Friday, April 01, 2005

Arizona Declared "Weakest Spot" on US Border

Imimgration officials have publiclly named Arizona's 389 mile border with Mexico to be the "weakest spot" in the entire 1,950 mile US-Mexican border. Last year, 52% of the 1.1 million arrests of people illegally crossing the US-Mexico border occur in Arizona.
Calling Arizona the weakest portion of the Southwestern border and warning that terrorists may try to exploit its vulnerability, top Homeland Security officials on Wednesday pledged to add 534 Border Patrol agents and to more than double the number of aircraft within six months.

Robert Bonner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner, said officials have a "comprehensive strategy" designed to secure Arizona's border, a goal that has remained elusive despite record manpower increases in recent years. Department of Homeland Security plans include increasing the number of agents in the state to more than 2,900 by the end of September and adding 23 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft and targeting popular smuggling corridors controlled by organized-crime networks.

But some border security experts and academics said they doubt the increase, although widely recognized as significant, will be enough to stem illegal immigration through Arizona. The state shares 389 miles of border with Mexico and includes remote, treacherous expanses of desert and well-established smuggling corridors.
While any move to augment the border patrol should be applauded, given the magnititude of the problem in Arizona, an additional 534 border agents hardly seems adequate. The US committed 150,000 soldiers, innumberable tanks, planes and ships at a cost of $250 billion to invade Iraq because it was suspected of possessing weapons of mass destruction, even though it had never used those weapons against the US - even during a previous US invasion of its territory. Yet the best Washington can do in the face of the well-documented invasion of US territory by millions of illegal immigrants from Mexico is post 534 new border agents along the most penetrated point in the border? This is the best the Bush administration can do to secure the homeland in the ongoing "War on Terror"?

Terorists have identified the US-Mexico border as a convenient means to infiltrate the US, according to recently published intelligence. It remains unclear if al-Qaeda has actually done so. However, given the horrific events of September 11, 2001, prudence would dictate rapidly closing off any means by which al-Qaeda operatives could get easy access to the US. Washington has been warned of this danger, and administration officials openly acknowledge it.
"This is a national security issue and homeland security issue, and nowhere is that more apparent than in Arizona," Bonner said, adding that the data clearly show it is the "weakest spot in our border right now."

The vulnerability of Arizona's border, where agents arrested an average of 1,600 undocumented immigrants a day last year, has gained greater urgency with reports from top Homeland Security and FBI officials that al-Qaida operatives are eyeing the Southwestern border, although no one has publicly offered evidence to support that information.

"The reason we have to get control along the borders of our country is because we have an enemy that is bound and determined to attack us, and that's al-Qaida and associated terrorist organizations," Bonner said.

He said that officials have information that the organization that orchestrated the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, "has contemplated and planned the potential for getting terrorist operatives into Mexico and across the border into the United States illegally."
If the administration has knowledge that our enemies are planning to send agents across the US-Mexico border with the goal of inflicting another September 11th-style attack in the US, why hasn't the administration deployed thousands of new border guards, backed up by the best helicopters, planes and tanks available to secure the border? In the absence of such a response to a clear and present threat, how seriously can we take this administration's committment to protecting the US homeland, or combating terorism?

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Chirac's Desperate Gamble

Facing polls that increasing suggest that the French people will vote against the proposed EU constitution, Jacques Chirac's leftist government - desperate to avoid the embarassment of a loud French "non!" - is frantically trying to sway opinion back in favor of the EU constitution France has so ardently backed. Following Chirac's long-standing adherence to the principles of open and fair governance, the French government is now trying to bribe its civil service into voting for the EU constitution.

The French government has offered inflation-linked wage rises to more than five million public employees in an attempt to buy a "yes" vote in the referendum on the EU constitution.

The offer, reversing pledges of rigour in state spending, is the latest attempt by the government of Jean-Pierre Raffarin to sugar the public mood before the nation votes on 29 May.

Two further opinion polls, published yesterday, suggested that 54 per cent or 53 per cent of French voters were ready to reject the European constitution and plunge both the EU and French politics into crisis. The likely "no" voters were heavily concentrated on the French left and were among public sector employees.

The wage incentives for a "yes" vote underscore the political peril for Chirac should the French people reject the EU consitution. Chirac has labored mightily for years to craft a strong, Franco-German dominated European Union in the vain hope that it could serve as a counterweight to US power, and thus restore Paris's prominence in world affairs. Should the French people themselves reject that vision, it will frustrate the last decade of Chirac's political ambitions.

All of these measures go against the grain of the prospectus originally announced by M. Raffarin's centre-right government in 2002. President Chirac said he wanted a "reforming government" which would have the courage to over-ride sectional interests and roll back the state.

The public spending spree, based on a small increase in tax revenue, also flies in the face of France's promise to reduce its public spending deficit which has bust the limit imposed on countries within the eurozone in each of the past three years.

President Chirac and M. Raffarin believe that the surge in the "no" vote has been generated by domestic gloom rather than a fundamental shift in attitudes towards Europe.

Renaud Dutreil, the Minister for Public Service, met union leaders to increase his offer of a 1 per cent pay rise for civil servants to 1.8 per cent - the rate of inflation - this year. Negotiations were continuing last night.

The 5.2 million employees covered by the talks amount to one in five of all people in paid work in France. Whether a more generous pay increase will be enough to change their mood, and the mood of the French left, is uncertain.

But opposition to the EU constitution is growing even among French leftists, whose reflexive anti-Americanism usually leads them to embrace European unity.

Despite a clear vote in favour of the EU constitution in an internal party referendum in December, most supporters of the Parti Socialiste now say they are against the treaty. In part, they wish to deliver a protest vote against the government.

Many, however, have rejected the pro-treaty position of their own party leaders and virtually every other centre-left party in the EU. They have, instead, accepted the arguments of the extreme left that the EU constitution is an ultra-capitalist blueprint for the destruction of French jobs and public services.

One Leftist Supports Another

In a further effort to spit in Washington's eye, Spain's socialist government has concluded an agreement to sell weapons to Venezuela, currently run by extreme leftist Hugo Chavez.

In Spain's biggest arms deal for many years, its arms factories will supply 10 C-295 transport planes, four coastal patrol corvettes and four smaller coastguard patrol boats to Mr Chavez's army. Mr Zapatero [Spain's socialist Prime Minister] said the vehicles would be used to monitor coastlines, combat terrorism and drug traffickers, and mount rescue operations during natural disasters. The deal was announced by the Spanish Prime Minister during a visit to Venezuela yesterday when he also met fellow left-wing leaders from Colombia and Brazil.

Spain's opposition leader, Mariano Rajoy, whose conservative Popular Party criticised the deal, said: "This is something the Spanish government should never have done. It has provoked criticism throughout the Venezuelan opposition. I think what Zapatero has done is absolutely irresponsible."

But Mr Zapatero insisted the equipment was solely for peaceful use. "None of this equipment has any offensive capability whatsoever," he said. In a veiled response to reservations expressed by the United States at recent Venezuelan arms purchases, he added that nobody should feel offended or have any objection to the proposed collaboration between Spain and Venezuela "that will benefit the people".

The Spanish arms deal comes as Mr. Chavez continues to consolidate his hold on power (see previous post) and provoke confrontations with neighboring countries.

Washington has become deeply anxious about President Chavez's arms build-up. The Venezuelan leader recently bought weapons and equipment from Russia and Brazil. The US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said he could not imagine why Venezuela, with an army of 34,000, wanted 100,000 AK-103 assault rifles, reportedly bought from Russia. "I am worried. I personally hope [that deal] doesn't happen. If it does, it won't be good for the hemisphere," Mr Rumsfeld said.

More worrying still for the US - and for South America in general - Chavez has recently been cozying up to China, hoping to forge a partnership to counter US interests in South America (see previous post). Not surprisingly, Chavez has also sought improved relations with Cuba, Iran and Russia - all bastions of progressive democracy. The Spanish arms sales come on the heels of a similar deal between Venezuela and Russia. Chavez's arms build up is raising speculation in Washington as to his intentions in the region. While Washington remains focused on its $250+ billion experiment in Islamic democracy, American security is increasingly threatened in America's own backyard.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Public School Chaos ... Not Only in America

Americans may think that the chaos in the nation's public school system is a unique hallmark of American cultural decline. In fact, the rise of violence and misbehavior in public schools isn't confine to American schools. British public schools are struggling with similar phenomena (though marked by less violence). The issue became the primary topic of discussion at a March 29th meeting of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, the UK's second largest teachers' union.

Ralph Robins, the union's primary liaison officer in Cornwall, said teachers at 18 of the 20 primary schools he visited last term had problems with discipline. "Cornwall is a delightful area but pupils still get rowdy and many of the staff tell me there is a surge towards questioning the authority of the class teacher," he said.

Complaints about behaviour from primary school teachers were growing, said Mike Wilson, from Newark and Sherwood.

"Children as young as five and six are violent and disruptive. There are children who bite, scream and throw furniture and others who continually question staff, quoting their perceived human rights," he said.

"Why should I?" they say, and "It's not fair." Primary schools tended to be sympathetic to the children and did not want to exclude them because they were little. "When they misbehave in this way then I say they are no longer little," he said.

Such rights-based rhetoric sounds distinctly American. US school children have used constitutional rights based arguments to justify wearing whatever clothing they wish and publishing derogatory material about their school, fellow classmates and teachers outside the school. US courts, unfortunately, have sided with the school children, eviscerating any attempt to impose discipline by the school administration.

Some in the UK union see the rise in disruptive school children as tied to high sugar intake.

Diet contributed to poor behaviour, said Joy Higgins, from Essex. She had recently returned to classroom teaching and noticed a deterioration in behaviour. "I see my form for registration three times a day. In the morning they are fine and human and you can hold a conversation with them.

"After break they are a bit rowdy and after lunch they are bouncing off the walls."

Miss Higgins said she called it the "sugar effect". One pupil had been behaving so strangely that she asked if he was on drugs. He said he had just eaten three doughnuts. Research had shown that cutting out sugary cakes and drinks reduced asthma attacks and improved concentration and behaviour.

"We need to ban all recognised junk food being sold in vending machines and persuade parents not to put it in lunch boxes," she said.

Others identified government policies as exacerbating the situation.

Many of the delegates blamed the Government's policy of inclusion, which meant pupils with severe behavioural problems being moved into mainstream classes as special schools closed. Just one child with behavioural problems could disrupt the education of the rest of the class, said Peter Tippets, from Hampshire.

"They see that if a disturbed pupil convincingly defies the authority of the teacher there is nothing that the teacher can do about it and the defiance spreads," he said.

The union voted unanimously to call for a reversal of the policy of including violent and disruptive pupils in mainstream schools. It also urged automatic and permanent exclusion for violent and disruptive pupils.

Whatever the cause, union members agreed that the problem is getting worse.
David Ward, from Sheffield, said poor behaviour was a common reason for teachers leaving the profession.

Applying continual, low-level discipline ground them down and prevented them from teaching. More serious incidents were also more common and he had received report recently of a teacher being stabbed in the arm with a compass and another hit on the head by a board rubber. The fire alarm had been activated by pupils 40 times in one day at one secondary school.

In one school, between 20 and 40 pupils were allowed to wander the corridors during class while at another pupils regularly spat on staff and each other from three floors up said Mr Ward.

In Merseyside a case worker said he had dealt with three violent incidents in just over a week in one school. "He told me that he had been a representative for the union for 30 years and had seen nothing like it," said John Mayes, a national executive member.

"Often pupils start to become aggressive and disruptive in year seven, when they first move from primary schools where they have had one teacher for most of the day. They find they are chopping and changing and some cannot cope with the sheer numbers of children around them," he said.

While high-sugar intake may explain some of the rowdiness of students returning from lunch (as well as caffeine ingestion from lunch-time soda), the pervasive rise of violence and confrontational behavior has its roots elsewhere. In Britain as well as America, public education has been defined as a right undeniable to every child. As such, public schools find their most effective weapon against disruptive students - expulsion, or the threat thereof - virtually unavailable except in the most extreme cases. Once expulsion has been all but removed from the table, and with parents ready to question and reject any other punishment, what credible threat do public school staff have left to cajole unruly students into line? In the US, school officials must walk a continual fine line, always worried that any disciplinary action could result in legal action brought against the school district by the child's parents or "advocacy organizations."

Disruptive behavior spreads through a class - and a school - once the other children observe that the most disruptive children (usually very few in number) receive little real punishment for their actions. Once the student body understands that the school staff can't really do anything to punish them, then there's no reason for them to behave properly.

A large part of the solution to this problem, in both the US and Britain, is to stop viewing public education as a right, but rather as a privilege offered to children by the generous taxpayers of their nation. If children misbehave, or the parents don't provide the proper guidence and support, the child can be expelled, the privilege revoked. Once other children see disruptive pupils being tossed out of school, discipline among the majority will improve greatly. Critics will ask, but what of the expelled children? Won't their lives be ruined? Won't they become criminals later on when they can't get a job because of lack of eduction, preying on the innocent? The answer is that many become criminals anyway, regardless of how much school they sit through. Parents of children expelled from the public schools could still be legally required to provide education for their children, but at their own expense in private schools willing to take them. Such a prospect might prompt many permissive parents to discipline their disruptive children themselves in order to correct their behavior and keep them in public schools so as to avoid the high cost of private education.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The High Cost of Uneducated Immigrants

A recent article in The Arizona Republic revealed that "fewer than half" of Hispanics who immigranted to the US in recent years held the equivalent of a high school diploma.
"In the long run, an uneducated society is never beneficial," said Louis Olivas, an Arizona State University vice president.

But in the short run, if immigrants had higher levels of education and skills, they would no longer accept the menial jobs and low pay that mainstream America expects of them, Olivas and a national researcher each observed.
Unfortunately, Mr. Olivas demonstrates the same lack of understanding of economics that has left so many in Washington uninterested in dealing with the nation's immigration problems. It is exactly because these new immigrants rush to fill low skilled jobs that they represent a problem for the country. Why? First, because they inflict a drastic negative effect on the finances of lower class Americans by driving down wages for low-skilled jobs. There are only so many menial jobs available in the US economy. Prior to the influx of so many low-skilled immigrants - both legal and illegal - low skilled Americans could at least demand a livable wage for their efforts. However, when millions of low skilled immigrants, desperate for work at any wage sudden appear, the employment landscape is dramatically altered. Employers, be they companies or homeowners who want someone to mow the lawn, no longer need to compete with each other (by raising wages or benefits) to find workers; instead, workers now must compete for jobs (by accepting ever lower wages). In a country where so many in the lower class live on high interest credit cards, the erosion of good-paying jobs and predatory debt represents a long term timebomb that will do more to insure the creation of a permanent underclass than even the government's most ill-conceived welfare scheme.
The 52 percent non-graduation rate measured since 2000 was little changed from the 54 percent average recorded over more than three decades.

Whatever the cost-benefit equation, the low educational attainment of foreign-born Latinos is the largest factor holding Arizona and other immigration-intensive states below the national average in the percentage of residents 25 and older who have completed high school, analysis shows.

The study estimates that 84.4 percent of Arizona's residents in that age group have high school diplomas or GED certificates. That ranks the state 38th nationally, below the U.S. average of 85.2 percent.

Arizona still stands ahead of the nation's two most populous states, which have even higher numbers of Hispanic immigrants. California ranks 45th, with 81.3 percent having completed high school, while Texas, with 78.3 percent, is 51st in a count that includes the District of Columbia. The nation's highest score was Minnesota's 92.3 percent.
The lack of education also ensures that the new immigrants will be effectively blocked from improving their economic condition, unless they complete at least their high school degrees - at state cost, mostly. But since a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good jobs in the US - partly as a result of high immigrants, partly due to Washington's trade policies - immigrants seeking economic betterment will need to seek college degrees. State schools, heavily subsidized by the taxpayers will bear the brunt of any such trend. If such a trend ever materializes, that is.
Full-time workers who completed high school had a median income more than $9,000 a year higher than the $22,000 earned by non-graduates, according to the survey.

That point is not lost on 18-year-old west Phoenix resident Jesus Mungia, a native of Nogales, Sonora, who dropped out of high school just six weeks ago.

While doing odd jobs and day labor to help his mother, a housecleaner, support the family of five, he is planning to go back and at least work on an equivalency certificate, although he is skeptical about its benefits.

An older brother who completed high school "tells me all the time it's going to help me later on," Mungia said. "But then again, they (employers) aren't going to pay me $10 an hour just because I went to school."
Unfortunately, Mr. Mungia's experience is not uncommon among Hispanics living in the US.
The 8.7 million Hispanics 25 and older who are not U.S. citizens, whether they immigrated legally or illegally, have the lowest educational attainment of any group surveyed. Fully 60 percent had not completed high school, and 35 percent had no more than an eighth-grade education.

"I'm not surprised," Olivas said. "Those immigrants don't come here seeking education. They're seeking work." Eighth grade has long been the accepted cut-off point for school in families of limited means in Mexico, he said, and that nation only recently has begun emphasizing the need for a secondary education.

The study also calculated that among 3.7 million immigrant Hispanics who have become U.S. citizens, 40 percent have no diploma.
But even US-born Hispanics have a lackluster record of pursuing higher education.
While native-born Hispanics are more highly educated than immigrants, they remain, on average, well behind Whites, Blacks and Asians, according to the survey. No figures on Native Americans and smaller racial groups were provided.

Among people born in the United States, 25 percent of Hispanics have no high school diploma, compared with 19 percent of Blacks, 10 percent of Anglos, and 6 percent of Asians.

In a world where economic success increasingly depends on science and high technology, importing large number of uneducated immigrants - who generally remain uneducated even after living in the US for a longer period of time - is an policy that conveys no benefit to the US. In fact, it only imposes ever-escalating long-term costs.
An unappreciated component of that cost is clearly explained by Steve Sailer in a recent column.

One lesson of history since the start of the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago is that countries don't advance economically by importing unskilled workers to "do the jobs that natives won't do," but by substituting machines for human labor.

For example, because the Roman Empire exploited countless slaves conquered in foreign wars, it lacked incentives to increase labor efficiency through mechanization. Productivity never took off, and eventually the civilization collapsed into poverty.

In contrast, Britain, which, until the second half of the 20th Century, had far more emigrants than immigrants, had the right incentives for an Industrial Revolution.

As I pointed out here a year ago [Japanese Substitute Inventiveness for Immigration], the Japanese have become obsessed with the promise of robots.

In consumer high technology, Japan has not simply exceeded the US, it has left America in the proverbial dust. That's because the Japanese - loathe to admit foreigners to their soil - have compensated for a declining birth rate by increasing innovation and automation (see previous entry on Japan). Mr. Sailer notes:

In contrast, the U.S., although once famous for its commitment to higher productivity, has shown less interest in labor saving in recent years. It has focused instead on sending manufacturing jobs to China and white collar jobs to India, while importing millions of uneducated workers to perform rudimentary service jobs here.

For example, although previous generations of Americans had vastly increased the productivity of workers on Midwestern grain farms, efforts to mechanize California fruit and vegetable farms were largely abandoned, as VDARE.COM reported five (!) years ago, because immigrants were cheaper … to the corporate farmer, although not to the country.

In a world where science and high technology are the keys to economic success and national security, importing millions of unskilled, uneducated workers - most of whom will remain unskilled for the balance of their lives and whose children will fare little better in terms of educational attainment - does nothing to enhance America's economic standing. In fact, in the long term such a policy seems solely conceived to errode America's economic leadership by stifling innovation and creating a permanent (and probably resentful) underclass. The US needs to immediately reconsider and redraw its immigration policy with the goal of reducing legal immigration across the board - and restricting that immigration to high skilled immigrants - while eliminating illegal immigration altogether.

Monday, March 28, 2005

European Appeasement of Castro Criticized

A Cuban dissident has found the temerity to chastise a visiting European Union development minister Louis Michel, who advised pro-democracy forces in Cuba against protesting the Castro-regime's brutal suppression of human rights, so as not to "provoke" the aging dictator.

But one of the dissident leaders who met the commissioner, Marta Beatriz Roque, the economist, said the encounter was window-dressing by the Castro regime, which continued to repress democratic activists. She also "respectfully disagreed" with an EU decision to suspend diplomatic sanctions on Cuba, and to seek closer ties.

"The government is not going to change. Castro is deaf. Sanctions have a political value because they demonstrate to the whole world that Castro is a human rights abuser. The EU should not be seeking deeper relations with a totalitarian regime," she said. "The fact that we could meet Mr Michel one day, for an hour, is an isolated phenomenon.

The Cuban government allowed it to take place so the EU would see what the authorities wanted them to see. I don't understand how Mr Michel, who is an intelligent person, can think that he understands Cuba in the short time that he was here."

Mr Michel's visit was intended to herald a fresh start for friendly relations between Cuba and Europe, following the EU's recent decision - under heavy pressure from the socialist government in Spain - to suspend diplomatic sanctions imposed on Havana in 2003.

Ms. Roque risked much to level her criticism. After Mr. Michel and his entourage of Brussels bureaucrats have departed Cuba's desolate shores, the Castro regime will doubtless make its displeasure fully known to Ms. Roque. Mr. Michel, however, seemed blissfully oblivious of this fact - or in willful denial of the Castro regime's true nature.
Mr Michel, a Belgian, said he was encouraged by signs of change in Cuba and declined to offer support for a planned dissident "congress", uniting 300 Cuban rights groups.
This is the same EU that wants to sell weapons technology to China, even though that country is ruled by a brutal and repressive regime and despite that very real possibility that such technology would be used against the innocent people of Taiwan and the United States. The EU manifests the Europe's traditioanl craven prediliction towards appeasement and, thus, stands as an ally to neither the US nor human rights.

The Bulwark Against Tyranny

In a recent article on Tech Central Station, Roger Bate correctly identifies the primary reason that the corrupt and increasingly dictatorial government of Zimbabwe strongman Robert Mugabe has been able to ruin his country's economy, gut its political system and push many Zimbabweans into starvation.

But what is the fundamental reason for the recent collapse in Zimbabwe? It is not the loss of freedom of the press, or unsound monetary policy, or high military expenditure from fighting wars in other countries that benefit cronies, or low health expenditure -- although all these factors have a negative impact.

No, the real reason that Zimbabwe has collapsed is that there is no protection of private property. The executive rides roughshod over the judiciary in all matters of property. The result is "dead capital" -- a term invented by Hernando de Soto -- and total economic annihilation. The economy is now worth barely more than one percent (in US$ terms) of its value in 2000, when the Mugabe regime's "land reform" program, in which they appropriated farms and land-holdings from private owners, really started.

In short, Zimbabwe provides the reverse of the good news offered by De Soto. In The Mystery of Capital, De Soto exhaustively demonstrated that where private property rights are delineated and enforced, economies can grow rapidly. When someone can borrow against his one large asset (for nearly everyone this is his home) he can establish a business, buy supplies, establish marketing programs, sell products and make a profit and thrive.

For some countries the vast majority of capital is dead -- one cannot prove one owns it outright, and hence no capital market will lend against it. For example in the mid-1990s when De Soto was asked by President Hosni Mubarak to assess the situation in Egypt, De Soto found that 90% of the capital was dead. Today the situation is slowly improving as more and more people can prove they own their property.

Not long ago, Zimbabwe had all the rights and rule of law one could have wanted. It had a decent titling system, a judiciary that upheld rights of landowners in the face of an executive branch that was largely Marxist in orientation (like so many African economies). And this same judiciary continued to try to do this in the face of mass expropriation of land rights in 2000. Even as late as 2003, as the final major swathe of white farmers were thrown off their property and their land left idle, some judges tried to uphold the constitutional rights of these farmers.

But finally all the good judges were fired, resigned or escaped the country in peril for their lives. I met one such judge in late 2004 in Johannesburg. He stood up for individual rights in a case in mid 2003. First he was quietly told to drop the case by a junior minister, then the authorities attempted to bribe him with a farm of his own; then they threatened and publicly humiliated him with a smear campaign in the Government-run Herald newspaper, claiming he was the recipient of bribes; finally he was told by a friend with police contacts that he was going to be arrested on bribery charges, so he fled the country. This 42 year old, former Appeals Court judge, was gaunt and without visible means of financial support.
Mr. Bate draws a parallel between Zimbabwe today and Nicaragua during the 1980's.
By way of hope, Richardson draws a parallel with Nicaragua. Nicaragua, also suffered economic collapse based on the destruction of property rights under the Sandinista government in the early 1980s. But in recent years, with a more capitalist-minded government, the Nicaraguan economy has annually grown at over 4 percent, with inflation below 10 percent, which is mainly due to protection of property rights and private sector development, he claims. Richardson found that the other institutions of a free society matter, but none matters so much as the right to the rewards of one's own labor.

Zimbabwe needs reinstatement of land rights and compensation to those robbed. Some white farmers I spoke too still hold on to their original title deeds in the hope that they will be able to reclaim their land. Turning dead capital into something with life will do more than anything else to reverse the disaster that is Zimbabwe. This can not happen with the current government. But Mugabe will die, become too infirm to Govern or be the victim of the coup at some stage; then there is a chance for democratic reform. While political reform is a necessary condition for economic growth, it is not sufficient -- only private property right enforcement adds sufficiency for growth.

To Stop Corruption - Ban Baths!

Ukraine's new government, determined to end the corruption that marked its recently deposed Soviet Era regime, has determined that in order to mitigate secret deals and cronyism, it must keep government officials from visiting popular public baths.

Only in Ukraine would you think that the way to start a clean-up campaign is with a ban on baths. But the country's new leaders believe they can stamp out sharp practice by discouraging their underlings to steer clear of a centuries-old Slavic pastime, the banya or bath house.

It may be the place where Ukrainians, and indeed Russians, go every week to wash away their sins and grime but Ukraine's new "Orange" government thinks it is also the place where many an official is "nobbled" by corrupt businessmen. Viktor Yushchenko, the country's crusading President, has therefore informally banned regional governors and other officials from going to the banya - traditionally a sacred part of Ukrainian and Russian culture.

"It's all about showing the new face of Ukraine," Irina Geraschenko, Mr Yushchenko's spokeswoman, told The Independent on Sunday. "It's no secret that you get all kinds of unsavoury types there, and they are not the people with whom government officials should be mixing." Though she conceded that there was no way Mr Yushchenko could physically prevent his officials from frequenting banyas, she said that he had made it clear that banya-goers will be frowned upon.

In neighbouring Russia, banyas remain a staple of business culture - often replacing a business dinner or a boardroom meeting. Indeed, many legitimate business transactions are concluded amid the hot steam and beery atmosphere, where men traditionally wash themselves once a week.

One supposes that American version of such a policy would ban the appearance of government officials on golf courses and country clubs. And, thus, it would never, ever happen.

A Sad Note

Sir Patrick Moore, the British amateur astronomer whose many books and programs on the subject inspired many people world-wide to immerse themselves in the pleasures of stargazing, has been forced to give up his favorite hobby because of an injury sustained in WWII.
A spinal injury suffered during the Second World War has left the astronomer unable to use his hands without great difficulty. He can only walk with the aid of two sticks and now experiences problems standing to peer through his telescope.

However, he said yesterday that he will continue to present The Sky at Night, the television programme he has presented for nearly 50 years.

"It is most annoying," Sir Patrick, 82, said yesterday. "I suffered a wartime injury to my spine. I was a flyer in the war.

"The doctors told me there was trouble ahead and that I might start having problems at around the age of 30. But I lasted for quite a lot longer. Up until five years ago I was still playing cricket.

Despite his troubles, Sir Patrick retains the traditional British stiff upper lip.

"Frankly it is upsetting. But there you are. I have had a very good innings and done most of the things I am capable of. I mustn't grumble."

Sir Patrick's love of amateur astronomy has spanned more than seven decades.

He began stargazing at the age of six. From then until he was 16 he suffered from a heart complaint and spent much of his childhood at home. He was unable to go to Eton, as planned, and when he was due to go to Cambridge, the war intervened.

During his illness, he picked up his mother's copy of The Story of The Solar System, which sparked his lifelong passion.

He spent the war in the RAF, rising to the rank of squadron leader. It was while he was serving with the RAF that his sweetheart was killed in the Blitz, and he has remained single ever since.

Sir Patrick first started presenting The Sky at Night in 1957. Listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the longest serving television presenter, he failed to appear on the BBC1 programme only once, when he suffered a bout of salmonella food poisoning from a duck egg.

After so tirelessly promoting amateur astronomy in a world where ever fewer people can actually see the stars from light-poluted cities and suburbs, Sir Patrick has left instructions for one last star party.

He acknowledges that at 82 he is now on the "last lap", but says he does not mind. He has one last trick up his sleeve.

He has arranged for his body to be donated for medical research and he has left funds for one last "star" party at his home.

He said: "I have given instructions for a lighted candle to be placed on the table. A prepared tape will be played in which I give notice that I am about to do my best to blow it out. If I manage it, everyone will know that I am still around."