Re Nichols: Times the Experts were Wrong, pt 3/3

Welcome to our final post of “Times the Experts were Wrong,” written in preparation for our review of The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters. Professor Nichols, if you ever happen to read this, I hope it give you some insight into where we, the common people, are coming from. If you don’t happen to read it, it still gives me a baseline before reading your book. (Please see part 1 for a discussion of relevant definitions.)

Part 3 Wars:

WWI, Iraq, Vietnam etc.

How many “experts” have lied to convince us to go to war? We were told we had to attack Iraq because they had weapons of mass destruction, but the promised weapons never materialized. Mother Jones (that source of all things pro-Trump) has a timeline:

November 1999: Chalabi-connected Iraqi defector “Curveball”—a convicted sex offender and low-level engineer who became the sole source for much of the case that Saddam had WMD, particularly mobile weapons labs—enters Munich seeking a German visa. German intel officers describe his information as highly suspect. US agents never debrief Curveball or perform background check. Nonetheless, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and CIA will pass raw intel on to senior policymakers. …

11/6/00: Congress doubles funding for Iraqi opposition groups to more than $25 million; $18 million is earmarked for Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, which then pays defectors for anti-Iraq tales. …

Jan 2002: The FBI, which favors standard law enforcement interrogation practices, loses debate with CIA Director George Tenet, and Libi is transferred to CIA custody. Libi is then rendered to Egypt. “They duct-taped his mouth, cinched him up and sent him to Cairo,” an FBI agent told reporters. Under torture, Libi invents tale of Al Qaeda operatives receiving chemical weapons training from Iraq. “This is the problem with using the waterboard. They get so desperate that they begin telling you what they think you want to hear,” a CIA source later tells ABC. …

Feb 2002: DIA intelligence summary notes that Libi’s “confession” lacks details and suggests that he is most likely telling interrogators what he thinks will “retain their interest.” …

9/7/02: Bush claims a new UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report states Iraq is six months from developing a nuclear weapon. There is no such report. …

9/8/02: Page 1 Times story by Judith Miller and Michael Gordon cites anonymous administration officials saying Saddam has repeatedly tried to acquire aluminum tubes “specially designed” to enrich uranium. …

Tubes “are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs…we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”—Rice on CNN …

“We do know, with absolute certainty, that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.”—Cheney on Meet the Press

Oct 2002: National Intelligence Estimate produced. It warns that Iraq “is reconstituting its nuclear program” and “has now established large-scale, redundant and concealed BW agent production capabilities”—an assessment based largely on Curveball’s statements. But NIE also notes that the State Department has assigned “low confidence” to the notion of “whether in desperation Saddam would share chemical or biological weapons with Al Qaeda.” Cites State Department experts who concluded that “the tubes are not intended for use in Iraq’s nuclear weapons program.” Also says “claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa” are “highly dubious.” Only six senators bother to read all 92 pages. …

10/4/02: Asked by Sen. Graham to make gist of NIE public, Tenet produces 25-page document titled “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs.” It says Saddam has them and omits dissenting views contained in the classified NIE. …

2/5/03: In UN speech, Powell says, “Every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.” Cites Libi’s claims and Curveball’s “eyewitness” accounts of mobile weapons labs. (German officer who supervised Curveball’s handler will later recall thinking, “Mein Gott!”) Powell also claims that Saddam’s son Qusay has ordered WMD removed from palace complexes; that key WMD files are being driven around Iraq by intelligence agents; that bioweapons warheads have been hidden in palm groves; that a water truck at an Iraqi military installation is a “decontamination vehicle” for chemical weapons; that Iraq has drones it can use for bioweapons attacks; and that WMD experts have been corralled into one of Saddam’s guest houses. All but the last of those claims had been flagged by the State Department’s own intelligence unit as “WEAK.”

I’m not going to quote the whole article, so if you’re fuzzy on the details, go read the whole darn thing.

If you had access to the actual documents from the CIA, DIA, British intelligence, interrogators, etc., you could have figured out that the “experts” were not unanimously behind the idea that Iraq was developing WMDs, but we mere plebes were dependent on what the government, Fox, and CNN told us the “experts” believed.

For the record, I was against the Iraq War from the beginning. I’m not sure what Nichols’s original position was, but in Just War, Not Prevention (2003) Nichols argued:

More to the point, Iraq itself long ago provided ample justifications for the United States and its allies to go to war that have nothing to do with prevention and everything to do with justice. To say that Saddam’s grasping for weapons of mass destruction is the final straw, and that it is utterly intolerable to allow Saddam or anyone like to gain a nuclear weapon, is true but does not then invalidate every other reason for war by subsuming them under some sort of putative ban on prevention.

The record provides ample evidence of the justice of a war against Saddam Hussein’s regime. Iraq has shown itself to be a serial aggressor… a supreme enemy of human rights that has already used weapons of mass destruction against civilians, a consistent violator of both UN resolutions and the therms of the 1991 cease-fire treaty … a terrorist entity that has attempted to reach beyond its own borders to support and engage in illegal activities that have included the attempted assassination of a former U.S. president; and most important, a state that has relentlessly sought nuclear arms against all international demands that it cease such efforts.

Any one of these would be sufficient cause to remove Saddam and his regime … but taken together they are a brief for what can only be considered a just war. ..

Those concerned that the United States is about to revise the international status quo might conside that Western inaction will allow the status quo to be revised in any case, only under the gun of a dictator commanding an arsenal of the most deadly materials on earthy. These are the two alternatives, and sadly, thee is no third choice.

Professor Nichols, I would like to pause here.

First: you think Trump is bad, you support the President under whom POWs were literally tortured, and you call yourself a military ethicist?

Second: you, an expert, bought into this “WMD” story (invented primarily by “Curveball,” an unreliable source,) while I, a mere plebe, knew it was a load of garbage.

Third: while I agree Saddam Hussein killed a hell of a lot of people–according to Wikipedia, Human Rights Watch estimates a quarter of a million Iraqis were killed or “disappeared” in the last 25 years of Ba’th party rule, the nine years of the Iraq war killed 150,000 to 460,000 people (depending on which survey you trust,) and based on estimates from the Iraq Body Count, a further 100,000 have died since then. Meanwhile, instability in Iraq allowed the horrifically violent ISIS to to sprout into existence. I Am Syria (I don’t know if they are reliable) estimates that over half a million Syrians have died so far because of the ISIS-fueled civil war rampaging there.

In other words, we unleashed a force that is twice as bad as Saddam in less than half the time–and paid a lovely 2.4 TRILLION dollars to accomplish this humanitarian feat! For that much money you could have just evacuated all of the Kurds and built them their own private islands to live on. You could have handed out $90,000 to every man, woman, and child in Iraq in exchange for “being friends with the US” and still had $150 BILLION left over to invest in things like “cancer treatments for children” and “highspeed rail infrastructure.”

Seriously, you could have spent the entire 2.4 trillion on hookers and blow and we would have still come out ahead.

Back in 2015, you tried to advise the Republican frontrunners on how to answer questions about the Iraq War:
First, let’s just stipulate that the question is unfair.

It’s asking a group of candidates to re-enact a presidential order given 12 years ago, while Hillary Clinton isn’t even being asked about decisions in which she took part, much less about her husband’s many military actions. …

Instead, Republican candidates should change the debate. Leadership is not about what people would do with perfect information; it’s about what people do when faced with danger and uncertainty. So here’s an answer that every Republican, from Paul to Bush, could give:

“Knowing exactly what we know now, I would not have invaded when we did or in the way we did. But I do not regret that we deposed a dangerous maniac like Saddam Hussein, and I know the world is better for it. What I or George Bush or anyone else would have done with better information is irrelevant now, because the next president has to face the world as it is, not as we would like to imagine it. And that’s all I intend to say about second-guessing a tough foreign-policy decision from 12 years ago, especially since we should have more pressing questions about foreign policy for Hillary Clinton that are a lot more recent than that.”

While I agree that Hillary should have been questioned about her own military decisions, Iraq was a formally declared war that the entire Republican establishment, think tanks, newspapers, and experts like you supported. They did such a convincing job of selling the war that even most of the Democratic establishment got on board, though never quite as enthusiastically.

By contrast, there was never any real Democratic consensus on whether Obama should remove troops or increase troops, on whether Hillary should do this or that in Libya. Obama and Hillary might have hideously bungled things, but there was never enthusiastic, party-wide support for their policies.

This makes it very easy for any Dem to distance themselves from previous Dem policies: “Yeah, looks like that was a big whoopsie. Luckily half our party knew that at the time.”

But for better or worse, the Republicans–especially the Bushes–own the Iraq War.

The big problem here is not that the Republican candidates (aside from Trump and Rand Paul) were too dumb to come up with a good response to the question (though that certainly is a problem.) The real problem is that none of them had actually stopped to take a long, serious look at the Iraq War, ask whether it was a good idea, and then apologize.

The Iraq War deeply discredited the Republican party.

Ask yourself: What did Bush conserve? What have I conserved? Surely being a “conservative” means you want to conserve something, so what was it? Iraqi freedom? Certainly not. Mid East stability? Nope. American lives? No. American tax dollars? Definitely not.

The complete failure of the Republicans to do anything good while squandering 2.4 trillion dollars and thousands of American lives is what triggered the creation of the “alt” right and set the stage for someone like Trump–someone willing to make a formal break with past Republican policies on Iraq–to rise to power.

Iraq I, the prequel:

But Iraq wasn’t the first war we were deceived into fighting–remember the previous war in Iraq, the one with the other President Bush? The one where we were motivated to intervene over stories of poor Kuwaiti babies ripped from their incubators by cruel Iraqis?

The Nayirah testimony was a false testimony given before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on October 10, 1990 by a 15-year-old girl who provided only her first name, Nayirah. The testimony was widely publicized, and was cited numerous times by United States senators and President George H. W. Bush in their rationale to back Kuwait in the Gulf War. In 1992, it was revealed that Nayirah’s last name was al-Ṣabaḥ (Arabic: نيره الصباح‎) and that she was the daughter of Saud Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States. Furthermore, it was revealed that her testimony was organized as part of the Citizens for a Free Kuwait public relations campaign which was run by an American public relations firm Hill & Knowlton for the Kuwaiti government. Following this, al-Sabah’s testimony has come to be regarded as a classic example of modern atrocity propaganda.[1][2]

In her emotional testimony, Nayirah stated that after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers take babies out of incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital, take the incubators, and leave the babies to die.

Her story was initially corroborated by Amnesty International[3] and testimony from evacuees. Following the liberation of Kuwait, reporters were given access to the country. An ABC report found that “patients, including premature babies, did die, when many of Kuwait’s nurses and doctors… fled” but Iraqi troops “almost certainly had not stolen hospital incubators and left hundreds of Kuwaiti babies to die.”[4][5]

Kuwaiti babies died because Kuwaiti doctors and nurses abandoned them. Maybe the “experts” at the UN and in the US government should vet their sources a little better (like actually find out their last names) before starting wars based on the testimony of children?

Vietnam:

And then there was Vietnam. Cold War “experts” were certain it was very important for us to spend billions of dollars in the 1950s to prop of the French colony in Indochina. When the French gave up, fighting the war somehow became America’s problem. The Cold War doctrine of the “Domino Theory” held that the loss of even one obscure, third-world country to Communism would unleash an unstoppable chain-reaction of global Soviet conquest, and thus the only way to preserve democracy anywhere in the world was to oppose communism wherever it emerged.

Of course, one could not be a Cold War “expert” in 1955, as we had never fought a Cold War before. This bi-polar world lead by a nuclear-armed communist faction on one side and a nuclear-armed democratic faction on the other was entirely new.

Atop the difficulties of functioning within an entirely novel balance of powers (and weapons), almost no one in America spoke Vietnamese (and no one in Vietnam spoke English) in 1955. We couldn’t even ask the Vietnamese what they thought. At best, we could play a game of telephone with Vietnamese who spoke French and translators who spoke French and English, but the Vietnamese who had learned the language of their colonizers were not a representative sample of average citizens.

In other words, we had no idea what we were getting into.

I lost family in Vietnam, so maybe I take this a little personally, but I don’t think American soldiers exist just to enrich Halliburton or protect French colonial interests. And you must excuse me, but I think you “experts” grunting for war have an extremely bad track record that involves people in my family getting killed.

While we are at it, what is the expert consensus on Russiagate?

Well, Tablet Mag thinks it’s hogwash:

At the same time, there is a growing consensus among reporters and thinkers on the left and right—especially those who know anything about Russia, the surveillance apparatus, and intelligence bureaucracy—that the Russiagate-collusion theory that was supposed to end Trump’s presidency within six months has sprung more than a few holes. Worse, it has proved to be a cover for U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement bureaucracies to break the law, with what’s left of the press gleefully going along for the ride. Where Watergate was a story about a crime that came to define an entire generation’s oppositional attitude toward politicians and the country’s elite, Russiagate, they argue, has proved itself to be the reverse: It is a device that the American elite is using to define itself against its enemies—the rest of the country.

Yet for its advocates, the questionable veracity of the Russiagate story seems much less important than what has become its real purpose—elite virtue-signaling. Buy into a storyline that turns FBI and CIA bureaucrats and their hand-puppets in the press into heroes while legitimizing the use of a vast surveillance apparatus for partisan purposes, and you’re in. Dissent, and you’re out, or worse—you’re defending Trump.

“Russia done it, all the experts say so” sounds suspiciously like a great many other times “expert opinion” has been manipulated by the government, industry, or media to make it sound like expert consensus exists where it does not.

Let’s look at a couple of worst case scenarios:

  1. Nichols and his ilk are right, but we ignore his warnings, overlook a few dastardly Russian deeds, and don’t go to war with Russia.
  2. Nichols is wrong, but we trust him, blame Russia for things it didn’t do, and go to war with a nuclear superpower.

But let’s look at our final fail:

Failure to predict the fall of the Soviet Union

This is kind of an ironic, given that Nichols is a Sovietologist, but one of the continuing questions in Political Science is “Why didn’t political scientists predict the fall of the Soviet Union?”

In retrospect, of course, we can point to the state of the Soviet economy, or glasnost, or growing unrest and dissent among Soviet citizens, but as Foreign Policy puts it:

In the years leading up to 1991, virtually no Western expert, scholar, official, or politician foresaw the impending collapse of the Soviet Union, and with it  and with it one-party dictatorship, the state-owned economy, and the Kremlin’s control over its domestic and Eastern European empires. … 

Whence such strangely universal shortsightedness? The failure of Western experts to anticipate the Soviet Union’s collapse may in part be attributed to a sort of historical revisionism — call it anti-anti-communism — that tended to exaggerate the Soviet regime’s stability and legitimacy. Yet others who could hardly be considered soft on communism were just as puzzled by its demise. One of the architects of the U.S. strategy in the Cold War, George Kennan, wrote that, in reviewing the entire “history of international affairs in the modern era,” he found it “hard to think of any event more strange and startling, and at first glance inexplicable, than the sudden and total disintegration and disappearance … of the great power known successively as the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union.”

I don’t think this is Political Science’s fault–even the Soviets don’t seem to have really seen it coming. Some things are just hard to predict.

Sometimes we overestimate our judgment. We leap before we look. We think there’s evidence where there isn’t or that the evidence is much stronger than it is.

And in the cases I’ve selected, maybe I’m the one who’s wrong. Maybe Vietnam was a worthwhile conflict, even if it was terrible for everyone involved. Maybe the Iraq War served a real purpose.

WWI was still a complete disaster. There is no logic where that war makes any sense at all.

When you advocate for war, step back a moment and ask how sure you are. If you were going to be the canon fodder down on the front lines, would you still be so sure? Or would you be the one suddenly questioning the experts about whether this was really such a good idea?

Professor Nichols, if you have read this, I hope it has given you some food for thought.

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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.