Sunday, September 24, 2006

What is Wrong With Arabs?

Arabs are lagging in education, economy, democracy and freedom of expression, and computers. 2003—In Arab countries, with a combined population of 284 million, a “best seller” may have a print run of just 5,000 copies, due to censorship and other constraints on independent publishers. Translations of foreign works into Arabic lag far behind figures in the rest of the world: five times more books are translated yearly into Greek, a language spoken by just 11 million people, than into Arabic. Just 53 newspapers per 1,000 citizens are published daily in the region, compared to 285 papers per 1,000 people in the developed nations, and there are only 18 computers per 1,000 people in the Arab world, as compared to the global average of 78 per 1,000.

The first Arab Human Development Report in 2002 was a bombshell dropped onto the entire arab world. The report notes that while oil income has transformed the landscapes of some Arab countries, the region remains "richer than it is developed." Per capita income growth has shrunk in the last 20 years to a level just above that of sub-Saharan Africa. Productivity is declining. Research and development are weak or nonexistent. Science and technology are dormant.

Intellectuals flee a stultifying -- if not repressive -- political and social environment, it says.

Arab women, the report found, are almost universally denied advancement. Half of them still cannot read or write. The maternal mortality rate is double that of Latin America and four times that of East Asia.

The followup report in 2003 showed the situation to be no better. A group of Arab intellectuals issued a report yesterday that found the Arab world lacking in three areas they deemed fundamental to development: freedom of expression, access to knowledge and women's rights.
The group, criticized by Arab officials for a similar report last year, said the challenges caused by the deficiencies "may have become even graver" since 2002.

After dismal reports in 2002, 2003, and 2004, the UN HDR appears to have given up on the arab world. Who can blame them? Since World War II, the Arab world has lagged the rest of the planet in economic growth. For example, 300 million Arabs, and all that oil, generate less economic activity than Spain, and its population of 40 million. The main problem has been bad government. Too many dictators, and too much government restrictions on the economy. Too much corruption and waste. Even higher oil prices don't help, as it simply provides more money to be wasted on consumption, rather than business investment.

An Economist article, titled "Self-Doomed to Failure," captures the pathetic state of the arab world. The barrier to better Arab performance is not a lack of resources, concludes the report, but the lamentable shortage of three essentials: freedom, knowledge and womanpower. Not having enough of these amounts to what the authors call the region's three “deficits”. It is these deficits, they argue, that hold the frustrated Arabs back from reaching their potential—and allow the rest of the world both to despise and to fear a deadly combination of wealth and backwardness.

•Freedom. This deficit, in the UNDP's interpretation, explains many of the fundamental things that are wrong with the Arab world: the survival of absolute autocracies; the holding of bogus elections; confusion between the executive and the judiciary (the report points out the close linguistic link between the two in Arabic); constraints on the media and on civil society; and a patriarchal, intolerant, sometimes suffocating social environment.

The area is rich in all the outward trappings of democracy. Elections are held and human-rights conventions are signed. But the great wave of democratisation that has opened up so much of the world over the past 15 years seems to have left the Arabs untouched. Democracy is occasionally offered, but as a concession, not as a right.

....•Knowledge. “If God were to humiliate a human being,” wrote Imam Ali bin abi Taleb in the sixth century, “He would deny him knowledge.” Although the Arabs spend a higher percentage of GDP on education than any other developing region, it is not, it seems, well spent. The quality of education has deteriorated pitifully, and there is a severe mismatch between the labour market and the education system. Adult illiteracy rates have declined but are still very high: 65m adults are illiterate, almost two-thirds of them women. Some 10m children still have no schooling at all.

One of the gravest results of their poor education is that the Arabs, who once led the world in science, are dropping ever further behind in scientific research and in information technology. Investment in research and development is less than one-seventh of the world average. Only 0.6% of the population uses the Internet, and 1.2% have personal computers.

....•Women's status. The one thing that every outsider knows about the Arab world is that it does not treat its women as full citizens. The report sees this as an awful waste: how can a society prosper when it stifles half its productive potential? After all, even though women's literacy rates have trebled in the past 30 years, one in every two Arab women still can neither read nor write. Their participation in their countries' political and economic life is the lowest in the world.

Governments and societies (and sometimes, as in Kuwait, societies and parliamentarians are more backward than their governments) vary in the degrees of bad treatment they mete out to women. But in nearly all Arab countries, women suffer from unequal citizenship and legal entitlements. The UNDP has a “gender-empowerment measure” which shows the Arabs near the bottom (according to this measure, sub-Saharan Africa ranks even worse). But the UN was able to measure only 14 of the 22 Arab states, since the necessary data were not available in the others. This, as the report says, speaks for itself, reflecting the general lack of concern in the region for women's desire to be allowed to get on.

...With so many paths closed to them, some are now turning their dangerous anger on the western world.

Meanwhile in an ethnically divided Iraq with sectarian divisions, the first tentative steps have been taken toward democracy, as the rest of the arab world looks on with a wary curiousity. A few cautious voices believe that, in time, the Iraqi elections will put pressure on neighboring countries to democratize.

In Cairo, Hisham Qassem, chairman of a human rights organization and chief executive officer of a new Arab daily newspaper, believes that both the Iraqi and Palestinian elections have given impetus to democratic reform.
"Once people feel there are positive effects from the democratic process, they will want the same. Especially countries like Egypt who felt they were ahead of Iraq but are now lagging behind,” he said.
Many arabs must be wondering if it takes an emasculating invasion from abroad and low level civil war to bring democracy to an arab country.

It takes more than democracy to bring the arab world out of the stone age. It will take economic reform. Since Saddam was tossed out in 2003, the economy has been governed by Western rules. As a result, GDP per capita doubled by the end of 2005, and the GDP is expected to grow another 49 percent by 2008. All this despite continued attacks by Sunni Arab rebels on oil facilities and other economic targets. It's much easier to start a business in Iraq now, even though there's still a lot of corruption. The big change is that now the corruption is illegal, and there is even progress in prosecuting the government officials who take bribes or try to shake down businessmen. Lebanon is the only other Arab state to run its economy in a Western fashion, and they have thrived.

It takes education reform and freedom of expression and the press. It will take implementation of full freedoms for women. Finally, it will take religious reform. Stone aged customs, traditions, and religious restrictions virtually guarantee that arabs will remain backward, laggards of the world.

Update: Here is more from a recent UN ILO report. Arabs living in the middle east and north africa are oddly resistant to modernisation and transitioning out of the stone age. Very strange, when you see how successful arabs can be when they migrate to a free environment. I suppose blaming the US and Israel will gain them at least another half century of stone age existence.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Nothing to Fear but Stupidity Itself

Oscar Wilde said "there is no sin except stupidity." Voltaire said “The only way to comprehend what mathematicians mean by Infinity is to contemplate the extent of human stupidity." Einstein said, “The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.” Source.

Looking at the map above, one can see that poverty and stupidity go together like hand and glove. Some countries have experienced severe poverty for periods of time--postwar Germany, Japan, and South Korea come to mind--then rebound out of poverty with time and outside assistance. Other countries such as Haiti are always impoverished, regardless of external assistance, opportunities, and internal resources. Then there are countries such as Zimbabwe which were once much better off, but now are among the most impoverished nations on earth.

International investors would be happy to take advantage of low worker wages in these perennially impoverished nations, as in Subsaharan Africa or muslim Central Asia, if they could expect a reasonable return on investment. The problems with employing workers in these nations are corruption and graft in dealing with government officials, and political instability--with the ever-present threat of nationalisation of the industry (as occurred recently in Bolivia to the natural gas fields). This type of government behaviour virtually guarantees that investors will stay away.

In addition, there is a shortage of trainable workers. If there are not enough people in the potential workforce intelligent enough to learn the skills and technologies involved in the industry--the situation is hopeless. A technological society requires an average population IQ of at least 90 (with 100 being the internationally standardised mean) to maintain itself. If the population average (mean) IQ is less than 90, all attempts to bring the nation as a whole into the modern technological world, are doomed.

The book IQ and the Wealth of Nations discusses this issue, and makes comparisons of average IQ between different nations. The authors admit that political and economic factors can artificially hold down a nation's wealth, even in the presence of high average IQ. Conversely, in a nation of relatively low average population IQ, an enlightened market economy can raise the nation's wealth above what it would be if the economy were more centrally commanded. Likewise, oppressive and/or unstable political regimes will depress a nation's wealth, even where the population average IQ is average or above.

It is important to optimise nutrition for mothers and children in these countries. But what if after optimising nutrition for mothers and children, significant population IQ average differences remain between nations? If it is clear that the nations are suffering because of lower population IQs, other underlying reasons for the differences should be determined and methods for removing the IQ deficits should be found.

The penalty for doing nothing may be severe.

When one contemplates how easily muslims are led into a frenzy by their clerics, one is forced to contemplate the relationship of stupidity with fanaticism.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Florida County Discovers Perpetual Motion Machine!

The county government of St. Lucie County in Florida, has decided to build a US $425 million facility that will run on the energy produced on site, plus produce twice as much electricity as is consumed--and sell large quantities of steam and solids as lucrative byproducts. Where did this Florida county find such an energy gold mine? In its landfills.

The $425 million facility expected to be built in St. Lucie County will use lightning-like plasma arcs to turn trash into gas and rock-like material. It will be the first such plant in the nation operating on such a massive scale and the largest in the world.

Supporters say the process is cleaner than traditional trash incineration, though skeptics question whether the technology can meet the lofty expectations.

The 100,000-square-foot plant, slated to be operational in two years, is expected to vaporize 3,000 tons of garbage a day. County officials estimate their entire landfill - 4.3 million tons of trash collected since 1978 - will be gone in 18 years.

No byproduct will go unused, according to Geoplasma, the Atlanta-based company building and paying for the plant.

Synthetic, combustible gas produced in the process will be used to run turbines to create about 120 megawatts of electricity that will be sold back to the grid. The facility will operate on about a third of the power it generates, free from outside electricity.

About 80,000 pounds of steam per day will be sold to a neighboring Tropicana Products Inc. facility to power the juice plant's turbines.

Sludge from the county's wastewater treatment plant will be vaporized, and a material created from melted organic matter - up to 600 tons a day - will be hardened into slag, and sold for use in road and construction projects.

"This is sustainability in its truest and finest form," said Hilburn Hillestad, president of Geoplasma, a subsidiary of Jacoby Development Inc.

This Peswiki page provides more details and links for exploring and evaluating this intriguing concept. It requires a great deal of energy to create such a very hot environment, but apparently once you reach this level of energy, you can harvest twice as much energy as you use in the first place. Very interesting.

Here is a Free Energy News directory of Waste to Energy projects all over the world. This idea is likely to spread to more regional governments, as the economic benefits of turning a liability into a source of profic sinks in.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Nuclear Jihad Heats Fallout Shelter Market

Welcome to the world of nuclear hyper-proliferation--where nuclear war is a virtual inevitability, sometime. This time the nuclear threat will not be the Soviet Union, whose leaders wished to live every bit as much as the leaders of the free world. This time there will be no deterrence. The weapons, once acquired, will be used. So---what colour is your fallout shelter? Here is more speculation on a possible nuclear threat from Stanley Kurtz:

Once Iran gets the bomb, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are likely to develop their own nuclear weapons, for self-protection, and so as not to allow Iran to take de facto cultural-political control of the Muslim world. (I think you’ve got to at least add Egypt to this list.) With three, four, or more nuclear states in the Muslim Middle East, what becomes of deterrence?

A key to deterrence during the Cold War was our ability to know who had hit whom. With a small number of geographically separated nuclear states, and with the big opponents training satellites and specialized advance-guard radar emplacements on each other, it was relatively easy to know where a missile had come from. But what if a nuclear missile is launched at the United States from somewhere in a fully nuclearized Middle East, in the middle of a war in which, say, Saudi Arabia and Iran are already lobbing conventional missiles at one another? Would we know who had attacked us? Could we actually drop a retaliatory nuclear bomb on someone without being absolutely certain? And as Rosen asks, What if the nuclear blow was delivered against us by an airplane or a cruise missile? It might be almost impossible to trace the attack back to its source with certainty, especially in the midst of an ongoing conventional conflict.

We’re familiar with the horror scenario of a Muslim state passing a nuclear bomb to terrorists for use against an American city. But imagine the same scenario in a multi-polar Muslim nuclear world. With several Muslim countries in possession of the bomb, it would be extremely difficult to trace the state source of a nuclear terror strike. In fact, this very difficulty would encourage states (or ill-controlled elements within nuclear states — like Pakistan’s intelligence services or Iran’s Revolutionary Guards) to pass nukes to terrorists. The tougher it is to trace the source of a weapon, the easier it is to give the weapon away. In short, nuclear proliferation to multiple Muslim states greatly increases the chances of a nuclear terror strike.


In the 1950s and early 1960s, worrying about nuclear war was said to be quite common. Students were shown films in school of what to do in the case of a nuclear strike. Thinking and talking about installing a fallout shelter was not seen as extreme in certain locations of North America. Then came detente, and fears of nuclear war subsided significantly. After detente, only extreme survivalists were still talking seriously about fallout and survival shelters.

That was then, this is now. Now there is an end-of-the-world disaster to suit every taste and political/religious persuasion. You say you are an extreme leftist to the point of moonbattery? No problem. Global warming and peak oil are sure to destroy the world economy, triggering wars of survival that will certainly escalate to nuclear exchanges. You had better get your fallout shelter. You say you are an anti-Bush democrat? Better yet. You know that Bush ordered the strike on the WTC towers in NYC, but that only got him so far. Now he needs something more potent. What better than a nuclear strike on a large city in a predominantly Democratic Party controlled area? We take cash or credit cards. But, you say, you are really a religious right wingnut? Excellent! The muslim fanatics will not rest until you are forced into converting to Islam, taken into slavery, or killed. If you refuse, they will simply nuke your cities until you are all dead. Better order your shelter today!

Here is one place to get your shelter, conveniently named Here is another site for more information. This site provides information about a large group shelter within easy driving distance of Toronto. Here is Wikipedia's Fallout Shelter page. Here is yet another information packed source for the truly anxious.

What cities are likely to be hit? New York City, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles are almost certain to be targets eventually. Several others come to mind, but it is not my wish to trigger a stampede. :-)

I should mention that fallout shelters are not just for nuclear attacks. If you install one that is big enough, you can hold quite a party, and as long as the shelter is buried underground, your neighbors should not complain about anything except perhaps all the cars.

One thing is very likely. If there is a nuclear attack by muslim extremists, it is likely to be an attempt on several cities simultaneously. That means that it will be no small disaster like Hurricane Katrina, and any local city/county/state government that is as incompetent as the Nagin/Blanco team will be out of luck. With federal resources demanded by several sites--all with at least tens of thousands of casualties--there will be no world wide media obsession with one crime-ridden waterlogged city. Every city and country in the entire world will be worried about their own sorry backsides if it ever comes to that point, because all bets will be off.

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