WASHINGTON - The bitter fight over the latest Iraq spending bill has all but obscured a sobering fact: The war will soon cost more than $500 billion.
That's about ten times more than the Bush administration anticipated before the war started four years ago, and no one can predict how high the tab will go. The $124 billion spending bill that President Bush plans to veto this week includes about $78 billion for Iraq, with the rest earmarked for the war in Afghanistan, veterans' health care and other government programs.
This cost does not include the lost wages of debilitated soldiers, their long term care, the interest on the debt, and other costs that will show up in future years. This is easily a trillion dollar war and probably more.
For a very small fraction of this war's cost we could have a very rigorous system for tracking and deporting illegal alien Muslims in the West. We could make visas hard to get from Muslim countries. We could have much better border security. We could deploy many more CIA agents to track and disrupt terrorist organisations. We could pay other governments to track down Muslim terrorists. If enhanced US security is the goal then the war in Iraq offers very bad value per dollar spent.
The number of terrorism incidents in Iraq -- and resulting deaths, injuries and kidnappings -- skyrocketed from 2005 to 2006, according to statistics released by U.S. counterterrorism officials yesterday.
Of the 14,338 reported terrorist attacks worldwide last year, 45 percent took place in Iraq, and 65 percent of the global fatalities stemming from terrorism occurred in Iraq. In 2005, Iraq accounted for 30 percent of the worldwide terrorist attacks.
The figures, compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) and released with the annual State Department Country Reports on Terrorism, showed that the number of incidents in Iraq rose 91 percent, from 3,468 in 2005 to 6,630 in 2006.
I think the term terrorism is not useful in looking at civil wars. Is blowing up of roadside bombs terrorism? How is that all that different than blowing up opposing soldiers with mines?
Afghanistan had 749 strikes in 2006, a 50 percent rise from 2005 when 491 attacks were tallied, according to the report.
However, it also detailed a surge in Africa, where 65 percent more attacks, 420 compared to 253 in 2005, were counted last year, largely due to turmoil in or near Sudan, including Darfur, and Nigeria where oil facilities and workers have been targeted.
Terrorist attacks in the West are mostly carried out by a still small but growing Muslim minority. We can reduce the threat in the future by ending Muslim immigration to Western countries. Fewer Muslims in our midst means fewer terrorist attacks in the West.
More than half the deaths from terrorist attacks are Muslims. That is because most terrorist attacks are carried out in Muslim countries.
Of the 58,000 people killed or wounded in terrorist attacks around the world in 2006, more than 50 percent were Muslims, the report, says with government officials, police and security guards accounting for a large proportion, the report said.
However, non-Muslims in majority Muslim countries get singled out more due to Muslim hatred of non-Muslims. For example, Christians and other non-Muslims are attacked in Iraq because they are not Muslims. The Christians in Iraq were far safer and had higher status under Saddam Hussein. Now they live in danger and fear.
We do not gain anything by letting the forces of Islam into the West. Islam is not compatible with Western freedoms and culture. We should not pretend otherwise. Multiculturalism be damned.
An active-duty Army officer is publishing a blistering attack on U.S. generals, saying they have botched the war in Iraq and misled Congress about the situation there.
"America's generals have repeated the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq," charges Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, an Iraq veteran who is deputy commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. "The intellectual and moral failures . . . constitute a crisis in American generals."
Yingling's comments are especially striking because his unit's performance in securing the northwestern Iraqi city of Tall Afar was cited by President Bush in a March 2006 speech and provided the model for the new security plan underway in Baghdad.
I am confident of the ability of neoconservatives to spin Lt. Col. Yingling's claims as signs of defeatism and leftist sympathies. Yes, the Lt. Col. is unpatriotic unlike George W. Bush, Richard Perle, Doug Feith, and Paul (giving one's girlfriend a raise is a right and honorable thing) Wolfowitz. Never mind that the neocons should be ashamed of themselves for the Iraq Debacle. They seemingly have an incapacity to feel shame.
For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war.
These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America's general officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America's generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress.
Yes, the estimates of strategic probabilities have been ridiculous. Did the generals who made excessively optimistic statements about the war's progress believe those statements? Or were they just stating what their elected politician commander in chief wanted them to say?
Yingling says that generals must have the moral courage to state their beliefs.
Failing to visualize future battlefields represents a lapse in professional competence, but seeing those fields clearly and saying nothing is an even more serious lapse in professional character. Moral courage is often inversely proportional to popularity and this observation in nowhere more true than in the profession of arms. The history of military innovation is littered with the truncated careers of reformers who saw gathering threats clearly and advocated change boldly. A military professional must possess both the physical courage to face the hazards of battle and the moral courage to withstand the barbs of public scorn. On and off the battlefield, courage is the first characteristic of generalship.
Yingling thinks the US generals refused to fully embrace the necessity to use unconventional warfare in Vietnam.
Having participated in the deception of the American people during the war, the Army chose after the war to deceive itself. In "Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife," John Nagl argued that instead of learning from defeat, the Army after Vietnam focused its energies on the kind of wars it knew how to win — high-technology conventional wars. An essential contribution to this strategy of denial was the publication of "On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War," by Col. Harry Summers. Summers, a faculty member of the U.S. Army War College, argued that the Army had erred by not focusing enough on conventional warfare in Vietnam, a lesson the Army was happy to hear. Despite having been recently defeated by an insurgency, the Army slashed training and resources devoted to counterinsurgency.
I got the same impression of the US officer corps in Vietnam when reading David Hackworth's About Face and Stuart Harrington's Silence Was A Weapon. Now the US officer corps has failed again and the civilian leadership above them has failed again as well.
Yingling says the failure to send the needed troops to Iraq was a moral failure rather than a failure due to lack of knowledge.
Having spent a decade preparing to fight the wrong war, America's generals then miscalculated both the means and ways necessary to succeed in Iraq. The most fundamental military miscalculation in Iraq has been the failure to commit sufficient forces to provide security to Iraq's population. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimated in its 1998 war plan that 380,000 troops would be necessary for an invasion of Iraq. Using operations in Bosnia and Kosovo as a model for predicting troop requirements, one Army study estimated a need for 470,000 troops. Alone among America's generals, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki publicly stated that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. Prior to the war, President Bush promised to give field commanders everything necessary for victory. Privately, many senior general officers both active and retired expressed serious misgivings about the insufficiency of forces for Iraq. These leaders would later express their concerns in tell-all books such as "Fiasco" and "Cobra II." However, when the U.S. went to war in Iraq with less than half the strength required to win, these leaders did not make their objections public.
When Shinseki gave Congress a realistic assessment of troop needs for an Iraq occupation he got slapped down by Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. The officer corps got the message. They shut up and we went to war based on unrealistic assumptions. Lots of war hawk bloggers then spent years cheering on the statements of Administration officials and generals who were all just following orders and stating the Panglossian party line.
We can't trust what the US military says about the intensity of the conflict.
After going into Iraq with too few troops and no coherent plan for postwar stabilization, America's general officer corps did not accurately portray the intensity of the insurgency to the American public. The Iraq Study Group concluded that "there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq." The ISG noted that "on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence. Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals."
Of course the Bush Administration can't now admit the truth about Iraq because to do so would require admission of the magnitude of past mistakes and deceptions.
As for the failure of the generals: Is it realistic to expect anything better from them? They want to get promoted. So they are going to cater to the whims of their superior officers and civilian bosses. The ones that rise the farthest are going to tend to be more willing to kiss ass. Junior officers are probably tend to have more accurate assessments of wars. The problem is that the American people can't judge the claims of politicians without hearing the real beliefs the officers. We need some better mechanism by which the truth is more likely to get revealed.
Population growth is the biggest threat to stability in the Middle East today, according to a new report from MEED released this week.
Europeans beware, unless you close your borders to Muslim immigration the pressure from growing populations and stagnant living standards will drive tens or hundreds of millions of Musims into Europe.
Whilst the last 50 years has seen the Middle East experience unprecedented growth in wealth, with record levels of investment in infrastructure, industry, technology, education and health, The 50:50 Report highlights the region’s population boom - which has seen the number of people rise to 377 million today from 162 million in 1957. By 2030 it is estimated to reach 524 million.
The oil sheikdoms in particular are going to see a further decline in per capita GDP as oil revenues must get split among more people.
Industrialized countries need to isolate themselves from growing populations in the less developed countries. The open borders advocates do not appreciate just how much our societies would be changed for the worse if billions of people from less developed countries were allowed to immigrate to the developed countries. First off, land would become very expensive. Second, crime rates would skyrocket. Third, environments would greatly deteriorate. Fourth, incompatible cultures would displace our own culture. Why inflict this upon ourselves?
Update: Also see Audacious Epigone on Muslim hostility toward the United States.
If you think Greater Vancouver is ethnically diverse now, wait until 2031, when about one out of two people in the region will have been born outside of Canada.
This is the region's demographic future if current trends -- strong immigration flows from Asia and a low Canadian birth rate -- continue over the next two decades, according to a new Statistics Canada report.
"In 2031, about 50 per cent of the population in the census area of Vancouver will be immigrants," said Eric Caron Malenfant, one of the authors of the Statistics Canada report, called Demographic Changes in Canada from 1971 to 2001 Across an Urban-to-Rural Gradient.
Okay, suppose you want to buy a big house in Vancouver. What will this immigration do? Drive the price of housing up. Each acre of land will cost more because more people will compete to buy land. People who are getting born in Vancouver today are less likely to be able to afford to live there 20 years from now than their parents are today. That's a pattern we see in California and other big destinations for immigrants. Get ready to get pushed out.
Elite interests on immigration clash with popular interests. So far the elites have managed to fool the masses about just how much their interests conflict. Population growth is not going to raise your living standard by increasing the scale of mass production. That's getting done with factories moved to other countries where labor costs are much lower. Also, declining costs of communications allow people to collaborate better at a distance. Economy of scale benefits are cancelled out by higher housing prices and by the need for more pollution control measures that allow more people to live in small areas.
Saudi Arabia, a country with only 27 million people, produces terrorists by the hundreds.
BERLIN, April 27 -- Saudi Arabia said Friday that it had arrested 172 suspected terrorists over the past several months from a network that was planning suicide attacks -- including the use of airplanes -- on the kingdom's oil industry, military installations and other targets.
Saudi officials said some of the suspects had trained next door in Iraq and had returned to the kingdom to plot the attacks. Also among the targets were high-ranking members of the royal family and the Saudi security forces, officials said.
The Saudis are spinning this by arguing that the terrorists they are catching are less well trained than previous terrorists cells they've broken. Yet a Saudi official also said that some of the plots they've broken recently were very close to execution. This suggests that eventually other terrorist recruits will manage to pull off some attacks before getting caught.
Saudi Arabia has a large foreign population that does much of the work. The Saudi terrorists also recruited from their foreign workers.
A majority of those arrested were Saudi citizens, but a substantial number were immigrant workers from elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa who were recruited by the network after their arrival, Saudi officials said.
We could lower our risk of terrorist attacks by preventing people from Muslim countries from immigrating to the United States. But the neoconservatives, who pose as hard core hawks dedicated to the defense of the United States, never mention immigration restriction as the most obvious method to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks in the United States and other Western countries. Commenting on neocon Mark Steyn's argument about our choices in dealing with Islam Ortelio writes to Lawrence Auster that Steyn and the neocons ignore an incredibly obvious choice for how we should reduce the threat of Islamic terrorism.
Readers of Steyn's book America Alone could see--though who explicitly noted?--that he was being illogical when he concluded (p. 204) "There are three possible conclusions to the present struggle: 1. Submit to Islam, 2. Destroy Islam, 3. Reform Islam." He goes on to favor 3, though the ways and means he recommends seem to mix in elements of 2. But his list omitted the most obvious alternative: 4. Separate (humanely) our societies from Islam, in the first instance by ending Muslim immigration. The significance of the new article is that what looked liked illogic and oversight now turns out to be ennui. "Nothing much to do about it...". Such passivity, from an action man! A symbol of our predicament.
Iraq is a distraction from the most effective steps we could take to reduce the risk of Islamic terrorism. The neoconservative goal to tame Islam is foolish. The base texts of Islam are incompatible with a free society. The terrorists in very fundamentalist Muslim Saudi Arabia should remind us that most of the 9/11 terrorists were Muslims from Saudi Arabia.
Growing problems in the mortgage industry combined with bad weather in some parts of the country to fuel the steepest one-month decline in sales of existing homes in nearly two decades, the National Association of Realtors reported yesterday. Sales of previously owned homes in March fell 8.4 percent from February, the group reported. It was the largest one-month drop since sales plummeted 12.6 percent in January 1989, when the country was in a housing recession. It was also 11.3 percent below the number of units sold in March 2006.
Will the retirement of the baby boomers cause a glut of housing as retiring people sell their bigger houses to downsize into retirement homes? If so, has this housing market bubble burst catalyzed an early arrival of a housing bear market? I'm skeptical about this because population growth seems like it works against a long decline in housing prices.
Also, many buyers might be waiting to see if prices will soften as foreclosure activity jumps and the inventory of unsold homes rise. Under current sales rates and inventory levels, it would take 8.7 months to deplete the supply of homes for sale. A year ago, it would have only taken 4.7 months, according to the association
The US Federal Reserve's position is that inflation is a greater threat. So the Fed isn't inclined to lower interest rates to compensate for the housing downturn.
A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies finds immigration is making America's problem with illegitimate births worse.
*Births to unmarried women have increased dramatically. From 13 percent in 1980 for immigrant mothers (legal and illegal) to 32 percent in 2003, and from 19 to 35 percent for native-born mothers.
Note that the native-born illegitimacy rate above is boosted by second and third generation descendants of immigrants. Whites have lower rates than blacks and Hispanics. But whites are a rapidly shrinking fraction of the US population. Immigration is raising the fraction of the population that has illegitimate kids.
Of course people who have kids out of wedlock are more likely to need taxpayer-funded medical care, food stamps, and other subsidies to pay for the raising of their kids. The rest of us pay for all this. We also pay for more crime and a lower quality of life.
* The rate for immigrants is higher than for natives in Arizona, New Jersey, New York, and North Carolina.
* The modest nationwide difference disappears when teenagers, who have the highest illegitimacy rates, are excluded. There are relatively few immigrant teenagers because immigrants tend to arrive older. Without teenagers, the rate is about 30 percent for both immigrants and natives.
Hispanics have seen a huge increase in illegitimacy.
* Hispanic immigrants have seen the largest increase in illegitimacy – from 19 percent in 1980 to 42 percent in 2003. This matters because 59 percent of all births to immigrants are to Hispanics.
Asian and white immigrants have the lowest rates of illegitimacy.
* In addition to the 42 percent rate for Hispanic immigrants, 39 percent of births among black immigrants are to unmarried women, 11 percent among Asian/Pacific Islander immigrants, and 12 percent among white immigrants.
Native born Hispanics have double the illegitimacy rate of native born whites.
* There is no indication of improvement over the generations. The illegitimacy rate among the native-born is 50 percent for Hispanics; 30 percent for Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 24 percent for whites.
* 2003 is the first time that the absolute number of illegitimate births to Hispanic women (immigrant and native) outnumbered illegitimate births to black women (immigrant and native).
* Out-of-wedlock births are highest for those with the least education; among immigrant mothers who lack a high school diploma, 45 percent of births are illegitimate.
* The country is currently debating whether to legalize illegal aliens or, alternatively, to enforce the law and cause them to return home. Since 60 percent of illegals lack a high school diploma and 80 percent are Hispanic, legalization would likely contribute to the illegitimacy problem by enabling illegal aliens to remain in the United States.
We should stop the immigration of groups that have high rates of illegitimacy and low rates of educational achievement. Better yet, we should stop immigration altogether.
The theory was that the Iraqi government would use the troop surge period to implement political reforms that would increase Sunni support while pressuring the Shia militias. The reality is that the Iraqi government isn't changing much.
WASHINGTON - When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made a surprise stop in Baghdad Thursday, a day after the horrendous car bombings in the city, his message was clear: The US commitment to Iraq is not open-ended – and the Iraqi government had better get busy on its side of the "to do" list.
The nearly three-month-old increase in US troops in Baghdad is still not complete. But US officials are starting to show impatience that a plan designed to give the Iraqi government breathing space for making decisions aimed at addressing sectarian strife is not having much of the desired response.
Indeed, the US "surge" has not been matched by an equal uptick in political action. On key issues like revenue distribution, militias, reconciliation, and constitutional reform, progress appears to be made at an "all the time in the world" pace – even though Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki committed to security steps and political decisions in conversations with President Bush this past January.
The killings in Iraq might even be on a new upswing.
As Wednesday's bombings demonstrated, generalized security is still elusive. Some reports suggest that, overall, killings in Iraq are inching back up to last year's highs.
If we spent even a tenth of the Iraq war money on security efforts closer to home we could do far more to decrease our risk of a terrorist attack. If we spent another tenth on energy research we could eventually stop the flow of world money to Muslim oil states. The Iraq war is a bad idea. It does not increase US security. Plus, it pulls money away from other things we could spend money on to increase security and prosperity.
Alex Copulsky, Design Editor of the Harvard Political Review, reacts to a recent New York Times Magazine piece on Pope Benedict with some revealing comments about how one secular liberal views the conflict between the West and Islam.
Let us leave aside the question of whether there is a present or approaching “clash of civilizations”. It is eminently debatable. However, Benedict has a point that if one believes a clash of civilization is coming, the West's rejection of the Church has weakened it. As a liberal, secular Western liberal, I must admit that thinking in these terms makes me somewhat uneasy...after all, it's very far from PC, and only a skip, hop, and leap away from saying that “They are barbarians, and they ARE at the gates”. No one is saying that (publicly, anyway), but rather they are analytically pointing out that a certain tradition and way of life seems to be fading out, and may be approaching a crisis.
No one? I'm "no one". Lawrence Auster is "no one". Swedish blogger Fjordman is no one. (read more Fjordman on the demographic and cultural crisis of the West) Audacious Epigone is "no one". Steve Sailer is "no one". I can point to many other "no one" writers on the web. We do not exist as thinkers and observers in the minds of an intellectual at Harvard. Yet we repeatedly make arguments for how the West's existence is threatened by demographic trends which have parallels with the fall of Rome.
But Copulsky acknowledges that civilizations do collapse.
Civilizations have died before, one might want to remember. The Maya and Incans did, the Persians did, and (most relevantly) the Romans did. Pope Benedict may be a cantankerous old alarmist, or he may be a prophet in the wilderness.
That wilderness which Benedict and others speak into would be the modern Western liberal universities.
Islam challenges the very condescending liberal notion that liberalism is the natural universal belief of all humanity. Elite liberals at places like Harvard can't admit to the Islamic threat without conceding that there is no Liberal Manifest Destiny for the world and liberal elites are not the vanguard for a movement that is destined to sweep the world. But they do not want to make that concession because to make it would lower their own status in their own eyes. This all reminds me of some remarks Sage McLaughlin made to Lawrence Auster in a post called "Is the Islamic takeover of Europe inevitable?":
If "racist" now means "doesn't hate one's own kind" or "isn't interested in groveling before Muslim interlopers," then lots of otherwise decent people may simply conclude, "Very well then, God help me, I am racist." Liberals never fail to miss this important point. By declaring practically all interest in the maintenance of ethnic integrity and social distinctiveness "fascistic," "racist," "hateful," "xenophobic," or what have you, they virtually guarantee that normal people will eventually become desensitized to these words and lose their ability to distinguish between love of one's own and hatred of the Other. If liberals can't see the difference, and if they are the self-appointed experts on these matters, who is the average man in the street to disagree? Since the average man on the street has no burning desire to be displaced by foreigners and forced to comply with their every demand, he might just conclude that violent hatred is the natural and indispensable companion of ordinary self respect.
In the end, I think things are going to get much, much worse before they get better, precisely because liberals refuse to accept the most common sense limitations on the principle of tolerance. They risk discrediting tolerance altogether by making it synonymous with self-extinction.
Liberalism has become an unempirical ideology. It is just another religious faith yet its elite believers fancy themselves as unreligious.
U.S. Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the top spokesman for coalition forces in Iraq, was quoted as saying Wednesday that he was unaware of any effort to build a wall dividing Shiite and Sunni enclaves in Baghdad and that such a tactic was not a policy of the Baghdad security plan.
"We have no intent to build gated communities in Baghdad," Stars and Stripes, the U.S. Department of Defense-authorized daily newspaper, quoted Caldwell as saying. "Our goal is to unify Baghdad, not subdivide it into separate [enclaves]."
Unity. Everyone can get along. There are no insurmountable differences between the peoples of the world. Kumbaya.
But what's that 3 mile long 12 foot high concrete barrier getting built across Baghdad?
In Adhamiyah, a restive section of northern Baghdad, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division last week began erecting a 3-mile-long, 12-foot-high barrier around a Sunni enclave that's surrounded by predominantly Shiite neighborhoods. A single Iraqi army checkpoint now controls access into the Sunni area.
Why do American leaders need to pretend the rest of the world is all perfectly compatible with each other? Because our Open Borders elites have to defend that they aren't introducing incompatible elements by letting anyone come to America. Gotta defend the domestic faith even if doing so requires verbal somersaults to reconcile actions with stated policy.
Some call it apartheid. Some call it creation of ethnic ghettoes. But why not some positive spin? The US military is creating exclusive upscale gated communities. How about building some midget golf courses across rooftops too?
At the level of high level policy makers the belief that liberal universalism can create workable societies is still the defended faith. But down at the level of US field commanders liberal universalism is a dead faith killed by bombings and death squads.
Besides Adhamiyah, barriers are going up in Ghaziliyah, Khadra and Ameriyah in western Baghdad — all Sunni areas — and three are being built in the southern Rashid district in locations that officials didn't specify.
Military officials said it's only coincidence that so many of the enclaves are Sunni. Bleichwehl said the decision to erect barriers rests with commanders in the field.
Lots of walls are the only way the US can occupy Iraq with less than a half million soldiers. If Bush wants to pretend that his field commanders have enough troops to do the job then he's got to pretend that ethnic partition is liberal universalism.
The project for Adhamiya involves the building of a 3-mile wall along streets on its eastern flank. It consists of a series of concrete barriers, each weighing 14,000 pounds, that have been transportedto Baghdad from Camp Taji, north of the city. Soldiers are using cranes to put the barriers in place.
We could do the same thing to the US border with Mexico and cut off that source of illegal immigrants.
Also see my previous post Walls Bring Peace For Iraqis.
Update: I think the real interesting point here is that it took the extreme circumstances of a change of control of the US Congress to the Democrats with demands to end the war, a surge to about 150,000 US troops in Iraq, an extension of combat tours to 15 months, a few billion dollars a year getting wasted, thousands of US troops killed, and continued high levels of killings in Iraq to get the Bush Administration to the point where small scale partition became an acceptable option. Their faith is strong. Their willingness to accept the evidence of empirical reality quite a bit less so.
Americans should fear that the Iraq debacle will lead to left-liberal and neoconservative liberal demands to let in more Iraqi immigrants. That's already happening to Sweden and they didn't even support the war. The Swedes are harming their own society with a foolish immigration policy.
Many of the thousands of Iraqis fleeing their homeland want to go to Europe, and Stockholm is their port of entry. Now Sweden wants other European countries to share the burden. EU ministers are meeting this week to discuss how to cope with increasing numbers of Iraqi refugees.
Clue for the Swedes: What makes Sweden so desirable for non-Swedes? The Swedes. You make your society function well. You do not commit a lot of crimes. You are smart enough to maintain an industrial society. You have qualities that make Sweden function well. But here's your problem: The more non-Swedes you people let in the less desirable the place will become for you and the less you'll be able to make the place work well.
Any Iraqis who make it to Sweden can stay and join the welfare state.
Ridha, like thousands of his fellow Iraqis, has found a new life in northern Europe. Sweden, because of its liberal visa requirements, guarantees Iraqi expatriates the right of residence in the country. Last year Sweden welcomed more than 9,000 Iraqis, which was close to 50 percent of all Iraqi refugees arriving in Europe in 2006 and four times as many as in the previous year. Eight hundred Iraqis fled to Switzerland, and almost 2,000 Iraqis applied for asylum in Germany in 2006 (although only 1.1 percent of those applications were approved). The United States, which launched its crusade against the "Axis of Evil" by invading Iraq, accepted less than 600 refugees from Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.
Are the Swedes masochistic?
The wave of robberies the city of Malmö has witnessed during this past year is part of a “war against Swedes.” This is the explanation given by young robbers with immigrant background on why they are only robbing native Swedes, in interviews with Petra Åkesson for her thesis in Sociology. “I read a report about young robbers in Stockholm and Malmö and wanted to know why they are robbing other youths. It usually doesn’t involve a lot of money,” she says. She interviewed boys between 15 and 17 years old, both individually and in groups.
Almost 90% of all robberies that are reported to the police were committed by gangs, not individuals. “When we are in the city and robbing, we are waging a war, waging a war against the Swedes.” This argument was repeated several times. “Power for me means that Swedes shall look at me, lie down on the ground and kiss my feet.” The boys explain, laughingly, that “there is a thrilling sensation in your body when you’re robbing, you feel satisfied and happy, it feels as if you’ve succeeded, it simply feels good.” “It’s so easy to rob Swedes, so easy.” “We rob every single day, as much as we want to, whenever we want to.” The immigrant youth view Swedes as stupid and cowardly: “The Swedes don’t do anything, they just give us the stuff. They’re so wimpy.” The young robbers don’t plan their crimes: “No, we just see some Swedes that look rich or have nice mobile phones and then we rob them.”
These robbers are serving a pedagogical purpose. By robbing the Swedes they are teaching the Swedes that their immigration policy is suicidal. Will the Swedes wake up before Muslims become a large fraction of the population of Sweden?
“Exit Folkhemssverige - En samhällsmodells sönderfall” (Exit the People's Home of Sweden - The Downfall of a Model of Society) is a book from 2005 about immigration and the Swedish welfare state model dubbed “the people's home,” written by Jonathan Friedman, Ingrid Björkman, Jan Elfverson and Åke Wedin. According to them, the Swedish Multicultural elites see themselves first of all as citizens of the world. In order to emphasize and accentuate diversity, everything Swedish is deliberately disparaged. Opposition to this policy is considered a form of racism:
“The dominant ideology in Sweden, which has been made dominant by powerful methods of silencing and repression, is a totalitarian ideology, where the elites oppose the national aspect of the nation state. The problem is that the ethnic group that are described as Swedes implicitly are considered to be nationalists, and thereby are viewed as racists.”
The authors fear that the handling of the immigration policies has seriously eroded democracy because the citizens lose their loyalty towards a state they no longer consider their own. “Instead of increasing the active participation of citizens, the government has placed clear restrictions on freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of congregation.”
I've noted this loss of loyalty to the state in myself. Why feel loyalty to something that is obviously not loyal to you?
The New York Times reports what ParaPundit readers have known for years: Hispanics took most of the jobs in construction over the last few years.
According to the analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center, based on census data, Hispanic immigrants took 60 percent of the million new construction jobs created from 2004 to 2006. Those recently arrived took nearly half.
In spite of a huge bust in the housing market the US Labor Department reports only a small decrease in employment. This probably demonstrates the huge size of the poorly measured illegal alien work force.
The nation’s great housing bust has not shown up so far in official employment data. According to the Labor Department, employment in residential construction has declined by only 28,000 jobs — or some 3 percent — since its peak last fall.
“It is sort of surprising that construction employment numbers haven’t gone down more already,” said David F. Seiders, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders. “I’m not sure about the quality of the data.”
The statistics seem to belie the debacle that has overwhelmed home building. In February, there were 15 percent fewer homes under construction and 27 percent fewer homes started than in the corresponding month of 2006. In California, 42 percent fewer building permits for new residential units were issued in February than a year earlier.
Real employment can't fall only 3% when homes under construction have dipped by several times that amount.
The article reports that many illegals formerly employed in housing are heading back into agriculture and are travelling north to Oregon and beyond looking for work. What I want to know: when will Mexican and Central American illegal aliens become a significant problem in British Columbia?
Also, how much has demand for food stamps, Medicaid, WIC, and other social programs gone up due to illegals with American-born children who have lost their jobs in construction?
George W. Bush's good buddies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have decided that they have to keep up with the Iranians on the nuclear front. The Saudis and their allies claim they are pursuing only peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
Two years ago, the leaders of Saudi Arabia told international atomic regulators that they could foresee no need for the kingdom to develop nuclear power. Today, they are scrambling to hire atomic contractors, buy nuclear hardware and build support for a regional system of reactors.
So, too, Turkey is preparing for its first atomic plant. And Egypt has announced plans to build one on its Mediterranean coast. In all, roughly a dozen states in the region have recently turned to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna for help in starting their own nuclear programs. While interest in nuclear energy is rising globally, it is unusually strong in the Middle East.
Well, look at it on the bright side: The nuclear electric generation plants will reduce oil consumption by Middle Eastern populations. So the oil will last longer for transportation uses around the world. On the other hand, look at it on the very bright side: some future event might some day powerfully warn the world on the dangers of nuclear proliferation.
While some Middle Eastern governments are thinking down the road to the point where their oil production starts to fall they are also afraid of Shia Iran's nuclear program.
But with Shiite Iran increasingly ascendant in the region, Sunni countries have alluded to other motives. Officials from 21 governments in and around the Middle East warned at a meeting of Arab leaders in March that Iran’s drive for atomic technology could result in the beginning of “a grave and destructive nuclear arms race in the region.”
In Washington, officials are seizing on such developments to build their case for stepping up pressure on Iran. President Bush has talked privately to experts on the Middle East about his fears of a “Sunni bomb,” and his concerns that countries in the Middle East may turn to the only nuclear-armed Sunni state, Pakistan, for help.
There's something funny and telling about this: The Arab press and clerics spends a lot of time proclaiming the thorough evilness of Israel. But Israel's nuclear weapons have not been enough to push the Arabs to develop their own nuclear weapons in defense. Nor have the Arabs really sought nukes in order to wipe out Israel. Saddam Hussein pursued nukes in a serious way up to the point of the first Gulf war. I suspect he did so more to pursue his territorial ambitions and to protect himself from Iran than to strike at Israel.
But look at the very different Arab reaction to Shia and non-Arab Iran getting near to making nukes. In response only now's the time for Arab Muslim countries to make nuclear power plants and get closer to making nuclear weapons.
I think nuclear proliferation is inevitable.
The Saudis aren't go-it-alone unilateralists. Oh no. They are into diplomacy, consensus, and multi-lateral alliances of friends. A coalition of the willing, if you will. They've organised a group of countries that have almost half the world's oil and that group is pursuing the benefits of nuclear power.
Diplomats and analysts say Saudi Arabia leads the drive for nuclear power within the Gulf Cooperation Council, based in Riyadh. In addition to the Saudis, the council includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — Washington’s closest Arab allies. Its member states hug the western shores of the Persian Gulf and control about 45 percent of the world’s oil reserves.
Late last year, the council announced that it would embark on a nuclear energy program. Its officials have said they want to get it under way by 2009.
Read the whole article. The 21st century promises to be very interesting.
A survey of economists by the Wall Street Journal found their biggest worry about economic growth revolves around expected capital spending levels.
A new WSJ.com survey found that 20 of 54 economic forecasters responding to a query cited soft capital spending as the chief risk to their forecast that the U.S. economy will grow slowly but avoid recession this year.
Only 11 of the economists cited housing; the rest cited other threats, including inflation and oil prices.
Probably more economists didn't cite housing because housing is already a factored in negative which by itself hasn't pushed the US economy into a recession. They are looking for changes that could bring on a recession and aren't expecting those changes to come from the housing industry.
The three pluses driving the US economy at this point: capital spending, consumer spending, and exports.
Capital spending, along with consumer spending and exports, has been supporting economic growth in the U.S. amid a housing slump, so signs of weakness aren't welcome.
"If there's something that keeps me up at night, it's the potential of corporate America really pulling back," said Nariman Behravesh of forecasting firm Global Insight. "We had expected 5%-to-6% growth in capital spending in the first half of 2007, but now that's down to 1.5%."
The Commerce Department says overall business investment fell an inflation-adjusted 3.1% in the fourth quarter, the first drop since early 2003. And government measures of orders for and shipments of capital goods so far this year have been unexpectedly weak.
The economists are expecting an acceleration of the rate of inflation. Energy and food have the fastest price rises. Basically, food prices are now getting driven by energy prices due to corn's use to make ethanol. Farmers are planting less of other crops in order to plant more corn. The price of corn has nearly doubled in the last few years.
The full article reports a large assortment of mixed signals on the US economy and capital spending. Hard to figure out what it all portends.
The gap fell to $58.4 billion from $58.9 billion in January, the Commerce Department said. Economists had forecast an increase to $60 billion. Imports from China fell to the lowest level since May 2006.
Slower growth in the U.S. might mean lower demand for imported consumer goods and business equipment, while expanding economies in Europe and Japan will add to U.S. exports, economists said.
No, the improvement was not due to an increase in exports. In fact, exports actually fell. The US manufacturing sector isn't becoming more competitive in international markets. Imports fell even more than exports in part due to a decline in oil demand.
The improvement came even though exports fell by $2.8 billion during the month, reflecting lower sales of a variety of manufactured goods from computer accessories to industrial machinery and civilian aircraft.
But imports declined by an even larger $3.2 billion, with the tab for foreign oil falling to the lowest level in 20 months.
People and companies are changing their behavior in order to use less energy. The cost of gasoline has been high enough for long enough that people are beginning to make choices which treat expensive gasoline as a permanent fixture.
At some point the dollar has to decline enough to cause a balance of the huge US trade deficit. But that deficit's size, at over $700 billion per year, means that a substantial part of our living standard comes from living beyond our means. On the one hand, when the party ends we have to shift toward consuming less. On the other hand, when that happens we should find that we'll have greater demand for what we do make. But there's no way to allow that increased foreign demand without slowed wage and/or profit increases. Increased foreign demand must get balanced by decreased domestic demand.
At some point Asian governments will stop buying US debt. The attractiveness of investments in the rest of the world will help bring about a decline in the US dollar.
``The income account is a leading indicator for investors about sustainability of the current-account deficit,'' Wilmot says. ``Paradoxically, the time to begin to worry about the current-account deficit is when it begins to improve, because growth and investment opportunities outside the U.S. are beginning to look more attractive.''
In the fourth quarter, the U.S. current-account deficit amounted to 5.8 percent of gross domestic product, down from 6.9 percent in the third quarter and a record 7 percent of GDP in the last three months of 2005. Yet from 1990 through 1997, it was never worse than 2 percent.
When will the shift come? Will it come gradually? Will it come with the next recession?
In a nutshell: Republican primary voters are too dumb or ignorant or irrationally loyal to notice they are forcing Republican Presidential candidates to support an unpopular and doomed cause.
Mr. McCain declared in a speech at the Virginia Military Institute that defeat or surrender in Iraq was not acceptable, but he acknowledged that the hour was late and the result remained very much in doubt. He might well have been referring to his own political aspirations, the near-term future of the Republican Party and the historical verdict on George W. Bush’s presidency.
If polling is correct, Mr. McCain and the other Republican presidential candidates may have little choice. Republican primary voters, unlike the rest of the nation, appear to remain supportive of the president and the war, and the generals on the ground are asking for public patience in pursuing the new policy of pouring more troops into Iraq. Backing away from the White House and the war now could prove problematic for any candidate seeking the Republican nomination even if it could prove helpful in the general election.
All those Republican candidates are going to run in the primary supporting a huge mistake that the majority correctly perceives as a mistake. Then when the winner of the Republican nomination faces the Democratic contender in the general election that Republican will be saddled with that record of war support.
The Republican nominee for 2000 will benefit if an original war supporter wins the Democratic Party's nomination in 2008. Someone like Hillary Clinton has baggage of earlier war support. Barack Obama has the advantage of earlier war skepticism. But Obama doesn't seem as weighty and experienced about the world and in the general election people favor greater age and more experience when choosing a US President.
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The lower-middle-class neighborhoods that Lt. Col. Jeff Peterson's troops patrol have been the epicenter of Iraq's civil war for most of
the past year. "Every issue facing Baghdad writ large is in our area," he says.
In recent weeks, Col. Peterson has tried a controversial approach to calming his sector. As Sunnis and Shiites have separated into their own neighborhoods, he has resisted the urge to encourage reconciliation or even dialogue. Instead, he has erected massive concrete barriers between the sects.
The Epigonous one points out that I've previously advocated construction of a wall across Baghdad to separate the Sunnis and Shias. When people can't get along we need to admit they can't get along and act accordingly. We do this with divorce courts and "irreconcilable differences".
That lieutenant colonel in Baghdad has been on a learning curve about the nature of the Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq. Peterson probably came to realize the value of barrier walls when he demonstrated the threat of Shia police.
When the squadron commander Lt. Col. Jeff Peterson took over South Dora, he could not trust the predominantly Shiite police battalion. Evidence linking them to Shiite militias was overwhelming. And his troops had to watch their own backs.
"In many cases, we felt like the national police were targeting us," he said.
Peterson arrested seven police officers he suspected of being behind murders and kidnappings, particularly of Sunnis. They likely weren't the only ones involved, but he thinks the arrests did send a strong message.
You know how the Sunnis claim that the Iraqi police are their enemy? Lt. Col. Peterson has demonstrated with a powerful experiment that, yes, the Iraqi police in Baghdad are the mortal enemies of Sunnis.
Relations between the Shiite police force and the Sunni population were so bad that Peterson decided to lock the police out of a key Sunni neighborhood.
"I thought, given the situation where there was so much distrust, we just had to separate them for a while."
The results were immediate.
"Murders went down, mosque attacks went down," Peterson said. "So, immediately, there was a sense of relief amongst the population — that they were no longer going to be subjected to national police running around, and essentially, terrorizing the people."
These national police work for the Iraqi national government that American soldiers are fighting and dying for. Why do the lessons about human nature have to be learned at such a high cost?
Part of the job of the US troops involved in the surge into Baghdad? Babysitting the Iraqi police to protect the populace from them.
Now, when the police are in Sunni neighborhoods, they are always accompanied or monitored by U.S. forces.
Col. Peterson says the increase in U.S. troops made a huge difference. They are able to cover much more territory, get better information on both Sunni and Shiite threats, and monitor the police more closely. But Lt. Steve Harnsberger says it means his soldiers are doing a double job.
"We're trying to control our own elements, but also national police. It seems to take a little bit away from our capabilities, and puts more stress on the squad leaders and the individual men."
Remember, in theory American troops protect the government and the people from the insurgents and militias. But American troops also protect the people from the Iraqi goverment. But the Iraqi government was chosen by an election which, in the minds of George W. Bush and the neocons, is tantamount of a holy bestowal of miracles. (aside: "insurgents" means Sunni fighters and "militias" mean Shia fighters).
The events in Iraq are all nature's way of telling us that some facts about humanity aren't compatible with liberalism. The neoconservative liberals and the left liberals hold false beliefs about human nature. Western democracy only works to the extent that Westerners want freedom not only for themselves but also for their fellow citizens. In Iraq the people see all relationships as defined by dominance and submission. The fight is on over who will dominate and who will submit. They aren't willing to see each other as equals.
"The time scale to succeed is years," said John J. Hamre, a former deputy defense secretary, while "the time scale for tolerance here is 12 months for Democrats and 18 months for Republicans."
But suppose the troop surge shows that we can reduce violence in Baghdad while it surges in other parts of Iraq? The US military isn't even big enough to maintain the surge level of troops in Baghdad, let alone surging even higher to repeat the same process in the rest of Iraq.
But even if the surge reduces the violence around Baghdad that could mean that the insurgents have decided to hide their weapons and hold off from some of their attacks until the US troops eventually return to the pre-surge levels.
Petraeus himself has repeatedly said it is too early to tell whether the new strategy is showing sustained progress. He and others say they will be able to assess by this fall whether they are succeeding or failing. If so, the current debate over a possible 2008 withdrawal could prove beside the point.
Actually, the surge could prove besides the point. The decisions in Washington DC could make the results of the surge irrelevant.
An official in Iraq warned that executing the new approach will take time -- perhaps more than Washington is willing to give. "Early signs are very encouraging -- huge drop in sectarian killings in Baghdad, return of thousands of refugee families," he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity so that he could be candid. "But there is no way we can defeat this insurgency by summer. I believe we can begin to turn the tide by then, and have an idea if we are doing it. To defeat it completely is a five-to-10-year project, minimum -- and rushing it along to meet a D.C. timeline is rushing to failure."
I would like to hear why this official thinks we should spend 5 to 10 years and an awful lot of blood and money to defeat the assorted insurgencies (note the plural) in Iraq. Is that what we are supposed to learn from the surge? Whether or not we could defeat the insurgency if we maintained 150,000 troops in Iraq for 10 years?
Ricks relays assorted reports on how the clamp-down in Baghdad is shifting the violence elsewhere. Also, the turning of Sunni tribes in Anbar Province against the foreign jihadists is driving those jihadists to other parts of Iraq. This demonstrates that -the US does not have enough soldiers to do a surge big enough to show that we can get a handle on the situation. In spite of Bush's repeated proclamations to the contrary he's gotten us into a conflict that we could only win with a force two or three times larger and with many more casualties.
We need to keep in mind the bottom line. Is the bottom line to get the factions in Iraq to stop fighting each other? That seems an unlikely turn of events because none of the factions wants to submit to rule by any other faction.
Also, officers say, major questions remain about the sustainability of any positive momentum. Military operations can buy time but cannot solve the basic problem in Iraq: the growing threat of a civil war. The U.S. government keeps pushing for reconciliation, but there are few signs of movement toward that goal. "Nothing is going to work until the parties are ready to compromise, and I don't see any indicators yet that they are," said A. Heather Coyne, who has worked in Iraq both as a military reservist and as a civilian. "Until then, any effect of the surge will be temporary."
To put it another way: The Iraqis do not do equality. They do dominance and submission. Equality is foreign to their vocabulary and not in their mental model of the world.
Writing in the Living Intentionally blog, a US soldier working in intelligence in Iraq eloquently states how much Iraqis do not care about freedom for others.
What I object to is what the Iraq war has become, and the fact that great Americans are dying on a daily basis for people who do not appreciate or understand what we are doing. Make no mistake, many people from this culture know the words to use when talking with Westerners....words like freedom, democracy and human rights. When the Westerner leaves the room these words cease to have meaning. They do not speak this way with each other. They mutually recognize that using these words is part of the expected hussle. There is a Westernized elite who own the concepts and desire to live within the framework, but they have no power here, and their desire is to get a US visa as quickly as they can and move to Detroit.
There is nothing in this culture that gives it a framework to understand the notion of consensual government for the common good, outside one's self, kinship or tribal structure. This truth works itself out in this culture in a way that is very masochistic to Western eyes.
Any individual, minimal cooperation we receive is due to perceived self-interest. It's not about appealing to a higher good, or humanitarianism, or sense of wider duty. It's about finding where your interests coincide with the individual, at that moment in time. Creativity in shameless dissembling, if resulting in benefit to one's self, is respected and admired.
I've heard it said that the desire for freedom beats in the heart of every person. This is probably true. But the desire for freedom for one's neighbor, independent of one's own self-interest, does not, and this is the true test, which the Iraqi people have failed.
I worry that we are shedding the blood of America's best on a mistaken assumption about the latter.
On January 10, 2007 George W. Bush repeated his familiar argument that if we do not fight the terrorists in Iraq we will have to fight them in America.
The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people. On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities. For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq.
For the safety of our people we need to keep Muslims out of the West. For the safety of our people we should find ways to obsolesce oil by developing new energy technologies so the world stops sending huge amounts of money to the Muslim Middle East. For the safety of our people we should pull out of Iraq and take a small portion of what we are now spending on Iraq and spend it on improving the capabilities of intelligence agencies.
You might think, hey if these Iraqi Muslim Jihadists want to attack Americans why not just keep the Iraqi Muslims from coming to America? But George W. Bush has got that one covered. Bush has repeatedly claimed that Islam is a religion of peace and the Jihadists are a different kettle of fish.
Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism and subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Jews and Hindus -- and also against Muslims from other traditions, who they regard as heretics.
Never mind that non-Muslims are second class citizens in Muslim countries. Never mind that Muslims in the West when they reach substantial numbers start agitating for Sharia law and general imposition of Muslim values on everybody else. And just forget what the Koran actually says about non-believers. We are supposed to believe noted Islam scholar George W. Bush, that well known curious bookworm, when he tells us Islam is not the problem.
For an analysis of why I think Bush and the neoconservatives mislead with their rhetoric about the Jihadists see my post False Analogies Between Islam And Western Ideologies.
Update: Iraqi Shia cleric and Mahdi Army militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr has called on Iraqis to expel US forces from Iraq.
BAGHDAD -- The renegade cleric Muqtada al-Sadr urged the Iraqi army and police to stop cooperating with the United States and told his guerrilla fighters to concentrate on pushing American forces out of the country, according to a statement issued Sunday.
If the Shias rise up against US and allied forces in the south of Iraq (e.g. the British who are scaling back their forces) then the US forces would face a very difficult time. This would work against the Sunnis since a Shia uprising would pull US forces away from Baghdad and away from protecting Sunnis from Shia ethnic cleansers.
Virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell (did you see the movie Red Violin? that was him playing) played classical violin pieces in a Washington DC Metro subway station during morning rush for three quarters of an hour. He played some of the most difficult and greatest violin pieces ever composed. Over 1000 people walked past him. How many stopped? How much did he get paid? Guess. Read the piece. I don't want to tell you.
Since Hillary Rodham Clinton’s effort to overhaul the nation’s medical system was rejected in 1994, most big employers have stayed out of the debate on health care reform.
But with their medical costs ballooning, top executives of large companies are starting to speak up again — and many are calling for a national approach to fixing health care. Few advocate a wholesale shift to government-directed medicine, but most are seeking broad changes in the employer-subsidized health system, which they regard as unsustainable in its current form.
Some of the car companies are more blunt in their calls for government funding of worker health care. They want to get out of obligations they've been forced into by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union.
Since health care costs are rising a few times faster than the rate of inflation the cost increases aren't sustainable.
In general, employers “are more interested in reform today than at any time since the Clinton effort” in the early 1990s, said Robert S. Galvin, global health care and policy director at General Electric, which provides health benefits for 460,000 employees and dependents and 240,000 retirees and dependents.
The surge of interest, Mr. Galvin said, “is driven by compounding health cost increases at three times the general inflation rate, plus the entrance of Wal-Mart and other retailers” that are beginning to feel the pain of out-of-control increases in costs.
Employers which want government help are asking at a time when rising health care costs are hitting the government just as hard. The US government is about to get hit by the perfect storm of baby boomer retirements, a dumber younger generation due to immigration, and costs for medical care per person that are rising faster than the rate of inflation.
Employers of low skilled low wage workers expect the government to subsidize their employment of low skilled workers.
“The way it’s going, there will be 75 million uninsured in another 10 years,” said James D. Sinegal, chief executive of Costco Wholesale, which subsidizes health care for 81,000 of its 100,000 workers in the United States. “The federal government has to lend some assistance.”
Most commentary on problem of unaffordable health care focus on the rising cost of health care. But they are missing something obvious: a large and growing number of people have economic value in the labor market that is so low that they can't afford modern health care. Costco Wholesale employs tens of thousands of workers who are not worth that much in the labor market. They are not skilled enough and productive enough to make their health care costs a small percentage of their income. Think about that.
The problem of a large low skilled work force is going to get worse. Over on the Audacious Epigone blog pseudonymous blogger crush41 reports on a recent study by Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation which found that low skilled households get more from the government in benefits than they earn in total income. They don't just get more in benefits than they pay in taxes. No, it is much worse than that. Their benefits from government (that would be you, higher income taxpayer) far exceed what they earn.
Strikingly, as Chart 4 shows, low-skill households in FY 2004 had average earnings of $20,564 per household; thus, the average cost of government benefits and services received by these households not only exceeded the taxes paid by these households, but substantially exceeded the average earned income of these households.
They get $32,138 per household in benefits. But they only earn $20,564 in wages. We pay for their medical care, food stamps, education for their children (which in some jurisdictions ranges as high as $14,000 per child or more per year btw), police, fire department, etc. They can not afford the costs of the modern society all around them.
I have a few practical suggestions on immigration: First, make immigration qualifications dependent on earning power. If would be immigrants can't make at least, say, $70,000 per year (or an even higher figure) then they should be kept out. Second, deport all the illegal aliens and those legal aliens who aren't earning much money. Third, make employers of all non-citizen workers to pay medical insurance or for the foreign workers to prove they have medical insurance.
Update: From the original article above, Pitney Bowes chairman Michael J. Critelli says that wellness programs have paid off by cutting health care cost increases.
By providing clinics, exercise and other wellness programs as well as low-cost or free drugs for certain types of patients, he said, annual cost increases for Pitney Bowes employees have fallen into the low single digits over the last 15 years. That is well below the double-digit percentage increases that many companies have experienced.
But competing big companies are already free to do this. I think government could help by funding wellness program research. Get more of the results of wellness programs into the public domain so that smaller companies, government programs such as Medicare, and individuals can find out what works.
We also need much more automation of health care. Medicine is too labor intensive. Higher levels of automation could both cut costs and reduce mistakes.
LOS ANGELES — Californians appear willing to pay $4,000 more for used gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles that have state-issued carpool stickers than for hybrids that don't, according to a sampling of prices by Kelley Blue Book for USA TODAY.
The stickers allow low-polluting hybrids to use less-crowded, faster-moving carpool lanes, even if the driver is alone in the car.
This provides a measurement of how much people value their own time and how much they'll spend to go down a faster lane on a highway. Planned High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes access in Virginia will sell for $42 per vehicle round-trip per day. That'd put the $4000 premium on HOV lane access as only paying for less than 100 days of access. Though the HOV lanes and HOT lanes might provide different levels of advantage in California and Virginia. Also, one has to make a sacrifice by choosing particular hybrid car models in California whereas the Virginians will be able to take any car of their choosing down a HOT lane. So the HOT lanes probably command a convenience premium over the HOV lanes.
If highways were more like markets then we'd see a lot more fast premium access lanes. Such lanes would also allow buses to offer a time advantage over most cars since the buses could use the HOV/HOT lanes. This would compensate for the time disadvantages of buses due to the need to go only when the buses go and the time waiting and the time getting from the bus stop to where you really want to go.
I think Congress should stop messing around with the date Daylight Savings Time (DST) starts. The costs in applying software patches for it probably far exceeds any supposed benefits. It turns out there are no energy savings benefits from earlier DST - at least according electric utilities.
The move to turn the clocks forward by an hour on March 11 rather than the usual date in early April was mandated by the federal government as an energy-saving effort — but the move appears to have had little impact on power usage.
"We haven't seen any measurable impact," said Jason Cuevas, spokesman for Southern Co., one of the nation's largest power companies, echoing comments from several large utilities.
So morons in Washington DC put us all through a lot of convenience and for no benefit at all. The nation is in need of some old fashioned small-c conservatism of the "stop trying to social engineer us" variety. Governments know less than they act like they do. Remember that.
Vanity Fair is running excerpts from Presidential historian Robert Dallek's new book Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power. Dallek spent years going over phone transcripts and other now public records of the Nixon Presidency. One excerpt covers the period of the 1973 Yom Kippur war when Syria and Egypt attacked Israel while Nixon was distracted by Watergate.
Although Kissinger spoke to Nixon frequently during these four days, it was usually Kissinger who initiated the calls, kept track of the fighting, and parceled out information as he saw fit. On the night of October 7, according to a telephone transcript, Nixon asked Kissinger if there had been any message from Brezhnev. "Oh, yes, we heard from him," Kissinger replied, volunteering no more. Nixon had to press, asking lamely, "What did he say?"
At 7:55 on the night of October 11, Brent Scowcroft, Haig's replacement as Kissinger's deputy at the N.S.C., called Kissinger to report that the British prime minister, Edward Heath, wanted to speak to the president in the next 30 minutes. According to a telephone transcript, Kissinger replied, "Can we tell them no? When I talked to the President he was loaded." Scowcroft suggested that they describe Nixon as unavailable, but say that the prime minister could speak to Kissinger. "In fact, I would welcome it," Kissinger told Scowcroft.
What is striking is how matter-of-fact Kissinger and Scowcroft were about Nixon's condition, as if it had been nothing out of the ordinary—as if Nixon's drinking to excess was just part of the routine. They showed no concern at having to keep the prime minister of America's principal ally away from the president.
The whole article is very interesting.
If you read the full article pay especial attention to the sections on Vietnam. Note how what Nixon and Kissinger said publically about Vietnam contrasted with their private conservations. Then consider Kissinger's latest statements about Iraq.
"A 'military victory' in the sense of total control over the whole territory, imposed on the entire population, is not possible," Kissinger told The Associated Press in Tokyo, where he received an honorary degree from Waseda University.
The faceless, ubiquitous nature of Iraq's insurgency, as well as the religious divide between Shiite and Sunni rivals, makes negotiating peace more complex, he said.
"It is a more complicated problem," Kissinger said. "The Vietnam War involved states, and you could negotiate with leaders who controlled a defined area."
"I am basically sympathetic to President Bush," he said. "I am partly sympathetic to it because I have seen comparable situations."
Kissinger opposes a pull-out from Iraq even though he has a pretty dim view of the US position in Iraq. But what is he thinking about Iraq in the privacy of his own mind? Does he worry more about saving face for himself over his support for the war or does he think we should stay longer in order to avoid admitting defeat?
I used to think that top leaders surely must have more information and much greater insights than I do about the world. I no longer hold that opinion. It isn't so much that my estimation of my own views has risen but rather that my estimation of the understanding and insights of elected leaders (both American and foreign) has declined.
The trick to understanding the world is to figure out who has the right information. A lot of times the right person to turn to is someone directly doing something out in the world away from the top halls of power. Lawrence Auster points to a Powerline blog post that is supposed to come from an American soldier in Iraq who works in intelligence gathering. This soldier reports that the Iraqi government is so much like the Iraqi Shia militias that they are almost the same thing.
The Iraqi government and security forces are so thoroughly infiltrated by the Shia militias that you could say that the militias are the government and you would not be far off. Iraqi police in Southern Iraq are not in the fight against the militias at all. Top CF targets walk the streets freely in every city. In most cases police stations are manned by JAM members in police uniforms who actively aid the terrorists. On the rare occasion that a Shia terrorist is actually arrested by an ISF unit, he must be turned over to CF immediately or he will be released by the police or courts.
In addition, politicians from the city council to the CoR, if not Maliki himself, make calls and appearances on behalf of the terrorist, often threatening the job (if not the life) of the offending ISF leader with the audacity to actually do his job. Imagine our Congress, and governorships, and police departments staffed with members of the Crips and Bloods. Imagine being a citizen, a victim of or witness to a crime committed by one of these gangs. What would you do? Where would you turn? Ignoring for the moment the systemic corruption, this is the “government” we hope to turn this country over to.
Does Kissinger understand this? How does he really see Iraq? I'd love to sit next to Kissinger at a computer screen and go over in detail some posts by soldiers serving in Iraq (e.g. see this one) and ask him how he thinks we can as a nation gain some benefit from continuing to stay in Iraq. I also wish Nixon wasn't dead so that we could hear from him on Iraq. Would Nixon take the same position of supporting Bush while sort of painting a bleak view of Iraq?
The coming collision of 77 million retiring baby boomers with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid represents the greatest economic challenge of our era. What Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has recently called the "calm before the storm" will end abruptly on January 1, 2008—less than one year from now—when the first baby boomers become eligible for early Social Security benefits. Three years later, they will become eligible for Medicare. Over the following decades, the cost of these programs will leap from 8.7 percent of GDP to 19.0 percent. Without reform, this 10.3 percent of GDP cost increase would require either raising taxes by the current equivalent of $11,651 per household or eliminating every other government program. Even these changes would not solve the problem over the long term as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid spending continues to grow.
How much of the gap between taxes collected and promises made will be closed by raising taxes versus cutting back on the promises? Any guesses?
I went looking for Ben Bernankey's speech. The "calm before the storm" phrase seems to capture so well the moment in time we are at right now. Bernanke sees serious financial problems on the horizon.
Official projections suggest that the unified budget deficit may stabilize or moderate further over the next few years. Unfortunately, we are experiencing what seems likely to be the calm before the storm. In particular, spending on entitlement programs will begin to climb quickly during the next decade. In fiscal 2006, federal spending for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid together totaled about 40 percent of federal expenditures, or roughly 8-1/2 percent of GDP.2 In the most recent long-term projections prepared by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), these outlays are projected to increase to 10-1/2 percent of GDP by 2015, an increase of about 2 percentage points of GDP in less than a decade. By 2030, according to the CBO, they will reach about 15 percent of GDP.3 As I will discuss, these rising entitlement obligations will put enormous pressure on the federal budget in coming years.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 — More and more Medicare beneficiaries would have to pay higher premiums for coverage of prescription drugs and doctors’ services under President Bush’s 2008 budget, to be unveiled on Monday.
Single people with annual incomes over $80,000 and married couples with incomes over $160,000 already have to pay higher premiums for the part of Medicare that covers doctors’ services. The income thresholds rise with inflation.
At least these tax increases would be on the actual benefits recipients rather than on the younger people who are getting the shaft for the benefit of older people.
Did you know that in percentage term Medicaid spending is growing more rapidly than old age spending?
“Our budget reduces Medicare’s average annual growth rate over five years to 5.6 percent, from 6.5 percent,” Mr. Bush said, while Medicaid would grow 7.1 percent a year, instead of 7.3 percent.
This is partially a result of the rise of Hispanics as a percentage of the US population. Hispanics are medically uninsured at two and half time the rate of whites. You see, we do not have enough of a financial problem already from an aging population. We need to add to the ranks of the welfare state recipients by importing lots of low skilled workers who, in turn, have lots of children who grow up to be low skilled workers. I'm thinking our elites are sort of like the Manchurian Candidate but on a massive scale. They are doing more damage by supporting mass immigration than all the convicted traitors in US history.
We need to stop the immigration of all lower IQ people. The threshold should be set at 120 IQ or even higher. Also, we should raise retirement ages. One problem with a higher age of retirement: We do not all age at the same rate. Maybe age of eligibility for government retirement benefits should be set according to a test that measures your biological age. Tests for telomere length might serve as part of a test for estimating longevity to determine benefits eligibility.
A recent Sloan Consortium report about online higher education finds that online education is rapidly expanding.
Background: For the past several years, online enrollments have been growing substantially faster than the overall higher education student body. However, last year’s study, while reporting the same numeric increase as the previous year, had a lower percentage growth rate. Could this be an early indicator that online enrollment growth has finally begun to plateau?
The evidence: There has been no leveling of the growth rate of online enrollments; institutions of higher education report record online enrollment growth on both a numeric and a percentage basis.
- Nearly 3.2 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2005 term, a substantial increase over the 2.3 million reported the previous year.
- The more than 800,000 additional online students is more than twice the number added in any previous year.
My take: faculties at colleges and universities mostly fear online education and see it as a threat to their job security. But administrators and boards of trustees probably are starting to feel more fear of competing institutions which start offering online education and start grabbing away student customers. Yes, customers. Online education will force colleges to compete more directly and to start treating students more like customers.
The shift in the dynamic away from fearing entrenched internal bureaucratic interests and toward fearing online competitors at other existing accredited bricks-and-mortar institutions should accelerate as more students start choosing online courses. Existing institutions have to either rapidly embrace online education or dwindle. The elite schools can ignore it for the longest period of time. The lower ranked schools do not have that luxury.
The bigger schools and the schools with lots of researchers (i.e. lots of brain power) have the most online offerings.
More than 96 percent of the very largest institutions (more than 15,000 total enrollments) have some online offerings, which is more than double the rate observed for the smallest institutions. The proportion of institutions with fully online programs rises steadily as institutional size increases, and about two-thirds of the very largest institutions have fully online programs, compared to only about one-sixth of the smallest institutions. Doctoral/Research institutions have the greatest penetration of offering online programs as well as the highest overall rate (more than 80%) of having some form of online offering (either courses or full programs).
This makes sense intuitively for a number of reasons. First off, a large school can amortize their online web site administration costs over more courses. Second, the larger schools have more courses and departments and so have more choices on what to put online. Plus, some of the public universities have state mandates to provide continuing education to adults (e.g. University of California Extension) and online courses offer more convenient and cheaper ways to do this.
I see an opening here for private foundations which want to spread ideas and improve education: Film great lecture series on topics you want to promote. Then develop web site software for delivering online courses, lectures, course materials, and automated tests. Then offer all this for free to smaller colleges to let them get started in online education. I've pitched this idea to a couple of foundations recently. Hope they pick up on it.
Chief Academic Officers do not see quality as a barrier to the spread of online learning.
Background: The first study in this series found that a majority of Chief Academic Officers rated the learning outcomes for online education “as good as or better” than those for face-to-face instruction. The following year’s report displayed similar results. Do academic leaders hold the same opinion today, given the rapid growth in the numbers of online students?
The evidence: By an increasing margin, most Chief Academic Officers believe that the quality of online instruction is equal to or superior to that of face-to-face learning.
- In 2003, 57 percent of academic leaders rated the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face. That number is now 62 percent, a small but noteworthy increase.
- The proportion who believe that online learning outcomes are superior to those for face-to-face is still relatively small but has grown by 40 percent since 2003 from 12.1 percent in 2003 to 16.9 percent.
In the long run the percentage who see online outcomes as superior should rise. The small number of very best lecturers on each topic get seen now only by a small group of people in a single room at a single moment in time. But video recording of lectures will enable each student to see the best lectures and even see multiple excellent lecturers each tackle the same topic. What caused the decline and fall of the Roman Empire? Why not watch a half dozen historians argue their interpretations? Want to understand theories on the biology of aging? Again, watch several experts offer their own reviews of the evidence.
If by "online education" they mean over the internet then that's really a subset of computer-based education. Whether one loads a video off of a web site or a DVD is an implementation detail. The DVD delivery mechanism is very important because it unchains the learner from the internet. Ditto for learning game cartridges. Computers should provide instruction just as well if you are sitting in the middle of a forest or on an airplane or tethered to the internet in a city apartment.
Education has become far too expensive and slow. Many leave college with a degree after 5 years burdened with 5 and 6 figure education debts to start off their working lives. Their living standards remain low for years and their parents suffer lower living standards as well.
College is also incredibly inconvenient in an age where convenience defines so many other parts of life. Want to go to a grocery store at 2 AM? One's probably open. Want cash from a bank on a Sunday? Find an ATM machine - and many are located away from banks in shopping malls. Want to book an airline flight? Do searches online and choose from dozens of choices. By contrast, colleges make you take courses in bricks-and-mortar buildings at the hours and days of their choosing and at the rates that were chosen by centuries old traditions. Your course will last a semester of about 12 weeks. It will start on a particular day. It might only get offered once a year. Take it or leave it. Your instructor might be bored, unenthused, and perhaps not even speak English very well. You'll have to buy a big thick textbook and lug it around. This is all incredibly inconvenient. I say down with tradition. Time to automate and make education cheap and convenient.
Southern online enrollments are growing at twice the rate as the rest of the nation; there are now over 1.1 million students taking at least on online course at southern institutions.
The sixteen southern states represent over one-third of total online enrollments, with over 1.1 million students taking at least one online course in the fall 2005 term.
Why is that? One possibility: Conservative Southerners are less enthralled with liberal-dominated higher educational institutions and perhaps their boards of directors have pressured the universities and colleges to move online more rapidly.
The Sloan Consortium also has a Midwestern edition of their online education reports.