Newton’s Third Law of Politics

“To every action, there is always opposed an equal reaction” –Newton’s Third Law of Physics.

Ever since the Paris attacks, the usually illogical and ill-informed status-signalling that passes for political discussion in this country has gotten even worse.

This is partly because people are afraid, and partly because they are not familiar yet with the other sides arguments, and so constructing and attacking particularly bad straw men.

I recently watched a speech in which President Obama claimed that his opponents were afraid of “three year old orphan refugees.”


Then we had this going on over on Twitter:

Picture 6

According to Wikipedia, this is at least the story that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is circulating about himself. I don’t know if anyone has actually checked the graduation records at U of B, though contemporaries describe him as a “religious scholar,” and he used to live in a small room attached to a mosque.



I screencapped this from a guy who posted it in response to The Economist’s statement, but forgot to write down his name so I could properly credit him. I am sorry, whoever you were. If you see this, let me know and I’ll credit you properly.

Okay. Let’s start with Obama. No, no one is afraid of three year olds. I know that lying about your opponents and posturing for your base is a big part of politics, but this seems particularly blatant.

People are afraid of ISIS. They are afraid of grown-up terrorists with guns and bombs pretending to be refugees and sneaking into the country.

ISIS puts out a lot of extremely graphic videos of itself beheading people, blowing them up, drowning them in cages, etc., with very clear statements about their intention to come after the West and do the same thing to all of us. If you haven’t noticed, you haven’t been paying attention.

The Novermber 13 terrorist attacks that left 130 people dead were not committed by 3 year olds wandering around the streets of Paris with guns and explosives.

According to Wikipedia, “On 14 November, ISIL claimed responsibility for the attacks.[87][88][89][90]

What we know about the attackers:

“By 16 November, the focus of the French and Belgian investigation turned to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the radical jihadist they believed was the leader of the plot.[97] Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan origin, had escaped to Syria[98][99] after having been suspected in other plots in Belgium and France, including the thwarted 2015 Thalys train attack.[100] Abaaoud had recruited an extensive network of accomplices, including two brothers, Brahim Abdeslam and Salah Abdeslam, to execute terrorist attacks.[101]

  • Bilal Hadfi, a 20-year-old French citizen who had been living in Belgium.[110] … He fought with ISIL in Syria for more than a year and was a supporter of the Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram.[111] …Belgian prosecutors knew Hadfi had gone to fight in Syria but did not know of his return to the EU.[110]
  • M. al-Mahmod, who had entered the EU with Syrian refugees via the Greek island of Leros on 3 October.[113]
  • The final bomber carried a passport belonging to a 25-year-old Syrian named Ahmad al-Mohammad.[110][111] A passport-holder claiming to be a Syrian refugee with that name was registered on Leros in October upon his arrival from Turkey.[114] The dead attacker’s fingerprints matched those taken at the registration on Leros.[110][115][116][117][118]
  • Brahim Abdeslam, a 31-year-old French member of the Molenbeek terror cell living in Belgium, carried out shootings in the 10th and 11th arrondissements. Shortly afterwards, he blew himself up at the Comptoir Voltaire restaurant on the boulevard Voltaire.[12][110][111][121][122]
  • An attacker suspected to be Abdelhamid Abaaoud.[110]
  • Samy Amimour, a 28-year-old from Paris who fought in Yemen and was known to the intelligence services,[110][123] had reportedly been on the run from police since 2012 due to being wanted over terrorism related charges.[124]
  • Omar Ismail Mostefai, a 29-year-old from the Paris suburb of Courcouronnes,[110] travelled to Syria in 2013 and may have spent time in Algeria.[125] In 2010, the French authorities put Mostefai on a database of suspected Islamic radicals.[110] He was identified by a severed finger found inside the Bataclan.[111][126]

And two unidentified suspects.

To sum: At least two of these guys got into Europe by posing as refugees. The rest were “French” and “EU” citizens, which means they either immigrated and then were granted citizenship or their parents were immigrants, much like the Tsarnaev brothers, discussed above.

The left seems unable to understand that the right does not particularly care whether the terrorists were “refugees”, “immigrants,” “asylees,” or the children of refugees/immigrants/asylees. The right’s opinion toward all of these groups is exactly the same, though if you want to make a critique, you might note that the right has indeed been rhetorically emphasizing “refugees” when what they really mean is “all Muslims.”

Of course, if you’re the sort to critique the right, then you probably don’t want it to broaden its language.

Why is the right specifically emphasizing refugees, instead of all the folks it really means?

Honestly, it’s because people tend to get mentally stuck on ideas or things that are prominent in their environment. The massive European refugee crisis was (and still is) in the news when November 13 happened, and two of the terrorists appear to have used the crisis to get into France. To be fair, 130 French people would probably still be dead even if it Merkel hadn’t thrown open the EU’s borders–the majority of the terrorists (or their parents) got in under earlier immigration laws–but the refugee crisis itself is connected to these earlier laws.

The Republicans are offering over-simplified talking points, but the general point they are trying to make–that the government should try to figure out ways to protect its citizens from attacks like the one in France and make sure that the immigrants we do get are folks who will be compatible with the local society–is reasonable. And I don’t hear anyone on the left proposing anything useful on those points.

The immigration situations in Europe and the US are very different, but we may still find the European example instructive. America’s immigrants come primarily from Mexico; Europe’s come primarily from Africa (though each individual European country receives a lot of immigrants from other European countries.) The African migrants are predominantly Muslim, but I suspect that African Christians, African Vodun practitioners, etc., are pretty similar.

The exact criminality of America’s Hispanic population is unknown (due to the FBI historically not keeping track of it,) but informed estimates place it somewhere between the white rate (low) and the black rate (high.) This creates an unfortunate dynamic as employers would generally rather import and hire Mexicans (friendly, less aggressive) than the blacks who already live here.

In Europe, we have a decent idea of how much crime the newcomers are committing–and it’s a lot:

According to a 2011 report by Statistics Norway, in 2009 first,-generation immigrants from Africa were three times more likely than ethnic Norwegians (or rather individuals who are neither first- nor second-generation immigrants) to be convicted of a felony while Somali immigrants in particular being 4.4 times more likely to be convicted of a felony than an ethnic Norwegian was.

Note that Somalis are one of the groups the US makes a special point of accepting as “refugees.”

Similarly, Iraqis and Pakistanis were found to have rates of conviction for felonies greater than ethnic Norwegians by a factor of 3 and 2.6 respectively. Another finding was that second-generation African and Asian immigrants had a higher rate of convictions for felonies than first-generation immigrants….

of 131 individuals charged with the 152 rapes in which the perpetrator could be identified, 45.8% were of African, Middle Eastern or Asian origin while 54.2% were of Norwegian, other European or American origin.

… Spanish National Statistics Institute (INE) published a study that analyzes records in the Register of Convicted in 2008. The data show that immigrants are overrepresented in the crime statistics: 70% of all crimes were committed by Spaniards and 30% by foreigners.[28] Foreigners make up 15% of the population.[28]

And don’t forget the predominantly Moroccan perpetrators of the 2004 Madrid Train Bombing, which killed 191 people (and injured over 1,800.)

In Switzerland, 69.7% of prison population did not have Swiss citizenship, compared to 22.1% of total resident population (as of 2008). …  a special report was compiled by the Federal Department of Justice and Police (published in 2001) which for the year 1998 found an arrest rate per 1000 adult population of 2.3 for Swiss citizens, 4.2 for legally resident aliens and 32 for asylum seekers. … [bold mine]

In 2010, a statistic was published which listed delinquency by nationality (based on 2009 data). To avoid distortions due to demographic structure, only the male population aged between 18 and 34 was considered for each group. …  immigrants from Germany, France and Austria had a significantly lower crime rate than Swiss citizens (60% to 80%), while immigrants from Angola, Nigeria and Algeria had a crime rate of above 600% of that of Swiss population. …

A report studying 4.4 million Swedes between the ages of 15 and 51 during the period 1997-2001 found that 25% of crimes were committed by foreign-born individuals while and additional 20% were committed by individuals born to foreign-born parents. … Findings from a previous study published by the Swedish government in 1996 determined that between 1985 and 1989 individuals born in Iraq, North Africa (Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia), and Africa (excluding Uganda and the North African countries) were convicted of rape at rates 20, 23, and 17 greater than individuals born in Sweden respectively.[12]

According to a report on prison population statistics published by the [UK] Ministry of Justice, in 2013 blacks made up 13.2% of the prison population and 2.8% of the general population. Given that whites make up 88.3% of the total population but only 73.8% of the prison population, it follows that blacks are 5.6 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites. Similarly, in 2013 Muslims made up 13.1% of the prison population but just 4% of the general population meaning that they are 3.3 times more likely to be incarcerated than a member of the general population.[36]

In other words, African immigrants to Europe commit crimes at rates similar to our own African population.


But our African population was forcefully imported against its will–Europe let its in because it asked nicely. Or not so nicely, as the case may be.

Who are the refugees? According to the Dept. of Homeland Security Citizenship and Immigration website:

Under United States law, a refugee is someone who:

  • Is located outside of the United States
  • Is of special humanitarian concern to the United States
  • Demonstrates that they were persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group
    Is not firmly resettled in another country
  • Is admissible to the United States

Points two and three could apply to virtually anyone throughout the third world. How many countries have civil wars, gangs, terrorist groups, government repression, or violence against women, gays, or other minorities?

There isn’t a lot of data either way about whether refugees–or asylees–in the US are particularly criminal. Compared to the 320 million or so of us already here, these groups are pretty small (unless you happen to live near them.) I have been hearing a fair amount of chatter, though, about crime among the Somali population.

The Somalis are, indeed, a good example of exactly how the US refugee process can go wrong.

Why are there so many Somalis, in particular, when so many other countries have similar rates of violence? Somalia got special concern status after–as far as I can tell–the US noticed that it was unable to master the basics of state formation and so was embroiled in savage anarchy and civil war. The US decided to invade and “restore order,” and promptly got its butt kicked by a bunch of Somalis who didn’t appreciate getting invaded. Since the US can’t fix Somalia’s problems over in Somalia, I guess we decided to bring them over here and try again.

There are wars that come and go, and wars that do not. Sometimes countries invade or disintegrate. These are temporary states of affairs, and it is reasonable for the international community to find ways to get the innocent out of harm’s way until the violence subsides and they can go home. Other places, however, are simply constant war zones. The violence will, for the foreseeable future, always be high, and since aggression has a large genetic component, moving people away from the conflict just leads to violence in a new location.

There are a billion or two more people in the world who would like to move to the West than the West can possibly hold, and most of them come, indeed, from countries with high levels of violence and poverty. (After all, who wants to leave rich, peaceful countries?) But societies are, on the whole, the products of the people who make them. Europeans do not have magical pixie dust that makes their countries peaceful and prosperous; they’re peaceful and prosperous mostly because Europeans don’t kill each other very often, don’t commit a lot of fraud or nepotism, and do well at academics. Same for a variety of other countries, like Japan and Taiwan.

Violent, low-trust societies that people find unpleasant to live in and want to leave are violent and low-trust because they are full of people who are violent and low-trust. High-trust societies like Sweden function because everyone involved is a default-cooperator who wouldn’t even think of cheating others. Hell, when they translate articles about government corruption and nepotism into Swedish, they have to explain the concepts because the Swedish language doesn’t have words for such practices. In other countries, helping out your family over the interests of strangers is seen as moral; nepotism and “corruption” are the default, and this strange, immoral practice of treating strangers like family members has to be explained.

People can only handle so much complexity. You, me, everyone. The society a group of people creates depends on their collective ability to handle complexity. If you can handle a lot of complexity, default cooperate with strangers, and can repress the urge to stab your cubicle mate when he starts humming off-key again, you can create a society with a big economy and a lot of working infrastructure. If you can’t handle complexity, defect on strangers, and get aggressive with people, your economy will be small and your infrastructure will be crap.

This does not mean that immigrants will automatically set up a miniature version of their home society–most immigrants are not representative of their home population, as migration takes a lot of guts and know-how. It does mean that different groups of people will set up different societies, and if you do not select your immigrants carefully, you could end up with folks who think things should be run very differently than you do.

Somalia falls into the category of “War for the foreseeable future,” not “temporary violence.” Somalia is not a regular country having temporary difficulties; it is a country-shaped hole in the map where no state exists. If we are going to take Somalis, we might as well take the entire population of Africa and much of Latin America. It’s not like Zimbabwe’s violence rates and civil organization are much better, and the murder rate in Honduras is sky-high. Pretty much anyone in Honduras could make a good case that they’re likely to get murdered.

Of course, moving all of the Hondurans to the US just means they’re likely to murder each other over here.

To be fair, though, the process of becoming a refugee and eventually getting settled in the US is long and a pain in the butt–it apparently takes a good two years. This does actually sort out a lot of the undesirables. Your average Al Qaeda operative would have an easier time just walking across the Mexican border.

What about the refugees in Europe?

As usual, things are rather different over there, especially since they decided to abandon the whole “try to select good migrants” policy in favor of “take everyone who shows up.” A lot of the refugees are, in fact, Syrians, who are fleeing a legitimately terrifying enemy (and to everyone fleeing ISIS, I wish you the best of luck,) but a rather large percent are opportunistic economic migrants from elsewhere in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East:

Moroccan Merouance Missaoua lives and works in Vienna. In his free time, he interprets for refugees at the Westbahnhof [train station].  … “In all honesty — I believe, it is my personal estimate, because I have been here day in and day out, that a quarter of the people I have met are not refugees.

“I have met people from Morocco and from Algeria. I can discover that, because I speak their dialect too and I recognize the accent immediately. Yesterday, for example, two Egyptians came to me. I said to them: ‘You are not Syrian; what are you doing?’ — [They replied] ‘Yes, it’s now or never, get into Europe free. It’s now or never.‘”

What, someone would cheat? Who could have ever predicted that?

Probably not the Swedes.

And very, very few of them are toddler orphans. Rather:

  • Nearly 500,000 people have reached Europe illegally by sea in 2015 (as of Sept.)
  • 34% of the boat people claim to be from Syria
  • 20% of new asylum applicants claim to be from Syria
  • 8000 asylum seekers per day are currently entering the continent.
  • Between 270,000 and 280,000 migrants have entered Germany just in the month of September 2015. (This is the equivalent of a city the size of Münster– or of Newcastle, Venice, or Newark, NJ).
  • Germany is expecting up to 1.5 million entries this year alone.
  • Oddly for refugees, 75% are men.
  • Of those ‘Syrians’ entering Germany, an estimated one in three is lying about his national origins, according to Germany’s Foreign Minister. (From “Crashing the Gates: A Crash Course“)

Sweden has finally–tearfully–rescinded its open borders policy. Not because of the terrorist attacks in France, but because they ran out of money for refugees.

Apparently no one in the Swedish government realized just how many people there are in the rest of the world, but suddenly receiving 10,000 migrants a week gave them a clue.

Of course, it would have been far more economical and practical to build nice refugee camps in Turkey and Saudi Arabia (which is super rich and doesn’t even need any help international help building refugee camps, they could just put all of the refugees in the temporary housing they have set up for the Hajj.) There are a lot of refugees already in Turkey, but none in Saudi Arabia. These camps would be easy to reach and be able to serve far more people than expensive housing in Berlin.

Unsurprisingly, the sudden influx of refugees has brought a lot of crime with it. (See the “Crashing the Gates” link for a litany.)

On Wednesday night and early Thursday, violence broke out at two refugee centers in the northern city of Hamburg, including one incident involving 100 migrants wielding wooden planks as weapons, according to Hamburg police. …

Some in Germany also worry that they are importing ethnic and religious tensions from the refugees’ homelands. German police unions, for instance, are calling for separate housing for asylum seekers along religious or ethnic lines after what officials described as an “attempted lynching” of a 25-year-old Afghan Christian in the central city of Suhl in August. A group of Afghan, Iraqi and Syrian men, officials say, chased the Christian man after he tried to flush pages of the Koran down the toilet at a refugee center. Six police officers were wounded trying to stop the mob.

“This has been a big shock,” said Fred Jaeger, the Suhl police spokesman. “Never before have our police been physically attacked like this.” [source]

Back in the mid-1800s, Mikhail Bakunin observed that there would never be an anarchist revolution in Germany because the Germans are the “statiest of people.” Hey, Germans: other people don’t respect the police as much as you guys do.

ETA: Started getting a lot of reports dribbling out of Germany about violent sexual assaults, robberies, and attempted kidnappings on New Year’s Eve. The first reports said “40 men” in the Cologne station had assaulted at least 30 women; now the news is reporting “1,000 men.” From the BBC, “Germany shocked by Cologne New Year gang assaults on women” (h/t With the thoughts you’d be thinkin):

“The scale of the attacks on women at the city’s central railway station has shocked Germany. About 1,000 drunk and aggressive young men were involved.

City police chief Wolfgang Albers called it “a completely new dimension of crime”. The men were of Arab or North African appearance, he said. …

What is particularly disturbing is that the attacks appear to have been organised. Around 1,000 young men arrived in large groups, seemingly with the specific intention of carrying out attacks on women.

Police in Hamburg are now reporting similar incidents on New Year’s Eve in the party area of St Pauli. …

A British woman visiting Cologne said fireworks had been thrown at her group by men who spoke neither German nor English. “They were trying to hug us, kiss us. One man stole my friend’s bag,” she told the BBC. “Another tried to get us into his ‘private taxi’. I’ve been in scary and even life-threatening situations and I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

Of course, “The justice minister warned against linking the crimes to the issue of migrants and refugees.” (See the comments at the end of the post for more sources on this story.)


In the aftermath of November 13, liberals have doubled-down on their anti-racist, open borders philosophy.

One of the weirdest things about this whole business is that a lot of the people advocating most strongly for open borders are the folks who have the most to lose from it. A coalition of gays, atheists, Jews, Puritans, feminists, and blacks has very little to gain from immigration. Blacks get economically displaced by Mexican workers. Muslims are not generally pro-gay rights, pro-abortion, or pro-feminism. Most Mexicans aren’t, either.

The right, while it may thrash around like a wounded turkey that cannot articulate itself, has at least some idea of where its self-interests lie. (Unfortunately, Republican politicians see their interests in importing more cheap labor so they can destroy unions, make more money, and avoid hiring blacks. Hey liberals, it’s a win-win for you!)

Additionally, if you genuinely think America is a seething hotbed of racism and discrimination, why would you encourage people who are going to get discriminated against to move here? Wouldn’t they they be better off almost anywhere else on Earth? If you are simultaneously posting about how much you hate Donald Trump and about why you want Syrian refugees to move to the US, aren’t you concerned that all of those people who love Donald Trump will mistreat the refugees you invited in?

You can’t just tell the Trump supporters to leave. They’re already here, and whether you like them or not, they have as much right to vote for their interests and to make communities they like as you do. And making up a bunch of straw men about how they’re afraid of three year old orphans is not helping matters.

If you really care about Syrian refugees, then support measures that will find them safe homes without risking your neighbor’s lives in the process. If you don’t care, then by all means, continue politically posturing on Facebook about how everyone else is politically inferior to you because they’re afraid of toddlers.

(Oh, and don’t give me that, “If you’re so concerned about homeless veterans, why don’t you volunteer with the homeless?” crap. I do volunteer with the homeless. Every day, in fact.) There may not actually be anything that I or anyone else can do about the number of homeless veterans (some people are going to be homeless, and some of those are going to be veterans,) but I understand the broader point: there are a lot of truly, desperately poor people who are already in the US, and they would like government money to go to them before it goes to foreigners.

Tell a poor person who is already not scraping by on minimum wage that you want to increase the pool of low-wage workers. Explain how the laws of supply and demand mean that the expanding supply of labor will push down its value, so the poor person will be making even less money than before, but that some economists have figured out that if we just let in a billion or two people, it will all work out in the end. Then tell me if you get punched.

Thing is, no one polite is talking about any of this. Oh, sure, you might get entertaining statements out of Trump, but Trump is not polite. The only reason Trump has any chance at winning the presidency is because we let low-class people vote in this country. No one polite is keeping records on Somali crime, or the immigrant crisis in Europe, or the impact of immigration on everyone who isn’t rich. In fact, merely being in the class of people who are negatively impacted by job competition from Mexico automatically makes you, by definition, one of the low-class, impolite people.

Garden variety reaction is growing. Donald Trump’s candidacy–and popularity–is one reaction. People burning down refugee centers or creating White Student Unions on Facebook are another. The increasing percentage of Americans ready to outright abandon democracy in favor of autocracy or military dictatorship is a third.

Reaction only makes the news when it does something ugly, because no one listens when poor people try to point out that they are already hurting economically and can’t afford more labor competition.

Listen to each other while you still have the chance.



12 thoughts on “Newton’s Third Law of Politics

  1. “There are wars that come and go, and wars that do not. Sometimes countries invade or disintegrate. These are temporary states of affairs, and it is reasonable for the international community to find ways to get the innocent out of harm’s way until the violence subsides and they can go home. Other places, however, are simply constant war zones. The violence will, for the foreseeable future, always be high, and since aggression has a large genetic component, moving people away from the conflict just leads to violence in a new location.”

    Another great post. This paragraph is really insightful.


  2. Been following the news out of Cologne? Apparently there was a effective news blackout, until someone broke it amd until recently there were mass deletions of threads on reddit and facebook.


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