Saturday, September 30, 2006

HR 6061 passes Senate

Randall has his usual solid coverage.

The Senate passed the bill to build 700 miles of fencing along various parts of the US-Mexico border 80-19. This session of Congress did not see tougher punitions on and enforcement of employers of illegal immigrants, nor did the Senate carry through on the House push for empowering local authorities to arrest people solely for illegal residency status.

But that several open-borders Senators acquiesced to the partial fence illustrates how trenchant public sentiment has become on the immigration issue. John McCain and Sam Brownback, both '08 hopefuls and bona fide open-borders advocates, voted 'yea'.

Most Democratic Senators and all Republicans except for Chafee up for re-election this cycle voted in favor of the bill. The Dems:

Akaka, HI - Nay (immigration isn't a salient issue on the islands, and as a centerpiece of Akaka's campaign has been to point out that he's a native Hawaiian and his Democratic opponent is white, his vote isn't surprising)
Bingamen, NM - Nay (from the only state in the Union, so appropriately named, that has more Hispanics than non-Hispanic whites)
Byrd, WV - Yea (he always votes with the pro-sovereignty crowd)
Cantwell, WA - Nay (d'oh)
Carper, DE - Yea
Clinton, NY - Yea (on both sides of the aisle, every prospective President voted for the bill)
Conrad, ND - Yea
Dayton, MN - Yea
Feinstein, CA - Yea
Kennedy, MA - No vote (not going to lose his seat irrespective of his vote, but as the most vociferous champion of unfettered immigration in the Senate, his absence is noteworthy)
Kohl, WI - Yea
Lieberman, CT - Nay (No wonder he's going to be booted--how many harmful, unpopular stances can he take on the issues?)
Menendez, NJ - Nay (When the name ends in "z", well...)
Nelson, FL - Yea
Nelson, NE - Yea
Sarbanes, MD - Nay (on his way out. Keep your eye on what lobbying interest scoops him up next year--the Chamber of Commerce or KPMG?)
Stabenow, MI - Yea

If the recondite world of Congressional legislation keeps you from contacting your representatives on immigration issues, sign up on NumbersUSA's action alert list. Roy Beck's group alerts you to upcoming votes on the floors and also to those in committee involving one of your representatives. Numbers sets up form faxes for you to send, but also allows you to personalize your correspondence (throw in a couple lines about another issue distinct from immigration--it'll increase the salience by making a form response more difficult).

This is an encouraging victory. Keep the pressure on.

(Immigration2)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

American investment falls into the red

The US' net investment income has fallen into the red after five years of record-making in the black:

Over the past several years, Americans and their government enjoyed one of the best deals in international finance: They borrowed trillions of dollars from abroad to buy flat-panel TVs, build homes and fight wars, but as those borrowings mounted, the nation's payments on its net foreign debt barely budged.

Now, however, the easy money is coming to an end. As interest rates rise, America's debt payments are starting to climb -- so much so that for the first time in at least 90 years, the U.S. is paying noticeably more to its foreign creditors than it receives from its investments abroad. The gap reached $2.5 billion in the second quarter of 2006. In effect, the U.S. made a quarterly debt payment of about $22 for each American household, a turnaround from the $31 in net investment income per household it received a year earlier.
We did have a great deal. While foreign governments in Europe and Asia indulged in low-yielding US treasury bonds, US companies and American citizens reaped the benefits of strong foreign growth, especially in China. Rock-bottom interest rates, as low as 1%, made borrowing money a great way to make money.

Imagine today, with the prime rate sitting at 5.25%, the bank down the road is willing to lend to you at 2% APR. So you borrow as much as the bank allows you to, and on the same day take that money and stick it in Paypal's money market account, currently returning just over 5%. What a deal! On a national level, the US has basically been doing the same thing. Even though we've been borrowing more at 2% than we're sticking into the 5% investment, the benign disparity in returns have made up for the absolute shortfall. But with interest rates having risen steadily over the last several months and a deceleration in international equity returns, it's catching up with us.

The net investment number pales in comparison to the US national account balance (the actual payments that flow to and from countries), which was $218 billion in the red last year. Even if we manage to get marginally back in the black in terms of our net investment income, so long as we keep buying more than we sell, the US' net foreign debt (what we owe others versus what others owe us) will keep accreting. Continuing with the analogy, even if our $1,000 in investments return 5% a year, if we've borrowed $10,000 (and continue to borrow more each year than we put into new investments) at a lower rate, we're hardly in good shape.

This net investment deficit is symbolic even though it's not of great consequence. The NYSE and the NASDAQ together comprise about two-thirds of the world's total market capitalization of just over $43 trillion, most of it in American companies, yet we've still fallen into the red on returns. We gave up net exporting four decades ago. Now we're even giving up the benefits of the wealth we accrued in the past.

I can't pretend to know what debts, deficits, and net investment losses portend economically for the US or the rest of the world. The US' current national debt as a percentage of GDP is still only half of what it was following the conclusion of WWII and bests that of Israel, Japan, Italy, Greece, Singapore, Canada, France, Germany, and Austria. I hope the argument that expanding total economic activity will keep us out in front of ballooning debts and deficits holds true. It's a recondite science for sure.

I can, however, offer a few suggestions that might help:

- Scrap the federal income tax. It discourages economic activity by penalizing productivity. It costs over $400 billion in compliance, 10,000 relatively bright IRS employees who could be engaged in something more constructive (not to mention a good portion of the 450,000-plus college-educated bean counters working for the Big Four), and more odiously still causes businesses and individuals to make decisions based not on pure economic utility but instead on utility post tax-consequence.

I held off on purchasing a house for three months longer than I would have otherwise as I waited for the 366th day of ownership on a stock that had done well to roll around so that I'd only be subject to a 15% tax on the gain. On a macro leve, that's silly, even though it was in my best interest. The federal income tax sorely lacks 'goal congruence' in regards to invidual entities and the nation as a whole (note also that $11 trillion is held by wealthy Americans and businesses in offshore accounts for tax reasons).

Replace the federal income tax with a national sales tax (also referred to as a 'consumption tax') levied on new items and services. Tax us on what we spend instead of what we earn, and we might start earning more than we spend! This would instantly propel the US back into the top spot in global competitiveness as production costs would fall by 35% of profits (essentially the current corporate income tax rate) for companies operating stateside and make the US an even stronger magnet for entrepreneurs the world over. Plutocrats, stick your money here instead of in Bermuda!

It would make used items 23% (the estimated federal sales tax rate) cheaper relative to new items than they are today, rendering the cheap consumables dumped on our shores less attractive. The 50 million foreign visitors the US hosts each year would start contributing to our federal coffers. Illegal immigrants paid under the table wouldn't be able to mooch as much off the net taxpayer as they would pay in at the cash register instead of not at all (couple this with Charles Murray's idea of a monthly governmental stipend in place of the myriad of contemporary governmental welfare services, and illegals would really lose the economic advantage they enjoy over natives).

- Standard 401(k) and similar retirement plans should become opt-out programs rather than opt-in programs. Force workers to expend effort to increase immediate consumption instead of to increase savings.

- End unskilled immigration and institute a merit immigration system for legal immigrants to increase per capita wealth and productivity.

- Repeal Sarbox and disenegrate the LLC to encourage more companies, especially newer ones, to list publicly. In tandem with the 401(k) opting-in, this is a solid way to 'lift all boats'.

(Economy)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

US troops in South Korea

I favor a draw-of US forces on the Korean penninsula because our presence serves as an assurance policy for the ROK when the South is certainly capable of defending itself from the North (the South's economy is 24 times the size of the North's--a magnitude almost identical to the US-Iranian gap (both in PPP terms)). If Kim Jung Il was dumb enough to launch a conventional attack on the South he would be routed. Although North Korea has a standing army of over a million men, its military equipment is mostly from the Korean War era (T-55 and T-56 tanks) and estimated to be significantly under-functioning.

There are reports from those formerly having lived in the North that military vehicles are often found rusting on roadsides and that ammunition isn't used during training exercises because the military has such a limited supply. The soldiers don't get real practice and the country is shockingly malnourished, with a populous that is over half a foot shorter than their brethren in the South.

The North's air power, which is relatively advanced, suffers from a lack of experienced pilots (due to fuel shortages, North Korean pilots only get 10 hours of in-flight training each year compared to several hundred hours in the US).

The footage reels of massive soldier marches in the North create a sense of enormity, but my gut tells me that if a conflict were to break out, the North would quickly be revealed as a paper tiger. The North's annual military spending amounts to $5 billion, while the South spends $21 billion. The South has twice as many people fit for service as does the North. And of course the North, with a PPP of $1700 (as well off as Haiti), has no ability to sustain a military campaign of any duration (I imagine tanks running out of fuel as they push across the DMZ and have to be abandoned).

The biggest threat comes from the artillery aimed at South Korean cities, with several hundred pointed at Seoul, and WMD capabilities. The North has all kinds of nasty stuff from mustard gas to uranium bombs. But there is little 30,000 American soldiers within range of these devices would be able to do to halt a massive barrage if the North let loose. Retaliation in-kind would have to be the response if Kim Song Il, who so loves the life's hedonistic pleasures, was so suicidal.

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

(International)

Dick Armey and immigration in WSJ

Former House Speaker Dick Armey echoes the WSJ editorial board's intellectual bankruptcy on the question of immigration. Writing about "pocketbook consersatives", he describes them thus:
[They] generally respect the work ethic and economic contributions of new immigrants.
This demographic, which Armey portrays as the new silent majority, is pretty elusive. That is, unless he is referring specifically to the small minority of immigrants who are more productive than the average native, but he in no ways specifies this so the assumption has to be that Armey is talking about immigrants on the whole. The polls I've seen consistently show that Americans across the political spectrum want tougher immigration enforcement and less total immigration. A thorough Zogby poll in May of this year reported these findings:
- On immigration generally, Americans want less, not more, immigration. Only 26 percent said immigrants were assimilating fine and that immigration should continue at current levels, compared to 67 percent who said immigration should be reduced so we can assimilate those already here. ...

- One reason the public does not like legalizations is that they are skeptical of need for illegal-immigrant labor. An overwhelming majority of 74 percent said there are plenty of Americans to fill low-wage jobs if employers pay more and treat workers better; just 15 percent said there are not enough Americans for such jobs.

The more conservative the respondent considered himself, the more likely he was to favor a reduction in immigration. Those self-describing themselves as "very conservative" favored less immigration to current levels at a ratio of over 7-to-1. For "conservative" it's a little over 7-to-2. Even "liberals" favor less immigration by 2-to-1. Only "progressives" slightly favor current levels--51% to 43%. I wonder how these pocketbook conservatives describe themselves ideologically?

They're probably a relatively wealthy subgroup, as is the WSJ's readership. For people with annual incomes of $75,000 or more, less immigration was still favored by a margin of 2-to-1. Despite the WSJ, the financial press is hardly unanimous in its advocation of unfettered immigration--Investor's Business Daily, for example, has been a leading voice in favor of immigration reform.

After creating a vague demographic and describing it in a way that doesn't mesh with reality, Armey launches invectively into the sovereignty crowd:
Even more embarrassing is Tom Tancredo and his hot, hateful rhetoric against immigrants. Such demagoguery feeds the worst instincts of nativists and blocks a serious solution to our nation's border security problems. Reagan, conversely, understood that America is a country of immigrants, and he famously demanded that big government's walls be torn down.
Reagan's 1986 amnesty was just grande, huh Dick? This paragraph is everything it accuses Tom Tancredo, who spends half his time trying to assure people that he's not a 'hater' or a 'racist', of being. The blatant inaccuracies Armey's piece contains, as shown earlier, feed into the worst instincts of the open borders crowd, and his smearing of Tancredo epitomizes hateful demagoguery. Meanwhile, he offers not even a sentence toward solving our border security problems in his 1,040 word piece.

Does Armey not realize that the illegal immigrant deluge costs the government more than it contributes in revenue by over $10 billion a year? Or that the disastrous Senate immigration bill would cost a staggering $200-plus billion over the next ten years, according to the CBO? These immigrants are guarators of a larger government, not a smaller one, with the economic shortfall having to be picked up by the net taxpayer. While 24.5% of immigrant households utilize at least one welfare program, only 16.3% of natives do. And the Hispanic deluge is more fatalistic than natives in accepting as inevitable the corruption and largess of government (not surprising given the governmental situations in the countries they come from). Legalizing these immigrants with amnesty would be even more costly. Then there are all the other externalities like increased pollution, crime, disease, and cultural balkanization to be suffered. Doesn't sound like a great deal for pocketbook conservatives to me.

Armey concludes:
Win or lose, if Republicans hope to maintain the political support of a voting majority in the future, they will need to rediscover their fiscally conservative roots, and govern accordingly.
Increasing the number and proportion of ethnic minorities concentrated in urban areas who are less educated, more impoverished, more criminally prone, and more likely to use government benefit programs than natives doesn't strike me as the best method of governing in a 'fiscally conservative' way. Nor does increasing the size of a segment that so perfectly fits the profile of a Democratic Party voting stalwart sound like the best way for the GOP to retain a voting majority.

(Immigration2)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Wolfowitz to tackle corruption

Paul Wolfowitz makes enemies everywhere he goes:

In his first 15 months as president of the World Bank, Paul D. Wolfowitz has made the fight against corruption in poor countries a hallmark issue, waging an aggressive campaign that has led to the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and contracts to nations including India, Chad, Kenya, Congo, Ethiopia and Bangladesh. ...

In recent months, however, his campaign has run into a host of critics, both at the bank and among financial officials outside the United States, who say that developing countries are being threatened with arbitrary punishment in a way that jeopardizes the banks longtime mission to reduce poverty.

To be fair, the World Bank's President, always an American, comes from the only country that has the power to individually block institutional reforms (changes require an 85% majority, and the US represents just under 17% of the votes), so the guy at the helm is bound to be criticized, even as he publicly advocates the lessening of voting power for nations that pony up the most dough, like the US and Japan.

Still, the World Bank is an antiquated institution struggling to find an area of 'expertise' to specialize in. The glut of massive private hedge funds and the piles of cash that multinational corporations are sitting on has rendered the World Bank unnecessary. There is hardly a shortage of capital for projects that promise decent returns. So the World Bank has had to shift from promoting broad economic growth to more targeted "poverty reduction"--bad loans, grants, and the assumption of bad debt--stuff that makes the institution appear profligate to Americans while angering the developing world by making demands of the countries receiving the loans. Wolfowitz wants to make that target more precise still, focusing specifically on transparency in business dealings and an ending of corruption.

I wish the WB and the IMF would disappear along with their UN parent. But if wealth creation in developing and underdeveloped countries is the purpose, and $23 billion is going to be loaned out annually, battling corruption appears to be the best way to go. The goal of eradicating global corruption smacks of quixotic interventionism, but the task of ending global poverty is even more unending and unachievable.

Corruption, as measured by Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, correlates with a country's purchasing power parity at a statistically significant .822, higher than do economic freedom (.755), IQ (.598), average life expectancy (.575), or infant mortality (-.560). And Wolfowitz is going after places that don't fare well on that index--India ranks 88th on the list of 159 countries, Chad and Bangladesh tied for the very most corrupt, Kenya and the Congo are both tied at 144th, and Ethiopia is 137th.

Skeptics will argue that the abolition of the developed world's definition of corruption is related to a developing nation's greater economic power because its elimination in a developing country makes it easier for the developed world to come in and run profitable business operations (the UAE, for example, has a higher PPP than the US, but most of that wealth isn't going to the Emirates' citizenry, who probably make up less than a fifth of the place's population). Instead of a kleptocrat running the third-world show, an American corporation comes in and strikes it rich.
There are lots of demographic factors that limit the potential for wealth in many developing countries. The lessening of corruption wouldn't be an azoth, but it strikes me as a noble, relatively effective way of going about bettering the developed world. If we're going to have an international entity doling out cash, it might as well at least attempt to be something more than a wealth transfer (in the form of low returns and bad debts) from the developed world to third world rulers.

(Economy)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Musharraf: End defamation of Islam

Venezuelan President Chavez is in the Western media limelight after his baffling excoriation of President Bush, where the neo-Castroite leader referred to his DC counterpart as "the devil" and the "dictator of the world". Hearing it live, it struck me as mostly self-projection--how the nation of Venezuela will derive benefit from cozying up to Iran and North Korea is difficult to figure out, although it's obvious Chavez wants to spread his influence widely. Picking up the support of these two international pariahs will probably cost Venezuela votes in its bid to beat Guatemala for non-permanent UN Security Council membership. (The 'winner' is chosen via a consensus of Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Mexico--if unanimity isn't reached, it goes to the General Assembly for a vote. With a leader as ostentatious as Chavez, the US will surely be able to get at least one country along the lines of Barbados, Mexico, or Jamaica that is on relatively good terms with Washington).

When oil is obselsced as a vehicle fuel or more deepwater discovery and eventual extraction pushes the barrel price back down, Chavez is finished. He's living on American dollars as it is (just over half of Venezuelan exports go stateside).

Words of more interest came from Pakistani President Musharraf, who called for a ban on the"defamation of Islam". He wasn't referring to an omerta in Pakistan. He was referring to a universal ban recognized by the UN:
"It is imperative to end racial and religious discrimination against Muslims and to prohibit the defamation of Islam."
That sentence is about as risible as the now infamous statement from Pakistan's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson:
"Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence."
The Muslim world is far more discriminating than the Catholic countries Musharraf appears to be specifically swiping, and Islamic defamation of other belief systems is a numbing daily occurence all over the globe. A couple of the most recent stories:
A previously unknown Islamic group calling itself "The Army of Guidance" pledged Tuesday to strike at Christian targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for recent remarks by the pope deemed offensive by many Muslims. ...

"Every place relevant to Christians will be a target," said a statement from The Army of Guidance sent to news organizations in Gaza. "This will be until the accursed infidel, the Vatican, apologizes to Muslims."

Nevermind that these dunderheads are attacking Greek Orthodox churches. The intent is clear. Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox; what's the difference? All are infidels.

And:
A six-year-old girl was killed in an arson attack on her family home by men who disapproved of a relationship her older brother was having with a teenager, a court heard today.

The two accused, Hussain Ahmed and Daryll Tuzzio, were part of Birmingham's rich cultural mosaic.

These events all illustrate how incompatible Islam is with Western liberalism. Free expression is to be unlawful at best, and possibly a reason for death. The action of the individual is but representative of the larger group (be it a sibling of the perpetrator, the ecumenical Christian world, or the entire UN membership), not something to be judged on an individual level.

Unfortunately, Western liberalism has a tough time combatting this as the only effective way is by fighting fire with fire--become intolerant of the Islamic world and Middle Easterners, North Africans, and Central Asians (as well as their descendants in other places) by keeping them out of the West and keeping a close eye on any of their actions that might raise suspicion through wiretaps and complex algorithims.

Much of the West, especially ideologues in academia and the media, are repulsed by this refusal to treat individual Muslims entirely based on their previous, individual activities. But what else to do? Less interventionism would alleviate America's salience in the Muslim world, but it wouldn't fully solve the problem. Unfettered tolerance simply doesn't have an answer for aggressive intolerance.

I echo Steve Sailer. Let's disconnect. If the discrimination Muslims face is as terrible as Musharraf suggests, let's not subject the poor creatures to more of it.

(Terrorism)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sweden shifts right, but is it too late?

One of the world's most salient leftist countries has scooted a bit to the right:
A center-right opposition vowing to streamline Sweden's famed welfare state ousted the Social Democratic government in a close parliamentary election Sunday, ending 12 years of leftist rule in the Nordic nation.

Prime Minister Goran Persson, who had governed for 10 years, conceded defeat and said his Cabinet would resign after the Social Democratic Party's worst election result in decades.

With 99.7 percent of districts counted, the four-party opposition alliance led by Fredrik Reinfeldt had 48.1 percent of the votes, compared with 46.2 percent for the Social Democrats and their two supporting parties.
Sweden's Social Democrats, who have led the majority for 65 of the last 74 years, fell to modest tax reduction policies, opposition to a six hour workday, and the advocating of reforms aimed at streamlining business operations. With the exception of a brief stint in the early nineties, the ruling leftist Social Democrats have seen Sweden plummet from the world's fourth wealthiest industrialized country in 1970 to sixteenth at the end of the millenium (and currently 19th in terms of purchasing power parity for nations with at least one million people).

Quasi-socialism (30% of Swedish workers are employed in the public sector) and generous welfare benefits (unemployment runs at 80% of salary as well as 18 months paid maternity or paternity leave) simply cannot hold a candle to capitalism, ceteris paribus, when it comes to sustainable economic and productivity growth.

But so what if production efficiency and effectiveness are not maximized when less than 2% of your GDP comes from agriculture, half of your industrial output comes from the engineering sector, you have abundant natural resources, almost a fifth of your population has a college degree, and you enjoy an average IQ of 101 (about as sharp as Massachusetts but with 50% more people)? With all of that going for you, you can afford to dole out generously to the less fortunate, do not have to be confined to the cubicle for 50 hours a week, and can live with a sense of financial security due to a buoyant social safety net.

That is, until you open up the floodgates to immigration and stop having children:
It touches the topic everyone knows is an issue but nobody will argue about: immigration. Sweden was one of only three European Union countries along with the UK and Ireland to open its doors fully to eastern Europeans last year and continues to accept large numbers of asylum seekers almost without question.

There is a general feeling that being Swedish is more about a set of values than racial attributes, but clashes of culture in a society once Europe’s most homogenous are easy to see.

In the busy city centre, blond teenagers play “chicken” in early evening sunshine, stripping to their underwear to dash through traffic and plunge into a fountain. A group of Arab boys stare on with mixed expressions of lust and disapproval, literal victims of shock and awe.

Sweden's total fertility rate is 1.66 children per woman, well below replenishment level. And its population, with a median age of 40.9 years old, puts it in a tie for the sixth most ancient among countries with populations larger than a few thousand. As the erudite, middle-aged Swedes approach retirement, the immigrants that are supposed to provide for them are instead living destitutely in ghettoes with both a sense of entitlement and a visceral dislike of the Swedish society that surrounds them (Sweden's Muslims, at 3.9% of the total population as of 2003, appears to be Europe's third highest, next to France and Holland).

The economic and social strains of rampant third-world immigration combined with an aging workforce and enormous governmental spending (78% of GDP in terms of purchasing power parity) are a recipe for disaster.

Although Sweden's problems are severe, they are similar to those faced by much of the rest of the Old Continent. And as if that weren't enough, Al Fin reports on an exodus of Europe's middle class to places like New Zealand, Australia, and Canada (come here, damnit, and then vociferously support a merit immigration system and an absolute halting to net liability immigrantion so the US doesn't end up like moribund Europe!):
Escaping the stress of clogged roads, street violence and loss of faith in Holland's once celebrated way of life, the Dutch middle classes are leaving the country in droves for the first time in living memory. The new wave of educated migrants are quietly voting with their feet against a multicultural experiment long touted as a model for the world, but increasingly a warning of how good intentions can go wrong. Australia, Canada and New Zealand are the pin-up countries for those craving the great outdoors and old-fashioned civility. ...

More people left the Netherlands in 2003 than arrived, ending a half-century cycle of surging immigration that has turned a tight-knit Nordic tribe into a multi-ethnic mosaic with three million people of foreign roots out of 16 million. ...

Unlike most earlier waves of migration to the new world, this one is not driven by penury. The Netherlands has a per capita income higher than Germany or Britain, and 4.7 per cent unemployment. "None of my clients is leaving for economic reasons. You can't get a visa anyway if you haven't got a work record," said Frans Buysse[, the head of a private immigration consultancy]. Europe's leader for much of the last century in social experiments, Holland may now be pointing to the next cultural revolution: bourgeois exodus. ...

According to Filip Dewinter, the leader of Vlaams Belang, Belgium's Flemish anti-immigrant party, about 4,000 to 5,000 Flemish residents are leaving Antwerp every year, even as 5,000 to 6,000 non-European immigrants arrive in the city each year. ...

These are not just any emigrants but, as the director of a migration consultancy bureau in Amsterdam, Grant King, notes, "Most of our applicants are in high-paying, good, solid positions here - they are not the unemployed. They are mostly middle-class Dutch people with college or university degrees. … The problem for the Netherlands is that the ones that they don't want to lose are the ones that are leaving."

Even as Israel reels over its war with Hezbollah, instability in Iraq, and growing Iranian influence in the Middle East, scores of European Jews want to move to Israel to avoid anti-Semitism:
Ha'aretz reports today on a survey that finds "60,000 French Jews want to move
to Israel." Arik Cohen of Bar-Ilan University reached this conclusion by giving
questionnaires to the 125,000 French Jewish tourists who visited Israel in the summer of 2004. Of this huge sample, 52 percent said they see their future in Israel. Half of those aged 15-18 said they had personally experienced instances of anti-Semitism in the past four years. A third of the youth said they are considering immigration to Israel in the near future.
It's time to halt all immigration from the Muslim world. Europe has mostly been moving to the right, with a rightist victory in Poland and narrowly in Germany, as well as a strong showing in the UK, the results from Sweden, and the likely victory of Sarkozy in France. I expect continued Islamic immigration and the strain both that and an increasingly archaic population put on social welfare systems will continue that trend. Hopefully this will induce more of what the Netherlands, Britain, and Germany have been doing in essentially filtering out hardline Islamic immigrants.

There is a glaring lesson here for leftists: Uskilled, uneducated third-world hordes work against much of what you support. They strain the welfare system and fail to contribute as much as they consume, rendering it untenable in the long run. They increase criminality so markedly that liberal policies on crime also become untenable. Vermont can afford to elect a Socialist to the Senate and let the occasional child rapist run free because it has an intelligent, prosperous population and relatively few criminals. But California certainly doesn't have these luxuries.

These liabilities also increase pollution, the population density, and breed like rabits. The Sierra Club is opposed to all of this, yet while putatively supporting population reduction, the organization is nowhere to be found on what is causing over half of America's current population growth:
Sierra Club takes no position on United States immigration levels and policies. The Club's membership voted on April 25, 1998 to remain committed to environmental rights and protection for all within our borders, without discrimination based
on immigration status.
This even though Hispanic immigrants in the US appear to be more fecund when they come here than when they stay in Mexico!

Muslims in Europe are virulently intolerant of Western liberalism. Hispanic immigrants are the most anti-Semitic ethnic group in the US. Both groups are as or more religious than the natives in their host countries. These are all things leftists tend to oppose. Why, then, the strange alliance with these groups? Is it to morally posture into a position superior to that of 'bigoted' rightists (which assumes that little legitimate threat is seen in these immigrants)? Is it to accrete the leftist voting bloc, even as the haughty intellectual liberalism camp and proletariat racialist redistributionist camp diverge?

Liberalism is Western. When the Europeans that sustain it dwindle, so does it.

(Clash of civilizations)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Islamic intolerance, hatred, and child slavery

Oh the irony:

The Maamam Allah cemetery, which is at least 1,000 years old, has become a building site.

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre is constructing a Museum of Tolerance on the cemetery. The centre says the museum will seek to promote "unity and respect among Jews and between people of all faiths".
Bury Islam's past and replace it with an ideology of tolerance? Hah, force tolerance on a society so inherently intolerant and you've a recipe for disaster.

Simon Wiesenthal is among the most well-known concentration camp survivors in the world, and an eponymous museum dedicated to the building of mutual respect between Judaism and Islam is anathema to the Muslim street. There are cemeteries all over Jerusalem, and no one complained when a parking lot was built over a portion of the cemetery a couple of decades ago.

The construction of a wall would do a lot more to ease tensions in this part of West Jerusalem than a quixotic 'tolerance museum', but it'll provide salient ammo for Israeli supporters when the first deadly suicide attack by a religious zealot takes place in a building devoted to religious tolerance.

Speaking of tolerance, Islamic Palestinian thugs demonstrated it by setting several churchs ablaze and shooting at them in response to the Pope's courageous speech:
Palestinians wielding guns and firebombs attacked five churches in the West Bank and Gaza on Saturday, following remarks by Pope Benedict XVI that angered many Muslims.

Say anything and these people start breaking stuff and burning things down. The Islamic world is deeply hostile to free expression. Evincing erudition, their targets included a few Greek Orthodox churches. Someone should inform the thugs that Greek Orthodox don't answer to the Vatican.

Seeing what Muslims do over there shows us why we shouldn't want them here.

Less depressingly, conventional wisdom states that women and children are second-class citizens in the patriarchal Muslim world. However, a few months back I happily reported on the breakdown of the gender barrier in a previously male-exclusive occupation:
A group belonging to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party announced on Monday that it had recruited 100 Palestinian women to launch suicide attacks against Israel.
And Middle Eastern children from Lebanon to the UAE are entering the business and military arenas at young ages:

"Hizbullah established its Imam Mahdi Scouts to attract Shiite children and adolescents, to influence their hearts and minds and to prepare new generations of youth indoctrinated with radical Shiite Islam, which propounds the idea of the return of the Mahdi (messiah) as one of Hizbullah's central principles," states a report by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at Israel's Center for Special Studies. ...

An investigative report published in August by the Egyptian daily Ruz al-Yusuf claimed the scout movement trains “armed militias” in south Lebanon made up of children aged 10-15.

Lesson one: Destroy Israel

The first lesson Hizbullah teaches scouts, stated the Egyptian article, is the
destruction of Israel.

“(This lesson) is always an important part of the curriculum and is always aimed at children and adolescents who are new to the program. (The objective is to train a) high-caliber Islamic generation of children who would be willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of Allah in the campaign against Israel."

Kinda like the Boy Scouts. If a military career is not in the stripling's cards, however, the sports' world offers plenty of opportunities as well:


Dubai's ruling family has been served with a class-action lawsuit in the United States accusing them of masterminding an international child slave trade to provide jockeys and attendants for the popular desert sport of camel-racing. ...

It said that enslaved children "live in an oppressive environment and endure harsh living conditions. They work long hours in temperatures exceeding 100F, live in unsanitary conditions, receive little food, and are deprived of sleep so they do not gain weight."

The State Department said some boys complain of sexual abuse, and others are beaten. "Many have been seriously injured and some have been trampled to death by camels," the report said. "Those who survive the harsh conditions are disposed of once they reach their teenage years. Having gained no productive skills or education, scarred with physical and psychological trauma that can last a lifetime, these children face dim prospects."
Charges that the Muslim world is stuck in the seventh century seem less and less hyperbolic each day.

The class action referred to above is interestingly being brought under the Alien Tort Statute of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which essentially created the federal court system in place today. It basically allows for tort cases to be tried in US federal court so long as some party involved has some relationship (even indirect) with the US. It's international law in reverse (neocons must love it). Because the emirs have holdings in the US (including ownership stakes in the notorious Dubai Ports World), the families of young victims can strike legally at the Persian Gulf from south Florida.

Plunder 'em. While foreigners buy up US assets as we spend beyond our means, we can reclaim our profligate waste by ordering the same foreigners to give it back to us via the court system. Pay up, or you'll get shafted just like DPW. That's leveraging our consumerism! That's the kind of governmental involvement in business a nationalist like myself digs.

In seriousness, why disconnecting from the Muslim world as fully as possible is not an urgent policy goal is beyond me. What a backwards civilization. It can only drag us down.

(International)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Quick reflection on Stossel's stereotyping

Stossel didn't disappoint. Sure, watching Race and Sex: What you think but don't say was akin to the introductory first day of class in Steve Sailer 101, and even the most casual Sailer reader probably didn't learn anything new, Stossel is a media insider who has the ability to override the omerta on honest discussion on the various topics of human biodiversity that permeates so many aspects of every person's daily existence. While he threw in a bone for leftists to knaw on at the end by solely focusing on the evil of white hate groups (and completely ignoring black hate crimes that occur at 225% the rate of white hate crimes), his special will still deservingly get him branded an iconoclast by the high priests of the ZGD myth.

He briefly covered a host of interesting topics (although his methodology was by no means perfect and the sample sizes probably always too small to be considered reliable):

- American children appeared to find a Muslim man wearing a headscarf more menacing than an East Asian guy (but while he suggested this was a racial stereotype, it was more likely due to the headscarf (both shots were from the neck up)--people find items that hide the person of an individual to be suspicious. From an evolutionary and social standpoint this makes sense--a threat might be lurking behind obfuscatory item. For example, we shake hands to show we're unarmed, and people in supervisory roles often pace with their hands linked behind their lower backs to project a higher status than those they are supervising).

- Across the generational spectrum, people had more negative impressions of the senescent (even old fogies held this view) than of the young. Well, most people don't like to die. It's scary, and it means you can't reproduce anymore. Plus old people are less likely to provide you with useful services (although they might leave you a nice chunk of change--all the more reason to drive them to an early grave by despising them!)

- People of all races were more likely to shoot blacks in simulation games than people of other races. Blacks also followed this pattern. Well, blacks commit murder at seven times the rate of non-blacks and they have more athletic prowess (they'll be able to shoot you quickly, so better get them first). So it's foolish (even if you're black), not to be initially more weary of unknown blacks than unknown members of other groups.

- The supposed tests regarding the power of stereotypes that accidently proves how fickle stereotypes (or self-images, more accurately) are at the individual level did not deviate from what I'd predicted. The supposed stereotypes that reticently permeated all things in a way seemingly intractable in evil white society were quickly dispelled by things as innocuous as thirty second tv commercials. Tell a woman she's dirt before she performs, and she won't perform as well as if you tell her she's Athena. It doesn't matter what you told her yesterday. So Stossel (his admittedly unscientific study used a whopping four women--sample size problems indeed!) and the studies he referenced strongly suggest that people are anchored at some innate level on a host of attributes from athletic ability to aptitude, and that the level of personal self-confidence and motivation can alter performance a bit in either direction for as long as it is effectively kept up. Again, stuff we've known for a long time.

- He brought in John Entine, author of the book Taboo, to discuss West African dominance in sprinting, and Kenyan dominance in distance running.

- He dismissed the charge that slavery played some part in African American physical dominance by pointing out that slave breeding was never a real phenomenon. But mortality rates on the Transatlantic voyage, apparently running around 10%, probably moderately selected for stronger blacks.

- The biggest disappointment was that only negative stereotypes were commented on in detail. And when it was reported that blacks presented with favorable messages prior to taking tests scored higher than those who received negative messages, it didn't compare these higher scores with those of other races (as they surely do not come close to closing the racial gap).

(Human biodiversity2)

Stossel on stereotyping

John Stossel will be hosting a 20/20 special putatively about stereotypes (although the content strikes me as more accurately being about self-image rather than the perceptions one has of others) this evening. I happened to catch the GMA's promotional interview with him this morning, and immediately became credulous about his claim that 30%+ swings in test scores were attributable to the test-taker's self image. He made this claim based on the results of two groups of girls, one which saw a commercial featuring a ditsy Malibu Stacy before taking the test.

There's a plethora of potential failings in the methodology used to reach the conclusions, which I hope will be fully explained in the one hour segment airing at 10pm Eastern time tonight.

For one, it appeared that there were around ten or so testers per group. So sample size could be an enormous issue. Also, what did the control group do prior to the test? Witnessing dopey vacuity before doing something mentally rigorous is probably detrimental irrespective of the content. Did/would girls perform better if they saw feminist propaganda before taking a test?

Assuming this is all answered satisfactorily, I suspect 'propaganda' does have a palatable effect on performance, cognitive, physical, or otherwise. If it doesn't, high school coaches across the land are wasting their breathe on inspirational pre-game pep talks. I used to watch segments of One on One before basketball games, and the opening battle scene of Gladiator before Warcraft II tournaments. It certainly seemed to help.

The adherents of the ZGD (zero group differences) orthodoxy will undoubtedly use Stossel's report to bolster the view that blacks score a standard deviation lower on IQ tests than whites due to a low self-image propagated by a bigoted white-dominated society. (Of course they won't ask why the gap has remained so tenaciously even as white America's view of blacks has clearly improved over the last eighty years, or why white society apparently paints Asians in a better light than it paints itself, or why racial supremacists don't perform astronomically on aptitude tests, or why an American educational system that makes ubiquitous the idea that all students have the potential to be astronauts, scientists, or Congressmen, has been unable to keep pace with the rest of the developed world, particularly in Asia where students are put on various academic paths very early on based on their abilities).

But the question of duration is critical. Stossel's girls apparently saw the commercial right before taking the test. If they saw it a week prior, would it have any effect? Maybe I'd be able to recall Crowe's powerful words ("What we do in life men, echoes in eternity") from memory, but any effect would likely be greatly attenuated. And if I saw a CareBear episode right before the tournament, Gladiator from last week would be pushed out of my mind for sure.

Is the phenomenon one of 'institutionalized' stereotyping, or merely a question of personal motivation? If the former, then Stossel's results don't make sense. If a thirty second commercial can drop a person's performance by more than 30%, then the ubiquity of subtle societal stereotyping is easily remedied by a quick inspirational blurb. Educators across the country, NCLB requirements just became a lot easier to meet, and without any number fudging. Just tell the kids they're great (or mediocre this year, good next year, great the year after that, etc).

Yet I suspect that the program will be presented as if to show how damaging an 'instituitionalized', all-permeating stereotypical society is to all but heterosexual male WASPs who are supposed to enjoy a society that works for their benefit and presents them as infallible (of course contemporary American media does anything but that). If this were the case, it would be nearly impossible to prove (and in this way is quite religious in nature, whereas propaganda verfiably mutating performance back and forth makes cross-group comparisons easy). If it can be escaped from with a silly video clip lasting a few moments, then it really isn't much of a problem.

Some other tidbits Stossel lays out:

We'll show you tests that demonstrate the power of believing in stereotypes — how they can become self-fulfilling prophecies. For instance, women who watch commercials showing dumb women go on to do worse on intelligence tests. Blacks who are told a golf game is a test of athleticism score higher than blacks who are told the test is an intelligence test. Asian women score higher on IQ tests when reminded that they're Asian and lower when reminded they're women.
Again, if these results are valid (and to the extent they are, they are likely to have a greater effect on people who have little invested in the activities/tests they are performing--I doubt telling Tiger Woods that hybrids are better or worse than 'purebreds' at golf will have much effect on his performance), we've been wrong about stereotyping for a long time. Conventional wisdom said it was hard to undue. Self-proclaimed realists claimed it was largely based on statistical tendencies, and though not specifically true, still generally correct. But it would turn out to be incredibly fickle, as mutable as a cheesy tv spot.

Too bad Nixon's dead--he'd have been able to resurrect his image as a foreign policy expert by suggesting the US buy television and radio spots in hostile countries that subtely denegrated the ethnic majority there.

More seriously, group differences are very real and mostly intractable. Mood swings and motivational shifts can alter a person's performance to a degree, but sustainability and permanence are as elusive as they've ever been.

I'm looking forward to Stossel's special because for a mainstream journalists he's as close to a truth detective as one can find. If anyone will touch a taboo and spark a national conversation about it, it's him. And the preamble sounds promising:
And are some stereotypes true? Are blacks better athletes because they are physically different? Are gay men more effeminate [can even the most blithely quixotic leftist really dispute that?] and more likely to become dancers? We search for answers in "Race and Sex: What You Think, but Can't Say" this Friday, Sept. 15, at 10 p.m. ET.
Interesting, this comes on the heels of the release of Rushton's findings that males average a little over three points higher than females on IQ tests:

A study published in the September 2006 issue of the journal "Intelligence" analyzed 145 items from the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) in 100,000 17- to 18-year-olds and found a male IQ advantage of 3.63 points. It also found that the g factor--the general factor of mental ability underlay both the SAT Verbal (SAT-V) and the SAT Mathematics (SAT-M) scales with the congruence between these components greater than 0.90, and that it was the g factor that predicted student grades better than the traditionally used SAT-V and SAT-M scales.
Makes sense. For most of human history, mating was not a mutually decided upon act. Dominant men chose the women they wanted to mate with. Smart men had to figure out how to form alliances with other men, navigate traps set by rivals, and manipulate political and social arrangements to gain positions of dominance to procreate with the best women. This pressure wouldn't have existed as strongly in females. The healthy, pretty ones would be the most likely to be chosen.

(Human biodiversity2)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dutch PM on democracy and Sharia law

The Netherlands' PM illustrates why the now widely debunked myth that democracy inherently leads to liberalism is so dangerous:

Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner has provoked an angry response by stating it has to be possible for Sharia Law to be introduced in the Netherlands via democratic means. ...

Muslims, he said, just like Protestants and Roman Catholics, have a right to the perceptions of their religion, even if that included dissenting rules of behaviour such as imams refusing to shake hands with women.

Maybe Jefferson really should have said, "A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%," instead of being faithful enough to "subscribe to the principle, that the will of the majority honestly expressed should give law."

Then again, Donner doesn't realize how his argument justifies deportation and internment of Muslims in Holland and an absolute ending of all immigration from the Islamic world, should that become the Dutch predilection. The Netherlands is still quite white (somewhere between 83%-90%). So this (mostly nominal) Catholics and Protestants combined majority could repel the Islamic incursion if they wanted to. Indeed, if the Dutch want to avoid Van Gogh repeats and the miasmic influence of Sharia law, now is the time to get behind Geert Wilders (here's Wikipedia's entry on this refreshing politician), who supported the Dutch cartoonists, is behind new immigration queries designed to filter out potential Muslim immigrants, and has been long opposed to extending EU membership to Turkey.

Donner continued thus:
He went on to say: "It must be possible for Muslim groups to come to power [in the Netherlands] via democratic means. Every citizen may argue why the law should be changed, as long as he sticks to the law.
Mob rule. We're a nation of vicissitudes, Joseph K.

Democracy is a means to some end. That end might be personal freedoms, free markets, and empirical institutions. Or it might be 7th Century law, monopolistic control of natural resources, and fanatical religious institutions. Donner appears to believe, however, that the means justify the ends, however distasteful those ends may be. It's not the results of the decision that matter, it's how those decisions were decided upon.

If this is truly the mindset of an open-bordered Occident, Western liberalism is doomed. An aging population and birthrates well below replenishment (the only two developed countries with fecundity enough to keep up with the rate of death over the long-term are the US and Israel, the former's position being due to unskilled third-world immigration).

Said Donner:

"It is a sure certainty for me: if two thirds of all Netherlanders tomorrow would want to introduce Sharia, then this possibility must exist. Could you block this legally? It would also be a scandal to say 'this isn't allowed!'

"The majority counts. That is the essence of democracy."

An Iraqi majority becomes an Iranian ally. The US is now caught in an about-face as it beefs up forces in Baghdad to quell the surging Shia militias that are now massacring minority Sunnis (the Baathists who used to be our unequivocal enemies). The Kurds want to redefine the geography so they become the majority. Majority voting in the Palestinian territories leads to an 'unacceptable' Hamas' victory that finds both the US (and Israel) in an act of blatant hypocrisy. Yet still President Bush drones on about freedom in the Middle East. While the House of Saad is corrupt and coercive, we could do a lot worse. Is anyone foolish enough to argue that the Saudi majority would retain King Abdullah? That we woud be so lucky. 'Moderate' Jordan would choose bin Laden over Abdullah, and the Saudis would probably do the same.

The Islamic majority doesn't want liberalism. They want to be able to murder homosexuals with impunity and disallow women to accuse those who rape them. They want to burn American effigies and torch embassies and kill one another over cartoons and rumors about books being defiled. Why actively aid this turpitude at great cost in American blood and treasure? Keep the Muslim world out of the West, and let guys like Qaddafi know that if international terrorism threatening the US is allowed to flourish in their respective countries, the lives of their family members and the minarets of their palaces have a very tenuous future. No occupation. Just the promise that the wrath of God awaits them should they fail to keep the lid on the pot. America's third generation warfare doesn't fare well against Al Qaeda types. But it does work wonders against people with identifiable return addresses. Let Mubarak do the dirty work, however it has to be done. Let his life and generally amicable relations with the US be the incentives that insure that the job gets done.

After coming under fire for his remarks, now claims he was attempting to rhetorically present the danger Sharia law posed to Dutch freedoms. Let's hope he demonstrates there's truth to that.

(Clash of civilizations)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Some blacks feel abandoned by Democrats

A state Congresswoman in St. Louis' 4th Ward expresses disillusionment with the Democratic Party:

Leggette said there are two Democratic parties in St. Louis - one that benefits whites and another that ignores blacks. "At one time, Democrats were a solution for us. I don't know when that changed or why that changed, but it has," Leggette told me.
That sounds like two sides of the same coin, but the semantics aren't important. Democrats have been consistently worse for the black community than the GOP has been, and not just in the Republican talking points regarding ancient history: Lincoln being a Republican and George Wallace a Democrat, etc. Welfare reform corresponded with a drastic drop in the poverty rate of black children (from 41% in 1996 to 30% in 2001). Stiffer treatment for criminality led to a 50% increase in the proportion of blacks incarcerated from the late eighties to late nineties. Not surprisingly, this has corresponded to a decrease in the number of black crime victims, as the rate of black-on-black crime is far higher than for any other perpetrator-victim racial classification. When Patrick Moynihan issued his famous report on the degeneration of the black family, the African American illegitimacy rate stood at 22%. The cultural revolution's self-indulgent, atomistic mentality that most devastates those with the least intelligence and little long-term orientation, helped propel that rate to the near-70% mark where it sits tragically today.

Leggette points out the obvious:
Her comments underscore a familiar complaint from blacks who claim the Democratic Party takes them for granted.
As blacks are the most lopsided political demographic in the country, voting eight-to-one in favor of the Democrats, it's no wonder. Why spend resources to better a group (granting that this could conceivably be done) that already unanimously adores you? The political cost-benefit is too unfavorable. The exclusivity of the urban black community virtually guarantees that a vote against the Party is perceptually tantamount to a vote against the community, anyway. And urban blacks aren't the best candidates for alacritous independent thought that bucks the trends of their communities.

The greatest long-term threat to blacks is continued unskilled immigration. As the supply of menial labor increases, the price of that labor is going to decrease. And with a minimum wage floor in place, an increase in labor supply similarly leads to an increase in unemployment, as the most marginal laborers are unable to add enough value to the entities potentially employing them to be worth hiring in the first place. Even in the face of an economic recovery, black unemployment has risen since the good times started back up.

A merit immigration system that skims the cream of the world's crop, coupled with a closure of the Southern border, would have a much more benign effect on blacks. Without even considering the quality of life improvements such a shift would bring, an increase in the supply of professional labor would push the cost of professional services down (which blacks of course use) and the need for laborious services up (where blacks are heavily represented). Such a policy change would also attenuate the wealth gap.

Instead, a majority of our leaders, in a bipartisan effort, want the US to become an extension of Latin America. It's difficult to see how a racially polarized society of citizens that are politically inept, where poverty is rampant but the few who are wealthy are spectacularly so, is good for anyone (including blacks) save the political class and corporations that can profit from it.

The political class stands to benefit from the lack of unity among the population as it becomes increasingly heterogenuous. Rather than coalescing into advocacy groups for populist causes, grassroots efforts will increasingly be racially defined. As whites are pushed into minority status, white special interest groups will form to rival the race-hustling prowess of groups like La Raza and NAACP. Do we want ethnic advocacy groups replacing ones like Citizens Against Government Waste and Americans for Fair Taxation?

The multinational nature of the contemporary business world means that corporations have little reason to be concerned with the long-term well-being of a particular geographic region or its inhabitants. It is considered passe for internationally competitive companies to consider themselves national organizations--they are increasingly redefining themselves as international ones. Meanwhile, unfettered Hispanic underclass immigration provides the two things big business loves--cheaper labor and a larger consumer market.

But some politicians are too close to the people to so blatantly sell them out. House members face reelection every two years and are the more beholden to their communities than Senators are, as they represent smaller populations and geographical areas. Speaker Dennis Hastert boldly refuses to let the Whitehouse and Senate continue to fiddle:
House Republicans, who have campaigned hard against illegal immigration with few legislative accomplishments to show for it, announced Thursday they would try to cobble together a package of border crackdown measures before their recess next month.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert said he would convene an unusual forum Wednesday in which Republican committee chairmen would report their findings from immigration hearings held around the country this summer and suggest proposals such as the creation of voter identification cards that the House would try to pass before Congress adjourns.
Disgusted as I am with the Republican Party, I fear what will happen if it loses both houses. Unrestrained by his own party, Bush would likely sign on to an immigration bill similar to the one passed by the Senate earlier this year, with all the media strappings of 'reaching across the aisle' and 'realizing political detente'. The Iraq war has cost us $300 billion, the lives of almost 2,700 soldiers, and left over 20,000 wounded. It has exposed the US' inability to both occupy and liberalize the Muslim world at the same time (we can basically only do one or the other, leaving us with two bad choices [or a third better option--get out]). And it has strained US relations with Europe. But the immigration situation still takes precedence, because with a high-powered economy, a well-educated and high IQ population, lots of incentivization for entrepreneurship, and natural resource and real estate wealth, we can recover from the Iraq debacle. But altering the composition of our human capital hampers the underlying strength of the US itself. Iraq is like wasting discretionary income; having open borders is like decreasing earning power. So I've become a one-issue voter.

As the media focus has been almost exclusively on the 14 seats in the House that Republicans can spare and still retain their majority, little attention has been giving to tenuous Democratic seats (and consequently I predict that the GOP will retain both houses in November):
Riding a wave of discontent over the economy, Iraq and gas prices, Democrats are hoping to win enough seats to retake the House of Representatives this November. But their success could also hinge on their ability to keep the seats they already have — and doing so could prove difficult in two key races in Georgia.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Jim Marshall of Macon and John Barrow of Savannah are facing hearty challenges from a pair of former Republican congressmen with name
recognition and the ability to raise big money. Bolstering their chances are new district boundaries drawn up by the first GOP-dominated Georgia Legislature
since Reconstruction.
One of the challengers is running ads claiming that a Pelosi-lead House will grant blanket amnesty to illegal immigrants. It doesn't even refer to the incumbent, a Democrat who voted for the House's tough immigration bill. If that brand of message can prove to be a winner in this year's election, it will provide an impetus for another HR4437, a resolution that is good for black, white, and Hispanic Americans alike.

(Politics and Religion)

Monday, September 11, 2006

International2

WSJ for open borders in China, in general (October 14, 2006)

The WSJ's Melanie Kirkpatrick opines that China should open its 900 miles of border with it's rogue neighbor to solve the North Korean problem by collapsing Kim Jong Il's regime. A Chinese government document reports that 400,000 illegal North Korean immigrants have entered the PRC in the last 23 years and that they just keep coming. This, she argues, evinces the humanitarian crisis that is North Korea.

Like our estimates of illegal immigrants within the US, the Chinese estimate is probably too low. But for purposes of comparison, we can use both. Currently, about 1.5 million illegal immigrants enter the US each year (a little over half voluntarily return home or are detained and sent home), more than two-thirds of whom are from Mexico. Thus, somewhere around one million illegal Mexican aliens enter the US each year, while 400,000 Koreans have illegally crossed into China over the last 2.3 decades.

Mexico has around 8 million migrants stateside, compared to 100,000 or so North Koreans illegally in China. Mexico's population is five times that of the North's, so adjusted for population Mexico has lost 16 times as many people to illegal emigration to the US as North Korea has lost to China. There are, of course, big differences, namely that Mexicans fleeing Mexico are celebrated by the Mexican government, while North Koreans fleeing North Korea risk severe punishment if captured and returned home.

I'm a bit confused. If we make the US-Mexico border airtight, the Mexican government will collapse (a bad thing). But if the China-Korea border is sealed up, Kim Jong Il's regime will live on in perpetuity (another bad thing).

I suppose the logic of it doesn't matter--the crucial point the WSJ wants to make is that open borders are a wonderful thing to be celebrated in all places (except for in the Middle East, where tight borders in Iraq and Israel are advocated).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Bring concerts into the living room

Peer-to-peer, the ubiquity of DVD burning hardware now standard on new PCs, and access to aspiring bands all over the globe via places like myspace.com, have taken a toll on the record industry:
Albums sales in the US dipped by 7% in 2005 but the music download market doubled over the past year, according to early figures.

Sales stood at 602.2 million during the year, down from 650.8 million in 2004, report analysts Nielsen Soundscan.

Downloaded music reached 332.7 million for 2005, an increase of 148% on the previous year. More than 95% of music is sold in CD format, with Mariah Carey and 50 Cent proving the year's biggest sellers.
This is a continuing trend. Over the four years from 2001 to 2005, total album sales dropped about 32%.

Downloads are much cheaper than traditional CDs, which list at almost $20. WalMart sells downloads for $.88 per song. Of course lots of people don't pay for them at all. So the growth in downloadable songs and albums is not as lucrative as the physical album market, even with the material (virutally nothing) and shipping savings (Hershey bars cost a couple of pennies per capita to send across the country, albums are probably not much more), which are negligible anyway.

But the live act is far from moribund. Indeed, older artists are doing quite well:
Looks like concertgoers aren't so intimidated by high ticket prices after all.

With splashy tours from Madonna, the Rolling Stones and Billy Joel as lures, fans paid an average price of $58.11 per seat in the first half of 2006, up 15.6% from the first half of 2005, according to concert trade magazine Pollstar.

Total ticket sales rose 20% to 17.4 million.

Pollstar pegs total sales at more than $1 billion, up 38.5%, while the Billboard Box Score tallied sales at $990 million, up 24.6%. Either way, first-half revenue broke
records.
These acts draw lots of fans now in their forties and fifties, who were pimply-faced teenagers when the artists were new. They have the disposable income to pay for the shows. Even with sagging album sales, it's not a bad time to be a long-established act (trying to bust onto the music scene for the first time is a different story, with infinite competition selling at a price of free).

But I think it could be even better. I just finished imbibing myself of a Dave Matthews Band concert presented via internet feed by AOL. They played in Palm Beach. I live in the Midwest. Thousands of fans from all over saw it in the comfort of their own homes as well. These aren't people who would've been able to come to the actual show. Within the traditional concert framework, their revenue potential would be zero. But feed every show and suddenly your venue capacity has increased by many orders of magnitude at almost no additional cost. Cameras are in place anyway to provide footage for the big screens--transmit that directly to a web feed and no additional recording hardware or manpower is required. Charge some amount to tap into the feed, probably less than ticket price. Most fans, especially of musically versatile bands like dmb that have made the bigtime because of the diversity and spontenaity of live performances, will still choose attending the actual concert when it's in their home towns. The concert feeds wouldn't be cannibalistic, they'd be gravy.

I don't attend more than one concert a year because of schedule restraints, cost, agoraphobic tendencies, but most of all because they're in other cities. I'd pay for a couple of these, however. With surround sound and a 30' flat screen monitor, all the existential pleasure is there with the additional benefits of climate control, easily accessible drinks and snacks, and the ability to use the facilities between songs and be back without missing anything. Instead of piling into a car or two, my group of friends could just meet at someone's house and enjoy the show together without fighting the traffic and the riffraff that causes it.

(Ideas)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Diversity training programs a failure

The research of three pedants is the Dead White Male Society's way of telling us that wishful thinking doesn't change reality:

A study shows U.S. diversity training programs have failed to eliminate bias and increase the number of minorities in management.

The study concluded that, even though corporations have spent increasing amounts of money on such programs since the 1990s, the programs have not been effective.
These professors conclude that the training programs have failed. But they're wrong. Maybe the programs have failed to realize the results the anti-white crowd had hoped for, but they certainly haven't failed the businesses using them.

The market worked without the diversity mandates, and continues to work in spite of them. The American business world is fiercely competitive and, despite this sort of drivel, quite meritocratic. The minorities that these programs, borne out of the absurd money being made in the nineties, target are less capable than the whites (and likely the invisible Asian minority--the story doesn't specify) filling these managerial positions. An HR stooge can spend eight hours preaching to you about how great all belief systems other than yours are, and how the purveyors of said systems make fabulous employees deserved of a promotion, but if your own empirical analysis and lying eyes reveal that they aren't managerial material, it won't make a lick of difference. Sensitivity training doesn't alter the underlying truths of human biodiversity.

How do our professors deal with the results? Reevaluate their underlying assumptions about why swarthy people are underrepresented and white and yellow people are overrepresented in high-earner positions? Nope:

"The only truly effective way to increase the presence of minorities and women in managerial positions is through programs that create organizational responsibility," [Professor Frank Dobin of Harvard] added. "If no one is specifically charged with the task of increasing diversity, then the buck inevitably gets passed ad infinitum."
First we suggested to them indirectly through the cultural revolution that equal representation was more important than merit. Then through mandatory indoctrination, er, diversity training, we suggested to them explicitly that equal representation was more important than merit. Now we've no choice but to specifically put agents in place who are compensated based on their ability to stock our various companies with a 'diverse' workforce irrespective of merit. It's the only right thing to do!

Notice how Dobin assumes that the "only truly effective way" to kick out white (and Asian, shh) men and bring in women and browns is hire quota enforcers to ensure that promotional decisions first consider gender and ethnicity before looking at other secondary qualifications like past performance, education, sociability, or intelligence. Either he assumes that women and browns are outgunned by white (and Asian, quiet!) men (women because of other innate desires in life like childrearing and to a lesser extent intelligence; browns chiefly because of lower intelligence) or he assumes that white (and Asian (!)) men are hopeless bigots (okay, he almost certainly assumes, at least ostensibly, the second explanation). In either case, his position relies upon a breaching of the Dogma of Zero Group Differences; the former being obvious, the latter in that he assumes that white and Asian men are inherently bigoted while browns are helpless victims of their hate, an explanation that identifies clear racial differences in disposition.

Notice also how it is assumed that diversity is inherently a good to be strived for. No discussion of the possibility that the market might be working without spurious mandates from academia, and that demographic diversity might not be good for most businesses. That isn't intellectual diversity, which is contingent upon high IQs, but 'demographic diversity', which is Orwellian left-speak for 'fewer whities'. Perhaps businesses are passing the buck because they have an obligation to their shareholders and their customers to maximize returns and utility, respectively--not to share in the US' degredation of human capital.

We get to look forward to more of this garbage. Our porous borders and idiotic lack of immigration enforcement and failure to enact a merit immigration system are bringing in millions of less capable browns that are going to represent a boom for diversity task forces but a bust for human progress.

(Human biodiversity2)

Simpsons decline

I used to watch The Simpsons religiously. Meeting with friends before class in middle school and even high school unfailingly meant an exchange over last night's episode (re-runs weekdays at 6:30pm in addition to the new Sunday material). Around the turn of the century the quality dropped precipitously, and by 2001 I stopped watching entirely. Some potential reasons for the decline I've heard bantered about: the original writers have all departed, Matt Groening had burnt out/moved on to other projects of limited success like Futurama, the show and its cast had run its course, episodes increasingly focused on abrupt antics rather than characters, animated comedy peaked in the nineties. These all probably play a part.

I'd also offer that comedies have to be politically balanced to retain a large audience over a sustained period of time. While the show has always leaned left (Lisa, the precocious ethicist and the show's most thoughful character is also the show's marquee leftist (although Mayor Quimby, a Kennedy Democrat, is deplorable) while Republicans are portrayed as fitting three different molds, none of them very flattering: The erudite and intelligent but evil, money grubbing played by Mr. Burns, the religiously dogmatic and uncritical played by Ned Flanders, and the Limbaugh-listening male WASP buffoon Homer), it used to give conservative themes a legitimate hearing and take its share of potshots at the left. In Lisa the Tree Hugger, while her cause is shown to be noble, the radical environmentalist Jesse Grass is an egocentric maniac believing himself to have special powers to control nature. In Lisa the Vegetarian (my favorite episode), one take home message is that the imposition of one's beliefs on others cannot work in a free society, no matter how noble those beliefs might seem to their propagator. In Radio Bart, when the putative heroism of hapless victims is directly questioned by Lisa, Homer angrily responds that of course the boy who fell down the well is a hero because, damnit, he got trapped in a well! I could go on for hours (and would be happy to if the show strikes the interest of a reader via email or in comments) but many people would/already have tune(d) out.

Since 2000, I've seen a few episodes. One had to do with Homer and Marge trying to escape the children that have ruined their love life together, another that was so explicitly antithetical to the Bush administration's war on terrorism tactics that I could scarcely believe it was the same show, and a third where Fox News was portrayed as an RNC wing while no other media networks were touched. It's not that I'm bothered by it--on the contrary, I largely agree, but obviously that's not what I go to an animated comedy for. It is annoying to see blatant partisanship, not to mention unentertaining. Given the relative sophistication of the show's fanbase, a huge dropoff in social critiquing is easily going to be detected and resented. If the purpose is to allow us to examine our contemporary world through the lens of one that is just a finger far enough away to allow us to suspend our disbelief without losing our real world perspective, leaving half of reality unscathed makes for half the show. Some politically sensitive fans will abandon such a series, and people well versed in current events will, irrespective of their political leanings, be put off by such tactless partisanship.

Not surprisingly, the show that started a seminal first season with 13.4 million viewers seventeen years ago boasts only 9.4 million today.

(Frivolty)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Taking education online

(Addition below)

NPR's Neil Conan hosted an interesting discussion regarding the growth of online education on Wednesday's Talk of the Nation. While overall higher education enrollment growth is stagnant, growing at around 2% annually, online course growth enjoys over five times that rate. The online university market caters mainly to graduate students, and is billed as the ultimate in andragogy, being ideal for working professionals with schedules that make traditional semesters difficult to attend. But in my view there is no reason online's astronomical growth shouldn't continue.

The benefits are numerous. Academia is a bastion of leftist thought. Seventy-two percent of faculty members are self-described liberals (compared to about 20% of the US population nationwide). Only 15% are self-described conservatives (compared to about 40% nationwide). So the professoriate is about ten times more leftist than the population at large.

That's nothing new. A social groupthink that has preserved itself with little alteration for a half-century is monopolistic. It stifles ideas (or the professors who present them) that disagree with rigid sets of theoretical dogma about human nature, morality, politics, economics, and so forth. Online courses allow for competition, because students can scour the country for degrees and courses.

As astounding growth continues, I suspect universities will look at removing out-of-state tuition premiums (around three times the in-state rate) for online courses, or at least slashing them drastically, to compete with programs in other states. In absolute numbers, there are still lots of traditionalists, rightists, and empiricists out there teaching. Online courses, because of a lack of geographical and space constraints (why can't an instructor lead an online class with a few thousand students, with multiple online discussion topics and lots of TAs for grading written assignments and electronic grading for other forms of testing?), can break the academic orthodoxy that runs guys like Lawrence Summers and Andrew Fraser out of town. Let the market have a say. Additionally, this will eliminate preferable tuition rates for illegal aliens.

Putatively mature though they may be, lots of college students don't like to engage in in-class discussions. The larger the class, the more truth there is to that. Online discussions and virtual classrooms are different. Students can speak with relative anonymity, the time constraints and discomforts of a sterile setting are removed, and ideas can be expounded upon or more fully defended. Certainly some will thrive in this environment, anyway.

Online classes remove the need for physical classrooms, utilities, land, transportation (university busing, etc), maintenance crews, parking departments, and all the other costs that are incurred (with a government-subsidized, quasi-monopoly inefficiency premium added on) in the routine operation of a public university. Further, they remove the loss that is borne from student travel to and from class. KU has 30,000 students. Say they spend fifteen minutes commuting to and from campus three days a week, 32 weeks a year. At minimum wage, that's $7.5 million in deadweight loss. Not to mention room-and-board, which typically doubles the public in-state college cost per student to $15,500 annually.

Currently, online courses are comparable in cost to the $210 average public in-state credit hour. But a host of factors will push that down in the future. Skeptical professors are often paid a one-time bonus in the thousands to convert their courses to an online format, and get extra renumeration for teaching courses online rather than in the brick-and-mortar classroom. Some public universities do not (yet) receive state funding for web-based courses. I suspect this will change when states begin to realize the revenue potential that opening up courses to students across the country represent. Also, for-profit private institutions are getting lots of the business. Apollo Group Inc., which owns the University of Phoneix (unless you block pop-ups, you've seen the ads) and has 10% of the online market (that comes to some 160,000 students at present), was $450 million in the black last year. As public universities continue to enter the market to challenge the new and existing Apollo's and DeVry's of the world, costs will come down.

Online's biggest obstacle revolves around the question of its effectiveness. Can courses via the web boast the same user competency as classroom courses? Can you really learn over the web? (A few hours spent on the 'insight' sites listed to the right should provide a definitive answer in the positive). Surprisingly, students aren't convinced even while most businesses are. Peter Stokes of Eduventures reported on Talk of the Nation that while only one-third of students believe that online courses are equal to or better than traditional ones, 62% of the business world does. If you've been hesitant to enroll for online out of a fear of resume damage, be stultified no more. The business world likes your efficiency. It evinces personal responsibility (assuming you perform well).

Ultimately, I hope online education ruptures the senseless marriage of instruction and research. Let good researchers research. Keep the direct state funding there and tag public funding to the student rather than the university. This will accelerate the growth of online courses, as it has been the private sector that has taken the lead, with public universities desperately trying to play catch-up. Separate research from the pedagogy of the teaching arena. There's little reason for someone to spend eight or more years working up to the doctoral level only to turn around and teach to undergraduates. Real-world professionals can generally do a better job as they operate in the real world, not a theoretical one. Top-notch researchers are notorious for neglecting teaching responsibilities and opting instead for spending time and energy on research interests.

++Addition++Although academia is ten times more leftist than the US at large, in absolute numbers there still exists plenty of professors with moderate or conservative, pro-empirical viewpoints. Business and engineering have a greater supply of said instructors, but even the humanities have a enough.

To combat the intellectually stultifying post-modernism that turns our brightest youths into knee-jerk leftists hostile to reality, we need to find a way to replace numerical superiority with content superiority. Online classes provide a way to do this.

Think of online course to brick-and-mortar course comparisons in the same way as debates with people at social gatherings versus online debates.

In the three philosophy courses I took in college, I inevitably was standing almost alone as the arguments heated up (especially in one class where we discussed 'practical philosophy' and took it into immigration/citizenship. Initially I shared the support of much of the class, but as I entered the IQ and disease realms, I became a lone wolf). When there are twenty people in the room and you're trying to argue against ten people at the same time, inevitably the ire of those in the room, the cacophony of charges you struggle to keep up with and answer, the feeling that you're hogging the discussion, the physical and mental exertion expended to keep on your toes and keep answering one charge after another and then trying to strike back, combine to weigh almost unbearably. Even if objective standards put your side (that is, your solo contribution) ahead of the opposition's (the sum of the rest of the debaters) ahead, commom perception will likely be that you're getting routed. Surround even a Spartan warrior (not that I'm at all analagous to one!) and even with Athenians you can bring him down.

But online discussions allow you to go into hostile territory and use borrowed tactics from the Battle of Thermopylae, or employ a 'choke' as the terminology goes in the world of my addiction. With infinite time (who currently reading hasn't stayed up until four in the morning letting it fly on some obscure or not-so-obscure discussion board/comment section?), and infinite space, every charge can be answered with due consideration, every counter argument examined and a thoughtful riposte offered, and total verbage matched word for word, even if you've wandered into rabidly hostile territory.

Online courses, without space and distance constraints, can potentially work in the same way. So there are one hundred Cornel Wests out there and one Richard Lynn teaching Psychology 205: The study of psychometric variance across groups. With brick-and-mortar nearly everyone gets some zaney shamanistic Marxist (?) viewpoint about racism and testing bias. Online, if Lynn is the best, theoretically everyone can be instructed by him. Let the market decide.

Online education presents a monumental opportunity for moderates and rightists to regain at least neutrality in the educational realm. Reclaiming this territory will do wonders for the future of empirical thought.

(Education)