2014 October 30 Thursday
Strong Caliphate Brand Pulls In Foreign Fighters

Why are thousands of Muslim men heading to Syria to become Jihadist fighters? They want what we are all conditioned to want: Instant gratification by consuming a strong brand.

“When we try and figure out: what is different about this foreign fighter foe? What separates this conflict from Afghanistan, from Somalia, from Bosnia?” asked Andrew McCabe, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office.

“To me, the instant appeal of participating in the caliphate that’s happening now, I think that resonates with our young people. “

"Our" young people? Mr. McCabe needs to create some emotional distance between himself and the enemies of our society. His comments are emblematic of a thinking disorder common in Western societies in this era.

Think about how stupid it is for Western leaders to want to impede the flow of Jihadists from Western nations to the ISIS/Daesh caliphate in Syria and Iraq. These Jihadists are people who we do not want living in our midst. When I say "we" I mean people who are not fools, politically correct fools, credentialed fools, and elected fools.

The Daesh Caliphate brand is really more opportunity than threat to Western nations. Their real security threats are the Islamic fundamentalists who live in their borders, not the ones who live in the Middle East. Anything lure that will pull the fundamentalists out of north America, Europe and Australia ought to be considered on its merits. A jihadist in Syria won't shoot up the Canadian parliament or blow up London subway cars or harass Western women walking down the street in Paris, Amsterdam, or Bonn.

If the Jihadists concentrate in Syria and then concentrate even further on the outskirts of Kobani (at the time that I type this supposedly 3000 Daesh fighters are around Kobani) then air strikes and peshmerga supplied with mortars, artillery, and anti-tank weapons can kill them. So large scale movement of Jihadists to Syria is a feature of the Caliphate that we should applaud and encourage.

By Randall Parker 2014 October 30 08:46 PM 
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2014 October 22 Wednesday
Arab Spring Made Tunisia Biggest Source Of ISIS Fighters

Freedom and democracy in Northern Africa leads to Tunisia as the biggest source of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria. Tunisia's relative stability enables those Tunisians to travel abroad rather than, say, join local militias like so many Libyans do.

Chalk this up as another success for US foreign policy. US support for Arab Spring has helped many young Tunisian Muslims to pursue their dreams of Jihad. No longer repressed by an autocratic ruler these young men can pursue fighting for the enslavement and killing of Yezidis, Christians, Alawites, and all others who reject the one true way.

Liberal Manifest Destiny collides with the real world. Can we admit that all the world's peoples are not compatible with each other and that good borders are like good fences and separate people with incompatible belief systems?

Update: The US State Department supported Arab Spring when it started happening. But US support for democracy in the Middle East goes back much further than recent years. The United States Agency for International Development (AID) has spent the last 2 decades funding the promotion of democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere. Has this democracy promotion made the Middle East a more civilized place?

By Randall Parker 2014 October 22 10:21 PM 
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2014 October 19 Sunday
Mainland Chinese Buying Big In Arcadia California

Wealthy Chinese wanting to create a safe haven in the United States naturally prefer to do it where other Chinese congregate. You can bet the safety and course quality of the local high school will rise.

Lately, groups of Chinese investors have pooled their money to buy Arcadian homes, which often aren’t occupied. More than 400 residents showed up at a community meeting with the police department this spring, in part concerned about a spate of burglaries targeting empty mansions. When there are leaks or other problems with a property, even the city struggles to identify who’s responsible. “Who do we contact? Where do we contact them?” says Jim Kasama, the community development administrator for the city’s building department. “Sometimes it’s not that easy.”

We at least should be charging these women some tax fees to get their kids US citizenship.

Just steps from the Arcadia police station, a local TV news reporter uncovered a hotel being used for birth tourism.

The whole article is very interesting, especially toward the end. Note the neighborood disputes.

Enterprising realtors ought to try to steer some of the Chinese buyers into a neighboring town. How about Monrovia or Sierra Madre? Any young couple in the area with babies could move into such a town assured their high school will be much better by the time their kids are ready to go to school. The insulation against larger demographic trends in California would be excellent.

Some might find my views cynical. But 20th century America is long gone. TIme to adjust to the new realities.

By Randall Parker 2014 October 19 07:27 PM 
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Murder Rate In South Africa Still Rising

The countries with the greatest social pathology bear watching. In them we can see our own problems in more concentrated forms. 17,068 murdered out of 53 million population works out to 32 per 100,000. So glad I'm not there.

As bad as that is, it still leaves South Africa below 10 other countries in the world ranking of murder rates. Honduras is top of the pops at 90.4 per 100,000. That puts the Honduras murder rate about 300 times higher than Iceland or Japan (both at 0.3 per 100,000).

The Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa have the highest murder rates. US rule in Puerto Rico hasn't helped since PR is at 26.5. US Virgin Islands is at a shocking 52.6. Wow. Don't go there. I wouldn't expect the US VI to have big drug trafficking passing thru it the way Mexico and Honduras do. What makes US VI so bad even compared to other Caribbean countries?

Update: I almost forgot to mention that basket case Venezuela has the second highest murder rate in the world. Venezuela is clearly a failed state with a lower per capita GDP today than it had in 1970. At that link Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff describe what groups Venezuela has already defaulted on and what additional form of default looks increasingly likely.

By Randall Parker 2014 October 19 12:07 AM 
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2014 October 18 Saturday
Libya: Caliphate Cities, 2 Parliaments, Islamists

Back in March 2011 British, French, and American air strikes helped the rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. How is that working out? Tripoli houses the old Parliament at the west end of the Libyan coast. Whereas the most recently elected Parliament fled the militias who objected to the democratic outcome and the new Parliament is at the east end of the Libyan coast in Tobruk. It has international recognition but not much else. In between? Tribes, militias, Islamists, fighting.

Benghazi, the second city and headquarters of the 2011 Revolution, is largely in the hands of Islamist fighters, some with links to al-Qaeda. There are daily assassinations of officials, journalists and social activists.

Demra, near Tobruk, has declared itself an Islamic Caliphate.

The Obama Administration thinks it can reshape Syria and Iraq to be much more to its liking. I saw the historical record of failed US attempts to reshape Mid East countries is arguing against this hope.

Europe ought to build up big southern coast guards to stop the flow of illegal immigrants from the Arab Muslim countries. The US ought to scale back its ambitions for spreading liberal democracy. The West should get more realistic and protect the interests of Western people. But the insane people who set policy in Western capitals do not want to be constrained by what is possible.

Update: Here is a very funny article published in the March/April 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs by Ivo H. Daalder and James G. Stavridis. NATO's Victory in Libya: The Right Way to Run an Intervention.

NATO's operation in Libya has rightly been hailed as a model intervention. The alliance responded rapidly to a deteriorating situation that threatened hundreds of thousands of civilians rebelling against an oppressive regime. It succeeded in protecting those civilians and, ultimately, in providing the time and space necessary for local forces to overthrow Muammar al-Qaddafi. And it did so by involving partners in the region and sharing the burden among the alliance's members.

NATO's involvement in Libya demonstrated that the alliance remains an essential source of stability.

A model intervention? A source of stability? For what? Arms sales? Job security for NATO defense ministries?

By Randall Parker 2014 October 18 11:09 PM 
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Peter The Great Stole Russia's Name From Ukraine?

Think of the parallels with countries that demand return of art works taken away in a previous centuries. I had no idea. Will the Ukrainians start demanding the Russians find another name so that Ukraine can be renamed Russia?

The Russian Orthodox Church traces its origins to mass conversions purportedly forced by Vladimir, the grand prince of Kiev, in 988. The name Russia, adopted by Peter the Great for the empire in the early 18th century, was rooted in Kievan Rus, a medieval state that included lands that became Ukraine.

“They stole our church; they stole our name,” said Andrii Bychenko, who runs the sociology program at the Razumkov Center, a think tank here.

The Russians should go create their own religion and give back Ukraine's. Perhaps the Russians can return to whatever they believed before grand prince Vladimir brutally repressed their old time religion and forced them to convert.

What else is going on with stolen names and belief systems we ought to seek to remedy? What about the "New" states in the US Northeast? Shouldn't they find their own names and not steal ones from England? What other groups are guilty of name stealing and belief stealing?

This reminds me: Is America called America rather than Amerigo so that Amerigo Vespucci's descendants can't demand their family name back?

By Randall Parker 2014 October 18 10:06 PM 
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Greg Cochran On Ebola: Our Leaders Are Nuts

Why put our health care workers and other Americans at any avoidable risk of contracting Ebola? Luckily Ebola is not very infectious because our leaders are opposed to sensible and low cost precautions for preventing its spread to the United States.

Why take this risk? There’s no reason to do so. The administration claims that limiting incoming travel from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone would backfire. Why do they say that?

I’d say that it’s because they’re nuts, which is often the deep reason behind federal action. Oh, undoubtedly they’re thinking something nonsensical about the horrors of profiling black Africans, but let’s be real: we’d quarantine Sweden if they had something like Ebola, be they ever so blond, and we’d be right to do so. At the end of the day, nuts, like I said.

Greg says other sensible things. Go read the whole thing.

I'd like to live in a country where the leaders are consistently sensible and never nuts. America's leaders get so many other things wrong and the costs of those many mistakes are adding up.

By Randall Parker 2014 October 18 11:25 AM 
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2014 October 16 Thursday
Inevitable World Population Explosion

If the human race continues to exist then the groups with really high fertility rates will eventually swamp everyone else and world population will keep growing and even accelerate in its growth. High fertility religious groups will swamp everyone else.

I expect Mennonites, Amish, ultra-orthodox Jews, the most tribal Afghan, and other high fertility groups to become most of the world's population. What could prevent this? War. Robot war. Biowarfare. Biowarfare wouldn't have to kill. It could work by reprogramming brains to eliminate the desire for children.

Selective pressure for higher fertility will have a large effect. Genes and religions that boost fertility will get selected for. A return to the Malthusian Trap awaits unless war in some form prevents this.

Update: A point that has to be addressed if you disagree with my conclusions: If a country's overall fertility is falling but some ethnic groups in the country are immune to the fertility-lowering effects of modernization then those groups will go thru population doublings until high fertility groups become the majority of the country's population. Now, you can hope that these groups will change. But selective pressure has made the Amish more Amish over generations. They are becoming more immune to modernity, not less. Other groups are under similar selective pressure.

I think a return to the Malthusian Trap is inevitable unless we get our numbers drastically reduced by some form of disaster or some portions of the world get put under dictatorships that tightly regulate reproduction.

By Randall Parker 2014 October 16 09:20 PM 
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2014 October 11 Saturday
Do You Live In A Bubble? Take The Quiz

This quiz on the PBS News Hour site comes from Charles Murray. The lower your score the more isolated you've been from the middle and lower classes.. I scored a 45 on a 0 to 100 scale.

I expect a growing fraction of the lower classes to become unemployable. So being able to insulate your family from them is a good idea. But if you are too isolated from the working lower class and the hostile dysfunctional segments of society then you'll be foolish - like left wing college professors.

So it is a tricky thing. You need to understand reality. But you also need to be able to protect you and your own. The accurate understanding of reality is made harder by entertainment and news media which present very misleading pictures on a whole assortment of topics.

My advice on TV: kick it. Go cold turkey. Detach. Also, search for dissident opinions and especially highly empirical observers who aren't mentally caged by the left's system of taboos. Hard, I know. It is hard to find high quality when even many dissidents are just cranks.

By Randall Parker 2014 October 11 09:35 PM 
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Thousands Of Terrorism Suspects Being Tracked In London

I am opposed to the police state that Open Borders make necessary. Security services monitoring 'thousands' of terrorism suspects in London, says Boris Johnson. Being Mayor of London means being on the front lines of the battle against hostile imported people.

Modest proposal for Boris: Deport every one of them. Stop letting in more. You don't have a big enough security service to track tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands in your scary future.

Another headline from The Daily Telegraph: Cut business ties to Qatar over Islamic State, ministers warned: Ministers come under fire over claims the Government is too close to a Gulf State blamed for funding Islamist terror groups

I am old enough to remember when you could walk into an airport and greet arriving passengers at the departure gate even though you didn't have an airplane ticket. You did not have to take everything out of your pockets or take your shoes off either. Security was not necessary.

By Randall Parker 2014 October 11 12:13 PM 
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Turkish Deep State: Kobani As Way To Break Peace Process

With Daesh (no, not ISIS or ISIL) about to completely overrun Kobani the question being debated is why Turkey is sitting by and letting it happen. One obvious reason is that the Turks are happy to see the Kurds defeated by forces that they'd rather have as neighbors. But Turkish intelligence could have another motive as well: violent street protests by Kurds in Turkey could provide the Deep State the rationale it needs to kill an internal peace process to make a deal with the Kurds in Turkey. So the Deep State can then crush PKK and other Kurdish nationalist groups in Turkey.

If the Turkish government can crush the Kurds in Turkey and then have ISIS crush Kurds in Syria then Turkey would be able to limit the emergence of a Kurdish state to the Kurdish region of Iraq and even that state might be vulnerable to being crushed by the Turks and Iraqi Arabs some day.

What else does Turkey want? To crush Assad in Damascus and put a Sunni Arab Islamic government in power in Damascus. Turkey, our NATO ally. Another of our big allies in the region: Saudi Arabia whose school textbooks find great favor with the Daesh Caliphate. Are the Persians really so bad in comparison? Or the Russians? Even Joe Biden sees the problem with our supposed allies.

The Syrian Kurds are better off with a weak (too weak to bother them) Bashar Assad in power in Damascus.

Modest proposal for the Kurds: Find some fierce Chechens with great tactical talents to recruit to your cause. Or welcome some Russian special forces "on vacation" for an extended visit to do extensive testing of Russian military equipment. The Russians could hone their skills fighting the Chechens in Daesh.

By Randall Parker 2014 October 11 11:51 AM 
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2014 October 09 Thursday
Lame US Air War Over Syria Due To UAV Shortage

Wondering why the vaunted air power of the USAF can't prevent all the Kurdish fighters in Kobani from getting slaughtered? One reason: Afghanistan is getting more drones than Iraq or Syria. The US Air Force heavily uses Predators, Reapers, and the like to identify friend or foe. It can't identify enough foes to blow them up in sufficient number.

The article alludes to something I've read in greater detail elsewhere: UAVs spend a lot of time going to or from a target area and during these journeys the USAF insists on one pilot per drone. A pilot could easily monitor a group of drones all executing a flight plan on autopilot. But no.

The article describes staffing levels per drone that include 30 people to maintain and operate each drone plus another 80 people to analyze each drone's video and other sensor feeds. That's incredibly inefficient.

But it gets worse from a cost perspective. Since the USAF insists on putting most of its money into aircraft designed to wage war with a near peer it is flying very expensive aircraft to blow up cheap ISIS equipment.

Even when it comes to building UAVs the USAF spends more on really expensive stealth UAVs (fewer but more expensive) because it wants to be ready to fight a near peer (that would be China btw). Hence the current situation. The US military really needs larger quantities of cheaper aircraft and cheaper UAVs to over Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria simultaneously. But it insisted on F-22 an F-35 fighters (with massive cost overruns and many years of delay) and the more expensive UAVs. Also joint multi-service fighters actually cost more according to the Rand Corp.

Think about how cheaply the USAF could bomb ISIS if it had a different attitude. It could use large numbers of cheap UAVs and then convert some commercial jets into cheap bombers to drop cheap JDAM bombs.

Update: ISIS is expanding its position inside of Ramadi Iraq and threatens to overrun the Anbar province. So US support for the Iraqi Shia government is not yet enough to prevent further retreats. This is amazing. The Sunni Jihadists are far more motivated to fight than the Shia militias and Shia Iraqi Army. US air power isn't stopping ISIS from expanding.

By Randall Parker 2014 October 09 09:25 PM 
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2014 October 05 Sunday
ISIS Likes Saudi Religious Thinking But Saudis Spurn ISIS

Patrick Cockburn on the Saudi version of Islam and what the ISIS/Daash folks believe.

Evidence of the similarity between Wahhabism and Isis is that in the third of Syria seized by Isis, it is plagiarising Saudi textbooks for use in schools.


There are signs that in the past few months the Saudi state has become even more rigorous in enforcing Islamic law – sharia – and clamping down on non-Muslim religious practice, possibly to show that it is no less committed to sharia than Isis.

British retired general General Jonathan Shaw blames the Saudis and Qatar for th spread of radical Islam.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia have ignited a "time bomb" by funding the global spread of radical Islam, according to a former commander of British forces in Iraq.

The Saudi leaders are funny.

Religious extremism is a perversion which must be eradicated, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah said on Sunday

From the Daily Star in Lebanon:

Sheikh Abdallah bin Ali Basfar, a religious lecturer who is involved in the kingdom's "awareness" campaign, said the Ministry of Islamic Affairs had instructed preachers to denounce ISIS as a "terrorist organization" in their sermons and teachings.

A web site associated with the Iranian National Guards says Saudi Arabia has recently lost battles in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria. These are battles for influence, not battles with Saudi boots on the ground. The failure to overthrow Assad was one loss. The Shia domination of the Baghdad government is another. US support of the Shia Iraqi government against ISIS as well as ISIS becoming totally demonized is causing a backlash against an offshoot of Wahhabi Islam.

Wahhabism helped legitimize Saudi rule of Saudi Arabia. The rest of the world has paid a big price for the spread of Wahhabism funded with Saudi petrodollars.

The Wahhabi movement's vision for government helped to establish Saudi rule; it does not engage in debates about democracy or any other issues, and does not completely recognise it as legitimate. In fact, it regards democracy as blasphemous, as it only believes in submission and obedience to the ruler and one vested with authority ("wali al-amr"); not upholding this duty is deviation from the religion and is, therefore, blasphemy.

By Randall Parker 2014 October 05 08:32 PM 
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2014 October 03 Friday
Chinese Leaders Will Crush Hong Kong Protesters

Pat Buchanan gets it right here:

To allow students to block the city center and impede traffic shows weakness. Hong Kong’s reputation as a financial center and tourist attraction will suffer. And Beijing cannot permit this to go on too long without risking supportive protests erupting on the mainland. Nor can the students be allowed to force Hong Kong to give up Beijing’s veto of candidates. To capitulate would expose President Xi Jinping as a leader who can be broken by street action. To permit that perception would imperil Xi’s standing with Beijing’s hard-liners, and potentially the regime itself.

I think there is a lesson here for the Beijing government if are only wise enough to realize it: Taiwan is a great threat to the Beijing government's stability of the mainland conquers Taiwan. Why? Huge democracy protests will only happen in Taiwan if Taiwan is ruled from Beijing. As long a the mainland government doesn't take on responsibility for controlling who can be elected in Taiwan the mainland government don't have to worry about defiance from Taiwan.

The sad thing is that Hong Kong would be ruled quite well by a local democracy. It would be less corrupt than other cities in China and would be quite civilized.

Hong Kong's problem and Taiwan's problem is that mainland China is a rising power with demands for submission. China's rise is upsetting a balance of power that allowed a status quo of US naval domination to be maintained for decades.

In an essay about the problems with political secession Daniel McCarthy argues that many little states are able to exist under the protection of much larger states. But the US domination is fading.

The world is relatively peaceful today not because peace among states is natural but because the power differential between the top and almost everyone else is so great as to dissuade competition. Indeed, the world order is so top-heavy that the U.S. can engage in wars of choice, which have proved disastrous for almost everyone. A world consisting of more states more evenly matched, however, would almost certainly not be more peaceful. Libertarians and antistatist conservatives, of all people, should appreciate that all states are aggressive and seek to expand, if they can—the more of them, the more they fight, until big ones crush the smaller.

How are world alliances going to restructure in the next 50 years? Who will lose in these restructurings? I'm struck by the big demographic changes in the West. Not only are Western states fading they are also becoming less Western. So a Western alliance will become harder to put together and interests will diverge. This suggests an even faster decline in Western influence.

By Randall Parker 2014 October 03 07:57 PM 
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2014 October 02 Thursday
Doomed To Failure: US Policy In Syria, Iraq

Barack Obama has pinned his hopes in Iraq on an "inclusive" government even while the two excluded groups (Sunni Arabs and Kurds) want a divorce. Can you say "setting yourself up for failure"? Sure. In Syria the search is on for acceptable moderates.

Many moderate factions have been squeezed out or self-destructed in a morass of corruption, incompetence and dissent.

Obviously, the Obama Administration's policy goals in Iraq and Syria are not achievable. In tribal societies deeply divided by blood and religious faith we can't make everyone just get along. What's missing? A civil society that is a counterweight to the state. A commitment to the rule of law (tribe comes first). A belief in free speech.

Think Turkey is going to enthusiastically fight against ISIS? Read: Turkey’s Attitude Toward ISIS? Sympathy for the Devil.

But there is sympathy for jihadists battling in Syria along the border among Erdogan’s rural base. Journalist Ahu Özyurt reported last  weekend in the Hurriyet Daily News that local officials in Turkey’s southeast province of Şanlıurfa had confided to her their respect for the jihadists. “I was shocked to hear words of admiration for ISIL,” wrote Özyurt, a senior editor for CNN Turk. The officials said: “They are like us, fighting against seven great powers in the War of Independence.” And the officials maintained they would rather have the jihadists than the Kurds south of the border as neighbors.

US support for Kurdish fighters remains lukewarm. The Kurds fighting to keep ISIS out of Kobani aren't going to get heavier weapons because the Turks don't want them to. The Turkish government most of all wants Assad's government to fall.

What we are going to find out: How much has the efficacy of air power improved? Also, can US special forces and CIA agents bribe some Sunni tribes in Iraq to turn against ISIS? Also, will the Sunni region in Iraq be allowed to create a regional parliament like Scotland with some budget authority and security control moved to the Sunni Arab zone. Also, will the Kurds get enough weapons to carve out a mini-state in Syria?

Also, will the smaller minorities continue to get majorly shafted?

“Members of Iraq’s diverse ethnic and religious communities, including Turkmen, Shabak, Christians, Yezidi, Sabaeans, Kaka’e, Faili Kurds, Arab Shi’a, and others have particularly been affected by the situation,” the report continues.

If I was King of America I'd heavily arm the Turkmen, Sabaenans, Christians and other smaller minorities and let them carve out mini-states in Iraq and Syria.

By Randall Parker 2014 October 02 11:08 PM 
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