2006 November 29 Wednesday
Poll Finds Moderate And Extremist Muslims Similar

John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed argue in an article in Foreign Policy Muslim extremists are better educated than most Muslims and do not feel hopeless about their situations.

Ask any foreign-policy expert how the West will know it is winning the war on terror, and the likely response will be, “When the Islamic world rejects radicalism.” But just who are Muslim radicals, and what fuels their fury? Every politician has a theory: Radicals are religious fundamentalists. They are poor. They are full of hopelessness and hate. But those theories are wrong.

Based on a new Gallup World Poll of more than 9,000 interviews in nine Muslim countries, we find that Muslim radicals have more in common with their moderate brethren than is often assumed. If the West wants to reach the extremists, and empower the moderate Muslim majority, it must first recognize who it’s up against.

But if the extremists and the so-called moderates have so much in common then don't they have much less in common with us? Also, I do not believe we can empower one group of Muslims against another group of Muslims. We lack the ability to exert such subtle influence.

The radicals are more educated than the average Muslim.

There is indeed a key difference between radicals and moderates when it comes to income and education, but it is the radicals who earn more and who stay in school longer.

This must be a mistake. Liberals believe in education as the magic panacea for most of what ails societies. Education makes Muslims more likely to be extremists? That's contrary to liberal dogma.

I see realist reasons why this isn't surprising: More educated Muslims view themselves as in more direct status competition with Westerners. Their educations raise their expectations. Their occupations put them in economic competition with Westerners. Less educated and lower class Muslims see highly educated Westerners as more akin to the Muslim upper classes and more distant from their own lives. People who feel they are competing for status are more likely to resent their competitors who are more successful.

Education usually leads to greater experience with the West and therefore greater chance to feel inferior to it. If we really want to reduce Muslim resentment of the West then my advice is to keep them more distant from us.

Esposito and Mogahed find that Muslim terrorists do not feel hopeless. They think they have good prospects even without turning to suicide bombing. So forget about economic development as the panacea to dampen down terrorism.

Whenever a suicide bomber completes a deadly mission, the act is often attributed to hopelessness—the inability to find a job, earn a living, or support a family. But the politically radical are not more “hopeless” than the mainstream. More radicals expressed satisfaction with their financial situation and quality of life than their moderate counterparts, and a majority of them expected to be better off in the years to come.

We should separate the West from Islam. That is the best way to defend ourselves from them and to reduce animosity between us and them.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 29 08:57 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2006 November 28 Tuesday
US To Exit Iraq By Blaming Iraqis

How will US leaders rationalize a US withdrawal from Iraq? By coming to a consensus that the Iraqis have shown themselves unworthy of our assistance.

From troops on the ground to members of Congress, Americans increasingly blame the continuing violence and destruction in Iraq on the people most affected by it: the Iraqis.

Even Democrats who have criticized the Bush administration's conduct of the occupation say the people and government of Iraq are not doing enough to rebuild their society. The White House is putting pressure on the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group have debated how much to blame Iraqis for not performing civic duties.

This marks a shift in tone from earlier debate about the responsibility of the United States to restore order after the 2003 invasion, and it seemed to gain currency in October, when sectarian violence surged. Some see the talk of blame as the beginning of the end of U.S. involvement.

Imagine, if you will, a group getting together to blame blind people for not becoming great painters. Or imagine a group blaming deaf people for not composing great music. Blaming Iraqis is akin to such foolishness.

The Iraqis do not have the qualities needed to make Iraq over in a style close to that of Western democracies. The real failures are to be found in those who thought the Iraqis ever did possess the right stuff for Western style government. But those people do not want to get the blame. Plus, far too many of them do not want to reexamine their assumptions about human nature even though what we see in Iraq every day argues against both neoconservative and liberal views of human nature.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 28 11:23 PM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate
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Pope Benedict Backs Turkey EU Bid

If this is true then Pope Benedict disgusts me.

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told reporters after a brief meeting with Benedict at the airport here that he had asked the pope to support Turkey in its attempts to become a member of the European Union.

“He said, ‘You know we don’t have a political role, but we wish for Turkey’s entry into the E.U.,’ ” Mr. Erdogan said the pope told him. “His wish is a positive recommendation for us.”

This sounds like it is coming from Erdogan's camp.

"I really wanted to come to Turkey because Turkey has become a bridge ... between the religions," Benedict reportedly told the Prime Minister through an interpreter.

"It is a democratic, Islamic country and a bridge," the Pope said. "I wanted to come to Turkey since becoming pope because I love this culture."

"I want to reiterate the solidarity between the cultures," Benedict said. "This is our duty."

Although while still a Cardinal, Pope Benedict had argued that Turkey's Muslim majority religion meant that the nation did not belong in the European Union, Mr Erdogan said the Pope told him that he supported Turkey's push to join the European Union.

The Pope's spokesman delivers a slightly watered down version of what the Pope said.

A Vatican spokesman later issued a statement that offered a more nuanced interpretation of what the Pope may have told Mr Erdogan. The Holy See had no power to influence political decisions, the statement said, but the Pope supported “Turkey’s integration into Europe.”

Integration? What does that mean? Sounds like some form of EU membership to me.

By contrast, here's what Pope Benedict had to say about Islam in 1997 while he was still a cardinal.

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

...

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

Popes sound like politicians. I trust them about as much (very little). Benedict clearly knows the score with Muslims. But now as Pope he's not willing to honestly tell Christians what they need to hear from their religious leaders about Islam. Still, you can read what he said when he held a lower level position and felt less constrained.

Update: The Pope swung in support of Turkey's admission to the EU, like a good dhimmi, because he didn't want the Muslims to be so angry with him.

But the 79-year-old pope’s concession on Tuesday, at the start of a four-day trip here, seemed to make good on his pledge to heal the wounds between East and West. It may also have the practical effect of tamping down anger here. Security for the pope’s visit was extensive, with helicopters hovering at the airport, commandos guarding the pope’s plane and sharpshooters on the roofs of buildings.

How pathetic. He didn't want the Turks angry at him and Catholics so he would prefer to sell out Europe.

As a cardinal the Pope was right in 2004 and in 1997 and he is wrong now.

Over the weekend, the Vatican began signaling that it was warming to the idea of Turkey’s membership in the European Union. The Vatican has never issued a formal position on Turkish membership. In 2004, when the pope was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he said it would be a “grave error,” both he and other church officials described the remarks as his personal opinion.

Islam is incompatible with the West. Ratzinger clearly stated why. But politicians make decisions based on considerations other than what is best for their people.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 28 08:55 PM  Elites Betrayal And Incompetence
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2006 November 26 Sunday
Catholic Church Not Legal In Turkey

The status of the Roman Catholic Church in Turkey shows what a farce it is for the European Union to consider admission of Turkey to the EU. The Catholic Church in Turkey functions as an appendage to foreign embassies.

The Roman Catholic Church is not legally recognized in Turkey. It functions largely attached to foreign embassies; its priests do not wear their collars in public.

Meanwhile many American cities now have large mosques jutting up in the skyline.

Most Christians in Turkey are of the Armenian, Greek and other Orthodox denominations, and although most of these are recognized in the Turkish Constitution as minority communities, they face severe restrictions on property ownership and cannot build places of worship or run seminaries to train their clerics.

Such hardships make it almost impossible for Christians to sustain and expand their communities, advocates say. The Greek Orthodox, for example, have dwindled to no more than 3,000, just 2% of the community's size in the 1960s.

Turkey has one thing in common with France and Britain: Growing Islamic radicalism.

Fueled by a vitriolic, and growing, potion of nationalism and Islamic radicalism, spasms of violence have led to the killing of one priest this year, the beatings of two others and the burning of a Christian prayer center. Christian tombstones are often vandalized and property frequently confiscated by authorities.

Time for the West to separate itself from the Islamic countries. Stop letting in Muslim immigrants. Deport the vast bulk of the non-citizen Muslims. Stop getting involved in the internal affairs of Muslim countries. These are the best policies for defending our civilization from Muslims.

The Turkish government denies poor treatment of non-Muslims. You didn't expect them to be honest, did you?

"Obviously, more needs to be done to promote religious freedom for all denominations," Ali Bardakoglu, president of Turkey's powerful Religious Affairs Directorate, said in an interview. But he defended the government's treatment of minorities, contending that Christians and other non-Muslims do not face serious problems.

Bardakoglu was one of the most emphatic critics of Benedict after the pope delivered a speech in Regensburg, Germany, in September that denounced Islamic violence and quoted a medieval Byzantine emperor who disdained Islam and its prophet, Muhammad. Adding insult to injury, as far as many Turks were concerned, the emperor was defending Constantinople, cradle of Orthodox Christianity, against the Muslim conquest that gave the city its name today: Istanbul.

Well, the Turks did invade and overthrow the Byzantines. Why shouldn't the Pope verbally defend Constantinople?

Pope is kowtowing to the Turkish government.

In a remarkable gesture, the pope will meet with Bardakoglu, the country's top religious figure, at his ministry, a modern, imposing building on Ankara's outskirts, on the first day of his Turkey visit. Bardakoglu's directorate commands a huge budget and oversees all of Turkey's imams.

Originally, the Vatican expected Bardakoglu to call on the pope at the Vatican Embassy, as protocol would have dictated. But the Turks refused. After a series of negotiations, the pope agreed to go to Bardakoglu. "It is a gesture of goodwill," a senior Vatican official said.

Of course Saudi Arabia is far worse toward Christians. A single church? Just fuggedaboutit.

What's progress for Christians in Turkey? A Protestant group was allowed to open its own church. It took the weight of the EU for Turkey to make such a small pathetic step.

It is EU pressure that has nudged Ankara along in easing some of the restrictions on minorities; for example, a Protestant group in Istanbul has for the first time been allowed to open a church.

Turkey is purported to be the moderate, secular, democratic model for the rest of the Muslim countries. Western expectations are so low for the Muslims that Turkey can get rated as somehow modern and Western in spite of the fact that it isn't.

The Pope has a fairly accurate and realistic take on Islam. Back in 1997 before he was Pope he gave an interview where he discussed Islam. For an excerpt see my post: Pope Benedict Sees Islam Incompatible With Western Societies.

I agree with Lawrence Auster that we should take the path of civilizational defense and separate the West from Islam. We can't assimilate them in our countries. We can not convince them to abandon Islam and Islam itself is simply incompatible with the West as Pope Benedict argues. We aren't compatible. We need a divorce. It is really that simple.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 26 08:59 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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Democrats Oppose Pelosi On Earmarks Restraints

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the incoming House Speaker, campaigned against the moral failings of Republicans citing the growth of earmarks where individual Congressional Representatives and Senators put language into legislation directing money to specific projects in their districts. But the incoming Democrat chairmen of House and Senate appropriations committees and subcommittees and ranking members form a united front against restraints on earmarks. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Meet the new cardinals, as the chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees are known on Capitol Hill. Many have a lot in common with the Republicans they will succeed.

All have worked for years to climb to their posts, where the authority to grant earmarks puts them among the most powerful lawmakers in Congress. Like Mr. Inouye and Mr. Stevens, many have developed unusual bipartisan camaraderie while divvying up projects. By longstanding, informal agreement, the majority typically doles out about 60 percent of the money for earmarks and lets the minority pass out the rest. And they form a united front against limitations on the earmark process.

“What is good for the goose is good for the gander,” Senator Patty Murray, the Washington Democrat who is set to become chairwoman of the transportation subcommittee, said last fall in a speech defending an Alaska Republican’s allocation of more than $200 million in federal money for a bridge to remote Gravina, Alaska, with a population of 50. It became notorious as the “Bridge to Nowhere.”

“I tell my colleagues, if we start cutting funding for individual projects, your project may be next,” Ms. Murray warned. To anyone who might vote against the bridge, Ms. Murray threatened that her subcommittee would be “taking a long, serious look at their projects.” Every Democrat on the Appropriations Committee voted against an amendment to strike the bridge, and after threats from Ms. Murray and Mr. Stevens, only 15 senators voted for the amendment. The bridge’s future is unclear.

89 year old legendary pork barreller Robert Byrd of West Virginia will be chairman if the Senate Appropriations Committee. The New York Times article lists some of the Coast Guard facilities he's located in his landlocked state. The article is full of other examples of the shameless Democrats who are taking over the reins of power.

Powerful Senate Democrat Tom Harkin says earmarks are just the natural result of Congress critters doing their constitutionally mandated job.

“I happen to be a supporter of earmarks, unabashedly,” said Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, the Democrat set to become chairman of the appropriations subcommittee for labor, health and human services. “But I don’t call them earmarks. It is ‘Congressional directed funding.’ ”

The full article gives a better sense of just how much the new guard is really just the old guard but with a different party affiliation. Different people will receive bribes and hand out money. The substantive changes will be small.

The Republican leaders bribed individual lawmakers with earmarks in order to get them to vote for lower overall spending. This seemingly virtuous use of a tainted practice is not acceptable to Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington State. She wants her colleagues to be able to get earmarks without having to agree to less unearmarked spending.

Ms. Murray, the Washington Democrat, proudly told the New York Times her party would take a less political approach to earmarks than the Republicans did. She said Republicans had bribed lawmakers with earmarks to persuade them to vote for barebones domestic spending bills. “They stuffed them with earmarks to buy votes,” she said. “We are not going to do that.”

Think about that. She wants to be able to take your money and spend more of it without having to give up other ways to spend it. As a consequence she probably fancies herself a virtuous reformer. When I was a kid I was taught to look up to our leaders. I can't imagine why.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 26 04:33 PM  Politics Pork Spending
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GOP Senator Chuck Hagel Says Leave Iraq

Writing a Washington Post Op-Ed Republican Senator for Nebraska Chuck Hagel advocates US withdrawal from Iraq with an essay entitled Leave Iraq, Honorably.

Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost. It is part of the ongoing global struggle against instability, brutality, intolerance, extremism and terrorism. There will be no military victory or military solution for Iraq. Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger made this point last weekend.

Peace with honor! Tricky Dick Nixon would have agreed with his old secretary of state.

Hagel thinks we can not impose democracy on other countries.

The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and, even if we did, they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation -- regardless of our noble purpose.

Now hold on a minute Chuck. Germany! Japan! Ask the war party. They'll tell you this is easy to do. Germany! Japan! We just invade a place and, presto, instant democracy. Never mind that we took over Haiti a few times and it keeps falling back into some pretty brutal rule. Never mind that we've occupied quite a few other countries with less than salubrious results (except we did get some pretty cool war movies out of Vietnam). Only the success stories are cited by those who think the US should radically reshape the world and those radicals never stop to listen to the arguments for why the highly industrial and organized Germans and Japanese are not like Lebanese, Somalis, and Haitians.

We've made mistakes every which way to Sunday.

We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans. Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. They will decide their fate and form of government.

Gotta agree on the "arrogant self-delusion" part. But where do these delusions come from? Why were neoconservative and liberal expectations about the Iraqis so far off from reality? Exactly what flawed assumptions about human nature and commonality of humans made these delusions possible? Chuck isn't going to touch that one with a ten foot poll. But might I suggest Islam, consanguineous (cousin) marriage, and IQ for starters?

Chuckie says we have wasted hundreds of billions in Iraq and that the war in Iraq has caused us to take our eyes off the ball over in Afghanistan where the real terrorists are hanging out. Though mostly those guys are in Pakistan and we've taken our eyes of the ball there too.

If you want to know some of the reasons why democracy isn't going to create freedom, fairness, and tolerance for opposing views in Iraq one place to start is my post Low Per Capita Income Countries Never Remain Democracies. Also see my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq.

As for the argument heard in some quarters that we have had great success in creating democracies see my post History Of American Interventions Bodes Poorly For Democracy.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 26 01:56 PM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate
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2006 November 25 Saturday
Iraq Insurgency Financially Self-Sustaining

John Burns of the New York Times got hold of a US government report completed in June 2006 about the high level of funding that the insurgency has in Iraq.

BAGHDAD, Nov. 25 — The insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, corrupt charities and other crimes that the Iraqi government and its American patrons have been largely unable to prevent, a classified United States government report has concluded.

The report, obtained by The New York Times, estimates that groups responsible for many of the insurgent and terrorist attacks are raising $70 million to $200 million a year from illegal activities. It says that $25 million to $100 million of the total comes from oil smuggling and other criminal activity involving the state-owned oil industry aided by “corrupt and complicit” Iraqi officials.

As much as $36 million a year comes from ransoms paid to save hundreds of kidnap victims in Iraq, the report said. It estimates that unnamed foreign governments — previously identified by senior American officials as including France and Italy — paid Iraqi kidnappers $30 million in ransom last year.

Even the higher $200 million estimate is less than the United States spends in Iraq in a single day. Can you say asymmetrical warfare? Sure.

The lesson here is that huge budgets and lots of hardware do not buy victory as long as the insurgents are willing to die and the occupying power has moral scruples. The Roman Empire, possessed with the might of the US military, would have made the Iraqis (at least those left alive) cower in such fear that there'd be no insurgency. But we do not play by those rules and so should not try to occupy a country like Iraq.

The insurgents fight for little or no pay. They can get weapons left over from Saddam's days and probably from soldiers in what passes for the Iraqi military and security forces.

Oh, and the insurgents are getting so much money that the report has an amazing kicker:

“In fact, if recent revenue and expense estimates are correct, terrorist and insurgent groups in Iraq may have surplus funds with which to support other terrorist organizations outside of Iraq.”

But outside experts say the report writers are doing a lot of guessing. Maybe so. But if the "insurgency' is the Sunni insurgency then the best way to cut off their ability to send any money abroad would be for US forces to withdraw so that the Shias can go after the Sunnis without restraint.

The report says that Saddam's Baathist loyalists have hundreds of millions more. But they do not see a prospect for regaining power and so they are mostly using that money for their own lifestyles.

What I find puzzling about the above report: If the insurgents mentioned are Sunnis then how are they making so much money off of oil tradiing? The Iraqi government is dominated by Shias. The Shias control the oil ministry. The oil fields are in Shia areas and in Kurdistan. So how can the Sunnis make tens of millions off of oil trading? Can't the Shias in the government find Shias outside the government to help them pull of diversions of oil into the black market for export?

Update: The atrocities by Shias against Sunnis have gotten so horrific that I find it hard to believe the Sunnis are getting money to fund their insurgency from dealings with Shias in the Iraqi "government".

Iraqi soldiers at a nearby army post failed to intervene when the Sunnis were seized as they left Friday prayers, drenched with kerosene and burned to death. The troops also did nothing to stop subsequent attacks that killed at least 28 other Sunnis, including women and children, in the same neighborhood, the volatile Hurriyah district in northwest Baghdad, police Capt. Jamil Hussein said.

The Shia government soldiers side openly with Shia militias against Sunni civilians. Yet we are supposed to believe Iraq is not yet in a civil war. How far down will Iraq go? Any guesses?

By Randall Parker 2006 November 25 05:16 PM  Mideast Iraq Insurgency
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2006 November 24 Friday
New York Times Once More Sees Money As Educational Answer

As if colleges and universities are not expensive enough already the editors of the New York Times want to push the higher education demand curve rightward.

Democrats who ran for Congress this fall made the cost of college a big campaign issue. Now that they’ve won control of the House and Senate, they can prepare to act swiftly on at least some of the factors that have priced millions of poor and working-class Americans right out of higher education. The obvious first step would be to boost the value of the federal Pell Grant program — a critical tool in keeping college affordable that the federal government has shamefully ceased to fund at a level that meets the national need.

This policy prescription is so yesterday. Why isn't the Gray Lady pontificating that university costs have gotten ridiculous? College costs have been going up faster than inflation for decades. It is time to stop feeding the beast. The Gray Lady should be proposing ways to drive down the cost of education. Universities are far too labor intensive and oligopolistic.

Ways to drive down costs could deliver top quality education to the vast majority who can not afford the most expensive colleges and universities. How? Video record top lecturers in every field of study. Such recordings would allow all students to watch lectures of equal quality to the lectures that students get at Harvard, Yale, MIT, Cal Tech and Stanford. State governments could fund and give free access to the recordings. Then standardized tests could allow students to take tests any day of the week in proctored rooms where they'd only pay for test administration costs.

The Gray Lady is also upset that since upper class families are more likely to produce kids who can make it into top research universities that most of the financial aid at those universities goes to upper class kids.

In recent years, aid to students whose families earn over $100,000 has more than quadrupled at the public flagship and research universities. Incredibly, the average institutional grant to students from high-income families is actually larger than the average grant to low- or middle-income families.

Income has become more correlated with intelligence as the economic value of muscle has dropped relative to the economic value of brains. Smarter people have responded by directing their kids toward top universities. Those people and their children earn more and their children then have children who are much smarter on average and more likely to get into top universities. Gone are the days when so few parents were educated that the lower classes could produce lots of first generation college students.

That kids from more affluent families should be getting most of the financial aid at universities with very high admissions standards is therefore not surprising. Those universities charge more and the kids from upper middle class and upper class families are smart enouigh to get into those places.

But of course the Gray Lady belongs to the ranks of deniers of The Bell Curve. Both the editors of the New York Times and many of its readers support the taboo enforcing commissars who prevent policy debates about education from connecting firmly with reality.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 24 06:22 PM  Education
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Iraqi Refugees Increase By Thousands Per Day

Internal flight out of fear is over 1000 per day.

More than 1,000 Iraqis a day are being displaced by the sectarian violence that began on Feb. 22 with the bombing of the Shiite Askariya shrine in Samarra, according to a report released this week by the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, a U.N.-associated group.

This increasing movement of Iraqi families, caused by the lack of security and by the growth of armed local militias and criminal gangs, is adding to the already chaotic governmental situation in Baghdad, according to U.N., U.S. and non-governmental reports released over the past weeks.

Take these estimates with a grain of salt. Iraq is far too dangerous a place for accurate measures to be made. But, yes, lots of people in Iraq are moving out of fear.

We can not stop Iraq from falling apart. The Bush Administration's plan for democracy has been embraced by Iraqis who see democracy as coming out of the barrel of a gun. Every bomb and bullet is a vote.

A few thousand more Iraqis per day are fleeing the country entirely.

Many residents, especially professionals, are fleeing the country in larger numbers. The U.N.'s High Commissioner for Refugees said earlier this month that up to 2,000 Iraqis a day are going to Syria and an additional 1,000 a day to Jordan. Overall, the High Commissioner estimates that since the war began in March 2003, 1.6 million Iraqis have been displaced internally and up to 1.8 million are living outside the country.

The internal partitioning is well under way even while the Bush Administration, many US foreign policy analysts, and leading Iraqis all argue that Iraq must be kept together. To repeat what I've said before: The partitioning could be carried out with far less bloodshed if we helped the Shias and Sunnis move away from each other. Humpty Dumpty breaking apart in slow motion provides much more time for people to get killed.

Anthony Cordesman says we pretend there is a national government in Iraq.

"We pretend there is a national government, but it's a coalition in which ministries have been divided among the political parties," according to Anthony H. Cordesman, an intelligence specialist who holds the Arleigh Burke chair in strategy at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Ministries have become spoils, and since there is no civil service they hardly run at all," Cordesman said in an interview after a recent trip to Iraq.

It is not too late. Saddam Hussein is still alive. He knows how to rule these people. He'd have to kill several families and torture others. But he'd know how to suppress a civil war.

It is important to understand why democracy fails in the Middle East. See my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq and Consanguinity prevents Middle Eastern political development to learn why.

The situation is desperate. Laura Rozen says a Bush Administration which sees almost no options with a plausible chance of success might decide to ally with the Shias against the Sunnis.

AS SECTARIAN violence rises in Iraq and the White House comes under increasing pressure to revamp its strategy there, a debate is emerging inside the Bush administration: Should the U.S. abandon its efforts to act as a neutral referee in the ongoing civil war and, instead, throw its lot in with the Shiites?

A U.S. tilt toward the Shiites is a risky strategy, one that could further alienate Iraq's Sunni neighbors and that could backfire by driving its Sunni population into common cause with foreign jihadists and Al Qaeda cells. But elements of the administration, including some members of the intelligence community, believe that such a tilt could lead to stability more quickly than the current policy of trying to police the ongoing sectarian conflict evenhandedly, with little success and at great cost.

Since the Bushies won't withdraw their only option is to side with the Shiites. The Shiites are the majority and so by majoritarian logic they should rule.

The Gray Lady reports the Sunnis and Shias can barely tolerate each other.

Some officials say, though, that the problems among Iraqi leaders run far deeper than a rearrangement, even a sweeping one, can fix. Shiites and Sunnis are barely able to tolerate one another, and the tense relations make progress on improvements all but impossible.

“No matter how many new ministers, they are still going to have the same institutional problems,” said one American official in Iraq, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not have permission to discuss the subject publicly. American policy is about to change, and the shift will emphasize effectiveness over sectarian balance, the official said. “Instead of having a rainbow coalition, they will have people who can get stuff done,” the official said. “I think the U.S. will take a more hands-off approach.”

Laura has more on this at her blog.

The record bombing deaths of Shias in Sadr City have sparked plenty of Shiite militia attacks on Sunni mosques.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 24 — Defying a government-imposed curfew, Shiite militiamen stormed Sunni mosques in central Iraq today, shooting guards and burning down buildings in apparent retaliation for a series of devastating car bombs that killed hundreds of people the previous day in a Shiite slum, residents and police officials said.

As the death toll from those bombings rose above 200, gunmen drove through several neighborhoods in Baghdad and the nearby provincial capital of Baquba, taking aim at mosques with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades on the Muslim holy day, when many Iraqis go to mosques to pray.

As long as the question of which group rules Iraq is undecided the Sunnis will keep killing Shias and Shias will keep retaliating. Legislators loyal to Shia cleric and militia leader Moqtada al Sadr want the US to leave. They say that'll quell the violence. I suspect it will unleash the Shias to put down the Sunnis. Will the Sunnis be able to battle the Shias to keep them out of the Sunni triangle? They might. Many Shias will see the Sunni triangle as far from their own clans and therefore no business of theirs. So a US withdrawal could lead to either a full partition or a de facto partition under a confederation.

If we are going to ally with the Shias against the Sunnis what's the sense of staying? We could ship arms to the Shias and they could put down the Sunnis all by themselves. Then Bush can declare the result a success for democracy.

If we unleash the Shias and stay then once the Shias succeed against the Sunnis they'll turn against us. I get the sense that Bush isn't thinking that many moves down the chessboard.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 24 01:28 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Cleansing
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Cable And Phone Companies Compete Directly

Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) providers have been facing a lot more competition due to the falling costs of cellular phone services. But the extent of the competition coming from cable companies is highlighted by a New York Times article themed mainly around the complaints that telephone companies have about cable company field workers who damage phone company equipment. Cable companies are providing phone service over cable lines and winning rave reviews from customers.

J. D. Power, which measures customer satisfaction, ranked Cox as the best phone company in the northeast, southwest and west this year. It has nearly 950,000 cable customers in Arizona.

Any readers switched to cable phone service? Do you like it? Can you tell the difference? Saved much money?

The phone business of cable companies is growing quite rapidly.

Now, the Bells’ chief competitors are Time Warner Cable, Comcast and other cable providers that have the technology, armies of installers and marketing budgets to lure away video and phone customers. By the end of the year, for instance, cable operators will have nearly nine million phone subscribers, up about 58 percent from 2005, said Craig Moffett, an analyst at Sanford Bernstein.

Internet phone start-ups including Vonage and SunRocket have several million more customers, many of whom came from Verizon, AT&T and other Bell companies.

I throw away so much junk mail that I have no idea if Cox offers this service locally.

Phone, internet, and TV service for under $100.

Cox is offering customers in Phoenix a discounted package of digital cable, phone and high-speed Internet service for $99.95 a month, while Qwest is selling a comparable package, with the help of DirecTV, for about $92.97 a month.

Prices will fall and bandwidth will go up.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 24 01:13 PM  Economics Communications
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Mexican Government Releases Report On Dirty War Period

A succession of Mexican presidents supported a dirty war against opponents.

MEXICO CITY, Nov. 22 — Just before leaving office, the administration of President Vicente Fox has quietly put out a voluminous report that for the first time states unequivocally that past governments carried out a covert campaign of murder and torture against dissidents and guerrillas from the late 1960s through the early 1980s.

The 800-page report is the first acceptance of responsibility by the government for what is known here as the “dirty war,” in which the police and the army are believed to have executed more than 700 people without trial, in many cases after torture. It also represents the fulfillment of Mr. Fox’s vow when elected in 2000 to expose the truth about an ugly chapter in Mexico’s history.

I'm going to guess that the people getting killed were mostly Amerinds and the people directing the killing were mostly Spanish. This was yet another Spanish-Amerind civil war. Such wars are a recurrng theme in Latin America. I wonder if any readers know just how much of a threat was posed to the Mexican government by the groups they fought. Had the government not waged its dirty war would the guerillas have developed into a far larger and more disruptive force?

The top leaders of Mexico knew what their soldiers were doing.

The events occurred during the administrations of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, José López Portillo and Mr. Echeverría. The federal security department kept the presidents informed about many aspects of the covert operations. Genocide charges against Mr. Echeverría, the only one still living, were thrown out in July by a judge who ruled that a statute of limitations had run out.

If we continue to let in people from Mexico the United States too will continue to split more deeply along racial lines.

Today in northern Mexico the narco battles pose a threat to stability as corruption and organised crime interact to produce lethal conflicts over power.

Police chief Baltazar Gomez and councilman Osvaldo Rodriguez of the suburban city of Santa Catarina, were killed just after midnight by a lone gunman who followed them inside a convenience store where they had gone after attending a funeral. A Santa Catarina city councilwoman accompanying the men was wounded, authorities said.

Gomez, who had been police chief for three weeks, is the sixth law enforcement official killed this year in Nuevo Leon state, across the border from Texas.

Mexico also still has a big problem with inter-ethnic and class conflict.

OAXACA, Mexico -- Masked protesters armed with sticks, rocks and homemade gasoline bombs clashed with police and raided a downtown hotel Monday during a march by leftists seeking the governor's resignation.

The protesters began attacking police as they marched to the city's main central plaza, prompting the officers to fire back with tear gas and pepper spray.

The protesters are battling to remove Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz who is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which had a monopoly on power in Mexico for most of the 20th century. Ruiz Ortiz is accused of corruption, rigging the election that brought him to power, and organizing a strike of the opposition newspaper Noticias de Oaxaca by a union affiliated with the PRI. This is the Mexico that el Presidente Jorge W. Bush wants to dissolve our borders with.

When you see a news article about the Oaxaca conflict that mentions "indigenous groups" thats a term that refers to Amerinds who are in conflict with the mostly Spaniard ruling class.

Fox's conservative government has been helpless to stop the conflict between a heavy-handed state governor and leftists, striking teachers and indigenous groups who are seeking to force him from office.

Bush is intent on recreating the highly racially stratified society of Mexico in the United States. I think the US has enough problems with race already without importing still more problems.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 24 10:23 AM  Mexico
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2006 November 21 Tuesday
Unmarried Birth Rates Up In United States

A new CDC report on fertility in America shows a new record in the proportion of babies born to single moms.

All measures of childbearing by unmarried women increased to  record levels for the Nation in 2005 according to preliminary data (2,4). The total number of births rose 4 percent to 1,525,345, compared with 1,470,189 in 2004. During 2002-2005, the number increased 12 percent overall.

  • The birth rate increased 3 percent in 2005 to 47.6 per 1,000 unmarried women aged 15-44 years, up from 46.1 in 2004.
  • The proportion of births to unmarried women increased in 2005 to 36.8 percent, compared with 35.8 percent in 2004. The proportions increased for all population subgroups by race and Hispanic origin (Table 1 and Figure 3).
  • In 2005, well over four in five births to teenagers were nonmarital (Table 3). Over one-half of births to women aged 20-24 years and nearly 3 in 10 births to women aged 25-29 years were to unmarried women.

As whites dwindle as a percentage of the US population and the Hispanic portion of the US population grows this trend will continue. Out of all groups of single women in the United States Hispanic single women have the highest fertility rate.

What we are seeing is "family values" Jorge W. Bush style. For Democrats who are truly patriotic this trend is bad news and should be reason for Democrats to oppose Hispanic immigration. But for Democrats who are partisans who just want more voters for their party this trend is great news. Poorer lower class Hispanic single moms will reliably vote for the donkey over the elephant.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 21 10:09 PM  Civilizations Decay
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2006 November 20 Monday
Racial School Performance Gaps Not Closing

In early 2002 President George W. Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind act (which I call No Lie Left Behind since it pretends we live in Lake Woebegone where all children are above average) which has as its objective to raise student performance in the United States. NCLB was supposed to raise the test scores of black and Hispanic students who lag far behind white, East Asian, Jewish, and South Asian students in American schools. The New York Times reports NCLB has failed to live up to the public expectations of its supporters.

Now, as Congress prepares to consider reauthorizing the law next year, researchers and a half-dozen recent studies, including three issued last week, are reporting little progress toward that goal. Slight gains have been seen for some grade levels.

Despite concerted efforts by educators, the test-score gaps are so large that, on average, African-American and Hispanic students in high school can read and do arithmetic at only the average level of whites in junior high school.

The use of the terms "high school" and "junior high school" really hides the size of the gaps. White 8th graders do about as well in the National Assessment of Educational Progress as black 12th graders. So even the average blacks graduating from high school do not know much.

Hispanics from the 2nd thru 7th generation descendants of first generation Hispanic immigrants are about two thirds of the way down the gap below whites but above blacks.

The Gray Lady reports the gaps aren't narrowing much.

“The gaps between African-Americans and whites are showing very few signs of closing,” Michael T. Nettles, a senior vice president at the Educational Testing Service, said in a paper he presented recently at Columbia University. One ethnic minority, Asians, generally fares as well as or better than whites.

The reports and their authors, in interviews, portrayed an educational landscape in which test-score gaps between black or Hispanic students and whites appear in kindergarten and worsen through 12 years of public education.

The Democrats say this means we should spend more money on education. What a crock. Some of those school districts with huge racial test score gaps are spending $10,000 per year and more per student. The correlation between spending and performance isn't very strong.

For the 2001-2002 school year the average American school spent $9,354 per student. Think about that. A 21 student class would have a budget of over $200,000. From 1980 to 1999 California school spending went up 40% per pupil adjusted for inflation.

The US Department of Education has a web page on historical per student spending adjusted for inflation. See Total and current expenditure per pupil in public elementary and secondary schools: Selected years, 1919-20 to 2001-02.

From 1971 to 2001 the total expenditures per student in inflation adjusted dollars doubled from $4884 to $9614. Going back even further the expenditures tripled from 1963's $3228.

The church of high liberal secular faith holds that we are all equal in ability and that by proper manipulation of environment everyone can be made into college students and successful workers in cognitively demanding occupations. The commissars who enforce liberal dogma in our universities, media, and workplaces ignore huge mounds of evidence that contradict their faith.

The results of comparisons of scholastic performance between races follow along with very stable long term differences in measured average IQ. But that observation has been ruled heresy by the commissars. So the New York Times and other high church publications discuss education policy and the rest of social policy in a reality distortion zone.

I'm reminded of a point that Michael Vassar made a while back. The difference between the really smart and the dumber is enormous.

Here are the actual numbers. To some degree they speak for themselves, but here are the highlights. The top 10% of 4th grade students equal or outperform the bottom 25% (really over 45% after accounting for children excluded from the test and children who dropped out of high school) of 12th grade students, and the top 25% of students outperform the bottom 10% (really over 30% for reasons given above)! For your reference, roughly 25% of the US population gets a college degree, so the average person who will get a college degree has better math ability and reading comprehension in 4th grade than the bottom 4th of the population will have after 8 more years of schooling supposedly teaches them these subjects!

The smartest kids can figure out a great deal for themselves.

The false assumptions of the big push to close racial knowledge and skills gaps make current education policy naive and even harmful for smarter students whose needs are ignored by schools chasing NCLB goals. Even worse, our immigration policy is going to make the cost of the racial differences in outcomes increasingly costly. The claim that the immigrants will improve in later generations is false. See my post Immigrants Do Not Improve Academically In Later Generations.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 20 09:46 PM  Education
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2006 November 19 Sunday
Tancredo Says Bush Wants North American Union

US House Representative Tom Tancredo (R Colorado) says George W. Bush and other members of the elites want to dissolve US borders into a North American Union.

"People have to understand what we're talking about here. The president of the United States is an internationalist," said Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo. "He is going to do what he can to create a place where the idea of America is just that – it's an idea. It's not an actual place defined by borders. I mean this is where this guy is really going."

Tancredo lashed out at the White House's lack of action in securing U.S. borders, and said efforts to merge the U.S. with both Mexico and Canada is not a fantasy.

"I know this is dramatic – or maybe somebody would say overly dramatic – but I'm telling you, that everything I see leads me to believe that this whole idea of the North American Union, it's not something that just is written about by right-wing fringe kooks. It is something in the head of the president of the United States, the president of Mexico, I think the prime minister of Canada buys into it. ...

Tom Tancredo for President!

NAFTA supporters argued that it would help accelerate Mexico's economic growth so that the gap between the United States and Mexico would graudally close. But the US per capita GDP has continued to growth at a faster rate than that of Mexico. Mexico's corruption, political violence, and backwardness is something the United States should seek to isolate itself from, not to move closer to.

Different cultures should be allowed to be separate and different. That's what's great about borders. On the two sides of a border the different peoples can live differently, believe differently, speak different languages, and organize their affairs in ways that best suit their values, dispositions, and abilities.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 19 09:17 PM  Immigration Elites Versus Masses
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2006 November 18 Saturday
Texans Turning Against Illegal Immigration

As we all know by now, El Presidente Jorge W. Bush loves Mexican immigrants and can't get enough of them. However, the New York Times reports on signs that down in the Lone Star state other Texans have clearly had their fill and don't want any more. A the state and local level in Texas popular anger about illegal immigration drives demands for policy changes.

HOUSTON, Nov. 15 — In a sign of rising passions over immigration issues, Texas lawmakers prepared for the 2007 session this week by filing a flurry of bills that would deny public assistance and other benefits to the children of illegal immigrants, tax money transfers to Mexico and the rest of Latin America and sue the federal government for the costs of state border control.

At the same time, a Dallas suburb, Farmers Branch, became the first Texas municipality to enact measures fining landlords who rent to illegal immigrants, authorizing the police to seek certification to act on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security and declaring English the city’s official language.

Since Congress and the Presidency are firmly in the hands of traitors expect to see even more state and local initiatives to get rid of illegal immigants. Our elites oppose the wishes of the masses on illegal immigration. The masses have more control over local and state politicians. So popular demands are more likely to get translated into policy at the state and local levels.

To hear Open Borders advocates tell it Texas was supposed to be a place where whites, blacks, and Hispanics got along in a way that should serve as an example for the rest of the nation. More likely flat and large Texas just provided whites lots of places to flee to - at least for a while. But my interpretation of the anger building there is that the problem is getting harder to escape by moving.

Conservatives in Texas have noticed that low skilled immigrants cost more than they pay in taxes.

Perhaps the most sweeping, proposed by Representative Leo Berman, a Republican from Tyler, would deny state benefits, including welfare payments, food stamps, disability payments and public housing and unemployment assistance to the children of illegal immigrants. The children, if born in the United States, are American citizens.

Automatic granting of citizenship to people who are born here ought to be reversed by legislation. Babies born to foreigners ought to be sent packing with their parents and without US citizenship.

Every year some pregnant South Korean women fly to the United States obstensibly for a vacation and stay long enough to have a baby on American soil which they then take back to Korea with a birth certificate that'll qualify them for a US passport when they get older. The practice probably happens with women from other countries as well.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 18 06:13 PM  Immigration Policy State Local
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Heather Mac Donald: Hispanics Have Highest Single Mother Fertility

George W. Bush trumpets democracy in the Middle East and family values in the United States. Just as his foreign policy in the Middle East is a disaster so are his domestic values that impact family formation in the United States. Open Borders advocate George W. Bush is helping to fuel the further breakdown of the married couple as the basis for family formation because he's in favor of large scale Hispanic immigration. Heather Mac Donald reports Hispanics have the highest rate of unmarried fertility of any ethnic group in the United States.

Unless the life chances of children raised by single mothers suddenly improve, the explosive growth of the U.S. Hispanic population over the next couple of decades does not bode well for American social stability. Hispanic immigrants bring near–Third World levels of fertility to America, coupled with what were once thought to be First World levels of illegitimacy. (In fact, family breakdown is higher in many Hispanic countries than here.) Nearly half of the children born to Hispanic mothers in the U.S. are born out of wedlock, a proportion that has been increasing rapidly with no signs of slowing down. Given what psychologists and sociologists now know about the much higher likelihood of social pathology among those who grow up in single-mother households, the Hispanic baby boom is certain to produce more juvenile delinquents, more school failure, more welfare use, and more teen pregnancy in the future.

The government social-services sector has already latched onto this new client base; as the Hispanic population expands, so will the demands for a larger welfare state. Since conservative open-borders advocates have yet to acknowledge the facts of Hispanic family breakdown, there is no way to know what their solution to it is. But they had better come up with one quickly, because the problem is here—and growing.

The dimensions of the Hispanic baby boom are startling. The Hispanic birthrate is twice as high as that of the rest of the American population. That high fertility rate—even more than unbounded levels of immigration—will fuel the rapid Hispanic population boom in the coming decades. By 2050, the Latino population will have tripled, the Census Bureau projects. One in four Americans will be Hispanic by mid-century, twice the current ratio. In states such as California and Texas, Hispanics will be in the clear majority. Nationally, whites will drop from near 70 percent of the total population in 2000 to just half by 2050. Hispanics will account for 46 percent of the nation’s added population over the next two decades, the Pew Hispanic Center reports.

We are going to get large numbers of illegitimate Hispanics. That means higher rates of school drop-outs, higher rates of criminality, higher usage of taxpayer-funded welfare services, and all the rest of a decaying society.

While a higher percentage of black births occur outside of marriage the fertility rate of Hispanics is much higher and so the Hispanics produce a much larger number of illegitimate babies with all the social pathology that we can expect from children growing up in mother-only families.

But it’s the fertility surge among unwed Hispanics that should worry policymakers. Hispanic women have the highest unmarried birthrate in the country—over three times that of whites and Asians, and nearly one and a half times that of black women, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Every 1,000 unmarried Hispanic women bore 92 children in 2003 (the latest year for which data exist), compared with 28 children for every 1,000 unmarried white women, 22 for every 1,000 unmarried Asian women, and 66 for every 1,000 unmarried black women. Forty-five percent of all Hispanic births occur outside of marriage, compared with 24 percent of white births and 15 percent of Asian births. Only the percentage of black out-of-wedlock births—68 percent—exceeds the Hispanic rate. But the black population is not going to triple over the next few decades.

As if the unmarried Hispanic birthrate weren’t worrisome enough, it is increasing faster than among other groups. It jumped 5 percent from 2002 to 2003, whereas the rate for other unmarried women remained flat. Couple the high and increasing illegitimacy rate of Hispanics with their higher overall fertility rate, and you have a recipe for unstoppable family breakdown.

The disastrous President Jorge Bush is now going to turn his attention once again to the passage of a massive amnesty and guest worker program. Bush is a pox on the nation. His Iraq debacle has ushered in Democratic Party rule in both houses of Congress and the House Democrats are far more supportive of Open Borders than the House Republicans. While a minority of old style Democrats see Hispanics as cheap labor that drives down the living standards of the lower classes most elected Democrats see Hispanics as reliably left-leaning voters and also as cheap labor for maid, nanny, gardening, and home upgrade services.

America's elites are rotten to the core. The Republic can not survive without virtue but virtue is in shrinking supply in Washington DC.

Steven Malanga points out that the benefits of low skilled immigration are outweighed by the costs.

Meanwhile, the benefits of so much low-wage immigration to our economy are minimal and increasingly outweighed by the costs. Low-skilled immigrant workers have crowded into service jobs that do little to make America more competitive internationally or more productive: they deliver our pizzas, cut our lawns, wash our cars. True, these immigrants push down prices of services for middle-class Americans, but they also depress the wages of low-skilled native-born workers, according to Borjas and Katz, and recent studies show that they probably raise the unemployment levels of native-born blacks and Hispanics. Not surprisingly, a 1997 study by economists for the National Academy of Sciences estimated the net benefits of immigration at only $10 billion in our $8 trillion economy, while the next year an NAS study of the social costs of immigration reported that in California each native-born family paid nearly $1,200 more in taxes to support government services that went to immigrants. Those costs will only grow as the number of immigrants in America increases. The Heritage Institute’s Robert Rector has estimated that each immigrant high school dropout will cost U.S. taxpayers $85,000 over his lifetime. Enacting amnesty for illegals already here, as well as creating a new guest-worker program, Rector calculates, would eventually add some $46 billion a year in social costs—including welfare—to the federal government.

When robots start taking over household, restaurant, construction, and other remaining manual labor tasks what do the Open Borders advocates think we are supposed to do with tens of millions of low skilled, poorly educated, and barely educatable people?

By Randall Parker 2006 November 18 02:36 PM  Immigration Societal Decay
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2006 November 16 Thursday
Silent Video Clip Viewing Best Way To Choose Winning Political Candidates

People who spend lots of time parsing sentences from political candidates are far less able to choose winners than those who pursue a shallower and quicker approach.

People watching short clips of silent debate footage are able to predict political election winners more accurately than predictions based on reports of economic conditions, finds a study supported by Dartmouth, the University of Chicago, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research (ISR).

"We found that snap decisions based on charisma are a good predictor of election outcomes," says Daniel J. Benjamin, an assistant professor of economics at Dartmouth and a fellow at ISR. "But you need to measure charisma with silent video clips rather than sound-on clips because knowing about candidate policy positions disrupts people's ability to judge the non-verbal cues that really matter." Benjamin was a co-author of this study with Jesse M. Shapiro of the University of Chicago.

After watching ten-second silent video clips of competing gubernatorial candidates, participants in the study were able to pick the winning candidate at a rate significantly better than chance. When the sound was turned on and participants could hear what the candidates were saying, they were no better than chance at predicting the winner. For the study, Benjamin and Shapiro showed 264 participants, virtually all Harvard undergraduates, ten-second video clips of the major party candidates in 58 gubernatorial elections from 1988 to 2002.

Researchers found that the accuracy of predictions based solely on silent video clips was about the same as or greater than the accuracy of predictions based on knowledge of which candidate was the incumbent and information about the prevailing economic conditions at the time of the election, including the unemployment rate and any changes in personal income for the year prior to the election.

You can imagine how political parties could use this information. The key is to choose candidates that look good when speaking. Hire some people to view silent clips of potential candidates from your party. Then persuade the highest scorer to run and put money behind that person.

What I'd like to know: Would still pictures be enough to predict winners? Just do it based on looks? I've read that this year the Democrats tried to field better looking candidates. If they did then I bet that helped.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 16 05:51 AM  Politics Human Nature
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2006 November 15 Wednesday
Bush Last Try In Iraq With 20,000 More Troops?

Lame duck failed President George W. Bush wants to make one more try to turn the Iraqis back from escalating violence.

President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations.

Mr Bush's refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.

Although the panel's work is not complete, its recommendations are expected to be built around a four-point "victory strategy" developed by Pentagon officials advising the group. The strategy, along with other related proposals, is being circulated in draft form and has been discussed in separate closed sessions with Mr Baker and the vice-president Dick Cheney, an Iraq war hawk.

What is the point of this Last Hurrah? The Iraqis have already chosen to put their loyalties in their own sects, tribes, and families rather than in the national government. The national government itself has become a tool for Shia dominance and at the highest level it supports the Shia militias. It might as well. If the Shia militias became even more capable at some point the Sunnis would begin to see that they have no chance to win. Only then might they become willing to negotiate rather than fight.

On C-SPAN (hurray for Brian Lamb for founding it!) I was watching General Abizaid get questioned by the US Senate Armed Services Committee. Hillary Clinton sounded sympathetic to Abizaid's argument that we shouldn't start drawing down troops. Though Hillary said the sides will keep fighting as long as they think they can win a better position. I say that belief is going to continue for a long time unless one side thoroughly crushes the other side. A withdrawal of US forces might even allow the Shias to crush the Sunnis faster and therefore end the civil war sooner.

Abizaid said if the government does not reign in the militias then he'll be discouraged about the prospects. Well, unless the Shia-dominated military becomes powerful enough to take on the Sunni fighters the Shia-dominated government will continue to let the militias kill Sunnis - both fighters and those Sunnis who are not involved.

The US Senator who seemed most connected to reality as I understand it was Democratic Senator from Indiana Evan Bayh. The guy asked:

"Do they have it in them to forge one country with a common destiny or is that beyond their capabilities?

That's a politically incorrect question to ask and it comes from a Senate Democrat no less.. Beyond their capabilities? Yes, obviously that'st true. What our leaders in Washington DC keep hoping for from the Iraqis really is beyond their capabilities. General Abizaid disagreed. But he's wrong.

Bayh is quite critical of the Iraqis.

I mean, they say the right things. But when the going gets tough and they have to make the hard decisions, they sort of retreat into their corner and they’re just not able to find that common ground."

This willingness to be critical of the Iraqis is what has been missing from the Democrats. They don't want to take positions that Bush would respond to by painting them as racists. They do not want to admit that the liberalism has less than universal appeal around the world. The future of the world is not a liberal manifest destiny. But the unwillingness of people on the Left to be honest about human nature has left the Democrats unable to articulate accurate criticisms of the Bush war in Iraq.

The Shia militias can't be brought around to negotiations. As Moqtada al Sadr gets more coopted into the Iraqi government more of his fighters decide to ignore him and fight.

For years an angry outsider, Mr. Sadr, 33, has moved deep into the inner sanctum of the Iraqi government largely because his followers make up the biggest and most volatile Shiite militia. Now, after more than a year in power, he and his top lieutenants are firmly part of the establishment, a position that has brought new comfort and wealth. That change has shifted the threat for the American military, which no longer faces mass uprisings by Mr. Sadr’s fighters when it enters their turf.

But the taming of Mr. Sadr has produced a paradox: the more settled he becomes in the establishment, the looser his grip is over his fighters on the streets and those increasingly infiltrating the security forces. In the two years since they fought against American tanks at Mr. Sadr’s command, many have broken away from the confines of compromise that bind him, and have taken a far more active role in killing, something his supporters say worries him. He says he is trying to weed them out — 40 were publicly dismissed last month.

The increasing violence of some of his followers mirrors the overall unraveling of Iraq, which has become less centrally controlled and far more criminal since the American invasion in 2003. The situation is one of the highest priorities for the incoming Democratic-controlled Congress in the United States.

We could try pulling all the US troops out of Baghdad so that the Sunnis and Shias can have it out. The Sunnis have to become willing to accept subservient minority status. Or they have to come to accept that since they can't rule and find subservience unacceptable that partition is their best bet for rule of Sunnis by Sunnis. Right now they are in denial.

Update: Greg Cochran says Bush's 'last big push" in Iraq is going to fail.

It looks as if Bush is plumping for a ' last big push' in Iraq, a last try: sounds if they're planning to inject another 20k troops, I guess in Baghdad.

It won't work. You can take that to the bank. Since it is the last try, since everybody _knows_ it is the last try, the local contenders can and will wait it out - since it is a try at imposing order in a country where the state no longer exists at all, a country whose language we do not speak and whose inhabitants most American soldiers come to view with contempt after long exposure, since 20 k troops is way too few to make much of a difference in this kind of effort, failure is certain. . What it _will_ do is blow another hundred billion dollars and get another thousand or so Americans soldiers killed.

Invading Antarctica would have so much more sense. It's not too late!

The good thing about the last big push is that its failure will leave the war camp discredited. We can soon move beyond pretending there's any chance of turning Iraq into a liberal democracy. The Shias and Sunnis aren't going to stop fighting over who gets to rule just because American troops are patrolling some of their neighborhoods. Bush's Iraq policy is going to go through its final discrediting in the next 6 months. The ranks of the defenders of a continued US presence in Iraq will shrink on both sides of the political aisle.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 15 10:08 PM  Mideast Iraq Exit Debate
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2006 November 14 Tuesday
Democrats Might Cancel Border Fence

Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson might want to reverse the legislation that authorizes 700 miles of fences on the US-Mexico border.

The incoming Democratic chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee says his top priorities would be ensuring that all cargo containers are scanned before arriving at U.S. seaports, increasing funding and security for rail and mass transit systems, passing an authorization bill for the Homeland Security Department, and possibly reversing legislation that calls for building a 700-mile fence along the border with Mexico.

"It's a good time to be a Democrat," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the ranking member of the committee who is poised to take over the helm when the new Congress convenes in January.

Bennie wants to shaft the American people and he's obviously happy that the Iraq debacle has given him the opportunity to do this.

The cause of immigration restriction has just gotten a lot tougher.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, told reporters this week that he expected to "revisit" the issue when he becomes chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee in the 110th Congress.

Mr. Thompson said the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) new border enforcement program, known as the Secure Border Initiative or SBI Net -- which includes monitors, cameras and other integrated surveillance systems -- is a viable alternative to fencing.

"We might do away with it, or look at [integrating it into] SBI Net," he said. "A virtual fence rather than a real one."

A physical barrier of multiple layers combined with electronic sensors would combine the strengths of both approaches and work better. But most Democats in the House Of Representatives do not want effective border control.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 14 10:40 PM  Immigration Border Barrier
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2006 November 12 Sunday
US Imports To Exceed Federal Taxes Collected

Another sign of globalization for the US economy is about to be reached.

Sometime next year—perhaps around Christmas 2007, if current trends continue—the U.S. will hit a milestone. For the first time in recent memory, the cost of imported goods and services will exceed federal revenues. In other words, Americans will soon pay more to foreigners than they do to their national government.

We're almost there now. Imports cost us about $2.2 trillion a year; the federal government collects $2.4 trillion in revenues. Why is that important? Because for the past 70 years, Washington has been the 800-pound gorilla, more powerful by far than any other force in the U.S. economy. That's not true anymore. The federal government remains plenty influential, but the global economy is more so.

This will come as a rude shock to Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the presumptive Speaker of the House, Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), the likely chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, and other newly enfranchised leaders in the Democratic Party.

The tone of the article is that the power of the US government to influence the US national economy is going down. High taxes can drive businesses abroad for example. But that does not hold for all industries or all levers of policy. Even the argument that the article makes about the Federal Reserve losing power to control longer term interest rates seems wrong to me. The Fed has huge levers. For example, it could buy up all the debt in the market if it so chose. In other words it can print money. It could also change bank reserve requirements and make other changes to expand or contract the money supply.

That rapid acceleration of imports is made possible by currency exchange rate fixing by East Asian governments. They do this by purchasing US financial instruments in the form of corporate bonds, mortgage bonds, and government bonds. As a result we are going into hock to the world and becoming what Warren Buffett calls "Squanderville". This folly deserves far more attention than it gets from either major US political party.

The argument in the article is that the US government is losing control of the US national economy as the economy becomes driven more by global economic forces.

Since 1995 imports have risen from 12% of gross domestic product to about 17%. And foreign money finances about 32% of U.S. domestic investment, up from 7% in 1995. In other words, the U.S. is more open to the global economy than ever before, and the links run in both directions. Now many of the levers affecting the U.S. economy are located not in Washington but in Beijing, London, and even Mexico City.

Mexico City? I don't think so. Tokyo certainly. Seoul even. Frankfurt and Paris too.

The massive US government funding of medical research has not translated into a trade surplus in medical products. Companies do product development and production abroad for research funded in the US.

But in the brave new world of the global economy, where companies move factories and facilities around the world like game pieces, it's no longer a given that U.S. workers benefit directly from U.S.-funded research. One worrisome example: Despite federal outlays of over $125 billion for medical research over the past five years, the U.S. has a large and growing trade deficit in advanced biotech and medical goods. "The era in which we could assume that increased U.S. public investment in R&D automatically generates domestic growth is over," says Jeff Faux of the liberal Economic Policy Institute.

This is especially troubling to me because a decrease in political support for research seems plausible as a result of this trend. How to make more of the results of research translated into products developed and produced in the United States?

One commenter on that article on the Businessweek web site argues that surely we can still benefit from increased spending on education. I do not believe it. In fact, I think education needs to be modernized by recorded lectures and web courses to reduce the amount of labor in schools. Most of the teachers and professors should be automated out of jobs and shifted into more wealth-generating work.

Between 2001 and today, imports rose by three percentage points as a share of GDP, one of the main reasons that job growth was so slow. By comparison, the import share rose by only one percentage point or so in the recoveries of the early 1980s and the early 1990s.

What is billed as a greater integration of the US economy in the world economy is in fact a huge increase in imports coupled to a much smaller growth in exports. The US trade deficit with China has grown from $17.9 billion in January 2006 to $23 billion in September 2006. It has doubled since the January 2004 deficit of $11.5 billion. Going back even further it has quadrupled since 1998. This is what some nutty economists call "free trade". But I'm with Warren Buffett. This nonsense is squanderville. The US is on track to hit another record yearly trade deficit in spite of the drop in oil prices.

The shortfall declined 6.8 percent, to $64.3 billion, from an all-time high of $69 billion in August, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The drop of $4.7 billion was the biggest one-month decline since February 2001.

Even with the improvement, the deficit is on track to set a record for the fifth consecutive year. Through September the deficit is running at an annual rate of $781.6 billion, surpassing last year's all-time high of $716.7 billion.

One advantage of the Democrats taking over Congress is that they will apply some political pressure to cut back the size of the US trade deficit. That advantage does not make up for their Open Borders approach to immigration though.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 12 08:50 PM  Economics Globalization
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Liberal Democracy Is Not A Universal Desire

Lawrence Auster observes an exchange between conservative Carol Iannone and neoconservative Michael Rubin on National Review blogs.

At the Phi Beta Cons blog at NRO, Carol Iannone expresses her astonishment at the Vanity Fair interview of the seven pro-war neocons who attacked President Bush’s Iraq policy (the interview was discussed by me here and here). Where, she asks, did the neocons get the idea that freedom is the universal desire of all mankind, and that this desire could be the basis for building a democracy in Iraq? At the Corner on November 11, Michael Rubin, one of the Magnificent Seven, replies disingenuously to Iannone. First he says he has nothing to do with the rest of the Magnificent Seven. Yeah, right, all seven of them just happened to agree at the same time to be interviewed by a left-liberal magazine for a sensational article on how prominent neocon war-supporters are turning against President Bush. Then Rubin accuses Iannone of portraying neocons as a sinister cabal. In fact she didn’t say anything about the neocons as political actors, she was talking about their ideas.

Isn’t it amazing, that when the neocons want to tout their accomplishments and influence, they blanket the conservative press with such triumphalist articles as “The Neoconservative Persuasion,” “The Neoconservative Moment,” and “The Neoconservative Convergence,” but when someone criticizes the neoconservative ideology, the neocons turn around and accuse the critic of inventing a neocon cabal or of using “neoconservative” as an anti-Jewish code word? In effect, when neoconservatism is attacked, the neocons claim that there is no such thing as neoconservatism. For the neocons, the word neoconservatism can only be used in a positive, celebratory sense. If you use it in a negative sense, you’re either a conspiracy theorist or an anti-Semite.

Read the rest of it.

The neocons have run from their own label because it has come to have such a pejorative meaning in the minds of millions. But the current generation of neocons (as distinct from the much more empirical first generation social scientist neocons who had moved rightward) represent a distinct school of thought which they purport is on the Right. It is not conservative in any way that Edmund Burke would have recognized. It is a sort of hawkish ideological right wing liberalism which places great importance on the defense of Israel.

Then in an exchange with readers Larry gets at what he thinks drives Jewish neoconservatives to claim that democracy is the universal aspiration of all mankind: fear of discrimination against Jews.

Yet, at the same time, the basic, crazy idea was there: all people can assimilate to America. That’s the root of it, and it is related to the idea that no discrimination can be allowed, because all discrimination is indivisible (as I discuss in my article, “Why Jews Welcome Moslems”). Then, with the post 2001 situation, the idea, all people can be assimilated into America, got expanded to: all people desire to be democrats. Once again, the universalism of the claim is connected with the idea that there must be no discrimination. To say that any particular people are not suited for democracy is an act of condescension and racism. All people are equally suited.

So, in the neocons' mind, if they admit that not all people can be democrats, that’s tantamount to admitting that not all people can be assimilated into America, which is tantamount to admitting that America may be justified in not admitting every type of immigrant into America, which, in their minds is tantamount to admitting that the old discrimination against Jews may have been justified.

Normal people can see that there is a difference between how well Jews fit into the West and how well Muslims fit into the West. But in the minds of Jews in general and neocons in particular, to admit that Muslims don’t fit into the West is to say that Jews don’t fit in either. Thus, in the neocons’ mind, to say that Muslims cannot be democratized is to say that Jews don’t fit into the West. And that is why they are so absolute and unthinking and unyielding in their democratism. Their democratism is not based on evidence. It is based on an instinctive (if distorted and incorrect and destructive) notion of Jewish self-protection.

This irrational fear is putting Jews more at risk, not less. They've driven themselves to embrace and promote extremely wrong assumptions about human nature and with disastrous results which can be seen every day in the war news from Iraq. Their assumptions also lead them to support immigration policies that are disastrous here at home.

I agree with Larry. The neoconservatives have made their intellectual movement into a menace.

The neocons and Bush just cost the Republicans control of both houses of Congress. This is a positive thing for US foreign policy. But for US domestic policy and in particular for immigration policy this is a disaster. The Democratic Party agrees with most neocons on immigration: more is better and it doesn't matter who comes. This is a crazy wrong position. Our odds of getting both an amnesty and guest worker program have gone up greatly. The House of Representatives is no longer a brake on the ambitions of the Senate and President.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 12 03:01 PM  Elites Neoconservative Menace
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Amir Taheri Advocates For Regime Change In Iran

Writing in the Jewish political opinion publication Commentary magazine secular Iranian exile writer Amir Taheri makes familiar arguments for regime change in Iran.

Bush had concluded that the terrorist attacks on the U.S. had flowed out of six decades of American support for a Middle East status quo dominated by reactionary and often despotic regimes. To ensure its own safety, America now had to help democratize the region. The Islamic Republic, by contrast, saw the elimination of its two principal regional enemies as a “gift from Allah,” and an opportunity to advance its own, contrary vision of the Middle East as the emergent core of a radical Islamist superpower under Iranian leadership.

But who eliminated Iran's chief enemy, Saddam Hussein's regime? George W. Bush acting on his on incorrect gut feeling and with the very strong backing of a chorus of neocons writing and talking in favor of this policy.

Also, Taheri simply states Bush's conclusion about the cause of the terrorist threat as it if is a correct starting point for later analysis. Never mind the last few years of terrible events in Iraq which discredit Bush's analysis. Taheri just skips over that part since it works against the argument he's trying to build for regime change in Teheran.

Next Taheri tries again to make an appeal to authority to claim that Iran is the chief obstacle to Bush's democratization strategy.

By the start of the second term, however, the Bush administration had identified the Islamic Republic as a principal obstacle to the President’s policy of democratization.

News flash for Amir Taheri: The principal obstacle for the democratization fantasy for the Middle East is that the Arabs hold beliefs and have values that are incompatible with even semi-liberal democracy. The neocons can blame Iran all they want but the Shias and Sunnis who are slugging it out in Baghdad are not doing so at Iran's behest. They needed no outside help in order to see each other as rivals for control of Iraq.

In fact, the slugfest in Iraq makes Iran's geopolitical ambitions even less likely to be realized. The Sunnis going to Iraq to fight in the insurgency are fighting for fellow Sunnis and against Shias. Well, the Sunnis are the majority of all Arabs on the Arabian peninsula. Iran's ambitions are checked by the fact that the Iranians are not Sunnis and Iranians are not Arabs. The Arab Sunnis are not going to accept Iran as the leader of the Middle Eastern Muslims.

Luckily, not only is democratization of the Middle East a fool's errand but it is also not necessary in order to greatly reduce the threat of terrorists to the West. The United States and its allies, working much more vigilantly to root out terrorists and to disrupt terrorist networks, have managed to go over 5 years without another terrorist attack on US soil. We could do even better by keeping Muslims from entering the West and by sending home many who are already here. But you won't read that in Commentary.

Notably, the biggest Middle Eastern terrorist threats now emanate from Pakistan which has a populace too supportive of Al Qaeda for elections to be held there. The Bush Administration complains not a peep that Pervez Musharraf rules there as a military dictator and it speaks volumes of the Bush Administration's current thinking that the US government is not on a campaign to restore democracy to nuclear power Pakistan.

Those Pakistani terrorist plotters in Pakistan are surpassed as threats by Pakistani British citizens living in democratic Britain as sources of real terrorist plots. Somehow the liberal democracy and freedom of Britain does not produce British Pakistanis with friendly and benevolent feelings toward non-Muslim native British. That fact speaks very strongly against the idea that democracy is some kind of panacea against Islamic Jihadist terrorism.

Next Taheri tries to paint a picture of the Iranians orchestrating a big threat against the Gulf Arab emirates.

By now, indeed, Tehran had become actively engaged in undermining the U.S. position in both Afghanistan and Iraq, while creating radical Shiite networks to exert pressure on such American allies as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain.

Radical Shia networks opposed to Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia? Suppose this is true. Um, we should favor the hostile non-Muslim-hating Wahhabis over the Shias why exactly?

But near as I can tell from reading many news stories the bombs that go off in Saudi Arabia are Sunni bombs set off by more radical Wahhabis or Salafists who think the Saudi royals haven't gone far enough merely by keeping the sexes separated, banning female driving, making women stay totally covered in tents, and the like. The Shias do not figure in this. If the Shias are going to become a threat to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia they will do so as a result of the primal forces that the neocons were instrumental in unleashing in Iraq.

Next Taheri tries to analyse the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Nor was that all: the Islamic Republic was gaining influence over radical Palestinian groups, including Islamic Jihad and Hamas, by supplying them with funds and weapons. Israel’s seizure of the cargo ship Karine A, caught smuggling Iranian arms to a terrorist group tied to Yasir Arafat, and the discovery of seventeen terrorist cells preparing to attack Israel from Jordan in 2002, were clear signals that, where the Palestinian issue was concerned, the Islamic Republic had moved onto the offensive.

Who was instrumental in bringing Hamas to power in the Territories? You might expect Taheri and the neocons to say that Iran played a big role. But those neocon nutters need to go look in the mirror because they and not Iran did the most to make Hamas more powerful.

I hear you asking, the neocons brought Hamas to power? Yes. Natan Sharansky wrote a book, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror that made the neocon argument for democracy as the panacea for making Middle Eastern governments and societies more liberal and less terrorist supporting. Sharansky would like us to believe that democracy would change Middle Eastern Muslims so that they would stop joining the Jihad to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel and Western countries. Bush read that book and bought it hook line and sinker. Following the message of that book Bush and Rice then applied pressure to hold elections in the Palestinian Territories. Hamas swept to power democratically helped along by Sharansky, Bush, and the neocons!

I thought perhaps Sharansky was sincere and therefore in error. But a noted political commentator (I can't share his name since I do not have permission to do so) told me this book was Sharansky's idea of being clever. Sharansky set out to make a seemingly highly principled argument about how Israel should never negotiate with a corrupt dictatorshp. Only a democracy could possibly be pure enough of motive to negotiate peace with the Israelis in good faith. The goal of the book, according to this commentator, was to let Israel off the hook so the Israeli government would not have to negotiate with the Palestinians. Whoever thought the President of the United States would take it serious enough to make Palestinian elections happen?

The problem with Sharansky's book is that Bush took it literally. Bush believes like many liberals that liberal democracy is the universal aspiration of all humanity. As some have now learned from the Iraq Debacle (and which was already obvious anyway), no, liberal democracy is not the universal aspiration of mankind and probably not of womankind either. But Bush took the advice of the neoconservatives and supported the election that brought Hamas to power.

This is my whole problem with any argument for some course of action that comes from the neocons. Their track record is just so bad at this point, they've been so wrong so many times on such a monumental scale, that if they make an argument for some course of action it becomes immediately suspect in my mind.

Next Taheri tries to make us think the Iranian mullahs have any sort of chance of extending the area they rule.

To this day, Ahmadinejad has never lost an opportunity to reiterate that the Islamic Republic is as committed to fighting Western democracies as it was when it came to power almost three decades ago. Claiming that he is preparing the ground for the return of the Hidden Imam, a messiah-like figure of Shiite lore, Ahmadinejad considers a “clash of civilizations” to be both inevitable and welcome. Of course, he is ready to talk—so long as the Islamic Republic is not required to make any concessions. In a speech in Zanjan over the summer, Ahmadinejad assured his listeners that the United States would never be permitted to create “an American Middle East.” “The new Middle East,” he told the cheering crowd, “will be Islamic.”

Nor is Ahmadinejad a lone wolf. Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Meshkini, president of the Assembly of Experts and thus, after the “Supreme Guide,” the regime’s second most senior clerical figure, further clarified the extent of Tehran’s ambitions in a September speech to the assembly. The only legitimate government on earth, proclaimed the ayatollah, is the Islamic Republic, and the entire world, starting with the Muslim nations, must be put under the rule of the “Supreme Guide.”

Well, the communists wanted to put the whole world under the dictatorship of the vanguard of the proletariat. They obviously didn't succeed or even come close to succeeding. The United States held more cards and won the Cold War. The imbalance of power between the West and the Iranians is so extremely lopsided (making the Cold War seem like a close race by comparison) that talk of the world coming under the rule of the "Supreme Guide" is just fantasy by the leaders of the faithful.

The biggest obstacle we face to better protecting ourselves from Muslim jihadists comes not from the Muslims but rather from our own neoconservative and liberal leaders. Muslim immigrants have created a huge security threat in Britain and some other European countries. The solution to the Muslim terrorist threat is simple enough: Keep them away from us. Keep them out. Make them stay in their countries and at the same time minimize our own involvement in their civilization. Good fences make good neighbors.

Taheri doesn't see the point of talking with the mullahs because talking with the mullahs has not turned them into fluffy puppies (okay, my phrasing but accurate enough in meaning).

There can be little doubt that Ahmadinejad, Meshkini, and the others have been encouraged in their belligerence by Western statesmen and pundits who insist that no realistic alternative exists to “dialogue” with the Islamic Republic, even if this appears to play into the hands of the regime. As we have seen, however, “talking to the mullahs” is a strategy thoroughly tested over the last quarter-century and repeatedly found wanting. Every U.S. administration has maintained some level of communication, often behind the scenes, with the leadership in Tehran. None of it has succeeded in influencing its fundamental tenor or curbing its radical ambitions.

As a liberal-minded Iranian it is natural that Taheri should be unhappy with the type of government that rules Iran. But that government reflects the Iranian people far more than Taheri would probably admit. He can wish for a better regime in Tehran. But that does not mean that American blood and treasure should be wasted in a futile attempt to change the character, values, and beliefs of the Iranian people.

He claims the Iranian regime behaves as a revolutionary cause.

For as long as the Islamic Republic continues to behave as a revolutionary cause, it will be impossible for others, including the United States, to consider it a partner, let alone a friend or ally.

This is wrong. It behaves as a fundamentalist Shia regime. But the passage of years and the succession of leadership has made it more like states with bureaucracies more interested in their perks and status than in grand causes. Iran's power on the world stage is small.

Taheri undermines his own argument when he concedes the revolutionaries have lost their fervor.

A third harbinger is that the regime’s coercive forces have become increasingly reluctant to defend it against the people. Since 2002, the regular army, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the professional police have refused to crush workers’ strikes, student demonstrations, and other manifestations of anti-regime protest. In many instances, the mullahs have been forced to deploy other, often unofficial, means, including the so-called Ansar Hizballah (“Supporters of the Party of God”) and the Baseej Mustadafeen (“Mobilization of the Dispossessed”).

In a nutshell: The neoconservatives oppose the Iranian regime because it advocates (from a safe distance) the destruction of Israel and because Iran has a nuclear weapons program. All the extensive verbiage about Iran and its supposed threat to US interests or its supposed ability to export its revolution is just a smokescreen. The Iranians aren't going to overthrow any other government. They aren't going to invade another country. If they can become a threat to anyone it is only with nuclear weapons.

So the debate about Iran comes down to a simple question: Should anyone be worried if Iran gets the bomb? Should Israel worry? Should the US worry? Should the Saudis worry?

I remain unconvinced that the mullahs would use nukes against Israel. They'd be signing their own death warrant and guaranteeing the end of their regime if they did so. I also remain unconvinced that the mullahs would give nukes to terrorists. If they did that and this was discovered they wouldn't be toast. They'd be a bunch of individual molecules floating in a mushroom cloud in the atmosphere. Again, I do not think they want that outcome.

Still, I do not like the idea of letting yet another Muslim nation get the bomb. Why? Because Islam is an enemy of free societies. The more power enemies of free societies get the worse off we are. But I'm not ready to follow the neocon fools on yet another half-baked scheme of theirs to fix what ails the world.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 12 11:55 AM  Elites Neoconservative Menace
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2006 November 11 Saturday
Chalabi Blames Wolfowitz For Iraq Debacle

Ahmad Chalabi, once the Iraqi exile pied piper of neoconservative war hawks in Washington DC, has lost power in Iraq and moved to his Mayfair flat in London where a reporter for the New York Times interviewed him.

He is here in London, his longtime home in exile, temporarily, he says, taking his first vacation in five years. At lunch at a nearby restaurant an hour before, he ordered the sea bass wrapped in a banana leaf. He walks the streets unattended by armed guards.

But the interlude, Chalabi says, is just that, a passing thing. His doubters will come back to him; they always have. As ever, he wears a jester’s smile, wide and blank, a mask that has carried him through crises of the first world and the third. Still, a touch of bitterness can creep into Chalabi’s voice, a hint that he has concluded that his time has come and gone. Indeed, even for a man as vain and resilient as Chalabi, his present predicament stands too large to go unacknowledged. Once Iraq’s anointed leader — anointed by the Americans — Chalabi, at age 62, is without a job, spurned by the very colleagues whose ascension he engineered. His benefactors in the White House and in the Pentagon, who once gobbled up whatever half-baked intelligence Chalabi offered, now regard him as undependable and — worse — safely ignored. Chalabi’s life work, an Iraq liberated from Saddam Hussein, a modern and democratic Iraq, is spiraling toward disintegration. Indeed, for many in the West, Chalabi has become the personification of all that has gone wrong in Iraq: the lies, the arrogance, the occupation as disaster.

“The real culprit in all this is Wolfowitz,” Chalabi says, referring to his erstwhile backer, the former deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz. “They chickened out. The Pentagon guys chickened out.”

Chalabi still considers Wolfowitz a friend, so he proceeds carefully. America’s big mistake, Chalabi maintains, was in failing to step out of the way after Hussein’s downfall and let the Iraqis take charge. The Iraqis, not the Americans, should have been allowed to take over immediately — the people who knew the country, who spoke the language and, most important, who could take responsibility for the chaos that was unfolding in the streets. An Iraqi government could have acted harshly, even brutally, to regain control of the place, and the Iraqis would have been without a foreigner to blame. They would have appreciated the firm hand. There would have been no guerrilla insurgency or, if there was, a small one that the new Iraqi government could have ferreted out and crushed on its own. An Iraqi leadership would have brought Moktada al-Sadr, the populist cleric, into the government and house-trained him. The Americans, in all likelihood, could have gone home. They certainly would have been home by now.

Is his argument plausible? We could have invaded, put the exile Iraqis in charge with lots of money, and then promised to leave in, say, 9 months? We certainly could have physically done this. Would that have motivated the Shias to band together to build up enough forces to keep the Sunnis from taking over? Then we could have just left regardless of the level of violence.

But would an invasion followed by a fast exit have provided the Bush Administration and the neocons enough time to play out their fantasy of setting up a democracy as the panacea to solve all ills? No, it would have been too messy by their then standards of what is an acceptable level of violence.

But wait, Wolfowitz says he wanted a faster turning over of power to the Iraqis but other people in the Bush Administration insisted upon a lengthy formal occupation instead.

Chalabi’s notion — that an Iraqi government, as opposed to an American one, could have saved the great experiment — has become one of the arguments put forth by the war’s proponents in the just-beginning debate over who lost Iraq. At best, it’s improbable: Chalabi is essentially arguing that a handful of Iraqi exiles, some of whom had not lived in the country in decades, could have put together a government and quelled the chaos that quickly engulfed the country after Hussein’s regime collapsed. They could have done this, presumably, without an army (which most wanted to dissolve) and without a police force (which was riddled with Baathists).

In fact, the Americans considered the idea and dismissed it. (But not, Wolfowitz insists, because of him. His longtime aide, Kevin Kellems, said that Wolfowitz favored turning over power “as rapidly as possible to duly elected Iraqi authorities.”) The Bush administration decided to go to the United Nations and have the American role in Iraq formally described as that of an “occupying power,” a step that no Iraqi, not even the lowliest tea seller, failed to notice. They appointed L. Paul Bremer III as viceroy. Instead of empowering Iraqis, Bremer set up an advisory panel of Iraqis — one that included Chalabi — that had no power at all. The warmth that many ordinary Iraqis felt for the Americans quickly ebbed away. It’s not clear that the Americans had any other choice. But here in his London parlor, Chalabi is now contending that excluding Iraqis was the Americans’ fatal mistake.

My view of the rapid withdrawal idea: It was a good idea then. It is a good idea now. Better late than never. Give those Shia Iraqi freedom fighters the chance to stand up and fight on their own for their liberal democratic Jeffersonian free society against those perfidious anti-democratic Sunnis. Never mind that Islam is an enemy of liberal democracy. Have liberal/neocon irrational unempirical faith in the universal desire for freedom and democracy.

One of the problems we've faced with Iraq has been the unwillingness of our elites to accept that things are going to get worse whether we leave or stay. Attempts to achieve better outcomes inevitably lead to worsening conditions. Attempts to stave off full scale civil war send us down the road of gradually intensifying civil war.

Western nations no longer have the stomach to rule an occupied country with the level of brutality needed to suppress rebellions of the sort that Arabs carry out. Saddam could rule Iraq because he was wiling to kill whole extended families if just one person stepped out of line. In a way his style of rule was more humane because while he occasionally killed whole families - many of whose members were not involved in plots against his regime - his very willingness to be that brutal greatly reduced the frequency of rebellion and therefore reduced the death toll from insurgencies.

Given that we aren't going to rule Iraq with the brutality that is required we really should just leave. We always could invade again if some part of Iraq becomes a terrrorist training center ala Afghanistan under the Taliban. But my guess is even that won't be necessary. We aren't going to turn the Iraqis into Jeffersonian democrats. Time to go.

Update: In case you aren't a long time reader of ParaPundit and might have missed the sarcasm in the phrase "Shia Iraqi freedom fighters": My point here is that once the decision to invade Iraq was made we would have been better off if Chalabi the neocon pied piper had managed to convince all the neocons in the Bush Administration that he could totally handle post-war rule in Iraq and that he, virtuous honest freedom lover that he is, would see it it that Iraq became a liberal democracy.

If the neocons could have been convinced that US troops did not need to stick around and if we'd therefore pulled out of Iraq a few months after invading and left Chalabi in charge of a Shia-dominated government then we could have been spared the death of thousands of soldiers and the maiming of tens of thousands as well as hundreds of billions of dollars. If only Chalabi had been more persuasive and if the neocons could have accepted Chalabi's exile group the Iraqi National Congress as the vanguard of liberal democracy in Iraq we would have been better off. Granted, Iraq still would have gone to hell in a handbasket. But not in our handbasket.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 11 08:46 PM  Mideast Iraq Blame Game
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MI5 Chief Sees 30 Terrorist Plots Underway In Britain

Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, chief of Britain's internal security agency MI5, gave a speech at Queen Mary College, London, where she said large numbers of Muslims in Britain are plotting terrorist attacks in Britain and 30 plots are underway.

What I can say is that today, my officers and the police are working to contend with some 200 groupings or networks, totalling over 1600 identified individuals (and there will be many we don't know) who are actively engaged in plotting, or facilitating, terrorist acts here and overseas. The extremists are motivated by a sense of grievance and injustice driven by their interpretation of the history between the West and the Muslim world. This view is shared, in some degree, by a far wider constituency. If the opinion polls conducted in the UK since July 2005 are only broadly accurate, over 100,000 of our citizens consider that the July 2005 attacks in London were justified.

She says more Muslims in Britain are becoming radicalized.

What we see at the extreme end of the spectrum are resilient networks, some directed from Al-Qaida in Pakistan, some more loosely inspired by it, planning attacks including mass casualty suicide attacks in the UK. Today we see the use of home-made improvised explosive devices; tomorrow's threat may include the use of chemicals, bacteriological agents, radioactive materials and even nuclear technology. More and more people are moving from passive sympathy towards active terrorism through being radicalised or indoctrinated by friends, families, in organised training events here and overseas, by images on television, through chat rooms and websites on the Internet.

Many of the plots link back to Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Pakistan really seems like it has become terror central now that most Al Qaeda people have fled Afghanistan.

We are aware of numerous plots to kill people and to damage our economy. What do I mean by numerous? Five? Ten? No, nearer thirty - that we know of. These plots often have links back to Al-Qaida in Pakistan and through those links Al-Qaida gives guidance and training to its largely British foot soldiers here on an extensive and growing scale. And it is not just the UK of course. Other countries also face a new terrorist threat: from Spain to France to Canada and Germany.

A word on proportionality. My Service and the police have occasionally been accused of hype and lack of perspective or worse, of deliberately stirring up fear. It is difficult to argue that there are not worse problems facing us, for example climate change... and of course far more people are killed each year on the roads than die through terrorism. It is understandable that people are reluctant to accept assertions that do not always appear to be substantiated. It is right to be sceptical about intelligence. I shall say more about that later.

But just consider this. A terrorist spectacular would cost potentially thousands of lives and do major damage to the world economy. Imagine if a plot to bring down several passenger aircraft succeeded. Thousands dead, major economic damage, disruption across the globe. And Al-Qaida is an organisation without restraint.

Muslims aren't being persecuted in Britain. Many of them live off of the welfare state while marrying their cousins. They are moving away from assimilation. They've achieved such concentrations in cities that they can and do construct parallel societies. Even though they are not personally persecuted they dream up delusions that the West is in a war to wipe out Islam and away they go with plans to blow up trains, planes, and buses. Sometimes they succeed. As more convert to the Jihad path more will succeed.

Domestic Muslim terrorism in Western countries is nature's way of telling us that Muslim immigration is a really bad idea. The solution? Steve Sailer says pay Muslims to give up their citizenship in Western countries and go back to their ancestral countries. Sounds like a good idea to me. The West and Islam are not compatible. We should separate the West and Islam from each other.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 11 08:25 PM  Immigration Terrorism
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Online Education Rising Rapidly

Online education is taking off.

The Sloan Survey of Online Learning, "Making the Grade: Online Education in the United States, 2006" shows tremendous growth in online learning in America. The complete survey is available at www.sloan-c.org/publications/survey/index.asp.

"This is the largest study to date and it tells us online learning is growing without any sign of a plateau," says Jeff Seaman, chief information officer and survey director, The Sloan Consortium. "There were nearly 3.2 million students taking at least one course online this past fall, up from 2.3 million just last year."

The fourth annual survey is a collaborative effort between the College Board and the Sloan Consortium. It's based upon responses from more than 2,200 colleges and universities nationwide and represents the state of online learning in U.S. higher education.

"We include Sloan questions in the College Board's Annual Survey of Colleges to better understand the state of online learning at our country's institutions of higher education," said Hal Higginbotham, chief information officer, the College Board. "The insight we gain from the survey enables us to better serve those who benefit from online courses, those who traditionally wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to connect to college success."

The survey also finds a larger percentage (62 percent) of chief academic officers agree the learning outcomes in online education are now as good as or superior to face-to-face instruction while 57 percent say it is critical to their institution's long-term strategy.

In addition 73 percent agree online education reaches students not served by face-to-face programs. "Offering courses online increases enrollment particularly among populations like working adults and others who traditionally have not been able to access higher education," says Frank Mayadas, program director, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The Sloan Consortium is the nation's largest association of institutions and organizations committed to quality online education and administered through Babson College and Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering.

The College Board adminsters the SAT tests to millions of college bound students every year. The Sloan Foundation was founded by legendary GM CEO Alfred P. Sloan who also co-founded the Sloan-Kettering medical center in New York City. These are not marginal organizations just making up a sensationalist press release to promote themselves.

The growth in online education is inevitable for a couple of reasons. The technological reason is that web bandwidth costs keep dropping while simultaneously computers and software become ever more powerful. The technological infrastructure to deliver courses to people in offices and homes keeps getting better.

But there's also the cost problem of old brick and mortar schools. In inflation-adjusted terms college costs have risen an astounding 35% in just 5 years.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The College Board today announced that at four-year public colleges the increase in average tuition and fees slowed for the third year in a row, but prices are still up 35 percent from 5 years ago, after adjusting for inflation. The increase in average tuition and fees for two-year public colleges in 2006-07 was just slightly above the inflation rate. At all institutions, the net price—the average price students pay after grants and tax benefits are considered—is significantly lower than the published price. Total student aid increased by 3.7 percent to $134.8 billion in 2005-06, but total federal grant aid failed to keep pace with inflation. Even without factoring in inflation, the average Pell Grant per recipient fell by $120.

This is ridiculous. The students aren't getting 35% more knowledge or a 35% increase in the quality of knowledge and they aren't getting taught in ways that let them learn 35% faster. Worse yet, their starting salaries haven't risen 35% and the incomes of their parents haven't risen an average of 35% adjusted for inflation (or even not adjusted for inflation).

Evidence of these trends, along with average 2006-07 college prices and 2005-06 student aid data, is documented in the reports, Trends in College Pricing 2006 and Trends in Student Aid 2006. Also released today was a 2006 supplement to Education Pays: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society, which documents the monetary and nonmonetary benefits of higher education, in addition to differences in participation and success across demographic groups.

Aside on the benefits of education: Studies that compare outcomes for those who go to college and those who do not tend to exaggerate the benefits of education. Why? Smarter people spend more years in school. Also, upper class well connected people spend more years in school. Unless the effects of IQ and family are adjusted for studies that compare people by years of school will tend to exaggerate the benefits of more education.

The claim here that student aid reduces the real effects of tuition increases is misleading. For kids whose families are not poor the grant aid is less or missing altogether. The tuition increases therefore effectively become a mechanism to tax the rich to give to the poor. A familiar story.

Published tuition and fee charges at four-year public colleges average $5,836 in 2006-07. There was a $344 increase over last year, which represents 6.3 percent, or 2.4 percent after adjusting for inflation. The average total tuition, fee, room, and board charges for in-state students at public institutions are $12,796.

After grant aid and tax benefits are considered, full-time students enrolled in public four-year colleges and universities pay on average about $2,700 in net tuition and fees. After declining or just keeping pace with inflation each year between 1996-97 and 2002-03, the average net price students pay at public four-year colleges has increased even more rapidly than published prices for the past four years because grant aid has not kept pace.

Published tuition and fee charges at four-year private colleges average $22,218 in 2006-07. The $1,238 increase over 2005-06 represents an increase of 5.9 percent, or 2 percent after adjusting for inflation. The average total tuition, fee, room, and board charges at private four-year colleges and universities are $30,367.

Full-time students enrolled in private colleges and universities pay on average about $13,200 in net tuition and fees after grant aid and tax benefits. Because of growth in grant aid and tax benefits, the net price students pay has increased more slowly over the past decade than the published price.

Published tuition and fee charges at two-year public colleges average $2,272, $90 more than last year. The 4.1 percent increase is less than one-half of one percentage point above the rate of inflation. After grants and tax benefits are considered, full-time students enrolled in public two-year colleges and universities pay less than $100 on average in net tuition and fees. After adjusting for inflation, the net price students actually pay is lower in 2006-07 than it was a decade earlier.

Students have to pay so much more per year that they have to spend more time working while in college and hence they get their degrees later and end up paying off more debt starting at later points in their lives.

Forgone earnings for students who are devoting their time to their studies constitute a significant portion of the cost of attending college. These costs are higher the longer it takes students to earn their degrees. Among bachelor's degree recipients in 1999-2000, those who began their studies in four-year public colleges and universities took an average of 6.2 years to earn their degrees, and those who began in four-year private institutions took an average of 5.3 years to earn their degrees.

Remedial courses can add to the time it takes students to obtain degrees because they do not generally count toward college credit. Over one-third of first- and second-year college students have taken remedial courses since high school graduation. Among those who took remedial courses in 2003-04, first- and second-year students took more remedial math (77 percent) and remedial writing (35 percent) than other remedial courses.

The time spent in school and cost of education can't keep rising. People are turning to cheaper, more convenient, and faster alternatives. Hence the rise in online courses. High resolution video recordings of the best quality lectures (rather than lectures by teaching assistant grad students from foreign countries with undecipherable accents), web-based testing available any time day or night, web-based delivery of slide shows and animations, and online question and answer sessions are all going to speed up and lower the costs of education.

Smart kids sitting at home in their early teens will be able to move through college courses 12 months of the year as rapidly as they want to push themselves. Bright motivated kids will be able to finish their educations years sooner and for savings of tens of thousands of dollars. Since they will be able to get higher skilled and higher paying jobs sooner they will win doubly by spending less on education and getting on to paying off education costs and building their adult lives sooner.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 11 10:51 AM  Education Online
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2006 November 10 Friday
Baghdad Police Heavily Infiltrated By Militias

The chief of the Sholeh Baghdad police station believes the Shiite militias should kill all Sunnis in Iraq. (and I strongly urge you to read this article in full if you want to get a sense of how absolutely terrible the Iraqi government has become)

And then one rainy night this month, the Sholeh police set up an ambush and killed Army Cpl. Kenny F. Stanton Jr., a 20-year-old budding journalist, his unit said. At the time, Stanton and other members of the unit had been trailing a group of Sholeh police escorting known Mahdi Army members.

The militas look set to have influence over the police for a long time to come.

"How can we expect ordinary Iraqis to trust the police when we don't even trust them not to kill our own men?" asked Capt. Alexander Shaw, head of the police transition team of the 372nd Military Police Battalion, a Washington-based unit charged with overseeing training of all Iraqi police in western Baghdad. "To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure we're ever going to have police here that are free of the militia influence."

Well, at the risk of stating the obvious if you are a Shia Iraqi dealing with Shia police then your ability to trust them is a lot higher than if you are a Sunni Iraq. The term "ordinary Iraqis" lumps them all together. But of course they are very untogether at this point and becoming less together all the time.

The US military's top mouthpieces make absurd claims while lower level officers and enlisted men are a lot more realistic.

The top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., predicted last week that Iraqi security forces would be able to take control of the country in 12 to 18 months. But several days spent with American units training the Iraqi police illustrated why those soldiers on the ground believe it may take decades longer than Casey's assessment.

Seventy percent of the Iraqi police force has been infiltrated by militias, primarily the Mahdi Army, according to Shaw and other military police trainers. Police officers are too terrified to patrol enormous swaths of the capital. And while there are some good cops, many have been assassinated or are considering quitting the force.

"None of the Iraqi police are working to make their country better," said Brig. Gen. Salah al-Ani, chief of police for the western half of Baghdad. "They're working for the militias or to put money in their pocket."

Senator Harry Reid and Representative Nancy Pelosi along with other Congressional Democrats now shoulder part of the responsibility on what to do about Iraq. What solutions are they going to come up with?

What forces are arrayed against militias in the Iraqi police? None at all.

American soldiers said that although they gather evidence of police ties to the militias and present it to Iraqi officials, no one has ever been criminally charged or even lost their jobs.

The biggest threat faced by the Shia militiamen in the Iraqi police is from Sunni insurgents who try to kill them. Next time you read a story about a bomb blowing up a bunch of Iraqi police remember that such storties could just as easily read "bomb blows up Shia militiamen who get paid to masquerade as policemen".

US support for the Iraqi government increasingly amounts to support for the vicious killer Shia thugs against the vicious killer Sunni thugs. We do this in the name of democracy. Go figure.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 10 11:16 PM  MidEast Iraq New Regime Failures
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Illegal Immigrant Border Apprehensions Drop

Right before the election the Bush Administration tried to tout their record on slowing the illegal alien influx.

The U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 8 percent fewer illegal immigrants last fiscal year than the year before, reversing a two-year increase in the historically volatile benchmark, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced yesterday.

Chertoff credited the drop of nearly 100,000 apprehensions largely to the Bush administration's strategy of deporting virtually all non-Mexican border crossers as fast as they are caught, deterring them and others in what had been the fastest-growing group of illegal immigrants. After quadrupling the previous four years, apprehensions of "other than Mexican" border crossers fell 57,144, or 35 percent, to 108,026 last year.

I'd be more convinced by more objective evidence. For example, could regular aircraft flights at night with high resolution digital infrared cameras measure the rate of illegal alien crossings by counting human shape heat signatures along desert sections of the border?

Some knowledgeable observers question Chertoff's interpretation of the figures on apprehensions.

Analysts immediately disputed Chertoff's claim of an unprecedented decline in arrests. Border Patrol apprehensions have risen and fallen like a roller coaster over the years, peaking at almost 1.7 million in 2000 before bottoming out at 932,000 in 2003. Causes include earlier threats of congressional crackdowns; the security climate after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; and changes in Border Patrol funding and strategies.

Experts instead called yesterday's announcement the administration's latest effort to walk a political tightrope in its handling of illegal immigration heading into the Nov. 7 congressional elections.

In any case, improvements in border enforcement come only as a result of loud and persistent popular demand. Bush doesn't want tougher border enforcement and neither do a majority of the Democrats in Congress.

Chertoff is either a liar or a fool when he says that a guest worker program will help control the southern border.

Chertoff backed away yesterday from the Bush administration's pledge to control the nation's borders by 2008, saying it would be "very, very difficult" without a guest-worker program, which the House has resisted. Proponents in Congress say it would take 18 months to six years to set up such a program, after paying for a long-needed computerized worker-verification system to manage it.

Bush and Nancy Pelosi stand a very substantial chance of enacting an amnesty and guest worker program that'll increase legal immigration by millions a year while not decreasing illegal immigration. I've explained in considerable detail how a guest worker program will draw mostly from people who do not now try to enter the US illegally and how the guest workers will increase the influx of illegal immigrants. You can read all about it and know that the guest worker program advocates are lying to you.

What gives with Bush? Howard Sutherland tells Lawrence Auster that Bush sees Mexicans as somehow morally superior to Americans.

George W. Bush is a true believer in amnesty for illegal aliens, at least for Mexicans, and perhaps in some sort of EU-style shotgun marriage of Canada, the United States and Mexico as well. For reasons that beg for psychoanalysis (although from knowing the Texas milieu that produced Mr. Bush I have some speculations), President Bush loves Mexicans. I think on balance he sees the average Mexican as in some moral sense superior to the average American, more genuine in some inchoate way. My impression is that, in his heart of hearts, he likes them better than he likes us. When he says “family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande river,” he is speaking from his heart. That he is sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, not the welfare of Mexicans, does not faze him. The amnesty/guest worker program is President Bush’s lodestar, the legacy he sincerely wants to leave America. In the teeth of all the evidence, he believes that we would be better for it and it’s just the right thing to do. It is more important to him than Iraq, so important that he jettisoned the GOP’s best chance to hold on to the Congress rather than back away from it.

Jorge Bush's gut instinct told him in 1999 (really) to invade Iraq to win an easy war that would boost his popularity. This guy has bad judgement which he trusts. Bush makes huge mistakes which he refuses to acknowledge. He also has a condescending attitude toward the vast majority of the American people. He looks down on us and wants to replace us with Mexicans who he sees as more compliant for elites. Stand up against this guy. He's bad news and if he gets away with it his legacy will be huge lasting damage to the quality of life in America.

Immigration restrictionists need to yell even louder and more often in the next couple of years. The foxes are now in control of the henhouse and they mean to destroy what most Americans love about America.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 10 10:56 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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2006 November 09 Thursday
Less Densely Packed People Friendlier Toward Neighbors

High density living is the enemy of friendly communities where people socialize and interact with their neighbors.

A new study led by a University of California, Irvine economist debunks a popular argument against urban sprawl -- that living farther from neighbors decreases social interaction. In fact, the data shows that suburban living is better for one's social life.

Using data from 15,000 Americans living in various places across the country, researchers found that residents of sprawling suburban spaces actually have more friends, more contact with neighbors and greater involvement in community organizations than citydwellers who live in very close proximity to each other.

"Our findings suggest the old proverb may be true: good fences make good neighbors," said Jan Brueckner, professor of economics at UCI and lead author of the paper. "This contradicts one of the common social and economic arguments against urban sprawl."

Among their specific findings were that for every 10-percent decrease in density, the likelihood of residents talking to their neighbors at least once a week jumps by 10 percent. And involvement in hobby-oriented clubs increases even more significantly -- by 15 percent for every 10 percent decline in density. To measure these and other social interactions, researchers used data from the Social Capital Benchmark Survey and controlled for other factors such as income, education and marital status.

People didn't evolve in high population density conditions. They are not adapted to city life. I do not find these results the least bit surprising.

Opponents of urban sprawl -- most famously "Bowling Alone" author Robert Putnam -- have argued that America's spreading development is detrimental to society, causing increased traffic congestion, loss of valuable open space and a decline in social relationships. To combat these perceived problems, some cities like Portland, Ore., have enacted urban growth boundaries to limit sprawl.

This is an argument against immigration-driven increases in population density.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 09 09:46 PM  Immigration Societal Decay
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2006 November 08 Wednesday
US And Mexican Leaders To Discuss Immigration

Jorge W. Bush will shortly be meeting with the incoming Mexican president Felipe Calderón and immigration is the stealth discussion topic of their meeting.

MEXICO CITY – The nearly 700 miles of fencing President Bush authorized for the US-Mexican border two weeks ago could overshadow other issues when Mexican president-elect Felipe Calderón makes his first visit to the White House on Thursday.

Bush wants to use the fence to demonstrate he's serious about border security so that he can argue for amnesty and a guest worker program. Never mind that next House Speaker and big time Open Borders advocate Nancy Pelosi might not allow funding of the fence.

Calderón, like many advocates for US Open Borders (but not for Mexico's southern border - Mexico's own immigration policy being built upon hypocrisy), tries to make the ridiculous claim that fences that keep people out are morally equivalent to fences that keep people in.

On a recent trip to Canada, Mexico's president-elect compared the fence to the "Berlin Wall," the former barrier between Communist East and democratic West Berlin.

"The most important thing for him is to end the monothematic tone [between the two nations]," says Luis Rubio, president of the Center of Research for Development, a think tank in Mexico City. He says the US-Mexican relationship, dominated by drug trafficking in the 1980s, now is being driven by differences over US immigration policy.

Bush is hoping that the big electoral victory by Open Borders supporters in the Congress due to the Iraq debacle can help him realize one of the big ambitions of his Manchurian Candidate presidency: A massive guest worker program combined with a massive amnesty.

The US border fence, meant to enhance security and deter illegal immigration, is one step in a comprehensive immigration reform plan that Bush hopes can later include a guest-worker program and amnesty plan for some undocumented immigrants. Half of the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants living in the US are believed to be Mexican.

Note to the Democrats: If Bush is for something it is usually a sign that it is a bad idea.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 08 09:56 PM  Immigration Elites Versus Masses
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Blame Deflection The Name Of Right Wing Game

Daniel Larison looks at the people who are trying to deflect blame away from their policies and ideas as reasons for the Republican electoral failure.

It is interesting to note that Rush Limbaugh has joined the chorus of people who have all determined that it is the party, not “the ideology,” that has failed.  (Hat tip: Rod Dreher)  In one sense, this is a true statement.  It is true that Republicans did not lose because they were conservative (because they were, by most standards, not that).  It is not true, contrary to Limbaugh’s claims, that they lost because of their lack of “conservative ideology” (whatever that is).  Whatever “the ideology” is, however we might describe it, the GOP embodied it, try as some might to push the defeat off onto allegedly non-ideological, morally compromised “Lincoln Republicans” or whatever fantastical oppositionist faction Headquarters can conjure up to excuse failure.  To hear some disillusioned GOP supporters tell it, it was a lack of commitment to the ideology that brought them down because there continues to be the belief that somewhere among them this ideology perseveres unsullied and unconnected to the party in whose support it was constantly invoked. 

Traditional conservatism isn't an ideology. It is more of a sentiment of pessimism about human nature and about the limits of what good can be accomplished by governments. Neoconservatism, by contrast, is a lot more ideological. Rather than opposing left wing ideologies because they are ideologies the neocons tend to oppose left wing ideologies because they are left wing. Ideologues on the right argue for their simplications and myths against simplifications made on the left. But they both turn away from empirical reality in the process.

Larison takes a skeptical look at people who try to separate their policies and ideas from the resulting failures.

The “ideology” of which they speak was certainly never conservative (far from it!), but if the vehicle of the ideology has failed then the ideology has failed as well. We are constantly told, usually by some of these same people, that Marxism was discredited by the collapse of the Soviet Union–when it was really discredited by its own falsity the moment Karl Marx started putting pen to paper–but watch how many of these people will rush to the defense of their own ideology even after the political vehicle bursts into flames around them. When a car breaks down, it is normally because there is something wrong with the engine–you cannot blame the car’s failure on the steering wheel and the reclining seats when there is smoke pouring out from under the hood. One should never rule out corruption, sheer ambition, pride and flawed execution in understanding why a political movement fails to win support and actually manages to lose a good number of its old supporters, but it is impossible to ignore the reality that the things that the partisans claimed as their ”ideas” contributed mightily to both the practical failures of the government on their watch and also contributed to the alienation of people who were previously favourably inclined to them. Conservatives know that conservatism hasn’t failed, because they know full well that it hasn’t been tried in recent memory. Whatever dreadful thing that has been inspiring people, though they might call it conservatism, clearly has failed.

A number of things went wrong in the Republican Party in the last 10 years. One of them is that the party came to be seen as a useful vehicle for very ideological neocons and became very unconservative in the process. While some neocons have tried to drop the neocon label (though not neoconservative policies alas) since it became a term of derision. They've even tried to claim there is no such thing called neoconservatism distinct from conservatism. Yet Bill Kristol's father neocon Irving Kristol has not been bashful about proclaiming the ideological nature of neoconservatism and the distinctiveness of neoconservative thought.

I think it is time for Republicans to recognize that ideological neoconservatism is incompatible with conservatism and that the neocons have brought the party policy disasters and electoral disasters. It wasn't a lack of faith in their ideas that caused those ideas to fail. The ideas were foolish in the first place.

Behind closed doors even George W. Bush is acting like his ideas are discredited. He just appointed Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. Robert Gates was Brent Scowcroft's top deputy under George H.W. Bush. Gates agreed with Scowcroft that invading Iraq all the way to Baghdad during the first Gulf War was a bad idea because the US as army of occupation would inevitably face an insurgency.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 08 09:10 PM  Politics Factions
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2006 November 07 Tuesday
Steve Sailer: Political Correctness Keeps Us In Iraq

Steve Sailer argues that George W. Bush justifies US intervention with very liberal and unconservative beliefs about humanity.

Why are we in Iraq? There are many reasons, almost all of them bad.

But the one that deserves recounting is this: supporters of the war successfully bullied many skeptics into silence by declaring that anyone who doubted that Iraqis were ready for democracy was a racist.

Thus in a February 2003 speech to the American Enterprise Institute, George W. Bush said:

"There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were wrong. Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken. [Applause] … It is presumptuous and insulting to suggest that a whole region of the world—or the one-fifth of humanity that is Muslim—is somehow untouched by the most basic aspirations of life."

Similarly, in August 2003, the Daily Telegraph summarized a speech by then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to the National Association of Black Journalists: "Critics of US policy are racist, says Rice" [By David Rennie]. An extract:

"Black Americans should stand by others seeking freedom today, she went on, and shun the 'condescending' argument that some races or nations were not interested in or ready for Western freedoms. 'We've heard that argument before. And we, more than any, as a people, should be ready to reject it,' she said. 'That view was wrong in 1963 in Birmingham and it is wrong in 2003 in Baghdad and in the rest of the Middle East.'"

So supporters of the invasion intimidated onlookers by insinuating that unbelievers in the bright promise of Arab democracy were despicable bigots. Then they went on to spout even more bizarre nonsense about how Iraqis, a population notorious even among Arabs for their self-destructive homicidal lunacy, were practically New Hampshireites in their readiness for self-rule.

For example, Mr. Bush told the AEI:

"The nation of Iraq—with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people—is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom [Applause]."

Are Iraqis "skilled and educated?" The literacy rate in Iraq is 40.4%, according to Mr. Bush's own CIA.

The need to defend liberal myths about human nature is a major reason why the Democrats have not been more effective in their criticisms of the Bush Administration's policies in Iraq and the Middle East. In the minds of many intellectuals on the Left better that US foreign policy stay totally messed up than that truths about human nature that challenge liberal assumptions make it into mainstream newspaper reports and political discussions.

The big gains the Democrats have made in Congress place them in an interesting position. They have ridden to power as a result of popular anger about the course of the Iraq war. But can the Democrats manage to extricate US forces from Iraq without admitting that some nations lack the necessary conditions to become liberal democracies? Never mind that this lack is obvious in Iraq. You probably aren't going to hear Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pontificate about how we should cut our losses in Iraq since democracy and Arabs are not compatible. She isn't going to say we should just let non-Western illiberal people go their very undemocratic and very unfree way. Leading liberals are not going to admit that their secular faith is not the universal aspiration of all the peoples of the world.

You aren't going to get much reality on Iraq from the mainstream media or politicians of either party in Washington DC. But you can read about reality on the web. Start with my posts John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq (admittedly he writes for the New York Times but his arguments are rarely repeated elsewhere), Pessimists on Muslim Democracy, Unilaterally Withdraw From Iraq Or First Partition?, Pope Benedict Sees Islam Incompatible With Western Societies, Consanguinity prevents Middle Eastern political development, and History Of American Interventions Bodes Poorly For Democracy.

Also see the consang.net map Global Prevalence of consanguinity.

Myths are killing and maiming lots of American soldiers and Iraqis. Hasn't the cost of these myths gotten too high? Greater honesty and realism would save lives.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 07 07:32 PM  Mideast Iraq Human Nature
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2006 November 06 Monday
Japanese Politicians Debate Nuclear Weapons Development

Worries about the North Korean nuclear weapons program has Japanese politicians once again asking whether Japan should develop nukes.

TOKYO – In a new thread to the North Korean bomb saga, arguments over Japan's nuclear ambitions are becoming the focus as prominent politicians from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) continue to raise the issue.

LDP Policy Research Council chairman Shoichi Nakagawa has repeatedly called for such a debate. His latest comments Sunday, urging a broad discussion of the option, followed statements last week that Japan's pacifist constitution doesn't preclude nuclear arms. Foreign Minister Taro Aso has also sparked anxiety in the opposition and LDP by pushing for debate on the topic.

Japan wants some way to deter a nuclear North Korea.

I bet a poll today would find much more widespread support for the development of nuclear weapons.

Recent comments echo the opinions of former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone and current opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa. A poll in 2003 showed that almost 1 in 5 lawmakers thought Japan should consider nuclear weapons capability if warranted by the regional political climate.

Japan has the material and the scientific know-how to make an atomic bomb. Its civilian nuclear industry has a growing surplus of reactor-grade plutonium, which can be converted to weapons-grade material with techniques that are likely to be well within Japanese capabilities. The time lag between a decision to go nuclear and the actual creation of a bomb would probably be measured in months, not years.

My take on nuclear weapons in the hands of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan: China has nukes. The United States is going to decline in power versus China and China's economy is going to grow larger than the US economy. Nukes in the hands of more neighbors of China will help restrain the Chinese as the US position declines. Taiwan's own continued independence probably hinges on whether it develops a nuclear capability.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 06 10:31 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control
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2006 November 05 Sunday
Saddam Hanging To Deepen Leadership Vacuum In Iraq

The one guy who knows how to prevent the Shiites and Sunnis from going at it in a civil war is going to be hanged for crimes he committed as dictator of Iraq.

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced today to hang for crimes against humanity in the 1982 killings of 148 people in a single Shiite town, as the ousted leader, trembling and defiant, shouted "God is great!"

As he, his half brother and another senior official in his regime were convicted and sentenced to death by the Iraqi High Tribunal, Saddam yelled out, "Long live the people and death to their enemies. Long live the glorious nation, and death to its enemies!"

Imagine a parallel universe where Saddam Hussein, dictator of Iraq, was given a drug to make him kind and benevolent to everyone. He probably would have been killed within a week. He might have lasted longer as his enemies would have suspected he was trying to trick them into showing their opposition to his regime. But eventually some of them would have done the old "et tu Brute" assassination in order to seize the throne for themselves.

Long running multi-generational dictatorships are the best we can hope for in the Middle East. The royal rulers of these dictatorships (e.g. King Abdullah II of Jordan and King Mohamed VI of Morocco) can afford to be less brutal because their claim to power takes on a widely accepted and familiar supernatural or superstitious basis for legitimacy. In countries where the people are too dumb or too tribal or too Muslim to handle democracy (or all the above) then only a dictatorship can maintain control. The main question becomes just how benevolent the dictatorship can be.

Syria, now under a second generation of Assad family rule, will - if Bashar doesn't make some big mistake - continue to move toward more of a Jordanian model of fairly benevolent dictatorship as long as the Jewish neoconservative supporters of Israel do not manage to get the United States to overthrow the house of Assad. If the Assads stay in power that'll be good for Christians and other minorities in Syria and also the Christians in Iraq who hope to flee to Syria to escape the Muslim fundamentalist savages that the US invasion has unleashed.

At this point with Saddam's sons both dead even the restoration of Saddam to power wouldn't be assured to start Iraq down the road toward a slow mellowing of the rulers because Saddam has no heirs to inherit the throne. Though perhaps his half-brother has kids who could inherit the throne? Ideally Iraq needs a dictator whose sons and grandsons are known to have some moral scruples and self discipline. Then the slow road toward a more benevolent monarchy could start again in Iraq.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 05 12:30 PM  Mideast Iraq Decay
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2006 November 04 Saturday
If Democrats Win House Immigrant Amnesty Odds Go Up

Stephen Dinan explains how a Democratic Party win of control of the House Of Representatives will help George W. Bush push through measures to increase immigration.

Immigration is the one major issue on which President Bush is likely to fare better next year if Democrats win control of Congress.

The issue is unfinished business to which all sides promise to return, after House Republicans this year prevented Mr. Bush from winning both a guest-worker program and citizenship rights for most illegal aliens.

Bush's Iraq debacle may deliver to him a left-leaning Congress that is far closer to him on immigration. That'll make both him and Open Borders neocons very happy.

This year's immigration restrictionist victory to build a fence on part of the US-Mexico border could be reversed as Democratic majorities in Congress block funding for border barrier construction.

Neither House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, likely to be the speaker of the House if Democrats win that chamber, nor Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, the Democrats' Senate leader, would commit this week to funding the fencing if they gain control of Congress.

"What Leader Pelosi has said in the past is that we need to do comprehensive reform, and the fence could be part of that reform," said the California Democrat's spokeswoman, Jennifer Crider.

The phrase "comprehensive immigration reform" is code in Washington DC which means amnesty, a guest worker program, and a higher rate of legal immigration in exchange for which the politicians want to play us for Rubes by pretending to crack down on illegal immigration. Future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will happily ally with Bush to push through such legislation.

The term "comprehensive" is the tip-off. When they mean comprehensive they mean it has to comprehensively cater to all the groups who want cheap labor, more of their own co-ethnics, and more people who, since they are low-skilled and poor, will vote for Democrats. In the Senate the term "comprehensive" gets put on legislation designed to carry out the goals of the Open Borders alliance. A House controlled by the Democrats would be much more welcoming to the Senate Hagel-Martinez Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act (CIRA, S.2611) which would have increased immigration by tens of millions of people.

Back to the original article above, the majority of House Republicans are the only line of defense against the passage of a bill like CIRA:

Spending aside, Congress still faces the four major immigration questions that it punted on this year -- how to secure the border, how to boost workplace enforcement, whether to create a new program for future foreign workers in addition to the existing work programs that hundreds of thousands of people already use; and what to do about the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens now in the country.

Mr. Bush, joined by almost all Democrats and some Republicans, wants action on all of those issues, and the Senate passed such a bill this year.

But Bush and the Democrats do not want to boost workplace enforcement. Plus, if they manage to implement a huge guest worker program more people will come in by that than by the current illegal border crossings. Bush's own guest worker proposal will increase both illegal and legal immigration.

Nancy Pelosi has the most Open Borders voting record in Congress. While many are going to vote against Republicans due to the war in Iraq the result is going to be a further shafting of the masses on immigration. More than any other issue there an Elite Populace Gap On Immigration Issues. A Democratic majority in the US House of Representatives will allow the elites to do what they want on immigration and to ignore the desires of the majority.

Immigraton is more important in the long run than Iraq. As bad as Iraq has been for US interests a huge demographic change in the US population that is dumbing down the average IQ in America just as it has in Calfiornia. More crowding, more crime, higher housing costs, more pollution, displacement of American workers from the workforce, and a worsening in the quality of life may turn out to be the biggest legacy of the Iraq war. But the one ray of hope is that the results of a huge immigration amnesty could be so bad that the public will vote in 2008 for politicians who will undo the damage that is being done.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 04 02:55 PM  Immigration Politics
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2006 November 01 Wednesday
US Military Leaked Report Finds Chaos Increasing In Iraq

A classified US military briefing leaked to the New York Times paints a picture of increasing chaos in Iraq.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 — A classified briefing prepared two weeks ago by the United States Central Command portrays Iraq as edging toward chaos, in a chart that the military is using as a barometer of civil conflict.

A one-page slide shown at the Oct. 18 briefing provides a rare glimpse into how the military command that oversees the war is trying to track its trajectory, particularly in terms of sectarian fighting.

The slide includes a color-coded bar chart that is used to illustrate an “Index of Civil Conflict.” It shows a sharp escalation in sectarian violence since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February, and tracks a further worsening this month despite a concerted American push to tamp down the violence in Baghdad.

This article has become a big news story. But what is news about it? That Iraq is getting steadily worse? We all know that. That the US military knows this? Regardless of their public statements we know they know the score. They are deeply involved in the fighting. They know how bad it is. So why the big reactions to the article? It means no one can pretend that Iraq is not getting worse. Truth has to come from some unimpeachable source when the truth is especially ugly and undesired. Otherwise lots of people will find reasons not to believe it.

Curiously, Iran and Syria are listed as factors that make the violence worse in Iraq. But they are way down the list after many other factors. Someone please tell the neoconservatives that they are clueless once again. No, Iran is not the author of the mess in Iraq.

According to the slide from the Oct. 18 briefing, the variables include “hostile rhetoric” by political and religious leaders, which can be measured by listening to sermons at mosques and to important Shiite and Sunni leaders, and the amount of influence that moderate political and religious figures have over the population. The other main variables are assassinations and other especially provocative sectarian attacks, as well as “spontaneous mass civil conflict.”

A number of secondary indicators are also taken into account, including activity by militias, problems with ineffective police, the ability of Iraqi officials to govern effectively, the number of civilians who have been forced to move by sectarian violence, the willingness of Iraqi security forces to follow orders, and the degree to which the Iraqi Kurds are pressing for independence from the central government.

Chaos in Iraq has been steadily increasing.

These factors are evaluated to create the index of civil strife, which has registered a steady worsening for months. “Ever since the February attack on the Shiite mosque in Samarra, it has been closer to the chaos side than the peace side,” said a Central Command official who asked not to be identified because he was talking about classified information.

In the Oct. 18 brief, the index moved still another notch toward “chaos.”

If the US military isn't going to be allowed to fight the Shia militias I figure the chaos will only go down once the Shiites have driven Sunnis from areas that have both Shiites and Sunnis.

The Mahdi Army is happy that Maliki forced the US to take away blockades around Sadr City.

BAGHDAD – Shiites from the crowded Baghdad district of Sadr City are reveling in what they deem their "victory" over American forces after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Tuesday ordered the dismantling of US and Iraqi checkpoints surrounding the area.

The checkpoints - manned by US and Iraqi troops for a week in an effort to find a kidnapped US military translator of Iraqi descent as well as snare an alleged death-squad leader - had snarled traffic and bred growing anger in the slum.

They also provided Mr. Maliki with a chance to further assert his independence after weeks of friction between Washington and Baghdad - just days before US midterm elections, in which the Iraq war has become a defining issue.

Aides to the premier have said that they want to take advantage of the vote, and the unpopularity of Mr. Bush and the Iraq war, to expand Maliki's authority. The new assertive tack is boosting the portrayal of Maliki as commander in chief.

The rosy scenario has America-defying Maliki so boosted in the eyes of Shia Iraqis that they all support him when he some day cracks down on Shia death squads. I'm picturing flying pigs.

The Shias blame us for the bombings in Baghdad even as their militias carry out lots of the attacks and as they purge the Sunnis.

In Baghdad, an increasing number of Shiites believe that the US is more to blame for violence in Baghdad than Sunni insurgents - a once-common accusation that largely disappeared last February, when sectarian bloodletting surged after destruction of a key Shiite shrine. Some even accuse US forces of deliberately planting bombs to stoke more violence.

"The bombs came after the Americans came. When they are there, they are controlling security, so who is to blame?" says Ali al-Saidi, an Internet cafe owner. "When [US forces] entered Sadr City, we were worried. When they leave, we feel safer."

"The Americans are trying to make trouble in Sadr City," asserts Abu Ali. "They want to return Sadr City and the Mahdi Army to a war situation."

Our soldiers are dying so that Iraqis can develop paranoid deluded fears about our intentions.

I'm thinking the power has shifted so far toward the Shia militias that the US desire to see the Iraqi government crack down on al-Sadr's Mahdi Army is just a dream. Not gonna happen.

One happy talk Bush Administration theory is that an Iraqi unity government's own military forces will eventually get control of the streets and make the Sunni and Shia sides stop killing each other. Well, that's looking unlikely in the foreseeable future. The Shia militias instead might scale up their attacks against Sunnis in Baghdad.

The armed Shiite death squads in Sadr City could increase their attacks against Sunnis across the capital, in the worst-case scenario. At a minimum, the action could send the wrong message to Sunnis — that their rivals in the Shiite militia can act with impunity and with political cover at the highest levels.

That could severely undercut the U.S. goal of strengthening a national, unity government to stabilize Iraq.

It also could leave the American military mission in limbo: U.S. officials are highly unlikely to keep Americans troops aggressively patrolling Baghdad's streets against militia-run death squads, if their hands are so tied that soldiers can't act.

The soldiers at the bottom already say they can't act against the Shia militias that are trying to kill them and that are trying to kill any Sunnis they can get their hands on. Now, maybe if the US continues to cave in to Shia Prime Minister Maliki this will strengthen him so he can consolidate more power in the government. Then Maliki can undercut the Shia militias. And then again, maybe not too. Maybe the Shia militias will keep killing Sunnis because the Sunnis keep killing Shias and Maliki will continue to let the whole thing go on. Another possibility: Maliki can not stop the militias. So his support of them doesn't matter.

If US forces pulled out of Baghdad the Shias would win in street fighting. There are more Shias and they have the Iraqi government's resources to help the Shia militias. In a simple democracy the majority rules. The Shiites are the majority. Therefore the US military's current job in Iraq is to thwart the will of the majority.

In the face of Shia death squads the Sunnis have become more willing to cooperate with American forces. But this cooperation has Shias thinking the US now favors the Sunnis and that this makes the US the enemy of the Shia majority.

Growing suspicions among leaders of Iraq's Shi'ite majority that the United States is shifting its favour toward once dominant Sunnis are fuelling the tensions that have broken into the open between Baghdad and Washington.

Iraq's ethnic Kurds share the concerns, which senior Shi'ite Muslim officials say are at the root of the public spat over security between Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and President George W. Bush's top officials in Iraq.

"We feel there is an American-Sunni agreement under way ... to give Sunnis more authority," a senior Shi'ite government official said, before Maliki's dramatic order on Tuesday for U.S. troops to end a blockade of a Shi'ite militia stronghold.

"This will only escalate the situation."

My practical suggestion: Help the Sunnis move away from the Shias. Arrange trucks to move them to Sunni areas. Either that or just withdraw and let the Shias fight to put down the Sunnis and to force the Sunnis to submit to Shia dominace. Once it is clear the Shias are dominant the Sunni Arabs will face two choices: submit to Shia rule or secede to create their own smaller and poorer Sunni country.

By Randall Parker 2006 November 01 10:09 PM  Mideast Iraq Decay
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