Sunday, November 12, 2017

What to do with the tired, the poor, & the huddled

Recently an exchange between Jim Acosta and Stephen Miller briefly brought into the forefront the role of immigration in America's history and future. Much of the focus on the exchange was a debate about the role of a poem played into the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty. In the exchange, both parties can be seen as somewhat correct - the poem was written to aid funding the building of the pedestal and is therefore related to the construction, however the poem did not play a central role in the building and did not necessarily define the symbolism of the structure. For a timeline, construction of the statue began around 1877, while the poem was written in 1883.

Lost in the exchange about how the poem and statue are related is whether or not the poem actually defines anything real about what do with the 'homeless, tempest-tost' and what policy actually serves the interest of the 'huddled masses'. To this end, Stephen Miller was right to ask Jim Acosta just what number could be sufficient to fulfill the aspirations of the poem. Nobody likes to talk about the numbers.

Taking an even larger view, one could forget about America for a moment and see the migrant crisis in Europe and wonder what exactly is going on. Migrants from warzones such as Syria have arrived in great numbers, but also economic migrants from the Middle East and Africa arrive at a constant rate.

To be specific, "migrant crisis" may be a poor choice of words as migration in many instances is a crisis of another means. However, whatever the reasons behind migration, ultimately the crisis faced by developed, stable countries is having to strictly define the parameters of lawful migration and what do when illegal migration happens. Countries are doing a bad job dealing with migration as many have not had to deal with such a sustained rate of migration in modern history.

So, why is more migration happening now? Outside of the obvious warzone scenario, there are a number of factors that appear to be increasing immigration levels:

1) Information. 

Learning about another nation and then deciding to move there even a few decades ago was prohibitively difficult. This was true even when dealing between two 'rich' countries. Paper forms, business hour phone calls, fax machines - things that happen in seconds now was often a days long bureaucratic nightmare.

Communication tools give everyone in the world the ability to immediately see how things are working out for our friend in London, and then very simply join them after being persuaded of the benefits of the move. Within days, connections can be made, money can be moved and a plan can form. These connections and this information eliminates a lot of risk posed by travel.

2) Technology. 

Even with a plan, the physical move must be possible. Fortunately, there are a great number of widely distributed tools that will move ever greater numbers of people more reliably than ever before. More reliable automobiles. More flights. More boats.

3) Wealth.

Quite simply, migrants have money. It's difficult to move somewhere without money. More people have more wealth, more capabilities, and more choices. One of those choices is to move to where they can earn higher wages. Consistent migration routes are not funded by starving people.

Despite the coverage of very evil players in the human trafficking business, it's actually very difficult to move starving people to a rich country and then rely on slavery for repayment. It's much simpler to just receive payment upfront from moderately wealthy individuals. Like every other business operates.

What's next?

Given these factors, and the current pattern of migration, what can one assume about migration in the future?

  1. Outside of a natural disaster, war or political conflict of a large scale, most migration will be primarily about economic motivations
  2. Economic motivations will remain as long as massive differences in economic realities exist between nations

Economic motivations can not be dissuaded by asking people nicely to stop. If there is money to be made, the only curb to the behavior is adequately enforced laws. And this is where there is very little motivation from governments to act - no state really wants to spent an incredible amount of money on border policing and deportations, and few citizens are actually interested in thinking of their country as "intolerant". Every party - both the existing populace and immigrants - are motivated to explain what's happened as a positive. Anything less could be perceived as inhospitable, so the only way to save face is to rationalize immigration as a great experience for everyone.

What is so great about immigration, anyway?

"Open borders!/The more the merrier/there's plenty of room/nobody has a right to impede movement/borders shouldn't exist"

There are many narratives to read that debunk the idea about a Mathusian population crisis as it relates to immigration - we have, it is said, the technology to not starve when newcomers arrive. And it's certainly true - cities in wealthy nations could be more dense, and wealthy nations are already wasting most food that is produced.

Despite the future probably not being a dystopian Soylent Green tragedy, there are also conflicting narratives in 'progressive' circles about gentrification, sovereignty and respect of indigenous peoples and ideas about 'safe spaces' on campus.

For example, what happens when an indigenous woman dates a black man? What happens when 'wealthy' people move into the wrong part of Los Angeles? What happens when bigoted people show up at Berkeley? What happens when Jennifer Lawrence sits on the wrong rock? (1)

All of these issues concern a negative view of migration (even including a negative view of the category of 'temporary work') yet they are completely 'progressive' conceptions. Some may argue that the negative view is a matter of context, but it remains to be see how one can truly avoid gentrification, cultural disrespect or 'appropriation', 'colonial invasion' into sovereign indigenous lands and exposure to unsettling opinions under a truly inclusive 'open borders' approach to the movement of people.

"Immigration is great for the economy!"

It's taken as a rule across the political spectrum that immigration has a positive impact on economic activity and there are a lot of statistics to back this up. More people = more trade, it's inevitable.

It is an insidious conversation ender as the argument appeals to libertarian free-market zealots as much as it does communists looking for an ever greater number of comrades. The only people that don't really buy the 'immigration is economic growth' slogan are people that occupy a weird middle zone in the labor movement -- those people that somehow still have union membership and view able-bodied people with dire needs as potential strikebreakers.

The problem with the economic argument is nobody really gives a damn about 'the economy'. One could work out the math and discover that overall everyone would be richer - yet people are already keenly aware about the economic benefits of acquiring a new roommate. Nobody needs to really learn economic math behind choosing to live with more roommates or more neighbors - the choice is already well understood. And in fact groups like the Cato Institute are backing up a lot of 'common sense' assumptions - for example, that immigration inflates home prices. (Other papers here) Inflated home prices is indeed a good thing for a certain segment of the existing population, yet it is not necessarily universally good for all. Other people may rely on positive job growth in certain sectors that is correlated with immigration (tech is a good example) but yet there is a lot of evidence to suggest low skill immigration has a negative impact on low income 'working class' roles.

But the real problem with the immigration-for-economy argument is that it's coupled with the inevitable discovery that newcomers are not doing as well as the rest of the population. Muslim women in the UK are underemployed, as are Syrian refugees that missed decades of German schooling. Employers either don't hire or don't make desired accommodations, leading to economic outcomes that are measurably worse for the same immigrants that are supposed to energizing pillars of new economic growth.

This would be acceptable under some medieval feudalism that is not watching Gini coefficients, poverty lines and does not care much about inequities between ethnicity. But this is not the world we live in, where every transaction is subject to a thinkpiece that portrays every piece of capitalism as a moral crisis in one's backyard.

Instead of immigration proving to be a libertarian wet dream, it's apparent the way immigration makes global inequity a localized problem will lead to increased calls for government intervention to shield newcomers from harsh economic divides. It's morally uncomfortable for citizens with multi-generational wealth to be in the same postcode with families that arrive from war torn areas with literally no assets that are immediately expected to use unexceptional skills to climb an mile-high economic ladder. Nobody likes to think of themselves as having a Marie Antionette-like role in society, as it is much more fashionable to believe oneself as a deserving member of the comfortably middle class. Upsetting this applecart may not be the wisest thing to do.

"Immigrants do jobs that we don't!/Immigrants will solve our demographic problem!"

Recently Canada introduced an economic plan that was advertised explicitly as immigration solving a demographic problem:

Hussen said the new targets will bring Canada's immigration to nearly one per cent of the population by 2020, which will help offset an aging demographic. He called it a historic and responsible plan and "the most ambitious" in recent history.
"Our government believes that newcomers play a vital role in our society," Hussen said. "Five million Canadians are set to retire by 2035 and we have fewer people working to support seniors and retirees."
In 1971 there were 6.6 people of working age for each senior, Hussen said, but by 2012 that ratio had gone to 4.2 to 1 and projections show it will be at 2 to 1 by 2036, when almost 100 per cent of population growth will be a result of immigration; it stands at about 75 per cent today.
During the government's consultation period, the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance presented "Vision 2020," what it called a "bold" three-year plan to address growing demographic shifts underway in the country, calling for increased numbers in the economic, family and refugee categories.
"Nothing is going to impact this country [more] besides increased automation and technology than immigration will and this impact will grow in response to [the] declining birth rate, aging population and accelerated retirements," he told CBC News.

While this might be an 'uncomfortable truth' that western nations have a 'demographic problem' wherein their population graph is no longer a wide pyramid as birthrates have declined, the approach to solve it via immigration fixes a problem by relying on another.

Immigration solving a demographic problem assumes:

  1. Immigrants don't have their own aging families to worry about - they're either unattached or baby factories
  2. Immigrants are eager to solve problems in wealthy nations by directly being caregivers or taking a larger tax burden to continue social services
  3. It remains politically acceptable to be so obviously calculating the value of migrants with respect to a nation's problems - 'you're here to solve a problem we have'
  4. Childbirth keeps being thought of as undesirable emotional and financial suicide in developed countries
  5. Old people are simply dead weight and are economically useless
The 'demographic solution' plan will work just fine as long as the rest of the world remains an undesirable place to stay, and the established wealthy populations see the benefits of this 'deal'. Change these variables and things get nasty very quickly - economic futures in jeopardy, resentment between old people and young immigrants. The makings of a Trump-ese electoral catastrophe and political polarization.

Relying on immigration for age demographic change is a Faustian bargain that covers up a perceived social problem with a time-limited band-aid that may be ripped off in surprisingly reactionary ways.

The Second Generation Problem

Much of the focus on the immigration debate is put on the economic impacts of first-generation migrants. That is, the economic consequences of the first few decades after new arrivals step off the symbolic boat. These consequences are measured by impact on inflation and the job market. Ignored is the simple fact that immigrants have children.

For an example of the second generation problem in action, we can look at Europe. Currently many 'alt-right', Nazi and white supremacist websites may speak of a 'white genocide' that is replacing the 'indigenous white' European population. More often than not, it is a psychosis that can be ignored as an ignorance of math married to a preoccupation with skin color. 

Despite the crazy white nationalists being crazy, it's however undeniable that the future is not entirely rosy.

Indifference towards immigrants

Many wealthy nations, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand are said to be 'nations of immigrants' as their economic and political power can be historically tied to waves of migration and as a consequence these countries contain a cultural diversity that many wealthy western countries do not.

For example, the arrival of a million or so Syrian migrants in Germany happened under completely different circumstances than migration to other nations. The migration was not directly a consequence of Germany's colonial past or moral failings. It was not obviously a 'blowback' from Germany's interaction with world - it was more to do with Germany's economic standing and the consequences of a civil war.

The problem with Germany's migrants is Germany and the German population may view the presence of refugees as a charity to new arrivals. Germany can be said to have already given migrants something, so what is making Germans feel the need for additional stewardship of the success of newcomers?

Put another way, if integration of Syrian people into Germany does not go very well, Germans themselves may not feel responsible for the problems. Lack of feelings of social responsibility inevitably leads to problems if the fault lines fall between newcomers and the rest of the population.

Second generation resentment 

While the rest of the population might not care, at the very same time the second generation immigrants may feel their futures are not held back by their parent's choices but by the choices of the country their parents chose - that is, everything would be fantastic if only their nation of refuge was more hospitable.

Many well-meaning media outlets are spreading the lie that 'refugees have killed zero people in terrorist attacks'. Even if examples like the Boston bombing did not immediately refute the claim, (the Tsarnaev family was absolutely the beneficiary of refuge) the answer is that the problem lies in the second generation. Ahmad Khan Rahimi is another example of a person granted asylum that perpetrated a terrorist attack. But more relevant examples are Omar Mateen & Syed Rizwan Farook - two men among many that were undeniably born in America and therefore 'homegrown terror' although also children of first-generation immigrants.

First-generation immigrants may cherish the nation that they've chosen - people tend to think positively about choices they cannot realistically revisit. Yet all parents can understand that children have their own opinions and may not view their cultural heritage within the narrative of an accepting western nation providing safe harbour to a strong willed family looking for a better life.

For example, what is battling the Islamist narrative that migration occurs because 'Zionist' 'colonialist' 'infidel' nations have ruined muslim countries? Instead of negating this view with facts, western academics fuel it with notions that terrorism is just a cerebral response to foreign policy foibles. 

While the bootstraps story of the first-generation migrant is featured on a feel-good Nickelodeon show, the second generation immigrant is undoutedly in their seventh year of deconstructing the political decisions of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon in a 'decolonialist' lens that regards western societies as steeped in sinful and undeserved entitlements.

It isn't that second generation immigrants do not integrate - it is that they integrate entirely too well with a western rhetoric that is confused and consumed by regret over historical political decisions most of the non-academic world has long forgotten about. 

If western academics do not see much to like about the west, why would second generation immigrants feel any differently? 

What Not To Do

It is informative to have an example of something to avoid. To this end, perhaps a demonstration of a complete and utter failure of immigration policy can be witnessed in the Grenfell tragedy and the fallout. Immigrants in substandard housing that were burned alive by failures of government, for all in London to see. A government that cared so little about the well-being of these people that it did not even know who was in the building.

In the aftermath of the disaster, one of the responses was an immigration amnesty - dealing with the crisis in any other way would simply pile on the inhumanity of the situation. Yet the amnesty has not granted the state a lot more information about the deceased - the deceased are not around to ask for amnesty. In the meantime, pop stars and other figures stir up conspiracy theory about government covering up what they know to be true about Grenfell to avoid tough questions about state treatment of 'marginalized' classes and undocumented migrants.

Responses to Grenfell in the theme of immigration amnesty and rebuilding of public housing within Kensington might seem to be adequate ways to respond to the disaster but they are nothing but a short term fix that will do nothing to avoid the next disaster. Continuing to build flats in London that would fetch thousands if not millions of pounds on the open market and then watching lax subletting fill them with undocumented migrants not only makes a joke of the law, but is also a poor allocation of state funds. One only hopes that the next insight into well-meaning government negligence has fewer casualties.

What To Do

Instead of wealthy nations hoping to fix economic and social woes by filling the worst of their housing stock and job prospects with people it knows little about, wealthy nations could do the following:

  1. Commit to fixing political landscape in developing countries
    • Contributors to The Guardian may say this is 'colonialism', but 
  2. Spend money improving refugee housing in nations more accessible to conflicts
    • For the price of a few flats in London, one could house very many more refugees overseas
  3. Give women all over the world the capacity to plan their own families
    • Do this until the developing world is not seen as a demographic miracle
  4. Prioritize simple things like literacy and sanitation before applying supposed relocation cure-alls.
  5. Focus on economic migrants that are undeniably impactful and self-sufficient
    • People with job offers and indicators that they will have lasting success over the long term

This approach is costly but these are things that must be done over the long term even if one chooses a very resolutely pro-immigration stance. That is, one can have "open borders" from here on out, but it would still do nothing to address one's moral responsibility to improve the lot of humanity on earth no matter which boundaries people happen to live. Thus mass immigration means one is challenged twice - address socially & psychologically & fiscally costly inequity at home and then still having to fix extreme despair abroad. 

Despite all evidence, many may still choose to have a positive view of immigration. It could be simple to think of the problems as being somewhat exceptional - speedbumps on the road of progress. However if immigration is overall good, then the most bizarre thing is why developing countries are not the first beneficiary of immigration. 

For example, more people cross into Bangladesh as refugees in one day than Canada aims to bring in a similar immigration category in an entire year. Nobody in Bangladesh is rejoicing about potential economic benefits or cultural enrichment. 

Similarly, few op-eds are currently written about the political stability and economic boom that Palestinians brought to Jordan or new Russian arrivals bring to Eastern Ukraine. In fact, most muslim nations are trying to expel muslims or ban symbols of Islamic conservatism - if countries as desperate for change as Pakistan happen to think Afghan arrivals are a liability instead of a dividend, why should anyone have a different view?

Believing the western world has a uniquely powerful capability to assimilate people and maximize their potential is to believe in the cultural superiority of the west to such an amazing extent that it borders on the shameless. This is especially so when one looks at the comparatively modest rates of immigration in recent memory. 

Instead of faith-based politics & feel-good narratives, immigration should be based on practical realities. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Burqa Is Hate Speech

Quebec is possibly the first place in North America to "ban" the burqa and niqab (at least from the procurement of government services) and much is being said about the move.

There are plenty of decent arguments in favor of bans of the burqa and niqab. For example, the veils are not actually regarded as religiously compulsory by 99% of practicing muslims and it coincides with patriarchal misogynist abuse. Taking this as a fact, one can regard the burqa and niqab as a practice similar to those of fundamentalist Christians (such as the FLDS) that are often met with prison time. After all, seductive salafist practices such as polygamy, cousin and child marriage can be easily banned in any jurisdiction if they are not already illegal - the least problematic ban from a cultural impact perspective would be banning the covering of a face.

Yet the face shroud could be thought of as a symbol of free expression in a free society. If the burqa wearer doesn't have free speech rights, then who does? Free speech is for bad speech, and if the burqa qualifies as speech it would indeed qualify as bad speech. 

The problem with the argument of free expression in favor of the burqa is that it is completely nonsense outside of the boundaries of the United States. Many western countries do strongly regulate speech and choose to make a very big deal out of speech that Americans would not even blink at. 

One of the countries that does seemingly regulate 'hate speech' in situations where the United States would not is Canada. There appears to be a lot of laws on the books regulating speech and a lot of precedent related to their usage. 

If Canada, at a federal level or otherwise, is going to find itself in the business of regulating speech it must necessarily find itself in the business of regulating dress. It would make no sense for "hate speech" to apply to words but not deliberately provocative actions, like marching with torches while wearing klan outfits or swastika armbands. 

Banning white hoods in public to dissuade racial discrimination may be a great idea or a terrible idea. The only mystery here is why the same logic could not immediately be applied to protecting women as a group by banning something as obviously negative to their collective well being as a full face veil. It could be that some 'inclusive' minded people do not see the veil as a problem as women appear to 'choose' it, but this is no more relevant than when clickbait provocateurs choose allies and iconography that clash with their own identity

In a country with regulations of 'hate speech', it does not follow that problematic speech suddenly becomes acceptable if some subset of the impacted class somehow finds itself co-signing the discrimination. For example, one could assume that racist abuse of an ethnic minority does not suddenly become appropriate if a member of that same minority is the one spreading the discriminatory rhetoric. This is not a hypothetical scenario, as virtually every bigoted, sexist, racist, xenophobic idea manages to find an absurd level of agreement within the very groups they despise - especially in the weird corners of the internet. Humans are weird.

The only reason it would seem that the burqa is seen as a 'choice' is not immediately dismissed as traitorous self-hatred is that 'feminism' in popular culture is currently struggling with the idea that women do not currently have enough choices. Therefore, anything that would appear to add one more choice must be a net positive development. Under this banner, every kink is validated - everything from whips to wahhabism. The global context does not matter, as the progressive activist class is ironically 'America First' in both data points and mindset. Nevermind the real lived experiences of millions of women arriving in the west from backwards theocracies, the important thing is some poor soul born today to some helicopter parents in a western democracy gets to 'freely choose' to dress up like a niqabi ninja for the rest of xir life. 

The burqa is a white hood, the burqa is a red armband, the burqa is a confederate flag, the burqa is dressing up like General Lee for Halloween.

So, does one really wish to regulate hate speech?


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Gun "Debate" is Bullshit

Another shooting, and more bullshit. This article is some meta-bullshit to consider.

"White men commit most mass shootings" 

Lena Dunham is the latest minor celebrity to hop on this hobby horse with the help of Newsweek's bad data, and the results are predictable. It turns out a lot of the figures that account for 'the majority' of mass shootings do not also make a habit that white men are the majority of men in America - even when using the narrower category of 'non-Hispanic' white men - and often form a greater share of people than they do the advertised share of mass shooters. Which would seemingly defeat the purpose of making a point to mention that the majority of shooters are white.

Mass shooters are mostly male. Mass shooting can fairly be described as a male problem.

However, the racial and ethnic categories don't make much sense. For example of how ethnic categories work, WaPo publishes a number of 134 mass shooters total. Only 2 are women, which will disregarded as a matter of rounding error. Now, assume for a moment that we have a single contribution to this statistic from Korean Americans. If Wikipedia is correct, then Korean Americans make up about 0.06% of the population of males living in America. It just show happens that 1 out of 134 means Korean Americans make up 0.7% of mass shooters.

If one is going to do the math 'right', then at this point one should be screaming about every overrepresented ethnic subgroup of the male population. Yet no sane person will do this because it's obviously not mathematically relevant.

White men make up most mass shooters as they make up most of the evildoers in America. This is a consequence of white men making up most men in America. Just as it's stupid for white supremacist nuts to be shrill about a chart showing white men doing a majority of the good things, it's stupid for social justice 'thinkers' to be shrill about a chart about a chart showing white men doing a majority of the bad things. When the group has such an outsized share of the population, there are few meaningful conclusions to be had.

One could say that white men were historically the authors of a gun culture and do the most to perpetuate its politics - however this is an argument altogether different than adding up shooters and inspecting their skin color.

"You can't regulate evil"

Perhaps the dumbest pro-gun argument is the idea that gun prohibition doesn't work because prohibition doesn't generally work as 'regulating evil' is impossible. It's a dumb argument not because prohibition doesn't work - many prohibitions are famously ill conceived - but because these very same people are arguing for prohibitions in many other areas of life.

Find a 'pro-gun' Republican coming out against prohibition of guns and one will also find someone who is 100% behind the prohibition of one or all of the following:

  • Abortion
  • Refugees
  • Drugs
  • Gambling
  • Internet
  • Pornography
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Serving alcohol to adults (18-20 year olds)
Many of these prohibitions are arguably more harmful to individual freedoms & have greater societal consequences than even the strictest laws against gun ownership. Yet all kinds of politicians that label themselves 'pro-freedom' because they're so pro-gun can't also bring themselves to allow even the most mundane of personal choices in other facets of life.

Similarly, many 'anti-regulation' types are lifelong lovers of these political regulators of evil:
  • Police
  • Army
  • Borders
  • Elections
  • Judges
  • Juries
  • Prisons
  • Etc
People pretending to have a principled/philosophical approach to 'freedom' in many cases simply do not. The debate is of practical realities and what is politically feasible. The language used is 'regulation won't help' & 'freedom must be upheld', but these are just distractions from real reasons why there is such inertia for the status quo on guns in America. Arguments about the Second Amendment are not ultimately a principled pro-freedom stance if taken in ignorance of other prohibitions and regulations in America - the second amendment argument is simply playing the 'it's legal because it's legal' card which appeals only to the most bureaucratic mindsets.

"Mass shootings kill a very small number of people"

This nonsense follows the track:
  1. Gun violence or violence generally is going down 
  2. Mass shootings don't kill very many people in 'the big picture'
  3. Reorganizing society to prevent mass shootings is then too costly
It is an idea similar to that in which we should not bother very much fighting terrorism because historically the numbers have been manageable except for a few uncomfortable euphemistic 'outliers'. 

This reasoning is crap as there's not much to suggest that we should see a predictable or manageable growth in the number of mass shootings. Mass shootings aren't typical economic crimes or domestic homicides. They're psychopathy enabled by recent technological developments. Shootings are live streamed on Facebook and Twitter, guns used are ever more lethal and affordable. Clearly mass shootings will be ever cheaper to carry out and ever more satisfying for deranged killers that desire fame and feedback. It may not be a question about buying bullets, but a killer satisfying their own vanity by buying the best smartphone.

Given a technological trend that is leading a social trend, there logically should be an investment commensurate with the impact to be expected by making violence cheaper and more enthralling. 

Even guns aside, the United States is finding itself in a era of performative violence - be it antifa or the alt-right, every scam artist trying to make a name for themselves either in journalism or politics is creating or participating in 'protests' of all kinds across the nation. The hope is in the hashtag, as a good punch and torch-lit rally makes for entertaining GIFs and good victim narratives in a miles long twitter thread. 

Regulating speech will not change the people addicted to this drama, however it seems to be a decent idea to invest in tools that prompt users to select information over expediency and nudge them into making constructive decisions before participating in a toxic feedback loop.

The best pro-gun argument

The best pro-gun argument is the assumption that America exists in many places and times as a state of despair. Large parts of the population are not particularly clever - perhaps due to overexposure to lead and underexposure to education. Large parts of the population are not particularly satisfied with life - perhaps due to strange cultural expectations or disparities in wealth. Large parts of the population are already armed - centuries of history with a very open relationship with guns has naturally led to this.

Given things as they are, when viewing the state of things with a calculating angle of what's actually possible, the simplest solution is to just acquire a weapon for one's own use. It's easier to just be armed in a gated community than fight the mind-numbing minutia of every single social issue in a very complicated country. Why should one have to convince many levels of incompetent government to very precisely manage a crazy acquaintance's behavior when one can participate in a miniature arms race?

And this is it for the pro-gun argument - no special noises about freedom, nothing about law, just realization of the role guns already play, the impact of both handguns and long guns (a lengthy discussion of how it's not clear cut that one type is worse than the other is here), and the type of mindset pervasive in American society. 

The best anti-gun argument

Ignoring for a moment the center of the universe that is the United States, it's clear that countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and indeed most of the world should find themselves in no hurry to emulate the United States' gun laws and gun culture. From where they are, there is no compelling reason to desire to go where the United States is at - ubiquitous guns, popular fantasies about the role of guns in a constitutional republic, grandstanding about which laws will fix "the problem" while the state actually has next to no idea exactly who has what. 

America let the genie out of the bottle, and the genie is now very armed. One can argue that genies should be in bottles, one can try to sanely limit the genie but ultimately actually getting the stupid thing back in the bottle is not a straightforward task. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Scott Adams' Trump Cult

Sam Harris has done a podcast with Scott Adams, Dilbert cartoonist and out & proud Trump supporter.

It's all kinds of crazy, but a very unique sample of insanity starts at 1:13:00, with Scott Adams saying the following:
"Let me describe what I call my 'perfect life arc'. You are born as a little baby and you're completely helpless and selfish because you have to be, it's the only way you can survive, other people have to do it for you. As you're a kid, maybe you help out with some chores, but you're still mostly selfish but by the time you're an adult especially if you've had children -  you end up giving more than you're taking. And if you've done everything right and you've taken care of yourself and your family, and you're old and you're 71 years old the last things you should be doing is giving back more and the very last thing you do on the moment of your death is transfer 100% of your assets away.
So the perfect life is perfectly selfish and trying to improve every year until you're perfectly giving. If you look at Trump's arc, you can see the perfectly selfish part - and it was really part of his brand - through his primary working years, the Trump University years and all that, and we see especially with the young son and a new wife he's reached a certain point in his career - he's turned over his company. And in my opinion, again this would be making the mistake of imagining that i can tell his inner thoughts but I have talked to people that know him and have talked to him personally about this stuff  and the reports I get is that he's actually doing this for his son and for the country. 
And to your point, uh, he knew - he's not a neophyte to public life - he knew that running for President as a Republican especially was going to get his reputation just destroyed. The amount of arrows this guy has signed up to take is hard to explain in selfishness. If you put the selfishness filter on that, then he's crazy too because he did something that clearly would be awfully painful for him and his family. Their risk of physical death...

The stream of ridiculous consciousness ends there was Sam Harris moves the conversation to challenge him on a number of points.

However, let's recap a number of claims Scott Adams is making:

  1. Trump is more inclined to be giving simply because he's 71 
  2. Trump has found a cause and wishes to make life better for third wife and fifth child
  3. Trump has endured a kind of martyrdom in seeking the Republican nomination for President
  4. Trump has 'turned his company over' and invalidated all his business interests
  5. Trump's actions during the "Trump University" (2005-2010) & pussy-grabbing (2005) era qualifies as Trump's 'primary working years'. Apparently 'primary working years' includes the ages between 60 and 65.

Of course, each of these points and many others within are absurd for many reasons. What is interesting aside from this is why a 60 year old white male would trust a 71 year old white male despite such glaring evidence of personal character flaws spanning decades.

The reason is identity politics. It doesn't matter what Trump says or does, Adams will trust him without a doubt and has a frame for Trump's actions as Adams can't help but put himself in Trump's shoes. Anything Trump can be explained away, as Adams feels the same way. There is absolutely no logic to this.

Trumpkin like Adams talk about Trump's nomination and presidency like some sort of trial by fire, painting Trump as the second coming of Christ even though Trump has done nothing in particular that has proven challenging. Trump can't manage to thread water in a shallow pool, and this is obviously true as it would be difficult to find a Republican that would say that Trump is seeing larger challenges than previous Republican administrations have tackled. Bush saw 9/11. Reagan was shot. And so on.

If half of the nonsense that Scott Adams says (or rather, @ScottAdamsSays) is true, then Obama deserves a form of sainthood as he also had to deal with Trump challenging his legitimacy as President in the most toxic and asinine way possible. Trump acts like losing the popular vote is some sort of crucifixion as if Trump himself did not repeat falsehoods about Obama's very being.

Adams is a sensitive man, and Trump is a sensitive man. In many ways, they were meant for each other as they demonstrate the same emotional state and ability to defend with irrational reflex instead of productive logic. 

Adams is persuaded by Trump. Adams finds Trump a persuasive man. That's all fine, but everyone that does not also see the appeal is merely disgusted by the fact-free bromance.

Not everyone wants to vote for the lemon party.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Why Everyone Loves To Hate Sam Harris

If one does not know who Sam Harris is, these rambling paragraphs are not going to make a lot of sense. Sam Harris is not going to be an element defined by what Sam Harris is, but the reaction that this 'Sam Harris' gathers.

Everyone hates Sam Harris. Everyone.

There are a group of people that hate Sam Harris because of (((what he is))) and for what he does. Many of the 'alt-right' hate his identity, and hate his actions as a 'globalist cuck' that voted for Hillary. The feelings of this group is not subject of discussion, as there's not much point in discussion.

There is yet another fringe group of people that hate Sam Harris over a bits and pieces of atheist drama. Daniel Dennett, for example, is one of the people that think Sam Harris believes a bit too much meditating hippie crap that hasn't really produced jack squat.

However the most pernicious and deceitful group of people that hate Sam Harris so much that they'll seriously claim he's a genocidal maniac that supports ethnic cleansing. That's how deranged the 'debate' is on Twitter.

Obviously this is not true, but what is true is Sam Harris has a mode of argument that drives many to rage and then lash out with lies. Let's work through these as a means to understand how hopeless the situation is and understand why Sam Harris gets smeared as he does.

Sam Harris loves being dramatic, is addicted to hypothetical scenarios, and lingers on topics far longer than normal humans are ready for.

First, the dramatic part. Sam Harris is dramatic. Oh, so very dramatic, whether it's intended or not. His current project that takes up most of his time is a podcast called 'Waking Up'. This is a title in a culture between "red pill" and "woke" that is so cringeworthy that one can't quite guess how many ethically-sourced drugs Harris was on when he thought that title was cool.

The podcast opens with such a bizarre tune that the listener soon believes that Robert Stack may start talking at any moment. Instead, one is met with Sam Harris' monotone voice that is both calming and unsettling at the same time. What does a Sam Harris giggle sound like? Allah knows. The listener is permanently in suspense.

The second infuriating trait is Sam Harris's moralizing about hypothetical scenarios. (Or at least seem that way) The scenario in which Sam Harris is Jack Bauer and must beat up a trolley driver to save someone's life or something. The reasoning may be bulletproof but the arguments may well sound like they edge into navel-gazing for regular people that don't have a taste for thinking about any and all potential scenarios. Sam Harris is quite happy to dive deep into topics with a simple lead-in that makes it clear he's in it for the sake of discussion. Regardless of these disclaimers, many are going to second-guess his emotional state and/or his motivations.

The third maddening thing about Mr Sam is that his content is a rabbithole that is either the best assortment of freethought the world has ever seen or a volume of self-referential nonsense that would bring one to smash their own computer to avoid seeing any more of it. Even people that agree with Sam Harris may not have the energy required to keep up with the questions and comparisons Sam Harris is making this week. The simplest and easiest thing for many to do when drama pops up is to just assume that Sam Harris has finally lost his mind rather than pick apart what his detractors are saying about him this time around the smear campaign trail.

Now, whether these three criticisms make sense or not, these are the not the criticisms that people usually make of Sam Harris. Sam Harris is called a 'new atheist bigot' that a lot of other names for no reason other than people can't adequately describe why they dislike Sam Harris. Maybe these paragraphs will finally give people the words they need to describe their feelings.

End of all the drama, Sam Harris is going to remain a person that people love to hate and love to smear. Maybe he'll finally snap. In the meantime, hopefully people can honestly evaluate his arguments for what they are instead of making up labels for him that end up smearing all the people who find his arguments at least somewhat compelling.

One not need to like Sam Harris, or trust Sam Harris. After all, who can really trust someone that enjoys talking about mixed martial arts with Joe Rogan?

Just stop lying about him.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Terror Is Not An 'Incident'

The Destruction of Small Town USA

Once upon a time, the city of Erie, Pennsylvania, could be considered a safe place to raise a family. Decent schools, and one of the only cities in America that has a zoo train to entertain one's children.

Then, on the dark days of 2002, Erie and the surrounding area experienced not one, but six acts of extremist terrorism. Worst of all, America has since forgotten what Erie had to endure.

The first act of domestic terror was March 18, 2002, when Erie police discovered the words 'ELF' and 'Stop Deforestation' on a piece of logging equipment. But the nightmare did not end, as police returned to the same site on March 24 to discover that a hydraulic crane was destroyed by arson.

The reign of terror continued, with a third act of domestic terrorism, was an arson attack of a US Forestry lab in nearby Warren, Pennsylvania.

The siege of the cities of Pennsylvania continued with a fourth and fifth attack in May and September that released 250 mink from a fur farm. Then, in late November of the same year, the barn on the same fur farm was destroyed by arson.

Six acts of terror. For the next decade, Pennsylvania valiantly fought to recover. Despite the best efforts of brave citizens, schools closed. Theatres, factories and airlines went bankrupt. The terrorists had won.

The Reign of Fascism in America 

Despite what one reads in the 'biased' media, Nazism is alive and well in the United States. Perhaps no town knows this better than the quaint town of Shirley, Massachusetts.

Shirley is a town of a population of only about 7000. It is a close-knit community, but also a town that is very open to newcomers.

One of those newcomers was John Geoghan, who had been legislatively obligated to move to Shirley as Shirley has what is often called a 'correctional facility' and John Geoghan was what is commonly known as a 'pedophile priest'.

What happened next was quite awful, as John Geoghan would become Shirley's first victim of violent extremism. On August 23, 2003, John Geoghan was killed by his cellmate, Joseph Druce, an admitted white supremacist. In what can only be described in the most vile racist attack Shirley, MA has ever seen, the white Nazi Joseph Druce killed white pedophile John Geoghan in a cowardly attack motivated by extremist Nazi ideologies.

The terror attack cast a dark shadow across all of Massachusetts, and reminded America that racism is not over.

The Facts about Terror

It's easy to be facetious about these examples of 'terror' and 'extremism', but it's not as easy to remain calm as they are cited in the media. The six ELF 'terrorist attacks' are cited in FBI tables as six unique events, but 9/11 is cited as a single line item. This absurdity can be debunked by a single pie chart, yet "94% of events 1980-2005 are non-muslim" remains a stubborn talking point.

One could wish that bad terrorism data remained a misreading of FBI tables that the FBI itself does not promote, but it turns out that the Government Accountability Office wrote this in a report:
Of the 85 violent extremist incidents that resulted in death since September 12, 2001, far right wing violent extremist groups were responsible for 62 (73 percent) while radical Islamist violent extremists were responsible for 23 (27 percent).

First, note they are counting 'incidents' and not actually death toll. 62 incidents versus 23 incidents. If it were death toll, Islamists would have put a count of 49 in 1 'incident' in Orlando. But the GAO chooses 'incident' here arbitrarily. There are good reasons to believe this assumption that 'incident' count is what matters is offensive and stupid already, but the GAO goes further and makes fatal flaws in its definition of what is an 'incident'.

This is what counts as 4 'far-right' 'white supremacist' incidents:

White supremacists/Neo-Nazis killing white sex offenders result of 4 'extremist' incidents. In the same GAO report, the sum of San Bernardino & Orlando amounts to 2 'extremist' incidents. So, in the weighting and incidents chosen, white racists killing white sex offenders is twice as impactful as San Bernardino & Orlando attacks. This is how it is concluded that 'right wing violent extremist groups' are responsible for '73 percent' of 'violent extremist incidents'.

To further see how ridiculous this is, consider that a founder of a muslim TV network beheaded his wife yet this was not actually counted in the GAO data as an 'extremist' incident. There is no mention of how GAO concluded that Muzzammil Hassan's beliefs were sufficiently normative (i.e. boring old misogynist beheading of a wife) versus Joseph Druce's being sufficiently 'radical' (i.e. extremist strangling of a cellmate).

The categories of 'non-muslim' terror create an equivalence that is both stupid and offensive to many people. On the one hand, using 'incident' classification and count, releasing mink from a fur farm is exactly as notable as 9/11. On the other hand, using 'incident' classification and count, a white guy murdering a pedophile in prison is exactly as notable as the Pulse shooting.  What message is this sending to victims? Survivors? Everyone?

There is no excuse for this profound stupidity when terror can be more simply measured. Analyze motivations, and more importantly, measure body count. Measure the actual fear that terror creates.

Lives matter. People matter.

So why don't people count?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Emasculated Muslim (Toxic Masculinity & Terrorism)

After every Islamist terror attack, there is a lot of analysis into motives and lots of discussion about who or what in particular is to blame. There is a natural inclination to say that the actions of people that say they are religiously motivated can be blamed on that religion. It seems like quite a solid argument.

But there is a critique of this analysis that points out a bizarre trend - that these terrorists murdering for the sake of Islam are not really great at Islamic history or theology. Some of the attackers have a rudimentary understanding of their religion at best. Therefore placing blame on Islam is an explanation that is found wanting.

Let's explore a different angle. That is, that all Islamist terrorism is the fault of misplaced machismo, broken masculinity, emasculation. This is a narrative that was taken seriously by several publications after the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. (... 3 & 4)

Assume for a moment that one is a young male with a background that can be traced to one of many "muslim" cultures or with a present exposure to "Islamic" ideals.

What does masculinity mean to this person? If we assume that men need various forms of validation, then we can look at each dimension of the masculine problem. Each dimension is an expression of a masculine need or identity that may compete with a theological explanation.


As demonstrated by Euro 2016 and much of history, national pride is a typical go-to for an undeserved sense of self and excuse for violence. Unfortunately, nationalism is a spirit that excludes many muslim men living in the west - for they've been educated to believe that American and European nations are exploitative, valueless, colonialist nations that have sullied the once-great muslim world.

Yet having complaints about the west means nothing if one does not have a great national identity to attach oneself. This is when the promise of nationalism breaks down for young muslim males - there is nothing much to be proud of. An 'Islamic state' is basically synonymous with a 'failed state'. The state is seen as a variation of disaster, a departure of what could be - over and above what the evil westerners have done.

The exception to this rule is perhaps Turkey and Iran. Turkish and Iranian national identities seem to be intact in that they seem themselves as vastly superior to their nearest neighbours. Sectarian explanations aside, this could be a contributing factor to why the jihadis the west is dealing with usually not born in Istanbul or Tehran. It appears from a distance that Turk and Persian men are more wed to their respective nationalist causes than the broader "ummah" that seeks to live out the fantasy of an Arabic-speaking god.

For the rest of the muslim brothers, it's less likely nationalism will allow one to expend much pent-up masculine energy.


Europe has football. America has "football". These are only two of the choices available that allow the men of western world to form tribes and obsessively track their progress against an enemy in a completely pointless war. Sport does not have many barriers to entry, does not require much thought, and supplies enough depth to invest a lifetime of effort.

What sport is owned by the muslim male? South Korea has more Olympic medals than every muslim nation combined. (And would also dominate in a round of StarCraft) The national battle that comes close to being interesting is how frequently Pakistan manages to lose a cricket match, a useful distraction from the fact that was the largest country that was net zero in Rio.

There are many muslims that do excel in several sports. However it also turns out that nearly all of the celebrated success stories are those of African Americans - even in the most obscure of sports do not happen to create role models for young South Asian and Arab men that may not culturally identify with the black community. It turns out muslims do not actually exist in a post-racial fantasy world, and the muslim community harbours its own anti-black sentiments that is a complicated subject in its own right.

The simple fact is that young muslim men have slightly fewer reasons to turn on the television on Saturday night and live vicariously through some jersey clad hero.

Art and Music

Often testosterone-fueled passion is consumed by one's desire to create a substantial work of art. To make a cultural contribution that everyone enjoys.

Of course, for muslim men living in the west, this poses the following dilemmas directly related to religious ideals:
  • Music is regarded as haram
  • Commercial animation is largely sacrilegious comedy 
  • Modern art is a clique of the impoverished when it isn't entirely pointless
Take for example that in the western world, the most famous "muslim" rapper happens to sell a brand of vodka, the most well known muslim songwriter is a British dude nearing his 70th birthday, and the remaining man to carry the banner is a member of One Direction. 


Perhaps the greatest thing about a capitalist society is that it keeps all the sociopaths busy. And when there is not sociopathy, there is good old fashioned male competition that helps keep all the startups buzzing. Whether it is due to privileged opportunity or natural inclination, business is a man's world. 

Yet it is a world that largely excludes muslims. Indeed, there are many wealthy muslim nations, but their riches are not generally sourced in entrepreneurship. Muslims are not excluded due to 'systemic bias', but something far more sinister - religious dogma. 

How much financial success can be expected if paying & collecting interest on money is forbidden by one's faith? How does networking happen if one can't be found socializing over a beer with the infidels? What does one do without a student loan, an auto loan, a home loan or even a credit card?

The muslim community has a very fundamental problem due to theology, and a long list of practical problems due to a longstanding distaste for dealing with potential partners that Islam judges harshly. The result is men are underemployed if not unemployed, do not receive mentoring and do not have a means to achieve success in modern life that allows wealth acquired amorally to be displayed ostentatiously.


Islam in many respects is the ultimate sexual fantasy made for men. Four wives, many kids. Women covered up as shrouded gifts to be found, traded, prodded at like Pokémon. What more could a man want?

However the reality is that muslim men do not have an opportunity to truly live Muhammad's wet dream. What is promised as boobies under burqas turns out to be blue balls with blood relatives. Nobody but sleazy desert kings actually get to be the polygamous players -- the vast majority of faithful muslim men are doomed to have a single sexual conquest in their entire lives. To make things even worse, it happens that this conquest is very likely to be a first cousin or other relative. Estimates of cousin marriage in Saudi Arabia is about 40% and holding, rates in Pakistan may be even higher

The situation is even better in Egypt and Somalia, where not only may one be married to a cousin, but both sexes are likely to have been subjected to genital cutting as an infant! Nothing makes sex quite as hot as unnecessary surgery.

More Cuck Than Kaaba, More Beta than Burāq 

Looking at how much pent-up masculine rage the would-be 'radicalized' muslim men have, one can conclude that all terrorism is the result of toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity ties together the IRA, the OK City Bombing, the ETA, Tamil Tigers, al-Qaeda & ISIS under the same diagnosis. "It's not religion -- it's men being bad men."

The only confusion is that this explanation is entirely circular, as religion is toxic masculinity. Religion is toxic masculinity written down. Scripture is like Playboy, if Playboy had no images and was entirely guest edited by fragile homicidal narcissists. 

Islam is a live-action roleplay without the exercise, a creative anachronism without the creativity. Some hobbies are healthier than others. When you suffer, superstition ain't the way.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Why Nobody Trusts Muslims

In the past weeks after the new President's (sigh) changes or attempted changes to immigration policy, there have been quite a few takes on what this means for security. Perhaps this is due to the fact that security is the motivation for the changes.

Here are a few examples:

Portlandia chimed in:

Meanwhile Matt Wuerker used the opportunity to re-share a cartoon

And Angelina Jolie wrote added this logic to the articles in the New York Times:

And in fact only a minuscule fraction — less than 1 percent — of all refugees in the world are ever resettled in the United States or any other country. There are more than 65 million refugees and displaced people worldwide. Nine out of 10 refugees live in poor and middle-income countries, not in rich Western nations. There are 2.8 million Syrian refugees in Turkey alone. Only about 18,000 Syrians have been resettled in America since 2011.
This disparity points to another, more sobering reality. If we send a message that it is acceptable to close the door to refugees, or to discriminate among them on the basis of religion, we are playing with fire. We are lighting a fuse that will burn across continents, inviting the very instability we seek to protect ourselves against.

Before addressing the new concerns, it's important to recall that the existing elephant in the room remains Islamist motivations for 9/11. The stated motivation that were taken at face value by many western 'progressives' was essentially revenge for American support of Israel and India in various conflicts, sanctions of Iraq, and maintaining a military presence in Saudi Arabia.

Since 9/11, the motivations for Islamist attacks have said to be all kinds of different things. Many of the attacks, such as the violence from Nidal Hasan, are often thought of as a sort of revenge for American military response to 9/11. As if the attacks were a sort of secular objection to drone strikes.

The stated motivations for Islamist attacks are further confused as the November 2015 Bataclan attack was said to be in defense of ISIS in particular and a response to the west's "perverted" culture. Early reports of the Benghazi attack was that it was another response to an anti-Islam YouTube video. Then, the Charlie Hebdo shooting clearly had no other motivation other than being mad at cartoonists that had 'insulted' Muhammad.

In light of the most recent security calculus made by liberal thinkers, it is time to restate all the reasons that muslims may attack western cities:

  1. Revenge for diplomatic and financial support of Israel
  2. Revenge for military action in countries they've never lived in
  3. Revenge for "political intervention" in countries that the west may have economic ties with
  4. Revenge for YouTube videos they don't like
  5. Revenge for depictions of Muhammad
  6. Radicalization caused by having to live in a failed state as they were denied residency in a western country
The last idea, that muslims will radicalize if not given asylum, is especially absurd as there actually very little correlation between violence/poverty and terrorism. The Islamists attacking the west have largely not been victims of drone strikes, the 'failures of capitalism', or a unforgiving immigration system.

Islamist terrorists are more often than not the receivers of the blessings of visas, expensive education, and citizenship. It's not true that terrorists are created by refugee camps and bomb craters. Terrorists are created by engineering degrees, asylum status and being exposed to low-wage labour in decadent western cities. 

Starbucks' stated plan to hire 10,000 refugees is a seemingly noble gesture, but it doesn't change the mechanics of a muslim man being emasculated by having to don a green apron, 37 tchotchkes and dispense caffeinated sludge to smug millennials in Uggs

Any well-read "feminist" that understands the concepts of "toxic masculinity" and "emotional labour" should have enough time for a second thought about muslim male refugees, as Canada did when it excluded single men. This is also something Sweden and Finland are dealing with as muslim men arrive or return from an "extended holiday" in the mid-east. 

The conclusion of the "liberal" narratives is an immense feeling of being held hostage to satisfying the desires of muslims that may be set off by an ever growing list of claimed western misdeeds. The comedy in it is that many college-educated people in the west that wouldn't let a fraternity brother mix a rum and coke on their behalf are not at all concerned with tens of thousands brothers from the "ummah" becoming their next Craigslist roommate. Contemporary messages tell us that men graduating from 12 years in western schools still need a campus "rape culture" seminar before being safe human beings, while muslim men from war-torn areas qualify as "extremely vetted" upstanding citizens after a few rounds of interviews with border bureaucrats. And even after all this propagandizing, as Angelina Jolie points out, the most liberal plan for resettlement would only be a pathetic fraction of a problem that is over 65 million in size.

The level of obfuscation of the issue cannot be underestimated, as even "reputable" outlets like CNN choose to even split hairs about the word "refugee" to further a narrative. For example, most Americans likely think of "refugee" as meaning anyone in the United States that is granted residency for the sake of "refuge". That is, "refugees" are simply everyone that is not in the United States to work or reunite a family. "Refugees" are simply everyone that faces danger upon return.

CNN, on the other hand, chooses to define "refugee" as different than "political asylum", a game of semantics that is only made for the benefit of the Boston bombers. In fact the Tsarnaevs are undeniably 'refugees' to any rational person that is not sexually aroused by legal dictionaries. 

The reality is that nobody trusts Muslims and much of this fear was ironically created by fawning liberal defenses of Islamic identity that portray the muslim world as one insane powderkeg that no one should ever be returned to. Trump properties have made a gaudy mess of some neighbourhoods, while Islam has made a medieval disaster of a serious chunk of several continents. Is it any wonder of that distrust of muslims outweighs distrust of Trump? The mess begins.

As everyone likes to feel good about themselves anyways, let's end this with an inclusive, inspiring message.