Monday, April 30, 2007

Turkey, democracy, and the Middle East

Stephen Kinzer, responding to a question by The World's Lisa Mullins about why "Turk's apparently are afraid that they're democracy [threatened by itself?] and secular society is under threat now" [referring to Turkey's upcoming Presidential election]:
Now we're moving to a much more democratic, much more open Turkey. And people are able to express what they really believe, not what they have to [must] say.
Silver lining in 9/11, the Iraq miasma, and the subsequent international attention given to the Middle East: The West has seen firsthand the quixotic notion that popular self-determination is universally optimal brutally dashed on the shoals of reality.

Democracy is but one of many possible frameworks. A Jeffersonian, liberal society (which is what neocons and Friedman leftists generally consider synonymous with "democracy" and "free markets"), on the other hand, has several prerequisites the Muslim world can scarcely boast.

This is why we rot

The work I do requires a fair amount of time in the car. During NPR's lugubrious sob stories, ridiculous promotions of no-name musicians and other 'artists', or routine mendicant solicitations, I surf the airwaves.

I try to spend a few minutes listening to the local hip-hop station to get some feel for what is going on in the black community (news is news involving blacks, special features are pieces celebrating the accomplishments of blacks, and interviews are interviews with a black subject led by a black DJ).

I'd heard the catchy hit by Sean Mims a few times, but the situations hadn't allowed me to focus on the lyrical profundity contained therein. This evening, I caught it in full. In addition to being quite the artist, Mims' is also quite the polemicist, as these lines so clearly bear out:
I'm hot cuz I'm fly
You ain't cuz you not
This is why
This is why
This is why I'm hot

Shit nigga, you a pimp. Ima square. Damn bro, you got yo shit going on.

This hot piece of work topped Billboard's list a little while back and retains a top ten spot after almost four months on the charts. Listening to Beethoven's Ninth now as I post, not long after having nearly teared up during Pachelbel's Canon in D, I'm struck by Steve Sailer's realization upon emerging from the theater after having seen Mike Judge's Idiocracy:
Unfortunately, when watching it at home on DVD, you miss experiencing the horrifying Charlton-Heston-and-the-Statue-of-Liberty moment when "Idiocracy" is
over and you emerge from the theatre into the mall full of shiny logos and sniggering pedestrians and you realize that reality today looks just like 2505 does in the movie.
Even if you're holed up in your hovel, that moment is still just a radio dial away.

Was cultural diversity good for Native Americans?

While humorous, the distinction between 'immigrant' and 'settler' is of the utmost importance in assessing the impact of cross-border migration.

The first three migration waves to hit the US consisted of immigrants eager to be part of the blossoming US, the newest Latin American settlement wave is increasingly becoming a parallel society, one that lives within the US without becoming a part of it. The half-million lawbreaking protesters who took to the streets of LA in March of '06, the numerous public schools that primarily give instructions in Spanish, and the $45 billion that leaves the US economy each year in the form of remittances (in return for a net liability that must be taken care of by the net taxpaying native) from foreign-born Hispanics to their home countries in Latin America are a few of the most conspicuous illustrations of this troubling trend.

Reflecting on the outcome of the migration from Europe to the Americas from the 16th to 19th Centuries from the perspective of Native Americans is a worthwhile mental exercise.

Of course the situations are not identical--European settlers were more advanced, more prosperous, and more innovative than the natives they replaced were. The fourth wave, by contrast, is conspicuously less prosperous, educated, and imaginative than the natives it is replacing.

But seismic changes are present in both. The contemporary Hispanic wave is bringing atavistic diseases that natives had previously never heard of or had become happily unaccustomed to dealing with. They're lowering the US' average IQ and making housing more difficult to come by. Socially, they're bringing anti-Semitism and a machismo culture that sexually objectifies young women.

In a sense, the noble savages may be right if they're the ancestors of today's tribal chieftans who stand atop tobacco-selling, slot-pulling cashcows--many of those who've been able to prove sufficient sanguinety have done quite well. That lucrative articial situation aside, many others stagger on in an alcohol-induced, entitlement-sustained stagnant haze. While the MNCs that milk the net taxpayer to utilize subsidized serf labor may come out ahead (at least in the short-run), the rest of us aren't so fortunate.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Gender imbalance, sex-selective abortion in India

The phrase "gender imbalance" brings China to mind. But the male-female ratio in India is similarly skewed in favor of young men. UNICEF lists China as the global leader in imbalance, with India in second. The CIA has Azerbaijan at the top, followed by India and then China. The Indian disparity might be due in part to substantial regional differences, with the poorer north more skewed than the relatively prosperous south.

VDare's Brenda Walker recently wrote an article detailing several elements of Indian culture that are repugnant from a Western perspective. Gender-influenced infanticide, largely concentrated in Central and South Asia, is conspicuously among them. The WSJ ran an article last week dealing with the same (free here):
India has long struggled with an inordinate number of male births, and female infanticide -- the killing of newborn baby girls -- remains a problem. The abortion of female fetuses is a more recent trend, but unless "urgent action is taken," it's poised to escalate as the use of ultrasound services expands, the United Nations Children's Fund said in a report this year.
An uneven gender distribution in which males are more numerous than females is troublesome in a couple of ways. A shortage of adult females increases the prevalence of child marriage and the selling of young girls into the sex trafficking netherworld. Places with a significant number of single men do not enjoy the settling effects a more gender-balanced community tends to bring (Jamestown vs Massachusetts Bay). Despite being nominally illegal, the ubiquity of ultrasound machines in India (the subject of the WSJ article), available for use in many rural settlements that lack even drinking water or reliable electricity, is only going to perpetuate the trend.

Conventional wisdom says that large numbers of restless young men without mates are ideal fodder for military campaigns. In this way, India's gender imbalance can be seen as a sort of check against China. Despite the international business community's attempt to keep US-Chinese relations cordial, an evermore powerful PRC's willingness to economically and politically engage 'rogues' the US would like to see isolated is going to increasingly cause tension between the two. The enormous trade imbalance, China's ineptness in protecting intellectual property as well as an increasingly assertive attitude toward the question of Taiwan, and its hunger for resources do not bode well for such amiability, either. Additionally, acrimony towards the US is widespread in the Chinese military.

Using CIA figures, India currently has 16 million more boys than girls under the age of fifteen, while China has 14 million more. While India's annual GDP growth continues to be in the 8%-9% range and its government is less intrusive than China's, its estimated average IQ of 81 (and heaven knows how that's distributed across a complex and stratified Indian society) suggests it will not be able to keep apace with the PRC over the longer term.

Still, the Bush Administration's attempt to strengthen US-India relations strikes me as one of its bright spots. Applying specifically to Han Chinese and being more stringently enforced in cities than in the countryside, China's one-child policy is likely dysgenic. The Indian practice, in contrast, is probably mildly eugenic--the large dowry that Indian society demands the family of the bride to pay makes females especially unattractive to poorer families. Further, males are seen as monetary assets. More affluent families can better afford girls:
Boys in India are viewed as wealth earners during life and lighters of one's funeral pyre at death. India's National Family Health Survey, released in February, showed that 90% of parents with two sons didn't want any more children. Of those with two daughters, 38% wanted to try again.
Parenthetically, I wonder how pro-choice women's organizations like NARAL and NOW view gender-influenced feticide in India. The question is mostly academic since the issue isn't in play in the US. But, philosophically, it seems they're stuck between a rock and a hard place. Give legal protection to fetuses? That would allow more women to be born as well as help to combat the societal premium placed on males in Indian society. But the idea of recognizing the preborn as living things is anathema. Googling for an answer turns up little besides rhetorical jabs by pro-lifers at the conspicuous silence of American women's organizations on the Indian practice.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Immigration to make red states bigger, more purple

Like the Republican Executive/Democratic Congressional split? Demographic trends are increasing the likelihood that it will become the norm into 2020 (free partial here):

When House seats are redistributed among the states after the 2010 census, immigrants -- legal and illegal -- will play a key role in the shift of perhaps nine seats to Sun Belt states from those in the Northeast and Midwest. That trend will only gain steam, say demographers at the Brookings Institution and Population Reference Bureau, two Washington think tanks that analyzed U.S.

Census Bureau projections. After the 2030 census, they predict, Florida, where almost one in five residents is an immigrant, will add seven congressional seats. California, which has 9.6 million immigrants, will add two. And Texas, which added 788,000 immigrants between 2000 and 2005, will gain eight.
A few states that have gone to the GOP in the recent past stand to be the biggest winners. Florida is projected to gain nine additional seats (and electoral college votes), Texas will net eight, and Arizona is set to pick up five. It's unlikely that Texas or Arizona will shift from blue to red in the near future. Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia, all of which will seats, probably won't either. But Florida and Nevada (another gainer) have been 'swing' states that will likely become reliably Democratic in the next fifteen years.

Several upper-Midwestern states hemorrhage a couple of seats, while the Northeast--especially New York--takes a pounding of its own.

Despite the immediate electoral boost the GOP will receive, most of the new Congressional seats will go to Democrats. The foreign-born push up housing prices, depress wages (increasing wealth disparities), increase welfare recipiency, disproportionately benefit from special legal subsidies like affirmative action, tend to be less educated, less prosperous, and less white than natives, and live in urban areas at greater proportions than natives do. All of these attributes better characterize Democratic voters than Republican voters. Eventually the gains enjoyed in specific districts will morph into gains at the state level.

From the vantage point of one who at this point in time disagrees less with Democratic foreign policy than with the that of the Bush Administration, but who generally favors Congressional Republican domestic goals, the future promises the worst of both worlds.

The future might not portend only defeat for the GOP, however. The rigorous relationship (an r of .86) between white fertility and Bush's share of a state's vote in 2004, in tandem with the fact that about 80% of children end up voting in the same way their parents do, means that while the Hispanic population grows to the benefit of the Democratic Party, the GOP will increasingly become the party of white Americans.

Where does this new ethnically-divided political future leave blacks? Out in the cold:

The flow of new immigrants also could upset African-American representation in the House. University of Maryland professor James Gimpel, who studies African-American political power, says as many as six black House Democrats could lose their seats after the 2010 census. As it is, he says, Hispanics outnumber blacks in five districts now represented by blacks.
That would represent a 14% reduction in the number of black representatives in the House. While blacks consistently support immigration restriction, the Democratic Party as a whole stands to gain too much from the new arrivals to back away from the Kennedy-McCain amnesty. And the guaranteed monolithic black vote provides little incentive for Democratic leaders to make good on black support for reform.

The $64,000 question is why the 'geniuses' at the RNC are seemingly eager to relegate their party to perpetual minority status. Immigration reform is a populist cause that finds broad support across the political spectrum. While the Iraq war cost the GOP dearly in the November '06 elections, Republican immigration restrictionists fared considerably better.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Evidence that Occidental, Islamic worlds incompatible continues to mount

A survey conducted in four Muslim countries illustrates how wide the chasm between the West and the Islamic world is. WPO's findings are based on interviews of 3,752 people from Morocco, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Egypt. All four of these nations are putative allies of the US. So this is friendly territory as far as the Islamic world goes. The percentage of people in each country who hold an unfavorable, favorable (ratio) view of the US government:

Morocco - 76%, 16% (5:1)
Egypt - 93%, 4% (23:1)
Pakistan - 67%, 15% (9:2)
Indonesia - 66%, 20% (3:1)

If these are our friends, I'd hate to see our enemies.

Many egocentric neocons and cosmopolitan leftists fail to understand that the Islamic world sees the West, including the exporting of ideas on liberalism and universal human rights, as a continuance of the Crusades that began at the end of the 11th Century. Overwhelming majorities in each country feel the US is trying to weaken and divide Islam (not especially surprising, given the fertile Sunni-Shia battleground we've helped create in Iraq). More telling are the majorities who believe a chief US goal is to spread Christianity. The percentage who think it is, is not (ratio):

Morocco - 67%, 22% (3:1)
Pakistan - 64%, 14% (9:2)
Indonesia - 61%, 21% (3:1)

Why nothing for Egypt? Mubarak's government wouldn't allow WPO to ask its citizenry the question. That significant majorities believe the US is trying to propagate its dying religion can be interpreted in a few ways. Either a significant majority of people in the Islamic world are blindly stuck in the 12th Century, most of the Muslim world sees Christianity, the West, and liberalism as essentially one-in-the-same and doesn't want any of it, or the idea of religious self-determination is tantamount to promoting Christianity in the eyes of an inherently intolerant Islam.

While the actions of the coalition that overthrew the Taliban and is now attempting to stabilize Afghanistan are seen by most in the US and Europe as noble and worthy while the war in Iraq is increasingly seen as ignoble and foolish, the Islamic world apparently scarcely distinguishes between the two. The percentage who support attacks, oppose attacks on US troops in Iraq (precise ratio):

Morocco - 68%, 14% (4.86:1)
Egypt - 91%, 4% (22.75:1)
Pakistan - 35%, 35% (1:1)
Indonesia - 19%, 61% (.311:1)

The same, but in Afghanistan:

Morocco - 61%, 17% (3.59:1)
Egypt - 91%, 4% (22.75:1)
Pakistan - 34%, 33% (1.03:1)
Indonesia - 19%, 59% (.322:1)

People in Pakistan and Indonesia show slightly more support for attacks on US troops in Afghanistan than they do for attacks on US troops in Iraq. Moroccans are the other way around, while Egyptians equally (and viscerally!) hope for American deaths in both theaters. To the extent that there is a discernible difference in support levels, geography matters. Pakistan and Indonesia are closer to Afghanistan (and Pakistan's ISI has been a long-time supporter and financer of the Taliban). Morocco is nearer to Iraq.

Western justifications for taking action are pie-in-the-sky for those in the Muslim world. It's rubbish to them. In all four countries, more people have a positive view of bin Laden than a negative one, and more people favor strict application of Sharia Law than do not. They're not buying our values. They're probably not capable of doing so.

They don't want us near them. We shouldn't want them near us, either. The Occident and the Muslim worlds are incompatible. We should divorce from one another as entirely as is possible. Neocons are sounding Europe's death knell in supporting Turkey's bid for admittance to the EU:
Turkish converts to Christianity fear for their lives after the brutal murder of three people at a Christian publisher. Angela Merkel has called for Ankara to promote religious tolerance, while secular intellectuals ask why the 99-percent Muslim country can't put up with a few Christians.
While those who support attacks on civilians in the US and Europe are clearly minorities in their countries, their absolute numbers are still plenty scary. The extrapolated number of people in each country who approve of terrorist attacks on civilians in the US, in Europe:

Morocco - 2.4 million, 2 million
Egypt - 4.8 million, 3.2 million
Pakistan - 8.2 million, 9.9 million
Indonesia - 9.4 million, 7 million

Indeed, those holding such views are in a minority across the Muslim world. But 100 million is still a significant minority to deal with. Worse still, these 100 million are more educated, affluent, and urbanized than Muslims in general. In a perverse way, the market is rewarding more capable Muslims:
The most spectacular and technically difficult Palestinian suicide bomb attacks are being assigned to older and better educated bombers because they are more likely to succeed, a new study shows.
The death of the West is a horribly painful thing to witness.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Pew survey reveals relative female cluelessness

Honest left-leaning sources are invaluable in that they are less susceptible to relentless media marginalization or destruction campaigns. The Pew Research Center is one such source. Last week it released the findings of a survey on public knowledge of current affairs.

Fat Knowledge touts the finding that viewers of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report are more up-to-snuff on current events (actually, if "moderate" knowledge of events is considered the midpoint between "high" and "low" knowledge levels--the validity of which is impossible to discern from what Pew has released, since the designations are based on a range of scores--the O'Reilly Factor tops the list of specified shows). That NPR listeners are less informed than either O'Reilly or John Stewart fans may come as a surprise as well (as someone who listens to NPR regularly, however, it doesn't).

The wide knowledge disparity by gender is the most intriguing (and bravest) finding. While 45% of men have "high" knowledge levels, only 25% of women do. Among those rated "low" (correctly answering nine or fewer of the 23 normative questions asked) were 26% of the men and 42% of the women surveyed. The true difference is likely obscured a bit due to the nature of many of the questions that dealt with being able to identify various people by name (rather than what they believe or what they've done)--a 'superficiality' that women seem to be better suited for than men are.

From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense. For all but the last 8,000-10,000 years of human history, homo sapiens were hunter-gatherers. While males ventured off to hunt, defended the clan from external threats, and engaged in acts of aggression against non-clan members, females focused more locally--foraging for nuts and berries, caring for offspring, and preening to maximize sexual attractiveness.

Bluntly, men are, on average, more qualified to make macro-level decisions than women are. It is rooted in both biology and culture. The finding also provides some insight into why nearly one-quarter of the US population is admittedly hesistant to elect a female President.

Other interesting findings in brief:

- Republicans are modestly more knowledgeable than Democrats.

- Whites know more than blacks (unfortunately, these are the only two racial/ethnic categories specified); yet, illustrating the society-within-a-society phenomenon of contemporary black America, the percentage of blacks who know who Condoleeza Rice is greater than the percentage of whites who do (relatedly, blacks, who are concentrated in urban metropolitan areas, tend to get their information from local news sources in greater proportions than other groups do, disadvantageously so in the case of a survey like this).

- Income (and likely IQ) and knowledge unequivocally trend in the same direction.

- Those surveyed represented multiple news sources (however many they "watched, read, or listened to"). This probably inflates the performance of the comedy shows as far as each source's effectiveness in dispensing information is concerned. Just like reading The Onion, the Daily Show is more entertaining to watch if you have a grasp of the reality being humorously poked at. I suspect the stoned-slackers who reported the Daily Show as their sole source of information didn't fare too well.

Harvard leftist sees the Light?

Parapundit's Randall Parker excerpts an illustrative bit of commentary from the Harvard Political Review's Design Editor Alex Copulsky, who is responding to an article on Pope Benedict (the first paragraph, in which Copulsky portrays himself as a restless workaholic, describes the Pope as contradictory, and condescendingly refers to the Catholic Church as "decrepit", reveals the pedantic leftist angle he's coming from):
Benedict has a point that if one believes a clash of civilization is coming, the West's rejection of the Church has weakened it. As a liberal, secular Western liberal, I must admit that thinking in these terms makes me somewhat uneasy...after all, it's very far from PC, and only a skip, hop, and leap away from saying that “They are barbarians, and they ARE at the gates”. No one is saying that (publicly, anyway), but rather they are analytically pointing out that a certain tradition and way of life seems to be fading out, and may be approaching a crisis.
I feel like Patrick Swayze in the movie Ghost, when he's trying to stop Tony Goldwyn from making moves on his girlfriend, but despite his efforts, he's initially unable to influence the situation (as he's a ghost). Eventually, he knocks a picture onto the floor. Maybe all the "no one"s Colpusky assumes don't exist are influencing him somehow.

The argument that the West (including its epistemology, culture, people, and religion) faces an existential threat isn't novel. In his book Culture Warrior, Bill O'Reilly (who, with the most-watched cable news show on the air, is hard to miss) makes a case for exactly what Copulsky claims Benedict is uniquely undertaking:
He is convinced that the secularization of the West has harmed its prospect for long-term survival, and it must act to save itself.
Pat Buchanan wrote The Death of the West five years ago. He's not exactly an anonymous figure, either. Nor is Steve Sailer obscure--he's provided the impetus for national news stories and has provided commentary for us on televised national news, in additon to being one of the marquee writers for the US' major paleoconservative voice, The American Conservative. Lawrence Auster has created a terse, logical polemic showing the need for the Western and Islamic worlds to divorce. I agree with him.

Dispensing with the movie analogy, I wonder if a guy like Copulsky is consciously disingenious (a view held by frequent commenter John S. Bolton) or just incredibly naive?

Copulsky makes an easy argument for the latter, when he claims that he is "totally absorbed" in the first thing he starts reading at the library. It reminds me of how I became totally absorbed in classical music when I first listened to a full symphony in earnest (Beethoven's Sixth)--that I was so easily captivated was directly due to how unfamiliar I was with the genre going in. If you've been following the immigration debate closely for years, no single article is going to have you "totally absorbed"--the provoking article that absorbs you is the one that introduces you to the serious debate in the first place.

So Copulsky looks like a greenthumb. But if he's being mindfully deceitful when he says "no one" has argued that the Occident and Islam are incompatible, he may be equally furtive in other parts of his writing as well.

As a self-described member of the empirical right, I'm not religious. But it's difficult for me to separate the contemporary West from the history of the Catholic Church. The Italian Renaissance didn't spring up overnight. Buridan's theories on currency, Oresme's monumental work on how naturally occuring exchange rates are more conducive to economic activity than arbitrary ratios, and Azpilcueta's description of inflation, all occured during the Middle Ages.

The natural philosophy that really developed in the 12th Century broke from the Aristotlean understanding of nature in that it assumed a discernible explanation for natural phenomena. That is, non-living things progressively lost their attributes of personification. Smoke didn't simply rise because it liked the sky, or rocks fall to the earth because they liked the ground.

The Benedictine Cistercians made the first largescale use of hydropowered mechanization. Suddenly monasteries were self-supporting, even utility-creating. And the Catholic Church's networking allowed these advances to be transmitted throughout Europe very rapidly.

The first universal hospitals were constructed under the auspices of the Church in the 4th Century, breaking from the Roman focus on physicians caring for particular members of society.
Anselm, Occam, and one of the most important figures in Western thought, Aquinas, all operated in the Middle Ages. Scholasticism took rational, logical argumentation to a degree of sophistication that was unequaled in the rest of the world.

Even modern liberal ideas on justice and inalienable, ecumenical human rights trace their first champions back to Churchmen like Las Casas.

Copulsky astutely identifies the thrust of the Pope's argument thus:
The key part of Benedict's argument is that the culture of rationality and respect for one's fellow man that inform “good government” is a distinctively Christian legacy.
In this sense, Benedictine's concern for the decline of the Catholic Church is legitimately shared by secular Westerners: It is more than a reduction in church attendance--it is a sign of a moribund civilization. Few Westerners will put their careers (let alone their lives) on the line for the amorphous idea of freedom of expression. Largescale ethnic nationalism among those of European descent may be counterproductive and isn't (yet) realistic anyhow. Western nationalism is making a comeback, but it may be too little too late. The universalism of Christian ideals appeals to Westerners, but in practice the Christian body will remain predominately Western.

I'm also concerned about the downtrend in religiosity for a very secular reason: religious societies procreate; irreligious ones do not. The correlation between religiosity and fecundity at the national level is a rigorous .85. Literal belief in religious explanations for various phenomena or instructions for moral conduct are more likely to be bought by people with modest IQs. The stuff that replaces those religious explanations are hardly more accurate or beneficial than the ones they are replacing (the hip-hop culture, reality TV, self-indulgence, etc). The relative elevation of Christianity in the West is not going to stop pioneers in nanotechnology or research at MIT from going forward.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Western descent good for 'rogues' like Sudan

Marketplace, almost anomalous at NPR in its balanced presentation, has an interesting report on the Sudanese economy. A few thousand blue helmets are being sent to Sudan as peacekeepers. It's being hailed as a partial victory among some nations in the UN. Western powers are attempting to shame and isolate the Sudanese government in response to its acquiescence to the activity of the Janjaweed militias in western Sudan and Chad. Some 200,000 people have died in the region since anti-government rebels took up arms in 2003.

The 3,000 UN troops are a far cry from the 22,000 the body wants to send. Failing to get that number is a sign of the trouble of waning Western influence. China has become Sudan's biggest trading partner in both imports and exports, with more than 70% of what it produces for the world market heading there. An ascending PRC is making the deals and purposefully not calling the political shots, allowing Khartoum more freedom from the West's attempts to call those same political shots:

[Reporter Gretchen Wilson:] Yep, Sudan's planning its first golf course, part of a $4.5 billion development here. What gets lost in media coverage about Sudan is the huge economic story happening here.

Most people have heard the horror stories about Darfur — the killings and full villages on the run. Key reasons why North American and European companies have largely quit doing business here.

But rather than buckling under U.S.-led sanctions, Sudan looked around for a new economic formula.

ABDUL-RAHIM HAMDI: We have reoriented our trade and investment policies to the East, and not to the West. Because the West has largely shunned our country.
The Occident's ideas of universal human rights and political liberalism are losing favor. The globe's economic epicenter used to lay somewhere between the US and Europe. It is steadily shifting eastward, however. China's economy, the world's second largest, is growing at an astounding 10.5% annual rate. With the US' 3.4% yearly expansion, China's total GDP will surpass that of the US in 2011. India's, fourth largest in the world, is also zipping along at 8.5%.

While the PRC has locked up a 40% stake in Sudan's oil industry, other Asian nations are hoping to cash as well:
[Wilson:] It's not just China pouring money into Sudan.

INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS PEOPLE: "The profit in Sudan is very high." "There's a very big opportunity here." "The economy here is booming."

India, Malaysia and many other nations are all securing major oil construction and transport contracts. And some fear that Sudan's economic success will bolster the resolve of other regimes the U.S. doesn't like.

But investment here's not gonna stop any time soon, as emerging economies jockey for natural resources.
Khartoum astutely realizes that the up-and-comers are in the East. Europe no longer holds substantative power on the world stage, and the US is waning under its commitments in the miasma of Iraq, an economy sustained by heavy borrowing, and a per capita negative account balance that is the third worst internationally. Beijing doesn't have the litany of moral hangups that makes dealing with the West so tedious. Nor does Moscow or even New Delhi, for that matter. So long as you make cheap raw materials and natural resources like oil available to them, and consume their exports, conduct your internal affairs however you'd like to. A similar undercutting of Western influence is apparent in the actions of countries like Iran and Venezuela.

Ninety-one percent of Chinese scientists support engaging in eugenic practices for the benefit of the country. The Han belief in racial superiority dates back at least two millenia. Beijing isn't going to sacrifice its own interests on behalf of some humanitarian cause in an alien civilization. Nor will Mexico, or anywhere else in the non-Occidental world, for that matter. Only European-descended, white nations will go to bat for sub-Saharan blacks being decimated by North African Arabs in a local conflict that is of no vital interest to the intervening power.

At the onset of the Cultural Revolution in the sixties, people of European descent comprised one-quarter of the world's population. At the turn of the century, it had decreased to one-sixth. By mid-century, it will have dwindled to one-tenth. As the planet's white population disappears, so will the idea of universal individual human rights and the perceived obligation to defend ecumenical liberal democracy. Even in the Middle East, recipient of a vastly disproportionate amount of Western interest for its population, the West is losing its relevance. The inability to deter Iran from its nuclear ambitions has spurred several other countries to do the same:
Two years ago, the leaders of Saudi Arabia told international atomic regulators that they could foresee no need for the kingdom to develop nuclear power. Today, they are scrambling to hire atomic contractors, buy nuclear hardware and build support for a regional system of reactors.

So, too, Turkey is preparing for its first atomic plant. And Egypt has announced plans to build one on its Mediterranean coast. In all, roughly a dozen states in the region have recently turned to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna for help in starting their own nuclear programs. While interest in nuclear energy is rising globally, it is unusually strong in the Middle East.
Western nations need to find ways to increase its native fertility. Randall Parker thinks natural selection will do it for us, as those most wanting to have children procreate more and pass along that predilection to their offspring.

I'm not mollified. It takes decades for the effects of generational shifts in fertility to be felt. Once the predicted upswing occurs, we're looking at another 30-50 years of population decline before total population numbers start picking back up. Techniques to avoid pregnancy, such as coitus interruptus, have been known for thousands of years. There is a large cultural component to having babies as well--consider China's one-child policy and post-Franco Spain's birth dearth that has settled over a country (current TFR of 1.29 compared to the 2.1 needed to sustain a population) that only 35 years ago was Europe's most fecund.

It also needs to restrict immigration to some total that does not significantly alter its cultural ethos. Maxing annual legal residency granted at .1% of the total population seems reasonable to me. That translates to 300,000 total immigrants to the US each year from over one million today. A merit immigration system to ensure that those 300,000 are the best 300,000 offering residency can buy is crucial.

As the US comes more to resemble something between Brazil and Mexico, we can expect the US to become more like Brazil and Mexico. So much for being a world leader and chief pontificator on the value of liberalism, democracy, and free-markets--not only will the enthusiasm for such values be dampened, the poorer, dumber, and debt-ridden nation will hardly be able to put any force behinds its words even if it wants to.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Unique Virginia Tech massacre spun like dreidel

Watching pundits and partisans spin the Virginia Tech incident in forty different ways has been exhausting.

Generally, it's a political draw. The left 'wanted' (once the atrocity was known but the shooter's identity still concealed) a white kid who'd been brought up in a pro-NRA household. The right wanted a Middle Eastern exchange student. A South Korean initially stultified both--there just isn't much of a template for how to react to East Asian killers in the US.

Gun restrictionists are pointing out that without the pistols, there'd be no tragedy. Advocates of the second Amendment counter that a gun-free campus allowed a criminal like Cho the chance to shoot fish in a barrel and that if a few other students had been packing, he would never have made it into the double-digits.

The Marxist line that he was releasing pent up anger over the affluence of the affluent doesn't go far, as his parents are solidly middle class small business owners. Pursuing a pedantic English degree doesn't help the downtrodden worker image much, either.

The lazy European press is trying to assert that debauched American culture is to blame. But an augur named Steve Sailer astutely predicted that the absurdly violent South Korean movie industry provided Cho something to emulate.

I've yet to hear a racially-oppressive argument crop up, and since Cho apparently made no mention of race, it may not. Given Cho's anomalous profile, I'm not perspicacious enough to see much of a race angle in the story (although I've seen a few Asian commentators latch onto the idea that Cho was as American as the kid next door; the "It's America's fault, not the East's").

To the extent that such an angle might be viable, it may be of interest to know that the girl he was rumored to be stalking was white. An Asian man frustrated in his pursuit of love would be one way the story could end that would 'fit' a larger social trend: nearly three-fourths of Caucasian-Asian marriages involve a white male and an Asian female, and black women, who're left out in the cold as well, very rarely partner up with Asian men (I've never seen such a couple in person).

Elsewhere, radio host Neil Boortz had an interesting take on the feminization of the public school system that he speculates may have played a role in the ineptness of the thirty students executed one after another as they cowered under desks. I'd like to think that in such a situation, I'd have the mental wherewithal to attempt to silently communicate with others and hastily arrange a time for everybody to rush the shooter simultaneously. I'd probably have been supine in the face of impending doom, too. But I'd like to think my grandfather wouldn't have been.

There's also the position that antidepressants and the drug companies behind them are to blame. It's all over the blogosphere but conspicously absent or marginalized in most mainstream media accounts. Chalk it up to the vast power of big pharmaceuticals, or the zealotry of scientologists (like any other typical conceited blowhard, I'll go ahead and write off both 'extremes' since my knowledge base is so limited on the issue).

The two unadulterated winners are immigration restrictionists (of both the legal and illegal variety), and critics of academia's inability to administrate anything effectively.

Oh, and a conspicuous loser is English as a serious major. Look at the puerile tripe this guy was writing as an undergraduate in college.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Don't stare at or feed the Muslims, kids

This has to be a joke, right? I thought, with so much of the print media on the auction block, perhaps The Onion had decided to follow in the footsteps of Google and go outside the electronic world to buy up The Times Online. That imagined scenario would actually be more salubrious than what is actually taking place:
PUPILS and teachers have been told by an official body not to stare at Muslims for fear of causing offence.

A document intended to educate against religious intolerance and sectarianism urges teachers to “make pupils aware of the various forms of Islamophobia, ie stares, verbal abuse, physical abuse”.

But Learning Teaching Scotland (LTS), which issued the advice to schools north of the border, has been criticised by politicians and Muslim leaders for going “over the top”.

The document states: “Some Muslims may choose to wear clothing or display their faith in a way that makes them visible. For example, women may be wearing a headscarf, and men might be wearing a skullcap. Staring or looking is a form of discrimination as it makes the other person feel uncomfortable, or as though they are not normal.”

The vast majority of people who dress uniquely in public do so as a means of self-expression. They want to be looked at. Lots of people want to look at them. "People watching" isn't an uncommon way to spend time on a night out in metropolitan centers. The right to look around you, is (I believe I can assert without coming across as a libertarian ideologue) a natural one that cannot be infringed upon in any civilized society.

In what other circumstances have you been told not to stare at other forms of life around you? Probably at the zoo or when out conversing with nature. Staring at predatory cats you've come upon, like mountain lions, is a good idea. With aggressive canines, it's a bad idea. If you stop and stare at a red-tailed hawk, he won't stick around for long. If you've come upon a great blue, on the other hand, stopping and staring is your best bet.

Never thought these rules were applicable to other humans. But... I'd better stop myself.

These are the fruits of the new multicultural West that we relentlessly hear so many paeans for. It is this propitious diversity that forces you to get to the airport an hour before your plane takes off, to fear what you draw, say, write, or even think, to reconsider before shooting a second glance at the girl across the street. As populations of European descent are bred out of existence, so too are the values they hold so dearly.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Fate of BBC's Alan Johnston provides perspective

When I dwell on American involvement in Iraq, from the 3,300-plus promising Americans now in the ground and the tens of thousands more who've been severely injured to the alienation of our most natural allies in Europe, Israeli influence on US politics gets my blood boiling.

But irksome as Israel's attempts at self-preservation (through a lopsided alliance with the US that benefits the former in a host of ways and the latter in virtually none) are, the Arab world that surrounds this narrow 200 mile strip of modernity in the heart of the Levant unworthy of any adulation. While Israel is the US' Timon, inherently poised to get it into trouble without providing much aid in overcoming that trouble, Israel is in every way superior to the parasitic hyenas that surround it (except for procreating).

The sad saga of BBC Palestinian correspondent Alan Johnston illustrates:
BBC Journalist Alan Johnston may have been killed, according to unconfirmed reports.

The BBC says it is "deeply concerned" by reports that its kidnapped Gaza correspondent had been killed.

Mr Johnston, 44, originally from Scotland, was taken by masked gunmen as he returned to his apartment in Gaza City on March 12.
I was startled a few weeks ago when I heard a BBC 'spot' on NPR pleading for the release of Johnston, with the corporation's speaker referring to the company as a friend of the Palestinians. It doesn't take much surfing to ascertain that Johnston is (or was) sympathetic to the "Palestinian cause". His previous reporting certainly suggests as much.

The BBC's subjective anti-Israel coverage is well-documented, with the corporation having even paid around $400,000 to halt freedom of information requests by other media sources for an internal report that accused it of having an anti-Israel bias. Yet despite the BBC's sympathetic towing of the Arab storyline, Palestinian gunmen have captured and possibly killed an ally on their own soil. I guess this is what happens to those who forget to bring a long spoon.

Where does the BBC manage to relay its information on the tenuous fate of its pro-Palestinian reporter from? The relative safety of Israeli-controlled Jerusalem, where contrarian viewpoints are not only permitted but protected:
The BBC's Mike Sergeant in Jerusalem says that there is mounting frustration and anger in Gaza and the West Bank.

Many Palestinians feel Mr Johnston's abduction has made their story much harder to tell, our correspondent says.

In the vernacular, Sergeant is saying "You idiots, we're on your side. Let our guy go!"

The Zionists who steadily settled in Israel through the end of the 19th and throughout the 20th Century turned unproductive desert land into one of the wealthiest non-oil producing nations in the world, a technological hub, a global financial center, and a leading location for medical research. The 300 million hostile Arabs surrounding them, with average national IQ in the 80s, can boast nothing of the sort, excepting a perfecting of the art of modern-day suicide bombing.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The sweet up and down made-to-order?

Love--or lust, anyway--isn't rational. Like flavors of ice cream, you simply like some and dislike others. It's a realm that pure reason cannot seem to dominate. But be uncertain no longer--as Nicholas Wade reports, it's in your hardwiring:
When it comes to the matter of desire, evolution leaves little to chance. Human sexual behavior is not a free-form performance, biologists are finding, but is guided at every turn by genetic programs.
Dante embraced unrequited love. Fine. But the miserable Sydney Carton died for it. I find his experience more typical. Still, what can you do? Not much, apparently. Read Seneca, I suppose.

It seems, quite literally, that each day a new bit of information increases Nature's advantage in its epic struggle against Nurture. The conventional wisdom usually takes initial refuge in Nurture's camp before being forced by the sheer weight of empirical evidence to defect to the other side. But homosexuality is an exception, at least in women:
Presumably the masculinization of the brain shapes some neural circuit that makes women desirable. If so, this circuitry is wired differently in gay men. In experiments in which subjects are shown photographs of desirable men or women, straight men are aroused by women, gay men by men.

Such experiments do not show the same clear divide with women. Whether women describe themselves as straight or lesbian, “Their sexual arousal seems to be relatively indiscriminate — they get aroused by both male and female images,” Dr. Bailey said. “I’m not even sure females have a sexual orientation. But they have sexual preferences. Women are very picky, and most choose to have sex with men.”
This strikes me as circumstantial evidence for the gay germ hypothesis on male homosexuality. From an evolutionary perspective, male homosexuality carries too much baggage and too little of an advantage to have stuck around. Homosexual men procreate at a rate about one-fifth that of heterosexual men. As most of human history has involved male dominance in mate-making decisions, female-to-female attraction is less detrimental. What harm is there in Jen and Beth fooling around, as long as the Jim the Patriarch has access to both of them whenever he wants it? If the top dog, Jim, happens to be gay, however, the clan has some real problems.

Even castration does not affect male sexual orientation. The sex drive of a eunuch may decrease, but it is still directed towards the same sex that it was pre-gonad loss. Female sexuality, in contrast, is at least somewhat malleable even without the removal of reproductive organs.

Female sexual ambiguity is intuitively sensible enough:
In the womb, the body of a developing fetus is female by default and becomes male if the male-determining gene known as SRY is present. This dominant gene, the Y chromosome’s proudest and almost only possession, sidetracks the reproductive tissue from its ovarian fate and switches it into becoming testes. Hormones from the testes, chiefly testosterone, mold the body into male form.
Testosterone produces a powerful sexual drive. This drive is usually directed towards females, but 5% or so of the time it is directed toward males. A vigorous inbetween is uncommon (stateside, woman are between two and three times as likely as men to report having engaged in bisexual activity yet there are slightly more gay couples than lesbian couples--608,000 to 594,000 in 2000, respectively).

As Dr. Bailey alludes to, women have more control over their sexual impulses and how those are satisfied, which allows them to be more thoughtful. With more latitude in what provides satisfaction, they are less driven by uncontrollable biological urges. Not surprisingly, the explosive 'success' of gay bathhouses for men (both parties are very driven) has proven utterly incapable of being recreated for women-seeking-women (neither party is especially driven).

As the Western media continues to increasingly lionize same-sex intimacy, especially among women, (Ellen DeGeneres, Ally McBeal, Sex and the City, etc), I expect their to be a marked increase in the number of women who self-identify as lesbian or bisexual. I doubt male growth will keep up.

Lawrence Summers could've used this:
It is a misconception that the differences between men’s and women’s brains are small or erratic or found only in a few extreme cases, Dr. Larry Cahill of the University of California, Irvine, wrote last year in Nature Reviews Neuroscience. Widespread regions of the cortex, the brain’s outer layer that performs much of its higher-level processing, are thicker in women. The hippocampus, where initial memories are formed, occupies a larger fraction of the female brain.

Techniques for imaging the brain have begun to show that men and women use their brains in different ways even when doing the same thing. In the case of the amygdala, a pair of organs that helps prioritize memories according to their emotional strength, women use the left amygdala for this purpose but men tend to use the right.
Fancifully looking to the future through a utopian lens, this paragraph is intriguing:
Sexual behavior includes a lot more than sex. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University, argues that three primary brain systems have evolved to direct
reproductive behavior. One is the sex drive that motivates people to seek partners. A second is a program for romantic attraction that makes people fixate on specific partners. Third is a mechanism for long-term attachment that induces people to stay together long enough to complete their parental duties.
Imagine if genetic sequencing and manipulation eventually allows people to alter these three brain systems. Imagine Gwyneth Paltrow being madly in love with you--and not a single man other than yourself interested in her. Imagine if you were able to systematically enhance the way you viewed your significant other without her having to do a thing, if you were able to keep that initial rush alive indefinitely, even enhancing it as time wore on. The imagined consequential increase in human happiness and social stability is almost incomprehensible. Solipsism may provide larger society a palpable benefit yet!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Intelligence and latitude in US

Following the visualization of estimated average IQ by state that I was able to create with the neat site Many Eyes, Fat Knowledge astutely observed that the farther north a state is located, the higher its IQ tends to be.

That is clearly the global trend. At the national level, I found distance from the equator and IQ correlate at a statistically significant .67 using data from Vanhanen and Lynn's IQ and the Wealth of Nations. The relationship is more rigorous even than the contemporary relationship between purchasing power parity and IQ (as an aside, life expectancy shows the single strongest correlation with IQ at .85, followed by infant mortality at an inverse .84, and then--without Mike Judge's endorsement--an inverse relationship with fecundity at .81).

The trend also holds at the state level within the US. Using the latitude of each state's most populous city and comparing it with estimated IQ yields a correlation of .70, made considerably stronger (.81) if only the lower forty-eight are considered. As the relationship is at the global level, much of this is attributable to race, with blacks concentrated in the Deep South and Hispanics in the Southwest.

More interestingly, the relationship between latitude and IQ firmly exists in the US when only whites or only blacks are considered. And the correlations are almost identical: .52 for whites (click here for visual representation of estimated white IQ by state) and .51 for blacks (here for visual).

There's plenty of room for speculation as to why the farther north you go, the smarter the population tends to become.

Regarding whites, the English Puritan families of the northeast that had become established and affluent stayed put while those with less to leave had more to gain by heading out onto the frontier. Whites working in the South as indentured servants made up a large portion of the labor supply early in the 1600s until well into the 18th Century. This was the ticket to the New World for many Europeans with few prospects at home, and sometimes even presented convicts a way to avoid prison time. Give consideration also to how the gullible types, hoping to strike it rich, flocked to California in the 1840s and 1850s with dreams that, for the most part, didn't quite 'pan' out. A rebirth of the California Dream pulled destitute menials from the Heartland to the Southwest during the Great Depression (a la The Grapes of Wrath).

As the more southerly states are more ethnically diverse, it's reasonable to assume that a greater number of whites in these states have some non-European ancestry than in the whitebread upper Midwest and Northeast, especially from Amerindians in the Southwest. Notice also the Scottish/Irish Appalachian streak of banjo-playin' toothless inbreds like those put on display in movie version of Deliverance (I can say that. It's self-deprecation, as my lineage traces back to western Virginia).

Regarding blacks, those in southern states tend to, with exceptions, have less European ancestry than those in the north. Pulling off successful escapes from the antebellum South could have selected for intelligence among those who were able to do so as well.

Contemporarily, for both whites and blacks, warmer climates produce a greater demand for outdoorsy labor (landscapping, lawn mowing, construction, tourism, etc), which tend to have low skill-level requirements. That rougher climates selected for attributes to attenuate the physical threats posed by severe cold, while also selecting for greater intelligence to deal with more scarcity, may mean that, on average, smarter people are less bothered by chilly weather. Personal experience suggests it to me.

The relationship doesn't hold with any rigor for Hispanics in the US (although it trends in the same direction, it's not statistically significant). This illustrates the difficulty in grouping all people of Latin American ancestry under the "Hispanic" umbrella. The highly professional Cuban population in southern Florida provides the best example. Puerto Ricans, concentrated in the Northeast, have a very different profile than the mostly white Cubans of Miami.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Imus, Sharpton, and immaculate Jews

The Imus story highlights a murkiness that dwells in the back of my mind whenever omertas on speech involving unassailables, especially blacks and Jews, comes into play. Al Sharpton hosted Imus, giving the aging eccentric the opportunity to boast an apology and allowing Sharpton to do what Sharpton does.

I want to know why Sharpton's unctuous indignation isn't used as an opportunity for Jewish elites to open up on Sharpton, whose funeral speech following the Cato car accident in 1991 and subsequent trip to the Levant when Sharpton suggested Israel and Hell were synonymous. Questioning Jewish interests in the US is putatively off limits for members of either political party, but one of the best known Democrats is no friend of American Jews.

Is it that we're talking about two different planes here? Challenges to black interests aren't acceptable at the popular level but in the upper echelons of decision-making society they're a non-factor, whereas crass commentary about Jews isn't paid much attention to but upper echelon challenges to the Jewish story are fiercely attacked.

Imus, Bennett, and Richards create big waves while black wage supression through Congressional immigration policies or US action on behalf of sub-Saharan blacks in Africa are non-starters. Screeching imams are given ample coverage in the Western media and anti-Jewish stereotypes are broadcast in movies like Borat while scholarly treatment of Jewish influence in the US is viciously assaulted, US foreign policy is altered on behalf of Israel, and even flattering work dealing with enhanced Ashkenazi intelligence is to be rejected.

The acceptance of this loose trend seems plausible enough when viewed as paralleling the relative positions of the black and Jewish communities in the US. Making a big huff over some marginal remark about blacks by a non-black is a surefire way to get the black community stirred up. They make up one-eighth of the population, so rallying a groundswelling is easy for leaders like Sharpton. But relatively few blacks have the power or sophistication to see how policies that don't conspicuously involve blacks actually effect the black community.

Jews, on the other hand, are less numerous but much more successful. They don't have the numbers to make a big stink about some offhand comment directed at them, and the relatively high number of Jews in positions of power accurately surmise that such protests won't do them any actual good. Where meaningful decisions are actually made is where pro-Jewish forces go to work.

This is the sort of speculation that's exceedingly difficult for me to articulate. It's why I like to stick to things that are easily quantifiable--IQ and fecundity, race and crime--but the supposed intractable power of Jewish interests and the inability of anyone to say something unbecoming of them and survive in the media to tell about it (something I generally agree with), in the face of well-known commentators like Sharpton who've said plenty of disparaging things about Jews with a level of impunity, frequently bemuses me.

That, however, is not the only phenomenon regarding American Jews that leaves me scratching my head.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Food prices continue rise to chagrin of developing world

Food commodity prices are up. The price of corn has nearly doubled over the last year. Soybeans and sugar have both risen at annual rates higher than inflation (although sugar has been coming down recently), even as harvests have been good. A significant driver of these increases has been the push for ethanol and biodiesel:
Soaring prices for farm goods, driven in part by demand for crop-based fuels, are pushing up the price of food world-wide and unleashing a new source of inflationary pressure.

The rise in food prices is already causing distress among consumers in some parts of the world - especially relatively poor nations like India and China. If the trend gathers momentum, it could contribute to slower global growth by forcing consumers to spend less on other items or spurring central banks to fight inflation by raising interest rates.
Crop-based fuels are a problematic long-term solution to the energy problem for a couple of reasons. Agricultural production requires lots of land. Fertile rainforests in countries near the equator are prime targets for cultivation (corn, sugar, and soybeans all grow better best in warm, wet climates). In addition to their aesthetic beauty and biological diversity, these rainforests soak up lots of CO2. The latter point is putatively thought to be a positive, although increased CO2 levels may help stave off the next inevitable period of global cooling that, historically, has presented a much more dire existential threat to humanity than any bout of warming ever has (parenthetically, read through the material presented here by the indefatigable Al Fin for an informed contrarian view to the CAGW 'consensus').

The upward pressure on food prices created by increased demand hits the developing world especially hard. Undeveloped third-world countries that have populations engaged primarily in subsistence farming are left mostly unperturbed, with the higher prices even being beneficial in terms of what can be had by selling surplus. In developed countries where food expenditures per capita comprise around one-tenth of income, including the artificially high cost of going out to eat, increased food prices are merely a nuisance for those not employed in agriculture, while countries that are major net food exporters like the US, Sweden, and France, come out ahead.

The big losers are developing countries in the process of moving away from having large majorities of their populations employed in food production. India and China, together representing 37% of the world's population, are the two behemoths that stand to lose substantially from surging food prices.

India and China. Where have we seen those two countries paired up before? Generally, they're portrayed as mutual antagonists, but in rising food prices and international scoffing for the skyrocketing emissions they're producing, the world's two most populous nations are in the same boat. In addition to feeling the food pinch (per capita spending on food comprises half of the average Indian's income, and a little over 40% of the average Chinaman's income), they also take the top two spots in projected emissions growth over the next half-decade, dwarfing any ground gained by the rest of the pro-Kyoto world:
By 2012, the plants in three key countries - China [1.926 billion], India [486 million], and the United States [275 million] - are expected to emit as much as an extra 2.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide, according to a Monitor analysis of power-plant construction data. In contrast, Kyoto countries by that year are supposed to have cut their CO2 emissions by some 483 million tons.

This appears to be one step forward, five steps backwards. But it's worse than that, accentuated by the fact that few Kyoto signatories who've committed to reducing emissions have actually done so (five of the 156, specifically).

If clean-burning fuel sources are to be taken up in India and China, they'll have to be economically competitive. China has a glut of coal and is the globe's largest user of it. India is third, with the US sandwiched between the two. I understand photovoltaics, hydro, wind, and batteries (though lithium shortages present a problem) all have potential, but nuclear is the sole demonstrable, reliable long-term solution. It is especially appealing in places undergoing significant consumption growth, since so much of its cost is upfront--once up-and-running, nuclear power plants are best utilized if running at full capacity almost perpetually. Build it now, India--it won't go to waste in the future (that's just what Singh's government is doing, with 20 potential plants under proposal, second in the world only to South Africa).

Stateside, private industry is seeing a renewed interest in nuclear power. Texas, with a deregulated energy market that forces producers to take a direct hit to the wallet for construction snafus or cost overruns, may be the canary in the coalmine. Currently, Texas generates the sixth most energy from nuclear (38 quadrillion kWh in 2005) of any state (Illinois, at 93, has the top spot), but in a decade it may have the most. Although US plant construction has been in hibernation for three decades, GE and Westinghouse both have federally-certified reactor designs ready for construction.

NRG's (mentioned in the link above) CEO is eagerly looking to take advantage of as much of the $400 million in federal incentives for nuclear power plant construction as he can. I'd like to see those incentives increase one thousand-fold, with a corresponding decrease in money poured into the sewer that is Iraq. This way, the shift remains expenditure-neutral!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Name change

I'm now posting as "Audacious Epigone". This sentence provided the impetus for change:
Over on the Audacious Epigone blog pseudonymous blogger crush41 reports on a recent study by Robert Rector...
What an unnecessarily confusing waste of words. I bloviate too much, even in the names I give myself. Numbers in a name look too IM-ish, and crush41 has its obscure origins dating back to my bygone days. To shun the glory that comes in dropping the name that for some time represented the second best Warcraft II player in the world is no small feat, but as the blog's name is more appropriate, [voice quivering] I've adopted it.

... [Crickets chirping. A tranquil breeze blows.]

Uh, and so, there you have it.

Deserved of the disdain Thomas Jefferson would have for me, at least he'd respect my attempt at continual improvement.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Walls of separation working in Baghdad neighborhoods

Gigot and company must be fuming. Too bad the WSJ's own Greg Jaffe reports (free partial here) on yet another successful example of a constructive wall in a tenuous area of the world:

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The lower-middle-class neighborhoods that Lt. Col. Jeff Peterson's troops patrol have been the epicenter of Iraq's civil war for most of
the past year. "Every issue facing Baghdad writ large is in our area," he says.

In recent weeks, Col. Peterson has tried a controversial approach to calming his sector. As Sunnis and Shiites have separated into their own neighborhoods, he has resisted the urge to encourage reconciliation or even dialogue. Instead, he has erected massive concrete barriers between the sects.
Peterson apparently finds time to read Parapundit between his duties in Iraq! More somberly, he adapted based on his experience on the ground. Unlike the clueless quixotics in Washington, when conventional tactics came up short, Peterson looked for alternatives:

His vision is for a series of small, homogenous, gated communities, each consisting of a two-block square. Each would be built around a market, a mosque and a generator. "The goal is to provide the neighborhoods with a chance to protect themselves, without having to rely on coalition forces, the Iraqi government or the militias," he says.

How he got to that point -- after months of bloodshed and failed experiments -- illustrates a lot about both the possibilities and limitations of the U.S. vision for Iraq.
A sort of neighborhood watch group. Peterson's separation appears to be working. In October, when troops constructed the barriers, 54 Iraqis were killed in the area patrolled. In November, the number slid to 43. January found 39, and February dropped to 25. Good for him. His ingenuity is accomplishing what DoD planners have consistently failed at for four years.

Walls have been especially effective in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and Jordan are looking at versions of their own, and Israel's almost impervious security fence has been an astounding success.

The Lt. Colonel's strategy is a local variation of that put forward by Leslie Gelb and introduced politically by Delaware Senator Joe Biden. The latter two favor a weak central government to ensure some equitability in petrol dollar distributions, but want most power to reside in regional governments broken down broadly into a Kurdish north, Sunni center, and Shia south. Peterson's strategy is a microcosm of what Biden wants at the national level.

In the words of Philippe Rushton:
Likeness leads to liking. People have a need to identify and be with others like themselves. It is a powerful force in human affairs.

The propositionalist solutions to conflicts across the globe that refuse to acknowledge anything other than shallow cultural differences are bound to continue to fail.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Immigration transfers wealth from natives to migrants in US

The Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector and company have released a report that meticulously presents what is intuitively obvious--unskilled, low-wage earners receive more in government benefits than they contribute in taxes (this is the focus), immigrants (legal and especially illegal) are disproportionately represented among unskilled low-wage earners, and consequently current US immigration policy is a effectively a substantial net wealth transfer from native US citizens to foreign-born migrants:
Strikingly, as Chart 4 shows, low-skill households in FY 2004 had average earnings of $20,564 per household; thus, the average cost of government benefits and services received by these households not only exceeded the taxes paid by these households, but substan­tially exceeded the average earned income of these households.
The simple bar graph nearby depicts the net liability per low-skilled household. The report's authors classify 9% of natives, 25% of legal immigrants, and 50% of illegal immigrants as low-skilled.

Conceptualization isn't difficult. A family of four smuggled across the Rio Grande takes up living in the San Bernandino Valley. The father sweats in the sun for $20,000 a year. If he's not under-the-table, he's paying around $5,000 annually in taxes. His two children, meanwhile, cost $10,000 a pop (add another $2,500 a piece if they are enrolled in ESL at school). The primary education bill alone is setting the government back $20,000. Throw in infrastructure use, fire and police, pollution, social services, healthcare, etc and it's not even close. If the family is using any number of welfare programs the shortcoming is further accentuated. Mean-tested benefits cost the government almost as much as education does ($564 and $590 billion, respectively).

Some who disagree argue that educating the children of the low-skilled justifies the severe benefit-contribution imbalance now because their increased skills will allow them to make up the difference in the future. Children from poorer families are, on average, less intelligent than children from more affluent ones. But even if we accept the blank slatist's assumption that poor children are as equally educable as their more fortunate counterparts, the argument that this makes increasing the size of the low-skilled population sensible is a non sequitur. Educating the children of high-skilled parents is equally beneficial in a fanciful world (in reality, educating the children of the highly-skilled provides a benefit that is actually greater). So why increase the size of the low-skilled?

My hypothetical uses an immigrant family, but the situation for a low-skilled native family is similar. The crucial difference, of course, is that we're stuck with the latter, but the former is preventable. Further, the addition of the foreign-born liability chips away at the already sad fortunes of the poor native family.

Why deliberately increase the size of the population that consumes more in government benefits than it contributes? It unnecessarily increases the burden on established net-taxpayers and cuts into the net-benefits enjoyed by the established US population that consumes more than it contributes. In this way, low-skilled immigration hurts natives across the board, from the single black mother to the to the suburban professional family man. The winners (at least in the short-run) are the corporations that enjoy this corporate welfare through subsidized labor. This isn't the free market at work.

Critics point to Social Security contributions that illegal residents make but will likely never receive back. That argument is flawed for several reasons. For one, we're looking at $7 billion a year in contributions but a net cost in the rest of the federal budget of more than twice that amount, in addition to costs at the state and local levels. And the children of these illegal immigrants, who remain below the national average in educational attainment and skills at least as far as four generations in, are eligible for these benefits if born stateside. In addition, the argument assumes that native workers are going to enjoy social security benefits down the road. I'm not banking on it. Also, there are many congressional and executive creatures who want to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants, thereby making them eligible for social security benefits.

Parenthetically, the report also does a great job laying out the macroeconomic total budgetary situation in easily understandable vernacular:
In fiscal year (FY) 2004, the expenditures of the federal government were $2.3 trillion. In the same year, expendi­tures of state and local governments were $1.45 trillion. The combined value of federal, state, and local expenditures in FY 2004 was $3.75 trillion.[1] ...

The $3.75 trillion in government expenditure is not free but must be paid for by taxing or borrowing economic resources from Americans or by borrowing from abroad. In general, government expenditures are funded by taxes and fees. In FY 2004, federal taxes amounted to $1.82 trillion. State and local taxes and related revenues amounted to $1.6 trillion.[4] Together, federal, state, and local taxes amounted to $3.43 trillion. At $3.43 trillion, taxes and related revenues came to 91 percent of the $3.75 trillion in expenditures. The gap between taxes and spending was financed by government borrowing.

Building a wall, enforcing tough punitions on employers who use illegal subsidized serf labor, and targeted deportations in tandem with the institution of a merit immigration system that grants residency to immigrants who will better the US' financial situation instead of worsening it, will go a long way in ameliorating this shortfall. Implementing a national consumption tax will do so as well.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

UK to mandate residents know English

Britain is extending English proficiency as a requirement for those seeking permanent residency. To become a citizen of the Kingdom, the ability to speak the language of the land is, as of 2004, already mandated. That a more cohesive society is one in which members can communicate with one another is hardly a controversial assertion:
LONDON -- Britain is seeking to promote a more cohesive nation by requiring people wanting to live permanently in the country to pass a test in English proficiency as well as politics, history and culture.

Such tests have been required since 2004 for those seeking British citizenship, but will be required starting yesterday for those seeking permanent residence.

The test, called "Life in the United Kingdom," is composed of 24 questions about British history, the political system, customs and citizens' rights.
The legal right to reside in the West is a coveted asset. Of course the UK government should leverage it for the benefit of its citizenry. Critics complain about the barriers it creates:
However, Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said the new rules "could effectively deny U.K. settlement and citizenship to some of the children in these families indefinitely."

He also complained that fees associated with the test -- totaling close to $80 -- would be difficult for some immigrants to meet.
Does he expect the cost of legal residency to be less than the amount needed to obtain a driver's license? The $80 is a very paltry means test, if that's what Rahman is arguing that it is.

The test is not difficult. Like a stateside driver's license, there is a single booklet that contains all of the information necessitated by the test. It's available on Amazon for less than $20. A study guide can also be thrown in for another $10. Since citizens of other EU nations (except for Romania and Bulgaria) are granted automatic legal residency, we're primarily looking at settlers from outside of Europe.

This is tantamount to MIT requiring its applicants to be proficient in the use of Microsoft Word in order to receive consideration. Coming to live forever in the UK from somewhere thousands of miles away but can't read through a book that's not even 150 pages long? Absurd.

The change chronicles another chapter in Europe's continued slow slide to the right. These requirements together comprise an infantile version of the sort of merit-based immigration system that Western countries should adopt. Include not only linguistic fluency and a nominal fee, but also consider occupation, physical health, age, affluence, criminal history, IQ testing (or at least educational attainment as a proxy), social/political beliefs, and so on.

Why shouldn't countries have the right to tailor their recruitment programs (immigration acceptance at its essence) in ways that best benefit them? Businesses, universities, sports teams, etc all do this. In an increasingly 'global envrionment', a nation's human capital is of paramount importance. East Asia understands this. Many Western governments do not (or, in anticipation of John Bolton's response, simply do not care or want to inflict harm on the citizens they serve).