Recruiting the Rich:

Mark Tapscott mails to direct your attention to evidence showing that military recruitment doesn't favor the rich -- it is favored by them.

Dr. Tim Kane, an economist who works in The Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis, wondered the same thing recently, so he asked the Defense Department for all the demographic data he could get on recruits.

What Kane got in response from DOD was an avalanche of demographic data about the 1999 and 2003 recruits. After conducting extensive statistical analyses on the data, Kane reached some conclusions that will surprise anybody who believes the conventional wisdom about who becomes cannon fodder.

Check out the graphic above. Note the proportions of recruits from each of the five demographic quintiles, organized according to per capita income by zip code. The percentage of recruits from the poorest quintile is actually lower in 1999 and 2003 than the percentage for the richest quintile.

In fact, the percentage difference between the richest and poorest quintiles increases between 1999 and 2003! And the highest percentage is actually in the second richest quintile of recruits, followed by the richest quintile.
A quintile is twenty percent of the population. Thus, if 19% of the military comes from the poorest quintile, that quintile is underrepresented; if 22% comes from another quintile, that one is somewhat overrepresented.

Of the five quintiles, only the poorest is underrepresented in the military -- all the others are at or above 20%. That's very interesting. It suggests a military that is precisely the opposite of the one portrayed in the media.

Now, here's something else that's interesting. Compare those statistics above with these, which break down recruiting by geographic region of the United States. The South is far and away the leader in recruitment, although it is the poorest region of the United States. The wealthiest region, the Northeast, trails in recruitment.

That suggests that the media picture is even less accurate. The military maintains these levels of representation in the richest and second-richest quintiles, while drawing 40% of the force from the poorest region in the country and only fifteen percent from the richest region.

That suggests that military recruitment is heavily disproportionate among the upper and upper-middle class everywhere but the Northeast, and probably certain parts of California. The top two quintiles of income are concentrated in these richer parts of the country, which are unlikely to produce recruits. Thus, recruitment among the richer Americans outside of those regions must be extremely high indeed.

Something to think about. It also explains why the USMC can increase two-hundred fold their training classes for Arabic, one of the world's most difficult languages. The wealthiest Americans, excepting those in certain enclaves, are finding that their well-educated children are choosing to serve.

Good on them.

UPDATE: The Mudville Gazette has a long post on Army recruiting, which offers a lot of data specific to the Army. He is hunting a different claim than the one above, though: he's curious about the problem of how many young Americans are actually fit to join the military.


A New Warfighting:

Chester has an examination of how the "endgame" of the GWoT may progress. While I respectfully suggest that talk of an endgame may be somewhat premature, there are some interesting facts in the piece.

Of particular interest is that the USMC has changed its focus on language training. It used to be that they sent people who tested well, where those few were intensely schooled with the intent of becoming translators. Now things are different. General Hagee:

We have decided that every Marine, whether he or she is enlisted or officer, is going to be assigned a region in the world, and they're going to be tasked with learning about that region in the world and even learning one of the languages in that particular region, and we hope to be able to give them the opportunity to serve in that particular area.

Now is everyone going to be able to do that? No. But at least we are identifying how important that is. Two, three years ago, we probably sent 20 some individuals to Arabic language course. Last two years we've sent four thousand Marines. Now are they fluent? No. But at least they're able to start to communicate, they're able to start to understand the culture, at least in the area that we are fighting in right now.
That is both a brilliant and a remarkable change of training doctrine.


Manhattan & HangZhou:

The author of a new book on pagan Rome reports on his research (via Arts & Letters Daily). His main insights, he says, came from living in Manhattan:

Just listening to my beloved 10th Street cacophony every morning puts me at one with the ancients: "Insomnia is the main cause of death in Rome," ranted Juvenal. "Show me the apartment that lets you sleep!" Of course, instead of sirens and car alarms, the Romans were driven mad by the shrieks of street vendors and bells from pagan rituals. The night traffic was deafening: Axle grease was rarely used in ancient times, so the high-pitched squeal of wagon wheels grinding through the narrow streets was as piercing as the brakes on New York's garbage trucks.

Whenever I make my way downstairs to the rubbish-strewn sidewalk, I can gather more inspiration about ancient life: Strolling the Subura was once an assault on the senses, weaving through an obstacle course of filth and pushy crowds. ("One man digs an elbow into my side, another a hard pole," wrote Juvenal, "one bangs a beam, another a wine cask, against my skull.")
I sympathize with this writer entirely. While living in HangZhou, China, I wrote an entire novel (never published) about the Varangian Guard. The Varangians were a group of Norse and Rus warriors who had come to be employed as mercenaries by the "Romans" of Byzantium. I happened to have a fairly complete personal library as far as the surviving writings and chronicles of the Norse who were involved -- particularly the saga of King Harald Hardrada, and a companion saga about one of his personal companions and fellow warriors.

However, I knew nothing at all about Byzantium except as it was presented by the Norse writers, who were relating to print tales that had been passed down for more than a hundred years. Still, the experience of being a rather warlike foreigner in an ancient land with an alien culture was entirely familiar. The book's first third, treating the life in the warriors while in Constantinople, was really about living in HangZhou among the foreign community.

When I returned to the United States, I got some books on Byzantine history and revised the book to fit the reality as presented by real historians. Not very much revision turned out to be necessary, however. It proved that HangZhou was a pretty reliable guide to the experience, just as I had imagined it to be.




I had a chance to go and see a pre-screening of this movie back in June. Due to a confluence of tragedy and emergency, I didn't make it. I have bitterly regretted it ever since.

In retrospect, though, it may have been a good thing in just this one way: If I had spent the last several months telling you how cool this movie is, you would all now be sick of me.

So now, you can go and see for yourself. You should -- especially if you've watched the series.

If not, and if you don't want to rush out and buy the DVDs on just my word...

Go here, and download episodes 1x11 and 1x12 (also called "Serenity," but it's not the same thing). This is the pilot, which for some reason got aired in the middle of the season instead of at the start. Who knows why? Anyway, go do it.

I'm pretty sure that no one at Fox or Universal will mind. Once you've seen it, you will go and buy the DVDs, and you'll go to the movie, and maybe more than once.

So yeah -- download and watch the pilot. Then go see the movie. Or, just take my word and grab the DVDs.

Anybody who has seen the film and wants to discuss it, I'll be happy to talk about it in the comments. Nothing here on the front page, though, so as not to spoil things.



I've been reading over the "Moderate Voice" roundup on the Delay (DeLay? I've seen it both ways) indictment. I'm trying to decide what to think about this. Here are my basic principles:

1) A desire to defend the weaker party, which wants to see the matter resolved in the favor of the innocent whenever an innocent man is threatened by the state's power.

2) A desire to see corruption in government restrained, which desires to see the matter resolved by hurling any guilty men into the dungeon in this case. This is true whether "the guilty" is Delay, or the prosecutor, should the prosecutor in fact be engaged in a political prosecution.

3) A disdain for the entire "campaign finance reform" project, which is gleeful at seeing politicians and legislators victimized by their own stupid laws. This sense of poetic justice hopes for a rethinking of the whole project to arise from the business.

4) A general sense that most Congressmen are corrupt scoundrels who probably belong in the jailhouse anyway. My father used to say that he felt Congressmen ought to be allowed to serve as long in Congress as they could get re-elected, provided that on the day they were ousted they spend an equal number of years in prison.

These are conflicting principles, but in the absence of much firm information about Delay, they will have to do. The only thing I actually know about the man is that he recently stood up and told the country that there was no fat in the Federal budget. That does not suggest to me that he can look forward to a trial on corruption charges with very much hope.

Still, we shall see.

Shoot first

Brady Frets:

Via the Geek's coblogger Charles, we have this extraordinary press release from the Brady Campaign. They are very concerned about the new Florida law that allows you to defend yourself from criminals:

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said today it is beginning a public education effort to educate Florida tourists and potential Florida tourists that effective Oct. 1 they face a greater risk of bodily harm within the state of Florida.

That is the date that the state's new "Shoot First" law also known as the "Stand Your Ground" law, goes into effect.
It's not "also known as" the "Stand Your Ground" law, because it's not known as the "Shoot First" law at all. Not, except, on the Brady Campaign's websites. Its author actually called it the "Castle Doctrine," so if you want a catchy name for it, that would be the honest one.

Anyway, Brady thinks your life is in danger if you visit Florida. They suggest the adoption of arcane procedures, also known as "not waving your arms and screaming over every little thing that irritates you":
The flyer suggests specific steps visitors should take: Avoid unnecessary arguments with local people; stay in their cars and keep hands in plain sight if involved in a traffic accident or near-miss; and maintain a positive attitude and avoid shouting or threatening gestures if someone appears to be hostile toward them.
Many of us in the South, not least the late great Lewis Grizzard, have been wondering what it would take to get visiting Yankees to adopt some manners. Apparently, we've finally hit on the answer.

So yeah -- if you like getting into "unecessary arguments with local people"; or if you don't want to treat the people you meet with "a positive attitude"; or if you enjoy expressing yourself with "shouting or threatening gestures" -- stay out of the South. I have news for you: if you got out of your car, screamed and yelled and made threatening gestures, the jury never was going to convict the fellow for shooting you anyway.

Don't like that? As Mr. Grizzard used to say, "Delta's ready when you are."

If, on the other hand, you always planned to behave like a civilized human being -- well, you won't have much trouble wherever you go. If, however, you should have some here -- in spite of your good will and manners -- we'll back you up if you feel the need to defend yourself.

Good enough? Great.


Fencing the Border:

The Afghan border, that is. The article from the Institute for Afghan Studies' Dr. G. Rauf Roashan considers a recent Pakistani proposal to build a fence along the border. The Afghans are against it:

Many analysts wonder about the existence of a legal, true or viable border between the two countries as the so-called Durand Line of the colonial era -never approved of by any national assembly in Afghanistan-and imposed by Britain had a validity of one hundred years and that in 1993 its validity expired. The question was: If there is no officially recognized border between the two countries where is the Pakistani government putting the fence?
The article talks about the political process at work. One interesting section, however, is the paragraph where it considers precedents for the proposed wall:
Looking back in history there are precedences of building walls against invaders preventing their intrusions and attacks. Living examples of this are the Great Wall of China constructed against Mogul intrusions and attacks, the ancient Kabul city walls constructed on the ridges of the Asamaii and Shair Darwaza mountains during the reign of Kabul Shahan against Arab invasion and the Israeli concrete wall in Gaza against the Palestinian suicide bombers. The Berlin Wall, however, was built to prevent East Germans from escaping to freedom into West Berlin.
Several years ago now, George Will wrote a column that talked about the Afghans. He was impressed with their directness and honesty.
In a meeting attended by the Afghan minister of education, an Afghan academic asked Lewis if British universities would recognize Afghan university degrees as equivalent to those from British universities. Before Lewis could launch into diplomatic pitter-patter to blur the question, the minister of education curtly said to the academic who had asked the question, "Don't be silly. How could they possibly?" It was, Lewis says, a kind of candor rarely found elsewhere in the region.
Well said. On the other hand, this fellow was educated in Afghanistan in the very time period Lewis was writing about. How many academic institutions in the West could produce a paper that compared the Israeli wall to other walls in such a simple, honest context? It shouldn't be hard, since the comparison is honest. But it is hard.

I suspect the Afghans are going to go far, once the stability that has long eluded them is achieved. It may not be forever that we laugh at the idea of Afghan universities being as good as, or even better than, British ones.


Yon's Rhma:

Mr. Yon may be the best war correspondent to arise from the current difficulties. That said, this post shows that he is not just a good war correspondent, but a good writer, and a good man.

That he's a good writer is proven by the fact that he builds suspense in the reader. He titles the post "Final Mission," and drops opening hints that the ending might not be a happy one.

But even a good person needs information in order to act effectively on their best impulses. Oftentimes, good things do not happen simply because information does not make it to the right people.
Yon knows the ending, but he makes the reader wonder, and draws him in to a tale of bureaucratic snarls and paperwork. That is a hard topic to write about well, but it is interesting here because Yon has made us care about the result.

That he's a good man is proven not only by the care he shows for the girl, but his ability to see and appreciate the good in all the participants. As so often, what you see in others can tell us more about you than it ever does about the other people.

Thank you, sir.


New Orleans Resignation:

Grim's Hall would like to join BlackFive in celebrating the departure of a cowardly, corrupt official. A corrupt official I can sometimes endure, but cowardly ones I can't stand at all.

I did post a link to a MSNBC video of New Orleans Police looting a Wal-Mart. I posted about the desertions on the police force (and praised the ones who stayed on duty throughout the madness in the aftermath of Katrina).

But the one reason that this guy should step down is because he and his security detail ran from armed thugs in the Superdome. They ran when they should have served and protected.
Lots of links at B-5's place. Good riddance.


Notes from Knights:

The Knights Simplar have a list of things they'd like you to do. One of them is to call your Congressmen to support the creation of a citizens' border patrol. It would be organized under Congress' power to call up the militia, interestingly enough.

They also have a compromise proposal for dealing with an objection from Sarah Brady:

Brady's concern is that we're "going to get the right to use them [firearms] willy-nilly." To show that we are not above compromise, I encourage you to ask your Congressmen to take the phrase "willy-nilly" out of any pending legislation.
I'll support that.

Truth in advertising

Illumination Through Partial Translation:

Have a look at this statement from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's spokesman. He is herein denying the "legitimate" membership in MILF of some fighters captured by the army. The statement is partially in English, partially in the local tongue known as Tagalog.

"Nagtataka kami kung bakit pinapatulan sila ng mga military at bakit nagpapaloko ang mga military sa kanila. Babalik din yan sila sa illegal na activities pag wala ng makuha," he added.
I had the pleasure recently of taking one of the several government "artificial language" tests (actually, I think I've taken all of them at one point or another). Often, though, there's a lot to be gleaned just from the "loan words."


Women in College:

InstaPundit points to the problem that does not exist, too many women in college:

Currently, 135 women receive bachelor's degrees for every 100 men. That gender imbalance will widen in the coming years, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Education.

This is ominous for every parent with a male child. The decline in college attendance means many will needlessly miss out on success in life. The loss of educated workers also means the country will be less able to compete economically. The social implications -- women having a hard time finding equally educated mates -- are already beginning to play out.
He links to Althouse, as well as Jokers On the Right and Lies and Statistics.

OK, here's my take: which disciplines show which biases?

Glenn suggests three explanations. I think the real choice is one in between two of the ones he offers: that more men are choosing profitable careers outside of education, and that women are overrepresented in higher education. This is because more female-oriented careers insist on credentials. More male-oriented careers insist on demonstrated skills.

Here's what I mean by that: how many of these women are majoring in literature, library science, psychology, sociology, and the other "soft" arts and sciences? If we're looking at a future where the vast majority of public school teachers, librarians, and psychologists are female, how is that a threat to men?

If we're looking at a future where the majority of mathematicians, general officers and scientists remain male, how is that a bonus to women?

When I took my Master's Degree, almost everyone there was female. And almost all of them were taking degrees in Education, nursing, and the like. In order to get the full rate of pay as a public school teacher or a librarian, you have to invest a ton of money and time getting a graduate degree in "education" or "library science," even though neither in any way requires such a degree. If you're a public librarian, you need to know the Dewey Decimal system, and how to be nice to rude people.

A public school teacher? They need to know their subjects. They don't need courses in education: every one of them has been twelve years in the system as a student, and has had an additional apprenticeship as a student teacher. None of them needs instruction in 'the philosophy of education.' They need to learn their subject matter. And that, of course, is just what they can't study -- because they need that "Education" degree to get their money in many places.


There's no cause for concern here. The problem is not that men aren't "welcome" in academia, as Althouse puts it. It's that men are better judges of what is critical and what is laughable. The majority of millionaires in this country have no college degree.

It's not that education is unimportant. It's that academia is.


Vegans Go To Jail:

Ace has a story about some Vegan parents who almost starved their poor kid to death, because they wouldn't give her any milk:

I have a question: Were these people so f'n' crazy they rejected the notion of even breastfeeding their child, as breastmilk would be an "animal product" and hence not fit for human consumption? From what I can see, that would appear to be the case.

How stupid do you have to be to decide, based on some kind of insane eating-disorder-cum-political ideology, that human milk is itself unfit for consumption by a human baby?
The first commenter says, "This supports my theory that vegan diets lower IQ by 50 points."

That really must be true. I have a buddy who's a falconer. As a young fellow, he went to a college whose name escapes me at the moment, but which was founded by hippies in the mountains of North Carolina.

One day, he noticed that his hawks seemed to be getting sick. He couldn't figure out why -- some illness that touches only birds? But none of the other regional falconers were reporting it.

Still, his birds got sicker and sicker, weaker and weaker, until they could barely fly. Finally, one night, on a hunch he staked out the mews.

Sure enough, shortly after he put out the food, one of the local vegan hippies slipped in and stole all the chicken and other meat from the hawks. My good friend picked up a tire iron, and went out to have a "wee chat" with the fellow. Turns out the kid had this notion that the hawks shouldn't be eating meat, but ought to be eating this fine soy-bean protein instead, and...

Hawks can't live on soy beans.

Babies need milk.

That's just how it is, folks.

Just War

Taking "Just War Theory" Seriously:

As I do not watch television, it will not disturb the networks to discover that this or that new show does not appeal to me. However, this review of the pilot for "Commander in Chief" does merit some comment. Among other things, the show apparently attempts to demonstrate to viewers that a good liberal President would not be a pacifist, but would use the military vigorously in defense of proper principles. In particular, what interests me is the test case they set up for the righteous use of arms:

Liberals are serious about human rights in this world too. Working out a subplot, Allen’s aides keep reminding her about the Nigeria situation: In accordance with sharia, Nigeria is about to put a woman to death for committing adultery. Allen is concerned.

Throughout, Allen is shown confidently ordering around generals and positioning aircraft carriers (see, this is why stereotypes are bad). And as Commander limps through its 38th minute, she brings the Nigerian ambassador to a Joint Chiefs’ meeting and proceeds to illustrate how the Marines will storm his country if the woman isn’t released immediately.

“I can’t believe the U.S.A. would take such a unilateral action,” the ambassador mumbles.

“If you think I’m going to sit by while a woman is executed, tortured, for having sex, you’re sorely mistaken,” retorts Allen.
So, this is what a proper use of force looks like in the liberal Hollywood imagination. There is a problem, however.

It is not a proper use of force.

Deploying the military, particularly in an invasion by Marines, is going to result in loss of life and social chaos. These are bad things, which always inevitably result on the occasions that the military is used.

If a war is just, however, there may be some good ends that will result as well. It is important to see that the good ends and the bad results balance, in a way that favors the good. You cannot morally use force if you don't attend to that balance.

"Just War" theory, which is the backbone of Western ethical thinking about military force, addresses the issue using a technique known as "the doctrine of double (or dual) effect." The doctrine originally arises in Medieval Catholic thought, but applies very nicely to questions of morally using force. (This is true for liberals as well as conservatives, by the way -- one of the finest books on the subject, and indeed my original textbook when I was first studying the concept of Just War, was written by liberal thinker Michael Walzer.)

The doctrine of double effect holds that, when you contemplate an action that has both a good and a bad effect, you can morally take that action if:

1) The action is "discriminate," by which they mean that the bad effect is neither your goal, nor the means to the good end you hope to achieve. The way to test this is by imagining that the good end could, by miracle, be achieved without the bad things coming to pass. If you would be happy with that result, the act is discriminate.

An example: You wish to bomb a weapons' factory, but there will be workers there who will be killed. The workers are forced labor; it's not their fault they are making weapons for the enemy. Is the act discriminate? You imagine that the bombs fall and by miracle destroy the factory, but the workers all escape unharmed. Would you be satisfied? Of course! Therefore, the act qualifies under the first test.

2) The act must also be "proportionate," meaning that the good accomplished must be at least equal to the harm caused. This has to be tested before the fact -- one can't be blamed for harm that one could not have reasonably imagined.

An example: You invade a country to stop a genocide in progress. In the process, your advancing troops disrupt the tribal social order far more completely than anyone expected, thus touching off a revenge genocide that kills far more people than the original one would have done. Your original action (trying to stop the first genocide) qualifies as proportionate because the greater harm was neither expected nor probable. Now, you must choose whether to try and stop the new genocide -- for which you are partially responsible.

In our Hollywood dream scenario, we have a liberal President planning to invade Nigeria with Marines in order to rescue a single person. Rescuing the single person from torture and execution is a good effect (at least, it's a good effect if one doesn't believe, as the people in that part of Nigeria do, that "having sex" in this context is an offense against God that has a divinely mandated punishment). Well enough. What are the bad effects of invading Nigeria?

* There is, to start with, the loss of innocent life that will unavoidably happen when you deploy Marines to secure a city.

* If one has taken the line that the Iraq war is a bad thing because it pits Americans against Muslims, then this war is far worse. It pits America against, not "some Muslims," but Islam itself. We are undertaking to enforce a Western notion of justice over, not a socialist-fascist tyranny, but over sha'riah.

* A major nation state in Africa is disrupted. Given the regional instability, this could have fearsome consequences -- for which we will be unprepared, because our national commitment, both in terms of force levels and political will, is only up to the task of rescuing a woman.

Thus, the good to be accomplished is not in anything like a proportionate relationship to the harm caused. While discriminate -- we don't have to imagine the scenario where no harm is caused, because Hollywood does it for us, with the Nigerians backing down -- the act is not at all proportionate. The action is improper, and immoral.

The supposed President's actions are also, I can't help but notice, shocking to the degree that they are unaware of basic military realities. She went to the enemy and told them what her plans for invasion were?

Pity the poor Marines who are asked to take those landing zones. They'll do it, of course, but it would have been a good idea not to "illustrate" the plan beforehand.

In addition, given the size of the mission objective, it was very unwise. As we have seen from the time it took to capture Saddam, and the continuing inability to find Zarqawi, it is not hard to hide a single person from an army in a large nation. This is true even if, as in Saddam's case, absolutely everyone can recognize him on sight.

The "woman" in question could easily be hidden from the American forces or, more likely, sent back to them in pieces. If the goal was to rescue this woman, the goal will not likely be accomplished in the fashion imagined.

If you had to imagine military action in this context, the thing to do was to send an unannounced commando raid backed by light infantry to secure the area. Navy SEALs acting in concert with Army Rangers, as in the Jessica Lynch raid, might work. Such an action might indeed be proportionate, although it would still have the bad effect of casting America as the enemy of sha'riah -- but only for an evening, rather than committing to months and years of fighting to prevent the implementation of sha'riah. It would, at least, avoid the more major type of disruptions.

They might actually get the woman back, too. President Geena's plan was not too likely to manage that.


Hizb-ut Tahrir:

Since I mentioned them in the last post, I'd like to point out that HuT has an interesting anti-abortion stance.

Approximately 5,000 members and supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir from Jakarta and surrounding areas rallied in great numbers in front of the President's Palace on Merdeka Barat Street, on Sunday September 18th 2005.... And a giant banner read "Laa ilaaha illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah", the participants brought several posters with the slogans... “legalising abortion made free sex easy.” Other posters condemned the Liberal ideas and called for the Islamic solutions.
There are two things to be said about this. The first is that they have put their finger on the truth: "Legalizing abortion made free sex easy" is really the #1 argument in favor of abortion. It is an argument that no one ever seems to make plainly, even here (where "free sex" enjoys high popularity as a concept, if not as a reality). Nevertheless, that's what this is really about.

The second is that HuT is astonishingly blind to think that they can take the #1 argument in favor of abortion, and use it as an argument against abortion. It reminds me of a certain anti-drug campaign from a couple years ago:
According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, teens who use drugs are five times more likely to have sex than are those teens who do not use drugs. . . . Kids need to hear how risky marijuana use can be.
Oh, yeah. Just what I'll tell my teenage son. "It makes it five times as likely that you'll have sex!" Good God.
The "human nature" thing keeps evading some people.



We talked a bit about the BBC writer, Justin Webb, who wondered out loud if the US was finally headed to a revolution against the capitalists. Cassandra was more disturbed by the piece than I was, as she is putting it in a larger context, that of an ongoing media assault on American values. The BBC writer, for me, was a fellow who would never agree with us because his principles are opposed to everything America stands for; and yet, he was seeing some fine and praiseworthy things in the American reaction to Katrina, and was forced to recognize that in spite of his openly admitted prejudices. I respected that, and still do.

A middle-aged Brit who wants to speculate about why we don't have a revolution is one thing. He's not trying to start one. He just wonders why we don't, and the answer demonstrates an ability to see people with whom he disagrees on principle in a kind and humane light.

The wider context that bothers me is the domestic attempt to provoke a civil war. Nor is it limited to powerless protestors:

Mr. Rangel, a Democrat who has represented Harlem for almost 35 years, spent his portion of yesterday’s forum reminiscing about the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, and calling on his audience to undertake similar action today, inciting them to “revolution” after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina and particularly its impact on indigent blacks in the Gulf Coast region.

The storm, he said, showed that “if you’re black in this country, and you’re poor in this country, it’s not an inconvenience — it’s a death sentence.”
Then there are the groups who want to incite the the destruction of all humanity.
By accident they stumble on an outpost of The Coalition Against Civilization, an organization dedicated to an ideology called eco-primitivism. The harmless-looking vegetarians are passing out pamphlets looking for a few good species traitors, who would work towards "spreading and developing theories and practical means to bring about the destruction of civilization and defend what wilderness remains." For a real-life account, read Baron Boddisey's and Dymphna's description of their experiences in the Gates of Vienna.

Societies whose goal is the destruction of human civilization or even humanity itself have existed on the margins for some time. The Voluntary Human Extinction Project (VHEMT) argues it is not enough to reduce the population that is burdening Gaia. Humanity must disappear down to the last man, woman and child to "allow Earth's biosphere to return to good health". Theodore Kaczynski, AKA the Unabomber, a trained mathematician of extremely high intelligence, embarked upon a terrorist program whose aims were put forth in the manifesto Industrial Society and Its Future.
Then there is the Caliphate. And then there is the small but radical fringe, to whom I will not link at all, which advocates a "race war" from the other side of the question.

These people are hostis humani generis, enemies of all mankind. Some of them think that they are enemies only of part of mankind, but they are really the enemies of all of us. The people they think will benefit from their revolutions are the ones who will suffer the most, should they be fool enough to follow the path.

When was the last real Revolution in the West? So long ago, apparently, that no one remembers what one looks like. The terror of the word is lost on them.


Republicans Audit The Poor:

Just to show you that I take my co-bloggers seriously, I'm going to cite an article by Eric's favorite blog, Dennis the Peasant, which I've been reading lately. This particular article was on a plan to sic the IRS on the poor people of the nation, rather than using their auditors' time and energy to go after the rich and the corporate.

First, the cost of EITC [Earned Income Tax Credit, whereby the government sends "refund" checks to poorer families with children even though they didn't pay the "refunded" taxes to start with -- Grim] over-claims (payments made to taxpayers by the I.R.S. due to taxpayer preparation errors related to EITC) was between $4 billion and $5 billion in for the tax year of 1994. Total EITC payments for tax year 1993 totaled $15 billion. Simple math gets you to the realization that as of 1994, between one of every four and one of every three dollars paid out as EITC were the result of "noncompliance", the term used by the I.R.S. to indicate tax return preparation error. Second, the cost of EITC over-claims was estimated to be $11 billion for the tax year of 1999. In other words, the dollar payout by the I.R.S. for EITC noncompliance more than doubled in 5 years.

I could go on, but you get the drift. EITC has been problematic since its inception 30 years ago. Tax Compliance Measurement Programs in 1982, 1985 and 1988 found significant levels of noncompliance. I.R.S. testing in 1995 confirmed those findings. What all of this does not prove is that noncompliance equates with fraud. While there is anecdotal evidence that EITC is a fraud hotspot, the reality of the matter (to which I can attest on a professional level myself) is that EITC rules are complicated and complex. It would seem the most noncompliance is related to the difficulties in understanding the eligibility requirements, rather than outright criminal intent.

But that doesn’t mean that you simply ignore the problem. For a management perspective, one cannot simply ignore a problem of the magnitude of EITC noncompliance without jeopardizing the integrity of the entire system.
EITC is kind of an oddity in the system. I've never quite gotten the way in which people who haven't paid taxes are due a "refund," though I do understand why the system is in place. Essentially, it exists to make sure that working is a better deal than welfare -- that nobody falls into the category where they and their kids are so poor that they'd be better off not working and take the dole.

So, let's say that it's a reasonable idea. However, a plan to hand out free money obviously has to be intensely regulated because it will be very popular. The result is, as Dennis says, that the rules for collecting the EITC check are very complex and technical -- and they tend to fall upon that group of people which is least prepared to deal with such technicalities, because as a group the poor are less well educated and less able to hire an accountant.

The charge raised against these audits is that it is motivated by politics, by class warfare, by a desire to squeeze the poor in the fashion of That Scurvy Prince John:
If [the author raising a complaint about the audits, T. Christopher] Kelly happens to be right – that increased EITC auditing is not appropriate at this time – it’s not because he actually understands the issue nor has the facts at his command. Most certainly it would be more in the order of a happy (for him) accident. Realistically though, let’s come to the understanding that he’s completely wrong in all respects. But because he has no grounding in fact, and no understanding of the primary issues involved, he has latched onto an idea that everything can, and must, be reduced to the political. There can be no considerations, management, organizational, or whatever, that matter in Kelly’s world... because he can’t fathom what they are.
One suspects that the emotional content of the anti-audit argument is something like this: "These people are working poor with kids, and need the money more than you do. So what if they screw up their taxes and get a little extra money back? They need it. We should just ignore that, and raise taxes on the rich and the corporations to make up the difference."

There are negative consequences for the poor in higher taxes on the rich and the corporate, of course -- just as there are negative consquences for the poor in any sort of higher cost. The benefits arising from "extra" EITC payments probably don't make up for them, and more to the point, can't be assumed to do so: the "extra" payments are going to people outside the class the EITC is meant to help. That's why they're "extra" payments that are not authorized by the rules. The truly poor lose out here. Benefits meant for them are going to others who are not in such a hard case. Meanwhile, the rich and the corporate, taxed extra to make up the difference, push their costs downward. The result is that the lot of the genuine working poor is worse than it was if EITC was administered properly.

I remain convinced that we need to replace the tax system with a far simpler one. Insofar as we are stuck with this one for the time being, however, we have to take a hard look at it. What the emotional argument really wants is higher EITC payments, which in fact is a political issue that they should take to Congress. As much as I love to join in detesting the IRS, an agency I will be only too happy to see the end of if we can arrange a better system, they are not the ones at fault here.


Political Tests:

I'm always amused by these attemps to model personality and political thinking. Patrick Carver and Feddie took this one, and posted their results. Here are mine:

You are a

Social Liberal
(70% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(70% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating
The test is somewhat biased in a few ways. These are two of four graphs they show you. One of the ones not shown is "Famous People," which graphs you against a number of political figures. I fall closest to Jefferson, which actually might be a statement of the test's accuracy -- the wing of the Democratic Party that survives in the mountains of Georgia is strongly Jeffersonian, as it has been since its founding. (It shows how far the national Democratic party has fallen, too -- their founder, Jefferson, is now very far away from the furthest border of what the test considers a "Democrat" position. As we keep saying, we Southern Democrats can't "return to the fold," because we're still standing right where the fold used to be. It's the rest of you who need to hie yourselves back here.)

I notice that the dead-center of the test is represented by John Kerry. Kerry's ADA rating puts him to the left even of Ted Kennedy, yet somehow he strikes the test-makers as a "centrist." Not on your life.

Another bias is in the sample, which is of course self-selecting and non-scientific. Still, it's interesting:

Kerry voters: 166,789
Bush voters: 79,171

Percentage of these voters who say they are in favor of gun control: 37.

That's kind of interesting, isn't it? Kerry to Bush voters ought to be close to 1-1, since the election was so close; instead, it's 2-1 Kerry. Yet gun control still only manages support among slightly more than a third of test takers.

Kind of a hopeful sign, from where I sit.

UPDATE: Another thing that bothers me about this test, on reflection: it judges both axes based on "permissiveness." That seems like an odd standard to me, and I imagine that it's a more complex one than the test-makers believe it to be.

Two examples, one minor and one not:

1) The minor one -- statements aren't clearly about "permissiveness," so I'm not sure how they judge based on them whether you are willing to grant permission. One of the statements you are asked about is, "I would defend my property with lethal force." If you agree with that, is that the absence of economic permissiveness, or social permissiveness? Even an anarchist, believing that property is theft, would nevertheless suggest that you aren't obligated to 'grant permission' to someone who doesn't bother to ask for it.

2) The major one -- often one permits one thing in order to avoid permitting another.

One of the statements is, "People shouldn't be allowed to have children they can't provide for."

This is a question that would appear to be designed to bring out the closet eugenicists and haters of welfare (particularly coupled with the Natural Selection and homelessness question that appears earlier in the test). Yet it my experience that "I couldn't afford a child" is a frequently offered reason for practicing a certain kind of choice.

You will probably find a lot of members of the Religious Right who would "strongly disagree" with this proposition, precisely because of their moral opposition to abortion. They will happily permit extra kids, to avoid permitting abortion. Meanwhile, some outright socialists will happily support abortion, to avoid the backbreaking costs of extra children on their social systems.

That's all probably quite a bit of analysis for a simple online test. Still, as I said, I am always amused by these attempts to make models of the mind. Examining their flaws can often be illuminating.

Finally, one good thing about the test -- it sees no distinction between "Socialist" and "Communist." That's fine with me. As my old professor of Political Science used to say, "Where I come from, they use the tems 'Socialist,' 'Communist,' and 'Satanist' more or less interchangeably."


Some Links of a Sunday:

Chester posts about a "massively multiplayer online role playing game" that is experiencing something new -- an unplanned virtual plague infecting the player characters.

Daniel survived Rita and got a lousy T-shirt. He also reports on looters in Houston after the hurricane. The looters, it turns out, are former citizens of New Orleans.

Doc talks about two women he met during the evacuation.

I myself don't have much of anything to talk about. The arrival of autumn has kept me away from the "crystal ball" for as much of the day as I can manage. I've been hiking along (and right up the middle of) the Rappahannock river, going to the gun range, taking the boy on trips, and the like. All very pleasant, but it hasn't inspired any particularly deep thoughts about the world.

Well, maybe next week.