Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Saudi Arabia delivering on threat to help Sunnis in Iraq

The censure against Iraq's neighbors' role in providing gateways for foreign fighters and weapons to come into Iraq has been directed almost exclusively at Iran and Syria. But Saudi Arabia is in the game, too, and likely has been for some time:
Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia’s counterproductive role in the Iraq war. They say that beyond regarding Mr. Maliki as an Iranian agent, the Saudis have offered financial support to Sunni groups in Iraq. Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow.
The Saudis are delivering on a promise they made late last November. Writing in the Washington Post, senior security adviser to Saudi Arabia said his government was considering three options:
• providing Sunni military leaders (ex-Iraqi officer corps, now the backbone of the insurgency) with funding and arms.
• establishing new Sunni brigades to combat the Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
• choking off Iran's ability to fund the militias by flooding the oil market.
The first two are already occurring. Obaid's tone indicated the kingdom's seriousness in writing that "Saudi Arabia will intervene to prevent Iranian-backed Shiite militias from massacring Iraqi Sunni Muslims once the United States begins pulling out of Iraq."

The royal family has historically been keen on providing indirect support through transporting weapons and bankrolling groups engaged in the actual fighting, rather than assuming a direct role. This was the case during the Soviet War in Afghanistan and the coming to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

But the situation in Iraq hits close to home. Prior to the US-led invasion in 2003, Iraq used to be the Muslim world's Sunni-Shia faultline. By knocking out the Baathists, the Shia majority, backed by Iran, has steadily been increasing its control of Iraq. And so the line has shifted westward, perhaps inside of Saudi Arabia, along the oil-rich Persian Gulf coast, home to many of the kingdom's minority Shias.

It's little wonder that Saudi Arabia is attempting to undermine Shia dominance in Iraq:
During a high-level meeting in Riyadh in January, Saudi officials confronted a top American envoy with documents that seemed to suggest that Iraq’s prime minister could not be trusted.

One purported to be an early alert from the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, to the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr warning him to lie low during the coming American troop increase, which was aimed in part at Mr. Sadr’s militia. Another document purported to offer proof that Mr. Maliki was an agent of Iran.
The vulpine King Abdullah scoffed at US envoy Khalizad's protestations about the evidence of a strong tie between Iraq PM al-Maliki and Muqtada al-Sadr, which the US believes to be forged. I wouldn't doubt that it was. It doesn't really matter, though, as Saudi Arabia is intent on shoring up support for Sunnis in Iraq in any case:
Saudi Arabia months ago made a pitch to enlist other Persian Gulf countries to take a direct role in supporting Sunni tribal groups in Iraq, said one former American ambassador with close ties to officials in the Middle East. The former ambassador, Edward W. Gnehm, who has served in Kuwait and Jordan, said that during a recent trip to the region he was told that Saudi Arabia had pressed other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council — which includes Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman — to give financial support to Sunnis in Iraq. The Saudis made this effort last December, Mr. Gnehm said.

The foundations for a proxy war between the Sunni Middle East and Shiites in Iraq and Iran are being laid. The US troop increase is merely delaying the conflict from its inevitable explosion into the open. The Iraqi parliament has just begun a month-long vacation, ostensibly oblivious to the US' sense of urgency in getting the federal government to 'stand up'. In reality, the Shia-dominated parliament is happy to see the US leave anytime now, so the real power consolidation can begin.

While complaining about Saudi Arabia's increasing influence in Iraq, we're giving them the goods to combat Iran on the very same battlefield of Iraq:
The United States on Monday announced military aid packages worth more than $43 billion for Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states in an effort to bolster Mideast allies against Iran and others.
If it weren't the US government dealing with Middle Eastern power politics, I'd be stultified.

The war in Iraq has been disastrous. Iran, our putative arch-antagonist in the region, has benefitted more than any other country from our actions. The execution of the man who slaughtered half a million Iranians in the eighties and the removal of the Saudi-supported, Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan eradicated the pincered position Iran had been in. Unease over security in oil production and sub-optimal outputs in Iraq following the American invasion provided Persia with greater oil revenues than it'd enjoyed in decades.

We have to get out of the Middle East. The British and the French both had to before us. We should, in exiting, work to guarantee that no other power feels compelled to get sucked into the desert miasma by working to separate the West from the Islamic world as thoroughly as is possible.

Monday, July 30, 2007

House passes resolution to embarrass Japan

In a voice vote, the House of Representatives passed a resolution last Sunday calling on Japan to apologize for its use of Chinese comfort women during WWII:
"Today, the House will send a message to the government of Japan that it should deliver an official, unequivocal, unambiguous apology for the indignity the comfort women suffered," said Rep. Mike Honda, the California Democrat who pushed the legislation through the House.
Why in the world would we pass this?

The LDP is Japan's pro-American party. It just got walloped in the Upper House, losing 28 of 242 seats. Now, as Abe attempts to remain as prime minister in a split Diet (the Lower House, controlled by the LDP, is essentially more powerful than the Upper House, especially when it comes to selecting the PM, so outside of constituency pressures causing individual LDP-coalition members to turn against him, Abe should be able to keep his position), the US House spits on its strongest ally in East Asia.

The resolution doesn't even do anything. It's a 'symbolic' gesture, a way of giving Tokyo the political finger.

The coalition led by the LDP is comprised of conservative and nationalistic members, potentially crucial elements in providing a counterweight to growing Chinese influence in Asia. It represents the best chance for Japan to continue its rapid militarization, a desirable development that will lessen the 'need' for the 40,000 US troops currently stationed in Japan (until only a couple of years ago, we actually had more military personnel in Japan than we did in South Korea).

Japan's conduct during WWII, especially regarding China, has been an explosive issue in international East Asian politics over the last few years. The Japanese, like the Chinese, are ethnically homogenuous and proud of that ethnicity (to an extent that would be considered 'racist' by the standards of most Western countries). We insulted Tokyo right after it had made clear the damage such a conspicuous insult could have on US-Japanese relations:
In an unusually blunt letter sent to five House leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato said passage of the resolution "will almost certainly have lasting and harmful effects on the deep friendship, close trust and wide-ranging cooperation our two nations now enjoy."

The ambassador said that since 1993 Japan has repeatedly and officially apologized for its harsh treatment of "comfort women," the term used for the estimated 50,000 to 200,000 Asian women forced by the Japanese government into brothels before and during World War II.
Uh, we did decimate Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the same war. Why invite a petty and fruitless exchange of accusations over something that happened more than sixty years ago?

We also put US residents of Japanese descent in internment camps while it raged on. Yes, we apologized for the latter. So what? A voluntary concession by one party to a dispute does not mandate a concession by the other. Those are unofficial, accepted rules that govern Anglo relationships. But most of the world is neither like us nor desires to be so. In any case, the House isn't asking for an apology to the US. That might be a populist tactic, but it could at least be beneficial in some way. Instead, we're asking for an apology on behalf of a friend to a potential rival in return for, apparently, nothing.

There may be a silver lining or two, though:
His June 22 letter, obtained by The Washington Post, also suggests that Japan may reconsider its role as one of the few loyal supporters of U.S. policy in Iraq, where it is the second-largest donor for rebuilding, after the United States.

In the letter, immediately after warning of "lasting and harmful effects," Kato gives an example of what could be at risk for the United States, noting that Japan has recently extended for another two years its spending on reconstruction in Iraq.
Despite coming to power on the unpopularity of the war in Iraq, the death rate of American troops in Iraq has increased under the new Democratically-controlled Congress. The PM change in Britain has given that country's Labor party leadership a chance to scale back its involvement in and support for the coalition in Iraq, and Democrats in the US may see this squabble as a way of getting Japan to relent on its support for the US-led effort as well.

Congressional leaders may also see the LDP's series of gaffes as ultimately leading down a path to leadership change in Japan (PM Abe's approval rating has dipped below 30%), and hope to garner support from the more leftist (the left-right divide doesn't translate well to East Asian politics) DPJ ahead of its ascension.

Hopefully. Because it strikes me as a foolish slap in the face to the world's third largest economy, a nation with a unique culture and composition that renders it naturally close to no other country that the US benefits from a positive relationship with in a host of ways.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Granting asylum to Muslims insane?

Parapundit's Randall Parker reports that 24% of suspected terrorists in Britain are Islamic asylum seekers:

The government faces new embarrassment over Britain’s porous borders with the revelation that one in four terrorist suspects arrested in Britain is an asylum seeker. ...

A Home Office analysis of those arrested under antiterrorism laws from 2001 to 2005 found that almost a quarter – 24%, or 232 out of 963 – had previously applied for asylum.
From turn-of-the-century figures, Great Britain receives about 100,000 asylum applications each year, of which about three-fourths are deemed to be legitimate. By contrast, there are over 1.5 million Muslims in the UK, the majority of whom are of Middle Eastern or Central Asian descent. Roughly then, foreign-born asylum seekers represent 8% or so of the British population but 24% of identifiable terrorism suspects. They are dispropotionately bad (three times so), even by Muslim standards.

Home-grown terrorists are undoubtedly a problem. But terrorists are more heavily concentrated among new arrivals than they are among the settled British Muslim population at large. This isn't surprising, as an astounding 92% of British imams are foreign-born, and only 6% of these British prayer leaders speak English as their primary language. Further, that so many identified terrorist suspects are asylum seekers reveals Britain's current trends in granting asylum to be unwise, irrespective of whether or not it is worse than the settled Muslim population.

The British need to realize that by taking in asylum seekers, they are domestically placing themselves at risk--a voluntary risk that is totally avoidable. The public needs to be aware of that. The question of admitting those fleeing from their homelands shouldn't be shrouded only in compassionate rhetoric. To obfuscate the matter in such a way is a dereliction of moral responsibility. If you take in a wandering pit bull to give the dog a nice home, it's essential you be aware of what that might entail. And a significant number of these ones see Mecca, not London, as their master.

This troubling revelation comes as the US expects to take in 7,000 Iraqi refugees by the end of September. Until now, the US had been stingy on the Iraqi asylum-granting front, taking in tens to the low hundreds (totaling less than 800) in each of the five years in which the war in Iraq has been taking place. Why, while little Sweden is ingesting 8,000 Iraqi refugees annually, has the US refused to open up? Concerns over national security, not surprisingly:

The United States has been unable to accept more Iraqis in part because of the time needed for background checks, which have become more stringent since 9/11, Ellen Sauerbrey, assistant secretary of State, told USA TODAY.
Some 2,000 of those 7,000 will be headed to the Detroit metro area, home to 300,000 people of Middle Eastern descent (incidentally, this doesn't strike me as the most prudent way to go after assimilation into the broader American culture). How many of these people will harbor hostility towards the West that might make itself known in the form of terrorist activity? Perhaps very few, as most of these refugees will be women and children who are considered sympathizers to the US' actions in Iraq. Then again, how many is too many?

National security is the safest way to argue for more restrictive immigration policies, as it's the angle least susceptible to moralistic criticism. But there are other concerns less spectacular but ultimately more important, like culture. RP also reports on a heinous murder that occured recently in London:
A father who ordered the killing of his daughter after finding out she had a boyfriend has been jailed for life.

Banaz Mahmod, 20, was raped and tortured before being strangled and buried in a suitcase in Birmingham. ...

Ms Sood, who specialises in Asian family cases, told BBC Radio Five Live "honour crimes of some sort" whether or not they resulted in death, were becoming more common in the UK.

"But certainly honour crimes are being perpetrated in the hundreds every year," she said.

I wonder how many of the Iraqi refugees to the US will be Christians. The more the better.

The Kurds are the closest thing we have to allies in Iraq, despite the tension brewing between Kurdistan and another putative ally, Turkey, over the activities of the socialist-nationalist PKK operating in part out of Iraq's Kurdish north. Yet Kurdish society (and Islam in general) is not compatible with Western values, as the aforementioned story about honor killings attests.

It's past time for the West and the Muslim civilizations, which have been in conflict since almost the time of Islam's birth in the Seventh Century, to be separated from one another. No more immigration from the Islamic world into Europe, North America, or Australia. Do as France is doing under Sarkozy's leadership, and attempt to buy out the most impulsive (least intelligent/productive) legal Muslim residents. Forcibly remove those in country illegally. Developing economically viable energy alternatives to oil must become a national priority.

What is par for the course in Muslim cultures is revolting to Westerners and our concepts of personal liberty, isonomy, and inalienable rights. Conversely, from North Africa to Pakistan, Muslim majorities want us to back off. Disconnecting is better for both of us.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Lose weight for yourself, others

Humans are social creatures. Our desire to fit in has obvious evolutionary and sociological advantages. That can be for better or worse. Jumping off a cliff, not so good. Respecting yourself because of Alicia Silverstone's portrayed self-respect, better. Our girth may be similarly open to peer influence:
A person's chances of becoming obese increase by 57 percent if that person has a friend who is obese, according to the report, co-authored by James Fowler from Harvard University and Nicholas Christakis from the University of California, San Diego.

The researchers closely studied a network of 12,067 friends and relatives between 1971 and 2003, monitoring their weight over the 32-year period.

Weight gain in one person apparently influenced weight gain in others, they concluded.
The cause-or-effect question is relevant here. Tubsters are likely to have similar interests and be able to attain similar levels of social status.

A hefty girl feels her thunder thighs less conspicuous when the hens she's with are as corpulent as she. Especially among women, where the feigned guilt and reluctance with which junk food is eaten is ubiquitous, big girls are constantly feeling belittled (heh) in the prescence of fitter babes. The 100-pounder laments, "Oh, I shouldn't have had that Snickers. I can barely look at myself in the mirror anymore," while the 200-pounder remains in embarrassed silence, waiting for the moment to pass. If she can hardly live with herself at 100 pounds, what must she think of me?

The social pressures acting against obesity play a potentially constructive role here, but it's easier for the obese girl to find a clique with fatter members than to drop half of herself and stay in with the normal girl.

Still, the conclusion that weight-gain (or loss) is encouraged by others doesn't need a study to be understood. Weight Watchers, one of the longest running and most successful weight-loss services in existence, has used this knowledge advantageously for four decades. People who struggle to maintain a regular workout routine often find planning to go to the gym with friends or taking part in group runs to be helpful. Even if you're a self-starter, riding with someone of a equal caliber pushes both of you harder than either of you'd push yourself if you were biking alone.

Most CFOs in the US see rising costs as a top financial concern going forward. That a return to single-digit year-over-year increases are being celebrated is indicative of the problem. Employers should leverage this commonsensical knowledge to cut healthcare costs. Why not require employees to take part in morning exercises organized by the company, as occurs in some Asian countries (East Asian populations have among the longest average life expectancies in the world). Or create highly publicized prizes for employees who've shed the most weight? I see this as less controversial than firing employees who smoke or drink. It has little downside.

The trend toward higher obesity rates is a difficult one to buck in developed countries. With more and more activities available to consume our time, food preparation becomes increasingly less enticing. Let someone else (at a grease-laden restauraunt) make it for me. Or toss me that pop-tart package while I play this, I don't have time to cook. I can go play a pickup game of football outside, or I can turn on Madden. Technological advances means work for most people involves little physical activity, a novel phenomenon in human history. Without incentives from their employers/healthcare providers (who're often one in the same) or major scientific advances in weightloss methods, I don't see Americans slimming down.

Parenthetically, this study provides more evidence that humans tend to compare themselves relative to others rather than in absolute terms. The study found people were most influenced by those closest to them and of the same gender. That is, the people who are most likely to be seen as friendly competitors.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Musings on contemporary urban black community

Black people are losing the civil war. Three little-known realities of the black urban core:

- Civilized blacks want to get the hell out. By civilized, I mean what you think I mean. I'm being unapologetically ethnocentric. People you can communicate with, who are willing to communicate with you without a ridiculously exaggerated sense of reluctance. A younger black woman I came into contact with and have since befriended put it starkly: "I grew up with my people. I don't want to be around them anymore."

But they don't want you to tell them they should get out. They don't really even want you to agree with them when they state as much. It must be an uncomfortable situation to be in, to say the least: Realizing the deplorable conditions of what has been so strongly inculcated in you as your community (in black parlance, "the community" is understood to mean "the black community") and being conflicted on where to go from there. Guys like Bill Cosby and Chris Rock are invaluable as potential instruments of change, to the extent that it is possible.

I asked her why she doesn't move south, to the affluent area of the metro. She has the money. "It's where I grew up. It's where we (refering to her nuclear and some of her extended family, and some friends, I think) live."

I can only try to empathize. The extent that I, as a white guy who is doing okay, experience feelings of 'ethnic nationalism' involves wanting to pull self-destructive, low IQ whites up from the gutter and keep destitute foreigners out of the US to keep it from becoming a third-world country. I don't want them to be left behind--that's entirely different than facing a quandry over whether or not to leave them behind in the name of personal betterment.

- The civilized portion of the population has little control over their neighborhoods. Conveniently, Randall Parker just posted on the phenomenon:
A study of young, violent criminals in New York City found that they used fear and intimidation to keep adults from interfering with their criminal activities.

Almost 40 percent of the young offenders interviewed said that adults' fear of teens was the defining characteristic of their relations.

As a result, in many situations, adults ignored criminal activity by teens and young adults, findings showed.

These results suggest that one of the usual prescriptions for ending youth violence -- more informal social control by neighborhood adults -- may not be realistic in some violent neighborhoods.
The divide is largely along generational lines. I can't help but see parallels in the relatively well-behaved, obsequious first-generation Hispanic immigrants who are willing to accept disparity with whites due to enjoying a big absolute gain. Will future generations, who are clearly not excelling educationally and who've grown up with Nikes and X-Box 360s, be content picking fruit for 16 hours a day in the San Bernandino sun for five bucks an hour?

But the pathological hip-hop culture and the nervous white fawning coupled with an inclination toward a special-privilege ethos of entitlement, products of the civil rights' movements excesses, leave little reason to believe the current crop of black youngsters will mellow. Violent crime has been on the uptick for the last couple of years. Seems to me it will continue to rise. The purge of thugs from the crack wars in the late eigthies allowed us to ride a wave of lower crime throughout the nineties and into this decade. That momentum is gone.

- White girls who go exlusively with black men adopt the black male tendency to refuse to talk to white guys (conversationally, not flirtatiously). In public, the black guy is showing his dominance in the relationship in having his girl do the talking. With the greatest advantage in the racial/gender matrix (black-white relationships involving a black male and a white female outnumber the reverse by a 3:1 ratio, while the number of young black men in prison further reduces their active number), the black guy can clearly enjoy the upperhand in his relationship with a black woman. Consequently, many underemployed black men are supported by black women who put up with their being an economic drain (the US gender gap in wages is narrowest among blacks).

His silence doesn't mean he is annoyed at her chatting, though--he expects it. You can see how this, though less extreme, is approaching the pimp-prostitute relational dynamic. The white girls who've recently tasted black don't seem to get this. Sometimes the black guy has to step in and pick up where she should have, and it is visibly irks him. But I guess it's not something he makes clear to her in private.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ron Paul, small government non-interventionist

Ron Paul is the non-interventionist (in terms of governmental foreign-policy and the policy of the federal government regarding the citizenry), America-first candidate. He's shown he's not afraid to make his stances known, either:
He was the sole House member of either party to vote against the Financial Antiterrorism Act (final tally: 412-1). In 1999, he was the only naysayer in a 424-1 vote in favor of casting a medal to honor Rosa Parks. Nothing against Rosa Parks: Paul voted against similar medals for Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. He routinely opposes resolutions that presume to advise foreign governments how to run their affairs: He has refused to condemn Robert Mugabe’s violence against Zimbabwean citizens (421-1), to call on Vietnam to release political prisoners (425-1) or to ask the League of Arab States to help stop the killing in Darfur (425-1).
Wow. I remember staring at a poster in high school during class that exhorted the viewer to "Stand up for what is right, even if you're standing alone." Instead of a pastel silhouette of an androgynous human engulfed in rainbow swirls, Paul's face should've been the graphical feature.

Despite the libertarian moniker, he's a solid supporter of US sovereignty (ABI gives him a 'B+' for his recent votes on immigration legislation). The Congressman excoriated the Senate for the recent amnesty it tried three times to surreptitiously slip past a public that overwhelmingly opposed it.

He's an interesting character, an anomaly of the contemporary political world. The in-depth NYT Magazine article excerpted above makes for an edifying read.

Who is sharing these news stories?

Several major news services track the most viewed, emailed, and blog-linked stories of the day or week. Other services allow readers to rate articles.

It would be interesting for them to begin asking users at registration (which many media outlets require, oftentimes for free) for their political views. From this, the same "most viewed" lists could be created, but filtered by political outlook (ie "Most emailed stories by liberals").

I suppose some sources that disingeniously represent themselves as objective would fear an embarrasingly conspicious political bias. But lists as they currently exist do not contain absolute numbers. So what if self-described liberals view five times as many stories in the NYT as self-described conservatives do? Give the stories a relative ranking and this becomes a non-issue.

This would also serve as a useful marketing tool--various businesses or advocacy groups could determine what stories were most likely to be read by the readers they are targeting. Instead of having to aim at the broad readership of the WSJ, advertisers would be able to target specific groups of readers among the subscriber base.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wall Street Journal on the grapes of anti-immigration wrath

Like most of the open borders crowd, the WSJ op/ed board has abandoned the risible stance that curtailing illegal immigration is an impossibility:

But a more heavily fortified southern border and government immigration raids have busted up this efficient North American labor market. Fewer potential farm workers are crossing the border, and when they do make it here fewer are going back because they know it might be harder to return next year.
Who would've believed that the world's 'sole superpower', enjoying the most technologically-advanced national economy and the world's most powerful military, could actually manage to stop destitute third-world settlers from crossing the expansive US-Mexico border on foot?!

The specter of mass, continuous deportations is a farce. History suggests that for every illegal deported, seven or eight leave of their own volition. As high-profile deportations have increased, border apprehensions have dropped, by an astounding 30% year-over-year in both cases.

So Gigot and company have decided to try to use the repudiation of the illegal-immigration-is-inevitable argument to their own ends: Yes, we can stop them, but we'll have to pay through our noses at the grocery store if we do!

Nevermind that the US imports more than $50 billion worth of food each year.

Or that the American agricultural industry, which is doubly-subsidized (through government transfers to the tune of $25 billion annually, and again through menial migrants who, working for minimum wage or less and without benefits, are subsidized by the net taxpaying American at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars per worker), will see it's least competitive and segments and farmers weeded out (something the WSJ generally celebrates).

Or that the labor costs for a one-dollar head of lettuce come to about six or seven cents. Replace the illegal farm workers with natives making twice as much, and you're looking at paying a couple of pennies more per head of lettuce (as illegals comprise less than a quarter of the nation's agricultural workforce). Not a steep price to pay to combat atavistic disease, infrastructure strain, dismal school performance, cultural balkanization, gang warfare, and income inequality.

The boys smear Lou Dobbs, for whom they refuse to allow editorial print space to use in his own defence, for a putatitively flawed understanding of economics:
By the way, this turns out to be a good test of the Lou Dobbs theory of labor economics, or the proposition that illegals are "stealing" jobs that Americans would otherwise do. Immigration restrictionists claim that if only illegal labor vanished, U.S. employers would raise wages and Americans would flock to Yuma to pick lettuce.
It is absurd to assert that a shortage in unskilled labor is possible in a free economy. Sure, plenty of computer science majors are having trouble finding work. High tech is an employer's market, but in the agricultural arena, where nothing more than a warm body is needed, the proletariat are in control! What's a poor farmer to do? (I'm being sardonic, as the average farming family nets $80,000 a year--over 25% more than the average American family does).

In seriousness, if there are no barriers to entry, and lots of money can be made, an ample supply of workers will materialize. This isn't even Econ 101, it's the first day of class in a high school electives course on the rudiments of supply and demand. Talk about throwing basic economics out the window!

Keep in mind, such sophistry is coming from what is regarded to be one of the globe's premier business publications. In the next paragraph, they anticipate the obvious response and half-heartedly attempt to brush it aside:
In the real world, Americans are already employed at other jobs, and growers can only afford to pay so much and stay competitive. So instead the labor shortage is increasing pressure on U.S. growers to move production offshore.
We're not in France. American workers are highly mobile, spending an average of about three years in a job before moving on somewhere else. If I can make more walking around in the California sun picking up fruit and listening to my IPod than I currently can doing cost accounting work in Tornado Alley, I'll be there in a heartbeat. Low unemployment does not mean that there are no employees for hire--it just means that those prospective employees bring a few of their own chips. That is, you'll have to pay them more than $3 under-the-table to work for you.

Because these affluent farmers are supposedly unable to put enough helots to work, they're being forced to move production to--of all places--Mexico! Isn't the development of Mexico's economy one of the vaunted goals that will theoretically end the immigration mess altogether? It's a moot point, as most aren't leaving, but instead are simply adjusting to the pressures of the market:
Growers who can't find enough workers to pick cantaloupe and eggplant are already substituting row crops such as wheat, corn or soybeans that are more highly mechanized.
Highly mechanized? But is it really wise for an economy on the cutting-edge of technological innovation to find mechanized alternatives to peasant toiling that is reminiscient of our agrarian colonial days? What ever would John Henry do?

Necessity is the mother of our invention. Businesses can engage in a perpetual hunt for the most desperate, exploitable serfs available, or they can innovate technologically and devise more efficient methods of production. Do we want to go the way of American Samoa or Japan?

To complete our look at the WSJ's carnival, we see the indefatigable free-market paladins crying for the redeeming hand of the federal government to swoop in and ameliorate the situation:
All that's needed is for Congress to show some political will, which these days is as scarce as farm workers.
Nearly passing a bill that was overwhelmingly opposed by the American public, in secret and without debate, is an audacious act of some kind of will, that's for sure.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Attacks on Jews on the rise in Great Britain

It's an increasingly familiar story in Europe. Jews are under siege by Muslims in the UK, and the number of assaults is growing at an alarming rate:
The British government itself condemns the rising incidence of anti-Semitism and has vowed aggressive action against it. The government emphasized, in a report on March 29, that it will not tolerate mistreatment of Britain's Jews. ...

The number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain increased by 34 percent last year, according to records collected by the Community Security Trust, a charity that monitors anti-Semitism in Britain and is regularly cited in government reports for being more comprehensive than police data.

Jews should not have to suffer from outbursts of harrassment and persecution reminiscient of what their grandparents suffered under Nazi Germany when they come into contact with Muslim immigrants in their midsts. That's not hyperbole:
“We’re Pakistani,” one of the young people yelled. “You’re Jewish. We will kill you.” The rabbi said several of the youths threw punches at the Jews, until one of the congregants flagged down passing car and asked the driver to call the police. The assailants fled. ...

Many Jewish students are afraid to reveal their religious identity because they fear verbal or physical abuse, said Mitch Simmons, campaign director for the Union of Jewish Students, which represents Jews in British schools. Some Jewish students wear baseball caps instead of skullcaps and conceal their Star of David jewelry to avoid confrontations.
Better yet, they shouldn't have to suffer Muslim immigrants in their midsts, period.

Put aside the irritating predilection toward open borders and refusal to lead a Western campaign against the Islamic incursion for a moment. The case can be made that European Jewish elites have allowed, even facilitated the current state of affairs. Britain's Jewish community needs to take in a little of the local culture itself and indulge in some Monty Python inanity. It might learn a thing or two about the intractable diversity of various humans and, by extension, various human populations.

But Jews represent well under 1% of Britain's population. The bottom-feeding status and pathological behavior that characterizes much of Europe's Muslim population is something Western goyim suffers together, to European civilization's great detriment.

Buses should not be blown up in London. Dutch filmmakers should not have their throats slit in the street for criticizing Islam. Disabled women in France should not be burned alive by rioting miscreants. Subway trains should not be blown to bits in Madrid. Commercial planes should not be flown into American skyscrapers. The West should not absorb hordes of Muslims.

Britain's Islamic community is not assimilating to Occidental norms of individualism and personal liberty. Roughly 750,000 of Britain's two million adherents of the religion of peace believe British Jews are legitimate targets for attack due to Israeli policies in the Middle East. Members of various groups are held accountable for the actions of other members of those groups, even when they are of a global and disconnected scope.

Britain's central Asian Islamic community has brought tribalism with it. European Muslims are not becoming Westernized--they are reshaping Western Europe in an Islamic mold. This is a terrible thing for human progression in general and Europe in particular.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Why arachnophobia instead of amaxophobia?

As a follow-up thought to a previous post about spiders, I wonder why they strike so much fear into so many people. In terms of posing a danger to humans, mosquitoes present the greatest bug threat (due to being malaria agents), followed by wasps.

Bees and wasps are hardly a legitimate reason for anxiety. The numbers are hard to come by, but we're talking numbers in the hundreds worldwide, mostly by people stirring up nests. The numbers for arachnids are even lower. By contrast, more than 42,000 people die in automobile accidents each year in the US alone.

Humans haven't had enough time to evolve to the dangers associated with new technologies. Not just cars but also in areas like food consumption, where there is little innate aversion to eating bacon and sausage every morning for breakfast. Meanwhile, things that were once threatening but have become marginalized due to an end of the agrarian way of life and modern infrastructure still cause an inordinate amount of fear. We don't tend to think that getting in the car to go grab a Big Mac presents an exponentially greater threat to our well-being than that eight-legged thing zipping across the living room floor does.

I often get anxious when I go swimming in a lake alone, even though the only things that are even a remote threat are water moccasins. Instinctually, it's good that I'm afraid of splashing around in murky water. If instead of a cow lake in Kansas I was wading through the Nile, that fear would be useful.

Why, though, is arachnophobia so prevalent, while ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) or apiphobia (fear of bees) are not so familiar? Is that silly movie that came out in 1990 all to blame?

It probably didn't help. Paul Hillyard, author of several books about spiders, reports that in the fifties a study of 18,000 children found snakes to be the most feared animal, followed by spiders. In the eighties, rats had taken the top spot but spiders remained in second. Now the arachnids have the crown.

Shifting at the apex may be culturally-inspired, but spiders have consistently remained near the top. Relative to the rest of the mammalian world, vision is a human sensory advantage. Preempt us there, and we're freaked out.

Unlike wasps, rats, or snakes, which are buzzing around sporadically, scurrying away, or slithering along when they're seen for the first time, spiders, especially hunters, are stationary and seem to be staring at us when we first notice them. As long as you stay put, so do they. Then you move, and they zip with alacrity along the ground or up the wall. That they appear to be cognizant of what we're doing more than most other frightening critters do adds to the fear they inspire. Three or four pairs of eyes are a little tough to stomach, too.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Video games and crime?

Steve Sailer's been dealing with another potential explanation, lead, for the significant downtrend in violent crime rates that occured in the nineties after having risen steadily throughout the eighties. He blew up Steven Levitt's explanation by, essentially, pointing out that data at the national level clearly contradicted what the abortion-cut-crime theory would predict. There's also the crack epidemic and a burgeoning incarceration rate that meant more thugs removed from society. Identifying any single factor to explain such a complex phenomenon is inevitably going to come up short to some extent.

Still, I wonder how video game sales track with criminality in the US. I've not been able to find historical numbers extending back into the mid-nineties and before. Tracking at the national level is difficult enough--by market is probably impossible prior to the mid-nineties when video games became a cultural staple. If known numbers are floating around out there somewhere, please let me know.

A 'hypothesis' goes something like this: The teen homicide rate shot up the year of the video game 'crash' in 1983. Nintendo resuscitated the market in the late eighties. Sega responded with the Genesis in 1990. Nintendo countered with the Super NES the following year. With 16-bit systems taking video game graphics and play control to a captivating new level (recall how stunning Sonic 2 was for 1992), and a nationally-released movie to premiere what would become one of the best-selling games of all time under the belt, the homicide rate peaked in '91 and began its steady decline (which is now reversing, presumably due to demographics). All of this was now available at home, without requiring a bunch of young punks to meet up at a seedy arcade in town. A new avenue for pent-up male aggression had now become mainstreamed, and as the complexity of this interactive opiate grew, so idle hands no longer were thanks to the control pad.

If nothing else, it'd be interesting to see the strength of the inverse correlation between violent crime rates and video game sales.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Down with Corpulent America!

The next time you're at a big gas station with a little time on your hands, stand outside and watch how many sloths fill their tanks up at the pump, hop into their vehicles, and pull forward thirty feet to the parking stalls directly in front of the store to go in and pay. What laziness!

If the place is slamming, and there are other people waiting to get gas, it's an understandable courtesy. But in what I observed today, that was a non-factor.

This behavior is bad news for the economy, the environment, future healthcare costs, the life of the average car's transmission, and the reputation of consumerism in general.


On the 109,505th day, He rose again?

There is an interesting feature article (free liberal excerpting here) by Andrew Higgins in this weekend's WSJ. It deals with the religious resurgence in Europe, focusing specifically on the growth of evangelical churches.

The thrust of the article deals with the theory that market forces are behind the resurgence. National churches, like the Church of England and the Church of Sweden, in receiving funding through (and consequently subject to control by) the state, have done a lousy job meeting the spiritual and social needs of the public, so no one attends their services or takes the theology seriously. This suggests as much:
Consider the scene on a recent Sunday at Stockholm's Hedvig Eleonara Church, a parish of the Church of Sweden, a Lutheran institution that until 2000 was an official organ of the Swedish state. Fewer than 40 people, nearly all elderly, gathered in pews beneath a magnificent 18th-century dome. Seven were church employees. The church seats over 1,000.

Hedvig Eleonara has three full-time salaried priests and gets over $2 million each year though a state levy. Annika Sandström, head of its governing board, says she doesn't believe in God and took the post "on the one condition that no one expects me to go each Sunday." The church scrapped Sunday school last fall because only five children attended.
Uh, appointing an atheist as the governing head of a mega-church probably isn't the best way to attract the pious.

It's an intriguing notion. Something similar may be happening in the US, where Protestant mega-churches have boomed over the last several years, while the Catholic Church continues to hemorrage practicing worshippers. The former feature 'contemporary' hymns, more 'inclusivity', captivating pastors (who must perform to bring in more sheep and keep the ones they already have from straying over to another church), and a big chunk of what's in the collection plate staying within the congregation. The latter: Soporific organ music, abstentious (ideally) male priests, career clergymen who've been promoted from within the arcane Catholic Church bureaucracy, and tithing revenue that goes to support open borders advocacy and villians like Cardinal Law.

Still, (getting back to Europe) to the extent that it is explanatory, it's in company with a host of other weighty factors. Regarding the overall increase in European religiosity, the primary driver is obviously continued immigration from the Islamic Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa.

Honing in on Christianity, the forces of natural and cultural selection are at work. Fecundity and piety go hand-in-hand, not just at the national level but also within developed countries. The proliferation of contraceptives from the time of the Sexual Revolution on means that atheists and agnostics have been able to indulge in hedonism without suffering children in consequence, while the pious continue to dutifully pop them out. A couple of generations later, the reverberations of this demographic shifting are being felt.

While a religious renaissance brings up questions about excessive moral/ethical obstacles being placed in front of scientific progress, I see this as indicative of a trend that is crucial to the preservation of Western civilization. Despite having fled its place of birth to take refuge in the land of paganism, contemporary Christianity is culturally European. It proxies for a sort of Occidental umbrella that brings people from across the Western world together. The other aforementioned reasons aside, it's growth strikes me as a predictable response to the intrustion of primitive third-world cultures both in the US (via Latin America) and in Europe (via the Islamic world).

As a Western cultural coalition forms around Christianity, atheistic leftists should ask themselves why they support open borders and unfettered immigration. Not only are the migrants overwhelmingly more religious than their hosts, their growing presence is increasing piety among those same hosts. With wages suppressed, norms and mores under siege, crime on the rise, a sagging welfare system, mutual trust declining, and prosperity that is viewed as being more and more difficult to attain among those on the lower rungs, it is of little surprise that native whites are reclinating back toward the comforting tales of their religion.

Friday, July 13, 2007

What would Spiderman do?

Evolutionarily-conditioned (instinctual) human fear hasn't had enough time to be calibrated optimally to the contemporary threats humans face. That people so frequently drive immediately after waking up or while intoxicated without great concern are examples of signicant but historically recent dangers. Becoming scared while watching a horror movie is an extreme example of fear arising when no threat is present. Uneasiness in swimming in a lake or walking in the woods at night are primordial fears that serve little constructive purpose, assuming you're not wading in the Everglades or hiking in the Rockies.

I've been in a bit of a dispute with family and friends over what I see as an issue of fear vestige. My neighborhood is at the edge of a town on the outskirts of the metro area, surrounded by brush and fields on three sides. It's only a couple of years old, and several houses are being built near mine. Consequently, my unfinished basement has become a sanctuary for arthropods, especially spiders. They're are webs all along the 'step' that protrudes a few inches from the drywall halfway down, and along the stairwell.

I enjoy seeing the little guys whenever I go downstairs. While most spiders are venomous, very few are threatening to humans. The effects of most bites are, at worst, similar to the pain suffered from a bee sting. Because cool, dark, and damp (I hang my wet clothes on clotheslines in the basement to dry) environs are a spider's favorite, it is rare to see one upstairs where I live and sleep. They cut down on the population of insects that actually are pests, like roaches, moths, and termites. I live alone, and without any pets, so they're companions as well. Hence, I've not done anything about them.

Those close to me are creeped out by it. They say it's only a matter of time before I'm seriously bitten. Eastern Kansas has black widows, and more commonly, brown recluses wandering about.
One day when you go to grab a shirt, you'll grab a recluse instead. What if they launch an organized assault, a la Arachnopobia?!

Maybe. But I've never been cognizant of a bite. Even the bite of a female black widow, the notoriously most dangerous encounter a person can have with a spider, is fatal in less than 5% of cases. I'm an active, healthy guy. The chance that I'd suffer from necrosis or even severe pain after being bitten by a recluse or a widow is minimal. Unlike a pit bull or rottweiler loose in the neighborhood (animals that are more likely to kill or injury humans than the most poisonous arachnids are), spiders are never aggressive toward people. Take a quick look at clothes, a towel, or your bedsheets before using them and you're fine.

Wolf spiders are my personal favorites, and there are lots of them on board. With a body the size of a quarter, they are about the scariest looking things you'll ever see inside. While I like putting on the tough guy veneer, these beasts are a threat to both widows and recluses (and any other unfortunate bug they come across) but not to me. They're the best ally a guy who deplores chores to keep the place pristine could have! As hunters, they are more mobile than ambushers or web spinners. A widow or recluse that takes to the floor risks being run down and devoured.

I have plenty of bug bombs on hand if the situation ever gets out of control.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Prince William County to reserve taxpayer services for taxpayers

Officials in Prince William county, just outside of DC, have voted unanimously to require proof of legal residency status before people use a host of public services:
The Prince William County board voted Tuesday on whether to adopt tougher measures that would target illegal immigrants.

The proposed measure requires that immigration status be checked before someone could use public services such as schools, libraries and swimming pools. The bill also requires police to check the residency status of anyone suspected of breaking the law. The measure would also force county police to ask about immigration during routine traffic stops.
This is a great idea. Why should those who've not paid their taxes in full be able to use these taxpayer-funded services? These services are paid for through a combination of taxes at the federal, state, and local levels. They are suffering from greater user strain while being subsidized in the form of higher tax rates for legal residents of Prince William county for the benefit of illegal immigrants.

The county is among the nation's most affluent. It is comprised of lots of wealthy professionals who presumably approve of subsidized cheap labor to tend to their yards and retile their rooftops. Yet in a 8-0 decision, the board approved the commonsensical measures.

This isn't surprising. Even among the well-off, opposition to unskilled immigration and the host of costly externalities it entails is overwhelming. A detailed Zogby poll found that among households making more than $75,000 a year, by a margin of 60% to 33%, Americans believe it is time to reduce immigration, both legal and illegal.

These measures are difficult to cobble together an apology for--they work to reserve the use of taxpayer-funded services for those who actually pay their taxes. The law enforcement angle is the least 'controversial' way of advocating for immigration reform. Still, the bill is predictably being derided:
Opponents of the proposal have argued that the bill would promote profiling by authorities based on race and ethnicity. More than 150 protestors rallied outside during the voting.
NPR's Morning Edition archived the story under the heading of "Race" rather than "Immigration" or "Law enforcement".

This opposition illustrates how fallacious the deportation strawman is. Open borders enthusiasts would have you believe that 'mass deportations' are Gestapo-esque and logistically impossible. That's not the case, but it doesn't matter. By withholding taxpayer services from illegal immigrants and reporting them to ICE upon discovery of their illegal status after citing them for engaging in some other lawbreaking activity, the prospect for future subsidized migrants becomes bleaker. Others leave voluntarily through attrition. Many more will leave of their own volition than will ever need to be deported. During Operation Wetback, between seven and eight left for each person who was actually deported.

That the bill includes restrictions on the use of public schools may have struck the astute reader as problematic. A quarter-century ago, in Plyler vs. Doe, the Supreme Court ruled that illegal immigrants are guaranteed--indeed, mandated to receive--a public education in the US with the bill being footed by the net taxpayer. Verification of legality is only to be permitted when a school district is ensuring that a student actually lives within the district's boundaries.

Private schools are not implicated. Federal vouchers for education in the form of an income tax credit would overcome this anti-sovereignty decision.

As the bill inevitably faces legal opposition, there is a chance that it will make its way to the contemporary Surpreme Court. Ideally, it will coincide with the heat of the '08 Presidential and Congressional elections.

The Whitehouse and the upper chamber of Congress are not allies of the pro-sovereignty majority. The current House has yet to be tested, but it is hardly a surefire bulwark against turning the US into another Latin American country. The desire for a more pliable, conflicted, and destitute population--a population that has an increasingly greater need for government intervention--is too tempting to pass up. State and local governments must be the impetus for greater immigration restriction. Contact the eight board members and thank them for taking the stand that they did.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Troubled Texas GOP?

In last weekend's paper, the WSJ's op/ed page ran a piece by Jonathan Gurwitz, a neoconservative columnist of the San Antonio Express-News, posing the question: Will Lone Star Republicans blow it on immigration like the California party did?

The state's Senators staved off an implosion by helping to bring down the Senate's most recent amnesty bill. That an affirmative-action 'eligible', mostly uneducated and unskilled, disproportionately entitlement-utilizing, broken familied, non-English speaking, ethnically underclass, urbanly-concentrated population will become GOP stalwarts is conceivable only if the Republican party becomes the party of big, active government. Presumably Cornyn and Hutchinson are cognizant of this. Cornyn, at the age of 55 and the more reliably pro-sovereign of the two, conceivably has decades left in office and will, unlike President Bush, have to exist politically through the long-term implications of the Hispanization of the US.

Gurwitz, of course, was repeating the myth that Proposition 187 doomed the Republican party in California. Demographic shifts had already set the chain in motion. Pete Wilson, who had been functioning as an unpopular moderate, boosted his governership is supporting the popular proposition that was killed in the courts. Political talking points are not of monumental importance. They're dwarfed by demographics. Recall how astoundingly predictive white fertility, home-owning, and marriage rates were in determining Bush's share of the 2004 Presidential election. The Scooter Libby stuff merely moves voter opinion around a little at the edges.

Of interest is that Gurwitz makes clear, save for the growing Hispanic immigrant population, Texas would remain a reliable GOP stronghold. This by county visual makes that understanding obvious enough. A few excerpts from the WSJ piece:
If the demographic shift continues to gain momentum, there's a real possibility that Democrats could achieve a majority in the Texas House by 2010. ...

Older and white voters who predominate in suburban and rural communities continue to have positive impressions about the Republican Party, but there's an image problem among the state's growing number of younger voters and Hispanic voters, who are more numerous in urban centers.
He's double-counting to an extent when he groups youngsters and Hispanics together, as the average non-Hispanic in the US is more than nine years older than the average Hispanic.

From the first column on his Express-News site:
"Bush and the war may have contributed to the downdraft," he says, "but demographics trump politics." The specific demographic Masset has in mind is the growing number of Hispanic voters in Texas.

Gurwitz's focus is on trying to convert the Democratic party's paragon into a Republican voter. Like many other neocons, he shows that he's not inclined to meticulous detail by asserting the demonstrably absurd claim that Bush picked up over 40% of the Hispanic vote in the 2004 Presidential election, an impossibility when one simply looks at the state-level exit poll results that were amalgamated to create national estimates. Even this minority of Republican-supporting Hispanics is inflated by the Cuban-American population. Yet the immigration issues in question have little to do with Cuba. Migrants from Cuba will likely retain privileged status that allows them to become legalized refugees no matter how the immigration debate turns out. Increasing revenue is not a good thing if it decreases profitability.

Why not embrace the surefire way to attain GOP dominance--ensure that as many voters as possible fit the mold of the Republican voter: Self-sufficient, financially secure, married, post-high school educated, and white? The average Hispanic immigrant is none of these things.

Gurwitz is writing from a harbinger city. To not advocate for open borders would be especially burdensome for a public figure in his position.

For those who believe the WSJ to be the print world's leading 'conservative' voice, however, it is worth considering the context of the Gigot-led op/ed board's decision to carry the piece. Accompanying Gurwitz is an editorial advocating greater executive privilege at the expense of Congressional power, another that optimistically believes Iran's growing regional influence as a result of the Iraq war will help solve the Israeli-Arab conflict (by turning Sunni Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt against Iran and the new Iraq--a civil war engulfing the entire Middle East is worth it to take a little pressure off of Israel!), and still another that celebrates Ahmed Chalabi as he dispenses advice on "where we go from here".

I'm not making up these bedfellow pieces. The American Right should not do business with this Pied Piper.

Monday, July 09, 2007

South Korean virtual gold farming

I'm reading science historian Toby Huff's The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West. Huff argues that by the end of the thirteenth Century, the West, through the university, had put rationality, logic, and empiricism in positions of authority from which they've not yet and will probably never be removed from. But solipsism is proving atavistic. It is resurging, in collectivistic South Korea of all places:
You might be surprised to learn that the nation whose people enjoy the most high-speed Internet access the nation is not the same country that created the World Wide Web. It's South Korea. Which may explain why around 30 percent of South Koreans are regular players of online video games.

For a price — monthly fees, or paying by the hour at Internet cafes — they roam virtual worlds, fighting virtual enemies, amassing virtual wealth. But now, some of that wealth is spilling over to the real world, and spurring enactment of real laws.

We sent Rico Gagliano to South Korea...
From my experience, skilled South Korean players (and East Asian players in general) are phenomenally good at executing a pre-conceived build/attack order with almost no inefficiency of misstep. To beat them, it is often imperative that you disrupt their build order as quickly as possible and make them try and improvise. This is where they're most vulnerable.

From Seoul:

Rico Gagliano: South Koreans love video games. Here's how much:

[Sound: Applause]

That's 150 people watching a live video game tournament in the city of Seoul. Players sit in futuristic pods, playing the sci-fi wargame "Starcraft." Announcers call the plays as the crowd watches the action on seven giant overhead plasma screens. ...

It's a boring name, but a one-of-a-kind law. The world's first legal crackdown on a form of video-game commerce players call "gold farming" — and non-gamers call "insane."

In a smoky Internet cafe in Seoul, a gamer who calls himself Nacho tries to explain gold farming to me. He sits at a beat-up PC, playing the online swords-and-sorcery game "Lineage II."

With a mouse, he guides his little dwarf character through a medieval landscape. Most of the creatures he passes — scary orcs, half-nude elves — are controlled by other players. He heads into a dungeon.

Nacho (voice of interpreter): This place we're going to, I'm guessing there will probably be a lot of gold farmers there.

Rico: Why?

Nacho: Because there's a lot of good items here.

By "good items," Nacho means virtual magic swords, or baby dragons, or lots of virtual gold. These things can make a player's character more powerful. "Gold farmers" are players who figure out when and where these items appear, and then spend time — lots of time — hoarding them.

Nacho: You see the same game character, in the same spot, doing the same hunting for the same item for two, three, four days, even up to a month. That's a gold farmer.
They're not playing for fun. They're playing for cash. 'Cause the farmers can sell this virtual stuff to other players for real money. ...

Itembay.com was the first so-called "mediating site" in South Korea. It's the eBay of game-item trade. Gamers post their virtual scepters and laser rifles for others to buy. Itembay gets a 5 percent transaction fee.

Park: We get roughly 50,000 transactions every month, and $35 million is the amount that's traded on the Web site.

Gagliano: A volume of $35 million per month?

Sites like Itembay love gold farmers. Farmers post lots of items for sale, so Itembay earns lots of fees.

That's nearly $2 million a month for the virtual auction site.

The stories of low-paid gold farmers in China are well-known. Used to be that gaining experience was an intregal part of the epic RPG struggle, the part that tested sheer endurance and persistence over battle strategy or campaign preparedness. Now, you can hire some pimply-faced Chinakid to do it for you. That may seem to be an attractive solution in the short-term, but can a soldier of the wasteland lead his troops into battle successfully if he's relying so heavily on mercenaries?

The virtual world is putatively so enjoyable because it neutralizes all the extraneous stuff (who your dad knows, how much the coach likes you, your physical build) that pollutes pure competition in real life. But even in this fanciful parallel universe, the rich keep getting richer:
What's more, gold farmers supply rich players with such powerful items, it can ruin a game. Poorer players can't compete, some quit playing and the game-makers lose money.
That's why war strategy games in which the game template resets after each match (like chess) is where the true competitive purists reside!

Though approached tongue-in-cheek, this trend toward living (and making a living) in the virtual world raises a slew of important questions about the future that have scarcely begun to be answered.

Jack Cashill in Ingram's on Frances Semler story

(In the interest of disclosure, Jack pointed out my post on the Semler spectacle to a former politician in the KC metro area, and I've had the honor of communicating with them both at some length about this issue and others. Several of items of concern were reiterated more strongly by Jack in the just-released issue of Ingraham's Magazine. Peter Brimelow, a personal hero and the impetus for my involvement in the fight for US sovereignty, also alluded to the post here).

Jack Cashill mainstreams what has until now remained a stunning media omission in the controversy that surrounds Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser's choice of Frances Semler as one of five new commissioners on the city's Board of Parks and Recreation--another member, Ajamu Webster, is the founder of the National Black United Front's local chapter. The group advocates reparations and separatist education for African Americans. Somehow, that was not deemed "divisive" in the least, but a grandmother in her seventies who is a member of the popular Minutemen organization (which is essentially a neighborhood watch group writ large) "rocked" the world of several city council members. Writes the prolific Cashill:
His choices included the first Hispanic ever, a guy who wants reparations for slavery, a rose-growing grandma from north of the river, a male ballet dancer, and the utterly unclassifiable former councilwoman, Aggie Stackhaus.

These choices might strike the casual observer as the ultimate 21st century Mod Squad.
What makes this story even more surreal is that just days before the Semler story broke, Funkhouser, who is a Democrat, had been celebrated by the same leftist local media and municipal government for booting out a bunch of accomplished WASPy white guys and replacing them with this diverse coalition of darks and hens.

While I'm glad to see Jack make mention of the pertinent history behind Webster, he does so only in passing. I don't want Webster dragged through the mud like Semler was. It doesn't bother me that a black nationalist is on the KCMO Parks board. It's Parks and Recreation. What difference does it make? Anyhow, it is fitting that he'll be overseeing Swope Park.

This should not have been a story at all, yet it was covered at length by the KC Star and our local news stations. A majority of Americans have a favorable opinion of the Minutemen. The same cannot be said about the NBU Front. Why is the former cast as evil while the latter is not even remarked upon? The hypocritical double-standard is glaring.

Of more philosophical interest, the story illustrates what skeptics of the belief that diversity is in and of itself the highest ideal to be striven for have argued for a long time--diversity and divisiveness go hand-and-hand. Diversity and equality are inherently antagonistic toward one another.

When you bring together people of different cultures, races, religions, physical characteristics, temperaments, intelligence, and wildly disparate socio-economic status in downtown KCMO, you're going to get less agreement and less consensus than you will at the neighborhood homeowner's association meeting in Garden City. The logic is elementary.

Yet just days after singing paeans for Funkhouser's move in favor of greater diversity, the council and media pounced on him for the inevitable divisiveness that same diversity created. They begged for the puppy and then whined that he should be returned to the pound when he defecated on the rug. It is difficult to conclude other than they either desire perpetually increasing conflict, or want to install as leftist a city government as is possible and are using ostensibly objective normative judgments to see this materialize.

I'm glad I live in Johnson County, where this is merely a tale from a far-off (ten miles away!) land. Those of you in Minnesota and Massachusetts can similarly take comfort in the distance. So can those of you in Nevada and Colorado. Oh, well, at least there was once a time when you could have.

When it comes to our doorsteps, will there be anyone left?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

92% of British imams foreign-born, 94% speak other than English

Muslim integration into British society is unattainable. This isn't helping matters:
Lord Ahmed's comments come as a survey suggests imams lack professional and language skills to tackle the threat of radicalism among young British Muslims.

Only 8% of imams preaching in British mosques were born in the UK, it found. Research at 300 mosques by Chester University for BBC News and the BBC Asian Network also indicated only 6% speak English as a first language.
It's unattainable, that is, unless Britain becomes fundamentally Islamic, both socially and demographically.

The moral and spiritual leaders of Britain's Muslim population are overwhelmingly enmeshed in the Islamic culture of their South Asian and Middle Eastern homelands. More than three-fourths have been in-country for less than a decade, and nearly half have been in the UK for less than five years. Only a pittance are even able to communicate in the UK's official language.

The idea of assimilation is silly given such strong cultural (consanguinity, the power of kinship, and Islam), economic, and innate (IQs about one standard deviation below that of European Brits, physical appearance) as is. That the growth of the Kingdom's Islamic population is continuing while turning not to European norms and values but to those imported from their places of origin is just piling on.

Islamic leadership in the heart of Europe telling Muslims living there that the places they've settled are deplorably in need of the civilization of their native homelands is unarguably not helping integrate Muslims living in Britain. But the BBC's insinuated prescriptions are not doing so, either. Notice how it is assumed in the excerpt above that these foreign-born Islamic experts (the article states "The imams were 'overwhelmingly' qualified in the traditional Islamic curriculum...") will speak in favor of 'moderation' and 'integration' if only they learn English!

Knowing the language of the enemy is critical for a successful fifth column. This is a great demonstration of propositionalist fallacy. The belief that presenting an entire population with some idea (or in this case, even more superficially, merely with a communicative tool) will alter the very fiber of that population's being smacks of the same quixotic idealism that led the US and Britain into believing they could construct a liberal, functioning pluralistic society in the heart of the Middle East.

That the leaders of Britain's Islamic population are so removed from mainstream Western culture may have a silver lining. In Germany, a disconnected Turkish underclass has been willfully augmented through immigration for the last fifty years. The second- and third-generations are not only increasingly turning toward their ancestral home for influence, they have come to resent their designated place at the bottom of Germany's socio-economic ladder (similar to what has taken and will continue to take place among the US' growing Hispanic population):
Germany needed workers. Turks needed work.

So starting in 1961, the country invited Turkish ''guest workers" to come do the dirty jobs that Germans didn't want. ...

Nobody grasped that the country -- and the continent, because neighboring nations soon undertook similar experiments -- was on the brink of a transformation whose effects are still reverberating across Europe.

The hostility toward and burden placed upon the host country by the underachieving foreign population inevitably grows by generation. The absolute increase in standard-of-living that was sweet enough for the first-generation to bite their lips isn't present in subsequent generations. But by the time it is recogized and reacted to, the decision to allow immigration has produced an almost intractable result--contemporary Berlin or Los Angeles.

The audacity and mendacity of these migrants, coupled with their vicious and persistent domestic terrorist activity, provides some political impetus for opposing their migration in the first place. It's not just 'nativism'--it's security, the preservation of freedom, and the sustainability of a liberal society. The magnanimous tolerance of the Anglosphere is enormous. But even it can be pushed to the limits.

It's long past time for separation. Germany's Turkish population hasn't assimlated. Nor has France's North African population. South Asians in Britain are showing no signs of integrating, either. Only conflict and the degradation of the Occidental way of life can come from a continued forced meshing of Islamic society in the heart of the West.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Live Earth performers as old as Earth

The Live Earth marathon that is currently taking place has been a target for radio personalities on the right, especially among neoconservatives like Mark Levin and Rusty Humphries (if they're to be considered right-leaning).

Why be bothered by the concert series? The event has some big corporate sponsors like Pepsi and Philips. The greening of the MNCs, especially those that produce cheap consumables (like Pepsi), is benign.

Sure, it smacks of celebrating-the-independence-of-your-country-by-blowing-up-a-small- piece-of-it: Uber wealthy rockstars with huge mansions and shiny cars flying half way around the world on private jets to a venue using a gazillion watts of electricity to power the lights and sound, playing to tens of thousands of doped-up, cigarette smokers who drive 30,000 cars to get to the concert. But it does 'raise awareness'.

I wonder if a few naughty CAGW skeptics will take pictures of the venue after the concert--traffic-jammed parking lot with trash scattered all over the lawn like a tornado has just rolled through.

What struck me is how ancient most of the performing artists are. Almost all of them are on the decline, having reached their peaks long ago:
The show opened under an early afternoon sun with Phil Collins and Genesis and was to end long after dark with Madonna as the closing attraction.

In between, performing before a crowd of some 50,000, were, among others, Black Eyed Peas, John Legend, Duran Duran, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Spinal Tap, Beastie Boys and Foo Fighters. ...

Chris Cornell, Shakira and Snoop Dogg in Hamburg; Lenny Kravitz and Pharrell Williams in Rio de Janeiro; and Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews Band and Kanye West in Giants Stadium. ...

Of all of these, only John Legend and Pharrell Williams are still rising. An argument might be made that Shakira and Kanye West are as well.

Perhaps as their careers draw to a close, most of the performers are doing something out of passion. Or more cynically, they see this as a golden opportunity for publicity that is getting increasingly difficult to garner.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Article, ruminations on human biodiversity

Steve Sailer points to an interesting article in Psychology Today by Alan Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa stating ten un-PC observations. It deals with a broad topic--human biodiversity from an evolutionary perspective--that is as intriguing as it is off-limits by the the Zero Group Differences Thought Police. Notice that the article is the most emailed and the most popular one of the day. Some of the assertions, most notably that Islam has almost nothing to do with suicide bombing, are themselves quite PC, but it is a quick and thought-provoking read.

I'd like to have seen two of the most conspicuous 'hot button' social issues that have clear evolutionary explanations discussed. Discomfort with homosexuality, especially among males, is a natural predilection. Not surprisingly, opposition to same-sex marriage is strong. Gay men are about one-fifth as fecund as their heterosexual counterparts. There is scarcely anything worse for reproductive fitness. Whether or not homosexuality is genetic (seems it should've been weeded out) or caused by a bacterial infection is irrelevant to the issue of the discomfort others have with it.

Like homosexuality, opposition to abortion increases as one gets closer to home. Many people are comfortable with choice at the political level, but are deadset against family members or a spouse ending a pregnancy. Having your own children is paramount, but better for you if your sister has them over someone of more distant relation.

In addition to my speculation on several phenomena an evolutionary perpective helps inform, an admonition to open border leftists: Increased multiculturalism is going to make people less inclined to support welfare entitlement policies.

Lilywhite Scandanavian nations are examples of societies that can (or could) shoulder the entitlement burden and still function well. Islamic immigration is threatening this in Europe, and the same trend can be seen in the US, where whites (who create the wealth that is to be transferred) vote more strongly Republican in more demographically diverse states. Folks from Minnesota and Vermont are more likely to see welfare as a way to help those who've fallen on hard times, something that might happen to them at some point in the future, than whites from Mississippi, who view welfare as a method of extracting resources from their families to bankroll a black community that terrorizes them.

A couple of other candidates for a follow-up of the aforementioned article: Active old fogies live longer than their sedentary counterparts do. With procreative potential gone, many of the elderly have served their purpose. Why sustain the deadweight loss by allowing them to continue consuming the group's limited resources? However, continued high caloric expenditure signals a continued value to the clan--in the form of hunting, taking care of children, farming, etc.

Children of divorced parents have less trouble adjusting to mom remarrying than they do to dad's remarriage. A stepdad means more resources and greater security. A stepmom means less of these. If mom remarries, dad will continue providing, while the newly-added step-dad will begin providing as well. If dad remarries, though, his resources are suddenly split between the offspring of his first family and those who are on the way.

White babies are hot commodities on the adoption bloc in the US. Their availability is scarce, even though most babies given up for adoption are white. Steve's definition of race as a partially-inbred extended family is the pertinent explanation here. The closer the kin, the more attractive taking him in becomes. That becomes obvious when you think of how many adoptions are among members of an extended family (daughter giving her child to her parents, an aunt and uncle taking in their nephew, etc).

Conservatives are happier than liberals. Their understanding of the world is more attuned to reality. Consequently, they are more skeptical of the viability of plans (or government policies) to change the world. And so they are less likely to be disappointed when some half-baked quixotic scheme to save the world fails. Idealistic liberals experience a larger gap between what they'd like the world to become and what it actually is. That's not a recipe for happiness, yet pursuing happiness is an important driver in human affairs. Conservatives are also more likely to see raising a family as their raison d'etre. Not surprisingly, this ultimate act of reproductive fitness is rewarded with greater happiness.

As people age, they become more conservative. During youth, ideological ambition makes sense. Push the envelope, take chances, make bold claims, try to realize the impossible--anything that might help you snag a mate. Young women, unsure of their future prospects and in search of a provider, are more attracted to the one who has the big ideas that will hopefully translate to a big payday in the future. But once the mating game has run its course, the focus turns to ensuring the results of that game have the best chance of making it. You're not talking about building the car anymore. You're concerned with maintaining it. Risk-aversion makes sense--why gamble with what will work if the downside is the sufferance of children?

A few critical questions and comments on the assertions made in the article follow.

Generally, why are men hostile toward their sisters' suitors? Is it similar to the skepticism of a father, who attempts to insure that a reliable provider is chosen, or is there some incestuous explanation?

Our naturally selected impulses are not astute enough to avoid falling for imposters:
Women's desire to look like Barbie—young with small waist, large breasts, long blond hair, and blue eyes—is a direct, realistic, and sensible response to the desire of men to mate with women who look like her. There is evolutionary logic behind each of these features. ...

The irony is that none of the above is true any longer. Through face-lifts, wigs, liposuction, surgical breast augmentation, hair dye, and color contact lenses, any woman, regardless of age, can have many of the key features that define ideal female beauty. And men fall for them. Men can cognitively understand that many blond women with firm, large breasts are not actually 15 years old, but they still find them attractive because their evolved psychological mechanisms are fooled by modern inventions that did not exist in the ancestral environment.
I see this as an argument in favor of judicious social engineering. Just as in inactive modern socities of plenty we need artificial intervention to overcome our struggle with obesity and we need fantastical avenues to channel our innate competitive tendencies (video games and organized sports) to relieve the stress of the cubicle culture we've not evolved for so that we don't end up going postal, so do we need population strategies that compensate for the failings of our natural inclinations.

Among those to advocate for: Allowing men and women to be compensated for producing desirable children for adoption. We already allow it for sperm and egg donation; Making regressive tax credits like the child tax credit and the EITC progressive; Disallowing medical insurance coverage for cosmetic surgeries; and Instituting a merit-immigration program that admits potential applicants based on how they fare on a battery of evaluative tools (occupation, physical health, age, means, IQ, etc).

The authors on civilization as man's way of impressing women:
Women often say no to men. Men have had to conquer foreign lands, win battles and wars, compose symphonies, author books, write sonnets, paint cathedral ceilings, make scientific discoveries, play in rock bands, and write new computer software in order to impress women so that they will agree to have sex with them. Men have built (and destroyed) civilization in order to impress women, so that they might say yes.

Why did humans diverge from the way of the chimp? In chimpanzee communities, the social hierarchy places the bottom-feeding male above the alpha female. If a higher-ranking male allows it, even the lowest ranking male may mate with the highest-ranking female. If she refuses, he will beat her until she submits.

Perhaps the explanation is similar to why, despite being advantageous for males at the top (who make the decisions) and most females, polygynous societies have become history's losers (at this point in time, see below). Leveraging male competition by putting the ball in the female's court is a constructive way to build a civilization. In scambling for ways to be ever-greater providers, males have an incentive to increase the scale of wealth-producing activities. Specialization and economies of scale, two key ingredients in modern societies, are not imperative in polygynous societies, which are more localized (and therefore each member's activities are more generalized).

That leads to a quandary of the modern society. As female power relative to male power increases, so does its size and scope. The ecumenicism of the empowered West is contrasted to the localization of the 'misogynistic' Hmong, Amerindians, or various groups of sub-Saharan Africans. Yet the conciliatory outlook that a more feminized society creates makes it increasingly vulnerable to the aggression of male-dominated societies. European nations refuse to stop immigration from North Africa and the Middle East, Australia from the South Pacific, and the US from Latin America.

Will the patriarchal societies win? Demographic patterns certainly suggest that they will. Like belief in the inherent optimality of the free movement of people and things or in the triumph of tolerance as the highest virtue, the belief in the superiority of a genderless society struggles in the face of the facts on the ground. All of these are enticing in theory, and if all societies engaged equally in them, they'd probably be unsurpassed, but competitive evolutionary pressures create a game-theory effect. Keep in mind that all three of the grand ideals above are very novel in the human story. The question of their sustainability is still up in the air.