From Petty Crime to Terrorism

I grew up in France. I know the French language inside out. I follow the French media. In that country, France, people with a Muslim first name are 5% or maybe, 7% of the population. No one estimates that they are close to 10%. I use this name designation because French government agencies are forbidden to cooperate in the collection of religious (or ethic, or racial) data. Moreover, I don’t want to be in the theological business of deciding who is a “real Muslim.” Yet, common sense leads me to suspect that French people who are born Muslims are mostly religiously indifferent or lukewarm, like their nominally Christian neighbors. I am not so sure though about recent immigrants from rural areas bathed in a jihadist atmosphere, as occur in Algeria, and in Morocco, for example.

In spite of their small numbers, people with Muslim names commit 100% of massacres of strangers in France. (A country with strict gun laws, incidentally.) This does not prove anything but it certainly calls attention. I am trying to make sense of this while remaining fair.

People with Muslims names (henceforth, “Muslims”) are found in all corners and at all rungs of French society. They are in business, in government, in the hospitals, and in showbiz. Many serve in the armed forces. (The first French soldier who died in the NATO expedition in Bosnia was named, “El Hadji.”) Many are in the police, a traditional ladder of social mobility that my own father climbed seventy years ago. (The cop the terrorists murdered outside Charlie Hebdo had a Muslim name.)

A disproportionate number of Muslims who live in France are recent immigrants, or the children of recent immigrants. Most of those come from underdeveloped areas in north Africa and in sub-Saharan west Africa. Their recent immigration would place them near the bottom of the French economic pyramid. Their rural origins would pretty much guarantee that the quality of their French is poor, a serious impediment to gainful employment. They would be among the most disadvantaged in a society with a chronic 10% unemployment rate.

So, it makes sense, it’s expected, that Muslims would be over-represented among criminals, especially among work-alone, unorganized, opportunistic petty criminals. There is easy money to be made in small-time drug trafficking in France as in any western country. If you are young and fairly enterprising and you can’t find a job, small-time drug selling is a natural vocation. I note in passing that it’s a sin in Islam to use drugs, but perhaps, not much of a sin; I am not sure.

The job almost requires ownership of a gun to fend off rivals and to defend against bold customers. But, one thing leads to another and, on a hard day, the gun may be put to work to rob a passerby, especially one who is an easy target. This seems to be a common pattern. There is a remarkable little book of memoirs by an Algerian who tried for years to live in France illegally and entirely by his wits. (Chetouane, Jaffar. 2011. Donkey Heart, Monkey Mind). He says that he avoided any area with many north African looking men because the petty crime niche there was probably already taken.

So, in this explanation, Muslims are not criminal because they are Muslims but the poor, in general, supply the ranks of petty criminals and many Muslims living in France are poor. This does not, of course, explain the jump to terrorism, the mass murder of civilians, of perfect strangers, that is, in France, the exclusive province of Muslims. This overlap in categories between poor and Muslim also does not explain the rage to commit suicide by cop. Almost all people with a Muslim names die in the act of massacre or shortly afterwards. (That’s true although the perpetrators of the Bataclan nightclub massacre famously escaped, at first.)

This strong pattern of bursting out of obscurity – so to speak – is surprising. Rational criminals live in the shadows; they don’t draw attention to themselves; they develop habits of discretion; and a life of committing petty crimes assigned low police priority approximates rationality. When petty criminals turn into active terrorists, it’s as if a switch had been turned on suddenly. I look for causes in the lives the terrorists lead before they turn to terrorism.

Being a small time drug dealer is very stressful. You have a to worry about customers stealing the merchandise, safe in the knowledge that you won’t go to the police. Rivals for your sales location will assault you routinely or turn you in, or both, to supplant you. Your own suppliers will turn on you brutally if you are even slightly late in your payments. Other petty criminals know that you must carry at least some cash, making you an attractive target. Ironically, the drug addicts among them, the desperate drug addicts present a special danger to your safety.

As with all high-stress occupation, you would expect small dealers frequently to blow a fuse -which looks a lot like turning on a switch but in reverse. Here, I expect bifurcations. People react to overwhelming stress in a variety of ways that are partly culturally predetermined. In general, we don’t know how, in what manner most dealers react to losing control, to blowing a fuse. Mostly, it’s probably in individual private acts, including retiring from the business, running away to places where one is not known, even allowing oneself to be caught and sentenced to jail for a rest. Most responses to the extreme stress of the occupation probably don’t conform to any particular pattern, they are enacted privately, they probably do not attract much attention; we know little about them.

Now, for a minority of drug dealers, a minority of a minority, it turns out that there exists a way out with multiple benefits. Islam is not very explicit about how to gain one’s seat in Paradise although, paradoxically, it describes wonderfully its irresistible attractions. The good Muslim, the observant Muslims knows well what his moral obligations are and the spirit in which they must be enacted. He is assured repeatedly that God is merciful. It seems to me – and I am attentive but not an expert- that it’s not clear how merciful the Merciful actually is. The genuinely good Muslim never knows thus how close he is to the head of the heavenly line. There is one, and only one licit shortcut though. To die a martyr is to see the Gates open wide to let you in. That much is unambiguous.

Mohamed, the law giver and the prophet was also a very successful war leader. Here is a painful story about him. You decide whether it’s relevant to my query.

Mohamed and his followers, the first Muslims, were chased from his native Mecca. They fled to the town of Medina which they gradually took over, by various means including expelling into the desert two of the resident tribes. The Muslims had to complete their domination of Medina while fighting off the Meccans. After a famous victory against the Meccans right outside Medina, the Battle of the Trench, the Prophet used the battle readiness of his army to attack the last powerful tribe of Medina. Once they had surrendered, he executed all the men by decapitation. The women and children just became war booty.

This story is told in one of the hadith (the Acts of the Prophet) narrated by Aicha, 4-52-208.

Two questions present themselves. First, do ordinary Muslims recognize this story of cruelty as true? Second how likely is a rank-and-file Muslim of little formal education to be familiar with the story?

The answers to these questions matter. They have to do with the probability that some Muslims find in the history of their faith themes of violence absent, or less prominent, in other religious traditions. If the story is true and many Muslims know it, it would help explain why among petty criminals who blow a fuse, a small number of Muslims deal with it by turning spectacularly to terrorism. It’s permitted; it’s more than permitted since the Prophet did it; and it may be a shortcut to Heaven. (“May” be because waging war on women and children is supposed to be forbidden.)

Don’t misunderstand me. There is plenty of violence historically associated with Christianity, to be sure, included and not limited to the Wars of Religion, and the Crusades, of course. The First Crusade slaughtered the whole population of Jerusalem. In the Fourth Crusade, the western Christians murdered much of the population of Constantinople, their eastern Christian brethren and their allies. My point is that none of those violent episodes had religious sanction. None was ever cited approvingly afterwards. One French chronicler even notes that the Crusaders went to confession after the Jerusalem bloodbath to gain forgiveness for that sin, specifically.

The Old Testament, supposedly common to Jews and Christians, is fairly rife with massacres, especially within the context of ethnic cleansing. I may be naive but I doubt that this aspect of the Old Testament has much traction on Christians. I suspect that few Christians know anything of the Old Testament beyond Genesis and the Book of Moses. (I may just be here parading my Catholic parochialism. There may be breeds of Protestants who live by it.) I don’t know about the Old Testament’s continued influence on the Jews. As far as I can tell exemplary violence occurs neither in Buddhism, nor in Hinduism. Although the later depicts plenty of legendary battles, those are treated abstractly, in an almost choreographed manner that does not lend itself to be taken as exemplary

Let me recapitulate here. In France only members of the Muslim minority broadly defined engage in acts of terrorism. Many French terrorists have a background in petty crime. Individuals at the bottom rungs of society are more likely to become petty criminals than others. Muslims are over-represented at the lower rungs of French society. A life of petty crime is stressful. Breaking down under the stress leads to a variety of outcomes, most of them unknown. Some Muslim petty criminals, a minority of a minority, find in their religion an ethical justification of sorts as well as practical inspiration to transform themselves into terrorists.

Here is another story I think relevant. Please, don’t look too hard for consistency. I am just trying to piece together disparate elements, here.

About five years ago, I watched a longish interview on French television. It was of a man who had been a ISIS hostage for nine months. (He had no doubt been bought back by the French government although the latter denied it, of course.) He was a journalist and evidently a man of culture. Before being kidnapped by ISIS, he had lived in the Middle East for ten years, as a correspondent for major newspapers. He said he knew Arabic. I can’t tell you how or why but I thought he was not one of the many people who claim knowledge of a language because they can ask for directions to the restroom. Please, trust me on this, his Arabic was probably good I am guessing although I on’t know Arabic.

Anyway, the man was generally credible, I thought. Amid concrete descriptions of his sufferings as a guest of the violent jihadists, he made a startling statement. He declared that -contrary to the custom in all Muslim countries – you never heard invocations to God, formal or otherwise among caliphate soldiers. The fairly mechanical “Inch’Allah” pronounced several times a day by pious, and even by not so pious Muslims, in particular, were lacking, he asserted. He also described vividly the caliphate soldiers’ lively interested in spoils whenever spoils were to be had. That man, who had a professional interest in being a good observer, did not think the violent jihadists who had taken him were pious Muslims. He evidently thought of them as mostly hoodlums.

I don’t know where we go from there. I am sure though that we cannot either think that Muslims are terrorists or that there is no earthly connection between current terrorism and Islam. I mean Islam the real thing, the practice. We shouldn’t have to be theologians to learn to protect ourselves. (“Ourselves” includes Muslims, of course; world-wide, violent jihadists massacre mostly Muslims.)

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I am largely absent from this blog because I have been busy writing a big essay on immigration, legal immigration into the US. I will keep you informed. I will be back soon.

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West Coast Hillbillies

    Also posted on Notes on Liberty

A long time ago, after moving from San Francisco, I bought a beautiful Labrador puppy from a woman named Brigid Blodgett, in the hills above Santa Cruz California. (I think she won’t mind the free advertising in the unlikely case that she reads Notes on Liberty or my blog.) Her house was an older conventional California so-called “ranch house,” with low roofs and a sprawling house plan. The pup she had in mind for me was playing with his ten siblings in a concrete backyard when I arrived. There was one new litter, lying with Mom on some rags in the living room, and another in the kitchen, that I could see and smell. The lady, the breeder, told me there was yet another litter in the garage.

To get my new dog, I had not gone to just anybody since most dogs last longer than most cars. I had gathered recommendations in Santa Cruz (pop. 60,000) and its suburbs. Brigid Blodgett’s name kept coming up. Other things being more or less equal, (“et cetibus….” as they say in Latin) I believe in the predictive power of redundancy. I purchased the pup, “Max” (for the German sociologist Max Weber. My previous dog was “Lenin,” another story, obviously). He was a wonderful animal, big, sturdy, healthy, smart, and with a physique that turned heads. I never saw Ms Blodgett a gain. She asked me once by phone to enter Max in a show but I thought it would inflate his ego and I declined. Her name came up a couple of times when perfect strangers stopped me to ask if Max was one of “Brigid’s dogs.”

The meeting with Ms Blodgett marked the first time I became aware of a minority living close by and in our midst, an invisible minority for most of us in Central California. They live mostly in the chain of hills that separates Silicon Valley from the coastal strip where Santa Cruz and Monterey are located. They are white, they speak English, they speak it without an accent; they dress normally; they attend rock concerts. They all have English names, like Ms Blodgett, or sometimes, Scottish names. They are all Protestants, mainly of the non-practicing denomination. Their children go to public school, K-12 and they are usually well behaved. If you pay a lot of attention though (retrospective attention, in my case) you might notice that the kids don’t sweat their grades all that much.

The giveaway is vacation plans. When normal white Anglos from Santa Cruz and Monterey, and from Silicon Valley, go to Italy, or to England, or even to Hawaii; those other people “fly back” to Oklahoma to see their relatives. They are the great-grandchildren of the Joads in John Steinbeck’s superbly crafted Communist propaganda The Grapes of Wrath. They are the transplanted hillbillies. They even call themselves hillbillies sometimes. Others who are annoyed at one of them for any variety of reasons call them “Oakies” under their breath, just like in Steinbeck. Incidentally, many claim American Indian ancestry. It turns out that – unlike say, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s trying to gain advantage in academia via affirmative action – those claims might be legitimate. Those people often do come from Oklahoma which, for a period in the 19th century, was officially called “Indian Territory.” During that period, Indians had easier access to land than whites which, in the great American land hunger, was a good reason to tie the knot.

The Central California hillbillies make their living in a variety of unskilled and semi-skilled occupations. In the old days, a job changing oil in a car repair shop would allow some to pick up some mechanical knowledge and, from there to work their way up to well-paid positions as car mechanics. It seems to me that road is closing fast because of young second generation Mexicans with a more a conventional work ethic. I don’t know as much about the women although it’s obvious (in a manner I may not be able to describe) that many work as restaurant waitresses and as receptionists in doctors’ offices. Many of the men and some of the women have served in the military. They don’t seem to mind working as law enforcement officers but they meet with an obstacle on that path that is closely associated with their defining feature (described below). For a few, a police career leads to political office.

The hillbillies’ defining characteristic is very hard to notice because it’s not something but the lack of something. It took me a long time to see this clearly: They never complete a four-year college degree. There was one guy I was able to observe reasonably closely for twenty years because of our children. He worked in law enforcement. He was good at it because, at first, he seemed to progress rapidly. His intelligence was obviously above average. The strange thing about that cop is that he was always taking some course or other at the community college, studying one damned thing after another. He dawned on me after several years (I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, I admit) that the man must have accumulated many more units than a college degree at a regular university would require. I realized that he was deliberately avoiding the college degree that would have helped him significantly in his career. We were not personally close enough for me to make inquiries. His own children also did not go to college. Once I was thinking clearly about that particular man I began seeing a pattern, men like him all around me, people who could have easily achieved the modest scholarly standards honored by my own students for example.

Here you have it, an ethnic marker. Resisting with great energy something that everyone else is doing or trying to do, or claiming to want to do, is enough to keep you apart. It’s like the Jews’ avoidance of pork: It does not stop you from functioning but it puts a damper on assimilation. Or it did for the centuries when Europeans ate nearly only pig meat or no meat at all: Can’t have Sam for diner, we’re having pig knuckles tonight.

To have a conventional ethnic group, you only need to add to a systematic obstacle to assimilation the fairly faithful practice of endogamy, the practice of marrying within the group. The two facts are not completely independent of each other in this case. Those who have gone to college, are going to college, or see themselves as college bound, don’t readily marry those who do and are none of the above. I think hillbillies only marry, and divorce, and marry, and divorce one another, with one puzzling exception. Hillbillies with straightforward English names fairly often link up with people who have Portuguese last names and who are Catholic. The latter are descendants of a small but continuing immigration from the Azores. My first guess about the puzzle is this: If I looked into it, I would find that this of breed of Luso-Americans don’t go to college either. Just guessing, really.

I suppose, it’s high time that I, an immigrant, describe my credentials to discourse at all about the white people who have stayed on the boundaries of American society for three hundred years straight. For thirty years, my own life intersected with theirs in two places. First, I fish in the ocean and I have a boat in the harbor to serve this purpose. Although I was a college professor for thirty years, I clean fish with my own hands. This is enough to open some doors. Boat owners, don’t just go to harbor, go out to fish, return to harbor, and then go home. They fuss about their boat, they hang out; when you hang out in the harbor, people talk a little about themselves. They will open a window on their lives. Hillbillies don’t swim, don’t go to the beach, but they fish, including in the ocean.

Here is the second hillbilly intersection with my life. Over time, I purchased two houses in Santa Cruz County, both on the needy side (the houses, I mean). If you live away from California, or overseas, you should know that most Californians live in individual houses and that those houses are mostly made of wood. Now, there is nothing wrong with wood as a building material, it’s cheap, it’s forgiving, and it’s easy to fix. Yet many things go a little wrong over time with wooden houses, and even when nothing goes wrong, they must be painted every five years or so.

My second house was/is a lovely Victorian. It was built in 1906. Now, as I said, it’s lovely but there is no miracle. Almost everything goes wrong in a hundred years in a house built of wood in a maritime climate, in an area subject to earthquakes. Some of it goes wrong while you own the place and you have to fix it. Ten years ago, my water evacuation plumbing begun acting disastrously. After a little expensive digging, it was determined that the used water main leading from my house into the town sewer was made of baked clay and that it was broken. It dated back to the 1880s, according to municipal maps.

Some of the things that don’t go wrong with older houses you don’t want to live with anyway, the original heating system for example. So, you will need carpenters, electricians, plumbers, appliance installers, etc. plus painters and more. Moreover, tree branches will fall on your house in big storms and they will have to be removed. And then, things you don’t want anymore somehow accumulate and must be taken to the dump periodically. (I know, no need to tell me, I am a married man; I could do all of this myself, and I do some actually.) I have described a myriad of jobs that can be done by any healthy, reasonably intelligent person. The hillbillies often have multiple skills gleaned from doing repairs on their and on their own parents’ house. Some gained more in the military. I have hired people to do that kind of work multiple times.

Over the past thirty years though, I have seen Mexican immigrants compete more and more successfully with hillbillies, in informal carpentry, in house painting, in plumbing, in electrical and appliance repairs, even in floor installation. The locals hold fast in two areas of work: trash hauling and tree trimming. I suspect there is a good reason for this. Both supply very irregular work, you might says work that you have to look for. I think both activities are like second jobs to a person with a regular 9 to 5, or 10 to 3. Fortunately, my friends now have a main economic activity, one that puts food on the table in large amounts. I need to make a detour to persuade you of what that new occupation might be.

In the nineties, after a bad storm, I called around to find someone to finally set straight a tree problem that had been plaguing my property. The big local companies that advertised on radio were all busy. Their bids were so high anyway that accepting them would have forced me to teach at least one quarter of summer school. Somehow, I whined to my car mechanic who offered to send me somebody he knew. Sure enough, the next morning around 11 – and the time may matter – these two guys in their forties showed up in an old truck. We discussed what had to be done, trimming off some big branches, and hauling them away. They offered to do the job for a price I could live with.

One of them put on the clamps; the other guy was going to be his ground crew, sharpening the power-saw and handing it in a safe way, bringing down the cut limbs with a rope, and so forth. While I was talking to this second guy, a big beautiful pit-bull emerged from some blankets in the cab. I don’t like the breed much because they are like a loaded gun but that dog was a beaut.

I complimented the man and asked him if I could go in the house to get the dog a treat, a piece of sausage. He had this astounding response: Don’t bother, he said, he won’t take anything from you. I have trained him to be a vegetarian. A vegetarian pit-bull! Isn’t it going a little far by way of political correctness, I first thought to myself? At the time, I was pretty much surrounded by prissy middle-class vegetarians in progressive, virtue-aggressive Santa Cruz. On second thought however I realized there was not political correctness involved, not with those guys. You think about it: Why would anyone own a formidable looking, potentially dangerous guard dog that is also a vegetarian? What’s the only likely reason? So, in any case, the hillbillies always rented and bought property in the hills because, at any level of forever soaring California real estate prices, it was less expensive than either Silicon Valley or areas near the ocean.

Society having evolved as it has, now, they are finding themselves in a good situation to resume the scratchy agricultural lives of their near ancestors. Even the couple of miles from the sea insure a warmer climate than you find on the coast; many have a little bit more land that needed for a house. The population density is low. You don’t have to meet your neighbors, or strangers, unless you want to. There are few eyes in the hills. It’s easy to turn a large vegetable garden into a small plantation of anything. You just need a good dog to keep the deer away. If the animal is vegetarian, so much the better; he will also be pretty much incorruptible and he will keep away most trespassers including midnight harvesters.

Things look good again, mighty good, for the hillbilly hidden minority.

© Jacques Delacroix 2018

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Blaming the Victim

A White House secretary whose name no one knew a week ago resigns. He is accused of wife beating. It’s Pres. Trump’s fault, of course. The accusers are two ex-wives. That’s a first, I guess, I mean this joint effort. One of the two immediately loses her credibility with me because she accuses the man, Porter, of “emotional” abuse. Sorry, that ‘s what you say when you have nothing else, when you have nothing, in fact.

What did he do? Tell that ex-wife that this pair of jeans made her look fat? Besides, all the women I know except one routinely practice emotional abuse, often, multi-directional emotional abuse. (No, the exception is not my wife!) They are emotionally abusive toward one another first, toward their children, often. Of course, they emotionally abuse the men in their lives, to get them to comply, or for the fun of it.

What does an accusation of abuse directed by a woman at a man, specifically, imply? I think it’s that women are un-adults who need protection, that they are not capable of agency. That’s both troubling and confusing for those of us who have been paying attention to the feminist message of female equality. OK, it’s not confusing to me. I always thought women were equal (Read my book of memoirs of growing up: I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography – Excerpts on this blog – It’s available on Amazon.) And, I discounted feminist propaganda from the beginning. I have a fine ear for ungrounded ideology because I grew up around French leftists.

I am not sure why physical abuse of a spouse is a public matter the way this kind of story has routinely become. Brutality against a spouse is either a conjugal matter and it’s none of my business, or it’s a legal matter. In that case, it should be dealt with in the context of strict judicial rules that are the product of centuries of experience. It should be dealt with far from the tumult of popular prejudice and fads. Note that whether a conjugal issue becomes a legal issue is almost entirely in the hands of  the injured party. That’s different from zero protection for women. This is no a sharia country. (I know, I know, sharia gives women some protection, not much. Tell us, please.)

It turns out, the secretary who resigned was (is) currently in a relationship with the second most glamorous woman in the White House.(The first is the First Lady, of course.) That woman is also quite beautiful according to my well-exercised eye. She must not be a dummy to have been appointed Director of Communication, a sensitive, important post. Porter, the man who resigned, has been married at least twice. Washington DC being the incestuous swamp that it is, there must have been rumors about his personality.

Didn’t stop the glamorous lady. Have we seen this movie before? The alleged wife-beater has enough charisma with women that one with many choices chooses him over all others. Intellectually honest women will ask themselves in the secret of their hearts why and how this could happen. I don’t expect a public report because the New Puritanism does not permit the exploration of many interesting matters, including the sexuality of women. Younger people who read me – almost all of you – take my word for it or do your own research: There was more freedom of thought and more freedom of speech in 1978 a than there is is 2018.

What happened?

Under the current avalanche of accusations against men, some too exotic for me to really believe, there lies the blanket assumption that one should never, never blame the victim. Incidentally, the accusations I have trouble dealing with concern the legion of men who supposedly exposed themselves. I thought that was a far-outlayer specialty, not an ordinary practice. I am as much of the pervert as the next guy, I hope a little more, or I used to be, but it never crossed my mind to do this. (Except for a laugh, at a well-attended party,  in a fully lit room ,of course, perhaps, on the occasion of a context with an all-female jury.) Never blame the victim. Why never?

My neighbor is one of Mrs Clinton’s “deplorables.” He spends the weekends in his undershirt, drinking beer from a can and playing with his several guns. One Sunday morning, he is cleaning his high-power rifle. While holding the stock with his bare foot, he opens the breach and looks down into the barrel to make sure there is not bullet inside. The stock slips, his big toe catches the trigger and he blows his head up. (Yes, there was a round in the barre; it was loaded for bear) Who to blame, deuh?

One night after dark, I am driving home peacefully, below the speed limit. I am not especially tired and I am wearing my glasses. I am travelling the steep downward slope close to my house where there is no street lighting. A skateboarder running down the same slope at high speed weaves in front of me. When I see him, I brake as hard as I can but I am too late. I partly run over him and my truck fractures his skull and his spine. He was wearing all black; there was no light on him; he was in the middle of the street. He is 23. I am heartbroken. Who is to blame?

I am going to be accused of major crimes for shouting through the current concert of feminist piousness so, let me be clear: I do NOT believe that women who wear short skirts deserve to be raped. And, by the way, I am against domestic violence and especially against wife beating specifically. That’s because men are much stronger than women, not a little bit, something like twice stronger. So, for a man, beating a woman is cowardly. And, by the way, it’s also one of the reason why I support the Second Amendment. Women who are armed rarely get beaten more than once.

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Je me presente.

Je suis ne a Paris. Je vis aux EU depuis cinquante ans; je suis americain depuis quarante. La France m’est comme une ancienne maitresse qu’on a du mal a re_aimer, moins parcequ’elle a les hanches lourdes que parcequ’elle est devenue reveche avec les annees.


Je blogue en Francais de temps en temps et surtout quand on m’encourage.

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The US Immigration Lottery

 (Also posted on Notes on Liberty.)

As I write, Democrats and Republicans are gearing up for a battle to transform an American immigration system that has changed little in fifty years. President Trump seems eager to alter both the number of immigrants and the nature of qualifications for immigration. His Democratic opponents call him “racist.” (Dem. extremist call anyone they don’t like racist, perhaps because they have exhausted all normal political insults.) The so-called “lottery” door to immigration is attracting special scorn from the president and from other high-ranking Republicans. Many in the general public, not well versed in matters of immigration, listen to the president’s attacks with perplexity or disbelief: a “lottery?” This short essay aims to throw light on the topic with a small number of figures.

In 2016 there were 1,200, 000 admissions to permanent residency in the US. That’s the granting of the famous “green card” which gives one full rights to work, to go in and out of the country, but no political rights, no right to vote and no right to be elected- until now. Permanent residency is not citizenship. This must be obtained later, separately after five or three years (the latter, for spouses of US citizens) in almost all cases. Nearly all legal residents who wish to eventually become American citizens.

Admission” is a legal-bureaucratic term. Many of those so admitted have already been in the US, some for years, while their case was being processed. The number physically arriving in the US on that year is much larger because it includes tourists, students, and others who are supposed to be visitors staying only for a stated length of time.

Immigrants are admitted on the basis of one of five broad categories : occupational/business qualification, family relationship to someone already legally in the US. (The latter actually includes two legal- bureaucratic categories. The distinction between the two need no concern us here.) This family-based category accounts for the bulk of legal immigration, 67% of the total in 2016. Refugees (and “asylees”) account for another large number that is variable from year to year. There is also a category “Others” which gathers a small number of odds and ends admissions otherwise not fitting into another category.

The most interesting basis for admission is the quaintly called “Diversity.” It’s an actual lottery. It’s a lottery without admission fee where one can play as often as one cares to. It contributed 50,000 admissions in 2016, or 4% of the total admitted. The number is so small that it hardly would seem to be worth the attention of policy makers, except perhaps when a lottery winner engages in spectacular criminal acts as happened in New York in the fall of 2017.

Once, in the late 80s. Senator Ted Kennedy discovered that immigration to the US included practically no Irish people. He got angry and, on the spot, devised a remedy, that became -through his influence in Congress – the diversity lottery. I can’t guarantee this story is true but it’s plausible and its spirit explains well the existence of this strange anomaly.

The main reason some parts of the globe send few immigrants to the US is that most opportunities to do so are sucked up by the prevalence of immigration based on family status in other areas. It’s the result of a quasi random starting point combined with chain immigration. Suppose a single young Mexican male manages to move to the US legally (worry not how). Within a couple of years he goes back to Mexico to get married. He brings his wife to the US. It turns out he already had a son in Mexico, from another woman. He brings the son over too. The couple has several children, all US born. Soon, they would like to have built-in babysitters. They bring in both of the wife’s parents and the husband surviving mother. So, in this unremarkable story, we go in the space of less than ten years, from one immigrant from Mexico, to six. After a few more years, any of the foreign born adults may bring one or two more immigrants, including brothers and sisters. The US-born children can also bring in their Mexican uncles, aunts and cousins, though it would take a long time. There is a natural snowball effect built into the system.

To the extent that Congress wishes to cap the total number of immigrants brought in (excluding refuges), national contingents that happened to be numerous early may monopolize a very large number of available immigration opportunities. This leaves the door almost closed to other nationalities that were not present in large numbers early.

The purpose of the lottery is to improve the US immigration chances to people living in areas of the world that have been under-served for a little while. Accordingly, lottery slots are allocated among regions observed to be contributing a small number of immigrants by other means. The drawing occurs individual under-served region by under-served region. Each region corresponds more or less to a continent (distinguishing between South America and North America).

The lottery products are interesting. First, the lottery results in a frequency distribution of admissions by country of origin that would be difficult to predict I general. Second, it would be hard to forecast which countries would end up still undeserved.

In 2016, lottery admissions included people from 152 countries. Only six countries passed the (arbitrary) bar of “diversity” lottery of 2,000 immigrants into the US. They were, by order of the magnitude of their immigrant contingent:

Egypt, Nepal, Iran, Congo (formerly Zaire), Uzbekistan, and Ethiopia. The Ukraine, with 1915, almost made the cut.

In 2016 also, four Uruguayans qualified under the lottery (that 4, four units.)

Together the core western European countries of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Norway, sent a grand total of 1390 to the US under this qualification. That’s between 2 and 3% of the total diversity lottery winners. Although European countries do send immigrants to the US under other programs, Europe is classified as one of the under-served regions. It also turns out to be under-served by the lottery. In 2016, about one per thousand of the immigrants admitted to the US came from the conventionally defined core western European areas under an admission program intended to correct for under-representation. The Republic of Ireland produced 51 winners. Sen. Kennedy hardly got his way.

Anybody who calls the current American immigration system racist is out of his mind, probably dishonest as well as ignorant, more likely, dishonestly ignorant. Inevitably, any forthcoming reform of American immigration laws is going to give results that will seem racist in comparison. Brace yourselves with facts!

All data from Homeland Security: Immigration Statistics and Data

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Global Warming for the Rational: Tutorial 1

Right before New Year 2018, I commented on my Facebook Page on the lack of comments regarding the extreme cold raging in Canada and in the north of the US. We are talking about actual record-breaking low temperatures. I meant then that I would like one or more of the real “climate scientists” Warmists are forever referring to to come on and interpret, like this: These low temperatures don’t mean anything about the certainty of global warming because…. I am still waiting; I will be waiting. And if you know of an authorized comment that has escaped my attention, please, link below. (Tu tambíen, Cesar).

One of my FB friends who lives in S. America, Cesar, reproached me (in Spanish) on my FB and called me “ignorant” for calling “ignorant” those who believe in global warming. Aside from the fact that I had not called them ignorant in that posting, this is a good opportunity to explain what I would mean if I had called them ignorant. They don’t know or understand the simple principles of scientific demonstration below, not even in its starting point.

Note to Cesar: I apologize, that I am not going to do this in Spanish. My readers are mostly proudly monolingual English speakers. I am speaking to you, all the same. I know you can read this.

To make others believe that something changes something else, you need to begin with three things: a baseline with a specific date attached, a metric, and an actual final measurement. If you don’t have all three, there is nothing to explain and you are just spouting superstitious belief.

The baseline is a measurement at the moment when you period of observation begins. To affirm that something changes something else, you have to be able to observe an actual change in the second thing. I mean like this: It’s bigger than it was; it’s smaller than it was; it’s redder than it was, etc. (Note the past tense.) So, you have to know what the thing that supposedly changed was like before it changed. You have to say in advance when your observation begins. You may not switch baseline dates around to suit the findings you wish for. If you do it anyway, you should state it and explain why. Myself, I am open minded about baseline date choices, except when I think a baseline has been chosen to exclude information (“data”) that is both relevant and available. (See the “Hockey Stick” scandal. It’s about climate change cheating.)

Second, you need a metric, a unit of measurement. If I state that I lost weight over the holiday, you should ask: How do you know? If I am a serious, not a foufou-head, I will reply: So many pounds (or ounces, or kilograms, etc….) The pound is a metric, miles per hour is another metric, degrees Fahrenheit and degrees Celsius are both metrics, inches of sea level height (and therefore rise) could be a metric. The metric you choose has to make sense. If I answer the query above regarding my weight loss like this: “Ten points,” it’s wrong because it does not make sense, no matter how smart you are.

Third, you need an actual measurement of change expressed in terms of the metric you have chosen. This is a subtle point because how it’s dealt with often makes the difference between being soundly correct and being apparently correct and ridiculous, both. Suppose I devise a slimming diet based on Belgian chocolates and Cognac. At the beginning of January, I announce that I lost weight on that exquisite diet. I tell you that I lost a full 3/1000 of an ounce, (or one gram, or something equally tiny) in one month. What’s more, I show you that ten of my friends had similar results. Should you believe then that chocolate and Cognac cause weight loss?

The answer is probably not. Yet, if I could continue to obtain the same change for five years in a row, for 365 days x5, for example you might correctly start being interested. The accumulation of tiny changes can add up to big change. This accumulation has to be shown. It can’t be just assumed that it will take place. There are several reasons why minuscule change is not change. You can think of those reason by yourselves by making up other ridiculous examples.

Once you have all three ingredients, you are in a position to assert that something happened. It’ a good start toward demonstrating that something specific made that something happened. It’s a necessary step. You cannot show that X changes Y if you have no evidence of change in Y. It’s not a sufficient step, not even close to one. That’s it.

If you don’t have all three ingredients, don’t bother to continue because there is nothing to explain. In that case your something of choice caused nothing and it’s unimportant until you show otherwise. You get as many tries as you wish. In the meantime, the something that caused something else remains unimportant except from a religious standpoint if you wish, of course.

Many bad observations are still bad observations. If nothing changes on one hundred somethings, you still have nothing to explain.

CO2 emissions from human activity may cause temperatures to rise globally. Let’ s see. Let’s see someone do it properly, beginning with the easy stuff described above.

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