Algorithmic Optimization pt 2

 

There is nothing exceptional about the slowed-down Nancy Pelosi video, and nothing terribly exceptional in reporters saying uninformed things about subjects they aren’t well versed in.

The significance lies far more behind the scenes. From Marketwatch: Facebook Decided to Rethink Policies on Doctored Media two days Before Pelosi Video.

Wow, that is awfully coincidental that Facebook just happened to be thinking about changing these policies anyway right before a doctored video just happened to make it onto the news, prompting millions of people to pressure Facebook into doing exactly what Facebook already wanted to do.

Don’t be fooled: this isn’t spontaneous. Oh, sure, many of the people at the low end, like reporters, are just doing their job of reading the news they have been given into the camera, but there is plenty of active coordination going on behind the scenes by organizations like Facebook and the Democratic Party.

The Democrats realized sometime around 2016 that they have a meme problem. People on the internet thought Trump was funny and Democrats were boring sticks in the mud. People on the internet made videos about Hillary Clinton’s health, the European migration crisis, and other subjects the Dems didn’t approve of.

They don’t want this happening again.

So they are laying the groundwork now to re-write the policies and algorithms to strategically remove problematic conservative voices from the fray. Alex Jones has already been kicked off Youtube, Facebook, PayPal, etc. FB has taken a particularly hard line, threatening not just to delete Jones’s videos, but any account that posts them (excepting those that post them in order to criticize them).

Even Visa and Mastercard are getting in on the act, cutting off banking services to organizations whose political views they don’t like.

The ostensible reason for Alex Jones’s deplatforming is his supposed spread of conspiracy theories post-Sandy Hook (I say “supposedly” because I have not seen the clips in question,) but it is obvious that 1. these concerns surfaced years after Sandy Hook and 2. no one has deplatformed media outlets that pushed the “Iraq has WMDs” conspiracy theory that cost the US trillions of dollars and lead to the deaths of thousands (millions?) of people.

This has all been accompanied by a basic shift in how media platforms and infrastructure are viewed.

The traditional conception is that these are platforms, not publishers, and thus they merely provide something akin to infrastructure without much say over how you, the user, put it to use. For example, the electric company provides electricity to anyone who pays for it, and even if you use your electricity to warm the cages of your illegally gotten, exotic, endangered reptile collection, the electric company will generally keep providing you with electricity. The electric company does not have to approve of what you do with the electricity you buy, and if you break the law with their electricity, they see it as the state’s job to stop you.

A publisher and a platform, like Facebook, traditionally enjoyed different legal rights and safeguards. A publisher checks and decides to publish every single item they put out, and so is held to be responsible for anything they print. A platform merely provides a space where other people can publish their own works, without supervision. Platforms do not check posts before they go up, (as a practical matter, they can’t,) and thus are generally only held legally responsible for taking down material on their site if someone has notified them that it is in violation of some law.

EG, suppose someone posts something really illegal, child porn, on Facebook. If Facebook is a “publisher,” it is now publishing child porn and is in big legal trouble. But since Facebook is just a platform, it deletes the videos and is legally in the clear. (The poster may still go to prison, of course.)

The conceptual shift in recent years has been to portray platforms as “allowing” people to come in and use their platforms, and then ask why they are allowing such shitty people to use their platform. No one asks why the electric company allows you to use their electricity to raise your army of bio mutant squids, but they do ask why Facebook allows right-wingers to be on the platform at all.

This is treating platforms like publishers, and they are absolutely jumping into it with both feet.

Let’s skip forward a bit in the video to the lady in white to see this in action:

It’s been viewed millions of times on the internet, but it’s not real… This is really scary, and not going away, and I’m fearful this is going to be all over the 2020 election.

You know, that’s how I felt when libs kept bringing up Harry Potter in the context of the last election, but for some reason taking a children’s fantasy story about wizards is acceptable in political discourse but slowed-down videos aren’t.

And who is responsible for monitoring this stuff, taking it down? Facebook, Youtube took it down, but after how long?

Other commentator… At Facebook it’s still up because Facebook allows you to do a mock video…

The correct answer is that no one is responsible for monitoring all of Facebook and Youtube’s content, because that’s impossible to do and because Facebook isn’t your mommy. If you want Facebook to be your mom and monitor everything you consume, just stop talking and leave the adults alone.

CNN asks:

So Monika, in the wake of the 2016 election obviously Facebook has repeatedly told Congress and the American people that yo’re serious about fighting disinformation, fake news, and yet this doctored video which I think even your own fact checkers acknowledge is doctored of speaker Pelosi remains on your platform. Why?

Like the previous guy already said, because it’s not against Facebook’s TOS. Of course Anderson Cooper already knows this. He doesn’t need to get an actual Facebook representative on his show to find out that “funny reaction videos are allowed on Facebook.” And if Facebook were serious about maintaining its neutrality as a platform, not a publisher, it would not have bothered to send anyone to CNN–it would have just left matters at a blanket statement that the video does not violate the TOS.

The Facebook Lady (Monika,) then explains how Facebook uses its algorithms to demote and demonitize content the “experts” claim is false. They’re proud of this and want you to know about it.

So misinformation that doesn’t promote violence, but misinformation that portrays the third most powerful politician in the country as a drunk or as somehow impaired, that’s fine? 

Oh no, quick, someone save the third most powerful person in the country from people saying mean things about her on the internet! We can’t have those disgusting peasants being rude to their betters!

Anderson Cooper is infuriatingly moronic; does not “logically understand” why Facebook leaves up videos that don’t violate the TOS but suggests that Facebook should “get out of the news business” if it can’t do it well.

Facebook isn’t in the “news business” you moron, because Facebook is a platform, not a publisher. You’re in the news business, so you really ought to know the difference.

If you don’ know the difference between Facebook and a news organization, maybe you shouldn’t be in the news business.

That said, of course Anderson Cooper actually understands how Facebook works. This whole thing is a charade to give Facebook cover for changing its policies under the excuse of “there was public outrage, so we had to.” It’s an old scam.

So to summarize:

  1. The Dems want to change the algorithms to favor themselves, eg, Facebook decided to rethink policies on doctored media two days before Pelosi video, but don’t want to be so obvious about it the Republicans fight back
  2. Wait for a convenient excuse, like a slowed-down video, then go into overdrive to convince you that Democracy is Seriously Threatened by Slow Videos, eg, Doctored Videos show Facebook willing enables of the Russians; Doctored Pelosi video is leading tip in coming disinformation battle
  3. Convince Republican leadership to go along with it because, honestly, they’re morons: Congress investigating deepfakes after doctored Pelosi video, report says
  4. Deplatform their enemies
  5. Rinse and repeat: Vox Adpocalypse

 

One final note: even though I think there is coordinated activity at the top/behind the scenes at tech companies and the like, I don’t think the average talking head you see on TV is in on it. Conspiracies like that are too hard to pull off; rather, humans naturally cooperate and coordinate their behavior because they want to work together, signal high social status, keep their jobs, etc.

Anthropology Friday: The Slave Narrative Collection (pt 1/4)

Wes Brady, interviewee from the Slave Narrative Collection, Marshall, Texas, 1937
Wes Brady, interviewee from the Slave Narrative Collection, Marshall, Texas, 1937

Back in 1936, the US government decided to put people to work by sending them out to collect narratives of slavery and the Civil War from the nation’s few remaining ex-slaves.

They found more than 2,000 survivors and ended up with over 10,000 typed pages of interviews, which they titled Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States.

I have been intending to read these narratives for several years, ever since I spotted them on Amazon (though I don’t suspect I’ll get through all 10,000 pages of them.) Many of the accounts are set down in dialect, which I gather was more common in writing in the 30s than it is today, we moderns having decided that dialect is “insulting” or something, though the truth is I think some people just find it difficult to read. I have always loved dialect, ever since I was very young, so you are getting these dialect and all. After all, every single person on earth speaks with an accent to someone else’s ears.

With so many pages of material, debated with myself about what I should excerpt, and eventually decided to just go with whatever I found interesting, especially the parts I found compelling enough to read out loud to others.

As usual, I’ll be using “” instead of blockquotes for readability.

M. E. Abrams: Secret BBQs, Spirits, and the Conjurin’ Doctor

“Marse Glenn had 64 slaves. On Sat’day night, de darkies would have a little fun on de side. A way off from de big house, down in de pastur’ dar wuz about de bigges’ gully what I is ebber seed. Dat wuz de place whar us collected mos’ ev’ry Sa’day night fer our lil’ mite o’ fun frum de white folks hearin’. Sometime it wuz so dark dat you could not see de fingers on yo’ han’ when you would raise it fo’ your face. … De pastur’ wuz big and de trees made dark spots in it on de brightest nights. … When us started together, look like us would git parted ‘fo we reach de gully all together. One of us see som’tin and take to runnin’. Maybe de other darkies in de drove, de wouldn’t see nothin’ jes den. Dats zactly how it is wid de spirits. De mout (might) sho de’self to you and not to me. De acts raal queer all de way round. Dey can take a notion to scare de daylights outtin you when you is wid a gang; or dey kin scare de whole gang; den, on de other hand, dey kin sho de’self off to jes two or three. …

“On light nights, I is seed dem look, furs dark like a tree shad’er; den dey gits raal scairy white. T’aint no use fer white folks to low dat it ain’t no haints, an’ grievements dat follows ye all around, kaise I is done had to many ‘spriences wid dem. … Raaly de white folks doesn’t have eyes fer sech as we darkies does; but dey bees dare jes de same.

“Never mindin’ all o’ dat, we n’used to steal our hog ever’ sa’day night and take off to de gully whar us’d git him dressed and barbecued. Niggers has de mos’es fun at a barbecue dat dare is to be had. As none o’ our gang didn’t have no ‘ligion, us never felt no scruples bout not gettin de ‘cue’ ready fo’ Sunday. Us’d git back to de big house along in de evenin’ o’ Sunday. Den Marse, he come out in de yard an’ low whar wuz you niggers dis mornin’. How come de chilluns had to do de work round here. Us would tell some lie bout gwine to a church ‘siety meetin’. But we got raal scairt and mose ‘cided dat de best plan wuz to do away wid de barbecue in de holler. Conjin ‘Doc.’ say dat he done put a spell on ole Marse so dat he wuz ‘blevin ev’y think dat us tole him bout Sa’day night and Sunday morning. Dat give our minds ‘lief; but it turned out dat in a few weeks de Marse come out from under de spell. Doc never even knowed nothin’ bout it. Marse had done got to countin’ his hogs ever’ week. When he cotch us, us wuz all punished wid a hard long task. Dat cured me o’ believing in any conjuring an’ charmin’ but I still kno’s dat dare is haints; kaise ever time you goes to dat gully at night, up to dis very day, you ken hear hogs still gruntin’ in it, but you can’t see nothing.

Eastman Johnson's 1863 painting "The Lord is My Shepherd"
Eastman Johnson‘s 1863 painting “The Lord is My Shepherd”

EvX: So then the Master died and some other people came to live in the plantation house and then it got a reputation for being haunted…

“Den Marse Glenn’s boys put Mammy in de house to keep it fer ’em. But Lawd God! Mammy said dat de furs night she stayed dare de haints nebber let her git not narr’y mite o’ sleep. … Mammy low dat it de Marse a lookin’ fer his money what he done tuck and burried and de boys couldn’t find no sign o’ it. Atter dat, de sons tuck an’ tacked a sign on de front gate, offering $200.00 to de man, white or black, dat would stay dar and fin’ out whar dat money wuz burried. Our preacher, the Rev. Wallace, lowed dat he would stay dar and find out whar dat money wuz from de spirits. …

“He went to bed. A dog began running down dem steps; and a black cat run across de room dat turned to white befo’ it run into de wall. Den a pair of white horses come down de stairway a rattling chains fer harness. Next a woman dressed in white come in dat room. Brother Wallace up and lit out dat house and he never went back no mo’.

“Another preacher tried stayin’ dar. He said he gwine to keep his head kivered plum up. Some’tin unkivered it and he seed a white goat a grinnin’ at him. But as he wuz a brave man and trus’ de Lawd, he lowed, ‘What you want wid me nohow?’ The goat said, ‘what is you doin’ here. Raise, I knows dat you ain’t sleep.’ De preacher say, ‘I wants you to tell me what ole Marse don tuck and hid dat money?’ De goat grin and low, ‘How come you don’ look under your pillar, sometime?’ Den he run away. De preacher hopped up and looked under de pillar, and dar wuz de money sho nuf.”

Ezra Adams, 82 years old, reminds us that many former slaves died of hunger, disease, or exposure in the aftermath of the Civil War:

Negro Life at the South, oil on canvas, 1859,
Negro Life at the South, oil on canvas, 1859, (actually set in Washington, DC)

“De slaves, where I lived, knowed after de war dat they had abundance of dat somethin’ called freedom, what they could not wat, wear, and sleep in. Yes, sir, they soon found out dat freedom ain’t nothin’, ‘less you is got somethin’ to live on and a place to call home. … It sho’ don’t hold good when you has to work, or when you gits hongry. You knows dat poor white folks and niggers has got to work to live, regardless of liberty, love, and all them things. I believes a person loves more better, when they feels good. I knows from experience dat poor folks feels better when they has food in deir frame and a few dimes to jingle in deir pockets. …

“If a poor man wants to enjoy a little freedom, let him go on de farm and work for hisself. It is sho’ worth somethin’ to be boss, and, on de farm you can be boss all you want to, ‘less de man ‘low his wife to hold dat ‘portant post. A man wid a good wife, one dat pulls wid him, can see and feel some pleasure and experience some independence. But, bless your soul, if he gits a woman what wants to be both husband and wife, fare-you-well and good-bye, too, to all love, pleasure, and independence; ’cause you sho’ is gwine to ketch hell here and no mild climate whenever you goes ‘way.

James Hopkinson's Plantation. Planting sweet potatoes. ca. 1862/63
James Hopkinson’s Plantation. Planting sweet potatoes. ca. 1862/63

Victoria Adams, 90 years old: Medicine and the Yankees

“Us had medicine made from herbs, leaves and roots; some of them was cat-nip, garlic root, tansy, and roots of burdock. De roots of burdock soaked in whiskey was mighty good medicine. We dipped asafetida in turpentine and hung it ’round our necks to keep off disease.

“Befo’ de Yankees come thru, our peoples had let loose a lot of our hosses and de hosses strayed over to de Yankee side, and de Yankee men rode de hosses back over to our plantation. De Yankees asked us if we want to be free. I never say I did; I tell them I want to stay wid my missus and they went on and let me alone. They ‘stroyed most everything we had ‘cept a little vittles; took all de stock and take them wid them. They burned all de buildings ‘cept de one de massa and missus was livin’ in.

“It wasn’t long after de Yankees went thru dat our missus told us dat we don’t b’long to her and de massa no more. None of us left dat season. I got married de next year and left her. I like being free more better.”

Uncle Marian, a slave of great notoriety, of North Carolina. Daguerreotype, circa 1850.
Uncle Marian, a slave of great notoriety, of North Carolina. Daguerreotype, circa 1850.

EvX: Many slaves opted to stay where they were immediately after freedom, trusting the plantations they knew to the threat of hunger and homelessness in a war-ravaged land, but moved on later as opportunities arose.

Whether slaves stayed or left had a lot to do with how cruel their masters were–the crueler the master, the more likely their slaves were to leave as fast as possible. Unfortunately, given the misery and starvation induced by the war, these same people were probably less likely to survive long enough to give the folklorists their accounts. Obviously this may create a numerical bias in the accounts.

Frank Adamson, 82 years old: The Rattler and the Red Shirts

“I ‘members when you was barefoot at de bottom; now I see you a settin’ dere, gittin’ bare at de top, as bare as de palm of my hand.”

[EvX: In case it isn’t clear, “you” here is the person conducting the interview.]

“I’s been ‘possum huntin’ wid your pappy, when he lived on de Wateree, just after de war. One night us got into tribulation, I tells you! ‘Twas ’bout midnight when de dogs make a tree. Your pappy climb up de tree, git ’bout halfway up, heard sumpin’ dat once you hears it you never forgits, and dats de rattlin’ of de rattles on a rattle snake’s tail. Us both ‘stinctly hear dat sound! What us do? Me on de ground, him up de tree, but where de snake? Dat was de misery, us didn’t know. Dat snake give us fair warnin’ though! Marster Sam (dats your pa) ‘low: ‘Frank, ease down on de ground; I’ll just stay up here for a while.’ I lay on them leaves, skeered to make a russle. Your pa up de tree skeered to go up or down! Broad daylight didn’t move us. Sun come up, he look all ’round from his vantage up de tree, then come down, not ’til then, do I gits on my foots.

“Then I laugh and laugh and laugh, and ask Marster Sam how he felt. Marster Sam kinda frown and say: ‘Damn I feels like hell! Git up dat tree! Don’t you see dat ‘possum up dere?’ I say: ‘But where de snake, Marster?’ He say: ‘Dat rattler done gone home, where me and you and dat ‘possum gonna be pretty soon!’ …

“I’s as close to white folks then as peas in a pod. Wore de red shirt and drunk a heap of brandy in Columbia, dat time us went down to General Hampton into power. I ‘clare I hollered so loud goin’ ‘long in de procession, dat a nice white lady run out one of de houses down dere in Columbia, give me two biscuits and a drum stick of chicken, patted me on de shoulder, and say: ‘Thank God for all de big black men dat can holler for Governor Hampton as loud as dis one does.’ Then I hollers some more for to please dat lady, though I had to take de half chawed chicken out dis old mouth, and she laugh ’bout dat ’til she cried. She did!

“Well, I’ll be rockin’ ‘long balance of dese days, a hollerin’ for Mr. Roosevelt, just as loud as I holler then for Hampton.

Four generations of a slave family, Smith's Plantation, Beaufort, South Carolina, 1862
Four generations of a slave family, Smith’s Plantation, Beaufort, South Carolina, 1862

EvX: These interviews were conducted in the 30s, so that’s the second Roosevelt.

As Wikipedia points out, the fact that the interviewers were white may also have affected the particular anecdotes informants chose to share or how they framed them. In this case, I wonder if the account is even true. Wikipedia claims:

The Red Shirts or Redshirts of the Southern United States were white supremacist[1][2] paramilitary groups that were active in the late 19th century in the last years and after the end of the Reconstruction era of the United States. Red Shirt groups originated in Mississippi in 1875, when Democratic Party private terror units adopted red shirts to make themselves more visible and threatening to Southern Republicans, both white and freedmen. Similar groups in the Carolinas also adopted red shirts.

Among the most prominent Red Shirts were the supporters of Democratic Party candidate Wade Hampton during the campaigns for the South Carolina gubernatorial elections of 1876 and 1878.[3] The Red Shirts were one of several paramilitary organizations, such as the White League in Louisiana, arising from the continuing efforts of white Democrats to regain political power in the South in the 1870s. These groups acted as “the military arm of the Democratic Party.”[4]

While sometimes engaging in violence, the Red Shirts, the White League, rifle clubs, and similar groups in the late nineteenth century worked openly and were better organized than the secret vigilante groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Their goals were to use violence and terrorism to restore the Democrats to power and repress the exercise of civil and voting rights by the freedmen.[5] During the 1876, 1898 and 1900 campaigns in North Carolina, the Red Shirts played prominent roles in intimidating non-Democratic Party voters. …

According to E. Merton Coulter in The South During Reconstruction (1947), the red shirt was adopted in Mississippi in 1875 by “southern brigadiers” of the Democratic Party who were opposed to black Republicans. The Red Shirts disrupted Republican rallies, intimidated or assassinated black leaders, and discouraged and suppressed black voting at the polls. …

State Democrats organized parades and rallies in every county of South Carolina. Many of the participants were armed and mounted; all wore red. Mounted men gave an impression of greater numbers. When Wade Hampton and other Democrats spoke, the Red Shirts would respond enthusiastically, shouting the campaign slogan, “Hurrah for Hampton.” …

In the Piedmont counties of Aiken, Edgefield, and Barnwell, freedmen who voted were driven from their homes and whipped, while some of their leaders were murdered. During the 1876 presidential election, Democrats in Edgefield and Laurens counties voted “early and often”, while freedmen were barred from the polls.[7] …

Few freedmen voted for Hampton, and most remained loyal to the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln. The 1876 campaign was the “most tumultuous in South Carolina’s history.”[8] “An anti-Reconstruction historian later estimated that 150 Negroes were murdered in South Carolina during the campaign.”[9]

After the election on November 7, a protracted dispute between Chamberlain and Hampton ensued as both claimed victory. Because of the massive election fraud, Edmund William McGregor Mackey, a Republican member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, called upon the “Hunkidori Club” from Charleston to eject Democratic members from Edgefield and Laurens counties from the House. Word spread through the state. By December 3, approximately 5,000 Red Shirts assembled at the State House to defend the Democrats. Hampton appealed for calm and the Red Shirts dispersed.

As a result of a national political compromise, President Rutherford B. Hayes ordered the removal of the Union Army from the state on April 3, 1877. The white Democrats completed their political takeover of South Carolina.

Graph of the enslaved population of the United States as a percentage of the population of each state, 1790–1860
Graph of the enslaved population of the United States as a percentage of the population of each state, 1790–1860

They were active in other states, too, but you get the idea.

Red is a common color, and soon appears again in Democrat lore, as Huber recounts in “Red Necks and Red Bandanas: Appalachian Coal Miners and the Coloring of Union Identity, 1912-1936″ (published 2006):

“They shot one of those Bolsheviks up in Knox County this morning. Harry Sims his name was…. That deputy knew his business. He didn’t give the redneck a chance to talk, he just plugged him in the stomach…” So Malcolm Cowley, writing in The New Republic in 1932, recounted a local coal operator’s response to the murder of a nineteen-year-old Young Communist League union organizer in eastern Kentucky… The contempt and ruthlessness in this comment will scarcely surprise readers familiar with the history of the violent, bloody suppression of the American labor movement, but seeing the pejorative terms Bolshevik and redneck used interchangeably may. For more than a century, the epithet redneck has chiefly denigrated rural, poor white southerners…. During the 1920s and 1930s, however, another one of its definitions in the northern and central Appalachian coalfields was “a Communist.”

Coal miners displaying a bomb that was dropped during the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921
Coal miners displaying a bomb that was dropped during the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921

During the Appalachian coal mine wars–which was a real thing that actually happened, though obviously it wasn’t actually on the scale of a real war–strikers often wore red bandanas around their necks.

Wikipedia notes:

The term characterized farmers having a red neck caused by sunburn from hours working in the fields. …

By 1900, “rednecks” was in common use to designate the political factions inside the Democratic Party comprising poor white farmers in the South.[14] … A newspaper notice in Mississippi in August 1891 called on rednecks to rally at the polls at the upcoming primary election:[15]

 

Primary on the 25th.
And the “rednecks” will be there.
And the “Yaller-heels” will be there, also.
And the “hayseeds” and “gray dillers,” they’ll be there, too.
And the “subordinates” and “subalterns” will be there to rebuke their slanderers and traducers.
And the men who pay ten, twenty, thirty, etc. etc. per cent on borrowed money will be on hand, and they’ll remember it, too.

By 1910, the political supporters of the Mississippi Democratic Party politician James K. Vardaman—chiefly poor white farmers—began to describe themselves proudly as “rednecks,” even to the point of wearing red neckerchiefs to political rallies and picnics.[16] …

The term “redneck” in the early 20th century was occasionally used in reference to American coal miner union members who wore red bandannas for solidarity. The sense of “a union man” dates at least to the 1910s and was especially popular during the 1920s and 1930s in the coal-producing regions of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.[18]

The strikers, IIRC, were multi-ethnic, not just whites.

The path of the Democratic party from “anti Northerners” to “anti rich industrial capitalists” to “anti Southerners” is really interesting–Democrats haven’t won a majority of the white vote in a presidential election since LBJ made them the part of the Civil Rights Act.

It’s like they’re always red, but the meaning of “red” keeps changing.

That’s all I have time for today. See you next week.

Donald Trump and the Death of White Identitarian Politics

“But wait,” I hear you saying, “Isn’t this the beginning?”

Mainstream American conservatives (perhaps all conservatives) are essentially reactive. Not reactionary, mind. That word has a different meaning in this context. Just reactive.

Liberals come up with new ideas, and conservatives react by opposing them. Liberals are high-class, in-party; their ideas make it into university curricula and influence the nation’s movers and shakers. By the time conservatives (who do not usually run in liberal circles, nor read much from university presses,) notice a liberal idea, it has already become quite widespread. And nothing makes an idea seem old and passe quite like having it suddenly associated with the out-party, the politically low-class and uncool folks who vote Republican.

BTW, if you are the “homophobic uncle” or “racist grandma” at family functions, try to turn this into a secret power: make ideas sound bad just by talking about them. Global warming? Caused by immigrant-driven population growth! Rising wealth inequality? Clearly capitalists would rather hire illegal immigrants than pay blacks a living wage–build the wall! You support Hillary Clinton because she voted for the Iraq war! Etc.

Report back to me if it works. I’m curious.

But back on subject: the upshot of this is that by the time the Republicans notice something and start making a big deal out of it, it is already too late. The trends are already in place and moving inexorably against them.

Back in the ’80s, we witnessed the rise of the “Christian right;” throughout the 90s, “conservative” and “Republican” were synonymous with “Evangelical Christianity.” They ran on platforms that included banning abortion, reinstating prayer in school, replacing the theory of evolution with Biblical creationism in school textbooks, and general opposition to “Godless liberals.”

They have failed pretty spectacularly. While they have made some piecemeal hacks at abortion, it is still basically legal through out the country. Creationism and “Intelligent Design” have both been struck down as unconstitutional due to being blatantly religious. And you probably know the story on prayer in school even better than I do.

(This is a little disappointing coming out of a party that could count among its recent accomplishments normalizing relations with China, nuclear reduction treaties with the Soviets, and overseeing the peaceful collapse of the entire USSR.)

Conservatives of the ’80s and ’90s could tell that the country was becoming increasingly secular, and reacted accordingly by trying to force it back to religiosity. Unfortunately for them, increasingly religious => fewer and fewer people who are even interested in their religious agenda. Despite the fact that abortion is still legal and school prayer is still illegal, even conservatives have moved on to other priorities.

During Bush II, Republicans launched a big push to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The measure failed; gay marriage is now not only legal, but constitutionally protected.

No one bothered with passing an anti-gay marriage amendment back in the ’50s, when Republicans could have actually gotten the numbers necessary to do it. Since the vast majority of people thought homosexuality was immoral, there was no push to legalize gay marriage, and so no one would have bothered with passing amendments against it. Once enough people were in favor of gay marriage to put it on the national agenda, the trends were clear: soon the majority of people would favor gay marriage, and an amendment did not pass.

It was the last, desperate thrashing of a cornered beast.

Today, people have noticed–finally–that America’s demographics are changing.

Of course, the time to do something about this was before the demographics changed. In 1900, the US was about 88% white, 12% black, and <1% Hispanic. Today, whites are 64%, blacks are still 12%, and Hispanics are 16% of the population. (Asians and others comprise an additional 8%.)

According to the census bureau, in 2012, American infants were 50% white and 50% non-white–about 25% of American children are now Hispanic.

The time to care about changing US demographics was 1965, when LBJ and Ted Kennedy’s Immigration and Naturalization Act quadrupled the number of (legal) immigrants per year from 250,000 to 1 million. 1975 and 1985 would also have been good years to start caring.

In 1950, there were 500,000 Hispanics in the US. Today, there are 5o.5 million. Even if you built a wall between the US and Mexico yesterday and deported 11 million illegal immigrants, that would still leave 39 million newcomers and their children whom you cannot get rid of.

By 2050, the US will be less than half white, and American children will be only 40% white.

Interestingly, the last time a Democrat won a majority of white votes was 1964–LBJ. Republicans have been the “white” party–though they may not have realized it–since 1968.

But this does not mean that whites vote overwhelmingly for the Republicans. Even blacks occasionally vote for Republicans–about 5% of them voted for Bush II. As whites near 50%, even 10% voting for the Democrats will consign Republicans to the losers, while an identifiably “white” party will have difficulty attracting non-white voters.

No matter how much effort the Republicans put into attracting white voters (and likely they will put a great deal of effort into it over the next few elections,) the numbers are moving against them.

You can’t maintain a majority with a shrinking % of the population. (Though, of course, we are talking about a process that will take decades.)

But we live in a two-party system, and the system will re-assert itself with a new set of balanced coalitions that can win, perhaps a system that pits Hispanics and Asians against whites and blacks, or some other random thing. (I am not guessing.) But that won’t happen until the Republicans are weak enough that Democrats can safely split.

 

Adoption as Genetic Strategy? Americans, Indians, and the Mongols

If a man adopt a child and to his name as son, and rear him, this grown son can not be demanded back again. …

If a man, who had adopted a son and reared him, founded a household, and had children, wish to put this adopted son out, then this son shall not simply go his way. His adoptive father shall give him of his wealth one-third of a child’s portion, and then he may go. He shall not give him of the field, garden, and house.

The Code of Hammurabi, lines 185-191

This post was inspired by a friend’s question: Can adoption of non-kin be a viable genetic (or memetic) strategy?

The full version of the question was more like, “Liberals are more positive toward interracial marriage, leading to more genetic variation in liberal communities. Could adoption be a similarly viable strategy for Conservatives, by increasing the ethnic diversity of the people who believe in their memetic values?”

Adoption could also work by just increasing sheer numbers of conservatives, even if it does nothing to genetic diversity.

My first thought was, “That sounds a lot like what the Amercan Indians were trying to do when they kidnapped and adopted white children, and I think Genghis Khan did something similar with the children of subjugated peoples.”

These customs stand in contrast to groups that have historically attempted to wipe out their enemy’s children, like the entire rest of the Mongol conquests, so I thought this question worth exploring.

But there’s a lot here that first needs unpacking. For starters, despite what people claim to believe, conservatives actually have very slightly higher interracial marriage rates than whites and are more likely to live in multi-ethnic households.

Let’s get some graphs.

PP-2014-06-12-polarization-3-03 PP-2014-06-12-polarization-3-05 PP-2014-06-12-polarization-3-06 PP-2014-06-12-polarization-3-07 PP-2014-06-12-polarization-3-08 sdt-2012-rise-of-intermarriage-37 sdt-2012-rise-of-intermarriage-36 sdt-2012-rise-of-intermarriage-34

The data is clear: atheists are the most hated minority in the country, followed by gun owners. (I jest; people are actually pretty polite to atheists, and you’re rude to a gun owner at your own risk.)

America’s most prominent ethnic division is actually between “liberals” and “conservatives,” a feature reflected in attitudes toward “gun owners” and “atheists.” Most Ameicans don’t think of this as an ethnic difference (even though it is,) just because they aren’t all that conscious of the different ethnic settlement patterns that influenced the modern political distribution.

Jayman's map of the American Nations
Jayman’s map of the American Nations

Or to put it another way, there isn’t anything magical in the dirt in Massachusetts or South Carolina that has been turning the people there liberal or conservative for the past 300 years or so. The difference is mostly ethnicity–some ethnicities are just more liberal or conservative–but a lot of people (even people who loudly claim that there’s more intraracial than interracial variation,) regard all whites as one great big undifferentiated ethic mass that just happens to hold different opinions in different regions.

The majority of Americans (even the majority of very conservative Americans, however many of those there are,) claim to care more about one’s beliefs (and actions) than about superficial things like skin tone or the geographic origin of one’s ancestors.

This is anti-tribalism.

Tribalism (the human norm,) states that it is morally correct to overlook differences of opinion within your own group, (family, clan, tribe, nation, ethnic group, ethnie, thede, race, clade, take your pick,) and always side with your group against outsiders.

So Americans are perfectly okay with saying that they would not want to marry someone who holds belief they disagree with, but look askance at saying they have an ethnic preference. (Which explains why, even when people say things that are quite negative about outgroup members, they tend to quite vociferously object that they are not “racist” because their objection is not to the outgroup’s appearances, but to their behaviors.)

But what people say and what they do are different matters. According to Volokh:

…among families with step-children or adopted children, 11 percent of conservatives were living in mixed race households compared to 10 percent of liberals living in mixed-race households.

Similarly, 9.4 percent of Republicans living in step- or adopted families were in mixed-race households, compared to only 8.8 percent of Democrats in such families. (Again, this small advantage for Republicans is not large enough to be statistically significant).

And looking at all children instead of non-related children,

  • 11.9% of conservatives live in mixed-race families compared to 11.4% of liberals.
  • 9.5% of Republicans live in mixed-race families compared to 11.2% of Democrats.

Unfortunately, I am having difficulty finding statistics on the exact % of conservatives/Republicans who are in mixed-race marriages vs. the % of liberals in mixed-race marriages–we may posit that there is a difference between an interracial couple with three interracial children and a white person who, on their third marriage, marries someone who already has a half-white child, but just eyeballing the data, I don’t think there’s going to be a huge statistical difference.

(The difference between “conservatives” and “Republicans” in the data is due to may conservative blacks and Hispanics not voting Republican.)

The folks who are most strongly anti-miscegenation tend to be old people (over the age of 65,) and the folks who are most likely to be in mixed-race households, conservative or liberal, are the minorities themselves–many blacks and Hispanics are married to each other.

If you look only at whites, according to Volokh,

2.0% of non-Hispanic white conservatives live in mixed-race families compared to 2.4% of non-Hispanic white liberals. …

2.8% of non-Hispanic white Republicans live in mixed-race families compared to 0.7% of non-Hispanic white Democrats.

Assuming these numbers are correct…

61% of whites say they’re okay with intermarriage, but only about 2% of them have mixed or other-race children, including step and adopted kids. Given the number of minorities in the country + random chance, about half of the whites who say they’re okay with intermarriage ought to have a mixed-race family–30% of whites, not 2%.

Of course, these folks would object that it’s not that they don’t like minorities, they just happen not to be around any they’ve fallen in love with. It’s not about superficial skin tones; it’s just something else that happens to be incredibly well correlated with superficial skin tones, like paying exorbitant rents in order to live in neighborhoods without any minorities in them. But those Republicans, dude, they’re like super racist.

What about the numbers on adoption?

The Wikipedia page on Adoption starts out nicely, then descends into gibbering mush. It has, tragically, very little information on non-Western adoption customs, and not as much as I’d hoped for on historical adoptions in the West. For that, we’ll have to search elsewhere.

But we’re still going to make use of it for the stats:

Australia 270 (2007–2008)[52] 254,000 (2004)[53] 0.2 per 100 live births Includes known relative adoptions
England & Wales 4,764 (2006)[54] 669,601(2006)[55] 0.7 per 100 live births Includes all adoption orders in England and Wales
Iceland between 20–35 year[56] 4,560 (2007)[57] 0.8 per 100 live births
Ireland 263 (2003)[58] 61,517 (2003)[59] 0.4 per 100 live births 92 non-family adoptions; 171 family adoptions (e.g. stepparent). 459 international adoptions were also recorded.
Italy 3,158 (2006)[60] 560,010 (2006)[61] 0.6 per 100 live births
New Zealand 154 (2012/13) [62] 59,863 (2012/13) [63] 0.26 per 100 live births Breakdown: 50 non-relative, 50 relative, 17 step-parent, 12 surrogacy, 1 foster parent, 18 international relative, 6 international non-relative
Norway 657 (2006)[64] 58,545(2006)[65] 1.1 per 100 live births Adoptions breakdown: 438 inter-country; 174 stepchildren; 35 foster; 10 other.
Sweden 1044(2002)[66] 91,466(2002)[67] 1.1 per 100 live births 10–20 of these were national adoptions of infants. The rest were international adoptions.
United States approx 127,000 (2001)[68] 4,021,725 (2002)[69] ~3 per 100 live births The number of adoptions is reported to be constant since 1987.

America has about 3 times the adoption rate as the rest of the West, and 15x Australia’s rate!

What’s up with that?

The most commonly given reason for wanting to adopt is infertility, and one of the big drivers of infertility is being overweight, (the other big one is being too old,) so perhaps Americans are just more prone to infertility.

We probably have a larger population of children in orphanages/foster care than the rest of the West, which might have inspired people over time to be more receptive to adoption.

Or perhaps we have a relatively unique view on the idea that family doesn’t have to be blood-related.

International adoptions, though they get a lot of press, are less than 15% of overall adoptions in the US; in Sweden, by contrast, they are over 99.999% of adoptions. (This may be due to few Swedish children being up for adoption.)

Also, according to Wikipedia, only 1.4% of ever-married American women adopt. (What about unmarried women?) So it sounds like the average adopting family adopts 2 or 3 kids.

 

Overall:

Unfortunately for our original inquiry, a 2% intermarriage rate is not going to do much, short term, to white genetics.

By contrast, intermarriage may be an effective strategy for forging genetic/memetic alliances among minorities.

An adoption rate of 3%, even if it were confined entirely to conservatives, isn’t doing much to overall numbers. As a memetic strategy, it is also constrained by the fact that political orientation, in adults, is determined largely by a combination of genetic personality factors and random chance.

The Shakers did an experiment along these lines: none (or extremely few) of the Shakers had children, because they didn’t believe in having sex. However, many Shakers adopted children, raising them in Shaker communities. No one forced these children to become Shakers, but it was certainly hoped that they would.

Most of them didn’t, and the Shakers have died out. (Technically, as of 2012, there were three elderly shakers left in Maine.) You just can’t replace yourself though adoption.

 

So tomorrow, let’s look at some cases where adoption might have played a larger genetic role: the Mongols, the Indians, and if I can find anything interesting on it, ancient Europeans.

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.

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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.

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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.)

Reaction

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.

 

Politics are Coming and they are Going to be Awful

Already I have relatives with their “I’m ready for Hillary” shirts and totes–relatives who blithely hated her during the Clinton years, because that’s what you were supposed to do during the Clinton years. On the other side, FB acquaintances (sadly, people I friended in the hopes of finding someone sane,) who have never breathed a word about opposing anything in particular about what Hillary’s been up to during her many years in gov’t are already posting vitriolically about her “history of lies” and deceptions. Pleez.

Look, if you’re voting for the Dems, you’re probably open to voting for Hillary. If you’re not voting for the Dems, you’re probably not voting for Hillary. No one is going against their tribal preferences anyway, so can’t we just leave it at that, and get back to saying dumb things about Climate Change or evolution or whatever?

“Politics” is just Gossip

(Except when it’s just social status whoring. Then it’s even worse than gossip. But I’ll talk about that later.)

When Sweden is having the same issues with immigration as France and the US, I find it hard to believe the problem is Obama.

It’s probably the Hajnal Line.

All my life (or at least since I was 12,) I have been surrounded by people claiming that it is immoral not to closely follow politics. So as a middle schooler I dutifully memorized the Supreme Court Justices, my Congressmen and Senators, all of the candidates for President and Vice President, members of the state government, even our ambassador to the UN (even though that guy probably has zero independent decision-making authority.)

I went on to major in political science, which has to be one of the most trying to prove you follow politics majors out there. But I realized rather quickly that I was more interested in what makes countries (and people) tick than in the exact names of the guys in charge. I would rather read about hunter gatherers, neurology, or genetics than about what Congress did yesterday. The Supreme Court changed and I forgot the names. I moved, Bakunin in hand, and failed to learn my new Senators. Political economy and philosophy were my constant companions, not the news.

Throughout, I felt guilty. Yes, I followed all of the latest online trends, yes, I participated in daily, often quite vociferous political discussion with literally almost everyone I knew, but I couldn’t be bothered to learn my Senator’s name and so I must be failing my duty to be an informed citizen. Sooner or later, I was bound to be uncovered for the politically ignorant immoral bum I am.

And yet, somehow, so much seemed not to really matter. Primaries came and went, and what was the point of learning all of the names when I was just going to vote for one of the two guys at the end? I remember my friends who loved Dean, only to have their hopes crushed when he didn’t get the Democratic nomination. So why bother?

So the other day, an older conservative relative sent me Ben Carson’s book, “One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future,” which I began reading out of politeness. I find Dr. Carson an affable writer–he seems like a well-intentioned guy.

The book calls (among many things) for people to pay more attention to politics.

Since almost 100% of people I know are already quite vociferously following politics, to the point where “outrage fatigue” is a real thing, what is the bloody point of asking us to follow it more?

Of course, the exhortation isn’t meant for people like me; it’s meant for people who don’t follow politics. Saying you should know the names of the people in charge is trying to translate politics into a form that will be recognizable to people who watch TV or read magazines in order to learn more about Kim Kardashian’s ass. It’s politics as gossip: OMG did you hear what Senator so-and-so wore to the Senator’s event? OMG  did you know that the President had sex with someone? Hey did you hear what Congressman so-and-so said about stuff?

Unfortunately, this is a terrible model for understanding politics. Politics is not socialite gossip. It’s fine if you want to memorize all of the names and personalities–whatever floats your boat–but this is not the same as understanding the political system. Why do the US and Sweden have very similar political movements, with very similar effects? Do we have the same president? The same Supreme Court? No. And people who try to understand politics as gossip aren’t going to figure this out.

And since all of the smart people are already following politics so much that you can’t goddamn escape it, we’re talking about trying to get a bunch of dumb people to vote more based on the assumption that somehow thinking about interest rates in the same way they think about celebrity butts will lead to good public policy.

Jesus effin’ Christ, no it won’t.

I am through with feeling guilty.