Saturday, March 12, 2005

Extradition Disgrace

President Bush's relentless kow-towing to Mexico knows no limit, but you'd think that after permitting millions of Mexicans to invade the US - propping up Mexico's ailing and corrupt economy - and treating Mexican President Vincente Fox as if he were the leader of a superpower, Bush might be able to ask Mexico for at least one little favor in the name of justice for a murdered American. But apparently not. After two years of waiting on the President's promise to pressure Mexico to extradite the murderer of a US police officer, California law enforcement officials are reduced to begging the president to keep his word.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, in a letter yesterday to Mr. Bush, also asked the president to fulfill a promise he made to the family of slain Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff David March. Mr. Bush told the deputy's widow in 2003 during the Peace Officers Memorial Service in Washington, "We'll get him back," referring to the suspect.
The league sent a similar letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will attend the Texas meeting.
"President Bush's repeated refusal to pressure Mexico to return accused killers of police officers to the United States is a silent way of giving these vicious killers an executive pardon," said league President Robert Baker.

"Bush is sending a dangerous message to criminals in the U.S. and abroad, and he cannot allow Mexico to proudly harbor dozens of criminals who have killed in America and fled to Mexico to evade prosecution."
The illegal alien, identified as Armando Garcia, fled to Mexico after the shooting, where he is protected by a 2001 Mexican Supreme Court order saying criminal rehabilitation is the goal set for violent offenders and that a death sentence or life imprisonment imposed by a U.S. court is "cruel and unusual punishment." Garcia had been deported three times before the deputy's slaying.

California law mandates either the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for those who kill a police officer.
It is a disgrace that President Bush has not demanded that Mr. Garcia be extradited to the US, and imposed penalties against Mexico for refusing to do so. But then, everything about the president's policy toward Mexico reeks of disgraceful appeasement. Mr. Garcia, not surprisingly, was no stranger to the US criminal justice system.
Garcia, a suspected drug dealer, later was identified by investigators as the killer. Immigration records show Garcia previously had been deported on three occasions from the United States as an illegal alien, but returned each time.

The Drug Enforcement Administration also said Garcia was a suspect in the sale of methamphetamines in California and later was convicted on felony drug-distribution charges and sentenced to four years in prison. He also was arrested in 2000 by police in El Monte, Calif., carrying a Tec-9 machine pistol -- for which he was deported.

Records show he also was identified as the suspect in two drive-by shootings.
The impact of Mexican criminals operating freely in California and other border states has been dreadful, both in terms of crime and the expense of combating it - burdens put squarely on Americans and their wallets. If Mr. Garcia had never been able to enter the US illegally, Deputy March would still be alive. If Mr. Garcia hadn't been able to re-enter the US after being deported THREE TIMES, Deputy March would still be alive. If Congress and the President were doing their jobs, Deputy March would still be alive. Perhaps the local district attorney should try indicting people in Washington for aiding and abetting Mr. Garcia in his crime spree.

Incidentally, if a low-level Mexican methamphetamine dealer can successfully stroll across the US-Mexico border at least four times, how many well-trained and well-financed Islamist terrorists do you think can do the same thing?

The Door Left Wide Open...

Last Tuesday, FBI Director Robert Mueller, told Congress that suspicious individuals - some with possible al-Qaida affiliation - may have crossed the US-Mexico border. On Thursday, Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, on a visit to Mexico City, confirmed that US intelligence is aware that al-Qaida is trying to slip across America's borders.

"Indeed we have from time to time had reports about al-Qaida trying to use our southern border but also trying to use our northern border," Rice said. "There is no secret that al-Qaida will try to get into this country and into other countries by any means they possibly can."

Recent intelligence from current investigations, detentions and other sources suggests that al-Qaida has considered using the Southwest border to infiltrate the United States, according to testimony from a top Homeland Security Department official last month before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

This begs the questions: why has the administration repeatedly and deliberately refused to properly secure the border and fund substantially augmented border security? Why does the White House insist on allowing millions to cross the US-Mexico border to the detriment of American workers, culture and security? And why do the American people tolerate this?

Friday, March 11, 2005

Slavery Endures

Though it garners only marginal attention in Western media and little outcry from racial activists - largely because there's no politically correct villain to blame - slavery remains quite an active trade in large parts of Africa.
Anti-Slavery International, a London-based human rights group, estimates that 43,000 slaves are held in Niger, which the United Nations reckons to be the second-least-developed country in the world. Slaves in the landlocked west African country form a stigmatised, closed class. Even freed slaves carry the taint of their hereditary status, and their former masters or parents' masters may claim some or all of their income, property and dowries.

In 2003, Niger finally got around to amending its laws to make slave ownership punishable with up to 30 years in prison. (The practice was outlawed with Niger's independence from France in 1960, but carried no penalty.) Facing jail, a chieftain in western Niger offered to free the 7,000 slaves held by him and his clansmen in a public ceremony, due to take place on Saturday March 5th. But in the week leading up to the event, Niger's government came to fear that a massive release of slaves would draw unwelcome attention to slavery's existence in the country. The government declared that slavery does not exist in Niger, the ceremony was cancelled and the slaves left as slaves. Far from avoiding a public embarrassment, Niger has multiplied its worldwide shame.
Slavery persists not only in Niger, but in surrounding countries as well.
In Sudan, too, slavery is widespread. Some 14,000 people were abducted and forced into slavery during the country's two-decade-long civil war between the Arab-run government in Khartoum and blacks in the south. Most of these were women and children forced into domestic work and herding. Many children of abductees, fathered by the slaves' masters, in turn become slaves. Around 12,000 Sudanese remain in bondage. And according to a recent UN report, abduction and slavery have been extended to Darfur in western Sudan, where a separate conflict rages.
Where outright slavery isn't practiced, often equally invidious forms of servitude are common.
The form of slavery that perhaps affects the greatest number of people is bonded labour, which is particularly rife in India, Pakistan and Nepal. Desperate workers are given a loan for as little as the cost of medication for a child, and are forced to work to repay the loan and "interest". But no clear contract is offered-the unfortunate bonded labourer often winds up working years to repay such loans, and the bond is even often passed on to children after the original labourer's death. Because of the apparently voluntary nature of the bondage, many do not see it as slavery. But the labourer is often so desperate for a loan, without other sources of credit, that there is little real choice involved. And once bonded, the threat of violence and the limitations on personal freedom involved make the practice in effect no different from chattel slavery.
One hundred and forty years after Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, forms of slavery still exist even in the US.
And in the United States, Free the Slaves, another anti-slavery group, found illegal forced labour in at least 90 cities, involving over 19,000 people. The CIA has estimated the number of slaves in America at 50,000. Chinese, Mexicans, Vietnamese and others work against their will in the sex trade, domestic service, farms and sweatshops.
Of course, the overwhelming majority of these "slaves" are illegal immigrants who find themselves indebted to or imprisoned by the very people who smuggled them into the country - usually for the exact purpose of using them as cheap labor or for prostitution. So long as American borders remain porous, the numbers of such victims will only grow. The penalty for smuggling aliens into the country should be elevated to life in prison and the forfeiture of all property. High penalties and strict border enforcement are the only way to mitigate such crimes. Tolerance of illegal immigration only breeds more criminal activity.

Update: Note that the Economist article cited above pointedly avoided any mention of slave labor in China. The US House of Representatives, having heard extensive testimony on the subject, has prepared legislation (H.R. 2195) designed to tighten enforcement of the US ban on importing products produced by slave labor, especially products manufactured in "Communist China's vast archipelago of slave labor camps --the infamous 'Laogai'."

The Laogai--a contraction of laodong gaizao, or "reform through labor"--has been an integral part of Chinese totalitarianism since the inception of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Designed for the dual purposes of political control and forced economic development, it is modeled on Stalin's Soviet Gulag. Laogai survivor Harry Wu has estimated that some 50 million Chinese men and women have passed through these camps, of whom 15 million perished. Today, anywhere from six to eight million people are captive in the 1,100 camps of the Laogai, held and forced to work under grossly inhumane conditions.

But if the Laogai is a horror to its inmates, it is a source of profit as well as political control for the Chinese state and the Chinese Communist Party. As Harry Wu has testified, "the Laogai has the lowest-cost labor in China." According to official statistics, the Laogai operates 140 export enterprises, selling products to over 70 nations abroad--including the United States, which has banned 27 different products of Laogai camps. Forced labor is responsible for producing key commodities (including uranium, graphite, rubber, cotton, asbestos, and one-third of Chinese tea), as well as a huge array of consumer goods--including, ironically, toys, artificial flowers, and even Christmas lights and rosaries.

Although the United States entered into binding agreements with China in 1992 and 1994 to bar trade in prison-labor products and allow inspection of its forced labor camps, the Chinese Government has frustrated their implementation, both by using dual names to disguise camp products and by denying access to the camps. In 1996, the Chinese Government granted access to just one prison labor camp requested by our Customs Service. The two most recent State Department Human Rights Reports on China each stated that "[r]epeated delays in arranging prison labor site visits called into question the Government's intentions regarding the implementation of [the two agreements]." And in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 22, 1997, Customs Commissioner George J. Weise stated, "We simply do not have the tools within our present arsenal at Customs to gain the timely and in-depth verification that we need."

Whilst browsing through the endless aisles of cheap Chinese-made products at the local Wal-Mart, Americans may want to recall that not only do these products fund Chinese military expansion and threaten the US and its allies, but that many were produced by political prisoners of the same brutal dictatorship who reaps the profits from their sale.

In Holland, Resolve Grows

After years of living under a multiculturalist delusion, the Dutch people are finally working up the resolve to deal with the crisis that now threatens their ethnic identity. Right-leaning Dutch politicians like Geert Wilders - forced to live in government safe houses constantly protected by armed guards because Muslim death threats, now speak openly views that would have banished them from politics just a few years ago.
'Democracy and Islam are not compatible--not today, not in a million years,' [Wilders] said. 'If you look at the political culture of Islam, it's a retarded culture.' By 'retarded' he means that Islam, unlike Christianity, has never undergone a reformation, and that the Islamic world, unlike the West, has not had its equivalent of the Enlightenment. Wilders' message to Muslim immigrants is blunt: Learn Dutch, embrace Dutch social values--or get out.
Wilders has called for closing the Netherlands' borders to 'non-Western' immigrants for five years. He also wants to expel a group of 150 or so 'jihadists' who have been identified by the police and to keep close tabs on 10,000 to 15,000 more Muslim immigrants who have shown sympathy for militants.
Today, Wilders' party stands to win as many as a fifth of the seats in parliament in the coming national election. But he rejects any comparison between his party and other rightist parties in Europe, like France's Le Pen.
'I never cross the line of extremism,' he insisted. 'We are a country of tolerance. It's in our veins. The problem is we tolerate the intolerant--and we get paid back with intolerance.'
But even the Dutch Left now recognizes the problem.
'This is an open and tolerant society, but sometimes we mistake indifference for tolerance,' said Paul Scheffer, a prominent Dutch social critic and journalist from the left.

Five years ago Scheffer created a stir among Dutch intellectuals with a groundbreaking essay in which he argued that the Dutch multicultural model was no longer working. In his book-cluttered study overlooking an old Amsterdam neighborhood that is now predominantly Turkish, Scheffer explained how the first wave of Muslim immigrants, mainly Turks and Moroccans, came as guest workers. They were expected to work for a few years and then leave.

They didn't, and Dutch society never bothered to integrate them.

But the Dutch did offer them a generous welfare state that made it easy to stay, and today nearly 60 percent of Turkish and Moroccan men over age 40 are unemployed despite shortages in the labor market, Scheffer said.

'There are some people who have been on welfare for 30 or 40 years. They don't speak a word of Dutch. They have no contact with Dutch society. They watch satellite TV from the old country. Physically they are here; mentally they are there,' he said.
'We have a long tradition of conflict avoidance, but a weak culture of citizenship,' Scheffer said. 'We have a very negligent way of treating our own history. We are always saying, `Who are we to put such an emphasis on Dutch history. We are not such an interesting country.''

The result, he said, is a generation of immigrants who have no real understanding of Dutch society or Dutch values. And because many of them do not feel connected to the host society, it is easy to become alienated by it, especially when the neighborhood mosque offers a warm welcome and a fiery sermon about the evils of the decadent West.
Despite their new found awareness, the Dutch must face the fact that it may have come too late.
About 2 million immigrants live in the Netherlands--population 16 million--about half of them Muslim. But the figure that makes many Dutch uncomfortable is a forecast that by 2015, the country's four largest cities will have immigrant majorities. Children of immigrants already are the majority in the elementary schools of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and several other cities.
Decades of opne immigration and failed multiculturalism have bequeathed the Dutch people a demographic timebomb. The birth rate for Muslim immigrants vastly outpaces that for native Dutch. Making matters worse, many native Dutch are choosing to emigrate from the Netherlands, fleeing the rising tide of crime and racial hostility in Dutch cities. This only serves to further undermine the native Dutch culture. If the Dutch cannot find a way to deport the immigrants who have settled in their country, or radically raise the native Dutch birth rate, the Netherlands will cease to be Dutch sometime in the next several decades.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Report Challenges UK Immigration Rhetoric

On the heels of academic studies in the US which reveal the heavy economic cost of high immigration to the US economy, British immigration experts have questioned the rosy account of immigration's benefits to the UK continually offered by Tony Blair and his government.

A report from the Migrationwatch think-tank says Tony Blair and other ministers are routinely citing statistics that are disingenuous at best and often wrong. These include the suggestion that immigration contributes 0.5 per cent to the nation's overall GDP and that immigrants contribute £2.5 billion more to the economy than they cost.

Such figures have often been quoted by Mr Blair and Cabinet colleagues in support of record immigration levels.

But the Migrationwatch report says they are misleading because while immigrants do add to the size of the economy they also add to the population.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the think-tank, said: "What the Government conveniently fails to mention is that they therefore generate considerable costs in terms of infrastructure - schools, hospitals, housing, transport etc."

When these costs are added back, says the report, the true economic "benefit" to the host population is likely to be at best the addition of 0.1 per cent of GDP, or about 14p a week per head each year. The likely true benefit is probably no better than neutral - as all major studies overseas have also concluded.

As in the US, the influx of immigrants desperate for work drives down wages as competition shifts from employers competing for workers to workers competing for jobs.

The report says that while the current levels of immigration are attractive to employers because they provide an unlimited source of cheap labour, they are extremely expensive for the taxpayer and harmful for the less skilled indigenous workforce whose wages are held down and who are more likely to end up unemployed.

Furthermore, to the extent that immigration holds down wages, it makes it more difficult to attract into the labour force the one million on incapacity benefit who would like to work.

Recall that Tony Blair's is a Labor government, supposedly dedicated to raising the standard of living for the British working class.

Migrationwatch does not oppose all immigration, but insists that the benefits of immigration have been drastically overstated and that the large numbers of immigrants permitted into Britain negate any gain that might be realized by a more sensible policy.

The report says that while limited skilled migration in both directions is a natural and beneficial feature of open economies, the issue is one of scale. It claims that immigration at current levels - around 150,000 net arrivals a year - brings with it "considerable costs in terms of additional strains on housing, public services and social cohesion." It also accuses Ministers of relying on "dodgy" statistics. A Home Office calculation that migrants in the UK contributed in taxes £2.5 billion more than they consumed in benefits and public services was made in a year in which the government accounts were in surplus so everyone paid in more than they took out.

Of course, Migrationwatch's report details only the economic cost of immigration, it does not examine the dillution of British culture or British national cohesion that results from permitting hundreds of thousands from culturally dissonant countries to settle in Britain.

Southern Border Penetrated

The critical nature of the security threat posed to the US by Washington's deliberate failure to enforce the US-Mexico border was once again underscored by FBI Director Robert Mueller who, on Tuesday, told the House Committee on Appropriations that suspicious individuals had entered the US across the southern border.
'We are concerned, Homeland Security is concerned about special interest aliens entering the United States,' Mueller said, using a term for people from countries where al-Qaida is known to be active.

Under questioning from Rep. John Culberson, Republican of Texas, Mueller said he was aware of one route that takes people to Brazil, where they assume false identities, and then to Mexico before crossing the U.S. border.

He also said that in some instances people with Middle Eastern names have adopted Hispanic last names before trying to get into the United States.
Director Mueller provided no estimate of the number of such individuals. However, with more than one million people illegally crossing the US-Mexico border every year, it would probably be difficult to sort out any potential terrorists.
In recent congressional testimony, Adm. James Loy, deputy Homeland Security secretary, said al-Qaida operatives believe they can pay to get into the country through Mexico and entering illegally is 'more advantageous than legal entry.'

But Loy said there's no conclusive evidence that al-Qaida operatives have entered the country via Mexico.

Likewise, Mueller did not acknowledge that terrorists had entered the country through Mexico, only that it's believed people from countries where al-Qaida is active have done so.

U.S. authorities are investigating groups that may be smuggling people from countries with al-Qaida ties, he said.
Until the morning of September 11, 2001, there was no evidence to prove that al-Qaeda terrorists were inside the US planning an attack. There had been plenty of clues to this, of course, but a mix of political correctness, bureacratic infighting and sense of complacency caused America's security apparatus to overlook the evidence. No such excuse remains today. The US-Mexico border represents a gaping hole in American national security. Closing that hole should have been one of the administration's first priorities in the months after the attack. Instead, the administration has stubbornly refused to seal the US-Mexico border, and the Democrat opposition has barely broached the matter. Why? The GOP sees illegal immigrants as a boon for business because they drive down wages. Moreover, Bush strategists like Karl Rove believe the that strongly religious, pro-family attitudes of many Mexicans will eventually swing them toward voting republican. The Democrats see any increase in the minority population as naturally favoring them at the polls. Niether party seems particularly concerned about the damage to the nation's culture and demographic cohesion. If the US suffers another major terrorist attack from terrorists who entered the US illegally through Mexico, the administration and members of congress should be held criminally liable for malfeasance.

Bush Administration Embraces La Raza

As if to leave no doubt as to why it continues to leave the US-Mexico border unguarded - intentionally permitting millions of mostly Hispanic immigrants to pour illegally into the US - the Bush administration is now openly courting La Raza (which means "the race" in Spanish - though you'll never hear the media point that out), a Hispanic racial advocacy group.
The National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights organization, embraced Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales at an awards ceremony last night, breaking with other civil rights organizations that have denounced Gonzales for his role in producing the administration memo that allowed harsh treatment of detainees overseas.

Although La Raza supported Gonzales's appointment as attorney general, last night's ceremony marked a first, highly public step in the group's effort to alter its image as a left-leaning organization, said Janet Murguia, its president and chief executive.

Gonzales's appearance at the ceremony was his first before a large Hispanic civil rights group since he was confirmed last month by the Senate. La Raza hopes the warm reception will show the Bush administration that it seeks to move to the center politically and gain more access to the White House. President Bush declined to attend all of La Raza's annual conferences during his first term, citing the group's criticism of his policies.
The administration's brazen wooing of La Raza is meant to increased GOP support amongst a US Hispanic population whose rapid growth is mostly fueled by illegal immigration. Apparently, national security and the defense of US culture take second seat to winning votes in the Bush-Rove political calculus.

America's New Export

The US used to dominate the world in exporting manufactured good, food and high technology. Not any more. But at least the Bush administration can proudly claim that America now has an export that won't likely be outsourced to China or India: creationism!

The pressure from US religious groups to unseat the teaching of evolution as the sole construct in public schools shows no sign of slowing. In Georgia, Alabama, and Pennsylvania, as well as other states, individual school districts and state governments are grappling with suggestions that creationism be taught along with evolution. And the movement appears to be a new US export.

Across the Atlantic, those in charge of Britain's education system have been facing their own version of the God versus Darwin debate, albeit on a much smaller scale. For the past three years, a small group of schools in northeast England have been at the center of the controversy about teaching creationism. The schools, established under a government scheme that allows private benefactors to operate state schools, are run by the Emmanuel Schools Foundation, which is backed by the millionaire car dealer Peter Vardy.

For its part, the foundation says on its Web site that it "encourages an academic and inquisitive approach to spiritual matters including, amongst others, creation and the origins of life on earth." In 2002, Prime Minister Tony Blair said in Parliament he was happy about creationism being taught alongside evolution in state schools. Others, such as Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins, are not so happy. Dawkins, eight other leading scientists, and six top clergy wrote to Blair in 2002, pointing out that "Evolution is not, as spokesmen for the college maintain, a 'faith position' in the same category as the biblical account of creation.... It is a scientific theory of great explanatory power, able to account for a wide range of phenomena in a number of disciplines."

When the Junior Education Minister was questioned in parliament about allowing the teaching of creationism in British science classes, he responded that children should be allowed to "consider different ideas and beliefs."

[Dick Taverne, of the Liberal Democrat party] shot back: "Since the Government is in favor of allowing choice between sense and nonsense, will it also allow children to be taught that the earth is flat and that the sun goes around the earth? Since there is a crisis in math teaching in schools, and some university chemistry departments are closing down, will the Government also offer as an alternative the teaching of astrology and alchemy?"

"It is extraordinary," Taverne went on, "that a Government and a Prime Minister who say they are in favor of science have allowed the introduction into our schools of the worst features of American fundamentalist, antiscience, pseudoscience nonsense."

As China and India race to improve scientific literacy amongst their populations in preparation for the high-technology competition of the 21st century, the US is removing evolution from school curriculums and helping infect other with this nonsense.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Creeping Influence in America's Backyard

As the US concentrates on events in the Middle East, a disturbing trend seems to be gathering strength among South American countries.
Meetings between Argentina and the International Monetary Fund in Washington today will give an important signal as to whether the biggest Latin American countries are really taking as stroppy an anti-US and anti-capitalist direction as their rhetoric suggests. The “pink tide” sweeping the continent has been much remarked on — too much. The inauguration this month of Uruguay’s first socialist chief executive gave another opportunity for the observation. The Bush Administration has been right to ignore much of the rhetoric, although the gibes clearly sting.

But several new twists merit its closer attention now. First, the giants of the continent — Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina — are making more effort to work together. Secondly, Venezuela is actively exploring new markets for its oil to reduce its dependence on the US. And thirdly, Argentina is poised to pull off an extraordinary coup in forcing its international creditors to accept startlingly poor terms for the debt on which it has defaulted.

If that deal holds, it will put an end to Argentina’s four-year debt crisis, and set the country back on the path to normality. But it will also set a new benchmark for the licence allowed to defaulting governments. It may suggest to others that they can get away with worse behaviour towards the capital markets, and institutions such as the IMF than they had thought.
Argentina's threat to simply walk away from its debts brought it creditors to the negotiating table and won great concessions from the creditors, but the strategy's long term consequence will be to convince the capital markets that lending to Argentina, and South America in general, is a risky idea. That means in the future less credit will be extended and at a significantly higher cost.

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez fancies himself the new Che Gueverra. But as previously noted (see posts below), he's simply the latest "progressive populist" to recycle the same socialist economic and political policies that have failed Latin and South America so badly in the past. Nevertheless, Chavez knows how to play anti-American sentiment into a rallying cry.
[Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela] also discussed integrating their energy industries, something that will cause alarm in the US. Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s President, a radical nationalist and the most acidly anti-American in his language, wants to reduce dependence on oil sales to the US, and has just finished a trip to India to that end. Venezuela’s own growing confidence has been helped by record oil prices.

These shifts are enough to provoke alarm in Washington. Of course, as calmer voices point out, the anti-market, anti-US rhetoric from the three giants has not been much borne out in practice. They have, on the whole, appeared respectful of the need for fiscal restraint and for foreign capital.

But the growth of the left-leaning group is a reminder that this rhetoric is a powerful route to the top in these countries, where economic mismanagement has left many bitterly resentful. Their new sense of solidarity with each other may demand more US attention.
The US needs to pay close attention to the spread of Chavez-style anti-American sentiment around the southern continent, which could open that region of other - more worriesome - influences. Like, say, China. Recently, the Chinese have been delicately sounding out South American governments in hopes of securing access to oil and new markets.
China's sights are focused mostly on Venezuela, which ships more than 60 percent of its crude oil to the United States. With the largest oil reserves outside the Middle East, and a president who says that his country needs to diversify its energy business beyond the United States, Venezuela has emerged as an obvious contender for Beijing's attention.

The Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez, accompanied by a delegation of 125 officials and businessmen, and Vice President Zeng Qinghong of China signed 19 cooperation agreements in Caracas late in January. They included long-range plans for Chinese stakes in oil and gas fields, most of them now considered marginal but which could become valuable with big investments.
Given the rising tension with China, and the very real theat of a Sino-American military conflict over Taiwan, Chinese efforts to wield influence in South America should be treated seriously.
"The Chinese are entering without political expectations or demands," said Roger Tissot, an analyst who evaluates political and economic risks in leading oil-producing countries for the PFC Energy Group in Washington. "They just say, 'I'm coming here to invest,' and they can invest billions of dollars. And obviously, as a country with billions to invest, they are taken very seriously."
Investment, of course, provides a platform upon which to build political influence, especially in terms of backing certain political candidates and policies. Chinese money could ultimately be used to sway national policy in South America, bringing important countries into the Chinese sphere of influence. That influence could prove expensive to the US in the event of a US-China conflict.
"For years and years, the hemisphere has been a low priority for the US, and the Chinese are taking advantage of it," the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "They're taking advantage of the fact that we don't care as much as we should about Latin America."

To be sure, China, the world's second-largest consumer of oil, has emerged as a leading competitor to the US in its search for oil, gas and minerals throughout the world -- notably Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

China has accounted for 40 percent of global growth in oil demand in the last four years, according to the US' Energy Department, and its consumption in 20 years is projected to rise to 12.8 million barrels a day from 5.56 million barrels now. Most of that oil will need to be imported. The US now uses 20.4 million barrels a day, nearly 12 million of it imported.

Aggressively seeking out potential deals, China tries to out-muscle the big international oil companies, always beholden to shareholders. Chinese companies, which have substantial government help, can dispense government aid to secure deals, take advantage of lower costs in China and draw on hefty credit lines from the government and Chinese financial institutions.

"These companies tend to make uneconomic bids, use Chinese state bilateral loans and financing, and spend wildly," Frank Verrastro, director and a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told the Senate Energy Committee early in February.

"Chinese investors pursue market and strategic objectives, rather than commercial ones," he said.
Few Chinese "companies" are actually independent of the communist government; even the People's Liberation Army, China's ever-growing military, is known to directly operate a number of large Chinese "corporations." China can thus use trade as a direct means to establish and wield influence. The US needs address this expansion of Chinese influence with an eye toward mitigating it before the consequences begin to harm US interests. Chinese lines of credit and trade deals are allowing anti-US Chavez to pump up Venezuela's economy with big spending projects. This makes him increasingly dependent on China to keep Venezuela's economic engine functioning, and thus ever more eager to do Beijing's bidding.
"We have been producing and exporting oil for more than 100 years," [Hugo] Chavez told Chinese businessmen in December. "But these have been 100 years of domination by the United States. Now we are free, and place this oil at the disposal of the great Chinese fatherland."

China, though, is not just interested in Venezuela. Much of Latin America has become crucial to China's need for raw materials and markets, with trade at US$32.85 billion in the first 10 months of last year, about 50 percent more than in 2003. Mining, analysts say, is among China's priorities, whether it is oil in Venezuela, tin in Chile or gas in Bolivia.

Chinese involvement in Latin America is "growing by leaps and bounds," said Eduardo Gamarra, director of the Latin America and Caribbean Center at Florida International University, adding, "It's driven by the need for privileged access to raw material and privileged access to hydrocarbons."
During the Cold War, the US slowly encircled the USSR with a web of military and commercial alliances that allowed the free world to contain the communist sphere of influence. Trade agreements often led, over time, to military agreements. The Chinese seem to have studied American Cold War strategy and appear to be implementing something similar against the US. American diplomatic and military attention, currently focused on the possibly sisyphean task of bringing democracy to the Middle East, needs to be brought to bear on the spread of Chinese influence, particularly in its own backyard. China with its great manufacturing base represents a far greater threat to the US than any terrorist organization springing from Middle Eastern muck - where they manufacture exactly nothing. Through generous trade agreements, the US has permitted the rapid growth of the Chinese economy at the sacrifice of much of its own manufacturing base, whist allowing Chinese money to bankroll Washington's irresponsible spending. It is finally time for the US to re-examine its trade policies and diplomatic disposition toward China.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The EU's "Pinchbeck Metal"

Arguing against Britain's pending Prevention of Terrorism Bill in today's UK Times, William Rees-Mogg compares the US constitution to the proposed European Union constitution, and finds the former lacking.
For instance, one can apply the standard of the US Constitution to the constitution of the European Union; it immediately becomes apparent that the European constitution is not merely undemocratic, but unusable. It does not do what a constitution has to do; it does not provide a definition of relative powers. All constitutions have to answer the question: who does what? The US Constitution gives its answer almost at a glance. The European constitution gives confused and imprecise answers. Tested against the gold standard, it is pinchbeck metal.
The US constitution runs about 12 pages in length, outlining the branches of federal government and dividing power among them; the proposed EU constitution tops 500 pages and gets mired in minute details of trade agreements and regulatory matters whilst avoiding clear definitions of principles and powers.

Educational Segregation?

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the UK's Commission for Racial Equality, finds himself under fire after he suggested that black male students might see improved academic performance if they were educated in classes set aside exclusively for them. Teachers and educational experts decried the proposal as "apartheid" and argued that it might even be illegal under the UK's Human Rights Act. Nevertheless, Mr. Phillips, who is black, defended the idea of educating black young men by themselves.

Mr Phillips insisted the proposals did not break the law. He said the Government had succeeded in raising the performance of children as a whole at GCSE level, but black boys were not improving.

“It seems to me that we need to look for some new ideas because this is costing the whole community, not just the black community or the individuals, a great deal,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“These boys are unemployable, they end up in a situation where, in a sense, they can’t participate in society. So we wanted to look for some radical ideas.”

Mr Phillips said anything that worked was "at least worth considering”. He also insisted that the scheme did not amount to segregation.

“The point is there is a group of boys who we know have a particular set of needs, partly because of their background, partly because of things that they bring into school... and we may need to have some specific tailor-made solutions for them which don’t apply to other people.

“That might mean putting them in some classes together.”

Black male students perform signicantly worse than other racial groups in the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education), a series of tests administered in various subjects to UK students around the age of 16. According to Mr. Phillips, young black men in Britain suffer from cultural values that disparage learning and achievement.

Mr Phillips told Inside Out, the BBC One programme due to be broadcast at 7.30pm today, that many black boys were suffering from a culture where it was not cool to be clever, and they lacked selfesteem and good role models.

“If the only way to break through the wall of attitude that surrounds black boys is to teach them separately for some subjects, then we should be ready for that,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Phillips said he had heard of similar programs being tried in the US with some success - particularly under Dr. Stan Mims at the East St. Louis School district, which recently introduced gender separated math classes.

But another prominent black figure said that educating black boys separately in mixed schools might actually cause them to be demonised. Simon Woolley, co-ordinator of Operation Black Vote, said that the roots of under-achievement went deeper than Mr Phillips’s comments suggested.

“The issue about poor results with some black children is complex," he said. "Run-down housing estates, broken families and low teacher expectation are all factors. I would prefer to focus on these things first before we start blaming the victims — and demonise them for their failure. However, it is true that the bling-bling and gangster rap culture does not help.”

The Times noted that results for the GCSE's showed a continued racial and gender gap.

Although results improved marginally last year, just 35.7 per cent of black Caribbean pupils in England and 43.3 per cent of black African pupils scored at least five C grades at GCSE, compared with a national average of 52.3 per cent.

Those figures masked the fact that black Caribbean girls achieved far better results than boys, with 43.8 per cent achieving five A*-C GCSEs compared with 27.3 per cent boys. The difference of 15.5 percentage points compares with a national gender gap of 10.2 per cent.