They said the administration has failed to crack down on unfair trade practices of other nations including China's currency manipulation and its widespread piracy of U.S. goods.

Just a reminder to the Democrats: Democrat Bill Clinton was instrumental in opening the US market to Chinese goods.

The big corporations and their stockholders do not see the trade deficit as a threat to their interests.

The Dow Jones index of major US shares swept above the 12,000 level for the first time on Wednesday but eased back to close short of the landmark level.

The index rose as high as 12,049.51, boosted by falling US inflation, oil and petrol prices and ongoing optimism about corporate earnings.

A slowing of job growth is also not seen as a threat to the profitability of large cap stocks.

The US economy added 51,000 jobs last month, far below analyst expectations, in another signal of slowing growth.

...

Last month's figures contrast with job additions of 188,000 in August and 123,000 in July.

One reason the capitalists can be optimistic about how things are going even as many workers are doing worse is that an increasing portion of all economic output is going to corporate profits.

One way to comprehend what is happening is to look at the split between how much of the economy is won by profits and how much by wages.

The share allotted to corporate profits increased sharply, from 17.7% in 2000 to 20.9% in 2005, while the share going to wages has reached a record low.

If the shift of revenue from wages to profits is due to higher productivity of smart holders of capital then this trend is not so bad. But I wonder if it is due in part to flooding the US labor market with imported labor and I wonder if the higher profits are coming via shifting of external costs onto the rest of us. How much of those profits are paid for by the middle class with taxes that fund for the health care, crime handling, and other costs of the cheap imported labor?

By Randall Parker 2006 October 18 05:43 PM  Economics Trade
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2006 October 15 Sunday
US Federal Budget Deficit Reduction Seen As Temporary

The narrowing of the US federal government deficit is a transitory phenomenon until long term drivers of spending increases overwhelm attempts to boost revenue and cut discretionary spending.

MACON, Ga., Oct. 10 -- The federal budget deficit shrank from $318 billion to less than $260 billion in the fiscal year that concluded in September, officials disclosed yesterday. It marks the second year in a row that the deficit has declined after ballooning in the early years of the Bush administration.

Note that if we withdrew from Iraq we could cut the deficit by another $100 billion per year.

The budget deficit got narrower due to much larger sums of money collected as taxes.

Still, the budget deficit is declining, in large measure because corporate and individual tax receipts have surged at a much faster rate than the government originally projected. The Congressional Budget Office estimated last week that government receipts were up 11.8 percent in 2006, to $2.4 trillion, the second-highest increase since 1981, surpassed only by the 14.5 percent increase last year.

Come the next recession tax receipts could fall wihile spending would continue to rise.

The tax collection increases had to be in the double digits because the rate of spending increase was very high. Spending increased by a phenomenal 9%.

Despite the good news about last year -- largely the result of a remarkable 12% surge in tax receipts from individuals and corporations that overwhelmed a nearly 9% increase in spending -- the smart money says the deficit is very likely to get deeper from here. "The world doesn't end, but the deficit goes in the other direction next year," says Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former CBO director. Interest rates are rising, adding to the government's annual interest tab. Iraq continues to be costly. The revenue surge already is beginning to fade. And a slowing economy is likely to restrain revenue growth even further. A one-percentage-point drop in economic growth for a full year increases the deficit by about $35 billion.

There is no way for tax revenue increases to keep up with such a rapid growth in spending. The upper classes are experiencing a more rapid growth in income than the lower classes and the upper classes are in higher tax brackets. But the overall economy isn't going to grow fast enough for tax revenues to keep up with such a rapid rate of increase in spending.

As the baby boomers retire the big fiscal crunch will hit. Federal spending will continue to grow rapidly due to old age retirement benefits. Medical care costs will rise rapidly. At the same time, the younger population does not have as great a potential for high incomes and high productivity. As the population becomes less white and more Hispanic the average education level and skill level will decline. Lower earnings ability will translate into lower tax paying and more use of social services such as Medicaid due to much lower medical insurance rates among Hispanics.

When the battle over unfunded liabilities for retirement becomes joined in the 2010s how much of the financial shortfalls will get paid in tax increases and how much in raised reitirement ages, means testing of benefits, and outright cuts in benefits? If politicians attempt to close the shortfalls with large tax increases then the economy could stagnate and the shortfalls could grow even as living standards decline.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 15 09:02 PM  Economics Government Costs
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Will Iraq Study Group Solve Iraq Problem?

The Iraq Study Group will release a report after the November 2006 American elections which will make suggestions on changes to US policy in Iraq.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 — James A. Baker III, the Republican co-chairman of a bipartisan panel reassessing Iraq strategy for President Bush, said Sunday that he expected the panel would depart from Mr. Bush’s repeated calls to “stay the course,” and he strongly suggested that the White House enter direct talks with countries it had so far kept at arm’s length, including Iran and Syria.

“I believe in talking to your enemies,” he said in an interview on the ABC News program “This Week,” noting that he made 15 trips to Damascus, the Syrian capital, while serving Mr. Bush’s father as secretary of state.

“It’s got to be hard-nosed, it’s got to be determined,” Mr. Baker said. “You don’t give away anything, but in my view, it’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies.”

The fact that Bush told Baker it was okay with Bush for Baker to join the ISG suggests Bush is looking for a face-saving way to do a big shift in policy toward Iraq. He's got to realize almost everyone thinks US policy in Iraq is a failure.

Baker wants to try to negotiate with players in Iraq and surrounding countries to try to work out a deal that would satisfy various warring groups and bring Iraq some semblance of peace. I'm not optimistic that this can be done. But it is worth a try - preferably with a team of negotiators run by someone of Baker's caliber rather than by Condi Rice or other current Bush Administration top national security policy people.

He explicitly rejected a rapid withdrawal from Iraq, saying that would invite Iran, Syria and “even our friends in the gulf” to fill the power vacuum. He also dismissed, as largely unworkable, a proposal by Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to decentralize Iraq and give the country’s three major sectarian groups, the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis, their own regions, distributing oil revenue to all. Mr. Baker said he had concluded “there’s no way to draw lines” in Iraq’s major cities, where ethnic groups are intermingled.

According to White House officials and commission members, Mr. Baker has been talking to President Bush and his national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, on a regular basis. Those colleagues say he is unlikely to issue suggestions that the president has not tacitly approved in advance.

The Iraq Study Group (ISG) includes among its members former Clinton Administration Defense Secretary William Perry, former Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta, former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, former CIA director Robert Gates, former Republican Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, and former Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese. These are not fringe people in Washington DC.

Ivan Eland thinks Baker's loyalty to George W. Bush as a fellow Republican is causing him to ignore the only solution that can work in Iraq: decentralization.

Unfortunately this misplaced loyalty has caused Baker to rule out the only viable solution remaining for Iraq: the decentralization of Iraqi governance. Baker would have to admit the situation is dire there to adopt this drastic solution that I proposed more than a year and a half ago and that Joseph Biden, the Ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has more recently endorsed. Baker has already dismissed the idea of dividing Iraq into three autonomous regions and distributing the oil wealth among the Kurds, Shi'a, and Sunni Arabs. He has argued publicly that the populations in the major cities are too intermingled to create autonomous regions, which he claims would cause a civil war if implemented.

On their recent trip to Iraq, if Baker and almost all of the other commissioners had set foot outside the Green Zone fortress, they would have found that the country is already in the throes of a civil war. In fact, the civil war and the resulting ethnic cleansing have reinforced what is a natural partition. The Kurds and their militias have their own quasi country in which the Iraqi government does not govern and the Iraqi flag does not fly. Many of the Shi'ite areas are governed by militias, which have also infiltrated the Iraqi police and army. In Sunni areas, guerrillas effectively control many towns. U.S. forces have been unable to disarm any of these armies.

A federal system that stops short of outright partitioning is one option. Another option is full partitioning that creates new separate sovereign states. The problem with both these options is that the Sunnis and Shias do not just want to avoid falling under the domination of the other group. They do not have the Anglosphere's preference for equality. They want to dominate. So a partition would be a very unwelcome obstacle to their ambitions to dominate each other.

Can negotiations produce a solution that'll somehow cause these groups to restrain their ambitions? The odds become higher the longer the ethnic cleansing goes on because the ethnic cleansing creates more areas where only one sectarian group (e.g. Arab Shias or Arab Sunnis) can be found. But as Basra demonstrates, the Shiites fight tribe against tribe even after most of the Sunnis have fled.

But some observers do expect the Iraq Study Group to recommend a form of partition.

Continuing sectarian violence in Iraq and fears that the country could be headed toward civil war has some former US officials and experts calling for the decentralization of Iraq through the creation of three highly autonomous regions along ethnic lines.

The Iraq Study Group, led by former secretary of state James Baker and former congressman Lee Hamilton, is said to be preparing a report that calls for splitting the country into three separate regions for Shi'ites, Sunni and Kurds.

The group is expected to release the report following November's mid-term congressional elections.

Iraq's central government would remain in effect, according to the group's supposed recommendation, though it would focus the majority of its attention on foreign affairs, border security and the distribution of the country's oil wealth to the autonomous regions.

What else can be negotiated that doesn't involve local autonomy for the Sunnis? They are fighting in part because US troops are there (though we are supposed to pretend that is not the case) and in part because they do not want to be ruled by a Shia majority. The Sunnis want the oil money but bulk of the oil is in Shia and Kurdish areas. Any chance of a deal would need to have an enforceable mechanism for making sure the Sunnis get a cut of the oil revenue. But who would enforce the deal? US troops in country would provoke the Sunnis to keep fighting. I do not see how to work this out. Is there a way?

Baker has more constraints on him than just what President Bush will find acceptable. Baker wants the ISG's recommendations to be bipartisan and major Democrats and Republicans are ISG members.

JAMES BAKER, Former Secretary of State: Well, what we would like to do is to see if we can come forward with a consensus report. It won't be worth much if Republicans go one way and Democrats go another, so my distinguished co-chairman and I are working very hard to see if we can produce a consensus report that might make some suggestions as to initiatives or advice that Congress and the president could utilize in continuing the mission in Iraq.

...

JAMES BAKER: Well, because it's really important, if our report is going to mean anything, if it's going to have any chance of being embraced by opinion-makers in the United States, by the administration, by the Congress, we really have to take it out of politics. It cannot be seen to be politically inspired or politically motivated or politically directed, and we couldn't do that if we reported before the election, midterm election.

MARGARET WARNER: But some people may say, "But Americans and Iraqis are being killed everyday. Here's the group that may provide us with some way out."

LEE HAMILTON: Well, we're proceeding with as much speed as we possibly can. But we want to get it right.

We have interviewed, I think, overall more than 150 people. We've contacted every expert we can think of; many experts have contacted us. We're sorting through mounds and mounds of information. Every time we step out on the street, somebody gives us a recommendation that we ought to make.

And we're trying very hard. We're doing our level best to try to understand a very, very complicated situation and to come up with recommendations, as Secretary Baker has suggested, that will be broadly supported, will be pragmatic, will be constructive, and forward-looking.

Baker is really already in negotiations with factions of Washington DC power brokers. Bush okayed Baker's creation of the ISG. The ISG members have consulted with large numbers of experts (though I wonder as to the real extent of their expertise) and power brokers.

Even if all the important factions in Washington DC can be brought to a consenus on Iraq there is still the problem that the Iraqi government is so divided, corrupt, and at war with itself using rival militias that a deal in Iraq between Iraqis might not be possible.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, Congressman Hamilton, the other major player here, obviously, is the Iraqi government, the Iraqi leadership. And after your visit to Baghdad, you said, look, they've got three months to get a handle on this. And you also wrote -- and I just wanted to quote you back to yourself -- "Whether they have the political will to put aside sectarian differences and the capability to govern remain open questions."

Now, have you seen anything in the intervening month and a half to suggest they are stepping up to it?

LEE HAMILTON: No. I still have real questions in my mind as to the capacity, the will of the Iraqi government to move. What is interesting is that all of the American officials are saying the same thing, saying to the government, "You've got two, three, four, five months to get this act together and to take steps to improve the security in the country, to move towards national reconciliation, and, of course, to begin to deliver the basic services that government should deliver, electricity, water, and the other things."

I think it's very much a question whether this political leadership can do it. I think that we must give them a chance to do it. There are some encouraging signs. Their rhetoric has been pretty good, but the follow through with action has not measured up to our hopes.

US policy toward Iraq is going to change after the elections. That would be in the cards even if the Republicans managed somehow to maintain control of the House. Future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has the most Open Borders voting record in the House of Representatives. A coming shift of House control into the hands of Open Borders advocate Pelosi looks to be the biggest cost of the Iraq Debacle.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 15 01:14 PM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate
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Two Thirds Of South Koreans Want Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear proliferation begets more nuclear proliferation. The South Koreans want nuclear weapons of their own to deter Kim Jong-il's regime in Pyongyang.

SEOUL -- In less than a week since North Korea claimed to have tested a nuclear weapon, public opinion in the South has turned sharply against a South Korean policy of engaging the enemy in the belief it will eventually bring peace on the divided peninsula.

A JoongAng newspaper poll, several days after the reported nuclear test Monday, found 78 percent of respondents thought South Korea should revise its policy, and 65 percent said South Korea should develop nuclear weapons to protect itself.

I see a potential silver lining for Taiwan: The Taiwanese could develop their own nukes when Japan and South Korean develop nukes. How could the Taiwanese get singled out for trade sanctions under those circumstances? Then the Taiwanese would have a way to stay independent of the mainland.

The South Korean reaction ought to be a lesson for the Chinese leaders. They can either have two nuclear powers on the Korean peninsula or cut off the North Koreans so that the regime falls. Though such a regime collapse would bring with a very real risk of a massive artillery barrage by North Korean forces against Seoul South Korea. The South Koreans need a way to take out artillery fired from within hillsides.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 15 12:45 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control
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2006 October 12 Thursday
British Chief Of Staff Advocates Iraq Withdrawal

British Army Chief of Staff General Sir Richard Dannatt says the British should leave Iraq because their troop presence makes the security problem worse.

He says clearly we shoud "get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems."

"We are in a Muslim country and Muslims' views of foreigners in their country are quite clear."

As a foreigner, you can be welcomed by being invited in a country, but we weren’t invited certainly by those in Iraq at the time.

"The military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in. Whatever consent we may have had in the first place, may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance."

"That is a fact. I don’t say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them."

The same holds for American forces. Our presence turns Iraqis into Jihadists. They aren't going to turn into Jeffersonian Democrats. They are more like the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Dannatt does not think it practical to install a liberal democracy in the Middle East.

"The original intention was that we put in place a liberal democracy that was an exemplar for the region, was pro West and might have a beneficial effect on the balance within the Middle East."

"That was the hope, whether that was a sensible or naïve hope history will judge. I don’t think we are going to do that. I think we should aim for a lower ambition."

The longer we try to achieve an ambition far higher than we can hope to achieve the worse the outcome will be for us.

Humans do not all want equality and freedom for each other. Lots of people (especially in the Middle East) want to dominate each other. Islamic societies are incompatible liberal democacy. Pope Benedict thinks Islam is incompatible with the West. I agree.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 12 10:39 PM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate
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2006 October 11 Wednesday
Johns Hopkins Estimates 650,000 Dead In Iraq

The official death toll reports from Iraq probably drastically underestimate the real number of deaths from the US invasion and its aftermath of continuing war.

As many as 654,965 more Iraqis may have died since hostilities began in Iraq in March 2003 than would have been expected under pre-war conditions, according to a survey conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. The deaths from all causes—violent and non-violent—are over and above the estimated 143,000 deaths per year that occurred from all causes prior to the March 2003 invasion.

The estimates were derived from a nationwide household survey of 1,849 households throughout Iraq conducted between May and July 2006. The results are consistent with the findings of an October 2004 study of Iraq mortality conducted by the Hopkins researchers. Also, the findings closely reflect the increased mortality trends reported by other organizations that utilized passive methods of counting mortality, such as counting bodies in morgues or deaths reported by the news media. The study is published in the October 14, 2006, edition of the peer-reviewed scientific journal, The Lancet.

“As we found with our previous survey, the majority of deaths in Iraq are due to violence—although we also saw a small increase in deaths from non-violent causes, such as heart disease, cancer and chronic illness. Gunshots were the primary cause of violent deaths. To put these numbers in context, deaths are occurring in Iraq now at a rate more than three times that from before the invasion of March 2003,” said Gilbert Burnham, MD, PhD, lead author of the study and co-director of the Bloomberg School’s Center for Refugee and Disaster Response. “Our total estimate is much higher than other mortality estimates because we used a population-based, active method for collecting mortality information rather than passive methods that depend on counting bodies or tabulated media reports of violent deaths. Though the numbers differ, the trend in increasing numbers of deaths closely follows that measured by the U.S. Defense Department and the Iraq Body Count group.”

They estimate over 91% were killed by violence and that coalition forces were responsible for about 31% until July 2006 when deaths from coalition forces declined to 26% of the total. That's probably a sign that the sectarian killings have increased.

The invasion more than doubled the death rate in Iraq.

According to the researchers, the overall rate of mortality in Iraq since March 2003 is 13.3 deaths per 1,000 persons per year compared to 5.5 deaths per 1,000 persons per year prior to March 2003. This amounts to about 2.5 percent of Iraqi’s population having died as a consequence of the war.

One of the justifications for invading Iraq was to stop Saddam Hussein from killing Iraqis. Oops.

Update: Here's what I've long wondered about the casualty rate reports from Iraq:

  • What percentage of those killed show up as visible dead bodies to even have a chance of being collected by police and morgues?
  • Has the government crumbled so far in some parts of the country that there are no morgue employees left to collect bodies? In some areas the police and elected officials have fled. So why not the morgue employees? Do they get paid? The Iraqi army has a had time getting paid. And so maybe the morgue employees in some areas have given up working.
  • How much political pressure is there to publically report lower death figures than are known within the Iraqi government? The huge underreporting of deaths in Baghdad in August 2006 (revised upward by a multiple a week or so later) suggests this happens at least some of the time.
  • How many bodies aren't accounted for because artillery or air strikes obliterate some unknown number of insurgents and civilians in buildings?
  • Do any car bombs obliterate some victims so that an accurate death count is not possible?
  • Are Shia deaths or Sunni deaths more underreported?

Update II: Steve Sailer has an extensive post on the plausibility of this report. Steve points to the text of the study that shows most of the Iraqis polled who reported family deaths were able to provide death certificates.

The study population at the beginning of the recall period (January 1, 2002) was calculated to be 11 956, and a total of 1474 births and 629 deaths were reported during the study period; age was reported for 610 of 629 deaths, sex reporting was complete. During the survey period there were 129 households (7%) that reported in-migration, and 152 households (8%) reported out-migration. Survey teams asked for death certificates in 545 (87%) reported deaths and these were present in 501 cases. The pattern of deaths in households without death certificates was no different from those with certificates.

The death certificates suggest that parts of the Iraqi government have the documentation that could be used to measure the death rates. In theory one could go to an Iraqi city government administration building, go into the archives of death certificates, and see how many death certificates there are for various time periods. Or do Iraqi bureaucracies issue death certificates that they do not keep copies of?

Update III: One problem with the latest study is that the assumption it uses for the pre-war mortality rate might be too low.

The first issue here: Iraq's pre-war mortality rate. The first Johns Hopkins study from 2004 pegged it at five per every 1,000 population, based on what those interviewed recalled. This one was 5.5/1,000.

But UN reports had suggested Iraq's crude death rate was higher than this in the 1980s and '90s. It was in at least the 6.8/1,000 range and rising, which would make the difference between normal deaths and what the researchers called "excess deaths" brought about by the war quite a bit smaller.

...

This one roughly 40 households in each of 50 sites and as a result the confidence continuum has narrowed considerably to between 426,369 and 795,663 — which is still quite a range.

If we take the low end of the confidence interval we are still left with a high increment in the death rate. Worse, even those who argue for a lower death rate admit the death rate rose substantially this year.

Update IV: Daniel Davies says the numbers do add up.

The results speak for themselves. There was a sample of 12,801 individuals in 1,849 households, in 47 geographical locations. That is a big sample, not a small one. The opinion polls from Mori and such which measure political support use a sample size of about 2,000 individuals, and they have a margin of error of +/- 3%. If Margaret Beckett looks at the Labour party's rating in the polls, she presumably considers this to be reasonably reliable, so she should not contribute to public ignorance by allowing her department to disparage "small samples extrapolated to the whole country". The Iraq Body Count website and the Iraqi government statistics are not better measures than the survey results, because one of the things we know about war zones is that casualties are under-reported, usually by a factor of more than five.

And the results were shocking. In the 18 months before the invasion, the sample reported 82 deaths, two of them from violence. In the 39 months since the invasion, the sample households had seen 547 deaths, 300 of them from violence. The death rate expressed as deaths per 1,000 per year had gone up from 5.5 to 13.3.

Talk of confidence intervals becomes frankly irrelevant at this point. If you want to pick a figure for the precise number of excess deaths, then (1.33% - 0.55%) x 26,000,000 x 3.25 = 659,000 is as good as any, multiplying out the difference between the death rates by the population of Iraq and the time since the invasion. But we're interested in the qualitative conclusion here.

How can a survey of such a large number of people come out drastically wrong? Davies is right. 12,000 people is a large number of people to survey.

Update V: What other method would be more accurate than a survey? I agree with Richard Garfield that under the circumstances a survey is the most accurate method available for measuring death rates.

"I loved when President Bush said 'their methodology has been pretty well discredited,' " says Richard Garfield, a public health professor at Columbia University who works closely with a number of the authors of the report. "That's exactly wrong. There is no discrediting of this methodology. I don't think there's anyone who's been involved in mortality research who thinks there's a better way to do it in unsecured areas. I have never heard of any argument in this field that says there's a better way to do it."

Do you trust lower official figures from a dysfunctional and corrupt Iraqi government? Recall that an employee of the Baghdad morgue reported in August that the real death toll the morgue saw was 3 times the death toll reported for Baghdad by the Iraqi government.

Update VI: The Iraqi woman who writes the Baghdad Burning blog says she sees so many deaths per family among the families she knows that she finds the Johns Hopkins results plausible.

For American politicians and military personnel, playing dumb and talking about numbers of bodies in morgues and official statistics, etc, seems to be the latest tactic. But as any Iraqi knows, not every death is being reported. As for getting reliable numbers from the Ministry of Health or any other official Iraqi institution, that's about as probable as getting a coherent, grammatically correct sentence from George Bush- especially after the ministry was banned from giving out correct mortality numbers. So far, the only Iraqis I know pretending this number is outrageous are either out-of-touch Iraqis abroad who supported the war, or Iraqis inside of the country who are directly benefiting from the occupation ($) and likely living in the Green Zone.

The chaos and lack of proper facilities is resulting in people being buried without a trip to the morgue or the hospital. During American military attacks on cities like Samarra and Fallujah, victims were buried in their gardens or in mass graves in football fields. Or has that been forgotten already?

We literally do not know a single Iraqi family that has not seen the violent death of a first or second-degree relative these last three years. Abductions, militias, sectarian violence, revenge killings, assassinations, car-bombs, suicide bombers, American military strikes, Iraqi military raids, death squads, extremists, armed robberies, executions, detentions, secret prisons, torture, mysterious weapons – with so many different ways to die, is the number so far fetched?

We know the Iraqi government will deceive about death rates. We also know the Iraqi government barely exists in some parts of Iraq. Surely the death rate is underreported. The question is only by how much?

Update VII: Richard Miniter interviewed Johns Hopkins Professor and study leader Richard Burnham on how his team collected the information for this study and why he thinks the results are valid.

Burnham: This was a ‘cohort’ study, which means we compared household deaths after the invasion with deaths before the invasion in the same households. The death rates for these comparison households was 5.5/1000/yr.

What we did find for the households as a pre-invasion death rate was essential the same number as we found in 2004, the same number as the CIA gives and the estimate for Iraq by the US Census Bureau.

Death rates are a function of many things—not just health of the population. One of the most important factors in the death rate is the number of elderly in the population. Iraq has few, and a death rate of 5.5/1000/yr in our calculation (5.3 for the CIA), the USA is 8 and Sweden is 11. This is an indication of how important the population structures are in determining death rates. (You might Google ‘population pyramid’ and look at the census bureau site—fascinating stuff.)

The fact that his measured 5.5 rate is close to the CIA 5.3 rate for the pre-war period is an indication (though not conclusive) that at least for the pre-war period his sample was representative and his method of data collection was sound.

Burnham says most facilities (e.g. morgues) are not reporting their mortality information to the central government and the government is manipulating the data it does get.

PajamasMedia: You write that an active survey is more accurate than a “passive” system of counting media reports, morgue reports or other lists of the dead, which are often grossly incomplete in a war zone. This seems reasonable. To make sure people weren’t making things up, you teams received death certificates some 80% of the time. Also reasonable. So why are the active death figures an order of magnitude higher than the passive counts?

Burnham: The difference depends on the proportion of the passive-reporting facilities whose reports on death tolls reach some central tabulating body. Our information is that not many facilities are reporting, and what is being reported is often being manipulated.

I fully expect far less than complete reporting by the local government units. I also expect not all bodies to even make it to morgues or hospitals. I also expect provincial governates and the central government to cook the books. Plus, reporters can't even get out to most of the places where people are dying unless they are embedded with US troops. So reporters can't get the story of what is really happening with deaths.

Update VIII: A January 2008 report from the Iraqi government and World Health Organization estimates only a quarter the number of deaths that the Johns Hopkins study found.

A new survey estimates that 151,000 Iraqis died from violence in the three years following the U.S.-led invasion of the country. Roughly 9 out of 10 of those deaths were a consequence of U.S. military operations, insurgent attacks and sectarian warfare.

The survey, conducted by the Iraqi government and the World Health Organization, also found a 60 percent increase in nonviolent deaths -- from such causes as childhood infections and kidney failure -- during the period. The results, which will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine at the end of the month, are the latest of several widely divergent and controversial estimates of mortality attributed to the Iraq war.

The three-year toll of violent deaths calculated in the survey is one-quarter the size of that found in a smaller survey by Iraqi and Johns Hopkins University researchers published in the journal Lancet in 2006.

Here from the WHO press release on the January 2008 study:

The estimate is based on interviews conducted in 9345 households in nearly 1000 neighbourhoods and villages across Iraq. The researchers emphasize that despite the large size of the study, the uncertainty inherent in calculating such estimates led them to conclude that the number of Iraqis who died from violence during that period lies between 104 000 and 223 000.

"Assessment of the death toll in conflict situations is extremely difficult and household survey results have to be interpreted with caution," said study co-author Mohamed Ali, a WHO statistician who provided technical assistance for the survey. "However, in the absence of comprehensive death registration and hospital reporting, household surveys are the best we can do."

"Our survey estimate is three times higher than the death toll detected through careful screening of media reports by the Iraq Body Count project and about four times lower than a smaller-scale household survey conducted earlier in 2006," added Naeema Al Gasseer, the WHO Representative to Iraq.

The study found that violence became a leading cause of death for Iraqi adults after March 2003 and the main cause for men aged 15-59 years. It indicated that on average 128 Iraqis per day died of violent causes in the first year following the invasion and that the average daily violent death toll was 115 in the second year and 126 in the third year. More than half of the violent deaths occurred in Baghdad.

You can read the full text of this January 2008 report in the New England Journal of Medicine: Violence-Related Mortality in Iraq from 2002 to 2006.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 11 11:00 PM  Mideast Iraq Costs
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2006 October 08 Sunday
North Korea Explodes Test Nuclear Weapon

North Korea has followed through on their recent threat to carry out an underground nuclear weapons test.

The Korean Central News Agency said the test was successful and there had been no radioactive leakage from the site.

The underground test was reportedly conducted on Monday morning in Hwaderi near Kilju city.

South Korea's intelligence agency detected a 3.58-magnitude seismic tremor, the country's foreign ministry said.

TV analysts are quoting Bush Administration officials who believe the test claim.

Will China block UN sanctions against North Korea? Will China vote for sanctions but then continue to send fuel and other supplies to North Korea?

One TV reporter says US and South Korean military officers think the North Koreans have 3 to 5 tunnels under the border which the South Koreans have been unable to find. So the North Koreans might be able to deliver a nuclear weapon into Seoul without a missile to carry it.

Will the South Koreans change their own policies toward North Korea? Will they cut back on trade and aid?

I think attempts to stop nuclear proliferation are doomed to failure. Until nuclear weapons are used again to kill people I do not expect sufficient will to exist in the world to stop nuclear weapons proliferation. Since I think the odds are low that I'll get killed whenever nuclear weapons get used again I've decided to be fairly relaxed about the prospect of nuclear proliferation. If Chinese and European people don't want to strongly oppose nuclear proliferation then we just have to protect ourselves and wait for changes in world attitudes.

The US Geological Survey now reports they measured a 4.2 magnitude tremor in North Korea.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 08 09:12 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control
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Some Immigrant Groups Fail In America

Bad news about the big immigrant groups in America.

While the vast majority of young adult children of immigrants experience upward economic and social mobility, a new study finds that a significant minority are suffering from lower levels of education, lower incomes, higher birth rates and higher levels of incarceration. Furthermore, it is the U.S.-born children of Mexican, Haitian and West Indian immigrants who experience these problems in the largest proportions.

The study, led by sociologists Rubén G. Rumbaut of UC Irvine and Alejandro Portes of Princeton University, appears online this week in the Migration Information Source. The largest and longest-running study of children of immigrants yet conducted, the study also confirms the critical importance of education.

“The greatest educational disadvantage is found among children of Mexican immigrants and Laotian and Cambodian refugees in our sample – close to 40 percent of whom did not go beyond a high school diploma,” said Rumbaut. “Education is the key to successful upward mobility among children of immigrants, so the discrepancies that emerge in educational achievement among immigrant groups tend to persist in trends for income, employment and incarceration.”

We should stop letting in Laotian, Cambodian, and Mexican immigrants.

Note the use 'of "undocumented" rather than "illegal". Sure they have documents. They have fraudulent Social Security cards which they used to acquire real drivers licenses. They have documents. They just are here illegally.

The researchers also point to the influence of human capital (the skills and education of immigrant parents) as well as family structure, racial prejudice and government policies toward certain immigrant groups – particularly the undocumented – that influence this “downward assimilation” process.

The researchers found that children of Laotian and Cambodian Americans as well as Haitian Americans had the lowest median annual household income at just over $25,000. They were followed closely by Mexican American families, which had a median annual household income of about $30,000. On the other end of the spectrum, children of upper-middle-class Cuban exiles in Southern Florida reported a household income of more than $70,000, and Filipino Americans in Southern California had more than $64,000, followed by Chinese immigrants.

Smarter upper middle class Spaniards do well in the United States. Lower class Amerinds do poorly. This is all very predictable. Ditto the other results.

Their next finding is nothing new. It brings to mind the Harvey Danger Flag Pole Sitta song "Been around the world and found, That only stupid people are breeding, The cretins cloning and feeding".

Furthermore, the study found that the most educationally and economically disadvantaged children of immigrants were most likely to have children of their own at a young age, compounding their difficulties at pursuing higher education. When surveyed at the average age of 24, none of the Chinese Americans had children, while in contrast 25 percent of Haitians, West Indians, Laotians and Cambodians did, as did 41 percent of Mexican American young adults.

Natural selection is happening in the human population. The refusal of our elites to talk about it does not make it go away.

I like the "while only 10 percent" had been incarcerated. Only? Only? Are they kidding? 1 in 10 is bad.

Differences in arrest and incarceration rates are also noteworthy, particularly among second-generation, U.S.-born, males. While only 10 percent of second-generation immigrant males in the survey had been incarcerated, that figure jumped to 20 percent among West Indian and Mexican American youths.

Sociologists think that results like these mean we have to try harder to do things that'll prevent our peasant immigrants from becoming high school drop-out criminals. In the minds of Leftists it is our responsibility. Sociologists think we are all blank slates, a product of our environments and if our immigrants come out failures who are threats to the rest of us and parasites on the welfare state then we have failed to provide them with the correct nurturing environment. The sociologists are fools.

If sociologists want to understand their own data they should look real hard at IQ and the wealth of nations. Also see here for more on the relationship between IQ and national wealth. Until they more realistically model humans as biological beings their work will continue to yield little of practical use and much of destructive use.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 08 07:46 AM  Immigration Societal Decay
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2006 October 07 Saturday
Stephen Browne: 12 Lessons About Arab Muslims

Stephen Browne, an American who writes the Rants And Raves blog, has worked in a number of countries including Saudi Arabia. He's written a list of 12 observations on Arabs which I strongly recommend you read in full.

5) They do not think of obligations as running both ways.

With us, contractual and moral obligations tend to be equal and reciprocal. They don’t see it that way. The obligations of the superior to the inferior do not equal those of the inferior to the superior. Obligations within a family or clan outweigh all others. That is why we had to take care not to sit members of the same clan near each other during exams. If one asks another for help, he has to give it. In spite of promises to the school and even when the clansman is a total stranger. Obligations to other believers outweigh all obligations to unbelievers and especially when the believers are fellow-Arabs. And in contracts with unbelievers, the obligations of the Believer to the kaffir are not equal to the obligations of the kaffir to the Believer.

Consider that Muslims in England have quite un-selfconsciously demanded that a pub near a Mosque be shut down as offensive to their religion – in spite of the fact that the pub had precedence by six hundred years! Or that they demanded the right to broadcast the prayer call on loudspeakers in London while it is illegal to have a church at all in the Kingdom.

Their view of what constitutes fair play is so different than our own that people who expect all cultures to have the same basic assumptions on what is fair will misunderstand Arabs. What, they feel aggrieved? We expect their grievances to be based on reasoning that we'd apply if only we knew that they knew.

People who have different rules for what is fair are not going to be happy playing games (whether in business, marriage, or personal friendships) with each other. The inevitability of the disputes and misunderstandings is a reason to limit how much cultures with different rules come into contact with each other.

What we call dastardly terrorism they call normal rules of conflict.

6) In warfare, we think they are sneaky cowards, they think we are hypocrites.

In our civilization, when two men get down, either seriously or just “woofing”, what do they say? Some variation of “I’m going to kick your ass.” Am I right? Here’s what I heard in the Kingdom, “Hey, don’t f**k with me, or someday you get a knife in the back.” I’m not saying that wouldn’t happen to you in the West, but most men would be ashamed to make a threat of that nature. We don’t understand that direct shock battle is not necessarily the law of nature. When overwhelming force is brought to bear on them, they become cringing and obsequious. To put it bluntly, they lie their heads off to get you to turn your back on them. Try to see it from their point of view – how else do you expect them to act when you have the overwhelming force? You expect them to meet you on equal terms when the situation is so unequal? What other tactics are available but prevarication and delay followed by a sneak attack?

Folks, what we call “terrorism” is quite close to the historically normal way of warfare among these people.

Again, people who play by different rule books should not try playing games with each other. We should instead separate Muslims from Western Civilization in order to avoid disagreements, violent conflict, and the development of parallel separate societies within our own civilization.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 07 04:50 PM  Culture Compared
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China Attacks US Satellites With Laser Tests

The next Cold War is starting up in little spurts.

China has fired high-power lasers at U.S. spy satellites flying over its territory in what experts see as a test of Chinese ability to blind the spacecraft, according to sources. It remains unclear how many times the ground-based laser was tested against U.S. spacecraft or whether it was successful.

But the combination of China’s efforts and advances in Russian satellite jamming capabilities illustrate vulnerabilities to the U.S. space network are at the core of U.S. Air Force plans to develop new space architectures and highly classified systems, according to sources.

...

According to top officials, however, China not only has the capability, but has exercised it. It is not clear when China first used lasers to attack American satellites. Sources would only say that there have been several tests over the past several years.

“The Chinese are very strategically minded and are extremely active in this arena,” said one senior former Pentagon official. “They really believe all the stuff written in the 1980s about the high frontier and are looking at symmetrical and asymmetrical means to offset American dominance in space.”

They are not inclined to show us more respect than this?

By Randall Parker 2006 October 07 02:14 PM  China
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Venture Capitalists Face Shortage Of Good Prospects

Venture capitalists have too much money for the number of prospective investments they can find.

“The traditional venture model seems to us to be broken,” Steve Dow, a general partner at Sevin Rosen Funds, said in an interview.

Sevin Rosen, a 25-year-old firm that is among the most respected in the industry, was in the process of closing its 10th fund and had received commitments from investors for $250 million to $300 million, Mr. Dow said. But in a letter sent to those investors yesterday, Sevin Rosen said it had decided to abort that process.

“We have decided to take the radical step of returning the commitments you have given us for Fund X,” the firm wrote.

Explaining its decision, Sevin Rosen, which has offices in Dallas and Silicon Valley, said that too much money had flooded the venture business and too many companies were being given financing in every conceivable sector.

What is bad news for the VCs is good news for the rest of us. Companies that have great ideas have an easier time getting money. More good business models get funded. We benefit from a larger and better selection of goods and services.

The article reports the firm also complains about a weak Initial Public Offering (IPO) market. Weak? I suspect the market has become more efficient. The Vulture Capitalists brought too many worthless turkeys to market back in the 1990s and now the prospective buyers know to look hard when VCs make extravagant claims about the future prospects of their investments.

To succeed in venture capitalism is going to require more technical and business talent when analysing prospective investments. I expect the efficiency of venture capitalists to improve as a result of the heigthened competition they face. That'll reduce waste. Seems like good news for the economy as a whole.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 07 12:33 PM  Economics Venture Capital
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French Police Union Says In Civil War With Muslims

In France the Muslim youths in the banlieue suburbs keep police out of some areas.

Radical Muslims in France's housing estates are waging an undeclared "intifada" against the police, with violent clashes injuring an average of 14 officers each day.

As the interior ministry said that nearly 2,500 officers had been wounded this year, a police union declared that its members were "in a state of civil war" with Muslims in the most depressed "banlieue" estates which are heavily populated by unemployed youths of north African origin.

It said the situation was so grave that it had asked the government to provide police with armoured cars to protect officers in the estates, which are becoming no-go zones.

I say deport the illegals, stop granting citizenship to Muslims, buy back the citizenship from those Muslims who are citizens, and deport them all. If they are terrorists or criminals revoke their citizenship without compensation.

Another report about the French police union:

Muslims now try to kill French police and burn police cars.

"Michel Thoomis, the secretary general of the hardline Action Police trade union, demands that officers be given armored cars in the most dangerous areas.

“He said yesterday: ‘We are in a state of war, orchestrated by radical Islamists. This is not a question of urban violence any more, it is an intifada, with stones and Molotov cocktails. You no longer see two or three youths confronting police, you see whole tower blocks emptying into the streets to set their “comrades” free when they are arrested.’”

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has also used the term "intifada" to refer the Muslims in the housing estates.

Will the Muslims start using IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) of the sort seen in Iraq? My guess (perhaps over-optimistically) is that such a move would backfire. I'm thinking the higher and faster the Muslims escalate the better for the West. The sooner they reveal their ultimate intentions the sooner steps can be taken against them before it is too late. On this point see my post Muslims Criticize Al Qaeda For Waking Up Westerners To Muslim Immigration.

Also see my previous posts Muslims Said To Make Up 70% Of Prisoners In France, Most Prisoners In France Are Muslim, Headscarves And Islam In France And Turkey, Houellebecq could do French jail term for insulting Islam, and Theodore Dalrymple on French Ghettoes.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 07 11:40 AM  Immigration Culture Clash
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Congress Want To Betray Voters On 700 Mile Border Fence

Our Congressional representative are trying to deceive us.

But shortly before recessing late Friday, the House and Senate gave the Bush administration leeway to distribute the money to a combination of projects -- not just the physical barrier along the southern border. The funds may also be spent on roads, technology and "tactical infrastructure" to support the Department of Homeland Security's preferred option of a "virtual fence."

What's more, in a late-night concession to win over wavering Republicans, GOP congressional leaders pledged in writing that Native American tribes, members of Congress, governors and local leaders would get a say in "the exact placement" of any structure, and that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff would have the flexibility to use alternatives "when fencing is ineffective or impractical."

The loopholes leave the Bush administration with authority to decide where, when and how long a fence will be built, except for small stretches east of San Diego and in western Arizona. Homeland Security officials have proposed a fence half as long, lawmakers said.

"It's one thing to authorize. It's another thing to actually appropriate the money and do it," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.).

Our biggest problem in getting a fence built is that Republicans may lose control of the House of Representatives.

They think we are not paying much attention.

In this case, it also reflects political calculations by GOP strategists that voters do not mind the details, and that key players -- including the administration, local leaders and the Mexican government -- oppose a fence-only approach, analysts said.

I think we can keep the pressure on and get a fence built along the entire 1951 mile length of the border. People are not suddenly going to become less angry about illegal immigration. I expect the opposite in fact. Public demands for a cutback in immigration will continue to grow. The elites have failed to persuade the public to go along with their replacement by a new population.

We can not afford any complacency. Our elites will do our bidding against their own desires only if we keep on the pressure and even increase it.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 07 10:38 AM  Immigration Border Barrier
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2006 October 06 Friday
Minutemen Founder Prevented From Speaking By Thugs At Columbia

Hispanic and Leftist thugs prevented Jim Gilchrist from speaking at Columbia University in New York City.

New York, NY (October 5, 2006) -- Last night violent protestors at one of the nation's elite universities forced the evacuation of authors Jim Gilchrist and Jerome R. Corsi, who were at Columbia University to speak about their new book "Minutemen: The Battle to Secure America's Borders".

Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project, was speaking on the topic of illegal immigration at an event organized by the Columbia University Young Republicans when protestors stormed the stage and lunged toward him, forcing security personnel to hastily evacuate both authors. The event was abruptly cancelled due to security concerns before Dr. Corsi, who co-wrote the 2004 bestseller "Unfit for Command," could deliver his remarks.

Members of the International Socialist Organization were among those who rushed the stage.

The speech did not last long before interrupted.

Just as Mr. Gilchrist was talking about “2,000 Mexicans on the border,” several people holding aloft a banner that read “No One Is Illegal” in several languages, hopped on the stage. Almost instantly, they were joined by a couple of dozen others protesting the speech, according to videotape of the events taken by news agencies and others. From then on, the forum turned into a raucous gathering of young people shouting slogans against Mr. Gilchrist.

They were thrilled to prevent the presentation of a viewpoint they disagreed with.

Loud voices began chanting in Spanish "Si se pudo" -- "Yes, it could be done" -- drowning out any possibility of discussion.

Multiculturalism is really a code phrase meaning the suppression of a culture that the multiculturalists do not like.

You can watch the melee on Youtube.

Leftist and Hispanic protestors think they have a right to free speech but immigration restrictionists do not.

"We were aware that there was going to be a sign and we were going to occupy the stage," said a protestor who was on stage and asked to remain anonymous. "I don't feel like we need to apologize or anything. It was fundamentally a part of free speech. ... The Minutemen are not a legitimate part of the debate on immigration."

Stanley Kurtz sees immigration combined with multiculturalism as a threat to our freedom. ParaPundit agrees.

Andy, I’m late to the party on the outrage caught on tape at Columbia University the other day, but I agree that this is a big deal and should not be allowed to disappear.  I just viewed the video via Powerline, which has more good coverage. (The beginning and the end of the video are the key parts.)  And thanks to David French at Phi Beta Cons for alerting me to this.

Europe is churning out one scary story after another about problems flowing from poorly controlled immigration and failed assimilation.  Unfortunately, this tape makes it clear that America is vulnerable as well.  Yes, I’ve been open to a (House side-leaning) compromise on immigration, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the very serious problems.  Americans concerned about uncontrolled immigration and the substitution of multiculturalism for assimilation should look at this video and recognize that someday their own freedom will be directly threatened by the sort of outrage now confined to campuses like Columbia.  And for people who don’t believe that conservative views are suppressed on college campuses, just have a look at the video.

I'm not open to the least bit of a compromise between House immigration law enforcement bills and the Senate CIRA amnesty and guest worker program bill. That's like compromising between whether to take medicine or poison.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 06 11:40 PM  Immigration Politics
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Jack Straw Asks All Muslim Women In Britain To Unveil

Former British Foreign Secretary and Member of Parliament for Blackburn Jack Straw asks all Muslim women who meet with him to remove their veils.

All this was about a year ago. It was not the first time I had conducted an interview with someone in a full veil, but this particular encounter, though very polite and respectful on both sides, got me thinking. In part, this was because of the apparent incongruity between the signals which indicate common bonds - the entirely English accent, the couple's education (wholly in the UK) - and the fact of the veil. Above all, it was because I felt uncomfortable about talking to someone "face-to-face" who I could not see.

So I decided that I wouldn't just sit there the next time a lady turned up to see me in a full veil, and I haven't.

Now, I always ensure that a female member of my staff is with me. I explain that this is a country built on freedoms. I defend absolutely the right of any woman to wear a headscarf. As for the full veil, wearing it breaks no laws.

I go on to say that I think, however, that the conversation would be of greater value if the lady took the covering from her face. Indeed, the value of a meeting, as opposed to a letter or phone call, is so that you can - almost literally - see what the other person means, and not just hear what they say. So many of the judgments we all make about other people come from seeing their faces.

I thought it may be hard going when I made my request for face-to-face interviews in these circumstances. However, I can't recall a single occasion when the lady concerned refused to lift her veil; and most I ask seem relieved I have done so.

Straw's essay and subsequent statements (see below) shows just how much further along the British and Europeans have moved in their thinking about Muslim immigrants as compared to political elites in America. America's political elites are still stuck inside the narrow intellectual confines of the bundle of lies which the Left has built for them.

Some Muslims are predictably unhappy about Straw's position.

Shaykh Ibrahim, who trained as an imam, said: "I have a beard and I wear a traditional long shirt. Sometimes I wear a turban and a hat. Am I going to be his next subject of concern?" He said he welcomed a debate but Muslims "would want ownership of the outcome of that debate".

Dr Reefat Drabu, the chairman of the social and family affairs committee of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, said: "If Mr Straw thinks this is going to break down barriers, it isn't. If anything, it is going to alienate Muslim women and be a catalyst for more of them to wear the veil and prove a point."

She added: "If you are trying to build bridges, you need to listen to what Muslims are saying. The problems that alienate women are to do with foreign policy and no one seems to take any notice of that. This country is supposed to celebrate diversity. That is the wonderful thing about this country: that it accepts, that it is tolerant. Women who wear the veil are making the statement that they are separate from society and that is why they wear it."

I do listen very carefully to what Muslims are saying. As a result I've come to the conclusion that Islam is not compatible with Western society and we should provide economic incentives to get Muslims to leave. I find Pope Benedict's view that Islam is incompatible with Western societies to be spot on.

Straw wants the Muslim women to totally discard the veils.

Jack Straw has inflamed the controversy over Muslim women wearing veils by saying that he would prefer them to stop wearing the garments altogether. The former Foreign Secretary provoked widespread anger, both among Muslim groups and in his Blackburn constituency, when he disclosed that he asked female constituents to uncover their faces in meetings.

Undaunted by a wave of criticism, including condemnation from the one of the Church of England's most senior bishops, Mr Straw waded further into the row yesterday. Asked if he would rather the veils be discarded completely, he said: "Yes. It needs to be made clear I am not talking about being prescriptive but with all the caveats, yes, I would rather."

The Leader of the Commons told Radio 4's Today programme: "You cannot force people where they live, that's a matter of choice and economics, but you can be concerned about the implications of separateness."

Physical proximity does not prevent the construction of parallel separated societies. High levels of immigration enable the development of greater separation and prevents assimilation. TO get a sense of just how deep this problem runs in Britain see my post Over Half Of Pakistanis In Britain Married To First Cousins.

Getting them to unveil won't solve the problem. Islam is not compatible with Western societies. Wrap your minds around that. Islam is the problem.

Update: Straw sees the ability to read facial expressions as important in understanding human communications.

Mr Straw explained the impact he thought veils could have in a society where watching facial expressions was important for contact between different people.

"Communities are bound together partly by informal chance relations between strangers - people being able to acknowledge each other in the street or being able pass the time of day," he said.

"That's made more difficult if people are wearing a veil. That's just a fact of life.

"I understand the concerns but I hope, however, there can be a mature debate about this.

"I come to this out of a profound commitment to equal rights for Muslim communities and an equal concern about adverse development about parallel communities."

He is right of course. Facial expressions provide a wealth of information about what people really mean. Misunderstandings and distrust will rise to the extent that people become less able to read each others' facial expressions.

Update II: Straw is not getting shouted down by his own party.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said yesterday that opposition to the veil was not government policy, but that Tony Blair “believes it is right that people should be able to have a discussion and express their personal views on issues such as this”.

...

But some Muslim representatives were more sympathetic, and there was support from other sources. Daud Abdullah, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “This [veil] does cause some discomfort to non-Muslims. One can understand this.”

The Labour peer Baroness Uddin told GMTV yesterday that there was a need for debate, declaring: “It is about human rights on both sides — Jack’s right to say and the women’s right to wear what they please.” The Right Rev Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, said: “I can understand why he has said it.”

The enforcers of political correctness would probably attack an American politician who made similar comments.

Writing for the left-leaning Guardian Martin Kettle sees the veil as a form of rejection of the larger culture.

There is, of course, a wider issue here. Straw himself refers directly to it in his article. The veil is an explicit statement of separation and distance, as he puts it. It literally comes between its wearer and other people. It is impossible not to see it as a barrier dividing the individual inside from the world outside. Whether the veil is also a form of self-protection or separatism is harder to say. Not all cases will be the same. Many of us fear the latter, perhaps wrongly, although in the hoodie era it is hardly the only form of dress in modern Britain that can be read that way.

But the veil is a much more loaded statement than even a hoodie, and it is disingenuous to pretend otherwise. It is not merely a badge of religious or cultural identity like a turban, a yarmulke or even a baseball cap. It says something not just about the wearer but about the non-wearer too. It says, or seems to say, I do not wish to engage with you. It is at some level a rejection. And since that statement of rejection comes from within Islamic cultures, some of whose willingness to integrate is explicitly at issue in more serious ways, it is hardly surprising that it should be challenged.

Muslims do not want to integrate because they see Muslims as above non-Muslims and they see the proper order of society as one where Muslims rule over non-Muslims.

Muslim immigration has turned UK National Health Service hospitals into places of harassment of UK soldiers wounded in Afghanistan.

A paratrooper wounded in Afghanistan was threatened by a Muslim visitor to the British hospital where he is recovering.

Seriously wounded soldiers have complained that they are worried about their safety after being left on wards that are open to the public at Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham.

...

Soldiers on operations say they would rather receive a more serious injury and go to the top American military hospital in Ramstein, Germany, than end up in a NHS hospital.

They now half jokingly refer to getting "a Boche rather than a Blighty" in reference to the wounds that would send them home. Ramstein has an outstanding unit for brain surgery, and neurological intensive care beds in Britain are in short supply. "The blokes see it that if you are unlucky you get wounded and go to the UK at the mercy of the NHS, but if you get a head wound you get sent to Ramstein in Germany where the US has an outstanding medical facility," said an officer serving in Afghanistan.

The British Muslims see fellow Muslims in Afghanistan as part of their group and fellow British citizens as not part of their group.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 06 11:03 PM  Immigration Culture Clash
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Ethnic Diversity Increases Feelings Of Isolation, Turnover

Here's a study with obvious implications for immigration policy. In retail stores ethnic diversity leads employees to quit. (same article here)

Contrary to popular thinking among some diversity consultants, employing workers of many different races has little effect on average turnover in a retail workplace, although employees do quit more often if fewer colleagues are the same race, according to a recently published case study by two professors at the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business.

In one of few studies to explore how workplace demographics affect employee behavior, Haas School Professors Jonathan Leonard and David Levine examined more than 70,000 employees at more than 800 workplaces of a national retailer. They outlined the results of their study in an article titled “The Effect of Diversity on Turnover: A Large Case Study” in the July issue of the journal Industrial and Labor Relations Review.

“The most important takeaway is diversity itself doesn’t matter much in terms of turnover for most groups of workers,” says Leonard, chairman of the Haas Economic Analysis and Policy Group. “It suggests that people are, at least in this sector, pretty tolerant.”

The diversity consultants peddling politically correct myths to businesses are all selling snake oil.

Leonard and Levine's findings contradict one argument by some diversity consultants who claim that having a gender and racially diverse workforce reduces turnover. Leonard and Levine also failed to find support for another line of thinking that argues that diverse workplaces experience more friction and thus require special training.

"We were interested in seeing whether in fact there really was an empirical basis for a lot of advice that is pretty commonplace in the diversity consulting industry," explains Leonard, who holds the George Quist Chair in Business Ethics at the Haas School. "We discovered that, at least in the retail sector, diversity itself is not a big driver of turnover."

Most people like being around people who think like them, look like them, act like them. Even the people who look down their noses at people who admit to preferrig their own kind also prefer their own kind.

Minorities do not like to work in white majority workplaces. I guess white Leftists could write this off as a desire to escape from their white male patriarchial capitalistic oppressors. Gotta invest in rationalizations if one is to maintain a secular faith.

At the same time, Leonard and Levine did find support for the old proverb "birds of a feather flock together" when they studied another facet of diversity -- racial isolation. They defined racial isolation as being in a numerical minority in a workplace, whether it's white, black, Hispanic, or Asian. For instance, in a group composed five black employees and two white employees, the white employees would be more racially isolated than their black colleagues.

“The problem for managers is that each new hire raises isolation for some groups at the same time that it decreases isolation for others,” Leonard and Levine noted.

Another discouraging finding was that all minority groups were more likely to quit a workplace in which a greater proportion of employees were white, suggesting that diversity is difficult to sustain. “Managers can benefit by helping employees thrive in a world of racial diversity – a prescription that is easier to state than to implement,” the authors wrote.

The courts do not recognize a right to free association in business. So exercise of the basic human desire to be around people more like yourself is not legal.

Here's a real interesting one: Females want to work in workplaces that are either male-dominated or female-dominated. This is an argument for having males clustering in some occupations while females cluster in other occupations.

One surprising finding was that women seemed to dislike gender diversity. Women were slightly more likely to quit when the gender breakdown of their workplace was closer to 50% female and 50% male, and less likely when their workplace was less diverse, with either mostly female or mostly male employees.

People do not like to wait on people of other races.

* Racial isolation from potential customers – not just coworkers – also increased turnover, the authors found. Black and Hispanic employees in particular were less likely to quit in heavily black and Hispanic communities, respectively.

* White employees left more often in situations where there were fewer whites. Although the sample was two-thirds white, almost a quarter of the workplaces had a nonwhite majority.

* There was evidence that blacks and Hispanics preferred each other to white coworkers. Black exits were particularly rapid when more of their coworkers were white or Asian, while Hispanic colleagues did not increase black employees’ exit rate.

* For Hispanics, unlike other groups, turnover was lowest with a mixture of Hispanics and others. Hispanics left stores with many whites or Asians, but were not more likely to leave stores with black coworkers.

In less ethnically diverse societies it is easier for people to live in neighborhoods and work in workplaces that have the same kinds that people want to be around. Denying this desire does not make it go away.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 06 08:45 PM  Human Nature
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2006 October 05 Thursday
Daniel Larison On Victor Davis Hanson

Daniel Larison thinks more highly if the European reaction to Islam than of the popular neocon game of sliming the Europeans with all matter of calumny.

Victor Davis Hanson evidently doesn’t like Europeans and some Americans and he’s isn’t afraid to say it.  You see, according to the one article, many Muslims are anti-Semites and the Europeans (along with select Americans) are “indifferent” to Muslim anti-Semitism, even though many if not all EU countries actually criminalise anti-Semitic speech and acts as hate crimes.  One might actually object to such criminalisation of speech on the basis that it infringes on free speech, which has lately become the fashionable idol before which American conservatives throw themselves, but it remains unclear how the Europeans enable rampaging anti-Semitism.  Oh, that’s right–they disagree with Hanson on foreign policy, so ipso facto….There are apparently Americans who are also doing this, because some attempted to have a conversation with Ahmadinejad (how dare they!).  

In the other, we are told that Europeans are “traitors to the Enlightenment.”  Well, maybe, but if they were actually traitors to the Enlightenment why would that necessarily either be a bad thing or reason for an ostensibly conservative person to complain?  Oh, yes, now I remember–they have allegedly lost faith in Reason, which is the other idol to which we on the right are now supposed to bow.  There is good reason to lament cases where Europeans cave in to Muslim intimidation, as happened with the Berlin opera, but it is by no means a universal phenomenon.  When Muslims were rioting and protesting the Danish cartoons, German government officials, among others, expressed support for free speech and several European newspapers republished the cartoons to state their support for free speech.  When Van Gogh was murdered, after Fortuyn had already raised the problem of Muslim immigrants’ assimilation to Dutch norms, such as they are, the Netherlands started taking a hard look at the problem of how or whether such people could be integrated into Dutch society if they are unwilling to accept the norms of that society.  When Muslims were rioting and protesting Pope Benedict’s speech, Aznar came out in support of the Pope and invoked the example of Ferdinand and Isabella–hardly the squeamish whinging of an appeaser.

Europe is one of the topics of debate which made me realize that there's a huge gap between the neoconservative unconservative view of the world and my own. The Europeans are not my enemies. Their societies and cultures are not distant from my own. I'm increasingly thinking that people want us to see the Euros as enemies are fools or worse. Why do they want us to believe this? Near as I can tell they do not like the more critical views of Israel that pertains in much of Europe and so they want to drive a wedge between the United States and Europe in order to decrease European influence over US foreign policy. Pushing apart Western societies is unwise.

The neocons are the ones whose views of Islam are incredibly lame. While many European governments are making moves to keep out Muslim immigrants many neocons want us to believe that the problem with Islam is just some Westernized radical strain of it that is aping mid-20th century European fascism. The term "Islamo-fascist" makes no sense. Real Burkean conservative John Derbyshire agrees.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 05 10:56 PM  Europe and America
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2006 October 03 Tuesday
Pear Farmers Complain About Smaller Supply Of Illegal Aliens

Pear farmers are complaining because their supply of subsidized illegal alien labor has been reduced by tougher border enforcement.

LAKEPORT, Calif. – The pear growers in Lake County waited decades for a crop of shapely fruit like the one that adorned their orchards last month.

"I felt like I went to heaven," said Nick Ivicevich, recalling the perfection of his most abundant crop in 45 years of tending trees.

Now harvest time has passed and tons of pears have ripened to mush on their branches, while the ground of Mr. Ivicevich's orchard reeks with rotting fruit. He and other growers in Lake County, 90 miles north of San Francisco, could not find enough pickers.

Stepped-up border enforcement kept many illegal Mexican migrant workers out of California this year, farmers and labor contractors said, putting new strains on the state's shrinking seasonal farm labor force.

Ron Guhname saw a CNN show about pears rotting on the ground due to lack of illegal immigrant workers to pick them cheaply. Guhname is unsympathetic to the complaints of the pear farmers.

I say serves you right: you got it coming when you make your living off of illegality, and when you impose all the costs of illegals on your neighbors.

In the comments at that link Steve Sailer asks whether the pears are rotting due to excess supply. It turns out that increased foreign pear and apple supplies have sent prices plummeting and acreage dedicated to them has been shrinking for years before the illegal alien supply started to get undercut.

Orchard acreage in Oregon has fallen about 20 percent over the past two decades, according to a new fruit tree inventory compiled by the federal government.

Apples, in particular, has taken a hit, with the 4,835 acres of apples in production in 1986 dwindling to 1,340 acres in Hood River, Wasco, Josephine and Jackson counties.

Increased foreign competition and oversupply have sent apple and pear prices plummeting. And as orchards are turned into golf courses, or preserved as parks, agriculture employment declines too, with the closure of packing houses.

All this was happening while the illegals were flooding into the country.

Recent years have seen a drop in pear prices.

The price for No. 1 grade pears last season was $215 a ton, compared with $210 in 2004, $246 in 2003, and $243 in 2002.

The price willl be higher in 2006 and 2007 than 2005 but still lower than 2003 and 2002.

Think the shortage of illegal alien labor is going to drive up the prices we pay for pears? Foreign competition is driving the price of pears, not labor costs. Pear farmers are faced with cheap labor in China that drives down the price of pears.

Ivicevich said production costs for his crop are about $2,500 an acre, with an additional $1,000 an acre needed to cover harvest costs. The past few years have been financially challenging, he said. Rising production costs, competition from China and weather conditions have all made it hard for Lake County pear growers to make a profit.

If the pear farmers want a source of cheap illegal alien labor they should recruit from North Carolina where the Hispanics are literally hungry.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Wake Forest University School of Medicine researchers have found high rates of hunger in surveys of immigrant Latino families in eastern and western North Carolina, southwestern Virginia and Forsyth County.

"Although the United States enjoys a relative lack of hunger, there are segments of the N.C. population – Latino immigrants – with hunger more severe than areas of persistent poverty like Appalachia," said Sara A. Quandt, Ph.D. The overall hunger rate for the U.S. is 4.3 percent. The Wake Forest surveys found that rates of hunger among Latino immigrants ranged from almost twice the national rate (8 percent) to more than eight times the national rate (35.6 percent). The results were reported in the October issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

"About 40 percent of the respondents in each study reported worrying that food would run out and that food bought would not last," said Quandt, the lead author. That combination, less severe than "hunger," is viewed as "food insecurity" and includes such actions as relying on just a few kinds of food and cutting meal size for children and adults.

...

In Forsyth, 15.8 percent of those surveyed reported children had had to go all day without food in the past year and 21.8 percent reported that children were hungry because they couldn't afford more food. And yet the researchers also found that only 12.9 percent of those in Forsyth reported receiving food from a food pantry compared to 25 percent of those in eastern North Carolina.

The farmers should embrace automation and stop bringing in illegal aliens whose health care, education of children, crime, and other costs are paid for by the rest of us.

Update: The whining farmers are losing their laborers to construction companies which pay more money.

As the border tightens, Mexican workers who once spent part of each year in American fields without a work permit fear that if they go back to Mexico, they will be trapped behind the border, farmers say. Instead, they stay in the United States, taking year-round jobs that pay more and are less backbreaking than farm work, such as cleaning hotels or working in construction in cities on the Gulf Coast devastated by last year's hurricanes.

"Frequently you hear, especially from California, complaints about construction companies actually recruiting workers from the sides of the fields," said Craig Regelbrugge, co-chair of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform.

I heard an anecdotal report about a big grower about 100 miles from where I live that was losing farm workers to construction companies hiring them to move to Bakersfield to build houses. So I'm not surprised to read this. Where do the farmers get off thinking they have a God given right to cheap labor?

Some farmers are automating.

Some farmers said they have invested in machines to take the place of workers, though some tasks, such as picking soft fruit, cannot be mechanized.

Soft fruit picking could be automated. It'd take some robotic technology with pressure sensors to prevent the pickers from squeezing too hard. It is not impossible.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 03 10:17 PM  Immigration Economics
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2006 October 02 Monday
US Officers Expect Iraq Death Squads To Grow

US military people in Baghdad have become more outspoken about the need for a crackdown on the Shiite militias. Shiites in the Iraqi government continue to veto moves against the Shia militias. The US military officers also believe a move against the Shia militias in Sadr City would be pretty horrible in terms of the death tolls of soldiers and civilians.

According to US officers interviewed by the Guardian, the decision not to confront the major source of the death squads was supported initially by the US because of fears of a full-scale battle with the militia in Sadr City.

"We are talking Berlin in '45 or Stalingrad," said one officer. "That is the conundrum. There is an unwillingness to tackle the problem head-on, but also a recognition that if we don't tackle the militias, death squad activities can only grow."

Instead, a decision was reached to try to bring political pressure to bear on the Sadr organisation, whose parliamentary bloc is crucial in supporting Mr Maliki's government, to bring its militia - illegal under the Iraqi constitution - into line. But with growing doubts over how much the Sadr organisation's leader, the firebrand preacher Moqtada al-Sadr, actually controls the factions within Jaish al-Mahdi, concerns are now growing about the wisdom of that policy.

"There are fractures politically inside Sadr's movement, many of whom don't find him to be sufficiently radical now that he has taken a political course of action," said a senior coalition intelligence official who spoke to reporters in Baghdad.

I've previously reported on the splintering of Sar's Mahdi Army as factions refuse to go along with his relatively more moderate stance. The idea of coopting Shia factions and getting them into the government runs up against the desire of most of the actual gunmen to keep shooting.

The Iraqi government has made lists of people who are unarrestable no matter what they do.

U.S. military leaders described various hindrances as they attempt to quell sectarian violence in Baghdad, including "no-touch lists" that prohibit them from arresting politicians and other high status individuals, and off-limits areas inside Baghdad that the U.S. military must avoid without permission from the Iraqi government.

U.S. military officials said they are also constrained by their desire to see the Iraqi government use the current sectarian conflict to prove its ability to rule fairly, without regard to narrow sectarian interests and without significant U.S. interference.

"There's a political piece to this to see if they deal with these guys," said a high-ranked U.S. military official in Baghdad who requested anonymity in order to maintain relationships with the Iraqi government. "I won't deny the fact that there is corruption and problems in some of the ministries, but it's got to be dealt with and it ought to be dealt with by the prime minister and the folks inside his government."

The corruption isn't going to be dealt with. We are talking about Iraq here, not Finland. But why should we care? Most Iraqis support attacks on US troops. Think about that. Why not leave and let the Shias and Sunnis battle it out?

Here's another deal coming out of the Iraqi government that won't help.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki emerged with the four-point plan after talks with the top Sunni and Shiite leaders in his government, trying to prevent a crisis over rising tensions between the two Islamic sects.

Under the plan, local commissions will be formed in each district of Baghdad, made up of representatives of each party, to oversee security forces’ efforts against violence, al-Maliki said. A central committee comprising all the parties will coordinate with the armed forces, he said.

Representatives of each party will meet while militias of each party go out and kill people on the opposing party.

Now that so many other strategies for Iraq have failed I'm curious what the Bush Administration will tout as its next strategy du jour. Will they just keep recycling old strategies like training? I have advice for them if only they'd listen: Use bribery and cash incentives. For a small fraction of the $2 billion per week currently spent in Iraq we could bribe a lot of factions. We could offer big cash prizes for doing things we want them to do and not doing things we do not want them to do.

Soldiers going AWOL? No problem. Offer big chunks of cash to each soldier who shows up on time for some sweep of a neighorhood or operation to round up some insurgents. Offer cash awards for reductions in killings in an area. Offer cash awards for capture of militia leaders. Pay for performance.

But I have an even better idea: Leave.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 02 09:04 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Conflict
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2006 October 01 Sunday
Noah Millman Opposes Preemptive Attack On Iran

Gideon's Blog author Noah Millman lists several reasons why he's decided that a preemptive attack on Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program is a bad idea. His first reason, Pakistan, is by itself very compelling.

1. Pakistan. Pakistan, like Iran, is an Islamic dictatorship. But there are important differences. Pakistan is, arguably, less democratic. Its people are, almost certainly, more anti-American. Pakistan has ties to al Qaeda, a terrorist group actively at war with America, while Iran is the patron of Hezbollah, a terrorist group actively at war with Israel but not with America, and which has only struck Americans as such when America was intervening in Lebanon (whereas they have incidentally struck American Jews in Israel and elsewhere in the world as part of attacks on Israeli and non-Israeli Jewish targets). And, of course, Pakistan already has nuclear weapons. America's "alliance" with Pakistan is already on its last legs. But the nuclear terrorist nightmare becomes vastly more likely if Pakistan collapses or is captured by al-Qaeda sympathetic forces. Indeed, the likelihood of nuclear terrorism originating in Pakistan must be rated more highly than the likelihood of nuclear terrorism originating in Iran. I'm convinced that an attack on Iran would mean the end of any prospect of controlling Pakistan and keeping it from going wholeheartedly over to the dark side.

I agree with his reasons and am pleased he's taken the time to articulate them all.

Noah says the United States has not been elected the world's policeman and we will not be appreciated even by our Western allies if we attack Iran.

War on Iran, then, would set a new precedent: that the United States feels it has the right to attack any country that seeks to acquire nuclear weapons. Now, one might be inclined to say: what's wrong with such a precedent? Wouldn't the world be a better place if would-be proliferators feared the wrath of the United States? Perhaps it would - if the United States were immune from any consequences of its behavior. But try to imagine what such a conclusion would feel like in Ankara, or Jakarta, or Moscow - or even in London or Ottawa or Canberra. Even if we want to be the world's policeman, the world has not elected us to the post as yet.

Noah says for demographic reasons we can not use war as a general solution. We do not have a population ratio in our favor big enough to allow us to occupy and subdue hostile populations.

In the heyday of Western imperialism, the West had an overwhelming demographic advantage over a South that was pre-modern, traditional, quietistic, and most of all sparsely populated. Today's South is still under-developed, but it is increasingly modern, politically mobilized and densely populated - and there are just a lot more of them. Strategies that might have worked 100 years ago are simply inapplicable today. I wish more war advocates understood this.

I agree with this argument and this is one really big reason why I favor physical isolation of the West from the Muslim countries. If we go the Open Borders road that many neocons and liberals prefer we are basically setting ourselves up for defeat by immigrant invaders. The battle of the womb will not be resolved in our favor in the foreseeable future. If you haven't so already go back and read my post on Pope Benedict's view that Islam is not compatible with Western societies.

Others have made the demographic argument. Lawrence Auster argues we should separate ourselves from Islam. Steve Sailer modestly suggests Europe should pay Muslims to leave. The further apart our respective societies become the less people from either society will do things that create conflict.

Anyway, read all of Noah's arguments. Are you convinced?

By Randall Parker 2006 October 01 03:05 PM  MidEast Iran
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Writing About Relationships Makes Them Last Longer

If either member of a couple writes about their relationship every day the relationship lasts longer on average. So then what would happen if they both wrote about it? And what would happen if they read what each other wrote?

AUSTIN, Texas—Writing about one’s romantic relationship may help it last longer, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin report in this month’s issue of Psychological Science.

In a study titled “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Words,” Psychology Professor James Pennebaker and graduate student Richard Slatcher analyzed writing samples from 86 couples. One person from each couple was instructed to write for 20 minutes a day for three consecutive days. Volunteers in one group wrote about their daily activities while those in the second group wrote about their deepest thoughts and feelings about the relationship. The participants’ dating partners did not complete any writing task.

The researchers found that 77 percent of volunteers who wrote about their relationship were still dating their partner three months later. In contrast, only 52 percent of people who wrote just about everyday activities stayed with their partner.

The study also showed that those who wrote about their relationship used more words expressing positive emotions such as “happy" and "love" in Instant Message (IM) exchanges with their dating partner during the days following the writing.

This brings up a perhaps unobvious question: If writing about a relationship will make it last longer is that necessarily a good thing?

If you are fairly young and are in a relationship that is not well suited to you then keeping it going has a big opportunity cost. You might end up getting married, having kids, and only then might the strains of the relationship push you apart and end the relationship. In that case writing about it is a bad idea.

What we need are measures of a relationship's health and long term prospects that would provide some guidance on whether to up the investment or write off the loss and move on.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 01 02:07 PM  Human Nature
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United Steel Workers Oppose Foreign Travel For Health Care

Are you a business operator in shock over rising medical insurance quotes? Some companies are looking at sending employees to India to cost costs on expensive operations. The United Steel Workers union blocked Carl Garrett's trip from North Carolina to India to receive shoulder surgery.

Garrett's trip was intended to be a test case for Blue Ridge Paper's plan to offer its employees and their dependents the option of seeking medical care overseas beginning in 2007. For several years, the company failed in its attempt to obtain discounts from healthcare providers for its 5,000 covered workers.

The self-insured company decided to contract with IndUShealth, a Raleigh, N.C., firm that sends patients to Indian hospitals for major savings compared with American hospital care.

Garrett quickly volunteered, mostly for the financial incentive. The operations he was scheduled to have would have cost $20,000 in India compared with about $100,000 in the US. The trip was expected to save the company $50,000, and he was being given a share of the company's total savings. Aside from not retiring in medical debt, Garrett was eager for the opportunity to see the Taj Mahal as part of a two-day tour before his procedure.

But the plan alarmed the USW. "We made it clear that if healthcare was going to be resolved, it would be resolved by modifying the system in the US, not by offshoring or exporting our own people [to receive medical care]," says union representative Stan Johnson, who stepped in to stop Garrett's trip. The USW has more than 850,000 members.

The USW fears that trips abroad to receive medical treatments will become mandatory. This fear seems plausible for some procedures. The article quotes a TowersPerrin study that found American corporations are cutting annual raises by 1% in order to pay increased health care costs.

A trip all the way to India can be a grueling ordeal. Depending on where you are going in India the trip could involve as many as 4 flights over 24 hours or longer. For some types of illness that'd be hard, even hazardous to one's health. For example, the time sitting in an airplane would put one at risk of blood clots and for people with circulatory problems the risk would be much greater. But for other problems the trip could be fun. Mr. Garrett was looking forward to sightseeing while there.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found that medical insurance premiums paid by companies rose 7.7% this year and while that is down from previous years it is still about twice the rate of inflation.

Washington, D.C. – Premiums for employer-sponsored health coverage rose an average 7.7 percent in 2006, less than the 9.2 percent increase recorded in 2005 and the recent peak of 13.9 percent in 2003, according to the 2006 Employer Health Benefits Survey released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust (HRET). Key findings from the survey were also published today as a Health Affairs Web Exclusive.

This year’s survey recorded the slowest rate of premium growth since 2000, though premiums still increased more than twice as fast as workers’ wages (3.8 percent) and overall inflation (3.5 percent). Premiums have increased 87 percent over the past six years. Family health coverage now costs an average $11,480 annually, with workers paying an average of $2,973 toward those premiums, about $1,354 more than in 2000.

“While premiums didn’t rise as fast as they have in recent years, working people don’t feel like they are getting any relief at all because their premiums have been rising so much faster than their paychecks,” said Foundation President and CEO Drew E. Altman, Ph.D.” To working people and business owners a reduction in an already very high rate of increase just means you’re still paying more.”

The bigger health care costs get the greater the lengths companies will go to control them. Send people abroad to save $50,000 on expensive procedures? From the perspective of business owners, sure, why not?

I am surprised to learn that employer use of high deductible Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) has not grown much.

While there is substantial debate about consumer-driven health care, the survey finds modest enrollment in consumer-driven plans, with 2.7 million workers in high-deductible plans with a savings option, including those that qualify for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). About 4 percent of covered workers are enrolled in such plans, a rate statistically no different from last year. Relatively few firms that offer other types of health insurance say that they are “very likely” to adopt high-deductible plans that qualify for an HSA (4 percent) or that are associated with a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (6 percent) in the next year.

My guess is that as costs continue to rise and employers get higher and higher quotes from insurance providers employers will eventually take a much more serious look at high deductible HSAs.

How have employers slowed their own premium payments growth? By shifting costs onto employees.

Workers’ contributions toward premiums. On average, workers are paying $259 more this year than they did last year toward the cost of family health coverage.Workers at small firms (with three to 199 employees) on average contribute significantly more to their premiums ($3,550 for family coverage) than workers at larger companies ($2,658 for family coverage). On average, workers this year are paying about 16 percent of premiums for single coverage and 27 percent of premiums for family coverage, with their employers paying the rest. That share is essentially unchanged in recent years.

The employees are paying a lot of those costs in after-tax dollars. So every dollar saved by employers costs more than a dollar to employees. Given the lower raises and the higher cost of out-of-pocket medical expenses what is the end result for the average American worker's buying power for non-medical purposes? Is the average worker experiencing a decline in money available to spend on non-medical purposes? Or at least is that happening to older age brackets?

By Randall Parker 2006 October 01 10:14 AM  Economics Health
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Saudi Arabia To Build Fence To Keep Out Refugees From Iraq

The Saudis think Iraq is falling apart and that Iraqi Shia Arabs pose a security risk to Saudi Arabia.

Security in Iraq has collapsed so dramatically that Saudi Arabia has ordered the construction of a 550-mile high-tech fence to seal off its troubled northern neighbour.

The huge project to build the barrier, which will be equipped with ultraviolet night-vision cameras, buried sensor cables and thousands of miles of barbed wire, will snake across the vast and remote desert frontier between the countries.

The diagram associated with the article shows a pair of fences running in parallel 100 yards apart. It also includes barbed wire at the top of each fence and a shorter pyramid fence with a large amount of barbed wire running inside between the two higher fences. Plus, it has an access road and a sand berm.

Nawaf Obaid, the director of the Saudi National Security Assessment Project, says the Saudis see Iraq as out of control.

"But the feeling in Saudi is that Iraq is way out of control with no possibility of stability. The urgency now is to get that border sealed: physically sealed."

Most of Saudi Arabia's oil lies in a province which has a Shia majority. Those Shias are Saudi Arabia's biggest potential security threat.

Saudi officials are worried about so-called "blowback", in which Saudi insurgents in Iraq bring jihad back to the streets of Riyadh and Jeddah. But they are mostly concerned that an Iraqi civil war will send a wave of refugees south, unsettling the kingdom's Shia minority in its oil-producing east.

The Saudis expect to be done by early summer 2008.

Analysts said that even taking into account delays and disputes that usually accompany such valuable military contracts, the fence was on course to be finished by the early summer of 2008. The total cost is expected to reach at least £300 million,

300 million pounds works out to 561 million US dollars. So the Saudis expect to spend at least $1 million per mile. But they could easily end up spending two or three times that amount.

Other articles put the border length at 560 miles or 900 kilometers. So the Saudis might be using a rough estimate of $1 million USD per mile. They haven't gone through a bidding process and so do not know what the bids will come out to. Even at $50 per barrel the cost represents less than 2 days of Saudi oil revenues.

The fence won't do much to stop the outflow of Jihadists from Saudi Arabia to Iraq because most of those go through Syria.

The fence would do little to stop the flow of militants into Iraq because most are believed to cross from Syria, Jordan and Iran. U.S. and Iraqi officials have long complained about Saudi extremists joining insurgent groups in Iraq, but say they mostly go through Syria.

Suggestion for the Saudis: Pay to construct a barrier along the Jordan-Iraq border to provide since that border could get used by Iraqis to skirt around your fence.

The UAE is also constructing a fence - but to keep out illegal aliens.

The United Arab Emirates is building a similar wall along its border with Oman -- mainly to keep out illegal migrants.

Good fences make good neighbors.

By Randall Parker 2006 October 01 07:49 AM  Immigration Border Barrier
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